667: Arming A-holes

Adam Curry & John C. Dvorak

2h 58m
November 6th, 2014
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Executive Producers: Sir Don Tamaso Di Toronto, Sir Mark Wilson Baronet of Glasgow

Associate Executive Producers: Baron Sir Andrew Lemesany, Sir Kris Jacob Baron of the Carson Valley, Sir Luke Rayner, Stephanie Reiss

Cover Artist: NativeCamp

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Healthy Surprise Note
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Nation's first soda tax is passed
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:16
Berkeley, Calif., became the first U.S. city to pass a law taxing sugary drinks including sodas.
More than three-quarters of the votes cast were in favor of Measure D, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. The measure will place a 1-cent-an-ounce tax on soft drinks. It only needed a majority of "yes" votes to pass.
In nearby San Francisco, city voters rejected a similar measure to tax sugary drinks. The measure needed two-thirds of the vote to approve the two-cent tax.
Proponents of the Berkeley tax say the fee will help curb consumption of sodas, energy drinks and sweetened iced teas, beverages they say are contributing to the nation's obesity epidemic.
That argument echoes calls made by other cities that have also tried to pass soda taxes but have failed in the face of well-funded opposition from soda manufacturers. Notably, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's attempted ban on large-size sugary beverages was blocked by a New York state judge.
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Smith Mundt Act - A reminder that you are living in a Smith-Mudt Act repealed media landscape
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Propaganda in the United States - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sun, 21 Sep 2014 15:00
Propaganda in the United States is propaganda spread by government and media entities within the United States. Propaganda is information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to influence opinions. Propaganda is not only in advertising; it is also in radio, newspaper, posters, books, and anything else that might be sent out to the widespread public.
Domestic[edit]World War I[edit]The first large-scale use of propaganda by the U.S. government came during World War I. The government enlisted the help of citizens and children to help promote war bonds and stamps to help stimulate the economy. To keep the prices of war supplies down, the U.S. government produced posters that encouraged people to reduce waste and grow their own vegetables in "victory gardens." The public skepticism that was generated by the heavy-handed tactics of the Committee on Public Information would lead the postwar government to officially abandon the use of propaganda.[1]
World War II[edit]During World War II the U.S. officially had no propaganda, but the Roosevelt government used means to circumvent this official line. One such propaganda tool was the publicly owned but government funded Writers' War Board (WWB). The activities of the WWB were so extensive that it has been called the "greatest propaganda machine in history".[1]Why We Fight is a famous series of US government propaganda films made to justify US involvement in World War II.
In 1944 (lasting until 1948) prominent US policy makers launched a domestic propaganda campaign aimed at convincing the U.S. public to agree to a harsh peace for the German people, for example by removing the common view of the German people and the Nazi party as separate entities.[2] The core in this campaign was the Writers' War Board which was closely associated with the Roosevelt administration.[2]
Another means was the United States Office of War Information that Roosevelt established in June 1942, whose mandate was to promote understanding of the war policies under the director Elmer Davies. It dealt with posters, press, movies, exhibitions, and produced often slanted material conforming to US wartime purposes. Other large and influential non-governmental organizations during the war and immediate post war period were the Society for the Prevention of World War III and the Council on Books in Wartime.
Cold War[edit]During the Cold War, the U.S. government produced vast amounts of propaganda against communism and the Soviet bloc. Much of this propaganda was directed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under J. Edgar Hoover, who himself wrote the anti-communist tract Masters of Deceit. The FBI's COINTELPRO arm solicited journalists to produce fake news items discrediting communists and affiliated groups, such as H. Bruce Franklin and the Venceremos Organization.
War on Drugs[edit]The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, originally established by the National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988,[3][4] but now conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy under the Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998,[5] is a domestic propaganda campaign designed to "influence the attitudes of the public and the news media with respect to drug abuse" and for "reducing and preventing drug abuse among young people in the United States".[6][7] The Media Campaign cooperates with the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and other government and non-government organizations.[8]
Iraq War[edit]In early 2002, the U.S. Department of Defense launched an information operation, colloquially referred to as the Pentagon military analyst program.[9] The goal of the operation is "to spread the administrations's talking points on Iraq by briefing ... retired commanders for network and cable television appearances," where they have been presented as independent analysts.[10] On 22 May 2008, after this program was revealed in the New York Times, the House passed an amendment that would make permanent a domestic propaganda ban that until now has been enacted annually in the military authorization bill.[11]
The Shared values initiative was a public relations campaign that was intended to sell a "new" America to Muslims around the world by showing that American Muslims were living happily and freely, without persecution, in post-9/11 America.[12] Funded by the United States Department of State, the campaign created a public relations front group known as Council of American Muslims for Understanding (CAMU). The campaign was divided in phases; the first of which consisted of five mini-documentaries for television, radio, and print with shared values messages for key Muslim countries.[13]
NDAA and Overturning of Smith-Mundt Act[edit]The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) allows for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders and strikes down a long-time ban on the dissemination of such material in the country.[14][15][16]
Ad Council[edit]The Ad Council, an American non-profit organization that distributes public service announcements on behalf of various private and federal government agency sponsors, has been labeled as "little more than a domestic propaganda arm of the federal government" given the Ad Council's historically close collaboration with the President of the United States and the federal government.[17]
International[edit]Through several international broadcasting operations, the US disseminates American cultural information, official positions on international affairs, and daily summaries of international news. These operations fall under the International Broadcasting Bureau, the successor of the United States Information Agency, established in 1953. IBB's operations include Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Alhurra and other programs. They broadcast mainly to countries where the United States finds that information about international events is limited, either due to poor infrastructure or government censorship. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Voice of America from disseminating information to US citizens that was produced specifically for a foreign audience.
During the Cold War the US ran covert propaganda campaigns in countries that appeared likely to become Soviet satellites, such as Italy, Afghanistan, and Chile.
Recently The Pentagon announced the creation of a new unit aimed at spreading propaganda about supposedly "inaccurate" stories being spread about the Iraq War. These "inaccuracies" have been blamed on the enemy trying to decrease support for the war. Donald Rumsfeld has been quoted as saying these stories are something that keeps him up at night.[18]
Psychological operations[edit]The US military defines psychological operations, or PSYOP, as:
planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence the emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.[19]
The Smith-Mundt Act, adopted in 1948, explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at the US public.[20][21][22] Nevertheless, the current easy access to news and information from around the globe, makes it difficult to guarantee PSYOP programs do not reach the US public. Or, in the words of Army Col. James A. Treadwell, who commanded the U.S. military psyops unit in Iraq in 2003, in the Washington Post:
There's always going to be a certain amount of bleed-over with the global information environment.[23]
Agence France Presse reported on U.S. propaganda campaigns that:
The Pentagon acknowledged in a newly declassified document that the US public is increasingly exposed to propaganda disseminated overseas in psychological operations.[24]
Former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the document referred to, which is titled "Information Operations Roadmap." [22][24] The document acknowledges the Smith-Mundt Act, but fails to offer any way of limiting the effect PSYOP programs have on domestic audiences.[20][21][25]
Several incidents in 2003 were documented by Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel, which he saw as information-warfare campaigns that were intended for "foreign populations and the American public." Truth from These Podia,[26] as the treatise was called, reported that the way the Iraq war was fought resembled a political campaign, stressing the message instead of the truth.[22]
See also[edit]References[edit]^ abThomas Howell, The Writers' War Board: U.S. Domestic Propaganda in World War II, Historian, Volume 59 Issue 4, Pages 795 - 813^ abSteven Casey, (2005), The Campaign to sell a harsh peace for Germany to the American public, 1944 - 1948, [online]. London: LSE Research Online. [Available online at http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/archive/00000736] Originally published in History, 90 (297). pp. 62-92 (2005) Blackwell Publishing^National Narcotics Leadership Act of 1988 of the Anti''Drug Abuse Act of 1988, Pub.L. 100''690, 102 Stat. 4181, enacted November 18, 1988^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, footnote 6, page 3 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 (Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999), Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Gamboa, Anthony H. (January 4, 2005), B-303495, Office of National Drug Control Policy '-- Video News Release, Government Accountability Office, pp. 9''10 ^Drug-Free Media Campaign Act of 1998 of the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, Pub.L. 105''277, 112 Stat. 268, enacted October 21, 1998^Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act of 2006, Pub.L. 109''469, 120 Stat. 3501, enacted December 29, 2006, codified at 21 U.S.C. § 1708^Barstow, David (2008-04-20). "Message Machine: Behind Analysts, the Pentagon's Hidden Hand". New York Times. ^Sessions, David (2008-04-20). "Onward T.V. Soldiers: The New York Times exposes a multi-armed Pentagon message machine". Slate. ^Barstow, David (2008-05-24). "2 Inquiries Set on Pentagon Publicity Effort". New York Times. ^Rampton, Sheldon (October 17, 2007). "Shared Values Revisited". Center for Media and Democracy. ^"U.S. Reaches Out to Muslim World with Shared Values Initiative". America.gov. January 16, 2003.
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Ebola
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Obama seeks $6.2 billion for Ebola fight
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 20:32
WASHINGTON (AP) '-- President Barack Obama on Wednesday asked Congress for $6.2 billion in emergency funds to confront Ebola at its source in West Africa and to secure the United States against any possible spread.
Administration officials say $2 billion of the total would be apportioned to the United States Agency for International Development and $2.4 billion would go to the Department of Health and Human Services. More than $1.5 billion would be for a contingency fund to deal with any unanticipated developments like a flare-up in West Africa or a need to vaccinate U.S. health care workers.
The Ebola money is the first request from Obama in the aftermath of an election that ushered in a Republican-controlled Congress, which is being seen as a repudiation of the president. The Ebola crisis has received bipartisan attention amid concerns over the potential of the disease to spread into the United States.
The White House is asking for prompt action, meaning it wants approval during the current lame duck session, while Democrats are still in control of the Senate. It wants the money on an "emergency" basis, meaning it should be added to the deficit. Republicans, if they agree the money is needed, may press for spending cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Republicans have been especially critical of the administration's domestic response, criticizing its coordination with states and questioning the security measures it has put in place. Still, less than a handful of cases have materialized in the United States. One patient who contracted the disease in Liberia died in Dallas, two nurses who treated him became infected but eventually recovered and one doctor who returned from West Africa where he was treating Ebola patients became sick and is now under care in a hospital in New York City.
The nearly $2 billion for USAID and $127 million for the Department of State would help carry out the U.S. anti-Ebola mission in West Africa. More than $2.4 billion would go to HHS, but administration officials would not break down the request on the basis of what was to be used to fight the disease overseas and what was meant to boost defenses in the United States. The Pentagon would get about $112 million.
Two administration officials described the request to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it ahead of the announcement.
The $4.64 billion in immediate spending would be used to strengthen the public health system in the U.S., combat the epidemic in West Africa, and speed up the development and testing of vaccines and other therapies. The money also would be used to help vulnerable foreign countries detect and respond to the disease.
The administration would establish more than 50 Ebola treatment centers throughout the country, procure safety suits, and more strictly monitor travelers on their arrival in the U.S.
House Speaker John Boehner's office said appropriators would review the request.
In making its case for the request, Obama faces a challenge of reassuring the public that Ebola is a difficult disease to contract here in the United States while at the same time insisting that stopping the virus at its West Africa source remains an urgent priority.
The public's attention has waned since the federal government and the governors of New York and New Jersey clashed over quarantine guidelines for returning travelers from the afflicted region. Absent a new case in the U.S., the focus has turned back to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, where the disease has cost nearly 5,000 lives.
Wednesday's request is in addition to steps the administration already has taken to attack the disease in Africa and to set up a defense in the U.S. Obama has authorized the Pentagon to deploy up to 4,000 service members to West Africa to build Ebola treatment units, a hospital for infected health care workers in the afflicted region and training for communities in how to conduct safe burials of victims.
"We are on a path to get a hold of this virus but it's going to be a long exercise," said one of the administration officials.
Letter from the President -- Emergency Appropriations Request for Ebola for Fiscal Year 2015
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:40
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 05, 2014
Dear Mr. Speaker: Today, I ask the Congress to consider the enclosed emergency appropriations request for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 that includes $6.18 billion to implement a comprehensive strategy to contain and end the Ebola outbreak at its source in Africa, enhance domestic preparedness, speed the procurement and testing of vaccines and therapeutics, and accelerate global capability to prevent the spread of future infectious diseases. The request includes $4.64 billion for immediate needs and $1.54 billion in contingency funding to ensure that there are resources available to respond to the evolving epidemic both domestically and internationally. This funding structure was used by the Congress in 2009 for the emergency supplemental for the H1N1 pandemic influenza. My foremost priority is to protect the health and safety of Americans, and this request supports all necessary steps to fortify our domestic health system and prevent any outbreaks at home. Over the longer term, my Administration recognizes that the best way to prevent additional cases at home will be to contain and eliminate the epidemic at its source in Africa. Specifically, the request includes resources for domestic hospital and State and local preparedness; resources to support training as well as the acquisition of appropriate protective equipment; medical and non-medical management of Ebola treatment units and community care centers; infection control; contact tracing; laboratory capacity; disease surveillance; emergency operation centers; education and outreach; burial teams; addressing food insecurity and other adverse impacts of the outbreak in affected areas; and testing and development of new vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics. The request also includes resources to strengthen global health security by reducing risks to Americans by enhancing the capacity of vulnerable countries to prevent disease outbreaks, detect them early, and swiftly respond before they become epidemics that threaten our national security. The Global Health Security Agenda will accelerate and expand international capabilities to deter infectious disease threats like Ebola, by: standing up emergency operations centers; providing equipment and training needed to test patients and report data in real-time; providing safe and secure laboratory capacity; and developing a trained workforce to track and end outbreaks before they become epidemics. These are the same activities that are necessary to combat the spread of Ebola and reduce the potential for future outbreaks of infectious diseases that could follow a similarly devastating, costly, and destabilizing trajectory. My Administration requests that the funding described above be designated as emergency requirements pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985, as amended. I urge the Congress to act expeditiously in considering this important request, the details of which are set forth in the enclosed letter from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Sincerely, BARACK OBAMA
FACT SHEET: Emergency Funding Request to Enhance the U.S. Government's Response to Ebola at Home and Abroad | The White House
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:43
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
November 05, 2014
Since the first cases of Ebola were reported in West Africa in March 2014, the United States has mounted a whole-of-government response to contain and eliminate the epidemic at its source, while also taking prudent measures to protect the American people.
Today, the Administration announced it is seeking $6.18 billion through an emergency funding request to Congress to enhance our comprehensive efforts to address this urgent situation. To help meet both immediate and longer-term requirements, $4.64 billion is requested for immediate response and $1.54 billion is requested as a Contingency Fund to ensure that there are resources available to meet the evolving nature of the epidemic.
The $4.64 billion for the Administration's immediate response, as outlined below, is designed to fortify domestic public health systems, contain and mitigate the epidemic in West Africa, speed the procurement and testing of vaccines and therapeutics, and strengthen global health security by reducing risks to Americans by enhancing capacity for vulnerable countries to prevent disease outbreaks, detect them early, and swiftly respond before they become epidemics that threaten our national security. These are the same activities that are necessary to combat the spread of Ebola and reduce the potential for future outbreaks of infectious diseases that could follow a similarly devastating, costly, and destabilizing trajectory.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - $2.43 billion:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - $1.83 billion. The request includes funding to prevent, detect, and respond to the Ebola epidemic and other infectious diseases and public health emergencies both at home and abroad for the following activities:
Fortify domestic public health systems and advance U.S. preparedness with support to more than 50 Ebola Treatment Centers through state and local public health departments. Improve Ebola readiness within State and local public health departments and laboratories.Procure personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Strategic National Stockpile. Increase support for monitoring of travelers at U.S. airports.Control the epidemic in the hardest hit countries in Africa by funding activities including: infection control, contact tracing and laboratory surveillance and training; emergency operation centers and preparedness; and education and outreach. Conduct evaluations of clinical trials in affected countries to assess safety and efficacy of vaccine candidates.Establish global health security capacity in vulnerable countries to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics by standing up emergency operations centers; providing equipment and training needed to test patients and report data in real-time; providing safe and secure laboratory capacity; and developing a trained workforce to track and end outbreaks before they become epidemics. These are the same activities that are necessary to combat the spread of Ebola and reduce the potential for future outbreaks of infectious diseases that could follow a similarly devastating, costly, and destabilizing trajectory.Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) - $333 million. The request includes $166 million for PHSSEF to immediately respond to patients with highly-infectious diseases such as Ebola, including for the purchase of and training on the use of PPE at hospitals across the United States and to support more than 50 Ebola Treatment Centers. These Ebola Treatment Centers would be able to provide a higher level of definitive care in an isolated setting with point-of-care laboratory testing. In addition, the request includes $157 million for the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for immediate response to manufacture vaccines and synthetic therapeutics for use in clinical trials. The request also includes $10 million to aid in modeling and genetic sequencing of the Ebola virus.
National Institutes of Health - $238 million. The request includes funding for immediate response for advanced clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of investigational vaccines and therapeutics.
Food and Drug Administration - $25 million. The request includes funding for immediate response for development, review, regulation, and post-market surveillance of an Ebola vaccine and therapeutics.
U.S. Agency for International Development - $1.98 billion:
The request includes funding for USAID to scale up the U.S. foreign assistance response to contain the Ebola crisis in West Africa and assist in the region's recovery from the epidemic. USAID is the lead agency for the overall U.S. response to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, partnering with CDC, which is the medical lead. USAID's request expands emergency assistance to contain the epidemic, address humanitarian needs and support the recovery of affected countries in the region. The request supports the medical and non-medical management of Ebola treatment units and community care facilities; provides them with PPE and supplies; helps establish the regional logistics network needed to support the international crisis response; increases the number of safe burial teams; addresses food insecurity and other second-order impacts in affected communities, such as adverse effects on maternal and child health; and bolsters community education efforts critical to prevent the spread of the disease.
The request also expands global health security activities to prevent Ebola from spreading, enhance local health care systems' ability to report threats in real-time, and establish needed capability for expert personnel and equipment to stop health emergencies before they become epidemics. This will help limit the spread of Ebola beyond Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea to other vulnerable nations and will increase preparedness and response capacity for future outbreaks.
Department of State - $127 million:
The request includes funding to expand the Department's medical support and evacuation capacity to overseas posts in the affected region, provide additional repatriation assistance, and support other diplomatic operational needs including an Ebola Coordination Unit.
The request also includes resources to fund estimated U.S. contributions to the new United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) and provide a voluntary contribution to the World Health Organization (WHO) to enable it to continue to provide essential technical support for overall coordination, surveillance, and data collection in each Ebola-affected country.
Lastly, the request includes funding for biosafety training efforts as well as training for civil aviation staff to implement sound screening procedures in West African countries.
Department of Defense - $112 million:
The request includes funding for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to support immediate efforts aimed at developing technologies that are relevant to the Ebola crisis, such as providing immediate temporary immunity, including through the use of antibodies from survivors of Ebola and other infectious diseases that will help provide a stop gap until an effective vaccine is available, and developing new technologies that could shorten the vaccine development timeline from years to months.
Contingency Fund:
The Administration is requesting $1.54 billion for a Contingency Fund, with $751 million for HHS and $792 million for USAID and the Department of State.
Given the changing nature of the Ebola epidemic, the Contingency Fund is requested to ensure that there are resources available to respond to the evolving situation. If necessary, the Contingency Fund could support increased domestic efforts, such as expanded monitoring; a limited vaccination campaign that could target health care workers treating infected patients (if a vaccine is proven safe and effective); an expanded response in Guinea, Sierra Leone or other countries if the virus spreads; and, enhanced global health security efforts. As the rapidly evolving and unpredictable outbreak progresses, it is necessary to have maximum flexibility to respond quickly.
Ongoing Activities:
The emergency funding requested today complements the ongoing efforts to combat the spread of Ebola, which includes deploying key medical and expert personnel to the affected countries, increasing the Department of Defense's deployed presence of up to 4,000 service members, building a new hospital for infected health care workers, building Ebola Treatment Units, and reaching out to communities assisting with safe burials. Domestically, this funding expands upon the existing system that screens entrants from West Africa for Ebola symptoms, monitors at-risk individuals, identifies and treats Ebola patients at selected hospitals. Without these additional resources, agencies will be unable to help control the epidemic, mitigate economic, social and political impacts of the crisis, ensure adequate domestic preparedness, develop safe and effective treatments and vaccines or expedite global health security capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics. For these reasons, this emergency funding is needed to enhance the Administration's current whole-of-government response to help end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and support increased domestic preparedness.
Fighting Ebola: 5 Things You Need to Know About Emergency Funding to Combat the Disease | The White House
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:58
The current Ebola epidemic plaguing West Africa is the deadliest Ebola outbreak in human history.
Since the first cases were reported in March, the U.S. has mounted a large-scale and comprehensive effort to protect the American people here at home while fighting the disease at its source.
Today, the Administration asked Congress to help bolster America's resources in the fight against Ebola by providing $6.18 billion toward our whole-of-government efforts. The emergency funds will help ensure that we meet both immediate and long-term needs, and that there are resources available to meet the evolving nature of the epidemic.
Here's what you need to know about this request and our response to Ebola:
1. What exactly will the funding be used for?The Administration will use these funds to:
Fortify domestic public health and health care systemsContain and mitigate the epidemic in West AfricaSpeed the development and testing of vaccines and therapeuticsEstablishing the capacity of vulnerable countries to prevent, detect, and respond to disease outbreaks before they become epidemics that threaten the American people.These activities are necessary to combat the spread of Ebola and reduce the potential for future outbreaks of infectious diseases that could have similarly devastating, costly, and destabilizing consequences.
2. Who is going to get these funds, and how will they use it?Multiple federal agencies will be responsible for these funds to prevent, detect, and contain the Ebola virus at home and abroad.
For instance, the Department of Health and Human Services will receive $2.43 billion to support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and more to fund activities that strengthen our preparedness and response capabilities, including:
Fortifying domestic health care systems by supporting more than 50 Ebola Treatment Centers and equipment and training at hospitals across the United StatesProviding preparedness funding to state and local public health departments procuring personal protective equipment (PPE) for the Strategic National Stockpile.Increasing support for monitoring of travelers at U.S. airportsConducting advanced clinical trials to evaluate the safety and efficacy of investigational vaccines and therapeuticsEstablishing capacity in vulnerable countries to stand up emergency operations centers; testing patients and reporting data in real-time; providing safe and secure laboratory capacity; and developing a trained workforce to track and end outbreaks before they become epidemics. These are the same activities that are also necessary to combat the spread of Ebola.The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will use $1.98 billion to scale up our foreign assistance and address humanitarian needs by:
Expanding medical and non-medical management of Ebola Treatment Units and community care centersProviding PPE and suppliesEstablishing regional logistics network needed to support the international crisis responseIncreasing the number of safe burial teamsAddressing food insecurity and other second-order impacts in affected communitiesBolstering community education efforts to prevent the spread of EbolaEnhancing the ability of local health care systems to report threats in real-timeEstablishing needed capability for expert personnel and equipment to stop health emergencies before they become epidemics that threaten Americans.The Departments of State and Defense will also receive funding to support our medical air transport/evacuation capacity at overseas posts, and to accelerate the development of cutting-edge vaccine technologies, respectively.
Take an in-depth look at the full list of activities that the emergency funding will support here.
3. Aren't we conducting this kind of response already? Why do we need more funds?The emergency funds are required to sustain our ongoing efforts to combat the spread of Ebola, which already includes the deployment of key medical workers and service members to affected countries. We have established a new hospital for infected health care workers. We are supporting Ebola Treatment Units and community care centers, community education campaigns and safe burials.
Here at home, we are supporting health care worker and health system preparedness, screening travelers from affected countries, assisting in the monitoring of at-risk individuals, and identifying and treating Ebola patients at specialized hospitals.
The emergency funding is necessary to sustain the Administration's ongoing whole-of-government response to help end the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and protect people here at home.
4. Why is this funding being called ''emergency'' funding?The funding is needed immediately to strengthen and sustain our whole-of-government response to strengthen preparedness in the U.S. and to help end the Ebola epidemic at its source in West Africa, and to prevent disease outbreaks, detect them early, and swiftly respond before they become epidemics that threaten the American people. It's in situations like this one, when activities surpass the current level of funding, that the request is deemed an emergency.
What's more, a portion of this funding request will ensure that, should they be needed, additional resources are available to support domestic preparedness activities or expanded international efforts, depending on the evolution of the outbreak.
5. Are we the only country that's funding an international response effort?No. To effectively contain and eventually bring an end to this epidemic, it will take the commitment of the international community. Many countries are standing with us contributing resources to the fight on the front lines.
The United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, China, Norway, and the European Commission, and others are providing critical funding and supplies. In some cases, these resources include civilian and military personnel, staffing for Ebola Treatment Units, laboratories, transportation of critical supplies and food, and support for air transport and medical evacuation.
China, Cuba, India, Japan, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Norway, Switzerland, South Korea, Thailand, Ghana, Malaysia, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and the African Union are all providing significant financial and in-kind support as well.
Because of our skill, our determination, and our passion, Americans are uniquely suited to lead this international response. The emergency funding will ensure that we can fulfill our leadership role and also ensure that we are taking important steps to strengthen preparedness here in the U.S.
While introducing President Obama at a White House event last week, Dr. Kent Brantly -- a U.S. doctor who contracted Ebola in Liberia and was later cured of the disease -- said that ''At this time, perhaps more than any other, we feel the impact of our position as citizens of not only the United States of America but as citizens of the world.''
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World Bank brings Ebola funding to nearly $1 billion | News , World | THE DAILY STAR
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:21
WASHINGTON: The World Bank's private sector arm pledged $450 million on Wednesday to support trade, investment and employment in the three West African countries affected the most by the deadly Ebola outbreak.
The announcement from the bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) brings total World Bank commitments for Ebola to nearly $1 billion in the past three months, an unprecedented rapid response for a development institution that has been accused of dragging its feet on project approval in the past.
World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, a doctor and anthropologist, has led the bank's response to the virus, which has killed almost 5,000 people, mainly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
"The fear swirling around Ebola has the potential to do long-term harm to businesses globally, and especially in the Ebola-affected countries," Kim said in a statement. "IFC .. will find ways to help boost trade and investment in West Africa, which will be essential to ensure that private companies continue to operate and sustain employment under difficult circumstances."
About $250 million of the new IFC funds will go towards rapid response projects, providing support to small and medium-sized businesses in the region, including $75 million in emergency liquidity for six banks IFC already works with.
The remaining $200 million is committed for projects to support the countries' recovery after the epidemic, IFC said in a statement.
The World Bank had previously pledged $500 million for countries hit by the epidemic, and warned Ebola could sap more than $32 billion from West Africa by the end of 2015 if it spreads beyond Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
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Guinea: Ebola Still a Crisis - UN Envoy
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:55
Visiting Gu(C)ck(C)dou, Guinea, where the unprecedented outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is believed to have started, the United Nations envoy coordinating the massive global crisis response said that while there are now "basically zero" cases in the town, the challenge will be to replicate the strategy to defeat the disease throughout the country and the wider region.
In the middle of his third trip to Guinea this month, Anthony Banbury, head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), told reporters that he had visited Gu(C)ck(C)dou, in an area in the southern part of the country, close to the Sierra Leone and Liberia borders, at the heart of where the crisis originally began.
"The first case of Ebola, in December 2013, was just down the road from here, so I was very interested and coming and seeing the situation on the ground for myself," he said, noting that "happily, the number of cases in Gu(C)ck(C)dou has gone down a lot."
Indeed, he said, the transmissions are declining and the number of cases in the town is almost basically zero. While there are still cases outside the town, "there's been good progress made over these past months."
Asked if the strategy to halt the spread of the virus in the area was sound, the UNMEER chief said he did not believe there were any major gaps in Gu(C)ck(C)dou.
"All the elements of the proper response plan are in place," he continued, explaining that in the area there is an Ebola treatment unit; there are safe burials; there is contact identification and tracing; as well s community mobilization - "and we see the results of it".
This was reminiscent of what UNMEER had seen in Foya in neighbouring Liberia, where all those elements were in place, and what had been an area with very high infection rates - and significantly accelerated infection rates - now was seeing significantly decreasing infection rates.
"So we know the strategy we have works - the challenge now to is to spread it everywhere... the disease is," said Mr. Banbury, noting that there are other places close to Gu(C)ck(C)dou where the situation was quite different and the virus was still spreading.
"We're going to go look at Macenta today... where there are significantly accelerating cases and we need to [put] more of an effort there into getting all the elements of the response together," he said.
As for his meeting earlier in the day with Gu(C)ck(C)dou's prefect, mayor, other local officials, partners and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Mr. Banbury said that while the prefect was very pleased with the progress that had been achieved in reducing the number of cases, he emphasized that the Ebola outbreak is impacting every segment of society, every facet of life.
"People weren't going to the market anymore, people were afraid to come from outside of Gu(C)ck(C)dou to sell at the market because they thought that Gu(C)ck(C)dou was a centre of Ebola. So clearly the disease has had a dramatic impact on society here," said Mr. Banbury, adding however, that "the good news is the numbers are really coming down in Gu(C)ck(C)dou."
Yet, there is more work to be done, he continued, noting that unfortunately, in neighbouring districts - Macenta, N'Z(C)r(C)kor(C), Kaoune - "there are very significant numbers, increases in cases."
Commenting on his stop yesterday in the Guinean capital, Conakry, where he met President Alpha Cond(C), Mr. Banbury said he had been pleased to learn of the adoption by the President and the Government of a national plan to defeat Ebola - that was very much based on the plan that came out of the planning conference held two weeks ago in Accra, Ghana, where UNMEER is headquartered, with the key UN officials and leaders of the most-affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Now, he continued, the Guinea's national coordination structure is co-chaired by Dr. Sakoba and Dr. Marcel Rudasingwa, the Ebola Crisis Manager for UNMEER, "so things are really looking in good shape here. The disease is still very much a crisis, but the elements to defeat are being put in place - I'm very pleased to see it."
Mr. Banbury went on to say that his first stop after Conakry this morning was in Kissidougou, where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is in the process of building a Forward Logistics Base (FLB).
Praising WFP for working so fast to put in place "this critical logistics capability", he said the Base would have storage facilities, as well as a helicopter landing pad, "including jet A-1 for the planes and helicopters to give good reach for the helicopters to move around and deliver supplies, as well as a number of 4X4 trucks".
Asked about his takeaway from field missions, Mr. Banbury said "you learn so much more than you can in a meeting room in the capital." Indeed, while official meetings provided vital opportunities to hear the concerns of Heads of State and partners had to say, "you learn much more here on the ground, whether it's talking to a local official, an NGO worker, a UN worker, some kid on the street - this is where you can really get the sense of what's happening."
According to UN World Health Organization (WHO) statistics on the Ebola outbreak, 13,567 cases and 4,951 deaths have been reported in the six affected countries of Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States, along with two previously affected countries, Nigeria and Senegal. The cases reported are fewer than those last reported due mainly to suspected cases in Guinea being discarded, WHO said.
EBOLA-World Food Programme - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:30
The World Food Programme (WFP; French: Programme Alimentaire Mondial; Italian: Programma Alimentare Mondiale; Spanish: Programa Mundial de Alimentos) is the food assistance branch of the United Nations and the world's largest humanitarian organization addressing hunger and promoting food security.[1] On average, the WFP provides food to 90 million people per year, of whom 58 million are children.[2] From its headquarters in Rome and more than 80 country offices around the world, the WFP works to help people who are unable to produce or obtain enough food for themselves and their families. It is a member of the United Nations Development Group and part of its Executive Committee.[3]
Overview[edit]The WFP was first established in 1961[4] after the 1960 Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Conference, when George McGovern, director of the US Food for Peace Programmes, proposed establishing a multilateral food aid programme. The WFP was formally established in 1963 by the FAO and the United Nations General Assembly on a three-year experimental basis. In 1965, the programme was extended to a continuing basis.
Organization[edit]The WFP is governed by an Executive Board which consists of representatives from 36 member states. Ertharin Cousin is the current Executive Director, appointed jointly by the UN Secretary General and the Director-General of the FAO for a five-year term. She heads the Secretariat of the WFP.[5] The European Union is a permanent observer in the WFP and, as a major donor, participates in the work of its Executive Board.[6]
The WFP has a staff of 11,799 people (2011) with 90% operating in the field.[7]
Goals and strategies[edit]The WFP strives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, with the ultimate goal in mind of eliminating the need for food aid itself.
The objectives that the WFP hopes to achieve are to:[8]
"Save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies""Support food security and nutrition and (re)build livelihoods in fragile settings and following emergencies""Reduce risk and enable people, communities and countries to meet their own food and nutrition needs""Reduce undernutrition and break the intergenerational cycle of hunger"WFP food aid is also directed to fight micronutrient deficiencies, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, and combat disease, including HIV and AIDS. Food-for-work programmes help promote environmental and economic stability and agricultural production.
Activities[edit]In 2011, the WFP reached 99.1 million people in 75 countries and provided 3.6 million tonnes of food, including nutritionally improved products such as Plumpy'sup, Plumpy'doz, and Supercereal Plus. The number of malnourished children who received special nutritional support in 2011 was over 11 million, up from 8.5 million in 2010. Some 23 million children received school meals or take-home rations.
The WFP has scaled up its use of cash and vouchers as food assistance tools. Some 4.4 million people received assistance through cash or voucher programmes in 2011. In 2011, the WFP bought over 2.4 million metric tons of food, worth more than US$1.2 billion, in 87 countries. Of the 2.4 million metric tons of food, 71 per cent was purchased in developing countries, representing approximately US$870 million and more than 1.7 million metric tons.
Among its other activities, the WFP is coordinating the five-year Purchase for Progress (P4P) pilot project. Launched in September 2008, P4P assists smallholder farmers by offering them opportunities to access agricultural markets and to become competitive players in the market place. The project is underway in 20 of the 21 planned countries and, since the launch, more than 116,000 farmers, warehouse operators and small & medium traders have received training from the WFP and partners in improved agricultural production, post-harvest handling, quality assurance, group marketing, agricultural finance and contracting with the WFP. More than 207,000 metric tons of food valued at US$75.6 million have been contracted.
The WFP focuses its food assistance on those who are most vulnerable to hunger, which most frequently means women, children, the sick and the elderly. In fact, part of the response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake consisted of distributing food aid only to women as experience built up over almost 5 decades of working in emergency situations has demonstrated that giving food only to women helps to ensure that it is spread evenly among all household members. School-feeding and/or take-home ration programmes in 71 countries help students focus on their studies and encourage parents to send their children, especially girls, to school.
Funding[edit]The WFP operations are funded by voluntary donations from world governments, corporations and private donors. The organization's administrative costs are only seven percent'--one of the lowest and best among aid agencies.[citation needed] In 2011, the WFP's total revenue was $3.73 billion. From 2008-2012, private donors donated around $500 million.[citation needed]
FITTEST[edit]The Fast Information of Technology Emergency and Support Team ("FITTEST") is a group of technical specialists within the IT division of the WFP.[9] FITTEST provides IT, telecommunications and electricity infrastructure to support humanitarian aid operations anywhere in the world.
Humanitarian emergencies demand rapid interventions that are efficient, coordinated and effective. FITTEST responds to emergency requests and ensures staff are on the ground and ready to operate within 48 hours.
FITTEST is based in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, headed by its Chief Officer Greg Vanny. The geographical location of this city facilitates the team's deployment to emergencies around the world.
Operating on a cost-recovery basis, FITTEST is a unique cell within the United Nations system. Receiving no direct contribution from Governments or other humanitarian donors, FITTEST ensures its sustainability by operating in a similar way to a commercial company. The team operates on a limited margin (7.5%) which it uses to cover costs and initial training for its members. Such a method of operating ensures the application of very high service standards as FITTEST only survives if its 'clients' continue to utilise its services.
Official partners[edit]The WFP coordinates and cooperates with a number of official partners in emergencies and development projects. These partners include national government agencies such as DFID, ECHO, EuropeAid, USAID; UN agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); non-governmental organizations such as Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services and Norwegian Refugee Council; as well as corporate partners such as Boston Consulting Group, YUM! Brands, DSM N.V., and Cargill.[10]
Actor Drew Barrymore is Ambassador to the World Food Program and donated $1 million in 2008.[11]
Grassroots level partners include hungrykids.org.
World Hunger Relief Week[edit]In 2007, the WFP joined with Yum! Brands, the world's largest restaurant company, to launch the first annual World Hunger Relief Week, a global campaign to increase awareness about hunger, engage volunteers, and raise critically needed funds to help the WFP serve the world's areas of greatest need. World Hunger Relief Week 2007 leveraged the power of nearly 35,000 restaurants around the world, sparking a global movement to end hunger and generating an overwhelming outpouring of support from millions of customers, employees, franchisees and their families. Nearly one million Yum!, KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's and A&W All American Food employees, franchisees and their families volunteered close to 4 million hours to aid hunger relief efforts in communities worldwide, while helping to raise $16 million throughout the World Hunger Relief Week initiative for the World Food Programme and other hunger relief agencies around the world. The initiative has been repeated every year since.
Grassroots efforts[edit]In 2004, the WFP tasked Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama with heading the first student-led War on Hunger effort, after a 2002 Northwestern University pilot. Auburn founded the Committee of 19, which has not only led campus and community hunger awareness events but also developed a War on Hunger model for use on campuses across the country.
The WFP has launched a global advocacy and fundraising event called Walk the World. On one single day each year, hundreds of thousands of people in every time zone all over the world walk to call for the end of child hunger. In 2005, more than 200,000 people walked in 296 locations. In 2006, there were 760,000 participants in 118 countries all over the world. This event is part of the campaign to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, specifically to halve the number of people who suffer from hunger and poverty by 2015.
A growing number of grassroots global events and celebrations such as International Day of Peace, World Party Day participants, and Peace One Day recommend the WFP on radio broadcasts as an immediate reach out action, putting help within reach of anyone with the information that a quarter feeds a child for a day. Fill the Cup campaign takes just 25 US cents to fill one of the "red cups" that the World Food Programme uses to give hungry children a regular school meal of porridge, rice or beans.[12][13][14]Christina Aguilera, Drew Barrymore and Sean Penn are among notable celebrities who endorse the WFP.[15][16] The British singer Sami Yusuf joined with the WFP to support the drought-stricken in Horn of Africa.[17] through his personal campaigned, LiveFeedAfrica.[18] His latest music video, Forgotten Promises, featured WFP work in the Horn of Africa.
World Food Program USA[edit]The World Food Program USA, formerly Friends of WFP, works to solve global hunger, building a world where everyone has the food and nutrition needed to lead healthy, productive lives. WFP USA raises support for these efforts in the United States by engaging individuals, organizations and businesses, shaping public policy and generating resources for WFP.[19]
Criticism[edit]Kenyan economist James Shikwati says in an interview with Der Spiegel: "aid to Africa does more harm than good".[20] According to him, the food aid increases corruption as local politicians have the opportunity to steal some of the aid to bribe voters or to sell the aid in the black markets killing the local agriculture.[21] He claims that the WFP people as an organisation "are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated". He suggests that WFP answers too easily to the calls of the corrupted governments, and supplies too much of food aid leading to reduction of the production of local farmers as "no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program".
List of executive directors[edit]The following is a chronological list of those who have held the Executive Director of the World Food Programme position:[22]
Addeke Hendrik Boerma (May 1962 - December 1967)Sushil K. Dev (acting) (January 1968 - August 1968)Franciso Aquino (July 1968 - May 1976)Thomas C. M. Robinson (May 1976 - June 1977 acting; July 1977 - September 1977)Garson N. Vogel (October 1977 - April 1981)Bernardo de Azevedo Brito (acting) (May 1981 - February 1982)Juan Felipe Yriart (acting) (February 1982 - April 1982)James Ingram (April 1982 '' April 1992)Catherine Bertini (April 1992 '' April 2002)James T. Morris (April 2002 '' April 2007)Josette Sheeran (April 2007 '' April 2012)Ertharin Cousin (April 2012 '' present)See also[edit]References[edit]External links[edit]
EBOLA-Anthony Banbury - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:29
Anthony Banbury was born in 1964 in the United States. He currently serves as Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola.[1]
Prior to this appointment of 8 September 2014, Mr. Banbury served as United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support. He was appointed to this position in 2009 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.[2] His responsibilities in this capacity include developing cross-cutting field support policies and strategies and overseeing daily operation across the full range of mission support areas.
Banbury studied political science at Tufts University[2] and obtained his Masters degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He also received a Diploma of Higher Studies from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.
He held various positions in the United Nations in his early career. From 1988 to 1995, he served in the United Nations Border Relief Operation in Thailand, the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia and the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. Between 1996 and 1997, he worked in the Secretariat, at the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and in the Department of Humanitarian Affairs.
His also served as the Asia Regional Director for the World Food Programme in Bangkok from 2003 to 2009, where he managed humanitarian relief and development operations in 14 countries. He also was an integral part of the relief operations for the 2004 tsunami and the 2008 Cyclone Nargis.
Besides his working experience at the United Nations, he also worked for the United States Government, from 1997 to 1999 as an advisor on the Balkans in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and from 2000 to 2003 at the National Security Council in the White House. He is married, with four children.[3]
four
^appoints Anthony Banbury of United States Deputy Ebola Coordinator and Operation Crisis Manager. UN Press Release, 8 September 2014.^ ab"Anthony Banbury". UNRIC MAGAZINE. April 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-27. ^"Secretary-General Appoints Anthony Banbury of United States as Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support". SG/A/1181 BIO/4077 (United Nations Secretary-General). United Nations Department of Public Information. April 17, 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2014. PersondataNameBanbury, AnthonyAlternative namesShort descriptionDate of birth1964Place of birthDate of deathPlace of death
Ebola: Bob Geldof plant neues "Do They Know ..."
To raise funds for the Ebola victims and their helpers in Africa, Bob Geldof plane, according to "The Sun", a fourth edition of his world hit "Do They Know It's Christmas?" - Timely for the 30th anniversary of the world hits of 1984. Currently, the Band-Aid-organizer will be there to call a meeting major music stars for the new project, an official announcement, there is not currently. New versions of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" were in 1989 and 2004 again entered the charts.
ebolabob geldof - Google Search
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:35
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From Forbes:
The Associated Press and other press outlets have agreed not to report
on suspected cases of Ebola in the United States until a positive viral
RNA test is completed.
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AP News : Burkina Faso appoints new transitional leader
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 05:20
By BRAHIMA OUEDRAOGOPublished: YesterdayOUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) - Burkina Faso's army appointed a military colonel as transitional leader on Saturday, it said, after the West African country's president resigned from 27 years in office amid violent protests against his continued power.
Lt. Col. Isaac Yacouba Zida was unanimously appointed by the army to lead Burkina Faso, the army said in a declaration. "The period of transition" and its "form and duration will be determined later," said the declaration that was drafted and signed after senior officers met with the joint chief of staff Saturday.
Blaise Compaore resigned Friday after protesters stormed parliament and set the building ablaze following two days of violent demonstrations against his bid to amend the constitution to stand next year for another term. His move left the impoverished West African country in a state of uncertainty, and both Joint Chief of Staff Gen. Honore Traore and Zida had made remarks that they were in power.
Compaore, his family and those close to him had been taken in by Ivory Coast, according to a statement from the office of President Alassane Ouattara. It did not elaborate. It said Ouattara was following events "with particular attention."
Earlier Saturday, Zida said that the president's resignation amid violent street protests was an "insurrection" and not a coup, and that Compaore and a top aide were both safe.
"Starting today I will assume all the responsibilities of this transition and of head of state," he said in an announcement carried on radio early Saturday.
Zida was the second in command of the president's security regiment. Having been in Burkina Faso's ranks for more than two decades, Zida is close to the president and appreciated by lower ranking soldier.
Zida called on the international community including the African Union to "support our people during this difficult ordeal." He had announced that the country's borders had been closed, a transitional committee had been set up and the constitution had been suspended.
Gen. Traore, the joint chief of staff, had on Friday told reporters that he would assume the presidency until elections were called, so Lt. Col. Zida's declaration Saturday caused initial confusion.
Over the course of several dramatic hours, Compaore, 63, went from looking likely to jam through parliament a bill that would let him seek a fifth term to agreeing to step down next year to abandoning office immediately.
The quick succession of events took many by surprise, since Compaore had long out-maneuvered his adversaries and has in recent years become an important regional mediator. Burkina Faso hosts French special forces and serves as an important ally of both France and the United States in the fight against Islamic militants in West Africa.
The United States called on Burkina Faso's military "to immediately transfer power to civilian authorities" in order "to move immediately towards free and fair presidential elections.
"The United States condemns the Burkinabe military's attempt to impose its will on the people of Burkina Faso," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement released Saturday.
Compaore first came to power following the October 1987 coup against then-President Thomas Sankara, Compaore's longtime friend and political ally who was killed in the power grab.
While he was respected on the international stage, critics noted that, under Compaore's semi-authoritarian rule, the country of 18 million people remained mired in poverty. The landlocked country's fortunes rise and fall with gold and cotton prices - and adequate rain in a region plagued by drought.
___
Associated Press reporter Jamey Keaten in Paris and Carley Petesch in Johannesburg contributed to this report.
Burkina Faso Update: Missed Opportunity? :: J. Peter Pham
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 00:24
by J. Peter PhamAfricaSourceOctober 31, 2014
http://www.jppham.com/15572/burkina-faso-update-missed-opportunity
The "soft landing" that so many, both in Burkina Faso and abroad, had worked so hard to achieve is not to be. Following violent protests against an effort to lift constitutional bar on his seeking another term in office, mob actions which brought the landlocked West African country to the edge of the abyss, President Blaise Compaor(C) announced on Thursday night that he would step down at the end of his current mandate and hand power to a democratically elected successor. In the meantime, the country would be governed by a government of national unity to be established in consultation with all stakeholders. The compromise was not enough for some opposition politicians, who used social media to mobilize crowds to fill the burned out streets of the capital of Ouagadougou on Friday. Facing the prospect of even greater violence, Compaor(C) did right by his country and resigned the presidency. The military chief of staff, Major General Honor(C) Nab(C)r(C) Traor(C), has now declared himself the head of state. Thus the opportunity for the first-ever peaceful and democratic transition in the fifty-four-year history of Burkina Faso's independence has been lost.
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Honor(C) Traor(C) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 00:22
Honor(C) Traor(C)Personal detailsPolitical partyNoneGeneral Honor(C) Nab(C)r(C) Traor(C) is one of the two Burkinab(C)soldiers that claimed to be the head of state since the resignation of Blaise Compaor(C) in the aftermath of the 2014 Burkinab(C) uprising.[1] Traor(C) has stated that a new election will take place in 60-90 days.[2]
Traor(C) had previously served as Compaor(C)'s aide de camp.[3]
Burkina Faso Has New Leader
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 00:21
DAKAR / OUAGADOUGOU'--Burkina Faso's army backed a military colonel as the country's transitional leader on Saturday after the resignation of President Blaise Compaore, showing apparent unity within the armed forces after 24 hours of confusion.
Following talks held after Lt. Colonel Isaac Yacouba Zida had declared himself head of state in an early morning radio address, military leaders released a statement confirming that he is in charge.
x
Burkina Faso's Lieutenant-Colonel Yacouba Isaac Zida (L) listens a statement is read at the end of a meeting with the country's military commanders, Nov. 1, 2014, at the military headquarters in Ouagadougou.''Lt. Colonel Zida has been retained unanimously'' to lead the transition, said the statement, read by General Pingrenoma Zagr(C) to the nation. ''The structure and the duration of this transition will be determined later."
The statement laid to rest reports of a power struggle within the armed forces, saying that any apparent ''confusion'' and ''contradiction'' were a by-product of the fast pace at which events unfolded.
Compaore resigned Friday in the face of continued protests.
Both Zida, who was second in command of the presidential guard, and army chief General Honore Traore then declared themselves in charge. General Traore signed the statement Saturday.
The former president fled the country after 27 years in power and four days of some of the biggest and fiercest protests the nation has ever seen.
Many celebrating in the streets said all that matters is that Compaore is gone.
''The president is gone. We are too happy,'' one man said. ''From now on we can live in peace.''
Young people organized themselves and cleaned the streets of Ouagadougou Saturday at the request of civil society groups, an attempt to restore order.
But analysts warned not to expect a smooth transition.
Possible trouble ahead
Some characterize Compaore's time in power as ''semi-authoritarian'' and said he kept any clear capable successors from emerging within the political class.
More than half of the population was born after Compaore came to power in 1987. He's the only president they've ever known.
Burkinabe consider this to be a people's revolution but they looked to the military for interim leadership.
Lt. Col Zida is said to have considerable support from the streets - including the backing of a civic group, the Citizen's Broom, that was instrumental in the protest movement.
''The power,'' Zida said, ''belongs to the courageous and combative people of Burkina Faso. No one - I repeat - no one will take this victory away from us.''
The crowd cheered Zida as he made his first public declaration Friday afternoon.
However, people gathered at that same public square Saturday told VOA they are worried about Zida's ties to the now ex-president. Zida was the number two in Compaore's elite presidential guard. The presidential guard fired on protesters Thursday, killing at least one person.
Zida suspended the Constitution. He has implemented a curfew and shut the country's borders.
He has given few details about what's ahead, other than to say he will create a transitional body with input from all sides to organize democratic elections. He said the goal is a return to constitutional order ''as soon as possible'' though he can't say when.
"I call on the international community, in particular countries that are friends and allies of Burkina Faso, notably in the African Union and ECOWAS, to demonstrate their understanding and support our people in this difficult time,'' Zida said.
US condemnation
The United States Friday repeated its call for all sides to follow the constitutionally mandated process for the transfer of power Compaore's resignation.
"We condemn any attempts by the military or other parties to take advantage of the situation for unconstitutional gain and call on all parties to respect the people's support for the democratic process," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
The State Department also issued a travel warning Friday alerting U.S. citizens to incidents of looting throughout the capital city of Ouagadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, and other parts of the country.
"The situation is dynamic and closures or openings of border and airports are likely to change and remain unpredictable for some time. Currently, land and air borders have been closed."
x
FILE - Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore announced he was stepping down following violent protests demanding an end to his 27-year rule, Oct. 31, 2014.Compaore stepped down Friday after protesters stormed parliament and set the building ablaze, ending his 27-year reign and sparking a struggle in the military for control of the West African country.
The longtime leader arrived in neighboring Ivory Coast Saturday. Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara confirmed that Compaore, his family and those close to him had crossed into the country. It did not elaborate.
In resigning, Compaore had called for a 90-day transition period leading to elections. He ruled the country for 27 years after seizing power in a 1987 coup.
Unrest had broken out Thursday as lawmakers prepared to vote on a constitutional amendment that would have allowed Compaore to run for another term.
The government withdrew the amendment after protests became violent.
Some material for this report comes from Reuters and the Associated Press.
Ebola, Terror, Politics: Burkina Faso Epitomises West Africa's Economic Woes
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:53
VENTURES AFRICA '' It started with the cravings of a power drunk leader who has been president since 1987 and wants a fifth term. The West African country is in a tumultuous situation, as protesters set the parliament ablaze in violence that has led to the death of at least one person and has forced the president to resign, a situation that embodies the sub-region's struggles.
From Terrorism, to Ebola, to political instability, West African struggles have been on for decades and has stifled the economic growth of the region. The situation in Burkina Faso is another example of the struggles of a region filled with so much promise but bedevilled by poor leadership.
President Blaise Compaore's plan to extend his 27-year rule angered the Burkinabe people, about 50 percent of which live below the poverty line and they broke into a violent protest. Their anger mirrors how Africans may react to the growing trend set by various African rulers, who seek elasticity in constitutional limits to achieve longevity in power.
The Silent Revolution
Political instability and economic mismanagement have plagued West Africa for decades, with the acute failings of politicians giving the military expanded rule across the region.
The South African Institute of International Affairs in a 1990 report titled West Africa: The Silent Revolution discussed the political situation in West Africa including the military regimes of Mauritania and Burkina Faso at the time, where Compaore was just seven years into his presidency.
The report noted that ''unaccountable, alienated regimes presiding over dilapidating economies'' were responsible for unrest across the region at the time, the situation remains the same today, but the revolution is no longer silent. Even Burkina Faso, one of the most stable in tumultuous West Africa is in turmoil. The message is clear, Africa's large youth population are tired of being led by old people, who seem to have ran out of ideas. With the military now in charge after dissolving Compaore's government, Burkina Faso may be back where they started. A statement signed by Gen. Honor(C) Nab(C)r(C) Traor(C), the joint chief of staff however says elections will hold within a year; whether that will happen remains to be seen. Mr Compaore has also announced he was stepping down to ''preserve peace''.
Joining Political Instability To Stifle West Africa's Growth Are Terrorism and Ebola
West Africa's troubles are much more than the age long political instability, terrorism has crept into the region, with Burkina Faso's neighbours Mali and Niger Republic fighting to keep their States safe from the rising tide of Islamist militancy. Nigeria, seen as a leader in the region, has also over the past half-decade battled Boko Haram insurgency which has killed about 12,000 people since it started in 2009 and has crippled the economy of its north.
Ebola has also stifled economic growth in the region, killing 4919 people in the region since December 2013.
The World Bank in a report on the economic impacts of Ebola on the hardest hit West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, noted that in the ''Low Ebola'' scenario '' in which the disease is contained by early 2015, cases stay around 20,000 and economic activity gradually increases '' lost GDP for West Africa was estimated at $2.2 billion in 2014 and $1.6 billion in 2015. The report estimated $7.4 billion in lost GDP for 2014 and $25.2 billion in 2015 in the case of ''High Ebola'' '' in which the disease is contained more slowly, cases reach 200,000 and the outbreak worsens significantly into mid-2015.
Despite the fate suffered by its regional neighbours, Burkina Faso enjoyed relative stability under Compaore's 27-year-rule.
Under Compaore, Burkina Faso has also been able to shut its borders to the Ebola Virus, which is threatening growth not only in West Africa, but also in Africa as a whole. In a recent statement, the World Bank raised concern about how Ebola and terrorism may not enable Africa achieve its growth potential in 2015. ''Downside risks that require enhanced preparedness include '... economic fallouts from the activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram '... and the onslaught of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa,'' said Francisco Ferreira, the World Bank's Chief Economist for Africa.
However, for a man who was able to maintain a stable country for almost three decades, it is surprising that just 5 percent of those who have reached working age in the West African country have a full-time job, according to data released by Gallup poll last year.
Some may argue that Compaore's rule was not really bad: besides the relative peace enjoyed by the country under his presidency, a 2010 United Nations report declared Ouagadougou, the Burkinabe capital as the fastest-growing city in Africa. These in other climes can be indicative of good leadership, but in West Africa where extended years of autocratic rule and slow growth has disillusioned the people.
The situation in Burkina Faso holds true across the region, with socio-economic development still unimpressive even in countries recording impressive GDP growth. The pent-up frustration of youths, who have begun to demand for change across West Africa may one day be expressed and another Burkinabe situation may soon be on our hands.
As it is, the economic woes of the region may remain until conditions which have created them are overcome. The Compaores may need to bow out.
About Niyi AderibigbeNiyi Aderibigbe, a staff writer for Ventures Africa, a Pan-African business magazine and news service company, holds a Bachelor's degree in Zoology from the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and a Master's degree in Environmental Biology. He sees the business in everything and loves writing business reviews and analyses.
Burkina Faso - Google Maps
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:52
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Burkina Faso: Opposition Calls for Protests Against Military Rule in Burkina Faso
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:50
Photo: FasozineThe military has taken control in Burkina Faso (file [photo).
Ouagadougou is preparing for another day of large-scale demonstrations as opposition leaders challenge moves by the military to take power.
Civil society in Burkina Faso is not going to take a military power grab sitting down.
High-ranking military officer Issac Zida claimed power on Saturday, one day after the resignation of Blaise Compaor(C) from the presidency.
In response, opposition and civil society leaders have called for a mass rally in Ouagadougou's newly nicknamed "Revolution Square" in protest of military takeover.
The activists have issued a statement demanding a "democratic and civilian transition".
"The victory born from this popular uprising belongs to the people, and the task of managing the transition falls by right to the people. In no case can it be confiscated by the army," said opposition leaders in a statement.
The United Nations also is calling for a civilian transfer of power.
UN envoy for West Africa, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, stated in a news conference that he hoped to "avoid having to impose sanctions on Burkina Faso".
Civil society is supported by the African Union as well, who on Saturday called for a "civilian-led and consensual transition" in Burkina Faso.
According to French diplomats, former president Blaise Compaor(C) is now in neighbouring Ivory Coast.
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Ebola Mutation: Lack Of Virus Samples In US Hampers Efforts To Track Its Changes
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:23
Samples of Ebola are in short supply for U.S. scientists who require a fresh, steady stock of the virus to track its changes and to plan ahead for new drugs and vaccines. Much like the flu virus, Ebola mutates, however slightly, as it spreads, and keeping up with those changes is key to stopping new infections and heading off future outbreaks, according to Reuters.
"No one really knows right now what has the virus mutated to or if it has mutated," Charles Chiu, a microbiologist and infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told Reuters. ''We're not going to be able to determine in advance whether or not it has changed to a form where it might evade diagnostic assays or might render current vaccines or drugs ineffective'' without new samples of the virus, he said.
Moving Ebola samples safely from one place to another is complicated, and transport companies have been wary of working with Ebola because of growing concerns about a U.S. spread of the virus. Doctors in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, where infections have topped 13,500 people, have been slow to hand over samples of Ebola, scientists told Reuters, which means U.S. disease specialists studying the virus at eight major research institutions are not getting the latest specimens.
As Ebola continues to spread across West Africa, it has more chances to change and adapt. Scientists identified 341 mutations of the virus as of late August, according to a study published that month in Science. One fear is that the virus could become more transmissible by becoming less pathogenic. A virus that sickens and kills its victims more slowly would leave more time for patients to infect others, National Geographic reported. The biggest nightmare, scientists have said, would be if the virus went airborne, something experts believe is highly unlikely, but not impossible.
Since the Ebola outbreak in West Africa began in March, health officials have struggled to keep pace with the ever-changing situation on the ground. The Ebola virus is "moving at the speed of sound," James Dorbor Jallah, the national coordinator of Liberia's Ebola Task Force, said in August. However, international aid is moving at the "speed of a snail." Health officials in Sierra Leone announced Tuesday that the virus had broken out in a new area of the country, raising concerns about a new chain of infections.
Bombshell: scientist finds no reliable evidence Ebola virus ever isolated from a human being Jon Rappoport's Blog
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:51
Scientist finds no reliable evidence Ebola virus ever isolated from a human being
by Jon Rappoport
November 3, 2014
NoMoreFakeNews.com
I recently had an exchange of emails with David Rasnick, PhD.
You can read Rasnick's bio at his site, davidrasnick.com. He obtained his PhD from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and spent 25 years working with proteases (a class of enzymes) and protease inhibitors. He is the author of the book, The Chromosomal Imbalance Theory of Cancer. He was a member of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel of South Africa.
The subject of our conversation was the isolation of the Ebola virus from humans. Has it ever been done?
Direct isolation is far different from diagnostic tests such as antibody or PCR, which are both indirect methods of assessment. In previous articles, I've covered the irrelevance of these two tests.
Any discussion of the Ebola virus must begin with the question of direct isolation. The whole presumption of an Ebola outbreak and epidemic rests on that question.
Was the Ebola virus ever purified and isolated from a human?
Here is what Rasnick wrote, after his search of the published literature:
''I have examined in detail the literature on isolation and Ems [EM: electron microscope pictures] of both Ebola and Marburg viruses. I have not found any convincing evidence that Ebola virus (and for that matter Marburg) has been isolated from humans. There is certainly no confirmatory evidence of human isolation.
''I searched the CDC's website and came up dry.
''The CDC claims 7728 Ebola virus cases have been 'laboratory-confirmed'.
''I asked the CDC what constitutes isolation of Ebola virus from human specimens. I also asked for the protocol for isolating Ebola virus. [No reply from the CDC as of this date.]
''Virtually everything that is known and done with these viruses is in animals and cell culture.''
Rasnick continued: ''There is the possibility that Ebola and Marburg viruses represent laboratory artifacts. I'm inclined to think this is the case. What I mean is the viruses are real but may exist at very low levels in wild animals and even humans, well-below pathogenic [disease-causing] levels. These 'passenger' viruses may be activated and amplified in laboratory culturing conditions designed for that purpose in order to produce enough viral particles to be characterized.
''Viruses causing real pathology are abundant in the diseased tissues. You can see them using EM on the primary tissue. You do not need to amplify the virus in cell culture. I'm always suspicious when cell culture is the only way a virus is observable by EM.''
Rasnick's findings are a direct challenge to the basis of the whole ''Ebola outbreak.'' If indeed the Ebola virus has never been isolated from a human being, the so-called epidemic is unproven.
To say this is shocking would be a vast understatement.
When public-health officials and governments claim there is an epidemic, the burden of proof is on them.
At this point, they must, first and foremost, show someone, somewhere, correctly and directly and undeniably isolated Ebola virus from a human being.
Let's see the evidence. Now.
Jon Rappoport
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29thDistrict of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails atwww.nomorefakenews.com
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CDC Contradicts Itself on How Ebola Spreads Yet Again
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:47
The CDC has done it again. After telling us that Ebola is, and isn't, spread through sneezes, they have changed the ''droplets spread 3 feet'' information to 6 feet, and then taken that down again.
Gateway Pundit says that on Friday, October 31, the CDC was saying that Ebola could spread through large droplets, which can spread up to 6 feet. This is the portion of a CDC poster I am seeing in screenshots at places like Gateway Pundit:
Now I know what you're thinking: how do I know that this poster screenshot reproduced at Gateway Pundit was actually on the CDC web site? Well, I could not find the language in the cache or the current version of the poster, but I did a Google search for this phrase on the cdc.gov Web site: ''Droplets generally travel shorter distances, less than about 6 feet from a source patient.'' Voila!
So we know that the language in question appeared at the CDC Web site recently enough to be visible in a search for that language.
As you can see by looking at the bottom left corner of this screenshot, the URL which this language used to be in is: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/pdf/infections-spread-by-air-or-droplets.pdf. The ''6 feet'' language is now gone, and I saved the current version of the poster as of today in this file.
Now, let's review some of CDC's previous contradictions on possible ways Ebola can spread. I noted on October 29 (this past Wednesday) that the CDC had published a poster (which I saved here) saying Ebola could be spread through sneezes. Of course, then we were being told it was 3 feet and not up to 6 feet. Here are screenshots from that poster:
In the same post, I noted that the poster had been pulled down. It was later replaced by this poster which says:
There is no evidence indicating that Ebola virus is spread by coughing or sneezing. Ebola virus is transmitted through direct contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola; the virus is not transmitted through the air (like measles virus). However, droplets (e.g., splashes or sprays) of respiratory or other secretions from a person who is sick with Ebola could be infectious, and therefore certain precautions (called standard, contact, and droplet precautions) are recommended for use in healthcare settings to prevent the transmission of Ebola virus from patients sick with Ebola to healthcare personnel and other patients or family members.
Let me try to sum this up:
CDC says: ''There is no evidence indicating that Ebola virus is spread by coughing or sneezing.''CDC says: Ebola is spread through droplet spread, which includes sneezes. ''Droplet spread diseases include Ebola, plague.'' Also: ''Droplet spread happens when germs traveling inside droplets that are coughed or sneezed from a sick person enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person.''CDC says: ''Droplets travel short distances, less than 3 feet.''CDC says: ''Droplets generally travel shorter distances, less than about 6 feet from a source patient.''So, to sum up: according to the CDC, there is no evidence that Ebola travels through sneezing, but you should know that it is a droplet spread disease, and droplet spread happens through sneezes. So, Ebola does, and also does not, spread through sneezes. Also, according to the CDC, droplets spread less than 3 feet, and also less than 6 feet.
You may now feel reassured.
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VOTE
After Making a Big Campaign Promise to Gun Owners, Texas' New Governor-Elect Just Made It Clear He Intends to Keep It | TheBlaze.com
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:58
Texas appears to be in line to become the newest open carry state. On Wednesday, the Lone Star State's new governor-elect Greg Abbott reiterated his campaign promise to support the open carry of firearms in his state.
''If an Open Carry bill is passed by the House and Senate, I will sign it into law,'' Abbott said the day after being elected. ''If Open Carry is good enough for Massachusetts, it's good enough for Texas.''
Abott said three of his biggest priorities during his time as Texas governor will be additional job growth, border security and improving Texas schools.
Abbott also said Texas needs to be ''vigilant going forward'' in dealing with Ebola. He will reportedly meet with department heads to ensure effective protocols are in place to protect the state.
(H/T: WFAA-TV's Jason Whitley)
FPI Bulletin: Congress Must Lead on Rebuilding the U.S. Military | Foreign Policy Initiative
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:39
By David Adesnik | November 5, 2014
November 5, 2014
Now that Republicans have an opportunity to lead both chambers of Congress, where should they look to make their mark? Start with the defense budget, which currently faces $1 trillion in cuts at a time when the United States confronts growing threats across the globe. Congress should act swiftly to reverse these cuts, address immediate shortfalls in military resources, and lay the foundation for a comprehensive rebuilding program.
This program has the advantage that it should a bipartisan imperative. It was, after all, called for by the bipartisan, congressionally chartered National Defense Panel (NDP). As the NDP noted, increased defense spending will be necessary to execute the Obama administration's own defense strategy laid out earlier this year: ''[U]nder current circumstances, the Department cannot be expected even to carry out its missions effectively.''
The NDP's crucial recommendation is that Congress and the President should ''repeal the Budget Control Act (BCA) immediately.'' This means ending sequestration and revoking the BCA's arbitrary limits on defense spending.
As the NDP explains, the country's strategy should determine what it spends, not vice versa. Already, the ''sequester has precipitated an immediate readiness crisis,'' which means that our ships, planes and ground units do not have the equipment and trained personnel necessary to carry out their missions. If this crisis continues unabated, it ''will lead to a hollow force.''
The NDP also recommended an approach to guide this effort, calling on the President and Congress to ''return as soon as possible to at least the funding baseline proposed in the Gates' FY 2012 defense budget.'' This would require an estimated investment of just over $100 billion in Fiscal Year 2015, which is the difference between what President Obama has requested ($496 billion) and what Secretary of Defense Robert Gates projected would be necessary before he left office ($598 billion).
Several immediate concerns should focus this increase:
In April, the Pentagon submitted an unfunded priorities list that identified more than $12 billion of funding shortfalls for readiness and other short-term needs, such as critical spare parts. This request likely understated actual requirements, since it was formulated before the emergence of multiple crises in the Middle East and a renewed threat from Russia.The unfunded priorities list also includes $24 billion to support modernization and the improvement of military infrastructure. Congress should carefully provide funding for those items that are relevant to the deteriorating security environment that the United States and its allies must now confront.The Pentagon also requested support for the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative (OGSI), which included $26 billion of defense spending for 2015. Although there is considerable overlap between the OGSI and the unfunded priorities list, it includes requests such as $2.1 billion for classified programs not covered in the latter.Even as it expands air strikes against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the Pentagon has been forced to pay for the costs of these operations out of hide, and will continue to do so unless it is given a dedicated funding stream for Operation Inherent Resolve. The President has already explained that ''this is going to be a long-term campaign. Congress should ensure funding not just for operations in 2015, but to prepare the military for what may be a long-term campaign in the region.To deter further acts of aggression by Vladimir Putin, the military will have to reverse recent withdrawals of American forces from Europe. Pentagon officials indicate that they are now revising next year's budget request to account for this need. Congress should request information on expected requirements and act now rather than waiting another year to begin the rebuilding.As noted by Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Pentagon will require an additional $20 billion over five years to pay for an Army of 440,000-450,000 active duty soldiers, a Marine Corps with 182,000 active duty marines and a Navy with 11 aircraft carriers. This funding will be required just to backfill gaps between the force the administration says it is planning on, and the funding it has requested. This list of priorities would keep the lights on at the Pentagon, but there is much more work to be done to retain key capabilities like the A-10 Warthog, expand missile defense, and allow the Army and Marine Corps to resume modernizing America's land power.
Three years ago, while the Budget Control Act was making its way into law, the President announced that ''the tide of war is receding.'' This perspective may have helped to justify the nearly $1 trillion of cuts contained in the BCA, but it has been demolished by the rise of ISIS, the invasion of Ukraine, and other growing threats. With some $290 billion in cuts having taken effect by the end of the current fiscal year, the onus is now on the Congress to lead the way in repairing the damage done to our military.
Eugenics
The Brittany Maynard Fund | Compassion & Choices
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:21
Brittany's ObituaryOne Day Your Life Will Flash Before Your Eyes, Make Sure it's Worth Watching
Brittany Lauren Maynard was born in 1984 and forged a brief but solid 29 years of generosity, compassion, education, travel, and humor. She happily met her husband Daniel Diaz in April of 2007 and they married, as best friends, 5 years later in September of 2012.
This past year, on New Year's Day, Brittany was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was given a terminal diagnosis for which there was no cure or life saving measures available. In the face of such terminal illness and pain, Brittany chose to live each day fully, traveled, and kept as physically active and busy as she possibly could.
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."- Theodore Roosevelt. A formula to live by, sick or well.
After being told by one doctor that "she probably didn't even have weeks to be on her feet," she was found climbing 10 mile trails along the ice fields of Alaska with her best friend in the sunshine months later. "Speak your own truth, even when your voice shakes." she would say.
Brittany graduated from UC Berkeley as an undergrad, and received a Masters in Education from UC Irvine. She believed in compassion, equity, and that people would remember most how you made them feel in life. As Faulkner said, "Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If more people all over the world would do this, the world would change."
She was an accomplished and adventuresome traveler who spent many months living solo and teaching in orphanages in Kathmandu, Nepal. That single experience forever changed her life and perspective on childhood, happiness, privilege and outcomes. She fell in love with her time in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Thailand. She spent a summer working in Costa Rica, and traveled to Tanzania, and summited Kilimanjaro with a girlfriend a month before her wedding. She took ice climbing courses on Cayambe and Cotopaxi in Ecuador and was an avid scuba diver, who relished her time in the Galapagos, Zanzibar, Caymans and pretty much any island she ever visited.
She loved her two dogs like family, a small Beagle and large Great Dane, and was always the one to take in lost dogs and find them homes. Brittany was a regular volunteer at a local animal rescue organization before her diagnosis.
Brittany chose to make a well thought out and informed choice to Die With Dignity in the face of such a terrible, painful, and incurable illness. She moved to Oregon to pass away in a little yellow house she picked out in the beautiful city of Portland. Oregon is a place that strives to protect patient rights and autonomy; she wished that her home State of California had also been able to provide terminally ill patients with the same choice. Brittany chose to speak out and advocate for this patient right and option, which she felt is an informed choice that should be made available to all terminally ill patients across our great nation. "The freedom is in the choice," she believed. "If the option of DWD is unappealing to anyone for any reason, they can simply choose not to avail themselves of it. Those very real protections are already in place." With great consideration, she gave personal interviews to the UK's Tonight Show prior to Death with Dignity being addressed by their Parliament, as well as participated in an American based campaign for Death With Dignity education and legislation.
She is survived by her faithful, practical, and kind husband Daniel Diaz, her loving self-less mother Deborah Ziegler and honorable step-father Gary Holmes. And by Dan's loving supportive family, parents: Carmen and Barry and brothers: David, Adrian, and Alex. All of whom she adored and loved very deeply. While she had longed for children of her own, she left this world with zero regrets on time spent, places been, or people she loved in her 29 years.
In this final message, she wanted to express a note of deep thanks to all her beautiful, smart, wonderful, supportive friends whom she "sought out like water" during her life and illness for insight, support, and the shared experience of a beautiful life.
"It is people who pause to appreciate life and give thanks who are happiest. If we change our thoughts, we change our world! Love and peace to you all." '' Brittany Maynard
Read notes from Brittany and her family here.
About Brittany MaynardThis spring, 29-year-old newlywed Brittany Maynard learned that she had terminal brain cancer. After careful assessment of her prognosis and end-of-life choices, she and her family reluctantly decided to move from their San Francisco Bay Area home to Oregon, one of five states (including Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico) that authorize death with dignity.
Brittany recognizes it is unfair that the vast majority of people cannot access death with dignity because they do not have the resources and time to uproot their family, seek appropriate medical care and establish a support system.
As a result, in the few weeks she has left to live, Brittany wants to advocate for access for death with dignity in California and nationwide in partnership with Compassion & Choices, the nation's leading end-of-life choice advocacy organization.
Brittany Maynard's glioblastoma brain tumor is being treated with several strong prescription drugs designed to reduce swelling of the brain and to try to minimize debilitating seizures. Unfortunately, these drugs come with their own frustrating set of side effects including rapid weight gain and swelling of the face. In spite of some profound shyness regarding her new prescription drug-induced appearance, Brittany agreed to be interviewed on film regarding Death with Dignity because her strong belief in the ethics of this basic healthcare human right.
Brittany's mission is to keep her legacy alive through advocacy work, while bringing the lessons she has learned to her fellow millennials: in our time on earth all that counts are the people you love and the people who love you. Appreciate them. Don't miss a moment.
What is death with dignity?Death with dignity is an option every person deserves, to reduce suffering at the end of life and die in comfort and control, with dignity. It has been ruled a constitutionally protected right in state and federal courts. Death-with-dignity or aid in dying is a medical practice in which a terminally ill and mentally competent adult requests, and a doctor prescribes, a life-ending medication the person self-administers. Recent national polling puts public support for aid in dying at 70 percent.
For Brittany, it means that when her suffering becomes too great, she can call everyone she loves to her side as she tells them she loves them and they say goodbye. For anyone who takes the prescription, it means falling off to sleep and peacefully passing on.Oregon's Death With Dignity Act, which Brittany accessed, was the first in the nation. Its 17-year history shows that death-with-dignity laws are safe and work as designed. It has been thoroughly documented by the state health department, investigated by medical researchers and monitored by the news media. None of the concerns raised by opponents about coercion or abuse have ever materialized.Death-with-dignity laws are voluntary. An eligible person can request the prescription, but no doctor is obligated to provide it. Once a prescription is written, the patient chooses when and whether to fill it '' or take it. Most people never take it. Simply having the choice provides people a sense of peace in the face of uncertainty and fear that their suffering might be unbearable. It allows people the freedom to die in control, with dignity.About Compassion & ChoicesAs the oldest and largest organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life, Compassion & Choices operates many programs and services.
Compassion & Choices advocates for death with dignity laws in states across the country so that every American can have the sense of peace that Brittany sought '' without having to entirely uproot their life. The Brittany Maynard Fund, an initiative of Compassion & Choices, will be used to advance such laws.
We use legal strategies, ballot measures and legislative efforts to make death with dignity accessible state-by-state. Currently we are campaigning in five states (California, Colorado, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut) for laws that will make aid in dying an authorized, regulated medical practice. Where it is already authorized (Montana, New Mexico, Vermont, Washington and Oregon) we run ongoing education campaigns for the public and health providers to expand access to aid in dying.
Our End of Life Consultation (EOLC) program provides free, confidential support anywhere in the country with trained experts who help people improve the quality of life they have left, achieve a peaceful death or plan ahead.
Our website is also a hub for resources to help families and individuals make their end of life plans. Compassion & Choices makes these resources available to help people start the conversation and make their wishes known so they can avoid unnecessary suffering in their final days and weeks.
Compassion & Choices is also active in the policy arena, and participates in the federal Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment (End UMT). It is a coalition of organizations committed to helping health care consumers get the best treatment, and the treatment they want '' no more and no less.
Show your support for Brittany!Brittany Maynard's story has captivated the nation and become a social media phenomenon; her video has been seen millions of times around the world. There are now millions more people who know the importance of access to death with dignity.
For her message to have its greatest impact, we need to continue to get the word out, and social sharing is at the heart of this effort.
Join millions of other folks who have shown their support for Brittany by sharing these messages on your social networks.
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End of Life Planning and Paliative Care | Compassion & Choices
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:12
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Hemlock Society - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:44
The Hemlock Society USA was a national right-to-die organization founded in Santa Monica, California by Derek Humphry in 1980. Its primary missions included providing information to dying persons and supporting legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide. In 1992, following the publication of his book Final Exit, Derek Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society USA. In 2003 the national organization renamed itself, and a year later merged with another group into a newly formed national organization called Compassion & Choices. A number of unaffiliated local organizations continue to operate under variants of the Hemlock Society name. A film of the same name has also been made.[1]
Current Hemlock Societies and related organizationsEditHemlock missionEditThe original Hemlock was founded in 1980 by Derek Humphry in his garage in Santa Monica, California, when he received a huge response to his memoir Jean's Way, his account of helping his reportedly terminally ill wife take her own life in 1975.[citation needed]
Hemlock's mission was to both: (a) provide information to dying persons who were currently considering hastening their ends; (b) to pass legislation permitting physician-assisted suicide with accompanying guidelines to prevent abuse. Hemlock was the first such organization in America; previous groups had campaigned only for the greater use of the Living Will. The name "Hemlock" was selected in the light of the suicide of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates who had to choose between sentences of death or unlawful escape into exile; after debate with his colleagues, and unable to bear the indignity of escape from the ruling law of his homeland,[2] he, at the government's order, imbibed a drink laced with the hemlock plant.[3] It was Socrates's careful consideration of his choices that inspired the American organization.[citation needed]
History/chronologyEditHemlock was a founding charter member of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies when the international organization initiated in 1980 in Oxford, England, by Sidney D. Rosoff and Derek Humphry. Hemlock's national membership grew to 40,000 with eighty chapters. In 1988, Hemlock hosted in San Francisco the 7th biennial conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies.[citation needed]
In 1998, the Hemlock Society formed a side group called 'Caring Friends' which provided its members with support and guidance, nationwide, if they were terminally ill and asking for help to die. Its principal founders were Dr. Richard MacDonald, Hemlock's medical director, Faye Girsh, executive director, Wye Hale-Rowe and Lois Schafer, staff members. Strict guidelines were put in place to protect Caring Friends from legal problems, and it had none.
In 2000, Hemlock staged in Boston the 10th international conference of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, which was attended by 483 people and had 66 speakers.[4]
Hemlock backed legislative efforts in California, Washington, Michigan, and Maine without success until the Oregon Death with Dignity Act was passed in 1994. Hemlock infused (under IRS rules) a total of $992,210 on six campaigns.[citation needed]
Final Exit and Hemlock SocietyEditIn 1991, Humphry wrote the book Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying. At first, commercial publishers refused to publish Final Exit so Hemlock self-published it in hardback. Within months it made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It was one of the few self-published books ever to hit the bestseller list, earning Hemlock over one million dollars net. In 1992 Random House took over publishing the paperback.[5] In 1992, Humphry left the leadership of Hemlock Society USA and later formed Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization ERGO Assisted suicide#Euthanasia Research & Guidance Organization (ERGO)ERGO.
The Gladd GroupEditAnother Hemlock offshoot is The Gladd Group, founded in the San Diego suburb of La Mesa, California by Sharlotte Hydorn (born 1919 or 1920), who met Humphry after the death of her husband, and joined the Hemlock Society.[when?] In May 2011, the FBI raided Mrs. Hydorn's home and shut GLADD down. She was making and selling helium hood kits worldwide. Subsequently, no criminal charges were filed and Mrs. Hydorn agreed to stop manufacture and plead guilty to failing to make income tax returns. Mrs Hydorn died in December 2013, aged 93.
Hemlock Society leaders and members form Final Exit NetworkEditAfter Hemlock ceased to exist in 2004, some members of Hemlock's leadership formed the Final Exit Network to continue its mission. Hemlock chapters in Florida, Illinois and the San Diego, California area continue their mission of helping people understand what is involved in accelerating one's end, and pushing for legislation.[citation needed] These chapters cooperate with '' but are not an official part of '' the national Final Exit Network which provides informational guidance.[citation needed]
Past leaders of the Hemlock SocietyEditHemlock Society USA Presidents:
Gerald A LarueDerek HumphrySidney D RosoffWiley MorrisonArthur MetcalfeJohn WestoverFaye J GirshExecutive Directors:
Derek Humphry (1980''1992)John A Pridonoff (1993''1995)Faye J Girsh (1996''2000)"In the United States, the Hemlock Society alone had grown to 57,000 paid members with eighty-six chapters. And for every paying members, there were a hundred more people who shared the same beliefs. The self-deliverance genie had been forever freed from its bottle and had taken on a robust, self-sustaining life of its own."[6]"Whatever downside there may be to Hemlock, if claims of being open to dialogue and striving for tolerance are justified on this side of the divide, the negatives may well be outweighed by the positives."[7]"Those who have some indecision may have benefited from remarks by Bishop John Shelby Spong in a keynote address to the Hemlock Society USA conference in San Diego on January 10, 2003."[8]"When the votes [in California] were counted after the November 3, 1992 election, Initiative #161 had failed to pass by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin. Although the narrow defeat marked a temporary setback for Hemlock Society USA and its supporters, the fact that 5,500,000 voters had marked yes on their ballots was encouraging for the future."[9]"Early in 1986 the Hemlock Society, then based in California, proposed amendments to the 1976 [Living Will] law that would have included 'aid in dying' and it urged [Senator] Keene to include it in a revised bill. He declined."[10]"On the other side of the battle line, the coalition [for California Prop. #161] included numerous Protestant denominations, organized labor, the state Democratic party, AIDS activists, the Grey Panthers, and, of course, the Hemlock Society."[11]BibliographyEditFarewell to Hemlock: Killed by its name, an essay by Derek HumphryDaniel Hillyard and John Dombrink, Dying Right: The Death With Dignity Movement, Routledge, 2001Constance E. Putnam, Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion. Praeger, 2002Ian Dowbiggin, A Merciful End: The Euthanasia Movement in America, OUP, 2003George Howe Colt, The Enigma of Suicide, Summit Books, 1991.Donald W. Cox, Hemlock's Cup: The Struggle for Death With Dignity. Prometheus Books, 1993Derek Humphry, Good Life, Good Death - Memoir. Norris Lane Press, 2008; ISBN 9780976828334ReferencesEdit^Hemlock society (film)^Plato, Crito, section 50-54, cited in Norman Melchert, The Great Conversation, 4th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2002, p.107^Plato, Phaedo (Death Scene), section 117c, cited in Norman Melchert, The Great Conversation, 4th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2002, p. 115^Timelines (Hemlock Society newsletter), Fall 2000, #85^Derek Humphry, Good Life, Good Death - Memoir, pg. 269, Norris Lane Press, 2008, ISBN 978-0-9768283-3-4^Richard N Cote, In Search of Gentle Death, Corinthian Books, 2008, Page 6, ISBN 978-1-929175-36-9^Constance E. Putnam, Hospice or Hemlock? Searching for Heroic Compassion, Praeger, 2002, pg. 51; ISBN 0-89789-921-0^Sidney Wanzer MD and Joseph Glenmullen MD, To Die Well. Your Right to Comfort, Calm and Choices in the Last Days of Your Life, Merloyd Lawrence, 2007, pg. 85; ISBN 0-7382-1083-8^Donald Cox, Hemlock's Cup: The Struggle for Death with Dignity, Prometheus Books, 1993, pg. 178; ISBN 0-87975-808-2^Henry R. Glick, The Right to Die: Policy Innovation and Its Consequences, Columbia University Press, 1992, pg. 103; ISBN 0-231-07638-X^Peter G. Filene, In The Arms of Others: A Cultural History of the Right-to-Die in America, Ivan R. Dee, 1998, pg. 196; ISBN 1-56673-188-2External linksEdit
The Conversation Project - Have You Had The Conversation?
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:37
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Now, consider sharing your wishes for end-of-life care with your loved ones. Our Starter Kit can help you get your thoughts together and have the conversation.
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NDY Challenges NYS Medicaid Proposal to Save Money By Steering People to Choose Death Over Living With Disability
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:30
Not Dead Yet, the Center for Disability Rights, and 11 other NY based disability organizations, submitted public comments on the New York State Medicaid Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment Program (DSRIP) on May 28, 2014, alleging that one of the proposed projects would fund Medicaid providers to save money by steering people to choose death over living with disability. NY is offering grants to Medicaid ''safety net'' providers with a high proportion of Medicaid patients to reduce unnecessary hospitalizations, and encouraging applicants to implement three possible palliative care projects along with other projects on various aspects of healthcare.
One of the three palliative care projects is entitled ''Conversation Ready,'' and promotes advance care planning as a means of reducing ''unnecessary'' hospitalizations. For this to be effective, people on Medicaid would apparently be encouraged to refuse life-sustaining treatment as part of their advance care plan.
A recent Pew Research study found that:
. . . [A]bout two-thirds of whites (65%) say they would want to be allowed to die if they had an incurable disease and were suffering a great deal of pain, compared with 26% who say they would ask their doctors to do everything possible to save their lives in such circumstances. By contrast, a majority of blacks (61%) and about half of Hispanics (55%) say they would tell their doctors to do everything possible to save their lives if they had an incurable disease and were suffering a great deal of pain. [Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments, November 21, 2013]
The ''Conversation Ready'' project is focused on safety net providers and includes the following requirement:
Identify care coordinators to work with community based and faith based partners to facilitate End of Life planning in a socially/belief system compatible manner to increase patients (sic) acceptance of program. [Pg. 57, DSRIP Toolkit]
Giving provider networks financial rewards for being successful in this effort allows them to reduce hospitalizations and healthcare costs by encouraging individuals to ''choose'' death over treatment. The method by which the ''Conversation Ready'' Project proposes to influence people are set forth in The Conversation Project, a website listed on page 57 of the state toolkit for grant applicants.
The Conversation Project makes it clear that the fear of living with a disability is what drives the seemingly innocuous decision-making process designed to steer people away from receiving care.
The website, found at www.theconversationproject.org, reads in part:
You'll see that this isn't really about dying'--it's about figuring out how you want to live, till the very end.
''What matters to me is _____.''
Think about the things that are most important to you. What do you value most? What can you not imagine living without?
Understandably, individuals do not want to lose their abilities due to an accident, illness, or age. Yet disability is a natural part of the human experience and people adapt. It is unacceptable that a government program will encourage people to choose death over disability to prevent ''unnecessary'' hospitalization and save money.
The Conversation Project goes even further in specifically eliciting fears of long term disability and translating them into decisions to forego live-saving treatment:
What to talk about:
Are there circumstances that you would consider worse than death? (Long-term needof a breathing machine or feeding tube, not being able to recognize your loved ones)
What kinds of aggressive treatment would you want (or not want)? (Resuscitation if yourheart stops, breathing machine, feeding tube)
When would it be okay to shift from a focus on curative care to a focus on comfort care alone?
There is no indication that the need for such interventions could be either short term or permanent. There is no information on the tens of thousands of disabled individuals who are currently living a fulfilling life while permanently using these devices.
The role of the healthcare professional should be to provide thorough information and support that assists people to adapt to disability. The medical community should never leverage common societal prejudices against disability to persuade people to forego healthcare in order to save money.
The Conversation Project website also holds out the prospect of life in a nursing facility as the only choice a disabled person might have if they become too disabled. But what about Olmstead and the New York adopted Community First Choice Option that establish the right to home and community based services under Medicaid? The state should never promote death through refusal of healthcare, rather than home and community based services, as the alternative to institutional placement.
Our conclusion and final recommendation was that the ''Conversation Ready'' Project must be removed from the Toolkit of projects applicants could select due to the: a) transparent effort to steer safety net community members to sign advance directives that decline lifesaving healthcare and b) extreme bias against people living with disabilities.
On the other hand, we supported the other two palliative care projects and made three recommendations to strengthen those programs:
Ensure the provision of information and services relating to the Olmstead decision, Money Follows the Person, and the Community First Choice Option to patients and their families.Ensure the provision of independent living information and services to patients and their families.Require the proposed ''quality committees'' to include representatives from disability and aging advocacy organizations.The full comment letter is posted on the NDY website under ''Public Policy'' activities.
The Conversation Project provides an example of how common fears and prejudices about life with disability are used to steer people to decline healthcare and choose death, but it's far from the only example. Those who push these ideas and approaches are usually well meaning, but are ill informed about disability in all the typical ways. Nevertheless, when New York Medicaid officials openly link this objectionable practice to saving money, we can't be silent. In fact, more disability advocates are needed to challenge this anti-disability approach to advance care planning across the country. We've been excluded from ''the conversation'' for far too long.
P.S. Thanks to the NY disability organizations that joined in these comments: Center for Disability Rights, New York Association on Independent Living, Center for Independence of the Disabled, New York, Westchester Disabled On the Move Inc., Southern Tier Independence Center, Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley, Independent Living, Inc., Rockland Independent Living Center, AIM Independent Living Center, SKIP of New York, Inc., Harlem Independent Living Center, and Community Service Center of Greater Williamsburg.
Institute for Healthcare Improvement: Supporters
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:37
The Institute for Healthcare Improvement extends our deepest gratitude to the distinguished group of individuals, foundations, and companies whose generous support has helped make several programs a reality. External funding in the form of grants, sponsorships, or gifts helps support IHI's mission (learn more about IHI's mission and finances). See our Principles for Accepting Commercial Support for more detailed information, or send an email to info@ihi.org.
IHI Open School for Health Professions
Developing Countries
100,000 Lives Campaign
5 Million Lives Campaign
Innovation and Design
Fellowship Programs
WIHI: A Free Audio Program
IHIOpen School for Health ProfessionsIHI Open School for Health Professions aims to close the gap between what health care is and what it should be by advancing quality improvement and patient safety competencies in the next generation of health professionals. Drawing on faculty who are recognized nationally and globally as leaders of health care quality and safety, the IHI Open School provides a unique integrated educational community for students across multiple disciplines: medicine, nursing, dentistry, pharmacy, health care administration, and other allied health professions. It is ''the other school,'' in which you can enroll on a voluntary basis while attending the physical professional school of your choice.
Supporters:
Kaiser Permanente, America's leading integrated health plan, serves 8.7 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Today it encompasses Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc., Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and their subsidiaries, and the Permanente Medical Groups. '‹
'‹The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation
The Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation is a leading supporter of efforts to improve the education of health care professionals, funding initiatives that emphasize diversity and teamwork in medicine and attempting to increase care for underserved populations.
'‹Rx FoundationThe Rx Foundation funds innovative projects to improve the quality of health care in the United States. While primary emphasis is given to medical and hospital staff procedures and practices affecting all levels and forms of inpatient and outpatient care, the Foundation also funds efforts to ensure greater access to medical services.'‹'‹
The MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.'‹
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation seeks to improve the health and health care of all Americans. Our efforts focus on improving both the health of everyone in America and their health care'--how it's delivered, how it's paid for, and how well it does for patients and their families.'‹
The IHI Open School is also made possible by supporters like you.'‹ '‹
DevelopingCountriesIHI has expanded its mission to help in the world's most resource-poor countries, focusing on ambitious projects to spread treatment for HIV/AIDS in South Africa and significantly reduce maternal and neonatal mortality in Malawi. IHI seeks to build on encouraging results and requires additional funding to support these efforts.
Supporters:
'‹The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation is an independent charitable foundation working to improve the quality of health care across the United Kingdom.'‹
'‹The Izumi Foundation
The Izumi Foundation gives assistance to the world's poorest people by supporting programs that improve health in developing countries. The foundation embraces the values of compassion, concern for others, and altruism.'‹
'‹The Brad Hayman FoundationThe Brad Hayman Foundation supports heart and pediatric AIDS research and interventions.'‹ 5 MillionLives CampaignAn alarming number of Americans are estimated to be harmed in US hospitals every year in the course of their medical treatment. The 5 Million Lives Campaign established a bold aim for US health care: Protect patients from five million incidents of medical harm over the next two years (December 2006 to December 2008). This new campaign followed on the heels of the successful 100,000 Lives Campaign.
Supporters:
'‹Cardinal Health Foundation
The Cardinal Health Foundation focuses its efforts on large regional and national programs that help improve access to and delivery of quality health care services.'‹
'‹Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of the Aetna Inc., helps build healthy communities by promoting volunteerism, forming partnerships, and funding initiatives that improve the quality of life where its employees and customers live and work.'‹
'‹Blue Shield of California Foundation
Blue Shield of California Foundation is committed to making health care effective, safe and accessible for all Californians, particularly underserved people, and to ending domestic violence.'‹
'‹Rx FoundationThe Rx Foundation funds innovative projects to improve the quality of health care in the United States. While primary emphasis is given to medical and hospital staff procedures and practices affecting all levels and forms of inpatient and outpatient care, the Foundation also funds efforts to ensure greater access to medical services.'‹'‹
Baxter International, Inc.
For 75 years, Baxter International, Inc., has been applying innovative science to develop specialty therapeutics and medical products that save and sustain patients' lives.'‹
'‹Abbott Fund
The Abbott Fund's approach to philanthropy is to involve our leaders and employees, share our knowledge and expertise, donate our products, and provide financial support to address unmet needs in core funding areas.'‹
100,000Lives CampaignThe 100,000 Lives Campaign was a national effort to reduce preventable deaths in US hospitals. The 3,100 hospitals that participated in this initiative with IHI achieved a remarkable goal. Through their work on the Campaign's interventions, combined with other national and local improvement efforts, these facilities saved an estimated 122,000 lives in 18 months.
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'‹Cardinal Health Foundation
The Cardinal Health Foundation focuses its efforts on large regional and national programs that help improve access to and delivery of quality health care services.'‹
'‹The Colorado Trust
The Colorado Trust is dedicated to advancing the health and well-being of the people of Colorado.'‹
'‹The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation seeks to develop outcome-based projects that will improve the quality of life for future generations.'‹
'‹Rx FoundationThe Rx Foundation funds innovative projects to improve the quality of health care in the United States. While primary emphasis is given to medical and hospital staff procedures and practices affecting all levels and forms of inpatient and outpatient care, the Foundation also funds efforts to ensure greater access to medical services.'‹'‹Baxter International, Inc.
For 75 years, Baxter International, Inc., has been applying innovative science to develop specialty therapeutics and medical products that save and sustain patients' lives.'‹
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Blue Shield of California Foundation is committed to making health care effective, safe and accessible for all Californians, particularly underserved people, and to ending domestic violence.'‹
'‹Lilo and Gerard Leeds'‹'‹The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is devoted to improving health and health care, supporting training, education, research and projects that demonstrate effective ways to deliver health services, especially for the most vulnerable among us.'‹
'‹David Calkins Memorial Fund'‹
Innovationand Design IHI defines innovation as the process of generating new ideas and concept designs aimed at achieving ''raise the bar'' aims '-- dramatic improvements for patients beyond the best known in health care today. Identifying the best known performance '-- the bar '-- and then improving care to exceed this high standard, is the challenge.
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FellowshipProgramsAs IHI and others introduce reform into America's health care system, there is a need for trained leaders with the enthusiasm, knowledge, tools, and skills to accept, implement and accelerate innovation. With support from outside funders, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement offers a one-year, on-site, full-time fellowship program to address this urgent need. Fellowship Alumni have called the experience transformative.
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'‹The Health Foundation
The Health Foundation is an independent charitable foundation working to improve the quality of health care across the United Kingdom.'‹
WIHI: A Free Audio ProgramIt's free, it's timely, and it's designed to help dedicated legions of health care improvers worldwide keep up with some of the freshest and most robust thinking and strategies for improving patient care. WIHI is a 60-minute live audio program offered every other week. Host Madge Kaplan, IHI Director of Communications, creates a shared space for lively and enriching discussions on cutting-edge topics.
Euphemisms for Euthanasia and False Dilemmas: An Update on the Assisted Suicide Debate in the United States | Public Discourse
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:55
When Vermont became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide through the legislature in summer 2013, I predicted here at Public Discourse that proponents would more aggressively target other New England states to spread their agenda in 2014. Therefore, it was not surprising that New England faced a powerful onslaught of voluntary euthanasia bills within the past few months, particularly in New Hampshire and Connecticut. While New Hampshire overwhelmingly voted down the proposal by a margin of 219 to 66, Connecticut legislators allowed the bill to die a quiet death in committee.
I was among the last of over 100 witnesses to testify on the Connecticut bill in a hearing that lasted over ten hours. At the hearing, I observed the latest strategies employed by euthanasia advocates to sell suicide to the catastrophically ill. These can be ultimately whittled down to two primary strategies: first, wordplay that attempts to soften the truth about assisted suicide; and second, false dilemmas, which suggest that suicide is inevitable and that death by poison is preferable to other methods.
Sanitizing Suicide: Killing as Compassion
Physician-assisted suicide advocates learned in the early days of their crusade that people do not like the word ''suicide.'' Prior to Vermont, states that decriminalized the practice did so through carefully crafted ballot initiatives that glossed over the academic literature and its concerns about state-sanctioned killing. These campaigns used clever slogans to suggest that assisted suicide is a positive act, a personal choice, and a matter of compassion for the dying. The Hemlock Society even rebranded itself, changing its name to Compassion & Choices. This suggests that offering an ill person poison is compassionate and that suicide is a legitimate choice for persons with terminal diagnoses. Word choice is critical: a 2013 poll showed a steep 19-point difference when people were asked if they support ''assisted suicide'' rather than ''ending a patient's life.''
Although the act is the same, the perception of euthanasia is shrewdly euphemized as ''aid in dying'' or ''death with dignity'' to make what is tragic and cruel appear helpful, empowering, and even compassionate. Conversely, such euphemisms imply that pain control and palliative care are somehow lacking in empathy.
The organization now known as Compassion & Choices condemns the term assisted suicide, insisting that there is a distinction between taking one's life when mentally competent and terminally ill, and taking one's life due to depression when not facing a terminal illness. Again, this glosses over the academic literature that shows the extent of untreated depression among those seeking such ''aid in dying'' and the failure to refer for mental health evaluations in other states that have legalized this practice.
By ''aid-in-dying'' standards, as long as a person has a prognosis of fewer than six months to live, regardless of the accuracy of that prognosis, it is not suicide for that patient to choose ''death with dignity.'' This, of course, disregards the number of physicians who misdiagnose patients as terminal who may have years to live. Pro-euthanasia groups claim that suicide chosen by those with mental illness ought to be prevented, yet they argue that suicide for those with physical illnesses is a right that others must support.
Unlike abortion advocates, who employ the word ''choice'' and shy away from the word ''death,'' voluntary euthanasia proponents do not recoil from the words ''death'' and ''dying.'' Instead, they try to present assisted suicide as a positive form of death; the phrase ''death with dignity'' implies that natural death is undignified. ''Aid'' and ''dignity'' are positive terms, like the appeal to autonomy implicit in the mantra ''My Life. My Death. My Choice.''
All of this rhetoric conceals the substance of what is being chosen: suicide. It seems that euthanasia advocates know that most people naturally believe that taking one's own life is a tragedy of those without hope.
A False Dilemma: 'tis better to die by poison than pistol
The voluntary euthanasia advocates appear to recognize that sanitizing suicide can only go so far. Therefore, many abandon the soft approach and resort to shock value. Those who might see through the ''death with dignity'' rhetoric and oppose euthanasia are bombarded by tales of violent suicides and traumatized survivors.
Testimony in favor of assisted suicide in Connecticut included horrifying accounts of those who committed suicide without ''aid in dying.'' These stories emphasized the suffering that persons' suicide inflicted on themselves and their loved ones. One pro-euthanasia witness recounted a story about a desperate spouse who tried to stab himself to death with a pair of scissors and another story about an ailing parent who was killed when an adult child slipped a plastic bag over the parent's head.
These are horrific stories, to be sure. In this context, however, they were brandished as desperate attempts to suggest that it would have been better for these people simply to die of poisoning. Natural death was not mentioned as an alternative. Likewise, suicide was not presented as a hopeless and tragic act, regardless of the manner of death. On the contrary, the witnesses assumed that suicide was an acceptable option, as long as the method used was not particularly ''messy.'' The witnesses suggested that those who wish to die prematurely should have an easier method with which to take their own lives.
The goal was to suggest that suicide is inevitable and that the only choice is between desperate, brutal suicide and ''dignified,'' professionally aided suicide. This is, of course, a false dilemma. No person is forced to take his or her life when facing a catastrophic prognosis.
The false dilemma approach is a logical fallacy, commonly used to promote a supposed ''lesser of two evils'': an action that is neither palatable nor desirable on its own merit, but merely preferable to an inevitable worse option. Those testifying in favor of assisted suicide very rarely acknowledged natural death as a valid alternative to artificial death. Some went so far as to suggest that continuing to live was worse than suicide. Accounts of manageable pain were absent, supplanted by stories of people who feared the loss of their ability to live independently and worried that they would become a burden on their family. Sadly, when ''aid in dying'' is offered, many patients feel coerced and pressured into a choice that is not freely made at all.
While waiting to testify, I had conversations that reminded me of one of the greatest dangers of assisted suicide: enabling patient neglect. I talked with a woman in support of assisted suicide who was a patient advocate for better palliative care. We bonded over our mutual conviction to ease suffering, and she disclosed that her support of voluntary euthanasia came from watching her late husband endure unnecessary anguish at the end of his life due to poor palliative care. She admitted that it was not a situation where pain control was inadequate (as there were medicines to ease his pain); it was that these medicines were not provided as they should have been. She was supporting death only as an alternative to the unnecessary suffering of medical neglect, not so that assisted suicide might decrease the quality of care for those who did not want to take their lives.
I stated that I was fearful that assisted suicide actually encourages or enables the kind of suffering her husband faced, since it offers a quicker, cheaper alternative to pain control that insurance companies have been shown to favor. It was clear that she did not want to pressure her husband to commit suicide: she just did not want him to suffer. I assured her that neither do I, and, although she did not change her position, we hope to work together to help patients obtain acceptable pain control.
I am convinced that much of the public support for assisted suicide truly is coming from a concern for compassion, but compassion cornered by desperation from lack of proper care. It is critical that we make clear that the best thing for suffering patients is to end the suffering'--not the patient.
The committee was required to hear more than just emotional appeals and clever softball semantics by professional pro-euthanasia lobbyists. Experts were able to share study after study that show the dangers of legalized, state-sanctioned suicide. I was among a host of medical professionals, disability rights advocates, and bioethicists who sliced through semantics to show the clear dangers of voluntary euthanasia and call for an end to death as an alternative to true compassionate care. There is care to ensure comfort at the end of life, and it is a human moral duty that we not deny it.
Ultimately, in spite of petitions, anecdotes, and evidence presented both in favor of and against voluntary euthanasia, the legislative committee in Connecticut ultimately chose to run out the clock on the bill. However, many committee members were sympathetic to assisted suicide, and proponents of the euthanasia bill will return next session. Sadly, I was also present in New Jersey during the first week of June and witnessed, in spite of compelling testimony, the Committee on Health and Senior Services vote in favor of releasing a bill that would legalize physician-assisted suicide, even without any witnesses at death.
Now is the time for renewed vigilance for those who oppose euthanasia. The worst of this battle for life in New England may be yet to come.
Jacqueline C. Harvey, PhD, a bioethicist whose research focuses primarily on end-of-life legislation, is an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
Health plan covers assisted suicide but not new cancer treatment | News | Eugene News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KVAL CBS 13
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:54
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Barbara Wagner has one wish - for more time. "I'm not ready, I'm not ready to die," the Springfield woman said. "I've got things I'd still like to do."
Her doctor offered hope in the new chemotherapy drug Tarceva, but the Oregon Health Plan sent her a letter telling her the cancer treatment was not approved.
Instead, the letter said, the plan would pay for comfort care, including "physician aid in dying," better known as assisted suicide.
"I told them, I said, 'Who do you guys think you are?' You know, to say that you'll pay for my dying, but you won't pay to help me possibly live longer?' " Wagner said.
An unfortunate interpretation?
Dr. Som Saha, chairman of the commission that sets policy for the Oregon Health Plan, said Wagner is making an "unfortunate interpretation" of the letter and that no one is telling her the health plan will only pay for her to die.
One critic of assisted suicide calls the message disturbing nonetheless.
"People deserve relief of their suffering, not giving them an overdose," said Dr. William Toffler.
He said the state has a financial incentive to offer death instead of life: Chemotherapy drugs such as Tarceva cost $4,000 a month while drugs for assisted suicide cost less than $100.
Saha said state health officials do not consider whether it is cheaper for someone in the health plan to die than live. However, he admitted they must consider the state's limited dollars when dealing with a case such as Wagner's.
"If we invest thousands and thousands of dollars in one person's days to weeks, we are taking away those dollars from someone," Saha said.
But the medical director at the cancer center where Wagner gets her care said some people may have incredible responses to treatment.
Health plan hasn't evolved?
The Oregon Health Plan simply hasn't kept up with dramatic changes in chemotherapy, said Dr. David Fryefield of the Willamette Valley Cancer Center.
Even for those with advanced cancer, new chemotherapy drugs can extend life.
Yet the Oregon Health Plan only offers coverage for chemo that cures cancer - not if it can prolong a patient's life.
"We are looking at today's ... 2008 treatment, but we're using 1993 standards," Fryefield said. "When the Oregon Health Plan was created, it was 15 years ago, and there were not all the chemotherapy drugs that there are today."
Patients like Wagner can appeal a decision if they are denied coverage. Wagner appealed twice but lost both times.
However, her doctors contacted the pharmaceutical company, Genentech, which agreed to give her the medication without charging her. Doctors said that is unusual for a company to give away such an expensive medication.
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Depression in the context of disability and the "right to die". - PubMed - NCBI
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:47
Arguments in favor of legalized assisted suicide often center on issues of personal privacy and freedom of choice over one's body. Many disability advocates assert, however, that autonomy arguments neglect the complex sociopolitical determinants of despair for people with disabilities. Specifically, they argue that social approval of suicide for individuals with irreversible conditions is discriminatory and that relaxing restrictions on assisted suicide would jeopardize, not advance, the freedom of persons with disabilities to direct the lives they choose. This paper examines the idea promoted by some proponents of assisted suicide that it is reasonable to be depressed about one's diminished quality of life in cases of irreversible illness or disability and, therefore, such depression should not call into question the individual's competence to request assistance in dying. The concept of rational depression is defined and examined in the context of: four real-life cases involving individuals with disabilities who requested assistance in dying; a set of criteria commonly applied to decision-making to determine rationality; and research bearing on the emotional status of people with disabilities. It is concluded that although disability is associated with particular socially mediated stressors, there is no theoretical or empirical evidence to indicate that depression and its role in the "right to die" is dynamically different, more natural, or more reasonable for disabled people than for non-disabled people.
Euthanasia Prevention Coalition Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition: Dr Ira Byock: Brittany Maynard is being exploited by Compassion & Choices, ... And I think that's a tragedy.
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:10
By Alex SchadenbergExecutive Director - Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.In a debate format interview on the PBS Newhour, Ira Byock, a leading palliative care physician, author, and public advocate for improving care for the end of life debated Barbara Coombs Lee the leader of the assisted suicide lobby group Compassion & Choices.Byock, with reference to the Brittany Maynard story stated on PBS Newshour that:
My heart goes out to Brittany Maynard. It's a heart-wrenching story. But I want to assure ... people watching that she could get excellent whole person care and be assured of dying gently in her bed surrounded by her family.
It's ironic that we know how to give extremely good care, not only comprehensive medical care, but tender, loving care. But ... as the Institute of Medicine report shows, we're just not doing it in this country. And it really is a national disgrace.
And giving doctors now authority to write lethal prescriptions fixes really nothing, none of the deficiencies in practice or medical training. It's really a socially dangerous thing to do.
Byock then examined the reality of legalized assisted suicide.You know, Oregon's law was modeled after Holland and Belgium. And in Holland and Belgium these days, people are being euthanized, by their own volition, for things like depression or ringing of the ears, not just pain.
You know, Compassion & Choices actually sold to the public the legalization of physician-assisted suicide because of unremitting pain. But we can control pain. What's happening now is that over 85 percent of people who use Oregon's law and end their life do so because of existential or emotional suffering, feeling of being a burden to their families, feeling the loss of the ability to enjoy life, feeling the loss of meaning.
Well, once those become criteria, there are a lot of problems and human suffering that then becomes open to assisted suicide and euthanasia. It's an undeniable fact that the slippery slope exists.
Byock then states that the role of doctors does not include assisted suicide. He stated:I think that doctors are proscribed from killing patients for protection of vulnerable people and the public. And that's a good principle to maintain.
Dr Byock then urges Maynard not to die by assisted suicide.I think Brittany could have that '-- those same poignant movements and tenderness with hospice and palliative care.
I think, unfortunately, while not being coerced, she's being exploited by Compassion & Choices, as well as by the media's insatiable appetite for sensationalism. And I think that's a tragedy.
I worry what will happen is she '-- her life still feels worth living on November 1. Will she then feel compelled to end her life in order to meet the public's expectations?
I really worry for this woman who is vulnerable and going through a wrenching time in life. And I '-- frankly, I wish her all the best.
Brittany Maynard with upset with Byock's statement that Compassion & Choices is exploiting her story Byock responded to Maynard on the Diane Rehm show by stating:It's personally hard for me to hear that I've caused this young woman more distress'... One of the things I disagree with is that Brittany Maynard has just said again that she thinks it's her personal choice. But you know, physician-assisted suicide is not a personal act, it's a social act. Physicians aren't personal. We are trained by society '... So when a physician writes a lethal prescription, it's a social act.
The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition urges Maynard to seek care not death.Links to more information.
Who's Framing Brittany Maynard? | Public Discourse
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 09:23
Public opinion scholars often complain that interest groups short-circuit the deliberation process by framing complex issues in overly simplistic, emotionally appealing ways. These kinds of framing effects are generally frowned upon in academic literature, because they can distract busy citizens from the most important issues related to a topic. By substituting flash for substance, savvy consultants can manipulate public opinion to win important changes in public policy.
From an issue-framing perspective, Brittany Maynard's sudden emergence as the face and voice of the campaign to legalize assisted suicide could be considered a textbook example.
Unless she changes her mind, Maynard intends to commit suicide by ingesting a lethal dose of prescription drugs she obtained from her doctor. Maynard, a twenty-nine-year-old newlywed suffering from terminal brain cancer, is using her recent celebrity to promote the legalization of assisted suicide in the forty-five states that currently ban it.
Maynard's story resonates. In a culture that idolizes youth and beauty, her terminal diagnosis is an act of injustice in search of a solution. Those who support assisted suicide frame the problem as one of law instead of medicine: we already have the necessary medicine to ''help'' those who want to commit suicide. Helping Maynard doesn't mean taking an ice bucket challenge to fund a cure. It requires changing the law so she and others can beat a disease to death's door.
It's a clever framing tactic. Gone are any considerations about the impact legalizing assisted suicide would have on vulnerable populations such as the poor and the disabled. Not a word is mentioned of how normalizing assisted suicide would alter personal, familial, and professional expectations about when someone should choose death. The issue is boiled down to this: I'm dying of cancer. I want to die now. You have no right to refuse me.
In a society dominated by individualism and relativism, who needs to deliberate? No one wishes to endure a long and painful death, and if modern medicine can't come to the rescue, then surely the law should permit a competent adult to end her life early'--even if it means enlisting the aid of a doctor.
And yet, decriminalizing a doctor's liability for helping a patient kill herself is not a top priority for the vast majority of Americans. That's why a young, telegenic presence such as Maynard is needed to force assisted suicide onto the agenda. Her story is both tragic and attractive, making it an ideal frame of reference for groups pushing to expand the so-called ''right to die.''
Attracting Attention, Money, and Momentum
A look at the organization behind Brittany Maynard's sudden popularity indicates how her story is being used as a campaign tool.
A resident of California, Maynard moved to Oregon with her husband to take advantage of the state's ''Death with Dignity'' law, which is the first of its kind in the United States. Since her October 14 op-ed for CNN went viral, Maynard has shared her name and life history on a slick website designed to attract one million signatures to a petition praising Maynard for having the ''courage'' to kill herself. Tellingly, a small notice at the bottom says that by signing the card the signatory agrees to receive emails from the most active right-to-die organization in the United States.
Maynard's website is actually ''An initiative of Compassion & Choices,'' according to the landing page's banner. Further down, Compassion & Choices is described as ''the oldest and largest organization working to improve care and expand choice at the end of life,'' operating ''many programs and services.''
True, Compassion & Choices is the oldest and largest organization pushing to legalize assisted suicide. Its current form is the most recent iteration of the late Derek Humphry's (now disbanded) Hemlock Society. In the interim, the organization briefly did business as Compassion in Dying. Its programs and services primarily include counseling people on how to commit assisted suicide.
As can be seen from its advocacy work, Compassion & Choices does not exist to improve care. It exists to help people avoid getting the care they need by killing themselves.
Under its various guises, Compassion & Choices failed to persuade the United States Supreme Court to find a right to die in the US Constitution. It then targeted the states. In Montana and New Mexico, the group secured piecemeal judicial victories that keep the door open for further expansion. Though at least 140 attempts have been made to get state legislatures to approve assisted suicide laws, only Vermont in 2013 agreed. In the last year alone, legislative bodies in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New Jersey have all refused to go along.
From a wins and losses standpoint, Compassion & Choices has had its greatest success in statewide ballot campaigns. However, success is relative here, since only Oregon (1994, 1997) and Washington (2008) decided to legalize assisted suicide. States voting ''no'' include California (1992), Michigan (1998), Maine (2000), and Massachusetts (2012).
In none of these campaigns, though, did Compassion & Choices have a spokesperson as young, healthy, and attractive as Brittany Maynard. The chance to frame support for assisted suicide around such a sympathetic figure is an opportunity too good to pass up.
Indeed, the website Compassion & Choices maintains for Maynard is actually a vehicle to solicit donations for ''legal strategies, ballot measures and legislative efforts to make death with dignity accessible state-by-state.'' As a volunteer advocate for Compassion & Choices, Maynard says her ability to raise money for this purpose is a defining part of her legacy.
Since Maynard's op-ed was published, Compassion & Choices claims that a video describing her decision to commit suicide has been viewed over five million times. ''That's 5 million people who now know the importance of access to death with dignity,'' gushes the site, before it asks readers to share the video on their social networks. All of this is accompanied by egocentric slogans such as, ''My life. My death. My choice. I support Brittany Maynard and all Americans' right to choose #DeathwithDignity.''
In sum, Brittany Maynard is helping Compassion & Choices use her tragic experience as a recruitment tool to make assisted suicide more available. The issue is presented as a choice, not a duty.
But what about the people left out of Maynard's frame?
Hastening Death via Medicaid Policy
Disability rights organizations are acutely aware of the danger assisted suicide poses to their community. Not Dead Yet and other disability organizations argue that legalizing assisted suicide will enshrine in law the notion that those with disabilities are justified in hastening their deaths because their lives are substandard. Moreover, once a legal definition of substandard life is established, it matters little whether the final decision to die is made by the individual, a family member, a medical professional, or even an actuary employed by an insurance company or a government agency.
This is especially true when one of the main arguments behind assisted suicide is the idea that costly patients are a burden to their families and society. Thus, the implication goes, terminally ill patients have a duty to commit suicide in order to avoid burdening others.
Back in May, Not Dead Yet flagged a little-noticed grant announcement in a New York State Medicaid brochure. (Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that funds medical care for the poor and the disabled.) The purpose of the grant is to entice hospitals serving large numbers of Medicaid patients to test ways of reducing ''unnecessary hospitalizations,'' and thus expenditures. Participating hospitals are required to select from third-party vendors preselected by New York.
One of the vendors is ''The Conversation Project.'' Its primary mission is to certify hospitals and other healthcare providers as ''Conversation Ready,'' which means training personnel to initiate conversations about end-of-life treatment with people who are currently healthy. The stated objective is to get people talking about which medical procedures they do and do not want, and making those wishes known to family members in a legal document.
The part that troubles Not Dead Yet, however, is the way The Conversation Project stacks the deck in favor of refusing care. In its training materials, The Conversation Project includes this eye-opening line:
You'll see that this isn't really about dying '' it's about figuring out how you want to live, till the very end.
According to Not Dead Yet, ''The Conversation Project goes even further in specifically eliciting fears of long-term disability and translating them into decisions to forgo life-saving treatment.'' As proof, Not Dead Yet highlights this set of questions from the group:
What to talk about:
Are there circumstances that you would consider worse than death? (Long-term need of a breathing machine or feeding tube, not being able to recognize your loved ones)
What kinds of aggressive treatment would you want (or not want)? (Resuscitation if your heart stops, breathing machine, feeding tube)
When would it be okay to shift from a focus on curative care to a focus on comfort care alone?
As Not Dead Yet explains, ''There is no indication that the need for such interventions could be either short term or permanent. There is no information on the tens of thousands of disabled individuals who are currently living a fulfilling life while permanently using these devices.''
Instead, once again the average person is exposed to a strategically crafted frame that points to only one logical conclusion: I'd rather be dead.
Assisted Suicide Deserves Deliberation, Not Catch Phrases
Brittany Maynard may not be aware that New York State is trying to reduce its Medicaid spending by convincing people they are better off dead than disabled.
But by associating with Compassion & Choices, she has become the most visible spokesperson for a movement that markets death in many different arenas. It's a movement with members intending to force a conversation about end-of-life decisions that always seem to terminate in a premature death.
But simply having a conversation about a delicate subject such as dignity at the end of life does not, by itself, ensure that the right principles will be discussed. And, as right-to-die advocates have shown repeatedly, they are willing to employ all kinds of euphemisms to distract well-meaning people from what assisted suicide really is: the intentional killing of a vulnerable person.
What's needed as we deliberate about assisted suicide is not a razor-thin focus on the exceptionally rare case of a beautiful young woman diagnosed with a particularly aggressive type of cancer. Instead, we need a full and robust discussion about whether it is possible, in principle, to stop one person's right to die from becoming another's duty to die.
Ashton Ellis is a doctoral student in political science at Claremont Graduate University. Previously, he taught at Pepperdine University's School of Public Policy.
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Spain moves to protect domestic media with new 'Google tax' | Technology | The Guardian
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 00:05
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy speaks. Photograph: DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images
The Spanish government has successfully passed a new copyright law which imposes fees for online content aggregators such as Google News, in an effort to protect its print media industry.
The new intellectual property law, known popularly as the ''Google Tax'' or by its initials LPI, requires services which post links and excerpts of news articles to pay a fee to the organisation representing Spanish newspapers, the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (known by its Spanish-language abbreviation AEDE). Failure to pay up can lead to a fine of up to '‚¬600,000.
The law is the latest volley in the war between European newspapers and Google. The publishers accuse the search firm of using their copyrighted material to build up a news service without doing any reporting itself; Google defends itself by claiming that it 10 billion views to newspapers' websites every month.
The company says that it is ''disappointed'' with Spain's new law. ''We believe that services like Google News help publishers bring traffic to their sites. As far as the future is concerned, we will continue working with the Spanish publishers to help increase their revenues while we evaluate our options within the framework of the new legislation.''
A similar law passed in Germany saw Google removing the affected newspapers from Google news altogether '' before the publishers eventually came back and asked to be relisted after seeing their traffic plummet, a step they said they had to take because of the ''overwhelming market power of Google''.
The ''Google tax'' isn't the only component of Spain's law, which tightens up existing regulation. Once it comes into action at the beginning of 2014, the country will also require websites to remove links to material that infringes copyright, even if the websites themselves don't make money from the infringement.
That requirement doesn't require copyright holders to go through a judge before demanding links be removed, while imposing fines of '‚¬600,000 on sites which don't act.
The law also applies to the third party sites providing hosting or payment services to the infringing site, something that has led opponents of the law have labelled it ''censorship'', comparing it to the financial boycott of Wikileaks. ''The law opens the possibility for the state to sabotage any online content simply using fear,'' lawyer Carols Sanchez Almeida told Gizmodo. ''Are you going to risk a fine of '‚¬600,000 to host a link? No.''
The LPI was passed by the ruling People's Party, in the face of heavy resistance from the opposition parties, who called it ''a disaster'' and ''a missed opportunity.''
'Google investors press for code of conduct on tax
Activist Post: Spain Imposes 'Google Tax' on Internet Content Aggregators
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 00:04
Eric BlairActivist PostDesperate nations do desperate things. Spain's government, with suffocating debt and a weak economy, has been working hard to squeeze more taxes out of their society. Few thought it could get more ridiculous than their attempt to tax the sun last year. But it has...
The Spanish government recently passed an intellectual property law that will impose taxes on websites and blogs that "post a snippet of and/or link to" copyrighted material.
This includes taxing Google whose entire platform is based on linking to outside content. As such, the legislation is officially called the "Google Tax", but it will tax any website that links to Spanish media stories.
According to The Guardian:
The Spanish government has successfully passed a new copyright law which imposes fees for online content aggregators such as Google News, in an effort to protect its print media industry.
The new intellectual property law, known popularly as the ''Google Tax'' or by its initials LPI, requires services which post links and excerpts of news articles to pay a fee to the organisation representing Spanish newspapers, the Association of Editors of Spanish Dailies (known by its Spanish-language abbreviation AEDE). Failure to pay up can lead to a fine of up to '‚¬600,000.
The law is the latest volley in the war between European newspapers and Google. The publishers accuse the search firm of using their copyrighted material to build up a news service without doing any reporting itself; Google defends itself by claiming that it 10 billion views to newspapers' websites every month.The company says that it is ''disappointed'' with Spain's new law. ''We believe that services like Google News help publishers bring traffic to their sites. As far as the future is concerned, we will continue working with the Spanish publishers to help increase their revenues while we evaluate our options within the framework of the new legislation.''
What's more troubling than the tax is that the law will also require blogs and websites "to remove links to any material that infringes copyright, even if the websites themselves don't make money from the infringement." Can you say censorship?The Guardian points out that Spain's law also applies to third-party companies who provide services to a website that hosts or links to copyrighted material.
If Germany's experience with this protection "tax" for print media is any indication, it will likely ruin more jobs and ultimately result in less revenue for Spain.
A similar law passed in Germany saw Google removing the affected newspapers from Google news altogether '' before the publishers eventually came back and asked to be relisted after seeing their traffic plummet, a step they said they had to take because of the ''overwhelming market power of Google''.
Nevertheless, this type of copyright enforcement seems to be desired method by European nations, which makes the prospect of regulating intellectual property through the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that much more worrisome.Indeed, the United States has proven to be in favor of drastic methods to combat copyright infringement as the Department of Homeland Security seized websites for merely linking to copyrighted material in the recent past and attempted to pass similar legislation in SOPA and PIPA.
It seems clear that a law like this creates huge potential for government censorship, which may be just as much motive as protecting entrenched media companies.
More by Eric Blair
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Russell Brand joins thousands of masked Anonymous Guy Fawkes protesters | Daily Mail Online
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 05:04
Russell Brand joined thousands of masked demonstrators in WestminsterBritish fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was also spotted among crowd Riot police lined streets as protesters donned sinister Guy Fawkes masksOfficers drew batons as missiles, road signs and fireworks were launched Crowd kicked over railings while chanting 'one solution, revolution'Anti-capitalist group Anonymous wanted to create blockade in the capitalLondon march is part of a day of global demonstrations against austerity By Steph Cockroft for MailOnline
Published: 16:41 EST, 5 November 2014 | Updated: 21:09 EST, 5 November 2014
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Russell Brand and Vivienne Westwood joined thousands of masked anti-capitalist demonstrators who descended on Westminster for a Bonfire Night protest, bringing chaos to the capital.
Scores of riot police were on stand-by amid threats from campaign group Anonymous that the demonstration would create a blockade throughout London.
Officers were forced to draw their batons as missiles, plastic cones and road signs were launched along the Mall, while fireworks were left off in Trafalgar Square.
The masked demonstrators - some as young as 14 - also kicked and dragged over security railings while chanting 'one solution, revolution', as others daubed graffiti on riot vans.
Scroll down for videos
Russell Brand took part in a protest outside Parliament which was orchestrated by activists who said they intend to cause chaos throughout London
The protest, organised in hundreds of cities around the world, saw the activists wear masks depicting the sinister face of Guy Fawkes - a mask made famous in the film V for Vendetta
Russell Brand criticises Boris Johnson at Million Mask March
Barricades erected in anticipation of the protest were lifted by demonstrators as police attempted to control scenes in Parliament Square
Demonstrators kicked and dragged over security railings while chanting 'one solution, revolution'
Officers were forced to draw their batons as missiles, plastic cones and road signs were launched
A police officer ducks to avoid the pushing and shoving which surged through the crowd during the protest
See protestors BATTLE police at London Million Mask March
During the march, protesters also let off fireworks and threw firecrackers at police who were guarding the Victoria Memorial, hurling abuse at them.
The crowd surged through central London, pushing over bins, shouting at bemused shoppers and commuters and hitting cars and people with yellow flexible tubes.
At one point, they surrounded a man driving a new Mercedes car and sprayed the back of it with an aerosol, pushing their tubes at him as he opened windows to remonstrate with them.
The protest, known as the Million Mask March, was one of hundreds organised at the same time in cities around the world.
Demonstrators wearing sinister Guy Fawkes masks - made famous in the film V for Vendetta - descended on Trafalgar Square, waving banners and placards, before marching towards Parliament Square at 6.30pm.
As they milled around the square, they chanted anti-establishment slogans before climbing on to the base of Nelson's Column and letting off fireworks.
They then moved onto Buckingham Palace before hundreds of protesters made their way through central London, going to Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street and Oxford Circus.
They then marched to the BBC's headquarters at Broadcasting House on nearby Portland Place and going along Oxford Street to Hyde Park and Park Lane.
As of around midnight, ten people had been arrested, including three on suspicion of assaulting police officers, one of a firework offence, three for public order crimes and one of attempted GBH.
British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood was also spotted at the march in central London
Police arrested a man on suspicion of headbutting a woman police officer outside Buckingham Palace during the protest
Officers were forced to draw their batons as missiles, plastic cones and road signs were launched along the Mall
The heightened security measures come as the Metropolitan Police attempted to contact Anonymous, but no one came forward with any details
Protesters argued with riot police as they formed human barriers against the huge crowd of demonstrators
Riot police were put on high alert after warnings from the protest group that it would cause chaos in London
'WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!' Protestors chant in London
The group said in its manifesto that it fights against mass surveillance, austerity and infringement of human rights.
Russell Brand also joined the London arm of the worldwide Million Mask March last year.
During that march, energy bills were burned, fireworks were shot at Buckingham Palace and there were 15 arrests, following scuffles with police.
He later wrote an article saying that riots are sparked 'when dialogue fails, when they feel unrepresented and bored by the illusion'.
Today, it seemed the group were hoping for a similar result. On its website before the march, one of the group members wrote: 'What I'd like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City.
'Complete physical GRIDLOCK. Only thing that gets through are Fire & Rescue and ambulances. NOTHING ELSE MOVES.'
Fireworks and smoke were seen rising out of Trafalgar Square as the protest got underway this evening
The crowd tried its best to carry out the wishes of the organisers, which asked for a massive blockade of London City
The group - which uses the Guy Fawkes masks as its trademark - said it fights against mass surveillance, austerity and infringement of human rights
The protest was held on the night of Britain's Guy Fawkes Night, and many of the marchers wore the white masks of the man who plotted to blow up parliament in 1605
Protesters chanted anti-establishment slogans as they milled around, while others climbed on to the base of Nelson's Column let off fireworks
Million Mask March protestors speak about why they get involved
The group also warned it would have 'bigger banners, louder voices, more people and a louder system'.
The London march is part of a day of global demonstrations, which include rallies across Europe, the Americas and Asia.
The protest has led to officers from the Metropolitan Police, British Transport Police and the City of London Police Force being on stand-by.
The heightened security measures came as the Metropolitan Police attempted to contact Anonymous, but no one came forward with any details.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said they had attempted to contact organisers of the event 'without success'.
Graffiti was daubed on a police van, while a masked protester stood nearby waving a placard
Most people protested peacefully, but some ten arrests were made, Metropolitan Police said
The group warned it would have 'bigger banners, louder voices, more people and a louder system' than last year's protest
Writing on its website before the march, the group said: 'What I'd like to see is a MASSIVE Anonymous blockade of London City'. Protesters waved banners and placards during the march
The protesters came up with a number of creative ways to express their messages of discontent
The group said in its manifesto that it fights again mass surveillance, austerity and infringement of human rights
Anti-capitalist protesters held up signs saying 'Expect Us' 'We Are Anonymous' and 'We Are Everyone'
Rather than communicate directly with local authorities, Anonymous sent a message to the government
The protesters made their way through central London, going to Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street and Oxford Circus
And it added that they have imposed Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 across Westminster between 5pm today and 2am tomorrow, which provides powers to remove masks when police fear a crime will be committed.
Scotland Yard said: 'The Met Police deals with around 4,500 protests and events every year. These can range from a single protester to hundreds of thousands of people walking through the capital's streets.
'Officers work with organisers to ensure that people are able to carry out their right to peaceful protest whilst ensuring Londoners can go about their daily business.'
Last year's London march saw more than 2,500 protesters take to the streets, in a rally which saw fireworks thrown at Buckingham Palace and a total of 15 arrests.
Rather than communicate directly with local authorities, Anonymous sent a message to the government, and to global world leaders: 'To oppressive governments, we say this: we do not expect our campaign to be completed in a short time frame. However, you will not prevail against the angry masses of the body politic.'
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Hungary
Hungary internet tax cancelled after mass protests
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:28
31 October 2014Last updated at 08:57 ET Hungary has decided to shelve a proposed tax on internet data traffic after mass protests against the plan.
"This tax in its current form cannot be introduced," Prime Minister Viktor Orban said on Friday.
Large-scale protests began on Sunday, when demonstrators hurled old computer parts at the headquarters of Mr Orban's ruling Fidesz party.
The draft law - condemned by the EU - would levy a fee on each gigabyte of internet data transferred.
The protesters objected to the financial burden but also feared the move would restrict free expression and access to information.
The levy was set at 150 forints (£0.40; 0.50 euros; $0.60) per gigabyte of data traffic.
After thousands protested the government decided to cap the tax at 700 forints per month for individuals and 5,000 forints for companies. But that did not placate the crowds.
The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Budapest writes:
Viktor Orban does not often back down, but he has done so on this occasion for several reasons.
He saw how unpopular the tax was. He managed with one stroke to do something which opposition leaders had tried and failed to do for five years: unify his opponents He took on the best-organised community in the country - internet users - and lost The government's communication methods failed again - as they have with almost every major decision since Fidesz came to power "We are not Communists. We don't go against the will of the people," he said - a sign that growing comparisons between Fidesz and the old Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party are hitting the mark. What happens next? Mr Orban's decision to cancel the tax deprives his opponents of a valuable rallying cry. The big question for them will be whether they can use the momentum of two big rallies to create new forms of opposition to Fidesz.
They have proven that he can be defeated. Mr Orban has proven that he is more flexible than many analysts give him credit for.
'It should not be done'Fidesz had said the special tax was needed to balance Hungary's budget in 2015.
Speaking on Kossuth public radio, Mr Orban said that "if the people not only dislike something but also consider it unreasonable then it should not be done...
"The tax code should be modified. This must be withdrawn, and we do not have to deal with this now."
He said a measure seen by the government as a technical issue had become "a fear-inducing vision".
There will be a national consultation on it in January, he said.
A European Commission spokesman, Ryan Heath, said the tax was "bad in principle" because it was a unilateral measure applied to a global phenomenon.
He said it was "part of a pattern... of actions that have limited freedoms or sought to take rents without achieving wider economic or social interest" in Hungary.
The Commission has previously criticised Mr Orban's government for constitutional proposals seen to be cementing the Fidesz party's political dominance.
Around 100,000 Hungarians rally for democracy as internet tax hits nerve | Reuters
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 21:11
By Marton Dunai
BUDAPESTWed Oct 29, 2014 10:13pm IST
Tens of thousands of Hungarians march across the Elisabeth Bridge during a protest against new tax on Internet data transfers in centre of Budapest, October 28, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Laszlo Balogh
BUDAPEST (Reuters) - About 100,000 Hungarians rallied on Tuesday night to protest at a planned tax on data traffic and the broader course of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government they saw as undermining democracy and relations with European Union peers.
It was by far the largest protest since his centre-right government took power in 2010 and pursued moves to redefine many walks of life, drawing accusations of creeping authoritarianism, although it was re-elected by a landslide this year.
Orban's government has imposed special taxes on the banking, retail, energy and telecommunications sectors to keep the budget deficit in check, jeopardising profits in some parts of the economy and unnerving international investors.
The Internet data levy idea was first floated in the 2015 tax code submitted to the Central European country's parliament last week, triggering objections from Internet service providers and users who felt it was anti-democratic.
The crowd, which was organised by a Facebook-based social network and appeared to draw mostly well-heeled professionals, marched through central Budapest demanding the repeal of the planned tax and the ouster of Orban.
Many protesters held up makeshift signs that read "ERROR!" and "How many times do you want to skin us?"
Zsolt Varady, an internet entrepreneur and founder of a now-defunct Hungarian social network iwiw.hu, told the crowd that the tax threatened to undermine Internet freedoms.
"Between 2002 and 2006 iwiw motivated many people to get an internet subscription," Varady said. "People were willing to pay for the service because they knew, saw and felt that their lives were becoming better... The Internet tax threatens the further growth of the Internet as well as freedom of information."
TAX REDUCED AFTER FIRST PROTEST
The government had planned to tax internet data transfers at a rate of 150 forints per gigabyte. After analysts calculated this would total more than the sector's annual revenue and an initial protest drew thousands on Sunday, Fidesz submitted a bill that capped the tax at 700 forints per month for individuals and 5,000 forints for companies.
That did not placate Tuesday's protesters.
"I am a student, my parents are not well off, neither am I, so I work hard," said Ildiko Pirk, a 22-year-old studying nursing. "I doubt the internet companies won't build this tax into their prices. And I have a computer, a smartphone, as does my mother and my four siblings... That adds up."
She said the internet was vital for her to get the books she needs for her studies but also to read unbiased news that is not under the control of Hungary's ruling political elite.
She and other protesters said the government's other moves also bothered them, such as a perceived mismanagement of the economy and a recent dispute with the United States over alleged corruption of Hungarian public officials.
The Orban government denied any anti-democratic agenda, saying it aimed only to get all economic sectors to share the tax burden and was tapping into a trend of telecommunications shifting away from already-taxed telephony and text messages.
The European Commission also criticised the proposed tax.
"It's part of a pattern... of actions which have limited freedoms or sought to take rents without achieving a wider economic or social interest," said Ryan Heath, spokesman for outgoing Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes.
Heath said the tax was economically misguided because it was based on data traffic now growing rapidly around the world.
(1 US dollar = 242.0100 Hungarian forint)
(Reporting by Marton Dunai; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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The Visegrad Group: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia | About the Visegrad Group
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 17:01
The Visegrad Group (also known as the "Visegrad Four" or simply "V4") reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest within the all-European integration. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have always been part of a single civilization sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and further strengthen.All the V4 countries aspired to become members of the European Union, perceiving their integration in the EU as another step forward in the process of overcoming artificial dividing lines in Europe through mutual support. They reached this aim in 2004 (1st May) when they all became members of the EU.
The V4 was not created as an alternative to the all-European integration efforts, nor does it try to compete with the existing functional Central European structures. Its activities are in no way aimed at isolation or the weakening of ties with the other countries. On the contrary the Group aims at encouraging optimum cooperation with all countries, in particular its neighbours, its ultimate interest being the democratic development in all parts of Europe.
The Visegrad Group wishes to contribute towards building the European security architecture based on effective, functionally complementary and mutually reinforcing cooperation and coordination within existing European and transatlantic institutions.
In order to preserve and promote cultural cohesion, cooperation within the Visegrad Group will enhance the imparting of values in the field of culture, education, science and exchange of information.
All the activities of the Visegrad Group are aimed at strengthening stability in the Central European region. The participating countries perceive their cooperation as a challenge and its success as the best proof of their ability to integrate also into such structures, such as the European Union.
More information:
HUNGARY-TEU - EU-wiki ARTICLE 2
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:57
CONSOLIDATED VERSION OF THE TREATY ON EUROPEAN UNION
See also TFEU
Source: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:C:2008:115:0013:0045:EN:PDF
HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF THE BELGIANS, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF DENMARK, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, THE PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, THE PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC, HIS MAJESTY THE KING OF SPAIN, THE PRESIDENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC, THE PRESIDENT OF THE ITALIAN REPUBLIC, HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS THE GRAND DUKE OF LUXEMBOURG, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE NETHERLANDS, THE PRESIDENT OF THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC, HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND,[1]
RESOLVED to mark a new stage in the process of European integration undertaken with the establishment of the European Communities,
DRAWING INSPIRATION from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe, from which have developed the universal values of the inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law,
RECALLING the historic importance of the ending of the division of the European continent and the need to create firm bases for the construction of the future Europe,
CONFIRMING their attachment to the principles of liberty, democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and of the rule of law,
CONFIRMING their attachment to fundamental social rights as defined in the European Social Charter signed at Turin on 18 October 1961 and in the 1989 Community Charter of the Fundamental Social Rights of Workers,
DESIRING to deepen the solidarity between their peoples while respecting their history, their culture and their traditions,
DESIRING to enhance further the democratic and efficient functioning of the institutions so as to enable them better to carry out, within a single institutional framework, the tasks entrusted to them,
RESOLVED to achieve the strengthening and the convergence of their economies and to establish an economic and monetary union including, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, a single and stable currency,
DETERMINED to promote economic and social progress for their peoples, taking into account the principle of sustainable development and within the context of the accomplishment of the internal market and of reinforced cohesion and environmental protection, and to implement policies ensuring that advances in economic integration are accompanied by parallel progress in other fields,
RESOLVED to establish a citizenship common to nationals of their countries,
RESOLVED to implement a common foreign and security policy including the progressive framing of a common defence policy, which might lead to a common defence in accordance with the provisions of Article 42, thereby reinforcing the European identity and its independence in order to promote peace, security and progress in Europe and in the world,
RESOLVED to facilitate the free movement of persons, while ensuring the safety and security of their peoples, by establishing an area of freedom, security and justice, in accordance with the provisions of this Treaty and of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,
RESOLVED to continue the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity,
IN VIEW of further steps to be taken in order to advance European integration,
HAVE DECIDED to establish a European Union and to this end have designated as their Plenipotentiaries:
(List of plenipotentiaries not reproduced)
WHO, having exchanged their full powers, found in good and due form, have agreed as follows:
Article 1
By this Treaty, the HIGH CONTRACTING PARTIES establish among themselves a EUROPEAN UNION, hereinafter called "the Union" on which the Member States confer competences to attain objectives they have in common.
This Treaty marks a new stage in the process of creating an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, in which decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely as possible to the citizen.
The Union shall be founded on the present Treaty and on the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (hereinafter referred to as "the Treaties"). Those two Treaties shall have the same legal value. The Union shall replace and succeed the European Community.
Article 2
The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.
Article 3
(ex Article 2 TEU)
1.The Union's aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.
2.The Union shall offer its citizens an area of freedom, security and justice without internal frontiers, in which the free movement of persons is ensured in conjunction with appropriate measures with respect to external border controls, asylum, immigration and the prevention and combating of crime.
3.The Union shall establish an internal market. It shall work for the sustainable development of Europe based on balanced economic growth and price stability, a highly competitive social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress, and a high level of protection and improvement of the quality of the environment. It shall promote scientific and technological advance.
It shall combat social exclusion and discrimination, and shall promote social justice and protection, equality between women and men, solidarity between generations and protection of the rights of the child.
It shall promote economic, social and territorial cohesion, and solidarity among Member States.
It shall respect its rich cultural and linguistic diversity, and shall ensure that Europe's cultural heritage is safeguarded and enhanced.
4.The Union shall establish an economic and monetary union whose currency is the euro.
5.In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
6.The Union shall pursue its objectives by appropriate means commensurate with the competences which are conferred upon it in the Treaties.
Article 4
1.In accordance with Article 5, competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.
2.The Union shall respect the equality of Member States before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional, inclusive of regional and local self-government. It shall respect their essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security. In particular, national security remains the sole responsibility of each Member State.
3.Pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation, the Union and the Member States shall, in full mutual respect, assist each other in carrying out tasks which flow from the Treaties.
The Member States shall take any appropriate measure, general or particular, to ensure fulfilment of the obligations arising out of the Treaties or resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union.
The Member States shall facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks and refrain from any measure which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union's objectives.
Article 5
(ex Article 5 TEC)
1.The limits of Union competences are governed by the principle of conferral. The use of Union competences is governed by the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
2.Under the principle of conferral, the Union shall act only within the limits of the competences conferred upon it by the Member States in the Treaties to attain the objectives set out therein. Competences not conferred upon the Union in the Treaties remain with the Member States.
3.Under the principle of subsidiarity, in areas which do not fall within its exclusive competence, the Union shall act only if and in so far as the objectives of the proposed action cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States, either at central level or at regional and local level, but can rather, by reason of the scale or effects of the proposed action, be better achieved at Union level.
The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of subsidiarity as laid down in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality. National Parliaments ensure compliance with the principle of subsidiarity in accordance with the procedure set out in that Protocol.
4.Under the principle of proportionality, the content and form of Union action shall not exceed what is necessary to achieve the objectives of the Treaties.
The institutions of the Union shall apply the principle of proportionality as laid down in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality.
Article 6
(ex Article 6 TEU)
1.The Union recognises the rights, freedoms and principles set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 7 December 2000, as adapted at Strasbourg, on 12 December 2007, which shall have the same legal value as the Treaties.
The provisions of the Charter shall not extend in any way the competences of the Union as defined in the Treaties.
The rights, freedoms and principles in the Charter shall be interpreted in accordance with the general provisions in Title VII of the Charter governing its interpretation and application and with due regard to the explanations referred to in the Charter, that set out the sources of those provisions.
2.The Union shall accede to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Such accession shall not affect the Union's competences as defined in the Treaties.
3.Fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, shall constitute general principles of the Union's law.
Article 7
(ex Article 7 TEU)
1.On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.
The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.
2.The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.
3.Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.
The obligations of the Member State in question under this Treaty shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.
4.The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.
5.The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Article 8
1.The Union shall develop a special relationship with neighbouring countries, aiming to establish an area of prosperity and good neighbourliness, founded on the values of the Union and characterised by close and peaceful relations based on cooperation.
2.For the purposes of paragraph 1, the Union may conclude specific agreements with the countries concerned. These agreements may contain reciprocal rights and obligations as well as the possibility of undertaking activities jointly. Their implementation shall be the subject of periodic consultation.
Article 9
In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to national citizenship and shall not replace it.
Article 10
1.The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
2.Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament.
Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
3.Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
4.Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.
Article 11
1.The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.
2.The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.
3.The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union's actions are coherent and transparent.
4.Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.
The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Article 12
National Parliaments contribute actively to the good functioning of the Union:
(a)through being informed by the institutions of the Union and having draft legislative acts of the Union forwarded to them in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union;
(b)by seeing to it that the principle of subsidiarity is respected in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Protocol on the application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality;
(c)by taking part, within the framework of the area of freedom, security and justice, in the evaluation mechanisms for the implementation of the Union policies in that area, in accordance with Article 70 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and through being involved in the political monitoring of Europol and the evaluation of Eurojust's activities in accordance with Articles 88 and 85 of that Treaty;
(d)by taking part in the revision procedures of the Treaties, in accordance with Article 48 of this Treaty;
(e)by being notified of applications for accession to the Union, in accordance with Article 49 of this Treaty;
(f)by taking part in the inter'‘parliamentary cooperation between national Parliaments and with the European Parliament, in accordance with the Protocol on the role of national Parliaments in the European Union.
Article 13
1.The Union shall have an institutional framework which shall aim to promote its values, advance its objectives, serve its interests, those of its citizens and those of the Member States, and ensure the consistency, effectiveness and continuity of its policies and actions.
The Union's institutions shall be:
the European Commission (hereinafter referred to as "the Commission"),the Court of Justice of the European Union,the European Central Bank,2.Each institution shall act within the limits of the powers conferred on it in the Treaties, and in conformity with the procedures, conditions and objectives set out in them. The institutions shall practice mutual sincere cooperation.
3.The provisions relating to the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors and detailed provisions on the other institutions are set out in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
4.The European Parliament, the Council and the Commission shall be assisted by an Economic and Social Committee and a Committee of the Regions acting in an advisory capacity.
Article 14
1.The European Parliament shall, jointly with the Council, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall exercise functions of political control and consultation as laid down in the Treaties. It shall elect the President of the Commission.
2.The European Parliament shall be composed of representatives of the Union's citizens. They shall not exceed seven hundred and fifty in number, plus the President. Representation of citizens shall be degressively proportional, with a minimum threshold of six members per Member State. No Member State shall be allocated more than ninety-six seats.
The European Council shall adopt by unanimity, on the initiative of the European Parliament and with its consent, a decision establishing the composition of the European Parliament, respecting the principles referred to in the first subparagraph.
3.The members of the European Parliament shall be elected for a term of five years by direct universal suffrage in a free and secret ballot.
4.The European Parliament shall elect its President and its officers from among its members.
Article 15
1.The European Council shall provide the Union with the necessary impetus for its development and shall define the general political directions and priorities thereof. It shall not exercise legislative functions.
2.The European Council shall consist of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, together with its President and the President of the Commission. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall take part in its work.
3.The European Council shall meet twice every six months, convened by its President. When the agenda so requires, the members of the European Council may decide each to be assisted by a minister and, in the case of the President of the Commission, by a member of the Commission. When the situation so requires, the President shall convene a special meeting of the European Council.
4.Except where the Treaties provide otherwise, decisions of the European Council shall be taken by consensus.
5.The European Council shall elect its President, by a qualified majority, for a term of two and a half years, renewable once. In the event of an impediment or serious misconduct, the European Council can end the President's term of office in accordance with the same procedure.
6.The President of the European Council:
(a)shall chair it and drive forward its work;
(b)shall ensure the preparation and continuity of the work of the European Council in cooperation with the President of the Commission, and on the basis of the work of the General Affairs Council;
(c)shall endeavour to facilitate cohesion and consensus within the European Council;
(d)shall present a report to the European Parliament after each of the meetings of the European Council.
The President of the European Council shall, at his level and in that capacity, ensure the external representation of the Union on issues concerning its common foreign and security policy, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The President of the European Council shall not hold a national office.
Article 16
1.The Council shall, jointly with the European Parliament, exercise legislative and budgetary functions. It shall carry out policy-making and coordinating functions as laid down in the Treaties.
2.The Council shall consist of a representative of each Member State at ministerial level, who may commit the government of the Member State in question and cast its vote.
3.The Council shall act by a qualified majority except where the Treaties provide otherwise.
4.As from 1 November 2014, a qualified majority shall be defined as at least 55 % of the members of the Council, comprising at least fifteen of them and representing Member States comprising at least 65 % of the population of the Union.
A blocking minority must include at least four Council members, failing which the qualified majority shall be deemed attained.
The other arrangements governing the qualified majority are laid down in Article 238(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5.The transitional provisions relating to the definition of the qualified majority which shall be applicable until 31 October 2014 and those which shall be applicable from 1 November 2014 to 31 March 2017 are laid down in the Protocol on transitional provisions.
6.The Council shall meet in different configurations, the list of which shall be adopted in accordance with Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The General Affairs Council shall ensure consistency in the work of the different Council configurations. It shall prepare and ensure the follow-up to meetings of the European Council, in liaison with the President of the European Council and the Commission.
The Foreign Affairs Council shall elaborate the Union's external action on the basis of strategic guidelines laid down by the European Council and ensure that the Union's action is consistent.
7.A Committee of Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States shall be responsible for preparing the work of the Council.
8.The Council shall meet in public when it deliberates and votes on a draft legislative act. To this end, each Council meeting shall be divided into two parts, dealing respectively with deliberations on Union legislative acts and non-legislative activities.
9.The Presidency of Council configurations, other than that of Foreign Affairs, shall be held by Member State representatives in the Council on the basis of equal rotation, in accordance with the conditions established in accordance with Article 236 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Article 17
1.The Commission shall promote the general interest of the Union and take appropriate initiatives to that end. It shall ensure the application of the Treaties, and of measures adopted by the institutions pursuant to them. It shall oversee the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It shall execute the budget and manage programmes. It shall exercise coordinating, executive and management functions, as laid down in the Treaties. With the exception of the common foreign and security policy, and other cases provided for in the Treaties, it shall ensure the Union's external representation. It shall initiate the Union's annual and multiannual programming with a view to achieving interinstitutional agreements.
2.Union legislative acts may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. Other acts shall be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal where the Treaties so provide.
3.The Commission's term of office shall be five years.
The members of the Commission shall be chosen on the ground of their general competence and European commitment from persons whose independence is beyond doubt.
In carrying out its responsibilities, the Commission shall be completely independent. Without prejudice to Article 18(2), the members of the Commission shall neither seek nor take instructions from any Government or other institution, body, office or entity. They shall refrain from any action incompatible with their duties or the performance of their tasks.
4.The Commission appointed between the date of entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and 31 October 2014, shall consist of one national of each Member State, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy who shall be one of its Vice-Presidents.
5.As from 1 November 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States, unless the European Council, acting unanimously, decides to alter this number.
The members of the Commission shall be chosen from among the nationals of the Member States on the basis of a system of strictly equal rotation between the Member States, reflecting the demographic and geographical range of all the Member States. This system shall be established unanimously by the European Council in accordance with Article 244 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
6.The President of the Commission shall:
(a)lay down guidelines within which the Commission is to work;
(b)decide on the internal organisation of the Commission, ensuring that it acts consistently, efficiently and as a collegiate body;
(c)appoint Vice-Presidents, other than the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, from among the members of the Commission.
A member of the Commission shall resign if the President so requests. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign, in accordance with the procedure set out in Article 18(1), if the President so requests.
7.Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.
The Council, by common accord with the President-elect, shall adopt the list of the other persons whom it proposes for appointment as members of the Commission. They shall be selected, on the basis of the suggestions made by Member States, in accordance with the criteria set out in paragraph 3, second subparagraph, and paragraph 5, second subparagraph.
The President, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the other members of the Commission shall be subject as a body to a vote of consent by the European Parliament. On the basis of this consent the Commission shall be appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.
8.The Commission, as a body, shall be responsible to the European Parliament. In accordance with Article 234 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the European Parliament may vote on a motion of censure of the Commission. If such a motion is carried, the members of the Commission shall resign as a body and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall resign from the duties that he carries out in the Commission.
Article 18
1.The European Council, acting by a qualified majority, with the agreement of the President of the Commission, shall appoint the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The European Council may end his term of office by the same procedure.
2.The High Representative shall conduct the Union's common foreign and security policy. He shall contribute by his proposals to the development of that policy, which he shall carry out as mandated by the Council. The same shall apply to the common security and defence policy.
3.The High Representative shall preside over the Foreign Affairs Council.
4.The High Representative shall be one of the Vice-Presidents of the Commission. He shall ensure the consistency of the Union's external action. He shall be responsible within the Commission for responsibilities incumbent on it in external relations and for coordinating other aspects of the Union's external action. In exercising these responsibilities within the Commission, and only for these responsibilities, the High Representative shall be bound by Commission procedures to the extent that this is consistent with paragraphs 2 and 3.
Article 19
1.The Court of Justice of the European Union shall include the Court of Justice, the General Court and specialised courts. It shall ensure that in the interpretation and application of the Treaties the law is observed.
Member States shall provide remedies sufficient to ensure effective legal protection in the fields covered by Union law.
2.The Court of Justice shall consist of one judge from each Member State. It shall be assisted by Advocates-General.
The General Court shall include at least one judge per Member State.
The Judges and the Advocates-General of the Court of Justice and the Judges of the General Court shall be chosen from persons whose independence is beyond doubt and who satisfy the conditions set out in Articles 253 and 254 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. They shall be appointed by common accord of the governments of the Member States for six years. Retiring Judges and Advocates-General may be reappointed.
3.The Court of Justice of the European Union shall, in accordance with the Treaties:
(a)rule on actions brought by a Member State, an institution or a natural or legal person;
(b)give preliminary rulings, at the request of courts or tribunals of the Member States, on the interpretation of Union law or the validity of acts adopted by the institutions;
(c)rule in other cases provided for in the Treaties.
Article 20
(ex Articles 27a to 27e, 40 to 40b and 43 to 45 TEU
and ex Articles 11 and 11a TEC)
1.Member States which wish to establish enhanced cooperation between themselves within the framework of the Union's non-exclusive competences may make use of its institutions and exercise those competences by applying the relevant provisions of the Treaties, subject to the limits and in accordance with the detailed arrangements laid down in this Article and in Articles 326 to 334 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Enhanced cooperation shall aim to further the objectives of the Union, protect its interests and reinforce its integration process. Such cooperation shall be open at any time to all Member States, in accordance with Article 328 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
2.The decision authorising enhanced cooperation shall be adopted by the Council as a last resort, when it has established that the objectives of such cooperation cannot be attained within a reasonable period by the Union as a whole, and provided that at least nine Member States participate in it. The Council shall act in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 329 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
3.All members of the Council may participate in its deliberations, but only members of the Council representing the Member States participating in enhanced cooperation shall take part in the vote. The voting rules are set out in Article 330 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
4.Acts adopted in the framework of enhanced cooperation shall bind only participating Member States. They shall not be regarded as part of the acquis which has to be accepted by candidate States for accession to the Union.
CHAPTER 1 - - GENERAL PROVISIONS ON THE UNION'S EXTERNAL ACTION
Article 21
1.The Union's action on the international scene shall be guided by the principles which have inspired its own creation, development and enlargement, and which it seeks to advance in the wider world: democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law.
The Union shall seek to develop relations and build partnerships with third countries, and international, regional or global organisations which share the principles referred to in the first subparagraph. It shall promote multilateral solutions to common problems, in particular in the framework of the United Nations.
2.The Union shall define and pursue common policies and actions, and shall work for a high degree of cooperation in all fields of international relations, in order to:
(a)safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity;
(b)consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;
(c)preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security, in accordance with the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, with the principles of the Helsinki Final Act and with the aims of the Charter of Paris, including those relating to external borders;
(d)foster the sustainable economic, social and environmental development of developing countries, with the primary aim of eradicating poverty;
(e)encourage the integration of all countries into the world economy, including through the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade;
(f)help develop international measures to preserve and improve the quality of the environment and the sustainable management of global natural resources, in order to ensure sustainable development;
(g)assist populations, countries and regions confronting natural or man-made disasters; and
(h)promote an international system based on stronger multilateral cooperation and good global governance.
3.The Union shall respect the principles and pursue the objectives set out in paragraphs 1 and 2 in the development and implementation of the different areas of the Union's external action covered by this Title and by Part Five of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and of the external aspects of its other policies.
The Union shall ensure consistency between the different areas of its external action and between these and its other policies. The Council and the Commission, assisted by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall ensure that consistency and shall cooperate to that effect.
Article 22
1.On the basis of the principles and objectives set out in Article 21, the European Council shall identify the strategic interests and objectives of the Union.
Decisions of the European Council on the strategic interests and objectives of the Union shall relate to the common foreign and security policy and to other areas of the external action of the Union. Such decisions may concern the relations of the Union with a specific country or region or may be thematic in approach. They shall define their duration, and the means to be made available by the Union and the Member States.
The European Council shall act unanimously on a recommendation from the Council, adopted by the latter under the arrangements laid down for each area. Decisions of the European Council shall be implemented in accordance with the procedures provided for in the Treaties.
2.The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, for the area of common foreign and security policy, and the Commission, for other areas of external action, may submit joint proposals to the Council.
CHAPTER 2 - - SPECIFIC PROVISIONS ON THE COMMON FOREIGNAND SECURITY POLICY
SECTION 1 - COMMON PROVISIONS
Article 23
The Union's action on the international scene, pursuant to this Chapter, shall be guided by the principles, shall pursue the objectives of, and be conducted in accordance with, the general provisions laid down in Chapter 1.
Article 24
(ex Article 11 TEU)
1.The Union's competence in matters of common foreign and security policy shall cover all areas of foreign policy and all questions relating to the Union's security, including the progressive framing of a common defence policy that might lead to a common defence.
The common foreign and security policy is subject to specific rules and procedures. It shall be defined and implemented by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where the Treaties provide otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded. The common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and by Member States, in accordance with the Treaties. The specific role of the European Parliament and of the Commission in this area is defined by the Treaties. The Court of Justice of the European Union shall not have jurisdiction with respect to these provisions, with the exception of its jurisdiction to monitor compliance with Article 40 of this Treaty and to review the legality of certain decisions as provided for by the second paragraph of Article 275 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
2.Within the framework of the principles and objectives of its external action, the Union shall conduct, define and implement a common foreign and security policy, based on the development of mutual political solidarity among Member States, the identification of questions of general interest and the achievement of an ever-increasing degree of convergence of Member States' actions.
3.The Member States shall support the Union's external and security policy actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity and shall comply with the Union's action in this area.
The Member States shall work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity. They shall refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or likely to impair its effectiveness as a cohesive force in international relations.
The Council and the High Representative shall ensure compliance with these principles.
Article 25
(ex Article 12 TEU)
The Union shall conduct the common foreign and security policy by:
(a)defining the general guidelines;
(b)adopting decisions defining:
(i)actions to be undertaken by the Union;
(ii)positions to be taken by the Union;
(iii)arrangements for the implementation of the decisions referred to in points (i) and (ii);
and by
(c)strengthening systematic cooperation between Member States in the conduct of policy.
Article 26
(ex Article 13 TEU)
1.The European Council shall identify the Union's strategic interests, determine the objectives of and define general guidelines for the common foreign and security policy, including for matters with defence implications. It shall adopt the necessary decisions.
If international developments so require, the President of the European Council shall convene an extraordinary meeting of the European Council in order to define the strategic lines of the Union's policy in the face of such developments.
2.The Council shall frame the common foreign and security policy and take the decisions necessary for defining and implementing it on the basis of the general guidelines and strategic lines defined by the European Council.
The Council and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall ensure the unity, consistency and effectiveness of action by the Union.
3.The common foreign and security policy shall be put into effect by the High Representative and by the Member States, using national and Union resources.
Article 27
1.The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, who shall chair the Foreign Affairs Council, shall contribute through his proposals towards the preparation of the common foreign and security policy and shall ensure implementation of the decisions adopted by the European Council and the Council.
2.The High Representative shall represent the Union for matters relating to the common foreign and security policy. He shall conduct political dialogue with third parties on the Union's behalf and shall express the Union's position in international organisations and at international conferences.
3.In fulfilling his mandate, the High Representative shall be assisted by a European External Action Service. This service shall work in cooperation with the diplomatic services of the Member States and shall comprise officials from relevant departments of the General Secretariat of the Council and of the Commission as well as staff seconded from national diplomatic services of the Member States. The organisation and functioning of the European External Action Service shall be established by a decision of the Council. The Council shall act on a proposal from the High Representative after consulting the European Parliament and after obtaining the consent of the Commission.
Article 28
(ex Article 14 TEU)
1.Where the international situation requires operational action by the Union, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions. They shall lay down their objectives, scope, the means to be made available to the Union, if necessary their duration, and the conditions for their implementation.
If there is a change in circumstances having a substantial effect on a question subject to such a decision, the Council shall review the principles and objectives of that decision and take the necessary decisions.
2.Decisions referred to in paragraph 1 shall commit the Member States in the positions they adopt and in the conduct of their activity.
3.Whenever there is any plan to adopt a national position or take national action pursuant to a decision as referred to in paragraph 1, information shall be provided by the Member State concerned in time to allow, if necessary, for prior consultations within the Council. The obligation to provide prior information shall not apply to measures which are merely a national transposition of Council decisions.
4.In cases of imperative need arising from changes in the situation and failing a review of the Council decision as referred to in paragraph 1, Member States may take the necessary measures as a matter of urgency having regard to the general objectives of that decision. The Member State concerned shall inform the Council immediately of any such measures.
5.Should there be any major difficulties in implementing a decision as referred to in this Article, a Member State shall refer them to the Council which shall discuss them and seek appropriate solutions. Such solutions shall not run counter to the objectives of the decision referred to in paragraph 1 or impair its effectiveness.
Article 29
(ex Article 15 TEU)
The Council shall adopt decisions which shall define the approach of the Union to a particular matter of a geographical or thematic nature. Member States shall ensure that their national policies conform to the Union positions.
Article 30
(ex Article 22 TEU)
1.Any Member State, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, or the High Representative with the Commission's support, may refer any question relating to the common foreign and security policy to the Council and may submit to it initiatives or proposals as appropriate.
2.In cases requiring a rapid decision, the High Representative, of his own motion, or at the request of a Member State, shall convene an extraordinary Council meeting within 48 hours or, in an emergency, within a shorter period.
Article 31
(ex Article 23 TEU)
1.Decisions under this Chapter shall be taken by the European Council and the Council acting unanimously, except where this Chapter provides otherwise. The adoption of legislative acts shall be excluded.
When abstaining in a vote, any member of the Council may qualify its abstention by making a formal declaration under the present subparagraph. In that case, it shall not be obliged to apply the decision, but shall accept that the decision commits the Union. In a spirit of mutual solidarity, the Member State concerned shall refrain from any action likely to conflict with or impede Union action based on that decision and the other Member States shall respect its position. If the members of the Council qualifying their abstention in this way represent at least one third of the Member States comprising at least one third of the population of the Union, the decision shall not be adopted.
2.By derogation from the provisions of paragraph 1, the Council shall act by qualified majority:
when adopting a decision defining a Union action or position on the basis of a decision of the European Council relating to the Union's strategic interests and objectives, as referred to in Article 22(1),when adopting a decision defining a Union action or position, on a proposal which the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has presented following a specific request from the European Council, made on its own initiative or that of the High Representative,when adopting any decision implementing a decision defining a Union action or position,when appointing a special representative in accordance with Article 33.If a member of the Council declares that, for vital and stated reasons of national policy, it intends to oppose the adoption of a decision to be taken by qualified majority, a vote shall not be taken. The High Representative will, in close consultation with the Member State involved, search for a solution acceptable to it. If he does not succeed, the Council may, acting by a qualified majority, request that the matter be referred to the European Council for a decision by unanimity.
3.The European Council may unanimously adopt a decision stipulating that the Council shall act by a qualified majority in cases other than those referred to in paragraph 2.
4.Paragraphs 2 and 3 shall not apply to decisions having military or defence implications.
5.For procedural questions, the Council shall act by a majority of its members.
Article 32
(ex Article 16 TEU)
Member States shall consult one another within the European Council and the Council on any matter of foreign and security policy of general interest in order to determine a common approach. Before undertaking any action on the international scene or entering into any commitment which could affect the Union's interests, each Member State shall consult the others within the European Council or the Council. Member States shall ensure, through the convergence of their actions, that the Union is able to assert its interests and values on the international scene. Member States shall show mutual solidarity.
When the European Council or the Council has defined a common approach of the Union within the meaning of the first paragraph, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Member States shall coordinate their activities within the Council.
The diplomatic missions of the Member States and the Union delegations in third countries and at international organisations shall cooperate and shall contribute to formulating and implementing the common approach.
Article 33
(ex Article 18 TEU)
The Council may, on a proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, appoint a special representative with a mandate in relation to particular policy issues. The special representative shall carry out his mandate under the authority of the High Representative.
Article 34
(ex Article 19 TEU)
1.Member States shall coordinate their action in international organisations and at international conferences. They shall uphold the Union's positions in such forums. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall organise this coordination.
In international organisations and at international conferences where not all the Member States participate, those which do take part shall uphold the Union's positions.
2.In accordance with Article 24(3), Member States represented in international organisations or international conferences where not all the Member States participate shall keep the other Member States and the High Representative informed of any matter of common interest.
Member States which are also members of the United Nations Security Council will concert and keep the other Member States and the High Representative fully informed. Member States which are members of the Security Council will, in the execution of their functions, defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
When the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union's position.
Article 35
(ex Article 20 TEU)
The diplomatic and consular missions of the Member States and the Union delegations in third countries and international conferences, and their representations to international organisations, shall cooperate in ensuring that decisions defining Union positions and actions adopted pursuant to this Chapter are complied with and implemented.
They shall step up cooperation by exchanging information and carrying out joint assessments.
They shall contribute to the implementation of the right of citizens of the Union to protection in the territory of third countries as referred to in Article 20(2)(c) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and of the measures adopted pursuant to Article 23 of that Treaty.
Article 36
(ex Article 21 TEU)
The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy shall regularly consult the European Parliament on the main aspects and the basic choices of the common foreign and security policy and the common security and defence policy and inform it of how those policies evolve. He shall ensure that the views of the European Parliament are duly taken into consideration. Special representatives may be involved in briefing the European Parliament.
The European Parliament may ask questions of the Council or make recommendations to it and to the High Representative. Twice a year it shall hold a debate on progress in implementing the common foreign and security policy, including the common security and defence policy.
Article 37
(ex Article 24 TEU)
The Union may conclude agreements with one or more States or international organisations in areas covered by this Chapter.
Article 38
(ex Article 25 TEU)
Without prejudice to Article 240 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, a Political and Security Committee shall monitor the international situation in the areas covered by the common foreign and security policy and contribute to the definition of policies by delivering opinions to the Council at the request of the Council or of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or on its own initiative. It shall also monitor the implementation of agreed policies, without prejudice to the powers of the High Representative.
Within the scope of this Chapter, the Political and Security Committee shall exercise, under the responsibility of the Council and of the High Representative, the political control and strategic direction of the crisis management operations referred to in Article 43.
The Council may authorise the Committee, for the purpose and for the duration of a crisis management operation, as determined by the Council, to take the relevant decisions concerning the political control and strategic direction of the operation.
Article 39
In accordance with Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and by way of derogation from paragraph 2 thereof, the Council shall adopt a decision laying down the rules relating to the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data by the Member States when carrying out activities which fall within the scope of this Chapter, and the rules relating to the free movement of such data. Compliance with these rules shall be subject to the control of independent authorities.
Article 40
(ex Article 47 TEU)
The implementation of the common foreign and security policy shall not affect the application of the procedures and the extent of the powers of the institutions laid down by the Treaties for the exercise of the Union competences referred to in Articles 3 to 6 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Similarly, the implementation of the policies listed in those Articles shall not affect the application of the procedures and the extent of the powers of the institutions laid down by the Treaties for the exercise of the Union competences under this Chapter.
Article 41
(ex Article 28 TEU)
1.Administrative expenditure to which the implementation of this Chapter gives rise for the institutions shall be charged to the Union budget.
2.Operating expenditure to which the implementation of this Chapter gives rise shall also be charged to the Union budget, except for such expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications and cases where the Council acting unanimously decides otherwise.
In cases where expenditure is not charged to the Union budget, it shall be charged to the Member States in accordance with the gross national product scale, unless the Council acting unanimously decides otherwise. As for expenditure arising from operations having military or defence implications, Member States whose representatives in the Council have made a formal declaration under Article 31(1), second subparagraph, shall not be obliged to contribute to the financing thereof.
3.The Council shall adopt a decision establishing the specific procedures for guaranteeing rapid access to appropriations in the Union budget for urgent financing of initiatives in the framework of the common foreign and security policy, and in particular for preparatory activities for the tasks referred to in Article 42(1) and Article 43. It shall act after consulting the European Parliament.
Preparatory activities for the tasks referred to in Article 42(1) and Article 43 which are not charged to the Union budget shall be financed by a start-up fund made up of Member States' contributions.
The Council shall adopt by a qualified majority, on a proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, decisions establishing:
(a)the procedures for setting up and financing the start-up fund, in particular the amounts allocated to the fund;
(b)the procedures for administering the start-up fund;
(c)the financial control procedures.
When the task planned in accordance with Article 42(1) and Article 43 cannot be charged to the Union budget, the Council shall authorise the High Representative to use the fund. The High Representative shall report to the Council on the implementation of this remit.
SECTION 2 - PROVISIONS ON THE COMMON SECURITY AND DEFENCE POLICY
Article 42
(ex Article 17 TEU)
1.The common security and defence policy shall be an integral part of the common foreign and security policy. It shall provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use them on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The performance of these tasks shall be undertaken using capabilities provided by the Member States.
2.The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common Union defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides. It shall in that case recommend to the Member States the adoption of such a decision in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
The policy of the Union in accordance with this Section shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States and shall respect the obligations of certain Member States, which see their common defence realised in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), under the North Atlantic Treaty and be compatible with the common security and defence policy established within that framework.
3.Member States shall make civilian and military capabilities available to the Union for the implementation of the common security and defence policy, to contribute to the objectives defined by the Council. Those Member States which together establish multinational forces may also make them available to the common security and defence policy.
Member States shall undertake progressively to improve their military capabilities. The Agency in the field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition and armaments (hereinafter referred to as "the European Defence Agency") shall identify operational requirements, shall promote measures to satisfy those requirements, shall contribute to identifying and, where appropriate, implementing any measure needed to strengthen the industrial and technological base of the defence sector, shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and shall assist the Council in evaluating the improvement of military capabilities.
4.Decisions relating to the common security and defence policy, including those initiating a mission as referred to in this Article, shall be adopted by the Council acting unanimously on a proposal from the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy or an initiative from a Member State. The High Representative may propose the use of both national resources and Union instruments, together with the Commission where appropriate.
5.The Council may entrust the execution of a task, within the Union framework, to a group of Member States in order to protect the Union's values and serve its interests. The execution of such a task shall be governed by Article 44.
6.Those Member States whose military capabilities fulfil higher criteria and which have made more binding commitments to one another in this area with a view to the most demanding missions shall establish permanent structured cooperation within the Union framework. Such cooperation shall be governed by Article 46. It shall not affect the provisions of Article 43.
7.If a Member State is the victim of armed aggression on its territory, the other Member States shall have towards it an obligation of aid and assistance by all the means in their power, in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter. This shall not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of certain Member States.
Commitments and cooperation in this area shall be consistent with commitments under the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which, for those States which are members of it, remains the foundation of their collective defence and the forum for its implementation.
Article 43
1.The tasks referred to in Article 42(1), in the course of which the Union may use civilian and military means, shall include joint disarmament operations, humanitarian and rescue tasks, military advice and assistance tasks, conflict prevention and peace-keeping tasks, tasks of combat forces in crisis management, including peace-making and post-conflict stabilisation. All these tasks may contribute to the fight against terrorism, including by supporting third countries in combating terrorism in their territories.
2.The Council shall adopt decisions relating to the tasks referred to in paragraph 1, defining their objectives and scope and the general conditions for their implementation. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, acting under the authority of the Council and in close and constant contact with the Political and Security Committee, shall ensure coordination of the civilian and military aspects of such tasks.
Article 44
1.Within the framework of the decisions adopted in accordance with Article 43, the Council may entrust the implementation of a task to a group of Member States which are willing and have the necessary capability for such a task. Those Member States, in association with the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, shall agree among themselves on the management of the task.
2.Member States participating in the task shall keep the Council regularly informed of its progress on their own initiative or at the request of another Member State. Those States shall inform the Council immediately should the completion of the task entail major consequences or require amendment of the objective, scope and conditions determined for the task in the decisions referred to in paragraph 1. In such cases, the Council shall adopt the necessary decisions.
Article 45
1.The European Defence Agency referred to in Article 42(3), subject to the authority of the Council, shall have as its task to:
(a)contribute to identifying the Member States' military capability objectives and evaluating observance of the capability commitments given by the Member States;
(b)promote harmonisation of operational needs and adoption of effective, compatible procurement methods;
(c)propose multilateral projects to fulfil the objectives in terms of military capabilities, ensure coordination of the programmes implemented by the Member States and management of specific cooperation programmes;
(d)support defence technology research, and coordinate and plan joint research activities and the study of technical solutions meeting future operational needs;
(e)contribute to identifying and, if necessary, implementing any useful measure for strengthening the industrial and technological base of the defence sector and for improving the effectiveness of military expenditure.
2.The European Defence Agency shall be open to all Member States wishing to be part of it. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall adopt a decision defining the Agency's statute, seat and operational rules. That decision should take account of the level of effective participation in the Agency's activities. Specific groups shall be set up within the Agency bringing together Member States engaged in joint projects. The Agency shall carry out its tasks in liaison with the Commission where necessary.
Article 46
1.Those Member States which wish to participate in the permanent structured cooperation referred to in Article 42(6), which fulfil the criteria and have made the commitments on military capabilities set out in the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation, shall notify their intention to the Council and to the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
2.Within three months following the notification referred to in paragraph 1 the Council shall adopt a decision establishing permanent structured cooperation and determining the list of participating Member States. The Council shall act by a qualified majority after consulting the High Representative.
3.Any Member State which, at a later stage, wishes to participate in the permanent structured cooperation shall notify its intention to the Council and to the High Representative.
The Council shall adopt a decision confirming the participation of the Member State concerned which fulfils the criteria and makes the commitments referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation. The Council shall act by a qualified majority after consulting the High Representative. Only members of the Council representing the participating Member States shall take part in the vote.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
4.If a participating Member State no longer fulfils the criteria or is no longer able to meet the commitments referred to in Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol on permanent structured cooperation, the Council may adopt a decision suspending the participation of the Member State concerned.
The Council shall act by a qualified majority. Only members of the Council representing the participating Member States, with the exception of the Member State in question, shall take part in the vote.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(a) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5.Any participating Member State which wishes to withdraw from permanent structured cooperation shall notify its intention to the Council, which shall take note that the Member State in question has ceased to participate.
6.The decisions and recommendations of the Council within the framework of permanent structured cooperation, other than those provided for in paragraphs 2 to 5, shall be adopted by unanimity. For the purposes of this paragraph, unanimity shall be constituted by the votes of the representatives of the participating Member States only.
Article 47
The Union shall have legal personality.
Article 48
(ex Article 48 TEU)
1.The Treaties may be amended in accordance with an ordinary revision procedure. They may also be amended in accordance with simplified revision procedures.
Ordinary revision procedure
2.The Government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission may submit to the Council proposals for the amendment of the Treaties. These proposals may, inter alia, serve either to increase or to reduce the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties. These proposals shall be submitted to the European Council by the Council and the national Parliaments shall be notified.
3.If the European Council, after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, adopts by a simple majority a decision in favour of examining the proposed amendments, the President of the European Council shall convene a Convention composed of representatives of the national Parliaments, of the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, of the European Parliament and of the Commission. The European Central Bank shall also be consulted in the case of institutional changes in the monetary area. The Convention shall examine the proposals for amendments and shall adopt by consensus a recommendation to a conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States as provided for in paragraph 4.
The European Council may decide by a simple majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, not to convene a Convention should this not be justified by the extent of the proposed amendments. In the latter case, the European Council shall define the terms of reference for a conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States.
4.A conference of representatives of the governments of the Member States shall be convened by the President of the Council for the purpose of determining by common accord the amendments to be made to the Treaties.
The amendments shall enter into force after being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
5.If, two years after the signature of a treaty amending the Treaties, four fifths of the Member States have ratified it and one or more Member States have encountered difficulties in proceeding with ratification, the matter shall be referred to the European Council.
Simplified revision procedures
6.The Government of any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission may submit to the European Council proposals for revising all or part of the provisions of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union relating to the internal policies and action of the Union.
The European Council may adopt a decision amending all or part of the provisions of Part Three of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The European Council shall act by unanimity after consulting the European Parliament and the Commission, and the European Central Bank in the case of institutional changes in the monetary area. That decision shall not enter into force until it is approved by the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
The decision referred to in the second subparagraph shall not increase the competences conferred on the Union in the Treaties.
7.Where the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union or Title V of this Treaty provides for the Council to act by unanimity in a given area or case, the European Council may adopt a decision authorising the Council to act by a qualified majority in that area or in that case. This subparagraph shall not apply to decisions with military implications or those in the area of defence.
Where the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides for legislative acts to be adopted by the Council in accordance with a special legislative procedure, the European Council may adopt a decision allowing for the adoption of such acts in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure.
Any initiative taken by the European Council on the basis of the first or the second subparagraph shall be notified to the national Parliaments. If a national Parliament makes known its opposition within six months of the date of such notification, the decision referred to in the first or the second subparagraph shall not be adopted. In the absence of opposition, the European Council may adopt the decision.
For the adoption of the decisions referred to in the first and second subparagraphs, the European Council shall act by unanimity after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, which shall be given by a majority of its component members.
Article 49
(ex Article 49 TEU)
Any European State which respects the values referred to in Article 2 and is committed to promoting them may apply to become a member of the Union. The European Parliament and national Parliaments shall be notified of this application. The applicant State shall address its application to the Council, which shall act unanimously after consulting the Commission and after receiving the consent of the European Parliament, which shall act by a majority of its component members. The conditions of eligibility agreed upon by the European Council shall be taken into account.
The conditions of admission and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the Union is founded, which such admission entails, shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State. This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements.
Article 50
1.Any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union in accordance with its own constitutional requirements.
2.A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
3.The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.
4.For the purposes of paragraphs 2 and 3, the member of the European Council or of the Council representing the withdrawing Member State shall not participate in the discussions of the European Council or Council or in decisions concerning it.
A qualified majority shall be defined in accordance with Article 238(3)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
5.If a State which has withdrawn from the Union asks to rejoin, its request shall be subject to the procedure referred to in Article 49.
Article 51
The Protocols and Annexes to the Treaties shall form an integral part thereof.
Article 52
1.The Treaties shall apply to the Kingdom of Belgium, the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Kingdom of Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, the Republic of Estonia, Ireland, the Hellenic Republic, the Kingdom of Spain, the French Republic, the Italian Republic, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Poland, the Portuguese Republic, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Finland, the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
2.The territorial scope of the Treaties is specified in Article 355 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Article 53
(ex Article 51 TEU)
This Treaty is concluded for an unlimited period.
Article 54
(ex Article 52 TEU)
1.This Treaty shall be ratified by the High Contracting Parties in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Government of the Italian Republic.
2.This Treaty shall enter into force on 1 January 1993, provided that all the Instruments of ratification have been deposited, or, failing that, on the first day of the month following the deposit of the Instrument of ratification by the last signatory State to take this step.
Article 55
(ex Article 53 TEU)
1.This Treaty, drawn up in a single original in the Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish languages, the texts in each of these languages being equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the Government of the Italian Republic, which will transmit a certified copy to each of the governments of the other signatory States.
2.This Treaty may also be translated into any other languages as determined by Member States among those which, in accordance with their constitutional order, enjoy official status in all or part of their territory. A certified copy of such translations shall be provided by the Member States concerned to be deposited in the archives of the Council.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned Plenipotentiaries have signed this Treaty.
Done at Maastricht on the seventh day of February in the year one thousand and ninety'‘two.
(List of signatories not reproduced)
'†‘The Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Austria, the Republic of Poland, Romania, the Republic of Slovenia, the Slovak Republic, the Republic of Finland and the Kingdom of Sweden have since become members of the European Union.'†‘These references are merely indicative. For more ample information, please refer to the tables of equivalences between the old and the new numbering of the Treaties.
HUNGARY-full-text of legal act Article 7 of the EU Treaty (TEU)
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:53
1. On a reasoned proposal by one third of the Member States, by the European Parliament or by the European Commission, the Council, acting by a majority of four fifths of its members after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. Before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question and may address recommendations to it, acting in accordance with the same procedure.The Council shall regularly verify that the grounds on which such a determination was made continue to apply.
2. The European Council, acting by unanimity on a proposal by one third of the Member States or by the Commission and after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament, may determine the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2, after inviting the Member State in question to submit its observations.
3. Where a determination under paragraph 2 has been made, the Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide to suspend certain of the rights deriving from the application of the Treaties to the Member State in question, including the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council. In doing so, the Council shall take into account the possible consequences of such a suspension on the rights and obligations of natural and legal persons.
The obligations of the Member State in question under this Treaty shall in any case continue to be binding on that State.
4. The Council, acting by a qualified majority, may decide subsequently to vary or revoke measures taken under paragraph 3 in response to changes in the situation which led to their being imposed.
5. The voting arrangements applying to the European Parliament, the European Council and the Council for the purposes of this Article are laid down in Article 354 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
REPORT on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary (pursuant to the European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2012) - A7-0229/2013
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:53
on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary (pursuant to the European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2012)
(2012/2130(INI))
The European Parliament,
'' having regard to Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), setting out the values upon which the Union is founded,
'' having regard to Articles 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), Articles 49, 56, 114, 167 and 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),
'' having regard to its resolution of 16 February 2012 on the recent political developments in Hungary(1) instructing the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, in cooperation with the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, to follow up the issue of whether and how the recommendations set out in that resolution have been implemented, and to present its findings in a report,
'' having regard to its resolutions of 10 March 2011 on the media law in Hungary(2) and of 5 July 2011 on the Revised Hungarian Constitution(3),
'' having regard to its resolution of 15 December 2010 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (2009) '' effective implementation after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon(4),
'' having regard to its resolution of 12 December 2012 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (2010-2011)(5),
'' having regard to the Commission Communication on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union '' Respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is based (COM(2003)0606),
'' having regard to the Council and Commission statements presented at the plenary debate held in the European Parliament on 18 January 2012 on the recent political developments in Hungary,
'' having regard to the statements of the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbn, who addressed the European Parliament on 18 January 2012 in the plenary debate on the recent political developments in Hungary,
'' having regard to the hearing held on 9 February 2012 by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs,
'' having regard to the report of a delegation of Members of the European Parliament on their visit to Budapest from 24 to 26 September 2012,
'' having regard to the working documents on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary (pursuant to the European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2012) comprising working documents No 1 '' Independence of the Judiciary, No 2 '' Fundamental principles and Fundamental Rights, No 3 '' Media legislation, No 4 '' Principles of democracy and the rule of law, and No 5 '' Concluding Remarks by the Rapporteur, which were discussed in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs on 10 July 2012, 20 September 2012, 22 January 2013, 7 March 2013 and 8 April 2013 respectively, as well as the comments of the Hungarian Government thereon,
'' having regard to the Fundamental Law of Hungary, adopted on 18 April 2011 by the National Assembly of the Hungarian Republic, which entered into force on 1 January 2012 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Fundamental Law'), and the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law of Hungary, adopted on 30 December 2011 by the National Assembly, which also entered into force on 1 January 2012 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Transitional Provisions'),
'' having regard to the First Amendment to the Fundamental Law, tabled by the Minister for National Economy on 17 April 2012 and adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 4 June 2012, establishing that the Transitional Provisions are part of the Fundamental Law,
'' having regard to the Second Amendment to the Fundamental Law, tabled on 18 September 2012 in the form of an individual member's bill and adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 29 October 2012, introducing the requirement of voter registration into the Transitional Provisions,
'' having regard to the Third Amendment to the Fundamental Law, tabled on 7 December 2012, adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 21 December 2012 and establishing that the limits and conditions for acquisition of ownership and for use of arable land and forests and the rules concerning the organisation of integrated agricultural production are to be laid down by cardinal law,
'' having regard to the Fourth Amendment of the Fundamental Law, tabled on 8 February 2013 in the form of an individual member's bill and adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 11 March 2013, which, among other provisions, integrates into the text of the Fundamental Law the Transitional Provisions (with some exceptions including the provision requiring voter registration) annulled by the Constitutional Court of Hungary on 28 December 2012 on procedural grounds (Decision No 45/2012), and remaining provisions of a genuinely transitional nature in this document,
'' having regard to Act CXI of 2012 on the Amendment of Act CLXI of 2011 on the organisation and administration of courts and Act CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges in Hungary,
'' having regard to Act XX of 2013 on the legislative amendments relating to the upper age limit applicable in certain judicial legal relations,,
'' having regard to Act CCVI of 2011 on the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the legal status of churches, denominations and religious communities of Hungary (the Act on Churches), which was adopted on 30 December 2011 and entered into force on 1 January 2012,
'' having regard to Opinions Nos CDL(2011)016, CDL(2011)001, CDL-AD(2012)001, CDL-AD(2012)009, CDL-AD(2012)020 and CDL-AD(2012)004 of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) on the new Constitution of Hungary, on the three legal questions arising from the process of drafting the new Constitution of Hungary, on Act CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges of Hungary and Act CLXI of 2011 on the organisation and administration of courts of Hungary, on Act CLI of 2011 on the Constitutional Court of Hungary, on the cardinal acts on the judiciary that were amended following the adoption of opinion CDL-AD(2012)001 on Hungary, and on the Act on the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the legal status of churches, denominations and religious communities of Hungary,
'' having regard to Joint Opinion No CDL-AD(2012)012 of the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR on the Act on the elections of Members of Parliament of Hungary,
'' having regard to the Hungarian Government's comments Nos CDL(2012)072, CDL(2012)046 and CDL(2012)045 on the draft opinion of the Venice Commission on the cardinal acts on the judiciary that were amended following the adoption of opinion CDL-AD(2012)001, on the draft joint opinion on the Act on the elections of Members of Parliament of Hungary and on the draft opinion on Act CLI of 2011 on the Constitutional Court of Hungary,
'' having regard to the initiatives undertaken by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbj¸rn Jagland, including the recommendations on the judiciary laid down in his letter of 24 April 2012 addressed to the Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister, Tibor Navracsics,
'' having regard to the letters of reply of 10 May 2012 and of 7 June 2012 from Mr Navracsics declaring the intention of the Hungarian authorities to address the recommendations by Mr Jagland,
'' having regard to the letter of 6 March 2013 sent by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Jagland, to Mr Navracsics expressing his concerns about the proposal for the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law and calling for the postponement of the final vote, and the letter of reply of 7 March 2013 from Mr Navracsics,
'' having regard to the letter of 6 March 2013 sent by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland to the Commission President, Jos(C) Manuel Barroso, calling for a mechanism to foster compliance with fundamental values in the Member States,
'' having regard to the letter of 8 March 2013 sent by the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Jnos Martonyi, to all his counterparts in the Member States of the EU explaining the purpose of the Fourth Amendment,
'' having regard to the letter of 8 March 2013 sent by Mr Barroso to Mr Orbn on the concerns of the European Commission regarding the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law and the letter of reply from Mr Orbn to the Commission President, copies of which were sent to both the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz,
'' having regard to the joint statement of 11 March 2013 by President Barroso and Secretary General Jagland recalling their concerns regarding the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law with respect to the principle of the rule of law; and having regard to the confirmation made by Prime Minister Orbn, in his letter addressed to President Barroso on 8 March 2013, of the full commitment of the Hungarian Government and Parliament to the European norms and values,
'' having regard to the request for an opinion of the Venice Commission on the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Hungary, sent on 13 March 2013 by Mr Martonyi to Mr Jagland,
'' having regard to the Council and Commission statements on the constitutional situation in Hungary presented at the plenary debate held in the European Parliament on 17 April 2013,
'' having regard to the letter of 16 December 2011 from the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, to Mr Martonyi, raising concerns on the subject of the new Hungarian law on the Right to Freedom of Conscience and Religion and on the Legal Status of Churches, religious denominations and religious communities, and having regard to Mr Martonyi's reply of 12 January 2012,
'' having regard to Opinion No CommDH(2011)10 of 25 February 2011 of the Commissioner for Human Rights on Hungary's media legislation in light of the Council of Europe's standards on freedom of the media, as well as to the annotations to that opinion of 30 May 2011 from the Hungarian Minister of State for Government Communication,
'' having regard to the statements by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of 15 February 2012 and 11 December 2012 calling respectively on Hungary to reconsider legislation allowing local authorities to punish homelessness and to uphold the Constitutional Court's decision decriminalising homelessness,
'' having regard to the statements by the OHCHR of 15 March 2013 voicing concerns over the adoption of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law,
'' having regard to the ongoing infringement proceedings in Case C-288/12 brought by the European Commission against Hungary over the legality of the termination of the mandate of the former Commissioner for Data Protection still pending before the European Court of Justice,
'' having regard to the Decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 6 November 2012 on the radical lowering of the retirement age for Hungarian judges, and having regard to the subsequent adoption of Act No XX of 2013 amending Act CLXII of 2011 '' adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 11 March 2013 '' following the decision of the European Court of Justice,
'' having regard to the Decisions of the Constitutional Court of Hungary of 16 July 2012 (No 33/2012) on the lowering of the retirement age of judges in Hungary, of 28 December 2012 (No 45/2012) on the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law, of 4 January 2013 (No 1/2013) on the Act on the electoral procedure and of 26 February 2013 (No 6/2013) on the Act on freedom of religion and the legal status of churches,
- having regard to the upcoming report by the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
- having regard to the upcoming assessment of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law by the European Commission,
'' having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,
'' having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (A7-0229/2013),
I-Background and main issues at stake
European common values
A. whereas the European Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, as set out in Article 2 TEU, on unequivocal respect for fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the ECHR, and on the recognition of the legal value of such rights, freedoms and principles, as is further demonstrated by the EU's forthcoming accession to the ECHR pursuant to Article 6(2) TEU;
B. whereas the common values enshrined in Article 2 TEU constitute the core of the rights enjoyed by persons living within the EU and especially by EU citizens, irrespective of their nationality and no matter where they might consider themselves to belong in cultural or religious terms, and whereas such persons can fully enjoy those rights only if the EU's fundamental values and principles are upheld;
C. whereas the values set out in Article 2 TEU have to be addressed politically and legally, this being an indispensable foundation of our democratic society, and whereas, therefore, Member States, as well as all the EU institutions, must commit themselves to them, clearly and unambiguously;
D. whereas respecting and promoting such common values is not only an essential element of the European Union's identity but also an explicit obligation deriving from Article 3(1) and (5) TEU, and therefore a sine qua non for becoming an EU Member State as well as for fully preserving membership prerogatives;
E. whereas the obligations incumbent on candidate countries under the Copenhagen criteria continue to apply to the Member States after joining the EU by virtue of Article 2 TEU and the principle of sincere cooperation, and whereas all Member States should therefore be assessed on a regular basis in order to verify their continued compliance with the EU's common values;
F. whereas Article 6(3) TEU underscores the fact that fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the ECHR and as arising from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, constitute general principles of Union law, and whereas such rights are a common heritage and strength of democratic European states;
G. whereas, with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon and pursuant to Article 6 TEU, the Charter has the same legal value as the Treaties, hence transforming values and principles into tangible and enforceable rights;
H. whereas Article 7(1) TEU, by a defined procedure, grants the EU institutions the power to assess whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the common values referred to in Article 2 by a Member State, and to engage politically with the country concerned in order to prevent and redress violations; whereas before making such a determination, the Council shall hear the Member State in question, acting in accordance with the same procedure;
I. whereas the scope of Article 2 TEU is not restricted by the limitation of Article 51(1) of the Charter, whereas the scope of Article 7 TEU is not limited to the policy areas covered by EU law, and whereas as a consequence the EU can also act in the event of a breach of, or a clear risk of a breach of, the common values in areas falling under Member States' competences;
J. whereas, pursuant to the principle of sincere cooperation laid down in Article 4(3) TEU, Member States are to facilitate the achievement of the Union's tasks and refrain from any measures which could jeopardise the attainment of the Union's objectives, including the objective of respecting and promoting the Union's common values;
K. whereas respect for the Union's common values goes hand in hand with the EU's commitment to diversity, translated into the obligation for the Union to respect 'the equality of Member States before the Treaties as well as their national identities, inherent in their fundamental structures, political and constitutional', as stated in Article 4(2) TEU; whereas the European core values set out in Article 2 TEU result from the constitutional traditions common to the Members States and cannot therefore be played off against the obligation under Article 4 TEU, but make up the basic framework within which Member States can preserve and develop their national identity;
L. whereas, in the framework of the Treaties, respect for 'national identities' (Article 4(2) TEU) and for 'different legal systems and traditions of the Member States' (Article 67 TFEU) are intrinsically associated with the principles of sincere cooperation (Article 4(3) TEU), mutual recognition (Articles 81 and 82 TFEU) and thus mutual trust, as well as with respect for cultural and linguistic diversity (Article 3(3) TEU);
M. whereas a violation of the Union's common principles and values by a Member State cannot be justified by national traditions nor by the expression of a national identity when such a violation results in the deterioration of the principles which are at the heart of European integration, such as democratic values, the rule of law or the principle of mutual recognition, with the consequence that a referral to Article 4(2) TEU is applicable only in so far as a Member State respects the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU;
N. whereas the Union's objective of upholding and promoting its values in its relations with the wider world, as set out in Article 3(4) TEU, is further reinforced by the specific obligation for the Union's action on the international scene to be guided by the principles which inspired its creation, development and enlargement: democracy, the rule of law and the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms (21(1) TEU);
O. whereas, therefore, not only the credibility of the Member States and of the EU on the international scene, but also the Union's objectives in its external action, would be undermined if Member States were not able or willing to live up to the standards to which they have agreed and bound themselves by signing the Treaties;
P. whereas respect by the Member States for the same set of fundamental values is an indispensable condition for ensuring mutual trust and, consequently, the proper functioning of mutual recognition, which is at the heart of the creation and development of the internal market as well as of the European area of freedom, security and justice, and whereas, therefore, any attempt to disrespect or weaken those common values adversely affects the whole construction of the European process of economic, social and political integration;
Q. whereas the common values set out in Article 2 TEU and proclaimed in the Preambles to the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and referred to in the Preamble to the ECHR and in Article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe require a separation of powers between independent institutions based on a properly functioning system of checks and balances, and whereas core features of these principles include: respect for legality, including a transparent, accountable and democratic process of enacting laws; legal certainty; a strong system of representative democracy based on free elections and respecting the rights of opposition; effective control of the conformity of legislation with the constitution; an effective, transparent, participatory and accountable government and administration; an independent and impartial judiciary; independent media; and respect for fundamental rights;
R. whereas the Commission, under Article 17 TEU, 'ensure[s] the application of the Treaties ... [and] oversee[s] the application of Union law under the control of the Court of Justice of the European Union';
Reforms inHungary
S. whereas Hungary was the first former Communist country to accede to the ECHR, and as an EU Member State was the first to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon on 17 December 2007, and whereas Hungary played an active part in the work of the Convention and the Intergovernmental Conference in 2003 and 2004 in, among other issues, the drafting of Article 2 TEU, and took the initiative which resulted in the inclusion of the rights of persons belonging to minorities;
T. whereas over the course of Hungary's centuries-long history, the peaceful coexistence of nationalities and ethnic groups has enhanced the nation's cultural richness and its prosperity; and whereas Hungary should be called upon to continue that tradition and to take resolute steps to curb any attempts to discriminate against individual groups;
U. whereas Hungary is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international legal instruments obliging it to respect and implement international democratic principles;
V. whereas following the 2010 general elections in Hungary, the governing majority gained more than two thirds of the seats in parliament, enabling it to rapidly initiate intense legislative activity to reshape the whole constitutional order of the country (the former Constitution has been amended twelve times and the Fundamental Law four times so far) and thus substantially to modify the institutional and legal framework, as well as a number of fundamental aspects of not only public but also private life;
W. whereas any Member State of the European Union is absolutely free to review its constitution and whereas the very meaning of democratic alternation is that it enables a new government to enact legislation reflecting the will of the people, its values and its political commitments, provided that, in so doing, it does not breach the values and principles of democracy and the rule of law prevailing in the European Union; whereas in all Member States special constitutional procedures render constitutional amendment more difficult compared with procedures governing ordinary legislation, namely through the use of a qualified majority, additional decisional processes, time delays and referenda;
X. whereas the history of democratic traditions in Europe shows that reforming a constitution requires the utmost care and due consideration of procedures and guarantees aimed at preserving, among other things, the rule of law, the separation of powers and the hierarchy of legal norms '' the constitution being the supreme law of the land;
Y. whereas the scale of the comprehensive and systematic constitutional and institutional reforms which the new Hungarian Government and Parliament have carried out in an exceptionally short time frame is unprecedented, and explains why so many European institutions and organisations (the European Union, the Council of Europe, the OSCE) have deemed it necessary to assess the impact of some reforms; whereas there should be no double standards in the treatment of Member States, meaning that the situation in other Member States should also be monitored, while enforcing the principle of equality of the Member States before the Treaties;
Z. whereas a dialogue based on openness, inclusiveness, solidarity and mutual respect between the European institutions and the Hungarian authorities is necessary in the framework of the abovementioned community of democratic values;
AA. whereas the Commission, in the exercise of its responsibility for overseeing the application of Union law, has to show the utmost skill, respect the independence of others and act diligently, swiftly and without delay, especially when it is called upon to deal with a case in which a Member State may have committed a serious breach of Union values;
The Fundamental Law and itsTransitionalProvisions
AB. whereas the adoption of the Fundamental Law of Hungary '' which was passed on 18 April 2011, exclusively with the votes of the members of the governing coalition and on the basis of a draft text prepared by the representatives of the governing coalition '' was conducted in the short time frame of 35 calendar days calculated from the presentation of proposal (T/2627) to the parliament, thus restricting the possibilities for a thorough and substantial debate with the opposition parties and civil society on the draft text;
AC. whereas the draft constitutional text submitted to the Hungarian Parliament on 14 March 2011 was the one produced by the elected representatives of the Fidesz-KDNP coalition and not the working document based on the discussions within the ad hoc parliamentary committee, even though that committee had been set up expressly for the purpose of drafting the new Fundamental Law; whereas this situation exacerbated the failure to consult the opposition;
AD. whereas the 'national consultation' on constitution making consisted of a list of twelve questions on very specific issues drafted by the governing party in a way that could have led to self-evident replies, and whereas the consultation did not include the text of the draft Fundamental Law;
AE. Whereas on 28 December 2012, following a constitutional petition by the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the Constitutional Court of Hungary annulled (Decision No 45/2012) more than two thirds of the Transitional Provisions on the grounds that they were not of a transitional nature;
AF. whereas the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, adopted on 11 March 2013, integrates into the text of the Fundamental Law most of the Transitional Provisions annulled by the Constitutional Court, as well as other provisions previously found unconstitutional;
Extensive use of cardinal laws
AG. whereas the Fundamental Law of Hungary refers to 26 subject matters to be defined by cardinal laws (that is laws the adoption of which requires a two-thirds majority), which cover a wide range of issues relating to Hungary's institutional system, the exercise of fundamental rights and important arrangements in society;
AH. whereas since the adoption of the Fundamental Law the parliament has enacted 49 cardinal laws(6) (in one and a half years);
AI. whereas a number of issues, such as specific aspects of family law and the tax and pension systems, which usually fall under the ordinary decision-making powers of a legislature, are regulated by cardinal laws;
Accelerated legislative procedures, practice of individual members' bills, parliamentary debate
AJ. whereas important legislation, including the Fundamental Law, the second and fourth amendments thereto, the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law and a number of cardinal laws, were enacted on the basis of individual members' bills, to which the rules set out in Act CXXXI of 2010 on the participation of civil society in the preparation of legislation and in Decree 24/2011 of the Minister of Public Administration and Justice on preliminary and ex-post impact assessment do not apply, with the consequence that legislation adopted through this streamlined procedure is subject to a restricted public debate;
AK. whereas the adoption of a large number of cardinal laws in a very short time frame, including the acts on the legal status and remuneration of judges of Hungary and on the organisation and administration of courts of Hungary, as well as the acts on the freedom of religion or belief and on the National Bank of Hungary, inevitably restricted the possibilities for an adequate consultation of the opposition parties and civil society, including, when relevant, employers' organisations, trade unions and interest groups;
AL. whereas Act XXXVI of 2012 on the National Assembly has vested the Speaker of the Parliament with extensive discretionary power to limit MPs' free expression in the parliament;
Weakening of checks and balances: Constitutional Court, Parliament,DataProtectionAuthority
AM. whereas, under the Fundamental Law, the possibility for two new kinds of constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court has been introduced, while the actio popularis for ex post review has been abolished;
AN. whereas under the Fundamental Law the Constitutional Court's powers of ex post review of the constitutionality of budget-related laws from a substantive point of view have been substantially limited to violations of an exhaustive list of rights, thus obstructing the review of constitutionality in cases of breaches of other fundamental rights such as the right to property, the right to a fair trial and the right not to be discriminated against;
AO. whereas the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law left untouched the already existing right of the Constitutional Court to review amendments to the Fundamental Law on procedural grounds, and whereas it excludes the Court being able in the future to review constitutional amendments on substantive grounds;
AP. whereas the Constitutional Court, in its abovementioned Decision 45/2012, held that 'Constitutional legality has not only procedural, formal and public law validity requirements, but also substantial ones. The constitutional criteria of a democratic State under the rule of law are at the same time constitutional values, principles and fundamental democratic freedoms enshrined in international treaties and accepted and acknowledged by communities of democratic States under the rule of law, as well as the ius cogens, which is partly the same as the foregoing. As appropriate, the Constitutional Court may even examine the free enforcement and the constitutionalisation of the substantial requirements, guarantees and values of democratic States under the rule of law.' (Point IV.7 of the Decision);
AQ. whereas the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law further stipulates that the rulings of the Constitutional Court adopted before the entry into force of the Fundamental Law shall be repealed, and by doing so explicitly contradicts the Constitutional Court's Decision No 22/2012 in which the Court established that its statements made on fundamental values, human rights and freedoms and on the constitutional institutions that have not been changed fundamentally by the Fundamental Law remain valid; whereas the Fourth Amendment reintroduced into the Fundamental Law a number of provisions previously declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court;
AR. whereas a non-parliamentary body, the Budget Council, with limited democratic legitimacy, has been granted the power to veto the adoption of the general budget, thus restricting the scope for action of the democratically elected legislature and allowing the President of the Republic to dissolve the parliament;
AS. whereas the new Freedom of Information Act, adopted in July 2011, abolished the institution of the Commissioner on Data Protection and Freedom of Information, thus prematurely terminating the six-year-long mandate of the Commissioner and transferring its powers to the newly established National Authority for Data Protection; whereas such changes are currently under review by the Court of Justice of the European Union;
AT. whereas the Commission initiated an infringement procedure against Hungary on 8 June 2012, declaring that Hungary had failed to fulfil its obligations under Directive 95/46/EC by removing the data protection supervisor from office before the end of the mandate, thus putting at risk the independence of the office;
Independenceof the judiciary
AU. whereas, according to the Fundamental Law and its Transitional Provisions, the six-year-long mandate of the former President of the Supreme Court (renamed the 'Kºria') was prematurely ended after two years;
AV. whereas on 2 July 2012 Hungary amended the cardinal laws on the judiciary (Act CLXI of 2011 on the Organisation and Administration of Courts and Act CLXII of 2011 on the Legal Status and Remuneration of Judges), partly implementing the recommendations of the Venice Commission;
AW. whereas key safeguards for judicial independence, such as irremovability, guaranteed term of office and the structure and composition of the governing bodies, are not regulated by the Fundamental Law but are '' together with detailed rules on the organisation and administration of the judiciary '' still set out in the amended cardinal laws,
AX. whereas the independence of the Constitutional Court is not set forth in the Fundamental Law of Hungary and neither is the independence of the administration of the judiciary;
AY. whereas the amendment of the cardinal laws on the judiciary as regards the power of the President of the National Judicial Office to transfer cases from the presiding court to another court to ensure the adjudication of cases within a reasonable period of time fails to lay down objective normative criteria for the selection of the cases to be transferred;
AZ. whereas, following the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, its Transitional Provisions and cardinal Act No CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges, the mandatory retirement age for judges was reduced from 70 to 62 years of age;
BA. whereas the Decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union, adopted on 6 November 2012, states that the radical lowering of the retirement age for Hungarian judges, as well as prosecutors and notaries, from 70 to 62 constitutes unjustified discrimination on grounds of age, and whereas two complaints were submitted by two groups of Hungarian judges to the ECtHR on 20 June 2012 seeking a ruling to establish that Hungary's legislation on lowering the retirement age for judges violates the ECHR;
BB. whereas on 11 March 2013 the Hungarian Parliament adopted Act No XX of 2013 amending the upper age limits with a view to partly complying with the rulings of the Hungarian Constitutional Court of 16 July 2012 and of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 6 November 2012;
The electoral reform
BC. whereas the governing majority in parliament reformed the election system in a unilateral manner without striving for consensus with the opposition,
BD. whereas as part of the recent electoral reform the Hungarian Parliament passed, on 26 November 2012, on the basis of an individual member's bill, the Act on the election procedure, which aimed to replace the previous automatic voter registration of all citizens resident in Hungary by a system of voluntary registration as a condition for exercising the individual's right to vote,
BE. whereas the Second Amendment to the Fundamental Law enshrining the requirement of voter registration was tabled as an individual member's bill on the same day as the draft law on the election procedure, namely on 18 September 2012, and was adopted on 29 October 2012,
BF. whereas the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ODIHR prepared a joint opinion on the Act on the Election of Members of Parliament of Hungary on 15 and 16 June 2012,
BG. whereas, following the petition of the President of the Republic of 6 December 2012, the Constitutional Court established that the registration requirement represents an undue restriction on the voting rights of Hungarian residents, and is therefore unconstitutional,
BH. whereas, while considering voter registration for citizens residing abroad as justified, the Constitutional Court in its decision of 4 January 2013 further held that exclusion of the possibility of personal registration of voters without an address living in Hungary is discriminatory and that the provisions allowing the publication of political advertisements only in the public media service during the electoral campaign, and the rules banning the publication of public opinion polls within six days of the elections, disproportionally limit freedom of expression and freedom of the press,
Media legislation
BI. whereas the European Union is founded on the values of democracy and the rule of law, and consequently guarantees and promotes freedom of expression and information as enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter and Article 10 of the ECHR, and whereas these rights include the freedom to express opinions and the freedom to receive and communicate information without control, interference or pressure from public authorities;
BJ. whereas the ECtHR has ruled that there is a positive obligation on Member States to ensure media pluralism, arising from Article 10 ECHR, and whereas the Convention's provisions are similar to those contained in Article 11 of the Charter as part of the acquis communautaire;
BK. whereas an autonomous and strong public sphere, based on independent and pluralistic media, constitutes the necessary environment in which the collective freedoms of civil society '' such as the right of assembly and association '' as well as individual freedoms '' such as the right to freedom of expression and the right of access to information '' can thrive, and whereas journalists should be free from the pressure of owners, managers and governments, as well as from financial threats;
BL. whereas the Council of Europe and the OSCE, through declarations, resolutions, recommendations, opinions and reports on the subjects of media freedom, pluralism and concentration, have created a significant body of common pan-European minimum standards in this field;
BM. whereas Member States have a duty constantly to promote and protect freedom of opinion, expression, information and the media, and whereas, should these freedoms be placed at serious risk or violated in a Member State, the Union is obliged to intervene in a timely and effective fashion, on the basis of its competences as enshrined in the Treaties and in the Charter, to protect the European democratic and pluralistic order and fundamental rights;
BN. whereas Parliament has repeatedly expressed its concerns about media freedom, pluralism and concentration in the EU and its Member States;
BO. whereas criticism of a number of provisions of Hungarian media legislation has been voiced by Parliament and the Commission, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of right to freedom of opinion and expression, and by a large number of international and national journalists' organisations, editors and publishers, NGOs active in the area of human rights and civil liberties, and Member States;
BP. whereas criticism has been levelled which relates mainly to the adoption of legislation under the parliamentary procedure of individual members' bills, the highly hierarchical structure of media supervision, the managerial authority of the Chairperson of the Regulatory Authority, the lack of provisions ensuring the independence of the Authority, the extensive supervisory and sanctioning power of the Authority, the considerable impact of certain provisions on the content of programming, the lack of media-specific regulation, the lack of transparency in the bidding process for licences, and the vagueness of norms potentially conducive to arbitrary application and enforcement;
BQ. whereas in its resolution of 10 March 2011 on media law in Hungary Parliament stressed that the Hungarian media law should be suspended as a matter of urgency and reviewed on the basis of the comments and proposals of the Commission, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and whereas Parliament urged the Commission to continue the close monitoring and assessment of the conformity of the Hungarian media law, as amended, with European legislation, and particularly with the Charter;
BR. whereas the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe has stressed the need to amend the legislation in order to tackle encroachments on the freedom of the media such as prescriptions as to what information and coverage must emanate from all media providers, the imposition of penalties on the media, pre-emptive restraints on press freedom in the form of registration requirements and exceptions to the protection of journalists' sources, and whereas, regarding the independence and pluralism of the media, he has expressed the need to address issues such as weakened constitutional guarantees of pluralism, lack of independence in media regulatory bodies, lack of safeguards for the independence of public service broadcasting and the absence of an effective domestic remedy for media actors subject to decisions of the Media Council;
BS. whereas the Commission has raised concerns regarding the conformity of the Hungarian media law with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive and the acquis communautaire in general, notably in relation to the obligation to offer balanced coverage applicable to all audiovisual media service providers, and has also questioned whether that law complies with the principle of proportionality and respects the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter, the country of origin principle and registration requirements, and whereas, in March 2011, following negotiations with the Commission, the Hungarian Parliament amended the law to address the points raised by the Commission;
BT. whereas the OSCE has expressed serious reservations regarding the material and territorial scope of Hungarian legislation, the politically homogeneous composition of the Media Authority and Media Council, the disproportionate penalties imposed, the lack of an automatic procedure for suspending penalties in the event of an appeal to the courts against a Media Authority ruling, the violation of the principle of the confidentiality of journalistic sources and the protection of family values;
BU. whereas the OSCE recommendations(7) included deleting the legal requirements on balanced coverage and other content prescriptions from the laws, safeguarding editorial independence, ensuring that different rules regulate different forms of media '' print, broadcast and online '', deleting registration requirements deemed excessive, ensuring that the regulatory body is independent and competent, ensuring objectivity and plurality in the process of appointment of organs governing the media sector, refraining from placing print media under the jurisdiction of the regulatory body and effectively encouraging self-regulation;
BV. whereas, despite the fact that the laws were amended in 2011 following negotiations with the European Commission and in May 2012 further to the decision of the Constitutional Court of December 2011 overturning several provisions as unconstitutional regarding the content regulation of the printed press, the protection of the sources of journalists, the requirement of data provision, and the institution of the Media and Telecommunications Commissioner, the OSCE Representative on freedom of the Media has deplored the fact that several amendments were introduced and adopted at short notice without consulting stakeholders and that fundamental elements in the legislation have not been improved, notably the appointment of the president and members of the Media Authority and Media Council, their power over content in the broadcast media, the imposition of high fines and the lack of safeguards on the financial and editorial independence of public broadcasters;
BW. Whereas, while welcoming the amendments to the media legislation adopted in March 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has highlighted the need to address remaining concerns pertaining to regulation of media content, insufficient guarantees to ensure the independence and impartiality of the Media Authority, excessive fines and other administrative sanctions, applicability of the media legislation to all types of media, including the press and the internet, registration requirements, and lack of sufficient protection of journalistic sources;
BX. whereas an analysis by Council of Europe experts(8) (which assessed compliance of the Media Acts as proposed for amendment in 2012 with Council of Europe standard-setting texts in the field of media and freedom of expression) recommended that specific provisions on registration and transparency, content regulation, obligations on news coverage, protection of sources, public service media and regulatory bodies be thoroughly revised, clarified or in some cases eliminated;
BY. whereas, further to the dialogue conducted with the EU and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe through an exchange of letters and expert meetings, further legal amendments were tabled in February 2013 in order to strengthen and guarantee the independence of the media regulatory bodies, notably in respect of the rules relating to the conditions of the appointment and election of the President of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority and the Media Council and concerning, respectively, the nomination procedure, the person making the appointment and repeated appointment;
BZ. whereas the Hungarian Authorities have stated their intention of reviewing the rules on the restrictions in political advertising during electoral campaigns; whereas the Hungarian Government is in consultation with the European Commission on the issue of political advertising; whereas, however, the Fourth Amendment imposes a broad and potentially vague prohibition on speech aimed at violating the dignity of groups, including the Hungarian nation, that may be used to arbitrarily interfere with freedom of expression and may have a chilling effect on journalists, and also on artists and others;
CA. whereas the National Media and Infocommunications Authority and the Media Council have not conducted assessments of the effects of the legislation on the quality of journalism, the degrees of editorial freedom and the quality of working conditions for journalists;
Respect of the rights of persons belonging to minorities
CB. whereas respect for the rights of persons belonging to minorities is explicitly recognised among the values referred to in Article 2 TEU and whereas the Union is committed to promoting these values and combating social exclusion, racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination;
CC. whereas the right not to suffer discrimination is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
CD. whereas the responsibility of Member States to ensure that the fundamental rights of all are respected, irrespective of their ethnicity or belief, covers all levels of public administration as well as the law-enforcement authorities, and also implies actively promoting tolerance and firmly condemning phenomena such as racial violence and anti-Semitic and anti-Roma hate speech, particularly when it is expressed in official or public forums, including the Hungarian Parliament;
CE. whereas the lack of reaction by the law-enforcement authorities in cases of racially motivated crime(9) has resulted in mistrust of the police forces;
CF. whereas it is noteworthy that the Hungarian Parliament has enacted legislation in criminal and civil areas to combat racial incitement and hate speech;
CG. whereas, although intolerance against the members of Roma and Jewish communities is not a problem solely associated with Hungary, and whereas other Member States are faced with the same issue, recent events have raised concerns as to the increase in anti-Roma and anti-Semitic hate speech in Hungary;
CH. whereas the imposition of retroactive tax and pensions legislation has increased social vulnerability and poverty on a massive scale, a fact which is not only causing great uncertainty among the people, but also constitutes a violation of private ownership rights and undermines fundamental civil liberties;
Freedom of religionor beliefand recognition of churches
CI. whereas freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in Article 9 of the ECHR and Article 10 of the Charter is one of the foundations of a democratic society, and whereas the role of the State in this area should be that of a neutral and impartial guarantor of the right to exercise different religions, faiths and beliefs;
CJ. whereas the Act on Churches established a new legal regime for the regulation of religious associations and churches in Hungary, which imposed a set of requirements for the recognition of churches and made such recognition conditional on prior approval by the parliament by a two-thirds majority;
CK. whereas the obligation set out in the Act on Churches to obtain recognition by the parliament as a condition for the establishment of a church was deemed by the Venice Commission(10) to be a restriction of the freedom of religion;
CL. whereas as a result of the entry into force of retroactive provisions of the Act on Churches more than 300 registered churches lost their legal status of church;
CM. whereas, at the request of several religious communities and the Hungarian Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the Constitutional Court examined the constitutionality of the provisions of the Act on Churches and in its Decision 6/2013 of 26 February 2013 declared some of them unconstitutional and annulled them with retroactive effect;
CN. whereas in that Decision the Constitutional Court, while not questioning the right of the parliament to specify the substantive conditions for recognition as a church, considered that the recognition of church status by a vote in parliament might result in politically biased decisions, and whereas the Constitutional Court declared that the Act did not contain any obligation to provide detailed reasons for a decision which refuses recognition of church status, that no deadlines were specified for the parliament's actions and that the Act did not provide the possibility of effective legal remedy in cases of refusal or lack of a decision;
CO. whereas the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, adopted two weeks after the decision of the Constitutional Court, amended Article VII of the Fundamental Law and elevated to the level of the constitution the power of the parliament to pass cardinal laws in order to recognise certain organisations engaged in religious activities as churches, thus overruling the Constitutional Court's decision;
II-Assessment
The Fundamental Law ofHungaryand its implementation
1. Recalls that respect for legality, including a transparent, accountable and democratic process of enacting laws, including when adopting a Fundamental Law, and for a strong system of representative democracy based on free elections and respecting the rights of the opposition are key elements of the concepts of democracy and the rule of law as enshrined in Article 2 TEU, which provides that 'the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail', and as proclaimed in the Preambles to both the Treaty on the European Union and the Charter; regrets that, from the point of view of protecting European core values, the EU institutions have not always managed in the past to live up to their own standards; maintains, therefore, that it falls to them in particular to take a stand in order to safeguard European fundamental rights as referred to in Article 2 TEU, both at Union level and in the Member States;
2. Firmly reiterates that, while the drafting and adoption of a new constitution fall within the scope of Member States' competences, the Member States and the EU have a responsibility to ensure that the constitutional processes and the content of constitutions comply with the commitments entered into by every Member State under the EU Accession Treaties, that is to say, with the common values of the Union, the Charter and the ECHR;
3. Regrets the fact that the process of drafting and adopting the Fundamental Law of Hungary lacked the transparency, openness, inclusiveness and, ultimately, the consensual basis that could be expected in a modern democratic constituent process, thus weakening the legitimacy of the Fundamental Law itself,
4. Takes note of the abovementioned Decision of 28 December 2012 of the Constitutional Court declaring that the Hungarian Parliament exceeded its legislative authority when it enacted a number of permanent and general rules in the Transitional Provisions of the Fundamental Law, inter alia, that 'it is the task and the responsibility of the constituent power to clear up the situation after the partial annulment. The Parliament shall make an evident and clear legal situation', while adding the requirement that this shall not mean the automatic insertion of the annulled provisions into the Fundamental Law without any distinction, because the parliament 'must review the regulatory subjects of the annulled non-transitional provisions, and it has to decide about which ones need repeated regulation, on what level of the sources of law. It is also the duty of the Parliament to select the provisions '' to be regulated repeatedly '' that need to be placed in the Fundamental Law, and the ones that require regulation in an Act of Parliament';
5. Strongly criticises the provisions of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law, which undermine the supremacy of the Fundamental Law by reintroducing into its text a number of rules previously declared unconstitutional '' i.e. incompatible on procedural or substantive grounds with the Fundamental Law '' by the Constitutional Court;
6. Recalls that in its abovementioned Decision of 28 December 2012, the Constitutional Court gave a clear ruling on standards of constitutionality by declaring that 'in democratic States under the rule of law, constitutions have constant substantial and procedural standards and requirements. The substantial and procedural constitutional requirements shall not be set lower in the era of the Fundamental Law than they were at the time of the Constitution (Act). The requirements of a constitutional State under the rule of law continue to be constantly enforced requirements in the present and they are programmes for the future. The constitutional State under the rule of law is a system of constant values, principles and guarantees'; considers this clear-cut, dignified statement to be applicable to the European Union and all its Member States;
7. Recalls that the common Union values of democracy and the rule of law require a strong system of representative democracy based on free elections and respecting the rights of the opposition, and that, according to Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR, elections should guarantee the 'expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislator';
8. Considers that while the use of two-third majority laws is common in other Member States and has been a feature of the Hungarian constitutional and legal order since 1989, the extensive use of cardinal laws to set forth very specific and detailed rules undermines the principles of democracy and the rule of law, as it has enabled the current government, which enjoys the support of a qualified majority, to set in stone political choices with the consequence of making it more difficult for any new future government having only a simple majority in the parliament to respond to social changes, and thus of potentially diminishing the importance of new elections; considers that such use should be re-evaluated, in order to ensure that future governments and parliamentary majorities are allowed to legislate in a meaningful and comprehensive manner;
9. Considers that use of the individual members' bills procedure to implement the constitution (through cardinal laws) does not constitute a transparent, accountable and democratic legislative process, as it lacks the guarantees of ensuring meaningful social debate and consultation, and that it could run counter to Fundamental Law itself, which makes it an obligation for the government (and not individual members) to submit to the parliament the bills necessary for the implementation of the Fundamental Law;
10. Takes note of the opinion of the Venice Commission (No CDL-AD(2011)016) which 'welcomes the fact that this new Constitution establishes a constitutional order based on democracy, the rule of law and the protection of fundamental rights as underlying principles'; further takes note of the opinion of the Venice Commission (No CDL-AD(2012)001) according to which the adoption of a large amount of legislation in a very short time frame could explain why some of the new provisions do not comply with European standards; further takes note of the opinion of the Venice Commission on the Fourth Amendment to the Hungarian Fundamental Law (No CDL-AD(2013)012) stating that 'the Fourth Amendment itself brings about or perpetuates shortcomings in the constitutional system of Hungary';
11. Welcomes the fact that the Fundamental Law of Hungary reiterates and reaffirms the articles of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and that Hungary, as the fourth country in the EU, in Article H recognises Hungarian sign language (HSL) as a fully fledged language and defends HSL as part of Hungarian culture;
12. Welcomes the fact that, in its Article XV, the Fundamental Law of Hungary specifically prohibits discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, gender, disability, language, religion, political or other views, national or social origin, or financial, birth or other circumstances, and stipulates that Hungary will adopt special measures to protect children, women, the elderly and persons living with disabilities, in accordance with Articles 20 to 26 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union;
Democratic system of checks and balances
13. Recalls that democracy and the rule of law require a separation of powers among independent institutions based on a properly functioning system of checks and balances and effective control of the conformity of legislation with the constitution;
14. Recalls that the constitutional majority raised the number of constitutional judges from 11 to 15 and abolished the requirement to reach agreement with the opposition regarding the election of constitutional judges; is concerned that as a result of these measures eight out of the current 15 constitutional judges were elected exclusively by the two-thirds majority (with one exception), including two new members who were appointed directly from their position as members of parliament.
15. Welcomes the introduction of a possibility for two new types of constitutional complaint to the Constitutional Court and understands that a democratic system that is founded on the rule of law does not necessarily need a constitutional court in order to function properly; recalls, however, Opinion No CDL-AD (2011)016 of the Venice Commission, which notes that in states that have opted for a constitutional court, this court should be entitled to assess the compliance of all laws with the human rights guaranteed in the constitution; considers, therefore, that the limitation of constitutional jurisdiction relating to the laws on the central budget and taxes weakens the institutional and procedural guarantees for the protection of a number of constitutional rights and for the control of the parliament's and the government's powers in the budgetary field;
16. Recalls that, as declared by the Constitutional Court in its Decision No 45/2012, 'Constitutional legality has not only procedural, formal and public law validity requirements, but also substantial ones [...]. As appropriate, the Constitutional Court may even examine the free enforcement and the constitutionalisation of the substantial requirements, guarantees and values of democratic States under the rule of law';
17. Considers that, in light of the systematic amending of the Fundamental Law at political will, the Constitutional Court can no longer fulfil its role as the supreme body of constitutional protection, especially since the Fourth Amendment explicitly prohibits the Court from reviewing constitutional amendments that contradict other constitutional requirements and principles;
18. Taking account of the right of a democratically elected parliament to adopt law in line with fundamental rights, with respect for political minorities, and with a democratically adequate and transparent procedure, and of the duty courts, both ordinary and constitutional, to safeguard the compatibility of the laws with the constitution, underlines the importance of the principle of separation of powers and a properly functioning system of checks and balances; is concerned in this connection about the shift of powers in constitutional matters to the advantage of the parliament and to the detriment of the Constitutional Court, which undermines severely the principle of separation of powers and a properly functioning system of checks and balances, which are key corollaries of the rule of law; welcomes in this regard the Eger joint statement of 16 May 2013 by the Presidents of the Hungarian and Romanian Constitutional Courts, P(C)ter Paczolay and Augustin Zegrean, stressing that constitutional courts bear a special responsibility in countries ruled by a two-thirds majority;
19. Is also extremely concerned about those provisions of the Fourth Amendment which repeal 20 years of constitutional jurisprudence, containing an entire system of founding principles and constitutional requirements, including any potential case law affecting the application of EU law and of European human rights law; notes that the Court already used its previous decisions as a source of interpretation; is concerned, however, at the fact that other courts may not be able to base their decisions upon the previous case law of the Constitutional Court;
20. Is also concerned about the conformity with EU law of the provision of the Fourth Amendment which enables the Hungarian Government to impose a special tax in order to implement EU Court of Justice judgments entailing payment obligations when the state budget does not have sufficient funding available and when the public debt exceeds half of the gross domestic product; takes note of the ongoing dialogue between the Hungarian Government and the European Commission on the issue;
21. Criticises the accelerated process for enacting important laws, as it undermines the rights of the opposition parties to be effectively involved in the legislative process, thus limiting their scrutiny of the majority's and the government's action and, ultimately, negatively affecting the system of checks and balances;
22. Recalls that the independence of data protection authorities is guaranteed by Article 16 TFEU and Article 8 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights;
23. Stresses that protection against removal from office during the term of office is an essential element of the requirement for independence of national data protection authorities under EU law;
24. Points out that the Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the legality of the termination of the mandate of the former Commissioner for Data Protection, as regards the adequate independence of such body, which case is currently pending before the European Court of Justice;
25. Deplores the fact that the abovementioned institutional changes resulted in a clear weakening of the systems of checks and balances required by the rule of law and the democratic principle of the separation of powers;
Independenceof the judiciary
26. Recalls that independence of the judiciary is required by Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and is an essential requirement of the democratic principle of the separation of powers derived from Article 2 TEU;
27. Recalls that the Constitutional Court, in its abovementioned Decision 33/2012, described the independence of the judiciary and judges as an achievement of the historical constitution of Hungary, when it declared that the 'principle of judicial independence, with all of its elements, is an achievement beyond doubt. Therefore the Constitutional Court establishes that judicial independence, and the resulting principle of irremovability, is not only a normative rule of the Fundamental Law, but also an achievement of the historical constitution. Thus it is an interpreting principle obligatory to everybody, based on the provisions of the Fundamental Law, and which is to be applied also in the course of exploring other potential contents of the Fundamental Law'(11);
28. Stresses that the effective safeguarding of the independence of the judiciary forms the basis of democracy in Europe and is a prerequisite for consolidating mutual trust between the judicial authorities of the various Member States and, in consequence, smooth cross-border cooperation in the common area of justice, based on the principle of mutual recognition as enshrined in Articles 81 TFEU (civil matters) and 82 TFEU (criminal matters);
29. Regrets the fact that the numerous measures adopted '' as well as some ongoing reforms '' do not provide sufficient assurances of constitutional safeguards as to the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the Constitutional Court of Hungary;
30. Considers that the premature termination of the term of office of the Supreme Court's President violates the guarantee of security of tenure, which is a key element of the independence of the judiciary;
31. Welcomes the abovementioned Decision 33/2012 of the Constitutional Court declaring the compulsory termination of the service of judges at the age of 62 unconstitutional, as well as the abovementioned decision of the Court of Justice of the EU of 6 November 2012, which held that the radical lowering of the retirement age of judges in Hungary constitutes unjustified discrimination on grounds of age and is therefore in breach of Council Directive 2000/78/EC;
32. Welcomes the amendments to Act CLXI of 2011 on the organisation and administration of courts of Hungary and Act CLXII of 2011 on the legal status and remuneration of judges of Hungary, adopted by the Hungarian Parliament on 2 July 2012, which address many of the concerns expressed in the European Parliament's resolution of 16 February 2012 and by the Venice Commission in its opinion;
33. Regrets, however, that not all the recommendations of the Venice Commission have been implemented, in particular as regards the need to limit discretionary powers of the President of the National Judicial Office in the context of the transfer of cases, which potentially affect the right to a fair trial and the right of a lawful judge; takes note of the expression of intent by the Hungarian Government to review the system of transfer of cases; believes that the recommendations of the Venice Commission in this regard should be implemented;
34. Welcomes the adoption of Act XX of 2013 on the legislative amendments relating to the upper age limit applicable in certain judicial legal relations, which sets the retirement age of judges at 65 at the end of a transitional period of 10 years, and arranges for the reinstatement of those judges unlawfully dismissed;
35. Regrets, however, that in the case of presiding judges, Act XX of 2013 provides for their reinstatement in their original executive posts only if these judicial positions are still vacant, with the consequence that only a few unlawfully dismissed judges are guaranteed to be reinstated in exactly the same position with the same duties and responsibilities they held before their dismissal;
36. Welcomes the Commission's proposal for a permanent scoreboard on justice in all 27 EU Member States as put forward by Vice-President Reding, which shows that safeguarding the independence of the judiciary is a general concern of the EU; underlines the fact that in some Member States serious concerns might be raised on these issues; calls for an enlargement of the justice scoreboard also to cover criminal justice, fundamental rights, the rule of law and democracy, as already requested;
37. Acknowledges the professionalism and dedication of the Hungarian judicial community and its commitment to the rule of law, and recalls that since the start of the democratic process in Hungary the Constitutional Court has been recognised as an outstanding constitutional body throughout Europe and the world;
The electoral reform
38. Recalls that the redrawing of electoral districts, the adoption of the Act on the election of members of parliament of Hungary and the electoral procedural law considerably change the legal and institutional framework for the next elections due in 2014, and therefore regrets that these laws were adopted unilaterally by the ruling parties, with no broad consultation of the opposition.
39. Is concerned that in the present political environment the current provisions for the procedure to appoint the members of the National Election Committee do not adequately guarantee balanced representation and the committee's independence;
40. Welcomes the fact that the Hungarian authorities requested the opinion of the Venice Commission on the Act on the Election of Members of Parliament of Hungary on 20 January 2012; considers however that a comprehensive analysis is needed in order to evaluate the fundamentally changed electoral landscape.
41. Welcomes the fact that Act XXXVI of 2013 on the election procedure in Hungary, specifically Article 42, prescribes that, upon request, people with disabilities must be provided with instructions in braille, relevant information in easy-to-read form, voting samples in braille at polls, full accessibility of polls, including particular attention to the needs of the wheelchair users; in addition, on the basis of Article 50 of the abovementioned Act, disabled voters can ask to be registered at another, more accessible, polling station in order to cast their votes in the given constituency, in accordance with the obligation to provide at least one fully accessible polling station in every constituency laid down in Article 81;
Media pluralism
42. Acknowledges the efforts of the Hungarian authorities that led to legislative changes aimed at addressing a number of the shortcomings identified in order to improve media legislation and bring it into line with EU and Council of Europe standards;
43. Welcomes the continuing constructive dialogue with international actors, and stresses that the cooperation between the Council of Europe and the Hungarian Government has borne tangible results, as reflected in Act XXXIII of 2013, which addresses some of the concerns previously highlighted in the legal assessments of media legislation, notably in relation to the appointment and election procedures of the presidents of the Media Authority and the Media Council; recalls, however, that there are still concerns regarding the independence of the media authority;
44. Expresses concern at the effects of the provision of the Fourth Amendment banning political advertising in the commercial media since, although the stated aim of this provision is to reduce political campaign costs and create equal opportunities for the parties, it jeopardises the provision of balanced information; takes note that the Hungarian Government is in consultation with the European Commission on the issue of the rules on political advertising; takes note that restrictions also exist in other European countries; takes note of the opinion of the Venice Commission on the Fourth amendment to the Hungarian Fundamental Law (No CDL-AD(2013) 012), which states that "limits on political advertising have to be seen against the legal background of the particular Member State" and that "the prohibition of any political advertising in commercial media services, which are more widely used in Hungary than the public service media, will deprive the opposition of an important chance to air their views effectively and thus to counterweigh the dominant position of the government in the media coverage";
45. Reiterates its call on the Hungarian authorities to take action in order to make or commission regular proactive assessments of the impact of legislation on the media environment (reduction in the quality of journalism, instances of self-censorship, restriction of editorial freedom and erosion of the quality of working conditions and job security for journalists);
46. Deplores the fact that the creation of the state-owned Hungarian News Agency (MTI) as the single news provider for public service broadcasters, while all major private broadcasters are expected to have their own news service, has meant it has a virtual monopoly on the market, as most of its news items are freely available; recalls the recommendation of the Council of Europe to eliminate the obligation on public broadcasters to use the national news agency, as it constitutes an unreasonable and unfair restriction on the plurality of news provision;
47. Notes that the national competition authority needs to make regular assessments of the media environments and markets, highlighting potential threats to pluralism;
48. Stresses that measures to regulate the access of media outlets to the market through broadcast licensing and authorising procedures, rules on the protection of state, national or military security and public order and rules on public morality should not be abused for purposes of imposing political or partisan control or censorship on the media, and underlines the fact that a proper balance needs to be ensured in this respect;
49. Is concerned that public service broadcasting is controlled by an extremely centralised institutional system, which takes the real operational decisions without public scrutiny; stresses that biased and opaque tendering practices and the biased information put out by the public-service broadcasting that reaches a wide audience distort the media market; underlines the fact that, in line with Protocol No 29 to the Lisbon Treaty (on the System of the Public Broadcasting in the Members States), the system of public broadcasting in the Member States is directly related to the democratic, social and cultural needs of each society and to the need to preserve media pluralism;
50. Recalls that content regulations should be clear, allowing citizens and media companies to foresee in which cases they will be infringing the law and to determine the legal consequences of possible violations; notes with concern that, in spite of such detailed content regulations, recent public anti-Roma stances have so far gone unpunished by Hungary's Media Authority, and calls for balanced application of the law;
Rights of persons belonging to minorities
51. Notes that the Hungarian Parliament has enacted legislation in criminal and civil areas to combat racial incitement and hate speech; considers that legislative measures are an important starting point to achieve the goal of creating a society free from intolerance and discrimination throughout Europe, as concrete measures can only be built upon firm legislation; points out, however, that legislation needs to be actively implemented;
52. Underlines the fact that the authorities in all Member States have a positive obligation to act to avoid violation of the rights of persons belonging to minorities, cannot remain neutral, and should take the necessary legal, educational and political measures when faced with such violations; notes the 2011 amendment to the Penal Code to prevent campaigns by extremist groups to intimidate Roma communities, threatening with up to three years' imprisonment the 'provocative unsocial behaviour' which induces fear in a member of a national, ethnic, racial or religious community; acknowledges the role of the Hungarian Government in launching the European Framework of National Roma Inclusion Strategy during its EU presidency in 2011;
53. Notes with concern repeated changes to the legal order restricting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, for instance by seeking to exclude same-sex couples and their children, as well as other varied family structures, from the definition of 'family' in the Fundamental Law; stresses that this runs counter to recent European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence and fuels a climate of intolerance vis- -vis LGBT people;
54. Welcomes the insertion of provisions in the Hungarian Constitution by the Fourth Amendment stating that "Hungary shall strive to provide every person with decent housing and access to public services" and that the "State and local governments shall also contribute to creating the conditions of decent housing by striving to provide accommodation to all homeless people"; expresses concern, however, at the fact that "in order to protect public order, public security, public health and cultural values, an Act of Parliament or a local ordinance may declare illegal staying in a public area as a permanent abode with respect to a specific part of such public area'', which could lead to homelessness being addressed through the criminal law; recalls that the Hungarian Constitutional Court had judged that similar measures contained in the Petty Offences Act were unconstitutional as contrary to human dignity;
Freedom of religionor beliefand recognition of churches
55. Notes with concern that the changes made to the Fundamental Law by the Fourth Amendment give the parliament the power to recognise, by way of cardinal laws and without a constitutional duty to justify a refusal of recognition, certain organisations engaged in religious activities as churches, which might negatively affect the duty of the state to remain neutral and impartial in its relations with the various religions and beliefs;
Conclusion
56. Reaffirms that it attaches the utmost importance to respect of the principle of equality between all Member States and refuses the application of double standards in the treatment of Member States; stresses that similar situations or legal frameworks and provisions should be assessed in the same way; takes the view that the pure fact of changing and adopting laws cannot be considered incompatible with the values of the Treaties; calls on the Commission to identify instances of incompatibility with EU law and for the European Court of Justice to adjudicate any such case;
57. Concludes '' for the reasons explained above '' that the systemic and general trend of repeatedly modifying the constitutional and legal framework in very short time frames, and the content of such modifications, are incompatible with the values referred to in Article 2 TEU, Article 3, paragraph 1, and Article 6 TEU, and deviate from the principles referred to in Article 4, paragraph 3, TEU; considers that '' unless corrected in a timely and adequate manner '' this trend will result in a clear risk of a serious breach of the values referred to in Article 2 TEU;
III- Recommendations
Preamble
58. Reaffirms that its present resolution is not only about Hungary, but inseparably about the European Union as a whole, and its democratic reconstruction and development after the fall of the 20th century totalitarianisms. It is about the European family, its common values and standards, its inclusiveness and its capacity to engage in dialogue. It is about the need to implement Treaties which all Member States have voluntarily acceded to. It is about the mutual help and mutual trust that the Union, its citizens and its Member States need to have if these Treaties are to be not just words on paper, but the legal basis for a true, just and open Europe respecting fundamental rights;
59. Shares the idea of a Union which is not only a 'union of democracies' but also a 'Union of Democracy', based upon pluralistic societies where respect for human rights and the rule of law prevail;
60. Reaffirms that while in times of economic and social crisis one may yield to the temptation to disregard constitutional principles, the credibility and robustness of constitutional institutions plays a pivotal role in underpinning economic, fiscal and social policies and social cohesion;
Appeal to all Member States
61. Calls on the Member States to comply without delay with their Treaty obligations to respect, guarantee, protect and promote the Union's common values, which is an indispensable condition for respecting democracy, and thus the substance of Union citizenship, and for building a culture of mutual trust enabling effective cross-border cooperation and a genuine area of freedom, security and justice;
62. Considers that it is the moral and legal duty of all Members States, as well as of the Union institutions, to defend the European values enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, and in the European Convention on Human Rights to which every Member State is a signatory and to which the EU will soon accede;
63. Calls on the national parliaments to enhance their role in monitoring compliance with fundamental values and to denounce any risks of deterioration of these values that may occur within the EU borders, with a view to maintaining the credibility of the Union vis- -vis third countries, which is based on the seriousness with which the Union and its Member States take the values they have chosen as foundations;
64. Expects all Member States to take the necessary steps, particularly within the Council of the European Union, to contribute loyally to the promotion of the Union's values and to cooperate with Parliament and the Commission in monitoring their observance, especially in the framework of the 'Article 2 Trilogue' referred to in paragraph 85;
Appeal to the European Council
65. Reminds the European Council of its responsibilities within the framework of the area of freedom, liberty, security and justice;
66. Notes with disappointment that the European Council is the only EU political institution that has remained silent, while the Commission, Parliament, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and even the US Administration have voiced concerns over the situation in Hungary;
67. Considers that the European Council cannot remain inactive in cases where one of the Member States breaches fundamental rights or implements changes that may negatively affect the rule of law in that country, and therefore the rule of law in the European Union at large, in particular when mutual trust in the legal system and judicial cooperation may be put at risk, as this has a negative impact on the Union itself;
68. Invites the President of the European Council to inform Parliament of his assessment of the situation;
Recommendations to the Commission
69. Calls on the Commission as the guardian of the Treaties and as the body responsible for ensuring that Union law is correctly applied, under the supervision of the Court of Justice of the European Union:
'' to inform Parliament of its assessment of the Fourth Amendment to the Fundamental Law and its impact on cooperation within the EU;
'' to be determined in ensuring full compliance with the common fundamental values and rights set out in Article 2 TEU, as violations thereof undermine the very foundations of the Union and mutual trust among Member States;
'' to launch objective investigation and start infringement proceedings whenever it considers that a Member State has failed to fulfil an obligation under the Treaties and, in particular, is violating the rights enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU;
'' to avoid any double standards in the treatment of Member States, making sure that, in similar situations, all Member States are treated in a similar manner, thus fully respecting the principle of equality of the Member States before the Treaties;
'' to focus not only on specific infringements of EU law, to be remedied notably through Article 258 TFEU, but to respond appropriately to a systemic change in the constitutional and legal system and practice of a Member State where multiple and recurrent infringements unfortunately result in a state of legal uncertainty, which no longer meets the requirements of Article 2 TEU;
'' to adopt a more comprehensive approach to addressing any potential risks of serious breaching of fundamental values in a given Member State at an early stage and immediately to engage in a structured political dialogue with the relevant Member State and the other EU institutions ; this structured political dialogue should be coordinated at the highest political level of the Commission and have a clear impact on the full spectrum of negotiations between the Commission and the Member State concerned in the various EU fields;
'' to create '' as soon as risks of violations of Article 2 TEU are identified '' an 'Article 2 TEU/ Alarm Agenda', i.e. a Union values monitoring mechanism, to be dealt with by the Commission with exclusive priority and urgency, coordinated at the highest political level and taken fully into account in the various EU sectoral policies, until full compliance with Article 2 TEU is restored and any risks of violation thereof are defused, as also envisaged in the letter of the Foreign Affairs Ministers of four Member States raising with the President of the Commission the need to develop a new and more effective method of safeguarding fundamental values in order to place greater emphasis on promoting a culture of respect for the rule of law, taken into account by the Council conclusions on fundamental rights and rule of law and on the Commission 2012 Report on the Application of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union of 6 and 7 June 2013;
'' to hold meetings at technical level with the services of the Member State concerned but not to conclude any negotiations in policy fields other than Article-2-TEU-related ones until full compliance with Article 2 TEU has been ensured;
'' to apply a horizontal approach involving all the Commission services concerned in order to ensure respect for the rule of law in all fields, including the economic and social sector ;
'' to implement and if necessary update its 2003 communication on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union (COM(2003) 606) and to draw up a detailed proposal for a swift and independent monitoring mechanism and an early-warning system;
'' to regularly monitor the correct functioning of the European area of justice and to take action when the independence of the judiciary is put at risk in any Member State, with a view to avoiding the weakening of mutual trust among national judicial authorities, which would inevitably create obstacles to the correct application of the EU instruments on mutual recognition and cross-border cooperation;
'' to ensure that Member States guarantee correct implementation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights with respect to media pluralism and equal access to information;
'' to monitor the effective implementation of rules ensuring transparent and fair procedures for media funding and state advertising and sponsoring allocation, so as to guarantee that these do not cause interference with freedom of information and expression, pluralism or editorial lines taken by the media;
'' to take appropriate, timely, proportionate and progressive measures where concerns arise in relation to freedom of expression, information, media freedom and pluralism in the EU and the Member States on the basis of a detailed and careful analysis of the situation and of the problems to be solved and the best ways to address them;
'' to address these issues in the framework of the implementation of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive in order to improve cooperation between regulatory bodies of the Member States and the Commission, bringing forward as soon as possible a revision and amendment of the directive, and notably of its Articles 29 and 30;
'' to continue the dialogue with the Hungarian Government on the conformity with EU law of the new provision of the Fourth Amendment enabling the Hungarian Government to impose a special tax in order to implement EU Court of Justice judgments entailing payment obligations when the state budget does not have sufficient funding available and when the public debt exceeds half of the gross domestic product, and to suggest adequate measures to prevent what may result in a breach of sincere cooperation as enshrined in Article 4(3) TEU;
70. Reminds the Commission that the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and the European Union's forthcoming accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, reaffirm a new architecture for European Union law, a structure with human rights more than ever at its heart, thus conferring on the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, greater responsibilities in this area;
Recommendations to the Hungarian Authorities
71. Urges the Hungarian authorities to implement as swiftly as possible all the measures the European Commission as the guardian of the treaties deems necessary in order to fully comply with EU law, fully comply with the decisions of the Hungarian Constitutional Court and implement as swiftly as possible the following recommendations, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe and other international bodies for the protection of the rule of law and fundamental rights, with a view to fully complying with the rule of law and its key requirements on the constitutional setting, the system of checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary, as well as on strong safeguards for fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, the media and religion or belief, protection of minorities, action to combat discrimination, and the right to property:
On the Fundamental Law:
'' to fully restore the supremacy of the Fundamental Law by removing from it those provisions previously declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court;
'' to reduce the recurrent use of cardinal laws in order to leave policy areas such as family, social, fiscal and budget matters to ordinary legislation and majorities;
'' to implement the recommendations of the Venice Commission and, in particular, to revise the list of policy areas requiring a qualified majority with a view to ensuring meaningful future elections;
'' to secure a lively parliamentary system which also respects opposition forces by allowing a reasonable time for a genuine debate between the majority and the opposition and for participation by the wider public in the legislative procedure;
'' to ensure the widest possible participation by all parliamentary parties in the constitutional process, even though the relevant special majority is held by the governing coalition alone;
On checks and balances:
'' to fully restore the prerogatives of the Constitutional Court as the supreme body of constitutional protection, and thus the primacy of the Fundamental Law, by removing from its text the limitations on the Constitutional Court's power to review the constitutionality of any changes to the Fundamental Law, as well as the abolition of two decades of constitutional case law; to restore the right of the Constitutional Court to review all legislation without exception, with a view to counterbalancing parliamentary and executive actions and ensuring full judicial review; such a judicial and constitutional review may be exerted in different ways in different Member States, depending on the specificities of each national constitutional history, but once established, a Constitutional Court '' like the Hungarian one, which after the fall of the communist regime has rapidly built a reputation among Supreme Courts in Europe '' should not be subject to measures aimed at reducing its competences and thus undermining the rule of law;
'' to restore the possibility for the judicial system to refer to the case law issued before the entry into force of the Fundamental Law, in particular in the field of fundamental rights(12);
'' to strive for consensus when electing the members of the Constitutional Court, with meaningful involvement of the opposition, and to ensure that the members of the court are free from political influence;
'' to restore the prerogatives of the parliament in the budgetary field and thus secure the full democratic legitimacy of budgetary decisions by removing the restriction of parliamentary powers by the non-parliamentary Budget Council;
'' to provide clarifications on how the Hungarian authorities intend to remedy the premature termination of the term of office of senior officials with a view to securing the institutional independence of the data protection authority;
On the independence of the judiciary:
'' to fully guarantee the independence of the judiciary by ensuring that the principles of irremovability and guaranteed term of office of judges, the rules governing the structure and composition of the governing bodies of the judiciary and the safeguards on the independence of the Constitutional Court are enshrined in the Fundamental Law;
'' to promptly and correctly implement the abovementioned decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Union of 6 November 2012 and of the Hungarian Constitutional Court, by enabling the dismissed judges who so wish to be reinstated in their previous positions, including those presiding judges whose original executive posts are no longer vacant;
'' to establish objective selection criteria, or to mandate the National Judicial Council to establish such criteria, with a view to ensuring that the rules on the transfer of cases respect the right to a fair trial and the principle of a lawful judge;
'' to implement the remaining recommendations laid down in the Venice Commission's Opinion No CDL-AD(2012)020 on the cardinal acts on the judiciary that were amended following the adoption of Opinion CDL-AD(2012)001;
On the electoral reform:
- to invite the Venice Commission and the OSCE/ ODIHR to carry out a joint analysis of the comprehensively changed legal and institutional framework of the elections and to invite the ODIHR for a Needs Assessment Mission and a long and short term election observation.
'' to ensure balanced representation within the National Election Committee;
On the media and pluralism:
'' to fulfil the commitment to further discuss cooperation activities at expert level on the more long-term perspective of the freedom of the media, building on the most important remaining recommendations of the 2012 legal expertise of the Council of Europe;
'' to ensure timely and close involvement of all relevant stakeholders, including media professionals, opposition parties and civil society, in any further review of this legislation, which regulates such a fundamental aspect of the functioning of a democratic society, and in the process of implementation;
'' to observe the positive obligation arising from European Court of Human Rights jurisprudence under Article 10 ECHR to protect freedom of expression as one of the preconditions for a functioning democracy;
'' to respect, guarantee, protect and promote the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, as well as media freedom and pluralism, and to refrain from developing or supporting mechanisms that threaten media freedom and journalistic and editorial independence;
'' to make sure that objective, legally binding procedures and mechanisms are in place for the selection and appointment of heads of public media, management boards, media councils and regulatory bodies, in line with the principles of independence, integrity, experience and professionalism, representation of the entire political and social spectrum, legal certainty and continuity;
'' to provide legal guarantees regarding full protection of the confidentiality-of-sources principle and to strictly apply related European Court of Human Rights case law;
'' to ensure that rules relating to political information throughout the audiovisual media sector guarantee fair access to different political competitors, opinions and viewpoints, in particular on the occasion of elections and referendums, allowing citizens to form their own opinions without undue influence from one dominant opinion-forming power;
On respect for fundamental rights, including therights of persons belonging to minorities:
'' to take, and continue with, positive actions and effective measures to ensure that the fundamental rights of all persons, including persons belonging to minorities and homeless persons, are respected and to ensure their implementation by all competent public authorities; when reviewing the definition of 'family', to take into account the legislative trend in Europe to broaden the scope of the definition of family and the negative impact of a restricted definition of family on the fundamental rights of those who will be excluded by the new and more restrictive definition;
'' to take a new approach, finally assuming its responsibilities towards homeless '' and therefore vulnerable '' people, as set out in the international treaties on human rights to which Hungary is a signatory, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and thus to promote fundamental rights rather than violating them by including in its Fundamental Law provisions that criminalise homeless people;
'' calls on the Hungarian Government to do all in its power to strengthen the mechanism for social dialogue and comprehensive consultation and to guarantee the rights associated with this;
'' calls on the Hungarian Government to increase its efforts to integrate the Roma and to lay down targeted measures to ensure their protection. Racist threats directed at the Roma must be unequivocally and resolutely repelled;
On freedom of religionor beliefand recognition of churches:
'' to establish clear, neutral and impartial requirements and institutional procedures for the recognition of religious organisations as churches, which respect the duty of the State to remain neutral and impartial in its relations with the various religions and beliefs and to provide effective means of redress in cases of non-recognition or lack of a decision, in line with the constitutional requirements set out in the abovementioned Decision 6/2013 of the Constitutional Court;
Recommendations to the EU institutions onsetting up a new mechanism to enforce Article 2 TEUeffectively
72. Reiterates the urgent need to tackle the so-called 'Copenhagen dilemma', whereby the EU remains very strict with regard to compliance with the common values and standards on the part of candidate countries but lacks effective monitoring and sanctioning tools once they have joined the EU;
73. Firmly requests that Member States be regularly assessed on their continued compliance with the fundamental values of the Union and the requirements of democracy and the rule of law, avoiding any double standards and bearing in mind that such an assessment must be founded on a commonly accepted European understanding of constitutional and legal standards; firmly requests, furthermore, that similar situations in Member States should be monitored in accordance with the same pattern, since otherwise the principle of equality of the Member States before the Treaties is not respected;
74. Calls for closer cooperation between Union institutions and other international bodies, particularly the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, and for use to be made of their expertise in upholding the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;
75. Acknowledges and welcomes the initiatives undertaken, the analysis conducted and the recommendations issued by the Council of Europe, in particular its Secretary General, Parliamentary Assembly, Commissioner for Human Rights and the Venice Commission;
76. Calls on all the EU institutions to launch a joint reflection and debate '' as also requested by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland in their abovementioned letter to the Commission President '' on how to equip the Union with the necessary tools to fulfil its Treaty obligations on democracy, the rule of law and fundamental rights, while avoiding any risks of applying double standards among its Member States;
77. Considers that a future revision of the Treaties should lead to a better distinction between an initial phase, aimed at assessing any risks of a serious breach of the values referred in Article 2 TEU, and a more efficient procedure in a subsequent phase, where action would need to be taken to address actual serious and persistent violation of those values;
78. Given the current institutional mechanism laid down in Article 7 TEU, reiterates the calls it made, in its resolution of 12 December 2012 on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (2010-2011), for the establishment of a new mechanism to ensure compliance by all Member States with the common values enshrined in Article 2 TEU, and the continuity of the 'Copenhagen criteria'; this mechanism could assume the form of a 'Copenhagen Commission' or high-level group, a 'group of wise men' or an Article 70 TFEU evaluation, and build up on the reforming and strengthening of the mandate of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, and on the framework of a strengthened Commission-Council-European Parliament-Member States dialogue on measures to be taken;
79. Reiterates that the setting up of such a mechanism could involve a rethinking of the mandate of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which should be enhanced to include regular monitoring of Member States' compliance with Article 2 TEU; recommends that such a 'Copenhagen high-level group' or any such mechanism should build on and cooperate with existing mechanisms and structures; recalls the role of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, which could bring together the highly valuable work of the various existing Council of Europe monitoring bodies and the Agency's own data and analysis in order to carry out independent, comparative and regular assessments of the EU Member States' compliance with Article 2 TEU.
80. Recommends that this mechanism should:
'' be independent from political influence, as all European Union mechanisms which relate to monitoring Member States should be, as well as swift and effective;
'' operate in full cooperation with other international bodies as regards the protection of fundamental rights and the rule of law;
'' regularly monitor respect for fundamental rights, the state of democracy and the rule of law in all Member States, while fully respecting national constitutional traditions;
'' conduct such monitoring uniformly in all Member States to avoid any risks of double standards among its Member States;
'' warn the EU at an early stage about any risks of deterioration of the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU;
'' issue recommendations to the EU institutions and Member States on how to respond and remedy any deterioration of the values enshrined in Article 2 TEU;
81. Instructs its committee responsible for the protection within the territory of the Union of citizens' rights, human rights and fundamental rights, and for determining clear risks of a serious breach by a Member State of the common principles, to submit a detailed proposal in the form of a report to the Conference of Presidents and to the Plenary;
82. Instructs its committee responsible for the protection within the territory of the Union of citizens' rights, human rights and fundamental rights, and for determining clear risks of a serious breach by a Member State of the common principles, as well as its committee responsible for the determination of the existence of a serious and persistent breach by a Member State of the principles common to the Member States, to follow the development of the situation in Hungary;
83. Intends to convene a Conference on this issue before the end of 2013 that will bring together representatives from the Member States, the European institutions, the Council of Europe, national Constitutional and Supreme Courts, the Court of Justice of the European Union and the European Court of Human Rights;
IV- Follow-up
84. Calls on the Hungarian authorities to inform Parliament, the Commission, the Presidencies of the Council and of the European Council, and the Council of Europe regarding implementation of the measures requested in paragraph 71;
85. Invites the Commission and the Council to each designate a representative who, together with Parliament's rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs ('Article 2 Trilogue'), will carry out an assessment of the information sent by the Hungarian authorities on implementation of the recommendations contained in paragraph 71, as well as follow-up on future possible modifications to ensure compliance with Article 2 TEU;
86. Asks the Conference of Presidents to assess the opportuneness of resorting to mechanisms foreseen by the Treaty, including Article 7(1) TEU, in case the replies from the Hungarian authorities appear not to comply with the requirements of Article 2 TEU;
87. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Parliament, President and Government of Hungary, to the Presidents of the Constitutional Court and the Kºria, to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States and the candidate countries, the Fundamental Rights Agency, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
(1)Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0053.
(2)OJ C 199 E, 7.7.2012, p. 154.
(3)OJ C 33 E, 5.2.2013, p. 17.
(4)OJ C 169 E, 15.6.2012, p. 49.
(5)Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0500.
(6)These laws include cardinal laws all provisions of which require a two-thirds majority, cardinal laws specific provisions of which have to be adopted by simple majority and acts the specific provisions of which require a two-thirds majority of the Members of Parliament present.
(7)Legal analysis sent to the Hungarian Government on 28 February 2011 http://www.osce.org/fom/75990
See also the analysis and assessment of September 2010: http://www.osce.org/fom/71218
(8)Expertise by Council of Europe experts on Hungarian media legislation: ACT CIV of 2010 on the freedom of the press and the fundamental rules on media content and ACT CLXXXV of 2010 on media services and mass media, 11 May 2012.
(9)Report of the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/HRC/20/33/Add. 1)
(10)Venice Commission Opinion 664/2012 of 19 March 2012 on Act CCVI of 2011 on the right to freedom of conscience and religion and the legal status of churches, denominations and religious communities of Hungary (CDL-AD(2012)004).
(11)Point (80) of the decision.
(12)See Working Document No 5.
HUNGARY-Article 7 TEU: a mechanism to protect EU values | European Parliamentary Research Service
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:51
Incorporated into EU law by the Treaty of Amsterdam, Article 7 TEU is considered to have been both a gesture prompted by the future wave of EU enlargement and an attempt to tackle the discrepancy between the democratic model promoted by the EU in its external relations and its modest capacity to intervene whenever democratic values are at risk of being violated within one of its Member States. Following the notorious ''Haider affair'', the provisions of Article 7 TEU have been extended to situations when there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of EU values. This new paragraph added with the Treaty of Nice therefore enables '' besides the reactive approach of which Article 7 initially consisted exclusively '' a prevention mechanism aiming at facilitating EU intervention before the breaches actually occur.
@ Claude Wangen / Fotolia
The intention to use the Article 7 TEU mechanism has come about on several occasions. The French Roma expulsions, the Romanian political struggle between President Băsescu and Prime Minister Ponta and its consequences are amongst the most relevant examples. Furthermore, the European Parliament has recently highlighted its willingness to activate this democracy protection mechanism if the Hungarian government does not take action to restore the rule of law in Hungary. Nevertheless, the political unwillingness to use Article 7 leaves several questions unanswered: what are the precise EU values protected by this mechanism? What is the threshold for a measure or a non-measure to classify as serious breach?, etc.
This Library Keysource is a collection of documents which examine the evolution of article 7 TEU's provisions, investigate the several events that could have led to their activation and tackle the different article 7 elements that remain ambiguous or need further clarification.
For more information on this topic you may wish to refer to the Library Briefing: Breach of values by a Member State / Eva-Maria Poptcheva, 2013
OverviewEuropean Union Law / Alina Kaczorowska, London, Routledge, 2011, pp. 67-69. Available in the Library at shelfmark: S 12.04.KAC.11
Brief section explaining the steps and the actors involved in the suspension procedure set out in Article 7 TEU. While thoroughly analysing the first two paragraphs of this article, the author focuses both on the early warning mechanism, introduced by the Treaty of Nice, and on the actions MS can take in case serious and persistent breaches of the values on which the EU is founded are determined.
AnalysisAdding a bite to a bark? A story of Article 7, the EU Enlargement, and J¶rg Haider / Wojciech Sadurski, Legal studies research paper, no. 10/01, 2010, 37p. You have to log in '' for free '' to read the full article
Working paper tracing Article 7 TEU's origins and highlighting it as part of the institutional reform anticipating the two Eastern enlargement waves. Identified as a priority by the 1995 Reflection Group '' whose work prepared the 1996 IGC leading to the Treaty of Amsterdam '' the objective of ''enabling the Union to work better and preparing it for enlargement'' suggests the EU's transition to more than just a common market, namely a unique international structure sharing common values.
Les valeurs de l'Union europ(C)enne / Jol Rideau in Revue des affaires europ(C)ennes, no. 2, 2012, pp. 329-349.
This article aims at identifying and examining EU values and their protection by the EU and national courts. Composed of a chapter dedicated to each of the following values: human dignity, equality, freedom, democracy, rule of law, respect of human rights; this paper also concentrates on the process of constitutionalisation of the EU.
The EU's governance transfer / Vera van H¼llen and Tanja A. B¶rzel, Working paper '' Freie Universit¤t Berlin, 2013, 22p.
The authors focus on the contrast between the EU's external commitment to protect and promote democracy, human rights, the rule of law and the rather weak internal instruments designed to respond to breaches of democratic standards and human rights in EU Member States. They conclude by noting that the governance transfer in terms of protection of EU values at internal level is more modest than the governance standards it manages to transfer in the context of its exterior relations.
Protecting the fundamentals: article 7 of the Treaty on the European Union and beyond / Cesare Pinelli, Foundation for European Progressive Studies, 2012, 20p.
This paper tackles the three different alternatives the EU has at its disposal in order to intervene in cases of EU values violations: citizens' applications before their national courts, which might refer to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling; infringement actions of the European Commission and monitoring mechanisms aimed at enhancing Article 7 TEU's mechanism.
Safeguarding democracy inside the EU: Brussels and the future of liberal order / Jan-Werner M¼ller, Transatlantic academy paper series, 2013, pp. 17-18.
According to Jan-Werner M¼ller, professor of politics at Princeton University, Article 7 TEU is more a political rather than a judicial instrument. In addition, he notes the contradiction between the possibility of applying a sanction mechanism and other EU core principles such as mutual trust and mutual accommodation.
Past and present debates on the possible usage of Article 7 TEU's mechanismAustria
Le contr´le par l'Union europ(C)enne du respect de la d(C)mocratie et des droits de l'homme par ses Etats membres : propos de l'Autriche / Emmanuelle Bribosia, Olivier de Schutter, Thierry Ronse and Anne Weyembergh in Journal de droit europ(C)en, no. 3, 2000, pp. 61-65.
This article gives a very good overview of the possibilities envisaged by the scholars in order to tackle Austrian threats to the EU's democratic values at the time when the Freedom Party ('FP–') and J¶rg Haider rose to power.
Austria and the European Union '' the report of the ''three wise men'' / Alison Duxbury in Melbourne Journal of International Law, vol. 1, no. 1, 2000, pp. 169-174.
This article includes a thorough analysis of the report submitted in September 2000 examining the Austrian Government's commitment to EU values. J¶rg Haider's Freedom Party ('FP–') '' a right wing populist party '' having entered the Austrian Government, it faced widespread criticism related to the discriminatory nature of their proposed reform of immigration policy. It is noteworthy that this report favours the introduction of a prevention mechanism aiming at moving away from a simple reactive approach. This alert procedure is currently defined by Article 7(1) and was introduced by the Treaty of Nice.
France
L'affaire des Roms: a challenge to the EU's area of freedom, security and justice / Sergio Carrera and Ana¯s Faure Atger, CEPS, 2010, 21p.
Criticising the ex post nature of the measures that can be adopted under Article 7 TEU, the authors of this paper also highlight the lack of a proper monitoring mechanism which would prevent a situation like the Roma expulsions in France.
Hungary
Motion for resolution on the situation of fundamental rights: standards and practices in Hungary / European Parliament, July 2013
EP motion for resolution adopted in July 2013 calling on Hungary to reform its Constitution to bring it in line with EU norms and values. Point 86 of the motion for resolution shows the EP's intention to activate Article 7 TEU's mechanism in case the Hungarian authorities do not comply with the Union's values.
Protecting democracy and the rule of law in the European Union: the Hungarian challenge / Bojan Bugaric, 2013, 25p. You have to log in '' for free '' to read the full article
Article discussing the possibility of invoking Article 7 TEU in order to intervene in Hungary's controversial, yet domestic, affairs. Focusing on the Hungarian case, the author also tackles the political legitimacy of European political integration. Furthermore, he analyses whether the provisions of the new Hungarian Constitution can be considered as clear risks of a serious breach of EU values, as defined by Article 7(1).
Romania
Romania's democracy in reverse gear '' en garde, EU! / Corina Stratulat and Paul Ivan, European Policy Center Commentary, 2012, 2p.
EPC Commentary highlighting MEP Markus Ferber's threats to initiate proceedings in order to suspend Romania's vote in the Council as a consequence of the undemocratic implications of the political struggle between President Traian Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
Stakeholder viewsEuropean Parliament
Working document on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union in 2012 / European Parliament, 2013
With this working document the EP highlights the fact that 2012 was marked not only by an economic, but also by a democratic crisis in some EU Member States. Furthermore, MEPs mention the lack of political will to activate article 7 TEU's mechanism and the necessity to create a new mechanism in order to ensure the respect of EU values.
European Commission
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union '' Respect for and promotion of the values on which the Union is based / European Commission, 2003
With this Communication, the European Commission greeted the modifications brought up by the Nice treaty to Article 7 TEU. Interestingly, the Commission also insisted on the number of complaints it receives from European citizens underlining the fact that the latter interpret Article 7 TEU as a means of remedying the fundamental rights breaches they experience. In addition, this Communication includes clarifications about concepts such as: ''clear risk of a serious breach'', ''serious breach'' and ''persistent breach''.
State of the Union 2012 address / Jos(C) Manuel Dur£o Barroso, Plenary session of the European Parliament, Strasbourg 2012
The President of the European Commission notes threats to democratic principles present in some EU member states and regrets the limited number of instruments the EU has at its disposal to fight such phenomena. President Barroso sees Article 7 TEU as a ''nuclear weapon'' and pleads for an alternative between this sanction mechanism and the usage of ''soft power'' tools.
Amnesty International
Amnesty International response to the European Commission Communication on Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union / Amnesty International, 2003, 6p.
Amnesty International welcomed the Commission's communication and its commitment to monitoring and addressing breaches of fundamental rights in the EU but was particularly concerned by the conclusion that ''The Commission is convinced that in this Union of values it will not be necessary to apply penalties to Article 7 of the Union Treaty and Article 309 of the EC Treaty''.
Similar interational provisionsInternational mechanisms for protecting democracy / Theodore J. Piccone, Democracy Coalition Project, 2004, 31p.
While identifying and briefly analysing democracy protection mechanisms that exist in regional agreements around the world, the author also compares the key elements of democracy clauses and tries to offer a model of such clauses integrating the best practices in the field. The five elements that a democracy clause should contain according to Theodore Piccone are: the incorporation of democratic norms in the organisation's core mission, the nomination of an expert committee to monitor the respect of democratic principles; the clarification of the consequences in case of breach of democratic values; the institution of economic, trade and financial sanctions in such cases and the setting of a time frame within which the government concerned should restore democracy.
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Hungary's Internet Tax: Continuing to undermine the country's democratic principles | European Public Affairs
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:50
In the past week, Hungary's government led by self-styled Prime Minister Viktor Orbn has been faced with one of the biggest challenges since his accession to power in 2010. Hundreds of thousands of Hungarians took to the streets on Tuesday and last weekend to protest against the recently announced tax on Internet use '' a measure proposed by the Ministry of Economy, but initiated by Orbn himself. The Internet tax would see an introduction of a levy of some 150 forints (0.49 euros) for each downloaded gigabyte. While this is not the first unorthodox measure to shore up Hungary's stagnating economy, given the size of the revolt that it has generated among Hungarians, it would appear that the Fidesz government has this time shot itself in the foot. However, there are signs that plans for the tax will be dropped, with Orbn stating on radio that he plans to launch a public debate on Internet regulation in January 2015.
In the past few years, Hungary has become an awkward member of the European Union '' awkward for the rest of the EU and awkward internally, as numerous leading politicians on the political right have expressed their concerns with the alleged Brussels' meddling with national politics. The latest of such statements comes from the President of the Hungarian Parliament, Lszl" K¶v(C)r, who compared the EU to the Soviet Union and called on Brussels to stop dictating how Hungary should run its internal affairs. Nevertheless, the EU has expressed only very limited concern over the developments in the country, and while the European Parliament passed a Resolution on 3 July 2013 in which it found Hungary in breach of Article 2 TEU, no further measures have been taken.
Budapest has been criticized for its recent constitutional changes, which have, among other things, weakened checks and balances, and undermined the independence of the judiciary and unfairly reformed the electoral system. Furthermore, the government has been accused of using tax policies to curtail media freedom. One such example is the advertising levy imposed in August 2014, just before the last parliamentary elections. This measure alone has undermined the position of the privately owned RTL television channel, which, unlike the public service media, does not toe the government's line. The Commissioner for Digital Economy, Neelie Kroes, was very critical at the time and suggested that the measures were designed to ''wipe out democratic safeguards'' so that Fidesz could rule unchallenged.
Previously, the government had already imposed tax on the telecommunications sector, which is subject to a capped levy for every minute of voice connections and for every text sent. Seeing that many Hungarians have switched from more expensive conventional phone calls to calls via the Internet, the government has also come up with an idea to introduce a similar tax on Internet use. As of 2015, Internet service providers (ISPs) will pay 150 forints (0.49 euros) for every gigabyte used either by the companies themselves or their consumers. According to the EU Commission's estimates, streaming a film would cost an extra fifteen euros, while streaming a whole television series would mean a charge of whopping 254 euros. Many in Hungary fear that Internet companies will simply pass the buck onto consumers through higher charges. As a result, hundreds of thousands of them took to the streets to express their frustration. On Sunday and Tuesday, thousands of supporters marched in Budapest and other big cities, making it the biggest rally against the Orbn government since 2010. Reuters has estimated that Tuesday saw as many as 100,000 Hungarians protest against the measure. The movement is largely organised by a Facebook group set up by Balzs Gulys who claims the protests to be exclusively apolitical and who has called on protesters not to visibly promote any particular political party or ideology during the marches. While the legislation remains in place (and will do so until Orbn takes the political decision to withdraw it), the protests have led to the government's decision to adjust the proposal to the extent that a cap of 700 forints (2.3 euros) for private users and 5,000 forints (16 euros) for private sector will be incorporated into the legislation.
Insignificant as the Internet tax may seem, particularly given the amount raised '' 20 billion forints (64 million euros) '' it matters for a number of reasons. First of all, the measure must be seen in the context of Hungary's slow but steady detachment from the liberal values on which the EU has been built. In fact, Viktor Orbn is not at all shy about his adulation for Russia's Vladimir Putin and his illiberal regime. The Internet tax has become yet another government's leverage of control of communication and freedom of expression. By the same token, opposition, relying heavily on the Internet to promote its ideas, will be further disadvantaged vis- -vis the government, which has at its disposal a loyal public service broadcaster. Secondly, in light of the measure's potential to lower the quality of democracy in the country, Budapest finds itself at odds, once again, with the EU. Further diminution of the already awkward relations between the EU and Hungary poses a question whether the country has distanced itself from the EU to the extent that appropriate measures, notably the use of Article 7 TEU would be necessary. Last but not least, Hungary's slippery slope to illiberal democracy will have serious consequences for the future functioning of the Visegrad Four (V4) group. The fundamentals of the group remain strong. However, Hungary's detachment from Europe will have ramifications both for the group internally and externally. The group can continue its close cooperation only if the four countries agree on the most fundamental issues such as the political system. Hungary's flirtation with illiberalism could undermine the Visegrad Four's internal integrity and, by extension, the group's unity in Brussels. How much longer will the EU and Central European leaders ignore Hungary's anti-democratic tendencies? Tendencies which will sooner or later turn the country from an asset into a liability both for the EU and the V4.
This text was co-published with Visegrad Insight
Frank MarkovicFrank is a European citizen and proud of it too. He grew up in Eastern (some would say Central) Europe. Frank moved to the UK in 2007 where he spent one year of his precious life working in menial jobs before enrolling at the BA joint programme of Politics and Communication Studies at the University of Liverpool and later BA programme of Politics at the University of Exeter. After having obtained his MA in European Public Affairs from Maastricht University, he is currently working for the European Council of Young Farmers in Brussels.Frank has developed a strong interest in European and American politics. Both have shown an obsession with political horse-trading and log rolling '' hence reflecting the ugly truth of our species. Moreover their comedic value deserves our attention too. After all, there is hardly anything more uplifting than watching Christine O'Donnell having to explain she's not a witch or Nigel Farage hurling himself into defending the long lost British Empire. Throw in a couple of global warming deniers from the US Congress and Catholic fundamentalists from the EU Parliament and one instantly understands Ray Lankester's work on devolution on human species.
Frank is at your disposal at frank.markovic@europeanpublicaffairs.eu.or you can tweet Frank at @FrankMarkovic
HUNGARY-World Science Forum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:50
World Science Forum is an international conference series on global science policy. Since 2003, it is being organized biannually in Budapest, Hungary.
World Science Forum or WSF traces back its origin to the first World Conference on Science, organised by UNESCO and ICSU and held in Budapest in 1999. The first WSF was organised in 2003, followed by the second in 2005 and the third in 2007. The fourth WSF was held from 5 through 7 November 2009 in Budapest, Hungary, focusing on "Knowledge and future". The fifth World Science Forum was heln between 17 and 19 November 2011 in Budapest, it focused on "The changing landscape of science".[1]
The World Science Forum aims at being the "Davos of Science" and achieving the same global strategic impact on science and science policy as the World Economic Forum does it in the field of global economic policy.
Origin, vision and mission[edit]By the end of the 20th century, science and knowledge became essential parts of Mankind's everyday lives. Scientific knowledge is not only the result of Humanity's inherent curiosity and scientific endeavor, it is a powerful means of understanding human nature, society, and the Nature in which humans live. Advance in science is a major contributor to society's socio-economic development, the global welfare of humankind, man's relation to Nature, and the quality of life.
In past centuries the predominant role of science was the production of new knowledge to satisfy the curiosity of the human mind. In recent years, the role of science has undergone changes, as scientific inquiry has increasingly become the motor of development in society. By the end of the 20th century, science has acquired a number of new roles. These novel roles may '' and should '' contribute in a decisive manner to the daily life of humankind in the 21st century.
In spite of its spectacular development and new opportunities, the science of 21st century faces wavering confidence, unseen dilemmas and brand-new questions. These problems can be solved only if the main procedures and users of knowledge are able to reach common ground for the new roles of knowledge and science in 21st century's global Society.
These issues have been discussed by the first World Conference of Science, organised by UNESCO and ICSU, with the participation of over 2000 delegated from 186 countries on 26 June '' 1 July 1999 in Budapest, Hungary.
As a follow-up to the World Conference on Science the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (HAS), in partnership with UNESCO and ICSU, initiated a unique forum series for a much needed genuine debate and hopefully lasting interaction between the scientific community and Society. Three members of HAS played a key role in establishing the World Science Forum series: Istvn Lng,[1] the organiser of the 1999 World Conference of Science; Balzs Gulys, the founding director of the WSF series; and E. Sylvester Vizi, the then president of HAS. At present the President of World Science Forum is Professor J"zsef Plinks President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Mission of WSF
'' To provide major stakeholders with a global forum for dialogue on science and its role and responsibility in the 21st Century.
'' To better understand and promote the need for science and scientific advice in political and economic decision-making.
'' To exchange views and ideas on how to communicate science and its basic values to the society at large and to the various stakeholder groups.
Organisers[edit]The main organising institution of the WSF is the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, in close partnership with UNESCO and ICSU. The preparatory activities of the Forum are led by a Governing Board, helped by an international Steering Committee.
Patrons[edit]Patrons of the WSF are the President of Hungary, the Director-General of UNESCO, the President of ICSU, and the President of the European Commission. At present, they are Pl Schmitt, Irina Bokova, Yuan Tseh Lee and Jos(C) Manuel Barroso.
International Steering Committee[edit]The Steering Committee of the WSF consists of internationally renowned scientists and science politicians. Its chair is J"zsef Plinks, president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Members of the Steering Committee include Sir Brian Heap, Chairman EASAC; Gretchen Kalonji, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Yuan-Tseh Lee, President, International Council for Science (ICSU), Nobel Laureate; Alan I. Leshner, chief executive officer, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); Jacob Palis, President, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, President, The Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS); Werner Arber, Nobel Laureate; Ahmed Zewail, Director, Physical Biology Center for Ultrafast Science and Technology, Nobel Laureate; Ichiro Kanazawa, President, Science Council of Japan; Sir George Radda, Chairman, Biomedical Research Council; Lidia Brito, Director, Division for Science Policy and Sustainable Development, Natural Sciences Sector, UNESCO; Deliang Chen, Executive Director, International Council for Science (ICSU); Vaughan Turekian, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
Governing Bodies[edit]The chairman of the Governing Board of WSF is J"zsef Plinks, President of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and President of World Science Forum. The Executive Director of the WSF is Balazs Gulyas, the executive secretaries are Gergely B¶hm and dm K(C)gler.
The forthcoming WSF[edit]The forthcoming forum will be organised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in November 2013.
References[edit]External links[edit]
HUNGARY REGIME CHANGE-Balzs Gulys - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:49
Balzs Gulys (born June 26, 1956) is a Hungarian neurobiologist.[1]
Personalia[edit]Gulys is a Hungarian born neurobiologist now working and residing in Sweden. Since 1988, Gulys has been living in Stockholm, working at the Karolinska Institute. Since 2013, he has been a Professor at the Imperial College London-Nanyang Technological University Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in Singapore. Gulys received his university degrees from Semmelweis University from which he graduated as Doctor of Medicine (MD) and from the Catholic University of Leuven where he obtained a BA and an MA in Philosophy and a PhD in neurobiology.[2] He is a member of the Batthyny Society of Professors.[3]
Gulys' main research interest is functional neuroimaging and cognitive neuroscience. In recent years, he has also been involved in neuropharmacological drug and biomarker research and development.
Gulys has published nine books, over 35 book-chapters and over 150 research papers in peer reviewed scientific journals.
A professor of neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden, Gulys was a guest professor, among others, of the Coll¨ge de France, and is a faculty member of the Collegium Budapest - Institute of Advanced Study[1] and the Parmenides Foundation [1]. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (since 1995), the Academia Europaea[1] (where he is also a member of the Council) and the Royal Belgian Academy of Medicine[2]. He is the founding director of the World Science Forum[4][1] series.
Publications[edit]His books include:
- Gulys, B. (ed.) The Brain-Mind Problem. Philosophical and Neurophysiological Approaches. Leuven and Assen: Leuven University Press and Van Gorcum, 1987. p. XI+119. ISBN 90-6186-246-9[3]
- Gulys, B., Ottoson, D., and Roland, P. E. (eds.) Functional Organization of the Human Visual Cortex. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1993. p. 391. ISBN 0-08-042004-4. [4]
- Gulys, B. and M¼ller-G¤rtner, H. W. (eds.) Positron emission tomography: A critical assessment of recent trends. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publisher, 1998. p. 482. ISBN 0-7923-5091-X[5]
- Pl(C)h, C., Kovcs, G. and Gulys, B. (eds.) Cognitive Neuroscience. Budapest, Osiris Press, 2003. 832 p. ISBN 963-389-313-5. [6]
- Kraft, E., Gulys, B. and P¶ppel, E. (eds.) Neural Correlates of Thinking. Springer Verlag, 2008. ISBN 978-3-540-68042-0[7], [8]
References[edit]^ abcd"Az MTA tagjai (The members of MTA)" (in Hungarian). mta.hu. Retrieved 2010-01-25. ^"Balazs Gulyas CV)". balazs-gulyas.hu. Retrieved 2010-01-25. ^"Professzorok Batthyny K¶re - Tagjaink" (in Hungarian). bla.hu. 2 February 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2012. ^"World Science Forum - Participants". sciforum.hu. Retrieved 2010-01-25. External links[edit]PersondataNameGulyas, BalazsAlternative namesShort descriptionHungarian neuroscientistDate of birth1956-06-26Place of birthBudapest, HungaryDate of deathPlace of death
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Jongen met houten speelgoedwapen zet Leidschendam op stelten | Omroep West
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:05
LEIDSCHENDAM - Een jongen die woensdag in Leidschendam met een houten speelgoedpistool werd gezien, heeft voor de nodige opschudding gezorgd. Een beveiliger van winkelcentrum Leidsenhage vertrouwde het niet en belde de politie.
Meerdere agenten werden naar de Burgemeester Caan van Necklaan gestuurd om op zoek te gaan naar de 'gewapende' jongen. Ook een politiehelikopter hielp vanuit de lucht mee. Uiteindelijk werd de jongen gevonden bij een flat. Er bleek niets aan de hand: hij had een houten speelgoedwapentje bij zich.
'Ondanks dat hebben we de melding natuurlijk heel erg serieus genomen', laat een woordvoerster van de politie weten. 'Je kan uiteraard geen risico's nemen.' De jongen is niet aangehouden en de zaak zal verder ook geen gevolgen voor hem hebben.
Het laatste nieuws op je mobiel bekijken? Pushberichten ontvangen bij groot nieuws in jouw regio? Download de gratis apps van Omroep West voor je tablet of telefoon.
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De kloof met de Randstad is niet meer te dichten | Binnenland | de Volkskrant
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:04
VERDIEPING Als correspondent Noord-Nederland zag Ana van Es Groningen, Drenthe en Friesland de laatste jaren afdrijven van de rest van het land. En hoe slechter de relatie werd, hoe luider de roep om geld.
Hier, aan de uiterste rand van Nederland, is er een heel dorp voor opgeofferd. Door de huizen en de kerk te slopen, geloofde men, zou de welvaart komen. Fabrieken, werkgevers, grote investeerders: massaal zouden ze neerstrijken op de vrijgekomen grond. Eindelijk zou het noorden kunnen meedoen met de rest van Nederland.
Op de zeedijk ten oosten van Delfzijl resteert alleen nog het kerkhof. Meer is er niet over van Oterdum, het dorp dat in de jaren zeventig moest plaatsmaken voor de vooruitgang. De grafstenen vormen een grijs moza¯ek op de groene dijk. Kijkend naar de verweerde zerken denk ik: je kunt in elk geval niet zeggen dat ze het in deze regio niet hebben geprobeerd.
De polder achter de dijk toont contouren van gesloopte boerderijen, schaduwen in een landschap dat inmiddels alweer veertig jaar braak ligt. Want Oterdum is voor niets gesloopt. De industrie waar hier zo op was gehoopt, is er nooit gekomen.
WingewestDoen de drie noordelijke provincies er nog toe? Als correspondent Noord-Nederland heb ik me dat de afgelopen jaren vaak afgevraagd. Ik zag de kloof die gaapt tussen het Noorden en de Randstad. Aan weerszijden van die kloof wankelt de hoop dat het Noorden ooit nog op gelijke voet zal komen met de rest van het land. Beide delen van het land dreigen elkaar op te geven. Steeds vaker wordt het schuldgevoel over die verbroken relatie afgekocht.
De Haagse overheid gelooft steeds openlijker niet meer in een toekomst voor het Noorden. Luister maar naar Coen Teulings, op dat moment nog directeur van het Centraal Planbureau (CPB), als hij in mei 2012 een lezing geeft in Leeuwarden. Als (C)(C)n van 's lands invloedrijkste overheidsadviseurs wil hij dit even kwijt: in de kenniseconomie van de toekomst zal het Noorden deels achterblijven. Voor Friesland heeft het 'geen zin om te proberen de concurrentie aan te gaan met de Randstad.' Friesland, met Leeuwarden voorop, zegt het CPB-boegbeeld, dat is 'achterstand'.
Ook in het Noorden zelf groeit twijfel over de toekomst. Een cocktail van aardbevingen, bevolkingskrimp, werkloosheid, investeringen die alsmaar uitblijven en Den Haag dat zich steeds nadrukkelijker afkeert, ondermijnt in Groningen, Friesland en Drenthe het vertrouwen dat er ooit nog iets ten goede zal keren. Dit gevoel: Noord-Nederland als domste jongetje van de klas, een tweederangs landsdeel, ondergeschikt aan de rest van Nederland.
De verhoudingen tussen het Noorden en overig Nederland zijn de afgelopen twee jaar op scherp gezet door de aardbevingen in het Groningse gasveld. Onvrede over gaswinning is er hier altijd geweest: het kapitaal onder de Groningse klei vloeit weg naar Den Haag zonder dat de provincie daar veel voor terugkrijgt.
'Het gas, de uitbuiting, Groningen als voetveeg van de rest van Nederland', schrijft Frank Westerman in De Graanrepubliek, zijn kroniek over de teloorgang van het boerenleven in het Oldambt. Na een beving met een kracht van 3,6 op de schaal van Richter bij het gehucht Huizinge, op 16 augustus 2012, valt het ook buiten de provinciegrenzen niet meer te ontkennen: Groningen is inderdaad een wingewest geworden.
ArmoedeGelukkig is daar de oplossing die al vaker een crisis tussen het Noorden en de Randstad heeft geapaiseerd: een Haagse zak met geld. Ik luisterde hoe noordelijke bestuurders pleitten voor een compensatiefonds dat een halve eeuw gaswinning moet goedmaken en hoorde de minister vervolgens een bedrag met negen nullen bekendmaken, als betrof het hier binnenlandse ontwikkelingshulp.
Ze begrijpen elkaar niet, het Noorden en de Randstad. Vlak voordat ik hier in 2011 als correspondent begon, startte een regionale campagne om hoogopgeleide Randstedelingen te verleiden tot een verhuizing naar het Noorden. In reclamefilmpjes zie je mensen die de stap al hebben gezet, als pioniers in een pas ontgonnen landsdeel.
Voor de camera vertelt een jonge vrouw hoe ze moest slikken toen ze hoorde dat haar nieuwe standplaats niet een spannend buitenland was, maar Assen, in Drenthe. Dat Assen niet hip is. Dat ze 20 kilometer fietst naar haar werk, in een lange sliert met collega's, als was ze een middelbare scholier.
Volgende shot: een fietspad in de regen, alsof dit geen reclame is, maar een tragische speelfilm. Zo verkoopt Noord-Nederland zichzelf.
Nou kom ik hier vandaan - Groningse moeder, Friese vader, opgegroeid in een Drents dorp - dus ik begrijp het wel. Te veel eigenwaarde geldt in deze regio als sociale doodzonde, dus naar lokale maatstaven is dit spotje tamelijk wervend. Maar in de rest van Nederland denkt niemand met het vooruitzicht van 20 kilometer fietsen in de regen: goh, laten we verhuizen.
Muur van vooroordelenDe onderlinge verhoudingen zijn toch al gebarricadeerd met een muur van vooroordelen. 'Weet u of er ook winkels zijn in Assen?', vroeg een eerstejaarsstudente Media en Cultuur aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam mij laatst in de trein. Ze wilde sigaretten, maar wist niet of die wel te koop zijn in deze streken. Buiten flitsten vreemde stations voorbij. Mappel. O nee, M¨ppel. Hoogeveen. Beilen. 'Ik wist niet dat hier mensen woonden.'
De kloof tussen het Noorden en de Randstad, dat is in feite de kloof tussen platteland en stad. Kijk maar op de kaart: Noord-Nederland is (C)(C)n groot gebied met verhoudingsgewijs veel aaneengesloten platteland. De stad is hier bijna altijd ver weg, het contrast tussen leegte en bebouwing nog groot.
Niet toevallig koos Geert Mak het Friese dorp Jorwerd als decor voor zijn boek over het verdwijnen van het laatste Nederlandse platteland. In Hoe God verdween uit Jorwerd schrijft hij over het dedain waarmee stedelingen het buitengebied bezien: 'Het platteland is in hun ogen alleen nog iets negatiefs: het is niet-stad en niets anders.'
De verhouding tussen het Noorden en de rest van het land, dat is niet zelden ook het onderscheid tussen relatieve armoede en welvaart. De staaltjes van het Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek laten zien: hoe verschillend de drie provincies ook zijn, wat Noord-Nederland bindt, is dat er veel niet goed gaat. Het is te gemakkelijk om het Noorden over (C)(C)n kam te scheren: zo draait een universiteitsstad als Groningen in vergelijking tot de rest van Nederland prima cijfers. Maar in grote delen van de regio bungelen inkomens, opleidingsniveau, werkgelegenheid en huizenprijzen onderaan in de statistieken. Op de CBS-lijst 2014 van armste gemeenten is het Noorden koploper: de top-3 bestaat uit het Groningse Pekela en Stadskanaal, gevolgd door Achtkarspelen in Friesland.
Nergens is de afstand tussen het Noorden en de rest van Nederland zo groot als in Den Haag. 'Bent u gisteravond al vertrokken?' vroeg een woordvoerder op een ministerie mij eens toen ik me daar om tien uur 's ochtends vervoegde.
VerlatenDecennia is door het Rijk actief geprobeerd het Noorden op te stuwen in de vaart der volkeren. Het kabinet-Den Uyl begon overheidsdiensten te verplanten vanuit Den Haag naar de randen van Nederland. Zo kwam het hoofdkantoor van de PTT - nu KPN - naar de stad Groningen.
Weliswaar verzette PTT-personeel zich tot aan de bedrijfsarts tegen de verbanning (in het Noorden zouden ze psychisch ten onder gaan), maar dat hoofdkantoor houdt het in Groningen nu toch al een kwarteeuw vol: een markant gebouw achter het hoofdstation. Naast de universiteit uit 1614, de ziekenhuizen en de Gasunie is het een van de pijlers geworden onder de regionale werkgelegenheid.
De koers van de overheid is ondertussen ingrijpend gewijzigd. Een recente stapel ambtelijke rapporten ademt een nieuwe teneur: de regio laten leegbloeden ten faveure van grote steden. Waar het Rijk eerder de periferie opzocht, hergroepeert het nu weer in de Randstad. De bezuinigingen op overheidskantoren hakken er nergens zo in als in het Noorden. In Friesland dreigt bijna een kwart van de ambtenaren werkloos te raken, in Drenthe zelfs bijna de helft.
'Weilandlocaties' om te werken en te wonen zijn niet meer van deze tijd, staat glashard in het nieuwste rapport van het Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving, dat twee weken geleden verscheen. De toekomst van Nederland ligt in de stad. Het Noorden, met al dat platteland, blijft achter als een verlaten buitengewest.
Ru¯nesHet landschap is getekend door gefnuikte hoop. Het beroemdste voorbeeld is Blauwestad: een enorm, nieuw gegraven meer midden in de oude Graanrepubliek. Hier is in 2004 land in water veranderd, in een ultieme poging om welstandige Randstedelingen naar Oost-Groningen te halen.
Tien jaar na de oplevering klotst het meer in de herfstzon. De oevers zijn vrijwel leeg. Van de 1.480 kavels die hier zouden worden bebouwd, bleven er ongeveer 1.200 onverkocht. De rijke Amsterdammers die hier zouden neerstrijken, die kwamen niet. Een investering van ruim een half miljard euro in lucht en lege oevers.
Bij het Friese Sneek ligt een soortgelijke mislukking, maar daar bestond het meer al, dus dat valt minder op.
Ik rij terug naar de Groningse kust, waar behalve Oterdum ook de dorpen Weiwerd en Heveskes in de jaren zeventig grotendeels zijn platgegooid voor industrie die een illusie bleek. Het 13de-eeuwse kerkje van Heveskes, dat de sloophamer als enige heeft overleefd, kijkt uit op aluminiumfabriek Aldel, die hier met honderden banen decennia de motor was van de economie. Nu liggen de ovens weg te roesten. De aluminiumsmelterij, door Joop den Uyl ooit 'een trekpaard voor het Noorden' genoemd, is begin 2014 failliet gegaan.
Waar is de hoop gebleven? Zelfs als hier iets goed gaat - in september vestigde het Amerikaanse Google zich in de Eemshaven - schemert gelatenheid door. In de partytent die in de Groningse klei verrees ter ere van de komst van de internetgigant, zegt een PvdA-gedeputeerde dat hij er alles aan doet om het voor zijn inwoners goed te regelen. 'Ik wil dat ze zeggen: het is 'n dikke schietboudel, mor der wordt goud veur ons z¶rgd.'
'n Dikke schietboudel, dat is goed Gronings voor: een flinke ellende.
De afstand tot de rest van Nederland is extra voelbaar in de trein. De nieuwe spoorlijn naar het Noorden maakt boven Lelystad een vreemde haak. Niet rechtdoor via Zuidwest-Friesland, zoals de snelweg doet, maar met een langzame bocht naar het oosten, richting Zwolle, om vandaar verder te boemelen over het spoortrac(C) uit 1870. Gevolg: de reis van de Randstad naar Leeuwarden en Groningen duurt met het openbaar vervoer een half uur langer dan per auto, en vaak meer.
ZuiderzeelijnHet plan om de spoorlijn door te trekken langs de snelweg - de Zuiderzeelijn -is in 2007 afgeblazen. De nieuwe visie van het Rijk was hier al zichtbaar: het Noorden is leeg en zal dat blijven. Wel kwam er een zak troostgeld: 2,15 miljard euro als steun voor de noordelijke economie.
Een jaar later stroomden ook de eerste miljoenen van het Waddenfonds binnen: zo'n 30 miljoen per jaar, die grotendeels neerslaan in de noordelijke provincies. Begin dit jaar werd na intensieve lobby onder leiding van de Groningse commissaris van de koning Max van den Berg (PvdA) de nieuwste parel binnengehaald onder de noordelijke steunfondsen: een fonds tegen de gevolgen van gaswinning in Groningen. Daar zit nu 1,2 miljard euro in.
Terecht betaald, op zichzelf. Vlak bij Bedum, een Gronings dorp met een kerktoren die schever hangt dan die van Pisa, ontdekte ik een landweg vol ru¯nes: (C)(C)n boerderij is gesloopt wegens bevingsschade, bij de tweede zijn de muren doorgescheurd, de buren zitten met een ingestort dak en even verderop staat een huis na de zoveelste beving in de stutten. De aanblik is die van een straat in oorlog.
E(C)n aardbeving, daar komt een nuchtere noorderling overheen. Tien aardschokken doen iets met je psyche. In Noord-Groningen trilde de bodem inmiddels al meer dan duizend keer.
De veroorzaker, de Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij (NAM), noemde de bevingen jarenlang een 'evenement', alsof het iets leuks betreft. Ik sprak inwoners die door een aardschok 's nachts uit bed vielen, wakker liggen in afwachting van de volgende klap, daar overdag niet over praten omdat je over zoiets nu eenmaal zwijgt in deze streken en slechts (C)(C)n uitweg zien: verhuizen. Maar dat kan niet, want hun huis is onverkoopbaar. Zo bekeken is dat miljard compensatiegeld een fooi.
Maar zoals ontwikkelingsgeld in West-Afrika niet altijd op de juiste plaats belandt, zo geldt in Westeremden en omstreken helaas hetzelfde. In Groningen is onlangs de aftrap gegeven voor de aanleg van een nieuwe ringweg. Met daarbovenop een plantsoen. En ook nog ruimte voor 'wellicht een openluchtconcert'.
Nee, dit is geen grap. Gefinancierd met honderden miljoenen uit het Zuiderzeefonds, bijeengebracht door belastingbetalers uit heel Nederland. In een provincie waar de trein omrijdt en huizen in puin liggen.
Het aardbevingsfonds dient een duidelijk doel: huizen versterken, schade herstellen, voorkomen dat Groningen verder wegzakt in de periferie. Toch ontstaat nu al een tombola over de besteding, aan een vergaderinstituut dat de Dialoogtafel heet. Terwijl bestuurders, belangenorganisaties en de directie van de NAM elkaar over die tafel trekken, verstoft het geld in de kluis.
Fact of lifeNederland is te klein om een periferie in stand te houden, was indertijd een argument om het afblazen van de Zuiderzeelijn te compenseren. Maar geld pakt het wezenlijke probleem niet aan: twee landsdelen die niet weten hoe het verder moet.
Minister Kamp (Economische Zaken, VVD) hikte naar verluidt nogal aan tegen het betalen van een miljard aan Groningen voor een halve eeuw gaswinning. Maar voor een regio waar openlijk soms zo stroef gecommuniceerd wordt, is de stille diplomatie richting Den Haag soms opvallend geolied. De minister gaf zich gewonnen. Eind vorige maand bleek dat Kamp geen gekke deal had gesloten.
Op 30 september vond namelijk een aardbeving plaats die anders was dan de duizend vorige. Het epicentrum (2,8 op de schaal van Richter) lag ditmaal niet in het dunbevolkte buitengebied, maar vlak bij de stad Groningen.
De schadetelefoontjes en angstige verhalen kwamen nu niet van verlaten boerderijen, maar uit de oude binnenstad, het stadhuis en het Universitair Medisch Centrum, dat patinten trekt uit heel Nederland. Bevingen in deze dichtbevolkte stad zijn een groot veiligheidsrisico, had Staatstoezicht op de Mijnen al gewaarschuwd.
Advies: draai de gaskraan verder dicht.
Maar wat zegt Kamp na de aardschok in Groningen-stad? 'Ze zijn een fact of life', die bevingen. Nu hij ruim een miljard heeft overgemaakt, kan de minister het zich permitteren om zijn schouders op te halen. Later verklaart hij dat de woorden hem ontglipten. In de provincie weten ze beter. Zoals Ede Staal, de Groningse volkszanger, zong:
't Liekt zo mooi,dat laand mit aal zien kleuren,Ze stoanen in blui: 't is lila, roze en wit,As bie haarfstdag de luchtenzwoarder worden,Din gaait allineg nog om wat der onder zit
Maar Kamps nonchalance komt te vroeg. Als de beving wegebt, ontstaat in het Noorden iets wat grenst aan bestuurlijke euforie. Immers: hoe harder de klap, hoe zichtbaarder de gevolgen, des te groter de kans op meer compensatie. Twee miljard, oppert Max van den Berg. De nieuwe ringweg in Groningen, die met het plantsoen erop, moet nu bevingsbestendig worden. In Drenthe gaan stemmen op om ook tot het risicogebied te worden gerekend. Friesland had zich al gemeld: aardschokken stoppen niet bij de provinciegrens.
Gedrien zullen de provincies om geld vragen, veel geld. Zolang de kloof met de rest van Nederland niet kan worden gedicht, is dat het enige waar ze in het Noorden nog op hopen.
Nederland weigert boeterente op naheffing EU te betalen | Economie | de Volkskrant
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:33
Nederland weigert boeterente te betalen op de naheffing van Brussel. Dat zei minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem (Financin) vandaag in een debat in de Tweede Kamer. Nederland moet voor 1 december 642 miljoen euro overmaken aan Brussel.
Het onderwerp wordt vrijdag besproken tijdens de vergadering van de ministers van Financin van de 28 EU-landen.
DeadlineDijsselbloem beaamde dat de deadline van 1 december vaststaat. Als er niet op die datum is betaald, wordt er boeterente gerekend. 'Maar uiteraard gaan we die niet betalen. En dat kan op twee manieren: of we betalen op tijd, of we veranderen de betalingsregeling en dat laatste heeft onze voorkeur.'
Als de cijfers kloppen en de juiste procedures zijn gevolgd, dan kan Nederland niet anders dan betalen. Dijsselbloem noemde de kwestie dan ook meer een 'politiek dan een juridisch probleem'.
Betalen in termijnenDe minister zei dat Nederland de mogelijkheid wil hebben om in termijnen te betalen. 'Of we als Nederland daar gebruik van maken, is nog te zien', zei Dijsselbloem wel. Volgens hem is het niet doenlijk dat landen zoals Groot-Brittanni, dat een naheffing kreeg van 2 miljard euro, dergelijke grote bedragen in zeer korte tijd moeten betalen.
De Tweede Kamer wilde verder weten waarom de minister geen geld had gereserveerd voor de naheffing. Volgens de minister was het niet mogelijk om de hoogte van de naheffing vooraf te bepalen. 'We kennen de systematiek, maar of er een naheffing zou komen en in welke mate, dat kon ik niet weten. Dat zou een slag in de lucht zijn geweest.'
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F-Russia / Syria / ISIS
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All you need to know:
In 2009 … Assad refused to sign a
proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the
latter’s North field, contiguous with Iran’s South Pars field, through
Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply
European markets – albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad’s rationale
was “to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe’s
top supplier of natural gas.
Instead, the following year, Assad
pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with
Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to
supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July
2012 – just as Syria’s civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo –
and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction
of the gas pipelines. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a “direct
slap in the face” to Qatar’s plans.
First appeared: http://journal-neo.org/2014/11/01/us-destroying-syria-s-oil-infrastructure-under-guise-of-fighting-isis/
Omidyar-funded candidate takes seat in new Ukraine parliament | PandoDaily
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 02:51
By Mark AmesOn October 30, 2014
Ukraine just held its first post-revolution parliamentary elections, and amid all of the oligarchs, EU enthusiasts, neo-Nazis, nepotism babies, and death squad commanders, there is one newly-elected parliamentarian's name that stands out for her connection to Silicon Valley: Svitlana Zalishchuk, from the billionaire president's Poroshenko Bloc party.
Zalishchuk was given a choice spot on the president's party list, at number 18, ensuring her a seat in the new Rada. And she owes her rise to power to another oligarch besides Ukraine's president '-- Pierre Omidyar, whose funding with USAID helped topple the previous government. Zalishchuk's pro-Maidan revolution outfits were directly funded by Omidyar.
Earlier this year, Pando exposed how eBay billionaire and Intercept publisher Pierre Omidyar co-funded with USAID Zalishchuk's web of nongovernmental organizations '-- New Citizen, Chesno, Center UA. According to the Financial Times, New Citizen, which received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Omidyar, ''played a big role in getting the [Maidan] protest up and running'' in November 2013. Omidyar Network's website features Zalishchuk's photograph on its page describing its investment in New Citizen. Zalishchuk was brought into the NGOs by her longtime mentor, Oleh Rybachuk, a former deputy prime minster who led the last failed effort to integrate Ukraine into the EU and NATO.
Zalishchuk's photos also grace the Poroshenko Bloc's website and twitter feed, as she emerged as one of the presidential party's leading spokespersons. The Poroshenko Bloc is named after Ukraine's pro-Western president, Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire with a lock on Ukraine's confectionary industry, as well as owning a national TV station and other prized assets. He came to power this year thanks to the revolution originally organized by Zalishchuk's Omidyar-funded NGOs, and has rewarded her with a seat in the Rada.
The president's party tasked Zalushchik with publicly selling the highly controversial new ''lustration law'' '-- essentially a legalized witch-hunt law first proposed by the neo-fascist Svoboda Party earlier this year, and subsequently denounced by Ukraine's prosecutor general and by Human Rights Watch, which described a draft of the law as ''arbitrary and overly broad and fail(s) to respect human rights principles,'' warning it ''may set the stage for unlawful mass arbitrary political exclusion.''
The lustration law was passed under a wave of neo-Nazi violence, in which members of parliament and others set to be targeted for purges were forcibly thrown into trash dumps.
Zalishchuk, however, praised the lustration law, claiming that the legalized purges would ''give Ukraine a chance at a new life.''
Shortly before the elections, on October 17, Zalishchuk used her Omidyar-funded outfit, ''Chesno,'' to organize a roundtable with leaders of pro-EU and neo-fascist parties. It was called ''Parliament for Reform'' and it brought together leaders from eight parties, including Zalishchuk's ''Poroshenko Bloc'' (she served as both NGO organizer and as pro-Poroshenko party candidate), the prime minister's ''People's Party'' and leaders from two unabashedly neo-Nazi parties: Svoboda, and the Radical Party of Oleh Lyashko, who was denounced by Amnesty International for posting YouTube videos of himself interrogating naked and hooded pro-Russian separatist prisoners. Lyashko's campaign posters featured him impaling a caricatured Jewish oligarch on a Ukrainian trident.
Meanwhile, Zalishchuk's boss, President Petro Poroshenko, has led a bloody war against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country that left at least 3700 dead in a half year of fighting. Human Rights Watch recently accused Poroshenko's forces of ''indiscriminate'' use of cluster bombs in heavily populated areas, that ''may amount to war crimes.'' Poroshenko's forces include neo-Nazi death squads like the notoriousAzov battalion.
Last month, Poroshenko further cemented his ties to the extreme right by hailing Ukraine's wartime Nazi collaborators, the violently anti-Semitic UPA, as ''heroes.'' The fascist UPA participated in the Holocaust, and were responsible for killing tens of thousands of Jews and ethnic Poles in their bid to create an ethnically pure Ukraine. Many UPA members filled the ranks of the Nazi SS ''Galicia'' Division. The neo-Nazi Right Sektor, which spearheaded the violent later stages of the Maidan revolution, sees itself as the UPA's contemporary successors; Right Sektor's leader, Dmitry Yarosh, believes that any ''ethnic minority that prevents us from being masters in our own land'' is an ''enemy.'' Yarosh was just elected to the new parliament.
This latest twist in Omidyar Network's murky, contradictory or two-faced roles raises more disturbing questions about what the tech billionaire is up to. On the one hand, Omidyar plays the ''adversarial'' watchdog of the US National Security State, having privatized Snowden's NSA files, the largest national security secrets leak in history, for his startup publication The Intercept with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the only two people entrusted with the complete Snowden cache.
On the other hand, Omidyar and his wife have been among the most frequent visitors to the Obama White House, intermingling with members of his National Security Council and State Deptartment. Meanwhile, in just the past year Omidyar Network has co-funded Ukraine revolution groups in Ukraine with the US government, and directly financed far-right, pro-business political actors in both Ukraine and in India, where a former top figure in Omidyar Network, Jayant Sinha now serves in the ultranationalist BJP Party and as close advisor to its controversial far-right leader, Narendra Modi. Previously, Sinha had served in a powerful BJP Party think-tank, the India Foundation to elect Modi, while simultaneously working as head of Omidyar Network India Advisors, and serving on the five-member global Executive Committee of Omidyar Network.
This week, Omidyar Network's ''investment lead'' for Ukraine, Stephen King, accepted an award for Omidyar Network's role in a major new USAID-backed project, Global Impact Investing Network.
There is truly nothing like Omidyar's contradictory roles '-- fighting the empire, leaking the empire's secrets, while also working hand-in-glove with the empire's agencies to make the world more pliable to US government and corporate interests. Perhaps it reflects the multibillionaire's bizarre Howard Hughes-like schizophrenia; perhaps it's deliberate, a co-optation of the dissident activist wing. Perhaps there's no rhyme or reason, only the effects '-- an eerie silence from nearly the entire activist community when it comes to holding Omidyar or his many endeavors accountable.
[illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]
"Europe Is Under Threat By Russia" George Soros Warns The EU To Take Action, "Freedom Isn't Free" | Zero Hedge
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:12
Authored by Kevin O'Brien and Gabor Steingart, originally posted at Handelsblatt,
E.U. May Crack Over Ukraine, Soros Warns
The legendary Hungarian-American investor, George Soros, told Handelsblatt that the European Union and euro currency zone could unravel if member countries can't agree on a unified response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
The European Union and the euro could founder if its members don't stand together against Russia, George Soros said Tuesday in D¼sseldorf. Source: Frank Beer for Handelsblatt George Soros, one of the world's richest men and a tireless defender of Central European democracy, warned that the European Union, a mainstay of post-war stability, could dissolve and unravel if the 28-country bloc can't agree on a common response to Russia's aggression in the Ukraine.
Speaking on Tuesday in D¼sseldorf at a dinner sponsored by Handelsblatt, Mr. Soros, an 84-year-old Hungarian-American who survived the Holocaust and then fled the Soviets, said the future of the European alliance of nations stretching from Ireland to Estonia could hang in the balance.
Russia this year seized the Crimean peninsula from the Ukraine and is now arming and supporting a separatist movement in the eastern part of the country, an action which has been met with economic sanctions from the United States and the European Union.
The sanctions have hurt Russian and European trade, and have led to a slowdown of economic growth on the Continent. In Germany, some business and political leaders are now calling on political leaders to abandon the E.U. sanctions.
In other parts of Europe, the call is growing louder for a softer line with Russia.
''I think the real question is whether the European Union will break up over Russia," Mr. Soros told 400 people at a dinner held in a D¼sseldorf museum by the German financial publishing group. ''The E.U. is under threat from Russia... The E.U. is broken, and it is not functioning."
Mr. Soros, a legendary investor and hedge fund manager whom Forbes estimates is worth $24 billion, warned of an E.U. breakup and a breakup of the euro single currency zone, which includes 18 E.U. countries, including Germany.
In an interview with Gabor Steingart, the Handelsblatt publisher and the son of a Hungarian emigrant to Germany, Mr. Soros urged Europeans to stand together against Russia, which he said is bent on reasserting its military hegemony over parts of the Continent.
''Wake up Europe," said Mr. Soros, who had just returned from a visit to Ukraine. ''There is now an alternative to the European Union, a different way to run a state through use of force. I'm talking about (Vladimir) Putin's Russia. The reason he is making headway is because of the failure of the E.U."
The son of Jewish parents in Budapest, Mr. Soros survived the Nazi occupation and left the Hungarian capital and Soviet control in 1947 as a 17-year-old for Britain, where he attended the London School of Economics before emigrating to the United States.
Western economic sanctions against Russia, which are limiting the ability of Russian businesses to obtain financing on the global market, are a necessary evil, Mr. Soros said. He lauded the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, for supporting the E.U. penalties.
''I think Angela Merkel has proven herself to be a true European stateswoman in recognizing the danger that Putin represents," Mr. Soros said.
The sanctions, however, are helping Russian hardliners close to President Putin consolidate power and influence in the Kremlin, which in turn is sharpening and stiffening Russia's response to Western penalties, he said. Some oligarchs unhappy with the worsening situation are sending their families abroad and preparing for their own exits, he said.
In many cases, though, any assets they leave behind are being taken over by Russian hardliners, which is worsening the spiral of recrimination with the West, Mr. Soros said.
''The sanctions are an evil but they are a necessary evil and are having the very bad effect in Russia of actively strengthening Putin's role," Mr. Soros said. ''There is taking place a concentration of his closest allies." Sentiment in Germany is split over E.U. sanctions against Russia.
In a new book released this month, the former German chancellor, Helmut Kohl, who oversaw his country's reunification 25 years ago and negotiated the withdrawal of Russian forces, takes aim at Ms. Merkel and European leaders for policies he said are isolating Russia.
Mr. Soros, however, said Europe needed to redouble its hard line against Russia, and said that U.S. President Barack Obama's failure to take a strong immediate response to Russia's seizure of Ukraine territory only emboldened Vladimir Putin, who could conceivably transfer his designs from Ukraine to the Baltic countries, which are now E.U. members.
"Freedom sounds like a free good, but you have to be ready to defend it," Mr. Soros said. ''If you don't put up resistance, it will become too hot to handle."
Pro-European Ukrainians are ''fighting to defend Europe and the Europeans don't realize it,'' Mr. Soros said. Moving on to economic issues, Mr. Soros faulted Germany for doing too little to restore euro zone stability. He said the inflation-fighting mandate of the European Central Bank, which is based in Frankfurt, is no longer appropriate when deflation, not inflation, is the real threat.
The ECB is controlled by Germany, the zone's largest economy and toughest enforcer of austerity demands on weaker euro countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy, Mr. Soros said. Referring to the ECB president, Mario Draghi, Mr. Soros said: ''Draghi can do whatever it takes (to save the euro) as long as he has the support of Angela Merkel," Mr. Soros said. ''The ECB is independent as long as it has support from Germany."
German demands for austerity are wrong-headed, he said, and only serve to impede the euro zone's recovery.
"The policy of austerity is inappropriate to the current conditions," Mr. Soros said. "We are in a situation of deflation and the policies are directed at inflation."
Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 1.1(27 votes)
Russia simulated an attack on Denmark - Europe's News in English
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 19:44
The Local | 31 Oct 2014, 12:02
The Danish Defence Intelligence Service has released its new long-term risk assessment which reveals that Russia carried out a "a more offensive" military exercise aimed at a heavily-populated target.
Russia carried out a simulated attack on the Danish island of Bornholm over the summer at the precise time that the island was occupied by countless politicians and journalists for the annual political meeting Folkem¸det.
The revelation was made by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste - DDIS) in its national risk assessment released on Thursday.
According to DDIS, Russian military jets equipped with live missiles flew at a low altitude toward Bornholm before breaking off the route and turning back around.
The military exercise took place in June at the same time that around 90,000 guests visited the island for Folkem¸det, a 'political festival' that gathers politicians, journalists, activists and over 600 different organisations for four days of events.
DDIS did not release concrete details about the simulated attack but characterised it as the largest Russian military exercise over the Baltic Sea since 1991 and ''of a more offensive character than observed in recent years''.
DDI's Risk Assessment 2014, which can be read in its entirety using the link below, strongly focuses on Russia and the Ukraine crisis, predicting that ''over the next few years, the situation in eastern Ukraine will highly likely turn into a new frozen European conflict, and the Ukraine crisis will continue to strain relations between Russia and the West.''
''Russia will continue to give high priority to the modernization of its armed forces with the emphasis on developing forces capable of conducting offensive operations along Russia's periphery,'' the report continues.
Denmark, Sweden and Germany have all scrambled military jets in recent days to face Russian planes and Sweden spent a week searching in vain for what was believed to be a Russian submarine near Stockholm.
DDIS stressed however that it does not anticipate a looming military conflict with Russia.
''Even though Russia has increased its military activities in Denmark's vicinity and Russian aircraft have occasionally flown offensive flight patterns in Denmark's vicinity, there are no indications that Russia constitutes an increased direct military threat to Danish territory,'' the report reads.
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Russians tear down Steve Jobs monument because Tim Cook is gay - The Globe and Mail
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:57
A memorial to Apple Inc founder Steve Jobs has been dismantled in the Russian city of St Petersburg after the man who succeeded him at the helm of the company, Tim Cook, came out as gay.
The two-meter high monument, in the shape of an iPhone, was erected outside a St Petersburg college in January 2013 by a Russian group of companies called ZEFS.
Reuters Oct. 31 2014, 6:18 AM EDT
More Related to this StoryCiting the need to abide by a law combating ''gay propaganda,'' ZEFS said in a statement on Monday that the memorial had been removed on Friday '' the day after Apple CEO Cook had announced he was homosexual.
''In Russia, gay propaganda and other sexual perversions among minors are prohibited by law,'' ZEFS said, noting that the memorial had been ''in an area of direct access for young students and scholars.''
''After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly called for sodomy, the monument was taken down to abide to the Russian federal law protecting children from information promoting denial of traditional family values.''
Promoting ''traditional values,'' President Vladimir Putin last year signed a law prohibiting the spread of ''gay propaganda'' among minors.
Putin says there is no discrimination against gay people in Russia and the law was needed only to protect young people, although members of the gay community say its passage has increased problems for them.
ZEFS '' or West European Financial Union '' groups companies offering a range of products and services in areas such as real estate, construction, advertising and microfinancing.
Cook said he had decided to come out to help move forward civil rights, confirming a fact that had been widely known in the Silicon Valley tech community but was rarely discussed.
Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, was not gay.
Vitaly Milonov, a St Petersburg legislator who has campaigned against gay rights and was among legislators behind the law signed by Putin, has called for Apple's CEO to be barred entrance to Russia, Russia media have reported.
Maxim Dolgopolov, the head of ZEFS who ordered the removal of the monument, expressed opposition to personal sanctions in Monday's statement, but supported the ''protection of traditional values'' by law.
''Sin should not become the norm. There is nothing to do in Russia for whose who intend to violate our laws,'' he said.
The ''gay propaganda'' law caused outrage and protests in the West, particularly in the run-up to the Winter Olympics hosted by Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in February.
Follow us on Twitter: @GlobeTechnology
Caliphate!
Saudi Stocks, Currency Tumble As Aramco Pipeline Explodes; ISIS Sabotage Concerns
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:15
UPDATE: Nothing to see here, move along...
ARABIAN SECURITY SOURCE SAYS FIRE OCCURRED IN AN OIL PIPELINE, NOT TERRORIST ATTACK.FIRE BROKE OUT DURING REPAIERS, NOW UNDER CONTROL* * *
It appears Saudi markets are back in play. As Bloomberg's Richard Breslow noted this morning, Riyal forwards have jerked notably higher (implying weakness expected) and the Tadawul All Share Index has dropped 7% in the last 2 days after the killing of Shi'ites by unknown parties and now news that a pipeline has exploded. As Breslow warns, "if that indeed signifies the spread of Islamic State into Saudi Arabia, it would be the first time they crossed Saudi borders. That would be a big deal and a major escalation of problems over in that part of the world, far beyond what it would do to capital markets."
Yesterday there were attacks on Shi'ites (as Reuters reported)
Saudi security forces on Tuesday shot dead a member of an armed group that killed five people in an overnight attack on Shi'ite Muslims marking an important religious anniversary, al-Arabiya television reported.
The late Monday assault on a Shi'ite gathering in al-Ahsa district is likely to test already strained relations between Sunnis and Shi'ites across the Middle East because it coincided with the annual Ashoura commemoration of Shi'ite Islam.
The Dubai-based al-Arabiya said security forces who had been hunting suspects in the al-Ahsa attack clashed with and killed "a wanted man" at a rest area in the al-Qassim province, north-west of the capital Riyadh.
... and today, what is allegedly an Aramco pipeline, just exploded near the town of Sudair, south of Riyadh.
* * *
The Region:
* * *
Has sent stocks and the currency reeling.
And sparked a $2 surge in WTI crude
* * *
* * *
It would appear the Saudis might need US 'protection' after all.. how convenient as they continue their attacks on the US Shale industry.
As OilPro adds, two other discussions are going around trading desks:
This is a way to get oil prices to go back up without the Saudis appearing to give in and defend price by voluntarily cutting supply. A pipeline explosion will automatically decrease production.The US Elections are over, time for prices at the pump to go back up now. This plays on the long-tenured theory that gasoline prices tend to be lowest right before elections as the incumbent party leverages their power to please the masses.
Saudi forces kill suspect in attack on Shi'ites marking Ashoura | Reuters
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:15
DUBAITue Nov 4, 2014 10:31am EST
DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi security forces on Tuesday shot dead a member of an armed group that killed five people in an overnight attack on Shi'ite Muslims marking an important religious anniversary, al-Arabiya television reported.
The late Monday assault on a Shi'ite gathering in al-Ahsa district is likely to test already strained relations between Sunnis and Shi'ites across the Middle East because it coincided with the annual Ashoura commemoration of Shi'ite Islam.
The Dubai-based al-Arabiya said security forces who had been hunting suspects in the al-Ahsa attack clashed with and killed "a wanted man" at a rest area in the al-Qassim province, north-west of the capital Riyadh.
A member of the kingdom's emergency forces also died in the clashes, it said.
A Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman earlier said that six people had been arrested in connection with the attack in al-Dalwah village.
"As a group of citizens was leaving a building ... three masked men opened fire at them with machine guns and pistols," the spokesman was cited as saying by state news agency SPA.
VICTIMS MOSTLY YOUNG MEN
Al-Ahsa is one of Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia's main centers of minority Shi'ites, who in common with co-religionists around the world are marking Ashoura, a holy day commemorating the death of Prophet Mohammad's grandson Imam Hussein with public ceremonies and processions.
In Riyadh, an official council of top Sunni Muslim scholars condemned the attack as a "vicious assault and a heinous crime whose perpetrators deserve the harshest religious penalties."
There are conflicts that are sectarian or have sectarian undertones in countries across the Middle East, including Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Iraq.
In Saudi Arabia, seen as the birthplace of Islam, Shi'ism has been regularly decried as heretical in sermons and religious broadcasts. Deep-seated suspicion of Shi'ite power Iran across the Middle East has also fueled animosity.
Since capturing the world's attention this year with a flash assault on Iraq, ultra hardline Sunni militants Islamic State have persecuted religious minorities including Shi'ites, who they believe are infidels who deserve to be killed.
On a Facebook page calling itself "The Revolutionary Movement of Qatif," activists posted a video of a young boy in hospital with a bandaged foot describing the attack with a limp voice. Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
"The prayer had finished. Me, Mahdi, Mohammed and Amer were leaving. We saw him carrying a gun and coming from the side road. Then he shot at Mohammed, Hassan, then me and Mahdi. Then there was more shooting. It finished and later they showed me the shell casings," he said.
An onlooker said: "May God heal you."
Qatif, another center of the Saudi Shi'ite minority alongside Al-Ahsa, has been the focal point of anti-government demonstrations in support of Shi'ites.
ALLEGED DISCRIMINATION
A local rights activist said that the victims were mostly young men who were standing at the entrance of a local gathering place, known as a Huseiniya, where the commemorative ceremony was taking place.
"It seems the criminals were in a hurry and opened fire on youngsters at the entrance and fled," Ali al-Bahrani, a local rights activist, told Reuters by telephone.
A local online newspaper, www.hasanews.com/, earlier reported that six people were killed and 12 were wounded, some seriously, in what it called a "terrorist attack" on the ceremonies in the village.
Shi'ites say they face discrimination in seeking educational opportunities or government employment in the majority Sunni state and that they are referred to disparagingly in text books and by some officials and state-funded clerics.
They also complain of curbs on setting up places of worship and marking Shi'ite holidays, and say Qatif and al-Ahsa receive less state funding than Sunni communities of equivalent size.
The Saudi government denies allegations of discrimination.
(Reporting by Mostafa Hashem in Cairo; Writing by William Maclean and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Noah Browning and Raissa Kasolowsky)
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Saudi Aramco in the spotlight '-- Pipelines International '-- The international pipeline magazine
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:34
History
The beginnings of the company now known as Saudi Aramco can be traced back to 1933 when Saudi Arabia granted an oil concession to California Arabian Standard Oil Company. This allowed the company to begin prospecting for oil on Saudi Arabia's east coast.
In 1944, the company changed its name to Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco), with Standard Oil of New Jersey and Socony-Vaccum Oil (both now ExxonMobil) joining Standard Oil of California and Texaco (both now Chevron) as owners four years later. In 1973 and 1980, the Saudi Arabian Government acquired 25 per cent and then 100 per cent interest in Aramco, respectively, and finally, in 1988, Saudi Arabian Oil Company '' or Saudi Aramco '' was established.
Saudi Aramco and its predecessors have been a major part of Saudi Arabia's oil and gas history with discoveries including the country's first commercial oil field at Dhahran, as well as the Safaniya and Ghawar oil fields '' and the company continues to be a major industry player today.
Article continues below'...Saudi Aramco today
The 20,000 km plus expansion of Saudi Aramco's pipeline network, and the increase of urban development next to major pipeline corridors, has seen the company move from a time-based maintenance approach to a condition-based approach.
Saudi Aramco Pipeline Department General Manager Muhammad Ali Al-Trabulsi says ''This shift in pipelines maintenance strategy led to the introduction of a risk-driven pipeline integrity management programme, which provides a continuous systematic analytical process to maintain pipeline integrity through effective risk assessment and data management. A computerised pipeline integrity management system (PIMS) is being implemented, which takes into account many factors that contribute to the risk of pipeline failure.''
Mr Al-Trabulsi says that the PIMS is expected to provide risk assessment results where major contributing factors to each risk are identified, along with the associated consequences of each risk. In addition, the system features integrity plans and assessment, data loading and alignment of management of change (MOC), and some reporting and queries.
The company also expanded its process equipment significantly from 2001''09 to support the pipeline integrity programmes of the newly installed infrastructure.
''State-of-the-art equipment was added to help in providing leading indicators for the pipeline network.''
The equipment includes remote online corrosion monitoring systems, an online pipeline monitoring system, and automation and integrity systems, inclusive of mapping and crack detection ILI tools and risk assessment applications.
Saudi Aramco sees pipeline safety as very important.
''The major gains in safety are to be made in the field of pipelines protection. Effective means to manage damage will enhance pipeline operations the most,'' says Mr Al-Trabulsi.
Innovation
Mr Al-Trabulsi says ''In the last ten years, Saudi Aramco has been considered a pioneer in deploying leading technologies to facilitate operations safety and to enhance the effectiveness of rehabilitation projects.''
He says that an example of this has been the company's use of the electro-magnetic acoustic transducer (EMAT) in-line inspection (ILI) tool, and a leak-detection system.
''EMAT was pioneered by Saudi Aramco in 2006 by successfully conducting the first pilot test. This technology has proven proactively to detect stress corrosion cracking and coating disbondment. As a result Saudi Aramco deployed this technology in 2008,'' Mr Al-Trabulsi says.
''In addition, since 1981 Saudi Aramco has implemented in-house leak-detection functionalities on SCADA systems and studied their real-life performance.
''In the last 10 years, Saudi Aramco has developed real-time solutions for pipeline LDS that work on various communication platforms, pipeline products and operating conditions, ranging from sour gas, NGL, to cross-country large capacity crude oil pipelines.''
The Saudi Aramco pipelines' real-time data acquisition platform '-- featured with high-accuracy built-in synchronisation '-- allows the seamless deployment of various types of leak-detection functionalities, achieving fast detection time and accurate leak location. This platform is integrated with the geographical information system (GIS) for pinpointing pipeline leaks and related alarms on maps featured with GPS coordinates at sub-meter accuracy. Saudi Aramco has also contributed to the industry by developing safe test methods and test systems for commissioning leak-detection systems.
In addition, Saudi Aramco says that the company has developed unique implementation methods for leak detection on complex pipeline networks. These are based on quantitative risk assessment methods and specific performance parameters.
R&D into the future
Saudi Aramco plans to construct approximately 1,400 km of new pipelines to aid the existing network, accommodating the planned increase of production and supply to local industries and worldwide customers.
In order to support its growing network of pipelines, the company's Pipeline Department has an in-house technology co-ordination team in charge of facilitating technology deployment, and innovative solutions.
''Through its research and development facilities, Saudi Aramco continues to explore the benefits of improving the efficiency of upstream and downstream operations and processes,'' says Mr Al-Trabulsi.
''These efforts are growing to address the top challenges we are facing in pipelines.''
Research fields being undertaken by the company include:
Bacteria control in pipelines;Corrosion monitoring;Utilising robotics;Structural integrity; and,Black powder mitigation and removal.In particular, Mr Al-Trabulsi says that Saudi Aramco's research on black powder has attracted international interest in defining and finding practical solutions for the problem.
Other challenges that the company has identified as potential areas of improvement include:
Design criteria to address safety, considering the increase of urban development;Construction practices that narrow the chance of project-related difficulties, such as welding defects, weather impacts on the project schedule, and commissioning;Corrosion monitoring and control, bacteria growth, low-flow corrosion, and water content or products off-spec impacting pipeline steel;Defect-free coating systems, especially for harsh environments, such as high water table and thrust-boring work;Material specifications that consider crack resistance;Cathodic protection monitoring; and,Deployment of state-of-the-art ILI technologies for non-piggable pipelines.Mr Al-Trabulsi says ''We have started exploring solutions to these challenges, and believe that sharing knowledge is a key to success, and therefore a group of Saudi Aramco professionals are always available at international pipeline events.''
Image caption: On 20 May 2008, Saudi Aramco celebrated its 75th anniversary with a visit from King Abdullah; and, The Shaybah Oil Field.
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Saudi Stocks, Currency Tumble As Aramco Pipeline Explodes; ISIS Sabotage Concerns | Zero Hedge
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 16:33
It appears Saudi markets are back in play. As Bloomberg's Richard Breslow noted this morning, Riyal forwards have jerked notably higher (implying weakness expected) and the Tadawul All Share Index has dropped 7% in the last 2 days after the killing of Shi'ites by unknown parties and now news that a pipeline has exploded. As Breslow warns, "if that indeed signifies the spread of Islamic State into Saudi Arabia, it would be the first time they crossed Saudi borders. That would be a big deal and a major escalation of problems over in that part of the world, far beyond what it would do to capital markets."
Yesterday there were attacks on Shi'ites (as Reuters reported)
Saudi security forces on Tuesday shot dead a member of an armed group that killed five people in an overnight attack on Shi'ite Muslims marking an important religious anniversary, al-Arabiya television reported.
The late Monday assault on a Shi'ite gathering in al-Ahsa district is likely to test already strained relations between Sunnis and Shi'ites across the Middle East because it coincided with the annual Ashoura commemoration of Shi'ite Islam.
The Dubai-based al-Arabiya said security forces who had been hunting suspects in the al-Ahsa attack clashed with and killed "a wanted man" at a rest area in the al-Qassim province, north-west of the capital Riyadh.
... and today, what is allegedly an Aramco pipeline, just exploded near the town of Sudair, south of Riyadh.
* * *
The Region:
* * *
Has sent stocks and the currency reeling.
And sparked a $2 surge in WTI crude
* * *
* * *
It would appear the Saudis might need US 'protection' after all.. how convenient as they continue their attacks on the US Shale industry.
As OilPro adds, two other discussions are going around trading desks:
This is a way to get oil prices to go back up without the Saudis appearing to give in and defend price by voluntarily cutting supply. A pipeline explosion will automatically decrease production.The US Elections are over, time for prices at the pump to go back up now. This plays on the long-tenured theory that gasoline prices tend to be lowest right before elections as the incumbent party leverages their power to please the masses.Average:Your rating: NoneAverage: 4.2(5 votes)
Islamic State oil output was $2 million/day before air strikes: IHS | Reuters
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:55
WASHINGTONMon Oct 20, 2014 12:46pm EDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Islamic State militants were producing about $2 million worth of crude oil per day in Iraq and Syria before recent U.S.-led air strikes, possibly more than double the amount heard in U.S. congressional testimony last month, the research firm IHS said on Monday.
The group of Sunni extremists controlled as much as 350,000 barrels per day of crude oil, but was able to produce only about 50,000 bpd to 60,000 bpd, said IHS, a provider of global market and economic information.
"This fraction of pre-war capacity is the result of warfare, shut-ins and (Islamic State's) limited technical prowess operating the fields," IHS said in a paper called "Spoils of War: Who's in charge of what oil resources in the conflict zones of northern Iraq and Syria."
U.S.-led air strikes in September hit Islamic State oil refineries in eastern Syria as Washington and its partners aim to choke off an important source of revenues for the militant group.
Similar air strikes hit a modular oil refinery near Deir al-Zor, south of Kobani, Syria, the U.S. military said last week.
IHS said some of the militants' capacity to produce oil has almost certainly been disrupted by the air strikes, but it was too soon to tell how much.
Last month, Nicholas Rasmussen, deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, testified to Congress that the Islamic State's war chest probably included about $1 million a day in revenues from black-market oil sales as well as smuggling, robberies, and ransom payments for hostages.
Most of the oil sold by the militant group on the black market is moved via trucks along smuggling routes on the Turkish border, IHS said. It is sold at a steep discount, ranging between $25 to $60 a barrel, compared with about $85 per barrel for international benchmark Brent oil.
IHS said it is unclear after the U.S.-led air strikes whether Islamic State has enough refining capacity, which consists mostly of simple mobile plants that can be loaded and transported by truck, to meet its own needs.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Gunna Dickson)
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US Destroying Syria's Oil Infrastructure Under Guise of Fighting ISIS | New Eastern Outlook
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:53
The US is considering bombing pipelines in Syria, which it claims is in an attempt to cut off the huge profits being made by ISIS from captured oilfields.
The Independent quotes Julieta Valls Noyes, the deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs during a visit to London, that ISIS was making $2 million a day off oil sales and that the US would consider airstrikes as well as ''kinetic strikes against some pipelines'' and ''actual physical action to stop the flow''.
The trouble with this justification for destroying Syria's oil pipelines, is that ISIS does not have the capability to use the pipelines to transfer oil. ISIS transports the stolen oil on the back of trucks, and sells it on the black market in Turkey.
This is admitted in the same Independent article that quoted Ms. Noyes.
The Independent claims:
Isis has sold some of the fuel from seized facilities back to the Damascus regime through local deals, while shipments had been sent into Turkey for the black market, with the Erdogan government accused of turning a blind eye to the illicit transactions.
If the US truly intended to stop ISIS oil profits, they would bomb these oil convoys, which are easily spotted via conventional surveillance flights already allegedly taking place as part of ongoing Western operations. The US agenda behind destroying Syria's pipelines has very little to do with ISIS oil profits, and far more to do with destroying Syria's oil infrastructure.In fact, the statistic that ISIS is making 2 million dollars a day from the sale of crude oil is an estimate from a single consulting company (IHS) based in Colorado in the United States. The US administration is choosing to quote this as if it were without a shred of doubt. It's far more likely that the scale of the profits has been overblown to deflect from the fact that ISIS is receiving funding from state actors such as Turkey, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states, while at the same time providing an excuse to target Syrian infrastructure.
Earlier last month the US-led airstrikes on Syria and Iraq supposedly destroyed small oil refineries in Raqqa. No effort was made to prove whether or not ISIS was in fact capable of using Syria's oil refineries. In fact the same consulting company which the US administration is quoting about ISIS oil profits (IHS), states that ISIS is selling unrefined crude oil. The IHS adds the caveat that this estimate was made before 'US airstrikes' eluding to the notion that US airstrikes have had an effect on ISIS oil profits. However, the Britain based pro-insurgency Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which was the West establishment-run media's most reliable source years into the Syrian crisis, said that the oil refineries were not real targets and were not being used by ISIS.
Reuters would report:
These so-called refineries are not a real target and they do not weaken the Islamic State as they do not have any financial value for them,'' Rami Abdel Rahman of the Observatory told Reuters. ''They are composed of trucks with equipment to separate diesel and petrol used by civilians.
Syria's two main oil refineries are known to be in Homs and Banyas, not anywhere near Raqqa. The US Declaration that they are destroying ISIS makeshift refineries, is all smoke and mirrors, and will probably be used as a justification to destroy more of Syria's infrastructure in future.
The destruction of Syria's oil infrastructure would also open the door for US and UK oil companies to win contracts to rebuild it, paid for in debt, by the Syrian state. Foreign companies running Syria's oil and gas production would prevent Syria from nationalising their own resources and becoming an independent prosperous country. This would result in the basic enslavement of the country while mitigating the threat it poses to US client states including Israel, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
Pipe Dreams
There is more to the US objectives than profiting off of Syria's oil. The US also seeks to control the flow of oil and its sale to other nations, which is a far more important in achieving global hegemony. Their objective may also have more to do with Iran and Russia's gas reserves than it does Syria's oil.
The Guardian claims:
In 2009 '... Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter's North field, contiguous with Iran's South Pars field, through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey, with a view to supply European markets '' albeit crucially bypassing Russia. Assad's rationale was ''to protect the interests of [his] Russian ally, which is Europe's top supplier of natural gas.
Instead, the following year, Assad pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria, that would also potentially allow Iran to supply gas to Europe from its South Pars field shared with Qatar. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the project was signed in July 2012 '' just as Syria's civil war was spreading to Damascus and Aleppo '' and earlier this year Iraq signed a framework agreement for construction of the gas pipelines. The Iran-Iraq-Syria pipeline plan was a ''direct slap in the face'' to Qatar's plans.
The planned Iran-Iraq-Syria Pipeline running through Syria's coast and into the Mediterranean along which Russia has a presence, would allow Russian control over the tap and flow of Iran's gas, mitigating rivalry between the countries.
Qatar's interest in funding the insurrection, was to overthrow Syria and install a pliable opposition that would sign Qatar's pipeline agreement. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan also had a vested interest in this plan. This suited the US objective of undercutting and weakening Russian influence over Europe.
However they also have an alternative plan for doing so. The planned Nabbaco Pipeline, running from Iran to Turkey to Europe, would directly set Iranian gas against Russian gas. Furthermore, in the absence of the successful overthrow of the Syrian government, the US has settled for destroying what it cannot control. Perpetual war and the destruction of pipelines would prevent or at least delay any possible pipeline agreement in future.
With mainstream media headlines like ''US bombing ISIS pipelines'' it's easy to forget that the Pipelines and refineries the US is planning to bomb do not belong to ISIS, but to the Syrian people.
Maram Susli also known as ''Syrian Girl,'' is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics. especially for the online magazine''New Eastern Outlook''
Agenda 21
About The Elders | The Elders
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:15
The Elders represent an independent voice, not bound by the interests of any nation, government or institution.
They are committed to promoting the shared interests of humanity, and the universal human rights we all share.
They believe that in any conflict, it is important to listen to everyone - no matter how unpalatable or unpopular this may be.
They aim to act boldly, speaking difficult truths and tackling taboos.
They don't claim to have all the answers, and stress that every individual can make a difference and create positive change in their society.
Europe's climate deal is a huge achievement; it's time for the rest of the world to match it | The Elders
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:17
When I met with my European Commission colleagues at the height of the sovereign debt crisis and told them that the EU needed new, ambitious climate goals for 2030 already now, they could have been forgiven for thinking their Climate Commissioner was being a little unrealistic. But in January this year, they gave their full support.
And last week, European leaders agreed a set of climate and energy targets for 2030 that are in line with what the Commission proposed earlier this year. The timing could not be better. This week the International Panel on Climate Change are meeting in Copenhagen to finalise the Synthesis Report of the Fifth Assessment Report, which provides policymakers with a comprehensive assessment of the risks of climate change.
So, just as the scientists are showing why we must act, European leaders have shown how we can do it. The 2030 framework sends a strong message to the rest of the world, and shows that agreeing a global deal on climate change at the UN conference in Paris next year is possible.
Why? Firstly, because the framework agreed by EU leaders is ambitious. It includes a binding target for the EU to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40 per cent.
To put this in context: in 2007 we agreed a 20 per cent greenhouse gas target for 2020. Now we have doubled that target. And what is more, all the effort will be domestic, no longer allowing the EU to meet its emissions targets by financing projects abroad. Meeting this target will be no easy task; it will require a major transformation in all parts of the society with states, regions, municipalities, businesses, investors and citizens all taking part in the effort.
The 'at least 40 per cent' also puts us on a cost-efficient track to meet our 2050 goal of cutting emissions between 80 per cent and 95 per cent, which is what the EU will need to contribute to keep global warming below 2°C.
The framework also includes targets for increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency by at least 27 per cent. Even though the Commission wanted more ambition on energy efficiency, these targets are still a considerable step forward, and will help drive Europe's energy transformation.
Moreover, with the 2030 decision, we have proved that diverse national circumstances do not have to be an obstacle to agreeing a common climate goal. Some EU countries like Germany have already embarked on a renewable energy revolution while others like Poland are still much more dependent on fossil fuels for their energy needs.
That's why wealthier EU countries will continue to help others with their low carbon transitions through different solidarity mechanisms. Crucially, however, all countries will make a contribution to reaching the 40 per cent goal. If Europe can strike this balance, perhaps the world can too.
And finally, Europe has shown that it is possible to agree a deal on climate change even in a challenging economic climate. I have always said that we will never solve the economic and social crises unless we also tackle the climate crisis, and European leaders showed last week they understand this.
Just look at the facts. Currently, the EU spends '‚¬1 billion every day on importing polluting fossil fuels; and paid a total '‚¬140 billion last year to Putin's Russia. Without climate policies, we could be spending an extra 3 per cent of GDP in 2050.
The 2030 package will help us reduce our dependence on imported fuels and lower the import bill. It will also open up new economic opportunities for Europe in green industries, showing to other nations that tackling climate change and economic growth go hand in hand.
The message for the rest of the world then is clear. Europe has done its homework, and put the first ambitious commitment on the table to help reach a global deal on climate change at the UN Conference in Paris next year.
Other countries, including the United States and China, have already taken encouraging steps themselves. However, now is the time for concrete commitments that match the ambition that Europe has shown. So President Obama and President Xi: the EU has started the path to Paris, now the ball is in your court.
Connie Hedegaardwas the EU's first-ever EU Commissioner for Climate Action, serving from 2010-2014, and former Danish Minister for the Environment.
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.
SnowJob
NSA Chief Bet Money on AT&T as It Spied on You - The Daily Beast
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:29
Dark Money11.03.14
The former head of the world's biggest spy agency didn't just oversee the collection of billions of AT&T records. He also tried to make money off its customers.
At the same time Gen. Keith Alexander was running the National Security Agency, the United States' biggest spying outfit, he was also trading stocks in an obscure technology company that had a sweetheart deal with one of the NSA's most important sources of intelligence'--the global phone and Internet giant AT&T.
In 2008, Alexander bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars in stock in a company called Synchronoss Technologies Inc., based in Bridgewater Township, N.J., according to the retired Army general's financial-disclosure forms. You've probably never heard of Synchronoss, but, like the NSA, it probably knows who you are. If you've ever activated a new iPhone or synced your personal information across multiple devices'--such as your phone, and your home and office computer'--there's a chance that Synchronoss's technology helped make it happen. The company's customers are some of the largest telecommunications service providers in the world'--including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner Cable'--along with their more than 3 billion mobile subscribers.
Back when Alexander was an investor, Synchronoss was providing the technology that activated and ''locked'' all new Apple iPhones onto AT&T's network. The carrier was then the exclusive voice and data service provider for the popular new iPhone, so Alexander stood to profit every time someone bought an iPhone and automatically became an AT&T customer.
The NSA also had its own special relationship with AT&T. Under secret court orders, the agency was then hoovering up the phone records of AT&T's subscribers and pouring them into a database of who called whom in the United States, stretching back several years. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the NSA also had secretly installed communications surveillance equipment in some of AT&T's offices, under orders from President George W. Bush. AT&T is arguably the most important source of communications for the NSA's eavesdroppers because the company owns and operates a huge portion of the United States mobile, landline, and Internet infrastructure.
The deal between AT&T and Synchronoss wasn't a secret, but Alexander's financial stake in it was. The NSA only handed over his financial-disclosure forms showing that he was an investor in October, following a lawsuit by investigative journalist Jason Leopold. The agency initially had claimed that revealing any of Alexander's investments could jeopardize national security.
A government ethics officer reviewed Alexander's stock portfolio, which included shares in other tech companies as well as ordinary mutual funds, and certified that his ''financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist.'' But there's no indication of what supporting documents or other materials were used to arrive at that conclusion, or why Synchronoss, whose business is predicated on communications information, was deemed ''unrelated'' to Alexander's duties as the head of a spy agency that collects such information.
The deal between AT&T and Synchronoss wasn't a secret, but Alexander's financial stake in it was. The agency had initially claimed that revealing any of Alexander's investments could jeopardize national security.
Some of Alexander's other stock investments have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, raising questions about whether the former NSA director was using information he gleaned in the course of his official duties to influence his stock picks. Alexander was buying and selling shares in companies that manufacture potash, a mineral whose production is dominated by a cartel of companies in Belarus and Russia, one of the NSA's primary spying targets. And he also owned stock in a huge Chinese state-owned aluminum manufacturer at the same time his agency was monitoring Chinese hackers who were, in turn, spying on American aluminum companies.
Alexander also drew flak after opening a cybersecurity consulting firm earlier this year and filing for patents on new technologies that were informed by his time as the head of the NSA. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) has questioned how Alexander could be charging his clients frees of reportedly between $600,000 and $1 million per month ''unless he discloses or misuses classified information.''
Some of Alexander's former colleagues also have come in for scrutiny. The NSA opened an inquiry last month into a deal that Alexander struck with Patrick Dowd, the agency's chief technology officer, that would have allowed Dowd to work part-time both for the NSA and Alexander's company, IronNet Cybersecurity Inc. Alexander canceled the deal after the Senate Intelligence Committee said it, too, wanted details about whether the plan would create a conflict of interest, Reuters reported. Also last month, another senior NSA official, Teresa Shea, announced she was leaving the agency after BuzzFeed reported that an intelligence consulting company was incorporated at Shea's home. Her husband, James, also was linked to the company.
Against that backdrop, Alexander's financial-disclosure forms have offered a rare peek into the private dealings of one of America's most powerful intelligence officials. But they provide scant details about why Alexander bought and sold shares when he did, or even how much. In 2008, the earliest year for which the NSA would release any information, his investment in Synchronoss was valued between $15,001 and $50,000. Alexander didn't respond to a request for comment about his stock transactions.
The records do show, however, that Alexander seemed to be watching Synchronoss closely, and particularly its exclusive deal with AT&T.
Activating iPhones promised a lucrative, steady revenue stream for Synchronoss. But not long after customers bought the first iPhones, in 2007, they started ''jailbreaking'' their devices and activating them on the networks of AT&T's competitors. Synchronoss only got paid when a customer activated on AT&T, so each of those jailbreakers was costing Synchronoss money.
Enter Alexander, savvy investor. On May 6, 2008, Synchronoss announced that it had ''materially lowered our growth expectations'' for the year ''due in large part to reduced revenues associated with the iPhone,'' the company said in a statement. Synchronoss's stock price plummeted on the news, down 43 percent in trading the next day. That's when Alexander snatched up shares totaling between $1,001 and $15,000, his financial-disclosure forms show.
It's hard to know how much Alexander may have profited from his investment in Synchronoss. The disclosure forms indicate that he made less than $201 in 2008, meaning he either effectively broke even or potentially lost money. But the NSA refused to release any older disclosure forms that would show what Alexander made'--or lost'--in years prior. In 2009, he appears to have sold all his shares in the company. And as far as Synchronoss knows, Alexander was just another investor. ''We are not aware of any relationship between the company and either Keith Alexander or the NSA,'' Stacie Hiras, a spokeswoman for Synchronoss, told The Daily Beast.
Financial experts who examined Alexander's disclosure forms said it wasn't possible to know, given the limited information the NSA had provided, why Alexander had bought and sold shares when he did. But the records do show that Alexander was interested in some big companies outside the tech sector. And he wasn't the only one.
On Jan. 7, 2008, Alexander sold shares in the Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd., also known as Chinalco, a state-owned enterprise based in Beijing that's now the second-largest producer of aluminium in the world. Less than a month later, Alcoa, the American aluminum giant, announced a strategic partnership with Chinalco to buy a $14 billion stake in Rio Tinto, as part of an effort to derail a hostile bid by another firm for the world's third-largest mining company.
U.S. investigators now believe that three weeks after the partnership was struck, Chinese computer hackers working for the People's Liberation Army began spying on Alcoa in order to steal proprietary information that would benefit Chinalco and give the Chinese government an insight into the negotiations. The intruders made off with nearly 3,000 email messages and more than 800 attachments related to the deal. (Federal prosecutors spelled out the allegations in an indictment that refers to an anonymous Chinese state-owned enterprise, but it leaves virtually no doubt that the company is Chinalco.)
In other words, at the same time Alexander was selling off his stake in Chinalco, U.S. intelligence was monitoring Chinalco and keeping tabs on other Chinese cyberspies. Indeed, just a few months after the hacking campaign against Alcoa began, the NSA's former inspector general gave an interview to National Journal, in which he blamed China for a massive campaign of cyberespionage against several U.S. companies, stealing trade secrets and proprietary information ''in volumes that are just staggering.''
Alexander was investing in a company that was in the crosshairs of his own agency's surveillance operations. If that had been known at the time, it would have raised questions about conflicts of interest and why the head of the NSA was taking personal stakes in a Chinese company.
Another of the companies in which Alexander invested at the time also drew the attention of Chinese cyberspies. On the same day he sold his shares in Chinalco, Alexander also sold his position in the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, a Canadian firm that mines potash, a mineral typically used in fertilizer. A few years later, Chinese hackers broke into the networks of seven of the company's law firms as part of an effort to scuttle a takeover of the potash company by BHP Billiton Ltd., the same company that had been trying to take over Rio Tinto. (Bloomberg first reported the hacking.)
It's not clear if the Chinese spied on the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan directly before hitting its lawyers, said Anup Ghosh, the CEO of Invincea, a cybersecurity software company in Virginia that examined the hacking of the law firms. But, he added, ''There's a lot of evidence that this is an intelligence-collection capability China has launched. These methods are being used to feed Chinese intelligence.''
That, of course, is something that the NSA knew full well at the time Alexander was in charge of the agency, and when he was deciding which stocks to buy and sell.
Ex-NSA chief invested heavily in tech firm tied to AT&T
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 05:48
Published time: November 04, 2014 21:34Former National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
As questions continue to be raised about the legality concerning the National Security Agency's vast surveillance apparatus, the NSA's ex spy chief is now coming under attack for ties he had to a tech company while in office.
A report published on Monday this week by Shane Harris at the Daily Beast revealed that Gen. Keith Alexander, the recently retired head of the NSA, bought and sold tens of thousands of dollars' worth of stock in a firm called Synchronoss Technologies Inc. while he ran the United States' intelligence gathering agency.
According to financial disclosure forms reviewed by the Beast, Alexander invested in Synchronoss in 2008 during his NSA tenure as that very company was selling technology to AT&T that allowed the telecom to activate and lock Apple iPhones onto its network.
''The carrier was then the exclusive voice and data service provider for the popular new iPhone, so Alexander stood to profit every time someone bought an iPhone and automatically became an AT&T customer,'' Harris wrote. ''The NSA also had its own special relationship with AT&T,'' he added. ''Under secret court orders, the agency was then hoovering up the phone records of AT&T's subscribers and pouring them into a database of who called whom in the United States, stretching back several years''
Since leaving the NSA earlier this year, Alexander has come under fire time and time again not just for the surveillance operations he authorized as the head of the spy office, but for the relationships that have already been developed during his post-government career. Questions have since been raised about Alexander's new private sector company, IronNet Cybersecurity, after the firm hired a current NSA exec to work concurrently with that group and the government, and Alexander's monthly consulting fee, upwards of $1 million per client, has caused concern as well.
''I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods,'' Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) of the House Foreign Affairs Committee wrote earlier this year to the Security Industries and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) when it was revealed that they had retained the former spy chief. ''Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you.''
Now on the heels of Harris' report, Alexander is once again finding himself under fire.
''This isn't just a disturbing conflict of interest,'' Tom McKey wrote for News Mic this week. ''The financial disclosures suggest that Alexander may have used his position at the center of America's intelligence apparatus for personal gain.''
Alexander's contentious investments don't end there, however; according to Harris, the former NSA head had other unusual deals as well, including with the Aluminum Corporation of China Ltd., or Chinalco. Alexander traded shares in that company, again concurrently with his NSA job, but also in the midst of alleged cyber espionage conducted out of China.
''In other words, at the same time Alexander was selling off his stake in Chinalco, US intelligence was monitoring Chinalco and keeping tabs on other Chinese cyberspies,'' Harris wrote. ''Indeed, just a few months after the hacking campaign against Alcoa began,'' an American company allegedly targeted by Chinese cyber spies, ''the NSA's former inspector general gave an interview to National Journal, in which he blamed China for a massive campaign of cyberespionage against several U.S. companies, stealing trade secrets and proprietary information 'in volumes that are just staggering.'''
''Alexander was investing in a company that was in the crosshairs of his own agency's surveillance operations. If that had been known at the time, it would have raised questions about conflicts of interest and why the head of the NSA was taking personal stakes in a Chinese company,'' Harris insisted.
Meanwhile, the president of Synchronoss, Robert Garcia, recently relieved himself of some shares he had in that company. Coincidentally, Garcia sold 7,602 shares of his company's stock last week '-- a value of $367,936.80 '-- less than a week before Harris published details of Alexander's association with the tech firm.
These Are the Financial Disclosure Forms the NSA Said Would Threaten National Security | VICE News
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:30
Former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander has held investments in a corporation that identifies itself as a "world leader in cloud solutions." And in a "data gathering and research" firm. And in a company that develops software that improves the quality of images captured by surveillance cameras. And in a radio frequency business that, among other things, manufactures amplifiers for air traffic control, radar, and surveillance.
The NSA once said that if revealed, this information [pdf below] would threaten national security.
The agency refused VICE News' July request for copies of Alexander's financial disclosure reports, which he is required to fill out annually under a federal law known as the Ethics and Government Act. The law also states that government agencies are required to release the files upon request.
But attorney Shadey Brown, who is the NSA's ethics officer, said in a July 23 letter that the NSA has routinely denied requests for copies of its officials' financial disclosure reports under the National Security Agency Act of 1959. That law authorizes the NSA to withhold virtually everything about the inner workings of the agency, including data about the names, titles, and salaries of people the agency employs.
Meet John Napier Tye, the US government's favorite whistleblower. Read more here.
Moreover, Brown cited a provision in the Ethics and Government Act that suggested President Barack Obama issued Alexander a waiver that authorized the withholding of his financial reports if disclosure would "compromise the national interest of the United States."
In a lawsuit against the NSA, attorney Jeffrey Light argued that the agency had misinterpreted the laws it cited to justify the ongoing secrecy. Earlier this week, before the case hit a courtroom, a government attorney turned over 59 pages of financial disclosure reports Alexander filed between 2009 and 2014. Brown said in a letter dated October 2 that the NSA was releasing the material "in the interest of transparency."
Alexander's interest in spying was not limited to his tenure as NSA director. He also invested in firms that are on the cutting edge of surveillance technology.
In addition, a government attorney said the NSA would no longer deny access to financial disclosure forms from officials who are required to file the reports '-- the first time the agency has changed its policies regarding the National Security Agency Act. VICE News subsequently requested the financial disclosure forms of new NSA Director Michael Rogers and another official at the agency. Deputy General Counsel Ariane Cerlenko responded via email saying, "Both of these requests will be processed expeditiously and we expect to get back to you shortly."
Although Alexander was head of the NSA from 2005 through March of this year, Brown said the Ethics and Government Act only requires financial disclosure reports to be released for a period of six years before receipt; therefore, he would not provide reports Alexander filled out prior to 2008.
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, said the National Security Agency Act, like the CIA Act, is a "giant black hole for information."
"Withholding under the Act does not need to be justified on specific national security grounds '-- it is enough that the information pertains to agency organization, salaries, etc.," Aftergood said. "And the withholding is often done on a reflexive basis, without any serious thought process. What's interesting here, and maybe a tad encouraging, is that NSA changed its mind. What's discouraging, though, is that a lawsuit was necessary."
Alexander resigned as NSA director following a tumultuous year that saw former agency contractor Edward Snowden leak highly classified documents about top-secret NSA surveillance. Alexander then launched private consulting firm IronNet Cybersecurity Inc., reportedly offering to help banks and other firms protect their computer networks from hackers for up to $1 million a month (he later reduced that figure to $600,000 a month).
The NSA has revealed details about its exhaustive search of Edward Snowden's emails. Read more here.
Representative Alan Grayson accused Alexander of profiting off the sale of classified information.
"Disclosing or misusing classified information for profit is, as Mr. Alexander well knows, a felony," Grayson wrote last June to three banking groups that hired Alexander as a cyber-consultant. "I question how Mr. Alexander can provide any of the services he is offering unless he discloses or misuses classified information, including extremely sensitive sources and methods. Without the classified information that he acquired in his former position, he literally would have nothing to offer to you."
Alexander's private consulting work and allegations made by Grayson are what prompted VICE News to seek Alexander's financial reports to determine whether he had a stake in any firms with whom he entered into consulting arrangements.
The reports show that Alexander's supervisors '-- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers '-- signed off on Alexander's financial interests, affirming that his investments were "unrelated to his prospective duties and no conflicts appear to exist."
That said, Alexander's interest in surveillance was not limited to his tenure as NSA director. He also invested in firms that are on the cutting edge of surveillance technology.
For example, Alexander invested as much as $15,000 in: Pericom Semiconductor, a company that has designed technology for the closed-circuit television and video surveillance markets; RF Micro Devices designs, which manufactures high-performance radio frequency technology that is also used for surveillance; and as much as $50,000 in Synchronoss Technologies, a cloud storage firm that provides a cloud platform to mobile phone carriers (the NSA has been accused of hacking into cloud storage providers).
Alexander also held shares in Datascension, Inc., a data gathering and research company. The Securities and Exchange Commission suspended trading in Datascension last August "due to a lack of current and accurate information" about the company. (Datascension was linked to telemarketing calls that apparently prompted one person in a complaint forum to remark the company is "trying to gain personal information.")
An NSA spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment, and spokespeople for the technology firms did not respond to VICE News' questions about whether Alexander has offered his consulting services or whether they were awarded contracts with the NSA. Many of the firms have been awarded contracts by the Department of Defense and other government agencies.
UPDATE '-- October 14, 2014: Stacie Hiras, a spokeswoman for Synchronoss, told VICE News via email that the company "has not had a relationship in the past or currently with the NSA or with Keith Alexander."
Follow Jason Leopold on Twitter: @JasonLeopold
Topics:nsa, surveillance, spying, ethics, foia, edward snowden, fracking, telemarketing, national security agency, americas, defense & security, keith alexander
Oil Silver and Gold!
ANALYSIS: WHY GOLD AT $750 WILL START A COLLAPSE IN STOCKS'.... | The Slog.
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:53
Some of you may have read that, as of yesterday afternoon, I have gone to cash inside my SIPP. This isn't because I have any faith in cash: outside the SIPP, I'm converting cash into non-market assets as fast as my obstructive French bank will allow. Here and there, I've bought a few Pounds as the Quid weakened slightly. But mainly at the moment, I'm in sort of stasis mode: regrouping, if you like, ready for whatever it is we all need to be ready for.
Before you dismiss that first paragraph as throat-clearing, I'd like to offer you below an analysis based on previous experience, and the empiricism of gold events at the moment, as to what lies behind this latest round of apparent anti-matter. Empiricism is all one can use in 2014, because the fundamentals have lost all their content '' apart from the 'mental' bit. Although the guys at the levers continue to insist that all is on the mend, the world is in a slump. The only reason it doesn't read like a slump is the QE and Zirp handed out in order to slow down the slump and give the banks a 100-1 against shot at sorting themselves out. In a show of gratitude on the Louise Mensch scale of -200, the banks have done nothing to sort themselves out'....and opposed or evaded every control put on their actions by the authorities'...people chiefly recognisable by the fact that they have no authority at all.
The mismatch between that slump and stock market levels around the globe is now so canyon-like, I decided yesterday that enough was enough. The main factors influencing my decision were:
* The US continues to tail off QE, it hasn't worked anywhere, the BoJ purchasing situation is like charting new waters on a flat Earth, and the ECB is dragging its feet on new asset-purchases because the bank is split right down the middle about what to do. The former Bernanke tool-kit has been turned upside down and every spanner examined. It is empty. There are no tools left. Tools are in an ongoing non-existence situation going forward.
* We've already had a small correction based on not much in the way of bad news, and trust me '' it took more to control it than most of you yet realise.
* The attempts to hide reality are in turn running out of road: in the UK, the US, the EU and Japan, even the Wisdom of Crowds is now being tested'....deficits refuse to reduce, liquidity refuses to arrive, housing refuses to recover, stress tests continue to be wholly unconvincing, and economies refuse to kickstart.
* The Russian Central Bank has, as of yesterday, officially given up trying to underpin the Ruble with old copies of Izvestia. Russia now faces hyperinflation, and the only means of dealing with that will be interest rate rises in one form or another '' official and otherwise. Whatever balm Brussels gives out, a Russia that can't pay its debts cannot fail to effect eastern and central EU economies. I have said this all along: nobody can control a Zirp interest world forever, whatever the clown in Ten Downing Street thinks. Globalism is a trading system of massive interpendence, and interest rates have an epidemiology of their own that is underestimated.
* The Swiss have geared sales up at their end to ensure the flight to safety doesn't mean the rapid deflation of everything including the Alps. The Bond markets sit at historically low yields because anything is better than death'...even nothing'...so a flight to safety there continues. With the glitz bricks stampede now finished, property beyond the top 1% offers an equally avalanche-threatened means of escape. There is thus, logically my dear Watson, only one place left to go'....Gold'....(or other precious metals, depending on events)
So here's my Page One analysis on Gold. Take a quick look at this table plotting Gold's fall in the last twelve months:
Forget the daily picture at the top (it's actually yesterday) because in my view full daily movements don't count for much. Look at one year onwards in there: generally steady, and then having lost 12.5% over six months, it drops 5% in one month. An acceleration in price destruction of around 150%.
Like I said, this is basic Dumbo's Guide stuff. A weak and wobbly rally for the first half of the latest 30-day period is followed by a drop of $200 in 17 days.
But the dump before this latest fall was $200 over 103 days. An increase in price reduction rate of around 600%. Now look more closely at The 100 Days:
These show technical rallies in more detail: more specifically, rallies are becoming shorter and fall periods longer. I circle the last five days to show that a new rate of acceleration of destruction is under way.
Whatever (or more likely, whoever) is behind this counter-intuitive fall in gold's notional value '' and it is only notional, because you can bet your bum that the real stuff out there is worth what someone will sell it you for '' is a long way from the finishing line'....assuming there is going to be one.
There isn't a competent professional anywhere in the West that hasn't seen this taking place. As I write, the price is zig-zagging up and down between 1142-1146 like a seismograph langlaufing down Vezuvius, but that could mean anything and nothing. I got out of all equities and commodities yesterday because I drew one simple conclusion:
All other things being equal, the real start of Crash2 depends on how long it takes for gold to reach a technical no-brainer buy level
At the current rate of increase in acceleration of gold's price-fall, you would expect it '' after a small rally at some point '' to be under $1000 by mid/late November. But falls don't follow scientific rules'...especially when they're being manipulated with a goal in mind.
The saga I see unfolding here is perhaps akin to watching a sick patient getting increasingly ill: a slow decline on a daily basis is barely noticeable. Come back after a fortnight, and you will see a marked difference. For those directionalising gold's plunge, the game is to keep everyone unsure about gold's next move for the longest possible time.
I expect three stages to this: first, continuing on a weekly basis to make gold look risky; second, balancing between rallies and falls to keep it above the technical signal for as long as possible; and third, banning private purchasing of gold bullion.
But expectations can no longer be great in our escapist-driven, upside-down in-the-mirror darkly 21st century world: the kop-out words in my two-line bold 'insight' above are 'All other things being equal'. I don't expect all other things to be equal: I just feel certain that, once gold hits around $700-800, it's at a point where two things create a rhetorical question for investment firms: given a choice between a stock market 70% too high, and a gold price in that context at least 70% undervalued, which is the one with the lowest risk and the highest potential return?
I believe that, when the answer to it is obvious, the markets will collapse in a manner never seen before in Bourse history. But I also think it highly likely that any one of (seriously) 20 known or left-field factors could intervene before then to do the same.
So for the time being, an allegedly ring-fenced pension trust bank account is the conservatively radical place to be'...for me. This is not advice: you must make your own minds up.
There I go again with more of that non-violent extremism. Right-ho Theresa, issa fair cop, gull: put de cuffs on me an' Oi'll come quiet like.
Yesterday at The Slog: Osborne the Jackal goes Target Missing on Ice: The Musical
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Has Washington Just Shot Itself in the Oily Foot?
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 05:23
By now even the New York Times is openly talking about the secret Obama Administration strategy of trying to bankrupt Russia by using its oil-bloated Bedouin bosom buddy, Saudi Arabia, to collapse the world price of oil. However, it's beginning to look like the neo-conservative Russia-haters and Cold war wanna-be hawks around Barack Obama may have just shot themselves in their oily foot. As I referred to it in an earlier article, their oil price strategy is basically stupid. Stupid, as all consequences have not been taken into account. Take now the impact on US oil production as prices plummet.
The collapse in US oil prices since September may very soon collapse the US shale oil bubble and tear away the illusion that the United States will surpass Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's largest oil producer. That illusion, fostered by faked resource estimates issued by the US Department of Energy, has been a lynchpin of Obama geopolitical strategy.
Now the financial Ponzi scheme behind the increase of US domestic oil output the past several years is about to evaporate in a cloud of fictitious smoke. The basic economics of shale oil production are being ravaged by the 23% oil price drop since John Kerry and Saudi King Abdullah had their secret meeting near the Red Sea in early September to agree on the Saudi oil price war against Russia.
Wall Street bank analysts at Goldman Sachs just issued a 2015 forecast that US oil prices, measured by a benchmark called WTI (West Texas Intermediate) will fall to $70 a barrel. In September 2013, WTI was more than $106 a barrel. That translates into a sharp 34% price collapse in just a few months. Why is that critical to the US shale production? Because, unlike conventional crude oil deposits, shale oil or tight oil as industry calls it, depleted dramatically faster.
A comprehensive new analysis just issued by David Hughes, a Canadian oil geo-scientist with thirty years' experience with the Geological Survey of Canada, using data from existing US shale oil production that has now become public for the first time (the shale oil story is very recent), shows dramatic rates of oil volume decline from US shale oil wells:
The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43-percent to 64-percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well's existence. Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett Shale.
A decrease in oil daily of between 60% and 91% for these best possible shale oil regions means the oil companies must drill deeper to even stay still with oil production, let alone increase total oil volume. That means the drillers must spend more money to drill deeper, a lot more. According to Hughes, the Obama administration Department of Energy has uncritically taken rosy forecast numbers given them by the companies that boost the US shale oil myth. His calculations show future US shale oil output only 10% that estimated for 2040 by the Energy Department.
Hughes describes the current deadly dilemma of the shale oil companies as a ''drilling treadmill.'' They must drill more and more wells just to keep production levels flat. The oil companies have already gone after the most promising shale oil areas, so-called ''sweet spots,'' to maximize their production. Now as production begins to decline terminally, they must start drilling in spaces with less rich oil and gas returns. He adds, ''if the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country's deep shale deposits'...we are in for a big disappointment.''
Oil price collapse
What Hughes describes was the state of shale oil before the start of the Kerry-Abdullah Saudi oil price war. Now US WTI oil prices have dropped a catastrophic 25% in six weeks, and still falling. Other large oil producers like Russia and Iran are in turn flooding the world market with their oil to increase revenue for their state budgets, adding to a global oil supply glut. That in turn pressures prices more.
The shale oil and gas bonanza of the past five years in the USA has been built on a foundation of zero Federal Reserve interest rates and huge speculative investment by hungry Wall Street firms and funds. Because of the ultra-rapid oil well depletion, when market oil prices collapse, the entire economics of lending to the shale oil drillers collapses as well. Money suddenly vanishes and debt-strapped oil companies begin real problems.
According to Philip Verleger, former head of President Carter's Office of Energy Policy and now an energy consultant, in North Dakota's Bakken shale, one of the most important new shale oil regions, oil at $70 a barrel could cut production 28 percent to 800,000 barrels a day by February from 1.1 million barrels a day in July. ''The cash flow will go down as the prices go down, the amount of money advanced to these people to continue the drilling will dry up entirely, so you'll see a marked slowdown in drilling,'' said Verleger.
Myths, Lies and Oil Wars
The end of the shale oil bubble would deal a devastating blow to the US oil geopolitics. Today an estimated 55% of US oil production and all the production increase of the past several years comes from fracking for shale oil. With financing cut off because of economic risk amid falling oil prices, shale oil drillers will be forced to halt new drilling that is needed merely to maintain a steady oil output.
The aggressive US foreign policy in the Middle East'--its war against Syria's al-Assad regime, its hardball oil sanctions against Iran, its sanctions against Russian oil projects, its cynical toleration of ISIS in Iraqi oil regions, its refusal to intervene to stabilize the Libyan oil economy but instead to tolerate dis-order are all premised on a cocky view in Washington that the USA is once again the King of Oil in the world and can afford to play high-risk oil geopolitics. The official government agency responsible for advising the CIA, Department of Defense, State Department and White House on energy, the US Department of Energy, has issued projections of US shale oil growth based on myths and lies. That has led the Obama White House to launch oil wars based on those same myths and lies about the rosy prospects of shale oil.
This oily arrogance was epitomized in a speech by then Obama National Security Adviser Tom Donilon. In an April 2013 speech at Columbia University, Donilon, then Obama's national security adviser, publicly expressed this: ''America's new energy posture allows us to engage from a position of greater strength. Increasing US energy supplies acts as a cushion that helps reduce our vulnerability to global supply disruptions and price shocks. It also affords us a stronger hand in pursuing and implementing our international security goals.''
The next three or so months in the US shale oil domain will be strategic.
F. William Engdahl is strategic risk consultant and lecturer, he holds a degree in politics from Princeton University and is a best-selling author on oil and geopolitics, exclusively for the online magazine ''New Eastern Outlook''
''Global Scramble'' For Silver - Coins ''Hard To Get,'' ''Premiums Likely To Jump'' | Zero Hedge
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 02:03
Submitted by GoldCore
''Global Scramble'' For Silver - Coins ''Hard To Get,'' ''Premiums Likely To Jump''
Silver has had a torrid time in recent months and has fallen nearly 40% since July. In less than four months, it is down from $21.40/oz to $15.45/oz today. Silver is 70% lower since reaching over $49/oz in April 2011. The selling has accelerated in recent days and silver has fallen from $17.20/oz on October 28 and is down 12% in the last week.
There is blood in the streets of the silver market with futures speculators long silver, again having their heads handed to them on a plate and incurring sharp losses. However, the silver sell off has again seen a global scramble for physical silver.
Silver in USD - Year to Date 2014 (Thomson Reuters)
In recent days, there has been a global scramble to acquire silver bullion coins and bars after the price falls according to Reuters. Maple Leaf silver coins are difficult to acquire according to bullion dealers, with the Royal Canadian Mint on allocation from September. There is a concern that supply times will increase and premiums are likely to jump according to Reuters.
''A tumble in silver prices to four-year lows has triggered a global scramble by consumers to purchase silver coins and bars, as the spread between the price of the metal and gold reaches its widest in five years.
Retailers and distributors in Asia and the United States said they were struggling to get supplies of items such as Canadian Maple Leaf silver coins.
While demand for silver has been strong over the last few months, retailers say buying interest soared in recent days as the metal fell towards its lowest since 2010, along with gold.
Demand for silver coins and bars accounted for more than a fifth of total demand in 2013, according to a report by the Silver Institute. A sustained jump in demand should support silver prices, currently at just over $15 an ounce.
The price of silver is currently around 74 times cheaper than gold - the biggest spread since early 2009. Due to its greater affordability, silver sales tend to outstrip gold in volume terms and attract a lot more retail buyers.
The Royal Canadian mint had started allocating, an industry term meaning rationing, its popular Maple Leaf silver coins in September in response to high demand, according to a spokesman.
With the allocation of silver coins in place, the mint continues to produce and take orders for 2014 coins with no anticipated stoppage in shipments, he said.
But retailers are already finding it hard to get hold of the mint's products as they sell out their existing stock.
Some Asian dealers said they have had to pull Maple Leaf coins from their lineup until they get the mint's 2015 products.
In mid-April 2013, silver lost nearly a fifth of its value in two days, tracking a rout in gold, prompting a rush to snap up both the metals at a bargain price.
While the Royal Canadian Mint is rationing silver coins, it has no such system for gold.
The U.S. Mint is not allocating silver or gold at the moment. In June, the mint lifted its ration on silver American Eagle coins that had been in place since January last year as strong demand had depleted silver coin blanks.
The U.S. Mint sold 1.4 million ounces of silver American Eagle coins on Friday alone, the highest daily sales since Jan. 13 when the new 2014-dated coins first became available. October was the fourth highest month of silver eagle sales ever.
The Perth Mint, which runs the only gold refinery in No. 2 gold producer Australia, said it was not facing any supply issues as it usually launches a new line of products from September, unlike the other mints.
"We built up a lot of stock for those releases. So we have quite a few months worth of stock," said Neil Vance, wholesale manager at the Perth Mint.
"If this had been a different time of the year, it would have been a different story."
Reuters
Silver in USD - 5 Years (Thomson Reuters)
We have seen a significant uptake in demand for silver this week both for maples and philharmonics and for larger 1,000 oz bars. Silver maples are being snapped up by U.S. and Asian buyers as the premiums are lower than that for silver eagles. Silver philharmonics continue to be popular in Europe as they too are less expensive than the eagles and have a similar premium to maples.
Silver coin demand is for both delivery and storage, while bar demand is primarily for bullion storage in Zurich and Singapore. The demand is broad based and coming from both retail investors and indeed high net worth.
Silver is down 70% in less than four years as stock and markets have surged to record highs. The gold: silver ratio has surged to a peak of 75.4 this morning, its highest since early 2009, as silver underperforms falling gold. Silver is great value today versus stocks and bonds and indeed versus gold. The smart money accumulates on dips and buys low, to sell high.
* * *
And in case you missed it, read the follow up to this article posted early this afternoon: "US Mint Sells Out Of Silver Eagles Following "Tremendous" Demand"
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Oil Prices Spike On Saudi Fears
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:31
Oil prices are spiking (WTI crude is up $3 off this morning's lows) following the pipeline explosion in Saudi Arabia. Of course, energy stocks are surging on the news too and we are just waiting for some clever talking head to proclaim this surge as demand-driven showing how strong the economy is...
Oil is surging...
Some context for the move...
and energy stocks following for now
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IFC-History
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:22
Since inception in 1944, the World Bank has expanded from a single institution to a closely associated group of five development institutions. Our mission evolved from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) as facilitator of post-war reconstruction and development to the present-day mandate of worldwide poverty alleviation in close coordination with our affiliate, the International Development Association, and other members of the World Bank Group, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Multilateral Guarantee Agency (MIGA), and the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
Once, we had a homogeneous staff of engineers and financial analysts, based solely in Washington, D.C. Today, we have a multidisciplinary and diverse staff that includes economists, public policy experts, sector experts and social scientists'--and now more than a third of our staff is based in country offices.
Reconstruction remains an important part of our work. However, at today's World Bank, poverty reduction through an inclusive and sustainable globalization remains the overarching goal of our work.
For more on the World Bank's history, visit the Archives.
NA-Tech News
Warner Music Group strikes licensing deal with SoundClou | LIVE@LEEDS
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:31
Tom Pakinkis Musicweek.com 11/05/14
Warner Music Group is the first major music company to forge a partnership with SoundCloud.
The deal covers SoundCloud's ad-supported, creator partner program, On SoundCloud, and its subscription streaming service, which is due to launch in the first half of 2015.
The agreement includes licensing terms that will provide WMG and its artists greater ability to manage the availability of content, according to the major, ''while providing a path towards delivering additional revenue from user-generated mixes and mash-ups of WMG music''.
It will create new commercial and promotional possibilities for both WMG's roster of recording artists and songwriters signed to Warner/Chappell Music.
On SoundCloud launched two months ago with 20 partners representing creators from the platform. Today, On SoundCloud has over 40 partners including labels, publishers, emerging artists and audio creators.
Rob Wiesenthal, chief operating officer/Corporate, WMG, said: ''This leading-edge partnership reflects WMG's commitment to establishing new and alternative business models that recognise the value of music for our artists. SoundCloud is a platform built on music innovation and it has a rare ability to drive music discovery while enhancing the connection and collaboration between an artist and their following. Our deal will foster that relationship, while providing a powerful range of income opportunities for WMG's artists and songwriters.''
Jonathan Dworkin, EVP, digital strategy and business development, WMG, said: ''SoundCloud is a distinctly artist-driven service, with a highly engaged global fan community at its heart. This deal will enable SoundCloud to further develop its product as well as its massive user base, and will deliver multi-tiered monetisation while preserving the elements that have made the service so popular. It's a win for artists, for rights-holders and for consumers.''
Alexander Ljung, SoundCloud's founder and CEO, said: ''We're thrilled that Warner Music Group will be the first major label to join our new creator partner program. We expect to generate significant revenue for Warner and its artists in the months and years ahead as we roll out an ad-supported offering and subscription service that delivers real value to the industry.''
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This entry was posted on November 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm and is filed under Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Taylor Swift Pulls All Of Her Albums From Spotify
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:31
Pamela Engel Businessinsider.com 11/03/14
Taylor Swift has refused to put her new album ''1989'' on Spotify since its release last week, and now she has also pulled her old albums from the streaming service.
It doesn't appear that any of Swift's songs are available on Spotify, and a Spotify spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that Swift removed all of her albums from the streaming service.
Artists don't make nearly as much money putting their music on Spotify as they do selling digital albums and songs on services like iTunes.
Earlier this month, Jimmy Buffett asked Spotify CEO Daniel Ek for a raise, saying artists who stream their music on Spotify are ''at the end of the pipeline'' when it comes to the money Spotify pays labels for permission to stream albums.
Spotify says it pays 70% of its revenue to labels '-- which will amount to about $1 billion this year '-- but some artists feel they don't get a big enough cut.
The streaming service revealed last year that it paid artists an average of less than a penny per play.
In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal earlier this year, Swift wrote that ''piracy, file sharing and streaming have shrunk the numbers of paid album sales drastically.''
Swift wrote the editorial to express confidence in the future of music, noting that she hoped artists didn't ''underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.''
Spotify is working hard to change Swift's mind. Here's a statement that was just posted on the company's website:
We love Taylor Swift, and our more than 40 million users love her even more '-- nearly 16 million of them have played her songs in the last 30 days, and she's on over 19 million playlists.
We hope she'll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone. We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That's why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.
PS '-- Taylor, we were both young when we first saw you, but now there's more than 40 million of us who want you to stay, stay, stay. It's a love story, baby, just say, Yes.
Swift initially refused to release her 2012 album ''Red'' on Spotify, but she relented several months later.
Spotify is valued at $4 billion and reportedly wants to sell for more than $10 billion, according to The Journal.
This highlights one issue with Spotify's business model '-- artists have quite a bit of power over the streaming service if they can yank their albums at any time.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/taylor-swift-pulled-all-of-her-albums-from-spotify-2014-11#ixzz3IC6l03pS
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This entry was posted on November 5, 2014 at 11:55 am and is filed under Musicians, sales, Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Pandora Just Screwed Indie Musicians And Their Users, Too
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 03:47
At one point in time, Pandora Radio seemed like every music lover's dream. A digital music streaming platform that was catered precisely to the listener's tastes and that takes into account the listener's positive and negative feedback to its own suggestions. It was like iTunes meets J.A.R.V.I.S. from the Iron Man movies.
However, that veil of awesomeness has now been rather tragically smashed by the hammer of commerce. As Digital Music News reports, documents filed by Pandora in US Congress and the Copyright Royalty Board have shed light on a re-tooled, finances-first 'Music Genome' '-- a complex music project of which Pandora were touted as ''custodians'' '-- algorithm.
Essentially, the papers describe how offering Pandora a lower royalty rate, i.e. the money that the service has to hand over to the labels, will see your music played a lot more on the platform. Pandora has dubbed this process of shifting playlists towards cheaper content, ''steering''.
The primary beneficiary of steering is indie label representative body Merlin Network, who recently finalised a private deal with Pandora that dips below what is now required by US statute and just half of what performance rights group SoundExchange was requesting that Pandora and others pay in the future.
According to DMN, Pandora have been lobbying aggressively for years to lower their royalty commitments and have now taken to negotiating rates privately with label bodies. Indeed, US copyright law allows parties to construct royalty deals that eschew the federally-established rate.
Brad Hill of fellow label body RAIN, who first analyzed the filing, writes that while Pandora's current statutory rate is $0.00130 (1.3-tenths of a penny), in their submission to the CRB, Pandora argue for new rates ''within a range of $0.00110 to $0.00129'', or a micro-penny less than the current range.
But hey, Pandora may be paying less, but if those artists covered by the deal get more play, everything will balance out, right? Not so fast. Hypebot reports that according to the details of the deal, the more plays that Pandora steers, the lower the rate it has to pay.
''As Pandora 'steers' toward Merlin-label recordings and away from competing recordings '-- its effective rate drops. Pandora has precisely that ability to 'steer' towards or away from the music of particular record companies,'' reads an excerpt from the filing.
Naturally, industry critics aren't thrilled about the new agreement. Writing for The Trichordist, musician David Lowery opined, ''If Pandora plays Merlin songs more often than everyone else. Isn't that called payola?''
However, responding to another article in The Trichordist, which alleges that Merlin have ''[sold] out all indie labels'', Hill insists it's ''not a '50 percent rate cut''' but just ''some kind of discount'' applied to steered content.
''In most markets, most suppliers offer discounts to high-volume buyers,'' he adds. ''The discount amount is redacted from Pandora's document. Also, you are pretending that SoundExchange's proposed rates are the established rates. Nobody knows what the 2016-2020 rates will be.''
So what does this mean for listeners? Well, it means your Pandora suggestions aren't as catered to your specific music tastes as you once hoped '' you know, the one thing that was making Pandora so cool in the first place?
Or as DMN puts it, ''You'll be hearing a lot more of bands like Interpol, The National, The Offspring, and Vampire Weekend, and less up-and-coming or bigger-label acts that are not part of the 'steering' deal.''
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Bank$ters
Leaked Documents Expose Global Companies' Secret Tax Deals in Luxembourg | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:41
The landlocked European duchy has been called a ''magical fairyland'' for brand-name corporations seeking to drastically reduce tax bills.
Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny European duchy, leaked documents show.
These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.
Big companies can book big tax savings by creating complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they're headquartered or do lots of business. In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent on the profits they've shuffled into Luxembourg.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ journalists include hundreds of private tax rulings '' sometimes known as ''comfort letters'' '' that Luxembourg provides to corporations seeking favorable tax treatment.
The European Union and Luxembourg have been fighting for months over Luxembourg's reluctance to turn over information about its tax rulings to the EU, which is investigating whether the country's tax deals with Amazon and Fiat Finance violate European law. Luxembourg officials have supplied some information to the EU but have refused, EU officials say, to provide a larger set of documents relating to its tax rulings.
Today ICIJ and its media partners are releasing a large cache of Luxembourg tax rulings '' 548 comfort letters issued from 2002 to 2010 '' and reporting on their contents in stories that will be published or broadcast in dozens of countries. It's unclear whether any of these documents are among those still being sought by EU investigators, but they are the kinds of documents that go to the heart of the EU's investigation into Luxembourg's tax rulings.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ involve deals negotiated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world's largest accounting firms, on behalf of hundreds of corporate clients. To qualify the companies for tax relief, the records show, PwC tax advisers helped come up with financial strategies that feature loans among sister companies and other moves designed to shift profits from one part of a corporation to another to reduce or eliminate taxable income.
The records show, for example, that Memphis-based FedEx Corp. set up two Luxembourg affiliates to shuffle earnings from its Mexican, French and Brazilian operations to FedEx affiliates in Hong Kong. Profits moved from Mexico to Luxembourg largely as tax-free dividends. Luxembourg agreed to tax only one quarter of 1 percent of FedEx's non-dividend income flowing through this arrangement '' leaving the remaining 99.75 percent tax-free.
''A Luxembourg structure is a way of stripping income from whatever country it comes from,'' said Stephen E. Shay, a professor of international taxation at Harvard Law School and a former tax official in the U.S. Treasury Department. The Grand Duchy, he said, ''combines enormous flexibility to set up tax reduction schemes, along with binding tax rulings that are unique. It's like a magical fairyland.''
FedEx declined comment on the specifics of its Luxembourg tax arrangements. Other companies seeking tax deals from Luxembourg come from private equity, real estate, banking, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and other industries, the leaked files show. They include Accenture, Abbott Laboratories, American International Group (AIG), Amazon, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, the Coach handbag empire, H.J. Heinz, JP Morgan Chase, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, the Carlyle Group and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
For their part, Luxembourg's officials and defenders say the landlocked nation's system of private tax agreements is above reproach.
''No way are these sweetheart deals,'' Nicolas Mackel, chief executive of Luxembourg for Finance, a quasi-governmental agency, said in an interview with ICIJ.
''The Luxembourg system of taxation is competitive '' there is nothing unfair or unethical about it,'' Mackel said. ''If companies manage to reduce their tax bills to a very low rate, that's a problem not of one tax system but of the interaction of many tax systems.''
Less than 1 percentDisclosure of the leaked documents comes at a sensitive time for Luxembourg, a nation with a population of less than 550,000. Amid the EU probe of Luxembourg's tax deals, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is in his first week in office as president of the European Commission, one of the most powerful positions in the EU.
Juncker, Luxembourg's top leader when many of the jurisdiction's tax breaks were crafted, has promised to crack down on tax dodging in his new post, but he has also said he believes his own country's tax regime is in ''full accordance'' with European law. Under Luxembourg's system, tax advisers from PwC and other firms can present proposals for corporate structures and transactions designed to create tax savings and then get written assurance that their plan will be viewed favorably by the duchy's Ministry of Finance.
''It's like taking your tax plan to the government and getting it blessed ahead of time,'' said Richard D. Pomp, a tax law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law. ''And most are blessed. Luxembourg has a very user-friendly tax department.''
The private deals are legal in Luxembourg but may be subject to legal challenge outside the country if tax officials in other nations view them as improper.
Luxembourg's Ministry of Finance said in a statement that ''advance tax decisions'' are ''well established in many EU member states, such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K. and Luxembourg'' and that they don't conflict with European law as long as ''all taxpayers in a similar situation are treated equally.''
PwC said ICIJ's reporting is based on ''outdated'' and ''stolen'' information, ''the theft of which is in the hands of the relevant authorities.'' It said its tax advice and assistance are ''given in accordance with applicable local, European and international tax laws and agreements and is guided by a PwC Global Tax Code of Conduct.''
In its statement PwC said media do not have ''a complete understanding of the structures involved.'' While the company can't comment on specific client matters, it rejects ''any suggestion that there is anything improper about the firm's work.''
ICIJ and its media partners used corporate balance sheets, regulatory filings and court records to put the leaked tax rulings in context. News organizations that have worked together on the six-month investigation include The Guardian, S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and NDR/WDR in Germany, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Monde, Japan's Asahi Shimbun, CNBC, Denmark's Politiken, Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo and others.
U.S. and U.K. companies appeared more frequently in the leaked files than companies from any other country, followed by firms from Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Most of the rulings in the stash of documents were approved between 2008 and 2010. Some of them were first reported on in 2012 by Edouard Perrin for France 2 public television and by the BBC, but most of the PwC documents have never before been analyzed by reporters.
The files do not include tax deals sought from Luxembourg authorities through other accounting firms. And many of the documents do not include explicit figures for how much money the companies expected to shift through Luxembourg.
Experts who've reviewed the files for ICIJ say the documents do make it clear, though, that the companies and their advisors at PwC engaged in aggressive tax-reduction strategies, using Luxembourg in combination with other tax havens such as Gibraltar, Delaware and Ireland.
The documents show that:
The Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., a New York-based unit of PepsiCo, used subsidiaries in Luxembourg to arrange a series of loans among sister companies that allowed the bottler to reduce its tax rate on its $1.4 billion purchase of a controlling interest in JSC Lebedyansky, Russia's largest juice maker. At least $750 million of the money involved in the Russian deal traveled through a Luxembourg subsidiary named Tanglewood, before landing in a Pepsi subsidiary in Bermuda. Luxembourg acted as a tax-reducing conduit as the profits moved from Russia to Bermuda.IKEA has used Luxembourg as part of a tax-savings strategy almost as complicated as the retail chain's ready-to-assemble furniture. IKEA operates through two independent groups of companies: IKEA Group, which controls most of the 364 iconic IKEA big-box stores and Inter IKEA Group, which oversees franchise operations. Inter IKEA's structure includes a Luxembourg holding company, a Luxembourg finance company, a Liechtenstein foundation and a Swiss finance arm. Leaked documents show IKEA's Luxembourg operations opened the Swiss subsidiary in 2009 to outsource part of their financing operations to yet another low-tax jurisdiction, allowing the company to save taxes both in Luxembourg and in Switzerland.Belgium's richest family, the billionaire deSpoelberch dynasty, obtained a private tax ruling from Luxembourg in 2008. The de Spoelberch clan, part of the country's old nobility and close to the royal family, holds a big stake in ABInbev, the world's biggest brewer whose labels include Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Beck's. The records indicate the de Spoelberch's routed '‚¬2 billion through Ireland and then Luxembourg, reducing taxes with each step. The only sign of Luxembourg companies controlled by the family appears to be a small letter box at an address that lists nearly 190 other companies.Even the Canadian government got a private Luxembourg tax ruling. In 2008, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which manages pensions for all Canadian federal employees, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, bought real estate in Berlin. The pension board set up Luxembourg companies that helped it sidestep German land transfer taxes. A complex internal loan structure allowed the board to pay minimal taxes in Luxembourg on income from the German properties. The investment board has a Luxembourg office '' a place where desks can be rented by the month and where two employees watch over $600 million in European investments. The Canadian pension board and Inter IKEA both said their tax planning complies with all laws and regulations. The Canadian fund argues that because it has tax-exempt status in Canada, it ultimately gained ''no tax advantage'' by routing investments through Luxembourg. Inter IKEA said its total effective corporate income tax rate is currently around 14 percent.
Pepsi, Coach and an accountant for the de Spoelberch family's Luxembourg holdings declined to comment on the specifics of their tax arrangements.
''This is the first time really that we've seen inside the workings of Luxembourg as a tax haven,'' said Richard Brooks, a former U.K. tax inspector and author of the book The Great Tax Robbery, who was hired by ICIJ to help review some of the leaked documents. ''The countries . . . that are losing money, they don't know about it, don't know how it operates at all.''
Gilded AgeLast month, in the Gilded Age splendor of New York's private Metropolitan Club, Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg's minister of finance, tried to woo the Wall Street crowd with some premier cru wine and a little levity. He told assembled financiers that he wanted to dispel the myth that his tiny country is nothing more than a tax haven: ''Luxembourg is not an offshore place. I say it loud and clear.''
What he got back was hearty round of laughter.
In the wake of the EU's probe of its tax practices, Luxembourg officials continue to bristle at their nation's tax haven label. The country, a founding member of the EU, boasts of being a multi-lingual nation in the heart of Europe with a business-friendly and stable government. Once primarily a steel-maker and manufacturer, Luxembourg has transitioned into a financial center rivaling London, New York or Hong Kong. With $3.7 trillion in assets under management by banks and other institutions, Luxembourg is second only to the U.S. as a global investment center.
More than 170 of the Fortune 500 companies have a Luxembourg branch, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. A total of $95 billion in profits from American corporations' overseas operations flowed through Luxembourg in 2012, the most current statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show. On those profits, corporations paid $1.04 billion in taxes to Luxembourg '' just 1.1 percent.
Other tax havens, Ireland for example, openly advertise rock-bottom corporate tax rates of 12.5 percent. Luxembourg instead maintains a statutory tax rate of 29 percent, but the leaked files show that the duchy has routinely approved tax rulings that whittle down what counts as taxable income to practically nothing. This can drop Luxembourg's effective tax rate deep into single digits.
PwC sells Luxembourg as a place with ''flexible and welcoming authorities'' who are ''easily contactable'' and offer a ''quick decision-making process''
Less than 30 percent of the tax deals in the leaked documents include a specific figure for the amount of money that companies said they planned to ''invest'' through the Luxembourg agreements. The total for those deals was roughly $215 billion between 2002 and 2010. The figure would likely grow to several hundred billion dollars if projected investments in other deals in the leaked PwC documents were included. And the overall figure for money shuffled through Luxembourg as the result of confidential tax agreements would grow even larger if tax deals arranged through other accounting firms were included.
PwC's letters seeking special tax rulings were usually 20 to 100 pages long. They detail various financial strategies and then specify the tax treatment the accountants expect to get for their clients '' suggesting, for example, that dividends be treated as tax-free interest.
The leaked tax rulings indicate that negotiations were conducted in private meetings between PwC accountants and Luxembourg tax officials. PwC's written proposals were often approved the same day they were submitted.
The deals can be so complex that PwC accountants frequently include ''before'' and ''after'' diagrams to illustrate how money flows from subsidiary to subsidiary and across different countries and tax havens. The leaked records show that Luxembourg's 2009 tax deal for Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories '' which makes arthritis drugs and Ensure meal replacement shakes '' features 79 steps including companies in Cyprus and Gibraltar. Abbott projected it would invest as much as $50 billion via Luxembourg.
A spokesperson for Abbott declined comment.
In a 2009 presentation, PwC highlights Luxembourg as a place with ''flexible and welcoming authorities'' who are ''easily contactable'' and offer a ''readiness for dialogue and quick decision-making process.''
Most of the leaked tax rulings were approved and signed by the same tax official, Marius Kohl, now retired. Sometimes known in tax circles as ''Monsieur Ruling,'' Kohl was described by one Belgian newspaper as ''the guardian of the only door through which companies can enter the fiscal paradise of Luxembourg.'' During his time as head of a Luxembourg agency called Soci(C)t(C)s 6, Kohl oversaw the approval of thousands of tax agreements, personally signing as many as 39 in the course of a single day. The Wall Street Journal has reported that since Kohl retired in 2013, it can take up to six months for a tax ruling to be approved.
A woman who answered the phone at Kohl's home told an ICIJ reporter that he wasn't interested in talking. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kohl said: ''The work I did definitely benefited the country, though maybe not in terms of reputation.''
When a Journal reporter asked whether the prices that companies' Luxembourg affiliates charged sister companies outside the country for the use of intellectual property and other services were accurate, Kohl licked his thumb and held it in the air.
''There was no way to verify it,'' he said.
Financial PowerLuxembourg's economy benefits from a growing cadre of lawyers, accountants, and financiers who are hired to appear before the tax authorities. PwC, for example, said in 2013 that it had more than 2,300 employees in Luxembourg and that it expected to add another 600 in 2014.
Sprawling office parks of high-rise towers, not unlike those outside of Dallas or in northern Virginia, bustle with energy. Construction cranes dot the skyline. The International Monetary Fund reports that Luxembourg has the planet's highest economic output per capita '' $112,473 per person in 2013, more than double the United States ($53,001), France ($44,099) and the United Kingdom ($39,372).
''Luxembourg is not what people think it is when you think of a tax haven,'' Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance, said. ''We make steel and car components and have a logistics industry. Our financial center is diverse with first class funds, insurance, corporate finance and Europe's leading stock exchange. Luxembourg is about much more than this one issue they try to make of it.''
Still, Luxembourg has many ways to cut tax bills not always seen elsewhere. For example, some 80 percent of royalties on earnings from intellectual property '' software copyrights, patents and trademarks, for instance '' are exempt from taxes.
Corporations that have established toeholds in Luxembourg have made use of financial instruments that shift money around the map to play one country's tax rules against another. This might be, for instance, a hybrid debt instrument that allows profits to move out of a high-tax EU country to a Luxembourg entity. The profits are treated as interest payments in Luxembourg, where they can be deducted from taxes. In the parent company's country, they can be treated as dividends and eligible for a tax exemption.
The EU recently banned the use of hybrid loans that exploit tax mismatches between country tax systems for companies headquartered in Europe. Luxembourg and other EU members have until the end of 2015 to enact the ban into law within their own borders.
As in many tax havens, a Luxembourg office can be just a mailbox. Office buildings throughout the city are filled with brand-name corporate nameplates and little else. Some have offices and no visible employees. One building at 5 Rue Guillaume Kroll is home to more than 1,600 companies; another at 2 Avenue Charles de Gaulle houses roughly 1,450; and a building at 46A Avenue J.F. Kennedy is home to at least 1,300, according to an ICIJ analysis of Luxembourg's corporate registry.
These companies can represent big bucks. From the U.S. alone, direct investment into Luxembourg in 2013 was $416 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Of that, the vast majority, $343 billion, was in the form of holding companies, which are vehicles to hold securities and financial assets rather than to create local jobs. In fact, Luxembourg represents a tiny fraction of 1 percent '' 0.13 percent in 2010 '' of all overseas jobs with American companies, indicating it is a place that houses money more than it provides employment.
In 2011 Luxembourg passed new rules requiring that Luxembourg-based companies that serve as internal banks for larger corporate structures station a majority of their managers and board members in the Grand Duchy. It's unclear how these rules are enforced and the Ministry of Finance did not respond to ICIJ's questions about mailbox companies in Luxembourg.
EU probeLuxembourg's freewheeling ways are gaining it few friends in nearby Brussels, the EU's headquarters.
The European Commission, the administrative arm of the EU, is investigating whether Luxembourg's tax rulings for Amazon and Fiat Finance constitute illegal state aid, violating rules that bar EU members from offering deals to one company that are not available to all.
''In the current context of tight public budgets, it is particularly important that large multinationals pay their fair share of taxes,'' Joaqu­n Almunia, the commission's vice president for competition policy until last week, said earlier this year in announcing EU probes into tax practices in Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Reuters reported in 2012 that Amazon's Luxembourg arrangements allowed it to have an average tax rate of 5.3 percent on overseas income from 2007 to 2011. Amazon company filings show that in 2013 the on-line merchant reported revenues of $20 billion from its European operations, which are channeled primarily through Luxembourg.
The commission's Amazon probe focuses on one of the online retailer's key companies in Luxembourg, Amazon EU S. .r.l., which handles services to Amazon's European customers.
The commission argues that a generous 2003 tax ruling by Luxembourg authorities allows Amazon EU S. .r.l. to funnel millions of euros in tax-deductible royalties each year to yet another Amazon company in Luxembourg, a limited partnership that is tax exempted. This tax break and others like it allow Amazon to pay little in taxes in the Grand Duchy on its European sales.
The leaked PwC documents show that in 2009 Amazon EU S. .r.l. reported more than '‚¬519 million in royalty expenses while the limited partnership Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS had an influx of the same amount ''based on agreements with affiliated companies.'' Thanks to the royalty expenses and other deductions, Amazon EU S. .r.l. posted a taxable profit of just '‚¬14.8 million and paid '‚¬4.1 million in taxes in Luxembourg.
A spokesman for Amazon said the company ''has received no special tax treatment from Luxembourg'--we are subject to the same tax laws as other companies operating here.''
As EU authorities are pushing their corporate tax probes, a leading multinational group, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has proposed a new set of rules that would bar companies from using many common practices to shift profits into tax havens. Approval of the OECD's proposals, however, is uncertain and years away.
Gramegna, Luxembourg's finance minister, said in an interview with ICIJ in New York that ''the European Commission is entitled, by treaty, to look after fair competition and at state aid. They decided to look into Amazon. We are telling the European Commission that everything we've done has been within the general principles of the European Union and the OECD.''
Adding a political twist to the Brussels probes is Juncker's rise to the presidency of the European Commission. As Luxembourg's prime minister, he signed into law the provision that allows companies to write off 80 percent of royalty income from intellectual property.
In a speech in July in Brussels, Juncker promised to ''fight tax evasion and tax dumping. '... We will try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape.'' But he also recently told German television: ''No one has ever been able to make a convincing and thorough case to me that Luxembourg is a tax haven. Luxembourg employs tax rules that are in full accordance with European law.''
At a press conference two weeks ago, Juncker promised he wouldn't try to influence regulatory cases involving Luxembourg: ''I won't abuse my position in order to pressure commissioners to make different decisions regarding Luxembourg than they would regarding similar cases.''
Many observers are skeptical Luxembourg and its allies will give up the country's flexible tax regime without a battle.
J¼rgen Kentenich, chief tax fraud investigator in the German city of Trier, which lies near the border with Luxembourg, worries that big companies and their accountants will keep finding ways to take advantage of the deals offered by Luxembourg and other financial havens, while smaller companies and average taxpayers are left to make up the what's lost in tax revenues.
''It's always the same story,'' he said in an interview with ICIJ's partner, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Accounting firms are always coming up with fresh ways to cut tax bills ''and lawmakers and tax authorities are always behind, always chasing.''
About the ICIJ | International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 15:21
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is a global network of 185 investigative journalists in more than 65 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.
Founded in 1997 by the respected American journalist Chuck Lewis, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity to extend the Center's style of watchdog journalism, focusing on issues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power. Backed by the Center and its computer-assisted reporting specialists, public records experts, fact-checkers and lawyers, ICIJ reporters and editors provide real-time resources and state-of-the-art tools and techniques to journalists around the world.
Our advisory committee consists of some of the biggest names in investigative journalism worldwide: Bill Kovach, Chuck Lewis, Rosental Calmon Alves, Phillip Knightley, Gwen Lister, Goenawan Mohamad, Reginald Chua and Brant Houston.
Why we existThe need for such an organization has never been greater. Globalization and development have placed extraordinary pressures on human societies, posing unprecedented threats from polluting industries, transnational crime networks, rogue states, and the actions of powerful figures in business and government.
The news media, hobbled by short attention spans and lack of resources, are even less of a match for those who would harm the public interest. Broadcast networks and major newspapers have closed foreign bureaus, cut travel budgets, and disbanded investigative teams. We are losing our eyes and ears around the world precisely when we need them most.
Our aim is to bring journalists from different countries together in teams - eliminating rivalry and promoting collaboration. Together, we aim to be the world's best cross-border investigative team.
What we doICIJ projects are typically staffed by teams ranging from as few as three to as many as 100-plus reporters spread around the world. These journalists work with counterparts in other countries and with our Washington, D.C., staff to report, edit, and produce groundbreaking multimedia reports that adhere to the highest standards of fairness and accuracy.
Over the years, our teams have exposed smuggling by multinational tobacco companies and by organized crime syndicates; investigated private military cartels, asbestos companies, and climate change lobbyists; and broke new ground by publicizing details of Iraq and Afghanistan war contracts.
Who we work withTo release its findings, ICIJ works with leading news organizations worldwide. We are always open to new collaborations. Our stories have appeared in more than a dozen languages and with such partners as the BBC, including flagship program Panorama, Le Monde (France), El Mundo (Spain), El Pais (Spain), Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Le Soir (Belgium), the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Stern (Germany), The Guardian (UK), The Sunday Times (UK), Proceso (Mexico), the Huffington Post (USA), The Age (Australia),24chasa (Bulgaria), ABC Color Digital (Paraguay), Armando.info/Ipys (Venezuela), The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) (Canada), Center for Investigative Reporting - Investigative Journalism Center (CIN -IJC) (Croatia), CIPER (Chile), Commonwealth Magazine (Hong Kong), El Comercio (Ecuador), El Confidencial (Spain), Finnish Broadcasting Company YLE (Finland), Fokus (Sweden), Hetq - Association of Investigative Journalists (Armenia), The Indian Express (India), Isra News Agency (Thailand), The Irish Times (Ireland), Korea Center for Investigative Journalism - Newstapa (South Korea), Kyiv Post (Ukraine), La Naci"n (Argentina), La Naci"n (Costa Rica), Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung (Switzerland), L'Espresso (Italy), M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) (South Africa), Malaysia Kini (Malaysia), Ming Pao (Hong Kong), NDR (Germany), New Age (Bangladesh), NEWS (Austria), Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation NRK (Norway), Novaya Gazeta (Russia), Novi Magazin (Serbia), Origo (Hungary), Pak Tribune - Pakistan News Service (Pakistan), Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (Philippines), Premium Times (Nigeria), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Azerbaijan), Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism (Romania), Rustavi TV (Georgia), S¼ddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), The New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia), The Sunday Times (UK), Ta Nea (Greece), Trouw (Netherlands), The Washington Post (USA)
These unique collaborations have been honored repeatedly. Among ICIJ's awards: George Polk Award, Overseas Press Club Award, John Oakes Award, Editor and Publisher Award, Society of Professional Journalists, KC Kulish Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award.
OutreachIn addition to ICIJ's in-depth reporting, the consortium plays a key role in bringing together investigative journalists from around the world. ICIJ reaches thousands of followers in dozens of countries with news on the latest reporting tools and techniques via:
Every two years, ICIJ sponsors a global competition, the ICIJ Awards for Outstanding International Investigative Reporting '' the only prize that specifically recognizes the best cross-border investigative journalism.
Our supportersThe ICIJ is a non-profit organization. We give our work away for free. We rely heavily on charitable foundations and on financial support from the public. Without your help, we cannot exist.
Cross-border investigative journalism is among the most expensive and riskiest in the world.
Recent ICIJ funders include: Adessium Foundation, Open Society Foundations, The Sigrid Rausing Trust, The Ford Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Pew Charitable Trusts and Waterloo Foundation.
We are also very grateful for the support of the Australian philanthropist and businessman Graeme Wood.
We welcome individual donations in support of our work. You can make a gift online here. Any help, no matter how small, is most welcome.
We want to hear from youICIJ encourages tip-offs from the public, story ideas, as well as outstanding investigative journalists interested in collaborating with us. Please don't hesitate to contact us with your ideas.
If you want to be considered for ICIJ membership please send us your CV and clips.
Contact usTel: +1.202-466-1300
War on Ca$h
'Retourpinnen' mogelijk bij drie grote banken - AD.nl
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:38
Door: redactie6-11-14 - 09:23 bron: ANP(C) anp.Alle drie de grote banken in Nederland ABN AMRO, ING en Rabobank hebben het zogeheten 'retourpinnen' ingevoerd. Daardoor kunnen klanten die een artikel terugbrengen naar de winkel het aankoopbedrag voortaan via de betaalautomaat aan de kassa teruggestort krijgen op hun bankrekening. Dat maakte de Betaalvereniging Nederland vandaag bekend.
Nu ontvangen klanten meestal nog contant geld bij het terugbrengen van goederen. Een retourpintransactie is mogelijk wanneer de aankoop met een betaalpas of creditcard is betaald. Het maakt daarbij niet uit bij welke bank de consument bankiert. De consument voert zijn pas in, waarna de winkelier de transactie start. De volgende werkdag is het bedrag bijgeschreven op de rekening.
De dienst werd in april van dit jaar al aangeboden aan winkeliers die klant zijn bij de Rabobank. ABN AMRO en ING maken dit nu ook mogelijk.
Volgens Detailhandel Nederland hoeven winkels daardoor minder wisselgeld in kas te hebben. Dat is veiliger voor winkelier, medewerker en klant, is de redenering.
SOCIAL MEDIA ACTIVERENRapporteer een fout in het artikel aan onze redactie
22TH
Argentina's President Taken to Hospital With Fever
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 04:05
BUENOS AIRES, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner has been taken to hospital with fever caused by an infection, press service of the president's office announced Monday.
According to the statement, Kirchner was taken to Otamendi Clinic in Buenos Aires on Sunday evening with fever that was caused by an infection.
In early 2012 Kirchner had surgery for thyroid carcinoma. Around a year ago, the president underwent surgery for an intracranial hematoma. In July this year Kirchner had to rest for a week and cancel a trip to Paraguay because of laryngitis and sore throat. Earlier in October the president took two days off work because of pharyngitis.
PedoBear
Nieuwe getuige legt verklaring af over Demmink - nrc.nl
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 14:44
BinnenlandDe afgelopen week heeft een nieuwe getuige tegenover een notaris een verklaring afgelegd over pedoseksuele activiteiten van Joris Demmink, de voormalige hoogste ambtenaar van het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie.
Het gaat om een getuigenis van een Nederlandse zakenman die in 1995 in Praag in ''een besloten club met uitsluitend genodigden'' zegt te hebben gezien hoe Demmink ontucht pleegde met twee ''erg jonge jongens'' van naar schatting 15 en 16 jaar. De ontuchtpleger werd door de Nederlandse gastheer ge¯ntroduceerd als Joris Demmink, 'een hoge ome van de Nederlandse ambassade'.
Getuige meldt zich na publiciteitDe nieuwe getuige meldde zich naar aanleiding van de publiciteit die dit jaar ontstond toen het gerechtshof in Arnhem oordeelde dat het Openbaar Ministerie Demmink moet vervolgen op verdenking van verkrachting van twee Turkse jongens. De getuige, die anoniem wil blijven om ''mogelijke schadelijke gevolgen voor mijn professionele leven te vermijden'', zegt zich pas dit jaar door gepubliceerde foto's te hebben gerealiseerd wie hij in 1995 zag. De verklaring is in bezit van NRC Handelsblad.
De belastende verklaring wordt door de stichting De Roestige Spijker '' die ijvert voor de berechting van de 66-jarige voormalige secretaris-generaal '' ingebracht in een rechtszaak die morgen dient. Voor de rechtbank in Rotterdam eist Demmink 100.000 euro smartengeld van het Algemeen Dagblad ''wegens aantasting van zijn eer en goede naam''. De stichting heeft zich gevoegd in die rechtszaak waarin Demmink ook rectificatie eist van het AD. Het dagblad schreef twee jaar geleden dat Demmink begin jaren tachtig contacten zou hebben onderhouden met een Haagse pooier van minderjarige jongens.
'Getuigenis belangrijk puzzelstukje'Advocaat Matthijs Kaaks van De Roestige Spijker noemt de nieuwe getuigenis ''weer een belangrijk puzzelstukje in het geheel''. De raadsman wijst erop dat het afgelopen jaar nieuwe feiten aan het licht zijn gekomen die de dagvaarding die Demmink uitbracht tegen het AD achterhaald maken. In de dagvaarding uit 2013 wordt gesteld dat uit verscheidene onderzoeken naar Demmink ''geen begin van juistheid is gebleken ten aanzien van de geruchten en aantijgingen'' over ontucht.
''Die stelling klopt niet want inmiddels loopt er op last van het gerechtshof zelfs een strafrechtelijk onderzoek naar Demmink wegens verkrachting van minderjarigen'', zegt Kaaks. In de dagvaarding beweert Demmink ook dat hij ''in het geheel niet is genoemd in het zogenaamde Rolodex-onderzoek''. Dat onderzoek liep eind jaren negentig en betrof de betrokkenheid van hoge justitiefunctionarissen bij pedoseksuele activiteiten in Amsterdam.
''Dit jaar hebben verscheidene rechercheurs die destijds betrokken waren bij het onderzoek onder ede voor de rechtbank in Utrecht verklaard dat Demmink wel degelijk als verdachte in beeld is geweest. Dus die stelling is volledig onderuit gehaald.'' - Matthijs Kaaks
Het Rolodex-onderzoek mislukte omdat het voortijdig uitlekte.
Opstelten trouw supporterDemmink, lid van de VVD, was van 2002 tot 2012 de hoogste ambtelijke baas van het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie. Volgens advocaat Kaaks is ''de enige stelling van Demmink die in de dagvaarding overeind blijft staan dat hij steeds door opeenvolgende ministers is gesteund. Inderdaad heeft Demmink in minister Opstelten een trouw supporter gevonden die hem hardnekkig blijft steunen (C)n zijn procedure tegen het AD financiert. Dat Opstelten zijn voormalige secretaris-generaal rugdekking blijft geven, die nota bene formeel verdacht wordt van verkrachting van minderjarigen, is een afzonderlijk schandaal''.
Demmink laat desgevraagd weten de nieuwe verklaring ''onzin'' te vinden. Volgens zijn advocaat, Harro Knijff, is het nog niet duidelijk of Demmink morgen de behandeling van zijn rechtszaak in Rotterdam bijwoont.
Lees meer over:De Roestige SpijkerJoris Demminkzaak-Demmink
Nieuwe getuige legt verklaring af over pedoseksuele activiteiten van Joris Demmink '-- Wel.nl
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:12
De afgelopen week heeft een nieuwe getuige tegenover een notaris een verklaring afgelegd over pedoseksuele activiteiten van Joris Demmink, de voormalige hoogste ambtenaar van het ministerie van Veiligheid en Justitie. Dat onthult zondag het NRC.
Het gaat volgens NRC om een getuigenis van een Nederlandse zakenman die in 1995 in Praag in ''een besloten club met uitsluitend genodigden'' zegt te hebben gezien hoe Demmink ontucht pleegde met twee ''erg jonge jongens van naar schatting 15 en 16 jaar''. De ontuchtpleger werd door de Nederlandse gastheer ge¯ntroduceerd als Joris Demmink, 'een hoge ome van de Nederlandse ambassade'.
De getuige, die anoniem wil blijven om ''mogelijke schadelijke gevolgen voor mijn professionele leven te vermijden'', zegt zich pas dit jaar door gepubliceerde foto's te hebben gerealiseerd wie hij in 1995 zag. De verklaring is in bezit van NRC Handelsblad.
Chiner$
New Shipping Canal in Nicaragua Faces Questions and Opposition - SPIEGEL ONLINE
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:21
Wearing orange overalls and sun hats, the Chinese arrived in R­o Brito by helicopter before being escorted by soldiers to the river bank -- right to the spot where Jos(C) Enot Sol­s always throws out his fishing net. The Chinese drilled a hole into the ground, then another and another. "They punched holes all over the shore," the fisherman says. He points to a grapefruit-sized opening in the mud, over one meter deep. Next to it lie bits of paper bearing Chinese writing. Aside from that, though, there isn't much else to see of the monumental and controversial project that is to be built here: The Interoceanic Grand Canal, a second shipping channel between the Atlantic and Pacific.
The waterway is to stretch from R­o Brito on the Pacific coast to the mouth of the Punta Gorda river on the Caribbean coast. Beyond that, though, curiously little is known about the details of the project. Only Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and his closest advisors know how much money has already been invested, what will happen with the people living along the route and when the first construction workers from China arrive. Studies regarding the environmental and social impact of the undertaking don't exist.
The timeline is tight. The first ship is scheduled to sail into R­o Brito, which will become part of the canal, in just five years. When completed, the waterway will be 278 kilometers (173 miles) long, 230 meters (755 feet) wide and up to 30 meters (100 feet) deep, much larger than the Panama Canal to the south. A 500-meter wide security zone is planned for both sides of the waterway. And it will be able to handle enormous vessels belonging to the post-panamax category, some of which can carry more than 18,000 containers.
Thus far, only a few dozen Chinese experts are in Nicaragua and have been carrying out test drilling at the mouth of the river since the end of last year. They are measuring the speed at which the river flows, groundwater levels and soil properties. Not long ago, police established a checkpoint at the site and it is possible that the entire area will ultimately be closed off.
For now, though, the region remains a paradise for natural scientists and surfers. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach and a tropical dry forest stretches out behind it to the south, reaching far beyond the border into Costa Rica. But if the river here is dredged and straightened out as planned, the village on R­o Brito will cease to exist.
No Answers
The project has created massive uncertainty for those who live here and ever since the arrival of the Chinese workers, they have been wondering when they will be resettled and how much the government will provide as compensation. Thus far, they haven't received any answers. And they aren't alone: A total of 30,000 people live close enough to the planned canal route that they will likely have to be resettled, but an exact number has yet to be announced.
Employees of a Chinese company are currently going door-to-door to collect details on residents and property. But with opposition to the project rising, they are accompanied by police and soldiers armed with Kalashnikovs. Thousands of locals along the route have begun protesting against their impending expropriations with several demonstrations having taken place in just the last few weeks. Many of the signs they carry read: "No Chinos!" The anger has become so intense that police have begun patrolling outside of the Chinese engineers' headquarters in the provincial city of Tola.
But disdain for the project is not universal, leading to a growing split in the country. Many Nicaraguans welcome the Chinese investment and hope that the canal will bring in jobs and prosperity. Others fear a flood of Chinese immigrants.
DER SPIEGEL
Graphic: A New Canal for Central America
Making matters worse is the raft of questions surrounding the project. At first glance, the geography looks ideal for the canal. Lake Nicaragua provides a natural waterway in the country's interior, with just 20 kilometers separating the lake from the mouth of R­o Brito. But breaking through to the Caribbean on the other side promises to be difficult. The area is swampy, hardly developed and populated by indigenous peoples. Thousands of square kilometers of forestland would have to be cleared.It is also unclear if the undertaking will ever be profitable. The Panama Canal is currently being expanded and several other Central American countries are planning "dry canals" consisting of train lines connecting the two oceans across the isthmus. In order to be competitive against the others, the Nicaragua canal would have to transport a vast amount of freight. Furthermore, the small country has neither the money nor the know-how for a project of this magnitude.
Stranglehold on Power
None of these problems, however, seem to be of much concern for the president, hoping as he is that the canal will cement his legacy. But Ortega is far from the first to dream of such a thing. For 200 years now, the idea of a waterway connecting the two oceans has been one pursued by both Nicaraguan leaders and the country's US occupiers. The Sandinista revolutionaries likewise expressed interest in the project for a time.
Ortega was one of the comandantes who led the 1979 Sandinista revolt against the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza. In 1990, the Sandinistas were voted out of office, but Daniel Ortega returned to power in elections seven years ago. Since then, he and his family have established a stranglehold on power in the country. The opposition is divided and he faces little resistance in the country's parliament. At the beginning of the year, Ortega pushed through a constitutional amendment allowing him to stand for re-election indefinitely. Critics accuse him of ruling the country like Somoza did, just without the torture.
The erstwhile socialist Ortega has cemented his power by making peace with the church and with the country's business leaders. Furthermore, his Sandinistas have firm control of the Judiciary, Parliament and the Executive while Ortega's children own several television channels. He is fond of presenting himself as a kind of Christian savior.
Ortega's wife, Rosario Murillo, is the government spokeswoman, but in reality she has much more power than that. People in the country refer to the esoteric First Lady as "La Bruja," the witch. In the capital Managua, she has installed gigantic steel trees covered with thousands of lights on important arterials. They are lit up throughout the year as though it were eternally Christmas -- many of them are decorated with glowing stars, reindeer and Santas. She has also had several public buildings painted pink, her favorite color.
Because Nicaragua is unable to build the canal on its own, Ortega brought the Chinese on board as a partner. Ever since the revolution, the Sandinistas have had close relations with the Communist Party of China. Two years ago, the president sent his son Laureano to Beijing to explore the possibilities for economic cooperation.
Making Contacts
During a meeting with several Communist Party luminaries, Laureano Ortega was approached by businessman Wang Jing, who introduced himself as a representative of the telecommunications company Xinwei. The two became friends and Laureano invited Wang for a visit to Managua. The government granted him a license for the expansion of the telephone network, but ultimately revoked it because he proved unable to fulfill his pledges. Still, Wang's company established branch offices in a pink-colored high-rise in Managua known as the "Freedom Building."
It must have been during this period that the idea for the canal was developed and that Wang pledged $50 billion in financial backing. Where the money comes from remains unclear. Critics believe that the businessman is a straw man for the Chinese government. Latin America, after all, is strategically important for China, particularly when it comes to the country's need for raw materials and foodstuffs. The canal would drastically increase Chinese influence on the continent and would likewise provide it with control over a key transit point for global trade, similar to the advantage the US once enjoyed when it controlled the Panama Canal.
In June 2013, Daniel Ortega and Wang Jing signed the canal construction agreement. It grants the Chinese a 50 year concession with the option to extend it for another half a century. To carry out the project, Wang founded the HKND Group, with headquarters in Hong Kong. Stakeholders, however, have been kept anonymous and the company belongs to a consortium that is registered in the Cayman Islands. The legal firm Wang hired to represent him in Managua provides no information about the company and Wang himself did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him.
The government commission responsible for the project -- appointed by President Ortega -- likewise keeps an oddly low profile. Its offices are in a yellow villa and there is no sign indicating the commission's function. Police officers photograph passing cars through an observation slit.
Inside, the friendly Mr. Kautz is standing with his secretary. Manuel Coronel Kautz, 82, is president of the commission and a longtime companion of the president's. He is a trained agricultural engineer specialized in animal husbandry, but he is obsessed by the canal. For years he has been arguing in favor of its construction and once even tried to talk a Dutch company into building it.
'Dream Come True'
Fascination with the canal is something of a tradition in Kautz's family. His grandfather, a German engineer from the Alsace, likewise dreamed of a waterway between the seas, coming to Nicaragua in 1856 to develop a blueprint for the country's president. "I am now seeing his dream come true," Kautz says. Critics, though, doubt that Kautz really has much say in the canal project. "Ortega is abusing the old man as a figurehead," says Carlos Fernando Chamorro, a journalist and Ortega detractor.
Chamorro is particularly critical of the fact that the Nicaraguan people have never been consulted about the project even though the canal would drastically change the country. "The concession was handed out without input from the public," he complains, adding that the Sandinistas pushed the required legal framework through parliament in just a few days. "They ignored constitutional guarantees and handed control over to the military. In reality, the project serves to launder money. A small clique is hoping to enrich itself," Chamorro claims.
He isn't alone with his theory. Attorney M"nica L"pez Baltodano, a specialist in environmental law, agrees that something fishy is afoot. She is a leading opponent of the canal project and has filed a constitutional complaint against the concession at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She spent months studying the 120-page long concession contract and has published her conclusions in book form.
"The concession violates fundamental rights. The government has sold us to the Chinese," Baltodano says. "We are granting them rights to shipping and to our waterways. That is a violation of our sovereignty." In addition, she adds, Lake Nicaragua, one of the country's most important sources of drinking water, will be destroyed. But the country's leaders appear unmoved by such arguments.
'Too Many Inconsistencies'
Wang Jing has done his best to ensure that it remains so. One year ago, he invited a delegation of Nicaraguan business leaders to Beijing. During their visit, they were treated like state guests, complete with motorcycle escorts as they traveled through the city. Since then, they have all thrown their support behind the canal project.
Indeed, some companies are already preparing for a life once the canal is opened. The Pellas Group, Nicaragua's most important business conglomerate, has built a luxury resort, complete with golf course and helipad, not far from the planned mouth of the canal on R­o Brito. When Wang and Laureano Ortega come to see how work is progressing, that is where they stay. Multimillionaire Carlos Pellas has excellent contacts to the presidential family and is also hoping for some business from the Chinese.
In the end, though, the project's largest hurdle could be the challenges of providing adequate provisions to the Chinese laborers. At the beginning of October, the canal construction firm HKND informed the government in Managua what they would need to feed their 50,000 workers, most of whom are apparently coming from China. The list includes 12.5 tons of meat, 37.5 tons of rice and 25 tons of vegetables. Each day. Not all of that can be supplied locally. Additional vegetables and rice would have to be imported.
"I don't understand how you can announce the beginning of construction without knowing how the workers are going to be fed," Baltodano says. She doubts that the canal will ever be completed. "There are simply too many inconsistencies."
Cyber
Manhunt Underway For "Possibly Armed" Kinox Pirate Site Operators | TorrentFreak
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:25
In a surprise move, police in Germany have launched a public manhunt for two men behind several large file-sharing sites. Alongside the unusual step of naming and publishing mugshots of the men, police are warning the public that they are violent and possibly armed.
Just a few days ago news broke that police in Germany had carried out raids in several areas of the country.
They were looking for four suspects believed to be the key individuals behind a range of sites including Kino.to replacement Kinox.to, a pair of file-hosting sites, plus two linking forums. Even streaming giant Movie4K was thrown into the mix.
While two people were arrested in Neuss and Dusseldorf, two brothers from a village near to the northern city of L¼beck evaded police and are said to be on the run. It is those two men who are now grabbing the headlines.
Police have just taken the somewhat unusual step of announcing a public manhunt for the brothers, publishing mugshots and their full names alongside details of their alleged crimes. This is something only usually carried out in exceptional and serious cases.
Pictured right is Kastriot Selimi. Born in 1989, the 25-year-old was born in Kosovo and later became a German citizen.
According to police he is one of the founders of the ''criminal organization'' behind Kinox, FreakShare and BitShare (In respect of BitShare, please see update at bottom of article).
Kastriot also has alleged connections to a range of other sites including stream4k.to, shared.sx, mygully.com and boerse.sx.
Kastriot Selimi's alleged crimes include predatory blackmail, armed robbery, extortion, arson, copyright infringement and tax evasion. Police warn that he should be considered violent and could be armed.
Pictured right is Kreshnik Selimi. Born in 1992, the 21-year-old was born in Sweden and later became a German citizen. He is the younger brother of Kastriot.
Kreshnik is accused of founding and operating the same sites as his sibling and is covered by the same international arrest warrant. He is being classified as violent and police are warning the public that he too could be armed.
Kreshnik Selimi's alleged crimes include predatory blackmail, armed robbery, extortion, arson, copyright infringement and tax evasion.
According to information received by German publication Spiegel, the arson and extortion charges relate to alleged crimes carried out by the brothers against one of their former or even current business partners.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor's office earlier revealed that the brothers had ''made great efforts'' to get rid of their competitors in the piracy market. ''Sometimes even a car burst into flames,'' he said.
According to the Attorney General's office the brothers have evaded 1.3 million euros in taxes, which suggests that overall revenues were in excess of 6.5 million euros. Even if that amount is overblown, it seems likely that the pair have considerable resources at their disposal.
The brothers' whereabouts aside, the big mystery is why the sites named above are still in operation. All remain online, despite their alleged operators being subjected to an international manhunt.
Update: The CEO of BitShare has contacted TorrentFreak stating that his site is being wrongly linked to this investigation and its reputation damaged with zero evidence being produced against it.
''Our company has not even been contacted by ANYONE and still they are accusing us of being connected to these two guys or other websites,'' he explained.
TF has asked the BitShare CEO for a full statement which we will publish in due course.
Gaza
Israel to allow Coke into Gaza
Sun, 02 Nov 2014 23:44
New Coca Cola factory at the Karni industrial area will create jobs for 3,000 Palestinians; Israel hopes new factory can drive economic growth in Strip, decrease terrorism.Yossi Yehoshua
The construction of a Coca Cola factory in the Gaza Strip, set to create jobs for thousands of Palestinians, will begin this week after it has been green-lighted by Israel's defense establishment.
A Palestinian entrepreneur had to submit a request to build the factory to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon then decided to accept COGAT head Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai's recommendation.
The factory will at first create jobs to hundreds of Palestinians and later on to 3,000 workers.
It will be built in the Karni industrial area, and its construction will take six months.
While the Karni border crossing is closed, the industrial area is still active, and includes mostly storage spaces used by international organizations and cooling structures used by Palestinian merchants.
The Karni border crossing, however, will remain closed even after the factory is operational, and any transfer of goods will be done through the Kerem Shalom border crossing.
The defense establishment hopes this factory, like other planned factories, will drive the Strip's economy, decrease terrorism and lead to the acceleration of Gaza's rehabilitation.
So far, Gaza residents received Coca Cola products from a factory in Ramallah, which often led to a shortage whenever the border crossings closed.
India
Officials fear al Qaeda grooming Indian militants for big attacks
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 02:10
By Sanjeev Miglani
NEW DELHIWed Nov 5, 2014 5:07pm EST
Pakistani rangers (wearing black uniforms) and Indian Border Security Force (BSF) officers lower their national flags during a daily parade at the Pakistan-India joint check-post at Wagah border, near Lahore November 3, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Mohsin Raza
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Decrypted communications between Indian Mujahideen (IM) and al Qaeda and testimony from suspects have triggered alarm among intelligence officials in New Delhi: the groups appear to be working together to launch major attacks in the region.
The officials told Reuters that plots they had uncovered included the kidnapping of foreigners and turning India into a "Syria and Iraq where violence is continuously happening".
Allegiances between Islamist militant groups can be murky and fleeting, and providing concrete proof of operational ties is notoriously difficult.
But Indian security agencies said evidence they had gathered pointed to growing ties between al Qaeda and IM, a home-grown movement hitherto known for low-level attacks on local targets using relatively crude weapons like pressure cooker bombs.
Weeks after al Qaeda announced the formation of a South Asia wing to strike across the subcontinent, agencies said they had discovered IM members were training with al Qaeda and other groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan for major attacks.
That increases the risk of a more dangerous form of militancy in the world's biggest democracy, which has been largely spared the kind of violence that regularly rocks its neighbor Pakistan and, beyond it, Afghanistan.
Security officials cite last Sunday's deadly suicide bombing on the Pakistani side of a border crossing with India, and a terror alert on Tuesday at two eastern ports that forced the Indian navy to withdraw two ships, as evidence that militant coordination and activity are on the rise.
"The thing we are looking for is how al Qaeda/ISIS tie up with local groups, especially as the drawdown takes place in Afghanistan," said Sharad Kumar, head of the NIA (National Investigation Agency), the country's main counter-terrorism arm.
HARDENED FIGHTERS HEAD HOME?
ISIS, also known as Islamic State, has carved out swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, but its influence over militant groups in South Asia is believed to be limited so far.
Al Qaeda is deeply entrenched, however, with leader Ayman al-Zawahri believed to be hiding near the Afghan-Pakistan border and its militants fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan. Foreign combat troops are due to withdraw at the end of the year.
Some members of IM are already fighting alongside al Qaeda in Afghanistan, according to an Indian government chargesheet against 11 suspected members of the group alleged to have plotted attacks in India.
The worry is that more battle hardened fighters could now turn their sights on their homeland.
Others have enlisted with al Qaeda to try to carry out kidnappings of Jews in India and Nepal to secure the release of Pakistani Aafia Siddiqui, a neuroscientist jailed for 86 years in the United States for attempting to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.
Siddiqui is a cause-celebre among global militant groups, including Islamic State, which proposed swapping her for American journalist James Foley before executing him when its demands were not met.
IM has also been urged by al Qaeda to open a base in Myanmar to avenge attacks on Rohingya Muslims, said the chargesheet prepared by the NIA, which has gathered hundreds of pieces of evidence of Internet conversations and meetings between militants in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"ITCHING FOR ACTION"
The Internet chats, which the United States helped Indian investigators to decipher, reveal tensions between IM and Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which India says has nurtured the group with finance and equipment.
In one conversation, Riaz Bhatkal, one of the founders of IM now based in the Pakistani city of Karachi, tells his men that it was important to build direct ties with al Qaeda, cutting out Pakistan agents whom he described as "dogs".
He talks about visiting al Qaeda leaders in the tribal belt on the Afghan-Pakistan border, despite ISI orders not to do so.
"It has been clear for some time that there is no group that is fully within ISI control. They are all itching for independent action, some want to have a go at us immediately," said an Indian security official.
Pakistani officials deny they have links with the militants.
"This is an outdated story. It does not serve any purpose for Pakistan to support such groups," said a senior intelligence official in Islamabad, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media about the issue.
"These terrorists are openly attacking us, the army, innocent civilians, everyone here is a target," he told Reuters. "Why would they do so if we were helping them in any way?"
On Sunday, at least 57 Pakistanis were killed in a suicide bombing at Wagah, near the Indian border, which the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaat Ahrar group, whose leader has ties to al Qaeda, said was also aimed at India.
A spokesman issued a direct warning to India's nationalist prime minister, Narendra Modi, saying his group would avenge the killings of Muslims in the disputed region of Kashmir and the Indian state of Gujarat, which Modi governed from 2001 to 2014.
Two Indian naval warships were abruptly ordered back to sea on Tuesday, a day after they docked at Kolkata port after intelligence agencies issued a terror alert.
On Wednesday the warning was widened to the neighboring Haldia port, the site of a huge petrochemicals complex.
Kolkata Port Trust deputy chairman Manish Jain, who is also in charge of the Haldia port complex, said security had been enhanced several times over in both the ports.
He did not have more details, but a police officer in Kolkata said they had been warned of an attack by Pakistan-based militants.
"It is the Afghan drawdown, there is a competition to do something spectacular. Wagah was the first," the officer said.
(Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in ISLAMABAD, Andrew MacAskill in NEW DELHI and Sujoy Dhar in KOLKATA; Editing by Mike Collett-White and John Chalmers)
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VIDEO-CLIPS-DOCS
VIDEO-ACDC DRUMMER ARRESTED FOR HIRING HITMAN
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:42
Last updated 17:00 06/11/2014
TONY WALL
Gallery: Phil Rudd in courtPhil Rudd in courtSunLive.co.nzSunLive.co.nzSunLive.co.nzSunLive.co.nzSunLive.co.nzSunLive.co.nz0 of 0
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd arriving at court
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd in the dock at court.
The court charge sheet of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd.
A police officer and security guard outside the home of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd.
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd in the dock at court.
A security guard outside the home of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd.
AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd allegedly tried to have two men killed.
He appeared in the Tauranga District Court this afternoon, charged with attempting to procure a murder.
> Rudd: A rock'n'roll lifestyle
Rudd, 60, dressed in jeans and a grey sweater, said nothing during his short stint in the dock of the court, before being released on bail.
He entered no plea to the charges and will reappear in court in three weeks.
Media applied for permission to film and photograph Rudd in the dock.
His lawyer Tony Rickard-Simms argued against that saying the media just wanted to get photos of Rudd "at his worst".
But Judge Bidois allowed filming of Rudd.
One of the alleged victims told Fairfax this afternoon he didn't want to comment before speaking to his lawyer. He was not in a position to speak.
Rudd had been in custody since 7am when his house was raided by police.
In releasing Rudd on bail he ordered that he should have no contact with the man he allegedly tried to hire to carry out the murder.
According to the charges laid by police, Rudd had tried to get two men killed - their names and that of the intended hitman were all suppressed by the judge.
AC/DC fans have taken to the band's website to expres concerns the band will never tour again.
Fans say they're worried the charges against Rudd will stop any future tours and overshadow the group's album Rock or Bust due out later this month.
Rudd was driven from court by a blonde woman in a silver Mercedes Kompressor convertible.
He refused to talk to gathered media.
Rudd's arrest comes after police raided the drummer's home on the Tauranga waterfront at Matua this morning.
He is also charged with possession of methamphetamine, possession of cannabis and threatening to kill.
Michael Browning, AC/DC's former manager, told the Daily Mail the situation was a "bit of a shock".
ROCK LEGEND
Rudd is the only Australian-born member of the AC/DC band. In 2003, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the other members of AC/DC.
Rudd moved to New Zealand in 1983 after he was kicked out of the band
He re-joined the band in 1994 and has since been in and out of New Zealand while touring and recording.
He also opened a restaurant in Tauranga which attracted publicity when a group of staff took a case to the Employment Relations Authority.
AC/DC has a new album, Rock or Bust, due out on December 2.
The band has sold more than 200 million albums, feature at or near the top of highest grossing tour lists whenever they play live and were the standard bearers for Australian music years before the likes of INXS, Kylie Minogue or 5 Seconds of Summer.
The sound of pub rock, the defining mainstream sound of Australian music in the 1970s and '80s, could be said to have emerged from the stages, and the studios AC/DC inhabited.
- Stuff
VIDEO-GHOST tanker in the gulf disappears
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:36
Oct. 23 (Bloomberg) -- A mysterious oil tanker has been sitting off the coast of Texas since late July. The ship holds Kurdish oil, which Baghdad contends is stolen goods. The Kurds say that it is theirs to produce and sell as they choose. While the two sides argue, the Kurds have found a way to go around Baghdad and sell their oil - make the ship disappear. (Source: Bloomberg)
VIDEO-Kroll Show - Europeans - Spotted Ox Hostel - YouTube
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:27
VIDEO-Search Warrants: Frein Used Laptop to Evade Manhunt | WNEP.com
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 14:23
BLOOMING GROVE TOWNSHIP '-- All these days many of us wondered how Eric Frein was able to stay on the run from police.
Search warrants just returned in the Eric Frein investigation show that he was able to hide from police using laptops and wireless internet.
Newswatch 16 was the first to tell you at noon Tuesday about the search warrants on a laptop and two thumb drives belonging to Frein.
Police said those items were found after Frein's capture Thursday at an abandoned resort in Monroe County.
The search warrant indicates police have a laptop and two thumb drives as evidence in the case against Frein.
What's really interesting is how the former fugitive might have used the laptop and all the information on the Internet about the manhunt to avoid capture for so long.
For seven weeks, police were searching the woods of Monroe and Pike counties for any sign of the so-called survivalist.
Meanwhile, court papers indicate Frein may have been doing some internet searching of his own on a laptop computer he had with him.
The night of his capture, police said Frein admitted using a laptop to access open WiFi accounts in the area while he was hiding from search teams.
''A guy like Eric Frein, he eluded the police almost two months. This guy is not stupid,'' said John Hannick of Hemlock Farms.
People who followed the story on TV and online said they wondered how Frein was able to always stay one step ahead of federal and state authorities.
Now they and police might have their answer, after police said the laptop and two thumb drives were found inside the hangar at the old Birchwood Resort where Frein was captured last week after 48 days on the run.
''Either he was very intelligent or he had assistance elsewhere, and that was his assistance, his WiFi,'' said Anna Curtin of Hemlock Farms.
In Barrett Township, part of the former search area for Frein for all those days, just driving down the road you can find a few open WiFi signals. Once connected without a password, you can go to WNEP.com and follow the latest news on the manhunt or go to a web page and listen to the Monroe County police scanners.
''I never really thought about it, leaving it open. It'd be interesting to know what kind of information he was getting from using people's WiFi accounts,'' said one woman in the neighborhood whose wireless router is open, not password locked.
Right now, there's no telling what websites or other sources of information Frein used when he logged onto unsecured wireless internet accounts.
Still, troopers hope the information on those devices will help explain what he was doing and what was his motive in the attack at State Police Blooming Grove.
They'll be looking at internet search terms, email and contacts, messages browsing history, journals and much more.
Frein is still locked up in Pike County facing first degree murder and other charges for his alleged ambush at the barracks in September.
The shooting left Corporal Bryon Dickson dead and Trooper Alex Douglass severely wounded and led to a 48-day manhunt through Pike and Monroe Counties.
One of Frein's defense attorneys said he met with the accused cop killer in jail late Monday. He would not comment on what Frein's demeanor is, only to say ''he's a 31-year-old man facing serious charges sitting in jail.''
VIDEO-Mia Love's Immediate Response When CNN Hosts Try to Make Race Focal Point of the Conservative's Election Victory | Video | TheBlaze.com
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:55
Conservative candidate Mia Love made history on Tuesday by becoming the first black female Republican elected to Congress. While it's a major milestone, Love hit back against suggestions that her election victory was the result of her race or gender during a Wednesday CNN appearance.
CNN host John Berman asked Love a seemingly back-handed question aimed at Republicans regarding why it took so long for the party to elect a black woman. Love was clear that her campaign and victory had ''nothing to do with race.''
''This has nothing do with race. Understand that Utahans have made a statement that they're not interested in dividing Americans based on race or gender, that they want to make sure that they are electing people who are honest and who have integrity,'' Love said. ''That's really what made history here. It's that Race, gender, had nothing to do with it, principles had everything to do with it.''
CNN
Berman's co-host, Michaela Pereira, then challenged Love on her point, saying people shouldn't be divided on the basis of race, but everyone should have a ''fair shot at getting a seat at the table.''
Love explained that ''there are very few black residents'' in Saratoga Springs and reiterated that she ''wasn't elected because of the color of my skin, I wasn't elected because of my gender.''
''I was elected because of the solutions that I put at the table because I promised I would run a positive issues-oriented campaign and that's what resonated,'' she added.
Watch the interview via CNN:
(H/T: Mediaite)
VIDEO-Leaked Docs Expose More Than 340 Companies' Tax Schemes In Luxembourg
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:48
ICIJ | By Leslie Wayne, Kelly Carr, Marina Walker Guevara, Mar Cabra and Michael Hudson
This article was reported by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a Washington DC-based global network of 185 reporters in 65 countries who collaborate on transnational investigations.
Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny Central European duchy, leaked documents show.
These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.
Big companies can book big tax savings by creating complicated accounting and legal structures that move profits to low-tax Luxembourg from higher-tax countries where they're headquartered or do lots of business. In some instances, the leaked records indicate, companies have enjoyed effective tax rates of less than 1 percent on the profits they've shuffled into Luxembourg.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ journalists include hundreds of private tax rulings '' sometimes known as ''comfort letters'' '' that Luxembourg provides to corporations seeking favorable tax treatment.
The European Union and Luxembourg have been fighting for months over Luxembourg's reluctance to turn over information about its tax rulings to the EU, which is investigating whether the country's tax deals with Amazon and Fiat Finance violate European law. Luxembourg officials have supplied some information to the EU but have refused, EU officials say, to provide a larger set of documents relating to its tax rulings.
Today ICIJ and its media partners are releasing a large cache of Luxembourg tax rulings '' 548 comfort letters issued from 2002 to 2010 '' at www.icij.org and reporting on their contents in stories that will be published or broadcast in dozens of countries. It's unclear whether any of these documents are among those still being sought by EU investigators, but they are the kinds of documents that go to the heart of the EU's investigation into Luxembourg's tax rulings.
The leaked documents reviewed by ICIJ involve deals negotiated by PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world's largest accounting firms, on behalf of hundreds of corporate clients. To qualify the companies for tax relief, the records show, PwC tax advisers helped come up with financial strategies that feature loans among sister companies and other moves designed to shift profits from one part of a corporation to another to reduce or eliminate taxable income.
The records show, for example, that Memphis-based FedEx Corp. set up two Luxembourg affiliates to shuffle earnings from its Mexican, French and Brazilian operations to FedEx affiliates in Hong Kong. Profits moved from Mexico to Luxembourg largely as tax-free dividends. Luxembourg agreed to tax only one quarter of 1 percent of FedEx's non-dividend income flowing through this arrangement '' leaving the remaining 99.75 percent tax-free.
''A Luxembourg structure is a way of stripping income from whatever country it comes from,'' said Stephen E. Shay, a professor of international taxation at Harvard Law School and a former tax official in the U.S. Treasury Department. The Grand Duchy, he said, ''combines enormous flexibility to set up tax reduction schemes, along with binding tax rulings that are unique. It's like a magical fairyland.''
FedEx declined comment on the specifics of its Luxembourg tax arrangements. Other companies seeking tax deals from Luxembourg come from private equity, real estate, banking, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and other industries, the leaked files show. They include Accenture, Abbott Laboratories, American International Group (AIG), Amazon, Blackstone, Deutsche Bank, the Coach handbag empire, H.J. Heinz, JP Morgan Chase, Burberry, Procter & Gamble, the Carlyle Group and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
For their part, Luxembourg's officials and defenders say the landlocked nation's system of private tax agreements is above reproach.
''No way are these sweetheart deals,'' Nicolas Mackel, chief executive of Luxembourg for Finance, a quasi-governmental agency, said in an interview with ICIJ.
''The Luxembourg system of taxation is competitive '' there is nothing unfair or unethical about it,'' Mackel said. ''If companies manage to reduce their tax bills to a very low rate, that's a problem not of one tax system but of the interaction of many tax systems.''
Less than 1 percent
Disclosure of the leaked documents comes at a sensitive time for Luxembourg, a nation with a population of less than 550,000. Amid the EU probe of Luxembourg's tax deals, former Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker is in his first week in office as president of the European Commission, one of the most powerful positions in the EU.
Juncker, Luxembourg's top leader when many of the jurisdiction's tax breaks were crafted, has promised to crack down on tax dodging in his new post, but he has also said he believes his own country's tax regime is in ''full accordance'' with European law. Under Luxembourg's system, tax advisers from PwC and other firms can present proposals for corporate structures and transactions designed to create tax savings and then get written assurance that their plan will be viewed favorably by the duchy's Ministry of Finance.
''It's like taking your tax plan to the government and getting it blessed ahead of time,'' Richard D. Pomp, a tax law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said. ''And most are blessed. Luxembourg has a very user-friendly tax department.''
The private deals are legal in Luxembourg but may be subject to legal challenge outside the country if tax officials in other nations view them as improper.
Luxembourg's Ministry of Finance said in a statement that ''advance tax decisions'' are ''well established in many EU member states, such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Luxembourg'' and that they don't conflict with European law as long as ''all taxpayers in a similar situation are treated equally.''
PwC said ICIJ's reporting is based on ''outdated'' and ''stolen'' information, ''the theft of which is in the hands of the relevant authorities.'' It said its tax advice and assistance are ''given in accordance with applicable local, European and international tax laws and agreements and is guided by a PwC Global Tax Code of Conduct.''
In its statement PwC said media do not have ''a complete understanding of the structures involved.'' While the company can't comment on specific client matters, it rejects ''any suggestion that there is anything improper about the firm's work.''
ICIJ and its media partners used corporate balance sheets, regulatory filings and court records to put the leaked tax rulings in context. News organizations that have worked together on the six-month investigation include The Guardian, S¼ddeutsche Zeitung and NDR/WDR in Germany, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Le Monde, Japan's Asahi Shimbun, CNBC, Denmark's Politiken, Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo and others.
U.S. and U.K. companies appeared more frequently in the leaked files than companies from any other country, followed by firms from Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland. Most of the rulings in the stash of documents were approved between 2008 and 2010. Some of them were first reported on in 2012 by Edouard Perrin for France 2 public television and by the BBC, but most of the PwC documents have never before been analyzed by reporters.
The files do not include tax deals sought from Luxembourg authorities through other accounting firms. And many of the documents do not include explicit figures for how much money the companies expected to shift through Luxembourg.
Experts who've reviewed the files for ICIJ say the documents do make it clear, though, that the companies and their advisors at PwC engaged in aggressive tax-reduction strategies, using Luxembourg in combination with other tax havens such as Gibraltar, Delaware and Ireland.
The documents show that:
The Pepsi Bottling Group Inc., a New York-based unit of PepsiCo, used subsidiaries in Luxembourg to arrange a series of loans among sister companies that allowed the bottler to reduce its tax rate on its $1.4 billion purchase of a controlling interest in JSC Lebedyansky, Russia's largest juice maker. At least $750 million of the money involved in the Russian deal traveled through a Luxembourg subsidiary named Tanglewood, before landing in a Pepsi subsidiary in Bermuda. Luxembourg acted as a tax-reducing conduit as the profits moved from Russia to Bermuda.New York-based Coach Inc. set up two Luxembourg entities to move '‚¬250 million in Hong Kong earnings in 2011, an amount it expected to approach '‚¬1 billion by 2013. One Luxembourg entity acted as an internal corporate bank, allowing much of the luxury goods maker's Asian operating earnings to glide through a series of foreign entities in the form of interest payments on money the company loaned itself. Filings in Luxembourg showed that in 2012, the company paid '‚¬250,000 in taxes on '‚¬36.7 million in earnings channeled into Luxembourg '' a rate of well under 1 percent.IKEA has used Luxembourg as part of a tax-savings strategy almost as complicated as the retail chain's ready-to-assemble furniture. IKEA operates through two independent groups of companies: IKEA Group, which controls most of the 364 iconic IKEA big-box stores and Inter IKEA Group, which oversees franchise operations. Inter IKEA's structure includes a Luxembourg holding company, a Luxembourg finance company, a Liechtenstein foundation and a Swiss finance arm. Leaked documents show IKEA's Luxembourg operations opened the Swiss subsidiary in 2009 to outsource part of their financing operations to yet another low-tax jurisdiction, allowing the company to save taxes both in Luxembourg and in Switzerland.Belgium's richest family, the billionaire de Spoelberch dynasty, obtained a private tax ruling from Luxembourg in 2008. The de Spoelberch clan, part of the country's old nobility and close to the royal family, holds a big stake in ABInbev, the world's biggest brewer whose labels include Budweiser, Stella Artois, Corona and Beck's. The records indicate the de Spoelberch's routed '‚¬2 billion through Ireland and then Luxembourg, reducing taxes with each step. The only sign of Luxembourg companies controlled by the family appears to be a small letter box at an address that lists nearly 190 other companies.Even the Canadian government got a private Luxembourg tax ruling. In 2008, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board, which manages pensions for all Canadian federal employees, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, bought real estate in Berlin. The pension board set up Luxembourg companies that helped it sidestep German land transfer taxes. A complex internal loan structure allowed the board to pay minimal taxes in Luxembourg on income from the German properties. The investment board has a Luxembourg office '' a place where desks can be rented by the month and where two employees watch over600 million in European investments.The Canadian pension board and Inter IKEA both said their tax planning complies with all laws and regulations. The Canadian fund argues that because it has tax-exempt status in Canada, it ultimately gained ''no tax advantage'' by routing investments through Luxembourg. Inter IKEA said its total effective corporate income tax rate is currently around 14 percent.
Pepsi, Coach and an accountant for the de Spoelberch family's Luxembourg holdings declined to comment on the specifics of their tax arrangements.
''This is the first time really that we've seen inside the workings of Luxembourg as a tax haven,'' said Richard Brooks, a former U.K. tax inspector and author of the book The Great Tax Robbery, who was hired by ICIJ to help review some of the leaked documents. ''The countries . . . that are losing money, they don't know about it, don't know how it operates at all.''
Gilded Age
Last month, in the Gilded Age splendor of New York's private Metropolitan Club, Pierre Gramegna, Luxembourg's minister of finance, tried to woo the Wall Street crowd with some premier cru wine and a little levity. He told assembled financiers that he wanted to dispel the myth that his tiny country is nothing more than a tax haven: ''Luxembourg is not an offshore place. I say it loud and clear.''
What he got back was hearty round of laughter.
In the wake of the EU's probe of its tax practices, Luxembourg officials continue to bristle at their nation's tax haven label. The country, a founding member of the EU, boasts of being a multi-lingual nation in the heart of Europe with a business-friendly and stable government. Once primarily a steel-maker and manufacturer, Luxembourg has transitioned into a financial center rivaling London, New York or Hong Kong. With $3.7 trillion in assets under management by banks and other institutions, Luxembourg is second only to the U.S. as a global investment center.
More than 170 of the Fortune 500 companies have a Luxembourg branch, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, a nonprofit research and advocacy group. A total of $95 billion in profits from American corporations' overseas operations flowed through Luxembourg in 2012, the most current statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show. On those profits, corporations paid $1.04 billion in taxes to Luxembourg '' just 1.1 percent.
Other tax havens, Ireland for example, openly advertise rock-bottom corporate tax rates of 12.5 percent. Luxembourg instead maintains a statutory tax rate of 29 percent, but the leaked files show that the duchy has routinely approved tax rulings that whittle down what counts as taxable income to practically nothing. This can drop Luxembourg's effective tax rate deep into single digits.
Less than 30 percent of the tax deals in the leaked documents include a specific figure for the amount of money that companies said they planned to ''invest'' through the Luxembourg agreements. The total for those deals was roughly $215 billion between 2002 and 2010. The figure would likely grow to several hundred billion dollars if projected investments in other deals in the leaked PwC documents were included. And the overall figure for money shuffled through Luxembourg as the result of confidential tax agreements would grow even larger if tax deals arranged through other accounting firms were included.
PwC's letters seeking special tax rulings were usually 20 to 100 pages long. They detail various financial strategies and then specify the tax treatment the accountants expect to get for their clients '' suggesting, for example, that dividends be treated as tax-free interest.
The leaked tax rulings indicate that negotiations were conducted in private meetings between PwC accountants and Luxembourg tax officials. PwC's written proposals were often approved the same day they were submitted.
The deals can be so complex that PwC accountants frequently include ''before'' and ''after'' diagrams to illustrate how money flows from subsidiary to subsidiary and across different countries and tax havens. The leaked records show that Luxembourg's 2009 tax deal for Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories '' which makes arthritis drugs and Ensure meal replacement shakes '' features 79 steps including companies in Cyprus and Gibraltar. Abbott projected it would invest as much as $50 billion via Luxembourg.
A spokesperson for Abbott declined comment.
In a 2009 presentation, PwC highlights Luxembourg as a place with ''flexible and welcoming authorities'' who are ''easily contactable'' and offer a ''readiness for dialogue and quick decision-making process.''
Most of the leaked tax rulings were approved and signed by the same tax official, Marius Kohl, now retired. Sometimes known in tax circles as ''Monsieur Ruling,'' Kohl was described by one Belgian newspaper as ''the guardian of the only door through which companies can enter the fiscal paradise of Luxembourg.'' During his time as head of a Luxembourg agency called Soci(C)t(C)s 6, Kohl oversaw the approval of thousands of tax agreements, personally signing as many as 39 in the course of a single day. The Wall Street Journal has reported that since Kohl retired in 2013, it can take up to six months for a tax ruling to be approved.
A woman who answered the phone at Kohl's home told an ICIJ reporter that he wasn't interested in talking. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kohl said: ''The work I did definitely benefited the country, though maybe not in terms of reputation.''
When a Journal reporter asked whether the prices that companies' Luxembourg affiliates charged sister companies outside the country for the use of intellectual property and other services were accurate, Kohl licked his thumb and held it in the air.
''There was no way to verify it,'' he said.
Financial Power
Luxembourg's economy benefits from a growing cadre of lawyers, accountants, and financiers who are hired to appear before the tax authorities. PwC, for example, said in 2013 that it had more than 2,300 employees in Luxembourg and that it expected to add another 600 in 2014.
Sprawling office parks of high-rise towers, not unlike those outside of Dallas or in northern Virginia, bustle with energy. Construction cranes dot the skyline. The International Monetary Fund reports that Luxembourg has the planet's highest economic output per capita '' $112,473 per person in 2013, more than double the United States ($53,001), France ($44,099) and the United Kingdom ($39,372).
''Luxembourg is not what people think it is when you think of a tax haven,'' Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance, said. ''We make steel and car components and have a logistics industry. Our financial center is diverse with first class funds, insurance, corporate finance and Europe's leading stock exchange. Luxembourg is about much more than this one issue they try to make of it.''
Still, Luxembourg has many ways to cut tax bills not always seen elsewhere. For example, some 80 percent of royalties on earnings from intellectual property '' software copyrights, patents and trademarks, for instance '' are exempt from taxes.
Corporations that have established toeholds in Luxembourg have made use of financial instruments that shift money around the map to play one country's tax rules against another. This might be, for instance, a hybrid debt instrument that allows profits to move out of a high-tax EU country to a Luxembourg entity. The profits are treated as interest payments in Luxembourg, where they can be deducted from taxes. In the parent company's country, they can be treated as dividends and eligible for a tax exemption.
The EU recently banned the use of hybrid loans that exploit tax mismatches between country tax systems for companies headquartered in Europe. Luxembourg and other EU members have until the end of 2015 to enact the ban into law within their own borders.
As in many tax havens, a Luxembourg office can be just a mailbox. Office buildings throughout the city are filled with brand-name corporate nameplates and little else. Some have offices and no visible employees. One building at 5 Rue Guillaume Kroll is home to more than 1,600 companies; another at 2 Avenue Charles de Gaulle houses roughly 1,450; and a building at 46A Avenue J.F. Kennedy is home to at least 1,300, according to an ICIJ analysis of Luxembourg's corporate registry.
These companies can represent big bucks. From the U.S. alone, direct investment into Luxembourg in 2013 was $416 billion, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Of that, the vast majority, $343 billion, was in the form of holding companies, which are vehicles to hold securities and financial assets rather than to create local jobs. In fact, Luxembourg represents a tiny fraction of 1 percent '' 0.13 percent in 2010 '' of all overseas jobs with American companies, indicating it is a place that houses money more than it provides employment.
In 2011 Luxembourg passed new rules requiring that Luxembourg-based companies that serve as internal banks for larger corporate structures station a majority of their managers and board members in the Grand Duchy. It's unclear how these rules are enforced and the Ministry of Finance did not respond to ICIJ's questions about mailbox companies in Luxembourg.
EU probe
Luxembourg's freewheeling ways are gaining it few friends in nearby Brussels, the EU's headquarters.
The European Commission, the administrative arm of the EU, is investigating whether Luxembourg's tax rulings for Amazon and Fiat Finance constitute illegal state aid, violating rules that bar EU members from offering deals to one company that are not available to all.
''In the current context of tight public budgets, it is particularly important that large multinationals pay their fair share of taxes,'' Joaqu­n Almunia, the commission's vice president for competition policy until last week, said earlier this year in announcing EU probes into tax practices in Ireland, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.
Reuters reported in 2012 that Amazon's Luxembourg arrangements allowed it to have an average tax rate of 5.3 percent on overseas income from 2007 to 2011. Amazon company filings show that in 2013 the on-line merchant reported revenues of $20 billion from its European operations, which are channeled primarily through Luxembourg.
The commission's Amazon probe focuses on one of the online retailer's key companies in Luxembourg, Amazon EU S. .r.l., which handles services to Amazon's European customers.
The commission argues that a generous 2003 tax ruling by Luxembourg authorities allows Amazon EU S. .r.l. to funnel millions of euros in tax-deductible royalties each year to yet another Amazon company in Luxembourg, a limited partnership that is tax exempted. This tax break and others like it allow Amazon to pay little in taxes in the Grand Duchy on its European sales.
The leaked PwC documents show that in 2009 Amazon EU S. .r.l. reported more than '‚¬519 million in royalty expenses while the limited partnership Amazon Europe Holding Technologies SCS had an influx of the same amount ''based on agreements with affiliated companies.'' Thanks to the royalty expenses and other deductions, Amazon EU S. .r.l. posted a taxable profit of just '‚¬14.8 million and paid '‚¬4.1 million in taxes in Luxembourg.
Amazon did not respond to ICIJ's requests for comment.
As EU authorities are pushing their corporate tax probes, a leading multinational group, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, has proposed a new set of rules that would bar companies from using many common practices to shift profits into tax havens. Approval of the OECD's proposals, however, is uncertain and years away.
Gramegna, Luxembourg's finance minister, said in an interview with ICIJ in New York that ''the European Commission is entitled, by treaty, to look after fair competition and at state aid. They decided to look into Amazon. We are telling the European Commission that everything we've done has been within the general principles of the European Union and the OECD.''
Adding a political twist to the Brussels probes is Juncker's rise to the presidency of the European Commission. As Luxembourg's prime minister, he signed into law the provision that allows companies to write off 80 percent of royalty income from intellectual property.
In a speech in July in Brussels, Juncker promised to ''fight tax evasion and tax dumping. '... We will try to put some morality, some ethics, into the European tax landscape.'' But he also recently told German television: ''No one has ever been able to make a convincing and thorough case to me that Luxembourg is a tax haven. Luxembourg employs tax rules that are in full accordance with European law.''
At a press conference two weeks ago, Juncker promised he wouldn't try to influence regulatory cases involving Luxembourg: ''I won't abuse my position in order to pressure commissioners to make different decisions regarding Luxembourg than they would regarding similar cases.''
Many observers are skeptical Luxembourg and its allies will give up the country's flexible tax regime without a battle.
J¼rgen Kentenich, chief tax fraud investigator in the German city of Trier, which lies near the border with Luxembourg, worries that big companies and their accountants will keep finding ways to take advantage of the deals offered by Luxembourg and other financial havens, while smaller companies and average taxpayers are left to make up the what's lost in tax revenues.
''It's always the same story,'' he said in an interview with ICIJ's partner, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Accounting firms are always coming up with fresh ways to cut tax bills ''and lawmakers and tax authorities are always behind, always chasing.''
Margot Williams, Edouard Perrin, Emilia D­az-Struck, Delphine Reuter, Fr(C)d(C)ric Zalac, Harvey Cashore, Lars Bov(C), Kristof Clerix, Julia Stein, Titus Plattner, Mario St¤uble, Minna Knus-Galn, Matthew Caruana-Galizia, Rigoberto Carvajal, Christoph L¼tgert and Neil Chenoweth contributed to this story.
VIDEO - Ebola crisis: UN response team 'still needs resources'
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 07:32
The United Nations mission charged with fighting Ebola does not yet have the capacity to defeat the disease, the operation's head has told the BBC.
Tony Banbury said the team had done "a pretty good job of mobilising resources" but that it was now focusing on achieving its targets, such as the number of patients receiving treatment.
He told International Development correspondent Mark Doyle what he made of reports that the spread of Ebola is slowing down.
VIDEO- Australian PM Threatens to Attack Russian President Putin at Brisbane G20 - YouTube
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 02:50
VIDEO-NBC, CBS Praise 'Brave' Brittany Maynard After Her Suicide | MRCTV
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:33
[More in the cross-post on the MRC's NewsBusters blog.]
NBC's Today and CBS This Morning both led their broadcasts on 3 November 2014 with euthanasia advocate Brittany Maynard's drug-induced suicide. The morning shows' anchors sang the praises of the "beautiful, brave young woman," as Gayle King labeled Maynard. Charlie Rose touted how the cancer patient's "short and meaningful life is over." Savannah Guthrie gushed, "What a remarkable young woman, and to share it with everyone, obviously, took a lot of courage."
The programs avoided using the word "suicide" during their reporting '' other than a one-month-old soundbite of CBS correspondent Jan Crawford pointing out to Maynard that some "people who would say, well, you're choosing to end your life '' that's suicide." Both newscasts acknowledged that her suicide was "controversial," but neither one brought on anti-euthanasia talking heads, nor cited opposing posts from social media. NBC's Tamron Hall spotlighted the supportive responses on Twitter:
TAMRON HALL: There were heartfelt Tweets about Maynard's passing. 'Your story, compassion and fight will never leave me.' 'She modeled the bravery of facing death with dignity. She, not cancer, had the last word.'
VIDEO-Kerry Says Even if US Achieved Zero CO2, That Still Wouldn't Offset China's Emissions | MRCTV
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 01:24
Even if carpooling, cycling, tree-planting Americans managed to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions to zero, that still wouldn't be enough to counteract emissions coming from China and the rest of the world, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
VIDEO- Mike Rogers at Stanford on 0-days - YouTube
Thu, 06 Nov 2014 00:57
VIDEO-Virgin Galactic ''ready to fly again next year'' after crash | euronews, world news
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 19:13
Virgin Galactic says it could have a new space tourism craft ready to fly by next year.
Just days after the crash of SpaceShipTwo in the Mohave Desert, engineers are back in a hangar working on the other craft.
They say ground testing could be underway by next summer.
George Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, said:''The team has been working hard on serial number 2.They are all eager to understand what happened and to move forward.''
An investigation into Friday's crash, which claimed the life of one pilot and left another seriously hurt, is being carried out by the National Transportation Safety Board. Virgin says it is cooperating fully.
Whitesides said: ''I think the collaboration that we have with the investigation staff is positive so far and my hope is that we'll be able to make progress over the coming days.''
The investigators say there was a lot of data recorded from the ill-fated test flight and that will be a great help in determining the cause of the crash.
VIDEO-NEEDED-Munk Debates - Home
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 18:34
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NOVEMBER 15, 2013 | Roy Thompson Hall | 6-9PMAre men, and the age-old power structures associated with ''maleness,'' permanently in decline? Or do men still retain significant control over the workplace, the family and society at large, including women? In sum, where are the sexes headed in the 21st century?
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VIDEO-Kerry: Even Carpooling, Biking, Tree-Planting Americans Wouldn't Offset China's Emissions | CNS News
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 15:05
Secretary of State John Kerry discusses current relations between Washington and Beijing at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC, on November 4, 2014 (AFP Photo/Allison Shelley)
(CNSNews.com) '' Even if carpooling, bicycling, tree-planting Americans managed to reduce domestic greenhouse gas emissions to zero, that still wouldn't be enough to counteract emissions coming from China and the rest of the world, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.
In a speech focusing on U.S.-China relations, Kerry stressed the importance of the world's two largest economies and greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters working together to confront climate change, saying neither the U.S. nor China could ''solve this problem'' alone.
''Even if every single American biked to work or carpooled to school or used only solar panels to power their homes '' if we reduced our emissions to zero, if we planted each of us in America a dozen trees, if we somehow eliminated all of our domestic greenhouse gas emissions, guess what?'' he said.
''That still wouldn't be enough to counteract the carbon pollution coming from China and the rest of the world.''
''And the same would be true for China if they reduced everything and we continued,'' Kerry said. ''We would wipe out their gains; they would wipe out our gains. Because today, if even one or two major economies neglects to respond to this threat, it will erase the good work done everywhere else.''
In the speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Kerry pointed to the latest U.N-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, calling it ''another wakeup call to everybody.''
The report released Sunday warned of ''severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,'' if action is not taken to reduce GHGs globally '' with a target of zero by 2100.
The IPCC also, for the first time, said the use of fossil fuels will need to be ''phased out almost entirely'' by the end of the century.
''The science could not be clearer,'' Kerry said. ''Our planet is warming and it is warming due to our actions, human input. And the damage is already visible, and it is visible at a faster and greater rate than scientists predicted. That's why there's cause for alarm, because everything that they predicted is happening, but happening faster and happening to a greater degree.''
A major U.N. climate conference scheduled for November 2015 in Paris, France aims to deliver a universal agreement for the post-2020 period on reducing GHG emissions and mitigating climate change. A lead-up conference will be held in Lima, Peru next month.
Kerry expressed hope that the U.S. and China could together set an example for other countries to follow.
''Next year, countries are supposed to come forward with their stated [emission-reduction] goals. And we hope that the partnership between China and the United States can help set an example for global leadership and for the seriousness of purpose on those targets and on the negotiations overall,'' he said.
''If the two countries that together are nearing 50 percent of all the emissions in the world, which happen to be also the two largest economies in the world, if they can come together and show seriousness of purpose, imagine what the impact could be on the rest of the world.''
Kerry and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi last year launched a U.S.-China working group on climate change. Projects have been launched or agreements reached on carbon capture, utilization and storage, vehicle fuel efficiency, GHG emission standards and a climate and forests initiative, among others.
VIDEO-Michelle Obama vote and eat fried chicken
Wed, 05 Nov 2014 04:06
4369397
First lady Michelle Obama has a message to black voters: Don't worry about what candidates have done or said'' just vote for the Democrats.
On TV One, a network operating under the motto ''Where Black Life Unfolds,'' the first lady told ''News One Daily'' host Roland Martin, ''And that's my message to voters, this isn't about Barack, it's not about person on that ballot'' its about you. And for most of the people we are talking to, a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this'' that shouldn't even come into the equation.''
In the full audio of the interview, Michelle Obama gives everyone who votes permission to eat fried chicken.
Martin asked (at 7:15), ''So can we, if we go out to the polls, can we, say, we have a souls to polls on Sunday, can we do soul food after we vote?''
Obama responded, ''Absolutely. I give everyone full permission to eat some fried chicken after they vote. Only after, if you haven't voted'... You make a good point. Because I am, I do talk about health. But I think that a good victory for Democrats on Tuesday, you know, should be rewarded with some fried chicken.''
WATCH:
VIDEO-Glitch prompts Dems to seek longer voting hours in Conn.
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 22:15
Voters were waiting in line to cast their ballots when the doors opened at a polling place in Takoma Park, Md. H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY
Erin Kelly casts her vote as son Finn, 3, stands by at Takoma Park Middle School in Takoma Park, Md., on Nov. 4, 2014(Photo: H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)
Democratic Party officials in Connecticut were asking the courts Tuesday to extend voting hours in Hartford because of problems at some polling places that did not have voter registration lists when they opened.
Although the mixup was resolved by midmorning, Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy, who is in a tight race for re-election, sought to make sure that all voters who wanted to cast their ballot could do so.
"If you were unable to vote earlier, your polling location is open and you can vote now," Malloy said on Twitter.
USATODAY
2014 Election Forecast & Predictions
USA TODAY
50 election facts for 50 states
It was the second gubernatorial race in a row in Connecticut that has run into voting glitches, the Hartford Courant notes. In 2010, a state judge agreed to extend the voting hours in Bridgeport after some precincts ran out of ballots.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Tuesday's miscues might affect one item on the ballot this year '' whether Connecticut should join 34 others states in allowing absentee balloting or early voting.
In Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for governor, tweeted: "Ballot irregularities omit my name from ballot in Bexar County." He calls on voters to call the secretary of state "if you spot other problems." San Antonio, a Democratic stronghold, is in Bexar County.
Abbott's tweet included a photo purporting to show his name missing from the ballot. But a top Bexar County election official, Jacque Callanen, says it appears that the tweeted image had been altered, Mysantonio.com reports.
"I think it's a photoshopped deal, but we are checking," Callanen said. In any case, the lone machine, located at a San Antonio elementary school, was taken out of service to be checked.
Nationwide, voters looking for bad weather as an excuse to avoid voting were out of luck, except in North Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, which were getting hit by heavy rain.
In Kentucky, voters lined up early at schools and community centers to cast ballots, driven in part by a nationally watched Kentucky Senate race. The state has estimated that about 49% of voters statewide and 65% in Louisville would turn out.
In Southern Indiana's Floyd County, the opening of five voting centers was delayed two hours because a technology glitch.
In Virginia, the Department of Elections says 32 voting machines at 25 precincts in Virginia Beach showed signs of irregularities and were pulled from service. The machines were knocked out of calibration while being transported to the polling sites, spokesman Cameron Sasnett told WVEC-TV.
In Atlanta, some voters groused at having to pay to leave the parking lot next to the Georgia Tech's student center polling site, despite signs announcing free parking,The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreports.
In one precinct in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, two of the four computers weren't working properly, prompting delays and causing some would-be voters to leave, the newspaper reports.
"It's another Fulton County mishap," said state Rep. Edward Lindsey, R-Atlanta. "Mistakes can happen."
In Boulder, Colo., the counting of mailed ballots will continue in Boulder County after a district court judge dismissed a legal challenge by Colorado Republicans.
The lawsuit filed on Monday alleged that County Clerk Hillary Hall had violated the law by not allowing Republican poll watchers in the key Democratic stronghold enough time to challenge or verify voter signatures on disputed ballots, The Daily Camera reports.
Hall told the newspaper that the challenge was from people who don't like mail ballots.
Contributing: Chris Kenning, The Courier-Journal, Louisville
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VIDEO- Voices of Courage: Fighting Ebola at its Source - YouTube
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 22:00
VIDEO &USA Lets Turkey Shape The Syrian Conflict At The Kurds Expense - YouTube
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 15:37
VIDEO-Susie Hargreaves, CEO, Internet Watch Foundation - Cyber to the Citizen Initiative Launch Day - YouTube
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 15:13
VIDEO-United Nations chief swaps 'Austria' for 'Australia'
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 03:39
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has muddled "Austria" with "Australia".
The slip of the tongue came during a news briefing at the Second United Nations Conference on Landlocked Developing Countries.
Speaking to journalists, the UN boss later corrected himself explaining that he was aware there were "no kangaroos in Austria".
VIDEO-Conchita Wurst in UN call to end LGBT discrimination | euronews, world news
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 02:16
Eurovision drag diva Conchita Wurst met UN chief Ban Ki-moon in Vienna to call for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Ban announced the extension of same-sex benefits to all UN employees, saying discrimination has no place in the United Nations.
''I will stand strong for equality. I hope all of you join our global, free and equal campaign. As Conchita said on the night of her victory (Eurovision Song Contest), I quote: 'we are unstoppable,''' he said.
The Austrian singer added:
''I dream of a future where we don't have to talk about sexual orientation, the colour of your skin, your religious beliefs '' because this is not important when it comes to society. Of course it's important for the human being, but it's not important for society.''
Since winning Eurovision, Wurst has made several public appearances to promote LGBT rights, despite attracting criticism from social conservatives.
VIDEO-US Warns Russia of Further Isolation After East Ukraine Vote: White House | Politics | RIA Novosti
Tue, 04 Nov 2014 01:57
WASHINGTON, November 4 (RIA Novosti) - The United States does not recognize Sunday's elections in eastern Ukraine and believes that Russia's support of the independence push there will only serve to isolate it further, US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a briefing.
"The United States deplores and does not recognize yesterday's so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote," Psaki said late on Monday.
"We also welcome statements from the European Union, the United Nations, France, Germany, and others rejecting these illegal and illegitimate actions," she added.
"If Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only serve to isolate it further," the spokeswoman emphasized.
She threatened the governments of the self-proclaimed Luhansk and Donetsk people's republics (LPR and DPR) with "a range of tools" and stressed Washington would not be working with the newly elected leaders in the east Ukrainian territories.
"We're going to continue to work with the central Government of Ukraine'... We're going to continue to press for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and all of the specific steps that are included in there," Psaki noted.
On November 2, the regions voted in the presidential and parliamentary elections that Kiev said it would never recognize.
Russia said it would recognize the results of the elections in eastern Ukraine since it meant the regions would have their own legitimate representatives at the negotiations with Kiev. In return, the White House warned Moscow of additional costs following its support of what it called as "sham" elections.
The United States has already imposed three rounds of sanctions against Russia beginning in March of this year. Moscow responded with counter-measures taking aim at European imports, particularly agriculture products.
VIDEO-Ireland's IDA boss faces bizarre CNBC interview
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:21
IDA Ireland's Martin Shanahan
IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan has been quizzed on American television network CNBC's popular business show Squawk Box about whether Ireland's low tax policy has helped it create so many talented golfers.
In a bizarre prime time interview Mr Shanahan, who leads the successful foreign direct investment agency, reveals that Ireland uses the Euro.
This claim is met with incredulity by Joe Kernen, a co-anchor of ''Squawk Box,'' who initially insists that Ireland uses sterling, before being repeatedly corrected by Mr Shanahan.
In an increasingly strange interview Kernan also expresses surprise that Ireland is not part of Britain and is in fact a different island. ''Squawk Box,'' is CNBC's signature morning programme and one of the most popular shows on the dedicated business channel.
The transcript below gives a sense of the type of questioning Mr Shanahan had to deal with while selling Ireland Inc to America, it starts about six minutes into the interview:
CNBC: How does the tax policy turn out such a string of great golfers, Graham, Rory...is it the tax, is this another tax, how does the tax affect the...it is a small place to have so many good golfers?
Shanahan: It is the environment that is probably doing that. It is a pretty good place to live and visit and everything else.
CNBC: What has the weaker euro meant in terms of tourism?
Shanahan: So, I think, em, Ireland is a very globalised economy so we look to what is happening here as much as we do to what is happening in Europe and we look to what is happening in...
CNBC: You have pounds anyway don't you still?
Shanahan: We have Euros.
CNBC: You have Euros in Ireland?
Shanahan: Yes. We have euros, which is eh...
CNBC: Why do you have euros in Ireland?
Shanahan: A strong recovery....
CNBC: Why do use euros in Ireland?
Shanhan: Why wouldn't we have euros in Ireland?
CNBC: Huh. I'd use the pound.
Shanahan: We use euro.
CNBC: What about Scotland? I was using Scottish eh...
Shanahan: Scottish pounds.
CNBC: Scottish pounds.
Shanahan: They use Sterling.
CNBC: They use sterling?
Shanahan: They use sterling. But we use euro.
CNBC: What? Why would you do that?
Shanahan: Why wouldn't we do that.
CNBC: Why didn't Scotland? No wander they wanted to break away.
Shanahan: They are part of the UK we are not.
CNBC: Aren't you right next to er?
Shanahan: We are very close but entirely separate.
CNBC: It is sort of the same, same island isn't it?
Shanhan: And in the North of Ireland they have sterling.
CNBC: They do?
Shanhan: And in the North of Ireland they use sterling.
CNBC: It is just too confusing...
VIDEO-Santorum on Religious Liberty, LGBT Rights and '16 Plans
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 18:54
Will Rick Santorum run for president again? The former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania doesn't waste time denying his interest.
In between campaigning for fellow Republicans in the midterm elections, Santorum stopped Friday in Washington, D.C., to speak at The Heritage Foundation's semiannual President's Club meeting. Afterward, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Signal, Santorum discussed the state of religious liberty in America and the tension between some LGBT activists and those with deeply held religious beliefs.
''We need to continue to fight, and in fact to push back the other way,'' Santorum said. ''We've been too silent too long and we need to say, 'Look, all of these thoughts are proper in the public square.' We need real freedom in this country, not government-dictated adherence to a set of principles.''
He also didn't mind being put on the hot seat about whether he's considering another race for the White House.
''I've been very, very clear in our interest in looking at this again,'' Santorum said. ''We think we have something very unique to say.''
Steve Weyrich, manager of news video for The Daily Signal, co-produced the video.>>> Rand Paul Says Obama Thinks He Can 'Act Like a King'
>>> Houston Mayor Backs Off Subpoenas of Pastors' Sermons
VIDEO-This Idiot Christine Milne Says Do you want death or do you want coal - YouTube
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 13:33
VIDEO-Coburn: Let's change Constitution | TheHill
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:35
Sen. Tom Coburn is pushing for a national convention to amend the Constitution.
The Oklahoma Republican, who has grown disenchanted with gridlock in Washington, will officially launch his effort after he retires from the Senate in a few months.
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Support for a convention of the states to overhaul the nation's charter document has increased among conservatives, who are frustrated by Congress's failure to reform entitlement programs.''I think [George] Mason was prophetic that we would devolve to where the federal government became too powerful, too big and too unwieldy. That's why he put Article V in,'' Coburn told The Hill in an interview.
Article V of the Constitution stipulates that two-thirds of the states may call a convention to propose amendments to the nation's founding document. It has never been successfully invoked.
All 17 times the nation has amended the Constitution since the adopting of the Bill of Rights in 1791, it has done so by proposing changes that won two-thirds support in the Senate and House and were then ratified by three-fourths of the states.
But with Congress these days hard-pressed to cobble together the consensus necessary to perform even the most basic functions of government '-- such as keeping it funded '-- a convention of the states is looking more attractive to Coburn.
''That's one of the things I'm going to be working on,'' Coburn said of his post-congressional plans.
''I think we ought to have a balanced budget amendment, I think we ought to have term limits. I think we ought to put a chokehold on regulation and re-establish the powers of the Congress,'' he said.
Coburn, a physician who is battling cancer, believes a constitutional convention would allow the legislative branch to seize back powers that have drifted to the presidency over the years.
President Obama's use of executive action to pursue an array of policy goals related to climate change, immigration and healthcare reform has precipitated what many conservatives are calling a constitutional crisis.
Coburn and Obama are friends who formed a bond soon after they came to the Senate in 2005. But that hasn't prevented Coburn from criticizing the president and his policies.
Some liberal activists and scholars say they could support an Article V convention, but only if it were set up to be ''cross-partisan.'' That way, it could be used to rein in political spending by special-interest groups, which has exploded since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC.
''If the convention is set up in a partisan way, you can be certain that whatever the convention does will fail because it takes 38 states to ratify any amendment,'' said Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and a self-described Democrat who supports holding a convention to reform the Constitution.
''The legitimate constitutional questions that are being put on the table are questions about the balanced budget, the size of government '... as well as the integrity of the electoral process, that's the stuff the people on the left are talking about,'' he said.
Unlike a constitutional convention, which would attempt to rewrite the Constitution entirely, an Article V convention would be more limited in scope and would focus on amending the document.
Coburn said he was not sure how many Democrats could be persuaded to support a convention to reform the Constitution.
So far, most of the support has been on the right side of the political spectrum.
Coburn has been in contact with Michael Farris, the chancellor of Patrick Henry College, and Mark Meckler, the president of Citizens for Self-Governance, who are leading a push for a convention of the states.
''We're talking to him about that,'' said Farris.
Legislatures in Florida, Georgia and Alaska have already passed a proposal that Farris and Meckler have discussed with Coburn calling for a constitutional convention to address the need for balanced budgets and term limits.
Farris said his goal is for 20 more state legislatures to adopt the proposal in 2015 and the remaining dozen or so to endorse it in 2016. He wants to hold the convention in 2016 before the presidential election.
While states cannot dictate the precise language of the amendments at the convention, Farris said they can set the scope of the debate.
''By 2020, 89 percent of the federal budget will be consumed by interest on the national debt, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. That's unsustainable,'' Farris added. ''Getting fiscal restraints on the federal government in the areas of taxing, spending and debt; it's essential for the survival of the country.''
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh recently embraced the idea as an alternative to impeaching Obama.
''So there is impeachment to deal with a lawless president, a lawless executive. But there is another way, and it is right in the Constitution. It's right there in Article V of the Constitution,'' Limbaugh said on his show last month. ''Article V allows for the states to establish a constitutional convention for the purposes of dealing with circumstances such as we are experiencing today. If the Congress will not impeach, it's right in Article V: The states have the power, if they want to do it.''
Conservative radio host Mark Levin has also endorsed a convention of the states.
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Tom Udall (N.M.), are trying use the traditional path to pass a constitutional amendment that would grant Congress the authority to regulate campaign fundraising, which would essentially overturn Citizens United.
But Lessig said this initiative has virtually no chance of passing and is primarily designed to motivate Democratic donors.
VIDEO-Brittany Maynard Could Revive the Stalled 'Death With Dignity' Movement | TIME
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 10:17
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AUDIO-This Drug Is Legal. It's Digital. And It's Supposed To Improve How You Game. I Put It To The Test.
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 05:31
Bigger, better, faster, stronger.
Entire industries have blossomed over the years by promising that they'll enhance your performance or make you a more efficient human being.
Here, read this productivity blog, listen to this podcast by a bestselling author, drink this vitamin-infused energy drink, take this seminar! Become the better, real you. Only x easy payments of $9.95. Did you think video games would be safe from this trend? Of course not.
We've already seen some of it. Red Bull markets itself to gamers by claiming to "take your game to a higher level." More commonly there is a bevy of gaming gear with special features meant to do the same: high DPI mice, mechanical keyboards with macro capabilities, gamepads with programmable buttons, even special gaming eyewear.
Drugs though? That's something new, gaming wise. Sure, arguably there are a number of drugs out there that can improve an experience-most famously, drugs with hallucinatory side-effects make a good complement to trippy games. However, taking drugs to become better at something is not novel. It's particularly common in fast-paced, demanding lifestyles and professions where you need to be able to keep up or have an edge. While I'm sure there are drugs out there that can improve how well you game, they weren't made with that explicit purpose'--not like gaming themed binaural beats.
There is no substance involved. You put on a pair of headphones, dim the lights, and focus on the sound.
What's curious about binaural beats is that they're "digital drugs." There is no substance involved. You put on a pair of headphones, dim the lights, and focus on the sound. Seems like something out of a sci-fi, eh? Or well, sounds kind of like bullshit, too.
Binaural beats were discovered over 100 years ago by Heinrich Wilhelm Dove when he noticed that two tones played at different frequencies in each ear produced a new sound. The interesting thing about this is that the beat can influence brainwaves, with some arguing that it could have all sorts of effects'--from reducing anxiety, to yes, simulating drugs.
Looking up these mind-altering drugs brought me to I-Doser, one of the major websites that sells binaural beat MP3s. They certainly go out of their way to explain why you can rest assured that yes, this is the Real Deal. From their website:
Our Binaural process has been refined with years of research and development. With thousands of satisfied users, the I-Doser Labs CDs, MP3s, and the I-Doser Application for PCs continue to lead the industry as the only safe and effective method to achieve a simulated mood or experience.
I-Doser for the PC is the most advanced computer application available to achieve a simulated mood or experience through the use of binaural beats.
That last bit makes it sound like it's something crazy high tech, not just, you know, some audio tracks. The website also explains that there are different levels of susceptibility to binaural beats, posing that some users may not feel the intended effects'--and that that's normal. Naturally, it's difficult to read such a disclaimer without raising eyebrows, but you can't say they don't try to cover their bases.
While perusing the website, I found'--to my surprise, since I wasn't looking for these to begin with'--two gaming related binaural beats packs. One was called a "Game Enhancer." What it claims:
Designed to enhance your abilities for a specific game genre. As competitive as social and online gaming is, get the edge and frack your enemy and get those achievements. For hardcore and casual gamers alike.
It includes tracks for action, adventure, fighting, RPG and shooter genres. The other pack, more fascinatingly, was a part of a "Fictional Doses" set, which takes drugs from media and recreates them. There are two gaming related ones: bloodthistle from World of Warcraft, and skooma from Skyrim. This one claims to:
Simulate doses from your favorite movies, books, and games. Mixed with our advanced auditory pulses are soothing backtracks of ambient soundscapes to help the brain induce of state of focus, telekinesis, euphoria, and incoherence.
I think it's impossible to come across this and not become curious. I mean, c'mon. Digital drugs? Audio tracks that claim to be able to recreate drugs from awesome games? So I tried binaural beats, and what I found was surprising.
Being that I've been playing both the recent Halo and Call of Duty releases, it seemed logical to start with the audio track best suited for a shooter. This was also the binaural beat that I tried the most times.
All the MP3s are fairly long'--you can expect to have to sit through a good number of 15 minute tracks. The shooter track threw me off because it starts off sounding almost like menu music you might find on your 3DS or Vita. That's not what I think about when I think "shooting people in the face."
What I felt while listening was a sense of floating through clouds'--very uplifting, an almost fluffy sensation in my chest. If you've heard the Dustforce soundtrack, it would be right at home with that tracklist. But then! The track got somber, and the transition felt kind of shocking. Like my perfect little world just got destroyed with spacey alien sounds.
When it ended I certainly felt... different. I can't quite explain how. But when I started playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II, I did notice a couple of things. First, that the game seemed to move slower than I recalled. I had to up my sensitivity on my controller to feel like I was moving at a comfortable pace.
I mean, cmon. Digital drugs? Audio tracks that claim to be able to recreate the drugs from awesome games?
And normally while I play, I can feel anxious'--you die quickly in Call of Duty, and this necessitates crazy reflexes. Sometimes that anxiety causes me to miss my shots completely in a wild attempt to react quickly. But I didn't feel any of that here; I was able to keep my cool and react accordingly. Did I play any better though? Not really.
I tried the shooter track a few more times in preparation to play Halo 4. It was here that I decided that despite being a "futuristic" drug (hereby defined as "drug that you take using technology"), binaural beats don't comply with modern sensitivities at all. 15 minutes of sitting in the dark doing nothing but listening to something? That is a test of patience.
Admittedly the reason I had to retry this one so many times was because I found it difficult to tame myself into following the directions. I'd read that not wholly focusing on the binaural beat could diminish the likelihood of an effect, so I wanted to make sure I avoided that. But it wasn't uncommon for me to be totally into the track, and then get caught with the urge to check how much time was left on it'--only to be horrified that only 5 minutes had passed. Disappointed, I'd get sidetracked and do something like check Twitter.
But if I was a genius that was capable of creating a new futuristic tech drug, you can bet your ass I wouldn't make it so that you had to be super patient to only have a chance at maaaaybe feeling the effect. Ideally, the kick would come in fast.
Hell, even the idea of snorting your drugs is more appealing than having to sit patiently listening to your drugs. You might as well be asking me to coddle it. Hold it in my arms and tell it how pretty it looks and don't worry we'll both have fun on this journey. And then give it a kiss on the forehead and hold its hand while we stare into each others eyes. Okay, this got weird.
15 minutes of sitting in the dark doing nothing but listening to something? That is a test of patience.
In any case, I also tried the shooter one again because I wanted to enlist the help of friends who could tell me if they noticed anything different about my performance. Any time I did well, they attributed it to the binaural beats. Personally, I did feel that I played better, as I was capable of staying alive for longer and got multiple kills with ease... but this lasted, at best, a match or two. Any time I redid the shooter track, the same thing would happen: a couple of good matches followed by a return to normalcy. I'm not sure the time dedication to meditation is worth it, at least not with my lack of patience.
Then I tried the action track'--I didn't have a fighting game, and dosing a binaural beat to be better at an RPG or an adventure game struck me as stupid. The action track is a strange one. It sounds like a natural setting, with audible running water, but there's a hum above it that seemed out of place. Eventually you hear a woman chanting in a background, along with flutes. It's a very seductive sound, all things told, that evoked a sense of "fever in the jungle."
For this one, I tried out the hyper-violent Hotline Miami. Previously I'd been stuck on a certain level for hours, getting so frustrated that my aggravation would give me headaches. I was amazed to find that this time I flew through the level with ease, chaining combos that I had never done before and straight up bulldozing through my enemies. That was awesome. But then I got stuck on the next level again, despite still being able to do neat tricks I wasn't able to before.
Here's the question I keep returning to: to what degree does expecting to be better at the game influence your performance? Obviously there's the possibility of the placebo effect; perhaps I did better because I believed that that's what the binaural beats were supposed to do. But I also can't help but wonder if being so hyper aware of how I was doing at all times messed me up.
Overthinking when you're supposed to be acting can hinder how well you do something. For best results'--and this isn't just for video games, it's anything where you have to perform, like sports'--you have to be able to balance going outside yourself and being in control. Like, you can't become so uncaring and loose about what you're doing without slipping, but you can't become paralyzed with details either. It's tricky.
The fictional drugs pack on the other hand gave me a fascinating experience. Fortunately, in this situation, I wasn't necessarily expecting or looking for specific results, so I was able to instead just sit back and see what happened.
The first fictional drug I chose to test was skooma'--a drug from Skyrim (or more accurately, The Elder Scrolls). Skooma was wonderful. Normally, I'm a ridiculously anxious person that can't stop thinking, and it's not uncommon to have people tell me to stop being so serious or to relax. But I can't.
Amazingly, listening to the skooma track was calming and meditative. My mind cleared and I just felt... peaceful. Mid-track I even started feeling a warmth in my stomach that reminded me a little of what feeling loved is like. I think this is insane because even when on mild-altering substances, I can't get rid of the overly eager part of my personality. But skooma calmed me the hell down.
But! Skooma has effects that are already detailed in Skyrim. You can take it and see what happens. The Elder Scrolls Wiki says users "pass through bouts of euphoria followed by protracted lethargy." I don't think I felt euphoria, though I guess I felt lethargic at the end. So maybe skooma doesn't work the way it's supposed to, but I'm still a fan.
Bloodthistle, meanwhile, I genuinely disliked. It's not bloodthistle's fault, though.
But skooma calmed me the hell down.
I tried it a little after trying skooma'--after peaceful bliss. That's a hard feeling to top. I've not really played World of Warcraft much, but the Wowhead Wiki says that Bloodthistle is an item that "increases spell power by a small amount for 10 minutes." So, something empowering, right?
Well, the track felt rather stark in comparison to skooma. Enough that I felt a tad upset, actually! My pulse got faster and I started breathing a little harder. The sound felt like a battlecry and I started thinking about my problems again, which isn't pleasant. But eventually it felt like something in my chest was boiling, if not bubbling. I guess you could say it was "determination." Like I could concentrate on something wholeheartedly'--to write this, really. And then when the track ended some of my muscles were twitching.
But how much of this experience can be referred to as a "drug" really? It's no secret that sensory deprivation, like proper binaural beat dosing requires, can make you experience drug-like effects. Hallucinations, for example. The Ganzfeld Procedure in particular is famous for this. Sound can also be provocative on its own, without being some special tone that alters your brainwaves. Who hasn't felt something while listening to a song? Granted, what I felt while listening to, say, skooma, was deeper than things I've felt while listening to normal music.
But binaural beats weren't more evocative than listening to something that elicits an ASMR response. That's something that, similarly to binaural beats, science hasn't really given us a conclusive answer on. To put the phenomena plainly, ASMR is when you get tingles and euphoria from certain sensory triggers'--common ones are whispers, or listening to the sound of rain. Personally I experience it with a number of words, like "crush." Maybe binaural beats aren't so unique after all.
So, verdict? The people on the I-Doser forums can't seem to agree on whether or not binaural beats actually have an effect. Looking at a poll with over 1k people, there's an almost equal divide between responses like "It blows my mind!" "Some doses work, some don't" and "It is a complete placebo, I never felt anything." Those that posted about their experiences were highly enthusiastic, even when describing doses of things that I tried.
If you ask me, I don't think I'd recommend the game enhancers'--especially not at their current pricepoints. It's four freaking tracks for nearly twenty bucks, and either they don't have a noticeable effect, or it's a short-lived one.
But the fictional drugs pack has made me highly interested in the more traditional binaural beats, like the ones that are supposed to mimic actual drugs or more esoteric sensations ("hand of god" or "first love.") Not enough to pay for them, but enough to go on YouTube and see what curiosities I can find'--binaural beats, ASMR or otherwise.
VIDEO-1.8 BILLION DOLLARS-Virgin Galactic crash: Company defends safety record
Mon, 03 Nov 2014 04:05
2 November 2014Last updated at 21:51 ET Virgin Galactic insists safety has always been central to its operations, following the crash of its experimental spacecraft in the US on Friday.
The company said that principle "has guided every decision we have made over the past decade, and any suggestion to the contrary is categorically untrue".
SpaceShipTwo broke up in mid-air during a test flight in California's Mojave Desert, killing one of the two pilots.
Virgin Galactic hopes to sends tourists on suborbital flights.
An investigation into the crash could take about a year, the head of America's National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has said.
'Time to focus'In a statement responding to criticism in the media about its approach to safety, Virgin Galactic said "everything we do is to pursue the vision of accessible and democratised space - and to do it safely".
It added: "Just like early air or sea travel, it is hard and complicated, but we believe that a thriving commercial space industry will have far reaching benefits for humanity, technology and research for generations to come.
"Now is not the time for speculation. Now is the time to focus on all those affected by this tragic accident and to work with the experts