Robert Peston, BBC : "Well you may recall that the Office for National Statistics recently recalculated the size of our national income to take account of unreported or under-reported parts of the economy, such as research and development, illicit drugs and prostitution. So thanks in part to the inclusion in the official economy of our productive sex workers, our EU membership fee has been augmented." - The BBC's economic editor's take on the UK's new, increased (by £1.7 billion) EU subscription. [more inside]
Francis Fukuyama on 'The End of History?' twenty-five years later: "liberal democracy still doesn't have any real competitors," but to get there... [more inside]
Not sure who to vote for in this month's European Parliament elections? Find the party that best represents you at MyVote2014.eu. While you're there, play the game and find out how much you really know about EU politics.
Reuters: EU court rules against requirement to keep data of telecom users [different news sources: BBC, The Register] Considerably more detail is available in the ECJ press release (pdf) and the full judgement but the Court has invalidated Data Retention Directive 2006/24/EC and struck a very clear blow against metadata storage in national law as the authority of the directive will soon cease to exist. This has a particular impact for UK MeFites, as UK law was based on the Directive and crucially passed through Parliament via the European Communities Act and thus skipped some review steps but is founded on the validity of the directive being implemented. Remaining national law would of course also be open to challenge on the same grounds. [more inside]
Dozens of armed men in Russian-marked military uniforms occupied an airport in the capital of Ukraine's strategic Crimea region early Friday, Obama warns Russia against any military intervention in Ukraine. But what is so dangerous about Crimea, and what is 'The Budapest Memorandum?'
While JJ Abrams finishes off the script for Star Wars VII, Disney and the Lucasfilm Story Group are busily deciding what is canon and what isn't. Lee Hutchinson at Arts Technica thinks cutting out the Expanded Universe and starting again is a good idea. Stuart Ian Burns at Feeling Listless isn't so sure. [more inside]
The successor to the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), the NASA/JAXA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) spacecraft is preparing for launch at the Japanese Tanegashima Space Center. GPM will be the newest international Precipitation Measurement Mission and will be the core observatory of the GPM Constellation. The two sensors on-board GPM are the GPM Microwave Imager (GMI) and the Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR). The GPM/DPR team has produced a fantastic anime about the DPR instrument. [more inside]
Don't believe France's reputation as a country where sexual peccadillos are always overlooked. After a vote by the country's National Assembly on Wednesday, it has just joined a growing group of European nations where buying sex is now illegal. France is not alone in its fresh efforts to curb prostitution. The move follows similar bans in Sweden and Norway, while other European countries are also scaling back laissez-faire prostitution policies. Germany is poised to change its liberal sex trade laws, while Ireland is also debating a measure similar to France's. Is the end of legal prostitution in Europe in sight?
(Don't miss the deep and interesting links found within the article.)[more inside]
A silent but epic battle is waging in the pages of toxicology journals over the use of science in public health policy. [more inside]
Immigrant boat headed to Italy, capsizes, more than 200 people in the water. A little more than a week after a boat sinking that killed over 300 people, the Italian navy has reported another boat is sinking. As refugees flow into the EU, looking for asylum, countries are torn between saving lives and stymieing the flow of people pouring into countries already under strain from austerity. [more inside]
Madiha Tahir, a journalist and PhD candidate, presents a transcript of her interaction with NSA staff who came to recruit at the summer language program where she is studying. "I had intended to go simply to hear how the NSA is recruiting at a moment when it’s facing severe challenges," says Tahir. Recruiters apparently discussed their "fun" after work, doing karaoke, having costume parties, and getting drunk. One of their slides asked the language students at the event "Are you good at manipulating people?" In the Q&A, Tahir and other students held their feet to the fire over surveillance of Germany and other EU countries.
According to The Guardian and Der Spiegel, the NSA has bugged EU government offices in Washington and New York, installed spyware on EU embassy communications equipment, and used the NATO headquarters in Brussels as a base to infiltrate the phone and computer networks of the EU's Justus Lipsius building. In addition, the NSA is targeting German civilian communications, monitoring ca. 500 million phone calls, emails and text messages per day.
European leaders are not amused- these revelations could endanger a trade pact worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
European leaders are not amused- these revelations could endanger a trade pact worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
Austerity at work. The public radio-television broadcaster Elliniki Radiophonia Tileorasi (ERT/EPT) is closing down, throwing thousands out of work and at least temporarily depriving Greece of one of the totems of statehood (such as a national airline, a national cuisine, a national comic-book character...). Announcement in Greek here, with reactions. It will be interesting to see what sorts of job the former journalists will be competing for when the service is reopened.
"[Peer Steinbrück, the chancellor-candidate] is a good man, with quite a bold programme for ‘social justice’. Tax increases for the better-off, a proper minimum wage, dual citizenship for immigrants, less elbowing individualism and more solidarity in a society where das Wir entscheidet – ‘it’s the we that counts.’ The German public, surprisingly, mostly agree that increasing taxes is a sound idea. What they resent is that the idea comes from the SPD. In the same way, the Augsburg programme is widely thought to make sense, but the voters don’t fancy Peer Steinbrück. They are pissed off with Angela Merkel’s governing coalition, but reluctant to let go of Mutti’s hand. In short, the public are in one of those sullen, unreasonable moods which make politicians despair." The LRB reports from Germany. [via]
Ha-Joon Chang on why separating politics from economic policies is bad for democracy. What free-market economists are not telling us is that the politics they want to get rid of are none other than those of democracy itself. When they say we need to insulate economic policies from politics, they are in effect advocating the castration of democracy. (Related FPP.)
On Saturday the EU mandated that all bank deposits in Cyprus pay a 6.75% "stability levy" on the first €100,000 and 9.9% on the excess to help pay for €6 billion of the €10 billion bank bailout. This is despite opposition from the Cyprus finance minister, who stated earlier this month that "there really couldn't be a more stupid idea" and more recently that "I wish I was not the minister to do this". The scale of the bailout is nearly 50% of Cyprus' entire GPD, and many officials are concerned that the money will go to Russian gangsters and oligarchs. The Saturday announcement lead to a run on the ATMs, which caused banks to restrict electronic transfers and set a €400 withdrawal limit. Most ATMs were out of money by the end of the day and a frustrated man threatened one bank with a bulldozer. The plan was scheduled to be voted on by parliament on Sunday, but it has been delayed to Monday and might not be passed by politicians who have heard complaints from their Cypriot constituents all weekend. The Cyprus President warned of total financial collapse and euro exit if it is not approved.
E.U. regulators are expected to announce Monday a ban on the import and sale of cosmetics containing ingredients tested on animals and to pledge more efforts to push other parts of the world, like China, to accept alternatives. [more inside]
E.U. Data Protection Directive has many proposed amendments that MEPs cut and pasted directly from American right-wing lobbyists group and ALEC member the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (previously). [more inside]
An advanced and well-orchestrated computer spy operation that targeted diplomats, governments and research institutions for at least five years has been uncovered by security researchers in Russia.
The highly targeted campaign, which focuses primarily on victims in Eastern Europe and Central Asia based on existing data, is still live, harvesting documents and data from computers, smartphones and removable storage devices, such as USB sticks, according to Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based antivirus firm that uncovered the campaign. Kaspersky has dubbed the operation “Red October.”[more inside]
The Absurd Quest for Euro Crisis Images: The Greeks aren't the only ones sick of the euro crisis. Photographers are reaching the end of their tether too, struggling to shoot images of euro coins in various states of distress to illustrate the story. Though some of the photos are absurd, they still get published -- because news outlets are equally desperate. Gallery. [via]
Today was, according to Angela Merkel, "a good day for Europe" - but it might also be the start of something much bigger. [more inside]
Perry Anderson's book length three part series on the history of India from the beginnings of its independence movement, through independence and partition into its recent history as a nation-state is the latest in a series of erudite, opinionated and wordy articles in The London Review of Books by the UCLA professor of history and sociology on the modern history of various countries, so far taking in Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, the EU, Russia, Taiwan and France. [more inside]
Financial Markets, Politics and the New Reality: "Louis M. Bacon is the head of Moore Capital Management, one of the largest and most influential hedge funds in the world. Last week, he announced that he was returning one quarter of his largest fund, about $2 billion, to his investors, [saying] it is impossible to make money when there is heavy political involvement, because political involvement introduces unpredictability in the market… Adam Smith and David Ricardo, who modern investors so admire, [never] used the term "economics" by itself, but only in conjunction with politics; they called it political economy… The investors' problem is that they mistake the period between 1991 and 2008 as the norm and keep waiting for it to return."
The Big Three of EU Foreign Policy: Stefan Lehne on the contrasting roles of Germany, France and the UK.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that people can resell used software licenses. Rock, Paper, Shotgun speculates about what this will mean for gaming, an industry which has embraced digital distribution wholeheartedly.
An EU campaign called Science: It's a Girl Thing! has released a promotional video that has not gone over well. [more inside]
"Some industry group had managed to put up a poster across the entire door, urging them to vote for adoption"
The EU might be tearing itself apart in the wake of the bankers' crisis, but that's no reason not to celebrate Europe Day, held each year on 9th May, the day on which Robert Schuman put forward his proposal for the creation of an unified Europe. And what better way to celebrate than with the official EU anthem, as done by the Muppets? [more inside]
If Britain were Greece... (audio slideshow)
Piotr Czerski sets out a Polish manifesto demanding respect for the internet generation (translated from the original Polish) that is reminiscent of a Eastern European addition to previous internet manifestos. Poland is somewhere this has definite roots however, with a recent anti-ACTA protest of over 10,000 people and legislators wear anon masks in parliament.
Greece gains another €130bn in bailout funds. It's a nice headline, but the reports suggest it still isn't enough and Newsnight paint a picture of a fracturing Greek society.
The European Union said Friday that 26 of its 27 member countries are open to joining a new treaty tying their finances together to solve the euro crisis. Only Britain remains opposed, creating a deep rift in the union. In all, just 23 of the 27 EU countries signed on outright to draft a new treaty binding them to a uniform regime of deficit controls and budget regulation. Only one country said no: Britain. Three more say they are open to the idea. [more inside]
Nobody was surprised when Italy Prime Minister Mario Monti presented a draconian "save Italy" emergency Budget decree on Sunday - that's what he had been nominated to do. But the full impact of the measures, especially hitting pensioners, became stunningly clear when Welfare Minister Elsa Fornero, invited by Monti to present her ministry's section of the decree to the press and TV, broke down (SLYT) and was unable to bring out the word "sacrifice".
"The political elite have actually no interest in explaining to the people that important decisions are made in Strasbourg; they are only afraid of losing their own power." Jürgen Habermas on the crisis of the European project and how it could be overcome.
A short guide to lazy EU journalism: not sure how the EU works or what institutions are involved? –> Just write “Brussels”. [more inside]
"Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
"Of course water hydrates." or does it? EU bans claim that water can prevent dehydration. Brussels bureaucrats were ridiculed yesterday after banning drink manufacturers from claiming that water can prevent dehydration. And hysteria over the EU's ruling on water and dehydration ensues. You can read the EU's ruling here (PDF). Highland Spring vows to defy EU rule on water labelling.
Testing by Food Safety News has shown that more than 75% of the honey being sold in the United States does not qualify to be labeled for sale as "honey". [more inside]
Mired deep in financial crisis, the Greek government of George Papandreou has sacked the country's military leadership:
In a surprise development, Panos Beglitis, Defence Minister, a close confidante of Mr Papandreou, summoned the chiefs of the army, navy and air-force and announced that they were being replaced by other senior officers. Neither the minister nor any government spokesman offered an explanation for the sudden, sweeping changes, which were scheduled to be considered on November 7 as part of a regular annual review of military leadership retirements and promotions. Usually the annual changes do not affect the entire leadership.[more inside]
The once-secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) slouches toward signing on Saturday. ACTA is expected to raise constitutional issues in the U.S., raise soverenty issues in the E.U., give copyright holders extensive powers to impose DRM and identify alleged infringers, and increase health risks worldwide. In addition, the U.S. has launched the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) to obtain what copyright provisions were stripped from ACTA. (see michaelgeist.ca, techdirt, or slashdot) [more inside]
Yields of 2-year Greek government bonds have been skyrocketing today, and are currently at 76%. Credit default swaps show Greece with a 98% chance of default. Confidence in the Eurozone as a whole has been tanking recently after a series of setbacks that leave a political solution looking increasingly unlikely. There was a timely, gloomy discussion on RT yesterday on European and worldwide political/economic prospects
Obama calls on Assad to step down. The US and EU announce sanctions on Assad's regime. The New York Times looks at the resistence in Homs. Al Jazeera has an ongoing Syrian Live blog. Enduring America continues to cover the Arab Spring.
"For the Germans the euro isn’t just a currency. It’s a device for flushing the past—another Holocaust Memorial. " Vanity Fair's Michael Lewis checks in with Europe's savior.
The EU is to (finally) reform the Common Fisheries Policy [NYT] (BBC Q&A). As fishsubsidy.org note, the industry is currently subsidised by over €1bn a year, and the new policy fails to allow for a large change in fleet size. If you're looking for ways to help on a personal level, mefi's own Zarkonnen has produced a guide to what seafood is safe to ethically eat that I've found useful. [via mefi projects]
The EU has just rolled out a new law requiring websites to request permission before installing any cookies in a user's web browser. In the UK, businesses have been given a one year deferral on implementation by the Information Commissioner's Office. The ICO have brought their own website into compliance with the law though, showing other websites the way forward. There's a notice at the top of the page requesting permission to set a cookie, as legally required. Click "continue" without agreeing
In Europe, bail-out and immigration fears have led to the rise of nationalism and xenophobia, a crisis that now threatens the EU itself. Right-wing euroskeptic parties and politicians have gained in power, such as the True Finns, they can roughly be seen as "Europe's Tea Parties". Greece is talking about dropping the Euro currency (due to Finnish demands), other PIGS could be next. Denmark has introduced custom checks at its borders again, seeking to stop the flow of intra euro traffic, while France and Italy have raised the possibility of reintroducing their own border controls.
In February 2006, a group of criminals pulled off the biggest cash heist in the history of the UK, making off with £53 million pounds. To date, only £23 million of the money has been recovered. Police are understandably upset about the dead ends in the case.