Monday, September 30, 2013

To do good, we must first understand and be understood well. I have a conviction that the Intellectual Property is extremely important. More than a third of jobs in Europe (76 million!) depend, either directly or indirectly, on industries that use intensively the intellectual property rights. And these jobs are quality jobs, the pay is 40% higher than other jobs.

Michel Barnier
Said : Michel Barnier, Member of the EC in charge of Internal Market and Services, in his opening remarks at the release function of the first study on EU's "Intellectual property rights intensive industries" in Brussels, according to a press release from European Commission on September 30, 2013.

"What this study shows us is that the use of intellectual property rights in the economy is ubiquitous: from high-tech industries to manufacturers of sports goods, toys and computer games, all are making intensive use of not just one, but often several types of intellectual property rights,” Michel Barnier added.

The findings of the study are brought out as "Intellectual property rights intensive industries: contribution to economic performance and employment in the European Union Industry-Level Analysis Report, September 2013" under a joint project between the European Patent Office and the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market - the two highest level institutions that are most important for the protection of intellectual property Europe. The report is available here.

The report is aimed at providing the first broad, credible assessment of the combined contribution of industries that make intensive use of the various types of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to the economies of the EU as a whole and of the individual Member States. The analysis was conducted in autumn 2012 and spring 2013. It only includes the 27 pre‑July 2013 Member States. Thus, Croatia, which became the EU’s 28th Member State on 1 July 2013, was not included.

The study covers a broad range of IP rights – trade marks, patents, designs, copyright and Geographical Indications (GIs) – and considers a variety of economic indicators, in particular Gross Domestic Product (GDP), employment, external trade and wages. 

Some of the key findings of the report are :

  • IPR-intensive industries contribute 26% of employment and 39% of GDP in the EU.
  • IPR‑intensive industries also pay significantly higher wages than other industries, with a wage premium of more than 40%. This is consistent with the fact that the value added per worker is higher in IPR‑intensive industries than elsewhere in the economy. The average weekly wage in IPR‑intensive industries is € 715, compared with € 507 in non‑IPR‑intensive industries – a difference of 41%. This “wage premium” is 31% in design‑intensive industries, 42% in trade mark‑intensive industries, 46% in GI‑intensive industries, 64% in patent‑intensive industries and 69% in copyright‑intensive industries.
  • In absolute terms, Germany ranks first for patents, trade marks and designs. The other top spots are occupied by the UK, France, Spain and Italy. There is some variation among the Member States; for example, while Spain is in the top 5 for trade marks and designs, it is only in 11th place for patents. The group of the largest economies is followed by a group of smaller northern European countries, including the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. The highest placed among the 12 countries that joined the EU in 2004 or 2007 is Poland, which is also the largest of these countries.

In the course of the preparation of this report, useful input was received from the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO), the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) – whose earlier report on US IPR‑intensive industries was the first study of this type.

I believe the greatest threat to Muslims today comes not from the outside world, but from within. The conflict between Sunni and Shia threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions of Muslims. Across the Islamic world, extremists are wrapping their perverse agenda in religious cloth; tearing families, countries and the ummah (ummah - the Muslim community throughout the world) apart.

Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak,
Prime Minister of Malaysia. UN Photo/Ryan Brown

Said Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, in his speech at the 68th session of the UN General Assembly in New York on September 28, 2013.

The Malaysian Prime Minister said : "As authoritarian regimes have fallen, and governments have been swept away by political change, extremists have tried to fill the space that remains. Around the world, extremism is taking lives and crushing opportunity. The corrosive influence of extremism cannot be easily countered. But we are not powerless to act. I believe moderation in religion and the political process can stem the loss of life and liberty in the Muslim world". He expressed his anguish at the violent situation prevailing in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Pakistan. He stressed the need to find the vision and the political will to commit to a just solution for Palestine. 

The Prime Minister quoted several verses from Quran to illustrated that Islam was the religion of peace, of moderation, of tolerance. "The Quran not only condemns suicide, unjust war, and retribution by force; it also makes clear the Prophet’s desire for Muslims to live in peace with one another and their neighbours", he added.

He concluded by saying : "Finally, we should continue to focus on building stronger and more prosperous societies, predicated on the rule of law and the practice of democracy. The Arab Spring showed that the Muslim world is crying out for change. Governments must answer that call. We must provide good governance to fight corruption, create jobs to tackle poverty, and deliver sustainable growth that builds a world of opportunity for our citizens. We must create economies in which people can fulfil their own aspirations, not those of extremists. Muslim leaders should speak up and condemn such violence, lest their silence is mistaken for acceptance.  

Rouhani's speech was nice but it was based on a false reality as Iranian centrifuges, at this very moment, continue to work and produce enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb

President Peres at the International Court of Justice 
in The Hague (Copyright: GPO/Amos Ben Gershom)
Said Shimon Peres - President of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize winner for 1994 - during his meeting with the president and judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague on Monday, 30 September 2013, according to a press release from the Office of the President.

President Peres visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague (Netherlands) and held a rare meeting with the judges of the court including President Peter Tomka. He updated the judges about the status of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and said: "The negotiations with the Palestinians opened not long ago and we hope that they will bear fruit for the two sides who want to live side by side in peace and security. Completing the negotiations is of the utmost importance – it is perhaps the last and most significant conflict between us and the Arab world."

In the press conference which followed the meeting, President Peres addressed the speech by the President of Iran at the United Nations and said: "Rouhani's speech was nice but it was based on a false reality as Iranian centrifuges, at this very moment, continue to work and produce enriched uranium for a nuclear bomb, the program to develop long range missiles which can carry nuclear warheads is being expanded and the Revolutionary Guards continue to support terror organizations. We listen to the speeches at the United Nations, but the only way to test Iran's intentions is by deeds and not just words. The Iranian nuclear threat is not just an Israeli problem but for the whole world which doesn't want to be threatened by one country." 

According to The Times of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his way to Washington on Monday (30 September) for a marathon of meetings with US President Barack Obama and other top officials, with Iran the major focus. On Tuesday, Netanyahu will travel to New York, as the final speaker at this year’s UN General Assembly, where he has promised to “tell the truth about Iran” following Tehran’s recent moves toward detente with the West. 

Dr. Norman A. Bailey - an adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft at The Institute of World Politics, Washington, DC, and a researcher at the Center for National Security Studies, University of Haifa - in a letter published in globes online on September 29, 2013 conveying greetings to the Jewish people on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah  (Jewish New Year) has warned that no-one should be taken in by the Iranian president's charm offensive, but the West has strong cards to play. President Rouhani spreads the honey. His "honey" may indeed work as he intends. If so, it will be to the detriment of the West, the United States, the Gulf States. Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Keep all fingers crossed. Dr. Bailey says Rouhani is not a "moderate reformer" but the fact is that he is terrified about the economic/financial situation that Iran is in, and which he inherited from Ahmadinejad without knowing the severity of the problems.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946. The seat of the Court is at the Peace Palace in The Hague (Netherlands). Of the six principal organs of the United Nations, it is the only one not located in New York (United States of America). The Court’s role is to settle, in accordance with international law, legal disputes submitted to it by States and to give advisory opinions on legal questions referred to it by authorized United Nations organs and specialized agencies. The Court is composed of 15 judges, who are elected for terms of office of nine years by the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council. It is assisted by a Registry, its administrative organ. Its official languages are English and French.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

If you want to get young people to better learn about the risks associated with their choices, you might want to focus on the benefits that a positive change would bring rather than hounding them with horror stories

Dr Tali Sharot
Said Dr Tali Sharot, the senior author and a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, commenting on the findings of researchers at UCL that young people have greater difficulty in learning from bad news to interpret their risk of future events. 

According to a press release issued by The Wellcome Trust - a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health - the study suggests that campaigns to get young people to stop smoking may be more successful by focusing on the positive benefits, such as having more money and better skin, rather than emphasising negative outcomes like increased disease risk.

Dr Christina Moutsiana
Dr Christina Moutsiana, leading author said : "The findings could help to explain the limited impact of campaigns targeted at young people to highlight the dangers of careless driving, unprotected sex, alcohol and drug abuse, and other risky behaviours." The researchers suggest that reframing information to highlight beneficial outcomes of desired behaviours, such as the positive effect of reduced alcohol consumption on sports performance, rather than the dangers of undesired ones, could have a greater impact.

Dr John Williams, Head of Neuroscience and Mental Health at the Wellcome Trust, said: "It’s important that we understand how young people interpret risk to make lifestyle choices that will impact on their future health if we are to stem the rise in preventable diseases."

Researchers feel that the findings might partly explain why displaying health warnings and graphic images of diseased lungs on cigarette packaging has had little effect in reducing the number of teens taking up smoking.

The setting of the Poverty Line shows Hong Kong’s determination of tackling the poverty problem

Mr C Y Leung
Said Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, while chairing the first Commission on Poverty (CoP) Summit on September 28, 2013. Setting a poverty line has been one of the priorities of the CoP. After ten months of consultations and analysis the CoP eventually agreed to adopt the concept of relative poverty and set the poverty line at 50 per cent of the median monthly household income before tax and welfare transfers (i.e. pre-government intervention). 

The poverty line for 2012 in accordance with household size is as follows :

One-person households                                   $3,600
Two-person households                                   $7,700
Three-person households                              $11,500
Four-person households                                $14,300
Five-person households                                 $14,800
Households with six persons or more           $15,800

The analysis of the poverty situation in Hong Kong in 2012 showed that before policy intervention, there were 541 000 poor households, involving 1 312 000 persons, and the poverty rate was 19.6 per cent. The administration has worked out various policy interventions such as Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA), the Old Age Allowance and financial assistance for students which can effectively alleviate poverty, bringing down the number of households in poverty to 403 000 and involving 1 018 000 persons, resulting in a poverty rate of 15.2 per cent. 
The Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, chaired the
Commission on Poverty Summit to discuss the
poverty situation in Hong Kong and the way forward.
Photo shows Mr Leung addressing the summit. 
(September 28)

The Societal Engagement Task Force (SETF), set up by the administration, has launched a three-year poverty alleviation program. Three projects have been identified by the SETF which will start rolling out towards the end of 2013 or in early 2014. The SETF is expecting to receive financial contributions from chambers of commerce and other bodies by establishing a tripartite partnership among the community, the business sector and the Government.

The Chief Executive has set up CoP to serve as the major policy platform for the Government's work in poverty alleviation. It will take into account the needs of poor households and public views to explore appropriate measures and initiatives to help the needy.

A detailed presentation on "Analysis of the Poverty Situation" during the Summit can be found here.

Homelessness is a broader concept than just the image of what we can see, for example, at the main train station in Prague. The homeless include many families with children, individuals, medically disadvantaged people, seniors and young couples living with friends and relatives, often in cramped conditions

David Beňák
Said David Beňák, a member of the Czech Social Democratic Party in an article published in News server Romea dated September 25, 2013. David Beňák is candidate number 9 for the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic for the Prague electoral district.

Many families and individuals are forced to live in unsuitable residential hotels, where their rents are comparable to those for apartments in the centers of big cities. The Regional Development Ministry and the State Fund for Housing Development have failed across the board. They have merely become distributors of money for construction projects. Prices should not be an obstacle to acquiring housing. In the case of the most impoverished, welfare should help them afford it. The Czech Republic, as a state, is leery of owning and leasing housing. That is its basic mistake - in many localities, this is exactly the help that is needed. The government should establish partnerships with the private owners of apartment buildings. Property owners would definitely be willing to strike some kind of agreement with the state, but no one is negotiating with them.

One of the residential hotels in Ostrava on Cihelná street
Another report says the number of people living in residential hotels is rising sharply and the owners of these facilities are making very good money. Many people are ending up in these residential hotels unnecessarily, where they are living in unsuitable conditions. This is also uneconomical. The state pays a monthly rate of CZK 4 000 per adult tenant in a residential hotel and CZK 2 500 per minor, but it costs CZK 300 000 per year to institutionalize a child. Some NGOs feel it will be less expensive to give the poor a chance and address their needs. It is reported that real estate speculators are buying up large number of very inexpensive apartments and leasing them to the socially vulnerable. Czech Radio reports that it is possible to buy an average-sized apartment in a prefab building near the town center there for as low as CZK 150 000. Those buying up the apartments lease them to socially vulnerable people whose rents are paid by the state, which means their profits are guaranteed. 

According to Martin Šimáček, director of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion, the extensive privatization undertaken during the 1990s also led to the town and its municipal departments having very few units left in their own housing stock to offer those in need. "The privatization, among other things, resulted in the forced evictions of some tenants into residential hotels as a result of their apartment buildings deteriorating," explained Šimáček in a press release.  

Street musician Ondra who was formerly homeless
Ondra, a musician, who was homeless for several years but now works as a guide for Pragulic, a project offering alternative guided tours of Prague given by homeless people, feels that social housing is important, but the problem with this is that if people get free housing, they think they don't have to try anymore. The best thing would be if people had to do something to get that in return. "Government institutions need to actually go to the street, meet people and talk to them to understand what they really need," he said.

As the nights get longer and temperatures begin to drop, this year an estimated 30,000 homeless people in the Czech Republic face the prospect of spending winter out in the cold.

Burka ban in Ticino could help curb Islamic extremism before it takes root, and would be "a strong signal for Switzerland and maybe for other countries" to follow suit

Giorgio Ghiringhelli
Said  Giorgio Ghiringhelli, a 61-year-old political activist and former journalist, whose proposal to ban burka in Ticino was approved on September 22, 2013, in a public refrendum with 65.4% people of the state voting in favour of the constitutional ban as reported in the International Service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. Ticino has become the first Swiss canton to approve a ban on face-covering headgear in public places. There are 26 cantons in Switzerland and Ticino is home to two of the UNESCO World Heritage sites : Castles of Bellinzona and Monte San Giorgio. The vote of approval to the "anti-burqa" campaign, launched by Giorgio Ghiringhelli, forbids the use of burka and disguise the face. This result has boosted the hopes of those backing a future nationwide initiative. It will now be up to the federal parliament to accept the change to Ticino's constitution. Giorgio Ghiringhelli said the result would send a message to "Islamist fundamentalists" across Switzerland. "Those who want to integrate are welcome irrespective of their religion," he said in a statement

A similar proposal for a nation-wide ban put forward by canton Aargau was rejected by the federal parliament in 2012. The proposal had the support of leaders of the right-wing Swiss People’s Party. Ulrich Schlüer, a former member of the House of Representatives, is best known as the driving force behind the anti-minaret initiative accepted by Swiss voters in 2009. One of his party colleagues, Walter Wobmann, told Swiss television that the effort to collect the 100,000 signatures needed to force a vote on a burka ban would likely begin in spring 2014.

There are roughly 400,000 Muslims in Switzerland, about five percent of the population. It is believed that the massive turnout in favour of banning burkas from public spaces in Ticino could lead to a nationwide vote on the same issue, a possibility of real concern to human rights organisations and Switzerland’s Muslim community. A prominent local lawyer, Paolo Bernasconi, said a ban was not compatible with European human rights, and it would sully the image of the canton. He was supported in his views by NGOs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch which put adverts in local newspapers, declaring that the wearing of burkas posed no risk to public order or safety. The European Muslims League and Islamic Central Council Switzerland held a joint news conference in Ticino's largest city, Lugano, to express their opposition. They called the ban "discriminatory". 

The burka ban could fail to pass muster in the court, however. It could be deemed disproportionate, counter to freedom of religion and not sufficiently justified to be in the public interest. The Federal Court has never had to rule on this kind of legislation. The European Court of Human Rights will reach a verdict by the end of the year on a number of complaints filed after France introduced legislation making it illegal to conceal one’s face. France was the first country in Europe to pass a law banning full-face veils in public, in 2010, and Belgium later followed suit. 

The anti-burka proposal has some support on the centre-right as well. “Burkas are not compatible with our values or integration goals,” Christophe Darbellay, president of the Christian Democrats, told the Nouvelliste newspaper. “I know the difference between a tourist and a person coming to live in Switzerland, who is expected to integrate.” “It’s a matter of security,” added his party colleague Urs Schwaller. “The police have to be able to identify people, and to do that you have to see their face.”

It is interesting to note that a French businessman Rachid Nekkaz has announced that he will pay all the fines levied against women for wearing burkas and niqabs in Switzerland. Already active in France and Belgium, he says he wants to extend his fight against “runaway Islamophobia” after the vote in Ticino. In July 2010, he set up a fund with €1 million (CHF1.23 million) to pay fines in France and Belgium. So far, he has paid 682 fines worth a total of €123,000, according to his own figures. Nekkaz says he is a human rights activist, ready to show how ridiculous any government or parliament is if it refuses to respect the fundamental rights set out by the European Human Rights Convention.

Oskar Freysinger, one of the leaders of the Swiss People’s Party and a vociferous supporter of the burka ban, says there is no desire to discriminate against the Arab world or any kind of racism behind a ban. Quite the opposite, he believes. “We want these women to become European citizens, like our women. We are attacking a ferociously patriarchal society that applies a brutal form of segregation. I am surprised that people on the Left would defend that,” he added.

Ticino  - home to two of the UNESCO World Heritage sites : Castles of Bellinzona and Monte San Giorgio - is situated on the main St. Gotthard road and railway link, connecting the north and south of Europe, Ticino can easily be reached by train, car or plane with fast and frequent connections. The international airport of Milano Malpensa (Italy) is only one hour away by car and there is also a regional airport in Lugano.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

In this country, our word is our bond. The respect and admiration that the United States and its institutions inspire around the world are based on the certainty that when our nation makes a promise, we keep it.

Frank Keating
Said Frank Keating, president and chief executive of the American Bankers Association and a member of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, in an article titled "We can’t afford to default on the debt" published in Washington Post of September 27, 2013. Frank Keating was governor of Oklahoma from 1995 to 2003.

According to Frank Keating, the debt-ceiling standoff in 2011 is costing taxpayers nearly $20 billion as nervous investors demanded higher interest on U.S. Treasury bonds to defray the risk of government default. He termed it as 'manufactured political crisis' which caused economic uncertainty to spike, consumer confidence to plummet and stock prices to spiral downward — all because of the perceived risk of the United States defaulting on its domestic and international obligations. Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to undermine U.S. credibility at home and abroad by taking the extraordinary step of reneging on bills that our nation has racked up. "If our nation defaults on its nearly $17 trillion in debt, the harm is likely to be measured in hundreds of billions of dollars", he added. His conclusion is : "If confidence is lost in our country’s willingness to pay its bills on time, we will have lost something that may be impossible to regain — the world’s trust".

Jacob J. Lew
Treasury Secretary
Jacob J. Lew, the US Treasury Secretary, in a letter (dated September 25, 2013) to the Speaker John A. Boehner has conveyed : "Treasury now estimates that extraordinary measures will be exhausted no later than October 17. We estimate that, at that point, Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet our country's commitments. This amount would be far short of net expenditures on certain days, which can be as high as $60 billion. If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations for the first time in our history".

The letter also says : "The debt limit impasse that took place in 2011 caused significant harm to the economy and a downgrade to the credit rating of the United States. The drawn-out dispute caused business uncertainty to increase, consumer confidence to drop, and financial markets to fall. If Congress were to repeat that brinksmanship in 2013, it could inflict even greater harm on the economy. And if the government should ultimately become unable to pay all of its bills, the results could be catastrophic.

The President remains willing to negotiate over the future direction of fiscal policy, but he will not negotiate over whether the United States will pay its bills for past commitments. Extending borrowing authority does not increase government spending; it simply allows the Treasury to pay for expenditures Congress has already approved. As such, I respectfully urge Congress to act immediately to meet its responsibility by extending the nation's borrowing authority.

An analysis carried out by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) has also warned that the federal government will be unable to meet all of its spending obligations as early as mid-October, unless the debt ceiling is raised. BPC estimates that the federal government will exhaust its borrowing authority and no longer have sufficient funds to pay all of its bills in full and on time at some point between October 18 and November 5, 2013.

Both - the Treasury Department and Bipartisan Policy Center - believe that the debt limit X Date is most likely to occur between October 18 and November 5. The debt limit X Date – the day upon which the U.S. government would no longer be able to meet all of its financial obligations in full and on time – if policymakers do not take action. 

When danger comes, a true gentleman must kiss his Mr. Nice Guy self good-bye. He must be ready for battle. A lady wants a dangerous gentleman at this point. And I hope I’m that dangerous gentleman.

International singer and matinee idol Christian Bautista wins the 2013
“Modern Filipino Gentleman” award

(Photo Credit : Czeasar Dancel/NPPA Images)
Said Christian Joseph Morata Bautista, more popularly known by his screen name Christian Bautista - a Filipino singer, actor, host, and model - after winning the “Modern Filipino Gentleman” award at the 2013 Elan Awards by McJim, held at 55 Events in Quezon City, southeast of Manila, Philippines, on 15 August 2013.

The news report by Maridol Rañoa-Bismark from Yahoo! Southeast Asia Newsroom is accessibile on Christian Bautista's website under the title Christian Bautista the ‘dangerous gentleman’. 

Minutes after he received the award, Christian Bautista admitted that he had a little temper but, he said : "I expel that temper rather than keep it inside and let it out on a person". He applies anger management techniques he learned from an acting workshop.

The award is given by popular leather brand McJIM to the best role models for style and elegance among today’s Filipino gentlemen. The winner is selected on the basis of a popularity contest to be conducted through the Mc JIM Classic Leather Official Facebook Fan Page. All Facebook users in the Philippines and overseas are eligible to participate in the poll. According to McJim, the purpose of the awards is to inspire Filipino men to become true gentlemen of our modern times. 

A 5-minute video clip of the Award Function is availanle on you tube here.

A detailed report of the Award Night is also available here.

In a very recent interview with journalist Nestor Cuartero, published in Manila Bulletin of September 28, 2013, when asked at the end : "Is it still cool to be a gentleman in this modern age?", Christian Bautista gave the following reply :

In this modern age, being a gentleman isn't just required, it is needed. As the old poem by Ted Engstrom says, the world needs men.

The world needs men
who cannot be bought;
whose word is their bond;
who put character above wealth;
who possess opinions and a will;
who are larger than their vocations;
who do not hesitate to take chances;
who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;
who will be as honest in small things as in great things;
who will make no compromise with wrong;
whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires;
who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;
who are true to their friends through good report and evil report, in adversity as well as in prosperity;
who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;
who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular;
who can say “no” with emphasis, although all the rest of the world says “yes.”

War is great business. I love weapons and make 50,000 Syrian pounds ($370) a day

Said 39-year-old Abu Mohammad, Aleppo’s main gun seller in an interview with AFP published in The Daily Tribune of September 27, 2013 under the title "War means profit for gun seller in Syria’s Aleppo". Aleppo is the largest city in Syria located in northwestern Syria 310 kilometres from Damascus.
Picture for illustration purpose only. (Credit : Reuters/Thaer Abdallah)
Published under Israel is fighting a regional war in Syria by
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, a sociologist, award-winning author & geopolitical analyst.

The items for sale in Abu Mohammad's shop include 9mm guns and AK-47 assault rifles. They are made in Iraq and Russia and priced between $1,500 to $2,000, depending on the quality. He also firearms, including rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and even swords. According to the report, he charges 15,000 Syrian pounds ($110) for 150 rounds of bullet. Abu Mohammad - an ex-employee of a weapons factory - also undertakes jobs of repairing damaged weapons.

In Syria, the role of foreign jihadists, linked to al-Qaida, has been a major issue of debate in the Western media, among think tanks and inside governments. But actual facts and figures are not known mainly because of the lack of media coverage from those areas of Syria that are being controlled by them. The regime of Bashar Assad, in its propaganda, has been calling the insurgency as the action of al-Qaida linked "foreign terrorists." Spiegel Online - a leading German media house - has extensively probed this aspect and reported the findings on it's website dated September 27, 2013 with respect to the danger these foreign jihadists pose and their lifestyle, as well.    

Friday, September 27, 2013

The world’s central banks will continue to diversify into Renminbi (RMB) : Renminbi is being used for 15 percent of (Chinese) cross border trade

Carmen Ling
Said : Carmen Ling, Global Head, RMB Solutions, Origination and Client Coverage - a newly created RMB Solutions team of Standard Chartered Bank, in an email interview with Chung Joo-won of The Korea Herald which was published on September 26, 2013.

According to Carmen Ling, trading in Chinese yuan could help Korean firms. She advised Korean companies to use Renminbi, or yuan, in their trade settlements with foreign partners, in view of the rapid globalization of the Chinese currency. The WTO data show that about 20 percent of Korea’s trade is with China. The People’s Bank of China estimates that companies could save between 2―3 percent by using the RMB for trade. 

Initially, it was predicted that RMB would be used for 20 percent of (Chinese) cross border trade by 2015, but the current figures show that it has already touched 15 percent. China announced in 2009 that it would globalize the RMB by 2020 to play a role as a key global currency after the U.S. dollar. Renminbi is becoming popular in global trade settlements

Carmen Ling expects that the internationalization of the RMB will come in three stages ― first as a trade currency, then as an investment currency and finally as an international reserve currency.

New note of 100 yuan

Standard Chartered Bank has created an RMB Solutions team that is responsible for delivering advice and bespoke client solutions to help them best capture opportunities arising from the internationalisation of the RMB. According to SCB, the liberalisation of the RMB represents one of the most profound changes in the world’s financial system in generations. SCB's aim is to be the leader in providing insights, services and ideas in this area.

"In the space of less than a decade, Hong Kong has successfully launched a full spectrum of offshore Renminbi businesses, from banking, bond and equity financing to asset management. Within just a few years, we have emerged as the largest and most competitive offshore Renminbi business centre outside of the Mainland. All the time, overseas banks here in Hong Kong are fine-tuning their Renminbi expertise, offering a broader range of Renminbi services to their clients and building up their knowledge and contact list for doing business in the Mainland of China", Hong Kong's Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, had mentioned in his speech at a luncheon organised by the Hong Kong Association of Banks (HKAB) in July.

According to the latest BIS (Bank for International Settlements) Triennial Central Bank Survey of Foreign exchange market activity, the trading in foreign exchange markets averaged $5.3 trillion per day in April 2013. This was up from $4.0 trillion in April 2010 and $3.3 trillion in April 2007.

The US dollar remained the dominant vehicle currency; it was on one side of 87% of all trades in April 2013 with a daily trading in average of $4.65 trillion in 2013. The euro was the second most traded currency, but its share fell to 33% in April 2013 from 39% in April 2010. The turnover of the Japanese yen increased significantly between the 2010 and 2013 surveys. So too did that of several emerging market currencies, and the Mexican peso and Chinese renminbi entered the list of the top 10 most traded currencies. The BIS survey revealed that the Chinese yuan - which occupied 9th position - recorded a turnover of $120 billion a day in 2013. (More details of the survey can be found here)

Renminbi : Chinese Currency is called Renminbi (RMB or CNY) means "People's Currency" in Chinese language.

Royal Mail needs to be able to compete with the internet, smart phones and international postal operators. That’s why I have announced that the Government will sell shares in Royal Mail through an IPO

Michael Fallon
Said Michael Fallon, MP, in his post dated September 12, 2013 on Conservative Home (a pro-Conservative Party website) justifying the sale of Royal Mail.

Michael Fallon, in his post says that the sale of shares will give Royal Mail the commercial freedom it needs to succeed. It will give the company future access to capital it needs for investment – to seize the opportunities for growth such as increasing parcel volumes from the boom in online shopping. It will give Royal Mail commercial confidence – free from Whitehall interference. We are making 10 per cent of the shares available to around 150,000 eligible employees for free. This is the largest employee share scheme of any major privatisation for almost 30 years. We are also giving people the opportunity to buy shares in Royal Mail through intermediaries, online or, of course, by post. We are committed to ensuring a sustainable future for the Post Office by maintaining a network of at least 11,500 branches across the UK.

However, The Daily Telegraph has disclosed that Michael Fallon - Conservative minister in charge of selling off Royal Mail - was firmly against the state-owned business’s privatisation just four years ago by publishing his letter to this effect. Ian Murray MP, shadow Minister for Postal Affairs, has criticised Michael Fallon terming his attitude as 'deeply hypocritical'.

The British government has kicked off the sale of the near 500-year-old company by disposing of a majority stake in Royal Mail, offering shares at between 260 pence and 330p each. That would value the company at between 2.6 and 3.3 billion pounds, raising between 1 billion pounds and 1.7 billion pounds for government coffers. The size of the offering could be increased by up to 15 per cent via an “overallotment” option, whereby more stock can be sold if there is strong demand. If that overallotment option is exercised, the government’s stake could fall to as little as 30 per cent following the sale. 

Courtesy : The Daily Telegraph

Bloomberg has reported that Royal Mail’s $5.3 Billion IPO, that opened today (September 27, 2013), was over subscribed within hours, mainly on demand from institutions. Royal Mail shares will be open to applications until Oct. 8 and are expected to make its debut on Oct 11 on the London Stock Exchange. Michael Fallon told Bloomberg Television : Postal services “aren’t businesses that sit naturally in the public sector,” he said, adding: “Its future lies in the private sector.” The U.K. government wouldn’t be able to block a foreign takeover of Royal Mail once the shares are traded, Fallon said, while adding that the company will have access to capital needed to expand internationally as other nations open postal markets. 

According to the government, which is being advised by Lazard Ltd., bookrunners for the sale are Goldman Sachs Group Inc., UBS AG (UBSN), Barclays Plc (BARC). Merrill Lynch & Co., with Investec Ltd., Nomura Bank International Plc and RBC Europe Ltd. are the lead managers. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I initially felt reluctant to learn Japanese from a non-Japanese teacher

Said Fernando Katsuji Noda, 48, a second-generation Japanese-Brazilian banker - who was not taught Japanese by his parents - when asked about it by Motonobu Endo for his story on "Non-native teachers of Japanese growing among Brazil's immigrants" published in The Japan Times of September 26, 2013. 

Groups of Japanese immigrants began arriving in Brazil in 1908. More than a century on, the country has a population of around 1.5 million Japanese-Brazilians — the largest Japanese community overseas. While the first generation of immigrants is graying rapidly, the number of Japanese-Brazilians able to speak Japanese is declining equally fast. According to Masayuki Fukasawa, editor-in-chief of the Japanese-language Journal Nikkey Shimbun, only a few thousand Japanese-Brazilians possess the reading and writing skills required by Japanese companies for employment. Many early immigrants from Japan who became Japanese-language teachers have retired. However, an increasing number of Brazilians with no ancestral ties to Japan are studying Japanese and have become very fluent in the language and are now teaching it. Their number has continued to swell. Motonobo Endo concludes that the distance between Japan and Brazil’s Japanese community is undeniably widening.

Apple’s data centers are 100 percent powered by energy from renewable sources — solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal.

Apple’s data centers are 100 percent powered by energy from renewable sources — solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal. And so are many of our corporate facilities. The ultimate goal is to power all Apple facilities entirely by renewable energy, Said Apple on its website

The first glimpse of Apple Inc.'s proposed 18-MW
photovoltaic solar array in Northern Nevada
(Credit : Reno Gazette - Journal)

Apple's Energy Management is based on a three-tiered strategy with the primary focus to achieve a net zero energy policy. In other words, to use 100 percent renewable energy to power its data centers, retail stores, and other facilities worldwide. More complete details can be found in Apple's 2012 Environmental Footprint Report

Apple sites powered by 100%
renewable energy (Source : Apple)
According to GigaOm, Apple - at its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina - has built the nation’s largest end user–owned, onsite solar photovoltaic array, and completed construction on the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating anywhere in the country. Apple’s massive solar panel and fuel cell farm are now live and providing clean power for its huge data center in Maiden, North Carolina, which draws its power—totaling some 20 megawatts at full capacity from renewable sources. In addition, it relies on energy-efficient design elements, including a white roof and real-time energy monitoring and analytics. Apple has claimed it purchases 100 percent renewable energy for its other facilities around the world.

Apple has also proposed to build 18-megawatt photovoltaic solar farm that will keep the servers running in its Northern Nevada data center. The details of this were made public on July 1, 2013 and reported by the Reno Gazette - Journal. According to some news reports this 137-acre solar farm (it will generate approximately 43.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity) will be managed in conjunction with NV Energy, to power the datacenter located right next to it. The farm, called “Ft. Churchill Solar Array,” will be capable of providing between 18 and 20 MW to the data center. NV Energy plans to combine photovoltaics with concentrated solar-power mirrors, meaning the facility will supply energy at night as well as during the day. Solar company SunPower will work on the array's engineering and construction. Once completed, the Solar Array would save fossil fuel equivalent to taking 6,400 vehicles off the road each year.

It is worth mentioning here that NV Energy has agreed to be acquired by MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company - a subsidiary of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The acquisition - for as much as $5.6 billion in cash - is due to be finalized in the first three months of 2014.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Astroturfing is the 21st century’s version of false advertising

New York State Attorney General
Eric T. Schneiderman
Said Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, on Sept. 23, 2013, while announcing that it had snared and fined 19 companies for flooding the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. These companies have agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews and pay more than $350,000 in penalties.

"Operation Clean Turf," a year-long undercover investigation project undertaken by the Attorney General's office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.

In a press release, Attorney General Schneiderman said : "This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution. And companies that continue to engage in these practices should take note: "Astroturfing" is the 21st century's version of false advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it."

According to a recent Gartner study, by 2014, 10-15 percent of social media reviews will be fake and paid for by companies. “With over half of the Internet's population on social networks, organizations are scrambling for new ways to build bigger follower bases, generate more hits on videos, garner more positive reviews than their competitors and solicit ‘likes’ on their Facebook pages,” said . “Many marketers have turned to paying for positive reviews with cash, coupons and promotions including additional hits on YouTube videos in order to pique site visitors' interests in the hope of increasing sales, customer loyalty and customer advocacy through social media ‘word of mouth’ campaigns.”

According to Wikipedia, astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message (e.g. political, advertising, or public relations) to give the appearance of it coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. The term astroturfing is a derivation of AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass. On the Internet, astroturfers use software to mask their identity. Sometimes one individual operates over many personas to give the impression of widespread support for their client's agenda. 

Terror Warning : Anyone sheltering terrorists in Bahrain must share responsibility for their crimes

H.R.H. Prince Khalifa
Bin Salman Al Khalifa
Said Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa while chairing a security and civil work meeting in Manama (Bahrain) on September 25, 2013. 

His remarks - aimed at protecting communities from violence - are reported in the Gulf Daily News

He also said that direct and indirect calls for violence, hatred, sectarianism and violation of the law will never be tolerated. The first and most important human right is the right to live in peace and security, and this is just what the government wants to achieve, he added.

It is ridiculous that fines for fly-tipping can be as high as £50,000 while that for non-payment of the minimum wage is £5,000 in the UK.

Edward Miliband
Said Edward Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition (MP for Doncaster North, UK) while addresses shoppers in Brighton town centre on the eve of the Labour Party annual conference on 21 September 2013.

Miliband also said : "I want a high wage British economy, not a low wage brutish economy".

According to a report published in Belfast Telegraph as part of efforts to prevent the exploitation of workers he also promised a huge increase in the fine for employers who failed to pay the national minimum wage, with the penalty set to rise from £5,000 to £50,000 under a Labour administration.

Note : Fly-tipping is the ‘illegal deposit of any waste onto land or a highway that has no licence to accept it.’ Illegal dumps of waste can vary in scale and the type of waste involved.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

In China, justice serves the cause of party politics

Steve Tsang
Says Prof. Steve Tsang
Director of the China Policy Institute and Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham 

Steve Tsang says the rules of the game held firm in Bo Xilai's life sentence and treatment of his son.

in an article published in the South China Morning Post website.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as 
"In elite Chinese politics, justice serves only to uphold party's code of conduct"

Friday, September 13, 2013

70-80% Of Venture Capitalists (VCs) Add Negative Value To Startups

Said Vinod Khosla, an IIT Delhi alumnus and a well-known Indian-American venture capitalist (Khosla Ventures) in an interview with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington at the Disrupt SF 2013 event in San Francisco, California, USA on September 11th, 2013. The event is organized by TechCrunch and the interview is published on line on their website. A video recording of the full interview was also included in the related post. 
Story credit : Kim-Mai, a technology journalist

Vinod Khosla (Left) and Michael Arrington (Right)

Michael Arrington : Who is the VC who is the most full of shit that you’ve ever heard?

Vinod Khosla : The vast majority of VCs aren’t in a position to offer decent advice to startups. Substantially larger than 95 percent of VCs add zero value. "I would bet that 70-80 percent add negative value to a startup in their advising.” Most VCs “haven’t done shit” to know what to tell startups going through difficult times. Founders should listen politely and just do what they want to do anyway. In fact, most of them probably hurt startups.

Picture courtesy :
Vinod Khosla's Wiki Introduction