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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Google, Skype and angry farmers, October, 2009

Today:
  1. EU battles industry plans to restrict Skype on mobile phones
  2. Tories see reduced EU role for Britain
  3. Britain puts forward Blair for EU president job
  4. European Subsidies Stray From the Farm
  5. Merkel criticizes Google for copyright infringement
Quote of the day:Yeah, after the previous article, this is so refreshing. Yup, the next rulers of the UK hate the EU, so let's make the president of the EC British. What a wonderful idea.

EU battles industry plans to restrict Skype on mobile phones

16 July 2009

The European Commission is threatening to brandish the new roaming regulation or antitrust rules in order to block plans by major EU telecoms operators to restrict the use of Internet calling services like Skype via their mobile networks.

Replying to a written question by a Socialist MEP, Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding made clearword last week that the new roaming regulation, which entered into force at the beginning of July, is also aimed at avoiding any discrimination between technologies.

The regulation "stresses that there should be no obstacles to the emergence of applications or technologies which can be a substitute for, or alternative to, roaming services, such as WiFi, VoIP and Instant Messaging services," she said.

"The Commission is, therefore, taking a close interest" in all initiatives announced by telecoms operators regarding the possibility of blocking the use of Skype's Internet telephony services, Reding added. Earlier in 2009, Competitition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said an inquiry was "ongoing" into alleged violations of EU antitrust rules by mobile telecoms companies.

Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose had asked for Reding's opinion on an announcement made by German mobile telecoms operator T-Mobile that it would impose an extra-charge on consumers using Skype and other VoIP services on its network.

After strong pressure from the press, public authorities and consumer groups, T-Mobile has changed tack, and is now thinking of charging consumers a flat rate for using VoIP together with normal mobile telephony services. The fee will be higher than that requested for using only standard telecoms applications, such as voice calls and text messaging.

Vodafone, the biggest mobile telecoms operator in the world, said it could make a similar move.

Reding had already stated that net neutrality is one of her priorities. This means that controls on networks should be confined only to actions of traffic prioritisation to improve users' experience and bring value and growth to operators. Internet service providers already operate network management systems which prioritise traffic to companies during working hours and to households at night, in line with market demand. At the same time, they also offer business clients quicker connections for higher fees.

EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding has stated that net neutrality is a priority and new network management techniques should not be used for anti-competitive purposes. Measures proposed to reform the telecoms sector would protect against abuse of such technologies, she added. source

My comment: Nice move :) Well, I'm not going to comment, it's obvious that net-neutrality is something good. Internet should be neutral, period. Just like you have a phone-line to everyone with a number, the same should apply to websites. If you have a website, it should be accessible from any provider, no matter what. Btw, I think if one really wants, s/he could probably sue Youtube.com for the regional restrictions it imposes.

Tories see reduced EU role for Britain

22 July 2009
The United Kingdom must build alliances with nations outside the European Union if it wants to maintain a leading role on the international stage, opposition Conservative spokesman William Hague said on Tuesday (21 July)

In a speechexternal setting out Conservative foreign policy aims, Hague said Britain should strengthen its alliance with Commonwealth allies such as India and reduce its involvement with Europe and the United States.

"For too long, politics in this country has been obsessed with Europe and America. Of course these relationships are, and will continue to be, vital. But serious and responsible leadership in the twenty-first century means engaging with far greater energy in parts of the world where Britain's strategic interests will increasingly lie."

With less than a year to go before an election, the Conservatives are well ahead of the Labour government in opinion polls and are starting to flesh out how they might govern Britain.

Hague, who is tipped to become foreign minister if the Conservatives return to power, described the Commonwealth as "an organisation which in our view has been neglected and undervalued under the Labour government in Britain".

In this context, Hague said India and Britain should "forge a new special relationship, focusing particularly on fighting terrorism, protecting the environment and globalisation".

The Conservative foreign policy spokesperson dampened hopes that Britain would re-launch its military involvement in Europe, saying budgets were too strained and that European defence would duplicate NATO.

"Beyond Britain and France, there is no sign of other European nations making a serious effort to develop greater military capabilities," Hague said. "Indeed it is our criticism of EU defence arrangements that they too often involve the 'rehatting' or duplication of NATO structures - just calling something European does not mean it has actually enhanced Europe's ability to act."

He also said the European Union was "one of the institutions which must adapt to the changing distribution of world economic and political weight" and should evolve towards less centralisation.

Hague said a Conservative government would target relations with the Balkans as a top priority. "It is vital too that the EU does not give up on enlargement. A European Union without the Western Balkans would forever have a disillusioned and disenchanted hole near its centre." source

My comment: Commonwealth=British Empire, right? Ok, obviously, I cannot be happy with such speech. I don't care a lot where the UK will focus its love. Whatever float their boat, as long as they won't tie the EU with their idiotic ideas. But! I'm sorry, but what part of the Western Balkans they need in Europe?! Of course, I think Serbia and friends should enter the EU when they are ready. I have no problems with them. I even think that Macedonia should enter the EU, especially if they manage to get rid of their arrogance (and stop stealing Bulgarian and Greek history along the way). But what about Albania? Should it be in the EU? Especially after what they did in Kossovo. And anyway, how Albania and Serbia could have an open border when there are so many problems between them. I'm not even touching the issue of Turkey, who have no place in Europe in any form or shape. So, as I said, the UK is free to do whatever they like, as long as they please stop messing with business that is not theirs. Isn't there an upper limit for the damage they can do? Or is it infinite! I so much want to know what is the root of all this, too bad so far I'm completely clueless.

Britain puts forward Blair for EU president job

16 July 2009

Britain's Labour government would back former Prime Minister Tony Blair if he were to stand for the job of president of the European Union, his successor's spokesman said on Wednesday (15 July).

The comments came after British media quoted Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock as saying Blair was expected to seek the post.

The new role is due to be created as part of reforms under the Lisbon Treaty, which has yet to come into force, largely due to public resistance in Ireland.

The treaty, which aims to give the 27-member bloc stronger leadership, fairer decision-making and more of a say on the world stage, could be ratified later this year.

"It's the prime minister's view that Tony Blair would be a good candidate for any big international job," Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman told reporters.

"If Tony Blair decides to stand as president of the European Council, once that job has been created, then of course we will support him."

There has been long-standing speculation that Blair would seek the role. It resurfaced again on Wednesday after comments made by Europe Minister Kinnock in Strasbourg.

Blair stood down as prime minister in 2007 after ten years in power and has since taken up the role of Middle East envoy, representing the quartet of mediators made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

The relationship between Blair and Brown, the architects of Labour's first decade in government, was infamously rocky for much of the former's time in charge, with both men tussling for influence over the party and the direction of policy.

Britain's main opposition Conservatives, who are tipped to win an election which must be called by mid-2010, want the European Union to have less power over its member states and oppose the creation of the role of European president.

"Any holder is likely to centralise power for themselves in Brussels and dominate national foreign policies," said Conservative foreign affairs spokesman William Hague. "In the hands of an operator as ambitious as Tony Blair, that is a near certainty."

Blair's office denied that he was preparing to stand for the European Council president role, which would be appointed by EU leaders on a renewable two-and-a-half year term. source

My comment: Yeah, after the previous article, this is so refreshing. Yup, the next rulers of the UK hate the EU, so let's make the president of the EC British. What a wonderful idea. Well, I disagree. And I hope people would soon understand that this is an obvious controversy. You cannot have a leader from a country that still cannot out-grow their empire ambitions. And they don't even hide it! It's as simple as this. Maybe Tony Blair has a lot of qualities, but his background is just not appropriate. He made bad decisions and that cannot be forgotten. Iraq is in ruins, because of him. Enough should be enough.

European Subsidies Stray From the Farm

Arids Roma is a gritty Catalan construction company in the northeast of Spain that paves highways and churns out dusty gray mountains of gravel from several sprawling factories.

It is also a beneficiary of €1.59 million in farm subsidies from the European Union, which last year doled out more than €50 billion, $71 billion, from the largest agricultural aid program in the world, one that provides financing to a wide variety of recipients beyond the farmers who plow the soil — German gummy bear manufacturers, luxury cruise ship caterers and wealthy landowners ranging from Queen Elizabeth II of England to Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Arids spreads gravel instead of seeds, but it received a farm subsidy for contributing to rural development — money well spent, according to the Catalan regional government, which requested the payment and then distributed it to the company.

This year for the first time, all of the 27 nations in the European Union were forced to disclose how they distribute the money from farm subsidies, with Germany the only nation failing to comply in full.

The data underscore the extent to which the subsidy program has evolved beyond its original goals of increasing food production and supporting traditional farmers as they dealt with market fluctuations. It also illustrates how the European Union has moved to emphasize rural development instead of price support and production incentives, and in the process has decentralized the system, giving countries more discretion over the dispersal of subsidies.

The data showed that the biggest share of aid, about €37.5 billion, still goes to landowners and farmers, distributed in thousands of individual payments across the Continent.

But it also showed that hundreds of millions of euros are being paid to individuals and companies with little or no connection to traditional farming. And the heftiest sums flow to multinational companies like food conglomerates, sugar manufacturers and liquor distillers. In France, the single largest beneficiary was the chicken processor Groupe Doux, at €62.8 million, followed by about a dozen sugar manufacturers that together reaped more than €103 million.

The sugar processors do not run farms and Groupe Doux outsources the task of raising chickens to thousands of contract breeders. But they qualified for agricultural export refunds, government rebates to cover the difference between the European price of a commodity and its lower world market price. That is how the German candy maker Haribo qualified for €332,000 in subsidies for the sugar in its gummy bears.

European officials and some economists believe that much of the cash from those subsidies ultimately trickles down to local farmers, since without them companies might buy cheaper food elsewhere. But the rebates have a powerful effect on global trade by depressing world prices and undercutting poor farmers outside Europe, whose incomes are damaged. It is another form of price support, economists say, a vestige of an old system that encouraged overproduction of food and one that the E.U. authorities hope to end by 2013.

It is difficult to know exactly how much subsidy money goes to nonfarmers. Some of the information the 27 countries provided was vague, with the real recipients hidden. The E.U. itself says it would be too complicated to calculate how much nonfarmers receive.

But E.U. officials say they have simply adapted the model to support agriculture in all its modern forms.

But critics, including farmers’ unions and some analysts and politicians, say the E.U. has created a ramshackle structure of grant-giving that is driven by a wide variety of national interests, and that it has opened the money pipeline to wealthy aristocrats who own land but do not farm it and to large multinationals hauling in tens of millions of euros in export subsidies in addition to the huge profits they generate.

The E.U. pays out more than half its annual budget, around €53 billion, in farm subsidies, four times as much as the United States. The subsidies cost each European Union citizen around €110 a year, according to the European Commission, a healthy chunk for a family of four. The money is raised from customs duties, sales taxes and a contribution made by each E.U. country based on its wealth.source

My comment: Ok, I don't care a great deal about how the EU provides grants for any business at all. What bothers me is that the money doesn't reach their intended receivers - the farmers themselves. Not that I care about farmers, if you ask me, those money could be much better in science and engineering, but this is not the point. The point is that those money are voted so that they can help the "poor" angry farmers to produce. And they never reach them. The pour into the pockets of the rich, so that they become richer. The law of attraction - corporations edition. And the worst is that people don't realise what's going on. Because whenever someone tries to change something or to redirect some of those money in another field, the streets get crowded with angry (french) farmers who explain their misery in rather rude ways. When in reality, they receive only a small portion of them! How stupid is this...

Merkel criticizes Google for copyright infringement

Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:09am

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday criticized the efforts of Google Inc to build a massive digital library, saying the Internet should not be exempt from copyright laws.

In her weekly video podcast, before Tuesday's opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Merkel appealed for more international cooperation on copyright protection and said her government opposed Google's drive to scan libraries full of books.

"The German government has a clear position: copyrights have to be protected in the Internet," Merkel said, adding there are "considerable dangers" for copyright protection in the Internet.

"That's why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection -- like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany."

Google has already digitized 10 million books.

Merkel, who will open the world's largest book fair in Germany's financial capital, said there was a need to discuss the issue in greater detail in international institutions.

She did not, however, offer any concrete solutions.

Google's plan to create a massive digital library has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

In New York, a judge said on Wednesday that changes to a settlement that would allow Google to put millions of books online should be presented in court by November 9.

The settlement is an effort to resolve a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and others against Google's effort to scan libraries full of books. In that suit, authors and publishers had accused Google of copyright infringement.

Under the terms of the original settlement, Google would pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry. Authors and publishers could register works there and be paid for books and other publications that the search giant would put online.

German book publishers are up in arms about the deal, and on September 24 they criticized European regulators for failing to take a stand against the settlement.

Also last month, French publishing house La Martiniere, the French Publishers' Association and authors' group SGDL asked a Paris court to fine Google 15 million euros ($22 million) and 100,000 euros for each day it continued to violate copyright by digitizing their books. source

My comment: Yeah, yeah, we know that mob very well. "Authors" should be paid. Oh, wait, authors are not actually paid, because the publishers get almost everything a book earns! So yeah, forgive me if I don't feel sympathy towards the publishers. Because actually, they are the ones that steal the money of the authors. Not Google or Internet. I'm little bit disappointed by Angela, but whatever she says, I know that the progress cannot be stopped. Even now, most people already have pdf versions. Do you wonder why Amazon's Kindle has so bad support of pdf files? Well, this is why. But again, whatever they do, the progress will continue. After all, if my phone can read pdf-s, then who cares what Amazon is doing?! And anyway, I think people will always give the money to buy a good book. Because the digital books are just not that nice. They don't have the same feel in your hands.

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