The Internet - The first Worldwide Tool of Unification ("The End of History")

" ... Now I give you something that few think about: What do you think the Internet is all about, historically? Citizens of all the countries on Earth can talk to one another without electronic borders. The young people of those nations can all see each other, talk to each other, and express opinions. No matter what the country does to suppress it, they're doing it anyway. They are putting together a network of consciousness, of oneness, a multicultural consciousness. It's here to stay. It's part of the new energy. The young people know it and are leading the way.... "

" ... I gave you a prophecy more than 10 years ago. I told you there would come a day when everyone could talk to everyone and, therefore, there could be no conspiracy. For conspiracy depends on separation and secrecy - something hiding in the dark that only a few know about. Seen the news lately? What is happening? Could it be that there is a new paradigm happening that seems to go against history?... " Read More …. "The End of History"- Nov 20, 2010 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll)

"Recalibration of Free Choice"– Mar 3, 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: (Old) Souls, Midpoint on 21-12-2012, Shift of Human Consciousness, Black & White vs. Color, 1 - Spirituality (Religions) shifting, Loose a Pope “soon”, 2 - Humans will change react to drama, 3 - Civilizations/Population on Earth, 4 - Alternate energy sources (Geothermal, Tidal (Paddle wheels), Wind), 5 – Financials Institutes/concepts will change (Integrity – Ethical) , 6 - News/Media/TV to change, 7 – Big Pharmaceutical company will collapse “soon”, (Keep people sick), (Integrity – Ethical) 8 – Wars will be over on Earth, Global Unity, … etc.) - (Text version)

“…5 - Integrity That May Surprise…

Have you seen innovation and invention in the past decade that required thinking out of the box of an old reality? Indeed, you have. I can't tell you what's coming, because you haven't thought of it yet! But the potentials of it are looming large. Let me give you an example, Let us say that 20 years ago, you predicted that there would be something called the Internet on a device you don't really have yet using technology that you can't imagine. You will have full libraries, buildings filled with books, in your hand - a worldwide encyclopedia of everything knowable, with the ability to look it up instantly! Not only that, but that look-up service isn't going to cost a penny! You can call friends and see them on a video screen, and it won't cost a penny! No matter how long you use this service and to what depth you use it, the service itself will be free.

Now, anyone listening to you back then would perhaps have said, "Even if we can believe the technological part, which we think is impossible, everything costs something. There has to be a charge for it! Otherwise, how would they stay in business?" The answer is this: With new invention comes new paradigms of business. You don't know what you don't know, so don't decide in advance what you think is coming based on an old energy world. ..."
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)

German anti-hate speech group counters Facebook trolls

German anti-hate speech group counters Facebook trolls
Logo No Hate Speech Movement

Bundestag passes law to fine social media companies for not deleting hate speech

Honouring computing’s 1843 visionary, Lady Ada Lovelace. (Design of doodle by Kevin Laughlin)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Alibaba case underlines gov't resolution to curb fakes

Want China Times, Xinhua 2015-01-31

Alibaba CEO Jack Ma. (Photo/CNS)

The public spat between Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and the country's commerce watchdog has brought the government's resolution to crack down on counterfeiting and protect consumers to the forefont.

The spat was prompted by a sample survey conducted by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which found more fakes than genuine items were sold on Taobao, a popular online shopping site operated by Alibaba.

The company, which held a record-breaking IPO in New York in September, had more than US$30 billion wiped from its market capitalization in two days ending Thursday.

Alibaba accused SAIC of being biased and wrong, saying they would file a formal complaint. But it promised to establish a 300 person "fake-fighting special operations battalion" to add force to its ongoing combat against counterfeit goods sold by vendors on its sites.

Boosted by a huge number of customers and the largest, constantly improving e-commerce environment, China's online retail market has been thriving over the past few years, leading to the rise of companies such as Alibaba and Jingdong Mall.

As China strives to shift its economy to a consumption-driven model, authorities have taken a series of measures to ensure consumers' interests are being better protected, fining monopolistic practices by both foreign and domestic firms and severely punishing those producing and selling shoddy goods.

The online retail market, still a small portion of retail market in terms of sales but expanding at a phenomenal pace, deserves equal, if not more, attention.

The Chinese government is looking to regulate the market, which has been plagued by rampant counterfeiting, but progress has been slow until now.

The spat may bring some change and kick-start a tougher anti-counterfeit campaign by both the government and the industry.

Both sides should keep their focus on solutions.

Despite intensified supervision, the government should accelerate the adoption of effective legislation and ensure better implementation, while industry players mobilizing more resources to enhance consumer protections.

Blogger Raif Badawi's long struggle for freedom of expression

Saudi blogger and activist Raif Badawi started criticizing his country's regime more than six years ago. Since then, his family has been threatened and fled to Canada and his lawyer has been arrested.

Deutsche Welle, 30 Jan 2015

The flogging of Raif Badawi has been postponed for the third time. On Friday, the public learned that the blogger would not receive the next 50 lashes of his cruel 1,000-lash punishment. That doesn't change the fact that he is in bad physical shape. His wife, Ensaf Haidar, told journalists in Ottawa, Canada, that her husband suffered from hypertension and another round of beating could weaken him significantly. "I am very concerned about him," Haidar said.

The whole world has followed Badawi's case over the last few weeks. Public protest has picked up steam since he was first publicly flogged on January 9 in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, after being found guilty of insulting Islam and breaking Saudi technology laws with his website "Free Saudi Liberals." He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes, 10 years in prison and fined 1 million riyals ($266,000) in May 2014. But Badawi's struggle has been going on for much longer.

Daring online activism

Badawi was born in Al Khobar in eastern Saudi Arabia on January 13, 1984. He and his older sister, Samar, were educated to seventh-grade level. Activism in the face of the strict Islamic regime seems to run in the family: Samar has campaigned for women's suffrage and women's right to drive in Saudi Arabia. In 2012, she was awarded the US State Department's International Women of Courage Award.

Badawi's wife, Ensaf Haidar, is fighting
for her husband's release
With the "Free Saudi Liberals" website, Raif Badawi took his criticism of the regime online. He created the website in 2008 as a forum for liberals to discuss Saudi Arabia's strict Wahhabi leadership.

Ensaf Haidar, whom Badawi married in 2002, told Pen Canada, a group that promotes freedom of expression, that he believed in liberalism as an "intellectual project" that aspired to "represent Saudi liberals on the ground, and fight injustice wherever it exists."

Badawi didn't hold back his views about how unjust the system that ruled his country really was. In addition to writing about Valentine's Day, the celebration of which is prohibited in Saudi Arabia, he wrote and published sarcastic articles about the Commission on the Promotion of Virtue, criticized senior political figures and said that the Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh had become "a den for terrorists."

Charged with abandoning Islam

It didn't take long for Saudi officials to intervene. In March 2008, authorities arrested Badawi and questioned him about his website. Two months later, in May, he was charged with "setting up an electronic site that insults Islam." According to Human Rights Watch, he then left the country. Later in 2008, prosecutors, however, dropped the charges against him and Badawi returned to Saudi Arabia.

He was banned from leaving the country in 2009 and had his bank accounts frozen by the government. He was then arrested June 17, 2012 and appeared before a court in December 2012 on charges of ridiculing Islamic religious figures on his website.

He was also referred to a higher court for the charge of apostasy, a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. One "proof" for Badawi's apostasy seems to have been that he liked a Facebook page for Arabic Christians. According to Human Rights Watch, a Saudi cleric also accused him of saying "that Muslims, Jews, Christians, and atheists are all equal," which was also seen as a sign of apostasy.

International support

The apostasy charges were eventually dropped, but medical experts say the 1,000 lashes Badawi now has to endure are basically a death sentence dragged out over 20 weeks. The case has also affected Badawi's family. His wife fled Saudi Arabia in 2013 after receiving death threats. She said she feared for her safety and that of their children, Terad, Najwa and Miriam. They obtained political asylum in Quebec, Canada.

Protests in support of the blogger have
 taken place all over the world, including
this one in London
Badawi's lawyer was arrested after setting up a Saudi human rights organization. Charges against him included "breaking allegiance with the ruler" and in 2014 he was sentenced to 15 years in prison and a subsequent 15-year-ban on traveling.

With Badawi's health deteriorating, protesters all over the world are demanding the blogger be released and exonerated. Campaigns on social media and petitions by organizations including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders are helping him to keep up hope, his wife said.

But the final decision on his fate lies with the Saudi regime, whose flaws Raif Badawi never hesitated to point out.

Protesters call for the release of Raif Badawi outside the Saudi embassy
in The Hague, Netherlands. Photograph: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/Rex

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tradition meets Twitter as Saudis pledge to new king

Yahoo - AFPWissam Keyrouz, 27 Jan 2015

Saudi Arabia's new King Salman attends a ceremony at the Diwan royal
palace in Riyadh on January 24, 2015 (AFP)

Decades ago, Saudis trekked across their desert kingdom to pledge allegiance to their new kings at their palaces. Now they are just using Twitter.

Thousands of Saudis have poured into the palace of King Salman who acceded the throne after the death of his half-brother Abdullah last week.

Many others exercised the entrenched tradition at the palaces of provincial princes.

Saudi blogger Raef Badawi, shown
in Jeddah in 2012, was sentenced
in May 2014 to 10 years in prison,
1,000 lashes and a fine for
"insulting Islam" (AFP)
But thousands of others have pledged their allegiance to the new ruler online, taking advantage of social media networks.

Chief among them is Twitter, whose popularity has exploded with an astounding 40 percent of Saudis now using the microblogging website.

Saudi Arabia is governed by a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, but authorities have stopped short of banning Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, unlike in the Islamic republic of Iran.

Ultra-conservatives tweet as much as liberals in the tightly censored absolute monarchy, with clerics attracting the most followers, like Mohammed al-Arefe who has 10.8 million of them.

However several users have faced jail over their posts that have been deemed offensive to the authorities or to Islam.

King Salman himself has an account that saw its number of followers surge to 1.6 million as he became the monarch.

"I pray to God to help me serve our dear people and achieve their aspirations, and to keep our country secure and stable," read a tweet posted on the account following his accession.

A hashtag in Arabic declaring "I pledge allegiance to King Salman" spread quickly among Saudi tweeps after King Abdullah died on Friday, as users of the site mourned the late monarch.

'Progress without abandoning tradition'

"I have pledged my allegiance through Twitter because as we progress technologically, we do not abandon our identity and traditions," said Twitter user Salman al-Otaibi.

"This pledge is a duty on every Muslim," he told AFP.

Metab al-Samiri tweeted: "With full obedience, I pledge allegiance to you Salman."

The pledge is both an Islamic obligation to provide the ruler with legitimacy and a tribal commitment to obey the new leader.

Twitter has also proven to be a headache for authorities in Gulf monarchies as social media blogging sites render their censorship largely helpless.

Users calling for reforms in the kingdom have taken to the platform to voice discontent and demand concessions from the ruling family.

"We want a consultative Shura Council that is elected by the people, capable of legislating laws and holding the cabinet to account," said one tweet.

"This way, the alleged reforms could be achieved," it added, using another popular hashtag that said: "Demands for King Salman."

Despite timid steps to introduce reforms, Saudi Arabia under Abdullah remained a tightly controlled kingdom, where conservatives continue to play a strong role.

The case of blogger Raef Badawi serves as an example of the Gulf state's ever-tightening freedom of expression.

Badawi is serving a 10-year jail sentence for insulting Islam, and he has also been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, having received 50 of them in public this month.

Twitter is "the source of all evil and devastation", said the kingdom's top cleric Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh in a fatwa edict in October.

"People are rushing to it thinking it's a source of credible information but it's a source of lies and falsehood," he said.

Despite such warnings, there are no signs of Twitter's popularity waning in Saudi Arabia, whose five million users give the kingdom the world's highest penetration.

Facebook ‘unlikes’ Dutch app which watermarks photos, January 26, 2015

An app developed by a Dutch couple which makes photographs uploaded to Facebook unusable by third parties has been removed from the approved list by the internet company, the Volkskrant says on Monday.

The app, named Reclaim Yourself, gives photos a watermark which makes them less attractive to use for commercial purposes.Facebook’s new privacy rules come into effect at the end of this week and give the company the right to use all photographs uploaded to the site for other purposes.

The app’s designers Sipke Jan Bousema and Willem van Leunen were given the green light by Facebook to introduce it in December, the Volkskrant says. 

However, 20 days later the app has been scrapped and all photographs which were processed with it have been removed, the Volkskrant says. 

Van Leunen says he has made a formal protest to Facebook but has heard nothing. 

The Volkskrant says the media attention has led to Faceback replacing some of the photographs, including pictures which users themselves had removed.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dutch to experiment with self-driving cars that cooperate with each other, January 24, 2015

Ministers have approved the large-scale testing of self-driving cars and trucks on public roads in the Netherlands arguing the technology could cut jams, improve road safety and reduce pollution. 

The cabinet wants the Netherlands to take a ‘leading role’ in the development of self-driving cars and systems to allow vehicles to communicate with each other, the infrastructure ministry said in a statement.

Large scale testing is planned to start in the summer, if parliament approves changes to current legislation, a ministry spokeswoman told news agency AFP. 

Last November, infrastructure minister Melanie Schultz kicked off the first Dutch test on a public road. Testing is currently largely confined to private roads because of legal restrictions.

The Dutch system does not involve doing away with drivers altogether, but with getting cars to work together instead. 

‘Vehicles which communicate with each other and accelerate or break in unison will contribute to smoother traffic flow,’ the ministry statement said. ‘The vehicles can travel more closely together and use the available road space more efficiently.’ 

A number of companies and institutes have already expressed an interest in taking part in the trials, the ministry said. For example, the TNO research institute is working with DAF, Rotterdam’s port authority and the transport industry lobby group TLN to develop self-driving lorries. 

A number of other trials of self-driving cars are underway worldwide. Google, for example, is working on its own robot car project, unveiling a prototype at the end of last year.

Related Articles:

Friday, January 23, 2015

Internet Will ‘Disappear’, Google Boss Tells Davos

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Jan 23, 2015

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, gestures during the session ‘The
 Future of the Digital Economy’ in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos on
Jan. 22, 2015. (Reuters Photo/Ruben Sprich)

Davos. Google boss Eric Schmidt predicted on Thursday that the Internet will soon be so pervasive in every facet of our lives that it will effectively “disappear” into the background.

Speaking to the business and political elite at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Schmidt said: “There will be so many sensors, so many devices, that you won’t even sense it, it will be all around you.”

“It will be part of your presence all the time. Imagine you walk into a room and … you are interacting with all the things going on in that room.”

“A highly personalized, highly interactive and very interesting world emerges.”

On the sort of high-level panel only found among the ski slopes of Davos, a panel bringing together the heads of Google, Facebook and Microsoft and Vodafone sought to allay fears that the rapid pace of technological advance was killing jobs.

“Everyone’s worried about jobs,” admitted Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook.

With so many changes in the technology world, “the transformation is happening faster than ever before,” she acknowledged.

“But tech creates jobs not only in the tech space but outside,” she insisted.

Schmidt quoted statistics he said showed that every tech job created between five and seven jobs in a different area of the economy.

“If there were a single digital market in Europe, 400 million new and important new jobs would be created in Europe,” which is suffering from stubbornly high levels of unemployment.

The debate about whether technology is destroying jobs “has been around for hundreds of years,” said the Google boss. What is different is the speed of change.

“It’s the same that happened to the people who lost their farming jobs when the tractor came … but ultimately a globalised solution means more equality for everyone.”

Everyone has a voice

With one of the main topics at this year’s World Economic Forum being how to share out the fruits of global growth, the tech barons stressed that the greater connectivity offered by their companies ultimately helps reduce inequalities.

“Are the spoils of tech being evenly spread? That is an issue that we have to tackle head on,” said Satya Nadella, chief executive of Microsoft.

“I’m optimistic, there’s no question. If you are in the tech business, you have to be optimistic. Ultimately to me, it’s about human capital. Tech empowers humans to do great things.”

Facebook boss Sandberg said the Internet in its early forms was “all about anonymity” but now everyone was sharing everything and everyone was visible.

“Now everyone has a voice … now everyone can post, everyone can share and that gives a voice to people who have historically not had it,” she said.

Schmidt, who said he had recently come back from the reclusive state of North Korea, said he believed that technology forced potentially despotic and hermetic governments to open up as their citizens acquired more knowledge about the outside world.

“It is no longer possible for a country to step out of basic assumptions in banking, communications, morals and the way people communicate,” the Google boss said.

“You cannot isolate yourself any more. It simply doesn’t work.”

Nevertheless, Sandberg told the assembled elites that even the current pace of change was only the tip of the iceberg.

“Today, only 40 percent of people have Internet access,” she said, adding: “If we can do all this with 40 percent, imagine what we can do with 50, 60, 70 percent.”

Even two decades into the global spread of the Internet, the potential for opening up and growth was tremendous, she stressed.

“Sixty percent of the Internet is in English. If that doesn’t tell you how uninclusive the Internet is, then nothing will,” said the tycoon.

The World Economic Forum brings together some 2,500 of the top movers and shakers in the worlds of politics, business and finance for a four-day meeting that ends on Saturday.

Agence France-Presse

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Windows 10 aims to be core of connected devices

Yahoo – AFP, Glenn Chapman, 21 Jan 2015

Microsoft executive Terry Myerson describes features being built into coming 
Windows 10 software at a press event in Redmond, Washington, on January 21,
2015 (AFP Photo/Glenn Chapman)

Redmond (United States) (AFP) - Microsoft pulled back the curtain Wednesday on the upcoming Windows 10 operating system focused on bringing harmony to the diverse array of Internet gadgets in people's lives.

As it previewed the new operating system, Microsoft also unexpectedly added to the roster of modern gadgets with the unveiling of headgear that overlays holograms on the real world and lets wearers use their hands to interact with virtual objects.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella touted HoloLens capabilities that will debut with Windows 10 later this year as the next generation of computing.

Microsoft executives Joe Belfiore (L), 
Terry Myerson and Alex Kipman pose
 wearing HoloLens eyewear that overlays
 3D images on the real world, at a press
 event in Redmond, Washington on
January 21, 2015 (AFP Photo/Glenn 
The US technology titan is also trying to make it more natural to interact with devices, such as conversational-style speaking with the company's virtual assistant Cortana.

"The number of devices is just exploding around us," Microsoft's Terry Myerson said during a presentation to press and analysts at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

"It should be easy to put one device down and pick up another where you left off; technology needs to get out of the way."

HoloLens was touted as an entry to "the world's first holographic computing platform" which enables users to place three-dimensional holograms in the physical world.

"Until now, we've immersed ourselves in the world of technology," Microsoft's Alex Kipman said while introducing HoloLens.

"But, what if we could take technology and immerse it in our world?"

Walking on Mars

Windows Holographic creates three-dimensional images in the real world, then lets people wearing the headgear reach out and manipulate virtual objects.

Examples shown during the event ranged from someone getting visual prompts during a routine home plumbing repair to being able to virtually walk on Mars and control a rover lander actually on that planet's surface.

Kipman said he invited virtual reality innovators, including Facebook-owned Oculus VR, to explore adapting different applications for the goggles.

"Holograms can become part of our everyday life," he said.

Nadella called HoloLens and Windows 10 a "mind-blowing" experience that will open a new type of computing.

"Today is a big day for Windows," Nadella said as Microsoft provided a look at its latest operating system at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

"We want to move from people needing Windows, to choosing Windows, to loving Windows; that is our bold goal for Windows."

Approximately 1.5 billion people around the world use Windows-powered computers, and Microsoft is intent on renewing its relevance in a age of mobile computing dominated by Apple and Google-backed Android software.

Windows 10 is being designed with feedback from millions of "insiders" testing early versions of the operating system, Myerson said.

IE cedes to Spartan

Microsoft is so intent on distancing Windows 10 from its predecessors that it skipped directly from Windows 8, which failed to deliver on its promise as a platform for a variety of devices.

The Windows 10 design creates a foundation on which developers can build applications for smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktop computers, and Xbox One video game consoles, he said.

Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella touts Windows 10 and HoloLens
 capabilities at a press event in Redmond, Washington on January 21, 2015 
(AFP Photo/Glenn Chapman)

During the first year after the release of Windows 10, the operating system will be available as a free upgrade for computers running prior generation Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 software.

Microsoft said it will also keep Windows 10 upgraded during the lifetime of devices.

Personalized virtual assistant Cortana, and its touted ability to answer questions conversationally, will be now available on personal computers. Cortana made her debut on Windows-powered mobile devices.

Microsoft also unveiled a new Web browser code-named Spartan, which will have Cortana built in and ready to chime in at presumably helpful moments.

Spartan is poised to be the successor to Internet Explorer.

"Project Spartan is a new browsing experience tuned for being mobile and working across this family of devices," said Microsoft's Joe Belfiore.

Windows 10 is also designed to hook gamers, according to Xbox team leader Phil Spencer.

Along with modifications that allow for more sophisticated play on smartphones, an application for Xbox will let people use Windows 10-powered computers or tablets at home to play games with or against friends using one of the Microsoft consoles, Spencer demonstrated.

"I think there are lots of developers who want to bring their experiences to the Xbox," Spencer said.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

App and use of hard shoulder to relieve traffic jams around Amsterdam, January 19, 2015

Amsterdam is launching the pilot of an app on Monday that will help motorists to avoid traffic jams before they begin. 

The app ADAM is connected to traffic information systems of motoring organisation Rijkswaterstaat, Amsterdam council and the province of Noord-Holland, allowing motorists to see the quickest route to their destination, broadcaster Nos reports.

The app also allows governmental control rooms to steer motorists away from problems before traffic builds up. For instance, if there is an accident, motorists can be advised to take another route. Or where one lane is closed, some motorists can be rerouted while others drive straight on, ensuring that traffic does not back up.

The pilot will be deemed a success if motorists follow its advice, according to Patrick Potgraven of the Traffic information service. Of course, there is the risk that ‘know-it-all’ drivers will ignore the detours, he said. ‘That is the exciting thing. Will people follow the advice.’ 

If the app is successful, it will be introduced in other cities.

Hard shoulder 

Meanwhile, transport Melanie Schultz van Haegen has given the go-ahead to open the hard shoulder of the A7 and A8 motorways to traffic during rush hours, the Telegraaf says on Monday.

At the moment, traffic builds up long before the Coen tunnel into Amsterdam, but the minister hopes using the hard shoulder between Purmerend-South and Oostzaan during morning rush hour will free up traffic flows into the north of the city. 

In addition, the existing extra lane between Zaandam and Purmerend will begin before the junction Zaandam on the A8, allowing traffic to flow more smoothly in the evening rush hour.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

EU charges Amazon tax deal with Luxembourg was illegal

Yahoo – AFP, Celine Loubette, 16 Jan 2015

EU regulators said Friday they believe Luxembourg gave illegal tax breaks
to Internet shopping giant Amazon (AFP Photo/Leon Neal)

Brussels (AFP) - EU regulators charged Luxembourg Friday with giving illegal tax breaks to Internet shopping giant Amazon, putting European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker back in the spotlight over deals made when he was the duchy's premier.

The European Commission's preliminary findings into Amazon's deals with the tiny country were the latest in a widening probe by Brussels into sweetheart tax arrangements between major companies and several countries.

They follow last year's "Luxleaks" scandal which revealed details of tax breaks given to dozens of major firms during Juncker's 19 years as Luxembourg premier.

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude 
Juncker is back in the spotlight over deals
 made when he was prime minister of 
Luxembourg (AFP Photo/John Thys)
The Commission, the EU's powerful executive arm responsible for policing its competition rules, said its "preliminary view is that the tax ruling... by Luxembourg in favour of Amazon constitutes state aid."

"The Commission has doubts at this stage as to that ruling's compatibility with" European Union internal market rules, which are meant to ensure a level playing field for companies and to protect consumers, it said.

Accordingly, the arrangement may have given the company an unfair advantage over competitors and would therefore be illegal.

Luxembourg said it "is confident that the allegations of state-aid are without merit... and it will be able to show that its tax arrangements were legitimate and afforded no unfair advantage."

Luxembourg was fully cooperating with the Commission probe and had supplied all the information requested, it added.

Tax policy under scrutiny

The EU has opened similar investigations into US tech icon Apple's deals with Ireland, coffee-shop chain Starbucks with the Netherlands and Italian automaker Fiat, also with Luxembourg.

If found at fault, a country would have to recover the amount granted in illegal state aid, potentially a huge amount of money given that some of the tax deals date back many years.

Such tax arrangements are widespread in practice and are not strictly illegal in themselves, constituting tax avoidance rather than tax evasion which does breach the law.

However, critics say they allow companies too much leeway, minimising their tax burden at the expense of ordinary citizens who have had to suffer through tough austerity programmes imposed by EU governments desperate to balance the public books.

The fallout from the 2008 global financial crash, which brought the EU economy to its knees, put tax policy at the top of the agenda, with member states pledging to make the system fairer and more transparent.

Tax policy, however, remains a member state prerogative in the EU so the Commission has taken up the cudgels on competition grounds.

Juncker in firing line

The revelations have proved embarrassing for Juncker who in response has led the charge for a full investigation and efforts to establish common tax standards for the 28-nation bloc.

Many remain dissatisfied with his stance however and on Wednesday, the Greens Group said it had collected enough votes to force the European Parliament to launch a probe of its own.

In November, Juncker survived a no confidence vote in Parliament as the scandal overshadowed his first days in office, with some even calling for him to stand down.

Juncker suggested that the scandal had been used as a way to attack him and insisted he was not personally involved in the deals.

At his swearing in, he promised that tackling tax avoidance would be a priority for his five-year term.

"For tax harmonisation, the coordination and bringing together of tax policies is an absolute necessity. I will do it," Juncker said.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Vietnam PM Says Impossible to Ban Social Media

Jakarta Globe – AFP,  Jan 16, 2015

This Jan. 30, 2014 file photo taken in Washington, DC, shows the splash
page for the social media Internet site Facebook. (AFP Photo/Karen Bleier)

Hanoi. Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has conceded it is impossible for the communist country to ban social media, urging officials instead to embrace websites like Facebook to spread the government’s message.

Sites such as Facebook have at times been difficult to access in Vietnam, an authoritarian country which routinely imprisons bloggers and dissidents for criticizing the regime.

“You here have all joined social networks, you’ve all got Facebook up on your phones to read information. So we must make this information correct,” Dung told senior officials Thursday, the Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

“We cannot ban it,” he said at the meeting in Hanoi.

Over the last few years, Vietnam has had one of the fastest rates of Facebook uptake in the world, and now around a third of the country’s population of 90 million have an account on the social network.

The government has always denied blocking the site, and for at least a year Facebook has been easily accessible in Vietnam without a VPN or other measures.

Dung said top officials need to use social media to engage with the population more.

“We must publish accurate information online immediately … Whatever is being said online, people will believe official information from the government,” he said.

Vietnam’s communist party controls all newspapers and television networks, and many citizens prefer to get their news online from blogs or social media, which contain less propaganda.

But the quality of the blogs and social media postings is uneven. Some dissident-run sites offer nuanced reporting on sensitive political topics, other online commentators spread sensational rumors.

Last week, in a rare move, authorities denied widespread rumors that a popular senior communist party official Nguyen Ba Thanh, a former top official in central Danang City, had been poisoned with radioactive material by a political rival.

“Incorrect information creates social distraction,” Dung said, adding that the government would ask ministries to address incorrect information circulating online.

In the past, Dung has driven through bans on particular blogs, but the move has usually backfired, triggering a surge of interest in the prohibited sites.

The harassment, arrest and prosecution of online activists remain widespread in Vietnam, which is holding scores of bloggers in jail, according to watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

The one-party state is regularly denounced by rights groups and Western governments for its intolerance of political dissent.

Agence France-Presse
Related Articles:

“ …  The Internet - The first Worldwide Tool of Unification

Now I give you something that few think about: What do you think the Internet is all about, historically? Citizens of all the countries on Earth can talk to one another without electronic borders. The young people of those nations can all see each other, talk to each other, and express opinions. No matter what the country does to suppress it, they're doing it anyway. They are putting together a network of consciousness, of oneness, a multicultural consciousness. It's here to stay. It's part of the new energy. The young people know it and are leading the way.

I gave you a prophecy more than 10 years ago. I told you there would come a day when "everyone could talk to everyone and, therefore, there could be no conspiracy." For conspiracy depends on separation and secrecy - something hiding in the dark that only a few know about. Seen the news lately? What is happening? Could it be that there is a new paradigm happening that seems to go against history? ….“

Wife of Lashed Saudi Blogger Calls for His Release

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Jan 14, 2015

Ensaf Haidar, center, the wife of the Saudi Blogger Raef Badawi, holds a vigil in
 Montreal, Quebec on Jan. 13, 2015 urging Saudi Arabia to free her husband who
was flogged in public on Jan. 9, 2015 near a mosque in the Red Sea city of Jeddah,
receiving 50 lashes for ‘insulting Islam’. (AFP Photo/Clement Sabourin)

Montreal. The wife of a Saudi blogger who was publicly flogged for “insulting Islam” called for his release on Tuesday.

“My husband, Raef Badawi, is imprisoned for simply expressing liberal ideas,” Ensaf Haidar, who sought asylum in Canada with her three children after Badawi was arrested, told a news conference in Montreal.

In September, a Saudi court upheld a sentence of 10 years in prison as well as the 1,000 lashes for Badawi, who has been behind bars since June 2012.

The 31-year-old received the first installment of 50 lashes last Friday and is expected to have 20 weekly whipping sessions until his punishment is complete.

“We’re here so that he won’t have to endure another 50 lashes next Friday,” said Beatrice Vaugrante of Amnesty International.

“We talk a lot about freedom of speech nowadays: I am Charlie, I am Raef Badawi,” she said. “This concerns Canada, it concerns all Western nations that advocate freedom of expression.”

The Canadian government has called the public lashing “inhumane” but said it was limited in what it could do for Badawi beyond expressions of outrage as the blogger is not Canadian.

Agence France-Presse

Protesters demand the immediate release of Saudi blogger,
 Raif Badawi, in front of the Saudi Embassy in The Hague.
Photograph: Martijn Beekman/EPA

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