The German Prism: Berlin Wants to Spy Too

Der Himmel über BerlinThe German government has been largely silent on revelations of US Internet spying. Berlin profits from the program, is pursuing similar plans. Just a few days ago, the man whom many Germans now see as one of the greatest villains in the world visited Berlin. Keith Alexander, the head of the world’s most powerful intelligence operation, National Security Agency, had arranged meetings with key representatives of the German government, including top-ranking officials in Germany’s intelligence agencies and leading representatives of the Chancellery and the Interior Ministry. Alexander gave his usual presentation about how the world could be more effectively spied on and allegedly made safer. At such presentations, NSA chief likes to extol the virtues of his agency’s “incredible technical expertise,” and he urges allies to invest more in controlling +  monitoring today’s new technologies. Alexander maintains there has to be more intensive surveillance of Internet. But while they were still chatting about the Internet in Berlin government offices, news stories were breaking around the world that Alexander’s NSA may already have Web firmly under its control. Former US intelligence official named Edward Snowden had leaked information to the press on the virtually all-encompassing Prism online surveillance program. The world soon learned that Alexander’s NSA, with the help of direct access to the servers of US Internet giants, is able to secretly read, record, store every type of digital communication worldwide. The public also discovered that the Americans have a preference for spying on Germany, more so than on any other country in Europe. During the days of the Cold War, when Germans referred to US as “big brother” it had a positive connotation. Now, that term has entirely different meaning. Snowden’s leak raises big questions: How much surveillance of Internet is a free society willing or able to tolerate? Does the fear of attacks justify comprehensive monitoring of e-mails, search queries on Google, conversations on Skype? Can a country like Germany allow its citizens to be spied on by another country? The Surveillance cannot be based on blind faith in a democracy, but rather on a wide degree of acceptance by informed citizens, politicians and allied countries. This is by no means the case with Prism. There are plenty of reasons to venture a confrontation with the Americans over this issue, particularly in Germany, where there has been a greater awareness of the importance of data protection than elsewhere in world, where citizens have engaged in heated debates over routine data collection efforts such as the national census. “When the foreign agencies infringe upon fundamental rights on the German territory, State cannot look away,” says Dieter Deiseroth, judge at Germany’s Federal Administrative Court. “Accepting the massive collection of private information would be a serious violation of the principle that every state has to defend such rights,” he contends (…..)

Link: http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/berlin-profits-from-us-spying-program-and-is-planning-its-own-a-906129.html

Una Teoría de la Clase Política Española

... Y algun dia, Sam, dejara de tocar la ceremonial orquesta, pues por fin, comenzara el Siglo XXI ...(…..) La crisis ha acentuado el conflicto entre interés particular de la clase política española y el interés general de España. Las reformas necesarias para permanecer en el euro chocan frontalmente con los mecanismos de captura de las rentas que sostienen dicho interés particular (…..) La infinita desgana con que nuestra clase política está abordando proceso reformista ilustra bien que, colectivamente al menos, barrunta las consecuencias que reformas pueden tener sobre su “gran” interés particular. La única reforma llevada a término por iniciativa propia, la del mercado de trabajo, no afecta directamente a los mecanismos de captura de rentas. Las que sí lo hacen, exigidas por la UE como, por ejemplo, la consolidación fiscal, no se han aplicado. Deliberadamente, el Gobierno confunde reformas con los recortes y subidas de impuestos y ofrece los segundos en vez de las primeras, con la esperanza de que la tempestad amaine por sí misma y, al final, no haya que cambiar nada esencial. Como eso no va a ocurrir, en algún momento la clase política española se tendrá que plantear el dilema de aplicar reformas en serio o abandonar el euro. Y esto, creo yo, ocurrirá más pronto que tarde. La teoría de las élites extractivas predice que interés particular tenderá a prevalecer sobre interés general. Veo probable que en los 2 partidos mayoritarios españoles crezca deprisa el sentimiento “pro peseta”. De hecho, hay en ambos partidos cabezas de fila visibles de esta corriente. Confusión inducida entre recortes y reformas tiene la consecuencia perversa de que la población no percibe las ventajas a largo plazo de reformas y sí experimenta el dolor a corto plazo de los recortes que, invariablemente, se presentan como una imposición extranjera. De este modo se crea el caldo cultivo necesario para, cuando circunstancias sean propicias, presentar salida del euro como defensa de soberanía nacional ante una agresión exterior que impone los recortes insufribles al Estado de bienestar. También, por poner un ejemplo, los controladores aéreos presentaban defensa de su interés particular como una defensa de la seguridad del tráfico aéreo. La situación actual recuerda mucho a lo ocurrido hace casi dos siglos cuando, en 1814, Fernando VII, El Deseado, aplastó la posibilidad de modernización de España surgida de la Constitución de 1812 mientras el pueblo español le jaleaba al grito de ¡vivan las “caenas”! Por supuesto que al Deseado muy actual, llámese Mariano, Alfredo, u otra cosa, habría que jalearle incorporando la vigente sensibilidad autonómica, utilizando gritos del tipo ¡viva Gürtel! ¡vivan los ERE de Andalucía! ¡visca el Palau de la Música Catalana! Pero, en cualquier caso, las diferencias serían más de forma que de fondo. Una salida del euro, tanto si es por iniciativa propia como si es porque los países del norte se hartan de convivir con los del sur, sería desastrosa para España. Implicaría, como acertadamente señalaron Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, Luis Garicano y Tano Santos en EL PAÍS el pasado mes de junio, no sólo una vuelta a la España de los 50 en lo económico, sino retorno al caciquismo y a la corrupción en lo político y en lo social que llevaría a fechas muy anteriores y que superaría con mucho a la situación actual, que ya es mala. Calamar vampiro, reducido a chipirón, sería cabeza de ratón en vez de cola de león, eso nuestra clase política lo ve como un mal menor frente a la alternativa del harakiri que suponen las reformas. Los liberales, como en 1814, serían masacrados, de hecho, en los dos partidos mayoritarios, ya se observan movimientos en esa dirección. El peligro que todo esto acabe ocurriendo en un plazo relativamente corto es, en mi opinión, significativo. ¿Se puede hacer algo para evitarlo? Lamentablemente, no mucho, aparte de seguir publicando artículos como éste. Como muestran todos los sondeos, el desprestigio de la clase política española es inmenso, pero no tiene alternativa a corto plazo. A más largo plazo, como explico a continuación, sí la tiene (…..)

Link: http://politica.elpais.com/politica/2012/09/08/actualidad/1347129185_745267.html

Top Obama campaign fundraisers slotted for diplomatic posts

Strike a Post - Part. TWOA trio of money men who helped President Barack Obama bring in record donations for his re­election last year were tapped Friday for the highly sought diplomatic assignments in Europe. John Emerson, a Los Angeles investment management executive who co-chaired campaign’s Southern California finance team, will be nominated as the next U.S. ambassador to Germany. The HBO executive James Costos, who helped raise more than $500.000 for Obama’s reelection, is in the line to be ambassador to Spain. And Rufus Gifford, a veteran political fundraiser who directed the Obama campaign’s finance operation, was selected to serve as next ambassador to Denmark. The long-expected nominations, announced by White House late Friday afternoon, are the continuation of a quadrennial tradition after campaigns, as presidents reward their major fundraisers and donors with plum diplomatic posts. Obama also named Ken Hackett, former president of Catholic Relief Services, to be ambassador to Holy See, as well as two career diplomats to Brazil and Ethiopia. Friday’s nominations come on heels of Obama’s nomination this week of Keith Harper, a top campaign bundler and liaison to Native American tribes, to a key human rights post at the U.N. Obama’s record in passing over career diplomats to head embassies is similar to his predecessors, according to statistics compiled by American Foreign Service Association. Group found that 31% of Obama’s ambassadorial nominations have gone to political, rather than the career, appointees, compared to 30% under George W. Bush and 27.8% under Bill Clinton. The organization, which represents more than 30.000 active and retired Foreign Service employees, has called on Barack Obama to curtail the practice. “Appointment of non-career individuals, however accomplished in their own field, to lead America’s important diplomatic missions abroad should be exceptional and circumscribed, not routine practice it has become over last three decades,” the labor union said in a recent statement on its Web site. “Now is the time to end the spoils system and the de facto ‘3-year rental’ of ambassadorships.” But political fundraisers said well-connected donors often have their own qualifications to be diplomats. “Most of these people are captains of industry and the best at what they do in their own careers,” said veteran Democratic fundraiser David Rosen. “They all have lots to bring: They are sensitive, will be loyal. These people rise to the occasion.” In choosing Emerson to go to Germany, for example, Obama has selected a seasoned financial executive who brings a political background from his work in Clinton White House, colleagues said. “John was extremely well-respected inside campaign, both for his political experience + its overlay with his understanding of global financial markets,” said Wade Randlett, a top Obama campaign fundraiser who served with Emerson on an advisory committee to Office of U.S. Trade Representative. “It’s no surprise to me the president tapped him for what is obviously one of most important posts in global economics” (source: Matea Gold – The Washington Post – 15/06/2013)

Arranca en Venezuela el Banco del Sur, que agrupa a seis países de la región

Banco del SurAunque fundado en 2007 en Buenos Aires, este miércoles en Caracas tuvo lugar la primera reunión operativa del Banco del Sur, un fondo de desarrollo que financian los gobiernos de la Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela. Los Ministros Economía y los representantes de esas naciones, junto a cancilleres de Ecuador, Ricardo Patiño, y Venezuela, Elías Jaua, participaron en el I Consejo de Ministros de la entidad, legado de los dos mandatarios, ya difuntos, que la impulsaron, Néstor Kirchner y Hugo Chávez. “Red de silos, la interconexión eléctrica, una red vial para toda Sudamérica”, son ejemplos que el canciller ecuatoriano ofreció, a la salida de la reunión en la sede del Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), sobre las obras infraestructura que el nuevo fondo se propondría costear. Lineamientos que se corresponden con los propósitos estatutarios del banco: “financiamiento del desarrollo de sus Estados miembros, reducción asimetrías entre ellos y fortalecimiento de la integración”. La reunión del I Consejo de Ministros fue antecedida por dos días de negociaciones entre técnicos de los seis países. Todavía quedan por afinar detalles operativos. De acuerdo al ministro venezolano de Economía, Nelson Merentes, el Consejo de Administración del banco deberá tener su primera sesión en menos de 15 días. Trascendió que se espera completar fondo de 20.000 millones dólares entre los aportantes para financiar programas del banco, que tendría capital pagado de 10.000 millones de dólares. No obstante, el desembolso inicial de los accionistas montaría a los 7.000 millones. “Ha nacido el Banco del Sur por voluntad de nuestros pueblos de tener presidentes independientes, soberanos”, se felicitó Jaua, ministro venezolano Exteriores, “con una noción clara de que la superación de la pobreza y del subdesarrollo solo podrá ser obra de los pueblos sudamericanos“. El banco tendrá Caracas por sede, en reconocimiento al papel que cumplió el ex-presidente Hugo Chávez en su promoción. El desaparecido comandante concebía la institución no sólo como una palanca financiera de desarrollo sino, sobre todo, como receptora de las reservas monetarias de las naciones del subcontinente, en claro desafío al circuito trasnacional de custodia de reservas en monedas duras del norte. En su momento, Hugo Chávez también forzó la creación del Sucre, sistema de compensación o canasta de monedas para las transacciones internacionales entre países que conforman la llamada Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (ALBA). (Fuente: El País.com – 13/06/2013)

China to Build Panama Canal Bypass Through Nicaragua

Great Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Waterway CanalOne of the most extraordinary stories of the past decade largely overlooked by the U.S. media is how Central and Latin America have quietly escaped the U.S. control since 9-11, as Washington focused on its global War on Terror (WoT). WoT diverted Washington’s attention long enough that progressive governments established themselves throughout southern Western hemisphere, Venezuela through Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia, were far less inclined than previous administrations to listen to advice from their giant “el Norte” neighbor. Crucial element in this process has been Central and Latin America expanding their trading opportunities with the states frowned upon by Washington, from Iran to China. Now, in the latest sign that Washington’s sway over the region is diminishing still further, Nicaragua has announced that it will soon begin construction of a canal to compete directly with the Panama Canal further south, to be financed by China. As with the Three Gorges Dam, Beijing is not thinking small, as the proposed canal could take 11 years to build, cost $40 billion and require digging roughly 130 miles of channel. The Panama Canal, in contrast, is 48 miles long. The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front, which has 63 of the 92 Parliamentary seats, has introduced legislation to award the project to HK Nicaragua Canal Development Investment Co. Ltd. It is an extraordinary proposal for the Central America’s poorest nation, which does not even yet have highway connecting its Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega hope to gain a final approval by 14 June. Planning for the project began in July 2012, when Nicaraguan government announced the approval of a law for the construction of “Great Inter-Oceanic Nicaragua Waterway Canal,” passing legislation that authorized the government to create a company whose state share would be 51%, while the remaining 49% would be acquired by a strategic partner. Daniel Ortega presidential adviser Paul Osquit, said that it was a project intended to send “a clear signal to the countries of the world” interested in investing in the mega project, which included Venezuela, Brazil, China, Japan, South Korea and Russia. Notice that the U.S. is pointedly not on the list. It will not be an insignificant undertaking, as the canal’s proposed locks will require 1.7 billion gallons of water per day, given that the channel will be 200 feet deep in places. Furthermore, Nicaragua’s canal would have to be more than three times longer than The Panama Canal. A major advantage of the route however is that the massive Lake Nicaragua is separated from the Pacific only by a thin strip of land; accordingly, large oceangoing freighters could travel about 50 miles on Lake Nicaragua’s waters before going through a pair of locks, and into a waterway dug across the waist of the country to the Atlantic coast lowlands. Nicaraguan advocates say the channel is needed, arguing that inter-oceanic maritime freight traffic demand will outstrip the capacity of even the expanded Panama Canal by more than 300 percent within 123 years, and the canal’s construction create 40.000 construction jobs. Better yet, is could double the per-capita GDP (…..)

Link: http://www.economonitor.com/blog/2013/06/china-to-build-panama-canal-bypass-through-nicaragua/

Venezuela gets a lifeline from the United States

Nicolás MaduroNicolás Maduro, former bus driver chosen by Hugo Chávez to lead Venezuela after his death, has been struggling to consolidate his position since being declared the victor in a questionable presidential election in April. With economy stalling, inflation spiking and shortages spreading, the new president appears at a loss about how to respond, other than to blame domestic and foreign enemies. Nor has he been able to overcome serious split in Chavista movement between his own, Cuba-backed clique and another based in the military. Perhaps most alarming for Nicolás Maduro, an energized opposition has refused to accept election outcome; its capable leader, Henrique Capriles, has been gaining sympathy around the region. The president of neighboring Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, met with Mr. Capriles on May 29, prompting paroxysms of rage from Mr. Maduro and his aides. Other Latin American governments, while avoiding a confrontation with Caracas, have made it clear they regard the new leader’s legitimacy as questionable; regional group Unasur called for an audit of the election results. One government, however, has chosen to toss Mr. Maduro a lifeline: United States. Last week Secretary of State John F. Kerry took time to meet Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on sidelines of an Organization of American States meeting, then announced that the Obama administration would like to “find a new way forward” with Maduro administration and “quickly move to the appointment of ambassadors.” Mr. Kerry even thanked Mr. Maduro for “taking steps toward this encounter”, words that the state-run media trumpeted. What did Mr. Maduro do to earn this assistance from Mr. Kerry? Sincé Chávez’s death in March, the Venezuelan leader has repeatedly used the United States as a foil. He expelled two U.S. military attaches posted at embassy in Caracas, claiming that they were trying to destabilize the country; he claimed CIA was provoking violence in order to justify an invasion; and he called President Obama “the big boss of the devils.” A U.S. filmmaker, Timothy Tracy, was arrested and charged with plotting against the government, a ludicrous allegation that was backed with no evidence. Though Tracy was put on a plane to Miami on the day of Kerry-Jaua encounter, Mr. Kerry agreed to the meeting before gesture. Nothing wrong, in principle, with diplomatic meetings or even in dispatching an ambassador to a country such as Venezuela. The State Department has been meeting with senior opposition leaders and has yet to say it recognizes presidential election results. But Kerry’s words amounted to precious endorsement for Mr. Maduro, and the Obama administration appears bent on cultivating him regardless of his actions. Perhaps the increasingly desperate new leader has secretly promised concessions to Washington on matters such as drug trafficking. But with senior government and military officials involved in transhipment of cocaine to United States and Europe, he is unlikely to deliver. In short, this looks like a reset for sake of reset, launched without regard for good timing or cause of Venezuelan democracy. (source: Editorial Board – The Washington Post – 12/06/2013) 

Cresce possibilidade de segundo turno, afirma CNT

Dilma RousseffEmbora a popularidade da presidente Dilma Rousseff permaneça alta e os cenários ainda contemplem uma eventual reeleição em primeiro turno, cresce o risco de haver segundo turno nas eleições 2014. A avaliação foi feita nesta terça-feira pelo presidente da Confederação Nacional do Transporte (CNT), senador Clésio Andrade (PMDB – MG), após divulgação pesquisa realizada pelo instituto MDA a pedido entidade. Dacordo com Andrade, as expectativas dos eleitores em relação à economia se deterioraram, assim como avaliação políticas governo federal para as áreas da saúde, segurança e educação. Além disso, acrescentou, os possíveis adversários de Dilma são ainda mais desconhecidos que a presidente, por isso, têm maior potencial crescimento até outubro do ano que vem. Para 39,6% dos entrevistados, situação emprego no Brasil deve melhorar nos próximos seis meses. Mas 44,5% acham que a situação atual permanecerá igual e 11,5% preveem uma piora em relação ao atual cenário. Em julho do ano passado, 54,1% achavam que situação do emprego no país melhoraria, contra 9,6% que acreditavam numa piora e 32,2% que apostavam que a situação ficaria igual nos 6 meses seguintes. Já a situação da renda mensal deve melhorar na opinião de 35,8% dos entrevistados, contra 49,0% apurados em julho de 2012. Vai ficar igual para 51,9%, ante 42,9%. Para 8,5% dos entrevistados, a renda mensal cairá nos próximos seis meses. Essa taxa foi de 5,1% em julho de 2012. “A popularidade ainda é muito alta, mas o governo não pode descuidar dessas questões”, disse Clésio, alertando para o baixo crescimento econômico, do investimento e a alta do dólar. “A inflação é o que mais pesa.” O presidente CNT lembrou que os possíveis adversários da presidente na eleição de 2014, o senador Aécio Neves (PSDB-MG), ex-ministra Meio Ambiente Marina Silva e o governador de Pernambuco, Eduardo Campos (PSB), são mais desconhecidos que Dilma. Num recorte feito apenas entre as 755 pessoas que conhecem todos os pré-candidatos, disse Clésio Andrade, a intenção de voto da presidente Dilma Rousseff cai em relação aos 52,8% obtidos se considerada a pesquisa completa. Nesse cenário, Dilma alcançaria 44,1% dos votos, seguida de Aécio Neves (22,8%), Marina Silva (14,2%), Eduardo Campos (5,8%). “Já começa a se aproximar segundo turno”, comentou o presidente da CNT. No total, foram entrevistadas 2.010 pessoas em 134 municípios de 20 Estados, entre os dias 1 e 5 junho 2013. Margem de erro é de 2,2 pontos percentuais. (Fonte: Fernando Exman – Valor, Brasil – 11/06/2013)