Tagged: EU

Reynolds Tobacco sued over claims of laundering drug money


Reynolds American, maker of Camel cigarettes, can be sued by the European Union on claims the tobacco company orchestrated a worldwide scheme to launder drug money, a federal appeals court ruled in reviving a suit filed more than a decade ago.

The EU can use U.S. racketeering law to sue Reynolds American, a three-judge panel of the court in Manhattan ruled today, reversing a lower-court judge’s decision to dismiss the suit. The lawsuit was originally filed by the European Community, which was legally replaced by the EU in 2009…

The EC claims Reynolds American directed a scheme in which Colombian and Russian criminal organizations laundered drug profits through European money brokers. The brokers sold discounted euros obtained from the drug sales to cigarette importers, who then purchased Reynolds American cigarettes from wholesalers, according to the complaint.

U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis…dismissed the claims because the alleged money laundering took place outside the U.S. He also ruled that the EC’s presence in the suit deprived the court of jurisdiction.

Golly, are we to believe an industry so respected and concerned with the well-being of folks around the world would participate in criminal activity that benefited drug cartels as well as lining their own pockets?

Wait. Let me get my rubber boots on before we hear from corporate tobacco lovers.

Oh, the photo? John Wayne died from lung cancer.

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German cabinet agrees on $11.75/hr minimum wage


Demonstration by Confederation of German Trade Unions for minimum wage

Germany’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to a national minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.75) per hour – a flagship project for the Social Democrats who share power with Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The minimum wage will take effect in Europe’s biggest economy from 2015 but will not cover minors, trainees and some interns. Some employers can continue to pay their workers less until the end of 2016 if they are covered by certain collective agreements…

The Bundestag lower house of parliament is due to debate the law in June before passing it in July. The Bundesrat upper house is expected to wave it through after the summer break.

Employer lobbies say blah, blah, blah.

Of the 28 states in the European Union, 21 have minimum wages. EU states without minimum wages tend to have smaller low-wage sectors than Germany and a bigger proportion of their workers are covered by collective wage deals between unions and employers.

Then, we have the United States where our courageous Democrats are considered too radical for Republicans and the rest of the right-wing crowd for offering a proposal that wouldn’t match inflation since the last update years ago – by the time the change took place. Assuming it ever gets past the Party of No in Congress.

Just one more moment to look back over the half-century or so since the end of WW2 and consider our victory in the War in Europe and what the losers have achieved compared to the winners.

Swiss Air Force didn’t intervene in Ethiopian hijacking. It was outside normal business hours!


Click to enlarge

The hijacking of an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 767 airliner on 17 February has seen the Swiss Air Force subject to widespread ridicule as it was unable to respond due to the incident occurring ‘outside of office hours’, international media has reported.

With Swiss Boeing F/A-18 Hornet and Northrop F-5 Tiger II fighters being unavailable due to the timing of the incident at 4am on Monday morning, Italian Eurofighter Typhoon and French Mirage 2000 jets, which had earlier intercepted the airliner as it passed through their respective airspaces were forced to remain on station as the Ethopian Airlines co-pilot diverted his aircraft to Geneva Airport.

“Switzerland [could not] intervene because its air bases are closed at night and on the weekend … It’s a question of budget and staffing,” Swiss Air Force spokesperson Laurent Savary was quoted as telling the AFP…

…The hijacking brings into focus the lack of resources available to the country’s air force at a time when it is looking to procure 22 new Gripen E fighters from Saab.

A national referendum into that procurement is due to go ahead on 18 May, and the air force’s embarrassment at its seeming inability to carry out its core mission to safeguard the national airspace could hardly have come at a worse time. With the government looking to convince the Swiss people of the need to spend US$3.5 billion on new fighter aircraft, many in Switzerland and beyond will be questioning whether that money might be better spent in properly funding the assets it already has.

Or they could spend the money developing a few more resorts to provide income and employment for the few not already making a living off 19th Century idiots who attach more importance to war and belligerence than peacefully going their own way.

Look at the circular reasoning in this event: The co-pilot wanted asylum. He waited till the pilot was off taking a pee and locked him out. Because the whole world has to change procedures because of 9-11 in the US, the air marshall on board [remember 9-11] and the pilot couldn’t break in through the new specially reinforced cockpit door [remember 9-11]. Why were fighter jets from France and Italy scrambled to follow the hijacked plane in to the Swiss border – remember 9-11 and be ready to shoot down the airliner if it looks ready to crash into something.

Multiply that by the thousands of commercial aircraft in the air at any minute around the world.

The Swiss don’t belong to NATO, don’t belong to the military forces of the EU and haven’t invaded another European country since Hector was a pup…BTW. They’re not worried about being invaded except during normal working hours.

Thanks, Mike

EU asks for protection against US/NSA data surveillance

The European Commission has called…for new protection for Europeans under United States’ law against misuse of personal data, in an attempt to keep in check the U.S. surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she wanted Washington to follow through on its promise to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the United States if their data is misused. “I have … made clear that Europe expects to see the necessary legislative change in the U.S. sooner rather than later, and in any case before summer 2014,” she said.

Reding’s message was reinforced in a draft report obtained by Reuters that called for “very close attention by the EU” in monitoring data-exchange agreements given the “large-scale collection and processing of personal information under U.S. surveillance programs”.

The remarks underline a growing sense of unease in Europe at a delicate moment in transatlantic relations, when the globe’s two biggest economies seek a trade pact to deepen ties…

In the report, they highlighted the need for improving transparency in the ‘Safe Harbour’ scheme that allows companies in Europe who gather personal information about customers, for example, to send it to the United States…

We are an economic giant and we behave like a political midget,” said Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. “The Commission and the member states are extremely timid and soft. They are failing their citizens.”

“It’s not a legal question,” she said. “It’s about Europe behaving like a politically self-confident entity…”

The EU is preparing to establish new rules, regulations and protection of data for member-states. Though it talks about a “right to erasure” some critics feels the members of the Euro Parliament still have little understanding of where the world has come to with the advent of the World Wide Web.

Should we expect them to be more or less behind the times than Congress or the UK Parliament, eh?

EU threatens to suspend counter-terrorism deal over US/NSA snooping

The European Union is threatening to freeze a crucial and controversial data-sharing deal with the US aimed at tracking terrorist funding because of the National Security Agency snooping scandal…

The terror finance tracking programme (TFTP) was agreed in 2010 under strong US pressure, requiring the EU authorities to transfer data to the US treasury from the Brussels-based system which collates global financial transaction data under the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

MEPs on the committee called for the agreement to be scrapped following recent reports that the NSA was also tapping into the SWIFT databases to gain access to the private data of Europeans on their financial dealings.

The Dutch liberal MEP, Sophie in ‘t Veld, said the US breach of trust meant the transatlantic agreements, including another one divulging European air passenger details to the US authorities, should be ditched…

Senior EU officials and a SWIFT executive denied the reports that the NSA was grabbing the financial data, or said there was insufficient evidence to level the allegation. But Malmstrom emphasised that it was up to the Americans to clear their own names with adequate information.

Here’s the European Parliament supposed to be evaluating the progress made through this program to stop terrorist funding. They didn’t know when they agreed that they were constructing a direct connection to siphon data about the inner workings of EU banks straight into the vaults of the NSA.

Apologists for US snooping say there’s been no divergence from the original goals of the pact; but, both Snowden and then Obama have clearly pointed out the boatload of extra-curricular snooping Uncle Sugar built into the system.

Congress and the White House keep Huawei out of the USA – so, now, they’re adding 5,500 jobs in Europe

Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei plans to create 5,500 jobs in Europe within five years as the company expands its services in the region, state-owned newspaper China Daily said on Saturday.

Huawei, the world’s second largest maker of telecoms communication equipment, is to offer information technology solutions to European businesses, Patrick Zhang, president of marketing and solutions at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, told the newspaper…

Zhang said Europe offered more growth potential than the United States, where a congressional report last year found the company posed a security threat and essentially blocked it from the market.

Our expansion progress in Europe is different from that in the U.S., where we have encountered access difficulties due to some groundless reasons given by the American side,” Zhang said.

Huawei representatives said last week that the company expected to have its revenues expand by 10 percent annually over the next five years, thanks largely to consumer devices and enterprise services.

Isn’t there something your grandma said about cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Europeans have had beefs with Huawei in the past over prices – the usual excuse when you’re not competitive. However, their corporations and governments have no problems using Huawei communications systems, products – aiding Huawei on their path towards number 1 in that market in the world.

Uncle Sugar and the Cold Warriors in Congress and the White House think they will somehow protect investments in out-of-date and uncompetitive designs from American companies by blocking foreign competition. And the United States may as well drop the fear of eavesdropping ploy about foreign governments. There’s one area where we definitely lead the world.

US begs the EU to postpone sanctions against Israel


My bowling partner

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the European Union to postpone a planned ban on EU financial assistance to Israeli organisations in the occupied Palestinian territories…

Kerry made the request at a meeting with EU foreign ministers on Saturday at which he also called on them to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which resumed on July 29 after a nearly three-year hiatus.

The EU imposed restrictions in July, citing its frustration over the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in territory captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 Middle East War.

Asked about her response to Kerry’s comments about the aid guidelines, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters the guidelines were simply “putting down on paper what is currently the EU position”…

The EU guidelines render Israeli entities operating in the occupied territories ineligible for EU grants, prizes or loans, beginning next year.

They angered Israel’s rightist government, which accused the Europeans of harming Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and responded by announcing curbs on EU aid projects for thousands of West Bank Palestinians.

Palestinians praised the guidelines as a concrete step against illegal settlement construction, which they fear will deny them a viable state…

…Many in Israel worry about possible knock-on effects the EU steps may have on individuals or companies based in Israel that might be involved in business in the settlements, deemed illegal by the international community.

Israeli-Palestinian peace has been Kerry’s main foreign policy initiative since becoming secretary of state on February 1.

Which delineates [1] how little Kerry has achieved since he took up his job as substitute for Hillary and [2] how little anyone expects him to achieve – since the United States doesn’t wish to nudge the apartheid government of Israel into anything like justice or peace.

The issues needing to be sorted after more than six decades of phony negotiations include borders, the fate of Palestinian refugees, the removal of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the status of Jerusalem. That’s all.

EU takes tough stance on Israeli settlements

The European Union has dealt a harsh blow to the Israeli settlement enterprise in a directive that insists all future agreements between the EU and Israel must explicitly exclude Jewish colonies in the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

The move, described by an Israeli official as an “earthquake”, prompted furious criticism from the Israeli prime minister over “external diktats”.

But it was hailed by Palestinians and their supporters as a significant political and economic sanction against settlements.

The EU guidelines will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line – including the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 1967 and later annexed — will be automatically ineligible.

In order to secure agreements with the EU in the future, the Israeli government will be required to concede in writing that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.

The directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia…

The directive follows a decision by EU foreign ministers last December that “all agreements between the state of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967″. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

Overdue, of course. Something the United States should emulate, of course.

Sooner or later, something approaching historic justice must begin to govern the economic relationship between Israel and the countries providing a stipend for a guilty conscience.

European commission demands privacy guarantees from the US


Viviane Reding, justice commissioner of the European Commission

The European commission has raised concerns directly with the US administration about the threat posed to the privacy of EU citizens from the sort of data monitoring highlighted by the leaking of NSA documents to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the commission who is in charge of justice, challenged the US attorney general, Eric Holder, at a meeting in Washington last month and will raise the matter again at an EU-US meeting on Thursday in Dublin…

The intervention by the commission follows a warning by a senior member of the European parliament that the EU would redouble its efforts to strengthen the proposed EU-US agreement, in the light of the Guardian disclosures. Hannes Swoboda, leader of the socialist group in the parliament, told the FT: “With all the information we’ve found out in recent days about how easily the US spies on people’s private data I think it will be difficult for the Americans to oppose a strong data protection agreement.

“This issue is very critical for us in Europe … There will be growing resistance against an agreement with the US unless there are some clear guarantees from their side that our European principles of data protection are respected.”

Anyone else remember back when our Presidents claimed world leadership in privacy, protecting civil liberties of Americans?

Reding’s spokeswoman was critical of some EU member states, believed to include Britain, which she said showed little appetite for protecting privacy, and were pressing ahead with introducing new powers to give states greater access to data.

Mina Andreeva said: “National security is a matter for the member states, but this case goes to show that a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or not a constraint: it is a fundamental right…

While our politicians prattle about how great we are at avoiding slippery slopes, we get to watch the Bill of Rights disappear under the opportunist muck of what has become the military-industrial-security complex. Guaranteeing our safety by taking away our privacy.

Germany’s Big 3 reject new air conditioner refrigerant – potential for fire and toxic gas!


Mercedes test result

Another German automaker has rejected the air conditioning refrigerant that’s scheduled to be adopted by global automakers in 2017. Earlier this month, Volkswagen lined up with Daimler and BMW to support Daimler’s findings from last year that the new refrigerant, called HFO-1234yf, can become flammable.

Volkswagen says it will be rolling out its own carbon-dioxide-based air conditioning systems. The European Union wants to have HFO-1234yf, which was designed by Honeywell and DuPont, replace the coolant currently in use, HFC-134a to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and its global warming potential. Daimler engineers discovered HFO-1234yf could spark a fire under the hood, with the potential to destroy the car and emit highly toxic gas while burning.

An automotive working group – the Cooperative Research Program – was formed last year to study the matter. Daimler conducted its own flammability tests and became concerned enough about vehicle safety to leave the working group, along with BMW. Volkswagen’s Audi division also expressed concern and is now part of Volkswagen’s decision to join ranks with its German allies and dismiss adoption of HFO-1234yf as the new refrigerant.

European Union Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani appears unwilling to accept the decision by Germany’s “Big 3″ automakers or a written request from German ministers asking for a temporary suspension of the new EU law. While Tajani said he would listen, he also said that he would begin infringement proceedings against any member state that did not comply with the new rules. “Since there was some information from Germany there was a problem, I am obliged to ask for information, but it’s not giving them time. I am not weak,” Tajani told Reuters.

…Honeywell and Dupont would be holding a billion-dollar monopoly starting in 2017 if HFO-1234yf goes through. They’re bound to support Industry Commissioner Tajani’s decision.

Our stalwart EPA has no official position on the question. Though, with Honeywell and DuPont being global corporations headquartered in the United States, the pressure to make this dangerous chemical the only acceptable refrigerant for domestic auto air conditioning is liable to be overwhelming.