Thursday, March 31, 2016

We're About To See A Mind-Blowing Demographics Shift Unprecedented In Human History

Via Business Insider:

The world is about to see a mind-blowing demographic situation that will be a first in human history: There are about to be more elderly people than young children.

For some time now, economists have observed that the proportion of elderly adults around the world is rising, while the proportion of younger children is falling.

But within a few years, just before 2020, people ages 65 and over will begin to outnumber children under the age of 5, according to a recent report by the US Census Bureau.

And these two age groups will continue to grow in opposite directions: The proportion of the population ages 65 and up will continue to increase, while the proportion of the population ages 5 and under will continue decreasing.

In fact, according to the Census Bureau, by 2050 those ages 65 and up will make up an estimated 15.6% of the global population — more than double that of children ages 5 and under, who will make up an estimated 7.2%.

"This unique demographic phenomenon of the 'crossing' is unprecedented", the report's authors said.

There are and will continue to be differences between regions. Europe will remain the oldest region through 2050, with over 25% of Europeans older than 65 at that time, even though the pace of aging will slow.

Additionally, while the percentage of China's and India's populations over age 65 may not be as large as that of various European countries or Japan, their overall populations are enormous, meaning that the total number of older people living in China and India will be much larger than the number living in other countries.

By comparison, some of the youngest countries will be located in South/Central Asia (Afghanistan), the Middle East (Kuwait, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia) and Southeast Asia (Laos).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Donald Trump Withdraws His Pledge To Support The GOP Nominee

Via The Huffington Post:

Republican front-runner Donald Trump said Tuesday he doesn’t plan to honor his pledge to support the party’s nominee for president if it’s not him. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Trump’s rivals, also backed away from similar pledges, inserting a new kind of acrimony into the already heated race.

“No, I don’t anymore”, Trump told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during a town hall event in Wisconsin, when Cooper asked if Trump still planned to adhere to the pledge he signed last fall.

“I have been treated very unfairly” by the Republican National Committee, Trump said without elaborating.

Trump said he wouldn’t expect his main rival, Cruz, to support him, should Trump win the nomination. “I’m not asking for his support”, Trump said.

That’s a good thing, because Cruz has no plans to back him. “I’m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family”, Cruz told Cooper, referring to Trump’s repeated swipes at his wife, Heidi Cruz.

Kasich, too, declined to say he’d honor the pledge he made to the Republican party last year. “I’ll see what happens”, he said.

With only four months to go before the GOP convenes in Cleveland to select a nominee, all three of the remaining candidates seemed to dig in their heels this week, each vowing to fight to the bitter end in his quest for the nomination.

Trump recently hired longtime GOP lawyer and operative Paul Manafort to help his campaign navigate the delegate and convention process. On Tuesday, Trump expressed dismay at the delegate apportionment in the recent Louisiana primary, where Cruz emerged with more delegates, even though Trump won the plurality of votes.

Trump has also toyed with the idea of mounting a third-party campaign, and harness voters’ discontent with both major parties.

“I just wanted fairness from the Republican Party”, Trump said when he signed the pledge in September of last year. “I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party, and the conservative principles for which it stands”.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Samsung's Biggest Problem In A Nutshell: Even When Users Upgrade, They Upgrade To The Wrong Phone

Via Business Insider:

Only about 40% of Apple's customer base upgraded to a new iPhone in the last year or so, and some analysts have suggested that flagging upgrade rates are one of the factors in the decline of iPhone sales.

But that 40% rate is leagues ahead of Samsung's upgrade rate, which is just 26% per year, according to Kantar. Even worse, when Samsung customers upgrade they buy older models not the company's newest units, Kantar says.

Samsung's failure to persuade its own customers to buy its best, new products is crushing the company's smartphone revenues right now. While all the recent headlines have been about Apple's declining iPhone sales, the fact is that Samsung's decline has been even worse. The massive gap between the two companies' upgrade rates shows just how far behind Samsung is when it comes to customer loyalty.

Kantar's data covers a period of a year through January 2016, among US customers. Of those 26% of Samsung users getting an upgrade:

27.5% chose the Galaxy S5 (launched in 2014)

26.2% chose the Galaxy S6 (launched in 2015)

9.4% chose the Galaxy Note 4 (launched in 2014)

7.9% the Galaxy Note 5 (launched in 2015)

5% chose the Galaxy S6 Edge (launched in 2015).

The rest of the upgrades were divided among 33 different models.

It's not clear why Samsung customers don't want the newest models (S6 and Note 5), which have had great reviews, are well designed, and are generally regarded as being streets ahead of the Note 4 and S5. Presumably, price is a factor: You can buy an S5 for $149, an S6 for $249 and a new S7 — on sale this year — is $694. So there is a heavy price incentive to get an older model.

Whenever a customer buys a cheap, old phone rather than a pricey new one, it's potential lost revenue for Samsung. All that goes some way to explain Samsung's mobile sales slump of the last few years.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The victims Of The Brussels Attacks Are Starting To Be Identified

Via Business Insider:

At a press conference on Wednesday the Belgian prosecutor confirmed that at least 31 people were killed in the attacks that struck the Belgian capital on Tuesday. He also confirmed 270 were injured, and that many of them remain in hospital.

Since the attacks, the number of people looking for their friends and relatives on social media keeps increasing.

An official at the press conference said they understood that people wanted to know whether their loved ones were still alive, but that only the names of the people who had very clearly been identified as dead would be released.

People of 40 different nationalities so far have been identified among those killed or injured in the attack. Three people have been identified to be among the confirmed fatalities, as of Wednesday evening.

The Saint-Louis Bruxelles University announced on Wednesday morning the death of one of their students, 20-year-old Léopold Hecht.

On Facebook, Pierre Jadoul, the head of the university, shared the news: "I am immensely sad to inform you of the death of Leopold Hecht, student of the second block of BAC law. He is one of the unfortunate victims of the barbarous acts perpetrated on Tuesday, March 22 at the Maelbeek Metro Station".

"There are no words to describe our dismay at the news. All our thoughts are with his family and relatives".

Another victim, Olivier Delespesse, who worked for the General Department of Secondary Education, was also identified as a one of the victims of the explosion at the Maelbeek station.

In a statement, the Ministry of Education of the Federation Wallonie-Brussels said that Delespesse was "an incredible, happy, nice, cooperating and very friendly man. His death is deeply shocking and unjust", Belgian newspaper Le Soir reports. The reports have not yet been confirmed by his family.

The Peruvian Foreign Ministry has announced the death of Adelma Marina Tapia Ruiz, 36, a Peruvian citizen. She was at the Zaventem airport where two explosions occurred. She was with her husband and three-year-old twin daughters, they were on their way to visit Ruiz's sister in New York, according to the RTBF.

According to Le Soir, the Moroccan news agency also reports that a woman with Moroccan origins died in the metro explosion, but did not name her as it is still looking to contact her next-of-kin.

Four British citizens were injured in the attacks and one British person is still missing, Sky News reports.

A Facebook group has been started for those who are looking for missing people. Many users on the group are asking for news about their loved ones, mentioning that they took a metro going through the Maelbeek station where the blast occurred or that they were at the airport.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Brussels Bombings: What We Know So Far

Via The Guardian:

Belgian PM says ‘many dead, many injured’ following explosions at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station.

There have been reports of multiple casualties with at least 34 dead after explosions at Zaventem airport and Maelbeek metro station in Brussels. Here’s what we know so far:

The explosions at the airport were minutes apart and took place at about 8am local time (7am GMT), according to local media. Both explosions were in the check-in area.

About 30 minutes later a third blast hit the Maelbeek metro station, close to the EU buildings.

The Belgian federal prosector said the airport explosion was a suicide attack.

Yvan Mayeur, the mayor of Brussels, said at least 20 people were killed and 106 injured at the Maelbeek metro station.

The Belgian health minister Maggie de Block said 11 people were killed and 81 wounded in the blasts at the airport.

A third device at the airport was later neutralised in a controlled explosion, a spokeswoman for the airport said.

In an online statement, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks, although the statement offered no more details than were publicly available.

The British government advised against “all but essential” travel to the Belgian capital.

Brussels airport will stay closed on Wednesday. International services to and from Brussels Midi station were gradually restarting on Wednesday evening.

The Belgian government has put the country on the highest alert following the explosions. Brussels was on lockdown.

Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, described the attack as “a black day” for Belgium. “What we feared, has happened”, he said, adding that authorities are worried about the possibility of more attacks.

British prime minister David Cameron chaired a meeting of the UK government’s emergency committee, Cobra. Cameron and other world leaders have expressed their shock and support on Twitter.

The European commission has locked down its staff. Kristalina Georgieva, the commission’s vice-president for budget and human resources, told staff to stay indoors.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Israel’s Desert City Of Beersheba Is Turning Into A Cybertech Oasis

Via Tech Crunch:

Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion famously said that the future of Israel lies in the Negev, a desert located in southern Israel. Ben Gurion’s prophetic words ring true today as Beersheba, Israel’s southern capital, is morphing into a tech oasis.

The military’s massive relocation of its prestigious technology units, the presence of multinational and local companies, a close proximity to Ben Gurion University and generous government subsidies are turning Beersheba into a major global cybertech hub.

Beersheba has all of the ingredients of a vibrant security technology ecosystem, including Ben-Gurion University with its graduate program in cybersecurity and Cyber Security Research Center, and the presence of companies such as EMC, Deutsche Telekom, Paypal, Oracle, IBM, and Lockheed Martin. It’s also the future home of the INCB (Israeli National Cyber Bureau); offers a special income tax incentive for cyber security companies, and was the site for the relocation of the army’s intelligence corps units.

“All in all, projections are that 20.000-30.000 cyber and related jobs would be created in Beersheba over the next 10 years”, said Yoav Tzurya, partner at JVP, an Israeli venture capital firm with a cybertech accelerator in Beersheba.

The commercial sector has teamed up with military intelligence agencies and BGU to fight increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

“As an ex-intelligence leader in the IDF Intelligence Corps, I started my own company to help organizations leverage military intelligence methodologies to address some of the most pressing cybersecurity challenges including the security operations skills shortage and the deafening noise-to-signal challenge of cyber threats”, said Amos Stern, co-founder and CEO of Siemplify, a cybersecurity threat analysis company and ex-Army IDF Intelligence Corps Leader.

The nearby Ben Gurion University is pumping out skilled labor for multinational companies next door.

“Ben Gurion University plays an obvious and important role here. The tight collaboration with major industry firms, such as Deutsche Telekom, EMC, and IBM, makes the BGU cybersecurity program a very strong and practical one”, said Stern.

Stern says that the practical and theoretical experience of BGU graduates is unique and the graduates of BGU are often alumni of Israel’s intelligence units.

“I’ve found BGU cybersecurity graduates to be well-aligned with this focus, bringing more than just a theoretical understanding of cyber. They bring a professionalism that’s very valuable when you’re looking to solve the real-world challenges of today’s business“, said Stern.

Feeding the burgeoning ecosystem, the army is investing billions of dollars in relocating most of its intelligence units to Beersheba and these units tends to have large budgets for state-of-the-art technology.

“It’s no wonder why companies like RSA, Lockheed Martin and others have decided to reside there as well. Another important factor is that upon finishing army service, people graduating these units have the option to continue working in their field of expertise in Beersheba rather than having to move to Tel Aviv. In addition, the government has also approved benefits for companies relocating their employees to Beersheba in order to expedite building this cyber security ecosystem”, said Tomer Saban, cofounder and CEO of WireX, a digital forensics company based in Israel and Silicon Valley.

More signs of good things to come

The coworking space WeWork opened a branch in Beersheba in January, an indication that the influx of startups is in full swing. WeWork, known for its presence in big cities seems to have made an exception in its big-city strategy by launching a branch in the desert.

“We believe that many exciting and innovative companies will develop and emerge here in the next few years. We are also finding that many companies are relocating to Beersheba and we are here to offer them a suitable solution”, said Ronnie Ceder, general manager of WeWork in Israel.

Beersheba’s cybersecurity hub has also piqued the interest of Rudy Giuliani, the former Mayor of New York City who will be visiting the hub on Tuesday where he will inspect the burgeoning cyber security hub and to talk to students, researchers and startup entrepreneurs. Giuliani is following a long line of politicians who are eager to benefit from Israeli cybertech know-how.

In February, The United Kingdom and Israel announced an agreement to deepen co-operation to tackle cyber-attacks.

British Cabinet Minister Matt Hancock launched a new academic engagement in the emerging area field of cyber-physical security, which includes Israeli experts meeting leading UK academics with a strengthened relationship between the Cyber Emergency Response Teams of both countries, according a statement on the British government’s website.

“The UK’s world class companies and universities combined with Israel’s cutting edge technology and entrepreneurial culture is an unbeatable combination“, said Hancock.

Israel’s unusual startup culture is a product of seamless cooperation between different actors. The cross-pollination between military, academia, and private sector comprise the key ingredients of Israel’s coastal successes, with the country’s desert capital Beersheba now following suit.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Fox News Rips Donald Trump’s "Sick Obsession" With Megyn Kelly

Via The Huffington Post:

The network came out swinging after the GOP candidate called for a boycott of Kelly’s show.

Fox News has had enough of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump‘s attacks on anchor Megyn Kelly.

After Trump on Friday called Kelly “sick” and “crazy” on Twitter and appealed to supporters to boycott her show, the network went to bat, labeling Trump’s attacks “deplorable,” and “beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate”.

Trump has been feuding with Kelly since the first Republican debate in August, when she questioned his views on women. He seemed to have reached a truce with her during a debate earlier this month, but inexplicably began lambasting her on Twitter again Tuesday night, as he was racking up primary victories.

Fox News on Friday released its strongest statement yet on the subject.

“Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land”, a network spokesman said.

The network called Kelly an “exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America”, and said it would defend her against “Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults”.

Trump complained after the August debate that Kelly had asked him an unfair question. He seemed to link her tactics as a moderator to menstruation, saying Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”.

In the months that followed, he has called her names, including “bimbo“ and “crazy”.

After Fox refused Trump’s request to drop Kelly as a moderator for a January debate, Trump decided he wouldn’t show up. The two met again for the first time at a debate in early March, and had a much more civil interaction.

UPDATE: 11 p.m. — Trump’s campaign doubled down, issuing a statement calling Kelly’s show “extremely biased”.

“Mr. Trump will continue to defend himself against the inordinate amount of unfair and inaccurate coverage he receives on her second-rate show each night”, the statement said.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Twitter Kills TweetDeck For Windows, Automates Logins For TweetDeck Users

Via Tech Crunch:

Twitter today rolled out a change that will make it easier for users who switch between its desktop application TweetDeck and its website, by no longer requiring users to login to TweetDeck separately. That is, if users have the Twitter website open and are already logged in, they’ll be able to skip the login process on TweetDeck. Related to this news, Twitter says it’s also killing off its TweetDeck for Windows application.

TweetDeck is still supported on Mac for the time being, as the app continues to be hosted on the Mac App Store. However, Windows users are now being pointed to the web version of TweetDeck instead. Twitter also reminded Windows users how to make the TweetDeck web app more accessible from their Windows PC by pinning the app to their taskbar. (To do so, you open the app in Chrome, then click Customize and control > More tools > Add to taskbar, says Twitter.)

The company said it made the decision to abandon development on Windows so it could “better focus on enhancing your TweetDeck experience,” but it’s just as likely the Windows app simply didn’t have the traction that made it worth the time and effort.

TweetDeck for Windows will be shut down on April 15th, giving its current users a little bit of time to make a transition to the web or another Twitter client.

Meanwhile, the company also pointed out a number of developments it has made to TweetDeck in recent months – perhaps meaning to highlight that the Windows app shutdown doesn’t mean the company is ignoring the TweetDeck platform as a whole. Some of these new features have included things like TweetDeck Teams, group direct messages, new search filters for finding Vines, GIFs and Periscopes, and more.

The ability to bypass the login process on TweetDeck will work as long as you’re logged into any Twitter website, like Twitter.com or even analytics.twitter.com. And it works both going to the website from TweetDeck and vice versa, Twitter notes.

The company says the change will reach all users in the “coming weeks”.

The news of the TweetDeck app shutdown and log-in experience comes after a bevy of news reports today stating that Twitter’s new algorithmically sorted timeline has now gone live for all users by default. This is inaccurate, however.

The updated timeline was announced last month, and Twitter said at the time that it would roll out this “improved experience” in the weeks ahead. (Twitter users will be able to opt out, if they don’t like the improvements, you may recall.) Nothing has changed since then – this algorithmic timeline is still in the process of being rolled out in stages, meaning not all Twitter users have it yet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Donald Trump Video Features Hillary Clinton Barking Like A Dog

Via Mashable:

He hasn't secured his party's nomination yet, but Donald Trump is already looking ahead to a likely general election matchup with Hillary Clinton.

In a video posted to his Instagram account the day after both he and Clinton took big primary victories, Trump attacked Clinton's credibility on foreign affairs, asking "Is this what we want for a president?"

The video shows a clip of Russian President Vladimir Putin doing judo, followed by images of a masked militant — thought to be a British man named Siddhartha Dhar— with a gun.

"When it comes to facing our toughest opponents, the Democrats have the perfect answer", the text says.

The video shows several seconds of Clinton imitating a dog barking, before cutting to footage of Putin chuckling.

"We don't need to be a punchline", the ad's text says.

The footage used in Trump's video is from a campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, last month. Clinton was telling a story about fact-checking Republicans and said that it reminded her of a radio ad that she liked where a dog would bark every time a candidate said something false.

"The dog was barking on the radio and so people were barking at each other for days after that", Clinton said. "I want to figure out how we can do that with Republicans".

This isn't the first time Trump has brought up Clinton's barking like a dog. During a South Carolina rally, Trump said he'd never do something like that because he'd be buried in the press.

"If I ever did that, I would be ridiculed all over the place. I won't do it. I'm not going to imitate her," Trump said during a rally in North Augusta, South Carolina. "She's barking like a dog, and they're saying 'wonderful'".

A spokesman for Clinton's campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump has been criticized for his disparaging language toward women, including prominent figures like Fox News’s Megyn Kelly. An anti-Trump ad released this week shows women repeating various cringe-worthy things the Republican presidential frontrunner has said.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

David Slays Goliath With The Pineal Stone! What The Bible Story Really Means

Via Before It's News:

Ever wonder what the story of David and Goliath in the bible really means? Before you justify this away as New Age deception, I want you to consider the following. Why was Christ crucified between two thieves (eyes) in a place called Golgotha (skull) on a cross (optic nerves cross near the pineal)? And, why did Jacob say he saw the face of God in a place called Peniel (pineal)?

Now that we have established this odd observation, we can begin to uncover other bible stories and understand what they are really trying to tell us. Before we continue, let me make one thing clear. Christ and all of these stories were very real. The Pineal gland is simply our antenna to spirituality and connection to Christ. It is also the anatomical proof that the ancients knew the anatomy of our inner workings, because they were inspired by God. In effect, this knowledge, proves God.

This takes us to the story of Davod and Goliath. Remember, David was the bloodline from which Christ would come and Goliath was in the bloodline of Ham/Canaan. This is the enmity between the seeds spoken about in Genesis. Yes, there were giants in the earth in the days of the flood and after, just as the bible says.

Now, as we continue on with the story, we realize that David actually strikes Goliath in the pineal position with a stone. In the video below, we talk about the significance of the 5 stones David collected form a brook to kill Goliath and how the calcification of the pineal relates to these stones.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Spider Bondage Exists And It Is Gnarly As Hell

Via Gizmodo:

Spiders are notorious for their bizarre and often violent mating practices. New research shows that, in order to avoid getting eaten during sex, male nursery spiders will tie up their partners with silken threads. And yes, it’s as horrible as it sounds.

The males of at least 30 spider species have been observed to wrap the legs of their partners in anticipation of sex. And they do this not out of some twisted perverted urge but out of sheer necessity. Female spiders tend to be bigger and more aggressive than their male counterparts, and they often cannibalize the males before they have a chance to mate. By engaging in this arachnid form of bondage, the male spider can not only mate with a partner—he can also escape to live another day.

A new study from the University of Nebraska shows that male nursery spiders also engage in this odd sexual behavior. These spiders are only one of two in the world who can spin these so-called “bridal veils” in midair. Also, the males have longer legs than the females, which they use to their advantage. After a female is tied up, the male mounts her. When it’s all done, he releases the female who breaks free of her ties. For the males, it’s often a narrow escape.

To test the effectiveness of the bondage, researcher Alissa Anderson brought some nursery spiders to her lab. Half of the males had their spinnerets blocked, while the other half were left alone. Those who could not spin spider silk had a much greater chance of being consumed. And not surprisingly, those who were able to spin their web had a much better chance of mating with their partner—sometimes multiple times during the same mating session. The bondage ritual likely serves two purposes: an enhanced opportunity for mating, and an opportunity for escape.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trump Digs In After Weekend Violence, Threatens Bernie Sanders Rallies

Via The Huffington Post:

"Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!"

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Sunday threatened to send his supporters to the campaign rallies of Democrat Bernie Sanders, showing no sign of toning down his rhetoric after clashes erupted at his own events over the weekend.

Trump, front-runner for the Republican nomination, appeared unchastened after simmering discord between his supporters and protesters angry over his positions on immigration and Muslims turned into a palpable threat on Friday, forcing him to cancel a Chicago rally and shadowing his campaign appearances on Saturday.

Trump blamed supporters of Democratic candidate Sanders for the incidents in Chicago, where scuffles broke out between protesters and backers of the real estate magnate. He called the U.S. senator from Vermont "our communist friend".

On Sunday, he went a step further in an early morning post on Twitter: "Bernie Sanders is lying when he says his disruptors aren't told to go to my events. Be careful Bernie, or my supporters will go to yours!"

The scenes in Chicago followed several weeks of violence at Trump rallies, in which protesters and journalists have been punched, tackled and hustled out of venues, raising concerns about security leading into the Nov. 8 presidential election to replace Democratic President Barack Obama.

The disturbances continued on Saturday at a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio, where Secret Service officers scrambled to surround the candidate after a man charged the stage.

Trump scheduled rallies on Sunday in Illinois, Ohio, and Florida before the next five presidential nominating contests on Tuesday, which could cement his lead over Republican rivals U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

Sarah Palin, who ran as vice president in Republican John McCain's failed 2008 campaign against Obama, planned to stump for Trump in Florida. During that election, Palin and McCain drew criticism for overheated campaign rallies marked by crowds openly hostile to Obama, who became the first African American president.

Trump, who has harnessed the discontent of white, working class voters angry over international trade deals that cost them jobs, has made his opposition to the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement and proposed 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership a centerpiece of his campaign.

He has hammered Kasich on the issue before Tuesday's vote.

"Ohio Gov.Kasich voted for NAFTA, from which Ohio has never recovered. Now he wants TPP, which will be even worse. Ohio steel and coal dying!" he said on Twitter.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

North Korea Is Frantically Searching For One Of Its Submarines: Report

Via Foxtrot Alpha:

Details remain scarce, but reports state that North Korea has lost one of its submarines. It is not clear what exactly the suspected state of the submarine is but North Korea is frantically searching for it. This event could not come at a worse time as tensions on Korean Peninsula are at an all time high.

North Korea’s diesel submarine fleet is far from modern but it has proven to display eerily high availability rates, at least for short periods of time during surge operations. Still, the age of many of their boats make today’s news no great surprise.

When these types of events occur there are usually elements of both opportunity and risk involved. If this submarine sunk but is still intact and its crew still alive, it is unlikely North Korea could rescue them, but other countries have rescue submersibles to do just that, including the US.

Such a situation occurred aboard the Russian guided missile submarine Kursk in 2000. In the end it took Russia the better part of a week to accept help from Norway and UK and all aboard died. The sinking of the submarine was also initially blamed on a spying NATO submarine even though a weapons detonation caused the incident.

With this in mind, the US could offer North Korea their help in searching for and possibly saving anyone aboard their missing submarine. Although it is almost certain that they will deny that any such search is underway, yet alone accept American or South Korean help, but you never know, and using an olive branch once in a while instead of a stick can’t hurt.

There is also the possibility that paranoid North Korea could blame the US or South Korea for sinking its sub, which could drastically escalate an already tense situation in the region. Similar allegations were made by South Korea after their Corvette the ROKS Cheonan was sunk killing 46 of the 104 hands on-board in 2010. The sinking was widely blamed on a torpedo fired from a North Korean midget submarine.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Lunatic Slams Maniac For Hanging Out With Madman

Via Gawker:

Glenn Beck’s The Blaze has the exclusive story of how its own founder no longer thinks Matt Drudge is a cool guy, possibly because Matt Drudge has been spending too much time around Alex Jones. The Drudge-Jones alliance, Beck said, may explain negative coverage of Marco Rubio on The Drudge Report.

Glenn Beck—who used to cry on the air all the time and is weirdly obsessed with blue jeans and thinks Obama is somehow to blame for the Ebola outbreak—is mad about Matt Drudge—who thought Leonardo DiCaprio got raped by a bear in The Revenant and regularly advances conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton hiding nonexistent health problems—hanging out with Alex Jones—who is extremely scared about Jade Helm and tried to incite a riot over Y2k and sells bogus “neural activation” pills on his website.

There are degrees of crazy here, and Alex Jones is definitely the craziest. But take the long view, and you have a loon yelling at a betsy bug for being friends with a road lizard.

Beck was inspired to take aim at Drudge after a Drudge Report headline referring to the “incredible shrinking” Rubio campaign. He drew special ire from a photoshopped image on the site that made Rubio appear smaller than he actually is.

From The Blaze, emphasis ours:

According to Beck, who was frustrated by the image, Drudge lost credibility in his mind when he started “hanging out with” conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a supporter of Trump.

“I don’t know what the hell has happened to Matt Drudge, but it happened a few years ago, when he started hanging out with Alex Jones”, Beck said. “And now he is in this weird conspiratorial Alex Jones kind of place, and now he has taken and started to Photoshop pictures”.

Beck said that in the past, he used Drudge’s reporting for his radio program, but no longer feels he can trust his popular news aggregation site.

The fact that this news was reported by The Blaze, based entirely on quotes from The Blaze founder Glenn Beck, only adds to the strangeness of the sideshow. An alternate headline might have been “EXCLUSIVE: My Boss Says This Guy Is Bad Now”.

In the spirit of The Blaze writer Tré Goins-Phillips’ intrepid reporting, I’ve asked my own boss, Gawker editor-in-chief Alex Pareene, what he thinks of this whole kerfuffle.

“Alex Jones has always been a very important source of news for Gawker and he was great in Waking Life”, Alex told me. “It’s a real shame that Glenn Beck has sunk so low as to blame Jones for Matt Drudge’s poor photoshop skills and erratic behavior”.

Well said, Alex. Hopefully Glenn Beck will come to his senses soon.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Why Stockholm Has So Many Billion-Dollar Tech Firms

Via The Swedish Wire:

With more billion-dollar startups than any other European city, Stockholm has emerged as a global tech titan. One of the explanations for Stockholm's success include that it has developed a human, social, educational and corporate infrastructure that supports startups.

A new government report, however, points at a different explanation: established successful startups and entrepreneurs invest in new business ideas, both with cash and experience, which has created a unique eco-system.

The report “The Eco System ICT & Digital”, by the County Administrative Board of Stockholm (Länsstyrelsen), has investigated the connection between a number of so-called unicorns and their relationships with other startups in the city. The report exposes a sophisticated web between many of the most famous firms and their successful entrepreneurs.

Spotify, for example, has links to firms like e-payment firm iZettle, e-commerce platform Tictail, trading platform Avanza and 3D modeling firm 13th Lab (which was bought by Facebook) via investments or former employees.

Similar connections can be seen from Niklas Zennström’s Skype, linking directly or indirectly to companies like King, Truecaller and Mojang, the maker of Minecraft, which was bought by Microsoft.

“The founders of many of those companies have in many cases met on previous jobs or in educational contexts”, the report said. “The dynamics of the eco-system is based on mobility and links between individuals and companies and organizations”.

The connections become even more striking when board members and investors are accounted for, the report added.

What’s more, the startup scene has also created a pool of talent where people interact and together start new companies. It creates a positive circle; more startups attract even more talent.

Sophia Bendz, former head of global marketing at Spotify, personifies the interconnection. In January, she was recruited by Skype founder Niklas Zennström to become an executive at his investment firm Atomico, which invests in numerous startups. The same month she invested in a walkie-talkie startup called Roger, founded by two former Spotify engineers. She also sits on several boards, including Unibet and Avanza.

The examples of the interconnections between Stockholm's tech stars are numerous. For example, Henrik Torstensson, founder of Lifesum and former Spotify employee, has invested in FishBrain, the world's fastest growing mobile app and social network for fishing. Johan Attby, CEO of FishBrain, has in his turn recently invested in racing app Raceone. Jonas Nordlander, founder of Avito and Tradera, has invested in Challenger Mode.

The list goes on. Erik Byrenius, founder of Online Pizza, Andreas Ehn, founder of Wrapp, Mattias Miksche, founder of Stardoll, and Johan Skarborg, founder of Academic Work, have all invested in new startups too.

Some games that originated in Stockholm, like Minecraft, Candy Crush Saga and Battlefield, have proved to be incredibly successful internationally. In their wake, a large number of game developers have decided to start their own gaming studios.

“Most game developers dream about one time create their own game. Now many are in a position where they suddenly have the possibility to do that”, Jonas Antonsson, one of the founders of gaming firm Raw Fury, recently told business site DI Digital.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Trump And Clinton Look To Expand Leads As Four More States Vote

Via The Huffington Post:

It's Super Duper Tuesday.

Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton look to build on their leads in the presidential nominating races when four states vote on Tuesday, and polls show both front-runners comfortably ahead in the biggest prize of Michigan.

Trump hopes to regain his momentum after suffering a week of blistering attacks from the party's establishment and splitting four contests on Saturday with rival Ted Cruz, who positioned himself as the prime alternative to the brash billionaire in the race for the party's nomination for the Nov. 8 election.

Most opinion polls show Trump hanging on to a solid double-digit lead in Michigan over Cruz, a U.S. senator from Texas, and Ohio Governor John Kasich.

The establishment favorite, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, lags behind and is seen needing a breakthrough win in his home state next week to keep his campaign alive.

Republicans and Democrats will also vote in Mississippi, and Republicans in Idaho and Hawaii will make their choices on a day when 150 Republican delegates and 166 Democratic delegates will be up for grabs.

But the focus on Tuesday is the industrial battleground of Michigan, where Trump's relentless anti-free trade rhetoric and promise to slap taxes on cars and parts shipped in from Mexico has resonated in a state that has lost tens of thousands of manufacturing and auto industry jobs.

"Trump has been holding strong and no one seems to be catching up", said Republican pollster Steve Mitchell, whose latest Fox 2/Detroit poll on Sunday showed Trump with a 22-point lead on Cruz and Kasich.

"The anti-Trump vote is being divided almost evenly, and neither of them can get an edge", he said.

Among Democrats, Clinton, 68, also has a solid double-digit lead in Michigan opinion polls over rival Bernie Sanders, 74, a U.S. senator from Vermont. The former secretary of state is also expected to do well in Mississippi, where the Democratic electorate will be dominated by black voters who have overwhelmingly favored her over Sanders.

Big Michigan wins for Trump and Clinton would set them up for a potentially decisive day of voting on March 15, when the delegate-rich states of Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina cast ballots.

The Republican contests in Florida and Ohio award all the state's delegates to the winner. If Trump, 69, could sweep those two states and pile up delegates elsewhere, it would probably knock home-state favorites Rubio and Kasich out of the race and make it tough for Cruz to catch him.

"ALL TALK, NO ACTION"

Trump, a blunt-spoken political outsider who has been under relentless attack from establishment figures and Super PACs since winning seven of 11 races on Super Tuesday last week, launched his own attack ad against Rubio, calling him a "corrupt, all-talk, no-action politician".

"That guy, he couldn't be elected dogcatcher in Florida", Trump told supporters in North Carolina.

Trump has so far won 384 delegates to 300 for Cruz, but the contests over the next week will play a big role in determining whether any candidate gathers the 1.237 needed to win the nomination or if the decision will have to be made at the convention in July.

In the Democratic race, Clinton has built a lead of nearly 200 pledged delegates over Sanders, and the party's rules awarding delegates proportionally in all states will make it hard for him to catch up because she can keep piling up delegates even in states she loses.

The two candidates spent Monday campaigning in Michigan, one day after their debate in Flint that featured sharp clashes on free trade agreements and the auto bailout.

They resumed their battle on Monday, with Sanders accusing Clinton of distorting his record when she said he opposed the auto bailout credited with rescuing General Motors and Chrysler during the economic crisis.

Sanders, a democratic socialist, said he supported the bailout and voted for it in the Senate, but that bill failed to win approval. He later voted to block auto bailout funds because they were combined with funds to bail out Wall Street.

Sanders released a radio ad on Monday saying Clinton was trying to distort his record. Sanders, the ad said, "has always been on the side of Michigan workers and working families".

Monday, March 07, 2016

Invisible Business Card's Details Are Only Revealed With A Glowing LED

Via Gizmodo:

You might think that an invisible business card is a terrible idea; how could anyone see your contact details? But artist Ghizlan el Glaoui’s card is a one-of-a-kind design that reveals all her important details with a glowing LED integrated into one corner.

Designed by a creative agency called The Big A, the acrylic card relies on a phenomenon known as total internal reflection which causes all of the laser-etched details to glow when the LED in the corner is squeezed and turned on.

Is it a card that Ghizlan would want to give away to everyone she meets? Definitely not—it’s almost certainly expensive to make. But when she needs to make a big impression, it’s a lot cooler than a tiny rectangle of card stock.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Sweden Sees Surge In "Missing" Asylum-Seekers

Via The Local:

Sweden’s migration agency expects a surge in the number of asylum-seekers going underground in the next three years, estimating the number at as many as 46.000.

“It’s going to be a substantial increase”, national border police commander Per Löwenborg was quoted as telling Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet.

In its latest budget proposal, the Swedish Migration Agency estimates that 46.000 people will “disappear”, or go underground, by 2019 after having their asylum applications rejected.

In 2015, more than 7.330 people went missing in Sweden after being denied asylum.

Although many of those who are denied asylum will leave Sweden, Lövenborg said a great number will still stay and live as undocumented refugees.

“It’s a huge amount of people that will disappear. It’s problematic. We [only] find between 10 to 20 percent of them”, Löwenborg said.

“We’re not very successful today. It’s not something we prioritize. We’re putting more efforts into it now, but the demands are growing a lot more”, he said, referring to the challenges of tracking people down.

The Swedish Trade Union Center for Undocumented Migrants estimates that Sweden is currently home to between 30.000 and 50.000 undocumented migrants.

Sten-Erik Johansson, a union official, is convinced that the majority of those who have their asylum applications turned down will stay in Sweden.

“What do they have to return to? Even those who will face a very poor life [here], because the alternatives they have aren’t that much here”, he said, warning of the effects of such a surge.

“I think there will be horrific consequences”, he said. “They know that they have to live outside the rules of society”.

Sweden, like the rest of Europe, has been struggling with the continent's biggest migration crisis since World War II.

A country of 9.8 million, Sweden took in more than 160.000 asylum-seekers in 2015, putting it among the EU states with the highest proportion of refugees per capita.

It has since tightened its asylum rules to curb the migrant flow.

Meet The World's First Truly Universal Cable

Via Scientific American:

There’s a new USB. Its mission: to kill proprietary plugs.

The best new technology of the past year wasn't some phone or an app.

Believe it or not, it was a new kind of USB cable.

Now, before you suspect that I've inhaled a bit too much of that new-tablet smell, consider:

The new cable, called USB Type-C (or USB-C), is the same on both ends, so you never have to fiddle with it. The connector is also identical on both sides—there's no upside down.

USB-C can replace four different jacks on your gadget: data, video, power and, soon, audio. That's right: A single connector can handle flash drives, hard drives, screens, projectors, charging and headphones (simultaneously, if you have a splitter). Yet the connector is tiny enough for phones and tablets and sturdy enough for laptops and PCs.

Every device from every brand can use the same cable. You can use the charger from my Google phone to charge your Apple laptop or someone else's Microsoft tablet. No more drawers full of mismatched power bricks.

In other words, USB-C represents the dawning of the universal cable.

That USB-C even exists at all is something of a miracle, considering what a big business accessories have become. Apple, for example, makes a staggering amount of money selling cables. Cynical observers accuse it of changing connector types deliberately, just to drum up accessory sales. For example, good luck using a 2009 power cord with a 2013 MacBook.

Apple's not alone. A typical charger for a Windows laptop costs $60 to $80.

Several of these big companies worked together to come up with the USB Type-C standard, and even more have adopted it.

The question is: Why? Why would these archrivals work together to create a charger that works interchangeably across devices and brands, wiping out the proprietary-charger industry in one fell swoop?

Brad Saunders, who works for Intel, is chair of the USB 3.0 Promoter Group, a group of six companies that designed USB Type-C (including Intel, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft). He says that the original reason to design it was speed; the 20-year-old regular USB connector couldn't be made any faster.

“At the same time”, he says, “PCs were changing, becoming thinner and lighter. The existing USB connector was just way too big. And it's not as user-friendly as we'd like: you can plug it in the wrong way”.

But surely, I asked him, these companies knew that designing One Cable to Rule Them All meant that they'd lose big bucks in sales of their proprietary chargers.

“Well, job one is making money for your company”, he admits. “But over time we became motivated by the fact that we could change the world from a green perspective. If we could standardize all these power supplies, we could reduce waste. We started to realize we could have a real impact”.

It's weird to imagine all these blood rivals working together, side by side, to create a new standard for everyone's mutual benefit. How often does the world work that way?

“Standards work is kind of odd”, says Jeff Ravencraft, president of the USB Implementers Forum. “Companies work together to bake a bigger pie, to expand the market for their products. But once it's over, they have to compete for how big a piece of the pie they'll get. You cooperate at the beginning, and then you compete like hell at the end”.

And the cable is already here. Some of the latest phones, tablets and laptops from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others come with USB-C jacks built in.

You might think that only the nerdiest nerds could get excited about USB-C. And yet in the coming years this invention could save you hundreds of dollars in duplicate cords, adapters and chargers. It will permit our gadgets to get smaller and faster. It will save space in our drawers, packages, purses and laptop bags. It will keep tons of e-waste out of the landfills.

If that doesn't qualify USB-C as the invention of the year, I don't know what does.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Around 160 Staff At Collapsed Fintech Powa Technologies Are Still "In Limbo"

Via Business Insider:

Staff at the international subsidiaries of collapsed London payments unicorn Powa Technologies are trapped "in limbo" without pay or clarity around their future, according to a US employee who got in touch with Business Insider.

Powa Technologies, which makes payment apps, online shops, and payment terminals, was once valued at $2.7 billion (£1.8 billion) and raised at least $220 million from investors over the last three years. But the company collapsed into administration last month after running out of money. Accounts show it had just $250,000 at the start of February and debts of $16.4 million.

Deloitte has been handling Powa's administration and this week sold off two of its divisions, saving 69 jobs. Powa employed 144 UK staff and those whose roles were not transferred in the sales have been made redundant.

But Powa employs more than 300 people globally, with offices in New York, France, Spain, Italy, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Korea, and Tokyo, according to its website.

That means over 160 jobs are still at risk, with the fate of these overseas subsidiaries as yet unclear.

One employee of Powa in the US contacted Business Insider to complain that they have not been paid since January and had medical benefits cut off. But the employee, who did not want to be named because of the ongoing issue around pay, said no one has been given letters of termination.

They say: "All of these employees are stuck in limbo and cannot even file for unemployment. Deloitte is telling them that they're not responsible for this entity and to take it up with [Powa CEO] Dan Wagner and [Powa deputy chairman] Ant Sharp".

The employee said an estimated 80 staff are in this position at Powa's US business. Troubles first emerged at Powa's UK business when staff complained of not being paid on time at the start of the year.

Deloitte declined to comment. Dan Wagner did not respond to an email and call asking for comment. BI contacted Powa's former PR agency, Flame PR, to ask them to contact Ant Sharp for comment. We have yet to hear back and will update if and when we do.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

EU Leaders Continue War Of Words On Refugees

Via EUobserver:

EU leaders will hold a summit with Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday (7 March), before an informal meeting.

They will discuss how to stem the flow of refugees coming from Turkey to Europe, organise the EU response to the crisis and try to ensure that EU rules and the free-movement Schengen area are not shattered by uncoordinated and contradictory policies.

The talks will take place just as the European Commission is preparing an unprecedented humanitarian plan for EU countries, to help them cope with the huge numbers of refugees. The commission announced on Wednesday (2 March) that it would unblock €300 million this year and €400 million over 2017 and 2018.

In the build-up to the summits, public declarations show that an agreement on a "European solution" to the crisis is still far away, with leaders along the so-called Balkan route - which leads refugees from Greece, their entry point to Europe, to central and northern Europe - engaged in verbal confrontations.

Here are the position of the different countries along the road - Greece, Croatia, Austria, and Germany - as they were expressed on Wednesday and Thursday.

Greece

"We must consider the border at Idomeni closed. We must prepare for the consequences of this action", Greek migration minister Yiannis Mouzalas said on Wednesday, referring to the main crossing point to Macedonia.

About 10.000 migrants are blocked at the border that was all but closed by Macedonia last week. Greek authorities said that up to 70.000 people could be stranded in the country.

As of Monday night, the number of refugees and migrants in Greece and needing accommodation had soared to 24.000.

"These people will stay in our country and some of them must receive the hospitality that accords with their legal status", Mouzalas told a meeting of mayors, adding the situation could last two or three years.

"Greece is the point where Europe will ratify its founding principles and values, such as humanism and solidarity, or it will betray them", Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview to Italy's Corriere della Sera on Wednesday.

"We claim nothing more than solidarity", he said, deploring that Greece was managing with the situation "in a Union that closes its borders, and xenophobia and the intolerant rhetoric of far-right are on the rise".

Tsipras demanded that the EU "proceed with a decision, which is binding for all and by all, which concerns the obligatory, fair distribution of refugee flows in all EU countries, according to each one's capacity".

"We will either succeed together or fail together", he said.

Croatia

"Through the cooperation between Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia, the transit traffic [of migrants] has clearly decreased", Croatia's PM Tihomir Oreskovic told Germany's Bild on Thursday.

Last week, the five countries, together with Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Montenegro, decided at a meeting in Vienna to tighten borders in the Western Balkans, de facto blocking the way for migrants wanting to leave Greece.

The meeting was criticized by Germany for its consequences on Greece and because it was not coordinated with Germany or the EU Commission.

Thanks to the measure, there is "no tension and bad surprises any more, like we had when we had to live without border checks", Oreskovic said.

"This is not a long term solution but it is an improvement", he said, adding that Germany also benefited from the move.

“It's not 3.000 refugees that are coming day after day from Austria to Germany, but less than 500”.

Austria

"We must stop the waving through [of refugees] from Greece to the North", Austrian foreign affairs minister Sebastian Kurz said in an interview to the Sueedeutsche Zeitung on Thursday.

“It cannot be that those who make it to Greece are automatically allowed to travel further”.

For Austria's chief of diplomacy, cutting the route to northern Europe is key to stop migration to Europe, as a disincentive.

"People don't hot the road to live in a camp in Lesbos but to move to a flat in Berlin", Kurz said.

Kurz implicitly criticised efforts led by Germany to cooperate with Turkey to block migrants from crossing to Greece and then to the rest of Europe.

Stopping them in Turkey rather than in Greece or in Macedonia "is not morally higher", he said. "For refugees that means the same, namely that they cannot come to central Europe".

The Austrian minister also justified why Greece was not invited to the Vienna meeting when Austria and Western Balkan decided to tighten borders.

"We knew that when you want to come off with a decision, it makes sense to coordinate with the states that pull in the same direction", he said.

The day before, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann also aimed at Germany, from which he was until recently the closest ally.

Germany “should set up a daily quota and bring these refugees directly from Greece, Turkey or Jordan”, he told Austrian newspaper Kurier.

"Austria cannot and must not become a distribution hub for refugees", he said.

Germany

"Greece cannot be left alone with the problem", German chancellor Angela Merkel told the Volksstimme newspaper on Wednesday.

"Anyone who closes national borders doesn't do anything against the causes for the refugee movement", she said, aiming at Austria and the Western Balkan countries.

"We have to find sustainable solutions that we will still be able to justify tomorrow", she said, adding these solutions should not "set up something on one side that other countries simply have to deal with".

EU

"We are not only concerned but really worried" about what is happening at the Greek-Macedonian border, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told journalists on Wednesday.

For Juncker, it was "foresseable" that the tightening of borders in the Western Balkans would lead to a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

Touring the region this week, European Council president Donald Tusk summarized the EU insitutions' position and concerns.

Speaking at a press conference with Croatian PM Oreskovic in Zagreb, Tusk warned that the crisis was "testing our Union to the limits, as it is no less testing your region [the Western Balkans]".

"We have to avoid an illusion that instead of the full respect for Schengen rules, there might be another, easy and convenient European solution", he said.

"Respecting the Schengen rules will not solve the migration crisis. But without it we have no chance whatsoever to resolve it", he added.

For Tusk: “There is no good alternative either to cooperating with Turkey, across which most of the migrants are currently traveling".

Turkey

Wooed by Germany and EU institutions to help reduce the flow of migrants, Turkey considers it has to "work together" with the EU, a senior Turkish official told EUobserver recently.

"If we can solve it together and we can show our publics and our leaders that this agreement [the EU-Turkey action plan] is working then we can gain more trust", the official said.

Commenting from the outside on the state of EU solidarity, the Turkish official said: “It’s getting worse".

"We have to help the EU because it’s in our interests", the official said.

He noted that Turkey's help isn’t unconditional, however.

Turkey is preparing to take back migrants from the EU who fail to qualify for asylum under a new radmission pact. But it wants visa-free travel to the EU for its nationals in return.

"We hope that we’ll be given visa-liberalization in October. If not, if the French or some others come up with an excuse, then we’ll scrap the readmission agreement", the official said.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

EU Unveils €700m Refugee Fund With Greece In Mind

Via EUobserver:

The European Commission unveiled Wednesday (2 March) plans for an emergency fund of €700 million over the next three years to help EU countries struggling with the huge influx of refugees. While the EU has been providing humanitarian assistance to countries outside the bloc for decades, this is the first time the EU will do the same for its own members.

“The fund will reduce humanitarian suffering of refugees in Europe,” commissioner for aid Christos Stylianides told journalists.

He said there’s no “magic formula” for the crisis, but said the new fund “will help to ensure that we can provide a European solution”.

The planned help, which is to provide quick and targeted assistance, will be available to all 28 member states, but is aimed at EU countries overwhelmed by the influx of refugees, especially Greece.

“This assistance, to a great extent, will go to Greece, it goes without saying, because that’s where we recently have the biggest humanitarian crisis due to the new circumstances which have developed”, Stylianides said.

“Front line member states will be first beneficiaries”, an EU source added.

The money will only be available once EU member states and the European Parliament amend the bloc’s budget to make €300 million ready this year, and to earmark €200 million each for 2017 and 2018.

Officials said they would prepare the paperwork in the next two weeks. They don’t know yet which other parts of the existing budget the money will be taken from.

But they say overall ceilings won’t go up, in a decision immediately welcomed by financial hawks, such as the UK.

Stylianides also declined to say how much money will go to Greece.

But Athens has already requested €480 million to help shelter 100.000 people, amid a build-up of refugees caused by border restrictions in Austria, Macedonia, and Serbia.

EU officials said they are assessing the Greek request in time for the EU-Turkey summit on Monday. Sources added that the money to meet the Greek request would have to come from a mixture of sources.

According to commission estimates, 25.000 people are stuck in Greece and up to 3.000 more are arriving each day.

The situation is acute at the Greek-Macedonia crossing of Idomeni, where 10.000 people are camping in the open to be let through.

On Wednesday, Macedonia allowed some 170 Syrian and Iraqi refugees to cross. It was the first such group since Monday, when local police teargassed migrants, including children, after some tried to force their way through a fence.

Basic needs

EU officials also say work on potential aid projects is to start immediately, to be ready to act once the money is available.

“We are preparing the actual operations with partners on the ground within the next few weeks rather than months”, an EU source said.

The assistance will not go to member states’ governments directly, but will be used by aid organizations or UN agencies on the ground.

It will pay for food, shelter, medicine, clean water, sanitation, and basic health and education services.

Other EU funds on migration and internal security have already been used for dealing with the refugee problem, with €327 million in assistance previously allocated to EU states.

Greece was awarded €148 million, while non-EU members Serbia and Macedonia received €20 million.

Another €22 million was allocated for humanitarian aid to the Western Balkans on a regional basis.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

MEPs Question EU Border Guard Proposal

Via EUobserver:

Liberal and Green MEPs have criticized proposals that would allow EU border guards greater powers to intervene in member states, arguing that it would not be clear who was responsible for protecting rights.

German Green MEP Ska Keller told the parliamentary committee reviewing the proposal on Monday (29 February) that it would give EU border agency Frontex “unprecedented levels” of power to intervene, without the necessary safeguards or public oversight.

“Who is the one in charge, who is responsible for example for fundamental rights violations? It is a problem when the competences of Frontex are mixed up with those of member states, when equipment is co-owned”, she said.

Under the European Commission proposal, a beefed-up Frontex would be able to intervene in a member state – even against that country’s will – if the passport-free Schengen area was deemed to be at risk.

The proposal is the latest attempt by the commission to control the bloc's external borders in the face of many thousands of migrants coming from the Middle East.

The Dutch presidency of the EU Council wants an agreement between member states and the European Parliament on the border guard proposal by the end of July, and the aim is to have the new agency operating in the summer.

Members of the civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee questioned Matthias Ruete, who heads the commission's migration and home affairs directorate, on the deadline and expressed the need for better protection of fundamental rights.

Keller highlighted that the commission had not carried out an impact assessment and questioned why the commission was in such a hurry.

Several other MEPs joined her in questioning the issue of legal responsibility in case of fundamental rights violations.

Ruete said the EU was facing an existential crisis, that is why the proposal needs to move as fast as possible.

“There is enormous pressure also from our citizens to see if we can move for a more collective management of external borders”, he said, adding that the proposal reflected the new political challenges of the EU.

He highlighted that the member state where the intervention would take place needed to agree to a joint operational plan, and there was no way the commission could force that country to cooperate.

“We can take the member state to court, that's all”, he added.

Reute stressed the intervention was based on a common decision.

The parliamentary committee is expected to vote on the proposal, for which Latvian MEP Artis Pabriks rapporteur is responsible, in May.

Pabrisk said the timetable was difficult, but manageable.

“If we succeed with this file, we can show to our electorate that the EU is serious, and efficient”, he told fellow MEPs.