LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings Plc is lining up Mark Tucker, currently chief executive of insurer AIA Group Ltd, to be the next chairman of Europe’s biggest bank, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.
LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC Holdings Plc is lining up Mark Tucker, currently chief executive of insurer AIA Group Ltd, to be the next chairman of Europe’s biggest bank, sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Sunday.
… unveil a $2.3 billion tax credit on Friday to promote clean energy technology and boost job creation in the hard-hit manufacturing sector, the White House said.
It said in a statement the credit, from funds earmarked under an emergency $787 billion stimulus package Obama signed in February 2009, would create 17,000 new U.S. jobs and would be matched by an additional $5 billion in private capital.
In a National Journal survey of 109 Republican “party leaders, political professionals and pundits”, not a single one deemed Sarah Palin to be the most likely Republican nominee.
“Bob Bennett is out of touch with the times and with his state, and Utah Republicans have better choices for their candidate in November,” Club President Christ Chocola said.
“Our extensive research into the race suggests Utah Republicans already understand this, as they have begun rallying around several viable and superior candidates,” he continued. “The Club for Growth PAC is committed to seeing one of them defeat Bennett either at the nominating convention in May or in a primary election in June.”
According to PPP’s Tom Jensen, Democratic candidate Martha Coakley’s sleepy campaign–which is increasingly starting to irritate party strategists who trusted her to lock the race down early–has resulted in an electorate that’s more Republican than usual and more anti-health care reform than the state as a whole. Brown, one of the few Republicans of stature in the state, has a 60 percent favorable rating–a result of his own ads and of being basically ignored by Coakley.
Fed up with the mainstream media filter, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) is taking her quest to inform Americans about the threat of jihad to the Internet — namely, YouTube — in a new weekly terror news video series that will be featured on her congressional Web site.
Who is paying for Myrick’s little one-woman jihad?
Mountaintop coal mining — in which Appalachian peaks are blasted off and stream valleys buried under tons of rubble — is so destructive that the government should stop giving out new permits to do it, a group of scientists said in a paper released Thursday.
In a very special CES edition of All Things D today, our own Joshua Topolsky had an opportunity to directly confront Google’s Andy Rubin on the nagging multitouch issue — not necessarily multitouch itself, but the growing disparity in support between American and European devices (the Droid / Milestone being the most famous example):
“You call this a superphone — 3.7-inch capacitive display, but no keyboard and no multitouch. Yet it has multitouch outside the US. Why not America?”
“It’s not an America versus outside America kind of thing. It’s a decision that is a result of the OEM model. I personally don’t like two-handed operations… there is no conspiracy.”
That doesn’t explain the fact that the European Nexus One seems to have some in-built multitouch enabled — nor does it explain why any manufacturer would ever opt to exclude it under any circumstances unless there’s some outside pressure involved. Surely Rubin’s personal preferences don’t play into this… right? Right, Google?
Andy Rubin on multitouch in Android: ‘I personally don’t like two-handed operations’ originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 21:21:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Shuttle’s just announced the SPA (Shuttle PCB Assembly) and Micro SPA notebook form factors to create a “new notebook ecosystem.” The SPA currently covers 13-inch to 17-inch laptops while Micro SPA does 10 to 15 inches. This horizontal integration targets the small local OEMs as it would purportedly reduce production cost while simultaneously boosting green credit. Parts like fans, chassis and trackpad can be reused for new models or even just across one product generation — you’ll notice that all the ports and components are thus identically positioned, as pictured. While you question whether this will be just another another attempt headed to Mount Doom, Shuttle is confident as it’s “standardizing the whole thing” rather than just one or two components. Word has it that several European vendors have already placed orders for a February launch, and US laptop fanatics will see SPA products in the following month. Anyone wishing to jump in can make minimum bulk orders of around 200 units and expect a two to three week production cycle in Shuttle’s Taiwanese and Chinese factories. Press release after the break.
Shuttle SPA and Micro SPA notebook motherboard standards launched at CES originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 08 Jan 2010 20:14:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Rather than go for botox to regain his youth, Matthew Broderick went to a local barbershop yesterday and asked for the Ferris Bueller. “I do have a test today, that wasn’t bulls**t. It’s on European socialism. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’m …
At long last, Iceland’s parliament–the Alþingi–has passed a bill settling Iceland’s dispute with the United Kingdom and Holland regarding the government’s responsibility for losses suffered by British and Dutch depositors when one of Iceland’s three major banks–Landsbanki–went into receivership in October 2008. Unfortunately, Iceland’s President, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, has not yet signed the bill and has indicated that he may instead call for a national referendum. If a recent poll is accurate, the agreement would be rejected by a large majority of Icelanders.
Tens of thousands of investors–individuals, municipalities, and charities–took advantage of the exceptionally high rates offered on Landbanki’s IceSave savings accounts, only to discover that these accounts were not formally backed by any government. Landsbanki officials had inexplicably failed to register as a domestic bank in either country, and thus were not backed by government deposit insurance. When Landsbanki went into receivership on October 7th, British authorities invoked anti-terror legislation on October 8th to freeze Landsbanki’s assets there.
When Davíð Oddsson, the head of Iceland’s Central Bank, and Icelandic finance minister Árni Mathiesen indicated–Davíð on TV: “We will not pay the foreign debts of irresponsible mess makers; we’d be saddling our children with such debt, it would be slavery…”- that Iceland would guarantee losses suffered by Icelandic depositors, but not foreign depositors, Gordon Brown noted that Iceland was in violation of the European Economic Area’s (EEA) anti-discrimination laws and insisted that the Icelandic government reimburse all depositors. Although the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to assist Iceland, it has refused to release additional funds until the IceSave matter is resolved.
The first attempt to resolve this matter resulted in a blatantly unfair agreement, which Iceland rejected. After further negotiations, a more palatable accord was hammered out and approved by a narrow majority in the Alþingi on December 30, 2009. Fitch lessened its downgrade on Iceland in anticipation of the bill’s passage, and Iceland received the first tranche of a loan from the Nordic countries.
Almost there: PM Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir and Finance Minister Steingrímur Sigfússon, viewed through the lens of extraordinarily talented political cartoonist Halldór Sigurðsson. mbl.is
The group InDefence has presented Ólafur Ragnar a petition purportedly containing over 60,000 signatures calling for him to veto the bill, and over 500 people are currently camped out in front of his official residence, Bessastaðir.
It would indeed feel satisfying to tell the Brits to cram it. The invocation of anti-terror legislation against a NATO ally in a matter that obviously did not involve any physical danger to the British public was insulting and irresponsible. The bullying tactics employed against a much smaller country that was in obvious distress demonstrated a complete lack of tact or compassion.
Nevertheless, Ólafur Ragnar should sign the bill because it’s the right thing to do, and because the consequences of rejection would be disastrous.
It’s the right thing to do because the foreign depositors relied on the integrity of the Icelandic banking regime when they placed their funds in Landsbanki’s hands. These depositors suffered as much as the Icelandic depositors because of the incompetence (and worse) of the Landsbanki executives and the Icelandic regulators. It was not unreasonable for the depositors to rely on statements by the bank and Icelandic regulators strongly denying rumors of problems with the bank’s business model. If the Icelandic regulators had been doing their jobs and warned the public, it’s likely the pension funds and charities wiped out by Landsbanki’s default would have parked their money elsewhere.
As for the consequences, it’s clear that the ratings agencies would place Iceland below investment grade, which would greatly increase the rate at which the country would be able to borrow. It’s possible (if not likely) that the IMF would refuse to release any further funds.
The current government would almost certainly fall, and any chance at reasonable reform would die. The conservative Independence Party that ran Iceland until the collapse would retake power and restart the party. The businessmen whose reckless actions placed the county in danger would return with the illicit funds they’ve placed in off-shore accounts and buy Iceland’s resources for a song.
Most importantly, the new government would take whatever steps necessary to ensure that these culprits never see the inside of a jail cell. The investigation of the misdeeds that led to Iceland’s collapse has proceeded very methodically, and the special prosecutor now appears on the cusp of indicting some of the Independence Party’s biggest supporters. If the investigators are allowed to continue, we’ll see whether the rumors of money laundering for the Russian mafia are true, whether vast amounts of money are indeed sitting in Tortola, whether bank employees exploited pension funds with same glee that Enron employees exhibited while ripping off California consumers, and whether our politicians and regulators were bribable.
Until these questions are answered and the culprits are punished, we will never have a functional democracy in Iceland. The current government has been given the unenviable task of placing the country’s finances on a reasonable and sustainable basis after years of irresponsible overspending by the Independence Party, and much of the belt-tightening has adversely affected individuals who had nothing to do with the banks’ pyramid schemes. All of the Icelandic people are rightfully upset by Gordon Brown’s handling of the matter, and are galled at the prospect of sending needed funds to him.
We’re also impatient with the pace of the special prosecutor’s investigation–how can the United States place Bernie Madoff behind bars within weeks of discovering his fraud, while we’re still waiting for the first indictment of any of the bankers?
So, we’re damned if we sign the IceSave agreement, and damned if we don’t. We need every krona we can get to rebuild our damaged economy, and it hurts to see these funds shipped off-shore. By not signing the agreement, though, we would ensure that our history is rewritten by the very persons who have placed our country at peril and who are just waiting for the chance to plunder it again. We would also be flipping a very large middle finger to the international community at a time when we need its assistance the most.
By signing it, Ólafur Ragnar would ensure that the new government would be able to finish what it has started–a thorough investigation into the events that led to our fall. Unless Eva Joly and Ólafur Þór Hauksson are permitted to complete their task, not only will the wrongdoers escape justice, but we will show them that there are no adverse consequences for their incompetence and malfeasance.
More on Iceland
Folks have long been using piezoelectric devices to harvest energy in everything from dance floors to parking lots, but a group of European researchers have now shown off some novel uses for the technology at the recent International Electron Devices Meeting that could see even more of the self-sufficient devices put to use. Their big breakthrough is that they’ve managed to shrink a piezoelectric device down to “micromachine” size, which was apparently possible in part as a result of using aluminum nitride instead of lead zirconate titanate as the piezoelectric material, thereby making the devices easier to manufacture. Their first such device is a wireless temperature sensor, which is not only extremely tiny, but is able to function autonomously by harvesting energy from vibrations and transmit temperature information to a base station at 15 second intervals. Of course, the researchers say that is just the beginning, and they see similar devices eventually being used in everything from tire-pressure monitoring systems to predictive maintenance of any moving or rotating machine parts.
Researchers develop tiny, autonomous piezoelectric energy harvester originally appeared on Engadget on Sat, 02 Jan 2010 07:34:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
European countries may have long ago banished the use of cellphones while driving to the dark side of the law, but many of the United States persist in allowing their citizens to talk while driving. One reason for their reluctance may be that outlawing something that has become second nature to most people would be both unproductive and tough to enforce. So what do you do? The natural alternative to forcing people to drive attentively is educating them of the reasons why. Never mind the fact that we all kinda, sorta know the risks we undertake while operating a Droid and a Dodge concurrently. The newly minted Distraction.gov is chockfull of scaremongering statistics, topped by a truly epic video which we’ve handily stashed for you just after the break. Go get it while it’s hot.
US government launches Distraction.gov, wants to scare you straight (video) originally appeared on Engadget on Fri, 01 Jan 2010 16:02:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
It was a dark year, 2009, sealing a dark decade. It began with the world in economic free-fall and the Gaza Strip being bombed to pieces (again). We watched the vicious crushing of a democratic uprising in Iran, a successful far-right coup in Honduras, and the intensification of the disastrous war in Afghanistan. It all ended at Brokenhagen, where the world’s leaders breezily decided to carry on cooking the planet.
But in the midst of all this there were extraordinary points of light, generated by people who have refused to drink the cheap sedative of despair. The left-wing newsman Wes Nisker said in his final broadcast: “If you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.” I want – in the final moments of 2009 – to celebrate the people who, this year, did just that: the men and women who didn’t slump, but realised that the worse the world gets, the harder people of goodwill have to work to put it right.
Inspiration One: Denis Mukwege. The war in the Congo is the worst since Adolf Hitler marched across Europe: it has killed more than 5 million people and counting. As I witnessed when I reported on the war in 2006, the violence has been turned primarily on the country’s women: one favourite tactic is to gang-rape a woman and then shoot her in the vagina. For years these women were simply left to die in the bush. But one man – a soft-spoken Congolese gynaecologist with a gentle smile – decided to do something mad, something impossible. With scarcely any equipment and no funding, he set up a secret clinic for these women.
He was told he would be killed by the militias for undoing their “work”. The threats said his own daughters would be murdered if he didn’t stop. Everyone thought he was mad. But he knew it was the right thing to do. He became the Oscar Schindler of the Congolese mass rapes, saving the lives of tens of thousands of women. In the midst of a moral Chernobyl, he showed that the best human instincts can survive and, in time, prevail. It is rumoured he was number two in the Nobel Committee’s list for the Peace Prize. He should have won.
Inspiration Two: Liu Xiaobo. A year ago, a petition began to circulate in China demanding that its one billion citizens be allowed to think and speak freely. “We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes,” it said. As if they were the Irony Police, the Chinese authorities promptly arrested the authors and many of its signatories. One of the most articulate and brave – Liu Xiaobo – was sentenced to 11 years in a re-education camp for “subversion”.
The Chinese authorities believe human rights are a “plot” to weaken China. In fact, China will be immeasurably stronger when it stops persecuting its citizens when they try to develop their minds and defend each other.
Liu is not alone. Hu Jia is in prison for warning about China’s hidden Aids crisis. Huang Qi is in jail for warning that the poor construction of school buildings in Sichuan – because the builders bribed the local authorities – meant hundreds of children died unnecessarily in the earthquake. There is a long list, and for every prisoner, thousands more are too frightened to speak. But these dissidents stand as models of the truly great nation China will be one day, when it stops persecuting these people and starts electing them.
Inspiration Three: Evo Morales and Malalai Joya. Although they were born thousands of miles apart, these two people embody what real democracy can mean. When Evo Morales was a child, the indigenous peoples of Bolivia weren’t even allowed to set foot in the capital’s central square, which was reserved for white people. Today, he is the President, and for the first time in his country’s history, he is diverting the billions raised from the country’s natural resources away from the pockets of US corporations. It is building schools and hospitals for people who had nothing, and poverty is being eradicated in a stunning burst of progress.
Malalai Joya is the youngest woman ever to be elected in Afghanistan, and she was swiftly banned from taking her seat because she kept speaking up for the people who elected her – against the violent fundamentalist warlords our governments have put in charge of the country. They keep trying to murder her, but she says: “I don’t fear death, I fear remaining silent in the face of injustice … I am ready, wherever and whenever you might strike. You can cut down the flower, but nothing can stop the coming of the spring.”
She and Morales are authentic democrats, in contrast to the parody of it offered by Hamid Karzai and – too often – our own leaders.
Inspiration Four: Amy Goodman and the team at Democracy Now! It’s not hard to despair of the US at the moment, when even the silver-tongued King of Change seems unable to get real healthcare and cuts in warming gases through his corrupt Senate, and he is ramming harder into Afghanistan. A large part of the problem is the atrocious US broadcast media. The TV news is one lengthy blowjob for the powerful, seeing everything from the perspective of the rich, and ridiculing arguments for progress. It serves its owners and its advertisers by poisoning every political debate with death-panel distractions and silence for the things that matter.
But there is one remarkable exception. Broadcasting from a tiny studio in New York, on a budget raised entirely from its viewers, comes Democracy Now! Every day, the hour-long broadcast – hosted by the wonderful Amy Goodman – tells the real news. While the nightly news fills up with junk and gossip, they calmly, cleverly explain what is really happening. For example, while ABC and NBC were fixating on Tiger Woods’ genitals, Democracy Now! was in Copenhagen, explaining how the world’s rainforests were being stiffed. They, at least, can tell the trees from the Woods. It is the best single source for making sense of the world that I know – and it is a model of what the American media could be if it treated its viewers with respect.
Inspiration Five: Peter Tatchell. Long before it was trendy to support gay equality, there was Peter Tatchell, taking huge risks for what was right. As one of the pioneers of direct action to oppose bigotry against gay people, he was never afraid to put his own body in the path of bigots. In 1999, he performed a citizen’s arrest on the murderous Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, and was beaten so badly by his bodyguards he has never recovered. This year, he went to Moscow to defend the gay rights march there from viciously anti-gay police, and was beaten again. This year, he announced he had to withdraw from running as the Green candidate in Oxford East because the damage was so severe.
Almost unbelievably, some people who claim to be on the left have attacked Tatchell because he criticises homophobes who happen to be black, Arab or Asian in exactly the same way he criticises people who are white. (He tried to arrest Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger for war crimes just as surely as he tried to get Mugabe.) But the real racism would be to hold non-white people to lower standards, as if their bigotries were less real or less deadly. A person who chooses to persecute gay people is monstrous and should be stopped – whatever their skin colour, and whatever their culture. Tatchell has dedicated his life to that cause, and he deserves our endless thanks, not dishonest abuse.
What do they all have in common, all these people? When Mukwege built his clinic, they said he’d be dead within a week. When Tatchell said gay people could be equal, they laughed in his face. When Morales and Joya ran for office, they said people like them could never win. They dismiss Liu and Goodman now; but their arguments will win, in time.
They show that when the world gets worse, that’s not a reason to slink away in despair. On the contrary: it’s a reason to work harder and aim higher. As the essayist Rebecca Solnit says: “Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” That should be the epitaph for these remarkable people – and for 2009.
Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent. To read more of his articles, click here.
He is also a contrbuting writer for Slate magazine. To read his latest article there, clck here.
You can follow Johann on Twiter at www.twitter.com/johannhari101
Reviews of this month’s Copenhagen conference on climate change have ranged from nonplussed to fatalistic. Copenhagen has been called a “crime scene” and an “abject failure.” A prominent undertone in this reaction is that such conferences will never work, because they are tragic in the old sense of the word: displaying the inevitable power of human selfishness. The fear is that in all cases, world leaders will enthusiastically agree that something needs to be done to reduce carbon emissions, and in all cases, the same leaders will pipe down when asked to make concrete sacrifices themselves.
This type of bind is known in the behavioral sciences as a Tragedy of the Commons. It’s a simple concept that explains the tendency of groups to deplete common resources. To understand it, imagine you are a cattle farmer. You share open pasture with 100 other farmers, and are trying to decide whether to add another animal to your herd. Like any rational person, you weigh the costs and benefits of this decision. You stand to gain all the resources an extra animal can provide, while the cost (overgrazing of the pasture) is spread across the entire group, such that each person will hardly notice the change. So you decide to get another animal (or 2, or more). Problematically, the 100 other farmers have used the same calculations and have made the same choice, leading the group unstoppably towards sharing a barren patch of land.
Commons problems are everywhere, ranging from the inconsequential–subway door holding–to the frightening–the depletion of natural fisheries. Somewhat similar situations can also be set up in the lab, through so-called “public goods games.” In an example game, I pair you with 3 other people, and give you each $100. I then tell you that everyone has the option of contributing as much of their money as they please to a common pot. This pot will then be doubled and split evenly among all 4 players. For the group, the best outcome follows if every individual contributes all of their money, summing to $400. This is then doubled to $800, and each happy person leaves with twice as much as they had at the beginning. On the other hand, each individual stands to make the most (up to $350) if they free ride–contributing nothing while others chip in. Perhaps unsurprisingly, after a few rounds of public goods games, individuals’ contributions end up holding steady at zilch.
While public goods games are about gains and commons problems are about losses, they share a fundamental tenet: individuals trying to maximize their own gains will lead to group destruction. This is beyond pessimistic; it suggests the futility of even trying to band together to protect common resources.
On this view, climate change is merely the largest commons at the eye of the largest tragedy we have at hand, and efforts like Copenhagen are doomed from the outset. However, mountains of evidence have demonstrated that there is no need to be so fatalistic. Real-life commons, including pastures and fisheries, are often used responsibly and sustainably, and small changes in the way public goods games are set up can also lead to steady cooperation over time. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective: human nature likely propels us to protect both our individual goals and those of the groups we depend on.
A more realistic view of the commons and public goods problems is that people will sacrifice for a common good, but only if certain conditions are met (Elinor Ostrom recently won the Nobel Prize in economics for specifying just what these conditions are). Listing some of these conditions can shed new light on why Copenhagen failed:
1) Common participation: individuals are much more likely to sacrifice some of their gains for a common interest if they feel a sense of participation in deciding the rules that will govern those commons. If, instead, these rules seem like prescriptions from above, people will more likely find ways around them. This idea was clearly ignored by the 6 nations that drafted the “Copenhagen Accord.” This arguably well-intentioned shot at a climate agreement detonated as many representatives of the remaining 186 countries involved in the Copenhagen talks reacted angrily at being left out when it was drafted.
2) Mutual sacrifice: A sure-fire way to reduce individual contributions to a common good is to make them suspect others will free ride from their generosity. Like two people agreeing to put their guns down, being the first one to comply is difficult when there is no evidence that others will follow suit. Individuals in public goods games behave similarly, displaying what is known as “conditional cooperation.” Most people report that they will contribute some amount to public goods, but this amount is highly dependent on how much they believe others will pitch in. Australia and Russia demonstrated conditional cooperation when they made clear their goals for emissions reduction were contingent on other countries joining them. Such an approach is toxic when one or more countries fail to comply. This dilemma is worsened when–as with developing vs. developed nations–the standard for defining appropriate sacrifices is hard to agree on.
3) Inducing compliance: Public goods games demonstrate that altruistic contributions are most stable when enforced by both carrots (rewards) and sticks (punishments). Punishment through sanctions and poor reputation motivate individuals to recognize their interdependence with a group, and to avoid free riding. In fact, such punishments may be absolutely critical to the maintenance of altruistic societies, which otherwise would be vulnerable to cheaters. In not forming a legally binding contract, leaders at Copenhagen failed to give their agreement the teeth it would need to induce real changes in behavior.
Both research and intuition suggest that conferences like Copenhagen are not doomed to fail. Informed, committed nations working together should be able to tap into people’s common goal to stave off the effects of climate change. Leaders at Copenhagen simply neglected some simple rules for creating such cooperation.
More on Barack Obama