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Martin Fluck
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The publisher and editor of, I have a background in economics and currency strategy at Credit Suisse, and worked as a commodities trader and an equity analyst, before becoming a journalist. I wrote the Skeptic column for Dow Jones Newswires, and have reported on global... More
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The Angry Analyst
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    Because News Corporation has systematically been bribing police for information in the UK, the US Department of Justice has a slam dunk case to prosecute it under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Guardian reported this morning. This could allow the Federal Government to impose massive financial penalties, or even liquidate News Corp.

    The Department of Justice has ramped up its pursuit of companies and individuals under the act and has extracted big penalties. It’s now one of the highest law enforcement priorities in the US and nearly $2 billion was forfeited by US firms in 2009 and 2010.

    Its recent probe of Avon cosmetics has demonstrated its reliance on companies to self examine and then volunteer the results. Companies have an incentive to settle, if they are not to lose everything. In 2010 the Department of Justice required one privately-held company that violated the FCPA, to end operations and be dissolved.

    The prospect of News International’s acquisition of British Sky Broadcasting being approved has added several dollars to News Corp’s share price. Since the phone hacking scandal broke, its shares have only fallen back to $17, from $18. News Corp’s shareholders would be well advised to dump their stock next week, as there appears to be a lot more potential downside than investors realize. As Philip Stephens points out in the Financial Times, the British prime minister, David Cameron must now find a way to block Murdoch from securing full ownership of BSkyB. Otherwise, “the prime minister might just as well sign his own letter of resignation.”

    However, the BSkyB deal might be the least of News Corporation’s worries. Renault‘s announcement that it is suspending advertising in all of News International’s newspapers, suggests that the damage to its brands extends much further than The News of the World.

    Tags: NWS
    Jul 09 5:03 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Threat to YouTube As UK Government Turns Spotlight on Hate Videos
    US websites like YouTube could face being taken down in the UK, if they do not remove al-Qaeda’s hate videos from their site.  Such is the anger amongst UK government ministers about the failure of YouTube to remove content that incites murder, that serious pressure will be put on US politicians to change the law governing online intermediaries.

    It would also not be surprising if YouTube executives end up facing sanctions that could even include criminal charges in the UK - unless they act to make sure all its content is checked before appearing on the site; with obvious consequences for the firm’s profitability. Perhaps Google heard 
    Home Secretary Theresa May's clear message of intent today about the dangers of online terrorist propaganda.  Internet executives should heed her warning that “to regard those online services as being somehow beyond the reach of our intelligence services and police makes no sense.”

    This follows the attempted murder of British MP Stephen Timms last May by a female fanatic inspired by Yemen based terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki – who is wanted for the parcel bomb plot to blow up aircraft.

    Despite requests by US congressmen such as New York Democrat Anthony Weiner, to take down 700 videos that pose a clear threat to the public, the videos remain on YouTube’s site.  And requests by the UK government have similarly fallen on deaf ears.

    YouTube claims that its guidelines prohibit videos that promote dangerous or illegal activities (including bomb-making, sniper attacks, or other terrorist acts), contain hate speech, and videos that are posted with the purpose of inciting others to commit specific, serious acts of violence.

    But it seems that as long as a video isn’t actually posted by a “registered” terrorist organization anything goes.

    Such is the frustration of the UK authorities at what would in the UK constitute criminal acts by YouTube itself, that Baroness Neville-Jones, the Security Minister, has urged the US to order American websites hosting al-Qaeda videos to remove them. And the UK Home Office is putting pressure on the White House to take this issue seriously.

    Given that Awlaki inspired the US Army major who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last year, is linked to the September 11 attacks and the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit last year, it is astonishing that YouTube continues to allow him to recruit using their website.  Proof positive that Obama’s administration does not take the terrorist threat seriously enough.

    A Congressional subcommittee discussed the problem of online terror recruiting in June.  It seems like they were more concerned, however, that making online services responsible for keeping terror recruiting off the internet could have significant harmful effect on the growth of the internet.  Never mind protecting US citizens, protecting online providers remains Congress’ priority.

    But the Telecommunications Act Congress passed in 1996, in which Section 230 said that online service providers cannot be held responsible for the content posted by their users, could of course be repealed.  
    Thus YouTube’s inaction on terrorist propaganda threatens many other internet “intermediaries” as well as its own business model.  

    Testifying on the behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington, D.C. based non-profit public-interest group that works to promote an open, innovative and free internet, its General Counsel John Morris said: “If Congress compelled YouTube to examine each one of these videos before allowing it to be posted online to ensure that it didn't have objectionable content, YouTube simply couldn't continue to operate as an open forum for user expression.”  But isn’t this the whole point?

    Disclosure: No positions

    Disclosure: No positions
    Tags: GOOG, Internet, UK
    Nov 03 8:21 AM | Link | Comment!
  • German Wind Sector Blames Solar for Giving Renewable Energy A Bad Name

    Because the gigantic solar energy boom is driving up the price of electricity, the wind power sector is worried it’s giving the whole renewable energy sector a bad name, reports Der Spiegel.  And it’s threatening to turn into a “civil war” as lobbyists for the wind power sector confront photovoltaic power head-on

    “The cause of this clash is the high cost of solar energy in Germany. The more solar cells are connected to the net, the higher the price consumers are forced to pay for electricity. The fear wind power firms have is that this explosion in costs will be blamed on the whole renewable energy sector.”

    According to SPIEGEL ONLINE the Bundesverband Windenergie has demanded that the Bundesverband Solarwirtschaft explain how the soaring costs of solar can be capped.  If the solar energy association doesn’t have any proposals, it will have to publicly distance itself from the sector. “This would play into the hands of the four big energy companies Eon, RWE, Vattenfall, and EnBW, which have long said that renewable energy is uneconomic,” writes Der Spiegel.  “On land wind turbines can produce electricity at 5 cents per kilowatthour. Even the best solarmodules produce a kilowatthour for at least 20 cents.  Meanwhile a large nuclear plant can produce at 2 cents per kilowatthour.”

    The wind generators criticisms are based in fact: the latest forecasts are that the cost of renewable energy will more than double in 2011 to €15 billion, from €7 billion. According to the renewable energy law, the Erneuerbare Energien Gesetz, these costs will be transferred to consumers.  So the extra eco-supplement consumers pay will double to €170 from €85.

    And electricity prices are set to rise further as the €40 billion need to rebuild the grid is passed onto customers.  Photovoltaics are primarily responsible for the rising costs, as generous subsidies fuel a solar boom. Additional solar capacity of 2200 Megawatts had been expected this year. Instead, another 6000 Megawatts has been added.  As a result, consumers are set to receive a back dated bill for this year too.

    Der Spiegel believes this will lead to a big debate about the economics of renewable energy: “Solar power generates significantly less energy than wind, but accounts for more than half of the total eco-energy cost. The wind lobbyists say this could be addressed by a reduction in subsidies to the solar sector.”

    Disclosure: No positions

    Disclosure: No positions
    Sep 22 6:57 AM | Link | Comment!
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