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30 October 2013

Press review 02-11-2013

In Computing the term Trojan Horse is used in reference to a programme that is willingly installed by the user but that collects and sends user data elsewhere without user knowledge or consent. Such practice is absolutely illegal in Europe and has been fought for years by authorities and security experts.

In the past few weeks we slowly got to know that most of the systems we use for personal communication in Europe are themselves part of the greatest Tojan Horse ever built by Man. Computer operating systems, internet protocols, E-Mail services, mobile telephony services and protocols, all largely relyant on closed American products, are constantly feeding information of all kinds and sorts to the United States government. This week the public got to know that hundreds of millions of phone calls where tapped in Europe earlier this year, just during the short span of a few weeks. This level of data collection cannot possibly be justified by the fight on Terrorism; whatever are the intentions of these actions, they must go well beyond security concerns.

Obviously this means that our dependence on American IT corporations must come to and end. I hope this scandal triggers a definitive shift in Europe towards open source software and open standards; there simply isn't another way to guarantee citizens security and privacy.

ZDNet
NSA surveillance fallout may hamper AT&T's European push
Zack Whittaker, 31-10-2013

AT&T's bid to enter the European market may stumble if the networking giant cannot provide strict guarantees that European data will not leave the 28 member state bloc.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, citing European officials, the ongoing U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance scandal may put a dampener on any attempt for the American giant to enter the new market, given its past cooperation with the intelligence agency's data-collection program.

One of the major concerns is that AT&T may be a conduit to siphon off vast amounts of European citizens' data back to the U.S., where it can be inspected and analyzed by intelligence agencies.

In 2006, privacy groups sued the networking giant after a staff technician blew the whistle on Room 641A, a secret room in a San Francisco, California, that allegedly routed Internet traffic in order for the NSA to collect data.
Europe already has strong allies in the fight against America's grip on global communication systems. In this story everyone else is also a loser.
Le Monde
La surveillance de la NSA entraîne "un affaiblissement fort de l’Amérique" sur le contrôle d'Internet
Guénaël Pépin, 24-10-2013

La domination d'Internet par les Etats-Unis verrait sûrement son sort décidé dans les prochains mois. Du 22 au 25 octobre se tient à Bali le huitième Forum sur la gouvernance de l'Internet, une rencontre annuelle entre les acteurs impliqués dans la gestion du Réseau (architectes du réseau, gouvernements, secteur privé...) pour discuter de son état. L'un des thèmes principaux cette année est l'assujettissement des architectes d'Internet aux Etats-Unis.[...]

Regroupées à Montevideo (Uruguay) le 7 octobre, ces organisations ont déclaré vouloir accélérer l'internationalisation de leurs fonctions. Un signal fort, historique pour certains, qui découle directement des révélations sur la surveillance mondiale d'Internet par les services de renseignement américains. Les Etats-Unis sont accusés de définir les règles de fonctionnement d'Internet et de les utiliser à leur avantage.

Ce scandale est "un affaiblissement fort de l’Amérique. On a longtemps dit que l’Amérique était libre, un modèle à suivre par rapport à la dictature d’Etat de la Chine, qui ne cache pas sa censure. Les Etats-Unis, eux, ont un contrôle sûrement pire [au niveau mondial], sans qu'on le sache", affirme le Français Stéphane Van Gelder, président du comité de nomination de l'Icann depuis début octobre. Il était urgent pour les institutions de gestion d'Internet de prendre leurs distances.
Another obvious consequence of these revelations must be the halting of the free trade agreement being drafted between the EU and US. The amount of information the latter is acquiring on European economic activity provides it an advantageous position that can be disastrous for Europe. Moreover because it was obtained illegally.

Moving now to energy matters, there is another row brewing up between Russia and Ukraine over gas supplies. If it goes bad it will inevitably affect Europe, but time will tell how much of this is fireworks or hard talk.
Financial Times
Russia warns Ukraine on gas supplies
Neil Buckley, 29-10-2013

Europe is facing the possibility of a new shut-off of Russian gas to Ukraine this winter after Gazprom warned cash-strapped Kiev on Tuesday it must rapidly pay off a $900m overdue bill or face a shift to prepayment for future supplies.

The Russian gas monopoly has twice halted supplies to its former Soviet neighbour in midwinter over pricing disputes in 2006 and 2009, which has disrupted flows through the huge Soviet-era pipelines across Ukraine to countries further west. The EU has attempted to reduce reliance on Russian gas as a result.

The warning came amid already strained relations between the two countries. Moscow has pressed Kiev not to sign a planned landmark trade deal with the EU next month, but instead join a customs union with Russia.
Matthieu Auzanneau published last month a very well researched article on shale gas in the US, unveiling relevant production declines in several regions. Given persistently low gas prices in that country one must not take this as a sign of geological constraints at face value. In any event, the shale gas industry is definitely heading to hard times.
Oil Man
Gaz de schiste : premiers déclins aux Etats-Unis
Matthieu Auzanneau, 01-10-2013

C'est là que le boom des gaz de schiste a commencé. C'est là aussi que le déclin semble s'amorcer. Les champs de Barnett et de Haynesville, dans le Sud des Etat-Unis, ont franchi leur pic de production respectivement en novembre et décembre 2011.

Les puits de Barnett et Haynesville ont fourni jusqu'ici près de la moitié de la production américaine de gaz de schiste.

Le développement plus tardif du troisième principal champ nord-américain de gaz de schiste, celui de Marcellus dans les Appalaches, compense jusqu'ici le déclin de ses deux prédécesseurs. La poursuite du développement de Marcellus joue un rôle clé pour maintenir sur un plateau la production totale de gaz naturel aux Etats-Unis, stable depuis le début de l'année 2012.
An interesting piece of news shows once more the schizophrenic state of Energy Policy in Europe, most notably in Spain. After a decade of support to the development of wind technologies, the government is now doing all it can to, in first place stop, and then rollback the country's wind park. This happens exactly at a time when the local wind industry reaches a new level of maturity. The blind faith on gas supplies from North Africa remains unassailable.
Renewables International
Gamesa goes offshore
28-10-2013

“Let’s not kill this sector!” Ignacio Martín says at the podium some 15 meters from his latest turbine development during the opening ceremony in Arinaga. Instead of praising the turbine’s new features, he takes the opportunity to tell the Spanish industry minister sitting in the front row why the green power sector is worth protecting. He switches to Spanish to do so, with English translations provided live for the international audience.

After the government retroactively changed feed-in tariffs for existing systems, in July it put an end to the policy completely for new ones. In 2014, Gamesa believes its domestic market will come to a standstill. Martín says the location of its prototype on the Canary Islands west of Morocco shows a clear commitment to its home market. He adds that it could easily have been built in the UK, Germany, or another offshore wind nation, “but we wanted to make it clear that we are a Spanish firm.”

Though Arinaga may not have served its political purpose, the wind conditions are nonetheless top-notch. Atop its 90 m tower, the turbine could exceed a 50% capacity factor. Gamesa’s partner for certification, Det Norske Veritas (DNV), confirms the ideal test conditions. The turbine is to complete certification in the first quarter of 2014, and serial production of the G128-5.0MW should begin in the same year.
I have been following the decline of the present world monetary system for at least a decade; it was actually this subject that lead me to Peak Oil. So far the descent of the US Dollar from the place of preferred trade and reserve currency has been remarkably slow and benign. In part this slow transition is consequence of the reluctance from the economies outside the Plaza Accord to let their currencies properly appreciate. This path is naturally unsustainable and at some point countries like China will be forced to tackle internal problems such as its housing bubble. We'll then see how practical is a new Plaza Accord with 20 or more partners.
MarketWatch
How many more birthdays for Hong Kong dollar peg?
Craig Stephen, 20-10-2013

Firstly, there is China’s accelerating push to internationalize the yuan. Well before this month’s launch of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, efforts to increase the yuan’s global circulation are bearing fruit.

Last month, the Bank of International Settlements announced trading in yuan had surpassed that of Hong Kong dollar for the first time. If China continues on this path to make the yuan a convertible currency, it removes the key justification for Hong Kong not having some form of peg to the money used on the Chinese mainland, which is the territory’s largest source of trade.

The other, often overlooked factor is looming political change in Hong Kong. With a timetable set for a democratically elected chief executive in 2017, the next government will need to get used to demonstrating the merits of policies to the wider public. And it will need to justify retaining a colonial-era currency peg.
Have a nice weekend.