Archive for arnold

Lack of Impartiality in Turkish Judiciary and Press

For outsiders it’s always looked like a bit of a lottery, especially if you’re a journalist who dares to be critical of the leading parties. Despite robust defence, now even supporters of the President are actually finding it increasingly difficult to defend many of the latest rulings. Any journalist who’s targeted is usually accused of being a member of a terrorist organisation as this automatically opens up all sorts of punishments and powers irrespective if it’s true or not.

There are many European journalists being held on very tenuous charges including the German Turkish reporter Deniz Yucel who’s been help for over a year now. It’s why Turkish news outlets are increasingly being bypassed as it’s difficult to report the truth if you can end up being thrown in jail. Most people in turkey who want unbiased news use the internet to look for international sources like in Germany or get UK TV in Turkey like this example.

Turkey’s judiciary, which was previously independent of the government, has now been placed directly under the control of government ministers. The ruling party has defended the move as part of a crackdown following accusations that a group of lawyers planned to overthrow the current government. However, the opposition has been critical of the new legislation, describing it as “a modern coup d’etat.”

The lawyers in question allegedly plotted against the government, under the cover of investigating a corruption scandal. The corruption investigation in question involved several prominent businessmen and the sons of former government ministers.

Off the back of these allegations Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been Turkey’s Prime Minister for the past 11 years, introduced legislation that placed the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the country’s premier judicial institution, under direct government control. As a result, the government can now appoint or dismiss judges and prosecutors, and enforce their decisions on the Supreme Council. Erdogan said that this was a necessary measure in countering threats to the government – an idea which the opposition question.

Many prosecutors and judges have now been dismissed by the government in connection with the allegations since the new powers took effect. The total number of dismissals reportedly reaches into the hundreds.

The move to place what was an independent judicial system under the direct control of the government has drawn widespread criticism both within Turkey and elsewhere across the world. The country’s opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, said that it granted “exceptional authority” to the justice minister. The Republican People’s Party’s Deputy Chair, Faruk Logoglu, accused the government of intending the legislation to “transform the Turkish state” into one that was undemographic and compared the result to a sultanate. He said that placing such power into the hands of the justice minister was simply “wrong.”

The human rights committee of the Law Society has also spoken out against the legislation. They have criticised the government’s introduction of this legislation, saying that it hinders free speech and challenges the Turkish judicial system’s independence. The committee’s chair, Professor Sara Chandler, said that ” The legislation passed earlier this week, to bring the country’s top judicial body under justice ministry influence, is unconstitutional and undermines the judiciary’s independence.”

Professor Chandler went on to say: “The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is responsible for appointing members of the judiciary, is an independent body and should remain so.”

Further Information: Using a BBC Proxy

Lessons of the Rwanda Aid Scandal

A story from nearly seven years ago to illustrate how the same issues are repeated over and over again with regards to foreign aid. The United Kingdom has often come under criticism for various aspects of it’s foreign policy particularly in Africa, yet it remains one of the most generous benefactors to the continent.

Picture courtesy of an Instagram proxy.

The government has come under fire for its decision to resume foreign aid to Rwanda, after the African country was accused of supporting rebels involved in fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Rwanda, along with Uganda, denies funding the rebels, but the UK government has been accused of a ‘profound error of judgement’. Justine Greening, International Development Minister, was put under pressure to explain the government’s decision by her Labour counterpart, Mr Ivan Lewis, who questioned the motives behind what appears to be curious move.

‘Shambolic’ Decision
Mr Lewis, in his address to Ms Greening, said:

“The government’s policy on this crisis has been nothing short of shambolic, and has seriously undermined the international effort to send a unified and unequivocal message to the Rwandan government that their actions are entirely unacceptable.”

It transpires that Ms Greening’s predecessor, Mr Andrew Mitchell, agreed to unfreeze up to £16million of aid to Rwanda on the day before he took over the post of Chief Whip. The UN accuses Rwanda of supporting a rebel militia group known as M23, a charged that the Rwandan government denies.

Justine Greening Responds
Ms Greening defended the government’s decision to restore aid to the troubled African country, explaining:

“Labour has no ability to really criticise us in relation to, a, tracking results of our aid, and, b, being clear about whether it is being spent appropriately or not. Whenever we have needed to take action to curb aid, we have indeed done that.”

It is notable that Uganda, which stands accused of supporting M23 alongside Rwanda, has had all of its aid from the UK cut after it emerged that much of it was transferred into private hands of government members in the country. The Ugandan government has said it is ‘not happy’ with the decision, but was willing to acknowledge that government aid had been stolen.

Alas some things never change, and yet again we see the same stories and pattern being repeated in different areas of the world.

Further Reading: More on Proxies

Germany Benefits from Digital Crime Cases

It’s not unusual, crime agencies and police forces across the world finance some of their activities using seized assets. Wherever you live, you may have come across police auctions or heard about places where stolen goods are sold off. After all if these assets can’t be repatriated with their rightful owners then why not use it to fund police forces.

This of course has been more difficult in respect of digital crime, as often the assets are difficult to find never mind seize especially if the crimes are committed across international borders. However there’s now an unlikely source of funds that seems to be present whenever a digital crime is solved – huge caches of digital currency.

Most cyber criminals are pretty clever at covering their tracks and maintaining a high level of secrecy. This usually involves using rotating and residential proxies to hide their location. In addition, there’s now another common component to keep themselves secure using a crypto currency to process any payments used in their crimes. Although it’s difficult to trace the owners sometimes it’s a simpler option to seize the digital assets when a crime is solved.

The German authorities have just made around $14 million through the sale of Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies which they seized in criminal investigations.

This was simply an emergency sale, according to a Monday report in the Tagesspiegel newspaper, since the Bavarian justice treasury was concerned about the wild changes in cryptocurrency values. Emergency sales are normally generally kept back for perishable goods, such as food, or goods that generally depreciate in valuation, for example cars.

The cryptocurrencies which were sold off– 1,312 Bitcoins, 1,399 Bitcoin Cash tokens, 1,312 Bitcoin Gold tokens and 220 Ether– were generally mostly confiscated in a clampdown on a system called LuL.to, which was unlawfully selling copyrighted ebooks and audiobooks at very low prices. The website was confiscated and blocked out last June, its own operators were arrested and its resources went into a fund that is typically used for police resourcing.

The sale happened over a number of months, in a succession of more than 1,600 transactions on a German cryptocurrency forex platform. According to Der Tagesspiegel, the receipts totalled just over EUR12 million ($ 13.9 million.).

The selloff began in late February, when the rate of one Bitcoin had actually crashed from its December highs– almost $20,000– to around $11,400. Over the course of the sale, the rate dipped below $7,000 and cleared $9,000 once more. Since then, it has fallen once more to a price of $7,230, so the polices’ timing appears pretty good for now, unless Bitcoin makes a surprising rebound in the future.

This was actually a record-breaking transaction of seized possessions within Germany, but American powers have already been generating much more money off confiscated cryptocurrencies for some time. The Justice Department got $48 million in October last year from the sale of Bitcoins which stemmed from Ross “Dread Pirate Roberts” Ulbricht. The sale in fact took place a couple years earlier, when one Bitcoin was actually worth a mere $330 or so, but Ulbricht, the owner of the Silk Road online drug market, had actually disputed the legality of the forfeiture and took a while to drop his claim.

Further Reading: – Using Sneaker Proxies for Profit.

Can a Football Tournament Transform the Russian Economy

There are of course only a few sporting events which have the potential to affect an economy as large as Russia’s.  Indeed the Olympics and the World Cup are probably the only two that come even close.  Despite some incredible sounding predictions it still seems unlikely that even one of the world’s biggest sporting events has the capacity to make even a small impact.

There’s no doubt that Russia’s economy needs a boost and it needs one fast. President Putin has pretty much been allowed to be flexible on the democratic process on the understanding that he brings prosperity and jobs to the Russian economy.  That has not been easy over the last  few years, with a huge fall in oil prices and the ongoing sanctions placed as a result of Russia’s international policies.

The World Cup has been seen by many Russians as a chance to start integrating Russia back into the world economic marketplace where it’s become increasingly isolated due to the Ukraine and Syria issues. The World cup is huge and brings plenty of potential in tourism and other related effects.  The last report published actually estimated that there could be a total impact of around $30 billion to the Russian economy.

This sounds a staggering amount but just to clarify the report suggests that this is the measured impact on GDP over the 10 years 2013 to 2023.  This is roughly the time scale of the project ranging from the initial infrastructure projects to the ongoing impact from these investments after the tournament has finished.

Of course, hosting the World cup isn’t cheap, indeed the Russian state has probably spend around $11 billion on the various infrastructure needed. However much of this spending has revolved around roads, transport links and stadiums which would have been built anyway even if the tournament hadn’t been held here.

Confusion like this is why these economic figures about sporting events are always so hotly disputed.  It’s extremely difficult to isolate costs and resulting benefits from the actual event especially when it comes to things like transport links.  Some of these investments can genuinely invigorate areas especially in isolated and neglected regions.  The problem is that economic benefits can easily be attributed to the event over this long time scale even if only some of this is genuinely attributable.

The easiest major benefit to measure is of course the tourism that the actual event brings.  There has been some trepidation from many football fans from attending this event, with rumours of Russian hooligans and worries about policing.  It’s important that tourists have a great time and these impacts are minimal as they can also have a long term effect on Russian tourism well after the event has finished.

Obviously many people will not risk travelling to the country for a variety of reasons, however football fans are usually extremely hardy and will support their teams whatever the costs.  Many will prefer to enjoy the tournament from home and digital streaming, perhaps watching Match of the Day stream across the internet. Yet the tournament will almost certainly be a sell out with transport links from European countries fairly reliable and inexpensive.

Russia has of course, already invested heavily in another sporting event this decade in the form of the 2014 Winter Olympics.   Spending on that was reported as being over $50 billion which seems incredible, and if true made them by far the most expensive Winter games in history.

Ultimately though, these events are worth even more than money to the President Putin – they are a way of promoting national prestige.  With Russia facing many challenges abroad with their overseas policy these sporting events are an ideal way of promoting Russia on the international stage.

Further Reading: http://httpproxy.us/sneaker-proxies-and-servers/

 

French State Offer Debt Relief

The French railway network is often cited as a fantastic example of how a national railway network can be run. There’s no doubt that it provides a fantastic service to people throughout the country, but whether it’s an efficient system is a completely different matter.

The SNCF Network is literally drowning in debt, latest estimates for last year suggest that it has a debt of over 46 billion Euros and it’s continuing to rise.  Some experts believe that it will reach over 50 billion by the end of the decade given current progression.  Needless to say this is a huge amount of debt for any organisations to service, let alone reduce in any meaningful way.

President Macron has been under pressure to do something about this debt and reform the industry.  His latest announcement suggests  that there will be some relief for SNCF with the French state taking over part or all of this debt burden over the next few years.  There was no exact amount specified but it will probably be linked to the extent of the reforms that Macron is proposing.

The president suggested that the SNCF is more than 30% less efficient than other European rail networks.  Many have criticised the amount that the state has invested in it’s railway infrastructure, but the figures suggest that it is not the amount but how it has been invested.

The figures are obviously huge and indeed are actually so big that they will significantly effect the French Government’s own debt to GDP figures.  There are some economists who forecast that taking over the whole debt may even push France over the politically sensitive 100% ratio where the Government owes more than it earns.

If the State does take over the debt it is seen as vital that there are significant reforms to the corporation as part of that deal.  It is unlikely considering the President’s politics that any deal would be sanctioned without some serious cost cutting measures being implemented along side it.

Many British people look longingly over at the French railway network’s performance and wish the same could be implemented here.  Yet it’s obvious to those who keep an eye out on French politics and current affairs that this is a real political issue in France. Indeed many rightly point out that the UK system is actually much more efficient at least in monetary terms than the network run by SNCF.  It’s easy to sit and watch news reports from the UK TV about how waiting times and delays on UK networks without realising how much the French actually spend on theirs.  Incidentally, if you want to access these reports from the BBC – this application can allow access to BBC iPlayer from France.

President Macron has insisted that the debt would be taken over only when his reforms are actually being carried out. There are already many strikes taking place in the transport sector and efficiency reforms within SNCF are almost certainly going to lead to more when implemented.

Further Reading: http://httpproxy.us/using-residential-ips-backconnect-rotating-proxies/

Facebook’s Mining Digital Gold

In the last few weeks, people have started to realise that sites like Facebook have something of a darker side. Indeed it’s now much easier to see that these social sites are not nearly as friendly and inconsequential as we first imagined.

I’ve just read a few reports on Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before the US Senate and it’s great to see this mist rising.  Indeed one commentator mentioned that it appeared that data is the new oil and sites like Facebook were simply mining it for their own benefit.

There seems to be a plan that Facebook is deflecting their role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal by making out their an injured party too.  Let’s not be fooled by this, Facebook know that their entire business model is built on making money out of their customer’s data. They didn’t directly sell the data but they sold the right for apps developers to make profit from their users.

It’s understandable that a few will always quickly seize the chance to make a fast buck out of new technology. There has always been a problem with laws and legislation keeping up with these revolution.  Just like the industrial revolutions of the 19th century, there will be losers and winners and legislation will trail behind ironing out the flaws and inequalities.

Facebook is right to be worried though, these revelations about user’s data and political manipulation will upset many, many people. When you login to your Facebook account to see the banal updates from friends and distant acquaintances most of us are not expecting our profiles to end up being stored in some dodgy firm’s database.  Worst still we don’t expect our privacy to be simply ignored in the pursuit of profits and political gains.

We may think that those who post their lives up on social networking sites can expect little privacy. However even those who only use conservatively are actually revealing a huge amount of our digital and real lives. You might not post huge numbers of status updates, but you’ll click on ads and ‘like’ posts without thinking about it.  Even these are building up an extremely accurate profile about who you are and what you believe in. If you’ve ever been followed around by adverts for something you searched for weeks ago, you’ll know how pervasive this stuff can become.

Many people think that they have a level of anonymity when they’re online but that’s a myth.  Even the most paranoid have digital footprints which are mined and analysed by such companies. You can take efforts to extend your privacy but it’s not simple. For example to hide your location and identity from a website you visit then you have to take significant precautions.  You can use things like VPNs to encrypt your data and invest in  a false IP address from a residential IP provider to keep some level of privacy but how many do this.

Mind you as soon as you start posting anything for sharing with your friends on sites like Facebook that goes straight out of the window. This stuff is big business, there are companies making millions behind the scene.  The parent company of Google is called Alphabet – it’s 20 years old and is now valued at about $500 billion (it was worth 50% a week or so ago!).

This is the value of our data, and the reason that these companies are worth so much.  Their justifications and rights are all hidden in the terms and conditions which likely none of us have read when we created our accounts.   It’s important that we gain some control back on our data, we’ve had a glimpse of what it can do and what it’s worth. When you consider that huge political decisions can be manipulated by people who have access to this data then we can see how high the stakes really are.

Source and Further Reading – http://residentialip.net/ 

Will Russia Gain a World Cup Boost

For football fans everywhere, there was some trepidation when Russia was announced as the host of this years world cup.  However so far the fears seem to have been unfounded at least with regards the infrastructure required to host such an event.  Obviously the main fears are around potential violence and what sort of welcome football fans will receive but it’s likely that these will not be issues either as President Putin is keen to use the event to promote Russia.

He won’t be the first leader to bank on a huge economic boost on the back of the tournament. However in passed years this has not been as large as hoped for, certainly the South African economy didn’t benefit quite as much as many had hoped. Yet it certainly will bring an exciting atmosphere to the football fans who are little bit more adventurous than those of us who simply what Match of the Day online on a Saturday night!

So what can the economy expect? Well it will almost certainly bring a short term boost to the economy in many sectors. The Russian Central Bank is hoping that the boost can be somewhat targeted as it has placed stadiums in areas of the country which need this sort of investment. The increase in spending was probably required anyway, so the chance to recoup some investment is certainly welcomed by Putin.  He is of course hoping to showcase the country as a global superpower once again, and it’s likely that spending will be fairly lavish in some public facing areas as well as in security.

There should be a growth in jobs and a similar increase in the demand for consumer services and products.  This should continue the positive growth that the Russian economy has experienced in the last year after a sharp fall in the previous two years largely related to the oil price.

The tournament is spread over 11 cities and it is believed will generate an additional .2% of gross domestic product in both the second and third quarters.  This doesn’t sound huge but it is in fact a very large rise in response to a single event like this.  President Putin’s hold on power though is heavily reliant on improving the living standards of the average Russian.  There is a danger here though in that inflation is likely to rise particularly in those cities as thousands of visitors arrive in a short time.

These price rises will likely occur in things like hotels plus ordinary goods and services in line with the increased demand. .The Russian authorities are however likely to clamp down on any excessive profiteering and abusing visitors. Many visitors have been in fact attempting to bypass these price rises by booking using a Russian IP address like this in order to access domestic prices wherever possible.

Is the Irish recovery in Jeopardy ?

The Irish economy is probably one of the  most studied in the world.  Despite it’s size – estimated at less than 0.5% of the Worlds economy, it’s quoted and studied by economists across the planet.  Only last week I read several articles in the Chinese press reporting on the Housing Boom/Bust and the effects of Brexit on the Irish economy.

One of the reasons is that the Irish have a cultural reach far beyond it’s tiny size and a high profile in many of the world’s biggest economies. Most British and Americans for example where well aware of the rise and subsequent fall of the Irish economy  in the first decade of this century.  It’s often covered in the US and UK media and during the boom year a decade ago the success of the Irish economy was well covered on the BBC News (check here for access via a VPN).

However another reason for it’s popularity with economists is that the Irish economy is often seen as a microcosm for advanced western style democratic nations.  They have targeted and in many senses succeeded in attracting high value/high tech businesses through offering competitive corporate tax rates.  Indeed many companies like Dell and Microsoft sell good s and service to the much larger UK market just across the sea.

However although the Irish economy was successful, expanding much quicker than most European countries  -it’s over investment and huge housing boom led to a spectacular crash in 2008. It’s taken a long time and many sacrifices by the population for the economy to recover, and in recent years has started to experience more modest growth.  However many worry that history is about to repeat itself.

That gentle recovery fueled by several austerity budgets has started to gain speed.  In 2017 the Irish economy grew by over 5%, the highest growth in the Euro-Zone for the fourth successive year.  It looks great news yet as we know, GDP rises are not the only indicator of an economy’s success.

There are problems, for example Ireland has one of the highest per-capita GDP figures in the world, much higher than  the UK or Germany for example.  Yet despite this high level of productivity, wages are still quite subdued and the property prices are rapidly approaching the high levels of the previous boom years.  The result a hugely successful economy where it’s citizens can’t afford to buy property is always a cause for concern.

Some of the success is indeed slightly artificial due to the relative undervalue of the single currency.  It is the same reason that Germany has always been so successful, a German Mark or Irish Punt would have a much higher value than the Euro does.  This is often a criticism of the single currency where the highly competitive and efficient economies benefit from the low valuation of the Euro where as less competitive countries like Greece always struggle.  There are full lists of these in the economic data sections of the BBC website, check out also some of the content on BBC News which you can access here from abroad.

The Irish recovery has been impressive although it has taken many years,. so why are we worried?  Well the economic success doesn’t always seem to be filtering through to the Irish people and budgets.  Some of that is due to the fact that much of the success is merely on ‘the books’ where foreign firms are allocating profits to Irish branches in order to benefit from the low corporation tax.  The level of unemployment is still much higher than across in the UK – most countries with high growth levels do not tend to have 9% of the population unemployed.

The worry is that the Irish economy overheats again under the rising prices of property.  The problem is that the main instrument to control this is higher interest rates but as these are set in Germany then there’s a lack of control there.  Cyclical boon and bust scenarios are extremely damaging to ordinary citizens who often end up paying the price.