All posts by Francisco Marques Pereira

(CNBC) Trump says he talked to Apple CEO Tim Cook about tariffs and Samsung

(CNBC)

  • Trump said Cook made a “good case” that it would be difficult for Apple to pay tariffs, when Samsung does not face the same hurdle because much of its manufacturing is in South Korea.
  • “I thought he made a very compelling argument,” Trump told reporters Sunday.
  • The president said on Friday he was having dinner with Apple’s CEO. 
GP: President Trump Participates In American Workforce Policy Advisory Board Meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., during an American Workforce Policy Advisory board meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump said he talked to Tim Cook about tariffs and Apple’s South Korean competitor Samsung.

Trump said Cook made a “good case” that it would be difficult for Apple to pay tariffs, when Samsung does not face the same hurdle because much of its manufacturing is in South Korea.

“I thought he made a very compelling argument,” Trump told reporters Sunday. The president said he was having dinner with Apple’s CEO on Friday. 

Trump has ordered 10% tariffs on an additional $300 billion in goods imported from China. Originally, all of those tariffs were scheduled to go into effect on Sept. 1, but Trump delayed some of the import duties until Dec. 15 over concerns about how they would impact the holiday shopping season.

“It’s tough for Apple to pay tariffs if it’s competing with a very good company that’s not,” Trump said.

The tariffs delayed until December include consumer electronics such as cell phones. Apple’s stock closed up 4% on Tuesday after Trump made that decision. 

Apple is expected to release its new version of the iPhone in September.

(EUobserver) EU mulls naval mission to Persian Gulf

(EUobserver) According to a German advisory note, the EU should send a European naval mission to the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, writes the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. The German government would launch the idea at one of the informal European meetings in Helsinki at the end of August. According to the note, the mission would need five frigates, two corvettes and protection teams with planes and logistical ships.

P.O. (AJ) Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail

P. O.

By ruling independently from the UK, Gibraltar proved behond any doubt that they are independent in a high profile case , like this one, and they gained the support of all the Iran aligned Countries.

Regardless of the merits, or not, of the case , Gibraltar scored big, and will earn many dividents from this decision in the future.

Please bear in mind that i detest the Iranian regime, which i think is a religious and imperialist dictatorship run by fundamentalists that are, in my opinion, politically  mentally retarded  muslims.

But my opinion does not affect my strategic reasoning in the Gibraltar case.

Francisco (Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira




(AJ) Ruling to release vessel that was commandeered by UK came despite last-minute US attempt to detain it.14 hours ago

Gibraltar’s Supreme Court has ruled that a seized Iranian oil tanker is free to sail, just hours after the United States made a last-minute attempt to keep the vessel under detention, authorities said. 

Grace 1 had been commandeered by the British Royal Marines off the coast of Gibraltar on July 4 on suspicion it was carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Iran had denied the accusation and called the seizure “an act of piracy” committed at the behest of the US.

The tanker, which remained docked off the coast of the British territory off Spain’s southern coast into Thursday evening, has since become a pawn in the escalating tensions between Iran and the US.

The Gibraltar government on Thursday reiterated its conviction that the ship had been bound for Syria with $140m worth of light crude oil on board, in violation of separate EU and US sanctions. The boat’s navigation plan “showed a fully marked-out route” from the Gulf to the Syrian port of Baniyas, the government said. 

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he had met Iranian officials on July 19 in London “with a will for a de-escalation with regard to all the various problems arising from the detention of the Grace 1”.

The Supreme Court decision to release the tanker came on Thursday after Iran guaranteed in writing that the Grace 1 would not be heading to countries “subject to European Union sanctions” once it left the port, and therefore the ship was “no longer subject to detention”, Chief Justice Anthony Dudley said.

Later on Thursday, the United Kingdom‘s Foreign Office called on Iran to stand by its pledge that the ship would not sail for Syria.

Gibraltar officials said a last-minute appeal from the US to extend the detention was not considered an official request before the Supreme Court, so they went ahead with the release. 

“As far as the judge here is concerned at the Supreme Court, the Grace 1 is free to leave right now,” Al Jazeera’s Andrew Simmons, reporting from Gibraltar, said. 

Possible swap

The ruling came after a day of confusion surrounding the tanker, with the government in Gibraltar saying plans to release the vessel had been delayed by the last-minute request from the US Department of Justice to extend its detention.  

The US request will be reviewed by the territory’s Independent Mutual Legal Assistance authority, which can decide whether a separate court case can take place, Picardo told reporters. If the review were to happen before Grace 1 left Gibraltar’s waters, the detention could still be extended.

It was not immediately clear if there was a crew willing and able to man the ship, but Iran’s ambassador to Britain, Hamid Baeidinejad, tweeted after the court ruling that the ship would “soon leave Gibraltar”.

Grace 1 Tanker Released

The captain of Grace 1 and three officers had been released from detention in preparation for the vessel’s release [Jon Nazca/Reuters]

It also remained unclear if the decision would prompt Iran to release the British-flagged Stena Impero, which the Islamic Republic had seized in the Strait of Hormuz on July 19. At the time, Iran said the vessel had collided with a fishing boat and violated international law, but later Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to suggest that if the UK released Grace 1, then his country would return Stena Impero. 

A spokesman for the Stena Impero’s owner said after the ruling that the situation remained unchanged and that the company awaited further developments from the UK and Iran.

“Now this is a way for both sides to defuse the situation and save face,” Al Jazeera’s Assed Baig, reporting from Tehran, said.

In its statement, the UK foreign office denied that there had been any link “between Iran’s unacceptable and illegal seizure of, and attacks on, commercial shipping vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the enforcement of EU Syria sanctions by the Government of Gibraltar.”

Escalating tensions

The US and Iran have traded barbs and accusations as tensions have risen over the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway between Oman and Iran through which a fifth of the world’s oil is transported.

Since May, the US has repeatedly accused Iran of sabotaging tankers in the strait, an accusation Iran has denied. 

In June, Iran downed a US military surveillance drone in the Gulf with a surface-to-air missile. Tehran said the drone was in its airspace, while Washington said it was in international skies.

The US military has since deployed additional forces, including an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers, to the Middle East as tensions have mounted. It also began a joint naval mission in the region with the UK, who were prompted to join by the seizure of the Stena Impero.

On Thursday, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif derided Washington’s last-minute attempt to seize the tanker, accusing the US of trying to “steal our property on the high seas”.

“Having failed to accomplish its objectives through its #EconomicTerrorism – including depriving cancer patients of medicine – the US attempted to abuse the legal system to steal our property on the high seas,” Zarif tweeted on Thursday, referring to US sanctions that Iranian officials say have prevented cancer patients from receiving medicines. 

He added: “This piracy attempt is indicative of Trump (administration’s) contempt for the law.”

In preparations for the tanker’s release, the captain of Grace 1, an Indian national, and three officers had been released from detention on Thursday, the Gibraltar government said.

(GUA) Donald Trump reportedly wants to purchase Greenland from Denmark

(GUA) US president has ‘expressed interest’ in the icy territory, according to the Wall Street Journal, but the Danes have yet to weigh in

Icebergs in Greenland. Trump is said to be exploring the idea with ‘varying degrees of seriousness’.
 Icebergs in Greenland. Trump is said to be exploring the idea with ‘varying degrees of seriousness’. Photograph: Mstyslav Chernov/AP

Donald Trump is fond of bragging about his conspicuous wealth and buying power, plastering his name over buildings and gilding the elevators of Trump Tower. But his latest reported aspiration is on the extravagant side, even for him: to purchase Greenland from Denmark.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the US president has “expressed interest” in buying the expansive icy territory and has asked his aides to explore the possibility. He has even sought the view of the White House counsel, though the Journal noted his inquiries came “with varying degrees of seriousness”.

News that Trump had set his sights on acquiring a meaty chunk of the Kingdom of Denmark set Twitter aflutter on Thursday night. Pundits tried in vain to find a real estate valuation for the 811,000 square miles on Zillow, while others attempted to calculate Greenland’s worth in pickled herring.

Despite the levity the idea has provoked, it is not entirely in the realm of fantasy. In 1946 US President Harry Truman tried to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100m but was rebuffed. There was a more successful precedent dating back to 1917 when the US acquired the Danish West Indies, rebranding them the US Virgin Islands.

The US military already has a major airbase on Greenland, on the north-west of the island. The base has 600 personnel and is important in the country’s global radar system.

Trump travels to Denmark next month in his first official visit to the kingdom, though Greenland is not thought to be on the agenda. The Journal reported that the president raised the issue at a dinner last year in which he said he had heard Denmark was finding its financial support to the self-governing territory burdensome.

Floating the thought of the US buying the island, he asked the other guests: “What do you guys think about that?”

What Denmark thinks about that is in itself not at all clear. The Guardian asked the Danish embassy in Washington for a comment but did not receive an immediate response.

(Reuters) UK government would win no confidence vote says energy minister – Sky News

(Reuters) LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government would win a vote of no confidence put forward by the opposition Labour Party, energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Friday.

On Thursday Labour urged rebel lawmakers in the ruling Conservatives to help block a no-deal Brexit by bringing down Johnson’s administration and allowing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to form a caretaker government before a general election.

“I’m strongly of the view that the government would win a vote of no confidence, I don’t see Jeremy Corbyn being able to come together with the numbers, nor do I see any prospect of him leading a so called national unity government,” Kwarteng told Sky News.

“He’s the most unpopular leader of the opposition we’ve ever had and the idea that he’s going to lead a unity government I think is ridiculous,” he said.

(RTP) Portugal cresceu 1,8% e situa-se acima da média europeia

(RTP) Portugal resiste ao abrandamento económico europeu e cresceu 1,8 por cento no segundo trimestre na comparação com o mesmo período do ano passado. Está também assim da média europeia.

O turismo e a diminuição das importações ajudaram o país a resistir à conjuntura internacional.

Já a economia da Alemanha recuou, seguindo a tendência de abrandamento iniciada em 2017.

(ECO) Não são só motoristas. Há outra greve da qual não se ouve falar

(ECO) Os trabalhadores dos Registos e Notariado começaram a greve ao mesmo tempo que os motoristas, mas estão a passar despercebidos no radar dos portugueses. Há muitas semelhanças entre as duas greves.

A atualidade nacional tem sido marcada pela greve dos motoristas, que suscitou receios de falta de combustível neste período que é tipicamente de férias. Mas ao mesmo tempo está em curso outra greve, numa área que também esteve na baila neste verão. São os trabalhadores dos Registos e Notariado, que estão em protesto desde o início da semana.

Se precisou de tratar de algo como o Cartão de Cidadão (CC), ou até mesmo marcar o seu casamento no civil, nos últimos dias, pode ter reparado que existem alguns constrangimentos. Mesmo assim, estes podem não ser encarados como algo fora do comum, já que as filas e marcações demoradas para o Cartão do Cidadão e passaporte foram notícia neste verão.Trabalhadores dos Registos em greve contra sistema Ler Mais

As semelhanças com a greve dos motoristas são várias, com exceção da atenção que tem recebido. Para os dois serviços foram decretados serviços mínimos, que ambos contestam. E as paralisações começaram as duas na segunda-feira, numa altura em que têm impacto, por razões diferentes.

No caso dos motoristas afeta, entre muitos outros, aqueles que vão de férias e precisam de combustível. Já os balcões do Instituto dos Registos e Notariado (IRN) são visitados nesta altura nomeadamente por emigrantes, que podem precisar de tratar de assuntos quando regressam ao país, razão pela qual o serviço de renovação do CC foi incluído no Kit Emigrante lançado pelo Governo.

As estruturas sindicais dos trabalhadores do IRN convocaram a greve no seguimento da aprovação, em Conselho de Ministros, do decreto-lei que procede à revisão do estatuto remuneratório dos trabalhadores das carreiras especiais de conservador de registos e de oficial de registos, no final de julho.Registos e Notariado em greve entre 12 e 17 de agosto Ler Mais

Para o Sindicato dos Trabalhadores dos Registos e Notariado (STRN), a proposta do Governo “não reconhece e valoriza as remunerações dos trabalhadores dos Registos e Notariado – dado que reduz salários e não valoriza os legítimos direitos e as verdadeiras expectativas de quem se encontra nestas carreiras”, explicam em comunicado.

É um “ataque sem precedentes ao sistema registral português”, reiteraram na altura em que marcaram a greve. Outro dos motivos de protesto é que sejam criadas melhores condições de higiene e segurança no trabalho. Os sindicatos reivindicam ainda que faltam cerca de 1.500 trabalhadores para desempenhar as funções que lhes são confiadas.

Para além do STRN, cuja paralisação se estende até dia 17 e recomeça de 19 a 23 de agosto, também outros sindicatos estão em greve. A Associação Sindical dos Conservadores dos Registos e a Federação Nacional dos Sindicatos dos Trabalhadores em Funções Públicas e Sociais estão em protesto até 17 de agosto. Já o Sindicato Nacional dos Registos vai parar a 16 e 26 de agosto e 2, 9, 23 e 30 de setembro.

Governo decreta serviços mínimos e fala em trabalho de ano e meio

Face a estas greves, que podem afetar o funcionamento das conservatórias e de outros balcões, nomeadamente, nas Lojas de Cidadão, o Governo decidiu decretar serviços mínimos. Estes englobam a entrega de Cartão de Cidadão (CC) urgente e muito urgente, o pedido, emissão e entrega de Cartão de Cidadão provisório, a realização de casamentos civis agendados antes do aviso de greve, urgentes, em situação de iminência de parto ou de morte, e a realização de testamentos em iminência de morte (in articulo mortis).

O Executivo sublinha também que estão disponíveis os serviços online do Portal de Serviços Públicos ou do Portal da Justiça, onde é possível fazer pedidos de segunda via do Cartão de Cidadão (necessário em caso de perda ou de roubo), de renovação do CC para maiores de 25 anos, de alteração da morada no CC, e a consulta de certidões e atos de registo civil, predial, comercial ou automóvel.

No que diz respeito às reivindicações, o Governo pronunciou-se também, relembrando que “o novo estatuto resultou de um intenso trabalho de cerca de ano e meio que incluiu as estruturas sindicais e reflete muitas das reivindicações apresentadas por estas, designadamente em matéria de remunerações”.

O Ministério da Justiça aponta que “o reposicionamento remuneratório dos trabalhadores representa um acréscimo de despesa que ascende a 136 mil euros anuais”, e acrescenta que “está também previsto o reforço dos recursos humanos, com a admissão de 100 novos conservadores, cuja remuneração, apenas no período de ingresso, significa um dispêndio de cerca de 2,3 milhões de euros”. Quanto às condições de trabalho, avança que está em prática um Plano de Requalificação de Infraestruturas dos Registos.

Greve com adesão de 90%

Em resposta ao comunicado do Ministério da Justiça, o STRN aponta que “o único concurso aberto foi para 35 assistentes técnicos, quando faltam 139″, e que “faltam ainda 199 conservadores e 1.353 oficiais de registo”, reiterando assim que o anúncio do reforço de 100 novos conservadores não corresponde ao que se verificou até ao momento.

Recorda ainda que, apesar de o Governo mencionar, no comunicado, o trabalho com as estruturas sindicais para a elaboração do novo estatuto remuneratório destes trabalhadores, “não aceitou nenhuma das propostas” dos sindicatos e “violou as regras da negociação coletiva”.

O STRN diz que, no balanço dos primeiros dias de greve, registou uma adesão a nível nacional de 85% a 90%, e prevê que este número se mantenha elevado até ao final. Os 10 a 15% dos trabalhadores não aderiram à greve fizeram-no para assegurar os serviços mínimos, que o sindicato diz terem sido “ilegalmente fixados por um acórdão, que se encontra em recurso no Tribunal da Relação de Lisboa e que obteve já pronuncia favorável do Ministério Público”.

Na altura em que anunciou a greve para agosto, o sindicato adiantou também que vai marcar mais greves e manifestações consecutivas até às eleições legislativas de outubro.

Atrasos nas conservatórias e serviços encerrados

Apesar de não ter tanta visibilidade como os motoristas, o STRN garante que já se sente o impacto da greve. Ao terceiro dia “já se sentem atrasos nas conservatórias”,porque “há evidente indisponibilidade nos serviços de balcão e os pedidos ‘online’ não estão a ser satisfeitos”, revelou o presidente do STRN, Arménio Maximino, num ponto de situação sobre a greve, no Porto, citado pela Agência Lusa. Há também “serviços totalmente encerrados”.

Fazendo lembrar as declarações do Sindicato dos Motoristas de Matérias Perigosas, que defendeu que os motoristas não deveriam trabalhar mais do que oito horas, os trabalhadores dos registos também vão cumprir apenas o horário estipulado. “Pedimos aos trabalhadores para que não trabalhem fora de horas porque não são remunerados adequadamente”, disse Arménio Maximino.

“Pedimos que cumpram escrupulosamente o seu horário até que o Governo reconheça a importância da sua atividade para a sociedade portuguesa e para a economia”, completou o líder sindical.

(EN) Germany’s meat tax: Step forward, or wurst idea?

(EN)

Germany's meat tax: Step forward, or wurst idea?

Germany, famous for its love of sausage, is debating a special tax on meat. The aim? To improve the welfare and conditions of livestock.

But would it work? Has it been considered elsewhere in Europe? And could there be other reasons to change consumer behaviour when it comes to meat?

It’s a big deal in a country where meat matters. The average German eats 80 kilograms of meat per year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) — twice the global average. (The U.S. is highest.)

Who proposed a higher meat tax in Germany?

The idea originally came from the German Animal Protection Association, which suggested a levy in order to pay for better animal husbandry.

“Meat and other animal products are too cheap and sometimes sold at low prices, so animal welfare is not possible, and price pressures are forcing farmers to keep more animals in ever smaller spaces,” the association’s president, Thomas Schröder, told Euronews.

He said animals are forced into are spaces too small for their welfare. “They are castrated without anaesthetisation, cattle have their horns cut off just so that the animals can be kept in a small space.”

A small levy on the price of meat, he said, could be used specifically for improving farming standards, whereas a higher tax would simply generate more revenue for the government.

“Unlike a tax that is not earmarked and simply flows into the federal budget, a levy could be used directly for more animal welfare in farm animal husbandry, such as more space for the animals,” Schröder said.

However, politicians — including some with the centre-left SPD and Greens — have advocated raising VAT instead. Meat in Germany benefits from a reduced rate of 7%, and it has been suggested that this could be raised to the standard VAT rate of 19%.

Friedrich Ostendorff, agricultural policy spokesman for the Green Party, said he is in favour of ending the reduced rate for meat “and earmarking it for more animal welfare.”

German Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner said that, whatever the method, it was necessary for consumers to bear some of the higher costs involved in better facilities for livestock.

What do Germans think?

The immediate concern with the VAT proposal is that extra revenue would not be earmarked for animal welfare — a fear confirmed by the Ministry of Finance, which said it did not have a mechanism for separating VAT revenues based on meat sales from revenue on other transactions.

Many politicians in Angela Merkel’s ruling CDU, as well as the FDP and AfD parties, are also opposed to the change.

Secretary General of the German Farmers’ Association, Bernhard Krüsken, said a meat tax was in any case not enough to compensate for the changes that farms would need to make.

Besides, Krüsken said, German government policy is currently to limit the construction of new agricultural facilities.”We need a binding strategy for livestock, which is thought through to the end,” he said.

Forcing shoppers onto cheaper meat

Critics say a side-effect of higher meat prices would be that consumers would switch to cheaper meat likely to be less healthy or have lower production standards. This effect would be magnified when it comes to already-expensive organic meat.

Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein, chairman of the Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft, Germany’s organic food association, also sees this as a problem.

“With a flat-rate meat tax, one achieves the opposite of what one intends,” he said. “The demand is directed precisely to products made under the lowest standards.”

Instead, he suggested, organic or less environmentally-harmful products of all kinds should be given the reduced VAT rate.

However, Schröder of the German Animal Protection Federation said the cost to consumers of its original proposal had been estimated at no more than 60 euros per household per year.

Other meat tax plans

The idea of raising meat prices has been considered before, but in the context of dampening consumer demand because of the environmental impact of intensive livestock farming.

There are also health considerations.

In 2015 the World Health Organisation said that processed meat, such as sausage and bacon, and unprocessed red meat was putting consumers at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

study by Mike Rayner, professor of population health at Oxford University, suggested a red meat tax of about 20% and a processed meat tax of 100% to offset healthcare costs. Under those conditions, he said, the consumption of processed meat would drop by an average of 16%.

While higher tax is never popular, measures to change consumer behaviour have proven successful in Britain.

In Scotland, the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing has seen a drop in alcohol consumption, while the use of plastic carrier bags from supermarkets has been significantly reduced by the introduction of mandatory charges.

(EN) British MPs running out of options to block no-deal Brexit, report warns

(EN)

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson on August 7, 2019.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson on August 7, 2019. -CopyrightREUTERS/Toby Melville/Pool

Stopping the UK from leaving the European Union without a deal is “very unlikely” due to the lack of time to secure a new agreement and reduced opportunities for lawmakers to legislate against it, the Institute for Government has concluded in a report.

The UK-based thinktank highlights that although the country’s new Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated preferring to leave the bloc with a deal, the scope of that happening is very slim.

MPs are currently on summer recess and are not scheduled to get back to Westminster until September 3. Johnson has stressed that the UK would leave the EU by October 31 “do or die,” leaving just 58 days for the two parties to meet for negotiations, agree on a new deal and have it approved by their respective parliaments.

The British leader wants the EU to abandon the backstop arrangement which plans for Northern Ireland to remain in the bloc’s customs union to prevent a hard border — which the EU has continuously rejected.

READ MORE: Why is the Irish backstop so important to Brexit

If no new deal is agreed, and with the legal default being a no-deal Brexit, lawmakers opposed to such an event are unlikely to be able to derail the process, the report notes.

Joe Owen, Brexit director at the Institute for Government, explained that “MPs looking to force the government into a change of approach face a huge challenge when parliament returns.”

“Even if they can assemble a majority for something, they may find few opportunities to make their move — and time is running out.”

Deploying the “nuclear option” — a vote of no confidence — would probably not block a no-deal exit either.

Should the government lose — which would require at least one Conservative lawmaker to rebel — it would still be allowed to remain in power during a 14 day-period even if an alternative government could be found or call a second vote which could cancel out the first one.

With snap elections requiring a five-week build-up by law, “Johnson could try to set a date after 31 October, thereby ensuring that the UK left without a deal first,” the report states.

Holding a second referendum before the Brexit deadline also appears unlikely as it would need government support and another extension to Article 50.

In an interview with the Tiroler Tageszeitung newspaper over the weekend, outgoing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that “the British would be the big losers” in a no-deal Brexit scenario.

He reiterated that the EU was not open to new sweeping negotiations and stressed that it is “fully prepared even though some in Britain say we are not well set up for a ‘no deal’ (Brexit).”

(JN) Portugal foi uma das cinco economias do euro que não travaram

(JN)Portugal foi uma das apenas cinco economias da Zona Euro que não travaram no segundo trimestre. As maiores economias do euro desaceleraram e a Alemanha até contraiu.

As nuvens negras chegaram à Zona Euro, mas Portugal parece, para já, escapar. Tal como a Holanda, a Finlândia, o Chipre e a Letónia, a economia portuguesa escapou à desaceleração no segundo trimestre de 2019, período em que a economia alemã contraiu. 

De acordo com os dados publicados esta quarta-feira, 14 de agosto, pelo Eurostat, houve dois países da Zona Euro a acelerar de abril a junho, três a estabilizar e sete países a desacelerar. Ainda há vários países para os quais não há dados: a Estónia, Irlanda, Grécia, Luxemburgo, Eslovénia e Eslováquia. Ao todo há 19 países na Zona Euro.

No seu conjunto, o PIB da Zona Euro cresceu 0,2% em cadeia (do primeiro trimestre para o segundo trimestre) e 1,1% em termos homólogos (em comparação com o segundo trimestre de 2018). No primeiro trimestre de 2019, o PIB tinha crescido 0,4%, em cadeia, e 1,2%, em termos homólogos.

A maior travagem na Zona Euro foi protagonizada pela Alemanha cuja economia desacelerou 0,5 pontos percentuais face ao primeiro trimestre, contraindo 0,1% em cadeia. Também Itália, França e Espanha – as outras três maiores economias do euro – desaceleraram, levando o PIB da Zona Euro inevitavelmente a perder ritmo como previam os economistas. 

Contudo, também houve algumas surpresas pela positiva. Desde logo, foi esse o caso de Portugal onde o PIB cresceu 0,5% em cadeia, mantendo o ritmo registado no arranque do ano. Com este resultado, Portugal continuou a registar um crescimento acima da média da Zona Euro. Neste trimestre foram as exportações que suportaram o PIB dado que o investimento – que tinha sido a “estrela” do primeiro trimestre – perdeu dinamismo, segundo a informação do Instituto Nacional de Estatística (INE).

Dentro da Zona Euro, também a Holanda (0,5%) e Chipre (0,7%) conseguiram manter o ritmo de crescimento registado no primeiro trimestre.

A contrariar a travagem económica estiveram a Finlândia e a Letónia onde a economia acelerou. O PIB da Finlândia avançou 0,3 pontos percentuais, crescendo 0,9% em cadeia, e o PIB da Letónia avançou 0,9 pontos percentuais, crescendo 0,8% em cadeia (-0,1% no primeiro trimestre).

Fora da União Europeia, apenas a República Checa e a Dinamarca escaparam à desaceleração. O PIB checo manteve o ritmo de crescimento ao passo que o PIB dinamarquês acelerou para um crescimento de 0,8% em cadeia. 

Entre as maiores travagens fora da Zona Euro estiveram a Bulgária, a Polónia e ainda a Suécia e o Reino Unido onde o PIB contraiu.

Esta análise é feita com os valores em cadeia, ou seja, a evolução do PIB entre trimestre, a qual permite aferir a tendência da economia. Na análise homóloga, onde se compara o trimestre com o mesmo do ano anterior, todas as economias cresceram à exceção de Itália que estagnou.

(Mirror) Facebook paid contractors to transcribe voice chats in Messenger app

(Mirror) Facebook claims the contractors were checking the accuracy of its voice-to-text service

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(Image: Getty)

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Facebook has been paying hundreds of outside contractors to transcribe voice chats carried out using the company’s Messenger app, it has emerged.

The contractors – many from outsourcing firm TaskUs – were able to hear Facebook users’ conversations, sometimes including “vulgar content”, according to Bloomberg .

They were not told where the audio was recorded or why it needed to be transcribed, only to transcribe it.

This led some contractors to feel their work was unethical, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.

Woman talking on mobile phone
(Image: Getty)
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Facebook has confirmed the anonymous reports that it has been transcribing users’ audio, and said it will no longer do so, following scrutiny of other companies.

“Much like Apple and Google , we paused human review of audio more than a week ago,” a spokesperson for the company said.

It added that contractors were checking the accuracy of Facebook’s voice-to-text service in Messenger, which uses artificial intelligence to transcribe conversations.

Users who were affected chose to have their voice chats transcribed in Messenger and granted access to their phone’s microphone for this purpose, according to Facebook.

However, they were not informed that clips of their conversations may be subjected to human review.

(Image: Bloomberg)
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Facebook’s data-use  policy states that its systems “automatically process content and communications you and others provide to analyse context and what’s in them.”

But it includes no mention of other human beings screening the content. 

The news comes after other major tech firms including Apple, Google and Amazon have all come under fire for their use of human workers to review voice recordings.

They claim that employees listen to these recordings in order to grade the responses of their AI voice assistants, and make them better at understanding and replying to users.

Apple and Google have both now paused their review programmes, and Amazon has given users the ability to opt out of having their voice recordings manually reviewed.

(EN) After 20 years in power, is Putin’s grip weakening?

(EN)

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 28, 2019.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Navy Day parade in Saint Petersburg, Russia July 28, 2019. -CopyrightSputnik/Aleksey Nikolskyi/Kremlin via REUTERS

Friday marks 20 years since Russian president Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin, back then a little known security services chief with not much experience in politics, as his prime minister.

Few would’ve guessed that 20 years later, the same man would still be in power and play such an important role in world affairs.

However, Putin’s 20th anniversary in power comes at a difficult time for the Kremlin’s top chief.

His approval ratings have taken a hit because of the stalling economy and worsening living standards.

A growing protest movement in Moscow, which has seen thousands arrested in recent weeks, is also posing a threat to Putin’s reign.

But despite the recent setbacks, Putin has undeniably built an empire on his own.

From friends to foes with the West

Early on in his tenure, Russia enjoyed strong economic growth, which Putin took credit for.

It was also a time when the leader appeared ready to work with the West. The Kremlin’s leader was one of the first to call then-president Bush and offer his sympathy after the September 11 attacks. He also helped the US fight the Taliban in Afghanistan and allowed the country to establish a military presence in Central Asia — a territory Russia sees as its own backyard, according to Reuters’ Russia correspondent Andrew Osborn.

But after the 2004 revolution in Ukraine, Putin’s attitude changed.

The Kremlin believed it was part of a foreign ploy to reduce Russia’s influence there and the West’s intervention in Iraq did not help the situation.

Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea helped ostracise it from the West but it strengthened Putin’s support at home and convinced many the Kremlin’s foreign policy was on the right track.

Questions over his leadership

Certain Russian liberals have questioned Putin’s command since the beginning, mainly because of his background in the KGB but also his crackdown on Chechen separatists as prime minister.

There are still doubts about a series of deadly bombings on an apartment complex attributed to separatists but some claim it was staged by the security services as a cover for further military intervention in Chechnya.

However, many still see Putin as the man who restored Russia’s dignity after the collapse of the USSR.

Economic woes mean trouble for Putin

Russia’s economic deterioration came as bad news for Putin who has seen his approval ratings slide.

In 2018, he won the presidential again but this time, political analysts were asking themselves whether his default win was because he had become Russia’s only choice.

According to political analyst Konstantin Kalachev, Putin’s ratings can be interpreted in different ways.

“Putin’s rating today is completely different from what it used to be. If it was a rating of adoration before, now it’s no alternative. For 20 years, Putin has been, let’s say, the loudest voice. But today people are looking for a different voice. And as soon as he appears, then the president’s rating may go down,” he said.

Last summer, after the elections, mass protests broke out across the country as dissatisfaction with living standards came to a head, leading some observers to talk about a different kind of breakdown in Russian society.

What will happen in the future?

Experts expect Putin and his team to find a way to stay in power even after his mandate is over in 2024.

Gregory Bovt, an analyst and commentator, told AFP this may happen through the creation of a new institution. “Some sort of collective body will be created to direct the country, and Putin will always remain the head,” he said.

“He will remain watching over the country… his task is to fulfil his historical mission,” Bovt said.

(DML) Could dimming the sun save the Earth? Bill Gates wants to spray millions of tonnes of dust into the stratosphere to stop global warming… but critics fear it could trigger calamity

(DML)

The plan sounds like science fiction — but could be fact within a decade; every day more than 800 giant aircraft would lift millions of tonnes of chalk dust to a height of 12 miles above the Earth’s surface and then sprinkle the lot high around the stratosphere.

In theory, the airborne dust would create a gigantic sunshade, reflecting some of the Sun’s rays and heat back into space, dimming those that get through and so protecting Earth from the worsening ravages of climate warming.

This is not the crackpot plan of a garden-shed inventor. The project is being funded by billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates and pioneered by scientists at Harvard University.

This initial $3 million test, known as Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) would use a high-altitude scientific balloon (pictured) to raise around 2kg of calcium carbonate dust — the size of a bag of flour — into the atmosphere 12 miles above the desert of New Mexico

This initial $3 million test, known as Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) would use a high-altitude scientific balloon (pictured) to raise around 2kg of calcium carbonate dust — the size of a bag of flour — into the atmosphere 12 miles above the desert of New Mexico

Indeed, the plans are so well advanced that the initial ‘sky-clouding’ experiments were meant to have begun months ago.

This initial $3 million test, known as Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx) would use a high-altitude scientific balloon to raise around 2kg of calcium carbonate dust — the size of a bag of flour — into the atmosphere 12 miles above the desert of New Mexico.

This would seed a tube-shaped area of sky half a mile long and 100 yards in diameter. For the ensuing 24 hours, the balloon would be steered by propellers back through this artificial cloud, its onboard sensors monitoring both the dust’s sun-reflecting abilities and its effects on the thin surrounding air.

SCoPEx is, however, on hold, amid fears that it could trigger a disastrous series of chain reactions, creating climate havoc in the form of serious droughts and hurricanes, and bring death to millions of people around the world.

One fear is that spreading dust (pictured) into the stratosphere may damage the ozone layer that protects us from hazardous ultraviolet radiation which can damage human DNA and cause cancers

One of the Harvard team’s directors, Lizzie Burns, admits: ‘Our idea is terrifying… But so is climate change.’ An advisory panel of independent experts is to assess all the possible risks associated with it.

So where did the idea for such a mind-boggling scheme come from?

The inspiration was in part spawned by a natural disaster. When the volcano Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded in 1991, it killed more than 700 people and left more than 200,000 homeless.

But it also gave scientists the chance to monitor the consequences of a vast chemical cloud in the stratosphere.

The volcano disgorged 20 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide high above the planet, where it formed droplets of sulphuric acid that floated around the globe for more than a year. These droplets acted like tiny mirrors to reflect sunlight.

The inspiration was in part spawned by a natural disaster. When the volcano Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines exploded in 1991 (pictured), it killed more than 700 people and left more than 200,000 homeless

As a result, global temperatures were reduced by 0.5c for around a year and a half.

This gave impetus to a idea of a dream ‘fix’ of global warming — and has been the subject of at least 100 academic papers.

But creating what amounts to a gigantic sunshade for the Earth may come at a high price, posing even greater risks than climate change itself.

One fear is that spreading dust into the stratosphere may damage the ozone layer that protects us from hazardous ultraviolet radiation which can damage human DNA and cause cancers.

In theory, the airborne dust would create a gigantic sunshade (in a similar way to a solar eclipse, pictured), reflecting some of the Sun’s rays and heat back into space, dimming those that get through and so protecting Earth from the worsening ravages of climate warming

Climatologists are also concerned that such tinkering could unintentionally disrupt the circulation of ocean currents that regulate our weather.

This itself could unleash a global outbreak of extreme climatic events that might devastate farmland, wipe out entire species and foster disease epidemics.

The potential for disaster does not even end there. Trying to dim the Sun’s rays would likely create climate winners and losers.

The project is being funded by billionaire and Microsoft founder Bill Gates (pictured)

Scientists may be able to set the perfect climatic conditions for farmers in America’s vast Midwest, but at the same time this setting might wreak drought havoc across Africa.

For it is not possible to change the temperature in one part of the world and not disturb the rest. Everything in the world’s climate is interconnected.

Furthermore, any change in global average temperature would in turn change the way in which heat is distributed around the globe, with some places warming more than others.

This, in turn, would affect rain levels. Heat drives the water cycle — in which water evaporates, forms clouds and drops as rain. Any heat alteration would cause an accompanying shift in rainfall patterns. But how and where exactly?

There is no way of predicting how the world’s long-term weather may respond to having a gigantic chemical sunshade plonked on top of it.

As one of the world’s leading climate experts Janos Pasztor — who advised at the UN’s Paris climate agreement and now works for New York’s highly respected Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative — warns: ‘If you make use of this technology and do it badly or ungoverned, then you can have different kinds of global risks created that can have equal, if not even bigger, challenges to global society than climate change.’

The technology may even spark terrible wars. For tinkering with our climate could send sky-high the potential for international suspicion and armed conflict.

Say, for example, the Chinese government — which already has been experimenting with climate-altering technology — used its burgeoning space-age scientific know-how to try to dust the stratosphere to protect its own agricultural yields.

The experiment would see a tube-shaped area of sky half a mile long and 100 yards in diameter. For the ensuing 24 hours, the balloon (similar to the example pictured) would be steered by propellers back through this artificial cloud, its onboard sensors monitoring both the dust’s sun-reflecting abilities and its effects on the thin surrounding air

Then two years later the monsoons fail in neighbouring Asian giant India, causing widespread starvation and disease. Even if the Chinese move had not actually caused the monsoons to fail, billions would blame them.

There is a further peril. The technology involved is seductively cheap, perhaps less than $10 billion a year. This means that an individual nation could use it for their own ends — perhaps as a weapon of war or blackmail.

What’s to stop a nation such as Russia interfering with our weather in the same way it has interfered with elections and social media opinions?

Nevertheless, Harvard scientists maintain that they can manage their brainchild safely.

For example, one of the SCoPEx team’s leaders, David Keith, a professor of applied physics, recently reported that by evenly seeding the entire global atmosphere with low levels of reflective dust, there should be a far lower risk of unexpected problems than is feared.

The technology may even spark terrible wars. For tinkering with our climate could send sky-high the potential for international suspicion and armed conflict. Pictured: A graphic showing the main geoengineering theories to help lower global temperatures

Professor Keith has also suggested that the world’s richer nations should club together to create a pooled global insurance fund to compensate poorer countries for any damage unintentionally caused by their sun-shield experimentation.

Critics point out that the promise of a stratospheric sunshade could encourage politicians and industrialists to decide that there is no need to do the hard, unpopular and expensive work of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mike Hulme, a Cambridge University professor of human geography and former scientist on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, says we could end up instead relying massively on technology to compensate for climate problems that our industries are causing.

He calls this spiralling problem ‘temperature debt’, because it is like amassing credit-card debts that can never be paid off. ‘It is a massive gamble,’ Professor Hulme warns. ‘Far better not to build up this debt in the first place.’

Even greater questions arise. How do you switch such a global cooling system off? And what unforeseen consequences would arise if you suddenly did so.

This dream ‘fix’ seems to have plenty of potential to become a global nightmare.

(Reuters) Chinese intervention in Hong Kong would be a ‘catastrophe’, Patten says

(Reuters) LONDON (Reuters) – Hong Kong’s last British governor Chris Patten on Tuesday cautioned that if China intervened in Hong Kong it would be a catastrophe and that Chinese President Xi Jinping should see the wisdom of trying to bring people together.

Patten said it was counter productive of the Chinese to warn of “other methods” if the protests did not stop.

“That would be a catastrophe for China and of course for Hong Kong,” Patten told BBC radio. “Since President Xi has been in office, there’s been a crackdown on dissent and dissidents everywhere, the party has been in control of everything.”

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a guarantee that under a ‘one country, two systems’ mode of governance, the city would retain a high degree of autonomy, an independent judiciary and freedoms not allowed in mainland China.

Demonstrations have plunged the Chinese-ruled territory into its most serious crisis in decades, presenting Chinese leader Xi with one of his biggest challenges since he came to power in 2012.

Demonstrators say they are fighting the erosion of the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

Patten said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson should ask U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton who is in London this week to get Washington to agree that it would be a “catastrophe” if China was to intervene in Hong Kong.

“I very much hope that even after 10 weeks of this going on, the government and President Xi will see the sense in establishing a way of actually bringing people together,” Patten said.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said on Tuesday the city’s recovery from protests that have swept the Asian financial hub could take a long time and that she would be responsible for rebuilding its economy “after the violence eases”.

Her comments followed serious developments in the growing crisis over the past week. Beijing said on Monday the protests had begun to show “sprouts of terrorism” and the city’s airport was closed.

“There is a degree of frustration and anger at the government refusing to give any sensible ground at all which probably provokes more violence,” Patten said.

“I can’t believe that any rational person in Carrie Lam’s position would actually argue the case against a commission of inquiry,” he said.

“What’s clearly needed is a process of reconciliation. It’s the only way I think you’ll put a cap on this and get back to peace and stability in Hong Kong.”

(BBC) Hong Kong protests disrupt airport for second day

(BBC)

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters (bottom) block access to the departure gates
Image captionLarge crowds are continuing to gather at the airport on Tuesday

Flight check-in has been suspended at Hong Kong International Airport for a second consecutive day because of anti-government protests.

The airport, which is one of the world’s busiest, has been the site of protests for five consecutive days.

Videos on social media show passengers struggling to get through demonstrators, who have been sitting inside blocking departures.

The city’s leader, Carrie Lam, earlier issued a fresh warning to protesters.

Ms Lam said Hong Kong had “reached [a] dangerous situation” and that violence during protests would push it “down a path of no return”.

As crowds continued to gather, Hong Kong airport officials announced that all check-ins were suspended from 16:30 local time (10:30 GMT) on Tuesday.

Some images from inside the airport appeared to show protesters using luggage trolleys to build barriers and some passengers becoming distressed.

A tourist (C) gives her luggage to security guards as she tries to enter the departures gate
Image captionSome struggled to get through crowds before flights were suspended

“Terminal operations at Hong Kong International Airport have been seriously disrupted as a result of the public assembly at the airport today,” the Airport Authority (AA) said in a statement.

Monday’s disruption had already led to hundreds of flight cancellations at the airport – one of the busiest international transport hubs.

Mass unrest has rocked Hong Kong for 10 weeks and shows no signs of abating.

Large protests started in response to a proposed extradition bill, which has now been suspended, but have evolved into a more demanding pro-democracy movement.

Protests are fuelled by fear that the freedoms Hong Kong enjoys as a special administrative region of China are being eroded.

On Tuesday the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, urged authorities to exercise restraint in their response to protests.