China launches an investigation into senior economic policymaker Liu Tienan for corruption, state media report.
Legendary investor says stock market is in state of “euphoria,” while economy is still in the dumps.
Continued here: Sam Zell says sell
Symantec’s Dublin hub, with 800 workers including 60 in its security division, plays a key part in global computer security
Inside the tightly controlled security area of Symantec’s Dublin headquarters, a screen on the wall flashes up hacking hotspots as they are detected around the world. Last year the company estimated it blocked nearly 250,000 cyber-attacks. One out of every 532 websites was infected with viruses, it said, and 1.6 million instances of malware were detected.
Overall, cyber-attacks were up 42% in 2012. They range from “hacktivist” targeting of industries such as defence to the fast-growing area of “ransomware” blackmail attempts, but more than a third of attacks focused on small- to medium-size businesses employing fewer than 500 people.
Orla Cox, the senior manager of security response at Symantec’s office in north-west Dublin, said hackers – including criminal gangs, individuals and even states – regarded smaller enterprises as “stepping stones” to enable them to attack larger corporations.
In a briefing last week, Cox also said Twitter was perceived as a weak link. Last month Syrian hackers claimed responsibility for a bogus tweet from an Associated Press account that sent stock markets into temporary freefall. “The security of Twitter is not strong and Twitter is going to have to do something about that,” Cox said.
Symantec’s Dublin hub, with 800 workers including 60 in its security division, plays a key part in global computer security because in terms of timezones it lies between the company’s two other main operations, in California and Tokyo.
The Irish office was the first to detect the Stuxnet virus, which has caused severe damage to the Iranian nuclear programme in Natanz. The virus, which entered the country’s nuclear industry system via computers sold to Iran from Europe, caused centrifuges used in uranium enrichment to spin out of control. Symantec is reluctant to state its view on the origin of the highly sophisticated virus but most security analysts believe Israel was behind it.
Cox said Stuxnet was probably not the end of it. She predicted those behind the virus were probably developing a new “son of Stuxnet” in the campaign to sabotage Iranian nuclear efforts.
Ransomware has become a bigger challenge in the last 12 months, according to Symantec. The company has identified 16 cybercrime gangs using ransomware, which in the space of 18 days in 2012 alone infected 500,000 computers.
“It works by shutting down your computer with a virus and then sending out a bogus warning that a user has been looking at something illegal,” Cox said. “They tell the user they can only get the computer back running if they pay a ransom, in some cases of $100, usually by buying a moneypack voucher and then sending the code transferring the amount to the gang. If the user for instance has been browsing a porn site they are going to believe the warning and pay up.
Such scams netted the 16 gangs about $5m in 2012, she said. In many cases paying through an anonymous money transfer system did not necessarily ensure an infected computer was unlocked, the company pointed out. In some cases ransomware can capture images of the targeted user via webcam, which is displayed when a computer screen is frozen to intimidate the victim.
Cox said there were now online toolkits hackers could buy on the internet to enable them to break into bank accounts. She said hacking into the financial system and online banking theft was mainly the work of gangs from Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.
Symantec also expressed concern about teenagers and young adults being targeted on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks because they were less guarded about their personal data and in particular their usernames and passwords. The company said the intersection of smartphones and social media would become an important security battleground.
Cox said Symantec believed Apple products were less prone to attack, with iPhones for instance being safer because they are “completely locked down”. However, she said Apple Macs are “not impervious” to hacking.
In the last weekend of April the Guardian also came under a cyber-attack from Syrian hackers who have targeted a series of western media organisations in an apparent effort to cause disruption and spread support for Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship. The Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) claimed responsibility for the Twitter-based attack, having previously also targeted the BBC, France 24 TV, and National Public Radio in the United States.
Cyber-attacks believed to emanate from North Korea have recently caused disruption to media organisations in South Korea.
People who live abroad will no longer be entitled to a British state pension based solely on the employment record of their spouse, under government plans.
Read the original: UK block on overseas spouse pensions
Category : Stocks
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Virogen Announces Launch of New Business Unit, “The Cannabis Connection”, and Sets Sights on $15-20 Billion Legal Marijuana Market
SAN GERONIMO, Calif., May 2, 2013
Some shareholders in the Empire State Building are in court this week seeking to block plans for a trust and subsequent IPO for the landmark building and other Manhattan properties.
The committee responsible for overseeing Qatar’s 2022 World Cup says a new “workers’ charter” will ensure worker welfare standards in the Gulf state.
See the article here: Charter for Qatar World Cup workers
Company says it ‘ceased transactions prior to EU sanctions’ when it learned of links with Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran
One of Britain’s biggest companies has made millions of pounds selling goods to Iran, including to a state-owned firm that supplies the regime’s nuclear programme.
Glencore, a commodity trading house run by the billionaire Ivan Glasenberg, traded $659m (£430m) of goods, including aluminium oxide, to Iran last year, the Guardian has established.
The company, which is one of the biggest businesses in the FTSE 100 and has a market value more than three times that of Marks & Spencer, has admitted that some of its aluminium oxide ended up in the hands of Iranian Aluminium Company (Iralco).
Trafigura, another commodity trading house, has also admitted to trading an unspecified aluminium oxide (also known as alumina) with Iralco in the past.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has named Iralco as supplying aluminium to Iran Centrifuge Technology Company (Tesa), which is part of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran (AEOI). Aluminium oxide is an important material in gas centrifuges used to enrich uranium.
At the time of the Glencore and Trafigura trades with Iralco, it was not illegal or a breach of sanctions to supply Iran with alumina. It is unknown whether Glencore or Trafigura’s alumina passed from Iralco to Tesa, or whether it was used in centrifuge construction.
Since 2006, AEOI has been subject to UN sanctions designed to prevent Iran’s nuclear armament ambitions. Trading with Tesa has been specifically banned under US, EU and UK sanctions since July 2010. Iralco was added to the EU sanctions list in December 2012.
Glencore said it “ceased transactions” with Iralco immediately when it learned of its links with Tesa, and the last trade was in October 2012. “Prior to EU sanctions in December 2012, we were not aware of a link/contract between Iralco and Tesa,” the company said in a statement.
Glencore said it is “reliant on the relevant regulatory bodies/governments to advise us on developments in who we can/can’t do business with”.
Tehran, which some experts say already has enough enriched uranium to make several nuclear weapons, is in the middle of upgrading its stock of more than 10,000 centrifuges. The IAEA said Iran is replacing outdated centrifuges with thousands of more powerful IR-2m models.
Experts at the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) in London said: “Iran is trying to replace maraging [super-strong] steel end-caps with high strength aluminium end-caps.”
Mark Fitzpatrick, director of Isis’s nonproliferation and disarmament programme, said the new centrifuges could enrich uranium four to five times faster than the existing ones. Iran insists its enriched material is for peaceful use, not for nuclear weapons, but it has refused to allow IAEA inspectors into several of its atomic facilities.
The question surrounding Glencore’s role in unintentionally potentially helping arm a nuclear Iran comes as Obama ramps up pressure on Tehran to end its atomic weapons programme. This month, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said: “We understand the nature of the threat of Iran. And as the president has said many times – he doesn’t bluff. He is serious. We will stand with Israel against this threat and with the rest of the world, who have underscored that all we are looking for is Iran to live up to its international obligations.”
Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the UN, said Glencore’s dealings with Iran were “completely unacceptable”, adding: “We might expect this from a Russian or Chinese company, but the truth is that even those companies usually stay away from this sort of exposure.”
Glencore said it “complies with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions. We closely monitor all new legal developments to ensure that we continue to be in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions.”
Details of the firm’s dealings with Iralco were leaked to the media in February, but the company declined to specify how much the deals were worth.
The Guardian has learned that Glencore traded $659m worth of metals, wheat and coal with Iranian entities during 2012. Buried deep in its annual report, one of Glencore’s US affiliates, Century Aluminium, 46% owned by Glencore, states: “During 2012 non-US affiliates of the largest stockholder of the company [Glencore] entered into sales contracts for wheat and coal as well as sale and purchase contracts for metal oxides and metals with Iranian entities, which are either fully or majority owned by the GOI [government of Iran].”
Glencore declined to state how much of the $659m it dealt with Iran in 2012 was related to alumina/aluminium. The trades were not illegal or against sanctions at the time. It is not the first time Glencore’s activities have attracted controversy. Last year the head of its food trading business said the worst drought to hit the US since the 1930s would be “good for Glencore” because it would lead to opportunities to exploit soaring prices. It has also attracted attention by selling more than £50m worth of wheat to the World Food Programme.
Trafigura, which came to global political attention when it was revealed that a licensed independent contractor of a ship it had chartered dumped tonnes of toxic oil slops in Ivory Coast, said: “We can confirm that Trafigura has traded with Iralco in the past. In October 2011, a physical swap agreement was reached whereby Trafigura provided alumina to Iralco in return for aluminium for Trafigura to export worldwide. No deliveries have been made or exports received since new EU sanctions were published in December 2012. Trafigura Group companies are compliant with national and international law where applicable.”
BBC News catches up with some of the people exhibiting in the digital zone of the London Book Fair, to hear their views on the state of internet publishing.
Read the rest here: VIDEO: Meet the ebook evangelists
Thatcherism taught us that a mixed market in the public sector is the future, and that a ‘state or market’ debate is outdated
There probably aren’t many Margaret Thatcher fans among social entrepreneurs, with most attributing the growth of market economics in social arenas to the measures introduced by Tony Blair. But would we have had the Right to Request without de-nationalisation or the Right to Buy?
As Ed Miliband said during parliament’s tribute sitting, Thatcher was right to recognise that our economy needed to change. In 1982, she said: “How absurd it will seem in a few years’ time that the state ran Pickfords removals and the Gleneagles Hotel.”
Thatcher introduced the idea that government should stop being the default employer and that the public sector needed mixed models of delivery – thinking that has been shared by successive governments ever since.
Looking at public sector reform through the point of view of the Transition Institute, set up to promote increased social value in public service created through non-public sector providers, we can see two major spikes in change; the first when Thatcher allowed the private sector to enter the domain of public services such as in municipal maintenance and waste collection; and the second when Blair introduced the concept of social enterprise into education, health and the then Department of Trade and Industry.
At my organisation, the Transition Institution, we know that the market economy drives down costs but can also fail if equal priority is not given to the needs of service users and the wider community, termed social value. Our work shows what can be achieved when the priority of cost effective services are shared with the needs of those that rely on services. We promote the work of co-operative schools, staff-led community interest youth services, and mutual delivery of community care.
The Transition Institution calls for plurality, a drive for an increase in social and economic value, demonstrating the coexistence of free market forces and social responsibility. The introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 and the support of the cabinet office, led by Francis Maude, for the promotion of mutuals within the public sector have encouraged those seeking change in this field, but progress is slow.
Thatcher was perhaps the great advocate of the free market, even though employment in the public sector was 3% higher when she left office than it is now. She undoubtedly questioned the monopoly of the state and did not limit her introduction of market forces to the nationalisation of British Airways, British Gas and British Telecom, but went on to assert that the state can not commission, deliver and appraise every service without the emergence of a conflict of interest that does not serve the wider public, an idea continued under Blair.
In 2011, David Cameron said: “The Blair government took some good steps, like foundation hospitals and academy schools, but they were too tentative … The public already benefits from services delivered by private and third sector providers, from running walk-in clinics to providing school caretakers, and the government is right to recognise that there is scope to do more.”
Yet even with that commitment and other stated aims to grow mutualism, social value and community engagement, we have yet to see a third spike. Many prospective and new public sector spin-outs continue to be confronted by sceptical parent authorities and voracious private sector competitors with the advantage that they can get in quick. As in Thatcher’s era, it is money that counts: then inflation hit 21% and drove the government to think the unthinkable. Today, it’s the deficit and, with banks limiting borrowing, those with access to capital are moving faster. I do not have the results of the 2013 national Transition Institute survey yet, but I am willing to guess that access to capital is a big issue for today’s independent public service providers.
Margaret Thatcher introduced an idea that continues to grow, that of a mixed market in the public sector. Her scepticism about the public sector led to a deep-seated faith, shared by some in government today, that only unfettered competition can give us quality and affordability. In contrast, some on the left maintain that only the state can care for its citizens.
This is 2013 not 1983 and if the banking crisis and subsequent recession have taught us anything, it is that it may be hard to describe and tricky to measure but what the public sector needs is a mixed approach – only a combination of competition tempered by social value can create affordable and sustainable world-class public services.
Allison Ogden-Newton is chair of the Transition Institute.