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What Drives Governments to Keep TISA, TPP and TTIP Secret?

12 Jun 2015

Joe Emersberger

Basically, these trade agreements are being kept secret because they violate regulations and national laws for the sole benefit of large corporations.

On this web page, the Canadian government asks if we are “Looking for a brief recap of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiating rounds?“ This is a representative sample of what it offers to explain two years worth of negotiations since Canada joined other governments in writing the TPP:

“Among the topics discussed in Washington were legal and institutional issues, textiles, rules of origin, state-owned enterprises, environment, goods market access, technical barriers to trade, and e-commerce.”

Feel better informed? They might as well have said “we talked about a lot of stuff” and left it at that. Here is something way more informative to read: a list of the 605 (overwhelmingly corporate) official “advisers” in the U.S. who have seen, and helped write, the TPP. In the USA, members of Congress and a limited number of aides can see the text provided they agree not to take notes or discuss the details publicly. Apologists for this undemocratic idiocy become irate when the TPP is called a “secret”, but, at the same time, justify hiding it from the public by claiming it improves governments’ bargaining position. Apparently we should assume that governments and their corporate “advisers” have spent years secretly fighting like demons on behalf of cab drivers, factory workers and the unemployed. In Australia, MPs are only allowed to see the TPP text if they sign a confidentiality agreement saying they won’t divulge details to the public for four years. What if the TPP is passed? Are they then allowed to talk what they saw? No. The agreement says “these confidentiality requirements shall apply for four years after entry into force of the TPP, or if no agreement enters into force, for four years after the last round of negotiations…” In the USA, the public is supposed to be impressed that Obama is required to release the full text (in exchange for getting “fast track” negotiating authority) sixty days before signing the agreement – the complex agreement government officials and hundreds of corporate insiders spent several years writing behind closed doors. Could contempt for the public, and for democracy, be any more obvious? This site jokingly claims the TPP has been already released by the Obama administration. It sums the absurdity up very succinctly. Secrecy aside, would most of the public understand the TPP – the parts that have been leaked by Wikileaks that is, or the seventeen chapters of TISA (Trade in Services Agreement) that have also been leaked by Wikileaks? No. These deals are written in technical language that requires lawyers and economists – or others who have spent a lot of time researching – to fully grasp. Now there are legal experts and economists who are not in the pockets of powerful western governments and big corporations. Such people could credibly explain what the implications of these agreements are for 99.999 percent of the public who are not among the insiders. Unfortunately, the battle doesn’t end when the details of these secret agreements, thanks to Wikileaks and other activists, are made public long before governments want them to be. We are still faced with a struggle against the corporate media that is very good at marginalizing those who explain exactly why governments and corporate insiders worked in secrecy for so many years. The secrecy is disgusting and revealing but it is also rather ineffective at this point. The leaked sections that have been published, and our experience with previous agreements like NAFTA, tells us essentially what the negotiating governments are after – ways to stuff the pockets and expand the power of the insiders at the expense of everyone else. The corporate media, not secrecy, is actually the more important barrier to fair and open debate. Dean Baker explained “TPP and TTIP are about getting special deals for businesses that they would have difficulty getting through the normal political process. For example, oil and gas companies that think they should be able to drill everywhere may be able to get rules that prevent national or state governments from restricting their activities. This could mean, for example, that New York State would have to compensate potential frackers for the ban that Governor Cuomo imposed last week. Similarly, the financial industry will be looking to roll back the sort of regulations put in place through Dodd-Frank and similar legislation in other countries. Again, if governments want to ensure that their financial system is safe, they may have to pay the banks for the privilege.” Everyone owes a special thanks to Canada’s Finance Minister for being brazen enough to argue that the US should loosen up financial regulations adopted since crash of 2008 in order to be in compliance with NAFTA. As Lori Wallach explained about TISA in this Democracy Now interview, governments and their small army of corporate insiders are working on ways to set the clock back on financial regulation – to about the 1990s! She describes a provision that is actually called the “standstill” in the text of the agreement. It is explicitly designed to prevent governments for bringing in new financial regulations that corporations don’t like. Does the public support a new ban a particular type of derivative that is going to be a disaster? Does the public want new rules that protect their privacy online? Too bad. TISA will make many new rules, and even existing ones, into trade violations. No wonder governments have insisted on keeping these agreements secret for so many years.

Restaurateur buys Hong Kong newspaper as side dish


Kenny Wee, at Metro Daily’s office in Kwun Tong, finds plenty of opportunities for the title spread before him. Photo: Edward Wong

South China Morning Post

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Restaurateur buys Hong Kong newspaper as side dish

Restaurateur buys Hong Kong newspaper as side dish

Saturday, 31 August, 2013, 12:00am



Sophie Yu

What is a cash cow business? Casinos? E-commerce?

The answer given by restaurant boss Kenny Wee Ho may surprise many – newspapers.

The paper has been there for more than a decade and I see no possibility for its performance to deteriorate dramatically

Wee has paid HK$200 million to acquire Metro Daily, Hong Kong’s first free newspaper – “in cash”, he said – with the deal to be finalised within days.

Metro Daily is a cash cow,” Wee said. “It is a profit-generating business.”

He expects to make his investment back in three years.

Wee, born in Hong Kong and educated in Australia, now runs three restaurants in Hong Kong, three in Taiwan and two others in Australia.

He said he wanted to diversify his business portfolio because “to be honest, restaurants won’t make huge money”.

But he also said he would not take risks in pursuit of big money. “I’m not a risk-taker,” he said.

Wee said he had been looking at different businesses in recent years, and Metro Daily had emerged as the best choice.

At one stage he was on the verge of investing in investment banks but decided against it because the investment required was too big and he knew little about the industry.

“I don’t have the guts to risks like that,” he said.

He had also followed the property market closely but had failed to spot any investment opportunities due to soaring prices.

“By comparison, Metro is a safe investment,” Wee said.

“The paper has been there for more than a decade and I see no possibility for its performance to deteriorate dramatically.”

Metro Daily was launched in 2002 and 400,000 copies are distributed in MTR stations every weekday morning. Publishing group Sing Tao News, which publishes its own free Chinese-language newspaper, Headline Daily, once showed interest in acquiring Metro Daily as part of a syndicate.

Headline Daily is currently the market leader. Launched in 2005, its daily circulation topped 880,000 copies last year, according to the latest financial report available.

Wee said he would not touch Metro Daily‘s operations.

“It’s a profitable company and it has its working routine,” he said. “I don’t want to change it.”

But as a boss who can go to the office every day, in contrast to the newspaper’s former Swedish owners, who are far away, Wee said he would be better able to explore the potential of Metro Daily and improve the paper’s “vitality”.

Part of the plan is to expand the distribution of Metro Daily beyond MTR stations to residential buildings and convenience stores.

Wee said Metro Daily lacked the resources to compete with Headline Daily or Next Media’s Sharp Daily in terms of wide news coverage but had its own advantage through its distribution monopoly in MTR stations. “Looking forward, what we will do is to continue to expand the unique distribution networks,” Wee said.

He said that while 400,000 copies were enough for the MTR, he would negotiate with developers to distribute the free paper in some residential areas and shopping malls. “These distribution channels have to be exclusive to us,” he said.

If such deals were achieved, circulation could easily be increased to 600,000, he said.

Vitality also means more investment in multimedia to add value to the masthead. Wee took his iPhone from his pocket, and said: “Our future is in smartphones.”

He said the paper would co-operate with the advertisers and do a lot of online retailing, adding that Metro Shop, an online shopping platform, would open next month.

“We’ve already got more than 70 advertisers to join,” Wee said.

He said consumers would enjoy discounts and convenient pick-up arrangements, and could place orders and make payments on their mobile phones.

The Hong Kong business contributed net revenue of €717,000 (HK$7.3 million) to Metro International last year, down 49 per cent year on year according to the group’s 2012 annual accounts, with the Swedish publisher saying “the newspaper in Hong Kong is facing increased competition from new market entrants”.

Unenforced laws make it a fine-free city

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Home > Letters to the Editor, August 25, 2013

Letters to the Editor, August 25, 2013

Sunday, 25 August, 2013, 12:00am


Unenforced laws make it a fine-free city

Years ago, some mischievous prankster in Singapore designed a T-shirt which declared that Singapore was a “fine city”.

This was a humorous dig at the fact that in Singapore you can get fined for everything from spitting, chewing gum and being seen inappropriately undressed through the window of your own home, to offences such as smoking inside restaurants and bars, eating and drinking in the wrong places and even dancing in a bar without a “dancing licence”.

In the spirit of great tourism then, might I suggest that we print some T-shirts which declare Hong Kong as being a “no-fine city” – because apparently in Hong Kong, you can flout all manner of laws without the slightest fear of prosecution, be it smoking in bars (still goes on), idling car engines (common practice everywhere), eating and drinking on public transport, illegal parking (getting worse) and many other traffic offences.

I see these things going on every day, and I’ve yet to ever see any offenders being approached or prosecuted.

Think of what publicising this could do for tourism, as it would attract thousands of visitors who enjoy participating in the above activities without being bothered. And it would give Hong Kong a competitive edge over Singapore, where you can get fined for everything –

except being a decent, law-abiding citizen.

Chris Kyme, Repulse Bay

Parent launches legal action over school’s ban on dropping off students [3]

Source URL (retrieved on Aug 25th 2013, 6:54am):

Smart glass may mean it is curtains for window blinds

Smart glass may mean it is curtains for window blinds

A “smart” window that can block out sunlight or heat at the flick of a switch may make blinds and curtains redundant.

A dual-band electrochromic material has been developed by linking tin-doped indium oxide nanocrystals to an amorphous niobium oxide matrix. These transparent films are capable of blocking solar radiation in a controlled fashion, allowing daylight and solar heat to be selectively and dynamically modulated through windows.

A dual-band electrochromic material has been developed by linking tin-doped indium oxide nanocrystals to an amorphous niobium oxide matrix. These transparent films are capable of blocking solar radiation in a controlled fashion, allowing daylight and solar heat to be selectively and dynamically modulated through windows. Photo: ANNA LLORDES/LAWRENCE BERKELEY NATIONAL LAB

Richard Gray

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent

6:31AM BST 15 Aug 2013

Comments6 Comments

Scientists have created a material that can selectively block out visible light or heat when an electric voltage is applied across it.

By mixing the tiny crystals of the material with glass, they were able to create window panes that could block light from passing through it.

Depending on the voltage they applied, the glass could be completely transparent, could block out only heat, only visible light or both.

It means the dimmable windows could not only be used instead curtains or blinds but also to help control the temperature of buildings during the summer.

The researchers achieved this by combining nanocrystals of tin-doped indium oxide into niobium oxide glass, which is often used to make optical glasses.

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Dr Anna Llordes, who led the research at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, said: “The resulting material demonstrates a previously unrealised optical switching behaviour that will enable the dynamic control of solar radiation transmittance through windows.

“These transparent films can block near-infrared and visible light selectively and independently by varying the applied electrochemical voltage over a range of 2.5 volts.”

The reason why the glass has the ability to block out both heat, in the form of infrared radiation, and visible light is because the indium tin oxide nanocrystals and the niobium oxide glass both respond differently when an electric current is applied across them.

They are what is known as electrochromic. When a small negative charge is applied to the glass, it causes the indium tin oxide nanocrystals to absorb infrared light.

If that charge is made more negative then the niobium oxide absorbs visible light.

This means that a window can be tuned to simply dim or to block out light altogether.

The researchers also found that combining the two materials into a single glass caused the niobium oxide to block out five times as much light as it would by itself.

Dr Delia Milliron, the principal investigator on the project, said they hoped to improve the amount of infrared light that can be blocked.

She believes the cost could be brought down to produce glass that is just 10 to 15 per cent more expensive than a standard window.

“Integrating our active glass with a solid electrolyte and a transparent counter electrode, suitable for a real window prototype, is the subject of our current research,” she said.

GMO challenge

Business group calls for creation of innovation and technology bureau

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Home > Business group calls for creation of innovation and technology bureau

Business group calls for creation of innovation and technology bureau

Thursday, 08 August, 2013, 12:00am



Bien Perez

Business and Professionals Federation report proposes new bureau and free public Wi-fi

An independent group of businesses and professionals has called on the Hong Kong government to pursue sweeping changes, including the creation of a new policymaking agency and free public Wi-fi services, to ignite a culture of innovation. a 32-page report released yesterday, the Business and Professionals Federation of Hong Kong (BPF) proposed that the government form an Innovation and Technology Bureau to establish, promote and track innovation policy.

Former chief secretary David Akers-Jones, president of the BPF, said at the launch that the group’s report is “a wake-up call” for the city, which has lagged behind its peer group of economies – Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Israel – in terms of investments in innovation.

The BPF was founded in 1990 as a non-political successor to the so-called Group of 89 members of the Basic Law Consultative and Drafting Committee.

It also urged the government to set up a co-ordinating body, which could be called “Tech Hong Kong Advocates”, as the city’s counterpart to Britain’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts. Other proposals included offering more innovation-focused programmes for the city’s 300,000 small and medium-sized businesses and for schoolchildren.

A universal free Wi-fi initiative would help narrow the digital divide between those with unfettered access to communication and information and those with limited or no access to such resources in the city, the BPF said. It proposed the government and internet services providers bear the cost of this public service.

The BPF described the state of innovation in Hong Kong as “immature”, with annual investment in technological innovation at only 1 per cent of the city’s gross domestic product. BPF vice-chairman Gregg Li Ka-lok said: “We should be targeting 3 per cent as a medium-term goal.”

The report also found that the government, local industries and entrepreneurs “are increasingly disconnected from one another”.

The BPF report has come nearly a month after the latest Global Innovation Index (GII) survey ranked Hong Kong seventh among the world’s top 10 leading markets for innovation. The GII survey is a benchmark of the innovation capability of 142 economies worldwide.

Source URL (retrieved on Aug 8th 2013, 10:26am):

Chief Executive’s Office releases new conflict of interest guidelines

Too little, too late …………….

South China Morning Post

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Home > Chief Executive’s Office releases new conflict of interest guidelines

Chief Executive’s Office releases new conflict of interest guidelines

Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 5:51pm

NewsHong Kong

Tony Cheung

The Chief Executive’s Office unveiled on Wednesday new guidelines for the handling of potential conflict of interest cases involving principal government officials.

The guidelines [1], which were posted on the website of the Chief Executive’s Office, come in the aftermath of a series of controversies surrounding Secretary for Development Paul Chan Mo-po and his former political assistant Henry Ho Kin-chung.

The most important change to the new guidelines states that family or friends’ business and social affiliations are now specified as an official’s private interests, if it could be seen as influencing policy-making.

[Private interests are] “the financial and other interests of the officer himself, his family and other relations, his personal friends, the clubs and associations to which he belongs …

new conflict of interest guidelines

Private interests are listed as “the financial and other interests of the officer himself, his family and other relations, his personal friends, the clubs and associations to which he belongs, any other groups of people with whom he has personal or social ties, or any person to whom he owes a favour or is obligated in any way.”

Previously, the code for principal officials, updated only last year, specified that an official must report to the chief executive if his or her private interests might appear to influence their judgment in performing duties, but it did not define the extent of such interests.

Since last month, Chan has been facing calls for him to step down after it was revealed that his wife and her family owned land in the Kwu Tung area, site of one of the government’s and Chan’s department’s major housing development projects.

Chan declared these interests to the chief executive two months after his appointment as secretary in July last year, too late, according to most of the government’s critics.

Ho, Chan’s political assistant, resigned last Friday after failing to declare his family’s ownship of four lots of land in the same Kwu Tung development area. Chan once held a stake in these plots along with family members through a private company founded by his father and uncle.


Paul Chan Mo-po

Henry Ho Kin-chung


Why the secrecy surrounding Hong Kong’s societies?

Wednesday, 07 August, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Why is it that Hong Kong has such absurdly byzantine regulations surrounding information about societies?

Anyone can pay a fee and search a firm, limited company, car ownership, marriage records, land ownership, and so on. The online searchable data shows ID cards and addresses. No consent is needed from a partner, director, vehicle owner or land owner to search government records containing their names.

So why does the Societies Office have to be different. If you want to find out information regarding the members or office bearers of a registered society, you have to get their written permission. This is silly, since if you don’t know who they are, you can’t obtain their permission. All we can do is obtain a copy of the society’s constitution, and to do that we have to go to the police headquarters in Wan Chai, even though the information is held digitally and could be easily distributed by e-mail.

The peculiarities of this arrangement came to our attention last year when a group called the Hong Kong Islands District Association suddenly showed up in the middle of the Shek Kwu Chau incinerator saga and was able to access environmental funds controlled by the Environment Bureau and take islanders off on subsidised trips to Singapore and Taiwan to look at incinerators.

The name is similar to the Islands District Council, which, confusingly, is a government body. Why should the details of societies be so guarded when information on companies and the like is freely available? The system is outdated and the rules that apply to companies should be applied to societies in this respect.

Source URL (retrieved on Aug 7th 2013, 7:07am):

An overview of EU environment policy targets and objectives

An overview of EU environment policy targets and objectives

<div class=”portalMessage“> This website has limited functionality with javascript off. Please make sure javascript is enabled in your browser. </div> Published : Jul 25, 2013 Last modified : Jul 24, 2013 01:20 PM

Topics: Environmental scenarios , Policy instruments , Green economy ,

European Union legislation has established more than 130 separate environmental targets and objectives to be met between 2010 and 2050. Together, these can provide useful milestones supporting Europe’s transition towards a ‘green economy’, according to a report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Image © NHD-INFO

This report shows that while we have been successful in agreeing a wide range of policies to protect the environment, implementing these policies remains a challenge. We are making some progress towards the EU aim of creating a green economy, but we need to keep the pressure on up to 2020 and beyond.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director

The ‘green economy’ has emerged as a priority in policy debate in recent years. But what does the concept mean in practice and how can one measure progress towards this strategic goal? A new EEA report, ‘Towards a green economy in Europe’, provides some answers. It does so through a comprehensive overview of environmental targets and objectives established by EU legislation for the period 2010–2050 and by providing examples of analysis of progress towards achieving them.

Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “This report shows that while we have been successful in agreeing a wide range of policies to protect the environment, implementing these policies remains a challenge. We are making some progress towards the EU aim of creating a green economy, but we need to keep the pressure on up to 2020 and beyond.”

The report identifies 63 legally binding targets and 68 non-binding objectives set out in EU policy covering the period 2010–2050. Of the 63 legally-binding targets, 62 have their deadlines in 2020 or before. Most of the current targets and objectives can be seen as interim steps towards a transition to a green economy, because in most cases eradicating the problems will require longer-term efforts beyond 2020.

The ‘green economy’ is an economic model which aims to increase prosperity by using resources efficiently as well as maintaining the resilience of the natural systems that sustain societies. With its ‘Environmental indicator report 2012‘, the EEA undertook its first analysis of Europe’s progress in the transition towards a green economy, using indicators to assess resource efficiency and to address ecosystem resilience. The findings show a mixed performance, although they suggest that Europe has made more progress in improving resource efficiency than preserving ecosystem resilience.

The new overview is useful as a comprehensive basis for reviewing progress in the past, and for considering the prospects for meeting future environmental policy objectives and targets.

Progress towards environmental targets in Europe

  • The EU has a non-binding objective to cut energy use to levels 20 % below business-as-usual projections by 2020. Although this implies that consumption must be a little lower than the level in the mid-1990s, the trend since then has moved upwards. So it appears likely that achieving the 2020 objectives will require stronger policy implementation and possibly additional policy impulses.
  • Alongside policies to mitigate climate change, the EU has several policies to help Member States adapt. The European Commission encourages all Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies. By mid-2013, 16 States had achieved this.
  • Regarding air pollution, the EU has generally made good progress towards its 2010 emissions targets set by the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution. Meeting 2020 targets will require continued efforts.  Only in the case of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) is there an obvious need to accelerate abatement efforts significantly. Modelling also suggests that achieving the targets is technically feasible for all pollutants except PM2.5.
  • Waste generated per capita should be in absolute decline by 2020, according to another non-binding objective. Waste generation shows a trend which, when extrapolated, suggests that the EU would narrowly miss its 2020 target. The trend is certainly ambiguous, however, with the decline in waste generation since 2007 giving some cause for encouragement.
  • Member States also have another waste-related objective, specifying that landfilling of waste should be near zero by 2020. An extrapolation of the trend points to a decline from 179 kg per capita in 2011 to 114 kg per capita in 2020, so achieving the target for near-zero landfill appears to require a radical change in waste management practices.


HK Butterfly Net

Hong Kong is home to more than 260 butterfly species, which is one-tenth the total for China. Hong Kong can be described as a “butterfly paradise”. Butterflies catch people’s attention with their varied colours and elegant poses. They are the most beautiful guides in nature, leading people to an appreciation of the magnificent natural world.

Shell Nature Watch– Butterfly Explorer has been co-organised by Green Power and Shell HK Ltd. since 2004. It is the first local large scale educational and monitoring programme with butterflies as the theme. Starting from community promotion, school education and ecological surveys, we organised various activities to increase public awareness of and concern of butterflies, aiming to protect local butterfly diversity.