vendredi 27 juin 2014

Juncker is wrong person for European commission job, says David Cameron

Prime minister attacks the frontrunner for the leadership, who he says has been dedicated to increasing the power of Brussels

David Cameron has launched a strong personal attack on Jean-Claude Juncker, declaring that the former prime minister of Luxembourg is the wrong person to lead the European commission.
As he arrived at the EU summit in Brussels, the prime minister acknowledged that the odds were "heavily stacked against" Britain but he said he was determined to stand against Juncker on the grounds that the frontrunner for the commission job has spent his life seeking to increase the powers of the EU.
The prime minister made clear that he would force a vote at the European council on Friday afternoon as even his allies said that they would now be supporting Juncker. Fredrik Reinfeldt, the Swedish prime minister who had voiced concerns about Juncker, indicated he would support him on the grounds that his candidacy would be approved by EU leaders and the European parliament.
But Cameron insisted he would continue to oppose Juncker on the grounds that he would not be able to lead EU reform and that thespitzenkandidaten system is on the verge of delivering the European commission presidency to the EU veteran. The system was devised by European parliament leaders who are using the powers in the Lisbon treaty that says that EU leaders need to take account of last month's European parliamentary elections in nominating a candidate. Juncker is the candidate of the centre right European People's party, the largest group in the parliament.
The prime minister outlined his objections to Juncker when he said: "You stick to your convictions even if the odds are heavily stacked against you rather than go along with something that you believe is profoundly wrong. Today is one of those days.
"I will tell you why it is so important. The European elections showed that there is huge disquiet about the way the EU works and yet the response, I believe, is going to be wrong on two grounds. Wrong on the grounds of principle: it is not right for the elected heads of government of the European countries to give up their right to nominate the head of the European commission – the most important role in Europe. That is a bad principle.
"And it is the wrong person. Jean-Claude Juncker has been at the heart of the project to increase the power of Brussels and reduce the power of nation states for his entire working life. He is not the right person to take this organisation forward. So, I am very clear about the right thing to do."
The prime minister's personal attack marks an escalation of Britain's opposition to Juncker. Cameron has concentrated in recent weeks on highlighting his concerns about the spitzenkandidaten system.
In a sign of how highly charged the atmosphere is expected to be at Friday's lunch, it was confirmed on Thursday night that EU leaders have voiced concerns over Juncker's drinking habits in the last month. He was famous for ensuring a ready supply of wine during his eight-year presidency of the Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers until last year.
"His alcohol consumption has been raised by a number of leaders since the parliamentary elections [last month]," said an EU diplomat.
There were also reports that Juncker chain-smoked through a meeting of EPP leaders in the Flanders town of Kortrijk on Thursday before the Ypres summit dedicated to marking the centenary of the start of the first world war.
EU diplomats suggested his campaign team has been examining changing the rules of the commission's Berlaymont headquarters to allow Juncker to smoke in the president's suite of offices.
Cameron signalled on Thursday that he would warn EU leaders at their summit in Brussels that the appointment of Juncker as next head of the EU executive would increase support for a British withdrawal from the EU.
As Germany and France brushed aside British threats to call a vote on the Juncker nomination at a Brussels lunch on Friday and amid signs that EU leaders will offer overwhelming support for the former Luxembourg prime minister, Cameron warned of "consequences" if Juncker is endorsed.
He prepared the ground for a strong warning at the end of the summit on Friday afternoon about the consequences of his appointment, telling the BBC: "Everything has consequences in life. And obviously, I think proceeding in the way that countries are planning to proceed in choosing this individual is the wrong approach. I think that would be bad for not just [Britain], but all of Europe."
But the leaders of Germany and France made it plain that they were prepared to win a vote if Cameron insisted. While emphasising that the decision on Juncker would be made on Friday, Angela Merkel offered Cameron a consolation prize, stressing she wanted to reach compromises on his reform agenda for the next five years.
"If we have clarity on the necessary content for the next five years, we will take the decision on the next European commission president," the German chancellor said. "We can find good compromises with Great Britain and move a bit towards Great Britain."
François Hollande, the French president, said: "If there is a British request on this topic, I am for a vote. There are times when Europe has to say what it wants."
He dismissed speculation about the UK invoking an obscure mechanism from the 1960s enabling a member state to cite vital national interests to stall a summit decision. "It's not a defining choice for the future of a country meriting a veto," Hollande said.
Martin Schulz, the German social democrat and speaker of the European parliament who has played a central role in pushing Juncker to be the next president of the commission, said: "Let's be honest, [Cameron's] is not a normal political attitude. It's up to him whether he wants to marginalise himself."
The concerns about Juncker come as little surprise to EU veterans. One source told the Guardian: "Juncker was a perfectly good chairman of the Eurogroup during the crisis. He is not a visionary but Luxembourg doesn't do visionaries. Anyway, Britain says it doesn't want any visionaries."

mercredi 25 juin 2014

Michael Jackson: Five years after his death, how his influence lives on

It's five years since Michael Jackson passed away, and he continues to leave his mark on global popular culture

He ushered in a global culture

We'll get to the music and dance, but perhaps his most astonishing achievement is his fame: he was the subject of global adulation, even in areas previously untouched by Western pop culture. It's most easily evident in the Brace Yourself montage that begins his History video collection – this makes One Direction mania look timid, as fans across the world ululate and liquify at the mere thought of being close to him. He jogs with various different nations' militaries flanking him. The Carmina Burana soundtrack for once seems appropriate.
This was a man who saw the increasingly interconnected world and gave it a music to share – and, he hoped, perhaps even improve each others' lives with. His tracks Heal the World and Earth Song are often mocked for their tubthumping and mawkish environmentalism, but he was one of the few people who could actually transmit the message he set out to preach; he spoke across language and nation, pre-empting the global culture we share online today.

His fame set a benchmark

Things have changed, however. The panopticon of the internet means that today it should technically be easy to get as famous as Jacko – you can be adored from the Mongolian steppes to the Madagascan rainforest, all via YouTube. But in reality, fame is diluted by the internet as everyone makes their own collaged personal vision of global culture, and so that Jacko-level fame, an omnipresence mediated via the restricted channels of radio, TV and recorded sound, is unlikely ever to be repeated.
It doesn't mean people haven't tried to replicate it though; Jackson's legend is constantly propelling the already-famous to dream of greater heights. Perhaps the man most preoccupied with the idea of reanimating that lost global monoculture is Kanye West, who dedicated his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album to Jackson, who lamented "MJ gone, our nigga dead", and who rapped that he's the "only rapper to compare to Michael". West's lyrical rants ("I'm goin' after Shakespeare. Walt Disney. Mozart. Henry Ford") often show him reaching for the level of fame that Jacko achieved, without realising that it's a thing of the past.

His dance moves are still definitive

Jackson's repertoire of dance moves are still the base notes from which all street dance and R&B moves are derived. The peacockish pointing, the robotic fussing that smoothes into a glide, the endless spinning – this was dancing for a digital age of precision, and the likes of the Step Up movies have struggled to innovate their way into the next era. Chris Brown is the leading new-school exponent of Jackson's moves, executing brilliantly exact funk and athleticism – but where Jackson's braggadocio lifted the spirits and drew a room together, Brown merely preens, fixated on sexual transaction.

He killed off celebrity privacy

Celebrities were persecuted before Jackson of course, but his eccentricity ensured that he was increasingly hounded – rarely was a dangled baby, damaged nose or, yes, child abuse story far from the headlines. He bridged a gap between single splashy scandals and the perma-crises of today's celebrities, with the likes of Justin Bieber currently taking Jacko-style visibility to an alarmingly permanent level. But despite efforts like Britney's Piece of Me, none of the current crop have articulated their frustration at the limelight with quite the eloquent howl of Jackson's Leave Me Alone and its psychedelic video.

His music still blows minds

When David Guetta-branded pop ruled the world a few years back, it felt like there was little room for Jackson's funk – but the success of Pharrell, Robin Thicke, Daft Punk, Bruno Mars, and a resurgent Justin Timberlake (as well as new imitator Ed Sheeran) shows the music Jackson popularised is still relevant. The soft-focus twinkle of Rock With You is the sound they're most obviously lifting, but there are other borrowings: his use of crazily overdriven rock guitar to denote roiling sexual longing or spiritual ecstasy has been picked up by R&B musicians like Miguel, for example. More generally, he surely remains a touchstone for someone like Katy Perry, for his ability to oscillate between universal anthems and personal ballads, all punctuated with hedonistic confectionery – a skill that only a few pop stars, still led by Jackson, have been able to hone.

lundi 9 juin 2014

Rafael Nadal beats Novak Djokovic to win ninth French Open title

Rafael Nadal saw off the threat of Novak Djokovic for another year to win his ninth French Open title and a record fifth in succession.

Rafael Nadal

The Spaniard, 28, coped better in hot conditions as he won 3-6 7-5 6-2 6-4 in three hours and 31 minutes. 
Nadal is the first man ever to win a major title nine times, taking his Grand Slam total to 14.
The victory also means he will remain world number one ahead of Djokovic.
"In matches like this every moment is crucial. Playing against Novak is always a big challenge, I had lost against him the last four times," Nadal said on court.
"I feel sorry for him today, he deserves to win this tournament."
It is the third year in a row that Nadal has ended Djokovic's hopes of winning the one Grand Slam title he lacks, with the Serb in particular struggling on a stifling Parisian afternoon and ending with a double fault on match point.
"Congratulations to Rafa and his team, it is incredible to win this tournament nine times," Djokovic said.
"It was an emotional day. I have tried with all my power, my strength, my capacities but Rafa was the strongest on court."
Nadal extended his incredible run at Roland Garros to 66 wins and just one defeat in the last 10 years.
That record looked under threat when he dropped the first set as his usually fearsome forehand let him down, five errors handing Djokovic the initiative.
Both men were having to work hard in temperatures of around 27C, and Djokovic was the first to ask for iced towels to wrap around his neck at the changeovers.
Nadal finally made his move when he broke for 4-2, only to lose his advantage straight away as the nervous errors returned in the following game.
Djokovic had won their last four matches but taking on Nadal in a five-set contest on Court Philippe Chatrier is a very different kind of test.
The 27-year-old Serb faltered badly with a tie-break in sight, offering up a double fault and a forehand error before Nadal smacked a forehand winner to level the score.
It was a huge blow to Djokovic's hopes and he faded further in the third set.
After dumping a straightforward volley in the net to lose serve in game two, the second seed took some tablets at a changeover in an attempt to improve his condition.
Nadal scented victory once again, breaking twice on his way to the set and leaving Djokovic to stare in disbelief at coach Boris Becker in the stands after one error.
Another poor volley and a wild backhand into the tramlines saw Djokovic fall 4-2 down in the fourth, but Nadal was now having his own issues, bending over apparently in some discomfort and badly mistiming a smash to give the break straight back.
With cloud cover giving Djokovic some respite from the sun, he was showing signs of launching a renewed assault only to falter with his opponent under pressure.
A terrific backhand pass helped Nadal to match point and Djokovic, disrupted by a call from the crowd, fired his second serve long to leave the Spaniard on his knees in his familiar celebratory pose.

mercredi 4 juin 2014

Apple unveils move towards health and home in new iPhone software

Software will gather and store health-related data and offer integrated control for 'smart home' devices like lighting

Blood pressure a little high? Need the lights turned off in your home? There's an app for that. Or there soon could be after Apple unveiled the latest plans for its iPhone software on Monday at its developers' conference in San Francisco.
Chief executive Tim Cook heralded the new software, which will gather and store health-related data and also offer integrated control for "smart home" devices such as remote-controlled light bulbs.
It will be released in the autumn and run on iPhones and iPads, as "something only Apple can do", Cook said, as he pointed to statistics which said that 130m iPhone and iPad buyers in the past 12 months out of about 230m sold were new to Apple's platform.
The "HeallthKit" and "HomeKit" software are part of a concerted effort by the Californian company to position its smartphone as the hub of peoples' digital lives, much as it did more than a decade ago when it first launched its iTunes software for organising music files.
In a speech to thousands of software developers at the Worldwide Developers conference in San Francisco's Moscone West centre, neither Cook nor Craig Federighi, Apple's software chief, announced any new hardware for the health or smart home categories. But Carolina Milanesi, analyst at the research firm Kantar ComTech, suggested Apple was aiming to get developers to build apps for both sectors before making its own move into them. "Otherwise you get the Galaxy Gear effect where Samsung announced a $300 smartwatch but there weren't any apps for it, so people say 'what's the use of that?'"
Federighi was at pains to emphasise that the health and smart home systems will not share user data without explicit permission, as it seeks to position itself as an alternative to the datasharing approach used by Google, Facebook and other advertising-supported companies.
However the $3bn purchase of the Beats headphones and music company was not mentioned in the two-hour presentation although Federighi did jokingly make a call to "a new Apple employee" the Beats cofounder Dr Dre, who sent developers his best wishes.
Apple also showed off software called "Handoff" that will allow iPhone owners to answer incoming phone calls or texts on an iPad or Mac computer.
With new smartphone buyers becoming increasingly hard to find as the US and European markets become "saturated", Apple is looking to attract users of Google's Android to use its phones and tablets. Cook put heavy emphasis on the success that the iPhone and iPad have had in China, saying that half of its customers there had switched from Android.
Announcing HealthKit, Federighi said that presently apps retain their data inidvidually but do not interact or connect to make good use of it. "That information lives in silos," he said.
"You can't get a single comprehensive picture."
The news follows archrival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd's announcement last week of a mobile healthdata store called SAMI (Samsung Architecture Multimodal Interactions).
Samsung plans to market SAMI by hosting a developer challenge and setting aside a $50m fund for earlystage digital health entrepreneurs.
The update to the iPhone and iPad software will be released in the autumn, Federighi said. Though Apple made no mention of new iPhones or iPads, those are expected to be shown off just ahead of the software's release, and to ship just after it.
Among the expected updates are an iPhone with a larger screen to capture users who might otherwise shift to the increasingly popular "phablet" models, and to win back those who have moved away from the iPhone because they have preferred the larger screens available on Android. Presently the iPhone 5S has a 4in screen, measured diagonally, while products like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 have screens measuring 5in or more, and analyst data shows that such larger screens are increasingly popular.
Apple also showed off new OS X software for its desktop and laptop computers that will automatically connect to an iPhone, so that it will show the identity of a caller, and let them reply to SMSs directly from the screen. Codenamed "Yosemite", it will be available as a public beta so that any Mac user can apply to test it.

The Guardian

lundi 2 juin 2014

King Juan Carlos of Spain to Abdicate

King Juan Carlos of Spain, left, and Crown Prince Felipe, his son, attended a military ceremony in January with Queen Sofia in Madrid

MADRID — King Juan Carlos of Spain said Monday that he was abdicating in favor of Crown Prince Felipe, his 46-year-old son, explaining in an address to the nation that it was time for a new generation to “move to the frontline” and take on the country’s challenges.

The king’s abdication, after almost four decades on the throne, follows health problems but also comes amid a decline in his popularity, particularly as a result of a corruption scandal centering on his son-in-law that has also put the spotlight on the royal family’s lifestyle and finances at a time of economic crisis and record joblessness.

Juan Carlos said he resolved to abdicate in January, when he turned 76. He said a generational change would open “a new chapter of hope” for a country hit by a deep economic crisis, while insisting that his son “represents stability,” for Spain as well as for the monarchy.

The king’s son, who will become King Felipe VI, is a former Olympic yachtsman who is regarded as relatively untouched by his family’s scandals. In May 2004, he married Letizia Ortiz, a divorced television journalist. Even before Monday’s announcement, Felipe, who studied international relations at Georgetown University, had increasingly replaced his ailing father on diplomatic trips and at official events.

The king’s abdication was made official earlier on Monday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who called Juan Carlos a “tireless defender of our interests.” The government is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the legislative change required for the handover to Felipe, which Mr. Rajoy said would happen “very soon.”

Mr. Rajoy also called the abdication “proof of the maturity of our democracy,” a message that was echoed by the leaders of Spain’s other mainstream parties. However, some far-left politicians said Spain should debate whether to maintain its monarchy, with protests convened in Madrid and other cities on Monday evening to call for the abolition of the monarchy. 

Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975, after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco. He was credited with playing a key role in consolidating Spain’s return to democracy, particularly when he helped avert a military coup in 1981 by making a televised broadcast calling on soldiers to return to their barracks.

 He has also provided a sense of stability in a country confronting separatist efforts in the Basque region and in Catalonia. Such efforts have recently gained momentum in Catalonia, where governing parties want to hold an independence referendum in November that Mr. Rajoy’s government has vowed to prevent because it violates Spain’s Constitution. Juan Carlos has strongly defended Spain’s unity, saying last December, shortly after Catalan politicians unveiled their referendum plan, that the monarchy wanted a Spain in which “we can all fit in.”

The king’s reputation has been tainted by questions about the spending habits of his 48-year-old daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, after a judge opened a corruption investigation.

The Spanish royal family’s public standing fell sharply during the period of turmoil after the 2008 financial crisis, which also encouraged Spain’s news media to drop its longstanding deference toward the monarchy and delve into the love life of the king and other previously taboo subjects.

Carmen Enríquez, who has written several books about the royal family and who served as the royal correspondent for Spain’s national television network, said the scandals surrounding the monarchy were unlikely to have persuaded the king to abdicate, but probably added to “the sensation of fatigue” felt by the ageing monarch. She added, “People are demanding a lot more transparency and accountability from the monarchy and all other institutions, and I think the prince is well of aware of this.”

The surprise announcement in Madrid on Monday is not the first sign of change in Europe’s largely ceremonial royal houses in recent years. In April 2013, Willem-Alexander of the House of Orange-Nassau became the first king in the Netherlands in 123 years when his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated after 33 years. Later that year, Albert II of Belgium, then 79,signed a declaration of abdication allowing his son, Prince Philippe, to be sworn in as that nation’s seventh monarch since Belgium’s independence in 1830.

In Britain, Queen Elizabeth II, 88, has begun transferring some duties to her son, Prince Charles, 65, but there has been no indication, in public at least, of an abdication in the House of Windsor since Edward VIII relinquished the throne in 1936.

Juan Carlos was born in Rome in 1938, during the Spanish monarchy’s exile and in the midst of a civil war that was followed by a lengthy period of dictatorship under the victorious General Franco. Once in power, Franco brought Juan Carlos back to Spain to oversee his education at a military academy and then handpicked him as the next king. The restoration plan was made formal in 1969 — increasing tensions between Juan Carlos and his exiled father, Juan de Borbón — and the coronation of Juan Carlos took place two days after Franco died in November 1975.

José María de Areilza, a professor of law at the Esade school in Madrid, said that, despite being groomed by Franco, Juan Carlos “was able to understand the change in Spanish society and make himself the engine of that change.” That, he argued, “makes him an extraordinary man in extraordinary circumstances.