Friday, 31 August 2012

Malaysia celebrates 55 years Merdeka, a truly independence at retirement age?



Ugly two sides of a coin

Merdeka Day used to bring Malaysians together for one big do, but politics has changed all that
 
National colours, in droplets: The Malaysian flag, or Jalur Gemilang, is reflected in thousands of raindrops on a windscreen of a car during a rainy day in Kuching. It’s Aug 31 — Malaysians from all across the nation are flying the Jalur Gemilang with pride as they celebrate the 55th Merdeka Day. This photo is taken close up with a 90mm macro lense. —ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

TODAY, Aug 31, is Merdeka Day. It’s usually an occasion celebrated with parades and speeches remembering heroes in the struggle for indedependence, marked by the singing of patriotic songs and much flag-waving.

The celebrations also generally include groups of participants in colourful traditional costumes to remind us of our rich cultural heritage and diversity.

It should be a time of reflection on what nationhood means for Malaysia and how we want our country to move forward, a time of celebrating together as Malaysians with no regard to race, religion or political affiliation.

Unfortunately, we live in such a politically-charged atmosphere, with the impending 13th general election looming over us, that even National Day has turned into an occasion for petty squabbling and the inevitable politicking.

The official theme of Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled) has been met with derision by the Opposition, who claim it is an empty slogan as many Government promises have not been fulfilled.

For their part, Pakatan Rakyat leaders have said they will skip the official celebrations for their own state-level one, complete with their own theme of Senegara, Sebangsa, Sejiwa(One Country, One Nation, One Soul).



So, instead of uniting the people as befits Merdeka Day, the celebration has been split along partisan lines.

Public reaction seems to range from indifference to disdain. We’re grown weary from waiting for the polls to be called and it’s hardly surprising if people are skeptical of the endless campaigning.


Meanwhile, there’s the important matter of what Merdeka Day means for Sarawak and Sabah. On this day in 1957, it was the Federation of Malaya which gained independence from the British. Sarawak became independent on July 22 1963 and Sabah on Aug 31 1963, shortly before Malaysia came into being on Sept 16 1963.

Some quarters have raised the point that today’s celebration has no relevance to Sarawak and Sabah, and that Malaysia Day on Sept 16 should be the rightful National Day.

Coupled with this is the tricky question of whether Malaysia is 55 or 49 years old, depen-ding on whether the birth of the nation is deemed to be in 1957 or 1963.

We’re in the peculiar position whereby Malaya became independent on Aug 31 1957, but the country of Malaysia was formed on Sept 16 1963 through the merger of Malaya, Singapore (which left in 1965), Sarawak and Sabah.

For Sarawakians and Sabahans, Sept 16 is the more meaningful date because it commemorates the birth of Malaysia, a nation of which we are a part. Peninsular Malaysians need to understand this and realise why Sept 16 is important to us here.

On our part, we should accept that Aug 31 is likewise an important date for the peninsula. However, since Sept 16 is Malaysia Day, it should be given equal, if not greater prominence, than Aug 31 as a truly national celebration of our coming together as a country.

Nevertheless, as we celebrate National Day today, let us be reminded of the Proclamation of Independence read out by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1957. It ends with the hope that the newly-independent nation “with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”

In line with this, the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Merdeka Day message is a timely call for Malaysians to forge ahead and invest in building a progressive and better country for all.

“In this celebratory occasion let us dream a new dream for all Malaysians. We pray to Almighty God that He will grant us a new vision of Malaysia for ourselves and all our children. We are a nation truly blessed with so much potential in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious communities.

“Let us mutually share all our resources, our wealth and opportunities and be a model nation to the nations around us. We can begin to do this by loving God and our neighbours as ourselves. Let us be responsible citizens of our beloved Malaysia. Let us care for those in need like the orphans and widows. May we meet the needs of the marginalised and others left by the wayside. In concert, let us jointly prosper our neighbours first.

“As Malaysians we step forward together in unity and harmony for all Malaysians and not pay heed to the strident voices of some with their narrow interests,” it said.

It also called for justice and righteousness to be upheld and for friendship, unity and harmony to be strengthened in the country.

May this be our prayer and hope for Malaysia as we celebrate this Merdeka Day.

ET CETERA By SHARON LING

 Related:

 

Malaysia celebrates 55 years Merdeka, a truly independence at retirement age?



Ugly two sides of a coin

Merdeka Day used to bring Malaysians together for one big do, but politics has changed all that
 
National colours, in droplets: The Malaysian flag, or Jalur Gemilang, is reflected in thousands of raindrops on a windscreen of a car during a rainy day in Kuching. It’s Aug 31 — Malaysians from all across the nation are flying the Jalur Gemilang with pride as they celebrate the 55th Merdeka Day. This photo is taken close up with a 90mm macro lense. —ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE/The Star

TODAY, Aug 31, is Merdeka Day. It’s usually an occasion celebrated with parades and speeches remembering heroes in the struggle for indedependence, marked by the singing of patriotic songs and much flag-waving.

The celebrations also generally include groups of participants in colourful traditional costumes to remind us of our rich cultural heritage and diversity.

It should be a time of reflection on what nationhood means for Malaysia and how we want our country to move forward, a time of celebrating together as Malaysians with no regard to race, religion or political affiliation.

Unfortunately, we live in such a politically-charged atmosphere, with the impending 13th general election looming over us, that even National Day has turned into an occasion for petty squabbling and the inevitable politicking.

The official theme of Janji Ditepati (Promises Fulfilled) has been met with derision by the Opposition, who claim it is an empty slogan as many Government promises have not been fulfilled.

For their part, Pakatan Rakyat leaders have said they will skip the official celebrations for their own state-level one, complete with their own theme of Senegara, Sebangsa, Sejiwa(One Country, One Nation, One Soul).



So, instead of uniting the people as befits Merdeka Day, the celebration has been split along partisan lines.

Public reaction seems to range from indifference to disdain. We’re grown weary from waiting for the polls to be called and it’s hardly surprising if people are skeptical of the endless campaigning.


Meanwhile, there’s the important matter of what Merdeka Day means for Sarawak and Sabah. On this day in 1957, it was the Federation of Malaya which gained independence from the British. Sarawak became independent on July 22 1963 and Sabah on Aug 31 1963, shortly before Malaysia came into being on Sept 16 1963.

Some quarters have raised the point that today’s celebration has no relevance to Sarawak and Sabah, and that Malaysia Day on Sept 16 should be the rightful National Day.

Coupled with this is the tricky question of whether Malaysia is 55 or 49 years old, depen-ding on whether the birth of the nation is deemed to be in 1957 or 1963.

We’re in the peculiar position whereby Malaya became independent on Aug 31 1957, but the country of Malaysia was formed on Sept 16 1963 through the merger of Malaya, Singapore (which left in 1965), Sarawak and Sabah.

For Sarawakians and Sabahans, Sept 16 is the more meaningful date because it commemorates the birth of Malaysia, a nation of which we are a part. Peninsular Malaysians need to understand this and realise why Sept 16 is important to us here.

On our part, we should accept that Aug 31 is likewise an important date for the peninsula. However, since Sept 16 is Malaysia Day, it should be given equal, if not greater prominence, than Aug 31 as a truly national celebration of our coming together as a country.

Nevertheless, as we celebrate National Day today, let us be reminded of the Proclamation of Independence read out by Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1957. It ends with the hope that the newly-independent nation “with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent state founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”

In line with this, the Christian Federation of Malaysia’s Merdeka Day message is a timely call for Malaysians to forge ahead and invest in building a progressive and better country for all.

“In this celebratory occasion let us dream a new dream for all Malaysians. We pray to Almighty God that He will grant us a new vision of Malaysia for ourselves and all our children. We are a nation truly blessed with so much potential in our multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious communities.

“Let us mutually share all our resources, our wealth and opportunities and be a model nation to the nations around us. We can begin to do this by loving God and our neighbours as ourselves. Let us be responsible citizens of our beloved Malaysia. Let us care for those in need like the orphans and widows. May we meet the needs of the marginalised and others left by the wayside. In concert, let us jointly prosper our neighbours first.

“As Malaysians we step forward together in unity and harmony for all Malaysians and not pay heed to the strident voices of some with their narrow interests,” it said.

It also called for justice and righteousness to be upheld and for friendship, unity and harmony to be strengthened in the country.

May this be our prayer and hope for Malaysia as we celebrate this Merdeka Day.

ET CETERA By SHARON LING

 Related:

 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Apple's rot starts with its Samsung lawsuit win

Just like Microsoft, Apple's evolution from smart tech company to global uber-brand contains the seeds of its own destruction

The risk for Apple is that it focuses more and more on intellectual property rights – filing patents and litigating – than it does on product innovation. Photograph: Ahn Young-Joon/AP
Apple came close to destroying its business in the late 1980s by pursuing a suit against Microsoft claiming that Windows infringed the look and feel of the Mac desktop metaphor. Apple focused its hopes and business future on this lawsuit, while its market share dwindled. Rather than competing, it litigated. And lost.

Last week, it litigated against Samsung over its iPhone design and won.

The first justifiable conclusion might be that big companies get their way. The second might reasonably be that Apple doesn't change much: its business model remains aggressive self-righteousness. The third is what everybody knows: patent rules and philosophy are all screwed up.

As for the first point, Apple is not just a big company, but the biggest. And it is not just the biggest American company, but the most American company. It has entered a rarefied brand status in which it is now almost synonymous with American virtue: American as Apple. Its good design sense has become a major point of American pride, if not nationalism.

The brand is a national asset. Apple is AT&T in its pre-break-up from; it's GM, in its what's-good-for-General-Motors-is-good-for-the-country stage; it's United Fruit when it made US foreign policy; it's Microsoft when desktop computing was transforming the world.

 Commercial omnipotence

This is about as close to commercial omnipotence as it gets. Its unassailability, its right to be preternaturally aggressive, is built into its share price. We believe in Apple. So let us briefly consider the chance for a Korean company defending itself against (or, perish the thought, challenging) the greatest American company of the age in the eyes of an American jury.

And then, there's the self-righteousness. Apple is one of the most aggressive intellectual property litigators of all time. Its major moves have not been about protecting precise technical innovations, but about claiming the much softer zone of look and feel.

It sues for brand rather than engineering. It has pioneered a new modern sensibility: taste is what's most valuable; identity is king. It's sued about the lower case "i"; it's sued about the word "pod"; it's sued New York City over the "big Apple"; it's sued over using the words "app store".

This fierce defensiveness might be rightly understood in a psychological sense: Apple itself is based on stolen iconography. There was first the Beatle's Apple and there was Xerox PARC's desktop design.

Apple's self-righteousness masks its guilt. (It may be sheepish, too, about being more of a marketing organization than a technology company.) What's more, it knows better than anybody that if you relax your vigilance, somebody can easily walk off with what you've done – and improve it.

And then, in the algebra of Samsung's loss and Apple's victory, there's patent hell. Or absurdity.

 System of litigation

Patents are, arguably, no longer a system of protection; they are a system of litigation. Great numbers of patents are now filed, in an over-burdened system, to protect not innovations but the right to litigate over innovations. Indeed, any patent of value will ultimately be litigated.

What's more, as the system has become ever more over-taxed, as technology itself has become more complex, the ill-equipped and under-trained bureaucracy has increasingly taken to giving patents to wide-ranging abstractions.

Design concepts, behavior adjustments, and new approaches to problem solving are all patentable innovations. The system itself assumes that litigation is the check on the system. Which means, fundamentally, that the litigant with the most resources and greatest status wins.

But let us not argue the case that all this quite obviously impedes innovation and is part of a new unreal property land grab – not about technology at all, but about intellectual property: an effort to privatize much of what was once understood to be shared and public (indeed, not ownable, like the shape of the iPhone). But rather, for a moment, let's look at this as a form of hubris that has inevitable consequences.

The Apple that has won against Samsung is the same Apple that lost against Microsoft. In other words, it is the kind of company that, through sheer willfulness, discipline, and perfectionism, can achieve brand hegemony of a singular type. But it is, too, the kind of company – the exact sort of company – that becomes, perhaps inevitably becomes, the bete noire of consumerists, regulators and, of course, most of all, its competitors.

This is the story between the lines of its great victory and its further share price surge. On the one hand, there is this seemingly golden company. On the other hand, there is anybody with any sense of history knowing this is going to end badly.
  
American capitalism

Companies that acquire the nation's imprimatur often, if not invariably, over-reach. It is a characteristic of American capitalism: the price of getting really big and overbearing is that you incur an inverse reaction. In the early 1990s, an ambitious department of justice (a Republican administration DOJ at that) commenced its assault on Microsoft.

For better or worse, by the time the feds were finished, the company, with its rotten operating system, besieged and beleaguered, had become just one of many not-very-adept players in the space – an unimaginable outcome if you remember the once God-like power and scorched-earth wrath of Microsoft.

Apple, and its rotten phone, have a ways to go. But karma should not be underestimated as a factor in this game.
 Related posts:
 Apple wins $1bn in US while Samsung wins in Korea; it may reshape the free Google Android system
US Stocks dominate; Korean share drops after US's ruling on Apple-Samsung patent wars
The US Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free?   

Apple's rot starts with its Samsung lawsuit win

Just like Microsoft, Apple's evolution from smart tech company to global uber-brand contains the seeds of its own destruction

The risk for Apple is that it focuses more and more on intellectual property rights – filing patents and litigating – than it does on product innovation. Photograph: Ahn Young-Joon/AP
Apple came close to destroying its business in the late 1980s by pursuing a suit against Microsoft claiming that Windows infringed the look and feel of the Mac desktop metaphor. Apple focused its hopes and business future on this lawsuit, while its market share dwindled. Rather than competing, it litigated. And lost.

Last week, it litigated against Samsung over its iPhone design and won.

The first justifiable conclusion might be that big companies get their way. The second might reasonably be that Apple doesn't change much: its business model remains aggressive self-righteousness. The third is what everybody knows: patent rules and philosophy are all screwed up.

As for the first point, Apple is not just a big company, but the biggest. And it is not just the biggest American company, but the most American company. It has entered a rarefied brand status in which it is now almost synonymous with American virtue: American as Apple. Its good design sense has become a major point of American pride, if not nationalism.

The brand is a national asset. Apple is AT&T in its pre-break-up from; it's GM, in its what's-good-for-General-Motors-is-good-for-the-country stage; it's United Fruit when it made US foreign policy; it's Microsoft when desktop computing was transforming the world.

 Commercial omnipotence

This is about as close to commercial omnipotence as it gets. Its unassailability, its right to be preternaturally aggressive, is built into its share price. We believe in Apple. So let us briefly consider the chance for a Korean company defending itself against (or, perish the thought, challenging) the greatest American company of the age in the eyes of an American jury.

And then, there's the self-righteousness. Apple is one of the most aggressive intellectual property litigators of all time. Its major moves have not been about protecting precise technical innovations, but about claiming the much softer zone of look and feel.

It sues for brand rather than engineering. It has pioneered a new modern sensibility: taste is what's most valuable; identity is king. It's sued about the lower case "i"; it's sued about the word "pod"; it's sued New York City over the "big Apple"; it's sued over using the words "app store".

This fierce defensiveness might be rightly understood in a psychological sense: Apple itself is based on stolen iconography. There was first the Beatle's Apple and there was Xerox PARC's desktop design.

Apple's self-righteousness masks its guilt. (It may be sheepish, too, about being more of a marketing organization than a technology company.) What's more, it knows better than anybody that if you relax your vigilance, somebody can easily walk off with what you've done – and improve it.

And then, in the algebra of Samsung's loss and Apple's victory, there's patent hell. Or absurdity.

 System of litigation

Patents are, arguably, no longer a system of protection; they are a system of litigation. Great numbers of patents are now filed, in an over-burdened system, to protect not innovations but the right to litigate over innovations. Indeed, any patent of value will ultimately be litigated.

What's more, as the system has become ever more over-taxed, as technology itself has become more complex, the ill-equipped and under-trained bureaucracy has increasingly taken to giving patents to wide-ranging abstractions.

Design concepts, behavior adjustments, and new approaches to problem solving are all patentable innovations. The system itself assumes that litigation is the check on the system. Which means, fundamentally, that the litigant with the most resources and greatest status wins.

But let us not argue the case that all this quite obviously impedes innovation and is part of a new unreal property land grab – not about technology at all, but about intellectual property: an effort to privatize much of what was once understood to be shared and public (indeed, not ownable, like the shape of the iPhone). But rather, for a moment, let's look at this as a form of hubris that has inevitable consequences.

The Apple that has won against Samsung is the same Apple that lost against Microsoft. In other words, it is the kind of company that, through sheer willfulness, discipline, and perfectionism, can achieve brand hegemony of a singular type. But it is, too, the kind of company – the exact sort of company – that becomes, perhaps inevitably becomes, the bete noire of consumerists, regulators and, of course, most of all, its competitors.

This is the story between the lines of its great victory and its further share price surge. On the one hand, there is this seemingly golden company. On the other hand, there is anybody with any sense of history knowing this is going to end badly.
  
American capitalism

Companies that acquire the nation's imprimatur often, if not invariably, over-reach. It is a characteristic of American capitalism: the price of getting really big and overbearing is that you incur an inverse reaction. In the early 1990s, an ambitious department of justice (a Republican administration DOJ at that) commenced its assault on Microsoft.

For better or worse, by the time the feds were finished, the company, with its rotten operating system, besieged and beleaguered, had become just one of many not-very-adept players in the space – an unimaginable outcome if you remember the once God-like power and scorched-earth wrath of Microsoft.

Apple, and its rotten phone, have a ways to go. But karma should not be underestimated as a factor in this game.
 Related posts:
 Apple wins $1bn in US while Samsung wins in Korea; it may reshape the free Google Android system
US Stocks dominate; Korean share drops after US's ruling on Apple-Samsung patent wars
The US Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free?   

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

The US Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free?

The US's draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it's secret – unless you're a multinational CEO

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

"Free trade" is a sacred mantra in Washington. If anything is labeled as being "free trade", then everyone in the Washington establishment is required to bow down and support it. Otherwise, they are excommunicated from the list of respectable people and exiled to the land of protectionist Neanderthals.

This is essential background to understanding what is going on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region. The agreement is packaged as a "free trade" agreement. This label will force all of the respectable types in Washington to support it.

In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new "free trade" pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world.

Government secrets
 
At this point, it's not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.

A few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact. One major focus is will be stronger protection for intellectual property. In the case of recorded music and movies, we might see provisions similar to those that were in the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). This would make internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook and, indeed, anyone with a website into a copyright cop.

Since these measures were hugely unpopular, Sopa could probably never pass as a standalone piece of legislation. But tied into a larger pact and blessed with "free trade" holy water, the entertainment industry may be able to get what it wants.

The pharmaceutical industry is also likely to be a big gainer from this pact. It has decided that the stronger patent rules that it inserted in the 1995 WTO agreement don't go far enough. It wants stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of "data exclusivity". This is a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company's test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.

Note that stronger copyright and patent protection, along with data exclusivity, is the opposite of free trade. They involve increased government intervention in the market; they restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.

In fact, the costs associated with copyright and patent protection dwarf the costs associated with the tariffs or quotas that usually concern free traders. While the latter rarely raise the price of a product by more than 20-30%, patent protection for prescription drugs can allow drugs to sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per prescription when they would sell for $5-10 as a generic in a free market.

Patent protection

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). In addition to making drugs unaffordable to people who need them, the economic costs implied by this market distortion are enormous.

There are many other provisions in this pact that are likely to be similarly controversial. The rules it creates would override domestic laws on the environment, workplace safety, and investment. Of course, it's not really possible to talk about the details because there are no publicly available drafts.

In principle, the TPP is exactly the sort of issue that should feature prominently in the fall elections. Voters should have a chance to decide if they want to vote for candidates who support raising the price of drugs for people in the United States and the rest of the world, or making us all into unpaid copyright cops. But there is no text and no discussion in the campaigns – and that is exactly how the corporations who stand to gain want it.

There is one way to spoil their fun. Just Foreign Policy is offering a reward, now up to $21,100, to WikiLeaks if it publishes a draft copy of the pact. People could add to the reward fund, or if in a position to do so, make a copy of the draft agreement available to the world.

Our political leaders will say that they are worried about the TPP text getting in the hands of terrorists, but we know the truth: they are afraid of a public debate. So if the free market works, we will get to see the draft of the agreement.

The US Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free?

The US's draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it's secret – unless you're a multinational CEO

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

"Free trade" is a sacred mantra in Washington. If anything is labeled as being "free trade", then everyone in the Washington establishment is required to bow down and support it. Otherwise, they are excommunicated from the list of respectable people and exiled to the land of protectionist Neanderthals.

This is essential background to understanding what is going on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region. The agreement is packaged as a "free trade" agreement. This label will force all of the respectable types in Washington to support it.

In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new "free trade" pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.

As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world.

Government secrets
 
At this point, it's not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.

A few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact. One major focus is will be stronger protection for intellectual property. In the case of recorded music and movies, we might see provisions similar to those that were in the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). This would make internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook and, indeed, anyone with a website into a copyright cop.

Since these measures were hugely unpopular, Sopa could probably never pass as a standalone piece of legislation. But tied into a larger pact and blessed with "free trade" holy water, the entertainment industry may be able to get what it wants.

The pharmaceutical industry is also likely to be a big gainer from this pact. It has decided that the stronger patent rules that it inserted in the 1995 WTO agreement don't go far enough. It wants stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of "data exclusivity". This is a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company's test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.

Note that stronger copyright and patent protection, along with data exclusivity, is the opposite of free trade. They involve increased government intervention in the market; they restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.

In fact, the costs associated with copyright and patent protection dwarf the costs associated with the tariffs or quotas that usually concern free traders. While the latter rarely raise the price of a product by more than 20-30%, patent protection for prescription drugs can allow drugs to sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per prescription when they would sell for $5-10 as a generic in a free market.

Patent protection

Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). In addition to making drugs unaffordable to people who need them, the economic costs implied by this market distortion are enormous.

There are many other provisions in this pact that are likely to be similarly controversial. The rules it creates would override domestic laws on the environment, workplace safety, and investment. Of course, it's not really possible to talk about the details because there are no publicly available drafts.

In principle, the TPP is exactly the sort of issue that should feature prominently in the fall elections. Voters should have a chance to decide if they want to vote for candidates who support raising the price of drugs for people in the United States and the rest of the world, or making us all into unpaid copyright cops. But there is no text and no discussion in the campaigns – and that is exactly how the corporations who stand to gain want it.

There is one way to spoil their fun. Just Foreign Policy is offering a reward, now up to $21,100, to WikiLeaks if it publishes a draft copy of the pact. People could add to the reward fund, or if in a position to do so, make a copy of the draft agreement available to the world.

Our political leaders will say that they are worried about the TPP text getting in the hands of terrorists, but we know the truth: they are afraid of a public debate. So if the free market works, we will get to see the draft of the agreement.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Japan aids armed forces of China's neighbors

Tracer bullets ricochet off their targets as the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force Type 74 and Type 90 armoured tanks fire machine guns during a night annual training session at Higashifuji training field in Gotemba, west of Tokyo, August 21, 2012. Mt. Fuji is seen in the background.(Xinhua/Reuters)

Japan's Defense Ministry has begun providing technical assistance in "non-combat fields" such as landmine clearance and medical treatment to the armed forces of six countries surrounding China.

The official development assistance (ODA) handled by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs bans funding armed forces overseas, but the technical assistance program being carried out by the Japan Self-Defense Forces falls outside the ODA parameters, the Asahi Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, reported on Aug. 26.

The paper cited several Japanese officials as saying that the six countries that are receiving technical assistance from Japan's Defense Ministry are Indonesia, Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Tonga. The program is aimed at deepening cooperation with countries surrounding China, according to the report.

The assistance program falls under a Japanese initiative to "help nations in the Asia-Pacific region build up their ability to defend themselves." Japan added a new goal of "stabilizing the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region" to its National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2010.

According to Asahi Shimbun, this is another overseas military program the Self-Defense Forces has participated in besides the United Nations peacekeeping operations. Although the technical assistance is “strictly non-combat,” it will likely enhance the fighting capacity of the Self-Defense Forces.

Read the Chinese version at: 日本向中国周边国家军队提供技术支援, Source: People's Daily

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Related posts:
Japan, the deputy sheriff in Asia? 
China, S.Korea demand Japan own up to its wars criminal past
Japan-China Territorial Dispute is Serious, and Escalating!    

Japan aids armed forces of China's neighbors

Tracer bullets ricochet off their targets as the Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force Type 74 and Type 90 armoured tanks fire machine guns during a night annual training session at Higashifuji training field in Gotemba, west of Tokyo, August 21, 2012. Mt. Fuji is seen in the background.(Xinhua/Reuters)

Japan's Defense Ministry has begun providing technical assistance in "non-combat fields" such as landmine clearance and medical treatment to the armed forces of six countries surrounding China.

The official development assistance (ODA) handled by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs bans funding armed forces overseas, but the technical assistance program being carried out by the Japan Self-Defense Forces falls outside the ODA parameters, the Asahi Shimbun, one of the five national newspapers in Japan, reported on Aug. 26.

The paper cited several Japanese officials as saying that the six countries that are receiving technical assistance from Japan's Defense Ministry are Indonesia, Vietnam, East Timor, Cambodia, Mongolia, and Tonga. The program is aimed at deepening cooperation with countries surrounding China, according to the report.

The assistance program falls under a Japanese initiative to "help nations in the Asia-Pacific region build up their ability to defend themselves." Japan added a new goal of "stabilizing the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region" to its National Defense Program Guidelines in late 2010.

According to Asahi Shimbun, this is another overseas military program the Self-Defense Forces has participated in besides the United Nations peacekeeping operations. Although the technical assistance is “strictly non-combat,” it will likely enhance the fighting capacity of the Self-Defense Forces.

Read the Chinese version at: 日本向中国周边国家军队提供技术支援, Source: People's Daily

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US Stocks dominate; Korean share drops after US's ruling on Apple-Samsung patent wars

US ascends in biggest stocks as Google, Apple oust Gazprom

Shares of Apple have hit new record highs after the company won its patent lawsuit against Samsung, but overall stocks traded mixed.

Wall Street
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and four more US companies joined the top 20 since stocks peaked in 2007, bringing the total to 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg
New York: American stocks are dominating global equities by the most in a decade, taking a majority of the spots in a ranking of the 20 biggest companies, after earnings rose faster than the rest of the world as the global economy rebounded.

Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and four more US companies joined the top 20 since stocks peaked in 2007, bringing the total to 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They replaced Moscow-based Gazprom OAO, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. in Beijing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA of Rio de Janeiro and six others from Europe and Asia. Of the nine added, only BHP Billiton Ltd. and Nestle SA are based outside the US.

More US corporations are represented than any time since 2003 after 10 quarters of economic expansion and profit growth lifted the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index 109 per cent since shares bottomed in March 2009. The shift reflects volatility in emerging markets and shows how innovation builds value in the US.

“The US is just the best place on the planet to have a great idea and turn it into a big business,” according to Michael Shaoul, chairman of New York-based Marketfield Asset Management, which oversees $2.7 billion (Dh9.9 billion).

“There’s another reason for this list to have shifted and that is the falling of prior darlings,” Shaoul said. “A lot of the ones which have fallen are energy and emerging-market related.”

Reasons for strength

American companies are gaining strength in part because of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. While the S&P 500 fell 0.5 per cent last week to 1,411.13, retreating from a four-year high, amid concern European leaders will fail to preserve the 17-nation currency union, the Euro Stoxx 50 Index slid 1.5 per cent. S&P 500 futures added 0.1 per cent to 1,410.6 at 8.52am in London on Monday.

Computer and software makers became the top industry in the S&P 500, overtaking financial companies, as Apple and IBM joined Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among the biggest stocks. The last time a non-US technology producer made the global ranking was in 2001, when Finland-based Nokia Oyj was the world’s largest mobile phone maker. Nokia’s market value has fallen by 92 per cent since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

The Cupertino, California-based maker of iPad computers last week became the most valuable US company ever as the stock rose to $668.87 on August 22, giving the company a value of $627 billion. Apple, which approached bankruptcy in 1997, has jumped more than 80-fold in the past decade.

IBM’s market value more than doubled over the decade as the company shifted its strategy toward more profitable software sales and away from hardware and consulting. The New York-based company, with a market capitalisation of $226 billion, closed the gap with Microsoft, valued at $256.2 billion, to become the No. 3 technology maker and the world’s seventh-biggest company.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, was worth four times as much as IBM in 1999. Mountain View, California-based Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, is valued at $222.6 billion.

No match to Apple, Google

“There are not a lot of other companies that can compete with the Googles and the Apples of the world,” Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, said. “We have probably the most cutting-edge companies in the technology space that exist today. Who can match Apple? I can’t think of anybody.”

Computer and software makers represent 20 per cent of the S&P 500. The industry’s weighting outside the US is 4 per cent, as measured by the MSCI World ex-US Index.

Profit growth drove the US gains. The 14 biggest US companies earned $248.4 billion in the last 12 months, more than double the total made by the 67 companies in Brazil’s Bovespa Index. Their market value reached $3.57 trillion, about the size of Germany’s 2011 gross domestic product.

Earnings at the seven newly added American companies surged 40 per cent during the past four years, while income for the 13 non-US firms that made the 2007 list rose 6 per cent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The ranking reflects the US economy, where growth climbed back toward pre-2008 levels faster than other countries. Gross domestic product is forecast to gain 2.2 per cent this year, according to the median estimate of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with an average of 2.6 per cent between 2002 and 2007, before the credit crisis, the data show.

Growth declines elsewhere

China is projected to expand by 8.1 per cent, compared with its mean rate of 11.2 per cent before the global recession. Brazil’s GDP may increase 1.9 per cent, down from an average of 3.8 per cent. Russia may grow by 3.8 per cent, next to 7.1 per cent in the five years before the credit crisis.

“People perceive not only better growth for the US, but also less risk,” Chris Leavy, the chief investment officer of fundamental equities at New York-based BlackRock Inc., which oversees $3.56 trillion as the world’s biggest money manager, said in an August 22 interview.

Investors are demanding more profit to reward companies with higher stock prices than before the credit crisis shattered confidence in equities. The average capitalisation of the largest 20 companies shrunk 17 per cent to $242.5 billion since 2007 even as profits surged almost fourfold to $18.8 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The biggest companies, dominated in 2007 by commodity explorers and enterprises controlled by China’s government, traded at an average price-earnings ratio of 57.6, the data show. Today, after the addition of two American technology developers and a California bank, the average valuation is 12.9, according to the data.

“It’s so commonplace in this country to vilify corporations, but the truth is the American corporate structure has worked very well,” David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds in New York, said in an August 22 phone interview. His firm oversees about $348 billion. “There are other countries which are doing very well economically, but don’t do as good a job as inventing and reinventing themselves.”

The S&P 500 trailed the rest of the world in the previous bull market as accelerating growth in China boosted demand for commodities from Brazil to Russia. The index rose 99 per cent during the five-year rally that ended in October 2007, lagging behind a 187 per cent gain by the MSCI World ex-US Index and a 416 per cent surge in an MSCI gauge tracking 21 emerging markets. - Bloomberg

Samsung share price drops on Apple patent ruling


Watch this video
How South Koreans view Samsung ruling
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW The share price of Samsung Electronics dropped nearly 7.5% in trading Monday
  • Comes after a California jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in a patent dispute with Samsung
  • The tumble erased about $12 billion from the South Korean electronics giant's market value
(CNN) -- The share price of Samsung Electronics dropped nearly 7.5% in trading Monday as investors had their first opportunity to react to the more than $1 billion decision against the Korean electronics giant by a California jury for infringing on Apple patents.

Samsung dropped 6.3% at the open of South Korea's Kospi index and finished the day down 7.45%, after dropping as much as 7.7%. The tumble erased about $12 billion from the company's market value Monday.

Samsung is planning to appeal Friday's decision of a U.S. federal jury which awarded Apple $1.05 billion for copying the look and feel of iPhones and iPad design. The jury rejected Samsung's counterclaims against Apple.

A senior Samsung executive told the Korea Times the decision was "absolutely the worst scenario for us" as he was heading into an emergency meeting at the company's Seoul headquarters on Sunday.

The decision could lead to the prohibition of sales in the U.S. of Samsung smarphones and computer tablets found to have violated Apple's patents. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for September 20.

Apple vs. Samsung: Tale of two countries


"As far as the money damages are concerned, (Samsung) will make that up in the long run. The bigger issue at the moment them having to come up with new and unique designs appealing to the customer base," said Christopher Carani, chairman of the design rights committee of the American Bar Association.

"It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices," Samsung said in a written statement after Friday's decision. "It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies."

Apple, meanwhile, praised the court for "sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn't right."

"The mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung's copying went far deeper than even we knew," the company said in a statement.

A nine-person jury spent just two and a half days puzzling out its final verdict, with weeks of notes and memories of testimony, 109 pages of jury instructions, and boxes of evidence including a collection of contested smartphones and tablets as their guide.

The jury award shows the growing importance of design for electronics makers. In 2001, Apple and Samsung were awarded 10 and eight U.S. design patents, respectively. This year, Apple could have as many as 333 design patents approved, while Samsung could have as many as 500, Carani said.

"Central to the U.S. case and at its very core was design rights, the way things look, and that's really where the large amount of this billion-dollar damages judgment comes from," Carani said.

The lawsuit is the largest yet in the ongoing worldwide patent brawl between the two companies, which itself is just one battle in Apple's war against Google's Android mobile operating system. On Friday, a South Korean court found that both parties had infringed on each other's patents, banning the sale of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, two iPad models and Samsung's Galaxy S2.

The Korean court ordered Apple to pay Samsung $35,000 and Samsung to pay Apple $22,000.

Related posts:
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US Stocks dominate; Korean share drops after US's ruling on Apple-Samsung patent wars

US ascends in biggest stocks as Google, Apple oust Gazprom

Shares of Apple have hit new record highs after the company won its patent lawsuit against Samsung, but overall stocks traded mixed.

Wall Street
  • Image Credit: AP
  • Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and four more US companies joined the top 20 since stocks peaked in 2007, bringing the total to 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg
New York: American stocks are dominating global equities by the most in a decade, taking a majority of the spots in a ranking of the 20 biggest companies, after earnings rose faster than the rest of the world as the global economy rebounded.

Apple Inc., International Business Machines Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and four more US companies joined the top 20 since stocks peaked in 2007, bringing the total to 14, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. They replaced Moscow-based Gazprom OAO, China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. in Beijing, Petroleo Brasileiro SA of Rio de Janeiro and six others from Europe and Asia. Of the nine added, only BHP Billiton Ltd. and Nestle SA are based outside the US.

More US corporations are represented than any time since 2003 after 10 quarters of economic expansion and profit growth lifted the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index 109 per cent since shares bottomed in March 2009. The shift reflects volatility in emerging markets and shows how innovation builds value in the US.

“The US is just the best place on the planet to have a great idea and turn it into a big business,” according to Michael Shaoul, chairman of New York-based Marketfield Asset Management, which oversees $2.7 billion (Dh9.9 billion).

“There’s another reason for this list to have shifted and that is the falling of prior darlings,” Shaoul said. “A lot of the ones which have fallen are energy and emerging-market related.”

Reasons for strength

American companies are gaining strength in part because of Europe’s sovereign debt crisis. While the S&P 500 fell 0.5 per cent last week to 1,411.13, retreating from a four-year high, amid concern European leaders will fail to preserve the 17-nation currency union, the Euro Stoxx 50 Index slid 1.5 per cent. S&P 500 futures added 0.1 per cent to 1,410.6 at 8.52am in London on Monday.

Computer and software makers became the top industry in the S&P 500, overtaking financial companies, as Apple and IBM joined Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. among the biggest stocks. The last time a non-US technology producer made the global ranking was in 2001, when Finland-based Nokia Oyj was the world’s largest mobile phone maker. Nokia’s market value has fallen by 92 per cent since Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007.

The Cupertino, California-based maker of iPad computers last week became the most valuable US company ever as the stock rose to $668.87 on August 22, giving the company a value of $627 billion. Apple, which approached bankruptcy in 1997, has jumped more than 80-fold in the past decade.

IBM’s market value more than doubled over the decade as the company shifted its strategy toward more profitable software sales and away from hardware and consulting. The New York-based company, with a market capitalisation of $226 billion, closed the gap with Microsoft, valued at $256.2 billion, to become the No. 3 technology maker and the world’s seventh-biggest company.

Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, was worth four times as much as IBM in 1999. Mountain View, California-based Google, owner of the world’s most popular search engine, is valued at $222.6 billion.

No match to Apple, Google

“There are not a lot of other companies that can compete with the Googles and the Apples of the world,” Jeffrey Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, Florida, said. “We have probably the most cutting-edge companies in the technology space that exist today. Who can match Apple? I can’t think of anybody.”

Computer and software makers represent 20 per cent of the S&P 500. The industry’s weighting outside the US is 4 per cent, as measured by the MSCI World ex-US Index.

Profit growth drove the US gains. The 14 biggest US companies earned $248.4 billion in the last 12 months, more than double the total made by the 67 companies in Brazil’s Bovespa Index. Their market value reached $3.57 trillion, about the size of Germany’s 2011 gross domestic product.

Earnings at the seven newly added American companies surged 40 per cent during the past four years, while income for the 13 non-US firms that made the 2007 list rose 6 per cent, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The ranking reflects the US economy, where growth climbed back toward pre-2008 levels faster than other countries. Gross domestic product is forecast to gain 2.2 per cent this year, according to the median estimate of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. That compares with an average of 2.6 per cent between 2002 and 2007, before the credit crisis, the data show.

Growth declines elsewhere

China is projected to expand by 8.1 per cent, compared with its mean rate of 11.2 per cent before the global recession. Brazil’s GDP may increase 1.9 per cent, down from an average of 3.8 per cent. Russia may grow by 3.8 per cent, next to 7.1 per cent in the five years before the credit crisis.

“People perceive not only better growth for the US, but also less risk,” Chris Leavy, the chief investment officer of fundamental equities at New York-based BlackRock Inc., which oversees $3.56 trillion as the world’s biggest money manager, said in an August 22 interview.

Investors are demanding more profit to reward companies with higher stock prices than before the credit crisis shattered confidence in equities. The average capitalisation of the largest 20 companies shrunk 17 per cent to $242.5 billion since 2007 even as profits surged almost fourfold to $18.8 billion, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

The biggest companies, dominated in 2007 by commodity explorers and enterprises controlled by China’s government, traded at an average price-earnings ratio of 57.6, the data show. Today, after the addition of two American technology developers and a California bank, the average valuation is 12.9, according to the data.

“It’s so commonplace in this country to vilify corporations, but the truth is the American corporate structure has worked very well,” David Kelly, chief market strategist at JPMorgan Funds in New York, said in an August 22 phone interview. His firm oversees about $348 billion. “There are other countries which are doing very well economically, but don’t do as good a job as inventing and reinventing themselves.”

The S&P 500 trailed the rest of the world in the previous bull market as accelerating growth in China boosted demand for commodities from Brazil to Russia. The index rose 99 per cent during the five-year rally that ended in October 2007, lagging behind a 187 per cent gain by the MSCI World ex-US Index and a 416 per cent surge in an MSCI gauge tracking 21 emerging markets. - Bloomberg

Samsung share price drops on Apple patent ruling


Watch this video
How South Koreans view Samsung ruling
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW The share price of Samsung Electronics dropped nearly 7.5% in trading Monday
  • Comes after a California jury awarded Apple $1.05 billion in a patent dispute with Samsung
  • The tumble erased about $12 billion from the South Korean electronics giant's market value
(CNN) -- The share price of Samsung Electronics dropped nearly 7.5% in trading Monday as investors had their first opportunity to react to the more than $1 billion decision against the Korean electronics giant by a California jury for infringing on Apple patents.

Samsung dropped 6.3% at the open of South Korea's Kospi index and finished the day down 7.45%, after dropping as much as 7.7%. The tumble erased about $12 billion from the company's market value Monday.

Samsung is planning to appeal Friday's decision of a U.S. federal jury which awarded Apple $1.05 billion for copying the look and feel of iPhones and iPad design. The jury rejected Samsung's counterclaims against Apple.

A senior Samsung executive told the Korea Times the decision was "absolutely the worst scenario for us" as he was heading into an emergency meeting at the company's Seoul headquarters on Sunday.

The decision could lead to the prohibition of sales in the U.S. of Samsung smarphones and computer tablets found to have violated Apple's patents. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for September 20.

Apple vs. Samsung: Tale of two countries


"As far as the money damages are concerned, (Samsung) will make that up in the long run. The bigger issue at the moment them having to come up with new and unique designs appealing to the customer base," said Christopher Carani, chairman of the design rights committee of the American Bar Association.

"It will lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices," Samsung said in a written statement after Friday's decision. "It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies."

Apple, meanwhile, praised the court for "sending a loud and clear message that stealing isn't right."

"The mountain of evidence presented during the trial showed that Samsung's copying went far deeper than even we knew," the company said in a statement.

A nine-person jury spent just two and a half days puzzling out its final verdict, with weeks of notes and memories of testimony, 109 pages of jury instructions, and boxes of evidence including a collection of contested smartphones and tablets as their guide.

The jury award shows the growing importance of design for electronics makers. In 2001, Apple and Samsung were awarded 10 and eight U.S. design patents, respectively. This year, Apple could have as many as 333 design patents approved, while Samsung could have as many as 500, Carani said.

"Central to the U.S. case and at its very core was design rights, the way things look, and that's really where the large amount of this billion-dollar damages judgment comes from," Carani said.

The lawsuit is the largest yet in the ongoing worldwide patent brawl between the two companies, which itself is just one battle in Apple's war against Google's Android mobile operating system. On Friday, a South Korean court found that both parties had infringed on each other's patents, banning the sale of the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, two iPad models and Samsung's Galaxy S2.

The Korean court ordered Apple to pay Samsung $35,000 and Samsung to pay Apple $22,000.

Related posts:
Apple wins $1bn in US while Samsung wins in Korea; it may reshape the free Google Android system
US launches financial attacks against its allies!