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LONDON NATO warned of an “unusual” uptick in Russian military aircraft flying sorties in European airspace this week, saying its fighters had scrambled to intercept four groups of fighters and bombers in just a 24-hour period. “These sizable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” NATO said in a statement on Wednesday.

NATO added that it has conducted more than 100 intercepts of Russian aircraft so far this year “about three times more” than it conducted in 2013. While the alliance acknowledged that scrambling jets to intercept unknown aircraft approaching NATO airspace is “standard procedure,” it noted the potential risk to civilian air traffic posed by Russian military jets which often fail to file flight plans or use on-board transponders.

The alliance said that Norwegian F-16s were scrambled Wednesday after its radar spotted eight Russian aircraft flying in formation over the North Sea. The Norwegian jets intercepted the four Tu-95 Bear H strategic bombers and four II-78 tanker aircraft, which had flown from mainland Russia. Six of those Russian aircraft turned back toward Russia, but two continued over the North Sea prompting the U.K. to scramble Typhoon fighter jets in response and later an intercept from Portugal’s air force. That afternoon, NATO radars detected two bombers and two fighter jets in international airspace flying over the Black Sea. Turkish Air Force jets intercepted those aircraft, while Portuguese F-16s were scramble in response to “a number” of Russian aircraft over the Baltic Sea.

On Tuesday, seven Russian combat aircraft were detected in international airspace over the Baltic Sea on Tuesday and intercepted by German Typhoon jets “in order to identify the aircraft and protect allied airspace,” NATO said. When the combat craft continued on, allied fighters from Denmark along with non-NATO members Finland and Sweden intercepted the Russian planes.

First published October 30 2014, 3:17 AM

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NATO Sees 'Unusual' Spike in Russian Military Flights

By Jamie Crawford, CNN National Security Producer

October 30, 2014 — Updated 0453 GMT (1253 HKT)

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

(CNN) — An “unusual” uptick in the size and scale of Russian aircraft flying throughout European airspace in recent days has raised alarm bells for NATO officials that come amid other provocations already rattling the West.

Multiple groups of Russian military bomber and tanker aircraft, flying under the guise of military maneuvers, were detected and monitored over sections of the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Black Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Those flights represented an “unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” according to a press release from NATO.

Adding to the concern — none of the Russian aircraft filed customary flight plans or maintained radio contact with civilian aviation authorities or used any of their onboard transponders.

“This poses a potential risk to civil aviation as civilian air traffic control cannot detect these aircraft or ensure there is no interference with civilian air traffic,” NATO said in its release.

That concern was echoed by a U.S. official speaking with CNN who noted that none of any recent interactions between U.S. and Russian aircraft have proved problematic to this point.

NATO said that in a 24-hour period ending late Wednesday, there were more than 19 instances of Russian aircraft in European airspace.

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NATO monitors increase in Russian flights over Europe

BERLIN:More than 80 countries signed an agreement in Berlin on Wednesday (Oct 29) that could end banking secrecy in the global battle against tax evasion and fraud, even though critics pointed to shortcomings in the deal. Among the signatories were EU countries but also previously staunch proponents of banking secrecy such as Liechtenstein and tax havens like the Cayman or Virgin Islands.

The deal – known as the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement – crowned two days of talks by the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. The meeting was hosted by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

Fifty-one countries signed one agreement to put in place an automatic exchange of information between the participating countries beginning in September 2017. The agreement designates the national authority in each country which will be responsible for collating the data and transferring it to the other countries. The aim is for every country to be kept fully informed about the offshore holdings of its citizens.

Around 30 other countries – including Austria and Switzerland, the Bahamas and the United Arab Emirates – pledged to join the agreement from 2018. “Banking secrecy, in its old form, is obsolete,” Schaeuble told the mass-circulation daily Bild in an interview. The danger of being caught is now “very high”, Schaeuble said.

The forum was set up under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, which estimates that “offshore tax evasion is a serious problem for jurisdictions all over the world”. Economist Gabriel Zucman, a specialist in fiscal fraud, has calculated that about 5.8 trillion (US$7.4 trillion) is stashed away in tax havens, depriving authorities all over the world of around 130 billion in revenue each year.

US ACT AGAINST EVASION

The international movement to end banking secrecy has gained new momentum recently with the enactment in the United States of its 2010 Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act or FATCA. FATCA obliges foreign banks to report to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on the offshore holdings of US clients in excess of 50,000.

The move prompted five European countries – Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain – to call for a generalised automatic exchange of information in 2011. Following months of talks, amid fierce resistance in countries such as Luxembourg and Austria where banks continue to uphold banking secrecy, the EU finally came up with an accord two weeks ago.

“The more countries sign up, the more difficult it will be for others to attract investment,” said the OECD’s director for tax policy and administration, Pascal Saint-Amans. However, a number of financial centres remained a “source of concern”, he said. Panama, for example, still had not set a concrete date for its exchange of information.

Saint-Amans said the OECD will compile a list of countries that do not automatically exchange information, a measure which could act as a disincentive for investment funds and international organisations looking to invest in those countries. But experts in fiscal fraud, such as Andres Knobel of Tax Justice Network, believe such a “blacklist” would prove a rather feeble deterrent.

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80 countries back deal that could end banking secrecy

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27 (UPI) — The U.S. and NATO congratulated Ukraine for holding successful parliamentary elections on Sunday.

According to a preliminary assessment released by the OSCE’s International Election Observatory Mission, the elections “were transparent and assessed positively overall.”

The OSCE, U.S., and NATO recognized that unrest in Ukraine’s eastern region and the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula by Russia had impacted the ability of all Ukrainians to participate in Sunday’s election.

“Despite a challenging security environment in certain regions, millions of Ukrainians turned out across the country to cast their ballots in an orderly and peaceful manner,” President Barack Obama remarked Monday.

Secretary of State John Kerry applauded Kiev for its voter outreach to embattled areas, notably in Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.

“Their hard work to provide for alternate voting arrangements, including for internally displaced persons, was a particularly laudable effort to overcome actions by Russian authorities occupying Crimea and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine to prevent voters from exercising their democratic rights.”

Obama included a message intended for Moscow in his congratulatory statement:

“I call on Russia to ensure that its proxies in eastern Ukraine allow voters in the parts of Donetsk and Luhansk subject to the Special Status Law to choose their representatives in legitimate local elections on December 7, in keeping with the agreement that Russia and separatist representatives signed in Minsk, Belarus, on September 5, 2014.”

NATO Secretary Genera Jens Stoltenberg applauded Ukrainians for embracing “an ambitious reform agenda and a European path. I welcome their determination to further promote an inclusive political process based on democratic values and respect for human rights, minorities and the rule of law.”

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s bloc was the clear winner in Sunday’s election, followed by Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s People’s Front. Both parties are pro-European and support further Ukranian integration with the European Union.

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U.S., NATO applaud Ukraine for holding successful parliamentary elections



2014 Sakharov Prize: Denis Mukwege wins Freedom of Thought award
Congolese gynecologist Mukwege specializes in the treatment of rape victims. The Sakharov Prize for 'Freedom of Thought' is awarded each year by the European…

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TiGenix – Company Presentation
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US pharmaceutical company AbbVie said it was reconsidering its $55-billion takeover of Shire in the wake of US government moves to curb deals designed to cut tax, wiping $13 billion off the London-listed firm’s stock price.

Chicago-based AbbVie said late on Tuesday it was responding to the US proposals which aim to make it harder for American firms to shift their tax bases out of the US and into lower cost jurisdictions in Europe. AbbVie’s move for Shire, a leader in drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and rare diseases, was announced in July amid a spate of similar takeover deals within the US and European pharmaceutical sector.

It proposed creating a new US-listed holding company with a tax domicile in Britain, which applies low tax rates to patent income and has passed laws that make it easy for companies to shift profits into tax havens.

The news hammered shares in Shire, sending them down 27 per cent, back to where they were before the deal talks emerged in June.

Shares in larger rival AstraZeneca, which had rebuffed its own takeover deal by US group Pfizer fell four per cent while replacement knees and hips maker Smith & Nephew, which had also been touted as a target, slipped three per cent.

AbbVie’s move wrongfooted Shire investors, coming just weeks after AbbVie chief executive Richard Gonzalez, in the wake of the Treasury proposals, told employees of both companies he was “more energised than ever” about the deal.

Also tax advisers had said the Treasury measures were unlikely to significantly impact most inversion deals.

Although the new rules will make some deals costlier and others more difficult, fast-food chain Burger King Worldwide Inc said it will proceed with its $11.5 billion transaction with Canada’s Tim Hortons.

Gonzalez had said Shire’s appeal stretched far beyond its tax domicile, pointing to its portfolio of drugs, some of which command prices of hundreds of thousands of pounds for an annual course of treatment, and its pipeline.

Buying Shire would reduce AbbVie’s reliance on its Humira drug, the world’s top selling arthritis medicine which loses US patent protection in 2016.

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AbbVie reconsiders $55-bn Shire deal after US tax changes

* Barroso says freedom of movement essential to EU * Cameron says will put migration at heart of EU negotiations * Barroso says migration cap would likely breach EU law LONDON, Oct 19 (Reuters) – Outgoing EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Sunday warned British Prime Minister David Cameron against trying to rewrite the European Union's freedom of movement principle, saying it was …

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EU's Barroso warns against UK PM Cameron's plan to change bloc's migration rules



IDCEE 2014: Bitcoin Crypto Currencies Panel
“Era of Bitcoin: Is The Era Of Flat Currency Coming To An End” panel on Main Stage of IDCEE 2014. Panelists: Moe Levin (Director of European Business Development @BitPay) …

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IDCEE 2014: Bitcoin & Crypto Currencies Panel – Video

BRUSSELS NATO said Thursday it saw no sign of any significant Russian pullback from Ukraines border, despite President Vladimir Putin ordering thousands of troops to withdraw ahead of truce talks.

We would welcome the withdrawal of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine, as this would be a step in the right direction. But for the moment, we have not seen major and significant movements yet, a NATO official told AFP.

The Kremlin said on Saturday that Putin had ordered the pullback of 17,600 servicemen who had participated in summer drills in the southern Rostov region on the border with Ukraine.

The order came ahead of key talks between Putin, Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko and European leaders in Milan on Friday on the fragile truce in the former Soviet country.

But the Nato official said: There is still a large and capable force sitting on the border of Ukraine and heavy equipment still has to be pulled back.

As NATO leaders made clear at the Wales summit (in September), Russia must end its support for militants in eastern Ukraine, withdraw its troops and stop its military activities along and across the border with Ukraine.

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NATO sees no sign of major Russian pullback from Ukraine border

The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine , along with its European sister organization, the Alliance for Advanced Therapies , today announced the leadership of both organizations has approved a Memorandum …

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The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine (ARM) and the Alliance for Advanced Therapies (AAT) Merge to Create One Unified …

By Jim Finkle BOSTON (Reuters) – Russian hackers exploited a bug in Microsoft Windows and other software to spy on computers used by NATO, the European Union, Ukraine and companies in the energy and telecommunications sectors, according to cyber intelligence firm iSight Partners. ISight said it did not know what data had been found by the hackers, though it suspected they were seeking …

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Russian hackers target NATO, Ukraine and others: iSight

Microsoft says it’s patching a Windows security flaw cited in a report on alleged spying by Russian hackers. Ted S. Warren/AP hide caption

Microsoft says it’s patching a Windows security flaw cited in a report on alleged spying by Russian hackers.

A group of hackers, allegedly from Russia, found a fundamental flaw in Microsoft Windows and exploited it to spy on Western governments, NATO, European energy companies and an academic organization in the United States.

That’s according to new research from iSight Partners, a Dallas-based cybersecurity firm.

Last month, the U.S. and the U.K. were preparing to meet at a NATO summit to talk about Ukraine. Emails were flying back and forth. Different experts were offering to talk at the conference. And in the midst of all the digital traffic, hackers jumped into the conversation.

Patrick McBride, a spokesman with iSight, says the hackers targeted specific officials using a well-known kind of attack called spear-phishing. Hackers would craft a message with a PowerPoint document attached. For example, they’d say, “We’d like to be involved in the conference.”

And when an unknowing recipient opened the corrupted PowerPoint, the file was exploited to load a piece of malware onto the computer that the attacker could then use later to “exfiltrate documents,” McBride says.

The hacker group, dubbed the “Sandworm Team,” allegedly pulled emails and documents off computers from NATO, Ukrainian government groups, Western European government officials, and energy sector and telecommunications firms.

In the mad dash to grab information, McBride says, the hackers got a little sloppy and dropped hints about their identity. He says they’re Russian, “but we can’t pinpoint if they work for the Russian government or work in a particular department in the government.”

The Russian embassy did not immediately respond to NPR’s inquiry. Microsoft says that Tuesday, it’s patching the security flaw so that PowerPoint and other Office products can’t be exploited again in the same way.

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Microsoft Windows Flaw Let Russian Hackers Spy On NATO, Report Says



Building a Lifeline for Freedom – Eastern Partnership 2.0
The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies cordially invites you to the launch of our research paper 'Building a Lifeline for Freedom – Eastern Partner…

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Building a Lifeline for Freedom – Eastern Partnership 2.0 – Video

Liberty Global plc and Ziggo N.V. today announce that Liberty Global has obtained regulatory clearance from the European Commission for the previously announced recommended public offer to all holders of issued and outstanding ordinary shares in the capital of Ziggo as more fully described in the joint press releases of Liberty Global and Ziggo of January 27, 2014 and June 27, 2014.

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Liberty Global Obtains Competition Approval In Connection With its Recommended Public Offer for Ziggo

The Faroe Islands, part of the Kingdom of Denmark, wont observe European Union sanctions the country says make no economic sense as its fish farmers predict a surge in exports to Russia.

I have a responsibility to my people and I dont believe in boycotts, Home Rule Prime Minister Kaj Leo Holm Johannesen said yesterday in a phone interview. They always end up hurting the wrong people.

The north Atlantic archipelago, settled by Norse Vikings, has stayed outside the European Union and, unlike non-EU member Norway, has ignored the sanctions against Russia. That means it hasnt been hit by President Vladimir Putins retaliatory trade ban. Bakkafrost P/F (BAKKA), based in the Faroese town of Glyvrar, predicted last month the development will more than triple its fish exports to Russia.

Criticism from abroad has been very muted, 50-year-old Johannesen said. Ive explained the situation to Brussels, to Danish lawmakers and to the Obama administration when I traveled to Washington and New York recently.

Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said he doesnt want to be the umpire in this matter, in a brief interview today. Its no crime not to be a member of the EU nor is it a crime not to be the subject of a boycott. On the other hand, its clear that the EU expects that others dont take advantage of the situation to capture market from countries impacted by the boycott.

A fishing boat unloads its catch at the dock in Klaksvik, the second largest city in the Faroe Islands. Close

A fishing boat unloads its catch at the dock in Klaksvik, the second largest city in the Faroe Islands.

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A fishing boat unloads its catch at the dock in Klaksvik, the second largest city in the Faroe Islands.

Russia, which accounts for about 7 percent of global Atlantic salmon demand, imposed its food ban on countries backing sanctions at the beginning of August. The standoff has left the Faroes, which supply about 4 percent of world output, in a unique position to provide Russians with fresh salmon.

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Ignoring Putin Boycott Brings Cash Reward to Faroe Islanders

NSA tech spying hurts economy: Sen. Wyden

PALO ALTO (Calif.): Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and other Silicon Valley executives say controversial government spying programs are undercutting the Internet economy and want Congress to step up stalled reform.

“We’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” warned Google Inc.’s Schmidt during a public forum Wednesday convened by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who has been an outspoken critic of electronic data-gathering by the National Security Agency. Schmidt and executives from Facebook Inc, Microsoft Corp. and other firms say revelations of extensive NSA surveillance are prompting governments in Europe and elsewhere to consider laws requiring that their citizens’ online data be stored within their national borders.

Rules like that would drive up costs and create technical obstacles to the way the Internet currently operates, making it “profoundly difficult in terms of our ability to deliver services,” said Facebook general counsel Colin Stretch.

Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft, said some European customers are worried their data will be more vulnerable to U.S. government snooping, although he declined to give specific examples.

“The reality is this is a real problem for American tech companies,” said Smith. “If trust falls, then the prospects for business are hurt.”

Wyden, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee and chairman of the Finance Committee, convened the roundtable in the Palo Alto High School gym, where he played basketball as a student in the 1960s.

He said he will take the executives’ message back to Washington, where bills to curb surveillance have stalled. Prospects for passing a reform bill this fall are shrinking, Wyden told The Associated Press.

“I’m going to my best to use this. What I’m going to do is say there’s a clear and present danger to the Internet economy,” Wyden said.

Wyden contends that the government’s “digital dragnet” of phone calls, emails and online communications doesn’t make the country safer, and only hurts the U.S. economy.

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NSA tech spying hurts economy: Sen. Wyden



NATO Support for Poland and Baltics: Alliance vows to protect East European members against Russia
NATO's new secretary-general pledged support for its eastern allies during his first foreign visit to Poland. Speaking in Warsaw, Jens Stoltenberg tried to reassure Poland and the Baltics that…

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NATO Support for Poland and Baltics: Alliance vows to protect East European members against Russia – Video

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You have nothing to fear from the NSA: that is unless you’re from outside the United States, or you arouse the agency’s suspicion by chatting to Al Qaeda. “Try not to do that,” was the advice given.

The warnings come from former NSA chief General Keith Alexander, who told delegates at a security conference that the National Security Agency’s activities, as described by ex-NSA sysadmin and secret-doc-leaker Edward Snowden, are just the agency doing its job.

In a speech delivered to the MIRCon 2014 conference in Washington, Alexander made no apology for the phone call metadata siphoned by the business record FISA programme run by the NSA, including data collected on Five Eyes and European allies. Such collection is part and parcel of spycraft, and in line with the agency’s stated mission, he said.

“Our data’s in there (NSA databases), my data’s in there. If I talk to an Al Qaeda operative, the chances of my data being looked at is really good, so I try not to do that. If you don’t want to you shouldn’t either,” he told MIRcon delegates.

“It doesn’t mean that we didn’t collect on key leaders around the world,” he said, before referencing a hypothetical question he once asked of allied countries that indicated each spied on one another, regardless of diplomatic position.

“Nations act in nations’ best interest … we at times want to make sure a war doesn’t break out [and] it is important that our political, military leaders know what is going on.”

He added pointedly: “Somebody has to be in charge”.

The NSA pulled about 180 numbers a year from FISA records, which Alexander said was critical to “connecting the dots” and was an act that had been “100 per cent” audited since the Snowden leaks, without fault.

To shore up his argument, he recapped the US’s scuppering of a 2009 terrorist attack on the New York subway and the arrest of lead suspect Najibullah Zazi, who appeared through his phone records to have coordinated the bombing. The FBI swooped on Zazi as he transited the country based on FISA intel, Alexander said.

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Chatting to Al Qaeda? Try not to do that Ex spy chief defends post-Snowden NSA

The organizers did everything they could to ensure a peaceful conference. The two-day event in Berlin hosted by the German Federal Academy for Security Policy – with DW as a media partner – sounded inconspicuous enough. Titled: “Europe’s stability – Germany’s security,” it dealt with the fallout of the financial crisis for European security.

Panelists discussed the ramifications of the financial crisis for political decision making, how to deal with a resurgent Russia as well as the challenges posed by the rapid rise in refugees fleeing to Europe in the wake of events in Syria and Iraq.

Transatlantic relations and US foreign policy cropped up only once in a while on the sidelines of a predominantly European-focused debate. The NSA scandal wasn’t brought up at all – that is, until the very last panel of the gathering, where it gave the conference a bitter aftertaste.

Financial crisis – a chance for the betterment of Europe?

Taking a page from Winston Churchill’s playbook – “never let a good crisis go to waste” – panelists were asked to debate how the financial crisis could be reconfigured as a chance for the betterment of European integration and the transatlantic alliance.

The panelists, James D. Melville, the US’ deputy ambassador to Germany, Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of the Bundestag’s Committee on Foreign Affairs for the CDU, and Gregor Gysi, the parliamentary leader of the Left Party in the Bundestag, understandably struggled to find a common thread connecting the financial crisis with the improvement of transatlantic ties and the deepening of the European project.

Gysi asked why the US wouldn’t sign a no-spy Agreement with Berlin

As a result, each panelist focused on a certain point. Gysi repeatedly lamented the failure of the UN Security Council to fulfill its role as the world’s decisive political body. As a consequence, he suggested the US, China and Russia should be locked up in a single room and be forced to stay in there until they had solved the world’s problems.

Kiesewetter and Melville’s comments were more realistic. Kiesewetter urged that with all the debate about a larger international role for Germany and calls to beef up the country’s military forces, Germany must first define its strategic interests and have a public debate about the issue.

Melville reiterated two truisms often stated by the Obama administration. One: that not even the United States can solve the world’s problems alone; and two: that in global politics, Germany punches below its weight, with Washington supporting a stronger role for Berlin on the international stage.

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Berlin still very upset over NSA scandal



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