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30 October 2013

Press review 02-11-2013

In Computing the term Trojan Horse is used in reference to a programme that is willingly installed by the user but that collects and sends user data elsewhere without user knowledge or consent. Such practice is absolutely illegal in Europe and has been fought for years by authorities and security experts.

In the past few weeks we slowly got to know that most of the systems we use for personal communication in Europe are themselves part of the greatest Tojan Horse ever built by Man. Computer operating systems, internet protocols, E-Mail services, mobile telephony services and protocols, all largely relyant on closed American products, are constantly feeding information of all kinds and sorts to the United States government. This week the public got to know that hundreds of millions of phone calls where tapped in Europe earlier this year, just during the short span of a few weeks. This level of data collection cannot possibly be justified by the fight on Terrorism; whatever are the intentions of these actions, they must go well beyond security concerns.

Obviously this means that our dependence on American IT corporations must come to and end. I hope this scandal triggers a definitive shift in Europe towards open source software and open standards; there simply isn't another way to guarantee citizens security and privacy.

26 October 2013

Press review 26-10-2013

This week there are good news and bad news; I'll start with the bad first and move on to the good.

There has been a strain of quiet signs from Brasil indicating that all is not right with the pre-salt endeavour. Rumours of lower than expected output rates, lower than expected reserves in place and higher than expected costs have percolated in various ways. This week the near failure of an auction to another pre-salt play put out in the open the bare truth: international oil majors seem to be abandoning ship. I recall what several Brasilian experts told the press back in 2007, when news of the first discovery in the pre-salt broke out, "it is surely an engineering challenge we can conquer, but the question is if it will be worth it".

19 October 2013

Address on Raw Materials

I was recently invited by the JRC's Institute for Environment and Sustainability (INTESA) to participate at a workshop entitled "Scenario Building for a Sustainable Europe". The goal was to provide INTESA with alternative views on previous long term scenario building experiences and examine key trends relevant to scenario development. According to the organisers this should happen "by debating conceptual alternatives to conventional growth". I was tasked with a 20 minute address on Raw Materials.

Unlike most other presenters, my address was mostly focused on what happened in the recent past. More than making forecasts I believe it is important to understand that the way we explore the Planet's resources has been changing deeply since the begining of this century.

Below the fold I reproduce this presentation and the main ideas accompanying each slide.

12 October 2013

Press Review 12-10-2013

During the past four weeks I was in three different countries and had little or no space to nurture this weblog; apologies if you have been waiting for the weekly reviews.

A lot went by these past few weeks, but what I feel to be the most important development is the unprecedented diplomatic exchanges between the US and Iran. The economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic republic apparently produced the desired effect, and without bloodshed or social unrest, ironically, all through a democratic process. This is by far the greatest foreign policy achievement for the Obama administration.