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1 Venezuela’s economic offensive ‘is offensive economics’ (Khaleej Times) Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s move to acquire special powers to rule by decree for a year reflects his growing desperation over the appalling state of the oil-rich nation’s economy. Maduro, a protégé of the late president Hugo Chavez, is battling an economic crisis at home and also facing the prospects of possible defeat for his party in the December 8 municipal elections.
Inflation has shot up to 54 per cent and ordinary Venezuelans face shortages of essential commodities. While the official exchange rate has been fixed at 6.3 bolivars to a dollar, the greenback is being sold at nearly 10 times the rate in the black market. Businesses have given a thumbs-down to the economic policies of the socialist president, whose policies appear more bizarre than his predecessor’s, who in his 14-years rule, reduced the country to bankruptcy.
Maduro is waging a battle — described as an “economic offensive” — against the nation’s businesses. The National Guard and his Bolivarian militas recently “occupied” a chain of electronic stores and senior executives were sent off to jail. After parliament passed an enabling law, allowing the president to rule by decree, Maduro enacted two laws capping retailers’ profits and setting up an agency to “allocate” dollars at the official rate.
Critics of Maduro warn that the socialist president is destroying the economy and causing untold misery to the masses. His economic offensive against capitalists and the bourgeois and his political battle with the opposition “oligarchy” are facades to ensure that he retains control over Venezuela, they claim. But a defiant and insecure Maduro is pushing ahead with his outlandish economic policies that will guarantee further pain for millions in the “socialist” Latin American nation.
2 Web founder warns of net spying (Charles Arthur in The Guardian) Online surveillance is undermining people’s confidence in the internet, warns Sir time-Berners-Lee – though he predicts that its outcome will be to enshrine users’ rights in the longer term. But he added that whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden, who triggered a raft of disclosures against the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ surveillance agencies, were important: “I think we must protect them and respect them,”.
Berners-Lee, 58, the British inventor of the world wide web, said: “One of the most encouraging findings of this year’s Web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world. But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy”
He also said that those who have revealed secret surveillance deserved praise: “Countries owe a lot to whistleblowers – there’s a series of whistleblowers who have been involved. Snowden is the latest. Because there was no way we could have had that conversation without them. “At the end of the end day when systems for checks and balances break down we have to rely on the whistleblowers – I think we must protect them and respect them.”
Berners-Lee said that the focus of what “freedom” means online had shifted in the past two years, from questions of sites being censored, to fears about governments pulling the plug on connectivity, to new ones about silent surveillance. “Initially there was peoples’ pushback against censorship and websites being blocked, or the internet being just turned off,” he said. “Now this spying is a more insidious force which has a chilling effect, where people don’t use facilities that they could have used because of a nameless fear of something happening to them.”
3 Norwegian prodigy is new chess champion (BBC) Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen has become the world champion, beating Indian title holder Viswanathan Anand. Carlsen, 22, secured a draw to win the World Chess Championship in 10 games, with two left to play. Carlsen won the match in Chennai, India, with a score of 6.5-3.5. He has now achieved the highest rating of all time. But he misses out on being the youngest player to win the title. That honour goes to the Russian Garry Kasparov. He was younger by just a few weeks.
Speaking at a press conference after the victory, Carlsen said he was “very very happy to have won and to have completed this match. “Let’s write the history books later!” he added. Carlsen has won 60% of the total prize fund of $2.24m, while Anand takes home the rest.
Carlsen went into the tournament as the firm favourite, but was cautious about his chances of winning. The young Norwegian stands out amongst chess players, not only for his game but for his persona. A part-time model who has appeared on the front cover of GQ magazine, he exudes an affable personality. Chess champion Susan Polgar described him as “having a different style and a very good sense of humour. Russian grandmaster Garry Kasparov has dubbed the young Norwegian as the Harry Potter of chess while others have compared him to Mozart.
Despite having been world champion since 2007, 43-year-old Anand was ranked number eight in the world. But his role in promoting chess in India, a country obsessed with cricket, is without parallel. “He’s a legend, and he’s done a lot for chess in India and Asia, so he’s a fantastic role model,” Polgar said.