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02.27.16

Links 27/2/2016: New ROSA, Ireland National Library Goes FOSS

Posted in News Roundup at 7:57 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

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Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

Leftovers

  • Tesla Fan ‘Incivility’ Forces Indiana To Back Off Direct Sales Ban… For Now

    We recently noted how Indiana was just the latest state to try and pass auto industry-backed bills banning Tesla’s direct-to-consumer sales model. Under the latest GM-backed bill, Tesla’s dealer license would have expired in 2018, forcing the company to embrace the traditional franchise dealership model — or stop selling cars in the state entirely. Telsa had been reaching out for the last few weeks to Tesla fans in the state, quite-correctly highlighting how GM was buying protectionist law instead of competing.

  • Hardware

    • Data Backup Devices for Small Businesses

      You already know you need to back up your small business data regularly, but you may get stuck figuring out the best way to manage the process. Fortunately, you don’t need to spend a scary amount of money to buy and set up a reliable data backup system.

  • Security

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife

    • New York investigates radioactive leak in groundwater near city

      Radioactive material has leaked into the groundwater below a nuclear power plant north of New York City, prompting a state investigation on Saturday and condemnation from governor Andrew Cuomo.

      Cuomo ordered an investigation into “alarming levels of radioactivity” found at three monitoring wells at the Indian Point energy center in Buchanan, New York, about 40 miles north of Manhattan.

    • Old Nuclear Reactor Leaks Radiation

      Nuclear fission reactors are expensive to build and decommission so it’s natural to keep them running as long as possible to optimize the economic benefit. The licence for the old Indian Point reactor in New York state has been extended and while there have been occasional problems, the reactor was considered reliable. News that a leak of tritium in the ground water has been discovered is a whole new ball-game however. Tritium is a short-lived radioisotope of hydrogen so it’s possible the contamination may not leave the site in dangerous concentrations.

  • Finance

    • TTIP Negotiations: 12th Round Ends With Plan To Hurry Between Official Rounds

      By July trade negotiators from the United States and the European Union want to present a draft text that only has brackets for the “most sensitive issues” in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). This was announced by Ignacio Bercero, chief negotiator for the European Union, and his US counterpart Dan Mullaney during a press conference today after this week’s 12th round of TTIP negotiations in Brussels.

  • Censorship

    • Self-censorship runs amok on local television

      It should have been a regular live broadcast of a Putri Indonesia pageant show, but those who tuned in were surprised when private station Indosiar decided to completely blur the torsos of contestants who wore the body-hugging Javanese kebaya dress.

      But many considered that local television stations had gone too far when one of them blurred a scene from a popular cartoon show, simply because one of its characters wears a short skirt, and questions began to be raised about why the local channels were taking that conservative turn.

    • Video: Is Canadian self-censorship preventing open debate on racism, discrimination and other important issues?

      Conversations That Matter features former B.C. premier and free speech advocate Ujjal Dosanjh. He argues that people in power in Canada are self-censoring and in doing so are preventing open and honest discourse about issues that form the fabric of Canadian society. Dosanjh has been attacked and beaten for saying what he thinks and continues to do so because he maintains if we cower from vigorous debate then we deprive ourselves.

    • National TV Channel Denies Actor’s Censorship Allegation

      Tunisian actor, Majd Mastoura has accused Wataniya TV of censoring part of his acceptance speech following his win at the Berlinale Film Festival in Germany.

      During an emotional speech, Mastoura paid tribute to the martyrs of the Tunisian Revolution. However, during its showing upon the national channel, the actor’s closing remarks were cut from the broadcast of his award.

    • Twitter Accused Of Censoring Anti-Hillary Hashtag

      Political censorship or coincidence? Activists on Friday were in full pitchfork mode after Twitter users alleged the social media site removed #WhichHillary from its trending topics in an apparent kowtow to the Democratic presidential candidate’s campaign. The collective uproar managed to inspire another Clinton-themed hashtag, #WhichHillaryCensored.

    • Hillary Vs. Hillary: Hashtag Pits Clinton Against Her Past Self

      Hillary Clinton is facing one of her biggest rivals online today: Hillary Clinton. A hashtag mocking the candidate for her flip-flops over the years rocketed to the the top of Twitter’s trending list Thursday—driven not by Republicans but supporters of her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.

    • China tightens censorship of online TV programmes

      Beijing has further tightened its muzzle on mainland China’s internet after a senior media content watchdog official demanded all online programmes be censored as strictly as those of traditional television programmes.

      The move comes days after widespread audience dissatisfaction when popular shows, made and aired by Chinese video streaming sites, were removed or suspended until they had been censored to the satisfaction of the media content regulator.

    • Puritanical Facebook Censors Parody Publication, Makes Appeal Process A Threat

      I have no idea why, but there seems to be a sudden influx of stories concerning Facebook patrolling its site and taking down content over rather puritanical standards of offense and vulgarity. The most recent examples of this have concerned a couple of pieces of artwork that the Facebook Decency Office deemed to be to risque, despite the fact that neither of the art pieces could reasonably be described as particularly pornographic. The most recent example of this kind of censorious brigade is less to do with scary, scary sex, and more to do with parody content that some might find vulgar.

    • Mark Zuckerberg Angry At His Employees For Disrespecting ‘Black Lives Matter’ Movement
  • Privacy

    • Techdirt Needs Your Help To Fight Encryption Fearmongering
    • Poll: You Vote to Outlaw Tracking by Advertisers

      Back on February 15 when we ran an article calling for a ban on advertisers’ practice of tracking users who just happen to drive by an ad, much less click on it, we ran a poll to find out what you think. Actually, we were pretty sure we already knew what you thought. You tell us everyday, either in the comments section to our articles or by blocking ads here on FOSS Force. The poll was mainly to put some numbers to what we already knew.

    • FISA Court Accused of Failing to Restrain NSA

      A Washington spy court’s “secret, ex parte proceedings” do not provide the oversight required to restrain the National Security Agency’s Upstream program, a privacy group argued in a court filing Thursday.

    • ‘GCHQ spy who raped us is still working there because police didn’t take us seriously’

      A spy accused of rape by two women is still working at the heart of ­Britain’s security services after police ignored their claims.

      The spook’s first alleged victim, who met him through a dating website, today say detectives TWICE failed to act over her accusations – even after the second woman, who worked with him at the top secret GCHQ base, had come forward.

    • Katherine Jenkins Gives Spies Singing Treat [Ed: Katherine Jenkins has helped create femmewashing puff pieces for GCHQ - by associating with celebrities they created a dozen PR pieces]

      The classical music star hailed workers at Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, England as “heroes”, before singing songs from her repertoire including Habanera from the opera Carmen.

    • Katherine Jenkins performs private show for GCHQ staff to thank them for keeping us safe
    • Obama Administration to Expand Sharing of NSA Data from Snooping
    • Obama To Allow FBI And CIA Access To NSA Data

      The Obama administration will soon allow the National Security Agency to share certain bulk collections of communications and satellite transmissions with other government intelligence agencies. This information includes phone calls and emails from foreigners within the U.S., as well as exchanges that involve or are about Americans collected by the NSA’s foreign intelligence programs.

    • Obama administration closing in on rules to let NSA share more freely with FBI, CIA

      The New York Times is reporting that Obama administration officials are close to agreeing on new rules that would allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to share surveillance information more freely with other federal agencies, including the FBI and the CIA, without scrubbing Americans’ identifying information first.

      In 2008, President George W. Bush put forth an executive order that said such a change to the rules governing sharing between agencies could occur when procedures had been put in place. When the Obama administration took over, it started “quietly developing a framework” to carry out the proposed change in 2009, according to the Times.

      For the past decade, the NSA has collected massive amounts of phone metadata, e-mail, and other information from a variety of sources—sometimes directly from the companies that make such communication possible, sometimes through overseas taps on lines that connect to data centers outside of the US. Currently when an agency wants information on a foreign citizen, it requests that data from the NSA, and the NSA theoretically scrubs it of any incidental references to American citizens who are not being targeted. This process is known as “minimization.”

    • Germany’s New Citizen Monitoring Spyware May Be Creepier Than NSA’s

      The new spyware Trojan virus recently approved by Germany’s Interior Ministry may actually steal personal photos and notes stored on Germans’ phones and laptops.

      The German government’s new computer virus intended for spying in criminal cases has drawn scrutiny because of its potentially unlimited abilities.

    • Barack Obama to allow NSA to share contents of intercepted phone calls and emails

      The Obama administration is planning to allow the National Security Agency to share more of the raw information it acquires through wiretapping with other intelligence agencies.

      The rule change, which would allow intelligence agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the Central Intelligence Agency to access the unedited contents of phone calls and emails without having the information filtered by the NSA, was first reported by the New York Times Friday.

  • Civil Rights

    • Kos Bishop: Foreign Reporters Pay Refugees to Play Victims of Drowning

      Foreign reporters pay refugees 20 euros to act as if they have drowned, said Bishop of Kos and Nisyros Nathanael.

      The unusual testimony was made during a radio interview on Alpha 98.9 on Wednesday. Bishop Nathanael said that, “I witnessed with my own eyes foreign television reporters paying people (refugees) 20 euros to play victims of drowning.”

    • A blunt defense of interrogations, targeted killings and domestic spying
    • Former CIA Chief Warns Against Donald Trump

      In an interview with the BBC, ex-CIA boss Michael Hayden warned against the dangers of having, Republican front-runner, Donald Trump as President of the United States of America.

    • Ex-CIA, NSA chief: 2016 GOP rhetoric ‘scares me’

      Former CIA and National Security Agency Director Gen. Michael Hayden says the rhetoric from the GOP candidates in the presidential race is scary — and he suspects the rest of the world is concerned, too.

      Hayden was responding Thursday to a question from CNN’s Michael Holmes about the rhetoric on the campaign trail, with Holmes mentioning Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s promise of carpet bombing ISIS and GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s praise for waterboarding and harsher interrogation techniques as well as a proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims.

    • Court Monitor Finds NYPD Still Performing Unconstitutional Stops

      The NYPD is more in its element when it’s creating terrorism/dissent-focused task forces or shipping its officers halfway around the word to get in the way of local investigators. What it’s less interested in doing is ensuring its officers live up to the Constitutional expectations of Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order from nearly three years ago.

    • Estragon’s boot: the Conservatives delay the repeal of the Human Rights Act

      According to a news report today, the Conservative government has “shelved” the proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act and replace it with a “British Bill of Rights”.

      This is not a surprise. It was never going to be an easy task.

      In the last week or so, the proposals – as well as a daft and dappy “Sovereignty Bill” proposal – have been nothing other than tokens in a political game between the Prime Minister and other Conservative politicians about supporting and opposing Brexit. But the tokens turned out to have no value and no purchase in this game.

      Last May this blog set out the “seven hurdles” for repeal of the Human Rights Act. These hurdles included the facts that the Good Friday Agreement requires the European Convention on Human Rights to have local effect in Northern Ireland and that Scotland would have a veto on the replacement legislation.

    • Saudi Arabia sentences a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism on Twitter

      A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to 10 years in prison and 2,000 lashes for expressing his atheism in hundreds of social media posts.

      The report carried in Al-Watan says the 28-year-old man admitted to being an atheist and refused to repent, saying that what he wrote reflected his own beliefs and that he had the right to express them. The report did not name the man.

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

    • AT&T Sues To Keep Google Fiber Competition Out Of Louisville

      We recently noted how the city of Louisville had voted 23-0 to let Google Fiber bring ultra-fast broadband competition to the city. As part of the vote, the city revamped its utility pole-attachment rules, which previously forced competitors through a six-month bureaucratic process to connect to the poles, an estimated 40% of which are owned by AT&T. The new policy streamlines that down to one month, letting competitors like Google Fiber move hardware already attached to the poles, while holding them financially accountable for any potential damages.

    • Cruz, Rubio Celebrate One Year Anniversary Of Net Neutrality Rules — By Trying To Kill Them

      It has already been a year since the FCC voted to reclassify ISPs as common carriers under the telecom act. And despite the countless calories spent by the telecom industry and its various mouthpieces claiming Title II and net neutrality would demolish all Internet investment and innovation as we know it, you may have noticed that things by and large did not implode. In fact, while the FCC has been snoozing on things like zero rating and usage caps, the mere threat of rules helped the Internet by putting an end to the interconnection shenanigans causing Netflix performance degradation.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • ‘The Dress’ A Year Later: The Meme Has Faded, But The Copyright Will Last Forever

        Have you heard? Today is the anniversary of “the dress.” You know the one. It was all over the internet exactly a year ago. White and gold or blue and black. It was a phenomenon. And, yes, I know a bunch of you are snidely mocking it as you read this, but shut up. It was a fun way to kill an afternoon a year ago and it made a bunch of people happy, so don’t be “that person.” A year ago, we wrote a short piece about it, noting that you had fair use to thank for it, because the dress was being shared widely, and that was possible due to fair use. And the timing was great, because it was fair use week — as it is again.

Media Alert: Spokespeople of the EPO Are Lying to Journalists

Posted in Europe, Patents at 8:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The EPO is having another ‘Clinton moment’ (Lewinsky)

Clinton did not have...

Summary: A call for journalists to be more sceptical of what EPO officials and spokespeople tell them, for there is a pattern of deception which compromises accurate reporting

WE WERE rather astonished if not flabbergasted by a response from the EPO (spokespeople presumably), sent for the The Register to publish the other day. We were going to post a point-by-point rebuttal*, but now, as it turns out, Kieren McCarthy already issued a sort of correction. It goes like this:

European Patent Office still in nosedive as union denies reaching deal

[...]

A SUEPO representative vigorously denies the union is prepared to sign the agreement however, telling us that the most recent document the EPO presented still contains “massive flaws” and that the union is still some way from agreeing.

Subsequently, the EPO got back in contact with us to point out that there had been a “misunderstanding” during our conversation over SUEPO’s willingness to sign the document. A similar misunderstanding also seemingly occurred when we reported that the revised version of the “request” to EPO management would remove direct criticism of Battistelli.

[...]

With both sides seemingly at an impasse, the board of the EPO’s administrative council met twice this month to discuss how to resolve the issue, and once with the president and his staff.

When their solution – an external review of the disciplinary actions – was rejected by Battistelli, they resolved to take it to the full council in March. In particular, a draft of the board’s formal response specifically referenced the fact that the management team had failed to sign an MoU with its main union.

Soon after we reported the contents of that response, the EPO told us it was close to signing an MoU. After we reported that, the union strongly denied any such agreement was forthcoming.

What is the truth? The answer is that there are multiple truths and that by reporting on heated negotiations, we poured gasoline on an already flaming wreck.

One thing is for sure: at its March 16-17 meeting in Munich, the EPO’s administrative council will need to do something if it wishes to avoid a full meltdown at the organization.

Well, all the pressure is on Battistelli, not on the Council, so he will probably resign rather than be officially sacked, just to make it all look “nice”. Then he'll argue about how much money he's entitled to. The moral of the story (and lesson to The Register and others) is, don’t trust anything that EPO PR people tell, no matter how persuasively. They have been repeatedly caught lying to the press and we covered examples of this. They not only lie to journalists but also to EPO staff. They even SLAPP activists.
_____
* No need for sources on this. I know enough of internal EPO affairs to do this rebuttal, but mostly lacking the time and still recovering from illness and migraines caused by lack of basic/sufficient sleep.

“It takes a long time to turn a big country around.”

Bill Clinton

Confirmed by Dutch Media (Telegraaf): Benoît Battistelli Makes Unreasonable Compensation Demands

Posted in Europe, Patents at 7:04 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Telegraaf article

Summary: Based on an article published late on Friday, Battistelli is hoping to get a presidential salary for several decades to come even once he’s out the Office, which makes imperative all sorts of hard questions

LITTLE by little many of the “rumours” we heard and learned about turn out to be facts. One such “rumour” was snowballing into what we later called "reinforced rumour" because the lawyer of SUEPO said it to Dutch media and now it’s actually in headlines of Dutch media, and not even with a question mark.

Battistelli must be living in a dream; based on his salary (which we think we now know, and it’s a lot less than publicly assumed), he wishes to receive a presidential salary until he’s about a hundred years old (if the compensation was to be split into annual ‘chunks’, along the lines of Brimelow’s pay grade). He should be the one compensating the EPO for the damage he did to it after more than four decades of reputation-building efforts (the damage may be valued at billions of euros).

Human-corrected (by Petra Kramer) machine translation of this new article (“Franse despoot wil 18 miljoen bij vertrek”, published 18:36 CET on Friday) can be found below, with a few bits highlighted in yellow:

French despot wants 18 million on departure

by Marieke van Essen

THE HAGUE – The controversial French president of the European Patent Office (EPO), Benoît Battistelli, “demands 18 million, or ten years’ salary on his departure.” According to sources within the international organization, which has an office in Rijswijk among other places.

Battistelli is already under fire for some time because of his reign of terror that according to the union. He deteriorated working conditions and suggested severe reprisals against trade unionists who criticize his policies. In Rijswijk two representatives are at home on sick leave after being submitted to alleged “intimidating integrity investigations”. The last three years regrettably there were five suicides at the EPO.

Meanwhile, not only the staff are complaining, but for the first time the Member States (38 countries) turned against the Frenchman who took office in 2010. This is evident from a letter from Jesper Kongstad, the Danish president of the Administrative Council, a sort of supervisory board in which the 38 participating countries are represented.

Kongstad, whose letter is in possession of the Telegraaf, requests Battistelli to investigate any disciplinary measures against members of the union by an external committee. “Unfortunately we can not carry any meaningful conversation with the president,” writes Kongstad.

EPO staff who are in contact with the outside world through secret email addresses and telephone numbers, managed to tell that the days of Battistelli are numbered. “The chance that he will have to leave is huge. Twenty countries are against,” says one. “He’s already been called the man of eighteen million,” says the other. “It is a true dictatorship. We have already several deputy bosses who come from the French secret service or the military. It is really starting to be ridiculous. These types get paid more than 15 grand a month and do everything the big boss orders them to do.”

On March 16 delegates from the 38 participating countries officially vote on the proposals from Kongstad. Battistelli now lobbies with Member States to get them to abandon the independent investigation. According to the president, the EPO is “healthier than ever.”

This serves to prove a lot of what we wrote before, but the part about Battistelli’s salary we very much doubt as it would serve to suggest that his salary was hiked to almost 2 million euros (per annum). Battistelli’s salary will be the subject of a future post because it requires some further verification. Another possibility is that the number (18 million) is not correct and that it’s actually 10 years’ salary, based on extrapolation of a much lower figure (salary). We have been getting contradictory reports about the exact number, but it seems possible that 10 years’ salary is what Battistelli insists on. Either way, this is where Battistelli’s unacceptable secrecy about his salary (his predecessor disclosed hers) actually harms him even more.

“We have been getting contradictory reports about the exact number, but it seems possible that 10 years’ salary is what Battistelli insists on.”As someone told us a while back, “Alison Brimelow was massively into transparency. Seems odd that Battistelli could have demanded a much higher salary than her, unless he really, really promoted the “reforms” as some massive task of work that would totally change the office. For the better, I mean.”

For comparative purposes, as one person put it, “Martin Schulz (President of the European Parliament) gets 200K plus expenses, President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, gets 112.5% of the top civil service grade, which is around 300K.” Does Battistelli receive 6 (six!) times what the latter gets (President of the European Commission)? We doubt it. If it’s true, then that in itself is a massive scandal to come. Consider that people who control his salary are also more or less in his ‘circle’, which might lead to allegations of corruption (the Bygmalion Affair notwithstanding).

If Battistelli stays (until 2018, which is extremely improbable), he’ll be paid for 2-3 years’ work; why should he be paid for 10 (or more) upon resignation, caused to a large degree by his own folly? It beggars belief.

EPO “Management by Fear… Within a System Which is Not Subject to Any Outside Control.”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 6:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Novethic article

Summary: A Novethic article translated into English, highlighting some of the core issues with legal immunity at international organisations, and at the European Patent Office (EPO) in particular

THE EPO saga, once it’s over (it seems close to it, hence the high frequency of articles), may serve as a living warning to future presidents and a tribute to the power of EPO unions. The whole thing will leave the EPO better off, a lot stronger, and probably in compliance with the EPC, not just the law of the land in Europe.

“The whole thing will leave the EPO better off, a lot stronger, and probably in compliance with the EPC, not just the law of the land in Europe.”With English subtitles, at long last, there is this video of a Dutch politician fighting for justice at the EPO. SUEPO has just published it. There is also a bunch of SUEPO translations into English, German and Dutch, based on this recent article in French (“Mal-être des salariés dans les institutions européennes”). We have made this copy of the translation [PDF] for long-term preservation purposes and put it in HTML form. Highlighted below in yellow are bits of increased importance (new information or phrases that deserve more attention):

Published 22 February 2016

SOCIAL IMPRINT

Misery and loathing among the staff in the European institutions

Suicides, burn-out, discrimination, and sacking of union officials at the European Patent Office (EPO) and at the European Central Bank (ECB) … Staff unions and elected political figures alike are sounding alarm bells over the misery and distress of staff members within the European institutions. One issue in particular is the judicial impunity of these institutions: They do not answer to any national legislation, are not subject to any outside control, and institute their own rules and regulations. Figure that out….

New headquarters of the ECB in Frankfurt, Germany.

Claire Stam

It all started three years ago with anonymous letters. “They were coming from citizens living in my region of responsibility, alerting me to the serious problems with the management within the European Patent Office (EPO), based in Munich. They asked me not to divulge their names,” we were told discreetly by Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, Deputy for French Citizens Abroad for the Region of Germany and Central and Eastern Europe.

In response to the calls, the Deputy established contact with the people concerned, and, so far as was feasible, met up with them “very early in the morning, and kilometres away from EPO headquarters.” They all made it clear to him the risk they were running by talking to him; “they immediately begged me not to reveal their identity for fear of disciplinary sanctions being taken against them.”

At the EPO, the atmosphere is getting worse, and conflict is raging with the management

The institution, which issues the patents for 38 European countries, maintains a presence in Munich, Berlin, Brussels, The Hague, and Vienna. It employs 7000 highly qualified professionals, engineers who speak at least three languages, who dissect the latest inventions in all kinds of sectors. But, ever since 2010, the management and the staff union SUEPO have been in conflict; a date which coincides with the arrival of Frenchman Benoît Battistelli, and his policy of reforms, at the head of the EPO.

So exactly what are the employees upset about? An atmosphere at work tainted with fear and suspicion (“we have got to the stage where we don’t even trust the telephones provided in our offices” says one of the letters sent to the Deputy), the right to strike drastically limited, being kept under intrusive surveillance amounting to abusive intrusion, disciplinary measures, and the sacking of union representatives. And then there are the investigations and interrogations of staff members within the framework of the EPO “investigation unit”. The list of recriminations is as long as it is worrying. And the distress is made worse by the five suicides of staff members which have occurred at the EPO in the last three years.

When contacted by Novethic, the Office proved unwilling to answer our questions. But in a letter sent to Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’ and made public, Benoît Battistelli refers to “an intense campaign of defamation waged by certain employees of the Office” against the management of the institution. He maintains that the “procedures being pursued are due to serious incidents which have occurred within the staff representation organization, and to which any responsible employer would necessarily have to react“, such as the harassment of an elected member of the central committee who was opposed to the position adopted by SUEPO.

“I’ve never seen a conflict like it,” exclaims the Deputy, who is a lawyer by training and who practiced in the private sector for some twenty years before taking up his political office. In his view, what is happening amounts to “management by fear,” all the more serious for prevailing “within a system which is not subject to any outside control.”

The European institutions: Places without the rule of law?

This is the heart of the problem. Being an organization which owes its existence to the European Patent Convention, the EPO has its own legislation when it comes to regulating the working conditions of its personnel. There is talk of judicial immunity, of a legal structure which gives the management a free hand when it comes to fashioning its own laws. For example, a Dutch or German labour inspector cannot set foot in the EPO offices unless Benoît Battistelli gives his authorization.

The Patent Office is not an isolated case. 400 kilometres away, in Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany, is the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB). Carlos Bowles, president of the staff representative committee, does not mince his words: “These two immense glass towers are invitations to suicide.”

Two surveys conducted among staff members of the Bank in 2014 and 2015 revealed real distress and misery. According to the evaluation known as the MBI (Maslach Burnout Inventory), carried out by an agency commissioned by the staff committee, a third of the 903 employees questioned, of the 2344 who work at the institution, presented a risk of overstrain; another third showed signs of exhaustion. And 4.5% indicated that they had thoughts of suicide. The root cause was the overburden of work and chronic understaffing due to the massive increase in the tasks involved since the financial crisis in 2007. Added to this are the fixed-term contracts which keep being repeated and the climate of “nepotism” resented by some of the staff. But, here again, the ECB did not choose to respond to our requests to give its version of the situation.

As far as Carlos Bowles is concerned, this wretched situation is further amplified by the judicial impunity enjoyed by the ECB. As with other European or international institutions (NATO, UNO, etc.), it is not the law of the country where the personnel work which actually applies.

“Due to the independence conferred on the ECB by the various treaties involved, German labour law is not applicable within the ECB, even though it’s located in Frankfurt “, the staff representative explains. And Carlos Bowles adds that “as far as the staff are concerned, the European Central Bank is not only an employer, it also takes on the role of legislator”.

The law which applies to the staff of the ECB is a specific law, which is drawn up in a unilateral fashion by the Governing Council and the General Council, who are essentially attributed powers of a legislative nature, even though their members are not elected and their deliberations in these matters are shrouded in secrecy.

Confrontation for the ECB and the EPO

Silence about working conditions within the European institutions has been maintained for a long time, due to the high salaries and the many advantages which go with the jobs (financing of schools for the children, minimal rates of tax, etc.). But cracks are beginning to show. Little by little, these matters are coming to the attention of the legal powers that be.

Last December, the European Union Civil Service Tribunal (CST) severely censured the ECB for its discriminatory practices in its human resources policy. It was excluding staff representatives from one of the routes of access to promotions, due simply to their union activities. On 17 February 2015, the Court of Justice of The Hague (where one of the EPO branches is based) ruled that the Office was violating fundamental rights of its employees by causing obstructions to the activities of the in-house staff union. The EPO is lodging an appeal (see the arguments by Vice-President Willy Minnoye of the EPO).

Behind all these issues, one key issue remains to be resolved: What is the social impact of the judicial immunity which these international organizations enjoy?

Claire Stam, Frankfurt correspondent

I once received a bunch of legal documents from a victim of UN/US witch-hunts (more precisely, the US intimidating UN staff). I never got around to publishing anything about it (lack of clarity and documents primarily written in French), but this too showed the problems associated with immunity at international organisations. This led to extreme deterioration in health and then allegations of suicidal risk (induced by these witch-hunts). How about WIPO (UN-tied)? There too there were suicides, unlike say… in FIFA (which receives all the media attention right now because it’s football).

Battistelli-Led EPO “Led to Tensions and Even to Suicides Among Employees, Say the Unions”

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:43 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

NRC article

Summary: Another new article about the European Patent Office (EPO), which is almost certainly about to undergo a major overhaul

THE EPO has been receiving unwanted attention (e.g. media inquiries) from central European media because Battistelli, the EPO’s President, is almost certainly on his way out. The Dutch media has done a good job, just as it did a year ago when the EPO refused to accept a court’s ruling.

“The Dutch media has done a good job, just as it did a year ago when the EPO refused to accept a court’s ruling.”Petra Kramer has just given us the next translation in line. Having published her previous translations from Dutch [1, 2], we now turn to the next one. It’s from NRC.

In the text below, highlighted in yellow are some bits which we think merit more attention, as some of them are quite unique (compared to other press articles).

Patent Office wants to investigate leadership style president

The authoritarian management style of the President, according to the unions led to tensions and even some suicides among employees.

The ongoing crisis at the European Patent Office (EPO) seems to be turning against its criticized President, the Frenchman Benoît Battistelli. The highest body of the Agency, the Management Board representing the 38 Member States, wants an external investigation into the punitive measures Battistelli (65) has taken against union members.

It is a surprising twist in the battle between the agency, which grants European patents and, among others is based in Rijswijk, and the unions. The authoritarian management style of Battistelli and the heavy workload have led to tensions and even to suicides among employees, say the unions.

Battistelli in his turn does not recognize the unions, because the agency as an international organization would not be bound by national legislation. But according to the President the unions are trying to sabotage his reforms. Some prominent trade unionists have been suspended and will possibly be fired, including the chairman of the Dutch branch, Elizabeth Hardon.

Serious concerns about performance

The disciplinary actions led to “very serious concerns” about the “proper functioning” of the agency the chairman of the management board writes, the Dane Jesper Kongstad writes in a letter. The supervisors have unfortunately not been able to hold “any meaningful dialogue” with Battistelli about these issues.

Despite protests from the President, the council wants the sanctions to be investigated and suspended. The Member States will vote next month on that proposal. The letter is notable because Battistelli was reappointed by the management board last year to remain in function until 2018.

Battistelli has invited the unions yesterday for an interview on “any topic” surrounding working conditions. The Supreme Court called the office and the unions to engage in mediation last month.

Well, judging by what we learned privately from some sources (not suitable for sharing out in the open), there is no mediation at all. It’s still nothing but hogwash; the “any topic” propaganda line (see above) comes from EPO PR; it’s a form of ‘damage control’ and the current media strategy.

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