U2’s Bono avoids discussing Russian politics with President Medvedev
President Dmitry Medvedev and U2 lead singer Bono discussed efforts to prevent the spread of HIV and the problems facing emerging economies rather than music during their meeting in Bozharov Ruchei near Sochi.
The Russian president met with the lead singer of the legendary Irish rock group, Paul David Hewson, better known by his stage name Bono, on Tuesday, ahead of the U2 concert in Moscow’s Luzhniki arena on August 25.
Bono, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and received an honorary British knighthood for his outstanding advocacy efforts, said he had great respect for Russia and came to learn more about this country’s history. He went on to describe his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, the main focus of his charity work.
In his words, there are problems facing specific countries, and other problems that affect the whole world, such as HIV/AIDS proliferation. Bono talked to the Russian president of his Product Red project, aimed at preventing the mother-to-child transfer of HIV infection. Companies that join the program produce products and donate part of profits received from selling to charity. Bono said the problem of transferring the infection from mother to child can be solved for 40 cents a day. Apple founder Steve Jobs, who Medvedev met on his visit to the United States in June, also supports this program. He asked Bono to send his regards to Mr. Medvedev, the rocker said.
“This is a good program – it is very specific and a good way to solve problems,” Medvedev said. “We will think of how Russia can participate in solving these problems,” he continued.
Bono also told Medvedev of his joint efforts with U.S. President Barack Obama, which resulted in amending the U.S. law. All extractive industries companies are now required to abide by transparency rules and publish their financial reports. Medvedev said similar requirements exist in Europe, but the problem is how scrupulously there are observed.
Companies’ reluctance to disclose their information leads to financial crises and environmental problems. “This means the disclosure requirements should be tighter and they should bear a greater responsibility for the reliability of the data they publish, including auditors,” Medvedev said.
The Russian president explained that the situation is still more complex because the G20 countries have so far failed to agree on common criteria for evaluating these companies’ performance. But I have a solution for that now, Medvedev said. “I will tell them about our discussion,” he joked.
Russian microelectronics face macro challenges
AFK Sistema CEO Vladimir Yevtushenkov and RusNano head Anatoly Chubais have asked Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to help promote Russian microelectronics. Its output in 2010 is expected to reach half a percent of the world market, or $1.5 billion against $280 billion. RusNano, the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation, and Sistema, a Russian holding company, propose that Russia adopt a program to regulate microelectronics production in Russia. They plan to protect the home market by substituting Russian components for foreign ones. Western manufacturers say protectionist measures have never contributed to competition growth.
RusNano and AFK Sistema are now jointly working on 90-nanometer chips. STM Micro Electronics is their technological partner. Investment in the project will total 16.5 billion rubles, with RusNano contributing 6.5 billion rubles and Sitroniks (an AFK Sistema subsidiary), access to the equipment at its Mikron factory.
Experts from RusNano and Sistema say an unregulated market and import domination are obstacles to a steady market for domestic microelectronics production. So they are suggesting a program to create a regulated microelectronics market in Russia. The program, they say, must include changes in legislation to protect the internal market, tax and economic incentives to develop and manufacture micro-components and finished products, and speedy adoption of biometric documents and the radio-frequency marking of consumer goods, drugs and other items.
The Russian microelectronics market will account for half a percent of the global market in 2010. In addition, it is stagnating, because international companies set up sales offices rather than production facilities in Russia. An import-dominated market also poses a risk to the country’s security. First, imported chips may contain undocumented instructions able to paralyze the functioning of equipment. Second, they are not sufficiently reliable because they are designed for industrial and not military use, according to the authors of the proposals.
Foreign microelectronics company experts say that to set up production here, Russia needs infrastructure and economic incentives instead of state regulation: state regulation discourages production, competition and manufacturing growth.
Moldova lost in political geography
The self-proclaimed Transdnestr Republic is preparing to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its independence from Moldova. Russian and Ukrainian parliament members will attend the celebrations on September 2.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has instructed the Russian Ambassador to Moldova to attend as well. Moldovan government officials believe Moscow is ignoring their opinion, because official visits to the self-proclaimed republic require their clearance. Ukraine is likely to earn this reprimand too, since its policy towards Transdnestr has become softer.
Moldovan officials have recently made statements annoying both Ukraine and Moscow. The latest announcement came on Monday when acting president Mihai Ghimpu said Moldova and Ukraine could have discussed a territory swap when they declared independence from the Soviet Union. They could have exchanged Transdnestr for North Bukovina and South Bessarabia, which used to be part of Romania, he said. He then elaborated on the idea, saying that Moldova and Ukraine should jointly seek European integration, which would resolve these issues. This last part caused an outrage in Ukraine.
Sergey Tolstov, director of the Kiev-based Institute of Political Analysis and International Research, said: “Ghimpu’s announcement should not go unnoticed. There are people in the Moldovan government with unstable political thinking; therefore, Kiev’s official position must be cautious and alert.”
This week, the ideas of territorial rearrangements and the status change of Moldova were heard more than once. National Liberals urged voters to support a return to nationwide presidential elections at the September 5 referendum and elect a president who will ensure Moldova’s integration into Romania, which is the shortest path to the EU.
This situation in Chisinau is affecting the Transdnestr peace process and the positions of all parties involved. Tolstov believes that Ukraine is changing its attitude toward the Transdnestr problem in favor of the self-proclaimed republic. “Kiev will no longer support Chisinau’s ultimatums; Ukraine will now try not only to lift the economic embargo in the region, which was organized by Moldova and supported by Viktor Yushchenko’s government, but also to protect Transdnestr from possible other embargos – transport, customs, or any other,” he said.
Businesses try to revive gambling industry
Gambling industry companies discussed on Tuesday how to reform the country’s casinos. They proposed that casinos be established at five-star hotels all over the country and not only in special zones. They also believe that investors would not lose anything if the Azov City gambling zone was relocated to the Black Sea coast.
The story with the Azov City’s possible relocation continued to unfold on Tuesday. The gambling zone’s director Lenar Kashapov said the investors who had already put their money in the zone’s development would not lose any profits if the Azov City was relocated to the Black Sea coast. “Even if the initiative is approved, this will not mean that the Azov City gambling zone will be closed down tomorrow. If there is such an initiative, it will be implemented over two or three years and all investors will be able to get the return on their investment,” Kashapov said.
Gambling establishments have been banned in Russia since July 1, 2009. The only exceptions are four special zones located in Primorye, the Altai Territory, the Kaliningrad Region and on the border between the Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region. Krasnodar authorities have recently come up with an initiative to exclude the Rostov Region from this list, explaining that numerous consultations between the regions slow down the establishment of gambling zones.
The Russian Association for Gambling Business Development has written a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev suggesting that gambling halls should be allowed at five-star hotels. The association’s proposal would address the issue that there are currently no casinos in the four special zones. “There has been no progress in the Kaliningrad Region, the Altai Territory and in the Far East. Those projects require huge long-term investment, so investors are not ready and not likely to get involved in the near future,” chairman of the association’s council Vasily Ivanov said.
Ivanov added that Russian law enforcement agencies closed down 400 gambling parlors in 2009, but 726 establishments continue operating under cover. Moscow alone has 98 computer clubs that offer access to gambling websites. You can also get such access via payment kiosks. Gambling is even available on mobile phones, Ivanov said.
Ivanov believes that all this testifies to the fact that the gambling industry is becoming increasingly clandestine. Gambling businesses paid 80 billion rubles in taxes to Moscow’s budget in 2008 and only 30 million rubles in 2010, which are “incomparable amounts.” Meanwhile, the government spends 1 billion rubles annually on fighting illegal gambling.
Court prohibits U.S. company from distributing Soviet cartoons
On August 24, the Moscow Commercial Court granted a claim made by Obyedinennaya Gosudarstvennaya Kinokollektsia (United State Film Collection) and ruled invalid a 1992 agreement under which all rights to remake and distribute 500 Soviet animated films went to the U.S. company Films by Jove (FBJ). From now on, the successor to Soyuzmultfilm can show the classic cartoons abroad and make sequels itself. They include: Cheburashka, Hedgehog in the Fog, The Scarlet Flower, Mowgli, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, and others.
The court hearing had been postponed for seven years. Soyuzmultfilm applied to court as early as 2003, says Alexander Popenkov, a law expert. But hearings were put off time after time, because the court had no evidence that the U.S. company, registered in California, had been informed of the claim. The latest subpoena was sent last winter to a Films by Jove procedural agent, whose address was indicated in a register of U.S. companies. But it was returned with a note saying there was no such person resident at the address. The court, however, concluded that it had done everything in its power to notify the company. The case was therefore heard in the absence of a U.S. company representative.
The second defendant was the OJSC Soyuzmultfilm, a successor to the renting company Soyuzmultfilm, set up in 1989 on the basis of the Soviet film studio of the same name that had existed since 1936. The legal model of a renting company existed in the Soviet Union for a short time during the perestroika period. The staff of a company rented it from the state and conducted their business. The rent agreement between the film studio’s staff and the government was concluded for 10 years, until 1999.
It was in May 1992, when the renting company was still in operation, that a controversial agreement with Films by Jove was concluded. Popenkov says that under the agreement, the U.S. company got the rights to show abroad and remake several hundred Soviet animated cartoons. The term of the agreement was 10 years but was later extended by another 20 years.
In 2002, Kinokollektsia attempted to settle the matter with the American company out of court. But at that time the U.S. company refused to provide accounts of its activity and pay distribution fees.
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MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti)
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