The euro crisis The sleepwalkers

June 1, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

YOU may have missed it, but the European Union held a summit this week. Taking in a nutritious working lunch, Europe’s prime ministers, presidents and chancellors devoted half of Wednesday to weighty issues of energy and taxation. Gone are the panic-stricken sessions of last year, dogged by talk of the euro’s imminent failure. Today, Europe’s leaders note, reform is under way across most of the euro zone and some southern European countries are regaining their competitiveness. The government-debt market is back in its box, where it belongs. And over the past year share prices are up by a quarter. Nobody could pretend that life is easy; Europeans understand that hard work and sacrifices lie ahead. But the worst of the crisis is now safely in the past.

It is a reassuring tale, and those worn down by the Wagnerian proportions of the euro saga (who isn’t?) are eager to believe it. Unfortunately, the idea that the euro is yesterday’s problem is a dangerous figment. In reality, Europe’s leaders are sleepwalking through an economic wasteland.

Someone call a somnambulance, quick
The euro-zone economy has just endured a sixth successive quarter of shrinking GDP. The malaise is spreading to core countries including Finland and the Netherlands, which both contracted in the first quarter. Retail sales are falling. Unemployment, above 12%, is a record—with more than one in four Spaniards out of work (see article). In spite of savage spending cuts, government deficits are persistent and high. The sum of government, household and company debt is still excessive. Banks are undercapitalised and international lenders worry about their as-yet-unrecognised losses. Although official interest rates are low, firms in southern Europe are suffering a cruel credit crunch. All this is causing economic hardship today and eating away at the prospects for growth tomorrow. The euro zone may not be about to collapse, but the calm in Brussels is not so much a sign of convalescence as of decay.

For everyone’s sake, Europe’s leaders must shake themselves out of their lethargy. They must grasp that if they do not act, the euro zone faces stagnation or break-up—possibly both.

After years of crisis, the to-do list is clear. The urgent task is to sever the ties between banks and governments too feeble to support them. That was the aim of the banking union agreed on last year. But, as the pressure has eased, the union has become ensnared in technicalities and a fundamental argument about how much historic bank debt, if any, should be dumped on it—how much, in other words, Germans, Finns and Dutch should bear the burden of other people’s mistakes. This delay is highly damaging. Europe’s banks need funds by whatever means. America has recovered before Europe not just because it has been less austere, but also because it rapidly sorted out its banks so that they could lend again (see Charlemagne).

In addition, the euro zone needs growth-boosting reform. The EU should extend the single market further into services. Instead of thinking up red lines, it should pursue a free-trade agreement on offer from the United States, its biggest trading partner. And it should ease austerity by slowing the pace of budget cuts and using cash from the core euro zone to pay for schemes to boost youth employment and investment in small and medium-sized firms in the periphery.

Clearly, the reason for today’s inaction is not a shortage of things to do, but a shortage of the will to do them. This hiatus is partly caused by elections due in September in Germany, the prime mover in almost any European policy these days. But there is a deeper reason, too. Across Europe voters have grown resentful of both their own politicians and the EU. In France the president, François Hollande, is paralysed by scandal and a dismal approval rating of 24%, another record (see article). A recent survey by the Pew Research Centre found that the share of French voters who say that they look favourably on the EU has fallen from 60% in 2012 to 41% now, less even than in Eurosceptic Britain. Italy is mired in recession, yet it cannot seem to muster a coherent political platform for change. At the same time, voters want to keep the single currency: 70% of them still support the euro in Greece, which has suffered more in the crisis than any other country. Over the past few years crunch votes in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands have repeatedly backed staying inside the euro zone.

This is a recipe for inaction. On the one hand, voters want the euro zone to stay together. On the other, they will not back the difficult reforms needed to pull it out of the crisis.

Time was when the bond markets would force politicians to face up to this contradiction. It was the threat of financial panic that kept euro-zone leaders up until dawn hammering out rescue deals and promises of reform. But the financial markets have been anaesthetised ever since Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), promised to “do whatever it takes” to protect the euro zone from collapse. Speculators know that to bet against the single currency would be to take on the theoretically infinite balance-sheet of the ECB—and that, at least at first, would mean heavy losses.

Alarm bells
Mr Draghi was right to buy the euro zone time. He was also right to furnish the ECB with the tools to tamp down speculation. The trouble is that the politicians are squandering the chance for orderly reform. Optimists say that everything will be just fine after Germany’s election, when its leaders will have a mandate for euro-zone reform. But German reluctance either to lead or to pay for the rest of Europe runs deeper than that. Besides, Mr Hollande’s woes mean that the Franco-German relationship, always central to the evolution of Europe, has seized up.

And if euro-zone leaders stumble on? Like Japan, Europe will be under a shadow for years to come. The cost will be measured in disillusion, blighted communities and wasted lives. Unlike Japan, though, the euro zone is not cohesive. For as long as stagnation and recession tear at democracy, the euro zone risks a fatal popular rejection. If the sleepwalkers care about their currency and their people, they need to wake up.

The economist

IRS Tea Party Scandal: White House Did Not Drive Investigation, Inspector General Says

May 15, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

WASHINGTON — The IRS Inspector General said Tuesday that incompetence, not malice, was behind the tax agency’s heavy scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status in the lead-up to the 2012 elections.

A 48-page IG report explicitly stated that the IRS behavior was “not politically biased,” that it was due to lower-level staff who did not understand their jobs and sometimes acted insubordinately, and that it was not driven by the White House.

The findings come just days after it was revealed that the IRS had singled out groups with words like “Tea Party” in their names — a politically explosive revelation that raised concerns over government discrimination against political opponents.

All IRS officials interviewed, however, told the IG that the scrutiny of such groups was “not influenced by any individual or organization outside the IRS.” Rather than a scandal, the IG said, the Tea Party probes had merely given “the appearance that the IRS is not impartial in conducting its mission.”

The IG did have two outstanding issues of disagreement with the agency’s top brass over how to ensure that such abuse does not happen again, and said the IRS has not yet fully resolved the issue, despite assurances from officials.

“Although the IRS has taken some action, it will need to do more so that the public has reasonable assurance that applications are processed without unreasonable delay in a fair and impartial manner in the future,” said the report.

IRS management opposed the IG’s calls to explicitly articulate why agents choose applications for nonprofit status for additional rounds of scrutiny, as well as to post online guidance for IRS agents on how to process applications from groups that may be political. In light of this resistance, the report said a future audit was “being considered to assess” how the IRS implemented new policies.

Despite laying much of the blame at the feet of front-line IRS employees and middle managers, the final IG report did point to “ineffective management” that allowed the mistakes. In particular, attention is sure to focus on Lois G. Lerner, who headed the agency’s office of Exempt Organizations, Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division.

Lerner was the IRS official who first brought the agency’s misbehavior to public attention with comments at a professional conference last Friday that were quickly picked up by news media outlets.

Lerner was given a summary of the agency’s Tea Party investigation in April 2010, as HuffPost reported Monday, and after she was briefed of the improper probes in June 2011, she instructed middle managers to stop focusing on Tea Party groups. But those subordinates — who are not named in the report — were able to flout her instructions and to rewrite the “be-on-the-lookout” criteria to reinsert terms that encompassed some Tea Party-type organizations.

“The team of specialists subsequently changed the criteria in January 2012 without executive approval because they believed the July 2011 criteria were too broad,” the report said.

An IRS spokesman said in a statement emailed to HuffPost that “there was no intent to hide this issue, but rather we waited until [the IG’s office] completed their fact finding, made recommendations, and we reviewed their findings.”

Tea Party groups had complained over the past two years that they were being targeted for IRS scrutiny because of their ideology or political point of view, with excessive information demands from the agency. HuffPost reported Monday that the IRS went into damage-control mode after higher-ups — including acting commissioner Steven Miller — expressed concern in March and April of 2012 over press attention to the Tea Party inquiries.

The IG document released Tuesday made repeated mention of IRS officials in the Cincinnati office — which had been set up as a centralized clearinghouse for secondary inspection of flagged nonprofit applications — who did not know how to do their jobs. “There appeared to be some confusion by Determinations Unit specialists and applicants on what activities are allowed” by 501(c)(4) groups, the report stated on page 14.

The report was more emphatic on page 18, stating, “Specialists lacked knowledge of what activities are allowed” by tax-exempt, nonprofit 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) groups.

Part of this, the report said, was due to unclear guidance in the law. “Regulations do not define how to measure whether social welfare is an organization’s ‘primary activity,’” the IG said.

In a response to the IG report, Joseph Grant, the acting IRS commissioner for tax-exempt and government entities, also pointed to confusion over how to enforce the law. “There are no bright lines for what constitutes political campaign intervention,” Grant wrote.

The IG found that of 96 so-called Tea Party, Patriot or 9/12 groups that were given extra screening by the agency’s Cincinnati office, 79 of showed evidence of “significant political campaign intervention.” In all, 298 applications were held up for additional scrutiny, and the IG noted the fact that 202 were not from Tea Party groups as evidence the agency’s actions were “not politically biased.”

The IG also pointed out that some campaign intervention is allowed by (c)(4) groups, as long as promoting social welfare remains their primary purpose. IRS agents did not know how to determine whether groups applying for nonprofit status were meeting those criteria, the report said. So in May 2012, Washington officials gave “a two-day workshop to the team of specialists … to train them on what activities are allowable … including lobbying and political campaign intervention,” according to the report.

The lack of awareness among IRS agents about what activities (c)(4) groups could engage in “created burden on the organizations that were required to gather and forward information that was not needed by the Determinations Unit and led to delays in processing the applications,” the IG found. IRS agents asked Tea Party groups for lists of donors, resumes of board officials and leadership, whether members of the group or family members had run or planned to run for political office, and other excessively intrusive questions.

Republicans were not satisfied with the IG report and said they would continue to raise questions about the agency’s actions at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday.

“We still do not know why the targeting began, how extensive it was, who initiated it and who knew about it,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).


Why I’m not giving the Weekly Address – ask President Obama – news from The White House

April 13, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

Each week, like many presidents before me, I sit down to record a short address to the nation. It’s something I take very seriously because it offers a chance to bring focus to an issue that needs to be part of the national dialogue.

But today, I’ve asked someone to take my place.

Francine Wheeler is a mother. She and her family live in Newtown, Connecticut. Four months ago, her six year-old son Ben was murdered in his elementary school, along with 19 other children and six brave educators.

Joined by her husband David, Francine shares her perspective about the steps we can take to reduce gun violence and prevent the kind of tragedy she understands all too well.

It’s a message that every American should hear:

Watch Francine, then join her in speaking out to make our country safer.

This week, because people like Francine and like you got involved, the U.S. Senate took a step forward on commonsense reforms to reduce gun violence.

And that’s good. Because this shouldn’t be about politics. This is about doing the right thing for families that have been torn apart by gun violence, and for all our families going forward.

But we’ve got a lot of work to do before Congress finishes the job.

So if you believe that we can take sensible steps to protect more of our kids from gun violence and protect our Second Amendment rights, stand up and join us.

Just visit to get started:


President Obama

April 5, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

Justice Antonin Scalia’s angry dissent from the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down parts of Arizona’s tough anti-illegal-immigrant law outraged liberals even more than his biting words normally do.

As part of his argument, that the decision imposed on the sovereignty of the states, Scalia reached outside the briefs and the oral arguments to mention President Obama’s recent decision to allow some illegal immigrants who were brought here as children to remain in the country.

“That Arizona contradicts federal law by enforcing applications of federal immigration law that the president declines to enforce boggles the mind,” Scalia said in reading part of his dissent from the bench.

If the framers had proposed that all immigration decisions will be made by the federal government and “enforced only to the extent the president deems appropriate,” Scalia thundered, “the delegates to the Grand Convention would have rushed to the exits from Independence Hall.”

For our purposes, let’s leave aside Scalia’s excoriation from the left and defense from the right and focus on a different lesson:

Supreme Court justices Google just like the rest of us.

Scalia cited a nine-day-old newspaper article in his dissent, and he is hardly alone: The justices routinely supplement their arguments with facts, studies, media reports, law review articles and other materials that none of the parties in the case before them ever put forward or countered.

How judges use generalized facts about the world in their legal decisions has become a new focus of legal academic research.

Well known is the story of Justice Harry Blackmun hunkering down in the medical library of the Mayo Clinic to research abortion procedures before he wrote the 1973 majority opinion in Roe v. Wade.

But there’s been an information revolution since then.

“Now the justices (and their clerks and their librarians) are flooded with information literally at their fingertips. Social science studies, raw statistics, and other data are all just a Google search away,” writes Allison Orr Larsen, a professor at William & Mary Law School.

“If the justices want more empirical support for a factual dimension of their argument, they can find it easily and without the help of anyone outside of the Supreme Court building,” she wrote.

Larsen, a former clerk to retired Justice David Souter, studied 15 years of Supreme Court decisions for her paper. She found more than 100 examples of asserted facts from authorities never mentioned in any of the briefs in the case. And in the 120 cases from 2000 to 2010 rated the most salient — judged largely by whether they appeared on the front pages of newspapers — nearly 60 percent of them contained facts researched in-house.

“Virtually all of the justices do it regardless of whether they are traditionally labeled liberal or conservative,” Larsen found, “and they cite authorities they find themselves on a wide range of subject matter (from biology to history to golf).”

A 2011 decision in which the court found a California law forbidding the sale of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment provided a good example. Justice Stephen G. Breyer in a dissent provided 13 pages of studies on the topic of psychological harm from playing violent video games.

Justice Clarence Thomas cited 59 sources to support his view that the Founding Fathers believed that parents had absolute control over their children’s development; 57 of them were not in the briefs submitted in the case.

And Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., another dissenter, listed references to SlashGear and other Web sites to bolster his point about the “astounding violence” in the games. That prompted Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion, to criticize Alito for his “considerable independent research.”

There are no rules about in-house research, and Larsen is troubled by the risks: “the possibility of mistake, unfairness to the parties, and judicial enshrinement of biased data which can now be quickly posted to the world by anyone without cost.”

She does not claim that it has changed the outcome of a case, but she notes that inaccurate information has found its way into opinions, in part, she argues, because no lawyer for the other side knew about it or had a chance to challenge it.

In Graham v. Florida, for instance, the court invalidated life-without-parole sentences for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy relied on a letter from the Bureau of Prisons, solicited at his request by the Supreme Court library, about the number of such prisoners.

After the decision, the government submitted a letter to the court saying the bureau had been wrong: None of the six inmates listed in the BOP’s letter was actually serving a life sentence for a crime committed as a juvenile.

“Do I think that factual information would have changed Justice Kennedy’s mind?” Larsen asked. “Probably not.”

But she says the practice undermines the adversary process.

Asked whether she had engaged in in-house fact-finding as a clerk to Souter, she laughed and declined to comment. But she added:

“I will tell you Justice Souter didn’t own a computer.”

Washington Post online Court and Law

Spanish city’s locksmiths say they’ll no longer assist with evictions

April 5, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

In Spain, in 2012, more than 50,000 families were evicted from their homes when they failed to pay their rent or mortgage.

As the year wound down, a handful of people committed suicide after learning they would be evicted. Now, in Pamplona, a group of experts who help carry out the evictions has said ‘No more.’ Those experts? Locksmiths.

It’s a pretty ingenious way to stop evictions, really.

The police might come and drag debtors out. But if no one changes the locks on the apartment, the bank can’t repossess it, because the evictees can get back in.

And the legal proceedings to get them out again would take months, even years.

Banks and government authorities have been evicting an average of two families a day in recent months in and around Pamplona. Locksmiths like Iker de Carlos are hoping to put an end to it. De Carlos says in this small city, the dozen or so locksmiths often know the people they have to lock out.

De Carlos told a local TV station that locksmiths worked often with the police and bailiffs, evicting families or elderly folks who barely had time to get their pants on before being put out on the street.

De Carlos says he and his fellow locksmiths decided last month that they could no longer ignore such suffering.

“We’re people,” he said, “and as people we can’t continue carrying out evictions when people are killing themselves.”

De Carlos was referring to the suicide of a woman last fall, outside Pamplona. As authorities, including Judge Juan Carlos Mediavilla, were arriving to evict her, she jumped from her balcony. Just after her death Judge Mediavilla spoke out publicly.

“We can’t let economic problems devolve into tragedies like this,” Mediavilla said.

The judge called on the government to revise existing laws so the growing number of Spaniards who can’t pay their mortgages don’t end up on the street.

Spain’s center right government initially said it would take immediate steps to protect about 600,000 of the country’s most vulnerable, including families with small children and the elderly.

A law was passed allowing some people to negotiate lower payments with banks. But it excludes retirees and any single mothers with a child over 3 years old.

And activists say banks, which had promised to ease up on evictions to avoid a social disaster, have not done so.

The social tension over evictions has led to protests across the country, and grows as unemployment rises further.

But the locksmiths of Pamplona say their tiny rebellion may be the most effective way to stop evictions, even if its only one lock at a time.
PUBLIC Radio International online

Connecticut Passes Nation’s Strictest Gun Law In Wake Of Sandy Hook Massacre

April 5, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

WASHINGTON — Both houses of the Connecticut legislature passed some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, approximately 100 days after 26 students and educators were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.

In a dramatic marathon legislative session that lasted well into the wee hours of Thursday morning, the state House of Representatives debated and passed gun control legislation by a bipartisan vote of 105 to 44. A parallel bill was approved by the state Senate earlier Wednesday on a bipartisan 26-10 vote. Following the House vote, the Senate and House versions of the bill will be reconciled, after which Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) has indicated his intent to sign the legislation as soon as possible.

In passing the sweeping set of laws, Connecticut joins Colorado, New York and Maryland, the three states that have passed major gun control legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. A Maryland bill that includes fingerprinting gun buyers passed its House of Delegates on Wednesday.

But no state embodies the high costs and conflicting forces in America’s gun debate more than Connecticut, home to some of the country’s best-known gun manufacturers stretching back more than a century. It also now grapples with a new distinction: It is home to Sandy Hook Elementary School, an international symbol of the mass shootings that occur too frequently in the United States.

Investigators in Newtown believe that Adam Lanza fired more than 155 bullets in under five minutes using a military-style assault rifle loaded with high capacity magazines.

The Connecticut legislation bans the sale of gun magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds and requires background checks for private gun sales, including those at gun shows. It also expands the state’s current assault weapons ban to include more than 100 gun models.

Additionally, the Connecticut bill allocates $15 million for expanded school safety and mental health programs, and includes new eligibility requirements for ammunition sales. It also has a provision to create the nation’s first registry of dangerous offenders, which will be accessible only to law enforcement officers.

The newly approved measures mark the culmination of a three-month process that began shortly after the Dec. 14 massacre, when a task force of legislators set out to determine ways to prevent future mass school shootings.

“Nobody will be able to say that this bill is absolutely perfect, but no one will also be able to say that this bill fails the test when it comes to being the strongest in the country and the most comprehensive bill in the country,” Democratic state Senate President Don Williams, a member of the task force, told reporters on Wednesday.

Gun rights advocates protested the legislation on the grounds of the state Capitol Wednesday, waving signs that said, “N.R.A. Stand and Fight” and “Connecticut the Un-Constitution State.” Protesters also occasionally shouted “No, no, no.” One gun rights advocate, Ron Pariseau, said the laws being proposed “will not stop anything,” and he encouraged the legislature to “write laws that are sensible,” instead of the ones being proposed.

But news of the law’s passage was greeted with applause by gun control advocates like Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“The bills passed today will save lives, plain and simple,” Gross said. “The leaders in Connecticut are taking action because it is the right thing to do, but also because for them, Newtown didn’t just happen in some far off town … It was their friends and neighbors.” Gross also said he hoped Congress was watching the deliberations in Connecticut.

President Barack Obama plans to visit Connecticut Monday, part of his nationwide push to advance gun control legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Senate. On Wednesday, he visited Denver, where he told an audience of law enforcement officers that his administration “will not just wait for the next Newtown” before passing stricter gun control laws.

In Washington, debate on gun control proposals is set to begin next week, when senators return from the Easter recess. Republicans, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, have pledged to filibuster to block any gun control legislation from a Senate vote, setting the stage for what is likely to be a pitched with Senate Democrats.

Previously introduced provisions to ban high-capacity gun magazines and assault weapons appeared to have little bipartisan support in the Senate, largely due to vocal opposition led by the National Rifle Association. Senate Democrats and the White House have zeroed in on expanded background checks and tougher penalties for gun trafficking, the two measures most likely to become federal law.

HuffPost online US

Christina WilkieBecome

Five jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago

April 5, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

Can you imagine a world without Facebook, iPhone apps, civil partnerships and the reimagined Doctor Who? That was Britain in 2003 – a time before people poked each other without fear of anyone pressing charges or trolled celebrities on Twitter. It was also a time when some of the jobs being advertised today simply didn’t exist.

Research by website Genes Reunited put the spotlight on a range of roles that existed in the 1800s and 1900s, including leech collector, toad doctor and royal rat catcher, which are thankfully no longer seen in the situations vacant column. But you don’t have to go back that far to recognise the shifting sands – careers pages now feature a whole selection of jobs that didn’t exist just a decade ago (in the UK, at least).

Here are five, together with the lowdown on what you might need to qualify for the role.

Offshore windfarm engineer

The first offshore windfarm – North Hoyle – came online in December 2003 and the UK now has one of the largest offshore windfarms in the world, in Greater Gabbard. The London Array being constructed in the outer Thames estuary is expected to become one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms – creating plenty of work for windfarm engineers.

There are currently 48 wind-related roles being offered through employment website Adzuna, 41% of which are offshore, with an average advertised salary of £38,625. This is 11% more than the average paid to onshore windfarm engineers.

What you need to do the job:

• Accredited degree in civil and/or structural engineering

• Marine specialisation a bonus

• A high level of understanding of structures, geotechnics and marine loading is required

• Offshore wind energy experience

• Construction experience

Zumba teacher

Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance-fitness program founded in 2001, but it didn’t salsa its way to the UK until years later.

There is no prescribed route to a career in dance and many Zumba teachers do not have any specialised education. Instead, they must attend a Zumba Fitness instructor training course (Zumba basic steps level 1 or jump start gold), costing between £180 and £200. To keep their licence teachers must attend a set number of courses offered by the Zumba Academy. A quick search of found 11 introductory Zumba classes on offer across the UK.

Adzuna says the average salary is £17,491. Before Zumba, teachers would no doubt be holding classes in any number of aerobics or dance styles.

What you need to do the job:

• Essential skills/experience

• Sports/fitness experience

App designer

App developers tend to be split between user experience architects (UEAs) and visual designers, though some may do both. A UEA will plan all aspects of how a user will navigate their way through an app, while a visual designer will create the look and feel of it.

UEAs usually have a graphic design or a psychology background, but also have a keen interest in technology. Visual designers mainly come from graphic or web design courses.

Trisha Patel, head of creative at app design firm Grapple, says: “To transfer into a career in mobile design, graduates would need to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of designing for a smaller screen, and the ability to apply strategic thinking specific to mobile, such as touch screen considerations.”

Patel adds that today’s app developer would probably have been working as a web developer 10 years ago, building desktop applications, webpages or infrastructure systems.

Graduates with Objective-C (the language used to code iPhone apps) knowledge are able to demand starting salaries of £44,327. This is 23% higher than the average technical graduate job, according to Adzuna.

What you need to do the job:

• Strong proficiency in Objective-C

• NS Operation, Grand Central Dispatch and Blocks Networking using NSURL Connection, knowledge of CoreLocation, UIKit, MapKit, Security, CoreData, CoreGraphics, CoreAnimation and UIWebView

• Experience in XML and JSON-based application development

• Great understanding of iOS memory management, both automatic and manual reference counting

Green Deal assessor

The Green Deal allows consumers to make energy-saving improvements to their home or business without having to pay all the costs upfront. An assessor visits people’s properties to assess and make recommendations for energy-saving improvements. They must have the technical knowledge and skills to provide consumers with the best advice, meeting requirements set out in the National Occupational Standards for Green Deal advisors.

Companies started taking on Green Deal assessors in 2012 to begin assessments from 1 October 2012. There are currently 38 jobs advertised at Adzuna, with average pay of £24,070. Nearly a quarter of them are based in north-west England.

Ten years ago, today’s Green Deal assessors would probably have worked as building or property surveyors. Five years ago they might even have been ill-fated home information pack (Hip) surveyors. Hips were almost entirely phased out in 2010.

What you need to do the job:

• Full training and qualification as domestic energy assessor or Green Deal assessor (GDA)

• An excellent knowledge and understanding of energy services products and /or a willingness and ability to learn in detail a broad product portfolio

• Excellent IT and numeracy skills

• Knowledge of energy regulations related to quality and compliance

Social media manager

A social media manager is generally responsible for all social media activity carried out by a company, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and others.

They will often delegate this work and focus more on strategy, designing plans to increase a firm’s profile and manage how consumers interact and engage with the brand. It is an important role: get it wrong and you can alienate the very customers you are trying to woo; while stories of Twitter errors are legion.

This is a hot sector, with 1,066 social media jobs currently being advertised in the UK on Adzuna, 177 of which are social media manager positions commanding an average salary of £30,086. However, Adzuna says this advertised average has decreased by 9% in the past six months.

Five years ago, today’s social media manager would probably have been operating elsewhere within a corporate PR, marketing or advertising department.

What you need to do the job:

• University degree in relevant field or equivalent work experience

• Substantial hands-on experience of managing and growing online communities

• Proven track record in producing and commissioning content for social media channels

• Passion for, and knowledge of, digital trends and new media

• Extensive experience of managing and growing online communities

• Excellent knowledge of social media channels, particularly Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

Did your job exist 10 years ago – if not, how did you end up doing it? Will it still be around in 100 years, or will it look as antiquated as the role of leech collector?

The Guardian online

Spain’s Socialists Why Spain’s left is in a funk

April 4, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

Spain’s Socialists
Why Spain’s left is in a funk

The party leader struggles to put the government’s unpopularity to use
Mar 23rd 2013 | MADRID |From the print edition

ALFREDO PÉREZ RUBALCABA, leader of Spain’s beleaguered opposition Socialists, is a man with a noose around his neck. It is slowly tightening. More than a year after his party lost power its poll ratings remain below those of Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party (PP). They are five points down on their November 2011 election result, standing at just 23%.

This is remarkable. Spain’s economy has tumbled deeper into recession under the premiership of Mr Rajoy. A further 700,000 people have joined the dole queues, pushing unemployment to 26.2% of the workforce. And as the value of their homes falls further, frightened Spanish consumers are keeping purses zipped tight. Many must raid savings to get by.

Wage earners and pensioners are all getting poorer. Of the more needy, 1.9m unemployed do not receive state benefits. And, as Spaniards digest tax rises and spending cuts, protests from health, education and other public workers are a daily occurrence.

In this section
The trials of François
Silent no more
First steps of the citizens
Focus on growth
Why Spain’s left is in a funk
Poverty protests
Small island, big finger
Related topics
Jose Zapatero
Mariano Rajoy
World politics
European politics
Mr Rajoy’s PP, meanwhile, is engulfed in a corruption scandal. The man he appointed party treasurer, Luis Bárcenas, hid €22m ($28.5m) in Switzerland. Newspapers allege he ran a secret party slush-fund with senior PP noses in the trough. Promises of green pastures further down the road of austerity have yet to convince voters. The PP’s poll ratings have fallen from 45% to 24% since the election.

So why are the Socialists not storming ahead? Many Spaniards blame them for the current mess. A once buoyant economy crashed on the watch of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist prime minister. Mr Rubalcaba, as deputy prime minister, was associated with the debacle. The party, meanwhile, is digging its own grave. Its Catalan wing rebelled in parliament recently, backing Catalonia’s “right to decide” on its future. That scares Socialist voters in other parts of Spain. But Mr Rubalcaba’s opposition to the idea puts off potential supporters in Catalonia, where Mr Zapatero anchored his victories. A messy town-hall coup in northern Ponferrada, which saw local Socialists ally with the convicted protagonist of a nasty sexual harassment case, showed the party in further disarray.

Mr Rubalcaba himself remains a problem. He has clung to the top job despite leading the party to an historic defeat in 2011. The 61-year-old veteran not only bears the Zapatero stigma, but also that of a minister in Felipe González’s 1990s governments. He is hardly a bright new broom for jaundiced left-wing voters. Some party leaders say so openly. “Many others agree with me,” said Tomas Gómez, a prominent rebel who heads the Madrid party branch.

Mr Gómez may fancy himself as a candidate for the premiership, as does Patxi López, the popular former Basque regional president. Better bets are a former defence minister, Carme Chacón, aged 42, or one of the party’s parliamentary bosses, Eduardo Madina. Ms Chacón was narrowly beaten for the leadership by Mr Rubalcaba at a conference last year. She broke ranks with her Catalan colleagues to abstain in the vote on the “right to decide” in a tactical bid to stay in the running. Mr Madina is just 37, yet still experienced. He also wins sympathy for overcoming a terrorist bomb attack that blew off part of his leg. But he might not yet want the job.

Analysts predict that the economy will shrink by 1.5% this year; recovery in 2014 is uncertain. The European Commission expects unemployment will still be stuck above 26% next year. Elections will probably be held at the end of 2015. Austerity-exhausted Spaniards may demand change. But if the Socialists want power, they probably need a new leader.

The economist online

Foreign minister: Spain is concerned about subpoena for princess, effect on country’s image

April 4, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

MADRID — The Spanish government is deeply concerned about the fact that one of the king’s daughters has been named as a suspect in a corruption case, the foreign minister said Thursday.

Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said the summoning of Princess Cristina affected the entire country’s image and urged that the case be resolved rapidly.

“Anything that affects an institution that has been so important in Spain’s transition (from dictatorship to democracy) and which is so important for Spain’s image abroad, causes enormous concern,” Margallo told reporters.

The subpoena announcement caused a sensation Wednesday and has been the main news item for all Spanish media.

The summons is a first for a member of the king’s immediate family. The palace expressed surprise at the decision and welcomed a prosecutor’s move to appeal it.

The 47-year-old princess, the youngest daughter of King Juan Carlos, has not been charged but must appear for questioning by Palma de Mallorca Judge Jose Castro on April 27. The investigation centers on whether her husband Inaki Urdangarin and his former business partner funneled about 5 million euros ($6.4 million) in public funds via the nonprofit Noos Institute they ran into private businesses they controlled.

“It’s imperative that the judiciary should get to the bottom of the Noos case, not just because it’s a serious case of corruption but rather because it’s a scandal that is causing considerable damage to the prestige of the monarchy,” the leading newspaper El Pais wrote Thursday in an editorial.

The royal family’s troubles and corruption scandals affecting the country’s two main political parties have greatly irked Spaniards, who are suffering through an economic crisis that has sent unemployment soaring to 26 percent.

Previously both the judge and the prosecutor had agreed there was not enough cause to call the princess in for questioning but the magistrate said new information had changed his mind.

The judge said while there was no indication that the princess took an active part in her husband’s businesses, she was a board member on two of his companies and there was evidence she knew that Urdangarin used her name and status in his dealings, which benefited both of them. Castro said such evidence could lead the princess to be classified as an accomplice.

Urdangarin, 45, has already been questioned twice by Castro since the probe began two years ago. The royal family last year sidelined him from all official duties.

The princess went to work as normal Thursday at the Caixa bank foundation in Barcelona but did not comment on the case. She is seventh in the line of succession.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Washinton Post online

Spain Vs England – An Erasmus Experience

April 4, 2013  | by Gülpen Garay

Moving to Spain has been, without a doubt in my mind, one of the craziest experiences of my life. The first time I moved from home was a more delicate transition, going from Milan where I studied at a British school to the UK, it felt right and I knew what to expect. However, moving to Madrid was a whole different story. I had only been to the city twice before, and as I think most of us do whilst on holiday, I stuck to the tourist attractions. Moving here for good allowed me to live as a madrilena and indeed, study as one. And this is what I wanted to get to: education and university in Spain. Where to start? I find it extremely hard to express how I felt about my experience as a social science student arriving at Universidad Complutense de Madrid.

First impression, not that great. Old grey building that used to be a prison, located in a far away campus, not much green and no UK style welcome fair, society and sport fairs and all that jazz. Now after 5 months here, having gotten used to the disorganization, the professors not showing up, the continuous strikes, whether done by students or professor, I can say this place is NUTS! In a good way obviously! At Warwick University I have been accostomed well. Organized teachers, always on time, I used to receive emails informing me whether something was cancelled or moved and students were lively but all was kept within reason. In Madrid, at least at UCM, it is a whole different story. Graffiti cover every inch of every wall, anarchy signs and anti fascist lines have been plastered over every free surface not occupied by art and political or philosophical quotes, dogs run free in the corridors waiting for their owners to finish class, and the smell of marijuana is, well, inescapable.

As much of a shock this was for the first month, I learnt to cope with it and to be honest, it has been absolutely breath taking. I started to expect teachers to not show up, to know that if I (for once) made my 9am, it might be cancelled (as is usually the case), and that there is no point in arguing against the student strikes (they strike because their fees get higher yet they have no problem skipping classes day after day due to their strikes, not understanding that they are losing out on precious class time that they are paying for). I learnt that trying to enter the building anyways to attend class is a bad idea because you will get oranges thrown at you, and yes, they hurt.

I don’t even think I can compare a public university in the UK to one in Spain, at least in my personal experience. I seem to have gone from one extreme to the other and I am loving it, I could not have asked for a better or more stimulating erasmus experience. Going back to the UK in October will allow me to see everything differently, I won’t moan about my lovely home University anymore, and I’ll be more socially and politically active when need be. I can’t stress enough how great an opportunity like this is and has been, so if you get a chance to take a year abroad, go out there and grab it, you won’t regret it!

HuffPost UK