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The News That Shaped the Month – May 2016

UvA Inside – by Olga Kowalska From the 9th to 13th of May, UvA (Faculty and Central) Student Council elections took place. Students could choose between four parties for the CSR (Central Student Council) and between two parties for the FSR (Faculty Student Council) FEB. The election turnout was sadly quite low: only 19,7% of UvA students cast their vote. This is the final outcome for Central Student Council: both UvASociaal and De Decentralen won 3 seats, De Vrije Student won 1 seat, while Ons kritisch alternatief was left without any place in the council. For the FSR of the Faculty of Economics and Business, List Sefa was the big winner. The party received a total of 508 votes and won 8 seats in the Council, while FEB Sociaal with a total of 166 votes has won 2 seats. Congratulations to all the winners and success in achieving all the goals in the next academic year! According to the outcome of National Student Survey (NSE), the satisfaction of students at the UvA has increased since last year. The overall satisfaction score was 4.01, so 0.05 more compared to year 2015. However, UvA is still bit behind the average satisfaction level of other universities, which this year was 4.07. Students rated atmosphere at the university and content of the courses quite high (4.01 and 3.93 respectively), but career (3.23) and study guidance (3.37) still need some improvement. We hope that in the next year we can see improvement in all of the areas! Economics Recap – by Daniel Koudijs This summer is set to be hot. At the end of June, two important events will take place that are likely to define the second half of 2016. Firstly, there is the Brexit Referendum on the 23rd of June, which will finally end the uncertainty about the UK’s place in the EU. Secondly, another significant decision will be made a few days earlier at the meeting of the Federal Reserve: will interest rates in the US be raised again? The minutes of the FED meeting this month reveal a strong preference towards raising again in June. Markets responded with worry and caution, as many believe the US economy is not strong enough and the costs of the FED acting too soon outweigh the costs of waiting a bit longer. Enough to worry about – closer to home, June seems very far away as European Banks, specifically in Italy, are struggling. Italian banks are caught in an ongoing fight with bad loans, pushing some of them to the edge of default and spreading contagion risk throughout the Italian financial system. A disaster was averted when emergency fund Atalanta rescued an otherwise failed IPO by Banco Popolare di Vicenza which was backed by UniCredit. The emergency fund was only recently put in place but has already used up much of its capital. Whether Atalanta can hold up the Italian sky until June remains a question. Business Recap  – by Yoeri Min The Netherlands remains one of the most creditworthy countries in the world, according to credit evaluator Standard & Poor’s last Friday’s report on the Dutch economy.

On the same day, Goldman Sachs encountered much unexpected opposition against the proposed salaries of its top executives. Nearly one-third of the U.S. bank’s shareholders voted against the paying plans.

The chemical industry in Netherlands has produced more than 1 percent more in the first quarter than in the same period last year

The package transport in Netherlands has grown considerably last year. This is partly because many Dutch consumers increasingly make purchases online.

Last year, Dutch motorists went more often to the garage to maintain their car. The total turnover of garages from maintenance work increased with 10,6% compared to last year.

The recovery of the Dutch housing market propels the sale of household appliances. Last quarter, a lot more kitchen appliances were sold than a year earlier according to figures from research firm GfK. New Oath for Accountants – by Michel Mijlof When you are talking about an oath for a certain profession, you mostly think of lawyers and judges. They have to promise in front of the court that they are going to do their job in a professional and ethical way. Since the recent financial crisis, some bankers are also swearing an oath to make the financial world a bit more ethical. But, in the Netherlands, all the accountants are going to swear an oath. In some countries, such as Ireland or Scotland, the accountants already have to do so. The oath will be closely related to the values of the accountancy profession. Specifically, it should be related to the behavior and profession rules according to the VGBA, which is a special department of the NBA (Dutch Association of Accountants) that is dealing with the ethical rules and values of the profession. The new oath means that accountants should be aware of the public interest. They also should apprehend the integrity, objectivity, professional skills, carefulness and confidentiality. All the current accountants have to swear the oath before the 1st of May 2017. New accountants will swear their oath when receiving their certificate of qualification. Politics Recap – by Ioana Nicolau

Discussions around Turkey joining the EU, which formally began in 1997, have highlighted the concerns regarding the pace of economic reform in Turkey, security issues, as well as the tensed relationship that the country has with Cyprus. The UK seems to be the state which is strongly opposing Turkey joining the EU, with populist politicians claiming millions of new migrants would enter the UK in the following years and increased risk of murders and terrorists attacks.

In Austria, for the first time since WW II, the two parties that have dominated Austrian politics for decades, the Social Democrats and the conservative People’s Party, were both defeated by the right-wing populist Freedom Party. This led to the Social Democrat leader, Chancellor Werner Faymann, resigning after a revolt in his party over the failure to stop the Freedom Party from rising up. As of 1.00 PM (23rd of May), the final results of the second round of the presidential elections are not yet known with both Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer and Green-backed independent Alexander Van der Bellen having about 50% of the vote in exit polls. 

After U.S. President George W. Bush’s administration refused to offer Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a visa for entering the U.S. (for “severe violations of religious freedom”) in 2005, current president Barack Obama will meet him in Washington next month to discuss security, economic growth, climate change and defense cooperation. The visit is perceived as meant to aid the two states in counterbalancing China’s increasing power.

No Freedom Without Equality – by Artur Rymer

On May the 17th, the world celebrated the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. The goal? To raise awareness of the problem of discrimination that LGBTQ people around the world face every day. And it is a very serious problem. According to the report “State-Sponsored Homophobia” created by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), same-sex sexual acts are illegal in 74 countries and in 13 of those the punishment is death. At the same time, only 22 countries have introduced full marriage equality. On top of that, LGBTQ people face abuse and discrimination at home, in school, in the workplace and in everyday life in general in virtually every country, including those that are considered most-LGBT friendly. The situation of transsexual people is often even more dire, as we could have seen recently with the new, extremely discriminatory “bathroom law” in North Carolina.

Despite considerable advancements in LGBTQ rights in recent years, the changes seem to have slowed down. And, considering discrimination LGBTQ have to endure, the process should speed up. I should speed up much more and immediately! Don’t stay indifferent to homophobia – no one can be truly free in a society without full equality! Max to the Max – by Michael van Rhee

Dutch Formula 1 driver, Max Verstappen, recently wrote history by winning the Spanish Grand Prix in his debut for Red Bull Racing at the tender age of just 18 years and 227 days, thereby becoming the youngest ever winner of a Grand Prix in the Formula 1. Max’s life has been all about racing from the day he was born, seeing as both of his parents competed in racing. His father, Jos, was a Formula 1 driver himself (although perhaps not as good as his son), and his mother, Sophie, competed in karting. It was only Max’s first race for Red Bull Racing, having raced for Toro Rosso (another team owned by the American beverage company) throughout last year, and what a debut it was! After both Mercedes drivers had been eliminated — or rather, had eliminated themselves — Max truly excelled to withstand the pressure from chasing drivers to stay in first position. Hats off! Leicester City Win the Premier League – by Antoine Steen

In perhaps one of the most remarkable sporting feats of all time, Leicester City have won the Premier League with two games to spare. At the beginning of the season, the bookmaker Ladbrokes was offering odds of 5000/1 for Leicester City to win the league. For some perspective on how unlikely an event this is, bookmakers have also offered odds of 1000/1 on Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner admitting he is a virgin and odds of 2,000/1 on Elvis Presley being found alive. In Ladbrokes’ 130-year existence, the bookmakers have never paid out bets on odds of 5000/1. This was a genuine black swan event. That it should have occurred in what is perhaps the most popular sports league in the world makes it all the more remarkable. Eurovision Song Contest  – by Yana Chernysh

On  the 14th of May, the final of Eurovision 2016 was held in Stockholm, Sweden. Eurovison is a song contest started in 1956 in Europe. Each participating country can send one contestant with a new song, never published before the competition. The winner is determined by the points gained in the final. The points are given out by both professional jury and the televotes of the viewers. This year, with traditional 26 finalists, the 1st place went to Ukrainian singer Jamala with her song 1944. 2nd place went to Australia with Dami Im singing Sound of Silence. 3rd place went to Russia with Sergei Lazarev performing You’re the Only One. Ukrainian win caused a lot of controversial opinions. Jamala was accused of political contest in the song and a petition was signed to redefine the results. However, the results stayed the same. In several countries the contest was called political and became a big topic in the news. In 2017 Eurovision will be held in Ukraine, as it was the winning country this year. Let Them Rest – by Raffaele Di Carlo

Memory is a tricky thing: sometimes we remember clearly things that happened years ago and forget what we had for dinner just the day before. However, if I asked you what you were doing on the 11th of September 2001, when all the major news services of the world broadcast the attack on the World Trade Center live from New York City, I am quite sure you would recall it perfectly.

So do the victims and their relatives, who might soon have a chance to have their voice heard, as the US Congress recently passed a bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would allow them to sue any member of the Saudi government allegedly involved in financing the terrorist attack. As you might expect, Saudi Arabia wasn’t very pleased with the turn of events: the Saudi government firmly denied any involvement in the attack – after all there was no evidence to begin with – and threatened to sell 750$ billions  worth of US Treasury securities, which could have nefarious effects on the US economic policy. It would appear the relationship between the two countries, once allies, has turned sour.

The decision wasn’t unanimous in the United States themselves: the President, Barack Obama, opposed the bill since it was first proposed, claiming it would have disastrous consequences for the US foreign affairs, and vetoed its final draft. However, the Congress, with a suprising Democrat majority led by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, might overrule him.

In the meantime, no legal action has actually taken place yet, sign that maybe the victims and their families have finally moved on, and that there is no use in dwelling on the past.

Venezuelan Crisis – by Brunno Fontanetti Venezuela’s unstable economy started to reflect on the political scenario. The wave of protests increased in Venezuela as the opposition and government supporters get into confrontation daily. The riots have already caused several deaths and dozens of injuries. Just over a week ago, students, and the opposition in general, initiated protests against Maduro’s economic policy and the growing political insecurity. In response, the president has tightened security and promised that he won’t facilitate any coup.

A year after the death of Hugo Chavez, Nicolas Maduro has increasingly been trying to contain the turbulence zone that crosses the country. According to the president, the country that is at (economic) war against the private sector, namely the opposition. Large companies and employers are accused of inflating prices for lack of economic patriotism.

This month, the government approved a law prohibiting profit margins above 30%. The army will work as fiscal in this policy, checking each store’s prices and profits. Moreover, inflation rose to 55%, mainly because of exchange rates. The official fixed rate of the dollar exchange rate is 6.3 bolivars, but on the black market the dollar can reach 70 bolivares. To crown Venezuela’s unstable situation, the country is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world. A corruption that the government attaches to the “parasitic bourgeoisie and speculative capitalism” but that has a lot of influence from the Chavez period of ruling: all regions were given to rulers of the Chavez family and friends, according to the opposition.

While opposition and Maduro’s supporters fight, the economic situation creates a shortage of daily consumer goods. Venezuela imports virtually everything, including food products. There is a lack of basic products on supermarket shelves and to get them, people have to stand in lines for hours. Moreover, lots of non-protesters have been injured and killed in the middle of this fight for power, which creates a big interrogation mark in our heads: Who is really fighting for the interests of the country?


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