TIME Business

BSkyB to Create Multinational European TV Network

(LONDON) — London-based pay TV network BSkyB has agreed to take control of its sister companies in Italy and Germany, creating a multinational European broadcaster. The deal could have a wider impact on the media industry, giving Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox a cash boost to potentially revive its attempt to buy Time Warner.

BSkyB said Friday it will buy Sky Italia and 57 percent of Sky Deutschland for 5.35 billion pounds ($9.1 billion) from media giant 21st Century Fox. Besides being chairman and CEO of 21st Century Fox, Murdoch is also BSkyB’s largest shareholder with a stake of just over 39 percent.

BSkyB said the deal would create a pay TV provider with 20 million customers across three of Europe’s four biggest markets.

Media analyst Claire Enders said the deal shows BSkyB is moving to build business outside its base in Britain and moving beyond direct local competition with BT.

“It’s now focused on transporting its technology and its production skills into other markets where there is demand for cutting edge TV,” she said. “They believe this phenomenon will come to other countries in Europe, particularly Italy.” She said she did not anticipate regulatory obstacles.

James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and co-chief operating officer of 21st Century Fox, said the combination of European Sky companies would create “enormous benefits for the combined business and for our shareholders.”

Shareholders in BSkyB did not seem excited by the details of the deal, however, pushing the company’s share price down 5 percent in London.

BSkyB said it was paying 2.45 billion pounds for Sky Italia and 2.9 billion pounds for its stake in Sky Deutschland. 21st Century Fox would receive cash payments of 4.9 billion pounds and BSkyB would also transfer its 21 percent stake in the National Geographic Channel. The company said it would make a voluntary cash offer to Sky Deutschland’s minority shareholders at 6.75 euros ($9) per share.

Analysts note 21st Century Fox, which has a strong presence in cable, broadcast, film, pay TV and other fields, could use the cash from the European TV deal to help fund its pursuit of Time Warner after the recent failure of an $80 billion offer.

That bid was partly meant to counter consolidation among U.S. TV distributors like Comcast-Time Warner Cable and AT&T-DirecTV.

Time Warner owns TV channels CNN, TNT and TBS, along with the Warner Bros. movie studio, which includes Batman, Superman and Harry Potter. Fox owns the 20th Century Fox movie studio, the Fox broadcast network and such TV channels as Fox News and FX.

TIME Russia sanctions

Flight MH17: Europe Unlikely to Enforce Tougher Sanctions on Russia

Analysts say the European Union is unlikely to go beyond sanctioning individuals

On Tuesday, European Union (E.U.) foreign ministers will meet to discuss increasing sanctions against Russia following the downing of flight MH17. The U.S. has blamed the incident on separatist rebels who, it claims, shot the plane down using weapons supplied to them by Moscow.

The meeting will be the bloc’s first opportunity to discuss the tragedy which took the lives of 298 people, the majority of whom were from countries within the E.U.

In March, the E.U. and the U.S. imposed sanctions against Russia for Moscow’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict. These were tightened July 16, the day before flight MH17 was shot down.

The E.U. has enforced “tier two” sanctions which affect individuals by freezing their assets and banning them from traveling. So far, 72 Russian politicians and aides of Putin have been affected. However, with the U.S. having imposed sanctions against Russia’s biggest companies, including state oil company Rosneft, there is pressure on the E.U. to match these “tier three” sanctions that go beyond individuals. But, despite U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron calling for tier three sanctions on Monday, analysts remain skeptical.

“I think that it’s highly unlikely at this stage that the E.U. is planning anything further than individual sanctions,” says William E. Pomeranz, Deputy Director at the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies. “The EU has a much more substantial trade relationship with Russia than the U.S. does, it has a heavy reliance on Russian gas.”

Jonathan Eyal, International Director at the Royal United Services Institute, echoes his sentiment. Eyal told TIME: “The Russia of today is not the Soviet Union of the Cold War. It is very deeply integrated into the economies of Europe particularly in terms of energy resources.”

Despite Cameron’s bluster, he will be painfully aware of this. In March of last year, British oil and gas giant BP bought shares worth close to 20% in Rosneft, the state-backed Russian oil and gas giant.

Eyal refers to a “disgraceful competition” within the E.U. that’s preventing a firm response towards Russia. According to Eyal, Britain is worried about the effect sanctions will have on London’s financial district. France fears damaging its impending sale of two warships to the Russian navy, whilst in Germany, there are concerns about jobs linked to Berlin’s trade with Russia. “This leads to the lowest common denominator being sought in sanctions,” Eyal notes.

Economic interdependence isn’t the only reason for Europe’s weak sanctions. “The legacy of the financial crisis has left some European countries feeling vulnerable,” comments Jeffrey Mankoff, deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Russia and Eurasia program. “They have less appetite to do something that will lead to economic disruption.”

Even for European countries that have pulled through the 2008 financial disaster, Russia’s immediate presence can be a significant deterrent. “Geography always plays an important role in international relations,” states Pomeranz. “Obviously the E.U. has to be mindful of its neighbors.”

Meanwhile, Washington also seems unwilling to push Moscow too far. And if Washington isn’t prepared to lead, it’s unlikely Europe will follow. “Europe has always been a free rider on the back of the U.S.,” says Eyal.

Mankoff shares his view, adding: “U.S. leadership on [sanctions] has been relatively lacking so far. And because it’s been lacking it’s been relatively easy for the Europeans to drag their feet.”

Were the U.S. to challenge Russia more directly, there is no guarantee, however, that Europe would follow suit. Constrained by trade relations, geography and shaky economies, Europe is both unwilling and unable to risk poking the Russian bear.

TIME europe

Europe Considers Getting Tough on Russia After Plane Disaster

A man looks at the wreckage of passenger plane Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine.
A man looks at the wreckage of passenger plane Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on July 18, 2014 in Grabovka, Ukraine. Brendan Hoffman—Getty Images

European leaders have been reluctant to impose heavy sanctions on Russia. That may now change

Correction appended, July 18 2014

With Europeans reeling at the calamitous downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet on Thursday, European politicians have already begun debating whether they have fallen short in applying pressure on the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin. European leaders have for months tiptoed around imposing muscular sanctions against Moscow for arming Ukraine’s separatists as they try to protect the continent’s deep economic ties with Russia. The Obama Administration has taken a harder line, this week introducing a tough new round of sanctions against Russian individuals and companies. European leaders have thus far tried to give diplomatic negotiations with Putin a chance to work, while approving some of the sanctions the U.S. has implemented.

President Barack Obama on Friday called the shootdown “an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” and said at least one American had died in the crash. And at the U.N., U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power outlined evidence pointing to Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine as having launched the missile, possibly from the arsenal recently supplied by Moscow. Like Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, she ruled out any possibility that Ukraine’s military had been responsible, as Putin has claimed. With Russia emerging as a likely culprit in the disaster, European leaders are now doing some soul-searching and discussing what their next steps should be.

It could take weeks or months for investigators to prove who exactly fired the missile that appears to have taken down MH17 over eastern Ukraine at an altitude of 30,000 feet, killing all 298 passengers and crew, most of them Dutch.. But the lack of firm answers hardly matters: The calls for tougher action against Russia have come swiftly, even before investigators have reached the wreckage strewn across a rural area of Ukraine near the border with Russia. “The time for illusions is over, the illusions that we can bring Russia over in a diplomatic way, that is finished,” Karl-Georg Wellmann, a German member of parliament from the ruling Christian Democrat party, told TIME on Friday. “Russia is leading a hot war in eastern Ukraine, delivering artillery, tanks, anti-aircraft missiles,” he said. “This is not a game, it is a reality.”

Since Putin sent the Russian military into Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula more than four months ago – then annexed it – the U.S. and Europe have differed over how to punish Moscow for violating international agreements that have held since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

So far, E.U. sanctions include freezing assets and banning travel of those officials deemed to have been directly involved in the Crimea operation and in backing armed militia in eastern Ukraine. The 28 E.U. countries have split over how tough the sanctions should be, with Scandinavian countries and former Soviet allies like Poland wanting stiff action, while southern European countries like Italy and Spain are balking at the hit on their own economies that action might bring.

But Europe has not — as yet — imposed sanctions that might cause real pain to Russia’s economy, or its own. Such sanctions might include blocking Russian companies from using E.U. banks or stopping European technology from being used in Russia’s critical oil and gas industries. French officials have resisted calls from Baltic states to cancel a €1.2-billion ($1.6 billion) deal to sell two Mistral-class amphibious warships to Russia. In fact, Russian seamen arrived in the French port of Saint-Nazaire just last month to begin training on the vessels, the first of which is due for delivery in October. With Thursday’s tragedy, E.U. leaders might now ratchet up the pressure on French President François Hollande to reconsider. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters on Berlin that by contrast to the French deal, Germany had scrapped a lucrative deal to build a shooting center in Russia.

On Wednesday — just one day before the airline disaster — Obama announced the new round of American sanctions against Russia, targeting a much broader network of government officials and business leaders and freezing the assets of key Russian companies, including the giant energy firm Rosneft, with which E.U. countries have billions of dollars worth of contracts. In Brussels, E.U. leaders voted to tighten European sanctions as well, but failed to name the companies, instead giving European technocrats until the end of July to draw up the list.

But with Europeans counting their dead, politicians predict more focused action against Russia, especially if investigators confirm the claims by U.S., E.U. and Ukrainian officials that the rebels are to blame. “The climate for further measures against the Russian leadership will be different after this,” says Joris Voorhoeve, an advisor to the Dutch Foreign Ministry on peace and security issues, and a former Defense Minister. “If it is proven that the missile is of Russian origin and if it was not just a serious and bad mistake by the Ukraine government, which is not very likely, I think the position of the Netherlands government will be for further sanctions against Russia,” he said by phone from the Dutch capital The Hague on Friday. “There is general distrust of Putin and the circle around him.”

Correction: The original version of this story misrepresented Ambassador Samantha Power’s comments about the origin of the missile that brought down Flight 17.

TIME Travel

Copenhagen: What to See and What to Skip

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
Tivoli gardens seen at night on July 12, 2012. Jean-Pierre Lescourre—Corbis

Denmark's capital may be expensive but it's worth it

On paper, Copenhagen sounds too good to be true. For years now the Danish capital has been heralded for its design-consciousness, trumpeted as the globe’s most sustainable and bike-friendly city, venerated as a culinary destination that houses the best restaurant in the world, and held up as home to the world’s happiest people. In truth, this supposed urban utopia does have some flaws: ridiculously high prices and a tragic lack of decent Mexican restaurants among them. But from its striking architecture to its happening cocktail bars to its abundant green space, Copenhagen comes pretty close to the platonic ideal of a city.

What to See

Copenhagen - Black Diamond
View of the modern waterfront extension to the Royal Danish Library The Black Diamond in Copenhagen on April 18, 2014. Nicole Becker—dpa/Corbis

Tivoli Gardens completely lives up to its hype. The amusement park’s old-school rides (including a century-old roller coaster) are tucked between flowering gardens and outdoor cafés right in the city center, making it charming in a way that Six Flags will never be. For more modern design, check out the Design Museum, which will teach you more about the chair than you thought possible, or simply take in some of the city’s more gorgeous buildings, like its soaring Opera House, or the Black Diamond, a dramatically angled building that also houses the Danish Royal Library. The National Gallery houses an excellent collection that runs from Rembrandt to the avant-garde Asger Jorn, but for contemporary art, the Louisiana Art Museum, overlooking the Oresund Sound, is a quick 35-minutes by train away and hard to beat.

Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014.
Christiansborg palace where the Danish parliament resides April 28, 2014. Francis Dean—Deanpictures/Corbis

Back in town, fans of the gripping political TV drama Borgen can see where fictional Prime Minister Birgitte Nyborg went to work each day at Christiansborg Palace, which houses all three branches of the national government, as well as some royal reception halls. But the city’s other famous female resident, the Little Mermaid, can safely be skipped. The harborside statue of native Hans Christian Andersen’s aquatic heroine may be one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, but it is also disconcertingly small and of questionable artistic value.

Where to Eat and Drink

The world's best restaurant "Noma" in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014.
The world’s best restaurant “Noma” in Copenhagen on May 5, 2014. Joerg Carstensen—Corbis

You might as well start at the top. Noma has been voted best restaurant in the world four times for its artful, delicious “New Nordic” cuisine, which relies solely on pristine ingredients from the region. Reservations can be hard to come by (try requesting them for lunch instead of dinner), but happily, chefs who formerly worked at Noma have been opening their own restaurants in recent years. At the casual Relæ, Christian Puglisi treats the ingredients on his vegetable-heavy menu with a gentle hand but an innovative eye, while at Amass, American chef Matt Orlando is so deeply in tune with the seasons that he changes the rustic-looking but technically-sophisticated dishes on his tasting menu almost daily. Not all of Copenhagen’s gustatory pleasures are so high-end, however. Smørrebrod, the open-faced sandwich that is the most typical of Danish foods, is elevated to a complex art at Schønnemann. And Copenhageners have been packing the recently-opened Papirøen, where stalls sell all manner of street food, from Moroccan merguez sausages to German apple pancakes. It’s a much more interesting option than the city’s one indigenous form of food truck, the omnipresent pølser wagons, or hot dog carts.

Not all of the city’s gustatory pleasures require chewing. Coffee Collective is renowned among coffee geeks, and Atelier September makes an exquisite matcha tea. Mikkeller serves up some of the best, if quirkiest, artisanal beers in Europe, and the city positively swims in personable wine bars like Ved Stranden, Den Vandrette, and Sabotøren. And there is no shortage of cozy cocktail bars either. Ruby specializes in the classics.

Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal Copenhagen
Tourboats in Nyhavn Canal on in Copenhagen on May 7, 2011. MyLoupe/Universal Image Group/Getty Images

What to Do

Much of Strøget, the world’s longest pedestrian shopping street, is given over to high street brands like Zara, but there are some quintessentially Danish jewels there too, like Hay and Illium Bolighus, both of which sell irresistible, beautifully-designed housewares. The Torvehallerne market is great for shopping of a more edible sort, with an outdoor produce market and indoor stalls selling everything from cakes to sushi. A canal tour is the most popular option for seeing Copenhagen’s many waterways, but a DIY version, via kayak, gets you even closer.

City electric bikes are for rent for visitors at central station on April 24, 2014 in Copenhagen. Francis Dean—Corbis

And in a city with over 390 kilometers of dedicated lanes, you may as well give in to peer pressure and rent a bike; it’s the most scenic way to get to Amager Strandpark beach south of the city, and the rolling deer park, Dyrehave, to the north. The restaurants and cafes of Nyhavn are thoroughly missable, specializing as they do in serving over-priced, mediocre food and drink to generally drunk tourists. But the pastel houses lining the harbor there are just as picturesque as the postcards suggest, especially on those long summer days when the clear northern light illuminates this lovely, near-perfect city.

TIME Video Games

PlayStation 4, PC Lead Development in European ‘State of the Industry’ Report

PC and mobile games lead all once again, while Sony's PlayStation 4 is the development platform of choice by a notable margin.

The annual GDC Europe meetup is nearly here — it transpires in Cologne, Germany in early August — and in advance, Game Developers Conference Europe just released a boatload of demographic development information about who’s doing what with PC, mobile and console games looking down the road.

The results come from the UBM Tech Game Network-run show’s second annual European State of the Industry Survey, and indicate — no great surprise here — that PC and mobile remain the platforms of choice across the pond. Mobile edges out PC development slightly, with 65 percent of respondents indicating they’re working on a mobile title versus 58 percent on PC. Those percentages are reportedly higher than last year, which GDC Europe says suggests European developers are more focused on PC and mobile than in North America (again, not surprisingly, given PC gaming’s strong and sustained historical presence in Europe).

Switching to consoles, the survey has the PlayStation 4 leading for the second time consecutively, with 18 percent indicating they were working on PS4 titles (versus 13 percent for Xbox One). Furthermore, 33 percent of respondents expect their next game to be a PS4 project, versus 23 percent for Xbox One.

How many European developers plan to crowdfund their next project? “A startling 41 percent,” says GDC Europe — up from 10 percent currently. This, despite legal barriers in Europe that the group says “makes it trickier to crowdfund.”

And the winner of the annual “best place to build your development empire” poll? Sweden, according to the survey, home to Minecraft, the Battlefield games, Paradox Interactive’s sprawling history-minded strategy titles, and of course, Goat Simulator.

MORE: The History of Video Game Consoles – Full

 

TIME space travel

NASA’s New Rover May Soon Explore Frozen Waters in Outer Space

A new space rover prototype is being developed for underwater exploration in space, but in the meantime it is helping scientists gain a better understanding of Earth's seas

+ READ ARTICLE

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have finally built a robot that will be able to chart the icy waters found in outer space — like on Jupiter’s moon Europa — going where no other space robot has gone before.

The Buoyant Rover for Under-Ice Exploration (BRUIE) is operated through satellite link and designed to cling onto the underside of ice with metal tires, transmitting measurements back to scientists and assessing whether the waters host other life-forms. Scientists have already built rovers that can withstand the dry terrain of the Earth’s moon and Mars, but this is the first such machine built to explore extraterrestrial aquatic bodies.

BRUIE is currently being tested in frozen Alaska lakes, but engineers hope that the robot will one day be flown to Europa. NASA maintains that although the rover is prototyping exploration on other celestial bodies, the test runs in Alaska are also allowing scientists to gain a better understanding of Earth’s frozen waters — at present, 95% of Earth’s oceans remain unchartered.

TIME Italy

Boat Migrants Risk Everything for a New Life in Europe

Photographer Massimo Sestini accompanied the Italian navy on its rescue missions earlier this month, offering a rare up-close glimpse of the men, women and children who make the dangerous trip to start a new life

Eight months after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sank off the coast of Lampedusa, killing more than 360 people and spurring an international outcry, the flow of migrants risking the perilous sea journey to Europe shows no signs of letting up.

Already this year, the number of migrants arriving by boat on Italy’s shores has surpassed 40,000, the total number of migrants that arrived in 2013. Earlier this month, Italy said it rescued some 5,200 people in the span of just four days. Officials there warn that many more will die without broader support from across Europe.

Tens of thousands of refugees and migrants make the journey to Europe annually, departing from dozens of countries in Africa and the Middle East, according to the European Parliament. In recent years, Syrians fleeing the civil war in their country have joined the ranks of Eritreans, Sudanese and Somalis looking for a better life, the UN said in April.

On World Refugee Day, June 20, TIME is publishing a collection of images from photographer Massimo Sestini, who accompanied the Italian navy on its rescue missions earlier this month. The shots depict the treacherous conditions in which tens of thousands of migrants and refugees attempt the crossing, packed in rickety motorboats with limited supplies. But they also reveal, in a manner rarely seen, the human faces of some of the men, women and children who risk everything to make it to Europe.

After the tragedy off of Lampedusa, Italy began a naval mission dubbed “Mare Nostrum,” Latin for “Our Sea,” to patrol the waters. The operation has rescued some 30,000 people, but officials in Italy and Greece are calling for support in the face of this summer’s expected calm seas and warmer weather, when journeys are likely to jump. Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano warned earlier this week that Italy might not be able to afford to continue Mare Nostrum without EU support.

Last month, Enzo Bianco, Mayor of Sicily’s Catania, condemned Europe’s “deafening silence” at a funeral for 17 migrants who died off the coast of Libya, the Guardian reported. “Faced with these coffins, Europe must choose [whether to] bury our consciences of civilized men along with them,” he said.

TIME poverty

Greater Unemployment Benefits Can Reduce the Suicide Rate

Job Seekers Look For Work At Career Fair In Detroit
People seeking employment attend a job fair at the Matrix Center, April 23, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Joshua Lott—Getty Images

Paying out bigger benefits in lean times is literally a lifesaver for the jobless

A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that greater unemployment benefits can decrease the rate of suicides.

The research team, led by Jon Cylus at the London School of Economics, acknowledged that suicide was caused by a variety of factors, but determined that income loss and loneliness predicated by unemployment were key.

The 2008 financial crisis suggested a correlation between suicides and the availability of employment — with the suicide rate in North America and Europe increasing by an estimated 10,000 people per year from 2007 to 2010, compared with prior years. When Cylus and his team examined the allocation of unemployment benefits from 1968 to 2008, however, they found that greater cash assistance reduced the burdens caused by joblessness.

Although suicide is the most severe outcome of unemployment, financial distress can also lead to mental and health issues — which the team also noted could be mitigated by improved benefits.

The study concluded that more financial assistance at times of need could save lives. “If the unemployment rate increases, having better benefits is going to buffer the effect,” Cylus told HuffPost.

[HuffPost]

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