2013年2月28日星期四

Missouri's offensive attack leads to 90-68 win over South Carolina



By the middle of the second half Thursday, the smiles were evident and pervasive on the Missouri bench. And considering everything the Tigers have been through this season on the road, why wouldn’t they be?



Missouri's Keion Bell (5) drives for the basket as South Carolina's Damien Leonard (32) and Mindaugas Kacinas (25) defend during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain)



Missouri still had ten minutes left to play at South Carolina, but the Tigers — who had used a blistering offensive attack to take a 25-point lead at the moment — were well on their way to their second road win of the season, a 90-68 victory at Colonial Life Arena.


Now, on one hand, you could argue Missouri — which improved to 20-8, 9-6 in the Southeastern Conference — did what it was supposed to do against the struggling Gamecocks, who dropped to 13-15 overall, 3-12 in the SEC and have now lost 10 of their last 12 games. But when you factor in the Tigers’ 1-7 road record entering the game — a mark that included several heartbreaking losses — well, you can certainly understand why they wanted to enjoy the moment.


Especially when you remember that the Gamecocks are coached by Frank Martin, the same defensive-minded coach whose K-State teams handed Missouri two of its five losses last season. And don’t forget, South Carolina did give the Tigers all they could handle on Jan. 22, when Missouri prevailed 71-65 at Mizzou Arena.


Of course, the Tigers didn’t have senior starters Keion Bell and Laurence Bowers in that game due to injury. That would not be the case Thursday. While Bowers finished with a modest statline — six points, three rebounds — Bell made his presence known early and often, scoring 18 of his team-high 24 points by halftime to help Missouri build a 45-38 lead.


In fact, you could argue the Tigers’ lead could have and should have been more. South Carolina overcame two separate nine-point deficits in the half, thanks largely to its long-distance marksmanship. The Gamecocks, who entered the game as the worst-shooting team in the SEC, shot 58 percent from the field in the half and went 7-for-12 from three-point range.


But even that wasn’t enough to overtake Missouri by the break, as sophomore guard Jabari Brown teamed up with Bell to power a strong offensive attack. Brown had 10 of his 23 points by halftime, as he and Bell rebounded after struggling in a 90-83 road loss to Kentucky last Saturday in which they combined for only 15 points.


The Tigers, who actually led by as many as 13 points against Kentucky, made sure Thursday’s game wouldn’t be a repeat, as Missouri opened the second half with a vengeance. After a basket by Bell, Alex Oriakhi (18 points) was rewarded for a steal when he hustled downcourt and completed a three-point play, courtesy of a nice find from Phil Pressey (nine assists, three turnovers).


South Carolina proceeded to turn the ball over on its next possession, and Brown finished through contact to make the score 52-40. He then beat his defender on a backdoor cut to extend Missouri’s lead to 14, and Oriakhi completed the 12-2 run when he hammered home a feed down low despite the contact and made the ensuing free throw to make the score 57-42 and prompt a South Carolina timeout.


Missouri kept the heat on from there, extending its lead to as many as 25 points as the Gamecocks — whose offense cooled off considerably in the second half — struggled to get anything golf.


To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.






Check it out: Free tunes at KC libraries


Maybe you’ve loaded your iTunes library with music copied from borrowed CDs. Or downloaded tracks, pirate style, from dubious file-sharing websites.




But what if you could load up on music without dodging copyright law — and still not pay?


Your library wants to help.


More and more people are discovering a way to acquire music from red-hot artists like Beyoncé, Adele and Mumford & Sons that is both free and legal.


It’s called Freegal and it is newly available through local public libraries.


Yes, the library. The place where, traditionally, one borrows materials with the understanding they must be returned.


But with Freegal, the songs you download to your computer and MP3 player or iPod are yours — forever.


“Once people find out we have it, they can’t believe the library is letting you download music and keep it,” said Jessica Ford, a spokeswoman for the Mid-Continent Public Library.


Mid-Continent began offering Freegal in August. By Feb. 15, some 3,700 patrons had downloaded more than 40,500 songs.


The Kansas City Public Library began offering the service in December and its patrons have downloaded more than 6,500 songs.


The Johnson County Public Library began offering Freegal last month and after 10 days it already had 300 users who had downloaded nearly 1,000 songs.


Freegal is the brainchild of entrepreneur Brian Downing, who launched it in May 2010 with just a handful of libraries. Now, more than 2,000 library systems around the world subscribe to it through a company called Library Ideas. More than 1 million users last year downloaded more than 19 million songs, all for free, Downing said.


More than a decade ago, the music industry was aghast and fought vigorously to protect its intellectual product when a teenager, nicknamed Napster and founder of the eponymous company, devised a way to share copyrighted music. Users could compile massive collections by swapping but not paying. The industry went to court to try to stop this kind of piracy because neither it nor the artists were getting money in the deal.


But Downing was able to persuade Sony Music — the behemoth that owns 54 labels with artists that include Paul Simon, Justin Timberlake and Bruce Springsteen — to give him access to its catalog. He then sells that database to library systems and they make it available to their patrons. Part of the money that libraries pay Freegal goes back to the record company.


It’s a different model from peer-to-peer file sharing.


“There is money changing hands,” Downing said.


Libraries pay a flat fee for Freegal that is based on the population the library district serves and the number of transactions it makes. But the fee does not float depending on how many songs patrons download in a year.


The Kansas City Public Library is paying $39,000 a year for Freegal. The Johnson County Public Library is paying $92,500 and Mid-Continent is paying $110,000.


For perspective, Mid-Continent spent $189,000 last year on music CDs.


Technically, the downloaded music is not free because the libraries are tax-supported.


But for an individual, downloading a song from Freegal means not paying $1.30 or so to iTunes. Library patrons are limited to three songs from Freegal a week, but that’s potentially more than 150 songs a year, a savings of as much as $200.


If you have library cards from more than one system, or there is more than one library card holder in your family, the number of songs you can access increases.


You don’t even need to go to the library to use Freegal. All you need is a library card number to create a PIN and log-in. The app is free for Apple and Android devices. Downloaded songs will play in Windows Media Player, iTunes and other players. It works on both PCs and Macs. Songs can be transferred to an MP3 player or iPod. After downloading three songs in a week, users may start again on Sundays at 11 p.m. Central Time.


Anecdotally, libraries report that Freegal draws more people to the library, which then potentially exposes them to books and other resources they have to offer.


“At some of the schools we visit, it has been a cause for students to get into the library,” Ford said. “It’s a good reason for them to get a library card. Then they can see what else we have. It sparks an interest in the library.”


Freegal also has a democratizing effect of making music available to people who are not as electronically connected, said Joel Jones, director of branch and outreach services for the Kansas City Public Library.


“This gives them an opportunity to put music on their inexpensive MP3 player and go mobile with it,” Jones said.


Adam Wathen, collection development manager for the Johnson County Public Library, said Freegal may not appeal to people who are content with streaming music through other services and who do not feel a need to “own” it. He also is a little bothered by the three-songs-a-week limitation of access.


Wathen’s library is close to providing another database called Naxos, which offers research-quality music — such as important jazz, classical and folk recordings — that patrons can stream without limits. But they can’t download.


“I like that model a lot more because I think libraries are more about access than ownership,” Wathen said. “Access is the name of the game. If we’ve created access to content for our users then we’ve done our job.”


Still, Wathen thinks Freegal is going to be popular with library patrons.


It already offers users about 3 million songs from more than 16,000 labels, including Sony’s, from all over the world. (There are some gaps: The Beatles, Justin Bieber, the Rolling Stones and Tupac Shakur are among the missing.)


Downing told The Star he expects the music available through Freegal to more than double this year.


“We’re adding a lot of independent labels,” he said. “Of course, people love the big labels’ stuff, but they also love depth and breadth. Everybody who logs on can find something that they like.”






Man injured by snow-laden awning collapse


A man was seriously injured Thursday night when a snow-laden metal awning collapsed on top of him.




The incident occurred just before 8 p.m. at the Gramercy Place Condominiums at 95th Street and Perry Lane in Overland Park. Emergency crews found the man unconscious but he was not pinned. He was transported to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.


Overland Park Fire Department spokesman Jason Rhodes said neighbors reported a similar collapse on Wednesday. He said the city’s building safety officials will investigate.






Missouri holds 45-38 lead over South Carolina at halftime



The Missouri Tigers once again find themselves in position to win on the road, as they currently hold a 45-38 halftime lead over South Carolina tonight at Colonial Life Arena.




Missouri, which is 19-8 overall but 1-7 in true road games this season, has jumped out to a seven-point halftime lead, thanks largely to the contributions of senior guard Keion Bell, who already has a team-high 18 points.


Sophomore guard Jabari Brown also has 10 points for Missouri, which is coming off a disappointing 90-83 road loss to Kentucky last Saturday in which it blew a 13-point lead and had Brown and Bell – who both boast double-digit scoring averages – combine for only 15 points.


On Thursday, Missouri jumped out to a 13-5 lead before the Gamecocks fought their way back in the game with some long-distance marksmanship. South Carolina, which entered the game as the worst-shooting team in the Southeastern Conference, rallied back from two separate nine-point deficits to tie the game at 34-34 at one point, thanks to 7-for-12 shooting from downtown.


Despite the Gamecocks’ prowess from the field – they finished the half shooting 58 percent – Missouri outscored South Carolina 11-4 to close the half, with eight of those points coming on slam dunks.


South Carolina, 13-14 overall, 3-11 in the SEC, has lost nine of its last 11 games. Missouri is 8-6 in the SEC.






Iowa State students apologize to Kansas coach Self


— Kansas coach Bill Self said the student government at Iowa State sent him a letter this week apologizing for a pair of incidents that occurred in the aftermath of the Jayhawks' overtime win over the Cyclones on Monday night.




The first incident occurred after Self gave a brief postgame TV interview. An Iowa State fan made his way down the court and charged after Self, and had to be held back by security.


The second incident occurred on Twitter, where at least two fans made racist and threatening comments directed toward the Jayhawks' Elijah Johnson, who scored 39 points in the game.


"We talked about it this morning and I think that would bother anyone initially," Self said Thursday.


"But the Iowa State student body has responded in a way that left no doubt where they stood on the things that were said and the issues and that is good enough for me.


"Unfortunately, there are idiots around in all different areas, and that should not take away from the people that were at the game that cheered their team on and did it wholeheartedly."


Johnson scored eight points in the final 29 seconds of regulation, including two clutch 3-pointers and the two foul shots that forced overtime.


The senior guard then scored 12 more points in the 108-96 victory, the Jayhawks' second overtime win over Iowa State this season.


Johnson certainly inflamed Iowa State fans when he got the ball in the open court in the waning seconds and, rather than run out the clock, threw down a celebratory dunk.


But he immediately apologized for getting caught up in the moment after the game.


"At the end of the day they're fans, they care," said Johnson, who credited his father for teaching him at an early age how to ignore the kind of negative comments made on Twitter.


"They apologized," Johnson said. "I'm past it, and I think we all should be past it."


The victory over the Cyclones allowed Kansas, the eight-time defending Big 12 champions, to remain tied with Kansas State for first place with three games remaining.


Self said the emotionally charged incidents following the Iowa State game won't affect the way he views Cyclones fans, and that he's looking forward to their next matchup, which could happen at the Big 12 tournament in Kansas City, Mo.


"I've always enjoyed going there," Self said. "I'll enjoy going there moving forward and these couple of idiots will not have anything to do with us enjoying that."






Panel says Missouri should adopt early voting


— A special panel created by Secretary of State Jason Kander is recommending that Missouri allow early voting and expand absentee voting by mail.




The bipartisan commission on Thursday released its recommendations for overhauling Missouri’s voting laws.


Missouri now allows people to vote by mail only if they meet certain conditions, such as a disability or absence from their district on Election Day. The commission says voters should be allowed to mail their ballots without such restrictions.


It also recommends requiring all local election authorities to establish one location where voters can cast ballots in person beginning six weeks before Election Day. For presidential elections, highly populated areas would be required to establish an additional polling place for early voting.


The 11-member commission is made up of local election authorities, attorneys and former lawmakers.


Opening additional polling places before an election could be a financial burden for local election authorities, which is why the commission is asking the state to pick up the tab for increased early voting options.


If the commission’s proposals are enacted, Missouri will become the 33rd state to adopt some form of early voting. Kansas already has early voting.






Settlement reached in 'Precious Doe' lawsuit


A settlement has been reached in the case of an Oklahoma man who sued the state and an Oklahoma hospital over the death of his daughter, a Kansas City murder victim known as Precious Doe.




Larry Green filed the lawsuit in 2010, nine years after the young girl’s beheaded body was found in a wooded area near 59th Street and Kensington Avenue. She was eventually identified as Erica Green.


Named in the suit were the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, the state Department of Corrections and the University of Oklahoma Medical Center.


Larry Green’s attorneys, Paul DeMuro and Sarah Poston, said the settlement includes an unspecified payment and calls for the three entities to develop procedures to be known as Erica’s Rule to ensure that babies born to prison inmates are referred to DHS for placement in a safe home.


“That was the primary goal of this lawsuit,” the attorneys said in a statement.


Erica was born at the OU Medical Center in 1997 while her mother, Michelle Johnson, was in prison. Documents show the child was first placed in the custody of a family friend and later returned to the mother and Harrell Johnson, her then-boyfriend and later her husband.


Authorities say the child was taken to Kansas City, where Harrell Johnson killed Erica with a kick to the head. Both Johnsons are serving prison terms in the case.


DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said the settlement is primarily an agreement between the corrections department and the hospital, which was dismissed from the original lawsuit.






Eastleigh by-election: Ukip surge makes scandal-hit Lib Dems set to cling onto Hampshire town



  • Liberal Democrat sources believe they have held Eastleigh ahead of result

  • By-election comes after the Hampshire seat was vacated by Chris Huhne

  • UKIP understood to have pushed Conservatives into humiliating third place

  • But sources at count say it's 'too close to call' between second and third


By James Chapman and Tamara Cohen


|


David Cameron was facing fresh Tory infighting today as a UKIP surge enabled the scandal-hit Liberal Democrats to look set to cling on in the most crucial by-election battle for 30 years.


Liberal Democrat sources declared in the early hours of this morning that they believed they had held the South Coast seat of Eastleigh vacated by Chris Huhne - despite an unprecedented period of bad publicity over the Lord Rennard scandal and record lows in national opinion polls.


UKIP was celebrating its best ever by-election result and believed it was on the brink of pushing the Tories – who have named Eastleigh as one of 40 seats they must win to secure an overall majority in 2015 – into a humiliating third place.




Set for the win: Liberal Democrat sources declared in the early hours of this morning that they believed they had held the south coast seat of Eastleigh vacated by Chris Huhne with a win for Mike Thornton (pictured)

Set for the win: Liberal Democrat sources declared in the early hours of this morning that they believed they had held the south coast seat of Eastleigh vacated by Chris Huhne with a win for Mike Thornton (pictured)




Diane James


Maria Hutchings


Rivals: UKIP candidate Diane James (left) and Conservative Maria Hutchings (right) were competing in Eastleigh





Several sources at the count said it was ‘too close to call’ between second and third place.


UKIP leader Nigel Farage will face questions about why he ducked the contest himself – instead fielding a little-known Surrey councillor – amid suggestions UKIP could have its first elected MP had he taken part as by far its best known figure.


The Conservatives threw everything at the campaign, with Mr Cameron making two personal visits to the constituency and activists even distributing leaflets featuring its candidate Maria Hutchings against a background in UKIP’s purple and yellow colours.


Mr Cameron’s former leadership rival David Davis said this week that while few expected a Tory victory – the last time a prime minister’s party took a seat in a byelection was in 1982, at the height of Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands popularity – a third place finish would prompt a ‘crisis’.


The Eastleigh contest, triggered by the resignation of former Lib Dem Cabinet minister Mr Huhne, who pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, marked the first time in modern political history that two governing parties have gone head to head.


Numbers: Votes for the Eastleigh by-election were counted at the Fleming Park Leisure Centre last night

Numbers: Votes for the Eastleigh by-election were counted at the Fleming Park Leisure Centre last night



Counting: The by-election was being fought for the former seat of ex-Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne

Counting: The by-election was being fought for the former seat of ex-Liberal Democrat MP Chris Huhne



It was seen as a dry run for the 2015 election campaign, when the Tories hope to take up to 20 seats from their Lib Dem coalition partners in order to secure a Commons majority.



THE FOURTEEN CONTENDERS




  • COLIN BEX - Wessex Regionalists

  • DAVID BISHOP - Elvis Loves Pets Party

  • JIM DUGGAN - Peace Party

  • RAY HALL - Beer, Baccy and Crumpet Party

  • HOWLING LAUD HOPE - Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party

  • MARIA HUTCHINGS - Conservative

  • DIANE JAMES - UK Independence Party

  • DR IAIN MACLENNAN - National Health Action Party

  • KEVIN MILBURN - Christian Party 'Proclaiming Christ's Lordship'

  • JOHN O'FARRELL - Labour

  • DARREN PROCTER - Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

  • DANNY STUPPLE - Independent

  • MIKE THORNTON - Liberal Democrats

  • MICHAEL WALTERS - English Democrats




The Prime Minister had hoped his pledge earlier this year of an in/out referendum on Britain’s future in Europe would help to neutralise the UKIP threat in the contest.


Yesterday he used his Twitter account to make a last-ditch appeal for support in the by-election, insisting that the Tories have the 'the right policies on welfare, immigration and the deficit'.


But Mr Farage said that while the by-election had started off as a two-horse race, with the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives ahead, but over the course of the last week UKIP had been ‘coming up on the rails’.


‘What we have got here is a very exciting three-way marginal,’ he added.


‘UKIP has played the part of the party of protest that used to be occupied by the Lib Dems in byelections,’ said one gloomy Tory source.


‘It is hard to see how they would not have been in with a real shot here if Farage hadn’t been frit.’


The result will also leave Ed Miliband facing difficult questions. In a seat where it was in a solid second place in the mid-1990s, polling at almost 30 per cent, Labour finished in a poor fourth place, expected to finish only just in double figures.


Concerned: The Conservatives threw everything at the campaign, with Prime Minister David Cameron making two personal visits to the constituency

Concerned: The Conservatives threw everything at the campaign, with Prime Minister David Cameron making two personal visits to the constituency



Having fun: Howling Laud Hope was the Eastleigh candidate for the Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party

Having fun: Howling Laud Hope was the Eastleigh candidate for the Monster Raving Loony William Hill Party



The party's candidate, comedian John O'Farrell, was plagued by questions about his books which have included jokes about the IRA attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher and his wish for Britain to be defeated in the Falklands War.


Labour’s campaign had so little traction that officials said they would regard a vote share of more than ten per cent as a success.



'UKIP has played the part of the party of protest that used to be occupied by the Lib Dems in byelections. It is hard to see how they would not have been in with a real shot here if Farage hadn’t been frit'


Tory source



The opposition’s inability to capitalise on the relative unpopularity of both coalition parties in mid-term in a far from affluent southern town will prompt anxiety among MPs and activists about its prospects of winning the next election.


Mr Miliband is planning a TV broadcast on immigration next week, and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper a speech, in an attempt to connect with voters concerned about the issue which has featured prominently in the Eastleigh campaign.


Despite the sexual harassment allegations that have rocked his party, Mr Clegg declared the Lib Dems were ‘on the cusp of a great victory’ before polls even opened yesterday.


Losing the seat would have been a shattering blow to his leadership and suggest the party is heading for wipeout in 2015. The party was defending a majority of 3,864 and controls every single council seat in the constituency.


Adding it up: Votes are counted in the Eastleigh by-election count at Fleming Park Leisure Centre last night

Adding it up: Votes are counted in the Eastleigh by-election count at Fleming Park Leisure Centre last night



Having a say: A woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote for the by-election in Eastleigh yesterday

Having a say: A woman leaves a polling station after casting her vote for the by-election in Eastleigh yesterday



Lib Dem strategists say that a week ago they believed victory was ‘in the bag’ but admitted their campaign had been hit by allegations that the Lib Dem leadership turned a blind eye to allegations of sexual misconduct by former chief executive Lord Rennard.


Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown, writing in the Guardian, claimed no party had ever fought such a ‘crucial by-election against such a difficult backdrop as the past week’.



'We know that in by-elections throughout time, since World War Two, there have been 485 of them and out of all of those gains have only been made by the main governing side on four occasions'


Tory chairman Grant Shapps



He said the ‘painful’ allegations against Lord Rennard had triggered the ‘most ravenous media feeding frenzy I have ever experienced as a Lib Dem in 40 years of politics’.


‘There are some times in politics when you just have to stand there while the press dumps ten buckets of manure over your head and still emerge, united, fighting – and as, hopefully Friday morning's news will show – winning as well,’ he added.


Turnout in the byelection was 52.8 per cent. The Conservative result is also tricky for the Tory Right.


Mr Cameron's in/out referendum pledge on Europe, a focus on immigration in the campaign and the selection of UKIP-friendly candidate Maria Hutchings, who was anti-gay marriage and was dubbed the 'south coast Sarah Palin', appears to have ended in humiliating defeat.


Tory chairman Grant Shapps said: ‘We know that in by-elections throughout time, since World War Two, there have been 485 of them and out of all of those gains have only been made by the main governing side on four occasions.’


Elections expert Professor John Curtice, of the University of Strathclyde, said the expected Lib Dem win appeared to be a result of its strong local campaign network.


‘They hold every single local government seat,’ he said. ‘In local elections both last year and in 2011, while across much of the country the Liberal Democrat vote was haemorrhaging, here the vote largely held up.


'If you were wanting to find a constituency where Lib Dems were peculiarly well-positioned from what’s undoubtedly still a chill national wind for the party, Eastleigh would be it.’


However, Professor Curtice said the result was nonetheless grim for the Tories. ‘If they can’t win Eastleigh it seems unlikely they can win an overall majority, unless at the same time there was some haemorrhage of Labour votes,’ he said.


It also harboured ill for Labour’s prospects at the general election, he added. ‘For the most part since the 1980s or so it’s a seat where they have been getting around a fifth of the vote. They might have hoped to get back to that,’ he said.


‘The warning of Eastleigh, and it’s a warning that’s there in the opinion polls, is anti-Government protest votes have just gone to UKIP rather than Labour.


'It’s a reminder that although there are plenty of voters out there unhappy with the coalition, there are not sufficient voters out there who are convinced that the Labour Party could do better.’


Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron said: 'This is the most important byelection in my lifetime. It is unspeakable triumph or disaster here. And if we win it puts our other 56 seats in a very strong position. 'If we win after the week we've had? Flipping heck!'







EU chief attacks Cameron's plan for clawback of powers from Brussels



  • Herman Van Rompuy said leaving the EU 'doesn’t come for free'

  • Warned that Britain would pay a high price if it voted to quit the EU


By Jason Groves


|


David Cameron may not be given the chance to claw back powers from Brussels, the president of the European Council warned last night.


In a combative speech, in which he referred to Britain as a ‘grumbling island’, Herman Van Rompuy said changing the EU treaties was ‘not the priority’ for Brussels.


Mr Van Rompuy also warned that Britain would pay a high price if it voted to quit the EU in the referendum pledged by Mr Cameron.



President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy warned that Britain would pay a high price if it voted to quit the EU


President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy warned that Britain would pay a high price if it voted to quit the EU


President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy warned that Britain would pay a high price if it voted to quit the EU



At an event in London staged by think-tank Policy Network, Mr Van Rompuy said leaving the EU ‘doesn’t come for free’.


‘Leaving the club altogether, as a few advocate, is legally possible – we have an exit clause,’ he said. ‘But it’s not a matter of just walking out. It would be legally and politically a most complicated and unpractical [sic] affair.


‘Just think of a divorce after 40 years of marriage. Leaving is an act of free will and perfectly legitimate but it doesn’t come for free.’


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has heard Cameron's plans for a referendum

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has heard Cameron's plans for a referendum



Mr Cameron announced last month that he would hold an in/out referendum on Europe after the next election.


It will follow an attempt to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU, including clawing back a string of powers from Brussels.


It had been thought that eurozone countries would require major changes to the EU treaties in the coming months to help shore up the single currency, giving Mr Cameron the opportunity to table his own demands.


But according to Mr Van Rompuy, the ‘most drastic changes’ have already taken place.


‘It may disappoint some, or be a relief to others, but the fact is we are not witnessing the birth pangs of a federal “Euroland”,’ he said. ‘Changing the EU treaties is therefore not the priority.’


The former Belgian prime minister also took a swipe at Mr Cameron’s negotiating strategy in Europe, saying: ‘How do you convince a room full of people, when you keep your hand on the door handle? How to encourage a friend to change, if your eyes are searching for your coat?’







EU to cap bankers' bonuses at a year's pay but Cameron warns it must not hurt Britain



  • A payment worth twice an annual salary must be agreed by bank's board

  • Deal must be agreed by EU leaders before coming into force in 2014

  • RBS revealed today it lost £5.16bn in 2012 but still paid £607m in bonuses


By Gerri Peev, In Riga and Martin Robinson


|




David Cameron is attending the the Northern Future Forum in Riga, Lativa, where he warned against banking reforms which could damage Britain's competitiveness

David Cameron is attending the the Northern Future Forum in Riga, Lativa, where he warned against banking reforms which could damage Britain's competitiveness



European Union leaders have agreed to cap bankers' bonuses at a maximum of one year's salary in the face of fierce opposition from Britain.


David Cameron today warned the plan must not hurt Britain's competiveness.


Under the EU proposal a perk of two years' salary could only be paid if a majority of shareholders agreed to it.


The deal must be signed off by EU governments before coming into force next year but Chancellor George Osborne is expected to argue against it at a meeting of European finance ministers next year.


Mr Cameron, meeting European leaders in the Latvian capital Riga, also cautioned that the cap should not be allowed to stifle Britain's role as a global banking centre.


Speaking during a press conference, the PM said: 'We have major international banks based in the UK that have branches and activities all over the world.


'We need to make sure that regulation put in place in Brussels is flexible enough to allow those banks to continue competing and succeeding while being located in the UK.


'We will look carefully at the outcome of the negotiations before working out the appropriate take at Ecofin next week.


'Britain wants effective bank regulations. One of the failures of the last government was the failure of not having effective bank regulations. We will look carefully at the outcome of the negotiations.'


The Northern Future Forum brings together prime ministers from Nordic and Baltic countries and Britain in Riga, Latvia

The Northern Future Forum brings together prime ministers from Nordic and Baltic countries and Britain in Riga, Latvia. Pictured from left: Denmark's Premier Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Jan Grevstad, Sweden's Premier Fredrick Reinfeld, Estonia's Premier Andris Ansip, Lithuania's Premier Algirdas Butkevichius, Latvia's Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Iceland's Premier Johanna Sigurdardottir



He said the UK should instead focus on the Vickers plan, which would separate risk-taking investment banks from retail or high street banks


'We must be able to implement the Vickers plan in the UK which in some ways is tougher than regulations that are being put in place in other European countries.'


Battle: Chancellor George Osborne opposes a cap like the one agreed by EU chiefs yesterday

Battle: Chancellor George Osborne opposes a cap like the one agreed by EU chiefs last night



Mr Osborne is expected to try to block the plans, claiming it would prevent City firms hiring the best staff, prompting an exodus of top talent to New York.


The deal must still be signed-off by EU governments before coming into force in 2014 but the UK is struggling to convince other countries it is a bad idea.


If Britain loses its showdown with Brussels, it would mean the most draconian clampdown on fat cats' perks since the financial crisis of 2008.


It came as the taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland announced losses of £5.16bn for last year, but it is still expected to pay its top five executives £6m in shares and an annual bonus on top of their six or seven figure ‘basic’ salaries.


RBS said it paid employees £607 million in bonuses for 2012, including £215 million for investment bankers, down from a total pot of £789 million in 2011.


The bank's chief executive, Stephen Hester, insisted that 'pay should be aligned with contribution', but denounced the plan to impose bonus rules which will apply only to the banking industry.


'I don't think bankers should be treated as special creatures in any way,' he said. 'I think we should apply rules in the same way to anyone.'


Under the proposed EU rules, payments to bankers would only be allowed to reach twice the annual fixed salary if a large majority of a bank's shareholders signed it off, said Othmar Karas, the European Parliament's chief negotiator today.


'This overhaul of EU banking rules will make sure that banks in the future have enough capital, both in terms of quality and quantity, to withstand shocks. This will ensure that taxpayers across Europe are protected into the future,' said Ireland's finance minister Michael Noonan, who led the negotiations for 27 governments.


The bonus cap was part of a sweeping financial reform package introducing higher capital requirements for banks, the so-called Basel III rules.


Last night's agreement - reached at during an eight-hour make-or-break negotiating session between EU politicians, the European Commission and representatives of the bloc's 27 governments in Brussels - ensures the package can take effect next year.


Top bankers and traders may currently earn bonuses multiple times their base salary based on their performance, given that there is no legal pay limit yet. But public outrage has grown across Europe over large bonus payments to executives of banks that received huge state bailouts during the financial crisis.


Taking the lad: Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan helped broker the deal and says it will ensure taxpayers across Europe are protected

Taking the lad: Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan helped broker the deal and says it will ensure taxpayers across Europe are protected



Proponents of the bonus cap say the payments encouraged bankers to take massive risks at the expense of the long-term future of their businesses, which helped to destabilise the financial system.


'For the first time in the history of EU financial market regulation, we will cap bankers' bonuses,' Mr Karas said.


'The essence is that from 2014, European banks will have to set aside more money to be more stable and concentrate on their core business, namely financing the real economy, that of small and medium-sized enterprises and jobs.'


Britain, home to Europe's biggest financial industry, had vehemently rejected the proposal, saying the rules would drive away talent and hamper growth.


London tried to rally other EU governments behind its position, but failed to garner enough support.


Most governments said they would accept the bonus cap to ensure the more important Basel III rules come into force by January 2014.


The Federation of European Employers (FedEE) immediately claimed that the agreement to curb bankers’ pay exceeded EU powers.


FedEE secretary-general Robin Chater, a former adviser to the European Commission, said: 'What EU negotiators have failed to appreciate is that such an action is beyond the powers vested in the European Union under the EU Treaty. Article 153 (5) of the treaty clearly states that EU legislative powers shall ‘not apply to pay’.


'Furthermore, even if the council’s powers were not challenged in this matter, financial institutions would remain free to increase base salaries to reward and retain key staff.


He went on: 'What politicians and bureaucrats have always ignored is that high remuneration levels in the financial sector - and especially substantial variable payments - serve to minimise fraud levels, retain talent, drive high performance and encourage continuity of employment. That is why corruption is so rife in many states where senior banking staff are badly paid.


'Many EU states have long coveted the City of London’s success as an international financial centre and regarded high bonus payments as its Achilles heel. This measure is therefore no more than an attempt to exploit the current vulnerability of the City by riding on the back of the collective jealousy of bankers’ pay in public opinion and the recent downgrading of the UK’s international credit rating.'


Disaster: The UK fears that the top talent working in the City will leave London for rivals like New York where bonuses would be higher

Disaster: The UK fears that the top talent working in the City will leave London for rivals like New York where bonuses would be higher



But Mr Karas said it was a bigger deal than just bank bonuses, including key measures long demanded to make loans to SMEs easier: “The new banking law is not only a piece of banking regulation, but a real economy financing act.'


The negotiations on the package have been dragging on for 10 months. After a meeting last week broke down without a compromise, the European Parliament - which has insisted on adding the banker bonus legislation to the wider Basel III package - gave the EU governments an ultimatum until yesterday's negotiating session.


Now the final approval by parliament and government leaders of the package is expected to be a formality, although it was not immediately clear what position Britain would take. But even if the UK would not back the package, the remaining EU members could still force the legislation through by adopting it by qualified majority.


The key part of the package is requiring all banks to gradually increase their capital over the coming years to stabilise the financial sector across the European Union's member states, which together form the world's largest economy.


The legislation is part of global efforts to prevent another shock to the financial system like that prompted by Lehman Brothers' 2008 collapse, when banks were highly leveraged while enjoying low capital requirements.


The lack of solid financial cushions meant that many banks were vulnerable, and eventually required taxpayer-funded bailouts to avoid bankruptcy.