12/03/2013 06:01 PM
Feeding the Bubble: Is the Next Crash Brewing?
By Martin Hesse and Anne Seith
Central banks around the world are pumping trillions into the economy. The goal is to stimulate growth, but their actions are also driving up prices in the real estate and equities markets. The question is no longer whether there will be a crash, but when.
When 42-year-old hedge fund manager Mark Spitznagel wants to forget about his high-stakes business for a while, he heads to the goat farm he and his wife Amy purchased in the bucolic hills of Michigan. There, he produces cheese according to environmentally sustainable methods, because he views modern agriculture, with its large-scale pesticide use and automated factory farms, as degenerate. In fact, he says, factory farming is "an ideal metaphor" for the economy.
In Spitznagel's view, the world's financial and equities markets are also dysfunctional, and what happens there is unhealthy and anything but sustainable. As a money manager, he has also opted for an alternative business model of sorts: He's betting on a crash.
For his customers, Spitznagel's multi-billion-dollar fund acts as an insurance policy against the next meltdown in the financial system. When the market is doing well, they lose modest amounts of money. But they cash in as soon as prices take a nosedive, even when all other investments are going up in smoke.
The hedge fund manager has made a lot of money in the past with his prognoses, and he is convinced that substantial turbulence is on the cards for the near future. "The setup is there for it," says Spitznagel.
'It Might Go Badly'
Since the last crisis, central banks around the world have pumped trillions into the economic cycle, both by lowering interest rates and buying up securities in the markets. For central bankers like United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the aim of the policy was to stimulate the economy and rescue banks that could no longer raise capital elsewhere. But this "grand monetary experiment," as Spitznagel calls it, has side effects. Because it makes borrowing cheaper than even before and saving all but pointless, it encourages investors to pursue reckless deals. Share prices are exploding on stock exchanges around the world, while real estate prices are rising at an alarmingly fast pace. And many US companies are now in as much debt as they were before the financial crisis.
To take Spitznagel's metaphor a step further, the flood of money coming from central bankers acts like a highly aggressive, artificial fertilizer. It generates enormous yields in the short term, but eventually leads to potential devastation.
For this reason, the ongoing party in the stock and real estate markets is beginning to feel uncanny to a growing number of observers. "It might go badly," Nobel laureate Robert Shiller told SPIEGEL. Some economists are even convinced that the question is no longer whether the next crash is coming, but when.
For brokers on the venerable trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange, such predictions are hugely exaggerated. "This is not a bubble," says Peter Tuchman, who has worked on Wall Street for almost 30 years and, with his white, Einstein-like hairstyle, half a dozen bracelets and well-worn running shoes, is a legend on the floor. He taps his smartphone a few times and pulls up a graph depicting the S&P 500 index of stock prices for 500 large companies, which has gone up by 166 percent since it hit rock-bottom in 2009. "This is a stable development," says Tuchman, pointing to the graph, which is directed uniformly upward. In his view, these are simply good times following on the heels of years of crisis. "There are new company listings every day," he says. "That is a good sign to me."
It's the first Thursday in November, the day of the Twitter IPO, and the jocular trader is completely in his element when a nine-year-old girl in a tulle dress and actor Patrick Stewart, who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" series, ring the traditional opening bell.
At 9:45 a.m., during the initial pricing phase, the Twitter share price jumps from $26 (€19) to more than $40. At 9:54 a.m., Twitter is trading at about $42 a share, and at 10:49 it's at $45.10. "If you bought the stock yesterday evening and sell it today, you'll have earned a return on investment of more than 70 percent," says one of Tuchman's fellow traders, with a note of awe in his voice.
Twitter hasn't made any money yet, nor does it have a convincing idea of how it will do so.
Other tech stocks are also doing extremely well, just as they were in the heyday of the New Economy. Amazon's share price has almost doubled in two years, while electric car manufacturer Tesla has gained 300 percent in market value in the same period.
"It is a complete joke," says hedge fund manager Spitznagel. He explains that the market is driven by investors' confidence that prices will continue to rise in the future. He says it is "a self-reinforcing process entirely disconnected from economic reality."
A Hunger for German Stocks
For many people, what Spitznagel is describing is typically American. In the heartland of capitalism, the crash has been to economic life what the Colt gun was to the Wild West. In Germany, on the other hand, centuries-old family businesses operating in brick-and-mortar factories make sophisticated tools, machines and systems, with which real, palpable, everyday products are made in the rest of the world. One would think that prices would be more down-to-earth in such a grounded environment.
Dürr AG, which makes machine tools in Germany's southwestern Swabia region, is one of those traditional companies. In business since 1895, Dürr is a supplier to automakers, as well as the chemical and aviation industry, and it manufactures production and environment technology systems -- a thoroughly solid product line.
But Dürr's share price has doubled within a year and increased fourfold in the last two years. A share of Dürr stock costs €66 today, whereas it could be had for less than €4 in 2009.
That's because international investors are hungry for securities like Dürr shares, which embody the successful model of Germany's export economy. It's also because companies like Dürr benefit from growth in emerging economies, and because their operations are in Germany and not in one of the crisis-ridden countries of the euro zone.
This demand has driven the MDAX, a German stock index for mid-sized companies, from 11,400 to 16,300 points within a year. The index is currently almost four times as high as it was during the stock market boom in 2000, far outperforming the DAX itself, an index of Germany's 30 largest companies -- although the DAX is also breaking one record after the next.
Germany is a hot commodity among investors, in both the equities and real estate markets. Prices for single-family homes and condominiums in major cities like Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Cologne are rising faster than rents, a sign that speculators are pushing their way into the market. Buyers are from Germany, Italy, Eastern Europe and Asia, and they are buying German real estate because they believe that by investing in "concrete gold," they can protect themselves against the dangers of inflation.
This buying frenzy creates potential trouble spots around the world. Real estate prices in major Chinese cities have increased by more than 20 percent in only a year, wealthy foreigners are snapping up luxury property in Istanbul, and in the United Kingdom the government is giving an additional boost to the economy by offering a special loan program for homebuyers.
In the last 12 months, real estate prices in the United States have gone up more than they have since 2006. Some cities, like San Francisco and Las Vegas, have even seen price increases of 24 to 27 percent. Ironically, the last crisis began in the overheated US housing market.
'Ignoring the Risks'
Some economists seek to allay fears by noting that the real estate market still has a long way to go before it reaches the levels that triggered the last crash, and that prices are still averaging 50 percent lower than they were then. But who says that you have to reach the most inflated point in the last crisis before a dramatic downturn sets in? And at what point does a solid growth trend turn into unhealthy hype?
"There are two types of bubble," says economic historian Werner Abelshauser, "the classic and the modern type." The mother of all classic bubbles was the market euphoria that took hold in the United States in the 1920s and came to an abrupt end on Oct. 24, 1929, known as Black Thursday. "From maids to taxi drivers, people were intoxicated with the idea that an age of never-ending prosperity had begun. They bought refrigerators and cars, as well as stocks, frequently on credit," says Abelshauser.
Black Thursday was followed by a Black Monday and a Black Tuesday. Within a few days, the benchmark Dow Jones index had lost a third of its value.
In the late 1990s, with the advent of the Internet age, investors believed once again that new economic laws applied and that growth rates would continue to rise. The term "New Economy" was coined. Once again, people who barely knew what a share was began trading in the market, even scrambling to buy shares in companies with nothing more than a vague prospect of ever turning a profit.
The New Economy bubble burst when the first of these companies were unable to fulfill overinflated expectations, and when several cases of fraud came to light.
A Blind Eye to Excessive Hype
Even Abelshauser, a prudent man with gray hair and a somewhat skeptical look in his eyes, lost money in the stock market at the time. What fascinates Abelshauser even more than the phenomenon of a bull market propelled by milkmaids and dentists is the second type of speculative bubble: one based on the new methods of financial mathematics, and the mad belief that risks can be largely overcome with sophisticated financial products.
The first such crash occurred in 1987, as a result of misguided speculation in financial derivatives, followed by a second crash in 2008. This time the culprits were banks, which had sugarcoated the numbers on subprime mortgage loans and sold them in large numbers.
Instead of eliminating investment risk, the modern mathematical models only increased investors' willingness to take risks, causing them to turn a blind eye to excessive hype.
Another phenomenon has also been around since the 1970s: debt management policy. After the oil shocks and the economic crisis they triggered, governments tried to jump-start their economies by borrowing and spending more. "The more money that is injected into the economic cycle, the more room there is for speculative bubbles," says Abelshauser.
Today central banks, especially, have encouraged the flow of capital with their extremely low benchmark interest rates and financial bailouts for banks and governments.
But the situation becomes dangerous when even the massive sums central banks are pumping in the economy don't lead to a rise in consumption and corporate investment. Economists like Carl Christian von Weizsäcker of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, Germany see evidence of a global investment bottleneck, noting that too few factories are being built and not enough new products developed. This is offset by the growing mountain of savings aging Western societies are accumulating as a safeguard for the future.
Exacerbating a Problem
It's a misguided approach, though. The consequence of a high savings rate and a low investment is a decline in interest rates. Insurance companies and pension funds come under great pressure to invest their customers' assets in ways that are at least somewhat profitable. The flood of money coming from central banks only exacerbates the problem.
Central bankers claim they will be able to use the tools of monetary policy to extract the money from the global economy once again -- at just the right time and in the right amounts. At times, it almost sounds as if they were the ones who were trying to use numbers to obscure the risks.
But the danger is real, and the only question is how far prices on financial markets have already strayed from fundamental values.
The problem is that every expert comes up with a different answer. "It is a bit tricky," Nathan Sheets, global head of international economics for US-based Citigroup, says of the situation in bond markets. Low interest rates make borrowing cheaper than ever. US companies alone, by issuing bonds to willing investors, have borrowed money at a faster pace this year than ever before. If central banks decided to stem the flow of money, painful corrections could ensue.
Sheets is less concerned about prices on US stock markets. "There are a large number of firms that are extremely profitable and internationally competitive, with strong balance sheets," he says.
Concerns over the Bull Market
Hedge fund manager Spitznagel, for his part, cites a simple indicator to substantiate his concerns over the bull market: Tobin's Q, named after its inventor, Nobel laureate James Tobin. Roughly speaking, Tobin's Q indicates how high a company's market value is in comparison to all of its assets.
Instances when this ratio has been high in the past have always been followed by a crash at some point, says Spitznagel. Tobin's Q is now extremely high in the United States.
In many places, it has become difficult to cite corporate profits as justification for rapidly rising share prices. This doesn't just apply in the glamorous world of US technology stocks, but also in the rock-solid Mittelstand, the term used to describe Germany's small and medium-sized companies. On the MDAX, for example, the average ratio of share prices to corporate profits is at an all-time high. It would take almost 27 years for the companies to earn what investors are paying for their stock. And even though analysts are predicting declining profits, share prices continue to rise.
Still, market psychologist Joachim Goldberg does not see a bubble forming in the German stock market. He too believes that a rise in the market only becomes dangerous when large numbers of people get caught up in the hype.
But there can be no question of that today. "This is perhaps the most-hated bull market I've ever experienced," says Goldberg, who used to work for Deutsche Bank and now runs his own firm in Frankfurt, where he studies what influences investors in making their decisions.
People noted that prices were rising, but at the same time they heard economists warning against the risks, says Goldberg, including the euro crisis, the interest rate turnaround or whatever the admonishers felt was the greatest threat at a given moment. For that reason, he explains, many private investors tend to be skeptical.
Plenty of Potential Problem Spots
But even Goldberg is concerned. "People prefer to invest in things with which they haven't had any negative experiences, such as the real estate market in Germany," he says.
Germans are also avidly investing in Bitcoin, the virtual currency that rose above $1,000 for the first time last week. In early October, one Bitcoin was still worth less than €200. The volume of the currency is limited by a complex algorithm, which also drives up the price.
"The same prophets who were advocating investing in gold until recently are now pushing the Bitcoin," says Goldberg. The behavioral scientist almost succumbed to the temptation himself recently. "I wanted to invest, but I hesitated for a day, and the price almost doubled the next day," Goldberg says with a chuckle.
The irritation he felt afterwards is what typically leads to speculative bubbles, says Goldberg. "When people see how their neighbors are getting rich with apparently no effort at all, and the psychological strain resulting from lost profits becomes too great, they begin ignoring the risks and jump on the bandwagon."
Will the next conflagration erupt online, with the collapse of an artificial currency that most people still see as a gimmick dreamed up by a few Internet nerds? Or perhaps in the art market, which has attracted speculators who fancy themselves art aficionados?
These niche markets are probably still too small to set off a global quake. Still, there are plenty of potential trouble spots.
Hedge fund manager Spitznagel, at any rate, is convinced that the next crash isn't far off. "We don't know where it is going to start," he says, "It won't be pretty."
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:33 AM
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on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:31 AM
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Cyprus property owners urged to make mortgage mis-selling claim
Britons who were advsied to buy property with Swiss franc mortgages must lodge their case before the end of the year to stand a chance of making a claim
theguardian.com, Wednesday 4 December 2013 12.01 GMT
Thousands of Britons who bought property in Cyprus with Swiss franc mortgages are being urged to submit claims for mis-selling, ahead of a deadline at the end of the year.
Between 2003 and 2010, Cypriot banks suggested buyers take out a mortgage in Swiss francs because the interest rates were lower, but this advice backfired when the franc soared after the financial crisis, and mortgage repayments doubled.
Lawyers say that the banks often failed to explain the potential risks of currency fluctuation that could cause repayments to rise, and also applied heavy interest rate rises.
This has resulted in property owners facing unsaleable and unlettable apartments, gigantic loan obligations and negative equity following the collapse of the Cypriot property market.
Those who think they may have been mis-sold a product must act quickly, as claims have to be filed in Cyprus by 31 December, or they are likely to fail outright, said Duncan McNair from Cubism Law in London. He said British purchasers of properties had almost €2bn of loans outstanding to Cypriot banks.
"Commonplace features that I am dealing with are a failure to advise on the risks of foreign currency mortgages, serious misrepresentations as to the property itself, and dubious powers of attorney – as well as unhealthily close relationships between the banks, developers and selling agents," he said.
If you think you have been affected, speak to an experienced English lawyer familiar with the situation to immediately file protective claims, in England first (asserting your wish to have your claim heard in England in preference to the Cyprus courts), then in Cyprus.
"These claims must be filed in time and in the proper form," McNair said. Those who fail to make a submission can expect to lose the right to claim at all in Cyprus, which risks enforcement by the bank against their UK as well as their Cyprus assets.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:30 AM
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Swedish results fall abruptly as free school revolution falters
Once a shining example for Michael Gove Sweden has now recorded the largest drop in maths performance over 10 years
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 December 2013 20.11 GMT
Sweden's education system has often been cited by Michael Gove as a role model, especially for its policy of state-sponsored free schools providing increased choice for parents. In 2008 Gove told the Conservative party conference that Sweden's school reforms would be introduced if he was in government – and in 2010 promptly did so, with the advent of free schools.
A few years later and Sweden's star has dimmed. The 2012 Pisa results show Sweden's exam results falling abruptly across all three measures of reading, maths and science – with the country recording the largest drop in maths performance over 10 years. Anna Ekström, head of Sweden's National Education Agency, said in response: "The bleak picture has become bleaker with the Pisa review that was presented today."
Dr Susanne Wiborg of London's Institute of Education said: "The Swedish free schools have played an indirect role in the decline of the Pisa scores over the last decade. However, the question still remains to what extent these schools actually can be blamed for this."
In recent months a number of for-profit companies running free schools in Sweden have been in financial difficulties, while a recent TV exposé revealed that the state-funded privately-run schools were prepared to bend selection rules to admit bright pupils.
Sweden's education minister, Jan Björklund, said the Pisa results were "the final nail in the coffin for the old school reform," and speculated that the central government could take over running schools from Sweden's municipalities.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:28 AM
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Irish police colluded with IRA over murders of RUC officers, tribunal finds
Smithwick inquiry: Gardaí collaborated with IRA to set up assassination of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan in 1989
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 December 2013 19.20 GMT
A report into the deaths of two of the most senior Royal Ulster Constabulary officers killed during the Troubles has concluded that there was collusion between Irish police officers and the IRA.
The Smithwick tribunal, which was set up in 2005 to investigate allegations of collusion by gardaí, or a civilian in the force, has found that members of An Garda Síochána collaborated with the IRA in the Louth-Armagh border region to set up the assassination of Chief Supt Harry Breen and Supt Bob Buchanan in March 1989. The RUC policemen were the highest-ranking officers to die at the IRA's hands during the Troubles.
Mr Justice Smithwick said that "on the balance of probabilities" collusion did occur but he did not identify any individual member of the Garda.
Three members of the Garda have repeatedly denied allegations in the Irish media that they played any role in the killings.
Breen and Buchanan were shot dead after a leaving a joint top level RUC-Garda conference on security in Dundalk. It discussed how to target IRA smuggler and then chief of staff of the Provisionals Thomas "Slab" Murphy.
Buchanan's son, William Buchanan, a bank official in Northern Ireland, praised Smithwick's work and said: "The findings are both incredible and shocking and confirm the existence of a mole in Dundalk station. This led to my father's death."
Alan Shatter, Ireland's justice minister, apologised on Tuesday for any security failings Irish state forces were guilty of in relation to the double murder.
"The killings of Harry Breen and Bob Buchanan on the afternoon of 20 March 1989 were two stark examples of the brutality which pervaded this island for many dark years. Both left behind loving families, friends and colleagues. Even with the passage of 24 years and the positive developments which have taken place on the island since, our condemnation of their murder should be as strong today as it was then. I believe that it is important to say immediately, on my own behalf and that of the government, that I apologise without reservation for any failings identified in the report on the part of the state or any of its agencies."
He added: "It is also right today to acknowledge that during the course of the troubles on this island An Garda Síochána in co-operation with their colleagues in Northern Ireland played a vital role in safeguarding the institutions of the state and protecting the people of these islands, sometimes at great cost to individual members. Nothing in the report should detract from that.
"I have no doubt that the brave men and women of An Garda Síochána down through the years would be as appalled as anyone that any member of the force would betray them and the Irish people by offering assistance to terrorist organisations.
"Regrettably, to this day the gardaí continue to have to confront the challenge posed by paramilitary organisations who reject the democratic will of the Irish people.They have the full support of myself and the Irish government in discharging that onerous task, in full co-operation with their colleagues in the PSNI."
However, Unionist politicians warned that there could be implications for new talks aimed at resolving some of Northern Ireland's political impasses.
Arlene Foster, a Democratic Unionist party minister in Northern Ireland's executive, said: "This must act however as a catalyst for further movement towards acknowledgement by the Irish government of the role played by Dublin in the formation of the IRA and how republican terrorists were able to operate across the border with relative ease."
Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland secretary, said she would raise the collusion scandal with the Irish government, adding: "An important point to remember is that levels of co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI are now at unprecedented levels and are playing a crucial part in combating terrorist attacks in Northern Ireland."
Smithwick and his team have spent years investigating allegations of collusion between the IRA and individual gardai in the 1989 murder. The tribunal has heard from 200 witnesses in 122 days since 2005, including testimony from a British double agent within the IRA known as Kevin Fulton, several leading gardaí and a number of ex-RUC colleagues.
Fulton, who comes from the south Armagh area, told the tribunal that an IRA colleague had informed him the organisation knew via a Garda mole about the presence of the RUC officers in the Irish republic on the day of the killings.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:18 AM
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Scandals force Spain down global corruption index
Spain loses as many points as Libya after political and royal graft allegations, with only Syria faring worse
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 December 2013 13.50 GMT
Spain has slumped 10 places to rank 40th in a global index of perceived official corruption after a spate of scandals hit its ruling centre-right party and the royal family, watchdog Transparency International (TI) said.
The Corruption Perceptions Index for 2013 found Spain to be the second biggest loser of points along with Gambia, Mali, Guinea-Bissau and Libya. The only country to tumble further was Syria, which is almost four years into a civil war.
Spain's five-year economic slump, which has forced it to adopt tight austerity laws, exposed how cosy relations between politicians and construction magnates had fed a disastrous housing bubble.
The former treasurer of the governing People's party (PP) told a judge he had channelled cash donations from construction magnates into leaders' pockets, and was found to have stashed €48m (£40m) in Swiss bank accounts. Iñaki Urdangarin, the king's son-in-law, was also charged this year with embezzling €6m in public funds.
"What the economic crisis has done is allow more public debate about corruption … It is being exposed more and that affects perceptions. In Spain every sector – politics, the royal family and companies – was implicated in graft at a time when the country is really suffering," said Anne Koch, TI's director for Europe and Central Asia.
The scandals also highlighted a lack of accountability in political parties and even the watchdogs charged with keeping them clean. This prompted lawmakers to react to public outrage and draw up Spain's first freedom of information law.
Spain had been the only European Union nation without a law guaranteeing citizens a right to information on how public funds are spent, but Koch said the new law was inadequate.
TI ranked 177 countries in 2013, placing New Zealand and Denmark joint first. Those two countries were also deemed the world's least corrupt in 2012, as well as Finland. Somalia, North Korea and Afghanistan again tied for last place.
The Berlin-based institute measures perceptions of graft rather than actual levels because of the secrecy that surrounds most corrupt dealings. Greece remained the European Union state with the worst perceived level of corruption, although its four-point gain to 40 points helped it rise to 80th place from 94th in 2012.
The biggest improver was Burma, which emerged from 49 years of military rule in 2011. The south-east Asian state gained six points, moving it up the rankings from 172 to 157.
Among the large global economies, the United States ranked 19th and China 80th, both unchanged from last year. Russia improved slightly to joint 127th place, from a previous 133rd, and Japan slid one spot to 18.
Allegations that leaders of Spain's PP, including prime minister Mariano Rajoy, took backhanders, and the investigation into a member of the royal family are particularly damaging to Spain's reputation as they involve such central institutions, according to Fernando Jiménez, a lecturer in political sciences at Murcia University. "The problem in Spain is the political reaction … Very few people resign here," he said.
He contrasted the Madrid government's slow response to the illegal financing scandal in the PP with Germany, where cabinet ministers stepped down after comparitively less serious allegations that they had plagiarised their academic theses decades earlier.
On the same day the damning corruption figures were released, Madrid welcomed figures showing the number of people registered as unemployed in Spain fell by a little under 2,500 in November - the first drop in that month since the current system was introduced in 1997. The decline provided further evidence that the Spanish economy might be picking up after more than two years of recession, which only ended in the third quarter.
Spainhas around 4.8 million people out of work, representing about 26% of its total workforce. Only Greece has a higher unemployment rate in the 17-country eurozone.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:16 AM
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Denmark is one of the best countries for working families. US and UK take note
Denmark's universal nursery care is worth emulating, as is the Danish cultural norm of giving kids a lot of responsibilities
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 December 2013 12.30 GMT
Imagine taking 23 children, who range in age from three to six years, on a sledding trip. There are three adults to supervise them, but the children have to take responsibility – more or less – for putting on their own snowsuits, their hats and their gloves, and for taking turns so there are no accidents. A health and safety nightmare? Perhaps, but an illustrative example of the pre-school childcare culture in Denmark – a country lauded for its great universal nursery care and parental benefits.
Every child, for example, is guaranteed an affordable nursery place from the age of one to when school starts at six. Parents and caretakers are generally permitted 52 weeks paid leave after the birth or adoption between them, and this can be taken flexibly. For example, my husband and I took one month's leave together and saved a month, which one of us can take before our youngest is nine years' old. Over and above this, working hours are less on average than elsewhere in Europe, you get five weeks' statutory holiday and are safe in the knowledge that you can have a day off to look after your children if one of them is sick. All these rules – and others – make Denmark a place where families can theoretically win the battle between work and life.
Beyond the legal rules, there is a culture that makes it possible for such a system to function. On the whole, society finds it acceptable that pre-school children are looked after by a professional – some of whom have completed a three-and-a-half-year degree – rather than a parent. The job of a "stay-at-home-mom" is, in some sense, taken over by the state.
More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that everyone seems to accept that children should be given as much freedom and responsibility as possible. An often cited Danish phenomenon is the daily excursion where children walk to play parks or museums two-by-two, or holding on to a pushchair which contains the youngest of the bunch. There are numerous other examples that illustrate the emphasis of autonomy and taking responsibility that are less well known and are less likely to live up to American ideals of proper child supervision.
Take the use of open fires used to toast "snobrød" and candles to create a cosy atmosphere. In one case, there was no fence or hedge in a yard to keep the children from wandering off – "one child who wandered off luckily chose to go towards the woods and not the motorway!" All these things can of course still be beneficial to children in their development, but might not sit comfortably in cultures which all too often see such freedom as risk.
The "pedægogerne" (nursery nurses) are not expected to be looking at your child constantly and would not physically be able to do so. There is no fast rule about the number of adults per child. Every afternoon at my son's nursery, there are two staff to look after 23 children between the ages of three and six. According to the National Institute of Public Health, the vast majority of accidents that happen to children still occur in the home, so there does not appear to be grounds to believe the low adult-to-child ratios are dangerous. Parents also understand that staff are public servants who are accordingly overstretched.
Because "free play" is the main pedagogical principle, close supervision is in any event not required at all times. Most Danish children are self-starters when it comes to playing. They find the most wonderful and innovative ways of learning all by themselves, often with few resources: drawing a treasure map where X marks the spot, girls making sticky name badges for all the boys or groups creating a 'play' to perform to others.
The emphasis here is, of course, on the child being self-sufficient and a member of a group – dressing and sitting at the table properly, and being a good playmate. Adult-led, structured activities occur but are relatively infrequent. Again, this seems a far cry from the American focus on didactic activities at every turn, even when watching television.
So, it is not only the legislated rules and expenditure that has made Denmark one of the best for working families. Two other vital factors include the almost universal acceptance of an element of risk, and the concept of free play. If America were to consider introducing more accessible childcare mirrored on the Danish model, it would certainly have some questions to answer first, like "would I allow my three-year-old child to go sledding with minimal supervision?" And if so, who's supposed to remember his gloves?
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:11 AM
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12/03/2013 06:58 PM
NPD Ban Bid: Germany's Risky Push to Outlaw Far-Right Party
By David Crossland
Germany launched a new push to outlaw the NPD party on Tuesday amid doubts whether the legal bid will succeed, and whether a ban would significantly curb the country's violent far-right scene. But if the motion fails, right-wing extremism will flourish, analysts warn.
Germany on Tuesday made a fresh attempt to outlaw the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany as the country's 16 regional governments filed a motion with the Federal Constitutional Court. But doubts persist whether the court will rule in their favor, and whether a ban would significantly curb right-wing extremism in Germany.
The states argue that the NPD espouses a racist, violent ideology similar to that of Hitler's Nazi party and that it wants to overthrow the democratic order through militant action. A previous legal bid to ban the NPD failed in 2003 due to mistakes made in preparing the case. Officials say the new motion is more watertight.
"The ideology and the whole NPD party is xenophobic, inhuman, anti-Semitic and anti-democratic," said the interior minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, Roger Lewentz of the center-left Social Democrats.
The motion cites an NPD brochure for party officials which states: "An African, Asian or Oriental can never be a German, because handing out printed documents (…) doesn't change their biological heritage. Members of other races will therefore (…) always remain foreign bodies regardless of how long they live in Germany."
The party also indirectly glorifies Nazi leaders including Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess, and trivializes Nazi crimes, say the backers of the motion.
The NPD refers to Allied bombing raids on Nazi Germany as the "Bomben-Holocaust." Its leader, Holger Apfel, is on record saying the Holocaust memorial in Berlin should be razed to the ground.
Turkish 'Sperm Cannons'
Mecklenburg's NPD leader Udo Pastörs was convicted of incitement to racial hatred and received a 10-month suspended sentence in 2010 for a speech in which he described Germany as a "Jew Republic," labelled Turkish immigrant men as "sperm cannons" and called US economist Alan Greenspan, the former head of the US Federal Reserve, who is Jewish, a "crooked nose."
Its members include people who belong to militant Kameradschaften, neo-Nazi groups bent on creating "nationally liberated zones" free of foreigners through attacks on immigrants and political opponents.
But Germany, mindful of abuses during the Nazi period, has high legal hurdles for outlawing political parties. The last party to be banned was the West German KPD communist party -- in 1956.
Many politicians remain skeptical that the court will rule against the NPD and are concerned that if it doesn't, the party would enjoy a repeat of the boost it got in 2003 when the last attempt to shut it down failed.
At the time, the Constitutional Court threw out the motion because some of the testimony was from government informants who held high positions in the party. That prejudiced the case, the court argued. The new motion doesn't rely on informant testimony and has a better chance.
But in a sign of how big the doubts are, Chancellor Angela Merkel's government and the Bundestag lower house of parliament declined to sign up to the motion.
The Constitutional Court has already made clear that mere similarity to the Nazi party won't suffice for a ban of the NPD. The key is to prove the NPD is working to destroy democracy through violence. But it may be difficult to prove that it constitutes a real threat, given its small size with just 5,400 members, and its weak national support of just 1.3 percent of the vote in September's general election.
'More Radical Than Nazi Party in 1920'
Hajo Funke, a leading analyst of the far-right scene, said the NPD is even more radical than the fledgling Nazi party when it comes to repatriating immigrants.
"It is a neo-Nazi party, it's racist, it's oriented towards violence, it needs civil war to get to the Fourth Reich," Funke told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The repatriation program it pledged during the election campaign, to send back 10 million foreigners to their supposed home countries, that's more radical than the Nazi Party was in its founding manifesto in 1920 with regard to Jews. Today's it's against immigrants and of course against Jews as well."
"It's crystal clear that it's opposed to our fundamental order in an aggressive, miliant way. There are right-wing terrorists inside and outside the party. The party remains the center of gravity for violent right-wing extremism. But the court may rule that it doesn't pose a direct threat with electoral support of just 1 to 2 percent."
Bernd Wagner, the head of EXIT, a group that helps neo-Nazis who want to quit, agrees that the party has violent members. "Parts of the NPD are actively militant. If you look at rural areas and various organizational structures within the NPD, there are people who are highly militant to the point of extreme violence."
The court is expected to take one to two years to reach a decision. Anti-racism campaigners said the legal bid will help to keep debate about Germany's far-right alive now that public outrage over the NSU terrorist killings has subsided.
The murders of 10 people, mostly Turkish immigrants, between 2000 and 2007 by a group calling itself the National Socialist Underground came to light in 2011 and triggered enquiries into the failure of authorities to combat right-wing extremism, which has claimed almost 200 lives since 1990, according to some estimates.
No More Money
A ban would end the public funding the NPD is entitled to as a legitimate party. Its income is boosted by its representation in two eastern state parliaments -- in Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania -- and NPD members also have seats on town councils across Germany.
The NPD has been receiving some €300,000 in state funds per quarter but payments stopped following a Constitutional Court ruling last month because the NPD has yet to pay a €1.27 million fine imposed for irregularities in its account statement for 2007.
According to the online service of German public broadcasting's nightly TV news show Tagesschau, the party has received more than €20 million in state financing since 2003, when the last attempt to shut it down failed.
Wagner of EXIT, whose group has helped 514 people to stop being neo-Nazis since 2000, said that banning the NPD would be a blow to the far-right by depriving it of cash, legitimacy and a parliamentary platform.
"But I would warn against hoping that it would significantly push back the far right's scope to spread its message. It has found new ways to reach people with the Internet." Social networks have enabled groups to organize flashmobs and share far-right music, seen by authorities as a "gateway drug" for young people into neo-Nazism.
However, with the NPD gone, it would become harder for the far right to reach and mobilize ordinary people, as was seen this year with the NPD's heavy involvement in public protests against asylum seeker hostels in Berlin and Schneeberg, a town in the eastern German state of Saxony.
"It will always be possible to mobilize die-hard racists but there are also a lot of people who have been attracted by the NPD's claim to represent the interests of the little man, and its pledges to cut red tape, boost their living standards and tackle crime committed by foreigners," said Wagner. People like that will be harder to mobilize without the NPD's veneer of political respectability, said Wagner.
Ban Could Make Germany Complacent
Anetta Kahane, head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, a group that combats right-wing extremism, said she was opposed to a ban because it would lead to complacency.
"We've got enough bans, such as the ban on displaying Nazi symbols which I agree with, but outlawing the NPD will spare German society having to confront right-wing extremism," she said. "It won't solve a single problem. In fact it would be a sign of weakness. You wont get racism out of people's heads by banning the NPD. You've got to confront their attitudes."
Kahane said initiatives by politicians and anti-racism groups in the northeast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, where the NPD is very strong, were starting to bear fruit.
She said that more educated people there "are less indifferent than they used to be, they're more active in confronting the far right. There's a great sense among people that they've got to become involved to stop Nazis becoming parent's representatives on school boards, for example."
The NPD has vowed to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the Constitutional Court closes it down. The court ruled in 2003 that a party must pose an "immediate threat" to democracy to warrant banning.
The NPD said on Monday: "The motion is an open assault on the right to form a free opposition and freedom of opinion, and therefore on two essential elements of democracy."
12/03/2013 01:06 PM
Jailhouse Chic: Investors Remake Germany's Disused Prisons
By Stephan Degenhardt
As inmate numbers in Germany steadily decline, some states are selling off unneeded correctional facilities to private investors. The result is a new brand of high-end apartments, hotels and event centers housed in renovated former prisons.
Thomas Richter-Mendau, a 45-year-old private investor, recently gave a tour through the site of his latest high-end real estate project: a former prison in the northeastern German town of Stendal. He stood in the middle of the corridor, clutching his blueprints and kicking a bit of debris out of the way. "There, those two cells will be a bedroom," he said, pointing at two eight-square-meter (90-square-foot) recesses. He turned slightly to the left. "Those two will be made into a children's bedroom." Another turn. "Back there, we'll tear out the walls and put in a sliding door, make a big open-plan kitchen. Seems clear, right?"
Richter-Mendau continued through the former penitentiary. The tiled containment room for prisoners on suicide watch? That will become a living room with space for a big couch. The massive oak doors, numbered 1 to 98, that lean against the walls? "We'll put them in front of the new apartments. As a warning to people to behave!"
The saws that cut through the brickwork, over 100 years old, beneath the cell windows, reveals a view of nearby Stendal Cathedral. "With that view, I'd move in here right away," Richter-Mendau enthused.
Prospects are looking similarly good in many such former prisons. In cities across Germany, investors are converting disused jails into apartments, hotels or event centers. Just a few years ago, many German prisons were overcrowded, but now prisoner numbers are declining. About 79,000 people were serving sentences or detention 10 years ago, but last year that number was barely 66,000. Many of Germany's federal states are taking advantage of this decline to consolidate their inmates into a few large prisons.
That means the end for small facilities such as this one in Stendal. By the point the facility closed in 2010, only around 50 criminals were serving sentences there. In the last five years, Saxony-Anhalt has reduced its number of prisons by five, Berlin also by five, Baden-Württemberg by three, Hesse by one and Lower Saxony by a total of 11. In Saarland, two prisons closed their doors in 2011.
Challenges of Renovation
Most of the facilities being closed are located in rural areas. Many were built during the time of the German Empire and are both listed for historical preservation and in a fairly dilapidated state. Renovating them is expensive, which is where private investors such as Richter-Mendau come in. The businessman and his wife bought the Stendal prison, paying the state of Saxony-Anhalt €37,000 ($50,000) for this historical building of approximately 3,500 square meters. The plan is to convert the cells into 28 apartments, each 40 to 90 square meters in size. Richter-Mendau plans to invest over €2 million in the project.
Unlike Richter-Mendau, the new owners of a former prison in the southern state of Baden-Württemberg, want to keep a bit of the jailhouse look. Two local businessmen are converting this former jail in the town of Offenburg into a hotel. "Rather than orienting ourselves toward the traditional hotel standard, we want to preserve the prison structure," says architect Jürgen Grossmann. The doors to the hotel's 50 rooms will be barely 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) high, forcing guests to adopt a humiliating posture when entering or leaving a room -- just as prisoners would have to do. The two businessmen have invested €5 million into these two red sandstone cellblocks, which were built starting in the mid-19th century, and plan to open their doors to their first hotel guests in 2015.
An old prison in the city of Kassel has already been used as a hotel -- last year, during Documenta, a high-profile international art exhibition.
One of the building's new owners is the lawyer Christopher Posch. Known for his role on a German TV program called "Ich kämpfe für Ihr Recht" ("I fight for your rights"), Posch came here often when the building was still a prison, to meet with his clients. Now, he points to a green-and-white exit sign. "First we had to label emergency exit routes," says the 37-year-old attorney. "Naturally, that wasn't necessary when this was a prison."
From Prison to Artist Hangout
Posch and his business partner changed almost nothing in the building's approximately 90 cells. Each contains a bed, a chair, a stool, a sink and a toilet in the middle of the room. They did change the locks on the doors, so they could be opened from the inside, and some cells got a new coat of paint from artists who stayed here during Documenta. By the end of the 100-day exhibition, Posch counted nearly 10,000 overnight stays.
The building, called "Elwe" -- the local dialect word for 11, the former prison's street number -- has become a desirable event location as well, and has hosted a tattoo show and a basketball tournament, as well as a celebration of Holi, a Hindu festival in which participants shower each other with colorful powder.
But not all attempts to repurpose former prisons have been as successful. A student union in Frankfurt am Main wanted to turn a former deportation center in nearby Offenbach into a student dorm, but pulled out of the project when costs rose to €1.3 million. And in the city of St. Ingbert, Saarland, the mayor wanted to move the city's music school into a former prison building, built in 1882, in the city center. But the city council was unwilling to approve the €260,000 necessary to purchase the building and the nearly €1 million necessary to renovate it.
These high renovation costs mean that small cities in particular are often forced to rely on private investors, and the interests of city governments and investors don't always align. This is the case in Eisleben, a city in Saxony-Anhalt that is both the birthplace and place of death of Martin Luther. The city government envisions converting its former women's prison, closed in 2009, into an inexpensive hotel for pilgrims. The building's current owner, however, has other possibilities in mind, and is currently in talks with various parties interested in repurposing the prison -- among them, the operator of an S&M club.
Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein
Far-right German politician sentenced for selling pro-Nazi CDs
NPD Berlin chairman Sebastian Schmidtke given suspended sentence for selling music with antisemitic lyrics
Associated Press in Berlin
theguardian.com, Wednesday 4 December 2013 13.02 GMT
A German court has given a senior member of the country's main far-right party a suspended eight-month prison sentence for selling CDs featuring content glorifying nazism and inciting violence.
Berlin municipal court convicted Sebastian Schmidtke, head of the National Democratic party's Berlin branch, of offences including incitement and displaying the symbols of anti-constitutional organisations – a charge that covers banned Nazi paraphernalia.
The court on Wednesday found that a shop owned by Schmidtke sold music CDs with lyrics that stirred hatred against Jews, foreigners and gay people, called for violence, and used banned slogans glorifying nazism. It says Schmidtke, who can appeal the ruling, denied selling CDs in his shop.
Germany's 16 state governments this week launched a drive to have the country's highest court ban Schmidtke's party.
Kindertransport, 75 years on: 'It was fantastic to feel free at last'
Survivors recall their experiences of the scheme that took 10,000 Jewish children away from Nazi Germany to safety in Britain
Associated Press in London
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 December 2013 16.22 GMT
In December 1938, Kristallnacht had just rocked Nazi Germany. The pogrom killed an estimated 91 Jews, burned hundreds of synagogues and left tens of thousands imprisoned in concentration camps. Many historians see the day as the start of Hitler's "final solution".
Amid the horror, Britain agreed to take in children threatened by the Nazi regime. The operation was called Kindertransport, or Child Transport in English.
Seventy-five years ago this week, the first group of children arrived without their parents at the Essex port of Harwich, and took a train to London's Liverpool Street station.
Some 10,000 children, most Jewish, would escape the Nazis in the months to come until the outbreak of war in September 1939, when the borders were closed.
From London, the children went to homes and hostels across Britain. But their parents, the few who eventually made it over, were placed in camps as "enemy aliens".
After the war, many of the children settled in Britain, their families having been murdered by the Nazis.These are the stories of five of those children.
Oscar Findling, 91
Already 16 when he arrived in June 1939, Findling, who grew up in the eastern German city of Leipzig, is the oldest surviving child from the Kindertransport. He had a career in garment manufacturing and now lives with his second wife in London.
My father was not a German citizen. On the night before Kristallnacht, he was arrested by the Gestapo. That was the last I saw of my father. As soon as we found out (about the Kindertransport), my mother went to where the committee was and put my name down. She wouldn't put my brother down because, she said: "I don't want to lose both my sons on one day". I'll never forget the last words my mother said: "Will I ever see you again?" Prophetic words. I was two years in a hostel in Manchester. The committee got me a job in a fur shop. Once I was over 18 I was allowed to go to London. In 1944 I got papers from the Ministry of Labour that I had to go in the army. It took me 30 years to get my parents' story together. Basically they were put in the ghetto in 1941 and in September 1942 ... they were all put on the cattle trains. They were sent to a place called Belzec, which was one of the well-known gas chambers near Treblinka. And that was that.
Herbert Levy, 84
Levy came from Berlin via the Netherlands in June 1939. Months later, his parents joined him. They were interned in a British camp for "enemy aliens". Levy, who recalls being greeted with chants of "Bloody Germans!", went on to become an actor. His wife, Lillian, survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
My parents had tried to get out of Germany for many years but it was very difficult to get into anywhere until the British government allowed children to come on the Kindertransport. My parents applied, and by pure luck I was one of the chosen ones. I was not yet 10 years old. My parents took me to the station. I said goodbye to my grandparents. My grandfather was to die a few weeks later. My grandmother was one of the 6 million people who died in the extermination camps, with her two sisters, many cousins, many nephews and nieces. We finally arrived at the border. You can't imagine the relief of being in Holland, to have passed Nazi Germany. It was fantastic to feel free at last.
The Rev Francis Wahle, 84
Wahle and his younger sister Anna left Vienna in January 1939. He was an accountant before studying for the priesthood. Although now retired from his parish, he still works as a priest. Wahle's parents fled their home as the Gestapo came to arrest them; they went underground, living without papers for three years. Wahle's father went on to become the most senior judge in Austria.
Hitler marched into Austria in March 1938. Until that time I was just an ordinary Catholic. I then discovered that I was Jewish as far as Hitler was concerned, because all my four grandparents were Jewish. My parents tried to get us out. As we had relations in Italy, the first attempt was to get us out to Italy, but they never got all the right papers. So we started learning English. I was 9 ½ at the time. It was dreary that journey through Germany until we came to the Dutch border and then the ladies provided the kids with soft drinks and a bit of cake. My sister and I were split up. I was very lucky. I was taken to a place in Sussex. A lady had let the committee have her very large place for the refugees. I stayed there until 1940. At that time a new regulation came in that enemy aliens, and of course we were classed as enemy aliens, were not allowed to be within so many miles of the coast because we might be spies. And so we had to leave. I was taken on for free by the Jesuits in a boarding school. Having escaped death really, and my parents having escaped death, it's made me immensely grateful to God, and I suppose the fact of becoming a priest is the result of that.
Ruth Barnett, 78
Barnett's father was Jewish but her mother was not. She arrived in February 1939 with her older brother Martin. Having worked as a psychotherapist, she speaks today in schools about the Holocaust and seeks to highlight the fate of both Jews and the hundreds of thousands of Gypsies killed by Hitler.
I was only four when I came to England so I have snatches of memory. My dad was a judge in Berlin. He was summarily sacked when the Nazis came into power in 1933. He did get out and he went to Shanghai, which was awful because of the war between Japan and China. Our mother came with us on the train because being a proper Aryan German she could get a visa. So I experienced it as a family outing. I remember saying: "Are we nearly there? Are we nearly there?" My mother had to go back to Germany. She would have been an enemy once war broke out. She brought us to our first foster family, which was a vicar and his wife in Kent. The vicar was a lovely man, but his wife obviously didn't want refugees foisted on her. She was very cruel to us. The second foster family ... had five children and they treated us exactly the same as their children. But where we were living there was in the path of the doodlebugs [German bomber planes], and that absolutely fazed my brother Martin, so we had to be moved. Our third family was on a farm. I was in seventh heaven with the animals. I had no nationality for the first 18 years of my life. The Nazis ... took away citizenship from all the Jews and Gypsies. I had to travel on a document that was a sheet of paper with "person of no nationality" written across the top. It had such a deep effect on me.
Eve Willman, 80
Willman, an only child, pictured above holding a copy of her 1939 German passport, arrived from Vienna in April 1939. She later obtained a PhD in biochemistry and worked as a researcher and biology teacher. She lives in London.
I was five when I came. My father was a doctor. My mother converted to Judaism when she married my father. I came with another girl who was older than me. The only thing I remember about the journey is stopping at one point and people coming in and giving us a sweet drink. I don't remember saying goodbye to my parents. My first foster home was with a Unitarian minister and his wife. They didn't have any children. I remember that she was very strict and precise. My uncle and aunt were later established in West Hartlepool. I went there for a holiday. It was such a wonderful turning point in my life somehow. My aunt said: "When you come back, you will be with us forever". I was 11. I became one of their children. My cousins became my brother and sister. My father survived the war. My mother was able to work and she worked in a factory, and the factory was bombed. She was killed just before the end of the war so I never saw her again. It was really a wonderful thing that the government did to let 10,000 children in who probably would have lost their lives. But it's happening again. It isn't happening to Jews, but look at the children in Syria.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 07:07 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
December 3, 2013
Editor Describes Pressure After Leaks by Snowden
By RAVI SOMAIYA
The top editor of the British newspaper The Guardian told Parliament on Tuesday that since it obtained documents on government surveillance from a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, it has met with government agencies in Britain and the United States more than 100 times and has been subjected to measures “designed to intimidate.”
The testimony by the editor, Alan Rusbridger, gave a public airing to the debate over how to balance press freedom against national security concerns, an issue that became more acute once The Guardian began publishing material leaked by Mr. Snowden in June.
The American and British governments have said the disclosures, which detail how the National Security Agency and its equivalent in Britain, Government Communication Headquarters, gather vast amounts of data, damage national security and help hostile governments. Journalists and transparency advocates have countered that the leak spurred a vital debate on privacy and the role of spy agencies in the Internet age.
Mr. Rusbridger said Tuesday that the governments’ measures “include prior restraint,” as well as visits by officials to his office, the enforced destruction of Guardian computer disks with power tools and repeated calls from lawmakers “asking police to prosecute” The Guardian for disclosing the classified material in news articles.
As he testified before a Parliamentary committee on national security, he faced aggressive questioning from lawmakers, particularly those of the ruling Conservative Party. Some asserted that The Guardian had handled the material irresponsibly, putting it at risk of interception by hostile governments and others. Others said the paper had jeopardized national security.
At one point during the hearing, Mr. Rusbridger was asked, to his evident surprise, whether he loved his country. He answered yes, noting that he valued its democracy and free press. After Mr. Rusbridger’s testimony, a senior British police officer, Cressida Dick, refused to rule out prosecutions as part of an investigation into the matter.
Since the revelations, newspapers, particularly those that have dealt with Mr. Snowden’s material, have also had to adjust to a harsh new reporting environment, security experts and journalists said, as governments and others seek secret material held by reporters.
“The old model was kind of like your house,” said Marc Frons, the chief information officer of The New York Times. “You locked your front door and windows, but not your desk drawer, even if it had your passport inside. In the new model, you have locks on everything.”
The Guardian, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal declined to comment about internal security arrangements.
But Mr. Rusbridger told Parliament that the newspaper “went to more precautions over this material than any other story we have ever handled.”
Senior Guardian editors were initially skeptical this year when asked to hand over their cellphones before discussing Mr. Snowden’s documents, said a person with knowledge of the reporting process, who did not want to be named discussing confidential security procedures.
That soon changed when they reviewed the information Mr. Snowden had supplied, this person said. The documents, they came to realize, would be of intense interest not only to the American and British governments, from which they were taken, but also to other governments like China and Russia seeking an espionage edge and hackers seeking to embarrass either government agencies or the publications reporting on the material.
Eventually the same editors insisted that meetings be held in rooms without windows and that any electronic devices nearby be unplugged. Computers that contained the information could never be connected to the Internet. And reporters who needed to consult with colleagues in other countries about the documents had to fly them over physically and meet in person, despite the extra costs. On one occasion, Mr. Rusbridger said, encrypted documents were sent via FedEx.
Nicholas Weaver, a computer security researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, said effective countermeasures for all reporters covering such issues begin with first contact with a source.
Devices “leave fingerprints everywhere you go,” he said. “Leave all your high-tech gadgets at home; meet in a public location that’s kind of noisy, and wear a hat so you don’t get caught on camera.”
“You have to walk there, because we have this network of license plate readers now,” he said, or buy a transit ticket with cash and dispose of it afterward. As for making first contact with a sensitive source, Mr. Weaver said, “You have to wait for them to contact you.”
Communicating with existing sources, said Ashkan Soltani, a security expert and reporter who has worked with The Guardian, The Journal and The Post, should be done on a computer isolated from all other “promiscuous communications” like web browsing and downloading files, to avoid the secret installation of software to monitor activity.
“If the computers have malware, no amount of secure email, no amount of encryption is going to help,” he said.
The threat is not abstract: Several news organizations have been victimized by hacking in recent years. In 2012, Chinese hackers infiltrated The New York Times’s systems, seeking access to reporters’ inboxes.
The United States government, too, seeks access to email information involving news organizations. Several secret subpoenas to companies like Google for data related to accounts linked with WikiLeaks have surfaced.
But those briefed on security plans, and several recent reports, suggest that tech companies are also trying to resist the government’s drive for information.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: December 3, 2013
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect date for the seizure of telephone records from some Associated Press reporters by the Justice Department and when the company found out about the action. The phone records were seized in 2013, not 2012. The company did not find out for up to 90 days, not nearly a year.
Guardian will not be intimidated over NSA leaks, Alan Rusbridger tells MPs
Editor tells parliamentary committee that stories revealing mass surveillance by UK and US have prompted global debate
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 December 2013 17.34 GMT
Link to video: Alan Rusbridger gives evidence to MPs over NSA revelations
The Guardian has come under concerted pressure and intimidation designed to stop it from publishing stories of huge public interest that have revealed the "staggering" scale of Britain's and America's secret surveillance programmes, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper has said.
Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee about stories based on the National Security Agency leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden, Alan Rusbridger said the Guardian "would not be put off by intimidation, but nor are we going to behave recklessly".
He told MPs that disclosures from the files had generated a global debate about the powers of state agencies, and the weaknesses of the laws and oversight regimes they worked within.
"In terms of the broader debate, I can't think of a story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this has and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in courts and amongst NGOs," he said.
"The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States, two vice-presidents, generals, the security chiefs in the US [who] are all saying this is a debate that in retrospect we had to have."
During an hour-long session in front of the home affairs select committee, Rusbridger also:
• Said the Guardian had consulted government officials and intelligence agencies – including the FBI, GCHQ, the White House and the Cabinet Office – on more than 100 occasions before the publication of stories.
• Said the D-Notice committee, which flags the potential damage a story might cause to national security, had said that nothing published by the Guardian had put British lives at risk.
• Argued that news organisations that had published stories from the Snowden files had performed a public service and highlighted the weakness of the scrutiny of agencies such as GCHQ and the NSA. "It's self-evident," he said. "If the president of the US calls a review of everything to do with this and that information only came to light via newspapers, then newspapers have done something oversight failed to do."
• Asked why parliament had not demanded to know how 850,000 people had been given access to the GCHQ top-secret files taken by Snowden, who was a private security contractor.
Rusbridger said the Guardian had been put under the kind of pressure to stop publishing stories that would have been inconceivable in other countries.
"They include prior restraint, they include a senior Whitehall official coming to see me to say: 'There has been enough debate now'. They include asking for the destruction of our disks. They include MPs calling for the police to prosecute the editor. So there are things that are inconceivable in the US.
"I feel that some of this activity has been designed to intimidate the Guardian."
In one curious exchange, the committee chair, Keith Vaz, asked Rusbridger if he loved his country.
"I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question," replied Rusbridger. "But, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can in this country discuss and report these things.
"One of the things I love about this country is that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think and we have some privacy, and those are the concerns which need to be balanced against national security, which no one is underestimating. I can speak for the entire Guardian staff who live in this country that they want to be secure too."
At one point, the MP Mark Reckless suggested a criminal offence had been committed by sharing some of the Snowden material with the New York Times.
"You have I think Mr Rusbridger admitted a criminal offence in your response. Do you consider that it would not be in the public interest for the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] to prosecute?"
Rusbridger replied: "I think it depends on your view of a free press."
He said the Guardian had not lost control of any of the documents and the newspaper had used "military-grade" encryption to safeguard the files.
"No data was lost, we lost control of no data. No names have leaked from the Guardian."
There was a testy set of exchanges between the editor and Michael Ellis.
The Tory MP asked Rusbridger about stories in the Guardian that revealed GCHQ had a Pride group. Ellis claimed this had endangered the security of GCHQ staff. "You've lost me," said Rusbridger. He said the details of the existence of the Pride group were publicly available on the internet.
The Guardian has published a series of stories about the mass surveillance techniques of GCHQ and its US counterpart, the NSA, over the last six months; two of the most significant programmes uncovered in the Snowden files were Prism, run by the NSA, and Tempora, which was set up by GCHQ. Between them, they allow the agencies to harvest, store and analyse data about millions of phone calls, emails and search-engine queries.
Rusbridger's answers referred to comments made to a parliamentary committee last month by the chiefs of Britain's three intelligence agencies – Sir Iain Lobban, the director of GCHQ, Andrew Parker, the director general of MI5, and Sir John Sawers, chief of MI6. The men had claimed that the Snowden revelations had damaged national security and that terrorists were likely rubbing their hands in glee.
Asked about this, Rusbridger said: "It is important context that the editors of probably the world's leading newspapers … took virtually identical decisions. This is not a rogue newspaper. It is serious newspapers that have long experience of dealing with national security.
"The problem with these accusations is they tend to be very vague and not rooted in specific stories."
Rusbridger then quoted senior officials from the UK and the US who "have told me personally that there has been no damage. A member of the Senate intelligence committee said to us: 'I have been incredibly impressed by what you have done … I have seen nothing that you have done that has caused damage."
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said: "Newspapers around the world, from the Guardian to the Washington Post and Der Spiegel, have done what our own parliamentary oversight committee and other oversight bodies failed to do: they exposed unprecedented surveillance being undertaken without the knowledge or approval of our elected representatives.
"Spies spy, but they should not be able to write their own rules, exploiting woefully out-of-date legislation to collect information on millions of innocent people.
"If the three intelligence chiefs had previously faced anywhere near as rigorous cross-examination then perhaps we would not have been so dependent on the Guardian and other newspapers to learn just how out of control surveillance had become."
Earlier today, the Watergate journalist and author, Carl Bernstein, wrote an open letter in which he said Rusbridger's appearance at the committee was "dangerously pernicious".
Bernstein said it was an attempt by the "highest UK authorities to shift the issue from government policies and excessive government secrecy in the United States and Great Britain to the conduct of the press".
"You are being called to testify at a moment when governments in Washington and London seem intent on erecting the most serious (and self-serving) barriers against legitimate news reporting – especially of excessive government secrecy – we have seen in decades," Bernstein wrote.
Yesterday the UN special raporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, announced he was launching an investigation into the surveillance programmes operated by GCHQ and the NSA.
He said the Guardian and other media organisations reporting the Snowden revelations had disclosed matters of genuine public interest and concern to states across the globe.
"The astonishing suggestion that this sort of journalism can be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively," Emmerson said. "Attacking the Guardian is an attempt to do the bidding of the services themselves, by distracting attention from the real issues."
Alan Rusbridger and the home affairs select committee: the key exchanges
Guardian's editor-in-chief tells MPs that the publication of NSA files leaked by Edward Snowden was in the public interest
Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 December 2013 21.20 GMT
The Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, argued before the home affairs select committee that there was a public interest in revealing details of secret surveillance programmes based on files leaked by Edward Snowden, and said newspapers had played a vital role in exposing the scale and scope of British and American intelligence agency spying activities. Some of the exchanges from the hour-plus session of the home affairs select committee follow:
Julian Huppert, a committee member, argued that the Snowden files "touched on issues which are of fundamental national importance ... and a whole range of things about the future of privacy in a digital age."
The LibDem MP said: "In Germany there is huge interest in this subject, in the US there is huge interest ... why do you think there has been so little interest here ... what we have seen is attacks on the Guardian rather than parliament trying to work out what the rules ought to be. Why do you think that is?"
Rusbridger said : "Shooting the messenger is the oldest diversionary trick in the book. My experience is that when you speak to people and explain the issues, they are deeply interested. I can't think of any story in recent times that has ricocheted around the world like this and which has been more broadly debated in parliaments, in the courts amongst NGOs.
"The roll call of people who have said there needs to be a debate about this includes three presidents of the United States, two vice-presidents, generals ... the security chiefs in the US are all saying this a debate that in retrospect we know that we had to have ...There are members of the House of Lords, people who have been charged with oversight of the security measures here. The former chair of the intelligence and security committee, Tom King, said this was a debate that had to be had and they had to review the laws. The director of national intelligence in the US said these were conversations that needed to happen. So in terms of the public interest, I don't think anyone is seriously questioning this – this leaps over the hurdles of public interest."
Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, asked Rusbridger if the Guardian had felt driven to publish the stories about surveillance because of the weakness of the oversight and scrutiny regimes over the intelligence agencies.
The Labour MP asked: "Are you telling this committee that as a result of parliament's failure to oversee the security services, and the failure to have the necessary expertise, and the failure to have a sufficient budget, that's why you were obliged to publish, otherwise nobody would have found out."
Rusbridger: "Well, the only way this information has come into the public domain has been through the press."
Vaz: "So we should look at our structures?"
Rusbridger: "We should and America is."
Vaz: "In respect of our counter-terrorism inquiry, do you think it would be good if we looked at the structures of oversight?
Rusbridger: "Absolutely. I think that would be an important thing to do."
During one passage of hostile questioning, a Tory member of the committee, Michael Ellis, became so agitated he was rebuked by the committee chair.
Ellis: "You authorised files stolen by Snowden which contained the names of intelligence staff, to be communicated elsewhere, didn't you? Yes or no."
Rusbridger: "I have already dealt with that. It has been known for six months."
Ellis: "Do you accept that [the files] contained personal information could lead to the identity even of the sexual orientation of persons working within GCHQ?"
Rusbridger: "If you can explain how we have done that ..."
Ellise: "On August 2, you refer to the fact that GCHQ has its own Pride group. That jeopardises those individuals."
Rusbridger: "You have completely lost me, Mr Ellis. That there are gay people in GCHQ? Is that a surprise? ... The mention of a Pride group in GCHQ, you can find the same information on the Stonewall website. I fail to see how that outs a single member of GCHQ."
Choosing a historical comparison, the Conservative MP asked: "If you had known about the Enigma code in World War Two, would you have transmitted that information to the Nazis?"
Rusbridger: "That is a well-worn red herring, if you don't mind me saying so, Mr Ellis. I think most journalists can make a distinction between the kind of things you are talking about. I think we can make those distinctions."
Ellis: "Have members of the board of the newspaper conceded to you that the law may have been broken on this matter?"
Vaz: "This needs to be your final question."
Ellis: "No, I think it is less than six minutes."
Vaz: "Mr Ellis, order, I am chairing this meeting. This is your final question."
Ellis: "This is not a Labour love-in."
Another Tory MP, Mark Reckless, also asked if the Guardian might face prosecution.
The MP asked: "I understand if you choose not to answer this question, but do you consider that you have communicated information on the identities of staff of intelligence agencies out of jurisdiction contrary to 58A of the terrorism act.".
Rusbridger said: "It has been known to the government for many months" that the Snowden files "included a good many documents that had names of security people working for both the NSA and GCHQ" that had been shared with the New York Times.
Reckless then asked: "Which you would accept constitutes communicating it outside the UK?"The editor-in-chief replied that "self-evidently they work in New York".
Seizing on this, the MP said: "You have, I think, Mr Rusbridger, admitted a criminal offence in your response just then. Do you consider that it would not be in the public interest for the CPS [crown prosecution service] to prosecute or should that be dealt with by the authorities in the normal way?"
Rusbridger: "I think it depends on your view of a free press, really. In America, the attorney general, Eric Holder, came out within the last two weeks and said that he had no intention of prosecuting Glenn Greenwald. We were sharing this material with journalistic colleagues on the New York Times in order to stimulate a debate which presidents and legislatures around the world think vital."
MPs asked how the Guardian had sent documents abroad. Rusbridger insisted this had only done so with care, and that documents had been subjected to military-grade encryption in case they were intercepted – but that hadn't happened.
He then compared the focus on the Guardian with the complete lack of scrutiny about how Snowden had managed to copy 58,000 secret documents – and why 850,000 other analysts had access to the same material.
Rusbridger: "We have spent 10 minutes in this committee discussing leaks that didn't happen. The catastrophic leak that did happen was dealt with by the intelligence and security committee with the following exchange.
'Chairman: "Can we assume you are having discussions with your American colleagues about the hundreds of thousands of people who appear to have access to your information?"
Head of MI5: "All three of us are involved in those discussions."
Chairman: "Thank you very much."'
"That is the only question that has been asked in parliament about the loss of 58,000 documents through a data-sharing scheme between GCHQ and the NSA. If that amounts to oversight … the budget for oversight is £1.3m, which is about one third of the amount that Cheltenham borough council spends on car parks."
In perhaps the most unexpected exchange of the session, Vaz asked Rusbridger if he loved his country – an apparent reference to critics of the Guardian who have accused it of weakening its security. Vaz asked : "You and I were both born outside this country, but I love this country. Do you love this country?"
Rusbridger: "I'm slightly surprised to be asked the question but, yes, we are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy, the nature of a free press and the fact that one can, in this country, discuss and report these things."
Vaz: "So the reason why you've done this has not been to damage the country, it is to help the country understand what is going on as far as surveillance is concerned?"
Rusbridger: "I think there are countries, and they're not generally democracies, where the press are not free to write about these things, and where the security services do tell editors what to write, and where politicians do censor newspapers. That's not the country that we live in, in Britain, that's not the country that America is and it's one of the things I love about this country – is that we have that freedom to write, and report, and to think.
MPs ask MI5 boss to justify claim that NSA leaks endangered national security
Keith Vaz, chairman of home affairs select committee, says spy chief Andrew Parker has been summoned to give evidence
Patrick Wintour, Political editor
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 December 2013 21.58 GMT
A committee of MPs challenged the existing system of oversight for the security services by asking the head of MI5 to justify his claims that the Guardian has endangered national security by publishing leaks from the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In an unprecedented step, Keith Vaz, the chairman of the home affairs select committee, announced that spy chief Andrew Parker had been summoned to give evidence in public to the Commons committee next week.
The decision was taken at a private session of the select committee on Tuesday before the body heard evidence from Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger seeking to justify the Guardian's decision to publish a string of stories based on US and UK intelligence agency files leaked by Snowden to the media.
Although last month the security services appeared in public for the first time to give evidence to parliament, they appeared before the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC). Members of that committee are appointed by the prime minister and tend to have defence or a security background. Commons select committees, by contrast, are parliamentary committees, with the chairs and members elected by MPs.
It is understood that the home affairs select committee rejected inviting Parker to give evidence in private. Julian Huppert, a Lib Dem member of the committee, said: "A precedent has been set and now that the heads of the security services have given evidence once in public they should do so again to us, and not just to MPs they would like to have ask them questions. I would expect Mr Parker to attend."
Labour committee member David Winnick also pointedly ridiculed the ISC referring to the way in which Britain's three main spy chiefs had been given prior notice of the questions in its first public evidence session last month. Some committee members want Parker to reveal how much MI6 and MI5 had told the ISC about its mass programme of surveillance, so in effect testing the value of the ISC as a constitutional check on the security services. Deep political divisions over the Guardian's publication of the Snowden files were exposed throughout the one-hour cross examination of the Guardian's editor, with Tory MPs rigidly focusing on whether the newspaper had broken the Terrorism Act by sending the names of UK agents abroad as documents were shared with the New York Times.
Cressida Dick, the Met's Assistant Commissioner who heads London's Specialist Operations unit, told the committee in subsequent testimony confirmed that the Metropolitan police was looking to see whether individuals had broken Section 58A of the Terrorism Act, saying she would go wherever the evidence took her. "It appears possible ... that some people may have committed offences," she said, but declined to specify whether the Guardian is under investigation.
Following the session Julian Smith, the Conservative at the helm of Tory criticism of the Guardian, went so far to accuse Rusbridger of treason. The MP said that Rusbridger had "admitted the names of British agents were in documents he could not bother to read, but he sent abroad to America. The Terrorism Act 2000 makes it an offence to communicate the names of the agents that protect us. It is for the police to take the decisions, but I hope he is prosecuted."
Rusbridger told the committee he did not know if the police were conducting an inquiry, but promised the paper would not be intimidated from publishing stories that it regarded were in the public interest. He said approximately 1% of the 58,000 intelligence files leaked by US whistleblower Snowden have been published by the paper. He had consulted government officials prior to the publication of every story, but one. He explained the files had originally been placed in four locations – with the Guardian, the Washington Post, a location in Rio de Janeiro and a location in Germany. "That's the hand of cards we were all dealt – The Guardian, security services and governments." Vaz referred to Parker's claim that the Guardian had gifted the terrorists the ability to attack at will, saying "this is severe criticisms of a kind I have not seen before from the head of our security services".
Rusbridger countered that "the problem with the accusations is they tend to be very vague and not rooted in specific stories" adding the publication of the NSA files "leaps over the hurdle of public interest". He said: "There is no doubt in my mind ... that newspapers have done something that oversight has failed to do".
He pointed to a series of senior UK and US officials that had described the Guardian's behaviour as incredibly responsible, insisting the Guardian was not a rogue newspaper, but acting in concert with other responsible newspapers to publish stories .
In possibly the most heated exchanges Conservative MP Michael Ellis insisted he would not be a party to "a Labour love-in", and asked Rusbridger, "if you'd known about the Enigma code during World War Two would you have transmitted that information to the Nazis?"
Ellis suggested to Rusbridger by using Fed-Ex to communicate some of the NSA files, containing the names of intelligence officers, he had committed a criminal offence. "It isn't only about what you've published, it's about what you've communicated. That is what amounts, or can amount, to a criminal offence," Ellis asserted.
"You may be a lawyer, Mr Ellis, I'm not, so I will leave that with you," the editor replied. He also pointed out "We have never used a single name. We have published no names and we have not lost control of any names". The files sent to the US were encrypted to military grade and had not been compromised, he said.
Ellis also clamed the Guardian may have exposed the identity of gay GCHQ staff, or GCHQ families that had been on a trip to Disneyland in Paris. Rusbridger pointed out the fact that there was a Pride branch of GCHQ was on the website of Stonewall, the gay rights pressure group.
At one point Vaz took an unexpected tack, asking the editor whether he "loved this country." A startled Rusbridger replied: "We are patriots and one of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of our democracy and of a free press. There are countries and they are not generally democracies where the press are not free to write about this and where the security services do tell editors what to write. That's not the country we live in, in Britain, and it's one of the things we love about the country.
on: Dec 04, 2013, 06:53 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
12/03/2013 06:30 PM
No Confidence Vote Fails: Yanukovych Brings Dissenters Into Line
By Benjamin Bidder in Kiev
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych prevented a palace coup against his government on Tuesday. His party managed to see off a vote of no confidence initiated by opposition leader Vitali Klitschko. Yanukovych didn't even bother to show up to the turbulent debate.
When they heard that the opposition had lost the vote of no confidence on Tuesday, thousands of anti-government protestors gathered outside Ukraine's parliament in Kiev vented their anger wth deafening chants of "Shame, shame!" They had moved as close to the building as police roadblocks let them. Buses blocked the entrances to parliament, while a large contingent of police cordoned off a wider area.
Inside, the plans of the opposition leadership to force Yanukovych's prime minister, Nikolai Azarov, out of office went up in smoke. A total of 187 MPs voted for the motion of no confidence introduced by the alliance led by boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko. That was nine more than the 178 that had been pledged to the opposition before the vote. Even a member of Yanukovych's ruling Party of Regions voted against the government.
But the opposition missed the required vote count of 221 by a considerable margin. The Party of Regions remained loyal and defeated the motion. Its deputies all abstained from the vote -- with the exception of the one dissenter.
The president's camp thus succeeded in bringing most of the doubters in its own ranks into line in time. Shortly before the vote, it was revealed that the influential head of the presidential office would remain in his post after all.
Withdrawal from Resignation
Serhiy Lyovochkin had submitted his resignation at the weekend -- allegedly in protest at the forcible clearing of Independence Square on Friday night. The move had given the opposition hope that Lyovochkin would side with them against the government, and bring dozens of deputies along with him.
Nothing of the sort happened. Until Tuesday, there were still only two MPs who had publicly turned their backs on the Party of Regions. One of the two, Inna Bohoslovska, had held Yanukovych personally responsible for the police violence on Saturday. In an interview, she said that she was convinced Russian President Vladimir Putin was controlling Yanukovych through middlemen.
The government of Prime Minister Azarov, the architect of rapprochement with Russia, will remain in office. The plan by Yanukovych's opponents to first topple the cabinet and then the president himself through early elections failed at the first hurdle. Azarov waved as he thanked his MPs. Earlier, he had apologized to Ukrainians for the behavior of the police and also pledged changes to the government team, but nothing more.
If the vote of confidence had failed on Tuesday, it would have been a shining moment for Klitschko. The head of the Udar party had worked hard to secure votes for the initiative, even from the Party of Regions. "I demand the resignation of the government and for the head of the Interior Ministry to be held criminally responsible," the boxing world champion said. He also warned members of the ruling party that anyone who voted yes would hold "personal responsibility" for that decision.
A Trip to China
It's doubtful whether that will be enough to appease the demonstrators. After leaving parliament, Klitschko made a beeline for Independence Square, where he was greeted by some 10,000 people.
Afterward, columns of demonstrators headed towards the presidential office on Bankova Street. The night before, the beleaguered Yanukovych had blamed the police for the violent crackdown on the demonstrators.
The security authorities had "gone too far, and for that there is no excuse," he said in an interview. But the officials had been provoked, he added.
The president then called on the opposing camps to compromise. "I am certain that even a bad peace is better than any war," he said. Yanukovych stayed away from the heated parliamentary session. Very far away, in fact. The president paid a visit to China. He is expected back in Kiev on Friday. On the way home, he may make one more stop: in Moscow.
Democratic rights in Ukraine face a key test. EU leaders should boycott Kiev
By skipping the OSCE meeting in Kiev this week, Europe can stand for democracy and Ukrainians' rights to peacefully protest
theguardian.com, Tuesday 3 December 2013 14.15 GMT
Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski tweeted on 30 November:
When police assault peaceful demonstrations, Kiev is hardly natural for a meeting of Organization of Security and _Cooperation_ in Europe.
— Radosław Sikorski (@sikorskiradek) November 30, 2013
Mr Sikorski is right. Europe's foreign ministers should boycott the December OSCE meeting (set to take place on Thursday and Friday) to underscore that Ukraine's government must observe OSCE's human rights norms, including the right to demonstrate peacefully.
The OSCE flows from the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. Among other things, that document lays out fundamental human rights, including "the effective exercise of civil, political … rights and freedoms", which signatory states have pledged to uphold. Signatory states normally meet once a year at the level of foreign ministers. As the 2013 OSCE chair-in-office, Ukraine has long planned an end-of-the-year ministerial meeting in Kiev.
This year's OSCE ministerial comes at a difficult and uncertain time in Ukraine. Protestors took to the streets of Kiev and other cities after President Victor Yanukovych's government announced on 21 November that it was "suspending" preparations to sign an association agreement with the European Union. On 24 November, about 100,000 gathered in Kiev, the largest demonstration the country has seen since the 2004 Orange Revolution.
Smaller protests kept going, including following President Yanukovych's 29 November meeting with European Union leaders in Vilnius at which he said that he wanted to sign the association agreement but could not do so now.
In the early hours of 30 November, the Berkut – a special Ministry of Interior police unit – attacked demonstrators in downtown Kiev's Independence Square, forcefully clearing them from the area. Kiev's police chief later claimed that he ordered the assault, but that strains credulity. Police captains in Ukraine do not take that kind of authority on themselves; the order had to come from much higher.
The Berkut assault generated a large public backlash. Demonstrations continued and grew larger on Sunday – by some accounts reaching 300,000 – in defiance of a hastily-issued court order banning protests in downtown Kiev. Protests carried over to Monday. With Saturday's attack, the possibility that the authorities might take further action against demonstrations, and rumors of a looming declaration of a state of emergency, Kiev is not the place to hold a meeting of OSCE foreign ministers.
Secretary of State John Kerry will not attend. While he reportedly informed Mr Yanukovych in October that he intended to come, the State Department said on 22 November – the day after Ukraine suspended its association agreement preparations – that he would not go due to a schedule conflict. His schedule likely was not the only reason he chose not to go.
Other European foreign ministers, particularly those of European Union member states, should follow Mr Sikorski's advice and make clear that they will not attend a ministerial in Kiev. They and Mr Kerry should propose instead that the meeting move to Vienna, home of the OSCE's permanent council.
Such an action would send a strong signal of disapproval to President Yanukovych over the use of force against anti-government demonstrators. It would reinforce the messages flowing out of Brussels, other European capitals and Washington about the need for the authorities to exercise restraint and permit peaceful demonstrations.
There are risks, moreover, in holding the ministerial in the Ukrainian capital. President Yanukovych's government undoubtedly would try to exploit the meeting to depict a false sense of normalcy and respect. Foreign ministers might also face a hugely awkward situation: they could be meeting while police clashed with demonstrators just a few blocks away. That would do OSCE's credibility little good.
If the meeting must be held in Kiev, OSCE states should send their ambassadors to OSCE's permanent council, without senior-level officials coming from home capitals. The ambassadors should make time on their schedules to meet with representatives of the demonstrators to reinforce the importance that protests remain peaceful and that the government let such demonstrations proceed unmolested.
Not all OSCE foreign ministers will stay away, of course. The Russian, Belarusian and Central Asian ministers would almost certainly attend. But the attendance of foreign ministers from countries in which democracy is under stress, coupled with the absence of ministers from the states that embrace OSCE's values, would in itself send a powerful message.
Democratic rights in Ukraine face a crucial test. Europe's foreign ministers should take a stand in favor of democracy and the political right of Ukraine's citizens to peacefully demonstrate. When it comes to the OSCE meeting in Kiev, they should stay home.
on: Dec 03, 2013, 07:59 AM
|Started by cat777 - Last post by Rad|
I think you missed my question about the Sun also possibly correlating with the individualised consciousness along with the Moon. Does it?
all the best
The Sun gives purpose to that individualized consciousness that correlates with the Moon, and how that individualized consciousness, relative to the entire EA paradigm, is integrated relative to that purpose throughout the current life of a Soul.
God Bless, Rad