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 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:53 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Russia Warns U.S. against Sending Missile Defence System to South Korea

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 March 2015, 09:49

Russia on Tuesday warned the United States against sending a ballistic missile defence system to South Korea, saying it could threaten regional security.   

Washington says it wants to deploy the system, known as THAAD, to South Korea as a deterrent to military provocation by North Korea.

"Such a development cannot but cause concern about the destructive influence of the United States' global missile defence on international security," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement.

"In a region where the situation is already extremely complicated in terms of security, this could serve as another push toward an arms race in northeast Asia and further complicate any resolution of the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula," the statement said.

China has also already warned that deployment of the system would undermine peace and stability in the region.

Faced with growing isolation from the West over the Ukraine crisis, Russia has moved to bolster ties with former Cold War-ally North Korea.

Moscow and Pyongyang have named 2015 a "year of friendship" between the two countries and the Kremlin says reclusive leader Kim Jong-Un is set to make his first official trip abroad to visit Russia's World War Two victory commemoration in May.

South Korea and the United States will launch a massive landing drill March 28 as the climax of an ongoing joint military exercise which North Korea views as an invasion rehearsal.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:52 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Honest, Arrogant or Foolhardy? Cameron Rules Out Third Term

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 March 2015, 12:35

British Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement that he would not seek a third term sparked heated debate on Tuesday over whether he was being laudably honest or had undermined his authority just weeks before an election.

He even went so far as to name three potential successors from within his Conservative party, risking the prospect of a leadership race that could distract from the campaign.

"There definitely comes a time when a fresh pair of eyes or fresh leadership would be good," Cameron told the BBC late Monday. "The third term is not something I'm contemplating."

His seemingly off-the-cuff remarks in an interview in the kitchen of his constituency home in Oxfordshire, west of London, were a surprise, particularly as he is by no means assured of winning a second term in the May 7 vote.

The opposition Labor party, who are neck-and-neck with the Tories in the opinion polls, accused him of arrogance.

"It is typically arrogant of David Cameron to presume a third Tory term in 2020 before the British public have been given the chance to have their say in this election," said Labor campaign chief Douglas Alexander.

The Liberal Democrats, the junior partners in Cameron's Conservative-led coalition, said the premier was being "incredibly presumptuous".

Senior Conservative lawmaker Michael Gove confirmed that Cameron would not stand at the election in 2020, but said he was just being honest.

"As far as I was concerned, it was a statement of the bleeding obvious. I wasn't surprised by the prime minister saying it," Gove told the BBC's Newsnight programme.

He said the remarks could benefit the party on polling day by proving Cameron was a "normal, sane, decent guy".

"He is not in it for glory, ego or wealth; he is in it because he believes that has another five years to give and he has seen other leaders -- including Tony Blair sadly -- cling into office too long," Gove said.

- Comparisons with Blair -

Commentators warned that Cameron risked undermining his authority, with The Times newspaper running the headline: "Cameron fires starting gun on Tory leadership race."

One writer in the mass-circulation Daily Mail tabloid suggested that if he wins re-election in May he could become a "lame-duck prime minister"

"For the awkward squad on the Tory backbenches, the penalties for rebellion will seem trivial and short-lived, since a new leader will be along in a year or two," he said.

"And for the prime minister's ambitious colleagues, the leadership campaign will begin on the day he walks back into Number 10 (Downing Street)."

Comparisons are being drawn with former Labor prime minister Blair, whose announcement in 2004 that he would not stand for a fourth election was viewed as a major mistake.

Blair's finance minister and political rival, Gordon Brown, took the concession as the starting gun to step up his efforts to push the premier out of office.

Blair quit in 2007 after ten years as prime minister, two years after winning a historic third election and three years before he would have had to stand again.

Britain's longest serving premier of the 20th century, Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher, said she would "go on and on and on", but was ousted by her party after 11 years.

Cameron named Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Theresa May and finance minister George Osborne as potential successors.

All of them have been tipped for the top job, but the prime minister's remarks put their ambitions in a different light.

Johnson said the furore over Cameron's remarks was "a fuss about nothing", adding: "Five years is a very long time, and I'm sure he'll do a fantastic job in that period."

He added: "The next leader of the Tory party is probably a babe unborn."

Source: Agence France Presse


Lawmakers Urge Britain to Re-arm in Response to Russia

by Naharnet Newsdesk 24 March 2015, 06:55

Britain must urgently rebuild defense capabilities abandoned after the Cold War to face growing global threats, including from Russia, a committee of lawmakers warned on Tuesday.

The Commons Defense Committee, which examines the spending and policy of the defense ministry, said nuclear capacity, tanks, warships and aircrafts were needed to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"The world is more dangerous and unstable than at any time since the end of the Cold War," the report said, referring to Russia's annexation of Crimea and seizure of territory by Islamic State and Boko Haram militants.

"But the UK's current defense assumptions are not sufficient for this changed environment... The UK must rebuild its conventional capacities eroded since the Cold War."

The report comes as a truce between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces was tested in east Ukraine, in a conflict that has damaged relations between Russia and the West and has claimed 6,000 lives since April.

The committee said it would be necessary for Britain to stick to its NATO commitment to spend two percent of GDP on defence, but that this would "not be sufficient".

"It is vital to rethink the fundamental assumptions of our defence planning, if we are to help arrest the descent into chaos, which threatens to spread from the Western Mediterranean to the Black Sea," the report said.

It pointed out weaknesses in NATO's defense, saying that Russia could deploy 150,000 troops in 72 hours, while it would take NATO six months to do so.

NATO's newly announced "very high readiness joint taskforce" could deploy 5,000 troops in 48 hours, but would not be ready until 2016, the report said.

The report said it was difficult to mobilize "critical mass" in the air as Britain's Royal Air Force had been cut to seven squadrons from 33, while the Royal Navy's frigates and destroyers fleet had more than halved since 1990.

However, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon dismissed the report, saying the Conservative-led government of David Cameron had plugged a "black hole" in the defense budget.

"The UK has the second largest defense budget in NATO and the largest in the EU," Fallon said.

"We are the U.S.'s largest partner in the coalition air effort against Isil (Islamic State) - bearing more of the load in terms of strikes in Iraq than we played in either of the Gulf wars."

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:50 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Spain's ruling party ran secret fund for 18 years, investigating judge finds

National court clears way for trial of former People’s party treasurer Luis Barcenas over claims of corruption that have also engulfed PM Mariano Rajoy

Agence France-Presse in Madrid
Monday 23 March 2015 19.21 GMT
A judge has found that Spain’s ruling party ran a secret slush fund for 18 years, reviving a corruption scandal that has embarrassed the government ahead of a general election.

Investigating judge Pablo Ruz of the national court cleared the way for the trial of the lead suspect in the case: the People’s party’s (PP) ex-treasurer Luis Barcenas, a former ally of conservative prime minister Mariano Rajoy.

Ruz gathered evidence that the party “from 1990 to at least 2008 drew on various sources of funding outside of the legal economic sphere”, his tribunal said in a statement.

“This allowed it to function, at least during the 18 years under investigation, with various systems of accounts which registered deposits and withdrawals of money outside of the official accounts declared” to financial authorities.

Ruz called for Barcenas to stand trial on charges of tax fraud and embezzlement and referred the case to state prosecutors.

The Barcenas scandal erupted in 2013 just as Rajoy’s government was fighting to drag the eurozone’s fourth-biggest economy out of an economic crisis.

The prime minister admitted he made a mistake in trusting Barcenas but resisted calls to resign.

The affair originated in 2009 as a judicial investigation into alleged kickbacks involving members of the PP and construction companies.

It exploded when leading daily El Pais published copies of account ledgers purportedly showing irregular payments to top party members including Rajoy, its leader since 2004.

In July 2013 Barcenas testified in court that he handed cash to Rajoy.

The prime minister and other senior party members denied receiving any undeclared payments and kicked Barcenas out of the party.

El Mundo newspaper later published what it said were text messages Rajoy sent to Barcenas in which he urged the former treasurer to “be strong” in the face of the scandal.

The judge on Monday also called for five other suspects to stand trial, including another former PP treasurer and members of a construction firm, Unifica.

He dropped charges against 22 other suspects.

The allegations sparked outrage among ordinary Spaniards struggling with spending cuts that Rajoy had imposed during a deep recession.

Spain will hold a series of local and regional polls over the coming months followed by a general election around November.

Recent opinion polls have shown corruption to be one of voters’ top concerns.

New political parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos have surged in the polls, campaigning with vows to get rid of what they brand a corrupt political elite.

Rajoy apologised in parliament in October last year for another scandal over an alleged kickback scheme implicating members of his party.

Separately, another PP stalwart, former International Monetary Fund head Rodrigo Rato, is also under investigation by the court over alleged fraud.

“I understand that Spaniards are fed up and outraged,” Rajoy told parliament in October.

“This behaviour is especially hurtful when Spaniards have had to endure so many sacrifices to get our country out of the economic crisis.”


Spain Government under Siege after Andalusia Collapse

by Naharnet Newsdesk 23 March 2015, 15:48

Spain's government is fighting off a two-pronged assault from new protest parties after it collapsed in a key regional election ahead of this year's national polls.

The vote in the poor southern Andalusia region was a key test for surging left-wing party Podemos, which hopes to emulate its Greek ally Syriza and win power nationally by campaigning against crisis austerity measures.

But it also saw the entry into the political arena of another party that is helping to transform Spain's political landscape -- the center-right Ciudadanos.

The main opposition Socialists won the contest overall with 35.4 percent of the vote, keeping control of the region they have governed since 1982 -- but the results were marked by the performance of the other three contenders.

Spain's governing Popular Party (PP) lost 17 seats in the regional assembly with 26.7 percent of the vote, while Podemos and Ciudadanos won their first parliamentary seats on Spanish soil. They won 14.8 and 9.2 percent of the vote respectively.

"The PP is the one with a very serious problem. This could be the beginning of a debacle," said Fernando Alvarez, a professor of constitutional law at Seville University.

Center-right daily El Mundo called it a "fiasco" for the PP of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, summing up the view of most of the Spanish press.

Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo said the results in Andalusia were "infinitely worse than expected".

Rajoy had campaigned hard in person in Andalusia in the first electoral clash of a year that will see local and regional polls in May and a general election around November. Catalonia will also hold a regional vote in September, focused on demands for independence.

Rajoy touted Spain's gradual recovery from several years of recession -- but that line apparently did not work in Andalusia, a region which still has an unemployment rate of 34 percent.

"We take on board these results with great humility," said one of the PP's spokesmen, Pablo Casado. "Governing always takes it toll."

The Socialists' triumphant leader Susana Diaz said it was "a lesson for all the political parties".

Podemos's lead candidate in Andalusia, Teresa Rodriguez, said the party was profiting from a "general loss of trust in the two-party forces".

Podemos erupted into Spanish politics last May when it won seats in the European Parliament just four months after its founding.

It was initially boosted by Syriza's election victory in Greece in January, but has been given pause for thought by the ongoing squabbles between the Greek party and European powers over the country's crippling debt.

Podemos won less votes than it had hoped, but political scientist Jose Fernandez-Albertos of Spain's state research institute CSIC said its achievement in Andalusia was still "not at all bad".

"If a year ago someone had said that today a party called Podemos would win 15 percent of the vote and another called Ciudadanos would win nine percent, that would have sounded mad, an enormous tsunami," he said.

Analysts said Ciudadanos likely poached some votes from the PP as well as from more moderate protest voters that might otherwise have gone to Podemos.

Ciudadanos was founded in 2006 as an anti-independence party in the Catalonia region but has expanded nationwide in recent months, shaking up a political world dominated for decades by the Socialists and PP.

"There were many disillusioned PP voters, fed up with the government's policies, austerity and the crisis, but previously they had no alternatives," said Fernandez-Albertos.

"That gave the PP a safety net. But now it has disappeared," with the emergence of Ciudadanos, he said.
Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:47 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Tsipras raises Nazi war reparations claim at Berlin press conference with Merkel

Leftwing Greek leader makes call for damages at press conference with Angela Merkel as deadlock remains over bailout funds

Ian Traynor Europe editor
Monday 23 March 2015 19.21 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 24 March 2015 08.39 GMT

Greece’s leftwing prime minister Alexis Tsipras stood beside German leader Angela Merkel and demanded war reparations over Nazi atrocities in Greece on Monday night, even as the two leaders sought to bury the hatchet following weeks of worsening friction and mud-slinging.

“It’s not a material matter, it’s a moral issue,” said Tsipras, unusually insisting on raising the “shadows of the past” at the heart of German power in the gleaming new chancellery in Berlin. It was believed to be the first time a foreign leader had gone to the capital of the reunified Germany to make such a demand.

Merkel was uncompromising, while appearing uncomfortable and irritated. “In the view of the German government, the issue of reparations is politically and legally closed,” she said.

While the two leaders clashed over the second world war, there was no sign of any meeting of minds on the substance of their dispute over Greece’s bailout and what Tsipras has to deliver to secure fresh funding and avoid state insolvency within weeks.

Two months after winning the election by promising to abolish “Merkelism” – the harsh austerity ordained by the eurozone and other creditors in return for €240bn (£175bn) in bailout loans over the past five years – Tsipras held to the view that Greece’s crisis was not of his making. He delivered a lengthy diagnosis of what had gone wrong in the last five years, but had next to nothing to say about his own policies except vague references to fighting corruption. And when he raised the corruption issue, he singled out a German company, Siemens, because of its alleged activities in Greece.

A stony-faced Merkel reiterated what she had said in Brussels on Friday after a late-night session with Tsipras – that a 20 February agreement with the eurozone extending Greece’s bailout until the end of June remained the yardstick. That agreement obliges Tsipras to deliver a persuasive menu of detailed fiscal and structural reforms which need to be vetted by the eurozone before any further bailout funding can be released.

Asked if she had reached any agreements with Tsipras, Merkel avoided the question and stressed she was only one of 19 eurozone national leaders.

Tsipras was believed to have told the German leader that Greece faced insolvency within weeks without the release of more funds, which are being held up because he has failed to produce a coherent policy package.

“The medium-term liquidity problem is well known,” he said. “We inherited it.”

While neither side wants Greece to leave the euro, the lack of agreement in Berlin signalled a digging in of hardline positions on both sides that could result in a major negotiating failure.

Support for the Greek government remains strong at home, in inverse proportion to the lack of trust in Tsipras among his main creditors. A growing majority of Germans do not believe Greece will do what it must to stay in the euro and would prefer to see it leave. The Eurasia group risk consultancy on Monday raised its assessment of the chance of Greece having to quit the euro to 30%, up from a previous 20%.

“The prospects of a deal over Greece are diminishing, as Germany, the eurogroup and Greece continue to posture,” said Mujtaba Rahman, its eurozone analyst. “The chances of capital controls, and ultimately, Greece’s exit from the euro, are also increasing. While Berlin still wants to keep Greece in the eurozone, it can and will not be flexible regarding the conditions attached to more financial aid.”

Late on Thursday and into Friday morning last week, Tsipras met Merkel and the leaders of other key creditors on the fringes of an EU summit in Brussels. He told them that waiting until the end of April for the €7.2bn remaining to be tapped from the bailout would be too late for Greece. In letters to Berlin and other EU power centres a few days earlier, Tsipras also threatened to default on Greece’s debts without some relief from the eurozone and the European Central Bank.

A unilateral default would press the button on Greece leaving the single currency.

Facing a cashflow crisis with large loans to repay and running out of funds to service them, Tsipras argued for agreement on a “political framework” with Merkel and other national leaders, bypassing the eurozone technocrats and the eurogroup finance ministers.

Merkel is determined to avoid precisely this, pledging that there can be no further release of loans until the Greeks draw up a credible menu of fiscal and structural reforms and prove they are serious about acting on them. In his two months in office, Tsipras has signally failed to do this. His creditors think he is wasting everyone’s time.

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:43 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
03/23/2015 04:28 PM

'The Fourth Reich': What Some Europeans See When They Look at Germany

Following World War II, a German return to dominance in Europe seemed an impossibility. But the euro crisis has transformed the country into a reluctant hegemon and comparisons with the Nazis have become rampant. Are they fair? By SPIEGEL Staff

May 30, 1941 was the day when Manolis Glezos made a fool of Adolf Hitler. He and a friend snuck up to a flag pole on the Acropolis in Athens on which a gigantic swastika flag was flying. The Germans had raised the banner four weeks earlier when they occupied the country, but Glezos took down the hated flag and ripped it up. The deed turned both him and his friend into heroes.

Back then, Glezos was a resistance fighter. Today, the soon-to-be 93-year-old is a member of the European Parliament for the Greek governing party Syriza. Sitting in his Brussels office on the third floor of the Willy Brandt Building, he is telling the story of his fight against the Nazis of old and about his current fight against the Germans of today. Glezos' white hair is wild and unkempt, making him look like an aging Che Guevara; his wrinkled face carries the traces of a European century.

Initially, he fought against the Italian fascists, later he took up arms against the German Wehrmacht, as the country's Nazi-era military was known. He then did battle against the Greek military dictatorship. He was sent to prison frequently, spending a total of almost 12 years behind bars, time he spent writing poetry. When he was let out, he would rejoin the fight. "That era is still very alive in me," he says.

Glezos knows what it can mean when Germans strive for predominance in Europe and says that's what is happening again now. This time, though, it isn't soldiers who have a chokehold on Greece, he says, but business leaders and politicians. "German capital dominates Europe and it profits from the misery in Greece," Glezos says. "But we don't need your money."

In his eyes, the German present is directly connected to its horrible past, though he emphasizes that he doesn't mean the German people but the country's ruling classes. Germany for him is once again an aggressor today: "Its relationship with Greece is comparable to that between a tyrant and his slaves."

Glezos says that he is reminded of a text written by Joseph Goebbels in which the Nazi propaganda minister reflects about a future Europe under German leadership. It's called "The Year 2000." "Goebbels was only wrong by 10 years," Glezos says, adding that in 2010, in the financial crisis, German dominance began.

For a long time, it was primarily the Germans who obsessed about their country's Nazi past, but recently, other countries in Europe have joined them. Chancellor Angela Merkel with a Hitler moustache, German tanks heading south: There has been a flood of such caricatures in Greece, Spain, Britain, Poland, Italy and Portugal in recent weeks and years. And Nazi symbols have become de rigueur at anti-austerity demonstrations.

People have even begun talking about the "Fourth Reich," a reference to the Third Reich of Adolf Hitler. That may sound absurd given that today's Germany is a successful democracy without a trace of national-socialism -- and that no one would actually associate Merkel with Nazism. But further reflection on the word "Reich," or empire, may not be entirely out of place. The term refers to a dominion, with a central power exerting control over many different peoples. According to this definition, would it be wrong to speak of a German Reich in the economic realm?

A Shadow over the Present Day

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras certainly doesn't have the impression that he is free to steer his country's policy as he likes. This Monday, he is in Berlin for meetings with the German chancellor, at which Germany's national-socialist past will be a topic of conversation. Greece is demanding that Germany pay reparations for Nazi war crimes visited on the country during World War II.

Those demands, of course, have much to do with the desperation now being felt by a government that has thus far acted with a significant degree of amateurism. But it would be a mistake to believe that the German past is no longer relevant. Again and again, it casts its shadow over the present day.

A heavy accusation has been levelled at Germany -- by some in Greece, in Spain and in France but also by some in Great Britain and in the United States. The euro crisis, a certain breed of politicians, journalists and economists argue, has allowed Germany to dominate Southern Europe and to suffocate it in order to impose its principles even as its export policy has meant that the country has profited from that same currency crisis more than any other country. Germany's image in some countries has become one of an egotistical economic occupier flanked by smaller Northern European countries from the same mold.

The accusations come primarily from opinion-makers in countries that have experienced years of mass unemployment and the anger is palpable, which is why the demons from Germany's past are returning. And it is hardly surprising that those now suffering humiliation would demand payment of past debts. Germany's historic guilt is now being wielded by the powerless as a weapon to make noise and be heard.

Surveys abroad, to be sure, have found that Germans are widely respected overseas. But in Europe today, people are nevertheless quick to cry Nazi when German policy becomes uncomfortable.

The accusations against the German government have a strange dialectic: Germany is dominating, people say, but it isn't leading. It is a hegemon, but a weak one. That, too, leads us to history. In his 1987 book "From Bismarck to Hitler," historian Sebastian Haffner wrote that turn-of-the-century Germany had an "unwieldy size." It was, he said, both too big and too small. That may be true once again.

How, then, does Germany's role in Europe look at the moment when viewed from outside? And inside?

'Tank Divisions of Yore'

Next to the Milan stock exchange, not far from where an 11-meter (30-foot) tall sculpture of a middle finger offers its unique commentary on the decline of high finance, the headquarters of the newspaper Il Giornale can be found. There, in exactly the same office once used by renowned Italian journalist and author Indro Montanelli, Vittorio Feltri is now sitting. Seventy-one years old, Feltri has been a journalist for more than half a century with Corriere della Sera and other papers. Last year, he published a remarkable book together with another well respected journalist named Gennaro Sangiuliano, deputy head of news for the national broadcaster Rai 1. Its title: "The Fourth Reich: How Germany Subdued Europe."

It isn't just desperate, radicalized demonstrators who draw comparisons to the past. Often, respected intellectuals and citizens who are free of financial concerns, like Feltri and Sangiuliano, do the same.

The two authors see the euro as a means to a German end, writing that the common currency is reminiscent "rightly or wrongly " of the "tank divisions of yore." The euro, they believe, is to secure territory under German control. And Germany's high court, the Bundesverfassungsgericht? "Sounds like a Wehrmacht weapon." They write of Chancellor "Merkiavelli, in her pretentious headquarters, the "Kohlosseum," and say that she is now completing the plan that Hitler failed to make reality. The book, says Feltri, is intended as a polemical tract meant to point out the "unsuitability of this common currency that only Germany is profiting from."

A large share of Italy's political class shares Feltri's view. Last year, the Social Democrat Romano Prodi, former president of the European Commission, raised eyebrows with an essay published in the periodical L'Espresso. "In Germany, populist and nationalist sentiments are covered by Merkel," he wrote. "But in Brussels in recent years, only one country has determined the direction; Germany has even seen fit to teach others unacceptable moral lessons."

Whereas Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is careful to emphasize his proximity to Germany, radical tones can be heard on the right wing. Germany expert Luigi Reitani said at a conference late last year that some in Italy have begun drawing "a line from the barbarian invasions via Bismarck and Hitler to Merkel."

Things sometimes sound similar in France. Arnaud Montebourg, who would later become economics minister, said in 2011 that "Bismarck united the German principalities to rule over Europe and, in particular, France. In a shockingly similar way, Angela Merkel seeks to solve her domestic problems by foisting the economic and financial order adhered to by German conservatives onto the rest of Europe." In other words, Germany's former expansionary policies have returned in the economic realm.

'The Blood of Our People'

The fear of German hegemony in Europe is likely nowhere so great as it is in France, which was at least partially occupied by its neighbor three times during an 80-year period. In recent years, "Germanophobia" has increased dramatically across the political spectrum, from Front National to the leftist wing of the governing Socialists. That has partially served to distract attention from political leaders' own failures to implement reform, but they are nonetheless sentiments that deserve to be taken seriously.

The leftist French intellectual Emmanuel Todd warns that Germany is "increasingly pursuing politics of power and of hidden expansion." Europe, he says, is being ruled by a Germany which, in its past, has constantly fluctuated between reason and megalomania. Since reunification, Todd says, Germany has brought a huge area of Eastern Europe under its control, a region once under the influence of the Soviets, to use it for its own economic aims.

In Athens, in a building belonging to the Ministry of Culture, Nikos Xydakis, deputy culture minister for the Syriza government, echoes the sentiment.

"It is as though my country were experiencing the consequences of war," he says. European savings policies have ruined Greece, he says: "We have lost a quarter of our gross domestic product and a quarter of our population is unemployed." Furthermore, he said, Greece didn't ask for emergency loans, they were forced upon the country together with the cost-cutting program. "Now we are paying with the blood of our people."

Germany, he says, has become too powerful in Europe. The country, he concedes, is a leader both politically and economically. "But those wanting to be a leader have to behave like one too." Germany, he says, should be more generous and stop viewing weaker countries in Europe as its inferiors.

Xydakis says that he has to pay rent for his office because the building was sold to a fund to help pay back Athens' debts. "I feel as though we were in Leipzig or Dresden with the bombs raining down." The only difference, he says, is that the bombs of today come disguised as savings measures.

For him -- just as for almost all critics of German policy -- a single word has become the focus of their complaints: austerity. It refers to policies of thrift, a concept that has positive connotations in Germany. But in European countries hit hardest by the debt crisis, it stands for a bleak policy of externally-imposed deprivation. Germany isn't just exporting its goods anymore, it is also exporting its rules.

Aggressive Trade Policy?

The goods, to be sure, are sold without any form of coercion. Europe loves products from Germany, and Berlin's export surplus in 2014 stood at more than 7 percent of economic output. An export surplus means that Germany, in trading with other countries, takes in more money than it spends on their products. The difference often flows back out of Germany in the form of so-called capital exports. In other words, banks in Germany loan foreign companies money so that they can buy German products.

Since the turn of the millennium, Germany's trade surplus has almost quadrupled and now stands at €217 billion ($236.4 billion). With France alone, the surplus was €30 billion in 2014. Even if exports to euro-zone member states dropped as a result of the crisis, no other country in the world has a trade surplus as large as Germany's. Why is that? Is it because of aggressive trade policy?

German economist Henrik Enderlein is not dogmatic and doesn't view the world through a national lens. A professor of political economics at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Enderlein studied in both France and the US, worked at the European Central Bank (ECB) and taught at Harvard. He is an economic advisor to Germany's Social Democrats and his father was a politician with the business-friendly Free Democrats. "The fact that Germany today has the highest trade surplus of all countries has a simple reason," he says. "After the introduction of the euro, we had no other choice than to become more competitive. But it is absurd to believe that Germany did so in order to harm other countries."

Enderlein believes that Germany didn't consciously strive for its current roll but that it happened due to the structure of the euro zone. He also believes that the ECB is partially to blame because in the years after the euro's 1999 introduction, the euro zone's prime interest rate was kept between 3 and 4 percent. For southern European countries, this was much too low and led to a boom with rapidly climbing salaries and prices. For Germany, on the other hand, such interest rates were too high and employers had no choice but to keep salaries low so as to keep their products affordable. At first glance, that doesn't seem aggressive, but southern European countries complained that Germany was guilty of "wage dumping," or keeping domestic wages artificially low.

The resistance to rising wages led to German growth, self-confidence and, as a result, power. When Angela Merkel travels to Brussels, she does so as the leader of by far the strongest economy in the euro zone. Policies she doesn't agree with don't get passed. Power as such isn't a bad thing when those that have it use it wisely. But do they?

There is a new tone in Germany. It is one that no longer abides by the noble customs of diplomacy. Whispering, suggesting and hinting have been replaced by ranting and blustering.

Here is what this new tone sounds like coming out of the mouth of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Of Greece, he said that "a country that for decades has suffered and lived far beyond its means due to the failure of its elite -- not because of Europe, not because of Brussels and not because of Berlin but exclusively because of the failure of its elite -- has to slowly come back to reality. And when those responsible in this country lie to their people, it's not surprising that the people react as they have." He made the comments last Monday at an event hosted by the center-right foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.


The day before, Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder sounded similarly aggressive during an appearance on a German talk show with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis. He didn't miss a single opportunity to gloat about Bavaria's economic and financial strength.

Volker Kauder, the conservatives' floor leader in German parliament, is the author of a particularly triumphalist example of the new tone, uttered way back in 2011. At a party conference of Merkel's Christian Democrats in Leipzig, Kauder said in a speech: "Suddenly, German is being spoken in Europe." Though CDU delegates loved it, the sentence was not well received further afield and Kauder now says he wouldn't repeat it.

Merkel, of course, would never adopt such a tone, at least not publicly. She is more careful, her utterances sometimes so twisted that it isn't immediately obvious what she is trying to say. Last Tuesday, she told conservative parliamentarians in Berlin that "Germany must be a country that doesn't leave anything untried in the search for progress." She meant progress elsewhere, in Greece.

The chancellor has an expansive project that is to ultimately result, one could say tongue in cheek, in a Merkel Reich. She isn't nearly as focused on Europe as her predecessor Helmut Kohl, who wanted to see Germany dissolve into the European Union. Merkel thinks more in nation-state terms, but she knows that Germany alone will have little influence on the world. Countries that want to have a say must have a large population and a strong economy. Germany has the latter, but, relative to China or the US, lacks the former -- which is why Germany needs populous Europe. But it must be a competitive, economically powerful Europe -- and that is what Merkel is working toward.

Early on in the euro crisis, she developed ideas for so-called bench-marking. The concept called for European countries to be measured in several categories against the best in that category, which was often Germany. In this way, a German Europe would be created.

In the battle against the debt crisis in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus and Greece, Europe considered two different approaches. The southern countries wanted to stimulate growth through increased spending in the hope that state revenues would climb. Germany and northern European countries, by contrast, preferred cost cutting and structural reforms, an approach that made significant demands of the citizens of the countries affected.

The economically powerful Germany got its way. In order to put the struggling countries on the right track -- on the German track, that is -- Merkel brought in the International Monetary Fund so as to free Germany from having to play the strict overseer. Still, it has not escaped notice that Berlin is in charge.

From an early point in the crisis, other European leaders dared to protest openly. Then Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that he had "fundamental doubts about the method" and asked Merkel at an EU summit: "Why do you have to foment division?" But three quarters of a year later, Merkel got her way with the passage of the rather German concept of a "fiscal pact." In addition, EU leaders agreed to anchor debt limits in their national constitutions, to impose stricter penalties for those who exceeded maximum deficit limits and to pass structural reforms on the model of those Germany passed from 2003 to 2005. German sociologist Ulrich Beck, who has since passed away, referred to the pressure being exerted on Europe from Berlin as "Merkiavellismus."

'Madame Non'

The change in Germany's approach to European policy has been dramatic. Helmut Kohl sought to avoid isolation at all costs when it came to important negotiations, but Merkel has all but completely rejected that approach. "I am rather alone in the EU, but I don't care. I am right," she once said to a small group of advisors during a discussion about the role of the IMF. Later, she said: "We are in Europe what the Americans are in the world: the unloved leading power."

European Parliament President Martin Schulz says that during his campaign in 2014 as the center-left's lead candidate, he was frequently asked: "How can you run for the office of European Commission president? You're German after all." Schulz, it must be said, speaks four languages fluently, has spent almost his entire political career in Brussels and has long fought for positive German-French relations. "I was seen as being part of the German dominance," he says. "There is this feeling that Germany is too powerful, but when you ask questions about it, you never get a concrete answer."

Senior officials in the Chancellery have reflected on how things got to this point and have come to the conclusion that much of it has to do with the larger role played by nation-states in the euro crisis. Only national governments, after all, were able to mobilize bailout money fast enough for ailing euro-zone partners. In addition, the further the French economy fell behind, the more powerful Germany appeared.

Merkel is sometimes referred to as "Madame Non." When one of the other EU leaders finishes speaking during European summit meetings in Brussels, it is said, people tend to look first at Merkel to gauge her reaction.

But caricatures of her with a Hitler moustache? Referring to today's Germany as the "Fourth Reich"?

The Nazis called their Germany the "Third Reich" in an effort to place themselves in a line with two previous eras of German dominance. The first was the Holy Roman Empire, born in the Middle Ages. Far from being a nation state, it was an area ruled over by mostly German emperors who controlled a large portion of Europe, all the way to Sicily. It came to an end in 1806 after Napoleon conquered many areas that once belonged to the empire. The second reich, according to this count, was the so-called Kaiserreich that Bismarck founded in 1871 after victories over Denmark, Austria and France. The smaller German states soon joined together under Prussian leadership, which is why Bismarck is considered today to have laid the groundwork for contemporary Germany. On April 1, his 200th birthday will be celebrated.

But soon after the founding of the Kaiserreich, a dangerous sentiment began to spread. It was a German hubris, a feeling of being superior to others, to know better and to be better. But it was mixed together with pusillanimity and a sense of being threatened.

The Dominance of Others

Bismarck's reich, under Emperor Wilhelm II as of 1888, was also of an awkward size. It was too large in the sense that it was the most powerful state in Europe, leading France, Britain and Russia to all feel threatened. But it was too small to rule over Europe by itself. The Germans too had to form alliances -- and the internal and external logic of these alliances was one of the most important reasons for the outbreak of World War I. The Kaiserreich lost, and broke apart in 1918.

Hitler believed that his "Greater Germany" was large enough to rule over Europe, but he was badly wrong. Even with the most brutal of war tactics and oppression, Nazi Germany was unable to defeat the Allies.

After the end of the Third Reich, German dominance on the Continent appeared to have been rendered an impossibility for all time. West Germany and East Germany both were initially tentative states that more or less willingly subordinated themselves to their big brothers, the US and the Soviet Union. They ceded to the dominance of others.

West Germany, though, soon developed a new -- economic this time -- instrument of power: the deutsche mark. Because the West German economy grew rapidly and its sovereign debt remained relatively manageable, the German central bank, the Bundesbank, dominated economic and financial policy in Europe in the 1970s and 80s. Governments in France, Britain and Italy paid close attention to the decisions being made in Frankfurt. Shortly before German reunification, a senior official in the office of the French president was quoted as saying: "We may have the nuclear bomb, but the Germans have the deutsche mark."

François Mitterrand, president of France when the Berlin Wall fell, was not a fan of German reunification. He was afraid that a German colossus in the middle of Europe might soon begin seeking political dominance once again. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher believed so too, as did many Germans, particularly on the left wing. Author Günter Grass believed the country would return to its old hubris, its feeling of superiority.

German national team trainer Franz Beckenbauer seemed to confirm as much in 1990 when, after winning the World Cup in Italy, he said: "We are now that number one in the world after long having been the number one in Europe. Now, we are getting the players from (East Germany). I'm sorry for the rest of the world, but the German team won't be beatable for years to come."

In the political realm, too, there were occasional signs of megalomania. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt believed himself to be the best economist in the world in the late 1970s and early 1980s. When he met with US President Jimmy Carter, he didn't see it as a meeting between the big US and little Germany, he saw it as a meeting of big Schmidt and little Carter -- and not because of their physical sizes. Then, in the 1990s, came Oskar Lafontaine, a member of the Social Democrats at the time. As German finance minister in 1998, Lafontaine undertook the first effort to rebuild Europe according to Germany's vision. Because he wanted to harmonize European financial markets and was fighting for a currency union, the British tabloid Sun wondered if he was "the most dangerous man in Europe."

Too Small and Hesitant?

Ultimately, Lafontaine failed, and the German national team likewise experienced its share of losses, at least until 2014. Furthermore, united Germany initially kept a low political profile and remained modest. But then, the euro arrived, which Mitterand hoped would take away Germany's "nuclear bomb." The euro was supposed to break Germany's economic dominance, but it has had the opposite effect. The shared currency has bound together the fates of euro-zone member states and granted Germany power over the others.

Which is why the "German question" has returned. Is the new Germany too big and powerful for the other European countries or is it too small and hesitant?

Hans Kundnani is head of research at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a pan-European think tank based in London. His focus is German foreign policy and he has written a widely noted book about Germany called "The Paradox of German Power." Kundnani links the old German question with the new debate about Germany's role in the euro zone. The strength of Germany's economy combined with mutual dependence of the member states has created, he argues, economic instability that is comparable to the political instability that characterized the Bismarck era.

The problem, Kundnani believes, is not so much that Germany is exercising hegemonic power in Europe, but that it is only halfway exercising such power. It is focused entirely on itself -- and it may be too small for the role that it should be playing.

"Germany is once again a paradox. It is strong and weak at the same time -- just like in the 19th century after unification, it seems powerful from the outside but feels vulnerable to many Germans," Kundnani writes. "It does not want to 'lead' and resists debt mutualization, but at the same time it seeks to remake Europe in its own image in order to make it more 'competitive.'"

"Lead," in this context, means to frequently pay, which is also how Varoufakis sees things. The Greek finance minister wants Merkel to establish a kind of Marshall Plan, just like the US once did to get postwar Europe back on its feet.

A real hegemon like the US, Kundnani writes, doesn't just establish norms. It also creates incentives for those it rules over so that they remain part of the system. To do so, it must compromise in the short term so as to secure its long-term interests.

'More Like an Empire'

Germany, to be sure, has been the primary backer of two Greek aid packages, but they haven't proven sufficient. The new Greek government aims to fundamentally change the euro zone, establishing more mutualized debt and fewer German rules. Others agree. "This is not a monetary union," the Financial Times wrote back in May, 2012. "It is far more like an empire."

The investor George Soros warned that Europe could become split between countries with trade surpluses and those with deficits, describing it as a German empire in the middle of Europe with the periphery as its hinterlands. Empire, of course, is another word for Reich.

In today's world, dominated as it is by economic issues, rulers and the ruled have ceded their historical roles to creditors and debtors. Germany is Europe's largest creditor. Creditors have power over the debtors: They expect gratitude and they often have clear ideas regarding what the debtors must do so that they can one day pay back the money they owe. Creditors are not generally well liked.

Creditors want to have power over their debtors because they are afraid. Afraid that they won't see their money again. Germany could pay Greece's debts, but not those of Italy and Spain.

Germany may be big enough to impose its rules on Europe, Kundnani writes, but it is too small to be a real hegemon. Just like it was before World War I, Germany is afraid of being encircled by smaller countries. A part of that fear is that the ECB could ultimately be controlled by Southern European countries and that the power could be transferred to the debtor countries.

Germany is acting not like a hegemon, but like a "semi-hegemon." It is an argument previously made by the German historian Ludwig Dehio in describing Germany's position in Europe after 1871. Though the context was radically different, former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski also said in a speech in Berlin in November 2011 that he was less afraid of German power than he was of German inaction and urged Germany to take the lead in Europe.

Kundnani has observed a tendency for Germans to see themselves as being the real victims of the euro crisis -- a view that is in diametric opposition to how debtor nations see things. Aggression is the result, to be seen in the new political "tone" in Germany or in the German tabloid Bild, which never tires of calling the Greeks "greedy."

Misguided Nazi References

Whereas Germany has dominated Europe economically during the euro crisis, it has remained a foreign policy dwarf. The apex of this refusal to play a significant political role was its abstention in March 2011 United Nations Security Council vote on the NATO intervention in Libya. European partners like France also saw the vote as a step backwards for Germany. After all, the country had been involved in the Kosovo air strikes as well as the Afghanistan war.

Viewed superficially, the call for more German leadership, which has been heard from many Eastern European countries in recent years, stands in marked contrast to the complaints of Germany's economic dominance. But the two are connected. Germany seeks to be an economic power, but not a military one. Its nationalism is based on economic output and export statistics, not on a desire to become a geo-political power. The same dilemma can be seen in the role Germany has played in the Ukraine crisis.

Germany, Kundnani writes, "is characterized by a strange mixture of economic assertiveness and military abstinence." For that reason alone, the references to the Nazi period are off base. It is not about violence or racism. It is about money. And that is a vast difference, even if monetary questions can be uncomfortable as well.

But an empire is in play, at least in the economic realm. The euro zone is clearly ruled by Germany, though Berlin is not unchallenged. It does, however, have a significant say in the fates of millions of people from other countries. Such power creates a significant amount of responsibility, but the government and other policymakers nevertheless sometimes behave as though they were leading a small country.

Germany is, in fact, not big enough to solve the problems of all the others with money. But it would still be important sometimes to show more greatness, sometimes by way of generosity. And it would certainly be easier to make progress in Europe without the new polemic tone from Munich and Berlin. Power and greatness can sometimes be shown by ignoring the inappropriate comparisons, or by elegantly refuting them.

By Nikolaus Blome, Sven Böll, Katrin Kuntz, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Walter Mayr, Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Christoph Schult

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:42 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Ukraine's former ruling party hit by spate of apparent suicides

Four members of Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions have died within weeks as investigations into old regime officials mount up

Katya Gorchinskaya in Kiev
Monday 23 March 2015 17.06 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 24 March 2015 00.07 GMT  

Before jumping, Mykhailo Chechetov wrote a note. He said he had “no moral strength” to live, and thanked people for their support. Then he stepped out of the window of his 17th-floor apartment, leaving his slippers behind for his wife to find later.

Chechetov was once a senior member of Ukraine’s Party of Regions, which had a strong grip on power until the revolution a year ago. His death on 28 February was the second in a string of apparent suicides by top members of the party which until last year had dominated Ukrainian politics. Four such officials died within several weeks. All of them were under criminal investigation by the incumbent authorities.

The leader of the Party of Regions, the former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, fled the nation at the height of the Maidan revolution, leaving his allies stunned and struggling to accept a new reality. The party started disintegrating rapidly. Many of its members ended up facing trials for corruption, extortion, abuse of office and even murder.

The rampant corruption and venality of the ruling elite under Yanukovych spurred the revolution in February last year, and those in the new government say the old guard are simply receiving just desserts for previous misdeeds. However, some in the former elite claim the process is a politically-motivated witch-hunt. Either way, the spate of apparent suicides shows the psychological toll the process is having on those who ruled Ukraine before the revolution.

Chechetov was accused of fixing the result of a vote in parliament last January for a set of “dictatorship laws” aimed at curbing the civil freedoms of protesters at the height of the revolution. Other cases against him were being lined up, according to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the interior minister, whose agency handles parts of the investigations.

Chechetov’s funeral in Kiev was accompanied by saxophone music and whispers about continuing probes. Serhiy Larin, a member of the Opposition Bloc, a political heir to the Party of Regions in parliament, says that more than 20 cases involving former party members are currently being investigated.

He said: “Hundreds of people in provinces are called in daily for questioning by investigators. We’re also seeing the general prosecutor turning into a punitive organ. This is how democracy is being destroyed.”

Yet Gerashchenko brushes aside all accusations. He says the Party of Regions for years ruled like there was no tomorrow, never expecting to be punished for its crimes. He said: “These people used to be in power and used to solve all their problems through corruption, but now they understand the inevitability of punishment.” Now they are “cracking up”, he adds.

Serhiy Valter, the mayor of Melitopol in the south-east of Ukraine, was found hanged in his home on 25 February. “Prosecutors asked for 14 years in prison for him. He was extorting from business, and was likely to get a guilty verdict,” Gerashchenko said.

Stanislav Melnyk, a former MP and the top manager of a brewery, shot himself in his home in a suburb of Kiev on 9 March. Just three days later, Oleksandr Peklushenko, a former governor of Zaporizhya in south-east Ukraine, was also found shot in his home.

Gerashchenko explained: “He shot himself the moment he realised that he might get a guilty verdict in court for hiring thugs to break up a protest.

“Just imagine what people in England would do if one party hired thugs to kill another party.”

Separately, Yanukovych’s younger son, also named Viktor, died at the weekend when the van he was driving fell through the ice on Lake Baikal in Siberia. Yanukovych Jr was a Party of Regions MP before the revolution.

There is no evidence to back theories that there may be foul play involved in the spate of suicides, but opposition MPs say the trend points to a wave of intimidation at the very least.

Members of the party who remain in Ukraine are feeling scared and reluctant to talk about the cases against them in public. “Everyone’s afraid. They don’t want to have to jump from windows, shoot themselves – or be helped,” said one former Party of Regions member who has moved to the Opposition Bloc.

Another member of the Opposition Bloc said: “This is pressure with cases that have no bases, and cases are being fabricated like it’s 1937. This is why the weaker ones break up.”

Larin, who believes the authorities are acting selectively and illegally, said: “Endless questioning, pressure from investigators, direct threats – the aim is not the rule of law, but political expediency. This is justice to order.”

On 12 March, the general prosecutor’s office put four Party of Regions members on a national wanted list for the same crime as Chechetov, as well as a Communist party member. The prosecutor said those five failed to show up for questioning in his office.

The party hit back, saying the prosecutor was conducting a “show trial, trying to divert attention of the society from a catastrophic situation in the economy and the social sphere” in recession-battered, war-stricken Ukraine.

Moreover, it said that one man on the wanted list, a former parliament member, Volodymyr Demydko, has been in coma for weeks after prosecutors’ questioning caused a stroke. The party said the government released “deliberate lies” about Demydko when he was accused of failure to testify.

Gennady Kernes, the mayor of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was shot in the back during a run last April. He survived, but is now under investigation for kidnapping and torturing political opponents during the revolution. Viktor Shokin, the general prosecutor, said last month that the case is almost ready to go to court. Kernes, however, has insisted it is political.

Ukraine has a history of political prosecutions. Yanukovych jailed his former opponents Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko soon after being elected in 2010. The European court of human rights said both cases were politically motivated.

Gerashchenko said the difference is that the charges against Tymoshenko and Lutsenko were trumped up, and they did not feel any guilt.

He said: “If these people (from the Party of Regions) did not feel guilty, they would not end their lives, they would go and fight in courts like Tymoshenko and Lutsenko. They would fight with their heads raised up high.”


7 Hurt in Ukraine Clashes, Rebels Accused of Grad Attack

by Naharnet Newsdesk 23 March 2015, 15:56

Ukraine on Monday accused pro-Russian separatists of firing heavy Grad rockets in violation of a shaky ceasefire between the two sides, as seven people were reported injured in fresh clashes.

Six Ukrainian soldiers were wounded during fighting over the last 24 hours, army spokesman Andriy Lysenko said, stoking fears of an escalation in violence following a month of relative peace since the signing of the agreement.

The interior ministry also said that a civilian had suffered a shrapnel wound in the government-held town of Dzerzhynsk, after it came under mortar fire late Sunday.

Lysenko warned that "the situation remained unstable" along the whole conflict line, where rebels had used mortars, grenades and heavy weapons, against the terms of the ceasefire.

The army earlier reported that separatists had overnight Sunday fired 120mm mortars in the village of Pisky and used tanks in nearby Opytne, both close to the hotspot of Donetsk Airport.

Kiev also said its forces repelled an attempt to storm one of their positions in the village of Shyrokyne, close to the strategic port of Mariupol, the largest city still under government control in the conflict zone.

More seriously, they claim that rebels fired heavy Grad rockets on Orikhove, a frontline village north west of separatist stronghold Lugansk.

It is the second time that rebels have been accused of using the multiple rocket launchers since the peace deal came into effect on February 15.

Under the terms of the ceasefire, the two sides agreed to pull back their heavy arms to create a buffer zone of between 50 kilometers and 140 kilometers (31 miles and 87 miles), depending on the range of the weaponry.

Ukraine's interior ministry on Monday said a convoy of military equipment, including 10 tanks, had entered the rebel-held town of Gorlivka, 10 kilometers north of Donetsk.

Despite the recent lull in fighting that has claimed over 6,000 lives since April, experts from a Ukrainian think-tank warned that a new offensive could be launched "in the coming weeks".

According to the Kiev-based International Center for Policy Studies, rebels are gathering troops "all across the front line."

Separatist forces currently comprise around 35,000 to 40,000 fighters, including up to 10,000 Russian fighters, it added.

Ukraine's defense ministry on Sunday said the near year-long conflict had claimed the lives of 1,750 Ukrainian soldiers.

Source: Agence France Presse


Dispute Between Poroshenko and Billionaire Governor Threaten Ukraine Alliance

MARCH 23, 2015

MOSCOW — A dispute between President Petro O. Poroshenko of Ukraine and the billionaire governor of one of the country’s regions over control of two state-owned energy companies widened Monday, confronting the new Ukrainian government with its most serious internal crisis since coming to power last year.

Until the dispute burst into the open last week, the governor, Igor V. Kolomoisky, had been among the Kiev government’s staunchest allies. Militias financed privately by him have played a crucial role in stopping pro-Russian separatists waging war in the east from advancing into the heart of Ukraine.

That alliance, however, appeared to be in jeopardy as Mr. Poroshenko and Mr. Kolomoisky clashed in recent days over the future of the two companies, UkrTransNafta and Ukrnafta, and as the president announced that he would take steps to incorporate militias like those controlled by Mr. Kolomoisky into Ukraine’s regular military.

The enmity comes as Mr. Poroshenko remains under tremendous pressure to demonstrate stability in spite of the continuing war and a collapsing economy that is being bailed out with tens of billions of dollars in international financing.

As the animosity rose on Monday, Mr. Poroshenko ordered the Ukrainian state security service to arrest armed men, believed to be loyal to Mr. Kolomoisky, who have occupied the offices of UkrTransNafta and its parent company, Ukrnafta, in Kiev, the capital, since late last week.

Some prominent lawmakers called for Mr. Kolomoisky to be dismissed from his post as governor of Dnipropetrovsk, while at least four members of Parliament announced that they were quitting Mr. Poroshenko’s party, apparently out of loyalty to Mr. Kolomoisky.

At the heart of the dispute is a law passed by the Ukrainian Parliament last week that reduced Mr. Kolomoisky’s power as a minority shareholder in the companies and permitted a management change that he had previously blocked.

Late Thursday night, masked men with guns swept into the offices of UkrTransNafta, apparently in support of the dismissed chief executive, Oleksandr Lazorko, an ally of Mr. Kolomoisky, who has refused to leave.

Mr. Kolomoisky emerged from the building soon after, to say his men had just thwarted an attempt by “Russian saboteurs” to take control of UkrTransNafta. Confronted by journalists about his unusual presence there at such a late hour, Mr. Kolomoisky cursed at them in a ferocious diatribe that was captured on video, as was the raid itself.

The government says there was no attempted sabotage.

Mr. Kolomoisky’s ability as a minority shareholder to control management decisions is an example of the murky dealings between the government and the country’s richest business titans that have hobbled the Ukrainian economy for years.

More alarmingly, however, the dispute has emphasized the potential threat that private militias pose to the fragile new government.

Highlighting that risk, Mr. Kolomoisky in his remarks to reporters noted that on his command, 2,000 armed men could be brought to Kiev within hours. Still, the commander of Mr. Kolomoisky’s main paramilitary group, Dnepro-1, denied any involvement.

By Monday, no armed men were visible outside, though the group loyal to Mr. Kolomoisky apparently still occupied the building. Valentin Nalivaichenko, the director of the security service, told reporters on Monday that his agency would help the police arrest the men occupying the building.

“We confirm that the police and journalists have noticed illegal actions by people with weapons” in the capital, Mr. Nalivaichenko said. “We have a strict order from the president that every person in UkrNafta be disarmed.”

In another sign of mounting tensions, Mr. Nalivaichenko said his agency had also questioned two subordinates of Mr. Kolomoisky in the Dnipropetrovsk governor’s office, about their possible roles in the murder of one Ukrainian security agent and in the kidnapping of another.

Dnipropetrovsk is widely considered Ukraine’s most important industrial region, and its capital of the same name, located about 300 miles southeast of Kiev, is the country’s fourth-largest city. Mr. Kolomoisky was one of several oligarchs, considered too rich to bribe, who were appointed to leadership positions in a bid to stabilize Ukraine.

In a statement posted on his website Monday in response to the standoff, Mr. Poroshenko said the volunteer battalions should be “vertically integrated” into Ukraine’s regular army, which the government has been struggling to rebuild.

Mr. Kolomoisky, widely known as a pugilistic character even as he is admired for his patriotism, has shown no signs of backing down. In an interview on the 1+1 television station, which he owns, Mr. Kolomoisky said he had spoken to Mr. Poroshenko and they had agreed “that this is not the way this should happen.”

Critics of Mr. Kolomoisky, however, said his actions showed his first allegiance was to his own wealth. Mustafa Nayem, a young member of Parliament from Mr. Poroshenko’s party, urged the president and Prime Minister Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk to oust Mr. Kolomoisky.

“Igor Kolomoisky has no right to wear the title of a public servant,” Mr. Nayem wrote in a blog post. “And the president and prime minister have all the levers to correct the error.”

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Giant rats helping to sniff out tuberculosis in Mozambique

Kitten-sized rats are being used by scientists to detect tuberculosis-causing bacteria in a project which hopes to save both time and money

Agence France-Presse
Tuesday 24 March 2015 05.18 GMT   

Giant rats may strike fear and disgust into the hearts of homeowners worldwide, but researchers in Mozambique are improbably turning some of them into heroes.

At Eduardo Mondlane University in the capital Maputo, nine giant rats are busy at work – sniffing out tuberculosis-causing bacteria from rows of sputum samples.

These are no ordinary rats, as they have undergone six months of training in Tanzania. Their most distinguishing asset is their impeccable sense of smell.

Placed inside a glass cage, a rat darts from sample to sample, then stops or rubs its legs, indicating that a sample is infected with a TB causing bacteria.

Once the task is complete, it is given a treat through a syringe for a job well done.

“Within 30 minutes, the rat can test close to a hundred samples, which normally takes a laboratory technician four days,” said Emilio Valverde, TB program director at APOPO, the organisation leading the research.

The project, which started in February 2013, has brought hope to thousands of TB sufferers who sometimes receive false results and test negative using the standard laboratory system.

In 2006, tuberculosis was declared a national emergency in Mozambique, with 60,000 people in 2014 said to be infected, according to the ministry of health.

That number was a 10 percent increase from 2013.

Samples delivered to the university for testing are collected from 15 health centres across Maputo.

Belgian group APOPO is planning to expand the program to other parts of the country, while working on getting the system approved by the World Health Organization.

The organisation claims rat testing is more cost effective than other conventional methods.

Each rat costs around $6,700 to $8,000 to train, with a six-to-eight-year life span.

The cost is lower compared to rapid diagnostic test GeneXpert, which costs up to $17,000 per device, setting the state back between $10 and $17 per test.

The kitten-size rats are also used by APOPO to detect landmines by sniffing out explosives.

They are light enough to cross terrain without triggering the mines, and are followed by de-mining experts who reward the rats with bananas.

The rats weigh up to 1.5 pounds and are said to be “easier to catch and train” – according to Valverde.

Samples pointed out by the rats to contain TB bacteria are then sent for further tests using fluorescence microscopy, a more sensitive laboratory technique.

The results are sent back to health centres, allowing patients to start treatment early.

Although TB is a treatable disease, in underdeveloped countries like Mozambique it can be deadly if left untreated and is particularly harmful to people living with HIV.

Mozambique is one of the countries worst affected by TB and 1 in 10 adults is HIV-positive.

With World Tuberculosis Day being marked on Tuesday, the Mozambican Ministry of Health said it was cautiously monitoring the APOPO work.

“This technique has to be compared to others that are available and already WHO approved, such as GeneXpert or LED microscope,” said Ivan Manhica, who heads the national programme for tuberculosis at the health ministry.

According to the WHO, TB killed 1.5 million people in 2013.

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:38 AM 
Started by Linda - Last post by Linda
Hi Rad and Dav,

Here's another chart we could study.  Albert Einstein has Chiron, Neptune, Ceres and Pluto in intercepted sign Taurus in the 11th house.  The opposite 5th house is void.  He also has duplicated Aquarius on the 8th and 9th houses as well as duplicated Leo in the 2nd and 3rd houses.

Albert Einstein (Wikipedia),_Albert (Astro-Databank)

German-Swiss-American scientist, a physicist who developed the theory of relativity in 1905, and the general theory in 1916, laying the groundwork for 20th century physics and providing the essential structure of the cosmos. He was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize for his contributions to theoretical physics, especially for his discovery of the photo-electric effect law. His name has been synonymous with genius, and the scientific definitions of the modern age - ranging from the Bomb to space travel, electronics and quantum physics - all bear the stamp of his conceptualizations.

He learned to talk so late that his parents feared that he was mentally retarded, not until he was three, and was not fluent until he was nine. For awhile, he was considered subnormal because of his slow development, and his teachers were continually saying that he would never amount to anything. He had begun his education in 1884 at a Catholic school near his home, but in 1889 was transferred from the school to the rigid discipline at Lluitpold Gymnasium. He was kicked out of that school for disrupting class but by the time he was 13 he had read Euclid's geometry and Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, two major influences on him. His youth seemed to be one of deliberate rebellion against the establishment of his times.

Pluto in an intercepted sign

When Pluto is intercepted, in whatever house, the Soul's bottom line orientation to its reality that correlates to its ongoing evolution is in place. The interception of Pluto generally will mean that there are underlying issues/dynamics that have been repressed or buried that need to be realized by the Soul before a full actualization of its polarity point can be actualized. The dynamics that have been buried or repressed, or not fully embraced, can be determined by a careful examination of all the aspects to Pluto itself, where the sign Scorpio is located, any planets in Scorpio with aspects to them, the planetary ruler of the sign that Pluto is in by way of the aspects to it, and the location by house/sign of that planetary ruler. (Rad)

Underlying issues/dynamics that have been buried or repressed, or not fully embraced, that need to be realized by the Soul before a full actualization of its polarity point can be actualized:

Aspects to Pluto Taurus 11th:  

-  Mars trine Pluto (disseminating):  Einstein was not perceived as a threat to the consensus.  He had already learned how to make it work to his advantage.  He had been able to integrate, establish, actualize, and disseminate the original intention (Pluto Taurus 11th).

-  Pluto t-square Jupiter and Uranus:  The t-square compelled Einstein to use the high degree of energies available from Jupiter (philosophy, truth, expansion, Universal Laws) and Uranus (liberation from conditioning patterns, accelerated evolution, repeating messages) however the t-square was unbalanced.  

The focal planet - Pluto - encompassed a very dynamic principle that Einstein normally had trouble integrating into his awareness.  It provoked inner tension or developmental stress which eventually would be expressed through relationships - the process of an opposition - through the Venus/balancing function.

The Soul continually pushed the opposing planets Jupiter and Uranus that expressed in a conflicting manner towards balance and harmony (a Venus function).  This was most acutely felt by Einstein in the 11th house of groups, like-minded friends, secret societies, and scientific communities.  

Scorpio, intercepted sign in the 5th house:  This area offered insight into transmuting the t-square pattern through facing up to his limitations and powerlessness, and delving into the psychology of his motivations.

Planets in Scorpio:  Pluto polarity point

Planetary ruler of Pluto's sign, Venus Aries 10th, and aspects:

-  Venus Aries 10th trine Moon Sagittarius 6th (disseminating):  It is possible that Einstein followed the path of least resistance in order to preserve the status quo when attracting criticism from others.  The ruler of Venus was Mars Capricorn 7th which squared Venus.  The ruler of the Moon was Jupiter in tense t-square to Pluto and Uranus.  The trine was a moment to moment aspect of relaxation and peace, and eventually resulted in fruition, talent, creativity, and expansion of Einstein's horizons and consciousness in the 10th/6th areas of his life's work.

-  Venus sesquiquadrate Uranus Virgo 3rd:  Classifying, categorizing and communicating his findings for a societal purpose.

Conclusion:   Einstein had trouble integrating intercepted sign, Taurus - Earth, grounding, centering, stability and survival - into his awareness due to past life traumatic memories.  Becoming too isolated from his community, the Soul pushed to be in healthy relationship to self and others.  Pluto Taurus 11th eventually became the key to his talent, drive, creativity and success through the Pluto polarity point Scorpio 5th.



 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:36 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dolphins slaughtered in Taiji, Japan: leading zoo body accused of links to hunt – video


The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) has been accused of complicity in the notorious Taiji dolphin hunts in Japan. Conservationists are taking Waza to court, accusing it of sanctioning a deal involving the fishermen who also hunt the dolphins. A 'dolphin management protocol' was allegedly agreed in 2009 to herd small numbers of dolphins to shore, before capturing them and sending them to aquariums. Waza said it had tried to pressure Japanese authorities to phase out the hunts and said it was not participating 'in any way or form'

Click to watch: <iframe src="" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 on: Mar 24, 2015, 05:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
<B>SeaWorld defends animal handling in PR drive after Blackfish dents revenue</B>

Newspaper ads and YouTube videos showcase work with marine mammals after documentary’s criticisms of theme park’s treatment of killer whales

Associated Press
Monday 23 March 2015 21.54 GMT Last modified on Monday 23 March 2015 22.58 GMT

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc is mounting a public defence of its animal handling in a new advertising campaign that began on Monday, after a highly critical 2013 documentary left the park with declining revenue and attendance.

SeaWorld shares tumble 33% following Blackfish documentary

The print and YouTube campaign focuses on the marine-life theme park’s efforts to care for animals in captivity and in the wild. Revenue and attendance at SeaWorld have fallen since the release of the documentary Blackfish, which examined what led a killer whale to drown a trainer in 2010 at SeaWorld’s Orlando park.

The YouTube campaign shows videos of behind-the-scenes caring for SeaWorld’s marine mammals by the company’s veterinarians. The print campaign features the company’s top veterinarian saying the animals’ “health and wellbeing is my priority every day”. The print ads will appear in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and also in newspapers in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio where SeaWorld has parks.

A television campaign will follow later this spring.

SeaWorld’s senior corporate affairs officer, Jill Kermes, would not say how much the advertising would cost. But she said the new campaign was long-term, and “it will continue to grow and evolve”.

“I think there’s been a lot of misinformation out in the public about who we are and what we do,” Kermes said. “It has been a one-sided conversation and this is an opportunity for us to give people the information they need so they can make up their own minds.”

An official for the animal rights group Peta called the campaign “a last-ditch effort”. Peta has led organised campaigns against SeaWorld.

“The tide has turned for SeaWorld,” said Jared Goodman, Peta’s director of animal law. “It’s a last-ditch effort to sway a public that has already made up its mind.”

SeaWorld’s ad campaign is the latest effort by the company to respond to Blackfish, which was critical of how killer whales, or orcas, are kept in captivity at the company’s marine parks. The company initially sent out an open letter defending its operations in several newspapers after the documentary’s release and also created a website to counter allegations made by animal rights’ activists.

SeaWorld says it has spent $10m on all its efforts at rehabilitating its reputation.

Despite SeaWorld’s efforts, several performers backed out of a concert series last year following online petition campaigns by fans and animal rights activists that cited the documentary. Last year, SeaWorld’s revenue declined 3% from the previous year, its chief executive resigned and the company announced plans to build larger environments for its killer whales.

SeaWorld said last week that Joel Manby will become its new president and CEO.

Click here to watch the entire movie BLACKFISH:

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