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« Reply #4830 on: Mar 01, 2013, 07:35 AM »

Israel ‘to delay settlement starts for Obama trip’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 1, 2013 6:59 EST

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has banned settler housing tenders being issued for the West Bank and east Jerusalem when US President Barack Obama visits this month, a daily said Friday.

Netanyahu had told officials the “suspension” did not amount to a freeze in settlement construction, and that it would only be in place up until the end of Obama’s trip to avoid “embarrassing” leaders, Maariv newspaper reported.

In March 2010, Israel sparked the ire of the US administration by announcing, during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, that 1,600 new homes would be built in the east Jerusalem quarter of Ramat Shlomo.

“According to instructions provided by the prime minister’s office to the appropriate officials in the ministries of defence and housing, no new tenders for housing will be issued for these areas in the coming weeks,” said Maariv.

“Similarly, projects whose planning has been completed will not be carried out, and all other bureaucratic steps involved in the public tenders will be postponed,” it added.

“In telephone conversations which Netanyahu held with officials, it was emphasised that there was no (construction) freeze, but rather a suspension whose purpose is not to embarrass the political establishment during the president’s visit.”

Netanyahu’s office had no immediate comment on the Maariv report.

Obama is to meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah during his visit on March 20-22, his first as president.

The White House says Obama has no plans to use the trip to push new proposals to break the more than two-year deadlock in Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas wants to renew peace talks in tandem with a freeze on Jewish settlement construction with the aim of securing a state along the lines which existed before the 1967 Six-Day War.

Netanyahu has called for a return to direct talks — but without preconditions.

In February last year, Israeli media reported that Netanyahu had ordered a pause in the construction of new homes in mainly-Arab east Jerusalem to avoid conflict during a visit to the White House.
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« Reply #4831 on: Mar 01, 2013, 07:40 AM »

February 28, 2013

Fighting Shortages, Syrian Civilians Take Reins in Rebel Areas

By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
IHT

TILALYAN, Syria — Bundled in a thick overcoat against the frosty afternoon, Mohamed Moussa watched with concern as the town baker worked by flashlight to repair the conveyor belt on his aging oven, the town’s principal food source.

Miles from the front lines of the Syrian civil war, Mr. Moussa, the 33-year-old English teacher who leads the new governing council of this rebel-controlled town, spends his time locked in a more mundane battle against desperate shortages of almost everything.

Until about three weeks ago, Tilalyan’s roughly 3,800 residents had bread at most twice a week, and its appearance set off a fierce melee among hundreds of families. There was no consistent supply of electricity or water, to say nothing of medicine or heating fuel.

“The people get crazy,” he said. “They will have a revolution against the revolution because they are so hungry.”

With Syria’s two-year-old civil war showing signs of stalemate, scores of new local councils in rebel-held towns like Tilalyan are not only fighting deprivation but trying to set up courts, police forces and social services. Their efforts amount to Syria’s first experiments in self-government after decades of tyranny under President Bashar al-Assad and his father, Hafez al-Assad.

They are struggling to outlast Mr. Assad in what is increasingly a war of attrition. But civilian leaders say the councils are also trying to pry power from the armed rebel brigades that are already staking out control of resources and territories in the vacuum left by the government’s retreat. Tilalyan’s council illustrates the challenge: it has been forced to depend entirely on the patronage of either the Western-sponsored opposition-in-exile or competing armed factions, including hard-line Islamists.

Three months after it was formed, though, the council can claim two achievements: four hours a day of electricity and a daily ration of two pieces of flatbread for each adult and child. That in turn has brought credibility and legitimacy, even in the eyes of skeptical town elders.

“Young people will be the future of Syria,” said Mustafa Osman, 39, the imam of the local mosque, who first drafted Mr. Moussa and other young council members into the job.

Those modest accomplishments reflect the contradictory mix of resilience and fragility that characterizes life in the rebel-held countryside around Tilalyan, a swath of farmland stretching as far as 40 miles from the Turkish border in northeastern Syria.

Residents say they have not faced the threat of a government ground attack since last fall, when the rebels mined the roads. The biggest threat these days is the government’s attack jets, but they typically concentrate their bombs on larger towns like Marea and Azaz. And they do not fly on cloudy days, allowing residents to walk the streets at ease, until the sun reappears.

On a recent visit, a tow truck was trying to haul the burned-out wreckage of a handful of government tanks and armored vehicles from the rubble of a mosque near Azaz. A scavenger hoped to profit by selling the scrap metal. But rebel fighters stopped him, insisting that the rusted hulks remain as monument to their victory, “the tank graveyard,” as locals call it.

Farmers tossed fertilizer through fields of lentils. Carcasses of meat hung in butcher shops, and storekeepers warmed themselves by burning scraps of wood. Boys played in the streets or lined up outside a barbershop. There were few checkpoints and no weapons in sight.

When community leaders in Tilalyan decided last December to form a provisional local government, they started by bringing together the patriarchs of about two dozen big families, to elect a council from among themselves.

But the meeting dissolved into bickering. “They could not agree on anything,” said Mr. Osman, the imam.

Many were still too afraid of Mr. Assad to link their names to a rebel government.

“Not to be slaughtered with their families,” Mr. Moussa said, chuckling. “The old people think Bashar Assad is very strong and he will never leave,” he said. “But we think they are not thinking the right way, because we see every day that he is vanishing and going away.”

Exasperated, Mr. Osman made a surprise announcement late last year at Friday Prayer: a new council had already been set up and was ready to hear complaints. Two hours later Mr. Osman summoned Mr. Moussa and four others: the job was theirs, the imam told them, by his own unilateral appointment.

All are bookish graduates of Aleppo University with little aptitude for combat. Two are 26, one is 27; the oldest is 34. Until then, their only involvement in the war was forming a “media committee” to spread information. (Mr. Osman and the town’s military leader, Mustafa Jaber, 38, sit on the council as well.)

The elders were scornful. “I need men standing in front of me, I need men to talk to, I don’t need children!” one patriarch complained, as Mr. Moussa, the imam and others recalled.

The local military brigades resisted more forcefully.

“The civil council takes away some of their power,” Mr. Moussa said. “They say, ‘Where did we see you when they were shooting at us? Where were you when we were outside in the cold? You were in your house and going to work, so shut up!’ ”

Each brigade, most of them loosely organized under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, now has its own rival relief and political wings to position itself for post-Assad Syria, and at one point the Tawhid Brigade from the town of Marea confiscated about a ton of flour from Tilalyan’s dwindling supply.

Ahmad Khatib, in charge of relief efforts for the Tawhid Brigade, said Mr. Moussa had no right to make demands since his town had paid so small a price in the fight.

“If you bring them 10 prophets from God they will still keep complaining!” Mr. Khatib said of Tilalyan’s young council.

But the young civilians quickly shouldered their mandate. With $1,000 given to the council by the Western-backed Syrian national coalition, they fixed damaged converters to restore electricity, needed to power the well in the town. They then set out to negotiate for electricity. A brigade from the town of Al Bab had recently seized control of the hydroelectric generators at the Tishreen Dam but initially refused to share the power. How did they know that the council was not a pack of thieves, the brigade demanded?

Then the larger neighboring town of Tal Rifaat was hogging all the electricity, refusing to allow any to pass through to Tilalyan or Marea, Mr. Moussa said. But when it came to electricity, Marea’s powerful brigade and civilian leaders stepped in to help; Marea and Tilalyan are on the same power line.

To supply bread, the council pleaded in vain for flour from the international groups camped at the Turkish border. Then they tried to buy it through Tal Rifaat and finally in the battle-torn provincial capital, Aleppo.

The answer, council members said, came from Jabhet al-Nusra, the Islamist militia that the United States recently classified as a terrorist organization. The group has distinguished itself not only through its battlefield prowess, aid workers say, but also through its determination to capture resources like wheat silos from the government, so that the group could dispense the spoils as patronage.

“They give us flour at less than 20 percent of the real price from the black market,” said Mr. Moussa, surveying the 14 metric tons stored in the Tilalyan bakery, enough for 13 days.

Adhan Naser, 34, another teacher on the council, interrupted him.

“Jabhet al-Nusra now controls the most important things for life — like flour, water and electricity — to make the people see Jabhet al-Nusra as the model, the perfect thing,” he said. “This plan is very clear to all of us. But this kind of game is not going to work, because our future is not Jabhet al-Nusra. We don’t need Afghanistan in Syria.”

To end the daily melee for bread, the council counted the town’s 3,824 adults and children and arrived at a ration of two loaves of flatbread per person and arranged to have it delivered for five Syrian pounds — less than a dime. By then, the council had spent all of its $1,000 in seed money and $300 more from its own pockets.

“It would not matter if we were rich, but we are not,” Mr. Moussa said.

In a recent meeting in a chilly schoolroom, the council tore into Mr. Moussa for failing to consult it before giving the garbage collector a raise of 200 Syrian pounds a week, about $3. And a donor had provided 13 pounds of macaroni for local refugees, but could the council manage the backlash if they had none for others? No, they decided, the refugees would have to wait.

At least there was bread. “For about seven days now we have had bread every day, and the people are very happy,” he said. “Or at least a part of them is happy.”

************

February 28, 2013

U.S. Steps Up Aid to Syrian Opposition, Pledging $60 Million

By MICHAEL R. GORDON
IHT

ROME — The food rations and medical supplies that Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday would be provided to the Free Syrian Army mark the first time that the United States has publicly committed itself to sending nonlethal aid to the armed factions that are battling President Bashar al-Assad.

But the nature of the assistance also illustrates the Obama administration’s caution about getting involved in the Syrian crisis.

At each stop of his first foreign trip as secretary of state, Mr. Kerry has emphasized that one of his principal goals is to change Mr. Assad’s calculations about his ability to remain in power.

Mr. Assad is “out of time and must be out of power,” Mr. Kerry asserted after meeting here with Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian opposition coalition.

The announcement of the supplies fell well short of the weapons and equipment Syrian rebels have requested and left unclear why Mr. Assad, who has fired Scud missiles at the city of Aleppo, would now conclude that he could no longer stand up to his opponents.

The nonlethal aid was just one element of the American program of assistance that Mr. Kerry unveiled Thursday.

The United States is also providing $60 million to help the political wing of the Syrian anti-Assad coalition improve the delivery of basic services like sanitation and education in areas it has already wrested from the government’s control.

A covert program to train rebel fighters, which State Department officials here were not prepared to discuss, has also been under way. According to an official in Washington, who asked not to be identified, the C.I.A. since last year has been training groups of Syrian rebels in Jordan.

The official did not provide details about the training or what difference it may have made on the battlefield, but said the C.I.A. had not given weapons or ammunition to the rebels. An agency spokesman declined to comment.

Defending the limited program to provide medical supplies and military rations known as Meals Ready to Eat, or M.R.E.’s, to the military wing of the Syrian resistance, Mr. Kerry said that other countries would also provide help. He said that the “totality” of the effort would make an impression on Mr. Assad.

“We’re doing this, but other countries are doing other things,” Mr. Kerry said. But neither he nor any diplomats at a meeting here of the so-called Friends of Syria countries that support the Syrian resistance provided details about that effort.

Britain is planning more substantial nonlethal aid, which could include vehicles, bulletproof vests and night vision equipment, according to an American official. British officials have been consulting with European counterparts about what sort of nonlethal aid might be allowed under the terms of European Union decisions.

There is speculation that the Obama administration might expand its program of support to the Free Syrian Army to include nonlethal equipment if rebel fighters use the initial assistance effectively and do not allow any to fall into the hands of extremists.

“We’re in the Middle East. It’s all about the bargaining,” said Mona Yacoubian, a Middle East expert at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. “It could be this is part of a strategy of deliberately trickling in aid, to sort of see how things are going on the ground. You start with harmless things, like M.R.E.’s. Is this a conversation starter? We might think of it that way.”

But Mr. Kerry provided no indication that the White House was committed to such a phased expansion of nonlethal support.

“I am going back to Washington with a number of thoughts and ideas that were put on the table today, and I’m confident we’re going to have a robust and ongoing conversation,” he said.

Some members of the Syria opposition said they were disappointed by the Rome session.

“It is obvious that the real support is absent,” said Walid al-Bunni, a spokesman for the anti-Assad coalition. He said what the resistance needed most was weapons. “What we want is to stop the Scuds launched on Aleppo, to stop the warplanes that are bombing our towns and villages.”

Mr. Khatib, for his part, delivered an emotional statement in which he urged establishment of a humanitarian corridor to the besieged city of Homs, and complained that many in the West were too quick to judge some members of the opposition as Islamic extremists because of “the length of a beard of a fighter.”

“Bashar Assad, for once in your life, behave as a human being,” Mr. Khatib said. “Bashar Assad, you have to make at least one wise decision in your life for the future of your country.”

One aim of the $60 million in aid is to help the Syrian opposition coalition, which is led by Mr. Khatib and which the United States backs and has helped shape, in building credibility within the country and contesting the influence of extremist groups like the Nusra Front, or Jabhet al-Nusra, an organization affiliated with Al Qaeda.

American officials have become increasingly concerned that the Nusra Front is making inroads among the Syrian population by dispersing assistance in the areas it controls.

The American assistance could also help the Syrian coalition develop the governance skills it will need to play a role in any post-Assad political transition.

The funds are to be used in areas controlled by the Syrian opposition coalition to improve education, sanitation and security. Another goal is to strengthen the rule of law in these areas and discourage vigilante justice or revenge killings. To carry out the program, the United States plans to send technical advisers to the headquarters of the Syrian opposition in Cairo. The advisers will be drawn from nongovernmental organizations.

The $60 million is on top of more than $50 million in assistance, including communications equipment, that the United States has already provided to local councils and civil activists. The new funds need to be approved by Congress, which is caught up in politics over how to cut the American budget deficit. But Mr. Kerry said that he expected Congressional approval soon.

Reporting was contributed by Mark Mazzetti from Washington; Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon; and Christine Hauser from New York.

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« Reply #4832 on: Mar 01, 2013, 07:42 AM »

February 28, 2013

Israel: Turk’s Remarks Criticized

By REUTERS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Thursday of making a “dark and false” statement by calling Zionism a crime against humanity, a comment likely to harm efforts to repair ties between the countries. Speaking at a United Nations meeting in Vienna a day earlier, Mr. Erdogan said, according to Turkish news reports, “Just as with Zionism, anti-Semitism and fascism, it has become impossible not to see Islamophobia as a crime against humanity.” The Zionist movement was the main force behind the establishment of the state of Israel. The leader of Europe’s main rabbinical group called Mr. Erdogan’s remarks a “hateful attack” on Jews, and the White House also condemned them. “We reject Prime Minister Erdogan’s characterization of Zionism as a crime against humanity, which is offensive and wrong,” said Tommy Vietor, a spokesman for the National Security Council, in a statement. No one was immediately available from Turkey’s Foreign Ministry to comment on the criticism from the rabbis or from Mr. Netanyahu.
« Last Edit: Mar 01, 2013, 07:53 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #4833 on: Mar 01, 2013, 07:52 AM »

South African police suspended over death of man 'dragged behind van'

Fresh footage casts doubts on police claims taxi driver assaulted officer and tried to take his gun before incident

Haroon Siddique   
guardian.co.uk, Friday 1 March 2013 10.47 GMT   


South Africa has suspended eight police officers after the death of a man they tied to the back of a police van and dragged along the road while bystanders looked on.

Video footage showing the treatment of Mido Macia, in Daveyton, east of Johannesburg, has once more focused attention on South Africa's police force, already dogged by allegations of brutality, corruption and incompetence.

In the amateur video footage (warning: contains images that some may find distressing), published by South African newspaper, the Daily Sun, Macia's hands are tied to the rear of a police van behind his head before it moves off. Just over two hours later he was found dead in a local police cell, according to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). A postmortem gave the cause of death as head injuries with internal bleeding.

The video provoked outrage with President Jacob Zuma labelling it "horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner." He has instructed the minister of police to investigate the matter.

Police chief Riah Phiyega said the eight officers involved had been suspended and the station commander would be removed from his duties. "We would like to assure the country and the world that what is in the video is not how the South African police service in a democratic South Africa goes about its work," she said.

The IPID responded by launching an inquiry and giving details of the police version of events. The police account alleged that Macia, 27, a taxi driver from Mozambique, assaulted an officer and took his firearm after officers asked him to move his taxi because it was obstructing traffic. They admitted only that there was a "struggle" to get the taxi driver into the police van.

But a further video (warning: contains images that some may find distressing) published by the Daily Sun and provided to the Guardian casts doubt on the account. The new footage suggests Macia did not grab the gun or use violence against police, only struggling to free himself as police seized him and lifted him off his feet.

Amnesty International's human rights organisation's southern Africa director, Noel Kututwa, said the incident was "the latest in an increasingly disturbing pattern of brutal police conduct in South Africa". It comes after a series of setbacks for the South African police force, struggling to demonstrate that its low paid, reputedly poorly-trained, officers can be trusted to uphold – or even obey – the law. Last week, the case against Oscar Pistorius, accused of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, was undermined when the lead investigating detective was removed from the case after being charged with seven counts of attempted murder himself. Last year's Marikana shootings, in which police opened fire on a crowd of striking miners, killing 34 at a platinum mine northwest of Johannesburg, are being investigated by a judicial commission.

Macia's case also evoked memories of the death of Andries Tatane, a mathematics teacher and community activist in 2011, which was also captured on video. Tatane was attacked at a peaceful protest march by 12 policemen who beat him with batons, kicked him and shot rubber bullets into his chest at close range.

The dispute between Macia and police officers began just before 7pm on Monday. Video shows him gesticulating at an officer but, although there are small gaps in the footage, there is no indication that Macia laid a hand on him. Daily Sun publisher Jeremy Gordin denounced the police account as "a tissue of lies".

Other officers move in and Macia is dragged away, being lifted head-over-heels as police attempt to get him into the police van. He is eventually tied to the van. Onlookers shout that they are going to film the incident and a bystander can be heard shouting in Zulu: "What has this guy done?"

The van moves off while Macia tries in vain to keep step. It then stops, two police officers pick up his legs and drop them to the ground as the vehicle picks up speed and drives off, beyond the view of the camera. The IPID said Macia was found dead in a police cell at 9.15pm.

South African police said the national commissioner, Riah Phiyega "strongly condemned" what had happened and urged people "to remain vigilant and continue to report all acts of crime irrespective of who is involved".

As well as provoking further soul-searching about state violence, Macia's death may also raise fresh concerns about the country's treatment of immigrants. In 2008, Mozambicans were among migrants targeted by rioters, and attacks against foreigners have continued, including allegations of police brutality.

Amnesty's 2012 annual report documented allegations against the South African police of excessive force, torture, rape and "extrajudicial executions". It said the IPID received 720 new cases for investigation of suspicious deaths in custody or in other policing contexts from April 2011 to March 2012.

The Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria has reported that the number of people shot dead by police doubled in the four years to 2010. Deaths in police custody or resulting from police action numbered 860 in 2009-10, against an average of 695 deaths a year from 2003-2008.

Caution: Link to this video .. very disturbing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRXFqZ6WVSQ

**********

South Africa's police log of brutality

A taxi driver being dragged behind a police van is not an isolated example of abuse, according to the country's police watchdog

Greg Nicholson for Daily Maverick, part of the Guardian Africa Network   
guardian.co.uk, Friday 1 March 2013 12.42 GMT   

Log on to South Africa's Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) website and read the latest news. On Wednesday, a 38-year-old police constable appeared before Welkom district court charged with raping a 42-year-old woman. She had been arguing with her sister before the police were called. Officers found her at home, proceeded to handcuff her. They took her to a field where the constable allegedly raped her next to the police van. The constable is out on R1,500 (£110) bail.

On 21 February, another constable was in court for another rape, this time in Boshoff, Free State. He gave his former girlfriend and other friends a lift from a tavern in a state vehicle. When the two were left alone, the car pulled over so that the victim could urinate. After a chase, the constable allegedly raped her, assaulted her and threatened to kill her when she refused to get back into the car.
Murder conviction

On 18 February, the case against police constable Hlengiwe Mkhize was wrapped up in the Pietermaritzburg high court. Mkhize was convicted of murder and attempted murder for shooting and killing 15-year-old Mlindeli Ngcobo. Mlindeli was riding in a car that was in an accident with the constable's. Both parties agreed to report the incident at the police station, but Mkhize fired two shots into the car and killed the teenager, who was hit in the head. She claimed it was an attempted hijacking and that she had only intended to fire warning shots, but will be sentenced on 1 March.

"The IPID is satisfied with the conviction as it sends a message to rouge [sic] police officers that they will be held accountable by the criminal justice system of our country," said the oversight body about Mkhize's conviction.
Man dragged behind police van

Only a week later, however, there is this: "IPID is investigating the death of a taxi driver at the hands of the police". According to police, Mido Macia, a 27-year-old Mozambican, was allegedly obstructing traffic in Daveyton with his Toyota taxi when they turned on their siren and asked him to move. They say he then assaulted a constable and took his gun. A warrant officer intervened and got the firearm back before driving to the police station in Macia's taxi for backup.

When he returned, the constable was struggling to put the suspect in the police van, say the officers. "The policemen then put the resisting suspect into the back of the police van and they took him to the police station where he was detained. The taxi driver was found dead at about 21:15 by another police officer. An inquest docket was later registered. An assault GBH docket against the deceased was also opened by the police," reads the police account.

The investigator's initial statement declined to mention that Macia was tied to the police van's bench and dragged through the street. The rear doors were open as he was towed behind. Officers participated in front of dozens of people. When Macia tried to resist the pain of being dragged along the road by using his feet to lift his body off the ground, the officers involved lifted both his legs and then dropped them before the police car took off to the station.

The actions of the police were a brutal attempt publicly to inflict pain and humiliation. There's no other interpretation. Dragging a person behind a car is an expression of power. Macia, while tied and being dragged at speed, was helpless and must have been terrified.

South Africa's Daily Sun broke the story on Thursday (on Wednesday it led with a man who eats frogs, but on Thursday it was the toast of the country's media). Witnesses told the paper that Macia had parked on the wrong side of the road and was assaulted when he argued with police. A source who saw him in the police cells told the newspaper not to be fooled by comments from the police: "These cops must not try to speak nicely to you … They killed him. They beat him up so badly in here." A witness on the street filmed the incident and gave the footage to Daily Sun. It has since been seen around the world after being posted online.

On Thursday, an IPID spokesman, Moses Dlamini, told eNews that the inquest into the action by officers had been upgraded to a criminal murder charge. He said Macia died of head wounds "and you can see then if you look at the footage how that came about", said Dlamini, adding that the incident was extremely disturbing.

South Africa's national police commissioner Riah Phiyega used a statement to say she "strongly condemned" the act – all things considered, a rather soft approach to the visual evidence available.
Marikana inquiry

This incident is not an isolated case, either. Alongside the Daily Sun's article – "Tied up, dragged and beaten to death" – was a report from the inquiry into the deaths of 44 people during a strike at Lonmin platinum's mine in Marikana last year. Mzoxolo Magidiwana, who was shot but lived, said of the police, "I heard them celebrate as I lay on the ground after being shot … I heard the police laugh, saying, 'Even their leader, Mgcineni "Mambush" Noki, is dead.'"
Suspicious deaths in custody

After Macia's death, Amnesty International said that the IPID had received 720 new cases for investigation of suspicious deaths in custody between April 2011 and March 2012. "Amnesty International urges the South African government to make a public commitment to ensure that the police stop the use of excessive force and deliberate targeted killings," said the organisation's southern Africa director, Noel Kututwa.

The police union Popcru said it was "mortified by these actions which demonstrate the opposite of what the men and women in blue represent". It added its support to the IPID investigation. Popcru, no doubt, would rightly be worried about the image of South Africa's police and remind us that there are law-abiding officers out there who are committed to their jobs.
President horrified

The abuse, however, has developed to levels that cannot be tolerated. South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, released a statement on Thursday sending his "heartfelt condolences" to Macia's family.

"Members of the South African police service are required to operate within the confines of the law in executing their duties," said Zuma. "The visuals of the incident are horrific, disturbing and unacceptable. No human being should be treated in that manner."

He has asked the police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, to investigate.

Police abuse – both on the streets and in the cells – calls for much more than an investigation by Mthethwa into a single incident. Officers are being charged with rape and murder, not to mention a list of other crimes, and Phiyega needs to show South Africans she can institute changes to make police accountable to the country's laws, rather than empowered to enforce their own arbitrary forms of "justice" and punishment.

Unless Mthethwa, Zuma and Phiyega start to make drastic changes to the pattern of abuse in the SAPS, the country will lose hope in an improved system. With the brutal death of Macia and the scores who died at the hands of the police before him, there's certainly little hope in the system we have.


* South-African-police-van--009.jpg (5.46 KB, 140x84 - viewed 44 times.)
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« Reply #4834 on: Mar 01, 2013, 07:58 AM »


Bangladesh death sentence sparks deadly protests

Dozens reported dead in clashes across the country after Islamist politician sentenced for 1971 war crimes

Syed Zain Al-Mahmood in Dhaka and Jason Burke in Delhi
The Guardian, Friday 1 March 2013   

More than 40 people have died, many shot by police, and hundreds have been injured amid violence in Bangladesh over the sentencing to death of an Islamist politician by a court investigating the atrocities of the war of independence from Pakistan.

The Bangladesh court sentenced 73-year-old Delwar Hossain Sayedee, vice-president of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, to death on Thursday, finding him guilty of eight charges connected with the 1971 war, including murder, arson, rape and religious persecution, lawyers said.

The verdict first set off wild scenes of jubilation in Shahbag square, in the capital, Dhaka, where hundreds of thousands of people have been agitating for weeks in favour of executing Islamist politicians on trial for war crimes.

But clashes erupted when backers of Jamaat-e-Islami protested at the verdict. At least 14 demonstrators were said to have been shot dead by security forces across the country in the afternoon. Two policemen and a ruling party activist were also killed. By Friday the death toll was being put at more than 40, according to the Associated Press.

The police defended their actions, saying they acted to maintain law and order.

Protesters also set fire to a Hindu temple and houses in Noakhali district, south of Dhaka, news agencies said. In the town of Cox's Bazar, a police camp was attacked.

In the capital extra police and a rapid response force were deployed, and paramilitaries put on standby, a home ministry official said.

Haider Ali, a prosecutor at the tribunal, said the court decision had meant justice being done.

The tribunal was set up in 2010 by Sheikh Hasina's government to secure justice for victims of the 1971 conflict and heal the rifts of the civil war era but has proved hugely divisive.

Haider Ali said after the verdict: "The nation is rid of stigma after 40 years. It's a victory for the people."

But Abdur Razzaque, the lead defence lawyer, said Sayedee, a well-known Islamic preacher, was the victim of mistaken identity. "Justice has not been served today. The man the prosecution has described as committing atrocities is not the same man as the [Jamaat] leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee." The defence would appeal.

Lawyers in court during the verdict said Sayedee told the tribunal the judges had bowed to pressure from pro-government protesters and "atheists" in Shahbag.

At Shahbag square activists who had held a vigil demanding capital punishment for all the men tried at the tribunal, celebrated as the verdict filtered out, waving flags and hugging each other.

"This is the outcome we wanted," said Shahab Uddin, a college student, who said he had been participating in the rallies at Shahbag since 5 February. "This is what the people are here for."

Analysts say the rival demonstrations and spiralling violence indicate the gulf between those who think the Shahbag rallies are righting a historical wrong and those who see them as a diversion cracking down on Islamist parties.

Some observers have likened the protests to those in Egypt two years ago. Both involved large numbers of young people and were in part dependent on social media for mobilisation.

However the demonstrations in Bangladesh have been pro-government, pointed out Farzana Shaikh, an analyst at London's Chatham House.

Michael Kugelman, south Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre, Washington, also warned against comparisons with the Arab spring. "In Eypt and elsewhere it was all about movements to bring democratic change. Bangladesh already has democracy, however flawed," he said. A general election is likely later this year.

Kugelman added however that "there are a lot of young people really looking at this occasion to stress the necessity of liberalism, secularism, in Bangladesh and who see this as a springboard".

Bangladesh declared independence from Pakistan in 1971. The Pakistani army fought and lost a brutal nine-month war with Bengali fighters and Indian forces that intervened. Hundreds of thousands of civilians died, many of them at the hands of Islamist militia groups who wanted the country to remain part of Pakistan.

Sheikh Hasina, the prime minister, and daughter of the wartime leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, set up the war crimes tribunal to investigate atrocities committed during the 1971 conflict – a move she said would bring closure for victims and families and heal the rifts.

The leader of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist party, Khaleda Zia, the widow of the independence war's best-known military commander, has accused Hasina of politicising the tribunal, using it to hound political enemies.

All of the 10 indicted for war crimes by the tribunal are opposition politicians, eight from Jamaat-e-Islami, the party that is an ally of the BNP.

"These are deep unhealed wounds, going back for decades and there is a very strong popular desire to resolve many unanswered questions [about the 1971 conflict] and deep frustration with successive governments' failure to do that," Shaikh said. "But its not entirely accidental that the momentum for this resolution has come from the Awami League not the BNP."

Kugelman also stressed that the demonstrations in Bangladesh remained relatively localised and had yet to attract significant support in rural areas.

Observers have noticed how, despite criticism from human rights groups about politicisation and procedural flaws, the war crimes tribunal has remained broadly popular.

Last month the tribunal sentenced a former member of Jamaat-e-Islami to death for his role in the 1971 war. On 5 February Abdul Quader Molla, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami received a verdict of life imprisonment.

Sam Zarifi, the Asia director for the International Commission of Jurists, a Geneva-based legal advocacy group, said a fair trial process was necessary to heal the wounds of the war.

"It is very important that victims of 1971 get justice," he said. "But justice must be ensured through a fair and transparent trial process. Unfortunately, if judges are intimidated by mass protests into handing out death sentences, that's not justice and may unleash yet another cycle of violence."

The trial has been dogged by controversy. Earlier, the tribunal's chairman resigned after transcripts emerged of Skype conversations between him and a Belgium-based Bangladeshi lawyer not officially connected to the case.

Human rights groups said the resignation left a panel where none of the three judges had heard the entire evidence. Appeals for a retrial were dismissed by the tribunal.

Jamaat-e-Islami has called a three-day general strike beginning on Saturday.

• This article was amended on 1 March 2013 because the original misspelled Farzana Shaikh's surname as Sheikh.


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« Reply #4835 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:02 AM »

March 1, 2013

New South Korean Leader Tries to Coax North to Behave

By CHOE SANG-HUN
IHT

SEOUL, South Korea — Addressing her two biggest foreign policy challenges, South Korea’s new president, Park Geun-hye, urged Japan Friday to acknowledge its aggressive past while urging North Korea to peacefully engage with the South and abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"While provocations by the North will be met by stronger counter-responses, the North’s willingness to make the right choice and walk the path of change will be answered with more flexible engagement," Ms. Park said in her first national speech after her inauguration on Monday. "I urge the North to hasten efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations and open an era of happiness on the Korean Peninsula together with us."

The tradition of a South Korean president addressing the nation to mark the March 1, 1919, Korean uprising against Japan’s colonization of the peninsula in the early 20th century gave Ms. Park an early opportunity to express her thoughts on North Korea and Japan.

Seoul’s testy relations with North Korea have grown much more antagonistic in recent months as North Korea has tested both a long-range rocket and a nuclear device. And it has threatened to test more if Washington and its allies pushed for more sanctions against the isolated yet highly militarized country, complicating Ms. Park’s agenda even before she started a single five-year term as South Korea’s first female president.

During her election campaign, Ms. Park suggested that she would end prolonged inter-Korean tensions that prevailed under her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, whose hard-line policy saw two nuclear tests and three long-range rocket tests by North Korea, as well as two military attacks blamed on the North which killed 50 South Koreans in 2010. But during the campaign she also appealed to her core conservative power base by  stressing that she would not  tolerate the nuclear weapons program and military provocations of North Korea.

On Friday, U.S. and South Korean forces started their annual Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises, while in the North, the leader, Kim Jong-un, has been visiting military bases warning of war and calling for "miserable destruction" of the U.S. and South Korean militaries.

"North Korea must realize that nothing will be gained from nuclear development or provocations save for greater isolation and hardship," Ms. Park said on Friday. "When North Korea abandons its nuclear ambitions and ceases its provocations, it will be able to become a responsible member of the international community. Only then will the path toward shared development by South and North be opened to us and only then will the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula begin in earnest."

Her idea of first building "trust" as a basis for vigorous economic cooperation with North Korea is popular among conservative South Koreans. But she has yet to elaborate on how she will reconcile that with the policy of Washington and her fellow conservative predecessor, Mr. Lee, whose insistence on the North’s denuclearization as a precondition of greater economic largess was met only with more provocations from the North.

Her stress on both retaliation and "flexible engagement" and the notable absence in her speech of any mention of human rights for North Koreans — a major concern of South Korean conservatives — suggested that she was biding her time, rather than making an early overture, as new leaders in the region were formulating a response to the North’s Feb. 12 nuclear test.

"She is telling North Korea not to aggravate the situation any further, while keeping the door open," said Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korea analyst in Dongguk University in Seoul.

Ms. Park was less equivocal on Japan, whose 36-year colonization of Korea from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945 has overshadowed a thriving economic relationship between the two neighbors.

"The historic dynamic of one party being a perpetrator and the other party a victim will remain unchanged even after a thousand years have passed," Ms. Park said, calling for Japan to have "a correct understanding of history."

"In order for our two nations to heal the wounds of the past as soon as possible and march together toward a future of shared progress, it is necessary for the Japanese government to change unreservedly and behave in a responsible manner."

Ms. Park came to office after South Korea’s relations with Japan deteriorated over a longstanding  dispute over a set of contested islets. In August, Mr. Lee became the first Korean leader to land on the islets, controlled by South Korea and claimed by Japan.

South Korean officials said Mr. Lee’s visit was driven partly by Japan’s refusal to come to terms with the plight of Korean and other Asian women who, historians say, were forced or lured into working in military-run brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

South Koreans have grown more wary of Japan after Shinzo Abe, a right-wing politician whose nationalist comments had often enraged South Koreans, returned as prime minister after his party’s landslide election victory in December. During his election campaign, Mr. Abe enraged South Koreans by suggesting that he would roll back Japan’s past statements of apology to the Asian sex slaves and for its colonial rule.

Last week, his government triggered a rebuke from Seoul by sending a senior government official to attend a ceremony in  Japan’s  Shimane Prefecture that was called to highlight its territorial claim to the disputed islets.

But Mr. Abe has also tried to reach out to Ms. Park, calling for a better relationship with South Korea. While speaking to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington last week, he said that his grandfather was "best friends" with Ms. Park’s father, President Park Chung-hee, the military dictator who ruled South Korea for 18 years until his assassination in 1979.

That remark was met with caution in South Korea, where people are divided over the background  of Mr. Park, a former officer in Japan’s Imperial Army, under whom South Korea re-established ties with its former colonial master. Mr. Abe’s grandfather was former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, who had served in the wartime Japanese government and was despised among many South Koreans.

Resistance to Japan’s colonial rule remains an essential source of national identity in both Koreas. South Korean leaders have often marked the March 1 anniversary by calling for the reunification of the two Koreas and accusing Japan of failing to come to terms with its militaristic past.


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« Reply #4836 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:05 AM »

Catholic Church fights sex education classes in Croatia

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, February 28, 2013 14:38 EST

Freshly introduced sexual education classes in Croatia’s schools has split the EU-bound country as the powerful Catholic Church challenges the centre-left government over its newest addition to the curriculum.

Aimed at raising awareness on potential sexual issues and problems, the pilot “sex-ed” programme started last year and will continue to June 2014. Content is adjusted to the age of the pupils, who range from nine to 18 years old.

Introduced as a part of a wider obligatory health education programme in state primary and high schools, sex-ed covers topics such as sexually transmitted diseases, masturbation or gender equality, and aims to help avoid unwanted teenage pregnancy.

Vinko Filipovic, head of the government agency tasked with preparing the curriculum, told AFP that 2,000 teenage pregnancies were registered every year in Croatia.

Out of some 5,000 abortions every year, 400 are among adolescents, he warned.

“These alarming data showed a need to work on education of children as they mature sexually,” Filipovic said.

No special textbooks are used for the programme, with topics discussed instead during class with mentor teachers or experts. Pupils receive just three hours of sex education every school year on average.

Despite such low-level school presence, the move has sparked the fury of bishops who, backed by pro-Church citizen groups, claimed that sex-ed would promote “pornography, promiscuity and homosexuality”.

“Peace in our homeland is at stake,” Zagreb archbishop Josip Bozanic said, slamming the curriculum change from the left-leaning government, in power since December 2011, as “destructive and dangerous”.

One bishop, Valentin Pozaic, even called for overthrowing the “communist” government, comparing the authorities to Nazis.

“One should not forget that Nazis (also) came to power through democratic elections,” Pozaic said.

Angry Church supporters have circulated anti-curriculum leaflets at the country’s markets, shops and newstands.

“Don’t you mind that your children learn about masturbation as a part of human sexuality?” read one leaflet urging parents to sign petitions against the curriculum.

GROZD, the national parenting NGO, claims the programme imposes a “view-of-life against values cherished by most parents”.

– ‘Much ado about nothing’ –

The Church has a strong presence in Croatia where around 86 percent of the country’s 4.2 million people are Roman Catholic.

But a survey of 1,300 people showed that 56 percent of those polled consider sexual education necessary. They were also against the Church’s interference.

“What the Church is doing is a disaster,” said 36-year-old Zagreb salesman Goran Miletic, a father of two.

“Children should be raised in reality and be prepared for everything they will face in life,” he insisted.

But for Ivo Horvat, father of a teenager, the programme is “gay propaganda disguised in ‘tolerance’”.

Horvat is considering forbidding his 15-year-old son to attend the classes, a move the government has said will not be tolerated.

Many of the 516,000 pupils being given sex education seem to be the least upset with the debate.

“It is much ado about nothing,” 15-year-old Laura told AFP, adding that the church “should not interfere in schools.”

But Goran, 16, brushed off the need for sex-ed. “You can always ask older friends while teachers might feel embarrassed to discuss some issues with pupils,” he said.

The government meanwhile has been quick to condemn attempts to shoot down its programme.

Education Minister Zeljko Jovanovic warned the Church was acting in an “unacceptable, ill-intentioned and defamatory way”.

“Outside schools they can say whatever they want, but they can not decide what will be taught” there, he said.

Ivica Mastruko, a prominent sociologist of religion and former ambassador to the Vatican, said that the Church “cannot understand and accept that Croatia is a secular state”.

As such, it “has the right to introduce all programmes in a way it believes appropriate”, he said.

“This is yet another attempt and example (of) how the Catholic Church is trying to impose itself as a political force” in Croatia, Mastruko said.

After Croatia proclaimed independence in 1991, the Church — firmly in the backseat in the post-World War II former Yugoslavia — has become an increasingly vocal political partner of the authorities.

During the almost two-decades-long rule of late nationalist leader Franjo Tudjman and his HDZ party, agreements were signed with the Vatican guaranteeing budget funds for the Church and introducing religious teaching in public schools.

The Church has since repeatedly tried to impose itself as a supreme kingmaker in many secular issues in the country, which is set to join the European Union in July.

Under pressure from religious figures, Croatia’s former conservative government adopted one of the most rigid laws in Europe on medically assisted reproduction, before it was amended by the current authorities in 2012.

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« Reply #4837 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:09 AM »

February 28, 2013

Court Overturns War Crimes Conviction of Former Chief of Yugoslav Army

By MARLISE SIMONS
IHT

PARIS — A United Nations appeals court on Thursday unexpectedly overturned the war crimes conviction of the former Yugoslav Army chief who had been sentenced to 27 years for aiding and abetting atrocities in Bosnia and Croatia, including attacks on Sarajevo and Srebrenica.

The judges, voting 4 to 1, acquitted the former chief, Gen. Momcilo Perisic, of all charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, and ordered him released.

General Perisic, who surrendered to the court in 2005, was expected to return Friday to Serbia, where officials welcomed the decision. Reports from Bosnia said victims’ groups were stunned.

The ruling, following other recent acquittals by appeals court judges, was seen as one more decision that is changing the story line of the war. The reversals narrowed the definition of crimes for which military commanders can be held responsible.

General Perisic was the most senior officer to be tried, and as the army’s chief of staff and as an aide to Slobodan Milosevic, then the Serbian president, he played a crucial role during the 1992-95 war that broke up Yugoslavia.

Records showed he regularly attended meetings of the Supreme Defense Council where Mr. Milosevic and other leaders approved sending weapons, fuel, police officers and military personnel to proxy armies fighting for the Serb cause in Bosnia and Croatia.

General Perisic carried out those orders, the court said.

But the appeals judges said that even if he had known about crimes committed by Serb or pro-Serb fighters in Bosnia and Croatia, he had not directed or knowingly assisted in atrocities by sending aid, but was carrying out decisions to support the war effort.

They said that the lower court had committed an error by not showing that he was “physically present when criminal acts were planned or committed.”

Some lawyers in The Hague, where this and other international courts are based, said they were baffled by the ruling, which they said contained several internal contradictions. They said it also produced new and narrow definitions of international crimes long considered precedents at the tribunal.

In past rulings, the crime of aiding and abetting required only knowledge that assistance was being used to commit serious crimes. But the appeals court for the first time said that the intention to commit crimes would be required for a conviction.

“I think this is a step backwards in the law; it contradicts all jurisprudence of this tribunal, even back to the findings of trials at Nuremberg after World War II,” said Nicholas Koumjian, a lawyer who has worked at several international courts.

Others thought that the appeals court had drawn a line between wartime military officers and political leaders.

The decision on Thursday follows the recent acquittal on appeal of Ante Gotovina, the Croatian general who led the operation that took back the Croatian region of Krajina after it was occupied by Serb forces. That acquittal caused outrage in Serbia.

“Both Gotovina and Perisic were professional soldiers,” said William Schabas, who teaches international law at Leiden University. “One message that is emerging is that at least some professional soldiers did not behave as badly as was commonly thought.”


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« Reply #4838 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:11 AM »

February 28, 2013

Croatia Is Withdrawing Soldiers From Israel-Syria Frontier

By DAN BILEFSKY
IHT

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic of Croatia said Thursday that his country would withdraw its soldiers from a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Golan Heights after reports that Croatia was selling weapons that were being funneled to antigovernment fighters in Syria.

Croatia has nearly 100 soldiers serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, which is responsible for maintaining the fragile calm between Israeli and Syrian troops at the demilitarized zone along Syria’s Golan frontier that was established after a cease-fire ended the 1973 war.

The decision to withdraw the soldiers from the area came after The New York Times reported on Monday that Saudi Arabia had underwritten a large purchase of infantry arms in Croatia.

Croatia has denied selling weapons to either Saudi Arabia or the Syrian rebels. But Mr. Milanovic said that reports of the sales had put Croatian soldiers at risk and that he was compelled to withdraw them because their safety could no longer be assured.

“We can deny over and over again, but everyone has already read these reports and our soldiers are no longer safe,” he said at a cabinet meeting in Zagreb, the capital, citing the Times article. “We want them to return home safe and sound.”

According to United States and Western officials, in December arms left over from the Balkan wars of the 1990s began to reach rebels battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, via Jordan.

Since then, officials said, several planeloads of weapons have left Croatia. Yugoslav weapons previously unseen in the conflict, including recoilless guns, assault rifles and machine guns, began to appear in videos posted by Syrian rebels on YouTube.

The infusion of arms appeared to signify a more activist approach to helping Syria’s armed opposition, and as a counterweight to Iranian support for the Assad government.

Before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, Croatia had relatively strong political and economic ties to Damascus. But analysts said that Croatia, which is to join the European Union this year, had since firmly sided with the rebels, abiding by European Union sanctions against Syria, offering financial aid to Syrian refugees and recognizing the Syrian opposition as the only legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
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« Reply #4839 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:13 AM »

February 28, 2013

Cameron’s Party Humbled in Vote as Anti-E.U. Party Surges

By REUTERS

EASTLEIGH, England (Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron's ruling Conservative party was humiliated in an election in England on Friday after it was defeated by a scandal-ridden coalition partner and pushed into third place by an anti-EU party.

Cameron and his party had hoped to come second or even win the parliamentary election in Eastleigh, but were pushed into third place by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a party that advocates taking Britain out of the European Union and strongly opposes immigration.

The result, which saw the Liberal Democrat party take first place, will pile pressure on Cameron from disgruntled lawmakers within his own party who fret he may not be able to lead them to victory in a 2015 general election since, to do so, he will have to win parliamentary seats like Eastleigh.

One senior party figure and a former leadership candidate, David Davis, warned before the vote that "a crisis" would ensue if the Conservatives were beaten into third place by UKIP.

The result was an important symbolic victory for the Lib Dems, however, who have been hit by a sex and perjury scandal, and for Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister and party leader, who has seen his leadership come under pressure in recent weeks.

The Lib Dems polled 13,342 votes, UKIP 11,571 votes, the Conservatives 10,559 votes and the Labour party 4,088 votes. That means UKIP took almost 28 percent of the vote, one of their best ever results in a British parliamentary election to date.

Grant Shapps, the Conservative party chairman, denied the outcome was "a crisis" for Cameron, saying it was virtually unheard of for a governing party to win a new seat mid-term.

Diane James, UKIP's candidate, said the result was "a humongous political shock", while Nigel Farage, UKIP's leader, said the result showed Britons were weary of mainstream politics.

"It just goes to show that the UKIP message is really really resonating with voters," he told Reuters. "The EU and immigration are the same debate and that's the message the British public are now beginning to understand."

Farage's party has siphoned off support from Cameron's Conservatives by attacking EU bureaucracy and immigration from eastern Europe, tapping into what he says is a widespread feeling that mainstream parties have ignored voters' concerns.

PROTEST VOTE

The Eastleigh vote does not truly reflect national sentiment - the opposition Labour party leads in the polls nationally with the Liberal Democrats trailing in third or fourth place.

The election came at a time when Clegg's leadership of his party, without whom the rightist Conservatives cannot govern or pass legislation, faces intense pressure.

A sex scandal that has ensnared Chris Rennard, his party's former chief executive, has raised difficult questions for Clegg about what he knew about the imbroglio and when and how he dealt with it, amid accusations of a cover-up.

Rennard strongly denies the accusations, which centre on allegations of sexual misconduct towards female party workers, while Clegg says he was only previously aware of "non-specific" and "anonymous" allegations which could not be acted upon.

"Tonight is a great night for the Liberal Democrats nationally. A strong signal of support for Nick Clegg, an affirmation of our role working in the national interest within the coalition and a huge boost to our party's mission in government," said Mike Thornton, the winning Lib Dem candidate.

But most voters interviewed by Reuters on Thursday said they were unfazed by the sex scandal and viewed the vote as an opportunity to vent their frustration at politicians.

"You're left with one party with no policies, another party with a person standing against the leader's policies, and the other party is a pack of liars. So you say UKIP, let's have them in, and then these politicians may shape their minds up and start contacting the electorate rather than playing games in Westminster," said Noel Boulding, 72.

(Writing by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Guy Faulconbridge)
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« Reply #4840 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:16 AM »


Democracy: States, markets and citizens on collision course

28 February 2013
I Kathimerini Athens
   
Michael Kountouris

The uncertain outcome of the Italian elections and the success of Beppe Grillo have again demonstrated the undercurrents agitating Europe’s crisis-stricken countries. Will the EU, or even more crucially the markets, now make a gesture to break the vicious circle of crisis and citizens’ defiance?
Alexis Papachelas

The tension that is simmering below the surface between the democracies of Europe and the international financial markets is not likely to end anytime soon and no one can predict its outcome.

The markets speak their own unforgiving language. They are threatening to pull the lending plug on Europe. But without borrowed money, or bonds, it will be nearly impossible for the bloc to maintain the standard of living and the level of welfare and social benefits that have defined the way its societies function since the end of World War II.

In fact, the markets are pushing the money to the East, where people are more accustomed to lower living standards and democracy functions differently.

The level of change and sacrifice in order to reach the targets that the financial markets are demanding, especially from southern Europe, is difficult, if not utterly impossible to achieve. No nation is ready to accept a major and widespread change of lifestyle – for the worse – without having an inevitable violent reaction.

Politically manageable transition

The European elite, centred in Brussels and Berlin, believed that the transition to a more competitive and thrifty Europe would be a process that was politically manageable. This may have been the case for certain northern European countries that have a good grasp of the concepts of the social contract and show more fortitude in the face of adversity.

In the case of Greece, as well as that of Italy, however, reforms and harsh cutbacks have not been so easy to swallow and have not been passed easily. In such countries, austerity awakens the instinct to react against anything that shakes up the status quo and strengthens society’s anti-systemic tendencies.

Breaking the vicious cycle

How can we break out of this vicious cycle? It is impossible to tell. The crisis has deepened and broadened the already large cultural and political divides that separate European nations. And now it looks like the financial markets are not at all prepared to tone down their demands and take a step back. The risk of Europe entering a protracted phase of instability and economic hardship is on the horizon as the markets continue to increase the spreads and certain citizens vote for politicians like Italy’s Beppe Grillo.

The limits and strength of democracy are set to be sorely tested, even though European democracy often seems a shallow institution that is played out behind the scenes of the public stage – something neglected by those who champion Silvio Berlusconi today when just yesterday they were presenting him as a paradigm of corruption and entanglement.
   
Opinion: Stepping up to the democratic challenge

“The Italian election has confirmed many sophisticated people in their view that democracy – or at least, unmoderated democracy – doesn’t work. Left to themselves, they say, voters keep opting for lower taxes and higher spending. That’s why Europe is in such a mess”, writes the columnist and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan in The Daily Telegraph.

Many in Brussels argue for a restriction in democratic rights, but there is another option. “Why not trust voters more?” asks Hannan, quoting the words of the late British Conservative MP Keith Joseph, who said: “Give people more responsibility and they’ll behave more responsibly.” Hannan points to the example of Switzerland, whose citizens are given a great deal of political responsibility through regular referendums. He adds –

    Treat voters like children and you get sulks and tantrums. Treat them like adults and you get – well, you get Switzerland.


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« Reply #4841 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:21 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
02/28/2013 06:16 PM

The New Guest Workers: A German Dream for Crisis Refugees

By SPIEGEL Staff

A new generation of highly qualified immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe is seeking a future in Germany. Young, well-educated and multilingual, they are precisely what the German economy needs to ensure success in the future. The country has its work cut out if it wants these "godsends" to stay.

Half a century after her grandfather took the train from Seville, Spain, to Germany, Carolina López, 28, bought a ticket on a budget airline to Berlin. It was the dismal situation in Spain that prompted her to make the move in the late summer of 2012. The Spanish economy is reeling, and one in four Spaniards is unemployed. Joblessness is especially rampant among young people. López went to Germany looking for work and, most of all, a future.

It was a similarly distressed situation at home that prompted her grandfather to go to Germany in 1961, because he couldn't make enough money in Spain to feed his family.

When López talks about her grandfather, though, she still thinks of more differences than similarities. The Germany with which she is familiar from his stories no longer exists. The only German her grandfather Juan remembers is the foreman at the Continental tire factory in Korbach, who was constantly shouting at him. Juan, whose goal was to make money quickly, returned to Spain as fast as he could.

Carolina López is indistinguishable from other young women in Berlin. She wears a loose shirt over her skinny jeans, and skateboard shoes on her feet. She laughs readily and often, and she takes life seriously, but not too seriously. López lived in a shared apartment in Berlin for half a year when she studied marketing there in 2009. Berlin seemed free-spirited and international to her, says López, and more modern than Spanish cities. Now she's back, and this time she wants to live and work in Berlin, and even make it her home.

A new generation of immigrants is coming to Germany: Europe's crisis refugees. They are young, well-educated and multilingual. Many feel that their prospects at home disappeared when the European financial system began to falter, followed by the collapse of domestic labor markets in a number of countries. They are now going to Germany, just as their grandparents did a half-century ago, in search of a new future.

In the 1960s, guest workers from Southern Europe were the first large immigrant group to move to West Germany to find work. Now their grandchildren are following suit, forming the next major wave of immigrants coming to Germany for jobs. Like their elders, they are in Germany to find jobs and opportunities that their native countries cannot provide.

Elite Immigrants

This time, members of the new wave of immigrants are working in university laboratories rather than on assembly lines. Instead of doing the work that others won't, they are moving into corner offices, becoming senior physicians and designing products for others to assemble. They have better educations and are more self-confident than previous immigrant generations, and for this reason see themselves as neither guests nor workers. Instead, they feel that they are European citizens and take it for granted that they belong anywhere in Europe, and that they will leave again if they find that they like it better someplace else. They constitute an elite that is now immigrating and changing society's image of immigrants.

Immigrants who came to Germany in the past were significantly less qualified than those who chose other countries as their new homes. Now, for the first time in postwar German history, almost half of new arrivals have college degrees or a form of higher education, and they are coming in big numbers, the largest since the 1990s. There were more than a half-million in the first half of 2012 alone.

Once here, they are encountering a society that is slowly realizing that immigrants don't threaten prosperity in Germany, but in fact preserve it. "The new quality of immigration is a godsend," says Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen. "It helps our country, making it younger, more creative and more international. Everyone benefits. The young people benefit, because they are able to get started in their careers, and so does our society, because professionals are filling open positions." These are unusual words for a politician with the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. A little over a decade ago, one CDU member was famously quoted suggesting Germans should have children rather than allow in immigrants from India to fill tech jobs. But now, even the CDU is recognizing that the country has to change with its immigrants if it hopes to preserve its position as one of the world's top economies, whose wealth is primarily derived from the minds of its citizens.

This wealth would surely dwindle without the new immigrants. As the population ages, a shrinking workforce must support a growing number of retirees. Even if more women and older people were to work full-time in the next decade, the workforce still wouldn't be large enough to keep the economy running successfully, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Demographers make a simple calculation: Germany can only preserve its economic strength if immigration exceeds emigration by 400,000 people each year. This would have to continue for several years. Otherwise, as the OECD warns, the working population will shrink more dramatically in Germany than in any other industrialized country.

A Struggle to Find Qualified Workers

The first members of the baby-boomer generation, the children of Germany's Wirtschaftswunder, or economic miracle, are now entering retirement. The country will lack about 5.5 million skilled workers by 2025. Companies in Germany's booming regions are already feeling the shortage today. According to a poll by the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, three out of four owners of small-to-midsized businesses say that they are having trouble finding qualified workers. One in three has already had to turn down contracts because of labor shortages, reports the Federal Association of Small and Mid-Sized Businesses.

Not long ago, politicians and journalists decided that Germany was not an immigration country, and that German society couldn't handle any additional immigration. Immigrants were treated like a plague, a threat or at least a burden. The main goal of immigration policy was to prevent immigration.

It was successful. In 2008 and 2009, more people turned their backs on Germany than chose to go there, turning it into a country of emigration. According to a study by the Bertelsmann Foundation, the think tank aligned with the multinational German media giant, academics and business executives were especially prone to leave the country.

There has never been a culture of attracting people to Germany, inviting them and making it as easy as possible for them to feel at home there. Now demographics and the shortage of workers are forcing the Germans to overcome their suspicions and actually woo immigrants. Instead of asking immigrants "When are you leaving?" Germans should be saying: "Please stay!"

Living Proof of the Idea of a United Europe
Carolina López found a room in Berlin's Kreuzberg district in May 2012. She threw her clothes on the bed, put a photo of her boyfriend on the shelf and went out in search of a language school. She lived from her savings during the first few weeks. Soon, she was taking the subway to a German course every morning and writing job applications in the afternoon. She and her boyfriend, who had remained in Spain, kept up via Skype.

López studied in Seville and Cardiff, in Wales, and spent the last two years working for a public relations firm in A Coruña in northwestern Spain. The company went into debt as a result of the euro crisis, projects were cancelled and salaries were cut. When a dozen of her coworkers were let go, López left her job and moved away. After three months in Berlin, she signed a contract to work as a marketing manager for Twago, an Internet company. "I'm living the German dream," she says.

López is part of a new European mass migration. In the first half of 2012, 27,056 Spaniards made the same trip as she did. They were joined by 32,633 immigrants from Italy, 26,382 from Greece and 9,914 from Portugal -- and these are only the official numbers. The actual immigration figures could be three times as high, says Vassilis Tsianos, a migration researcher at the University of Hamburg. He points out that many immigrants don't register with authorities when they come to Germany.

Back at home, many of them had thought long and hard about leaving, asking themselves whether their native countries would gain the upper hand in the crisis, or whether they'd be better off leaving. Now it is the young people, the well-educated and the bold, who are coming to Germany. The average age of these new immigrants is 32. "They're making a bet on their own future," says Herbert Brücker of the Institute for Employment Research.

It appears to have been a good bet for Italian Enrico Orselli. Every morning, the 33-year-old drives his Ford from Cologne to the Bayer plant in nearby Leverkusen, puts on his lab coat and protective glasses and goes into the laboratory. He heads a team at the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant that is developing plastics that change their shape when subjected to an electric charge. Orselli has moved four times in the last nine years. He studied chemistry in Bologna, Italy, spent a year doing research in Amsterdam, did his doctorate in the northwestern German city of Münster and worked in Brussels for four years.

He met his current girlfriend Astrid at a party in Münster, organized for students participating in Erasmus, the largest European exchange program for university students, in the fall of 2005. They had a long-distance relationship between Brussels and Münster, until Orselli found the job at Bayer. Now they live in Cologne, where Astrid is writing her dissertation. He has no plans to return to Italy for now, and says that he wants to grow old in Germany.

Calling an Entire Continent their Home

The new generation of economic migrants will change Europe. "Ideally, the European labor market will become a hub for professional knowledge and prosperity," says Labor Minister von der Leyen. "Then young Germans will also go to Spain to work on advances in solar technology."

Many no longer call one country their home, but the entire continent, working or studying abroad for a period of time. The Erasmus program alone places some 200,000 young Europeans a year. They learn new languages, gain experience, make friends and, after a while, return home -- and often go back abroad again. Today, they are living proof of the idea of a united Europe, even more so than the founding fathers of the European Union could ever have dreamed -- even if it was the euro crisis that fueled this development.

From their perspective, the European consciousness that German President Joachim Gauck invoked in a keynote address on Europe last Friday has long been a reality. "Your very first pocket money was in euros, you are learning at least two foreign languages, your school trips go to Paris, London, Madrid, maybe Warsaw, Prague or Budapest," Gauck said. You really do get to experience 'more Europe' than any generation that has gone before." Budget airlines like EasyJet make it possible for members of the Erasmus generation to get together, they communicate via Skype and Facebook, and Berlin is currently their dream destination.

Emilia Cincu, 28, a biologist at Humboldt University in Berlin, says she doesn't feel homesick. When she misses someone, she doesn't travel to her native Timisoara, the third-largest city in Romania. Instead, she buys a ticket to London or Budapest, the places where her friends live today.

Although immigration from Southern Europe has increased dramatically in the last two years, Germany is even more popular among Eastern Europeans. In 2011, more than two-thirds of all immigrants from other EU countries to Germany hailed from Eastern Europe, mostly from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Some are extremely poor, and after being lured to Germany by shady brokers, they work for starvation wages in construction or even become homeless. Last week, after a debate over a new wave of poverty migration, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a member of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU), promptly threatened to create an "entry barrier" for "the kinds of people" who are trying to abuse Germany's social welfare benefits.

But it's also true that almost one in three Eastern European immigrants is college educated. These are not people who come to Germany to live on the fringes of society -- they are at its center or at the top.

Emilia Cincu's parents -- her father is an engineer and her mother a librarian -- have rarely left Romania. They never had the opportunity to live the kind of life their daughter now enjoys. Cincu was only five when the Iron Curtain fell. After finishing her degree, she began to travel, study, work and, above all, live where she pleased. Before coming to Berlin, she worked in research in Budapest and Vienna. She only goes to Timisoara two or three times a year, usually on holidays, to visit her parents.

She found her post-doctoral position on the Internet. She sent an email with her curriculum vitae to various colleges, and Humboldt University was the first to respond. Just after arriving in Berlin, she wrote down a list of the places she wanted to see immediately: the Botanical Garden, the Spandau Citadel, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. With a map of the city in hand, she explored Berlin's streets, and in the end she got lost on purpose. The same ritual has worked well for Cincu in every new city she has visited.

She came to Germany because it offered her a job, a salary and time to do her research. Will she stay? It depends, she says. She is submitting her dissertation this summer, and if she receives a better offer after that, she'll move on.

Germany Must Offer Its New Migrants a Reason To Stay
The generation of Carolina López, Enrico Orselli and Emilia Cincu is coming to Germany because Europe's biggest economy is stable. The crisis has driven people away from their native countries, but if they are to make Germany their permanent home, it has to offer them some good reasons to stay.

"For a long time, immigrants were not treated as if they were welcome. Our society isn't capable yet of being as relaxed about diversity as other immigration countries," Manfred Schmidt, president of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, told the newspaper Die Welt.

The fact that a modern economy has to compete for the best minds is something Germany is now trying to learn on the quick. Monika Varnhagen, head of the Central Foreign and Professional Placement Department at Germany's Federal Employment Agency, says that after 2005 she was busy finding jobs abroad for unemployed Germans.

Now she goes to job fairs and conventions to try to convince Southern Europeans to embark on careers in Germany. There is a shortage of engineers, mechanics, geriatric nurses and doctors, people like Pedro Moura dos Santos, 29, and his wife Ana, 30, of Portugal. Moura dos Santos is now working for fan-making company Ziehl-Abegg in Künzelsau, a town in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, and his wife is still looking for a job. Both are trying to learn German quickly.

A few weeks ago, the Labor Ministry launched a €139-million ($183-million) program to cover the cost of German courses for young Europeans in their native countries, followed by internships in Germany.

Emilio García Barea, 30, from Cádiz in the Andalusia region of Spain, had been out of work for three months. On Dec. 6, 2011, the Stuttgart Employment Agency brought him and 95 other Spanish engineers to Baden-Württemberg, where they met with business executives looking for personnel. They were given two days to find a match, and 33 of the engineers received job offers. García Barea now works for Seeber & Partners, an engineering firm near Stuttgart. His personnel manager says: "Motivated and flexible employees like Emilio García are very hard to find in Germany these days."

García Barea has an open-ended contract and is no longer worried that his bank account will be empty at the end of the month. At first, he attended a German course at an adult education center every evening. His brothers are both attorneys. They stayed in Cádiz, where they are still unemployed. "There is no future in Spain," he says.

New Immigrants often Welcomed

He likes his work and the pay is good, but living in a small town in Baden-Württemberg takes some getting used to. Sometimes he drives into Stuttgart to spend some time in a pub in the eastern part of the city. It's a local hangout for Spanish guest workers who came to Germany decades ago. They watch Spanish football, drink beer and converse in Spanish. Some have learned less German in 50 years than García Barea has in 15 months.

The new immigrants are no exotic models of multiculturalism, living in alternative big-city neighborhoods. In fact, they are often welcomed in conservative environments, such as small towns and villages, because they are needed.

In Deggendorf on the edge of the Bavarian Forest, District Administrator Christian Bernreiter (CSU) explains to locals why the region urgently needs more foreign workers. A few weeks ago, he flew all the way to the Black Sea, to the Bulgarian city of Burgas, to find trainees for his county.

When he spoke to 70 graduates of local high schools at the city's Marine Casino, Bernreiter's sentences were filled with expressions like "welcome," "we need," "we offer," and "a future in Germany."

There is a German-language Goethe high school in Burgas, and young people also learn German at vocational specialty schools for tourism, electronics and mechatronics. This is Bernreiter's third trip to Burgas. His county is running out of young talent. By 2028, the number of young people between 16 and 19 in Deggendorf is expected to have declined by a third. Last year, almost a third of the roughly 3,000 training positions in the Deggendorf Employment Agency district were left unfilled.

Before he went to Bulgaria, says Bernreiter, he looked around just across the border in the Czech Republic, but the area's ambitious young people had already left for Great Britain, Ireland or France. "It was a mistake to assume that the foreigners would show up when we needed them," says Bernreiter. "And why should they, after hearing for years that we don't really like them here?"

Thirty-six trainees from Burgas have moved to Deggendorf since 2011. Dimitar Menchev, 19, arrived last August and is currently installing electric cables in the Golden Angel pub on the Deggendorf town square. "I want to stay in Germany," says Menchev, an electrician's apprentice. He takes six hours of German every Saturday.

Menchev is paid €660 ($867) a month in Deggendorf, which is as much as the combined salaries of his parents at home. His mother works in a bank and his father is an electrician. The company also pays for his language course and two flights home a year. He misses his family and the Black Sea so much that he has already used up his two free flights for this year. There are photos on the wall in his room in Deggendorf, showing Menchev sailing a yawl, as well as the medals he won in regattas. Deggendorf residents organize bicycle trips, barbecues and football matches for the new arrivals. Menchev isn't really participating yet, preferring to spend time with fellow Bulgarians than local Germans. "I have to get my bearings first," he says.

His story is reminiscent of the first wave of recruits 50 years ago, when Germany brought foreign workers into the country. Ordinary German workers were to be trained to become skilled workers, and "to be able to achieve that," said then Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard, "we have to have the relatively primitive work done by foreign workers, as long as this economy continues."

A Perception of Immigrants as Poor Have-Nots

By 1955, Germany had already signed its first recruitment agreement with Italy. Seven other agreements were signed over the years, with Spain, Greece, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia and Yugoslavia. East Germany also imported foreign workers from countries like Vietnam and Cuba. The guest workers were given a right of residence limited to a few years. When their time was up, they had to return home and were replaced by new people from their country.

By the 1970s this system began to fail. Once they had trained workers, companies didn't want to let them go, and the workers themselves were loathe to give up their jobs. Nevertheless, they were still viewed as "guest workers."

When the oil crisis arrived in 1973, the economy collapsed and Germany imposed a moratorium on recruitment. The guest workers were no longer needed. They had been brought in as a human production factor, and Germany treated them the same way when it decided to get rid of them.

The recruitment freeze proved to be a momentous boomerang. The guest workers knew that they had to stay in Germany to keep their residence permits, so many decided to bring their families to live with them. The new immigrants were not as well educated and had more trouble gaining a foothold in the employment market than those who had come before them.

These experiences shaped the perception of immigrants as poor have-nots, people who didn't support society but in fact became a burden on it. Shortly after winning the 1983 election, then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl delivered the German politicians' response to immigration, when he said: "The number of foreigners must be cut in half." His administration passed a law that offered immigrants willing to leave a bonus of 10,000 deutsche marks if they agreed to leave the country for good.

In the early 1980s, 15 conservative, right-wing university professors wrote a "Heidelberg Manifesto," in which they lamented the "infiltration of the German people by the influx of many millions of foreigners and their families, and the foreign infiltration of our language, our culture and our national character." For them, a person was German because of the blood of his parents, not his place of birth. For the left, the fact that people from other countries were able to move to Germany was an act of mercy for the needy, while the right saw it as a threat.

A Culture of Mercy

After the recruitment freeze, there were few opportunities remaining for people from non-EU countries to move to Germany and work in the country. During this time, most new immigrants came because their families were already here, or they were ethnic German immigrants, asylum seekers or refugees. Germany didn't want to be an immigration country, and yet it became the world's third-largest, behind the United States and Russia. In total, almost 11 million people have immigrated to Germany, more than the number of immigrants to Canada. After the recruitment freeze, it wasn't that fewer people were coming -- just fewer qualified people.

Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schröder was the first to attempt to change the status quo. The goal of his "Green Card Initiative" in 2000 was to recruit IT specialists from non-EU countries to come to Germany for at least five years. Nevertheless, the number of applicants remained relatively small.

To address the problem, then-Interior Minister Otto Schily, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), created a commission of experts headed by CDU politician Rita Süssmuth. In July 2001, she unveiled a revision of Germany's immigration policy. The introduction to the document began with the words: "Germany needs immigrants." Two months later, after Sept. 11, 2001, the document disappeared into a drawer. The immigration act that the government and the opposition agreed to three-and-a-half years later retained the recruitment freeze and merely created a few exceptions for university graduates and the self-employed.

A "culture of mercy" has prevailed in Germany until recently, says immigration expert Klaus Bade. When a person asked whether he could immigrate to the United States, he was first told "yes!" and then told what the conditions were. But when a person asked the same question in Germany, he was long told "no, but there are exceptions here and there."

'Germany Greeted Me with Open Arms'
Starnberg. Starnberg sounded good, 36-year-old anesthesiologist Alexandra Mani thought to herself. A year ago, she applied for a job at the Starnberg Hospital, but she didn't realize she would be living in one of the most expensive parts of Germany. She had lost her job in Athens during the crisis. She is married and has a 6-year-old son and a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. Her husband is also a doctor, but his salary was cut in half. The mortgage on their condominium, the car, the private school for their son -- they wouldn't have been able to pay for all of this without Mani's full salary.

Doctors are needed in Germany, especially outside the big cities. Mani promptly received a job offer, partly because she is fluent in German. She studied in Innsbruck, Austria, for six years. The hospital administration found an apartment for her, and she bought the furniture at IKEA. She sees her family every night on video chat, and she flies home to Athens every three weeks.

"Germany greeted me with open arms," says Mani. There is a large Greek community in Munich, but she hardly interacts with fellow Greeks, preferring to spend her free time with German friends on Lake Starnberg. Her husband and the children have already visited her here twice. Now they want to learn German. If Mani doesn't receive an attractive offer in Greece, they will move to Germany as soon as possible.

'We Still Have a Long Way to Go'

Starting out in Germany is rarely as smooth as it was for Mani. Politicians like Labor Minister von der Leyen like to say that Germany has to learn to be a "welcoming culture," and must have something to offer to the newcomers. "We will only be able to attract highly qualified professionals if we can say to them: Your partner and your children are also welcome, and they'll have good prospects and career opportunities in Germany," says von der Leyen. In her view, this means good daycare facilities and schools, as well as better information and support for families. "We still have a long way to go," says von der Leyen.

German companies also have a long way to go. They complain about not being able to find qualified candidates, but are they making an effort to attract Europe's young elite? According to an OECD study, nine out of 10 German companies had unfilled positions between July 2010 and July 2011, but only one in four companies searched for candidates outside Germany. In the case of small and mid-sized companies, only 15 percent consider looking abroad. "There is a widespread belief that recruiting personnel abroad is complex and unreliable," writes the OECD. Dieter Hundt, president of the German Employers Association, urges businesses to be more open-minded. "We have to send a clear message to people in other countries that we urgently need them and that they're welcome in our country. In this regard, we certainly didn't take advantage of every opportunity in the past."

Many economic migrants from Southern European countries set out for Germany on a wing and a prayer, without a work contract or any social connections. They often turn to communities of people from their native countries already in Germany. To make ends meet while looking for work and learning German, they try to find menial jobs in places like the kitchens of Greek and Spanish restaurants. But those kinds of jobs are in short supply, at least in big cities.

There are also few government-run help centers, and when they do exist they are largely unknown, says immigration expert Bade. He advocates establishing welcome centers where immigrants can receive counseling on important practical issues, such as how to find a job and where to find an apartment.

Germans Sometimes Make Life Hard for Immigrants

The example of Schwäbisch Hall shows how difficult Germans sometimes make life for immigrants. In early 2012, a Portuguese journalist wrote an article about the small city in Baden-Württemberg, about the peace and quiet, the beautiful half-timbered houses -- and the available jobs. One sentence stood out, in particular: "Get to the know the German city that wants to put Portuguese to work." Soon afterwards, employees at the Schwäbisch Hall Job Center received more than 2,500 job applications from Portugal in their email inboxes.

One was from Lisbon native Isabel do Espírito Santo. She was turned down immediately, but Espírito Santo wasn't about to give up that quickly. She gave away her furniture to friends and neighbors, canceled her apartment lease and booked a flight to Stuttgart. In Portugal, she and her husband had built up an automotive supply company with 40 employees. The company lost its contracts during the crisis and went out of business. The marriage also ended in divorce. Espírito Santo took a job as a dental assistant, earning €600 a month.

At first she thought Schwäbisch Hall looked like the photos in the magazine article. She went to the city hall to ask about places to stay. She was told that she had to find a job before they could help her. She went to the employment agency to ask about jobs, saying that she had come from Portugal. An employee gave her a piece of paper that said, in Portuguese: If you are here from Portugal, please go back home. Unfortunately, we don't have a job for you.

She was finally sent to an interview with a trucking company, where she was told: "The work is too hard for you." But she took the job anyway, and now she drives a forklift and packs crates. She earns €8.50 an hour, or about €1,000 a month, after taxes. It's enough to support herself, but no more than that. The only items in her room are the suitcase and clothing she brought with her.

Still, Espírito Santo wants Germany to become her new home and not some kind of temporary way station. She says she wants to "participate in this society," doesn't want to be a traditional guest worker and has taken a second job working in a restaurant kitchen.

One of her sons joined her in November and now works at the trucking company. Espírito Santo would like to improve her German. But her coworkers speak either Russian or Turkish, and she can't afford a language course at the Goethe Institute or adult education center. At first, the trucking company paid for one hour of instruction per week, when the story about Schwäbisch Hall and the Portuguese was still in the papers.

For few years now, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has been offering German courses for people from non-EU countries. But citizens of EU countries, like Espírito Santo, can only attend the courses if there are available slots, and are required to pay a fee.

About two-thirds of the immigrants arriving in 2011 came from EU countries. In the long run, however, Germany will only be able to satisfy its demand for qualified immigrants if it becomes attractive for people from all over the world. "Germany has to set its sights beyond Europe," says Christine Langenfeld, the chairwoman of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration.

Merkel's Government More Progressive Than It Appears

The country is much further along than it appears. Ironically, the conservative coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) has quietly and persistently removed one hurdle after another for immigrants, while others were busy deriding immigrants as "social freeloaders."

The German government introduced the so-called EU Blue Card in August 2012. The program allows non-EU immigrants to work in Germany, as long as they can furnish proof of a job offer with a minimum annual salary of €46,000. A university degree is also required. The minimum salary requirement is lowered to €36,000 for professions in which there are few domestic candidates. Foreign university graduates can apply for a six-month visa to look for a job. According to the OECD, the reforms have turned Germany into "one of the countries with the fewest restrictions" for highly qualified immigrants.

Universities are also helping to recruit qualified young professionals from abroad. In 2011, almost 73,000 young people who had finished high school abroad began attending German universities -- the largest number ever. A quarter of the young academics have already decided to stay, including many Chinese and Russians. But Germany still needs more highly qualified workers.

Labor Minister Von der Leyen is also convinced that it isn't just foreign university graduates that Germany needs. She also wants to introduce a new employment regulation for consideration in Chancellor Merkel's cabinet before national elections in September that would also make immigration easer for skilled workers.

The city of Hamburg also wants to make things easier for prospective immigrants. It has established a "Welcome Center" where various bureaucratic requirements can be addressed at the same time. Newcomers to Hamburg can go there to apply for a residence permit, register a place of residence or receive advice on how to secure a place for their child in a daycare center -- all in one place. Almost every employee speaks English.

The center is in a classical building in downtown Hamburg, with high ceilings, comfortable armchairs and glass walls. Visitors are greeted with a friendly handshake instead of being told to take a number and wait. They are asked a few questions by an accommodating advisor, and in the end they are given the documents they need and sent on their way with best wishes. Hamburg is already trying out a new German approach, by telling its qualified immigrants: Please, stay here!

REPORTED BY SVEN BECKER, MARKUS DETTMER, MARKUS FLOHR, ÕZLEM GEZER, SIMONE KAISER, ANN-KATHRIN NEZIK, CHRISTOPH PAULY, MAXIMILIAN POPP AND JANKO TIETZ

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


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February 28, 2013

Discord Remains at Vatican as Pope Benedict Departs

By RACHEL DONADIO
IHT

VATICAN CITY — As the sun set on Rome and on his turbulent eight-year papacy, Pope Benedict XVI, a shy theologian who never seemed entirely at home in the limelight, was whisked by helicopter into retirement on Thursday.

But while Benedict, 85, retires to a life of prayer, study, walks in the garden and piano practice, he leaves in his wake a Vatican hierarchy facing scandals and intrigue that are casting a shadow over the cardinals entrusted with electing his successor in a conclave this month.

Even as he met with the cardinals on his final day as pope, pledging “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor and urging the cardinals to “work like an orchestra” harmonizing for the good of the church, the discord was apparent.

On Thursday, the Vatican confirmed reports that it had ordered wiretaps on the phones of some Vatican officials as part of a leaks investigation. Other cardinals were increasingly outspoken about the crisis of governance during Benedict’s papacy.

That failing is expected to be much in the cardinals’ minds as they begin meeting informally on Monday to discuss the state of the papacy and determine when to start the conclave, which could be as soon as next week. Earlier this week, Benedict changed church law to allow the cardinals to start the conclave before the traditional 15-day waiting period after the papacy is vacant.

In his final blessing to the faithful, who gathered outside the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo where he will live for several months, Benedict appeared tired, and even relieved, saying that from now on “I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.”

His towering predecessor, John Paul II, wasted away with Parkinson’s disease; Benedict, whose life’s work was aimed at reconciling faith and reason, opted for a short farewell.

“Good night, and thank you,” he said in Italian to the boisterous but small crowds at Castel Gandolfo, just over two weeks after he shocked the world on Feb. 11 by announcing his retirement, the first in the modern history of the church.

Earlier, thousands of people stood in a hushed St. Peter’s Square, forming half-moon crowds around giant video screens showing the pope’s departure as sea gulls wheeled in the waning light. Many looked up and waved as his helicopter circled the square. “Viva il Papa!” several shouted. One banner read simply “Danke!!!”

Katie Martin, 29, an aspiring firefighter from Manhattan Beach, Calif., said she delayed her visit to Rome by a week to witness the historic event. “I love my faith,” she said. “I love my church. I have a great love for the Holy Father.”

Like many, Ms. Martin said she was sad to see Benedict’s papacy end. “But I’m also really excited to see what’s next,” she said.

In many ways, Benedict never seemed to fit into his red shoes. He seemed uninterested in the spectacle of power, awkward even raising his arms to greet crowds, forever disappointing photographers. On a 2009 visit to the Holy Land, he did not stop at the muddy pool in the Jordan River where Jesus is believed to have been baptized, passing by on a golf cart instead.

His critics say that on his watch, the Vatican suffered a profound crisis of governance. On Thursday, Panorama magazine reported that the Vatican Secretariat of State had ordered wiretaps on the phones of several Vatican prelates as part of an investigation into the scandal in which confidential documents were leaked to the news media and the author of a tell-all book.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Thursday that magistrates of the Vatican “might have authorized some wiretaps or some checks,” but nothing on a significant scale.

Vatican watchers say the wiretapping was a shocking breach of trust and an indication of the high levels of distrust since the leaks scandal. But Father Lombardi dismissed that. The idea of “an investigation that creates an atmosphere of fear of mistrust that will now affect the conclave has no foundation in reality,” he said.

Earlier this week, he said that the pope decided that a dossier on the leaks affair compiled by three cardinals would be shown only to the cardinals entering the conclave.

Although Benedict has said that he is retiring “freely and for the good of the church,” leaving its guidance to someone younger and stronger than he, the scandals have weighed on the cardinals entering the conclave. Vatican experts also say that the very notion that a pope can retire is bound to condition the voting.

In one of his concluding acts on Thursday, Benedict addressed more than 100 cardinals who will elect his successor. He told them, “I will be close to you in prayer” as the next leader of the church is chosen. All were appointed either by him or by his predecessor, John Paul, and are thus seen as doctrinal conservatives.

“Among you is also the future pope, whom I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience,” Benedict told the cardinals. It is the pledge that all cardinals make to a new pope, but also seemed to reflect the concern among some prelates about what it will mean to have two popes in the Vatican.

As pope emeritus, Benedict intends to reside in Castel Gandolfo for several months and then return to the Vatican to live in an apartment in a convent whose gardens offer a perfect view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica.

In his final audience on Wednesday, Benedict said that his papacy had been marked by light but also had moments of darkness, when at times, he said, the Lord “seemed to be sleeping.”

There were moments of crisis, as in 2009 when the pope revoked the excommunication of four schismatic bishops, one of whom had denied the scope of the holocaust; and a speech in 2006, when he cited a Byzantine emperor saying that Islam brought things “evil and inhuman.”

Benedict seemed most at ease speaking off the cuff, as he did to priests from the Diocese of Rome last month, where he offered reflections on his experience as a young theologian at the liberalizing Second Vatican Council, which introduced changes he saw as a continuation of church history, not a rupture with it.

Vatican experts said the pope was devastated when the leader of the ultra-traditionalist Society of St. Pius X, whose excommunication he had revoked to global outrage, refused to acknowledge the teachings of Vatican II, a condition of bringing the group back into full communion.

Speaking privately, many in the Vatican hierarchy saw Benedict as a German, with all the stereotypes of the role — reserve, discipline, stubbornness, an aversion to outpourings of emotion. Asked about his strengths, many called him a theologian, some in praise, others with barely disguised contempt, as opposed to a man of government.

Some brimmed with respect for Benedict’s great learning. Long after his papacy has receded from the headlines, “this pope will be remembered for his magisterium,” or his teachings and writings, said Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Dan Wakin contributed reporting from Vatican City, and Alan Cowell from Paris.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 28, 2013

An earlier version of the credit for the picture with this article showing a helicopter flying over St. Peter’s Square misstated the surname of the photographer. He is Alberto Pizzoli, not Alberto Pizzolialberto.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
02/28/2013 05:42 PM

Castel Gandolfo: The Colorful History of the Pope's Summer Home

By René Schlott

Pope Benedict has withdrawn to Castel Gandolfo while his successor is chosen. But few know that the papal summer residence of almost 400 years has a curious history, serving as a hideout for Jews, delivery ward and target for paparazzi.

In the late evening of Aug. 6, 1978, a heavy iron chain was pulled across the door of the papal summer palace. All the lights in the area were turned off, and the flag was set at half-mast. The fountain on the village square in front of the palace ran dry, and the bells of the nearby church began to ring. These symbolic signs marked the end of Pope Paul VI's term in office. He had died at his summer residence at 9:40 p.m., a few hours after having a massive heart attack.

Just like his predecessors, Pope Paul had withdrawn from the Vatican when the hot summer months began, heading to Castel Gandolfo to enjoy the cool climate and relax during long strolls through the gardens at the almost 400-year-old papal palace.

At 8 p.m. on Feb. 28, 2013, the third papacy in the history of the Catholic Church will come to an end at this history-rich location in the Alban Hills, where Pope Benedict XVI will go while a conclave is held to choose his successor. It's a striking place, and not just because of its long history. It was here that Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96) once ordered the bloody persecution of early Christians. Roman emperors had come to appreciate the climate it offered at 426 meters (1,400 feet) above sea level, and Domitian had a palace erected here. Around 1200, the Gandolfi family from Genoa, which Castel Gandolfi would later be named after, built a villa here. Since 1596, the main part of what is now the papal summer residence has been owned by the Vatican.

Italian Occupiers

Urban VIII (1623-1649) had the massive summer palace built and was the first pope to vacation here. German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited the town in 1787, while on his famous Italian journey, and gushingly praised its idyllic location on the deep-blue Lake Albano. The popes held it in equal esteem, and almost all of them would make annual pilgrimages to the site.

This tradition came to a sudden end in 1870, when Italian soldiers took control of the Papal State and then-Pope Pius IX declared himself a "prisoner in the Vatican" in protest. Legend holds that the pope lived out the last eight years of his life without setting foot outside Rome's Apostolic Palace, the residence of modern-day popes. The same fate awaited his successors, leaving Castel Gandolfo to fall into a type of hibernation for several decades.

This all ended in 1929, when the Lateran Treaty, signed with what was then the Kingdom of Italy, guaranteed the Holy See its summer residence in perpetuity. Castel Gandolfo was designated part of the territory of the Vatican City State and would enjoy extraterritorial status from then on.

Secret Refuge for Jews

In 1934, Pius XI became the first 20th-century pope to visit the palace. He had the old masonry repaired and outfitted the residence with radios, telephones, heating, electric lights and an elevator. A year later, he celebrated the establishment of a new telescope for the Vatican Observatory on the palace's roof. The astronomers of the Papal See migrated from the Vatican Gardens to Castel Gandolfo because all the electric lights in the Eternal City had made things too bright. Along with them came the Vatican's meteorite collection, one of the most significant collections of cosmic rocks in the world.

Pius XI also had greenhouses and cattle barns set up so that the Vatican could provide itself with food -- a far-sighted decision. In May 1938, when Hitler made an official state visit to Rome to meet with Mussolini and the entire city was decked with Nazi flags, Pius XI and Cardinal Secretary of State Pacelli, the later Pope Pius XII, demonstrably withdrew to Castel Gandolfo. The pope was intent on avoiding having to meet with the German dictator, whom he had sharply criticized -- without naming Hitler directly -- as a "prophet of delusion" a year earlier in his "Mit brennender Sorge" ("With burning concern") encyclical. Pius XI remained at Castel Gandolfo for six months before returning to Rome in late October 1938, where he died shortly thereafter.

In August 1939, the new pope, Pius XII, made a global appeal to the world from Castel Gandolfo: "Nothing is lost with peace, everything may be lost in a war." But his warnings were ignored and, within a few years, both war and Nazi terror would also reach Rome and its surroundings. In 1943, German soldiers would occupy the Eternal City and began deporting Roman Jews. Pius XII initially didn't react to the persecution of Jews taking place outside his windows. Later, he would order churches, cloisters and other Vatican properties -- including Castel Gandolfo -- to be used to shelter for those being targeted.

Several hundred Jews were supposedly kept hidden and provided with kosher food at the summer residence. Gaining more precise information about this matter is difficult because the related Vatican files are still sealed. What is certain, however, is that in October 1943, the Vatican dispatched a contingent of papal Palatine Guards to stand guard at Castel Gandolfo. This unit was then gradually strengthened by volunteers until the Vatican exclave was protected by thousands.

Papal Bedroom as Birthing Chamber

In the spring of 1944, thousands of people from nearby took advantage of the special legal status of Castel Gandolfo to seek refuge from Allied bombing raids. The territory of the neutral Vatican was considered inviolable and safe from attack. Even so, on the morning of February 10, a bomb dropped from a plane fell on the summer residence right when a crowd of people was gathering for the distribution of the daily milk ration. Over the following days, more than 500 corpses were dug out from beneath the wreckage.

At roughly the same time, the papal chambers had come to resemble a maternity ward. Pregnant refugees had sought safety there, and the screams of newborn babies were heard in the papal bedroom. The Vatican says that some 40 children were born at Castel Gandolfo during this period. In thanks, many mothers even named their children after Pius XII, christening them Pio, the Italian version of Pius, or Eugenio, the pope's given first name.

Pius XII himself didn't return to Castel Gandolfo until 1946, and his last visit was on July 24, 1958. By that point, he only had two months to live. In early October, he suffered two strokes in the papal summer residence, which left him in agony for several days. For the first time, the eyes of the world were directed not on Rome, but on Castel Gandolfo, some 25 kilometers away.

'I Want the Dead Pope Live!'

The TV crews arrived, Vatican Radio set up a makeshift radio studio in the summer palace, and newspapers dispatched special correspondents, who were forced to sit outside its doors around the clock. In the competition to be the first to report the pope's death, there were a number of premature announcements. The news coordinator in Brussels of Eurovision, the pan-European television network that was launched in 1950 to share content (and that organizes the annual song contest), reportedly exhorted his counterparts at Rai, the Italian public broadcaster, to stay vigilant with the words "I want the dead pope live!" He finally died early on the morning of Oct. 9, 1958.

John Paul II precipitated a media event of a completely different sort, as the first pope to use the papal summer residence for athletic activities. He played tennis, kicked around a ball with the sons of the gardeners and swam laps in a pool specially built for him. To those who criticized the pool's construction, he countered that electing a new pope would be even more expensive. Paparazzi took advantage of the opportunity and snapped photographs of the pope in his swimming trunks.

In the mid-1980s, the Polish pope once again made his summer residence a topic of conversation by inviting prominent philosophers and theologians for visits. During the so-called Castel Gandolfo Talks, held in the Swiss Hall, the pope would sit in his armchair in the corner listening in silence. If he was interested in or disagreed with something in one of the lectures, he would invite the person who delivered it to eat lunch with him in his dining room.

A Place for Decisions

Benedict XVI, the professor pope, continued this tradition of inviting prominent figures to the summer residence. In addition to former Ph.D. students and classmates, he would host others at Castel Gandolfo, including church critic Hans Küng, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bernand Fellay, the superior general of the ultraconservative Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), and the ambassadors of several Muslim countries. The latter were quickly summoned to Gandolfo in September 2006 to smooth things over after he had sparked an uproar with an address he delivered in the German city of Regensburg that leading figures in Islam criticized as "hate speech."

The elderly pope is now withdrawing to Castel Gandolfo while his successor is being chosen in Rome. But there he will also be confronted with the dark sides of his papacy. This residence in the Alban Hills might have also been the place where he reached his decision to step down. It was here that he withdrew to in early April 2012, after an exhausting trip to Mexico and Cuba and the energy-sapping Easter celebrations.

Less than a year later, he is returning here from Rome as a pope emeritus. Once his successor is installed, he will return to the Vatican and reside in the Mater Ecclesiae monastery.

This article originally appeared in German on einestages.de, SPIEGEL ONLINE's history portal.




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« Reply #4843 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:34 AM »


Venezuelans back Hugo Chávez to win 'battle for life'

President, who has cancer in pelvic region, has not been seen in public for months, but 58% believe he will recover

Associated Press in Caracas
guardian.co.uk, Friday 1 March 2013 09.08 GMT   

Hugo Chávez is still fighting for his life, said the country's vice-president on Thursday night, yet a recent poll says nearly three in five Venezuelans believe their president will return to power.

Nicolas Maduro, Chávez's presumed successor, said on television that his boss "is battling there for his health, for his life, and we're accompanying him".

The vice-president had characterised Chávez's condition similarly on 20 December, saying the president "is fighting a great battle … for his life, for his health".

Chávez has not spoken nor been seen in public since before his fourth operation in Cuba on 11 December for an unspecified cancer in the pelvic area.

The government says he has been breathing with the help of a tracheal tube after surviving a serious respiratory infection. It says Chávez returned on 18 February and is at a military hospital in Caracas for continued treatment for "respiratory insufficiency".

Despite speculation by doctors not involved in Chávez's treatment that it is most likely palliative, designed only to make him more comfortable in his remaining days, many Venezuelans apparently believe – or want to believe – he is on the mend.

"The president's prolonged absence and his critical situation have not been converted into massive pessimism about his return," respected pollster Luis Vicente Léon tweeted on Thursday.

He said nearly 58% of Venezuelans believed Chávez would recover while about 30% believed he would not return to power and 12.5% said they did not know what would happen. Meanwhile, 1% believed Chávez was never sick.

Léon, chief of the Datanálisis polling firm, told Associated Press that the 11 February poll of 1,198 people had an error margin of three percentage points.

He said he thought the poll reflected people's desire not to believe the worst about someone who is dear to them, just as people resisted accepting that a close relative might be dying.

Léon also said he thought reports of government officials holding hours-long meetings with Chávez had contributed to the belief of many Venezuelans that Chávez would return.

"The government has sent permanent messages that President Chávez will return, that he meets with the vice-president for five hours," Leon noted.

He said people did not necessarily believe that, however, as the poll found 44% think the government has not been transparent in discussing Chávez's health.

In his televised remarks, Maduro called for Venezuelans to keep praying for Chávez and remain loyal to the committed socialist who has been their president for more than 14 years.

"Do you know why Comandante Chávez neglected his health and has been battling [cancer] for nearly two years?" he said. "Because he completely surrendered body and soul and forgot all his obligations to himself in order to give himself to the homeland."

Chávez, 58, has acknowledged that he neglected his health in recent years, often staying up late and consuming cup after cup of coffee to remain alert.

The president has undergone surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments since June 2011, when he first announced his cancer diagnosis. He has not specified the type of cancer nor the exact location in his pelvic region where his tumours have been removed.

On 15 February, the government released four photographs of Chávez lying in a bed in Cuba with his two daughters by his side. They were the only images of him published since early December.

Re-elected in October, Chávez was scheduled to have been sworn in on 10 January, but the supreme court said the swearing-in could be delayed.


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« Reply #4844 on: Mar 01, 2013, 08:43 AM »


The Christian Science Monitor

How did supermassive black holes get so big? New data give a clue.

By Pete Spotts, Staff writer / February 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm EST

For the first time, scientists have measured the spin of a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy – a measurement that could help explain how these objects got so large.

Supermassive black holes are thought to occupy the center of virtually every galaxy in the universe. They tip the cosmic scales at millions or billions of times the sun's mass.

The supermassive black hole in question spins furiously at the center of the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy, formally known as NGC 1365. It lies some 56 million light-years away in the constellation Fornax. The black hole at its center has 2 million times the mass of the sun.

Putting a miles-per-hour number on the rate of the spin is tough because a black hole has no real surface and no timing markers, explains Fiona Harrison, an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the lead scientist behind NASA's NuSTAR orbiting X-ray telescope, one of two X-ray telescopes that contributed to the discovery.

Instead, scientists describe the rate in terms of the energy needed to sustain the spin. This black hole's spin is sustained by an amount of energy equivalent to the energy released by a billion stars shining for a billion years, says Dr. Harrison, who is a member of a team reporting the results in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

"That's a huge amount of rotational energy," she says.

Indeed, it represents 84 percent of the maximum spin rate predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, adds Guido Risaliti, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., who was the lead author of the paper in Nature.

The supermassive black hole's high spin rate provides a direct clue as to how it grew, researchers say.

"We believe that these black holes were born when the universe was only about 10 percent of its current age," said Arvind Parmar, mission manager for the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton orbiting X-ray telescope, during a press briefing Thursday afternoon. Back then, Dr. Parmar says, these objects would have tipped the cosmic scales at 20 or 30 times the sun's mass.

They can grow as galaxies collide and their central black holes merge. If both black holes are spinning in the same direction, the merger would result in a black hole with amped-up spin. Likewise, if the black hole continuously feeds on material in its host galaxy in what's called ordered accretion, the spin would accelerate as well. If feeding is random, however, spin rates would be relatively slow.

Thus, for this black hole, the results imply either constant feeding, a merger, or both, Parmar suggests.

Now that researchers have demonstrated that a supermassive black hole's spin can be measured, the next step is to observe these objects in ever more-distant galaxies that span a large stretch of cosmic time.

"This will allow us to probe the importance of accretion and the importance of mergers in creating the universe we see today," he says.

Measuring a supermassive black hole's rate of spin represents a 20-year-old problem in astrophysics that researchers were able to solve with three days' worth of observations from NuSTAR and XMM-Newton.

The X-rays appear thanks to energetic charged particles that are accelerated by a black hole's magnetic field. The particles form into jets that vault into space from the black hole's north and south poles, streaming for distances that can top 1 million light-years.

The region of a jet with the most intense X-ray emissions lies at the end nearest the black hole. These X-rays can in effect be reflected by the swirling disk of material falling into the supermassive black hole.

Meanwhile, the black hole's enormous gravity tugs on the very fabric of space-time itself as the object spins, distorting the disk of infalling material. The largest amount of distortion appears in the region nearest the black hole's event horizon – the point of no return for infalling material. This distortion shows up in the spectra of the disk material, carried by the X-rays that the material reflects. The brightest, most distorted spectra provide a measure of the black hole's spin.

Between the two telescopes, the researchers were able to measure iron's X-ray spectra from the black hole's vicinity with higher precision, in more detail, and over a wider range of X-ray energies than previous instruments could. This not only allowed them to zero in on emissions closest to the black hole, but it also allowed them to rule out competing explanations for the spectra they recorded.


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