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« Reply #5385 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:43 AM »

March 28, 2013

Myanmar’s Leader Says He May Use Force to Halt Deadly Rioting

By THOMAS FULLER
IHT

BANGKOK — President Thein Sein of Myanmar said Thursday that he was prepared to use force to quell the religious rioting that has shaken his country, answering calls even from longtime democracy advocates for more forceful security measures.

“I am firmly committed to use the power to deploy the security forces vested in me by the Constitution,” Mr. Thein Sein said in a televised speech, his first public comments since anti-Muslim rioting in central Myanmar killed at least 40 people last week.

Mr. Thein Sein said the use of force would be a “last resort to protect the lives and safeguard the property of the general public.”

Five decades of military rule ended two years ago, easing repression in Myanmar, also known as Burma. But the reduction in social controls has led to an increase in sectarian and ethnic tensions. In western Myanmar over the past year, Buddhists have led attacks on a Muslim ethnic group, the Rohingya, and mosques and houses have been destroyed in a number of areas.

But the violence in central Myanmar last week was the most ferocious. In the city of Meiktila, rioting started on March 20 after a dispute in a Muslim-owned gold shop. Buddhist mobs killed Muslims after pulling them from homes and schools, driving around 12,000 people into shelters.

Mr. Thein Sein did not mention Buddhism or Islam in his remarks, but he noted that the country’s Constitution “guarantees the right of all citizens to worship freely any religion they choose.”

He said he was “deeply saddened” by the killings but said the violence was part of the challenges the country faced as it rebuilt itself.

“We must expect these conflicts and difficulties to arise during our period of democratic transition,” he said.

As a measure of the deep concern over the rioting in the country, U Min Ko Naing, a former political prisoner who for years campaigned for an end to authoritarian rule, praised Mr. Thein Sein’s speech on Thursday and called for more forceful action by the security forces that were once his chief adversaries.

“Security forces must not hesitate to stop those who kill and riot,” Mr. Min Ko Naing said by telephone. “The problem was that security forces failed to protect innocent people from mobs.”

Mr. Thein Sein also appeared to be directing his comments at diplomats and potential foreign investors who have watched the rioting with alarm. As soon as the speech was given, a translation was posted to a Facebook page by Thant Myint-U, a historian who also serves as an adviser to the president.

This week, the authorities have imposed curfews in five townships in the Bago region of central Myanmar after mobs burned down mosques, houses and shops. Bago borders Yangon, the country’s commercial capital. Troops have been sent in to maintain order in the troubled areas, and the president met for several hours with his closest aides and ministers on Wednesday to discuss how the government should respond.

As in other regions, the rioters in Bago have included men dressed in the saffron robes of Buddhist monks. But one witness to the rioting in Bago, U Kyaw Naing Moe, said one of the monks had used large earth-moving equipment to destroy a mosque in the town of Okpho. It was puzzling, he said, that a monk would know how to operate what is relatively complex machinery.

“We are now confused as to whether the monks are real monks or not,” Mr. Kyaw Naing Moe said. Some officials have said they fear the rioting has been orchestrated by unidentified groups.

Details of the most recent attacks have been sparse, partly because the mobs continue to be hostile to journalists. Last week in Meiktila, a man in a monk’s robe held a blade to the neck of an Associated Press photographer and demanded that he hand over the memory chip from his camera.

U Than Htut Aung, the head of Eleven Media, one of the country’s largest private news organizations, said journalists continued to be harassed by mobs in Bago. “The government needs to bring them to justice as soon as possible,” he said.

Wai Moe contributed reporting from Yangon, Myanmar.


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« Reply #5386 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:44 AM »

March 28, 2013

Hong Kong, Shaken by SARS Outbreak in ’03, Keeps Wary Eye on New Virus

By KEITH BRADSHER
IHT

HONG KONG — A decade after severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, swept through Hong Kong and then around the world, the city is among the first to become worried about the emergence and spread of another, genetically related virus in the Middle East.

Medical researchers emphasize that they do not know if the new virus will develop the same ability as SARS to spread from person to person. The World Health Organization is taking a cautious stance.

The health organization announced Tuesday that the virus, known as a coronavirus, had killed 11 of the 17 people infected so far, including a man in Britain who fell ill after traveling to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The health organization asked member governments to report any new cases, but it stopped short of urging any special measures.

“W.H.O. does not advise special screening at points of entry with regard to this event, nor does it recommend that any travel or trade restrictions be applied,” the agency said.

But Hong Kong is already taking preventive measures. Without a single confirmed human case of the new virus in East Asia so far, the government of the autonomous Chinese territory has already begun alerting and training employees at hospitals, clinics and the airport to identify possible cases. Wide-ranging medical research is already under way.

Senior government officials held an extensive exercise on Wednesday to simulate the oversight of the quarantine and treatment of patients and their associates if a single person infected with the new virus arrived at the Hong Kong airport and began spreading it. The Health Department announced that it would “stay vigilant and continue to work closely with the W.H.O. and other overseas health authorities to monitor the latest development of this novel infectious disease.”

No cases have been documented in the United States. In Europe, in addition to the death in Britain, a 73-year-old man died in Germany on Tuesday after being evacuated from the United Arab Emirates a week earlier.

The Hong Kong government’s measures reflect a continued preoccupation with public health — some say an obsession — that came about after nearly 1,800 people in Hong Kong became extremely ill with SARS in a few weeks during the spring of 2003, with 299 of them dying.

“At the moment, I think Hong Kong is likely to be the one with the strongest border control against this new virus for obvious historical reasons,” said Dr. Yuen Kwok-yung, chairman of the infectious diseases section of the microbiology department at Hong Kong University.

Some health experts in the West have been wary of drawing too much attention to the new virus, a coronavirus like SARS. They point out that as researchers have begun looking harder for coronaviruses after the SARS outbreak, they have found more of them.

Much of the research has been done in Hong Kong, which became a leading center for disease research as a British colony before the handover to China in 1997; the bacteria that causes bubonic plague was discovered in Hong Kong in 1894. The World Health Organization has long sent samples from all over Asia to Hong Kong University for testing, and Dr. Yuen and his colleagues at the university played a central role in identifying the SARS virus in 2003 and then tracing its genetic similarities to a virus that infects wild bats.

Hong Kong University researchers are now expressing growing concern about the new coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East, known as novel coronavirus. Dr. Malik Peiris, a co-discoverer of SARS who is the director of the center for influenza research at Hong Kong University, warned in a speech on Tuesday that while SARS faded away after a year, with 8,445 cases and 790 deaths worldwide, two other coronaviruses had jumped from animals to people in the past two centuries and become endemic.

Both of those coronaviruses cause common colds. One of the concerns about the novel coronavirus is that it seems deadlier, having killed more than half of the people with confirmed cases. A study published this week in The Journal of Infectious Diseases by Dr. Yuen and 12 colleagues in Hong Kong and mainland China found that the new virus also infects a wider range of human tissue types than the SARS virus and kills them more quickly.

The new virus also infects cells from a variety of animals, including monkeys, rabbits and pigs, which could offer further opportunities for the new virus to develop greater transmissibility in people. The virus appears genetically close but not identical to viruses found in wild bats in Asia and in Europe.

One big question is whether far more people are being infected without detection, in which case the disease may kill a lower percentage of victims but also be more transmissible. Dr. Yuen said that when 2,400 people were screened recently in Saudi Arabia for antibodies to the virus, none had them.

That suggests that the virus is periodically infecting people from an unknown animal host, but it has not developed the ability to pass easily from person to person, he said. However, the man in Britain who fell ill with the virus after traveling to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan infected two members of his household in Britain before he died of the disease. And one of them, with a pre-existing health problem, has also died.

The H5N1 avian influenza virus has been periodically jumping from birds to people and causing sporadic deaths for 16 years without developing sustained transmissibility among people. On the other hand, the SARS virus appears to have developed transmissibility after only a few months of sporadic infections of people in southern China in late 2002.

For the new virus, “we may be at the 2002 situation at this time, and that would be very, very bad,” Dr. Yuen said. “But this also may be like H5N1.”
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« Reply #5387 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:47 AM »

March 29, 2013

Tibetan Monk Dies in Self-Immolation in China

By EDWARD WONG
IHT

BEIJING — A Tibetan monk killed himself this week by self-immolation near a monastery in western China, according to a report on Thursday by Radio Free Asia, which is financed by the United States government.

The act by Kunchok Tenzin, 28, took place at a major intersection near Mori monastery, to which the monk belonged, in Gansu Province, which has a significant Tibetan population.

The news organization said word of the self-immolation leaked out only two days after the act because of “communications difficulties.”

Chinese security forces have locked down many parts of the Tibetan plateau because of the wave of self-immolations and protests against Chinese rule. At least 114 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in Tibetan regions of China since 2009, according to Radio Free Asia’s count. On Monday, a Tibetan forest ranger, Lhamo Kyab, 43, killed himself by self-immolation in an eastern county of the Tibet Autonomous Region by stepping into a burning wood pile.


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« Reply #5388 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:54 AM »

China to build two more Antarctic ‘research’ bases: officials

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 29, 2013 7:38 EDT

China is to build two extra research stations in Antarctica, where it currently has three facilities, the State Oceanic Administration confirmed on Friday.

A summer base, to be used between December and March, will be built between two of its existing stations — Kunlun and Zhongshan — on the frozen continent, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Kunlun is on the summit of the East Antarctic ice sheet while Zhongshan is 1,280 kilometres away on the Antarctic coast.

The new station will be used to study geology, glaciers, geomagnetism and atmospheric science, Xinhua added.

A new all-year base will also be built in Victoria Land, on the Ross Sea, for multi-disciplinary research on bio-ecology and satellite remote sensing, it said.

An SOA official confirmed the Xinhua report to AFP.

An expedition team is carrying out site inspections and both are to be finished by 2015, the report added.

China’s third existing base, the Great Wall Station, is on King George island off the Antarctic Peninsula.

About 30 countries, all members of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, operate research bases in Antarctica. The pact aims to reduce the likelihood of confrontations over territorial disputes there.

On the other side of the world, China is looking to expand its presence in the Arctic, which is thought could harbour huge natural resources and serve as a shipping route to Europe.

The Antarctic, the target of more than 80 percent of China’s polar expeditions, is China’s main polar focus, a report released last year by Swedish think tank the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.


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« Reply #5389 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:55 AM »

March 28, 2013

Taliban Spread Terror in Karachi as the New Gang in Town

By DECLAN WALSH and ZIA ur-REHMAN
IHT

KARACHI, Pakistan — This seaside metropolis is no stranger to gangland violence, driven for years by a motley collection of armed groups who battle over money, turf and votes.

But there is a new gang in town. Hundreds of miles from their homeland in the mountainous northwest, Pakistani Taliban fighters have started to flex their muscles more forcefully in parts of this vast city, and they are openly taking ground.

Taliban gunmen have mounted guerrilla assaults on police stations, killing scores of officers. They have stepped up extortion rackets that target rich businessmen and traders, and shot dead public health workers engaged in polio vaccination efforts. In some neighborhoods, Taliban clerics have started to mediate disputes through a parallel judicial system.

The grab for influence and power in Karachi shows that the Taliban have been able to extend their reach across Pakistan, even here in the country’s most populous city, with about 20 million inhabitants. No longer can they be written off as endemic only to the country’s frontier regions.

In joining Karachi’s street wars, the Taliban are upending a long-established network of competing criminal, ethnic and political armed groups in this combustible city. The difference is that the Taliban’s agenda is more expansive — it seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state — and their operations are run by remote control from the tribal belt along the Afghan border.

Already, the militants have reshaped the city’s political balance by squeezing one of the most prominent political machines, the Pashtun-dominated Awami National Party, off its home turf. They have scared Awami operatives out of town and destroyed offices, gravely undercutting the party’s chances in national elections scheduled for May.

“We are the Taliban’s first enemy,” said Shahi Syed, the party’s provincial head, at his newly fortified office. “They burn my offices, they tear down my flags and they kill our people.”

The Taliban drift into Karachi actually began years ago, though much more quietly. Many fled here after a concerted Pakistani military operation in the Swat Valley in 2009. The influx has gradually continued, officials here say, with Taliban fighters able to easily melt into the city’s population of fellow ethnic Pashtuns, estimated to number at least five million people.

Until recently, the militants saw Karachi as a kind of rear base, using the city to lie low or seek medical treatment, and limiting their armed activities to criminal fund-raising, like kidnapping and bank robberies.

But for at least six months now, there have been signs that their timidity is disappearing. The Taliban have become a force on the street, aggressively exerting their influence in the ethnic Pashtun quarters of the city.

Taliban tactics are most evident in Manghopir, an impoverished neighborhood of rough, cinder-block houses clustered around marble quarries on the northern edge of the city, where illegal housing settlements spill into the surrounding desert.

In recent months, Taliban militants have attacked the Manghopir police station three times, killing eight officers, said Muhammad Aadil Khan, a local member of Parliament.

In interviews, residents describe Taliban militants who roam on motorbikes or in jeeps with tinted windows, delivering extortion demands in the shape of two bullets wrapped in a piece of paper.

A factory owner in Manghopir, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear for his safety, said that several Pashtun businessmen had received demands for $10,000 to $50,000. The figure was negotiable, he said, but payment was not: resistance could result in an assault on the victim’s house or, in the worst case, a bullet to the head.

Mr. Khan said he had not dared to visit his constituency in months. “There is a personal threat against me,” he said, speaking at the headquarters of his party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which represents ethnic Mohajirs, in the city center.

The militant drive has even distressed Manghopir’s most revered residents: the dozens of crocodiles who inhabit a pool near a Sufi shrine here.

The Muslim pilgrims who come here to pay homage to the shrine’s saint have long also brought scraps of meat for his reptile charges.

But lately, as visitor numbers have dwindled from hundreds per day to barely a few dozen, the roughly 120 crocodiles here have grown hungry, according to the animals’ elderly caretaker.

Police officials, militant sources and Pashtun residents say that three major Taliban factions operate in Karachi — the most powerful one, which is rooted in South Waziristan and dominated by the Mehsud tribe, and two others from the Swat and Mohmand areas.

A senior city police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that militant commanders with those factions send operational orders to Karachi from the tribal belt; while some captured militants have tried to justify their activities by citing the authorization of religious clerics in the northwest.

In cases, he added, regular criminal groups have posed as Taliban fighters in a bid to increase their power of intimidation.

Just why the Taliban are adopting such an aggressive profile in Karachi right now is unclear. Some cite the greater number of militants fleeing Pakistani military operations in the northwest; others say it may be the product of dwindling funds, as jihadi donors in the Persian Gulf states turn to the Middle East.

In any event, it has shaken the city’s bloody ethnic politics.

Since the 1980s, armed supporters of the Mohajir-dominated Muttahida Qaumi Movement have engaged in tit-for-tat violence with those of the Pashtun-dominated Awami National Party. In the worst periods, dozens of people have died in a day. Now, faced with a common enemy, figures in both parties say they have declared an uneasy, unofficial truce.

As well as the attack on the Awami party — which have seen it close 44 of its district offices across the city — the Pakistan Taliban claimed responsibility for two attacks on the Muttahida Qaumi Movement — first, a bombing that killed four people, then the assassination of a party parliamentarian.

In a recent interview with The New York Times in North Waziristan, the Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said the group was targeting both parties — as well as President Asif Ali Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party — for their “liberal” policies.

The security forces, shaken out of complacency, have begun a number of major anti-Taliban operations. The latest of those occurred on March 23 when hundreds of paramilitary Rangers raided a residential area in Manghopir, near the crocodile shrine, confiscating a cache of more than 50 weapons and rounding up 200 people, 16 of whom were later identified as militants and detained.

“I don’t think the Taliban would like to set Karachi aflame, because they fear the reaction against them,” said Ikram Seghal, a security consultant in Karachi. “The police and intelligence agencies have very good information about them.”

Other factors limit the Pakistani Taliban’s ingress into Karachi. One of the more provocative ones is that allied militants — particularly the Afghan Taliban — might not like the added publicity. The Afghan wing has long used the city as place to rest and resupply. There are longstanding rumors that the movement’s leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, is taking shelter here, and that his leadership council, known as the Quetta Shura, has met in Karachi.

In such a vast and turbulent city, the Taliban may become just another turf-driven gang. But without a determined response from the security forces, experts say, they could also seek to become much more.

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from North Waziristan, Pakistan.


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« Reply #5390 on: Mar 29, 2013, 05:59 AM »

U.S. accuses Russia of ‘witch hunt’ against activist groups

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, March 28, 2013 17:20 EDT

Russian authorities seem to have launched a “witch hunt” against activist groups that is damaging the country’s path to democracy, a top US official said Thursday.

Washington is concerned by an “unprecedented” wave of raids on at least 100 top Russian and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs), State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland said.

“These inspections appear to be aimed at undermining important civil society activities across the country,” she told journalists.

“The sheer scope of these inspections now… really gives us concern that this is some kind of a witch hunt,” she said, highlighting that religious and educational organizations exempt from strict new laws on financing were also being targeted.

Rights activists have linked the searches to the controversial law forcing foreign-funded NGOs involved in politics to carry a “foreign agent” tag.

“These laws are extremely restrictive,” Nuland said, adding that “they are chilling the environment for civil society, which is taking Russian democracy in the wrong direction.”

Even though Moscow kicked out the US Agency for International Development last year, the United States was still working from the outside to provide aid to those groups inside Russia who wanted to work with them.

Nuland would not go into details, fearing it would “endanger the programs and the receiving organizations.”

Washington has also raised its concerns over the inspections and the new laws with Russian leaders, she added.


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« Reply #5391 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:03 AM »

March 28, 2013

Russia: Opposition Activist’s Trial to Begin in April

By ELLEN BARRY
IHT

The trial of the opposition activist Aleksei A. Navalny, who is accused of embezzling $500,000 from a timber company, will begin between April 15 and 19, and may be lengthy, court officials in Kirov now say. An aide to Mr. Navalny, Anna Veduta, said he had not been officially notified of the date. Mr. Navalny, the most recognizable face of the antigovernment protests that began in 2011, faces several criminal cases opened over the past year. In the embezzlement case, he is accused of organizing a conspiracy to steal timber from KirovLes, a state-owned company, while he served as an adviser to Kirov’s governor four years ago. Mr. Navalny has said he expects to be sent to prison.
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« Reply #5392 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:05 AM »

Bosnia’s ‘Monster of Grbavica’ gets 45 years for war crimes

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 29, 2013 7:19 EDT

A former member of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces was jailed Friday for 45 years for carrying out a reign of terror against Sarajevo civilians during the 1992-1995 war.

Veselin Vlahovic, dubbed the “Monster of Grbavica”, was “found guilty of crimes against humanity and this tribunal is sentencing him to 45 years in prison,” judge Zoran Bozic said.

The sentence against Vlahovic, a Montenegrin, a is the most severe delivered for war crimes by a Bosnian court.

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« Reply #5393 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:11 AM »


Cyprus crisis: limits on bank withdrawals to last 'about a month'

Just 24 hours ago Cypriots were told curbs to prevent money from leaving the country would only be in place for a week

Helena Smith in Nicosia
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 19.59 GMT   

The Cypriot government has warned that banking curbs to prevent money from leaving the country will apply for longer than expected, in a blow to the island's attempts to revive its paralysed economy.

The country's foreign minister, Ioannis Kasoulides, said the regime, including a limit on cash withdrawals at €300 (£253) per day, would last for "about a month" – just 24 hours after the population was told they would only be in place for a week. The capital controls, the first ever to be imposed on a eurozone member state, have been introduced to prevent a cash exodus that would destroy what is left of the Cypriot banking system.

Kasoulides said: "A number of restrictions will be lifted and gradually, probably over a period of about a month according to the estimates of the central bank, the restrictions will be lifted."   

A few hours earlier, Kasoulides had said the Central Bank of Cyprus and the government of Cyprus would review the restrictions each day with a view to "progressive lifting of the measures as soon as circumstances allow".

Capital flight has become a serious threat to the Cypriot economy because the terms of the €10bn bailout from the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union include a haircut of at least 40% on Cypriot bank accounts that hold more than €100,000. In order to prevent account holders from removing the rest of their savings at once, the controls include the cash withdrawal limit and a curb on how much money individuals can take abroad. Anyone leaving the country, whether Cypriot or a visitor, can only take up to €1,000 with them in cash.

Almost no country that has enforced such controls has done so temporarily. Observers have warned that the measures undermine the purpose of monetary union, while there are few in Cyprus who believe they will be lifted soon. Many Cypriots were left confused by the controls, while expressing concern about the effect on their businesses and livelihoods.

As part of the bailout, the island's second largest and most troubled bank, Laiki, will be wound down. People with more than €100,000 in their Laiki accounts could be hit with a levy of 80% – double the amount at the largest bank on the island, Bank of Cyprus. "No matter how much information there is, things are changing all the time," said Costas Kyprianides, a grocery supplier in Nicosia

The news came as the president, Nicos Anastasiades, announced that he would be taking a 25% salary cut "in solidarity" with the Cypriot people. A senior aide to the newly-installed leader said Anatasiades' cabinet ministers had also agreed to slash their wages by 20%.

The move, however, was quickly met with derision. While many Greek Cypriots said it appeared like a deft move, they also pointed out that the British-trained barrister, who has a prominent law firm in Nicosia, belonged to a wealthy elite unlikely to be much affected by the island's economic tumult.

In his most recent tax declaration, released to the public, the 66-year-old politician admitted that his personal dividends from the firm amounted to €500,000, although he is no longer a practicing lawyer. As president, Anastasiades' basic salary is around €110,000 but with additional perks is thought to be well in excess of that figure.

"I burst out laughing when I heard the news," said Christos Neophytou, whose own legal practice is also based in Nicosia. "Anatasiades is a very, very rich man who after all has also used his political connections to expand his law firm. Like lots of people I am totally unimpressed by the decision."

***********

Cypriots show patience and pragmatism as banks reopen

President praises people's 'maturity and collectedness' on day when many feared a panicked run on banks

Helena Smith in Nicosia
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 17.33 GMT   

And finally they opened. After 12 straight days shut, banks in Cyprus reopened for business on Thursday, replenished with cash flown in from the Frankfurt-based European Central Bank and reinforced with guards posted at their doors.

After a rollercoaster few weeks, lenders were taking no chances. In Nicosia, the divided capital, customers who waited under the hot midday sun were handed hastily photocopied printouts listing the arsenal of capital controls the newly bailed-out state has been forced to exact to stop a mass exodus of money from the country.

"Our staff will do whatever is possible to serve you better," said the island's biggest lender, the Bank of Cyprus. "For that reason let us all try and maintain the necessary politeness and patience."

But the plea was not needed. "People are being so understanding," said Evi Akrita, a teller at the bank's branch on Evrou Avenue. "Totally, unbelievably understanding."

The story that emerged was of the extraordinary calm that Greek Cypriots were prepared to exhibit on a day when many inside and outside of Cyprus had feared a potentially devastating run on the island's banks.

Far from panicking, the people now on the frontline of the eurozone debt crisis took a pragmatic approach to the disaster and formed an orderly queue.

"What is the point of being impatient and getting upset?" asked Georgia Pavlou, a lawyer waiting in line at a branch of Laiki, the lender Cypriot authorities have agreed to wind down as part of a €10bn loan agreement with the EU and IMF. "I'm here to withdraw cash for my elderly mother who doesn't have an ATM card. Are the measures fair? No! But I think people understand there is no point in fighting."

Such sentiments were shared by George Antoniou, queuing to withdraw cash from the Bank of Cyprus. "I'm an estate agent and my company has taken out a loan with the Bank of Cyprus," he said. "My biggest worry is paying it back. After all, now that our economy has been destroyed how much business am I going to have? But please write also that I am optimistic. I think we'll get over this."

By midday lenders were voicing amazement. The island's centre-right president, Nicos Anastasides, said on Twitter: "I would like to thank the Cypriot people for their maturity and collectedness shown in their interactions with the Cypriot banks."

At the Co-operative Bank on Ledra Street, the boulevard that bisects Europe's last partitioned city, Yiannos Christodoulou, a senior employee, attributed the quietude to a sense of patriotism not seen since Cyprus imploded into civil conflict after Turkish forces invaded in 1974. "I've been really surprised. No more than a 100 people have walked through our doors in the past two hours," he said. "A lot of our customers are pensioners who are extremely concerned, but I think people don't want to aggravate the situation. They're worried that if they take their deposits out of the banks it will only make things much, much worse."

Depositors in Cyprus are allowed to withdraw up to €300 a day under the draconian restrictions introduced by the finance ministry to "safeguard the stability of the system". "Why would you rush to the bank and queue for hours when you can only take out €300 and most of us can do that with a card?" said Andreas Stylianou, a lawyer lunching with friends on Ledra Street. "The panic attack will come, and when it does it will be in electronic form when the restrictions are lifted. These days you don't have to go into a bank, you move money around at a touch of a button."

Despite the efforts to control the outflow of funds, Cyprus's central bank said on Thursday that foreign depositors had already withdrawn 18% of their cash from the nation's banks in February alone. Private jets presumed to belong to Russian oligarchs who have parked their hoards in Cyprus were spotted at the island's international airport in Larnaca. "Trust in our banking system has been completely demolished. Every foreigner now wants to take his or her money out," said Stylianou.

For the moment it is ordinary Cypriots, particularly those with small and medium-sized businesses, who are feeling the heat. "For the past few weeks we've not been able to pay salaries," sighed Elianora leonidou, who runs the Evohia restaurant in Nicosia. "And that's because we pay our staff with cheques, which are no longer being accepted. It's a problem but luckily everyone is showing a lot of patience and incredible understanding."



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« Reply #5394 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:20 AM »


Italian leader Pier Luigi Bersani fails to form government

President Giorgio Napolitano takes back task of ending political paralysis as lack of firm result unsettles financial markets

Lizzy Davies in Rome
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 22.42 GMT   

After almost a week of fraught talks, dead-end meetings and irate exchanges, Italy's centre-left leader said on Thursday that he had not been able to find enough support among the country's fractured parliament to form a stable government, prompting the country's octogenarian head of state to take the job of ending the gridlock back into his own hands.

Pier Luigi Bersani, the head of the Democratic party (PD), looked tired and dejected as he explained that the six days of consultations he held with other political parties had not yielded "a successful result". Without naming any names, his brief statement referred pointedly to "objections and conditions" set by others which he had not found acceptable.

The day before, Beppe Grillo, the founder of the Five Star Movement (M5S), had spurned the PD head's latest offer of an olive branch and referred to him and other established political leaders as "whore-mongering fathers". Bersani – who was asked by the president, Giorgio Napolitano, last Friday to see if he could find the numbers for a government – refused to engage with the idea of a "grand coalition" involving the centre-right party of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

The inconclusive results of last month's elections have consigned Italy, the eurozone's third-largest economy, to political paralysis – a condition which is unsettling the markets on the sidelines of the crisis in Cyprus. The spread between Italian 10-year bonds and their German equivalents widened to 350 basis points – around 30 points more than before voters went to the polls almost five weeks ago.

On Friday, Napolitano will take on arguably the biggest challenge of his seven-year term as he holds a series of meetings with representatives of the four main political parties in a bid to see if he can find a way out of the deadlock. A statement issued by his office said he would "without delay take steps to allow him to personally ascertain the developments possible".

Quite what those developments could be remain uncertain. Bersani has not formally renounced his attempts to form a government, but most observers expect Napolitano to try to appoint a so-called "president's government" which would rely on the personal authority of the head of state, would be backed by both left and right and would be likely to run along similar technocratic lines as the one he appointed in late 2011.

This is made unusually problematic, however, by the fact that Napolitano, who turns 88 in June, is due to stand down in May.

Under such a scheme, several names have been touted as possible successors to Mario Monti, including Pietro Grasso, the newly elected former anti-mafia magistrate and speaker of the upper house of parliament or senate. He stressed the urgent need for a solid government to be formed. "This country needs at all costs a government to get going again," he said. "The people would not understand; it would almost seem that we were blaming them for not having managed to vote in a way that allowed us to govern."

Such a government would be likely to have a restricted, reformist remit and a short life. A fresh election later this year is a strong possibility.

Monti – whose government is technically still in charge of Italy as the crisis rolls on and will mark its 500th day in office this weekend – will not be sad to be replaced. During a stormy session in the lower house on Wednesday he remarked: "This government can't wait to be relieved of its duty."

*********

Italy: ‘Stop playing’

Il Sole-24 Ore,
 29 March 2013

Five weeks after the general election, PD leader Pier Luigi Bersani declared on March 28 that he was unable to form a government, having failed to persuade the Five Star Movement to back his proposals

The economic daily warns: “Italy needs attention and respect and deserves to be governed”. Latest data show Italian productivity is in decline, youth unemployment is rising further and high taxation is choking business.

Now that the ball is back in the court of president Giorgio Napolitano, who could make his own proposal of a non-partisan government, Il Sole appeals to all political forces to overcome divisions and “do something for the national economy, do it right and quick”.

Full Story:

Just Games

by Roberto Napoletano
March 29, 2013
Il Sole-24 Ore

Almost one in two young people are out of work, every day close dozens of manufacturing companies, the collection of levies and contributions burden on businesses (total tax rate) has arrived at the figure-record 68.3%, the cost of inefficiencies the bureaucratic machine of businesses and households is estimated at 73 billion a year. The irresponsibility of the European political class combined with "flour battered" Cypriot puts a strain on European quality and freshness of the bread which is his savings.

The "political vacuum" Italian does not help if it is true, how true, that we are the first in Europe to pay the bill in a month by canceling an appreciably important hard-won market rates of our bonds. The ratio of government debt to gross domestic product Italian travels to 130%. A massive wave of ground risks being transformed into a new wave of suffering under the blows of the heavy deterioration in domestic demand and an excess of rigidity imposed on healthy banks in provisions. We go through years of decline but we continue to get worse in terms of productivity and the forecast for 2013 gross domestic product (GDP) are still significantly negative compared to a 2012 even terrible. Expects the release of the debts of the Public Administration against companies after an astonishing inability of the government to listen dragged until now an issue that had to be resolved at least six months ago. At stake are tens of billions of work done and never paid by the state (no incentives) that could enter into the system the minimum liquidity necessary to restore at least a little 'confidence. The same, the same, failure to listen has created the "monster" of the new tax on waste, Tares, left to rot in a limbo of irresponsibility that not bode well for either the municipalities or to the taxpayer, or for the service of collection in the territories.
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    "Enough games," the political forces share the appeal of the Sole 24 Ore

Just games, please. This Italy demands respect, attention and, above all, deserves to be governed. They ask its young, the world of production all (small, medium and large) families, too many forties / fifties who find themselves overnight without a job. We need a government that implements the required discontinuity with respect to a range of economic policy that goes by Tremonti Mountains and has always been well looked from intervening in the living body of inefficient public machine to free up the resources for to initiate a reduction in taxes and contributions and, at the same time, supply a steady stream of investment income / capital from infrastructure spending. There is no time to lose, wisdom, balance and experience Napolitano requiring all political forces (I say all) to give something to give with much to their country and prevent jackals, old and new, of profiting from our alleged fragility. All'Italia need a government to do anything in terms of the national economy, do it quickly and well, focusing on non-party interests but the interest which coincides with the start of a solution of the double disaster of youth work and Italian industrial issue. A strong signal that break (really) the downward spiral of fear contagious in Italy and knows how to assert themselves on the political level in Europe.

Because here (not elsewhere) plays the game of shooting and also here that can win the weaknesses and distortions of a European project using dangerously incomplete, with intelligence, weapons policy. Are no longer tolerable missteps like those Cypriots. Europe-way (austerity, austerity, austerity) is the evil of all and must be fought out by coasting national policies and their interests (more or less strong) from the German.


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« Reply #5395 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:24 AM »


World's oldest bank reports £2.7bn loss

Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, Italy's third-biggest lender, reports bigger than expected yearly net loss

Reuters
The Guardian, Friday 29 March 2013   

Italy's Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena reported a bigger than expected yearly net loss as it booked higher bad debt provisions and losses on derivatives trades that are at the centre of a fraud investigation. Its 2012 loss of €3.2bn (£2.7bn) compared with an average estimated loss of €2.5bn in a Reuters poll of eight banks and brokerages, and followed a €4.7bn loss in 2011.

Italy's third-biggest lender, which received a €4bn state bailout last month, said it had set aside €2.7bn to cover bad debts, including €1.37bn in the fourth quarter alone. The fourth‑quarter figure followed an industry-wide audit of bad debts by the Bank of Italy.

The Tuscan lender, the world's oldest bank, also booked a €730m pretax loss due to the restatement of three derivatives trades carried out by its previous management, whose full impact was only recently disclosed.


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« Reply #5396 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:26 AM »


François Hollande wants 75% company tax on salaries over 1m euros

French president said he hoped new proposal would push companies to lower executive pay while the economy is suffering

Associated Press
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 28 March 2013 23.24 GMT   

French president François Hollande may have finally found a way to tax the really rich: by making their companies pay.

In a televised interview on Thursday night, he said he wants companies that pay their employees more than €1m (£840,000) to pay 75% tax on those salaries.

The proposed tax, which needs to be approved by parliament, replaces one of Hollande's signature campaign proposals: to tax individuals who earns more than €1m at 75%. That was thrown out by France's highest court.

Hollande said he hoped the new proposal would persuade companies to lower executive pay at a time when France's economy is suffering, unemployment is soaring and employees are being asked to take pay cuts.

While the president reiterated his goal of stopping the rise of unemployment this year and restarting growth, he offered no specific new economic policies. "The tools are there. We need to use them fully," he said on France-2 television.

The new payroll tax would last only two years. Companies already pay payroll taxes that equate to at least a 50% rate.

"What's my idea? It's not to punish," Hollande said. "When so much is asked of employees, can those who are the highest-paid not make this effort for two years?"

Hollande's original plan for a 75% tax on individuals was also conceived as a largely symbolic measure. It was likely to have brought in €100m-€300m – insignificant when set against France's €85bn deficit.

As Hollande's popularity slides, he has struggled to convince the French he is doing enough to boost growth – or redistribute wealth, as his leftist base wants. Going after high earners may win over voters.

French growth has been stagnant for nearly two years and unemployment, rising for 19 months in a row, is at 10.6% – a level not seen since 1999. Consumer confidence slipped again in March after a brief rise this year. The national statistics agency, Insee, found this month that the French are more pessimistic about the economy's prospects for the coming year than any time since the survey began in 1972.

But some may wonder if adding another tax on companies as he is trying to encourage growth is the right message.

Despite the poor economy, Hollande has avoided imposing the deep spending cuts that other European countries such as Greece and Spain have imposed. And he said again on Thursday he would not go down that path – even though France will miss its deficit target of 3% of gross domestic product this year.

"Prolonging austerity will risk not reducing the deficits and bring the certainty of having unpopular governments that populists will eat alive," he said.

France has largely avoided the unrest seen in European countries that are experiencing deep recessions, but the layoffs are piling up and have spawned some protests. On Thursday, about 100 workers from a car factory that PSA Peugeot Citroen wants to close stormed the offices of France's leading business lobby, Medef. Police said dozens were arrested.


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« Reply #5397 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:28 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
03/29/2013 11:23 AM

Bulgaria Bus Attack: Berlin Wants Hezbollah On EU Terrorist Group List

The German Interior and Foreign ministries want Lebanon's Hezbollah movement to be placed on the EU's list of terrorist groups if suspicions are confirmed that the organization was behind the bus bombing in Bulgaria last year in which five Israeli tourists were killed.

The German government wants to push for Lebanon's Shiite Muslim movement Hezbollah to be added to the list of European Union terrorist organizations. After talks with representatives of the American Jewish Committee and security experts, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said he favored banning the group in Europe.

If it's confirmed that Hezbollah was implicated in the bombing of a bus in Bulgaria last year in which five Israeli tourists were killed, there would be a strong case for adding Hezbollah to the list, said a spokesman for Friedrich. The German Foreign Ministry takes a similar view.

A Cypriot court convicted a Hezbollah member for planning a similar attack. On Thursday, the court sentenced him to four years in jail on charges of plotting to attack Israeli citizens on the island.

However, France is vehemently opposed to an EU-wide ban of Hezbollah because several ministers in the Lebanese government belong to the movement.
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« Reply #5398 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:36 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
03/28/2013 01:19 PM

Nazi Childhood Memories: 'It's All Still Very Present'

The miniseries "Our Mothers, Our Fathers" has sparked widespread discussion in Germany about memories of WWII, both first-hand and inherited. In a SPIEGEL interview, war survivor and psychoanalyst Hartmut Radebold talks about guilt, war trauma and his own fraught memories of growing up in the Third Reich.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Radebold, you have researched the impact of traumatic war experiences. Now, in the wake of the three-part TV miniseries "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" (Our Mothers, Our Fathers), which was broadcast on March 17, 18 and 20 on Germany's ZDF public television network, the newspapers are full of accounts of what life was like during World War II. Why is that? We have been dealing with Germany's Nazi past for decades, and just when we feel we know practically everything about this period of history, it starts making headlines again.

Radebold: It wasn't talked about much within families themselves, which is regrettable, as is the fact that this film wasn't made earlier. The protagonists were born shortly after 1920. Very few members of that generation are still alive -- and many of those who have survived suffer from dementia. The film actually deals with individuals who are no longer with us.

SPIEGEL: Why do early experiences gain particular importance as people age?

Radebold: As we get older, there is a softening of the psychological concrete lid under which we have buried our feelings. Our professional life, which had held us together, is over. We see a depletion of our psychological, physical and social functions. Many of us become dependent and start to recall old situations in which we felt totally helpless. Spouses and friends die. The elderly have to mourn their losses. And if they didn't learn to grieve as children, they freeze up and become depressive, and some even become addicted to drugs and alcohol.

SPIEGEL: "Grandpa is talking about the war" -- that's a familiar expression in many families.

Radebold: Yes, but the soldiers only told adventurous war stories -- tales of heroic exploits. It's more difficult to talk about horror, fear and panic. And something else happens: When stories are told, the content becomes separated from the affect. Individuals may tell stories from the old days, but they no longer have a connection to what they felt at the time.

SPIEGEL: What was your reaction to the miniseries?

Radebold: I only saw a quarter of the first episode, then I had to leave the room. My wife saw the whole thing and gave me a detailed description of what happened.

SPIEGEL: Why did you leave the room?

Radebold: I found it very disturbing.

SPIEGEL: But it didn't show anything that you hadn't already known for a long time.

Radebold: Of course. But something surfaced that lies beyond the intellect, certain feelings.

SPIEGEL: Which ones?

Radebold: Fear and despair. The main figures in the film may be older than I am, but I was 9 years old toward the end of the war.

SPIEGEL: Which scenes did you find disturbing?

Radebold: The scene in which the first Russian soldiers appear. I am aware, of course, of all the horrible things that the Germans did to the Russians. But, at the same time, in my unconscious mind, there is apparently a certain place -- one which reacts to sounds and images -- that moves me to see the Russians as the culprits.

SPIEGEL: How do you explain that?

Radebold: I grew up in Berlin. When we were bombed out of the city in 1943, my mother, my brother and I were evacuated to Berlinchen, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the Oder River, in what is now Poland. My father was a physician during the war. In late 1945, the Russians arrived in our town with tanks. When the pharmacist fired a bazooka, the Russians fired back.

SPIEGEL: How did you react?

Radebold: We fled out the backdoor of our house and out onto a half-frozen lake. There were cracks in the ice. We ended up on an island, but that was also fired upon. After two days on the run, we came to a small village. Soon thereafter, the Russians took my 15-year-old brother because they needed laborers in the hinterland. There, until April 4, I witnessed everything imaginable.

SPIEGEL: Would you like to tell us what you experienced?

Radebold: As you can see, this is all very emotional for me. Soldiers' corpses hung by ropes from trees. And the Russians came every night and took the women.

SPIEGEL: To rape them?

Radebold: Yes.

SPIEGEL: Including your mother?

Radebold: We were all herded into a barn. My mother dug a hollow in the hay there, crawled into it, pulled a blanket over herself and told me to lie on top of it. "When the Russians come, they'll only see a little boy," she said. And that's how it was. When a flashlight appeared, the other women were taken away. But I was able to protect my mother.

SPIEGEL: Did that foster a particular closeness between the two of you?

Radebold: Yes, but after the war, when she found out that my father was dead, she remained emotionally paralyzed and never cried again. It wasn't until 1947 that my brother returned from a Russian camp. He was seriously ill and suffered from hunger swelling, which caused him to distend. People on the street would ask him: "Hey, where did you get all the food?"

SPIEGEL: All of these images and memories were brought back by a brief film scene?

Radebold: Precisely. Don't forget, the unconscious has no sense of time. I'm intellectually aware that all of this happened decades ago, but it's all unconsciously still very present.

SPIEGEL: What did you do after you stopped watching television that evening?

Radebold: I went down to the basement and continued to work on my model railroad set.

SPIEGEL: Did you basically return to your childhood?

Radebold: Yes, back to the part of my childhood that preceded the horrible experiences. In January 1945, my brother and I threw our railroad set into the lake "so the evil Russian children wouldn't get it."

SPIEGEL: Why does television have such a powerful impact? Many victims of the Nazi regime didn't start to talk about their experiences until they saw the American TV miniseries "Holocaust," which was broadcast in 1978.

Radebold: Emotions are closely linked to images. The "Holocaust" series also shows everyday images. Images trigger something that we call trauma reactivation.

SPIEGEL: Non-Jewish Germans were primarily perpetrators under the Nazi regime, and that is also what's shown in the film "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter." The protagonists kill and betray. At the same time, the film shows the mechanisms that draw people into a web of guilt. The perpetrators also become the victims of totalitarian structures. Are the perpetrators inappropriately exonerated by this?

Radebold: The film leaves too much out and doesn't examine the family histories of the protagonists and their National Socialistic traits. The film barely explains where the fanaticism comes from.

SPIEGEL: But isn't there a problematic aspect to your research approach? If we see the experiences of soldiers as traumatic, we begin to sympathize with them. At the same time, given the crimes committed by the Germans, any form of pity is prohibited.

Radebold: Coming to terms with one's own history doesn't mean that one is automatically exonerated.

SPIEGEL: In an ideal situation, what can such a process achieve?

Radebold: It inevitably includes startling discoveries about oneself. When I look back at my own history, I see a child who was also influenced by everything that the propaganda conveyed. You see, in March 1945, I was supposed to enroll in a Napola …

SPIEGEL: … an elite Nazi boarding school …

Radebold: … and I was disappointed that it was no longer possible. Later on, I imagined what kind of career I would have had in the Third Reich. I looked like something out of a textbook on racial purity: tall, blonde and blue eyes. Today, I know that after Napola and one of the Ordensburg military academies, I would have probably become a member of the SS. I assume that, when I was 20 years old, if someone had put a gun in my hand and said: "Shoot the subhumans," I probably would have done it.

SPIEGEL: Even within your profession, there were those who had reservations about dealing with war-related issues.

Radebold: Yes, and I was on the receiving end of this. I was a member of an interdisciplinary research group called "weltkrieg2kindheiten" (or worldwar2childhoods), which was subjected to massive attacks until 2004. I was personally so closely identified with German guilt that it took me a long time to face up to the fact that I had a traumatized childhood.

SPIEGEL: Were the experiences that you've just mentioned never an issue during your analysis training?

Radebold: No. My analysis instructor had been a high-ranking member of a communist underground party during the Nazi period and led a very dangerous existence. She seemed to feel that my experiences as a child during the war had no bearing on my development. Many of my colleagues have had similar experiences during their analysis training.

SPIEGEL: Nevertheless, psychoanalysis produced the decisive impetus for the Germans to reflect on the Nazi era. There was, for instance, the work of your colleagues Alexander and Margarete Mitscherlich, who wrote "The Inability to Mourn," which was published in 1967 and led many students to confront their fathers about what they had done during the war.

Radebold: I hold the Mitscherlichs in very high regard, and our institute in Kassel is named after Alexander. But I find some of their work highly problematic. The title points in the wrong direction. These people weren't unable to mourn; they had become emotionally paralyzed -- and there is a difference. Furthermore, Mitscherlich had previously written another book called "Society Without the Father," in which he described fatherlessness as a purely socio-psychological phenomenon. But there were 2.5 million children who grew up without fathers in postwar Germany, and he must have treated some of them at his practice in Heidelberg.

SPIEGEL: You attribute this blind spot to the Mitscherlichs of all people, the holy pillars of your profession?

Radebold: In the early 1980s, Margarete Mitscherlich collaborated with a journalist to write a book about men who are unable to form relationships. They listed 10 examples, seven of whom were children during the war. But the authors make no attempt to connect this phenomenon with the subjects' wartime experiences.

SPIEGEL: Did your patients come to you to talk about their wartime experiences?

Radebold: No, they came with symptoms, and it was through the symptoms that I gained access to the horror. One was an entrepreneur whose company started going downhill because he was suffering from insomnia. He could only sleep for two to three hours on a deckchair. It turned out that he had been a paratrooper. He was basically always seeking refuge on his deckchair. But in 1974, when he came to see me, the war was still such a taboo for me that I could not yet ask the right questions. Another patient came from a military family. During the war, as a 20-year-old, he was buried alive in a bunker during a bombing raid and his rescuers toiled to dig him out again. When he came to me in the 1980s, he was suffering from such panic attacks that he was unable to work. After a few sessions, he told me how -- for the first time in 40 years -- he had dreamt of his ordeal in the bunker again. He soon felt better.

SPIEGEL: Why did these men come to you in particular?

Radebold: They definitely wanted to talk with a man. Patients who were in analysis with me for a long time began to mourn what happened. I have never treated one of the principal offenders, though. They presumably never went into therapy -- at least I don't know of a single published treatment report. We also shouldn't forget that psychoanalysis was seen as a Jewish science. But the children of the perpetrators, including some whose fathers were in key positions of authority, have come to me for treatment. I have also treated children of those who were persecuted during the war.

SPIEGEL: Why should future generations come to terms with the war experiences of their forefathers?

Radebold: Many children have unconsciously adopted the symptoms of their parents. One patient dreams of the tank attacks that his father experienced. The adults have conveyed much more through gestures and insinuations than they realize. This has been absorbed by the children and incorporated into their identities. Parents unconsciously pass on tasks to their children: Carry on with the family, do a better job and protect us, so we don't decompensate.

SPIEGEL: You have two children. Have you passed on fears to them?

Radebold: My son was born 1970, and my daughter in 1967. My wife was also a war child. Our daughter very intensively confronted me when she was an adult. That was painful. Her allegations were typical of those who are today between the ages of 40 and 60, and are now in therapy everywhere. They say: You've raised us according to standards that you haven't explained. Why do I have to constantly cover my back? You tried to spoil us outwardly with everything that you didn't have -- toys, our own room -- but you weren't reachable inwardly. You didn't listen to our "small" problems. They say: Since you had to overcome things that were so much worse, we were given the message that we have to deal with our own problems alone.

SPIEGEL: In spite of all this, Germany managed to become a respectable nation. How was that possible?

Radebold: According to my colleagues, Germany's postwar economic miracle was a hypomanic accomplishment. They say that we, the war children and our parents, worked and worked to avoid facing up to our guilt and our trauma. They have a point. But it also has to do with the fact that many came back from the war and began to reflect on what happened. We war children then said: Never again war. The children of the perpetrators have, to a great extent, come to terms with the guilt of their parents. It is, all in all, a good process. But it's not over.

SPIEGEL: What's still missing?

Radebold: I hope that there will now soon be a film about us war children. I would be happy to work on the script.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Radebold, thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Susanne Beyer, translated from the German by Paul Cohen

Click to watch this documentary film in German: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qpcn3pFc7So


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« Reply #5399 on: Mar 29, 2013, 06:39 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
03/29/2013 11:53 AM

Bail-In Blues: Luxembourg Warns of Investor Flight from Europe

In Luxembourg, leaders are warning that applying the Cypriot bailout model -- a levy on bank deposits -- to other crisis-plagued countries could lead to a flight of investors from Europe. But the EU is considering the option anyway.

The debate over this week's "bail in" of bank account holders in Cyprus as part of the country's debt crisis bailout is continuing to simmer in Europe. In Luxembourg, Finance Minister Luc Frieden has warned that the example set in Cyprus by taxing people holding €100,000 ($129,000) or more in their accounts could drive investors out of Europe.

"This will lead to a situation in which investors invest their money outside the euro zone," he told SPIEGEL. "In this difficult situation, we need to avoid anything that will lead to instability and destroy the trust of savers."

Earlier this week, Euro Group President Jeroen Dijsselbloem sparked an enormous controversy after stating that the solution found in Cyprus could be applied throughout the euro zone in the future.

The remark triggered immediate criticism from his predecessor as head of the Euro Group, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker. "It disturbs me when the way in which they tried to resolve the Cyprus problem is held up as a blueprint for future rescue plans," Juncker told German public broadcaster ZDF earlier this week. "It's no blueprint. We should not give the impression that future savings deposits in Europe might not be secure. We should not give the impression that investors should not keep their money in Europe. This harms Europe's entire financial center."

But in the European Parliament, politicians are considering ways to make banks bear greater responsibility for their own financial problems. Lawmakers are considering the European Commission's proposed banking resolution legislation for faltering financial institutions. The discussion includes the possibility of future compulsory levies on major depositors, although it is more focused on placing greater responsibility for risks on other investors in banks.

"We want to clearly strengthen the position of deposit customers," said Swedish European Parliament member Gunnar Hökmark. Under the proposal, deposits of up to €100,000 would be excluded from any loss participation at a bank. Any deposits over that amount would only get hit if the losses couldn't be fully covered through a bank's shareholders and other creditors.

'Societal and Political Acceptance Is Ending'

The EU currently guarantees all deposits under €100,000, but this policy was called into question two weeks ago after the finance ministers of the euro zone decided to make small-scale savers contribute to the bailout of the Cypriot banking sector. Ultimately, Cyprus issued a one-time levy only against depositors with €100,000 or more in their accounts, the first time that personal bank accounts have been hit in Europe as part of a formal bailout package.

Under current EU policy, private creditors will not be required to cover banking imbalances until 2018. But in Germany, Andreas Dombret, a board member of the Bundesbank, the country's central bank, would like to implement the new rules much sooner, by 2015. And Carsten Schneider, the budget policy expert for the opposition center-left Social Democrats, says he believes the rules for winding down banks should be implemented as soon as 2014.

"Societal and political acceptance is ending for the model of bank rescues in which the state protects bond holders and major investors," said Schneider.


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