Emelie Forsberg: the bright young star of international trail running
The quirky 26-year-old Swedish athlete has electrified the scene with both her ability and her offbeat personality since her breakthrough last year
Tuesday 20 August 2013 11.20 BST theguardian.com
At the recent European Skyrunning championships in the rugged beauty of the Italian Dolomites, Sweden won three individual medals; two gold and one silver. An impressive tally, certainly. But consider that this medal haul was the result of the performances of just one athlete. An athlete who, a little over a year ago, was almost completely unknown, even within the close-knit trail and mountain running scene. Her name is Emelie Forsberg.
Orienteering, trekking, climbing, skiing, foraging for mushrooms and berries have been an integral part of her life since she was very young. When the 26-year-old began running trails five years ago it was a natural transition – a basic desire to move quickly over steep and technical terrain. It was, more than anything else, unbridled fun. Then, after victories at some local races last year, she joined the Swedish Salomon team and was asked to accompany the international team for a week-long training retreat in Greece. She made an immediate impression and has been an integral part of the team ever since.
"I love her joie de vivre, her simplicity, her relationship with nature," says Greg Vollet, manager of the Salomon Trailrunning team. Her leftfield and, at times, downright quirky approach to training and racing is at the core of what makes her so special – take her first mountain-marathon win in 2010, which was achieved after taking a long, mountain-top break to eat some chocolate cake that she had brought along. Or the time when, at the end of her breakthrough season last year, Vollet enquired as to what her plans were for the next year. "She started to talk to me about climbing projects; she didn't talk to me about running at all. I was speechless," he says with a laugh. Forsberg's running successes are not the primary goal, it seems, rather a simple by-product of her deep-rooted love for moving fast in the mountains, and, damn, does she move fast.
Such has been Forsberg's speed through and above the tree-line, such has been the swathe she has cut through the Skyrunning circuit on the mountain ranges of Europe this summer, that she has placed in the top 10 overall in a number of the races she has competed in. She is spearheading a new era for the sport, where younger runners, both women and men, are dominating. It's something that was unheard of until quite recently as Lauri Van Houten, vice president of the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF) explains. "We have seen in recent years very young runners do amazing things," she says. "This was unheard of 10, 20 years ago when the runners doing this sport were more mature." Forsberg is the face of this new era – to see her beaming on the finish line after running 80km across a series of high-altitude summits would make even the most ardent ultra-doubters, ponder. "Why does she look like she's actually having fun?" Well, the fact is she is. As Van Houten puts it, "I've rarely seen such unbounded love of the mountains in anyone."
Emelie Forsberg winning her second gold at the European Skyrunning Championships Emelie Forsberg at the finishing line, winning her second gold at the Trans d'Havet Ultra SkyMarathon at the European
Forsberg currently calls the Norwegian city of Tromso, deep inside the arctic circle, her home. It's a place where the sun disappears behind the cities surrounding mountains for two months of the year, between late November and late January – the "polar night". This is her beloved Nordic bolthole, the place where she'll withdraw to when the racing season winds down and it's time to reflect on another amazing year. It offers her peace, quiet and a well-earned opportunity to recuperate. A time to partake her other passion – baking sourdough bread, buns stuffed with cardamom and cinnamon and chocolate cake. A time, simply, to breathe and unwind. Greg Vollet remembers his first encounter with Forsberg: "Emelie said: 'You know, I always put on a little weight during the winter because it is dark and cold all day at home, so we do not go outside so much, we spend our time in pubs drinking beer.' I immediately appreciated her state of mind." For Forsberg, you see, the contrasts are what's appealing – work and play, summer and winter, fast and slow, ascent and descent. Change and diversity seem to bring about the best from her.
When she won her first ultra trail race, the TNF 50 mile in San Francisco late last November, I likened Forsberg to the aurora borealis: she makes an appearance, blows people's minds and then disappears back into the inky darkness of the northern European winter. What we've witnessed this summer, however, is something else entirely – she has lighted up the trails and peaks in a continuous show of energy, power and warmth – like a running, smiling, skipping midnight sun.
• Forsberg's next race is the Matterhorn Ultracks – the fourth race of the Skyrunning Sky Series, on Saturday 24 August 2013. Visit ultraks.com for more details.
Peru: alarm over appearance of isolated Mashco-Piro tribe
Authorities perplexed as more than 100 members of clan that has almost no contact with outsiders threaten to cross river
Associated Press in Lima
theguardian.com, Tuesday 20 August 2013 05.35 BST
Members of an indigenous tribe that has long lived in voluntary isolation in Peru's south-eastern Amazon have attempted to make contact with outsiders for a second time since 2011, leading to a tense standoff at a river hamlet.
Authorities are unsure what provoked the three-day encounter but say the Mashco-Piro may be upset by illegal logging in their territory as well as drug smugglers who pass through. Oil and gas exploration also affects the region.
More than 100 members of the Mashco-Piro clan appeared across the Las Piedras river from the remote community of Monte Salvado in the Tambopata region of Madre de Dios state from 24 June said Klaus Quicque, president of the regional Fenamad indigenous federation.
They asked for bananas, rope and machetes from the local Yine people but were dissuaded from crossing the river by Fenamad rangers posted at the settlement, said Quicque, who directed them to a banana patch on their side of the river.
The incident on the Las Piedras is chronicled in video shot by one of the rangers and obtained on Monday by the Associated Press.
"You can see in the images there was a lot of threatening the intention of crossing. They practically reached mid-river," Quicque said by phone from Puerto Maldonado, the regional capital.
The earliest iron artifact ever found was made from a meteorite
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 19, 2013 20:25 EDT
The earliest iron artefacts ever found — funeral beads strung around bodies in a 5,000-year-old Egyptian cemetery — were made from a meteorite, archaeologists said on Monday.
Hi-tech scanning of the beads, discovered by British archaeologists in the Lower Egypt village of el-Gerzeh in 1911, shows the metal came from a rock in outer space, they said.
The nine small beads come from two burial sites dated to around 3,200 BC, where they were found in necklaces along with exotic terrestrial minerals such as lapis lazuli, agate and gold.
They are stored at the University College London (UCL) Petrie Museum.
Meteorite iron is an alloy that has a different composition from terrestrial iron.
The scientists teased out a signature of the elements in the beads through a non-destructive ID test called prompt-gamma neutron activation analysis (PGAA).
Under this, a sample is bathed in low-energy beams of neutrons. Elements in the sample absorb some of the neutrons and emit gamma rays in response, the level of which provides the telltale.
The team found traces of nickel, phosphorus, cobalt and germanium that meant the source could only have been extraterrestrial.
X-ray scanners, meanwhile, showed that the meteorite iron had been repeatedly heated and hammered to make the precious jewels for the afterlife.
This shows that in the fourth millennium BC, the Egyptians were already advanced in the art in smithing, say the researchers.
Meteoritic iron is much harder and more brittle than copper, the commonly-worked material of the time.
“They were rolled and hammered into shape,” said Thilo Rehren, a UCL professor of archaeology.
“This is very different technology from the usual stone bead drilling, and shows quite an advanced understanding of how the metal smiths worked this rather difficult material.”
The study appears in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The Christian Science Monitor
Early humans lived in North China 1.6 million years ago, say scientists
A study of the magnetic properties of an archaeological site in North China reveals human occupation far earlier than previously thought.
By Eoin O'Carroll, Staff / August 19, 2013 at 3:06 pm EDT
A team of scientists say they have uncovered evidence of early humans in China dating back at least 1.6 million years, the oldest signs of early humans in North China.
In a paper published in the scholarly journal Scientific Reports, Chinese Academy of Sciences geologist Hong Ao and his team determined that tools and other artifacts found at the Shangshazui Paleolithic site in China's Nihewan Basin were deposited there between 1.6 and million 1.7 million years ago. Previously, the artifacts were thought to be 1 million years old.
"[The site] represents the oldest evidence of early human occupation in North China," writes Dr. Ao, in an email interview.
Determining the ages of stone artifacts in North China is tricky; unlike the famed Olduvai gorge in Tanzania, rocks there don't contain volcanic materials suitable for radiometric dating.
So instead, the team used a technique known as paleomagnetism.
Since the late 1920s, when Japanese geologist Motonori Matuyama examined basalt rocks from different layers of earth in Japan. He noticed that the magnetic polarity of some of the rocks was reversed, all on rocks dating to the early Pleistocene or older.
Over time, geologists came to accept that the magnetic North Pole and South Pole occasionally trades places, at what appear to be random time intervals. Each reversal takes between 1,000 to 10,000 years to complete. The last known reversal occurred about 780,000 years ago.
These magnetic reversals leave their imprints in some rocks. Just as a rod of iron can be magnetized by heating until it is red hot and then plunging in cold water, the magnetic particles within igneous rocks heated inside the Earth's crust will align with the earth's magnetic field, which ever way it happens to be pointing, and they will remain in that orientation after the rocks cool.
To determine the polarity of the rocks at Shangshazui, Ao and his team took 738 samples of earth from the site, carefully recording their orientations with a compass. They first heated the samples to remove the magnetic "overprint" in the rocks created by the North Pole's current orientation. They then heated the samples again, this time to higher temperatures, to tease out the earlier reversals.
They found that the stratigraphic layer at Shangshazui where the artifacts were found had six polarity intervals, making it between 1.6 million 1.7 million years old.
The artifacts makers were almost certainly members of the species Homo erectus, an extinct human that lived as early as 1.8 million years ago and as recently as about 140,000 years ago – a span several times longer than Homo sapiens have walked the earth so far.
Tall and slender, with a capacity for making complex tools, hunting in coordinated groups, and possibly caring for the infirm, H. erectus is thought to have originated in either Africa or southern Caucasia and dispersed across Eurasia. Fossils of this species have been turned up in such diverse sites as Georgia, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
Anthropologists disagree over whether H. erectus is a direct ancestor of H. sapiens, or whether it represents an evolutionary branch that had been pruned by natural selection.
Since the 1920s, China's Nihewan Basin has been a treasure trove of stone tools thought to be produced by this species. Discoveries have included hide and wood scrapers, chisels, and blade-like flakes.
"The Nihewan Basin preserves one of the most detailed sets of early Paleolithic evidence from the whole of Asia, " writes Ao.
The Shangshazui site was established in 1972, when a distinctive "lithic core" – a rock whose scars indicate that it was the source of three flakes – was unearthed. In the following decades, archaeologists there found more cores, flakes, and other stone artifacts, along with bone fragments of extinct mammals, such as the straight-tusked elephant and the wooly rhinoceros.
The region was not the only place in China that was home to H. erectus. In 1965, archaeologists unearthed a pair of H. erectus incisors in Yuanmou County, in southern China, that were determined to be about 1.7 million years old. That suggests that, 1.7 years ago, the species had already occupied a vast area.
"The human occupation of this relatively high latitude area during the earliest Pleistocene was not only a significant biogeographic event but also a major evolutionary threshold in hominid evolution," writes Ao.
08/21/2013 10:44 AM
Black Helicopters: Britain's Blind Faith in Intelligence Agencies
A Commentary by Christoph Scheuermann
Most in Britain seem unconcerned about the mass surveillance carried out by its intelligence agency GCHQ. Even the intimidation tactics being used on the Guardian this week have caused little soul-searching. The reason is simple: Britons blindly and uncritically trust their secret service.
The Snowden affair was actually going pretty well for British Prime Minister David Cameron. After the initial uproar, many of his fellow citizens quickly lost interest in the surveillance scandal and in the fact that the British intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had launched what was presumably the most ambitious project ever to monitor global data communications. The opposition helped out by making itself largely invisible. And the Liberal Democrats, in a coalition government with the Conservatives, likewise did nothing despite the party's tradition of being champions of privacy protections.
The United Kingdom is not an authoritarian surveillance state like China. But it is a country in which surveillance has become part of everyday life. The cold eyes of the security apparatus keep watch over everything that moves -- in underground stations and hospitals, at intersections and on buses. The British Security Industry Authority (BSIA) recently estimated that there could be up to 5.9 million surveillance cameras in the country -- or one camera for every 11 Britons. Most were not installed by the government, but by companies and private citizens. One wonders who even has the time to look at these images.
While there is the occasional burst of resistance on the island, most just accept surveillance as the price of freedom. And in contrast to Germany, many journalists are wont to defend their government, particularly when it comes to the global interest of the United Kingdom and its so-called national security. Dan Hodges, a blogger with ties to the Labour Party, echoed the sentiments of many in the Westminster political world following the detention of David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who has been instrumental in exposing the breadth of GCHQ and NSA surveillance activities. Hodges wrote: "What do we honestly expect the UK authorities to do? Give him a sly wink and say 'off you go son, you have a nice trip'?"
Journalists Deferring to National Interests
It's astonishing to see how many Britons blindly and uncritically trust the work of their intelligence service. Some still see the GCHQ as a club of amiable gentlemen in shabby tweed jackets who cracked the Nazis' Enigma coding machine in World War II. The majority of people instinctively rally round their government on key issues of defense policy, sovereignty and home rule -- even though the threat to the "national security" of the United Kingdom emanating from Edward Snowden is nothing more than an allegation at the moment. Those in power in Westminster have become used to journalists deferring to national interests when it comes to intelligence issues.
The spies expect preemptive subservience and discretion from the country's press, and they often get what they want. There is no other explanation for the matter-of-factness with which government officials and GCHQ employees contacted Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger to demand the surrender or destruction of hard drives. What is surprising is the self-assurance that led the powerful to believe that none of this would ever come to light. According to the newspaper, after the hard drives had been destroyed in the Guardian's basement, an intelligence agent joked: "We can call off the black helicopters."
Those words reflect the government's need for chummy proximity. Journalists must avoid such attempts at ingratiation from the powerful, even if it means that they are occasionally denied information and exclusive stories from intelligence sources. The hours Miranda spent being interrogated at Heathrow Airport and the destruction of the hard drives in the Guardian basement show that the British security authorities are serious about the information war that has just begun.
It is a war that also revolves around deterrence and intimidation. The agent's comment about the black helicopters may have been meant as a joke, but it doesn't seem all that unrealistic in the country. Why else would the government, as Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger describes in detail, exert pressure on the paper long after the Snowden leaks became public?
And why else would it destroy hard drives, even though it stands to reason that the data on the drives had already been copied to other storage devices? The incident, at any rate, offers the British a prime opportunity to re-think their cozy relationship with their intelligence service.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
NSA files: why the Guardian in London destroyed hard drives of leaked files
A threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the files leaked by Edward Snowden led to a symbolic act at the Guardian's offices in London
The Guardian, Tuesday 20 August 2013 18.23 BST
Guardian editors on Tuesday revealed why and how the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Edward Snowden.
The decision was taken after a threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the extent of American and British government surveillance revealed by the documents.
It resulted in one of the stranger episodes in the history of digital-age journalism. On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian's King's Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored.
As they worked they were watched by technicians from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed.
The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. But the government insisted that the material be either destroyed or surrendered.
Twelve days after the destruction of the files the Guardian reported on US funding of GCHQ eavesdropping operations and published a portrait of working life in the British agency's huge "doughnut" building in Cheltenham. Guardian US, based and edited in New York, has also continued to report on evidence of NSA co-operation with US telecommunications corporations to maximise the collection of data on internet and phone users around the world.
The British government has attempted to step up its pressure on journalists, with the detention in Heathrow on Sunday of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has led the Guardian's US reporting on the files.
Miranda was detained for nine hours under a section of legislation enacted in 2000 aimed at terrorists. The use of this measure – which applies only to airports and ports – meant the normal protection for suspects in the UK, including journalists, did not apply.
The initial UK attempts to stop reporting on the files came two weeks after the publication of the first story based on Snowden's leaks, about a secret US court order obliging the communications corporation Verizon to hand over data on its customers' phone usage. This was followed by a story detailing how GCHQ was making use of data collected by the NSA's internet monitoring programme, Prism.
The remains of the hard disc and Macbook that held information leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian and was destroyed at the behest of the UK government. The remains of a computer that held files leaked by Edward Snowden to the Guardian and destroyed at the behest of the UK government. Photograph: Roger Tooth
Days later the paper published another story revealing how UK intelligence spied on British allies at two London summits.
Shortly afterwards two senior British officials arrived at the Guardian's offices to see Rusbridger and his deputy, Paul Johnson. They were cordial but made it clear they came on high authority to demand the immediate surrender of all the Snowden files in the Guardian's possession.
They argued that the material was stolen and that a newspaper had no business holding on to it. The Official Secrets Act was mentioned but not threatened. At this stage officials emphasised they preferred a low-key route rather than go to court.
The Guardian editors argued that there was a substantial public interest in the hitherto unknown scale of government surveillance and the collaboration with technology and telecoms companies, particularly given the apparent weakness of parliamentary and judicial oversight.
There was no written threat of any legal moves.
After three weeks which saw the publication of several more articles on both sides of the Atlantic about GCHQ and NSA internet and phone surveillance, British government officials got back in touch and took a sterner approach.
"You've had your fun. Now we want the stuff back," one of them said.
The same two senior officials who had visited the Guardian the previous month returned with the message that patience with the newspaper's reporting was wearing out.
They expressed fears that foreign governments, in particular Russia or China, could hack into the Guardian's IT network. But the Guardian explained the security surrounding the documents, which were held in isolation and not stored on any Guardian system.
However, in a subsequent meeting, an intelligence agency expert argued that the material was still vulnerable. He said by way of example that if there was a plastic cup in the room where the work was being carried out foreign agents could train a laser on it to pick up the vibrations of what was being said. Vibrations on windows could similarly be monitored remotely by laser.
Between 16 and 19 July government pressure intensified and, in a series of phone calls and meetings, the threat of legal action or even a police raid became more explicit.
At one point the Guardian was told: "We are giving active consideration to the legal route."
Rusbridger said: "I don't know what changed or why it changed. I imagine there were different conversations going on within the security apparatus, within Whitehall and within Downing Street."
The Guardian's lawyers believed the government might either seek an injunction under the law of confidence, a catch-all statute that covers any unauthorised possession of confidential material, or start criminal proceedings under the Official Secrets Act.
Either brought with it the risk that the Guardian's reporting would be frozen everywhere and that the newspaper would be forced to hand over material.
"I explained to British authorities that there were other copies in America and Brazil so they wouldn't be achieving anything," Rusbridger said. "But once it was obvious that they would be going to law I preferred to destroy our copy rather than hand it back to them or allow the courts to freeze our reporting."
Any such surrender would have represented a betrayal of the source, Edward Snowden, Rusbridger believed. The files could ultimately have been used in the American whistleblower's prosecution.
"I don't think we had Snowden's consent to hand the material back, and I didn't want to help the UK authorities to know what he had given us," the Guardian editor said.
Furthermore the computer records could be analysed forensically to yield information on which journalists had seen and worked with which files.
Rusbridger took the decision that if the government was determined to stop UK-based reporting on the Snowden files, the best option was destroy the London copy and to continue to edit and report from America and Brazil. Journalists in America are protected by the first amendment, guaranteeing free speech.
Since a legal case over the publication of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post and New York Times in 1971, it is widely considered that the US state would not succeed in attempting prior restraint on publication. The leaked Pentagon Papers revealed top secret details of the poor progress of the US military campaign in Vietnam.
Talks began with government officials on a procedure that might satisfy their need to ensure the material had been destroyed, but which would at the same time protect the Guardian's sources and its journalism.
The compromise ultimately brought Paul Johnson, Guardian News and Media's executive director Sheila Fitzsimons, and one of its top computer experts, David Blishen, to the basement of its Kings Place office on a hot Saturday morning to meet two GCHQ officials with notebooks and cameras.
The intelligence men stood over Johnson and Blishen as they went to work on the hard drives and memory chips with angle grinders and drills, pointing out the critical points on circuit boards to attack. They took pictures as the debris was swept up but took nothing away.
It was a unique encounter in the long and uneasy relationship between the press and the intelligence agencies, and a highly unusual, very physical, compromise between the demands of national security and free expression.
But it was largely a symbolic act. Both sides were well aware that other copies existed outside the UK and that the reporting on the reach of state surveillance in the 21st century would continue.
"It affects every citizen, but journalists I think should be aware of the difficulties they are going to face in the future because everybody in 2013 leaves a very big digital trail that is very easily accessed," Rusbridger said.
"I hope what [the Miranda detention row] will do is to send people back to read the stories that so upset the British state because there has been a lot of reporting about what GCHQ and the NSA are up to. What Snowden is trying to do is draw attention to the degree to which we are on a road to total surveillance."
Guardian told to destroy NSA files for national security, says Clegg
Deputy PM's spokesman gives first official confirmation that cabinet secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood made the request on the instructions of David Cameron
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
theguardian.com, Wednesday 21 August 2013 12.11 BST
Nick Clegg has endorsed the government's decision to ask the Guardian to destroy leaked secret NSA documents on the grounds that Britain would face a "serious threat to national security" if they reached the "wrong hands".
In a statement, a spokesman for the deputy prime minister gave the first official confirmation that the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, made the request to the Guardian.
The intervention by Clegg came after Yvette Cooper said that parliament's intelligence watchdog should investigate David Cameron's role in asking the the Guardian to surrender or destroy the NSA documents. The shadow home secretary made her call after the Daily Mail and the Independent reported that Heywood made the request to the Guardian on the instructions of the prime minister.
A spokesman for Clegg made clear that Heywood was acting on the authority of both the prime minister and his deputy. The spokesman said: "We understand the concerns about recent events, particularly around issues of freedom of the press and civil liberties. The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation is already looking into the circumstances around the detention of David Miranda and we will wait to see his findings.
"On the specific issue of records held by the Guardian, the deputy prime minister thought it was reasonable for the cabinet secretary to request that the Guardian destroyed data that would represent a serious threat to national security if it was to fall into the wrong hands.
"The deputy prime minister felt this was a preferable approach to taking legal action. He was keen to protect the Guardian's freedom to publish, whilst taking the necessary steps to safeguard security.
"It was agreed to on the understanding that the purpose of the destruction of the material would not impinge on the Guardian's ability to publish articles about the issue, but would help as a precautionary measure to protect lives and security."
Clegg clarified the government's position after Labour sought to focus attention on the prime minister's role in instructing Heywood. Cooper told the Today programme on Radio 4: "We don't know what was on the [hard drives] or what the material was that the government was pursuing. Clearly the government does have a responsibility to protect national security. However, I think this may be another area where an inquiry by the intelligence and security committee may be the right way forward in terms of this particular case and what the prime minister's role was."
Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, had disclosed on Monday night that a "very senior government official claiming to represent the views of the prime minister" asked him to return or destroy all the NSA documents leaked to the paper. The Guardian agreed to destroy two hard drives last month in the presence of two security experts from Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping centre after the government threatened to take legal action.
Rusbridger told officials that the Guardian would continue to report from the leaked documents because it had backup copies in the US and in Brazil. Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who received the documents from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, lives in Rio de Janeiro.
In her BBC interview, Cooper suggested that the government may have acted in an evasive manner after the nine-hour detention of David Miranda, Greenwald's partner, at Heathrow airport on Sunday. Miranda was detained under anti-terror laws as he flew home to Rio from Berlin via London.
During his trip to Berlin, Miranda met Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. Officials confiscated Miranda's mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
Cooper said: "I have two concerns about this case. The first is whether or not it was appropriate or legally justified to use terrorism powers in this case when there were other legal avenues that could have been pursued. The second was whether the home secretary and the government have been evasive about their role in this process, which has rather had to be dragged out of them. We still don't know the full position."
The shadow home secretary questioned the use of schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain Miranda after Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former lord chancellor, said there was no legal basis under the act to hold him. Falconer told the Guardian that police had the right to detain anyone, even when they do not suspect them of terrorism. But they have to assess whether the person has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism. "Plainly Mr Miranda is not such a person," Falconer said.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary who chairs the ISC, said the use of anti-terror laws to detain Miranda was a "sensitive issue" that should be investigated. But he told the Today programme: "This was not about embarrassment to the government. The documents which Snowden stole from the National Security Agency are documents some of which deal with how the intelligence agencies get access to terrorist information through interception of mail or phone messages. That is something potentially relevant to terrorists and therefore it is not a question of embarrassment to the government."
Rifkind was strongly supportive of the way in which the government sought the return or destruction of the leaked NSA documents. "I think Mr Rusbridger, in the article he wrote about the destruction of his hard disks, is on relatively weak ground. He clearly did not dispute that he had no legal right to possess the files or the documents. The question was whether he handed them back to the government or whether they were destroyed. He chose the latter option.
"Clearly if he thought that what he was doing was perfectly lawful, that he was perfectly entitled to have these documents, he would have told the cabinet secretary – or whoever it was – to go and get lost and take me to court. But he didn't do that. He knew perfectly well that if you have in your possession documents which were originally stolen you are on pretty dodgy ground."
NSA files: UK and US at odds over destruction of Guardian hard drives
White House says it would be 'difficult to imagine' US authorities adopting GCHQ tactics
Nicholas Watt, Spencer Ackerman, Josh Halliday and Rowena Mason
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 August 2013
The White House distanced itself from Britain's handling of the leaked NSA documents when representatives said it would be difficult to imagine the US authorities following the example of Whitehall in demanding the destruction of media hard drives.
As a former lord chancellor said the Metropolitan police had no legal right to detain the partner of a Guardian journalist at Heathrow airport under anti-terror laws, the White House suggested it would be inappropriate for US authorities to enter a media organisation's offices to oversee the destruction of hard drives.
The White House – which on Monday distanced Washington from the detention of David Miranda – intervened for the second time in 24 hours after the Guardian revealed that senior Whitehall figures had demanded the destruction or surrender of hard drives containing some of the secret files leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, said that two GCHQ security experts oversaw the destruction of hard drives on 20 July in what he described as a "peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism". Rusbridger had told the authorities that the action would not prevent the Guardian reporting on the leaked US documents because Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who first broke the story, had a copy in Brazil, and a further copy was held in the US.
Link to video: Alan Rusbridger: I would rather destroy the copied files than hand them back to the NSA and GCHQ
The White House responded with surprise to the report of the destruction. Asked at his daily briefing on Tuesday whether President Obama's administration would enter a US media company and destroy media hard drives – even to protect national security – the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said: "That's very difficult to imagine a scenario in which that would be appropriate."
The intervention by the White House came after the British government embarked on an aggressive offensive to justify the treatment at Heathrow of the partner of the Guardian journalist Greenwald.
Theresa May, the home secretary, confirmed that she was given advance notice of Miranda's detention as she praised the police action on the grounds that he possessed sensitive documents that could help terrorists and "lead to a loss of lives".
But May received a setback when Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the former Labour lord chancellor who was involved in introducing the anti-terror legislation used to detain Miranda, said the police had no right to detain him under the Terrorism Act 2000. Miranda was held for nine hours at Heathrow on Sunday under schedule 7 of the act, which allows police to detain people at ports and airports even if they are not acting suspiciously.
Falconer, who helped introduce the act in the Lords before he became lord chancellor in 2003, told the Guardian: "I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda."
The former close ally of Tony Blair said that schedule 7 of the act allows police to detain someone even when they have no grounds for suspicion. Falconer added: "What schedule 7 allows an examining officer to do is to question somebody in order to determine whether he is somebody who is preparing, instigating or commissioning terrorism. Plainly Mr Miranda is not such a person."
The former Conservative prisons minister Crispin Blunt told Channel 4 News: "Using terrorism powers for something that doesn't appear to be a terrorism issue brings the whole remit of the laws passed by parliament to address terrorism into disrepute." But May praised the police action as she and Downing Street acknowledged they were given advance notice of the detention. May told the BBC: "I was briefed in advance that there was a possibility of a port stop of the sort that took place. But we live in a country where those decisions as to whether or not to stop somebody or arrest somebody are not for me as home secretary. They are for the police to take. That's absolutely right that they have their operational independence. Long may that continue."
The home secretary, whose officials had initially declined to comment on the issue on the grounds that it was an operational matter, said it was right for the police to act because of the sensitive nature of documents in Miranda's possession. May added: "I think it is right, given that it is the first duty of the government to protect the public, that if the police believe somebody has in their possession highly sensitive stolen information which could help terrorists which could lead to a loss of lives then it is right that the police act. That is what the law enables them to do. But of course the law also has safeguards within it and we have an independent reviewer who, as David Anderson has already said, he will be looking into this case to ensure it was conducted properly."
Downing Street confirmed that the PM was also informed. "We were kept abreast in the usual way," a No 10 source said. "We do not direct police investigations."
The double confirmation, which followed a statement from the White House on Monday that it was given a "heads up" about the detention, marked an abrupt change of tactics by the government. Officials had declined to answer questions about the affair on the grounds that it was an operational police matter.
The government switched its response from it being an operational police matter after the Guardian disclosed GCHQ's role in overseeing the destruction of the hard disks in a basement of the newspaper's London office. A few hours before the White House statement, Rusbridger said it would be impossible to imagine a similar demand to destroy hard drives in the US.
He told the BBC News channel: "The British government has moved against the Guardian in a way that would be simply undoable in America. America has the first amendment and it has no prior restraint … The British government explicitly threatened prior restraint against the Guardian – ie that they would go to the courts to injunct us and to cede the material which would have the effect of preventing us from writing about it."
Rusbridger added in an interview with The World at One on BBC Radio 4: "It was quite explicit. We had to destroy it or give it back to them."
Rusbridger launched a strong defence of the Guardian's decision to comply with the request to destroy the hard drives after Index on Censorship described the action as "very disturbing". He told Channel 4 News: "Rather than return the material to the government I said we would destroy it in the knowledge that we already had copies in Brazil and in America. It seemed to be our duty to this material and to the public is to go on reporting. If we had waited for the courts to come in, judges would have been in control of that information."
Former shadow home secretary David Davis said No 10's confirmation that David Cameron was given notice of the detention of Miranda meant that ministers had, in effect, approved of his treatment. Davis told The World at One: "They didn't direct it, nobody is suggesting they directed it. But they approved it by implication. If the home secretary is told this is going to happen and she doesn't intervene then she is approving it."
May told the BBC: "No. We have a very clear divide in this country – and I think that is absolutely right – between the operational independence of the police and the policy work of politicians. I, as home secretary, do not tell the police who they should or should not stop at ports or who they should or should not arrest … I am pleased we live in a country where there is that separation."
Miranda was stopped at Heathrow en route to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald, who has written a series of stories for the Guardian revealing mass surveillance programmes by the NSA. He was returning to their home from Berlin when he was stopped, allowing officials to take away his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
During his trip to Berlin, Miranda met Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights. Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Greenwald in his work.
NSA releases rule violations to journalists that are almost entirely blacked out
By Justin Elliott, ProPublica
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 14:08 EDT
Last week, the Washington Post published an internal audit finding the NSA had violated privacy rules thousands of times in recent years.
In response, the spy agency held a rare conference call for the press maintaining that the violations are “not willful” and “not malicious.”
It’s difficult to fully evaluate the NSA’s track record, since the agency has been so tight-lipped on the topic.
What information about rule violations has the agency itself released?
David Miranda's detention had no basis in law, says former lord chancellor
Lord Falconer, who helped introduce Terrorism Act 2000, criticises home secretary's backing of police action at Heathrow
Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
theguardian.com, Wednesday 21 August 2013 00.30 BST
The Metropolitan police had no legal basis to detain David Miranda under the Terrorism Act 2000, Tony Blair's former lord chancellor has claimed.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton, who helped introduce the bill in the House of Lords, said that the act makes clear that police can only detain someone to assess whether they are involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.
Falconer told the Guardian: "I am very clear that this does not apply, either on its terms or in its spirit, to Mr Miranda."
The peer, who served as solicitor general from 1997-98 and as lord chancellor from 2003-07, was highly critical of the home secretary, Theresa May, who praised the police action at Heathrow on the grounds that the partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald possessed sensitive documents which could help terrorists and "lead to a loss of lives". May also said that police had acted within the law.
Falconer said that the home secretary's statement "is putting it too widely".
Falconer cited in detail the Terrorism Act 2000, which was passed as the government moved to crack down on dissident Irish republican terrorists in the wake of the 1998 Good Friday agreement, to show that there was no legal basis for the detention of Miranda. He said that schedule 7 of the act allows police to detain someone even when they have no grounds for suspicion. But he added that police can only stop an individual to determine whether they are involved in commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism.
Falconer said: "What schedule 7 allows an examining officer to do is to question somebody in order to determine whether he is somebody who is preparing, instigating or commissioning terrorism. Plainly Mr Miranda is not such a person."
The second paragraph of schedule 7 of the act says: "An examining officer may question a person to whom this paragraph applies for the purpose of determining whether he appears to be a person falling within section 40(1)(b)." This refers to paragraph 40 earlier in the act which defines a terrorist at (b) as a person who "is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism".
Falconer said that the provision in schedule 7, which allows the police to stop an individual even if there are no grounds for suspicion, is not designed for the likes of Miranda. He said: "What that provision is intended to allow is random searches where you've got a group of people, maybe everybody who is coming in from Northern Ireland on that ferry, where what you are going to do is search people. But there the examining officer, although he does not have grounds for suspecting any individual, has a perfectly good basis for doing random searches. Or he might think it is sensible to examine every third person because it is relevant or this is a way of getting to the truth.
"But that section plainly doesn't apply here. What is happening is they are targeting Miranda because they believe that he may have information that has been obtained from [the US whistleblower Edward] Snowden. The reason that doesn't fall within schedule 7 is because: even assuming that they think there is material which has been obtained in breach of the Officials Secrets Act, the action of Miranda or anybody he is acting with could not be described as somebody concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. You could not reasonably believe, if you were the state, that Miranda is commissioning or assisting somebody to commission terrorism, to prepare terrorism or to instigate terrorism."
Falconer conceded that the word "instigation" in the act could be open to interpretation. But, he said: "You could argue that publishing this material could drive the world into such a frenzy that terrorism takes place. But that is much too wide a definition of instigation. What the act has in mind is people who are encouraging others, specifically and directly, to commit acts of terrorism, which neither Miranda nor Greenwald are engaged in. So my view – and I am very clear about this – is that schedule 7 does not cover what happened subject to one thing: if the government has got reason to believe that Greenwald or Miranda were engaged in something I know nothing about then obviously it might cover it – but from what has been said the basis of the stopping was a connection with the Snowden activities."
Falconer was critical of May who, along with David Cameron, was given advance notice of the police decision to detain Miranda. The home secretary, who said that police had made their own decisions about Miranda independently of ministers, praised them on the grounds that they suspected Miranda had information useful to terrorists.
The former lord chancellor said: "That [Theresa May's statement] is putting it too widely. The reason that the examining officer may question the person is to determine whether he is a person who is, or has been, concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. What they are doing is winkling it much too wide. They are forcing into the wording of 40(1)(b), which is referred to in schedule seven paragraph 2, much too wide words."
Miranda was stopped at Heathrow en route to Rio de Janeiro, where he lives with Greenwald, who has written a series of stories for the Guardian revealing mass surveillance programmes by the NSA. He was returning to their home from Berlin when he was stopped, allowing officials to take away his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
During his trip to Berlin, Miranda met Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working with Greenwald and the Guardian. The Guardian paid for Miranda's flights. Miranda is not a Guardian employee but often assists Greenwald in his work.
PIG PUTIN'S RUSSIA.........
Russia blocks Greenpeace ship from entering Arctic waters
Activists condemn refusal to allow Arctic Sunrise icebreaker entry to Northern Sea Route as attempt to stifle peaceful protest
theguardian.com, Wednesday 21 August 2013 10.59 BST
Russia has blocked a Greenpeace ship from entering Arctic waters where the environmentalist group was planning to protest against oil exploration activities by Rosneft and Exxon Mobil, the group has said.
Russian authorities had denied the icebreaker Arctic Sunrise entry to the Northern Sea Route, citing questions over the vessel's ice strengthening, Greenpeace said in a statement.
It said the Arctic Sunrise has a higher ice classification than many of the more than 400 vessels that have been granted access to the northern sea route this year.
"This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia," Greenpeace campaigner Christy Ferguson said.
"The Arctic Sunrise is a fully equipped icebreaker with significant experience of operating in these conditions, while the oil companies operating here are taking unprecedented risks in an area teeming with polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife."
Russia's northern sea route administration referred calls seeking comment to its transport ministry, which did not respond.
Greenpeace said it wanted to expose the offshore activities of Russian oil company Rosneft and its US partner Exxon Mobil in the Kara Sea, north of western Siberia. The companies are preparing to begin drilling operations there next year.
Greenpeace and other environmentalists have warned that drilling in the remote and icy Arctic could lead to devastating spills, threatening fish and wildlife already under pressure from climate change.
The activists have scaled offshore platforms in waters off Greenland and northern Russia, stunts that were carried out to draw attention to the oil industry's move into the Arctic.
US officials estimate the region holds up to 13% of the world's undiscovered oil and 30% of its untapped natural gas. Climate change is expected to make those deposits easier to reach as the Arctic ice cap shrinks.
The melt is also opening up Arctic sea lanes like the Northern Sea Route, where shipping activities are growing rapidly.
Czech parliament dissolves itself and triggers early election
Election could lend Communists share of power as Social Democrats seek to form partnership
Reuters in Prague
theguardian.com, Tuesday 20 August 2013 17.23 BST
The Czech parliament has voted to dissolve itself, triggering an early election which could hand the Communist party a share in power for the first time since a bloodless revolution ended its totalitarian rule two decades ago.
Opinion polls show that the centre-left Social Democrats will be the biggest party, but they will need support from other groups to govern. The party's leader said he would talk to the Communists about forming a partnership.
In the eyes of many people in this country of 10 million people, the Communists are associated with 41 years of repression, but by being out of power for so long, the party has escaped the taint of sleaze and corruption that has troubled successive governments since the revolution.
Tuesday's vote to dissolve parliament came about after the previous elected government folded under charges from prosecutors that an aide to the prime minister, who was also his lover, had his wife put under surveillance. The dissolution was supported by 140 members of the 200-seat lower house of parliament.
The president, Milos Zeman, must now schedule an election, likely to be at the end of October.
In an interview with Reuters before the dissolution vote, Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka said that after the election he hoped his party would form a minority government backed by other groups.
"It is definitely possible to expect negotiations with KSCM [the Communist Party]," Sobotka said. "The Communists are in a number of town halls and in regional leaderships, and I do not see it causing problems."
But he said his party would not accommodate the Communists' programme or bring them into a governing coalition.
That was a nod to the toxic reputation the Communists still have for many Czech people, and to worries about backtracking on market reforms in the Czech Republic, one of the more stable emerging markets, which has attracted heavy foreign investment.
Bulgarian Socialists maintain poll lead despite protests
Analysts say anti-corruption protesters in Sofia do not represent views of the majority of Bulgarians
Reuters in Sofia
theguardian.com, Tuesday 20 August 2013 14.52 BST
The Bulgarian Socialist party (BSP) has maintained its lead against the main opposition party despite anti-government protests, an opinion poll shows.
Demonstrators have been protesting against endemic corruption for nine weeks in the capital, Sofia, demanding the resignation of the Socialist-led government. Despite the public outcry, support for the BSP rose slightly in August, to 21.7% compared with 21.6% in July, the Gallup International poll showed.
Political analysts say the figures indicate that the protesters, who are overwhelmingly young, well-educated and Sofia-based, do not represent the views of the majority of Bulgarians.
Backing for the centre-right GERB party, which resigned from power in February after street protests against low living standards and high utility bills, fell to 17.5% from 17.8%.
The cabinet, led by the independent parliamentarian Plamen Oresharski, is composed of Socialists and the ethnic Turkish MRF party and has been in power for two and a half months. It controls barely half of the seats in parliament and relies on the support of Attack, a nationalist party, to stay in office.
GERB, led by the former prime minister Boiko Borisov, has criticised the government's plans for additional spending and has asked for early elections to be called by the end of the year.
Gallup's poll of 1,013 people, conducted between 1 and 8 August, found that 40% of respondents believed the government should resign and 38% supported the cabinet.
08/20/2013 06:10 PM
Investors Nervous: Erdogan's Witch Hunt Endangers Economy
By Özlem Gezer and Maximilian Popp
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has begun scouring the financial industry for scapegoats to blame for the political unrest in his country. Banks and industrialists are being controlled and intimidated, and foreign investors are being scared off.
Long after sunset, the day's heat lingers in the urban canyons of Istanbul's Levent financial district. Beneath billboards depicting lingerie models, black sedans crawl, bumper-to-bumper, along Büyükdere Caddesi, a four-lane highway.
In a café some distance from the office towers, Umut Keles, a Turkish analyst with an American investment bank, removes the battery from his mobile phone, afraid of being wiretapped by the Turkish government. He is speaking with us under two conditions: That we not use his real name or that of his employer. The investment banker believes that the government would take action against him if it knew his identity. "There's a witch hunt underway here at the moment," he says.
Levent is Turkey's financial center, home to the offices of banks like HSBC and Deutsche Bank, as well as several corporations. They helped finance the Turkish economic boom in recent years, but now the government suspects them of supporting putschists and terrorists. "We're all afraid," says Keles. Some of his colleagues are thinking about leaving the country for good.
For more than two months now, people in Turkey have taken to the streets to protest against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The police have brutally crushed the protests, which began as a campaign against the removal of trees in Istanbul's Gezi Park. At least five people have already died in the demonstrations, and about 8,000 have been injured. But Erdogan says the violence wasn't caused by his government or the security forces. Instead, he claims that the unrest is the work of domestic provocateurs and their foreign collaborators.
In the hunt for someone to blame, the Turkish government is increasingly setting its sights on one group: the financial industry. In the first weeks of the revolt, Erdogan was already agitating against the foreign "interest rate lobby," vowing to "choke" speculators. His deputy, Beir Atalay, claims that the "Jewish diaspora" is behind the protests.
Seeking Scapegoats in The Financial Sector
The government has since launched investigations into the stock market. In recent weeks, the authorities have collected the emails, telephone records and chat messages of various international financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and Citigroup. The government is now reviewing the banks' communications with their foreign customers since the protests began in Turkey, as well as scrutinizing accounts. The investigators are searching for evidence that regime opponents manipulated the markets to fuel the uprising against Erdogan. Keles says that he no longer dares to advise clients to sell Turkish securities, fearing that he could be arrested and charged as an enemy of the state.
"All rationality seems to have been lost in the search for a scapegoat," says Timothy Ash, chief economist for emerging markets at Standard Bank in London.
Opposition politicians, attorneys and journalists have been exposed to government repression in Turkey for years. But now Erdogan's aggression is also being directed against the economic elites for the first time. The premier has accused Koç Holding, Turkey's largest corporation, of "cooperating with terrorists." The Koç family controls more than 100 companies worldwide, including energy businesses, shipyards and supermarket chains, and it employs more than 80,000 people. During the Gezi protests, the Divan Hotel in Istanbul, also owned by the conglomerate, gave shelter to demonstrators fleeing police violence.
In late July, tax investigators accompanied by police searched 77 offices of the Koç energy companies Tüpras and Aygaz, and seized computers and documents. The parent company's stock price plunged after that, with Koç Holding losing more than €1 billion ($1.33 billion) in value within three days.
Markets Falling as Investors Unsettled
Erdogan's behavior is unsettling the markets, as investors question the country's constitutionality and stability. In the first three weeks of the unrest, investors sold off Turkish bonds and stocks worth more than $1.6 billion. The Turkish stock index fell by more than 20 percent, and the currency, the lira, also depreciated sharply.
The turbulence is affecting Turkey at an inauspicious time. Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, hinted at a stricter liquidity policy in May. Bernanke intends to pump less money into the markets in the future. This prompted investors to withdraw capital from emerging economies.
But Turkey is highly dependent on precisely those international financiers Erdogan is now targeting. During his term in office, from 2003 to 2012, foreign investors have pumped about $400 billion into the Turkish economy, compared with only $35 billion in the previous 20 years. The economic boom of the Erdogan years was fuelled primarily by euros and dollars, not the Turkish lira.
Erdogan's rise to political prominence began in the 1990s with a promise, namely that devout Muslims could also earn money. Muslim politicians, including Erdogan's mentor, former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, had long equated the free market economy with the West and therefore rejected it. Erdogan, on the other hand, promoted capitalism. By 2001, the Turkish government and the secular, military establishment had driven the country into an economic crisis, and unemployment was at record levels. Erdogan seized the opportunity to form his own party, together with Abdullah Gül, the current president: the conservative Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP). It won a surprising landslide victory in the parliamentary election a year later.
As premier, Erdogan pursued a largely neoliberal course. He privatized large government-owned companies like Türk Telekom, the oil and gas industry, and ports and airports, and he liberalized the labor market while simultaneously fighting inflation. Under Erdogan, the Turkish economy grew by up to 9 percent annually, and per capita GDP rose from $3,519 to more than $10,000.
For a long time, this success masked a structural deficit that the AKP didn't just fail to correct, but even promoted. For years Turkey, unlike Germany, has imported more goods than it exports, accumulating debt as a result. The trade deficit grew under Erdogan from $16 billion to $84 billion in 2012. Part of the Turkish economic miracle is built on debt.
Hamid Kiraz, a 36-year-old chemical laboratory assistant, is one of millions of Turks who benefited from this economic miracle. He recently bought a "TOKI" apartment in Kayaehir, a satellite city on the outskirts of Istanbul, for himself, his wife Gülçin and their two daughters.
Toplu Konut Idaresi Bakanligi, or TOKI, is the Turkish housing administration. The government builds massive high-rise housing communities throughout the country, and the apartments are sold at relatively low prices to applicants.
Instead of the usual statue of Atatürk, the secular founder of modern Turkey, Kayaehir's market square features a large TOKI statue dedicated to Erdogan, next to a mosque and shopping center, both symbols of the Erdogan government. The prime minister opened a new underground station in the neighborhood a few weeks ago.
Kiraz made a €10,000 down payment on his condominium. He will pay the remaining €30,000 in monthly installments of €240 each. He has six credit cards with four different banks, and he regularly exceeds his credit limits. He paid €800 for his Samsung smartphone, his two daughters, 8 and 10 years old, play with Toshiba laptops and their own smartphones, and there is a Panasonic flat-screen TV in the living room, "the top model," says Kiraz.
Kiraz and his wife have always voted for Erdogan's AKP. They believe that they owe their prosperity to the party, and they still defend the premier today, now that he has angered half the country in the wake of the Gezi protests. "The entire world envies us because of our prime minister, even the Greeks," says Kiraz. But even he is beginning to have his doubts. Everything he owns -- the apartment, the furniture, the phones -- was paid for on credit. He even uses credit cards to buy food. Kiraz has taken on a second job, together with his wife. They deliver food to businesses. He makes the deliveries, while she prepares the food, spending up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week, in the kitchen. When asked about their debts, they say: "We don't even want to know." Credit cards have made life more seductive, says Hamid Kiraz. "In the past, we would only buy something if we had the money. Now we just always buy."
The Kiraz family's budget is a microcosm of the Erdogan regime's budget. Economists warn that the Turkish economy could be overheating, and that a bubble has already developed in the construction sector. Real estate agents complain that they are having trouble selling properties. Erdogan, determined to keep the boom going, is ignoring the warnings. His government wants to build a "second Bosphorus" to connect the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea. There are plans to open a new airport north of the city in 2019, which would be the world's largest airport, with six runways and the capacity to handle 150 million passengers a year.
The government needs capital for its many investments, but capital is in limited supply in the Turkish private sector. The protests against the destruction of Gezi Park showed that Turkish civil society is no longer willing to give unquestioning backing to the megalomania of its government.
As a result of the unrest of recent weeks, Erdogan has alienated foreign investors. Turkish opposition politician Aye Danioglu calls Erdogan's tirades against the financial industry "political suicide." A large share of international investments in recent years consisted of short-term commitments, known as fast money. When investors become nervous and withdraw capital, the economy faces the threat of collapse.
The Turkish central bank is already trying to tackle the problem. In early July, it sold foreign currency worth $2.25 billion to bolster its own currency. But the move failed to produce the desired effect on the markets. Economists believe that Turkey will now be forced to raise its prime rate even further. But this would make it more difficult for Turkish companies to invest and might even stall the economy. Last year, the Turkish economy grew by only 2.2 percent, compared with close to 9 percent in 2011. Erik Nielsen, chief economist at Unicredit, anticipates a significant decline in growth this year.
Erdogan now faces the worst crisis since coming into office. His success was based on his reputation for successfully managing the country. A weakening economy could spell trouble for him with regional and presidential elections only months away -- especially now that his rivals are already positioning themselves within the AKP.
International bodies like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recommend reforms to increase productivity in the Turkish economy. Too few women are in paid employment, and too many people moonlight or are insufficiently qualified. The gap between rich and poor is still one of the widest among all OECD countries. Most of all, however, Erdogan needs to fight corruption. Turkey ranks 54th on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, behind Georgia and Rwanda. In the embassy cables published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats report bribery at all levels. There are rumors that the premier himself lined his pockets during the privatization of a state-owned oil refinery, and that he has eight Swiss bank accounts. Erdogan denies this. Daron Acemoglu, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that it is all but impossible to implement economic projects in Turkey without having close connections with politicians.
Erdogan seems to have no intention of making any changes. His chief advisor, Yigit Bulut, says Europe is a loser and is headed for collapse. Erdogan's strategist refuses to entertain the possibility of an economic crisis in Turkey. The country is on its way to becoming a global power, he says, and will soon be on a par with China and the United States.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
What the German elections mean for the EU
Christian Democrats want Europe to be strong. This means a tough line on eurozone debt and boosting competitiveness
theguardian.com, Tuesday 20 August 2013 14.01 BST
On 22 September Germans will be going to the ballot box to elect a new parliament. This general election will determine the direction our country is going to take and whether Germany will remain a strong and successful nation under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
We Christian Democrats know that Germany, as a leading industrial and exporting nation, can only do well in the long run if Europe does well too. We are convinced that Europe is essential for us to live in peace, freedom and prosperity. We therefore want the European Union to emerge much stronger from the current and protracted crisis.
With economic power shifting globally, we will only be able to preserve our wealth and continue to prosper if Europe remains strong and can compete with the best in the world.
The German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is therefore promoting a strong and competitive European Union. There should be no return to old mistakes. The right course must be set in the next few years to improve our competitiveness.
Since the euro sovereign debt crisis erupted three years ago, the monetary union has been successfully strengthened and important reforms to ensure lasting stability have been set in motion.
For example, all countries in the eurozone have introduced national debt brakes, as already established in the German constitution since 2009. The stability pact has also been tightened and our European partners have started to implement important economic reforms.
Germany has shown solidarity with its European neighbours. However, countries that need help must also be prepared to contribute to finding a permanent solution to the problems they face. Excessive debts must be paid down and competitiveness increased through reforms and investment for the future in education, research and technology.
The European Union's single market is immensely important to both the UK and Germany. A strong euro and stable prices are therefore in the interest of both countries. They are the key to the success of our economy and creating new jobs.
The CDU is therefore strongly in favour of reducing the level of new borrowing and of strict adherence to national debt limits. We also want all EU member states to have balanced budgets and we call for the European Central Bank to remain independent.
The opposition parties in Germany, the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, violated the stability and growth pact on four occasions and diluted its rules during their term in government between 1998 and 2005. Unfortunately, they have not learnt any lessons. They are still in favour of a collectivisation or mutualisation of debt by introducing Eurobonds. This would lead to a European debt union. I am resolutely opposed to this as we do not want to enable a eurozone country to continue borrowing and avoid difficult reform efforts at the expense of its neighbours.
Further reforms and efforts towards achieving a "union of stability" are now required to increase and sustain confidence in the enduring strength of the euro and the future of Europe.
1. We need an effective European banking authority at the European Central Bank for banks "too big to fail" as well as insolvency procedures for banks.
2. We advocate that the rules of the tightened stability and growth pact and the fiscal pact are implemented rigorously. Anyone violating the agreed limits of the stability and growth pact should expect to be sanctioned. We also support the drawing up of a rescheduling procedure within the eurozone for nations no longer able to service their debts.
3. With 90% of the world's growth already happening outside Europe, we need to identify and use our opportunities to successfully operate in these markets with excellent competitive products and services. This means we need to coordinate more closely our policies on how to improve Europe's competitiveness.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor Angela Merkel are united on this issue. They should continue to agree in the future.
It is therefore necessary to establish a pact for competitiveness, in which the nation states agree with the European Commission on specific and targeted measures to improve their respective situation.
It is true: a great deal is demanded of citizens in the eurozone countries hit by the crisis, but I am convinced that these efforts will pay off in the end. We need to make sure the European economic and social model, which combines economic success and social responsibility in a unique way, will be able to hold its ground in an environment of global competition to the benefit of all Europeans.
My party, the CDU, wants Europe to be strong. Using a lesson learnt from history, Germany has been and still is "inspired by the determination to promote world peace as an equal partner in a united Europe", as stated in our basic law. For me, this commitment to Europe is as much a matter of reason as it is a matter of the heart.
Angela Merkel visits Dachau concentration camp
German chancellor is first to enter site of Nazi centre for detention of 'undesirables', where more than 41,000 died
Louise Osborne in Berlin
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 August 2013
Angela Merkel became the first German leader to walk through the imposing steel gates marking the entrance to Germany's original concentration camp in Dachau on Tuesday, touring the memorial as controversy continued to rage over the timing of the historic visit during her election campaign.
"For me this is a very special moment," said the chancellor at the camp, according to a DPA report. "The memory of the fate [of these victims] fills me with deep sorrow and shame."
The German leader laid a wreath at the camp in memory of more than 41,000 people, mostly Jews, who died at its satellite sites between 1933 and 1945, and met with survivors, including 93-year-old Max Mannheimer, chairman of the Dachau camp community association, who was imprisoned at Dachau in 1944 at the age of 24.
Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Jewish Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, said the visit was a "very strong and important symbol".
"There are several concentration camps, like Auschwitz, abroad, and for decades chancellors and German presidents have been travelling to these places of horrible German crimes and taking historical responsibility," she said.
"But the fact that she's visiting a location within Germany where these unimaginable crimes took place, that doesn't happen so often … it shows her determination and will to learn the right lessons from history."
Dachau concentration camp first opened on March 22, 1933, just weeks after Adolf Hitler became chancellor, as a camp for political prisoners. It was situated close to Munich on the site of a derelict first world war munitions factory and served as a model for later concentration camps, that were placed all over Europe.
More than 200,000 prisoners were interned at the camp before it was liberated in 1945 by American troops.
But while Merkel has received praise from the Jewish community, the Green party parliamentary leader, Renate Künast, criticised her for deciding to visit the camp during the election campaign and before an election rally to be held a beer tent, calling it "tasteless".
"If you are serious about commemorating such a place of horror, you would definitely not make such a visit during an election campaign," Künast told the German newspaper, Leipziger Volkszeitung.
• This article was amended on 21 August 2013. The subheading initially referred to Angela Merkel as the German president. This error, introduced in the editing process, has been corrected
Hadrian's villa tunnels explored as cavers drop down into hidden city
Amateur cavers map network of passages built by Roman emperor at Tivoli to keep slaves, oxen and victuals below stairs
Tom Kington in Rome
theguardian.com, Tuesday 20 August 2013 19.02 BST
Amateur cavers have mapped a vast network of tunnels underneath Hadrian's Villa outside Rome, leading archaeologists to radically revise their views of one of ancient Rome's most imposing imperial retreats.
Lowering themselves through light shafts found in fields around the 120-hectare (296-acre) site, local speleologists have charted more than a mile of road tunnels – passages where, in the second century, oxen pulled carts loaded with luxury foods for banquets and thousands of slaves scurried from palace to palace, well out of sight of the emperor.
"These tunnels lead us to understand that Hadrian's Villa was organised less like a villa and more like a city," said Benedetta Adembri, the director of the site, who is planning, in the autumn, to open stretches of the tunnels to the public for the first time.
Never an emperor to do things by half – his idea of homeland security was to build a wall across the top of England – Hadrian built his country hideaway near modern-day Tivoli to escape the noise and crowds of Rome, but managed to take half the city with him.
Archaeologists have identified 30 buildings, including palaces, thermal baths, a theatre and libraries, as well as gardens and dozens of fountains.
"We think the villa covered up to 250 hectares but we still don't know the limits," said Abembri.
Abandoned after the fall of the Roman empire, the villa was taken apart piece by piece over the centuries, with one local cardinal stripping off marble to build his own villa nearby in the 16th century, leaving weed infested ruins.
That is where an Italian association of archaeo-speleologists, equipped with ropes, and remote-controlled camera mounted vehicles, has entered the fray, exploring the pristine tunnels under the site, as well as the nine miles of sewers and water pipes hooked up to the local aqueducts.
"What we are exploring is, to a certain extent, the real villa, because the tunnels will show us where the confines of the property really are," said Marco Placidi, an amateur caver, who has led the search.
Although experts have long known that tunnels snaked under the property, Placidi's team was the first to drop through light shafts to wander through them. They have mapped a main tunnel, 2.40 metres (7ft) wide, which runs more than half a mile to a circular spur, about 700 metres long which could been used to turn one-way carts.
A sea shell from the Red Sea, possibly used as decoration in the villa, is among the discoveries form the site.
Most importantly, the cavers stumbled upon the entrance to an uncharted tunnel, double the width, at five metres, that could accommodate two-way traffic. It is presently packed with soil almost to the roof.
"We have tried to squeeze in on our stomachs but we still don't know where it goes and it could lead to buildings we know nothing about," said Vittoria Fresi, an archaeologist who has worked with Placidi.
Placidi, who also worked on restoring tunnels under Rome's Caracalla baths, said: "People are increasingly going underground at Roman sites to better understand the Romans."
Hadrian, a soldier and poet, lauded for his "vast and active genius" by the British historian Edward Gibbon, started his wall across England in the year 122 to keep out invaders. He was also rebuilding the Pantheon in Rome, and had ordered a 900-seat arts area in the centre of Rome, which was unearthed last year.
He was a stickler for privacy. After bringing thousands of slaves and functionaries with him to his new villa, he surrounded his personal quarters with a circular moat, still evident today, with access by a bridge.
"Hadrian was obsessed with solitude. He went to Tivoli to get it but was surrounded by people," said Placidi. "That could help explain why he put so much of the life of the villa underground."
Peru charges Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid with drug trafficking
Prosecutors announce formal charges as British and Irish women wait overnight in cells to go before judge
Dan Collyns in Lima
The Guardian, Wednesday 21 August 2013
Peruvian authorities have pressed formal charges of drug trafficking against two women who were arrested on suspicion trying to smuggle cocaine worth £1.5m out of Peru.
In a statement, the district attorney's office in Lima's port district of Callao said Michaella McCollum and Melissa Reid, both 20, could face a jail term of between eight and 15 years.
It said that "enough evidence had been put together to suspect the alleged responsibility of both people", adding that the women's defence had not "detracted from the accusation" against them.
Reid, from Glasgow, and McCollum, from Dungannon, Northern Ireland, were spending Tuesday night in a holding cell at a district court in Callao.
The presiding judge, Dilo Huaman, is expected to accept the charges and open the case while ordering that both women are held in custody until a court hearing or trial, a process that could take up to two years. A source in Callao's district attorney's office said it was "highly unlikely" bail would be granted.
Amid chaotic scenes and a heavy press presence the women were taken handcuffed from the police station where they had been held since their arrest two weeks ago to a public prosecutor's office and then to the district court where they were jostled through a waiting media scrum.
Reid's father, William, and McCollum's brother, Keith, were both prevented from entering the court building, according to Peter Madden, the prominent Northern Ireland lawyer hired by McCollum's family.
Reid, from Glasgow, and McCollum, from Dungannon, Northern Ireland, were "confused and frightened" and being held in "very poor and dirty conditions", Madden told the Guardian.
"The holdings cells had thin mattresses on the floor and were full of flies," he said, adding that the women had not been offered any food by the authorities during the entire day.
Madden said he feared the authorities wanted to "break their spirits so they would plead guilty".
He said both women had been threatened at gunpoint in Ibiza where they had been working since the beginning of June, adding they were forced under duress to travel to Peru to smuggle cocaine in their luggage.
He said the women, who both deny the allegations, would enter not guilty pleas.
August 20, 2013
Iran Hints Nuclear Talks Could Include New Official
By RICK GLADSTONE
Iran sent strong signals on Tuesday that its new foreign minister, an American-educated diplomat with a deep understanding of the United States, would assume the additional role of leading the Iranian delegation in talks with the major powers over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
Such a change under the new president, Hassan Rouhani, would be a significant departure for Iran in the nuclear talks. Mr. Rouhani, a moderate cleric who won the presidency in June over his more conservative rivals, has pledged to reduce tensions with the West over the nuclear issue, which has left Iran increasingly isolated and economically troubled by punitive sanctions.
Mr. Rouhani’s choice for foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, was confirmed by Parliament last week. The signals that Mr. Zarif would lead the nuclear negotiations were conveyed on Tuesday at a regular weekly news conference in Tehran by the Foreign Ministry spokesman, which was broadcast by Iran’s Press TV Web site.
“Over the past 10 to 12 years, the negotiator has been the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. This may change,” said the spokesman, Abbas Araqchi. “Rouhani may decide to appoint somebody else. Maybe the foreign minister, or anyone else that he deems fit.”
For the spokesman to even make such a speculative statement suggested that Mr. Rouhani had already decided that his foreign minister would be doing the negotiating henceforth and that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word on the nuclear issue, had agreed, despite his own deep mistrust of the West.
The previous nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, was a personal emissary of the ayatollah’s and was among the conservative presidential candidates defeated by Mr. Rouhani in the June 14 election. Mr. Jalili made no progress in the talks with the so-called P-5-plus-1, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus Germany.
Mr. Zarif, 53, is widely considered the most important new face in Mr. Rouhani’s cabinet because of his background in the United States. He is known for having sought to improve relations with the West and the United States in particular, preferring to refer to it as a rival nation and not the enemy, the name commonly used by Iranian hard-line conservatives.
He was Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations from 2002 to 2007. He was sidelined and eventually replaced after the 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner who escalated Iran’s nuclear activities and often inveighed against the West.
The Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement on Tuesday was the second time in five days that personnel changes under Mr. Rouhani have suggested that a shake-up in strategy on the nuclear issue may be under way.
On Friday, Iranian state news media announced that Fereydoon Abassi, a hard-line nuclear scientist who narrowly escaped assassination nearly three years ago in a bombing that Iran attributed to Israeli agents, had been removed as the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, which operates nuclear facilities.
Mr. Abassi’s replacement was the former foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, widely considered the most practical member of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s cabinet. Mr. Abassi, by contrast, was regarded as uncompromising.
“You have to read the fig leaves from all these pronouncements — they’re talking about diplomacy,” said Mehrzad Boroujerdi, a political science professor who specializes in Iran at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. “I think in this case they’re hoping some wise politicians here in the United States will put two and two together — that these are all signs they want to reach an agreement.”
It remains unclear when the nuclear talks will resume. But many Iran political experts have been saying they expect a less bombastic tone in the talks under Mr. Rouhani, even if Iran insists on its right to enrich uranium, a major obstacle to an agreement.
Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful, rejecting Western suspicions that it aspires to build nuclear weapons.
08/20/2013 06:24 PM
'The Fearless One': Rape Trial Galvanizes India
By Wieland Wagner
The horrific gang rape that killed Indian physical therapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey last December created an international uproar. Now, the trial is approaching a verdict amid heightened emotions and accusations that one of the defendants was murdered.
Courtroom 304 at the district court in the southern part of Delhi is an austere place, with its wood-paneled walls and fluorescent lights on the ceiling. The judge may look surprisingly modern as he sits between two large computer screens, but this is still India -- which helps explain why this case, which triggered worldwide outrage, seems to be hitting a few snags.
This time it is a defense attorney, Ajay Prakash Singh, keeping the court waiting: His car became stuck in a monsoon downpour. Ironically, Singh had previously stressed the importance of punctuality when appearing in court. Now the judges and the other attorneys are making fun of him.
It is a rare moment of merriment in this otherwise grim case, involving the brutal gang rape of physical therapy student Jyoti Singh Pandey last December. She was only 23 when she died, 13 days after her ordeal.
A Symbol of the Public's Rage
Investigators have assembled the gruesome details of the case, and Indian legal experts expect the defendants to be sentenced by the end of August. The case has already changed the country. In the past, men treated women as open game, rapes were normal and the police and courts never did much to combat them. But after Jyoti's death, tens of thousands took to the streets nationwide to demand the death penalty for the perpetrators.
They called the victim Nirbhaya, or "the fearless one." India's rising urban middle class identified with the modern young woman, who was -- until her path was brutally cut short by India's traditional male-dominated society -- in the process of escaping poverty by going to school. Jyoti also became a symbol of the public's rage against politicians and the police, who had showed little interest in protecting women.
The Indian public had been repeatedly shaken by new rape cases, but this time the public's anger forced the government to act. In March, the parliament in Delhi passed a law that provides harsher penalties for rapists, including the death penalty in especially severe cases. The judiciary also pledged to prosecute rapes in expedited courts in the future. In this trial, it will have to demonstrate that it means business.
A Brutally Horrific Crime
On the evening of Dec. 16, Jyoti and her 28-year-old boyfriend had gone to a movie and then boarded a bus that was not part of a scheduled service. The driver and five men, who pretended to be passengers, beat the student's boyfriend unconscious. Then they dragged the woman to the rear bench of the moving bus and attacked her, one after another. Later they threw the couple, naked and unconscious, onto the side of a highway, where 40 minutes passed before they were found by passerby.
Judge Yogesh Khanna, considered prudent and levelheaded, has summoned more than 80 witnesses in a trial that has taken seven months. He has been extremely thorough, given that the adult defendants could face the death penalty. The charges in the 574-page indictment are serious.
The transcript of the questioning of Jyoti, who was able to make a statement in a hospital ICU before she died, is especially harrowing. The severely injured woman described, among other things, how her tormentors bit her, raped her in turn, drove an iron bar deep into her lower abdomen and tore out parts of her internal organs with their bare hands.
The youngest defendant is on trial in a juvenile court in Delhi, and his sentence will likely be pronounced first. His behavior was apparently especially brutal. But because he was only 17 at the time of the crime, he can expect a sentence of no more than three years in prison -- even though the protesters, some of whom are still camped out near the government district, are demanding that he too be sentenced to death. A puppet dangles from a traffic sign in front of their protest camp.
An Attorney on a Mission
In the trial of the adult defendants, attorney Singh finally appears in the courtroom. Unlike most of the lawyers in the room, he is not wearing a black robe. Instead, Singh is dressed in white from head to foot, an outfit often worn in public by Indian politicians. In addition to working as an attorney, Singh heads the tiny Bhartiya Sampurn Krantikari -- "India's Total Revolution" -- party. The party promises to rid the subcontinent of all possible evils: corruption, the caste system, racism, unemployment and, of course, violence against women. However, it has yet to win any seats in parliament.
Critics say that Singh, who is defending two of the accused, has taken on the case merely to boost his public image and attract attention to his party. But taking on the case also required courage. The local bar association had forbidden its members from defending the men. Those lawyers who refused to comply were treated with hostility, creating chaotic scenes. For months, the court closed the trial to the public.
We meet with Singh in his house in northwestern Delhi. An SUV loaded with loudspeakers and posters is parked in front. Singh uses the vehicle to tour the streets during campaigns. He takes a seat behind a large desk.
He now regrets the decision to take on the defense of the two men, he says. "Many other clients have dropped me, because I no longer have enough time for them." The trial is very time-consuming, requiring Singh to appear in court almost daily. He characterizes the trial as "emotionally and financially" draining.
Emotions Run High in Court
Things are not looking good for his two clients. With the help of the testimony of relatives and neighbors, they had hoped to prove that they could not have been on the bus. According to the witnesses, one was attending a concert in a park at the time of the gang rape, while the other one was on a trip.
But a co-defendant, Mukesh Singh, shattered this line of defense. He testified that the two defendants had indeed been there, but that he had been unable to see what they were doing in the back of the bus. Singh claimed that he had been sitting in the separate driver's booth, where he was driving the bus at the request of his brother, the official bus driver, because the brother had had too much to drink. At some point, Singh told the court, he noticed that something strange was going on, at which point he stopped the bus and got off.
According to Ajay Singh, the attorney, the statement was concocted by Mukesh's attorney in a dirty move designed to save his client. "He was bought by the police," says Singh, who recently lost his temper in court. He berated the other attorney and attacked him physically. "I wish I could have kept on hitting him, but other people held me back."
Was a Defendant Murdered?
The attorney who is the subject of his anger, Vinod Kumar Anand, runs his firm in a windowless basement in a different Delhi district, a neighborhood where rickshaw vendors sell hot food and stray dogs sleep on top of parked cars. Attorney Anand believes that he can save Mukesh from the death penalty, even if it means sending the others to the gallows.
It won't be easy, because traces of the victim's DNA were allegedly found on his client's trousers. "That isn't conclusive evidence," the attorney argues. Besides, he says, Indian courts rate DNA evidence less highly than courts in the West.
Anand claims that he could also have saved Mukesh's older brother Ram Singh, the actual bus driver. But Ram Singh was found dead in his cell in March. He had been hanged. The authorities called it a suicide, but Anand claims it was murder.
He spreads out four photos on the desk, depicting the bus driver's body shortly before cremation. The details of his injuries are no longer recognizable. There was a puncture wound on Ram Singh's face and his ribs had been broken, says Anand. And a metal rod that had been inserted into Ram Singh's arm after a traffic accident was apparently sticking out of the arm.
Many in Delhi believe the bus driver was murdered in an effort by the authorities to quickly provide one sacrifice to the people clamoring for vengeance. If the defendants were declared guilty, they could appeal the verdict, and it would likely take years until a final sentence was handed down.
Jyoti's mother testified in court in mid-May. She wore a pink sari, and wept when she talked about her daughter. Her testimony was so moving that even defense attorney Anand chose not to question her. Nothing he could have said would have gone over well with the judge or the public.
'Our Life is Destroyed'
Now Jyoti's distraught mother sits in her tiny hut in the southern part of Delhi. The unpaved road outside is ripped up at the moment, while workers install sewage pipes, a luxury in this poor neighborhood. Residents believe the gesture is the government's attempt to show compassion for the family of the fearless one.
Jyoti's mother says that she could hardly bear to appear in court, where she came face to face with her daughter's presumed killers. They were sitting in a row along the rear wall of the courtroom.
"Our life is destroyed," she says. Only one piece of news has given her a small amount of relief in recent months: the news of the death of bus driver Ram Singh in his cell.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
Legislative leader pushes to fight hunger with subsidized grain for 70 percent of India’s population
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, August 20, 2013 13:06 EDT
India’s ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday launched a landmark public food scheme for hundreds of millions of people, declaring it would banish hunger and be free of corruption.
Gandhi told hundreds of cheering supporters that 800 million Indians would benefit from the scheme, aimed at fighting endemic malnutrition, but also considered a vote-winner for Congress ahead of next year’s elections.
“We have to struggle much more as there are millions of our brothers and sisters who go hungry and hence it is our responsibility to take care of them,” she said at an indoor stadium in New Delhi.
“And that is why we forged a law like the Food Security Bill so that hunger can be banished.”
The multi-million-dollar programme, the world’s largest, offers subsidised grain to nearly 70 percent of the population.
Indians classed as below the poverty line already receive subsidised kerosene, cooking gas, fertiliser and wheat through what is the world’s biggest public distribution system.
But the chaotic welfare programmes are notoriously inefficient and riddled with corruption.
“We also know there are many shortcomings in the PDS (public distribution system) and this law will bring in reforms and ensure there is no corruption in the system,” Gandhi said.
The government says the programme will add 230 billion rupees ($3.6 billion) annually to the country’s existing 900-billion-rupee food subsidy bill.
It will offer five kilograms (11 pounds) of grain per person per month for as little as one rupee per kg.
Parliament on Tuesday delayed debate on passing the long-delayed bill.
Gandhi has pushed the flagship programme to honour a 2009 election pledge, despite concern about its impact on public finances.
Hundreds of Delhi’s poor, mainly women, were bused to the stadium where they declared support for the new scheme.
Clutching their new ration cards and wearing their best saris, some said they hoped the measure would help them make ends meet at home.
“I think this will help us. Food will be cheaper now and I can feed my family,” said one woman, who survives with her three children on her husband’s wages of about 200 rupees ($3) a day.
Delhi and two other Congress-ruled states launched the programme on August 20 — the anniversary of the birth of Gandhi’s late husband, former premier Rajiv Gandhi, who was slain by a suicide bomber in 1991.
The Congress-led national government, under intense pressure over a string of corruption scandals and a faltering economy, hopes the scheme will boost its chances of winning a third term at next year’s elections.
Despite two decades of strong economic growth, India still struggles to feed its population adequately. A major survey last year showed 42 percent of children under five were underweight.
“We made the scheme so that nobody remains hungry in the country and no-one’s child sleeps hungry. Giving food security in such a large scale is unparalleled in the world,” Gandhi said in her speech.
The left-leaning party, she said, is “continuously marching forward to bring revolutionary changes in the lives of the common man”.
Critics of the food programme say that India can ill afford such a costly subsidy burden at a time of slowing economic growth.
Supporters of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) protested near the stadium against the food programme and police used water cannon to disperse them.
The BJP has called the food scheme a “political gimmick” to win votes.