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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 305691 times)
Rad
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« Reply #9330 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:30 AM »

PIG PUTIN'S RUSSIA ...

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 06:05 PM

Xenophobic Riots: Moscow Nervous after Violence Erupts

By Benjamin Bidder

Moscow authorities are apprehensive following anti-immigrant riots in a southern suburb on Sunday night. And though neo-Nazis continue to stir xenophobic sentiments, it's clear that the Kremlin has done its own part to fuel these attitudes.

Moscow's cosmopolitan flair begins to fray around the city's outskirts. The further from the center one travels, the taller the low-income apartment blocks become.

Far to the south lies the district of Biryulyovo, home to some 90,000 residents. Just one of the Russian capital's dozens of suburbs, it was relatively obscure until Sunday -- when xenophobic rioting made international headlines.

An angry mob reportedly went after immigrants and their businesses there, breaking windows, setting fires and turning over cars and delivery trucks, chanting slogans such as "Russia for Russians." Amid the violence, television broadcasters warned against attacks on police, saying that they "protect order in our city."

The riots were sparked by the death of a young Biryulyovo resident, 25-year-old Yegor Sherbakov, who was allegedly stabbed by a "non-Russian" on his way home on Thursday night, according to his girlfriend. After the man allegedly harassed the couple around 2 a.m. there was a scuffle, and media reports say that the blade injured Sherbakov's heart. He died at the scene.

On Sunday afternoon, several thousand demonstrators gathered to demand action from city officials -- namely the arrest of the murderer and the deportation of the area's guest workers from central Asia and the Caucasus. A number of right-wing extremists from throughout the Moscow area were reportedly on hand after neo-Nazis put out the call on Internet forums the day before, and several hundred clashed with police for hours. Though officers from the feared OMON special unit were also present, the police failed to gain the upper hand.

More Tension in Store

After initial arrests were made, the crowd surrounded police vehicles and forced the release of a number of suspects. Demonstrators were also able to evade police barricades through back streets. Protesters wanted to "whet their blades," a reporter from daily Kommersant overheard right-wing extremists saying. In response to the violence, Moscow police deployed all available personnel, implementing the "Vulkan" plan for operations, conceived for use in the event of a terrorist attack and not used since the Moscow subway bombings that killed 40 people in 2010.

Security forces blocked off Manege Square in front of the Kremlin, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported some 400 arrests. Five police and 11 demonstrators were injured.

Authorities seem to be nervous, and fear that the unrest could spread beyond Biryulyovo. What's more, thousands of Muslims plan to celebrate the important holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins on Monday night and causes cultural tensions year after year.

Fear of domination by foreigners has overtaken the fear of terrorist attacks in recent Russian opinion polls, and ethnic tensions in the country's big cities are the "biggest danger for Russia's national security," says Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Russia is the main destination for migrant workers from Central Asia, and some 4 million Tajiks, Uzbeks and Kyrgyz work there legally. But at least the same number of immigrants are thought to be living there illegally. Russian authorities are playing both sides of the issue. This summer the Federal Migration Service, which was recently raised to the status of a ministry, rounded up hundreds of illegal foreign workers and housed them in internment camps outside Moscow before deportation. Russian media criticized these as "concentration camps."

And while the newly elected Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin called for tougher immigration laws during his campaign, the city's municipal administration is one of the biggest employers of low-paid foreign workers, many of whom live in crowded cellars. Foreigners are also the main group of workers building the arenas for the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, President Vladimir Putin's prestige project.

Right-Wing Extremists Call for Further Violence

Both Kremlin supporters and critics are now attempting to use the riots to their advantage. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny, for instance, has called for the introduction of visa requirements for Central Asian immigrants.

Meanwhile, the Russian Orthodox Church has published commentaries that border on calls for vigilante justice. The "blood of the murdered cries out to heaven," wrote Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, who heads the church's department concerned with church and society relations.

Commenters visiting nationalistic online forums were sounding triumphant after the riots. Similar action ought to be taken in "ALL quarters of ALL cities in RUSSIA," wrote one user.

On Monday morning Moscow police conducted another large operation in Biryulyovo, but not against the rioters. In a "pre-emptive raid," some 300 officers arrested more than 1,200 people from a vegetable
warehouse that employs many migrants, and where the suspected killer is also believed to work, according to Russian media.

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

Missiles for milk: how Russia offered NZ military hardware to settle dairy bill

Former PM Jim Bolger 'absolutely stunned' to be offered a nuclear sub and two MiGs in lieu of money, new book reveals

Oliver Milman   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 03.14 EDT     

How do you settle a rather sizeable bill for your milk delivery? If you are a cash-strapped superpower the answer is, apparently, to offer up a pair of fighter jets and a nuclear submarine as payment.

The extraordinary offer was made by Russia to New Zealand in 1993, a new book reveals.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was struggling to pay the $100m it owed New Zealand for a range of imported dairy products.

In a meeting with Russian officials to thrash out payment terms, Jim Bolger, then New Zealand prime minister, was "absolutely stunned" to be offered the military hardware in lieu of money, according to author Clive Lind.

Lind, who interviewed Bolger and former New Zealand Dairy Board chairman Dryden Spring, who was also present at the meeting, said the offer had been made by Alexander Shokhin, then deputy prime minister of Russia.

"The Russians were trying to come up with lines of credit before Shokhin mentioned there were other funding arrangements," Lind told Guardian Australia. "He pointed out that MiG jets were highly desirable and that they also had surplus tanks to offer. Jim Bolger had to explain that he wasn't in the market for second-hand tanks."

Perhaps most remarkably, Shokhin then offered a nuclear submarine to wipe out Russia's buttery debt. Noting that New Zealand was a staunchly non-nuclear-powered country, he suggested hooking the vessel up to the national grid and using it as a power plant for a coastal city.

"Bolger recalled the reaction he would have got if he returned to a nuclear-free New Zealand and told people that he hadn't got any money for them but had secured a nuclear submarine instead," Lind said. "It simply wasn't going to fly."

After politely declining the offer of the military equipment, New Zealand managed to secure a number of periodic payments from Russia, totalling about $US30m – less than a third of the total debt.

But this outcome wasn't entirely without merit. As Lind explains: "The world was awash with butter at the time and we needed Russia to take ours. While we needed the money to pay our farmers, we also needed to secure a market for our butter, which Russia agreed to.

"Plus, you can buy MiG jets for a lot less than $30m. There was a guy who bought one in New Zealand for just $15,000 not so long ago."

Lind's book, Till the Cows Came Home, will be out next month.

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

Second UK member of Greenpeace crew jailed in Russia is denied bail

Frank Hewetson joins Kieron Bryan in being denied bail on piracy charges for his part in protest against Arctic oil drilling

Press Association
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 12.30 BST

A second UK member of the Greenpeace crew arrested by the Russian authorities during a protest against drilling for oil in the Arctic has been denied bail.

Frank Hewetson was seized with 27 other activists and two journalists on the Greenpeace ship the Arctic Sunrise last month.

His partner, Nina Gold, said: "Frank has now spent three weeks locked up thousands of miles away from his family. He is accused of an absurd crime which clearly none of the Arctic 30 are guilty of committing.

"The only thing he is guilty of is participating in an entirely peaceful protest to raise awareness of a cause that he passionately believes in – protecting the planet and the fragile wilderness of the Arctic.

"He has two teenage children back home who miss him terribly, and not knowing when we'll be able to see him again is agony."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: "The court's refusal to grant bail to Frank Hewetson flies in the face of all logic. Frank, like the other 29 being held, presents no threat to Russia and should be allowed to return home.

"Greenpeace has offered sureties that will guarantee the return of all of those charged for any future court case. This is looking a lot like punishment before conviction."

Videographer Kieron Bryan, from Devon, was also denied bail at an earlier hearing.


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

The Russia Left Behind

By ELLEN BARRY
Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Along the highway between Moscow and St. Petersburg — a 12-hour trip by car — one sees great neglected stretches of land that seem drawn backward in time.

Click here for this amazing journey: http://www.nytimes.com/newsgraphics/2013/10/13/russia/?ref=world


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« Last Edit: Oct 15, 2013, 06:01 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #9331 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:38 AM »


 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 02:01 PM

Ungodly Excess: Chided Bishop Takes Cheap Flight to Rome

The bishop of Limburg faces growing calls to resign as more details unfold in the damaging scandal over the cost of his lavish lifestyle. On Sunday, he took an affordable Ryanair flight to Rome and is expected to see Pope Francis in a meeting that could decide his future.

A German bishop who faces accusations of gross extravagance for building a new residence six times more expensive than budgeted took a low-cost Ryanair flight to Rome on Sunday for what is widely expected to be a dressing-down by the Vatican.

Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst, 53, the bishop of Limburg in western Germany, faces calls to step down for presiding over a project that was originally estimated to cost €5.5 million and could now end up costing €31 million ($41.9 million) or more.

He had previously been accused of maintaining an extravagant lifestyle and was criticized for taking a first-class flight to visit the poor in India. Prosecutors in Hamburg last week accused him of making false statements in a civil lawsuit he brought against SPIEGEL for reporting about that India flight.

The controversy surrounding him threatens to further damage the reputation of the Catholic Church in Germany following a series of child abuse scandals at Catholic and Protestant schools and institutions in recent years.

The extravagance on display in Limburg also runs counter to the style of the pope, who has explicitly shunned pomp and the trappings of papal power since his election in March, living in the Vatican's guesthouse rather than in the Apostolic Palace.

Charitable Donations Dropping Off

The damage is already making itself felt in a decline in donations to Caritas, the charity of the Catholic Church, the president of the German Caritas association, Peter Neher, said on Monday.

Neher told Deutschlandfunk radio that many former donors had written letters saying they had been deterred by the behavior of Bishop Tebartz-van Eltz.

The head of the Catholic Church in Germany, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, has also travelled to Rome and is due to meet the pope this week. "We have a tremendous credibility problem." Zollitsch told Bild newspaper. "And the Church in Germany is being damaged."

The bishop of Trier, Stephan Ackermann, said on Sunday that Tebartz-van Elst should resign. "The situation has escalated to such an extent that one has to say Bishop Franz-Peter basically can't go on working in Limburg. A bishop needs acceptance."

Even Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern. Her spokesman said on Monday that the controversy was a "major burden" for the Catholic Church.

Asked to comment on the talks due to take place in the Vatican this week, her spokesman said: "It's of course not up to the German government to give advice. But I can express the hope that there will be a solution for the faithful, to restore people's confidence in their church."

New Allegations

Fresh accusations were levelled against the bishop over the weekend when the architect who designed the residence, Michael Frielinghaus, said the bishop knew back in 2010, when the project was announced, that the stated cost of €5.5 million was too low.

He knew from the beginning "what costs he would be facing," Frielinghaus told Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper. The true cost was never in doubt. "So there was no cost explosion. The construction ran according to plan. There were hardly any surprises."

The bishop and his staff knew "that the construction costs would actually be 31 million euros," Frielinghaus added. If that statement is true, it would mean that the bishop misled the public, many of his staff and financial controllers for years about the true costs of the project.

Tebartz-van Elst said last week that the total price on his new headquarters had reached €31 million.

SPIEGEL reported in its latest edition published on Monday that the auditing firm KPMG regularly informed Tebartz-van Elst about the cost situation.

No Wheelchair Access -- But a €15,000 Bathtub

On Sunday, some 150 Catholic churchgoers demonstrated outside Limburg Cathedral, handing out little postcards that said: "Herr Bishop, we've had enough! Resign!"

"I'm here because I don't want my faith to be destroyed," said one elderly woman. One man said: "I pray for our bishop to be healed of his megalomania."

One man in a wheelchair pointed out that there was no wheelchair access either to the cathedral or even to the square in front of the cathedral, which had a 30-centimeter step. "It would only cost a few hundred euros to change that. There's no money for that, but there is for €15,000 bathtubs."

In fact, members of the Catholic community have collected €10,000 to make the cathedral accessible for prams and wheelchairs. That money didn't come from church coffers, though.

The Limburg bishopric said in a statement on Sunday that Tebartz-van Elst was fully aware "that the decision on his service as a bishop in Limburg lies in the hands of the Holy Father." It is unclear when the talks in the Vatican will take place.

cro -- with reporting by SPIEGEL and Frank Patalong

**************
 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 06:12 PM

Church Financing Scandal: Politicians Demand Radical Reform

By Anna-Lena Roth

The financial scandal surrounding the lavish new residence of the bishop of Limburg has highlighted how little is known about the true wealth of the Catholic Church. Politicians say it's high time for a reform of church financing to ensure greater transparency.

How rich is the diocese of Limburg if a bishop can afford to spend €15,000 on a bathtub, €2.3 million on an atrium and €2.67 million on a private chapel?

A storm of criticism is thundering down on Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst for his extravagance and lack of openness about the cost of his lavish residence. But it's not untypical of the Catholic Church. In 2010, when SPIEGEL asked all 27 German dioceses for information on their budgets and financial assets, 25 of them refused.

The bishoprics operate a sort of double accounting. On the one hand is their public budget which is largely fed from church tax. On the other side are their real assets, the diocesan wealth recorded in a kind of shadow budget that only the bishop and his closest aides are privy to. This wealth, accumulated over centuries, is invested in a range of assets such as real estate, church banks, academies or clinics. Add to that income from share ownership, foundations and inheritances. The diocese doesn't have to disclose these assets to the government.

"I know many Catholics who favor a reform of the financial structures, and for good reason," Kerstin Griese, a lawmaker for the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), told SPEGEL ONLINE. Griese, a member of the Protestant church, is an expert on religious affairs in the SPD's parliamentary group and demands far greater financial transparency "because the church relies on the faith of people more than any other institution."

She adds: "It makes me sad if Catholic aid and charitable organizations like Caritas are now suffering from the Limburg financial scandal because donations are going down."

Josef Winkler of the opposition Greens said the church in Limburg has suffered a huge loss of public confidence because of the controversy. "In order to restore confidence it's necessary to resort to action, not just words, to change things," he said. The church must disclose its accounts to show it's got nothing to hide, he added.

Only Vatican Has Power to Enforce Reforms

Tebartz-van Elst flew to Rome on Sunday -- with Ryanair -- for talks with Vatican officials and possibly Pope Francis that could decide his future. He faces calls to resign in Germany for a perceived extravagant lifestyle and a massive cost overrun on his luxurious new residence and diocesan headquarters which is likely to end up costing €31 million or more -- almost six times the original estimate of €5.5 million.

Barbara Hendricks, an SPD politician and a member of the Central Committe of German Catholics, said Catholics have every right to expect greater transparency on the income and expenditure of their dioceses. But she added that the problem lies less with existing rules than with the fact that "here and there, predominant practices leave something to be desired."

Joachim Poss, deputy leader of the SPD's parliamentary group, said: "The current events show that we will have to fundamentally rethink many state rules pertaining to the church.

However, lawmakers are unlikely to be able to enforce greater transparency. The German constitution states that the church has the right to administrate itself -- without state interference, Carsten Frerk, an expert on church finances, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "Politicians can't do anything," he added.

If the church is made to disclose its shadow budget, church law would need to be amended, says Frerk, "and that's up to the Vatican."


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« Reply #9332 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:54 AM »


Madeleine McCann appeal gets overwhelming response, say police

Police say Crimewatch TV special and other developments about potential suspects have propelled case in new directions

Peter Walker   
The Guardian, Tuesday 15 October 2013   

Police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann received more than 300 calls and 170 emails after new developments in the case were put to air on the BBC Crimewatch programme on Monday night.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading the investigation, said Scotland Yard was "extremely pleased" with the overwhelming response and officers were at work following up new lines of inquiry. "Our appeal continues and later today I will be travelling to Holland, and tomorrow Germany, to continue the appeal for information," he said.

The Metropolitan police revealed on Monday that they have shifted the emphasis of their inquiry after discovering that a presumed sighting of Madeleine being taken away from her holiday apartment, long seen as central to the case, was a false lead.

Detectives from the Met now believe that a man with dark collar-length hair seen carrying a pyjama-clad child almost outside the McCann family's apartment in Praia da Luz, southern Portugal, at about 9.15pm on 3 May 2007 was in fact an innocent British holidaymaker returning his own child from a night creche.

In the light of what police describe as "a revelation moment," altering six years of thinking about the case, investigating officers now believe Madeleine could have been taken up to 45 minutes later in the evening.

The discovery had brought "a shift of emphasis", said Redwood. "We're almost certain now that this sighting is not the abductor.

"But very importantly, what it says is that from 9.15pm we're able to allow the clock to continue forward. In doing so, things that were not seen as significant or have not received the same attention are now the centre of our focus."

Inquiries are now centred on another man – whom police have been unable to identify – seen carrying a blond child, believed to be wearing pyjamas, close to the Ocean Club complex at about 10pm that night. The family who saw him provided two efit images of the man more than five years ago. However, the sighting was viewed as too late to be significant – which is why the efits were only released publicly on Sunday.

Police are also seeking to identify a pair of blond men seen lurking around the holiday centre about the time of the disappearance, and a group of presumed bogus charity collectors who targeted nearby apartments – working on the possibility that Madeleine's abduction was carefully planned. Officers are also investigating whether a spate of local break-ins before Madeleine's disappearance could be linked, including one when an intruder was seen peering into a cot but stole nothing.

But the key breakthrough since the Metropolitan police launched their investigation in July this year concerns Jane Tanner, among the group of friends dining with Kate and Gerry McCann at a tapas restaurant in the holiday complex on 3 May as Madeleine and her younger twin siblings, Sean and Amelie, slept 50 metres away.

Tanner went to check on her own children at about 9pm, around the same time Gerry McCann looked in on his – the last time the family saw Madeleine. About 15 minutes later, Tanner recounted, she saw the man carrying a young child in pyjamas almost directly outside the McCanns' apartment. From 2007 onwards, Portuguese and British police presumed any abduction most probably took place between 8.30pm, when the McCanns went to dinner, and 9.15pm.

However, the new investigation tracked down the British holidaymaker, who said he was carrying his child home via that route at that time. A new police photograph of the man wearing similar clothes to those worn that evening is remarkably similar to an artist's sketch based on Tanner's recollection.

The Tanner sighting had "dominated up to now", Redwood admitted. He added: "It has meant the focus was always done and dusted by about quarter past. Now it takes us forward to 10pm."

The man police now want to contact was spotted at about 10pm walking down the hill from the Ocean Club complex towards either the beach or the town centre, carrying a blond child aged around three or four, who was most probably wearing pyjamas. He was seen by an Irish family called Smith, who gave a statement to police soon after their holiday. The efits were compiled by private detectives in September 2008. However, Redwood said, for years the sighting was seen as "wrong place, wrong time" and thus unimportant.

Redwood declined to say whether the breakthrough could or should have been made earlier, when the investigation was led by the Portuguese police: "What I'm not here to do is to try and dissect the decision-making of previous detectives, or private detectives. That's not appropriate. Today is about saying this is the information that we have, and this is how my work, with my team, is coming together, and this is what we're asking the public to help with."

A parallel part of the inquiry concerns reports of blond men, sometimes alone or as a pair, loitering in areas near the McCanns' flat on 2 and 3 April 2007, including on the stairwell of their apartment block about 6pm on the evening Madeleine vanished. Police reissued two other efit images of the men as part of an appeal on BBC1's Crimewatch programme. The appeal will also be shown in the Netherlands and Germany, following reports that these men may have been heard speaking Dutch or German.

Police said they had had an immediate and encouraging response to the Crimewatch appeal. Redwood told viewers two separate callers had given the same name for the man featured in the efit imagine seen carrying a child at about 10pm. He said that there had been an "overwhelming response" from the public to the Crimewatch appeal, including calls from people who had been in Praia da Luz at the same time as the McCanns.

The McCanns told Crimewatch they believed it was possible their daughter was still alive, noting recent cases where kidnapped children were discovered years later.

Gerry McCann said he was "hopeful and optimistic" at the progress of the new investigation. He said: "These cases can get solved. That is what the public need to think about tonight."

Officers are also seeking to track down the people behind a series of burglaries around the Ocean Club complex, mainly in the early months of 2007. There was also an incident almost exactly a year before the abduction when children in a ground-floor apartment saw an intruder break in through a patio door and stare into a travel cot, stealing nothing. Redwood said: "We're particularly interested in that event as to whether it has any resonance to the disappearance of Madeleine."

Such incidents could be connected to premeditation in the case, Redwood said: "There are elements of this case which on one reading of the evidence could suggest that there was an element of pre-planning or reconnaissance."

But despite the detailed briefings, police warn that speculation about imminent arrests is premature. Redwood said: "It is about trying to understand who, precisely, these people are. Our absolute priority is to whittle them down."

Officers do not consider the McCanns themselves as suspects or persons of interest to the inquiry.

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

Madeleine McCann's abductors should beware, the police will not give up

This is not the time to criticise parenting or policing, it is time to pause and consider the developments in the case

Jim Gamble   
theguardian.com, Monday 14 October 2013 17.30 BST          

A social worker once told me that when faced with a highly emotive child protection situation, the most important thing is having the presence of mind to pause. As Kipling put it, to "keep your head when all about you/ Are losing theirs." Pausing to plan a response in a crisis is critical.

When Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007, police in Portugal were faced with a difficult and highly charged scenario, no doubt made more complex by parental anxiety, along with language and cultural differences. As those first few hours disappeared in confusion and miscommunication, valuable minutes will have been lost. As hours turned to days there was little sense of pause, planning or direction, but no shortage of offers to help. There wasn't a policing agency in the UK that did not want to do all that it could to assist in the search for the little girl, whose picture was embedded in the public's conscience.

As the months rolled by with no sign of Madeleine, for a period of time her parents became aguidos, suspects, in the investigation. The only unusual thing about that was that it did not happen earlier; investigators always clear the ground beneath their feet and in doing this you look at the parents.

Many people have opinions about Kate and Gerry McCann. The rights and wrongs of their meal at the tapas bar and their approach to checking on the children. I am of the view that there but for the grace of God go I. For those perfect parents who have never left their children for a moment, think on this: if that was a lapse, they have paid a terrible price for it and they are still living the nightmare. No one but the person who took Madeleine is to blame for what has happened to her.

Others ask why all the attention for one child when so many go missing? They confuse children pushed or pulled from their homes in the UK by unhappy circumstances, sexual predators and so-called friends, with cases like Madeleine and Ben Needham. In the first instance the majority of those who go missing in the UK return home within 72 hours. They need greater attention, more resources and focus but their circumstances are different. Cases like Ben Needham and Madeleine, missing and suspected abducted abroad, are thankfully rare.

As the Metropolitan police investigation begins to gather pace, we have heard of new persons of interest, thousands of lines of inquiry, including highly valuable telecoms data and, critically, a much-improved working relationship with their Portuguese colleagues. All of that must be welcomed and while there will come a point to reflect on why some of this has taken so long, this is not that time.

Whether you were in Praia De Luz in May 2007 or not, you might hold the key, that piece of information which identifies a person or event, possibly even a phone number. Pause for a moment and consider the significant developments the police are sharing. Listen to the new timeline and look at the efit images. Someone out there knows, or has harboured suspicions, in either case now is the time to come forward.

The person or people responsible have an uncomfortable week ahead. They probably thought they had weathered the storm but it's time for them to start looking over their shoulder again. Thanks to her parents' persistent campaigning, the search for Madeleine goes on.

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

Madeleine McCann suspect was seen carrying blonde child

Man pictured in new efits was seen carrying infant from direction of Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz, say police

Peter Walker and Sandra Laville   
theguardian.com, Monday 14 October 2013 15.13 BST   

Link to video: Madeleine McCann: efit suspect was ‘carrying blonde child’

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2013/oct/14/madeleine-mccann-efit-suspect-carrying-blonde-child-video

A man whose new efit image was released by police investigating the disappearance of Madeleine McCann was seen carrying a young blonde child, possibly wearing pyjamas, on the night in question, the officer leading the investigation has said.

In what police are describing as a new understanding of events on the night of 3 May 2007, witnesses described seeing the brown-haired man carrying an infant from the direction of the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz, Portugal, towards either the centre of town or the beach, said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, who is leading a Metropolitan police review of the case.

The sighting took place at about 10pm, notably later than police's previous assumption of when Madeleine, three, was taken from the family's apartment.

Redwood said it was vital that police learned the identity of the man, described as white and aged in his 30s, with short brown hair, of medium build and clean-shaven. The child he was carrying was aged three to four, blonde, and may have been wearing pyjamas.

Redwood said: "A new understanding of events on the evening Madeleine disappeared has resulted in a renewed focus of the investigation. There may be an entirely innocent explanation of this man but we need to establish who he is to assist with our inquiries."

The efit images and new line of inquiry will feature in a BBC Crimewatch programme to be broadcast on Monday evening, which will feature a long reconstruction of events leading up to Madeleine's disappearance.

The efits and description are among a wealth of evidence from Portuguese detectives and private investigators, as well as mobile phone data from the resort, re-examined by the Met.

Redwood is leading the £5m British investigation into the suspected abduction of Madeleine. The inquiry is focusing on 41 suspects, and requests for assistance have been issued to 30 countries in an attempt to identify and eliminate these people, 15 of whom are British. Crimewatch will feature efits of other individuals that the police would also like to trace.

But it is this man in particular whom detectives are very keen on finding. Redwood will travel to Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland to repeat his appeal as detectives from the British investigation attempt to close in on the man.

Monday night's 25-minute BBC reconstruction dramatises the hours before Madeleine's disappearance, with a child actor dressed in a floppy hat, T-shirt and shorts filmed running around picking up tennis balls on the court where her parents played that afternoon. Later, the film shows the couple leaving apartment 5a, where their three children – Madeleine, and twins Sean and Amelie, then 18 months – slept inside, and sitting down with their friends at a poolside table in a tapas bar a few hundred yards away.

At 8.30pm Kate and Gerry McCann went for dinner with seven friends, leaving the children, who were checked on at least twice, according to Kate McCann's autobiography.

The McCanns' friend Jane Tanner has said that at about 9.15pm she saw a man carrying a small child walking away from apartment 5a. At 10pm Madeleine's mother found the child gone when she checked the apartment.

In an interview with Crimewatch, Kate McCann said: "We are not the ones that have done something wrong here. It's the person who has gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family."

Crimewatch will be broadcast on BBC1 at 9pm on Monday.


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« Reply #9333 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:56 AM »


Utøya survivor faces deportation over false asylum claim

Khaled Ahmed Taleb claimed he was a Somali fleeing civil war, and went on to become a Labour party youth leader in Norway

Richard Orange in Malmö
theguardian.com, Monday 14 October 2013 17.28 BST

A survivor of the 2011 Utøya massacre is to be expelled from Norway after admitting he lied in his asylum claim 11 years ago.

Khaled Ahmed Taleb, 37, told immigration authorities in 2002 that he was a Somali who was seeking to escape the country's ongoing civil war.

He went on to build a successful career as a Labour party youth leader, becoming known as the Sheikh of Utøya because of his popularity at the party's island youth camp.

Taleb was working on Utøya when the far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik launched his attacks. As Taleb was escaping he found his younger brother Isma, who had won minor fame on Norway's Got Talent, dead with a bullet wound to the head.

When Taleb was confronted by police in March he admitted that in fact he came from the relatively peaceful state of Djibouti and was four years older than he had claimed.

He left the Labour party and resigned from his positions on the county and municipal councils in his home town of Hamar, north of Oslo. In May he was sentenced to four months in jail.

"I have a terrible conscience about this," he told the HA newspaper at the time. "But I actually feel better now I've told the truth and no longer have to live with a lie."

A spokesperson for Norway's immigration directorate confirmed that it had decided to expel Taleb, adding that he had three weeks to appeal against the judgment.

The immigration authorities have yet to rule on whether to also expel Taleb's parents and two surviving brothers, whom he helped to move to Norway after his arrival.

News of his expulsion was greeted with dismay by members of the Labour youth wing. A Facebook group was launched to campaign for Taleb to be allowed to stay.

"We must show our unconditional support to Khalid who has meant so much to us, and who has suffered with us, and who has worked so hard for Norway," wrote Patrick Piscot, who started the group. "Join the group if you want to join to fight for Khalid!"

Piscot called for a demonstration demanding an amnesty in recognition of Taleb's work. "He was always our father on Utøya, the funny one and the one people looked up to," he said.

Bjørn Peter Sandmo, who heads the Hamar branch of the youth wing, said he would not back the campaign. "It's sad, because Khalid is such great guy, but he is in Norway on the wrong permissions, so it is right that he is getting expelled. It's the law."

Norway is poised to sharply reduce the number of refugees it takes in, after voting the populist Progress Party into government for the first time in last month's general election.

Progress, which has long campaigned to reduce immigration and once counted Breivik among its members, will be the junior partner in a coalition led by the Conservative party, which is expected to take office before the end of this month.

The two parties signalled their tough approach in a policy statement last week, proposing a network of closed detention centres for those who have had their asylum applications turned down, and promising to prevent new immigrants from bringing their wives to Norway until they are at least 24 years old.


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« Reply #9334 on: Oct 15, 2013, 05:59 AM »


Belgian sting nets suspected pirate leader Big Mouth

Somali Mohamed Abdi Hassan detained as he arrived in Brussels to take part in documentary about his life

Reuters in Brussels
theguardian.com, Monday 14 October 2013 18.36 BST   

Belgium has arrested the suspected leader of a Somali pirate group after luring him to Brussels with promises to make a documentary about his money-making life on the high seas, prosecutors have said.

Mohamed Abdi Hassan, known as Afweyne, or Big Mouth, was detained when he arrived at Brussels airport on Saturday with another suspect identified as Mohamed MA, or Tiiceey, the federal prosecutor Johan Delmulle told a news conference.

Tiiceey is a former governor of the Somali region of Himan and Heeb, and is suspected in aiding Afweyne's pirate organisation, Delmulle said.

Prosecutors said they decided to involve Belgian undercover agents after it became clear that an international arrest warrant would not be successful in capturing the men.

"After patiently starting a relationship of trust with Tiiceey, and through him with Afweyne, which took several months, both were prepared to participate in this [film] project," Delmulle said.

The plan was put into action after two pirates were arrested and sentenced for the hijacking of a Belgian ship in 2009. Prosecutors decided to try to target the people behind the act, not only those who carried it out, and so set up the sting. "All too often those persons stay out of the frame and let others carry out their dirty business," Delmulle said.

The prosecutor said Afweyne was asked via Tiiceey whether he would be prepared to be an adviser on a film about piracy, portraying his life carrying out hijackings off the east African coast and making millions of dollars from ransom payments.

Prosecutors said it took months to reel in Afweyne and persuade him to come to Brussels, but would not provide further details about how the sting was carried out.

Afweyne said in January he had put his pirate days behind him and retired. United Nations experts have accused a former Somalian president of shielding him by issuing him with a diplomatic passport.

In 2011, Somali piracy in the busy shipping lanes of the Gulf of Aden and the north-western Indian Ocean netted $160m and cost the world economy $7bn, according to the American One Earth Future foundation.

But risks from pirate operations decreased following a step-up in patrolling by an international coalition of warships and greater use of private security guards on merchant ships.

Pirate groups have moved the focus of kidnappings to onshore, taking foreign tourists and aid workers hostage in northern Kenya and Somalia.


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« Reply #9335 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:09 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 04:28 PM

Round Two of Talks: Grand Coalition Looks Increasingly Likely

Angela Merkel's conservatives are holding their second round of preliminary coalition talks with the Social Democrats Monday and there's speculation that the parties could reach a deal sooner than expected. A government could be formed by mid-November.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives are meeting the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) for a second round of preliminary talks on Monday afternoon and plan to decide by the end of the week whether to start formal coalition talks with them or the Greens.

A grand coalition between the conservatives and the SPD -- Merkel's preferred option because it would give her comfortable majorities in both houses of parliament -- is looking increasingly likely.

So far at least, progress has been easier than anticipated. The two parties are finding scope for compromises on a range of domestic policy issues including the introduction of a minimum wage, tax policy and the energy revolution.

The allocation of cabinet posts could, however, prove contentious. The SPD wants the post of finance minister, a key position in tackling the euro crisis which is currently occupied by veteran Wolfgang Schäuble of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), but Merkel doesn't want to hand it over.

Wrangling Over Cabinet Posts

The SPD also wants the labor portfolio, which would require Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen to find another post. Rumor has it that she would like to be foreign minister, but sources have told SPIEGEL that Merkel may offer her the Health Ministry instead, a less attractive position.

There is speculation that Schäuble could become Foreign Minister and that SPD member Jörg Asmussen, currently on the European Central Bank's executive board, could replace him as finance minister.

Another difficult issue is likely to be dual citizenship. Merkel's CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), oppose it and the current law requires people born in Germany to foreign parents to choose by the age of 23 whether they want to be German or foreign citizens. The SPD wants to amend the law and allow permanent dual citizenship.

Merkel said last week she wants to know which party she will be entering formal coalition talks with by Oct. 22, when the newly elected Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, assembles for its first session.

That doesn't mean a new government will be in place by that date, though. It means she wants to be sure who her likely coalition partner is going to be.

'New Government by Mid-November'

Schäuble told reporters that a new government could be formed quite quickly. "I think we'll have a new government by around the middle of November," he said Saturday on the sidelines of international financial talks in Washington.

Merkel, who led her conservatives to their best general election result since the heady days of reunification in 1990, is just five seats short of an absolute majority.

Some observers said in the immediate aftermath of the election that the coalition talks could drag on to the end of the year or even into January. Germany may have a government a lot sooner than that.


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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 06:42 PM

Asylum Crisis: How Many Refugees Can Germany Handle?

By Jürgen Dahlkamp and Maximilian Popp

As Germany faces the highest number of refugee claimants in decades, it's becoming increasingly clear that the European asylum system is broken. But fixing it will involve hard decisions.

Friedersdorf in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt. It's hard to grasp why 27-year-old Sina Alinia ended up here, in a shelter for asylum seekers. He's a civil engineer, a highly respected profession in Germany, for which there is a great demand. There are 16,400 unfilled jobs for civil engineers in Germany. And yet here he is, in a shelter at the end of the street, at the end of all streets, separated from Bitterfeld by six kilometers and nothing but empty villages.

Alinia, an Iranian, has been waiting to find out about his asylum request for two and a half years. It's almost like he was placed on a shelf and forgotten. His initial request was rejected and now the appeals process is underway. He hopes someone will finally give him something to do, something involving work. But because the immigration office wants him to remain in Saxony-Anhalt, and the employment agency doesn't want him to compete with others for jobs here, nothing happens.

Meanwhile, on an August morning at the Munich airport, 14 Egyptians arrive on the daily Lufthansa flight from Tbilisi. There were nine on yesterday's flight. Egyptian asylum seekers always arrive on the plane from Tbilisi, Georgia, because Egyptians don't need a visa for Georgia. And if they're just changing planes here on their way back to Egypt, they don't need one for Germany. But then instead of changing planes, they disembark. The German Federal Police calls them "transit jumpers." There were close to 600 of them in Munich between May to August. It is the easiest way to enter the asylum system.

Europe's current asylum policy, and its shortcomings, has become a major talking point since the recent tragedy off the Italian island of Lampedusa -- where more than 300 refugees died on Oct. 3. Their boat sank as it was making its way, illegally, from Libya to Europe. Last Friday, dozens died when another ship, this time with more than 200 refugees on board, sank off the coast of Sicily.

It's clear that this cannot continue, and yet it does. Although European Union interior ministers met in Luxembourg last Tuesday to discuss the problem, the EU's Dublin Regulation -- which stipulates that the country in which a refugee first enters the EU is where he or she must apply for asylum and stay -- is likely to remain unchanged. So what solution, if any, is there for Europe's growing refugee crisis? And how much asylum can Germany afford? How much does it want to?

Germany Confronts Its Conscience

For Germans, the issue is fraught with contradictions. There is the contradiction between the admirable concept of asylum, which emerged from the experiences of the Nazi era, and its everyday bureaucracy. Then there is the contradiction between the provisions of asylum laws, some of them tough, and how these laws are in fact applied, because they are not designed to accommodate the new realities. And there is also the contradiction between Germany's new, welcoming culture -- in which it insists that it does want more immigrants -- and its unchanged policy of deterrence -- which it employs to keep out those who would burden its social welfare system.

But the biggest contradiction of all is between their sense of decency and desire for prosperity. The Germans want to the save the world, partly because of their bad conscience, but they also want to protect their own wealth.

For years, these contradictions weren't problematic, because there were so few asylum seekers. But now the numbers have risen again, to more than 100,000 a year, the highest figure since 1997. For Dieter Wiefelspütz -- a departing representative of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), who spent 26 years working on immigration policy -- 100,000 is "the magic number." "When it goes above 100,000," he says, Bild, the conservative German tabloid, gets involved, and the discourse becomes more heated.

Statistic Wars

The debate around asylum policy is not unlike the Cold War. There's good and there's bad, and anything that doesn't fit into either of those two categories is dismissed. On the one side are the supportive groups, so to speak, like Pro Asyl, the churches, the Left Party, the Green Party and half the SPD. For them, no person is illegal, every claim of persecution can be substantiated, and deportation is always tantamount to aiding and abetting torture and murder.

On the other side, there are the enforcement agencies -- the immigration office and the federal police -- the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the other half of the SPD. For them, a law is a law, and deportation is merely the logical conclusion of a final court decision.

Both sides use asylum statistics to argue for their cause. This year, German authorities received 74,194 asylum applications by the end of September. (The number of applications normally increases at the end of the year, hence the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees' prognosis of over 100,000 asylum seekers for 2013.) But is that a lot or a little?

If you look at it one way, Germany will see 55 percent more applications in 2013 than 2012, and five times as many as in 2007. In 2012, Germany overtook France as the country with the largest number of asylum applications in Europe, by a substantial margin. Some 23 percent of all EU asylum seekers came to Germany in 2012. By comparison, Germans make up only 16 percent of the EU population.

On the other hand, 100,000 refugees is a relatively small number when you consider Germany's population of 81 million. Lebanon and Turkey, in contrast, have accepted more than a million refugees fleeing the war in Syria. And given that about a million foreigners immigrated to Germany in 2012 -- to work, study or join their families -- it seems like Germany should be able to handle 100,000 asylum seekers.

Pro Asyl uses the number of refugees per 1,000 inhabitants as its benchmark, in which case Germany is no longer in first place among countries accepting asylum seekers, but 10th, behind Malta, Luxembourg, Austria, Switzerland and other countries with small populations. "It's a disgrace for a country as rich as Germany," says Frankfurt lawyer Reinhard Marx, one of the country's top asylum law attorneys.

A Sharp Shift

If the CDU and the SPD can agree on anything when it comes to immigration policy -- and asylum policy, especially -- it is that the less the subject is discussed in public, the better. "I'm really not upset that immigration and asylum policy hasn't been the subject of such divisive debate in recent years than it was in the past," says CDU domestic policy expert Wolfgang Bosbach. The SPD also values the lack of popular and political outrage. "Immigration policy had lost some of its importance, which is why we were able to make adjustments here and there every few years," says Wiefelspütz.

It was a completely different story in the early 1990s, when the civil war in Yugoslavia drove up application numbers and prompted loud and intense disputes. The result was a misguided asylum compromise -- a compromise in name only -- that stipulated that any refugee who had arrived in Germany from a safe third country had no right to asylum. Because all of Germany's neighbors were "safe" countries, asylum as it was described in the German constitution became unattainable for most refugees.

In 2005, a battle over legislation ended with a curbing of immigration, despite economic experts' claims that the country needs about 500,000 highly qualified workers a year. The law, with its excessive requirements, became a deterrent.

Since then, immigration policy has quietly undergone one of the sharpest policy shifts in recent German history, as immigration and asylum policies have become friendlier and more liberal, even among conservatives.

New Consensus

Take, for example, the right of residence. The Central Aliens Registry classifies about 90,000 people as being "tolerated," meaning they are asylum seekers whose applications were rejected but cannot be deported. This could be for humanitarian reasons, because their native countries are refusing to allow them to return, because it is unclear what their native country is, or because they claim no longer to have papers (as is the case with 80 percent of asylum seekers).

Many of these "tolerated" aliens were able to gain a foothold in Germany over the years. They learned to speak German, had children and played football in their local clubs. But their long-term prospects were always tentative -- their so-called toleration, or suspension of deportation, had to be renewed every six months.

In 2007, the Grand Coalition of the CDU and the SPD in Berlin agreed to grant the right of residence to tolerated individuals who had already been in Germany for at least six years, had a job and were able to support themselves. This rewarded those who had made a concerted effort to become integrated, as well as those who had, for whatever reason, successfully managed to fight off deportation. Pushed by the CDU, the federal government later introduced a right of residence for well-integrated young people who had attended a German school for at least six years.

'A Paradigm Shift'
"The right of residence was a paradigm shift," says Minister of State in the Federal Chancellery Maria Böhmer. Böhmer, the government's commissioner for integration, is among the innovators within the CDU. So is Christine Haderthauer, a member of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), and Bavaria's minister for social affairs. Haderthauer was once considered a hardliner. The idea of helping refugees who were supposed to be deported become more integrated would have been inconceivable in Bavaria years ago. Now she speaks proudly about a pilot project providing German language instruction to asylum seekers and tolerated individuals in 40 communities. The Haderthauer model is all the rage in the CDU/CSU, and it has piqued the interest of state interior ministers nationwide.

The same trend towards a more welcoming policy has continued in recent years. Today, for instance, asylum seekers only have to wait nine months instead of a year before being allowed to work (unless the employment agency refuses to issue a work permit on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the local employment market, as in the case of Iranian engineer Sina Alinia). And now Bavaria and Saxony are the only states that still require asylum seekers to remain within an administrative region, the so-called residency requirement. Some states are now allowing asylum seekers to travel to neighboring states, that is, from Lower Saxony to Bremen, or from Brandenburg to Berlin.

The fact that even the CDU/CSU has softened on immigration issues is partly attributable to demographic changes. Germany, as one of the world's top exporting nations, cannot dispense with refugees if it doesn't know where it will get its future trainees and skilled workers.

And interior ministers, especially those with the CDU, have learned that being tough on asylum seekers is often politically more costly than advantageous. In many cases, deportations have caused resentment among the party's traditional voters: church congregations, local dignitaries and middle-class citizens who don't understand why, after so many years, their party suddenly wants to see a nice immigrant family deported. Even in the election campaign, when Interior Minister Friedrich was recently expected to launch into a heated debate over immigration policy with Green Party Chairman Cem Özdemir and SPD parliamentary group secretary Thomas Oppermann, it turned out their respective positions weren't that different.

How Do We Regulate EU Borders?

This sense of consensus is a good thing. After all, a modern, cosmopolitan country should be more welcoming and warm-hearted, and offer asylum to more people. But the conflicts that were the subject of such bitter disputes in the past haven't gone away; they have merely been concealed. And the more asylum seekers there are, the more these conflicts come back to the fore.

The rising numbers of refugees, for instance, make it impossible to sustain the practice of housing asylum seekers in apartments in regular neighborhoods. Instead, municipalities are once again renting remote, empty buildings in the countryside, where asylum seekers already feel like they've been deported. Some refugees are also being housed in containers, which many don't want to see in their neighborhoods.

Sometimes residents start consulting zoning maps and calling their attorneys the moment they hear of a plan to house asylum-seekers in their neighborhood. This was recently the case in Hamburg's Lokstedt neighborhood, where plans to build an emergency shelter in an industrial zone failed.

The rising numbers are once again drawing attention to the old core issues: How many refugees should Germany accept? How many are too many? How many are truly entitled to asylum, and how many are abusing the right?

The Federal Police has been concerned about the numbers for months. Its mission, together with immigration authorities, is to prevent illegal entry and to deport foreigners who are not allowed to be in Germany. But this is increasingly a losing battle, because several countries are no longer complying with the Dublin Regulation.

'The System Is Breaking Down'

The system is breaking down. In 2011, German border agents noted 21,156 illegal entries. Last year the number increased to 25,670, and this year there had already been 23,000 illegal entries by the end of September. "We now have uncontrolled immigration," says a German Federal Police officer. Laws and agreements are being ignored in places like Italy, Poland and Greece.

On Aug. 23, the Italian police detained 27 Syrians and one Afghan on board the Eurocity train from Verona to Munich. By law, they should all have been entered into the Eurodac fingerprint database for asylum seekers, since they had filed asylum applications in Italy. Oddly enough, however, not one of them appeared in Eurodac. "The Italians are no longer fingerprinting many of their asylum seekers," says a frustrated German Federal Police officer.

This is to prevent other EU countries from immediately sending them back to Italy, as provided under the Dublin Regulation. Italy also sometimes gives refugees €500 and provides them with a tourist visa, or "titolo di viaggio." About 300 of these phony tourists are now living on the street in Hamburg, dependent on the charity of churches and other aid organizations.

Different Paths to Germany

Every day, several hundred refugees from the Russian Federation, mostly Chechens, try to enter Poland. By the end of September 2013, 13,492 had ended up in Germany, an increase of 754 percent over the first nine months of 2012. Because Poland can't handle that many Chechens, the authorities allow the refugees to continue on to Germany -- even if it's a violation of the Dublin Regulation.

In Chechnya traffickers spread the rumor that Germany is greeting Chechen refugees with open arms and paying them a €4,000 welcome bonus. They guarantee refugee status on websites like transfer.vov.ru, and when asked if refugees who are not being politically persecuted will run into any problems, they say: "Absolutely not. All you have to do is prepare a decent story. And our immigration lawyers take care of that." The traffickers charge a fee of €8,000 for the service, which suggests that those coming to the EU aren't exactly the weakest and poorest.

German authorities have been barred from sending asylum seekers back to Greece since early 2011, even when it is clear that they entered the EU through Greece. That's because the conditions are too poor in Greece and the treatment of refugees too inhumane. German courts have also blocked returns to Italy in more than 200 cases. According to the Frankfurt Administrative Court, refugees are likely to face "inhumane and humiliating treatment" there. Some refugees are also claiming ignorance about how they entered Germany, so that authorities have no way of knowing which country to return them to.

The Roma Problem

In a report, Markus Ulbig (CDU), the state interior minister in Saxony, suggests there are serious abuses of the asylum by Roma entering the EU from the Balkans. Last year, Serbia was the top country of origin among asylum seekers in Germany, with Macedonia in fifth and Kosovo in 10th place. Close to 15,000 people came from those three countries, and many were members of the Roma ethnic group.

In the Macedonian capital Skopje, the interior minister went on record as saying that the reason for the rise in Roma emigration to Germany was a July 2012 ruling by the German Constitutional Court that asylum seekers must be given more money so that they can live in decent conditions. The director of Catholic Charities Roma project in Skopje is also critical of the money Germany had temporarily been paying Roma if they agreed to return home voluntarily, arguing that it provided an additional incentive to those seeking asylum in Germany.

Of course, there are many cases in which Roma have been denied rights and treated with hostility, which makes verification all the more difficult. The fact that most Roma immigrate before the winter may suggest that they travel north primarily for reasons of sustenance, not persecution. This leads to complaints among Germans, including Interior Minister Friedrich, about "poverty refugees" who are merely out to take advantage of the German social welfare system.

Friedrich may be technically right in many cases, but it also suggests that, while it is noble to flee from war and persecution, it is reprehensible to do so for reasons of poverty, hunger, disease and despair. This forces everyone through the same bottleneck of having to argue they are being politically persecuted. It leads to made-up stories, "toleration" and refugees being placed into holding patterns. This is one of the reasons the current system isn't working.

A Man with a Plan

When it comes to German asylum cases, all roads lead to the BAMF office in Nuremberg. The agency has 1.9 million asylum files, and a 442-gigabyte asylum database called "Maris." BAMF head Manfred Schmidt knows there are no streamlined, quick solutions to asylum problems. But he doesn't hide behind the lawmakers' rules. In fact, he has a proposal.

The BAMF president wants to administer an entry examination to asylum-seekers before they can apply for asylum. It would be a preliminary step, so that not every refugee is driven into an often hopeless asylum application process simply because it's the only way to remain in Germany.

"We have to reject 70 percent of the applications," says Schmidt. "They're mostly people who have left their countries because of economic hardship, and then they encounter our asylum process, in which economic reasons to flee their countries are not considered valid." As a result, he says, they tell stories that are not credible and are rejected. Or they tell the truth, which is that they have come to Germany looking for work because there is no work at home -- and are rejected.

"These include students and highly qualified skilled workers, but because their trafficker has told them they should request 'asylum' and throw away their papers, they become trapped within the system." In his opinion, this is "schizophrenic," because Germany is in urgent need of skilled workers.

A Different Road to Residency
This is why he recommends a preliminary examination focused on the question: Is this foreigner a skilled worker, or could he or she easily become one? If so, could he or she be given a residence permit as a labor immigrant?

Minister of State Böhmer is also receptive to the concept. "I don't want qualified workers to feel that applying for asylum is their only option," says Böhmer. "Part of the welcoming culture is not to allow them to head in the wrong direction."

Saxony Interior Minister Ulbig agrees. "The whole country is clamoring for skilled workers, but highly qualified asylum seekers are wasting away in the shelters." Ulbig envisions a deviation from current asylum cases, a "qualification relay" into the labor market.

This benefits only a portion of asylum seekers. A BAMF analysis for 2010 to 2012 concludes that more than a quarter of asylum seekers have attended high school and 10 percent have had at least some higher education. On the other hand, more than 40 percent are illiterate or have only an elementary school education. Still, the Schmidt proposal would be a start, and because it would primarily attract refugees with sufficient qualifications, it wouldn't exert an unwanted magnet effect.

This goes hand in hand with a demand being made by refugee associations: the abolition of the priority review, with which asylum seekers and tolerated individuals must contend during their first four years. During this time, they can only qualify for jobs for which the local employment agency is unable to find applicants from the EU. This creates enormous costs and leads to stories like that of Iranian engineer Alinia. It is also difficult to justify in a country with less than 200,000 asylum seekers and tolerated individuals.

There are plenty of small adjustments that can be made -- but each has its own complex moral arithmetic. Take the right of residence for young people, for example. By attempting to clear up their status, they could compromise their parents' made-up stories. Should the children be punished for protecting their parents, or should the parents be spared, even though they deceived and lied to the authorities for years? And then there are the "transit jumpers" at the Munich airport. If Germany introduces a transit visa for Egyptians, their numbers will decline. But this would also be a political insult to Egypt.

Reform Needed for the Dublin Regulation

One area urgently in need of reform is the Dublin Regulation, which forces countries on Europe's periphery into a defensive position. Because of their long EU external borders, they should in fact be required to accept most refugees. But because these countries -- Italy, Poland and especially Greece -- are utterly overwhelmed as a result, they undermine the regulation.

In theory, the Greeks receive assistance from Germany in return for this imbalance. In reality, this September, the German Federal Police only sent seven of its 30,000 officers to Greece to serve with Frontex, the EU agency charged with securing the external borders.

And what about financial assistance to care for refugees? "The Federal Ministry of the Interior has not issued any direct payments yet to support the Greek asylum system," says a spokesman in Berlin. The European Union paid about €34 million ($46 million) from 2008 to 2012, or less than €7 million a year. "The poorest ones on the edge of Europe are supposed to do the work for us, the rich ones, in the middle. But we couldn't care less about how they're supposed to do that," says an officer with the German Federal Police.

Greece responds by making life there intolerable for refugees. "What the Greeks are doing is a disgrace for Europe, but we're also leaving them alone with the problem," says SPD domestic policy expert Wiefelspütz, noting that the situation cannot be allowed to continue. Not in Hungary, where pregnant female refugees remain locked up in detention centers until their delivery dates. Not in Italy, where many asylum seekers are recognized but are then sent into the streets. And not in Poland, where several refugee dormitories have already been set on fire.

Europe as a 'Shunting Yard'

The Dublin Regulation has transformed Europe into a "shunting yard," says Frankfurt asylum law attorney Dominik Bender. Countries in the north, including Germany, are sending refugees back to the south, where they often have no livelihood. "The promise of protection is broken a thousand times over. The Dublin system has failed," says Bender, arriving at the same conclusion as many a Federal Police officer, albeit for other reasons. At the Federal Police, they believe that "Dublin" has failed because the refugees are not being shunted off on time, and because Germany is already accepting more refugees today than Italy, Greece and Poland combined.

Nevertheless, the German government is clinging to the Dublin Regulation. The German government would rather trust a disintegrating system because it benefits Germany, than to take the risk of it being replaced with something else. When Pope Francis declared the day after the boat accident off the coast of Lampedusa to be a "day of weeping" and European Parliament President Martin Schulz called it "a disgrace" that the "EU left Italy alone for so long," German Interior Minister Friedrich insisted the Dublin Regulation would "of course remain unchanged."

Friedrich also said the situation needs to be improved in the countries where refugees come from -- a hope so pious only God could fulfill it. Even politicians in the CDU/CSU now question whether this is the way to defend the Dublin Regulation, amid the growing pressure from EU countries in the south. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso plans to place the subject of asylum at the top of the agenda during the upcoming EU summit at the end of the month.

Ideal Solutions

Refugee organizations like Pro Asyl want the EU to implement what it calls a "free shop principle," under which each refugee could apply for asylum in only one country, but in the country of his or her choosing. As humane as this sounds, it could have an undesired effect: a competition among EU countries over which country is most effective at deterring refugees.

A contingent solution, similar to the way refugees are distributed among the states in Germany, would be more effective: the more productive the country, the more refugees it accepts. This would avert a run on two or three especially popular countries in the north.

Experts, however, fear a bureaucratic monster. Perhaps it would be better if EU countries were to allocate money to each other, with financial compensation being paid to offset asylum costs. "It's all incredibly complicated, but we have to address the problem," says an SPD politician in Berlin. The asylum system cannot be allowed to continue in its current form. Not in Germany, not in Europe, not for the authorities and, most of all, not for the refugees. This, at least, is something on which almost everyone agrees.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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Germany blocks EU car emissions law

Lobbying from Germany carmakers leads EU ministers to reopen deal to limit average new car emissions to 95g CO2 per km

Reuters
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.10 BST     

Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Higher average car emissions by German manufacturers including BMW and Daimler have led to lobbying to undo an EU deal capping new car emissions Photograph: Matthias Schrader/AP

European Union environment ministers agreed on Monday to German demands to scrap an agreement to cap EU car emissions that Berlin argued would cost jobs and damage its premium car makers.

After months of forceful lobbying from Germany, the ministers from the 28 EU member states agreed to reopen a deal sealed in June, but said they would work to secure it in weeks, not months.

German carmakers Daimler and BMW produce heavier and less fuel-efficient vehicles than those from firms such as Italy's Fiat, meaning they would find it challenging to meet a proposed EU cap on carbon emissions of 95 grams per kilometre for all new cars from 2020, analysts say.

"It's not a fight over principles but how we bind the necessary clarity in climate protection with the required flexibility and competitiveness to protect the car industry in Europe," Germany's environment minister Peter Altmaier said.

"I am convinced we can find such a solution. We can find it in the next weeks," he said.

EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told reporters she was disappointed that agreement on implementing a target first laid out five years ago had been blocked.

"It is not a terrific thing that we could not conclude on cars," she said.

She also said flexibility was limited and a German proposal to delay full implementation of the 95g CO2 target for four years to 2024 was not acceptable.

Environment campaigners say Germany is abusing the EU's democratic process, throwing away the chance to make European cars more energy efficient and to reduce the bloc's dependency on oil imports.

British-based consultancy Cambridge Econometrics researched how much Europe would save on oil imports if the 95 g/km target was implemented across the EU fleet. It found the EU as a whole would save around 70 billion euros ($94.94 billion) per year, while Germany would save 9 billion euros in fuel bills.

"It's an unacceptable price, which will be paid by every European driver in higher fuel bills, by the planet that will warm quicker and potentially by Europe's auto sector that will be less competitive," said Greg Archer, a programme manager at campaign group Transport & Environment.

"The deal struck in June was a reasonable political compromise. Now we go back to the drawing board."

Although Germany managed to get the support of other EU ministers on Monday, many member states have voiced unease at the manner in which Berlin blocked the deal.

Sweden's environment minister Lena Ek said the risk was that further delays could hold back adoption of the rules until 2015 because of impending European Parliament elections next year and the appointment of new commissioners.

Germany would bear "a very heavy responsibility", she told reporters.

As well as seeking to protect its carmakers, Germany also wants to avoid the car emissions law complicating its decision on forming a new governing coalition.

The German Greens are strongly in favour of cutting CO2 to 95 grams per kilometre, but chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservatives support the German carmakers.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/11/2013 05:36 PM

New German Biography: Hitler's Underestimated Charisma

Interview conducted by Jan Fleischhauer

There's no disputing Adolf Hitler was responsible for some of the most monstrous acts ever committed. In an interview about his new biography, however, historian Volker Ullrich discusses a dictator who was an anti-Semite but also a man of considerable charm.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Ullrich, how normal was Adolf Hitler?

Ullrich: He was not as crazy as some scholars of psychohistory would have us believe, at least, with their far too simplistic lines of argumentation. He may even have been more normal than we might wish.

SPIEGEL: Most people consider Hitler a psychopath. Many historians, too, believe that someone capable of committing such crimes cannot have been normal.

Ullrich: Hitler was without a doubt exceptional in his criminal deeds. Yet in many respects, he was not at all out of the ordinary. We will never be able to understand the terrible things that happened between 1933 and 1945 if we deny from the outset that Hitler also had human characteristics, and if we fail to take into account not only his criminal energies, but also the appealing qualities he had. So long as we view him only as a horrifying monster, the allure he undoubtedly exerted will remain a riddle.

SPIEGEL: Joachim Fest published a comprehensive biography of Hitler in 1973 and Ian Kershaw another one, in two volumes, beginning in 1998. What was your motivation for producing a third major biography?

Ullrich: Fest approached Hitler from a position of abhorrence and aversion. One central chapter of his book is titled "View of an Unperson." Kershaw was primarily interested in the societal structures that made Hitler possible, while the person himself remains somewhat pallid in his treatment. I bring the man back to the forefront. This creates not a completely new picture of Hitler, but still a more complex and contradictory one than we're familiar with.

SPIEGEL: "Hitler the Person" is the name of a chapter that you yourself describe as the key chapter in your book, which will be published this week. What was Hitler like as a person?

Ullrich: The remarkable thing about Hitler was his talent for dissimulation. His formidable abilities as an actor are often overlooked. There are only very rarely situations where we can say he was being genuine. This is what makes it so difficult to answer the question of what he was like as a person. He could be very pleasant, even to people he detested. Yet he was also incredibly cold even to people very close to him.

SPIEGEL: At one point in the book, you write of a "captivating charm." Charm is a quality not usually associated with this criminal of the century.

Ullrich: A good example of his ability to ingratiate himself is his relationship to German President Paul von Hindenburg, who initially had considerable reservations about the "Bohemian corporal," as he called Hitler. Yet within a few weeks of being appointed chancellor, Hitler managed to get Hindenburg so completely wrapped around his finger than he would sign off on whatever Hitler demanded of him. Joseph Goebbels noted frequently in his diaries that the dictator not only could chat very pleasantly among his close acquaintances, but absolutely knew how to listen as well.

SPIEGEL: On the other hand, there would sometimes be these switches into uncontrolled behavior. The seemingly smallest incident could trigger a fit of rage.

Ullrich: My impression is that most of his rages were staged. He did this deliberately, to intimidate people, when just talking with his political opponents didn't achieve what he wanted. Within minutes, he could be once again behaving with complete control over himself and playing the attentive host.

SPIEGEL: There was little in Hitler's background initially that would seem to suggest a career as a mass murderer. Instead of fulfilling his father's wish that he become an upstanding bureaucrat, Hitler withdrew to draw and read. "Books were his world," one childhood friend said.

Ullrich: Hitler was an avid reader, a passion that stayed with him through all the phases of his career. The Federal Archives in Berlin has receipts, showing titles and prices, from the Munich bookstore where Hitler purchased his books. These show what an immense quantity of books he ordered, especially on architecture, although biographies and philosophical works interested him as well. Hitler consumed books incredibly quickly, but also very selectively. He only read works that fit his worldview and that would be of use in his political career.

SPIEGEL: Would you go so far as to call him an artistically minded person?

Ullrich: His interest in art was certainly exceptional. On home leave in September 1918, he spent his time not in brothels, as his comrades did, but at Berlin's Museum Island.

SPIEGEL: In other words, perhaps we could say: Beware of artists in politics.

Ullrich: That's a good bon mot. But Hitler was never more than average as an artist. His great talent was for the games of politics. It's easy to underestimate the exceptional qualities and abilities he brought to bear in order to succeed in this field. In the space of just three years, he rose from an unknown veteran to the king of Munich, filling the city's largest halls week after week.

SPIEGEL: Hitler was a lone wolf. He didn't smoke, didn't drink, and eventually became a vegetarian. How does such an eccentric become a magnet for the masses?

Ullrich: Munich around 1920 was an ideal environment for a right-wing agitator, especially one who could give speeches as fiery as Hitler's. But he was also a skilled tactician, outmaneuvering his competition step by step. He surrounded himself with followers who looked up to him devoutly. And he secured the support of influential patrons, especially the Bruckmanns, a well-respected couple in the publishing world; the Bechstein family, who made pianos; and of course the Wagners in Bayreuth, who soon came to treat him like one of the family.

SPIEGEL: Even the earliest reports of Hitler as a speaker note the exchange of energy between him and his listeners. "I had a peculiar sensation," one eyewitness wrote in June 1919, "as if their excitement was his doing and at the same time also gave him voice in return."

Ullrich: To understand Hitler's power as a speaker, we must consider that he was not just the bellowing tavern demagogue we always picture, but in fact constructed his speeches very deliberately. He began very calmly, tentatively, almost as if he were feeling his way forward and trying to sense to what degree he had a hold of the audience so far. Not until he was certain of their approval did he escalate his word choice and gestures, becoming more aggressive. He continued this for two or three hours until he reached the climax, an intoxicating peak that left many listeners with tears running down their faces. When we watch clips of his speeches now, we're generally seeing only the conclusion.

SPIEGEL: The writer Klaus Mann, who observed Hitler devouring a strawberry tart at Munich's Carlton Tea Room in 1932, afterward wrote, "You want to be dictator, with that nose? Don't make me laugh." Did it require a certain sort of disposition to be fascinated by Hitler?

Ullrich: Klaus Mann had an instinctive, aesthetically motivated repulsion from the outset. But there are also reports of people who held a very negative view of Hitler at first, yet still got swept up and carried away when they experienced him. Among the effects of Rudolf Hess, who served as Hitler's private secretary starting in 1925, I found letters in which he described to his fiancée their agitation tours around Germany. In one letter, he describes a gathering of business leaders in the city of Essen in April 1927. When Hitler entered the room, he was met with frosty silence, complete rejection. After two hours, it was thunderous applause. "An atmosphere such as at (Munich's) Circus Krone," Hess wrote.

SPIEGEL: The slavering fervor of Hitler's party convention speeches sounds in our ears to this day. How did his voice in private differ from the one he used in public?

Ullrich: Very few recordings exist in which Hitler can be heard speaking normally. But in those that do exist, it's evident he possessed quite a warm, calm voice. It's a completely different tone from what he used in his public appearances.

Was Hitler Truly an Anti-Semite?
SPIEGEL: Fest was once asked in an interview, "Was Hitler an anti-Semite?" Meaning, in other words, whether his hatred of Jews stemmed from a conviction he truly held, or was primarily a means toward stirring up the masses. Was Hitler an anti-Semite?

Ullrich: Without a doubt. Anti-Semitism -- at its most radical, in fact -- was the core of his personality. It is impossible to understand Hitler without it. Saul Friedländer described it as "redemptive anti-Semitism," which fits very well. Hitler saw Jews as the embodiment of all that was bad, the root of all evil in the world.

SPIEGEL: But that wasn't the case from the start.

Ullrich: In his manifesto "Mein Kampf," Hitler made it sound as if he had become a fanatical anti-Semite while still in Vienna. But there is no evidence that he made any derogatory comments about Jews before moving to Munich. On the contrary, in the men's dormitory where he lived for three years in Vienna, he maintained decidedly friendly contact with Jews. The dealers who bought his paintings at a decent price were also Jews.

SPIEGEL: Did he experience something like a conversion experience to anti-Semitism?

Ullrich: We know that Hitler became a radical anti-Semite during the revolution in Munich in 1918-19, which he experienced firsthand and which first swung very far to the left, then swung back very far to the right. The Munich Soviet Republic that briefly came into existence included several Jews in leading positions -- Ernst Toller, Eugen Leviné and Erich Mühsam. This led to anti-Semitism that spread through the city like a fever.

SPIEGEL: You refer to a previously unknown letter from August 1920, in which a Munich law student recorded Hitler's views after an encounter with him. When it came to Jews, Hitler said, he believed the virus must be eradicated, and that the existence of the German people was at stake. How seriously did Hitler mean such statements at that point?

Ullrich: The political project that arose from his worldview did not yet consist of mass murder. Despite all the rhetoric of annihilation, "getting rid of the Jews" at that point meant expelling them from Germany. The so-called "Final Solution," meaning the systematic murder of Europe's Jews, did not enter into the plan until the beginning of World War II.

SPIEGEL: By the time of the Kristallnacht pogroms on Nov. 9, 1938, at the latest, it was clear that all those the regime considered its enemies were now without rights or protection. You write, rightly, that Germany took its leave of civilized nations at that point. But even this failed to detract from Hitler's popularity.

Ullrich: It's not easy to say what the general population's view of those pogroms was. Based on sources such as Gestapo reports on the general atmosphere in the country, I tend toward the view that the majority of people did not approve of this violence. Interestingly, "Kristallnacht" was not associated with Hitler. He managed to remain behind the scenes, even though he was the one pulling the strings, with other Nazi leaders being held responsible. This exoneration, along the lines of people saying, "If the Führer had known about it…" comes up again and again.

SPIEGEL: That Hitler gave considerable thought to his image can also be seen in the way he approached the issue of money. While he presented himself outwardly as a humble leader, in secret he exempted himself from taxes, as you write in your book.

Ullrich: A diligent official at the Munich East tax office noticed in October 1934 that Hitler owed 405,000 reichsmarks in taxes. Any obligation to pay these back taxes was immediately waived, declaring Hitler henceforth exempt from taxes, and the official who had noticed the problem was given a serious reprimand.

SPIEGEL: Starting in 1937, there were even stamps bearing his image, from which Hitler received a percentage of the revenue.

Ullrich: Hitler always appreciated luxury. It's no coincidence that even in the early years he drove the latest and most expense Mercedes models. Nor does his nine-room apartment on Munich's Prinzregentenstrasse exactly fit with the image of a simple man of the people, working himself to the bone for Germany's sake. I also found bills from hotels where Hitler stayed with his entourage before 1933. They spent 800 reichsmarks for four days at the Kaiserhof, in Berlin, for example. That's equivalent to around €3,500 ($4,700).

SPIEGEL: You also devote an entire chapter to Hitler's relationships with women. You don't see that as too trivial, asking questions about the dictator's private life?

Ullrich: I believe this is an aspect that should not be omitted from a biography. In Hitler's case, there's also the fact that he didn't maintain a strict division between his private and public spheres, but rather mixed these areas in a strange way. This was especially evident at the Berghof, where private spaces and working spaces were mingled.

SPIEGEL: What do you think of the theory that Hitler was sexually drawn to men?

Ullrich: He was also supposedly missing one testicle, which made him reluctant to undress in front of women. But you can forget all that. Here, too, Hitler hid a great deal, and there is little we know exactly. But I am convinced he had a much closer relationship with his last lover, Munich photographer's assistant Eva Braun, than we previously thought.

SPIEGEL: Kershaw expresses the theory that Hitler found his satisfaction in the ecstasy of the masses.

Ullrich: I don't believe that. Hitler always styled himself as a man who renounced all personal happiness in the service of his people. There is no conclusive evidence of this, but I believe that behind the smokescreen of discretion, Hitler had a very normal love life with Eva Braun.

SPIEGEL: Without Hitler there would have been no National Socialism, but without the energies that propelled him upward there would have been no Hitler. Where would these destructive forces have discharged if this pivotal figure had not existed?

Ullrich: They would have found a different outlet. One possibility would have been an authoritarian government largely directed by the military. People such as Chancellors Schleicher and Papen had shown what they were capable of following the 1932 coup in Prussia, dismissing republic-minded civil servants and purging the government. Anti-Jewish laws presumably would have been implemented without Hitler as well. But the Holocaust -- this last, radical extreme of the political utopian vision of a racially homogeneous society -- never would have happened. It is unimaginable without Hitler. There were very many Germans who supported that extreme, but Hitler was the one directing it.

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

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein


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« Reply #9336 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:13 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/14/2013 04:51 PM

EU Parliament Report: Europe Has 880,000 Slave Laborers

A report by the European Parliament says there are 3,600 international criminal organizations in the European Union and that some 880,000 slave laborers live in the 27-nation bloc, including 270,000 victims of sexual exploitation.

A European Parliament report seen by SPIEGEL estimates that 3,600 international organized crime organizations operate within the EU. The damage done to European economies by organized crime totals hundreds of billions of euros according to a European Parliament special committee investigating crime, money laundering and corruption.

The CRIM committee estimates that around 880,000 slave laborers live in the EU, of whom 270,000 are victims of sexual exploitation. Human trafficking alone generates profits of around €25 billion while the illegal trade in human organs and wild animals makes for a further estimated profit of between €18 and €26 billion annually.

Meanwhile, cybercrime causes an estimated €290 billion of damage. The report calls rampant corruption 'a serious threat' with 20 million cases worth a total of €120 billion registered in the public sector alone.

The European Commission has called for intensified cross-border cooperation between police forces and judiciaries in member states. Proposals include the elimination of tax havens and the criminalisation of vote-buying throughout the EU.

The committee further advocates that individuals convicted of money laundering or corruption are excluded from involvement in government procurement for a period of five years. Whistleblowers who expose malpractice in either business or government are to be provided with Europe-wide legal protection and freedom from criminal prosecution.

The European Parliament will vote on the CRIM report on October 23.


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« Reply #9337 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:24 AM »


Iran ready to deal on nuclear programme at Geneva talks

Tehran will agree to more transparency over uranium enrichment in exhange for lifting of embargos, say diplomats

Julian Borger in Geneva and Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Monday 14 October 2013 18.28 BST   

Iran's negotiators are expected to offer restrictions on its nuclear programme in return for at least a partial lifting of sanctions, at a new round of talks starting in Geneva on Tuesday, diplomats said.

The complexity of the proposals means a completed deal is unlikely at the end of two days of negotiations, as there will remain significant gaps between the Iranian and western negotiating positions, but diplomats pointed to a new level of engagement not seen for several years.

The Iranian foreign minister and lead negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, posted a message on his Facebook account saying the Geneva talks were "the start of a difficult and relatively time-consuming way forward".

He said: "I am hopeful that by Wednesday we can reach agreement on a road map to find a path towards resolution. But even with the goodwill of the other side, to reach agreement on details and start implementation will likely require another meeting at ministerial level."

The Iranian road map for the talks was described in vague terms on Friday by Zarif's deputy, Abbas Araqchi, who said Tehran would negotiate "the form, amount, and various levels of [uranium] enrichment" but would not agree to shipping enriched uranium out of the country.

Elements of the plan were floated in more detail during a visit to the UN in New York last month by Zarif and the newly-elected president, Hassan Rouhani, the Guardian has learned.

Iranian officials said Tehran would be prepared to limit its enrichment programme to two facilities, possibility both at Natanz, suggesting a readiness to suspend enrichment at a sensitive underground site at Fordow.

Iran is also prepared to suspend production of 20%-enriched uranium – another major concern for the international community as it is relatively straightforward to convert it into 90% weapons grade material.

Tehran will not agree to surrendering its existing stockpile of the 20% medium-enriched uranium, currently about 190kg, but compromises are possible that would make it less of a proliferation concern. It could be kept under international monitoring in a remote corner of the country, or it could be turned into reactor fuel, a form which is harder to enrich further.

Iran is also prepared to negotiate on the number of centrifuges it uses to make 3.5% enriched uranium, suitable for fuel for nuclear power stations, and on how much each centrifuge makes. Iranian officials have pointed out that, although new model centrifuges, called IR-2M, have been installed, they are not yet being fed with uranium gas for enrichment, and they pointed to that as an example of how the enrichment programme could be calibrated by international agreement.

Furthermore, the Iranians suggested that work on a heavy-water reactor at Arak, which would produce plutonium when commissioned, had been delayed since Rouhani's election and could be put off further if an interim deal was reached.

Tehran has also revived a longstanding proposal of forming a consortium with other countries to enrich uranium in Iran, as a means of reassuring the international community it would not be diverted for weapons purposes. In return, Iran would expect significant sanctions relief, and recognition that it had the right in principle to enrich uranium.

If the elements floated in New York are set out in Zarif's road map, it would represent the most substantive Iranian offer in a decade. However there would still be significant points of difference with the six nations represented at the Geneva talks: the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, chaired by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

The group has demanded the underground facility at Fordow be closed down entirely as part of a confidence-building deal. Iran is likely to accept suspension of enrichment there but not permanent closure.

Similarly, western powers had called for the transfer of the total stock of 20% enriched uranium out of the country, and it is unclear whether its conversion to reactor fuel or warehousing inside Iran would satisfy Washington and its allies.

The US is also reluctant to declare Iran's right to enrich uranium openly as early in the process as Tehran would like, fearing it would set a precedent for many other nations to start building centrifuge plants of their own, multiplying the risk of global nuclear proliferation.

Lastly, there is a gaping divide between the scale of sanctions relief Iran is demanding, involving the lifting of oil and financial embargoes, and the much more limited concessions offered by the west, covering aircraft parts, gold and petrochemical exports.

Iran observers, however, are hopeful that creative diplomacy at Geneva can help close some of those gaps.

"The Iranians are confident. They have a game plan and they are looking to execute that plan," said Jim Walsh, an expert on the Iranian nuclear programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"They are aware of the political sensitivities in the US. They get it, but they have sensitivities of their own and their clock is ticking for them to produce some results. They are ready for a small deal. Not a grand bargain, but a small deal.

Our concern on the American side is do we have our act together. I still don't have the answer to that question."

The Obama administration's room for negotiation is limited by what Congress would accept which in turn is influenced partly by Israel's position. Israel has warned of the dangers of the P5+1 talks in Geneva producing a "bad agreement" along the lines of those signed with North Korea, which did not prevent Pyongyang developing nuclear weapons.

As part of the diplomatic and media offensive launched by the Israeli government ahead of this week's talks in Geneva, intelligence and strategic affairs minister Yuval Steinitz told foreign journalists: "We have to learn from history, and the mistakes of history, and be very clear that not every agreement is a genuine political achievement." He stressed that Israel had not "closed the door to a diplomatic solution" to the Iranian nuclear issue, "on condition that it is a satisfactory solution".

"We do hope this process will succeed, that there will be a satisfactory diplomatic solution. We hope that we will not repeat the terrible mistakes of North Korea. This is our hope and we should all do our best to ensure that Geneva 2013 will not become Munich 1938," he said, referring to the pre-second world war agreement regarded as an act of appeasement by European powers to Nazi Germany.

In contrast to the agreements made with North Korea, the minister cited Libya as a successful model. "This agreement was about dismantling nuclear capacity, destroying centrifuges and giving up enrichment facilities," he said.

In contrast to previous statements made by Israeli leaders, Steinitz played down the necessity of a credible military threat against Iran, instead warning against the premature lifting of economic sanctions. "The economic pressure [on Iran] is very significant. The greater the pressure, the greater the chance of diplomacy to succeed. The Iranians are coming to the table because of severe economic pressure."

Sanctions must not be eased before a final satisfactory solution, he added. "A credible military threat would increase the chances of success but maybe you can succeed without that."

The "rational and logical" outcome of the Geneva talks was to allow Iran to produce nuclear power for civilian use, using fuel bought from abroad, as Canada, South Africa, Sweden and other countries do, he said. "This is a win-win situation – Iran gets what it says it wants, and the rest of the world is confident they are not producing nuclear weapons."

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

Israeli president Peres on Iran: ‘The facts contradict the speeches’

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 14, 2013 17:45 EDT

Shimon Peres says Israel and its allies must retain a firm stance on Iran until it can show it does not threaten regional stability, despite its election of Hassan Rouhani as president.

In an interview published Monday by the Brazilian newspaper the Folha de Sao Paulo, the Israeli president poured cold water on Rouhani’s recent charm offensive.

Last month, Rouhani sought to strike a new more open tone at the UN General Assembly, in stark contrast to the aggressive rhetoric of his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He envisaged signing a nuclear deal with world powers within months, raising hopes in Western capitals, which suspect Iran’s research program is a cover for developing an atomic bomb.

“In politics and in life you can only judge things based on facts. There has been no change on Iran — the facts contradict the speeches,” Israel’s elder statesman told the paper.

“If the Iranians say they do not want nuclear bombs then why are they developing missiles?”

Iran insists its nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes.

Peres has not endorsed unilateral Israeli military action against Tehran to curb its nuclear ambitions, but says diplomatic pressure must be ramped up.

This, the 90-year-old said, would mean Russia weighing in.

“We all prefer a non-military solution. But in order to give credibility to non-military solutions Iran has to know it will stand alone and could face force,” he said.

“There are coalitions of countries — one group is led by the United States and the European Union. If the Russians were on this side the pressure would be much more effective.”

Asked what he would say to Rouhani if the two were to pick up the telephone and speak directly,

Peres said: “I would tell him nobody in the world is threatening Iran. So why does Iran threaten other countries? Tell me. I don’t understand why Iran threatens Israel. Why?”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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

October 15, 2013

In New Nuclear Talks, Technological Gains by Iran Pose Challenges to the West

By MICHAEL R. GORDON and THOMAS ERDBRINK
IHT

GENEVA — Iran is expected to make an offer on Tuesday to scale back its effort to enrich uranium, a move that a year ago would have been a significant concession to the West. But Iran’s nuclear abilities have advanced so far since then that experts say it will take far more than that to assure the West that Tehran does not have the capacity to quickly produce a nuclear weapon.

With thousands of advanced centrifuges spinning and Iranian engineers working on a plant that will produce plutonium, which also can be used in a weapon, Iran’s program presents a daunting challenge for negotiators determined to roll back its nuclear activities.

Both sides enter the nuclear talks that began here on Tuesday morning with inherent strengths and weaknesses. Iran walks in with a nuclear program that cannot easily be turned back, while the West has imposed sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy.

And if Iran is going to maintain the right to enrich uranium to even low levels, as it continues to insist it must, the West will surely demand highly intrusive inspections — far more than Iran has tolerated in the past. How these matters are resolved will go far in deciding the success or failure of the talks.

In 2003, when Iran struck its only nuclear deal with the West, it had a relative handful of somewhat unsophisticated centrifuges. Today, Iran has at least 19,000, and 1,000 of those are of a highly advanced design and have been installed but are not yet being used to enrich uranium.

That is more than enough, experts say, to transform low-enriched uranium to weapons grade from the 3 percent to 5 percent range in a few months. That would provide Iran with a so-called breakout capability that is unacceptable to the West and Israel, even if, as expected, Iran proposes a moratorium on enrichment to 20 percent.

“Ending production of 20 percent enriched uranium is not sufficient to prevent breakout, because Iran can produce nuclear weapons using low-enriched uranium and a large number of centrifuge machines,” said Gary Samore, a senior aide on nonproliferation on the National Security Council in President Obama’s first term.

In addition, Tehran is nearing completion of a heavy-water reactor that would be capable of producing plutonium for nuclear bombs, another factor that Western experts say argues for far broader constraints.

The talks in Geneva are the first between Iran and the United States and five other world powers since the election of Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, who took office in August and has made a priority of easing the crippling sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear activities.

A series of conciliatory messages and speeches from Mr. Rouhani and other Iranian officials — capped by a phone call to the Iranian president from Mr. Obama last month — has helped foster the most promising atmosphere for negotiations since 2003, when Mr. Rouhani was Tehran’s lead nuclear negotiator.

A senior American official said Monday that the United States was heartened by the change of tone in Tehran and believed that Mr. Rouhani’s election signaled a sincere intention by Iran to chart “a more moderate course.”

But the official also said that the United States and its partners were still waiting to see if Iran would take concrete steps to constrain the pace and scope of its nuclear program, limit its growing stockpile of enriched uranium and be more open about its nuclear activities.

“We are going to make judgments based on the actions of the Iranian government, not simply its words, although we appreciate the change in its tone,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol.

As hopeful as the Obama administration may be, a number of issues may prove contentious in the P5-plus-1 talks, so called because of the involvement of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — and Germany.

In hinting that they will accept some constraints on their nuclear program, for example, the Iranians have emphasized that they want quick reciprocal steps to ease sanctions.

American officials have said that they are prepared to reciprocate, and the United States delegation here includes a senior expert on economic sanctions, Adam J. Szubin, the director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Treasury Department.

But the United States is reluctant to withdraw the most effective measures, especially sanctions that have cut off Iran from the international banking system, until the main issues are solved.

Any easing of sanctions would be “proportional to what Iran puts on the table,” said the senior American official, who added that the Iranians would most likely “disagree about what is proportionate.”

Another potential obstacle is Iran’s insistence that its right to enrich uranium be acknowledged now as part of the negotiations under which it would accept constraints on its nuclear activity.

The senior American official said that Iran had a right to a civilian nuclear energy program and that the United States was now prepared to talk about a “comprehensive” solution. But the official would not say whether Iran should be allowed to produce enriched uranium at home or be limited to acquiring nuclear fuel from other nations.

“We are prepared to talk about what President Obama said in his address at the U.N.,” the senior official said. “That he respects the rights of the Iranian people to access a peaceful nuclear program. What that is is a matter of discussion.”

Even if the West yielded on the scope of Iran’s nuclear program, the two sides would have to overcome Tehran’s resistance to extensive verification measures. The problems they face in that respect are apparent at the sprawling Parchin military base just outside of Tehran.

Iran says that only regular military activities take place behind Parchin’s barbed wires and high fences. But the International Atomic Energy Agency says the site may possibly hold clues to past work on a nuclear weapon.

Tehran allowed inspectors onto the base twice in 2005 but has rebuffed further requests. Iranian officials have said that the inspectors are allowed to visit each of the country’s 17 declared nuclear facilities, warehouses and related workshops, but not military bases and other locations that have nothing to do with its nuclear program.

Iranian officials say they will not accept what happened in Iraq in the 1990s, when international inspectors played cat-and-mouse games with the Iraqis and the C.I.A. planted people on inspection teams in Iraq.

“There is more at stake here than only our national sovereignty,” said Mohammad Ali Shabani, a political analyst based in Tehran. “We don’t want inspectors running around the country freely. Iran is not a nuclear program with a country; we have far bigger security concerns than just the nuclear program.”

But Wendy Sherman, the State Department official who is leading the American delegation here, recently told Congress that “verifiable” steps to stop Iran’s program were needed because “deception is part of the DNA.”

Even as Iran has pressed its case, the Obama administration has faced pressure from Israel and members of Congress who are deeply suspicions of Iran and wary of removing sanctions. On Monday, 10 senators sent a letter to Mr. Obama arguing that Iran should freeze the enrichment of uranium and take other steps just to avoid the imposition of further economic sanctions.

Ray Takeyh, a former State Department expert on Iran who is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, underscored the obstacles to a quick breakthrough.

“Both sides are victims of their success today,” Mr. Takeyh said. “Iranians have a mature nuclear program that they are reluctant to trade. The Americans have a substantial sanctions regime that they are averse to dismantling for anything but measurable Iranian concessions.”

Michael R. Gordon reported from Geneva, and Thomas Erdbrink from Tehran.

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« Reply #9338 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:26 AM »


Afghan mosque bomb kills governor of Logar province

Arsala Jamal was delivering a speech to mark Eid holiday when explosion killed him and wounded 15 others, police say

Associated Press in Kabul
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 07.05 BST   

A bomb placed inside a mosque in eastern Afghanistan has killed the governor of Logar province.

Police said the explosion took place as Arsallah Jamal was delivering a speech on Tuesday morning to mark the Muslim holiday of Eid.

The governor's spokesman, Din Mohammad Darwesh, said the bombing took place at the main mosque in the provincial capital of Puli Alam.

Provincial deputy police chief Rais Khan Abbul Rahimzai said the explosion also wounded 15 people, five of them critically.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack but the Taliban have been targeting Afghan officials, military and Nato troops as part of a campaign to retake territory as international troops withdraw ahead of a full pullout at the end of 2014.


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« Reply #9339 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:36 AM »


India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
October 14, 2013, 10:09 am

Aam Aadmi Party Breaking the Rules of Identity Politics

By SAI MANISH

NEW DELHI— The upstart Aam Aadmi Party rattled the political establishment earlier this year when it announced that it would take its anticorruption campaign to the people by contesting all 70 seats in the Delhi state assembly elections this winter. Now the party is taking a step further to upend politics as usual by ignoring the conventional wisdom on candidates’ religious affiliations.

For as long as India has been a democracy, parties have followed one simple rule: Muslim candidates should run in Muslim-dominated areas, and Hindus in Hindu-dominated areas. But the Aam Aadmi Party, or the Common Man Party, is seeking to emphasize its secular credentials in the Dec. 4 elections by having a Muslim, Shazia Ilmi, run for office in an area whose constituency is less than 5 percent Muslim.

Ms. Ilmi, a former TV journalist, is the party’s candidate for the residential colony of Rama Krishna Puram, whose electorate includes multimillionares, government employees and slum dwellers. This area was home to the men who gang raped a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi last year, four of whom were sentenced to death in September for her murder.

Ms. Ilmi is a member of the national executive of the Aam Aadmi Party and its media strategist. She was also a highly coveted Muslim face in the activist Anna Hazare’s anticorruption protests last year against the Congress Party-led central government.

But she was initially reluctant when the party’s leaders asked her to run for office. “I told the party that I am a Muslim and it might not be easy,” Ms. Ilmi said. But then she changed her mind, she said: “I thought it is better to change the system by being a part of it than from outside.”

On a recent evening, a dozen Aam Aadmi Party workers and Ms. Ilmi paraded through a South Delhi middle-class locality of 4,000 residents known as the Air India colony. Navigating the colony on foot, Ms. Ilmi and the party workers were using door-to-door campaigning as a substitute for the more expensive TV and newspaper advertisements that the bigger national parties used.

Just a few minutes after they started walking, an Aam Aadmi Party worker screamed on his bullhorn in Hindi, “Brothers and sisters, she was a famous television news anchor sitting comfortably in her studio earning lakhs of rupees every month!” Then he cranked up the pitch: “Brothers and sisters, she left the comforts of her studio for you. Now she roams the streets so that you can live in a society without corruption. Listen to her and vote for her.”

The party worker handed over the bullhorn to Ms. Ilmi, who looked the part of a journalist in a flowing coral blue bohemian skirt and a kurta. She also wore a Gandhi cap emblazoned with the words “I am a common man.” Ms. Ilmi cleared her throat before addressing a motley crowd of around 10 residents who had gathered on their balconies.

“Brothers and sisters, you might know me,” she said. “I was a TV journalist with Star TV and used to anchor many popular shows. I can tell you I have seen everything as a journalist. All these political parties want to divide you on religious lines. Do not fall into their trap. Do not vote for anyone else. You must vote for yourself. You must vote for the Aam Aadmi Party.”

By then, it was seven in the evening and the Air India employees had just returned from work. Many were busy sipping their evening cup of tea. As Ms. Ilmi and her supporters walked over to another building that housed the blue-collar workers of Air India, a few residents of the colony also joined in the perambulation.

As Ms. Ilmi spoke again, around 20 employees of India’s embattled national airline peeked over the common balconies of their decrepit triple-story accommodation — middle aged men in their vests and pajamas, housewives who paused in their dinner preparations and curious children who gaped at the commotion outside.

Most political leaders look down on crowds while addressing them from atop a stage. Here, the first-time politician looked up at the people she was addressing. When Ms. Ilmi ended her 15 minute speech, a man handed a broom, the party’s political symbol, to his 3-year-old son to wave. Meanwhile, many of the middle-class inhabitants of the building had made donations ranging from 10 rupees (16 U.S. cents) to 100 rupees to the party volunteers, who made the rounds with cash receipts in hand.

“Just look at the warmth of the people,” Ms. Ilmi said. “All of them are sick of the existing political parties. They will vote for me.”

Political analysts in the nation’s capital are not so certain. The party’s decision to put Ms. Ilmi in a non-Muslim dominated constituency has befuddled many, as candidates in India are chosen for their ability to win, which in turn is determined by money, caste and religion — necessarily in that order.

“She has no chance at all,” said Professor Nisar Hul Haq, head of the political science department at Jamia Millia Islamia University. “It is a big mistake on A.A.P.’s part to field Ilmi in the first place,” he said, referring to the Aam Aadmi Party.

Manzoor Alam, chairman of the Institute of Objective Studies in New Delhi, said, “Nothing has changed since the first elections of 1952 in India.” Back then, Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister, had set up India’s most-loved Muslim freedom fighter, Maulana Azad, to run in Rampur, and then in the area that is now called Gurgaon for the 1957 elections. Both constituencies were more than 60 percent Muslim.

“Nehru was scared that even a man of Maulana’s stature could not win from any seat that has a Hindu majority,” Mr. Alam said.

As India gears up for five state elections in the next two months and the parliamentary elections in 2014, Ms. Ilmi’s candidacy will be a case study of whether urbanization has diluted religious bias in India. In the 2011 census, 93 percent of the Delhi’s population was classified as urban.

“If she wins, it will be the talking point in the country,” said N. Bhaskar Rao, a senior political analyst. “If she loses, it would be a forgotten footnote in India’s election history.”

For his part, Mr. Rao dismissed Ms. Ilmi’s candidacy as a publicity stunt. “There is no doubt that the Aam Aadmi Party is using such tactics and propaganda to create hype around Ilmi’s candidature,” he said. “They are good at making a nonevent look like a big event. The religious angle to Ilmi’s candidature is due to pro-active spin doctors in the media.”

In fact, some political observers say the party decided to have Ms. Ilmi run in a Muslim-minority area because she is not Muslim enough for the Muslim-dominated areas of Delhi. Constituencies that have a Muslim-majority population are heavily influenced by theological issues that often hinge on the need to follow Islamic principles and to protect the community from “outside” influences. A well-to-do TV news anchor married to a half-Tamil Brahmin hardly fits that bill.

“Having a photogenic face and being silver-tongued in TV debates does not make one popular among the Muslims,” said Mateen Ahmed, the Congress Party legislator from the Muslim-dominated Seelampur constituency across the Yamuna River in East Delhi. “All this so-called progressiveness is of no value to Muslim voters.”

The five Muslims in Delhi’s assembly have all been elected from constituencies where Muslims make up the majority, and so far, Mr. Kejriwal has placed a Muslim candidate in three of the five constituencies. While the party has not declared its candidates for the other two Muslim majority constituencies, in Seelampur in East Delhi and Mustafabad in Northeast Delhi, there is little doubt that the debutante party is no mood to put up non-Muslim candidates in these areas.

And where Islam does not matter, the popularity of Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, a Congress Party stalwart, would be a formidable obstacle to overcome.

“Sheila Dikshit is known for changing the face of Delhi through her development work and enjoys immense goodwill among the people,” said Professor Haq. “As long as she is the face of the Congress, people will continue to support the party.”

However, Ms. Ilmi is hoping that the voters will be tired of the corruption scandals that have dogged the governing party to look beyond religion and give her party a chance.

During the various speeches she gave at the Air India colony, she repeatedly told potential voters that she had come from a recitation of the Hindu religious text “Bhagvad Gita.” As Ms. Ilmi prepared to leave, one person asked: “Is there a reason you told people you are coming from a ‘Bhagvad Gita’ recitation?”

Ms. Ilmi, looking a bit disconcerted, said, “I could have also said I am coming from a mosque.” A brief moment of awkward silence followed.

And then the conversation veered into more comfortable territory. “I am a person who would focus more on gender issues than religion,” she said. “I decided to contest from R.K. Puram because this is where the brutal gang rape happened and this is where the rapists lived.”

Sai Manish is a Delhi-based freelance journalist.


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« Reply #9340 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:38 AM »


Rangoon hotel bombed amid wave of blasts in Burma

American guest wounded by timebomb at Traders Hotel, authorities say, while other devices go off in city and elsewhere

Associated Press in Yangon
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 05.18 BST   

A homemade timebomb went off in a prestigious Rangoon hotel on Monday, ripping apart a room and injuring an American guest, Burmese authorities have said. It was part of a wave of unexplained blasts in recent days.

The police officer Myint Htwe said three suspects had been detained in relation to the blast, which occurred just before midnight at the Traders hotel.

The hotel bombing was followed by two small explosions before dawn on Tuesday in the Mandalay region, police said, adding that there were no reports of injuries.

The blast at the 22-storey Traders hotel, located in the heart of the country's commercial capital, blew out a window in the guest's ninth floor room, shooting shards of thick glass more than 30 metres into the street. There was no other visible damage to the exterior of the building. The device apparently went off in the guest's bathroom.

A 43-year-old American woman was slightly injured and taken to hospital, police and hotel staff said. Her husband and their two children, aged five and seven, were unhurt.

"Our consular officers in Rangoon have visited the US citizen and are providing appropriate consular assistance," said Sarah Hutchison, the US embassy spokeswoman.

Unidentified assailants have planted several homemade bombs in and around Rangoon in recent days, reportedly killing two people and injuring three others.

The first bomb reportedly went off on Friday at a guesthouse in Taungoo, a town 125 miles (200km) from Rangoon, according to independent media outlet the Democratic Voice of Burma. It said two people were killed but those casualties could not immediately be confirmed.

On Sunday two other homemade bombs went off in Rangoon. One, attached to the bottom of a truck parked outside a market on Rangoon's eastern side, wounded three civilians, according to a statement by Burmese police.

Another homemade bomb exploded at a bus stop in the west of the city but no casualties were reported in that blast, police said.

The explosions on Tuesday took place at 3am and 5am in Sagain in Mandalay region. No further details were available. No one has claimed responsibility for any of the incidents.

Traders' general manager, Phillip Couvaras, said in a statement that the hotel, part of the Shangri-La group, was working with authorities to investigate what happened.

Small explosions occurred frequently when Burma was under 50 years of military rule. They were mostly blamed on anti-government student activists or armed ethnic insurgent groups. But such incidents have become rare in recent years.


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« Reply #9341 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:45 AM »


Tony Abbott insists carbon tax will end on 1 July – even if Senate blocks repeal

Leading lawyers say Australian companies would still be liable and should continue to pass the tax on to customers

Lenore Taylor political editor
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 08.35 BST   

The Abbott government insists the carbon tax will end on 1 July next year even if the parliament has not yet repealed it but leading lawyers say companies would still be liable and should continue to pass the tax on to their customers.

Tony Abbott says he is sure public pressure will force the Labor party to “repent” of its support for the carbon tax and allow its repeal before next July, but both Labor and the Greens insist they will not allow the repeal legislation through the Senate – meaning the government would have to wait until the newly elected Senate sits in July.

Explanatory documents released with a package of eight draft bills designed to demolish Labor’s carbon pricing scheme state: “The government will not extend the carbon tax beyond 2013-14, even if the parliament does not pass the carbon tax repeal bills until after 1 July 2014.”

The bills – making Australia the first country in the world to dismantle a carbon market – seek to make the carbon tax repeal retrospective to 1 July.

But Elisa de Wit, partner at legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright specialising in climate law, said until the repeal passed parliament, companies would still be liable and she would be advising clients to continue to pass the tax through to their customers.

“This legislation does not deal with the scenario that the repeal is not passed by the abolition date,” de Wit said.

“If that happens companies will still be liable and as a lawyer I would be advising my clients that they still need to comply with the existing laws because they would not know if the repeal was going to be passed, or when, or in what form.

“It would be prudent for them to continue to pass the price through to their customers, but once the repeal goes through those customers may want a refund … that is going to get very complicated.”

Asked how the government believed it could remove a company’s legal requirement to comply with a law that had not been repealed by the parliament, a spokeswoman for the environment minister, Greg Hunt, said: “The legislation is structured so that it will achieve what we said it would – finish on 30 June 2014. There is no requirement for businesses to purchase permits prior beyond the current 2013-14 year.”

It is understood the government would convene parliament as quickly as possible after 1 July to try to get the repeal through, but that strategy relies on the compliance of the crossbench in the new Senate, where the four votes controlled by Clive Palmer’s Palmer United party will be crucial.

Martijn Wilder, head of global environmental markets for Baker and McKenzie, said: “The expectation is that the repeal would be passed quite quickly after July 1, but if it dragged on the point would come where businesses would have to comply with the existing scheme and that would create complications.”

The new laws also provide for fines of more than $100,000 for listed corporations that engage in “carbon tax-related price exploitation” or that “make false or misleading representations about the effect of the carbon tax repeal”.

The crackdown, including new price-monitoring powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, applies for six months before the repeal and one year afterwards.

As well as removing the carbon price, the bills seek to abolish the legislated cap on Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions and dismantle the Climate Change Authority – which advises the government on Australia’s fair share of the international effort to reduce greenhouse gases. Instead the new laws provide for “periodic reviews at the instigation of the minister”.

The repeal legislation will be the first item of business when parliament resumes on 12 November.

The new Labor leader, Bill Shorten, has said Labor will not allow a repeal. Given that the Greens are also determined to keep the carbon pricing scheme, if Labor sticks to that position it would leave the fate of the repeal bills in the hands of the new Senate.

“The pressure on the Labor party in the end to repeal this bill will be irresistible … we are giving the Labor party a chance to repent of its support for the carbon tax,” Abbott said at a press conference in Canberra after a meeting of his cabinet.

“I think the new leader of the Labor party is nothing if not a political pragmatist, he is nothing if not a political survivor.”

Labor has said it is willing to reduce the level of the carbon tax, but not willing to vote for the dismantling of the architecture of its scheme, which is necessary for long-term climate action.

The climate change spokesman, Mark Butler, said Labor “stands by its election commitment to support the termination of the carbon tax provided that a market-based mechanism that reduces carbon pollution is put in its place, along with a strong commitment to expanding renewable energy”.

Asked what it would mean for a company’s liability if the tax were not repealed by next June, Abbott said: “I’m just not going to speculate on the distant future, what I am going to say is that every day the Labor party tries to block this measure is a day the Labor party is going to get the Australian public more and more angry.”

He rejected Palmer’s policy that companies should be reimbursed for carbon tax already paid at the time of its abolition, and said Palmer himself should pay the tax he owes. Palmer is disputing a $6.2m carbon tax bill charged to his company, Queensland Nickel, and is challenging the constitutionality of the tax in the courts.

“For reasons of technical efficacy, for reasons of making a clean break with this toxic tax it makes abundant sense to abolish the carbon tax at the end of the current financial year and obviously people will be liable for their carbon tax obligations up until that time … obviously people do need to honour their obligations under tax law and that is true under existing carbon tax law just as it is true under any other law of the commonwealth,” Abbott said.

The prime minister said he could not remember whether any of the world leaders he had met during his recent overseas visits had raised concerns about the government’s plan to abolish the tax, but said his main message had been that he wanted to maximise economic growth.

“I am trying to remember all of the various conversations I had, there were a lot of conversations with a lot of people. I don’t have any specific recollection of anyone raising concerns … the point I made throughout my conversations … is that we are determined to put Australia in the strongest possible economic position and that means eliminating as far as we can anything that is an obstacle to economic growth and job creation.”

Asked about the warnings on the impact of climate change in the latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change, Abbott said: “The fact there is this ongoing issue, an ongoing challenge, is a very good reason to tackle it effectively rather than ineffectively.”

Hunt has convened meetings with business and environmental groups on Wednesday to explain the repeal process and the government’s alternative Direct Action plan. The government will commission a white paper on Direct Action to be completed by early next year, and Treasury modelling by mid-2014.

The chief executive of the Climate Institute, John Connor, said Australia’s existing legislation “has limits on carbon pollution, but we are now entering an era where pollution is unlimited by legislation”.

WWF-Australia said: “Australia risks being left without a cost-effective and stable mechanism to cut carbon pollution, if the government opts to repeal the current climate change laws before putting an alternative scheme in place.”

Interested parties have until 4 November to make submissions on the draft repeal bills.


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« Reply #9342 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:48 AM »


Yasser Arafat's belongings have traces of polonium-210, say scientists

Swiss scientists say discovery supports possibility that Palestinian leader was poisoned with radioactive substance

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.15 BST   

Swiss scientists have given details of their suspicious findings of traces of the radioactive substance polonium-210 on personal items belonging to the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat, which fuelled claims that he was poisoned by Israel in 2004.

The discovery of polonium-210 on Arafat's effects was first made public last year. His body was exhumed from its mausoleum in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November for tests, but no results have been disclosed.

In a paper in the Lancet, toxicologists said they had examined 38 items belonging to the late Palestinian leader, including underwear and a toothbrush, and compared them with a control group of 37 items of Arafat's that had been in storage for some time before his death.

They found traces of the substance that "support the possibility of Arafat's poisoning with polonium-210", the scientists reported.

They added: "Although the absence of myelosuppression [bone marrow deficiency] and hair loss does not favour acute radiation syndrome, symptoms of nausea, vomiting, fatigue, diarrhoea, and anorexia, followed by hepatic and renal failures, might suggest radioactive poisoning."

Arafat died at the age of 75 in a hospital near Paris in November 2004 after falling ill while holed up under Israeli military siege at his presidential compound, the Muqata, in Ramallah. Doctors could not conclusively identify the cause of death. Claims that he had been poisoned by Israel swiftly took hold among Palestinians, who revered Arafat as an iconic resistance leader.

No postmortem was conducted on his body, but after al-Jazeera aired the polonium-210 suspicions last year, the Palestinian Authority agreed to a request by Arafat's widow, Suha, and French judicial investigators to exhume his body for further tests.

The Swiss scientists said: "An autopsy would have been useful in this case because although potential polonium poisoning might not have been identified during that procedure, body samples could have been kept and tested afterwards."

Polonium-210 was used to kill Alexander Litvinenko, a Russian KGB agent, who died in London in 2006.


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« Reply #9343 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:51 AM »

Tunisian rappers face renewed repression

Crackdown on artists and DJs has dashed hopes of freedom of expression post Ben Ali

Monica Mark in Tunis
theguardian.com, Tuesday 15 October 2013 09.48 BST   

Two days before the police came for him, underground radio DJ and documentary-maker Abidi Nejib was overseeing a late-night recording session in a graffiti-emblazoned basement in downtown Tunis.

"With the dynamics since [Tunisia's uprising in] 2011, people are daring to speak out. We're an outlet for people who can't express themselves on traditional platforms," the 29-year-old said, as he watched a rapper aim digs at politicians in a makeshift studio.

Three years ago, the scene would have been unimaginable.

"I worked at a local radio station and it was basically like working for a political party," Nejib explained, referring to then-president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's iron grip on freedom of expression.

When a Tunisian street hawker set himself on fire, prompting the Arab spring, hopes ran high that civil liberties would be restored. Instead, many within the Islamist-led government have struck a jarring moral tone based on sharia law in one of the Arab world's most secular countries.

Against a background of economic problems that triggered months of protest, the moderate Islamic Ennahda party capitulated this month, and agreed to resume talks that will lead to it handing over the reins to an independent caretaker government ahead of planned elections in spring.

But the continued crackdown on a vibrant artistic community offers an insight into the tangled politics that could still derail the Arab spring's most promising transition to democracy.

Banned or exiled under Ben Ali, religious groups have resurfaced since the uprising, bringing deep divisions to the fore. Radicals have smashed art shows, while dozens of musicians and artists remain in jail or in hiding. Last month, a public prosecutor charged two sculptors for works deemed "harmful to public order". The owner of a television station was fined for broadcasting Persepolis, an animated film that depicts the author struggling to adjust to sharia during the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Suffocated by fresh repression under the new government, DJ Nejib turned to a US-based cyberactivist, who taught him and a group of Egyptians and Moroccans how to assemble a pirate radio transmitter. Radio Chaabi (Arabic for popular) operated mostly through secretive night-time recordings.

Partly a celebration of music free from the threat of hardliners, early recordings simply experimented with lacing popular traditional Arabic music and rap lyrics. Politically focused efforts included collaborations with musicians from Palestine.

"A project like this could only have been possible in a post Ben Ali world. But that doesn't mean the current administration is better. It's a weak regime which wants to control people, but can't because there's citizens' resistance on all sides," said Nejib.

The government has repeatedly denied such accusations. An Ennahda spokesperson said the party was not "responsible for any judicial decisions or actions".

Days after the Guardian interviewed him, Nejib and seven colleagues were jailed following a dawn raid.

Almost three years since a wave of popular anger toppled Ben Ali's government, the first of several corrupt, autocratic Arab governments to feel the swell, Tunisia is still treading water. Attempts to hammer out a new constitution have floundered as hard left unionists have battled Islamists, in particular over a clause that would allow sharia law to be brought in. With an eye on the coup that felled its Muslim Brotherhood allies in Egypt, Ennahda has attempted to use debate, but months of political deadlock has nevertheless ensued.

On a recent sunny Wednesday, a group of students and an enthusiastic 74-year-old grandmother handed out political flyers at kerbside cafes. Around one corner of a tree-lined boulevard, a weekly protest was taking place; on another, anarchists from a newly formed group called Désobéissance! (Disobedience!) loitered.

"I no longer believe political parties can bring about change in Tunisia," said Nabil, an anarchist who said he was beaten by Tunisia's feared police for distributing "anti-capitalist" badges at a rally.

The anarchists are a minority, but their disillusionment is widely echoed.

"Intellectually and politically the revolution sparked a jump of 15 years," said Majd Mastoura, a street poet, whose popular gatherings are monitored by plainclothes police. "The issue is this: people who support extremists are Tunisians too. They weren't imported from Gabon, or France, or outer space," he said .

Announced via Facebook, the only criteria for Mastoura's open mic street sessions is that performers use Tunisian colloquial, rather than Modern Standard Arabic or French, both of which are considered more prestigious.

It is a small but telling point. Ex-president Ben Ali used Tunisian colloquial in an official speech just once during his 23-year-presidency: the day before he fled into exile. Analysts say it was a last-ditch attempt to reach a wider, often rural, audience.

Hours away from the northern, tourist-filled coastal towns, Tunisia's impoverished desert heartlands have been home to decades of uprisings. In Sidi Bouzid, opposite the building where fruit-seller Mohammed Bouazizi burned himself to death, a homeless man slept under a wall scrawled in slogans. "Revolution: made in Tunisia," one said.

The single, main street has been renamed in honour of Bouazizi, but little else had changed, residents said. "His family feel they cannot even be proud he died; it was for nothing because our lives haven't changed," said Slimen Rouissi, a family friend who rushed the dying Bouazizi to hospital, gesturing at the still-charred municipal building.

Unemployment, which was the main trigger a spate of self-immolations that year, has jumped to more than 16% since 2011.

Thousands of jobless people have turned to illegal hawking on the backstreets of the capital. Past a maze of temporary stalls, an archway leads to a 200-year-old courtyard of the El Hamra theatre.

Leila Toubel, a celebrated actor and scriptwriter, wrote a revolution-inspired hit play, Monstranum's, which toured Europe countries this summer.

"The artistic challenge is how to talk about monsters that don't live in grottos, or jump out at night, but these monstrous imams who have brought the country down to its knees," she said. "You have to dig deeper to maintain the urgency after three years, but also to refrain from exoticising [religious hardliners] Salafists."

Radicals have taken over about 1,500 of the country's 5,000 mosques, using them to recruit and lobby for jihad, an official told the Guardian. In August, the government banned Ansar al-Sharia, a groups with suspected links to al-Qaida. Ennahda has also sought to rebuff accusations of complicity by opening investigations into the assassination of two secular opposition leaders by Islamic militants.

"There are scary things happening in terms of security and the economy. I don't know who dared call the uprising the jasmine revolution," said Toubel, referring to the national flower and a label favoured by the western media. "It's not over yet, and in the time of martyrs and wounded, you cannot talk about [a beautiful flower-like] jasmine."

She shook her head in disbelief, bright red earrings jangling loudly. "And anyway, jasmine smells nice, but it wilts very quickly."


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« Reply #9344 on: Oct 15, 2013, 06:54 AM »


October 14, 2013

Again, No African Leader Wins Annual Good Governance Prize

By ALAN COWELL
IHT

LONDON — For the fourth time in five years, a prestigious multimillion-dollar prize offered annually to African leaders for good government went unawarded on Monday, renewing questions about the stringency of its rules, the paucity of candidates and the state of democracy on the continent.

The prize, endowed by Mo Ibrahim, a Sudan-born telecommunications billionaire, is intended to reward democratically elected African leaders who retire voluntarily at the conclusion of their mandated terms after displaying strong qualities of governance and leadership.

The prize is worth $5 million over the first 10 years, followed by a stipend of at least $200,000 a year.

Since its creation seven years ago, it has been awarded three times, in 2007, 2008 and 2011. Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, the former president of Cape Verde, was the most recent recipient. Nelson Mandela was given an honorary award.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation said Monday that it considered every African head of state or government who had retired since 2010 before deciding not to award the prize this year. The foundation did not elaborate on its reasons for withholding the award.

The chairman of the panel that considers candidates for the award is Salim Ahmed Salim, a former secretary general of the Organization of African Unity and a former prime minister of Tanzania. He said in a statement that the award “honors former heads of state or government who, during their mandate, have demonstrated excellence in leading their country and, by doing so, serve as role models for the next generation.” But “after careful consideration,” he added, “the prize committee has determined not to award the 2013 Prize for Excellence in Leadership.”

The foundation made public on Monday its annual assessment of the state of African governance, concluding that while “overall governance continues to improve at the continental level,” aspects of life in Africa like personal safety and the rule of law had “declined worryingly.”

There is “a widening span in performance between the best and worst governed countries,” the assessment said, and that divergence “may sound a warning signal, with the new century seeing fewer regional conflicts but increased domestic social unrest.”
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