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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1082734 times)
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« Reply #3420 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:14 AM »

10 December 2012 - 13H33 

US, UK shareholders 'now to pay if bank fails'

AFP - British and US banking regulators proposed on Monday a joint strategy to ensure that the bankruptcy of big banks won't spark a chain reaction of contagion throughout markets.

The two bodies, acting on behalf of the two largest financial centres in the world, stressed that under the proposals, shareholders and not taxpayers would bear the full costs, and top managers would be sacked.

At the Bank of England, the deputy governor for financial stability Paul Tucker said: "The 'too big to fail' problem simply must be cured. We believe it can be and that this joint paper provides evidence of the serious progress that is being made."

The British and US authorities said in a joint statement that the financial crisis had "driven home the importance of an orderly resolution process for globally active, systemically important, financial institutions" which have foundered.

They said that their solutions, which would target the parent of any finance house in trouble, "have been designed to enable large and complex cross-border firms to be resolved without threatening financial stability and without putting public funds at risk."

They said they had borne in mind work by the G20-backed Financial Stability Board on principles for dealing with failed financial institutions.

There has been widespread criticism of the way in which Lehman Brothers investment bank was closed down, triggering a massive crisis of confidence, and that in the disruption that followed some shareholders did not carry the full brunt of the costs and some managers held on to their boardroom jobs.

In the United States and in Europe, governments had to use taxpayers' funds to provide guarantees or new capital to financial institutions in trouble. Creditors lost money but most depositors were protected.

The objective is to minimise the dangers of so-called "systemic risk", when a sudden loss of confidence threatens to trigger chaos throughout the financial system as nearly occurred in 2007.

The strategy by the Bank of England and the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is a response to the traumas and lessons of the financial crisis which followed.

The statement said that the British part of the strategy was intended to fit with the powers provided by the UK Banking Act of 2009 "and in anticipation of the further powers that will be provided by the European Union Recovery and Resolution Directive."

Britain, a member of the European Union but not of the eurozone, is campaigning hard on another front which has a bearing on bank resolution: this is progress towards an EU banking union, built initially around the 17 eurozone members with banking supervision vested in the European Central Bank.

Britain is concerned that this could become a back door way for eurozone and EU authorities to interfere in regulation of the financial sector in Britain in a way which would damage British interests.

The statement said that the proposals were based on a "top-down" strategy for dealing with financial firms in severe difficulty, whereby a single authority would apply its powers "to the top of a financial group, that is, at the parent company level" and across borders.

In the United States the measures would work in the context of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010.

"Such a strategy would apply a single receivership at the top-tier holding company, assign losses to shareholders and unsecured creditors of the holding company, and transfer sound operating subsidiaries to a new solvent entity or entities," said the statement.

Both the US and British approaches would "ensure continuity of all critical services performed by the operating firm(s), thereby reducing risks to financial stability."

The joint statement said: "The unsecured debt holders can expect that their claims would be written down to reflect any losses that shareholders cannot cover, with some converted partly into equity in order to provide sufficient capital."

Subsidiaries which were viable would be kept open and operating, "thereby limiting contagion effects and crossborder complications."

The statement also made clear that action to deal with financial firms in trouble "would be accompanied by the replacement of culpable senior management."
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« Reply #3421 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:18 AM »

Indonesian Shiites persecuted as ‘heretics’ live in limbo

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 10, 2012 7:10 EST

Condemned as heretics, a community of around 200 Shiite Muslims have for months lived as pariahs in a sports hall, driven from their Indonesian village after a deadly clash with Sunnis.

In August, a mob of hundreds armed with sickles and swords hacked a Shiite man to death and torched more than 30 houses, forcing villagers to seek refuge at the sports hall.

Since then they have slept on thin mattresses surrounded by flies, sharing few communal toilets and eating modest meals at the Sampang district indoor tennis courts in eastern Java.

Now their future appears more bleak than ever.

Last month, the government cut their free food and water supplies, citing lack of funds. To add insult to injury, religious and village leaders demanded they convert to Sunni Islam or be expelled from the district.

“We don’t want to live like refugees. We want to return home as soon as possible, to the village where we were born. But it seems our fate is not for us to decide,” Suleha, a 22-year-old housewife, told AFP.

“Aren’t we all Muslims? We believe in the same god, the same prophets, the same Koran. So why can’t we get along and live together in peace?”

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation of 240 million people, is hailed as a bastion of moderate Islam, but rights groups say religious intolerance is on the rise amid concerns that too little is being done to address it.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay warned last month that Indonesia risked losing its culture of diversity and tolerance “if firm action is not taken to address increasing levels of violence and hatred towards minorities and narrow and extremist interpretations of Islam”.

According to a report by the Setara Institute of Peace, a local rights watchdog, 308 incidents in the first half of 2012 were recorded against religious minorities, including Christians, minority Muslim sect Ahmadis and more recently, Buddhists.

Incidents — which include attacks and forced closure of places of worship — have risen steadily since 2009, when 491 cases were reported, rising to 502 in 2010 and to 543 in 2011, Setara said.

The August attack in Sampang was the worst-ever against minority Shiites in Indonesia, according to Setara.

Tohir, 50, saw his brother die and bears physical and emotional scars from the attack.

“My stomach feels sore all the time and I still get nightmares,” Tohir said, writhing in pain, showing a long scar on his back and stomach where he was slashed with a sickle.

“They threw rocks and shouted ‘Burn the Shiites’ houses’ and ‘Kill the Shiites’. My brother tried to calm them down, but they killed him. I rushed forward to save him and they attacked me as well,” he said.

“I have not forgiven them. My brother died for nothing. I want justice,” he said.

A Sunni religious leader believed to have orchestrated the attack stood trial earlier this month, charged with assault and murder, which carries a jail term of up to 20 years.

But such attacks in the past have been met with lenient sentences.

Sunnis and Shiites agree on the fundamentals of Islam. Sunnis believe that Prophet Mohammed’s closest aides were the rightful leaders of Islam while Shiites consider the prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his divinely-appointed successor.

The real number of Shiites in Indonesia is unknown as many feel forced to practise in secret.

“Their beliefs are heretical. In Sampang, they go to villages to proselytise their deviant ideologies and convert our fellow Sunnis to Shiites,” district chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Buchori Maksum told AFP.

“They are the real provocateurs.”

Munaji, 46, a village chief in Sampang, said that the Shiites were not welcome back in the community.

“The Shiites have caused a lot of unrest. We don’t welcome them here unless they return to Sunni Islam,” he said.

The MUI in East Java, a stronghold of Sunni Islam, issued a fatwa in January ruling Shiites religious “deviants”, a move slammed as repressive by rights groups.

As the government mulls a solution, patience is wearing thin for the ostracised Shiites, hanging in limbo.

Iklil Al-Melal, 40, who represents the Shiites taking shelter at the tennis hall, said the group rejected the local government’s suggestion of relocation. “On New Year’s Day, we plan to go back to the village. We are prepared for the backlash. We have nothing to lose,” he said.

“How can the government guarantee life is safer elsewhere?”

With no food and water, the Shiites have stopped bathing and have begun skipping meals. They pool whatever money they have to buy supplies.

Rohah, a 21-year-old housewife, sold her gold ring — the only item she salvaged from her burnt home — to chip in a modest $30. Others, she said, sold cows and goats.

“I’ve not showered for two days. I’ve no money to buy milk, so my baby has been drinking water instead,” she said.

“I don’t know what the future holds. All I know is that I will never change my faith. I pray that Sunnis will one day accept us.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #3422 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:19 AM »

Oil giant says August cyber attack targeted whole Saudi kingdom

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 10, 2012 3:44 EST

Oil giant Saudi Aramco said on Sunday that an August cyber attack on its computer network targeted not just the company but the kingdom’s economy as a whole.

The interior ministry, which joined Aramco’s investigation into the attack that affected some 30,000 of the firm’s computers, said it was carried out by organised hackers from several different foreign countries.

“The attack targeted the whole economy of the country, not just Aramco as an entity,” said Abdullah al-Saadan, who headed the company’s inquiry team.

“The aim was to stop pumping oil and gas to domestic and international markets,” he told reporters.

Interior ministry spokesman General Mansur al-Turki said the joint investigation had established that an “organised group launched the attack from outside the kingdom and from different countries.”

“It is in the interest of the investigation not to reveal any results,” he told reporters, stressing that “no Aramco employees or contractors were involved in the hacking.”

On August 27, Aramco said it had restored its main internal network after the August 15 attack, which it described as a “malicious virus that originated from external sources.”

The state-owned group which runs all Saudi Arabia’s oil production said at the time that its oil exploration and production were unaffected “as they operate on isolated network systems.”
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« Reply #3423 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:21 AM »

Controversial skyscraper alters Santiago skyline

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, December 10, 2012 3:40 EST

The skyline of Chile’s capital has been altered over the past year by a skyscraper — the tallest in South America and one so towering it casts a shadow nearly two kilometers (more than a mile) long.

The 70-story Gran Torre Costanera Center, a giant that dwarfs Santiago’s other skyscrapers, overwhelms the view of a city founded in 1541 by Spanish conquistadors and that remains proud of its colonial-era buildings.

Workers completed the top floor of the nearly $1 billion structure in February, and in March 2013 tenants are expected to start moving in.

The 300-meter tall Gran Torre is not as tall as New York’s iconic Empire State Building (381 meters) and is less than half the size of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (828 meters). But it is significantly taller than the other regional giant, the Trump Ocean Club in Panama City (293 meters).

A six-floor shopping mall has also risen next to the Gran Torre, and three other skyscrapers — two high-end hotels and an office building — are going up nearby.

The Gran Torre was built to withstand earthquakes — Chile, located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, is especially prone to powerful quakes. The building came through with flying colors in February 2010, surviving the 8.8 magnitude quake that devastated much of south-central Chile with no structural damage.

Residents and city planners complain that people going to and from the complex will generate massive traffic jams and gridlock in an already tightly-packed city.

Once the edifice is completed, there will be nearly 700,000 square meters of building space available built on 47,000 square meters of land. Planners estimate there will be some 240,000 people going to and from the site each day.

“We’re talking about five percent of the city circulating within a few square kilometers,” complained architect and urban planner Julio Hurtado.

“The long-term consequences of this chaos it will be a topic for experts to study,” he told AFP.

The Gran Torre is located in the heart of Santiago’s financial district, and known locally as ‘Sanhattan’. It was designed by Cesar Pelli, the Argentine architect who also designed the 452-meter tall Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

Taller than even some of the Andean hills surrounding Santiago, the Torre is now a universal point of reference in this city of six million people.

Its owner, German-born supermarket magnate Horst Paulmann, once gushed that the site will be for Santiago what the Eiffel Tower is for Paris — a comparison that raised eyebrows, if not snickers.

“The Eiffel Tower is a monument, not a building. There is no comparison,” said Luis Eduardo Bresacini, head of Chile’s Architects’ Association.

The building may lack the graceful curves of Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure, but the torpedo-like structure is not without some grace.

“It’s a fairly neutral building,” said Bresacini.

Hurtado was kinder. “From an architectural point of view, it is interesting and unique. A pretty object,” he told AFP.

In many ways the Gran Torre is emblematic of 21st century Chile, a country with strong economic growth but with enormous income disparity, where ten percent of the country’s wealthiest have income 35 times higher than the poorest 10 percent.

The Gran Torre, which will have 41 elevators and 5,500 parking spots when it opens, “is a symbol of the evolution of wealth, which in Chile is shown but not shared,” said Hurtado.

It also symbolizes “a country at the threshold of being developed but still with brutal contradictions,” he said.

The builders praise their structure as “the most imposing commercial and architectural landmark in Santiago” and “emblematic of Chile’s commercial development.”

Work on the giant structure halted for ten months in 2009, during the height of the global financial crisis. The shell at the time seemed to symbolize the country’s shattered dreams of economic grandeur.

But when work re-started, it became a symbol of Chile’s economic recovery.

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« Reply #3424 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:28 AM »

10 December 2012 - 09H40 

Fire, flood or giant calabash... pick your apocalypse

AFP - Devoured by a giant squash, engulfed by flood or flames, frozen in a nuclear winter or new ice age, mankind has looked to The End with fear and fascination since the dawn of civilisation.

Nature's cycles -- day succeeding night, the four seasons -- long fed fears of being plunged into eternal darkness, or an endless winter.

"Before the great monotheistic religions, most ancient civilisations lived in fear that these cycles would one day stop," explained the historian Bernard Sergent, author of a recent book exploring 13 apocalyptic myths.

The Aztecs believed there was a chance that -- once every 52 years -- the sun would no longer rise, so they ordered copious human sacrifices to ensure it did.

But rather than The End of all things, throughout history a good old apocalypse has often been viewed as a way to reset the clock, divide good from evil and start anew.

Derived from ancient Greek, the word means "revelation". Chosen to figure in the Bible, the Apocalypse of John is just one of the many world's end scenarios that were in circulation in early Christian times.

The Book of Revelation, the last in the New Testament, describes a string of cataclysmic events that annihilate part of life on Earth, culminating with the announcement of the Second Coming of Christ.

Islam also offers a repertoire of tales of mass destruction -- by sandstorm, invasion or fire.

Plague, famine and brutal wars made Europe in the Middle Ages, to many, seem ripe for extermination -- leading to a flourishing of prophecies the world would end in 1,000 AD, just as doomsayers would foretell The End a millennium later.

At the start of the Renaissance, the Anabaptists were convinced the end of the world was nigh, and that it was vital to "rebaptise" adults before it came.

"What is most often at stake is being called to account by the gods, or by nature, it's about being punished for defying some higher order," said Jean-Noel Lafargue, author of a study of world's end myths through history

"Today we no longer need Gods to make us tremble. Man-made disasters suffice. That's what changed in the 20th century."

For thousands of years water was the apocalyptic weapon of choice.

For Judeo-Christians, the flood evokes the biblical story of Noah's Ark, but the motif of a deluge sent upon man by an angry divinity stretches back deep in time.

In Mesopotamia all-engulfing flood myths date from Sumerian times, between the fourth and second millennium BC, as told in the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest surviving works of literature.

Ancient Greece and Rome had their share of floods, too: from the Greek deluge of Ogyges -- named after a mythical ruler -- to Atlantis, the legendary island swallowed up by the sea, as recounted by the philosopher Plato.

At the dawn of our era, a deluge myth told by a small people from the Near East, the Hebrews, went on to become the most famous of all.

According to the Book of Genesis, God decided to rid Earth of men and animals, instructing a single, "righteous" man, Noah, to build an ark to save himself and a remnant of life.

Fire usually comes just before, or after a flood.

Greece, Scandinavia, India and native American cultures all spoke of the annihilation of early mankind by flames.

Africa and ancient Egypt had no flood myths, but West African folk tales do speak of a "devouring gourd", or calabash, that swallows up entire settlements, homes, livestock, even the whole of mankind.

"I think it's part of the human make-up, part of the human psyche somewhere, to have a fascination with the end of the world," Jocelyn Bell Burnell, visiting professor of astrophysics at Oxford, told AFP.

In the globalised 21st century, the apocalypse -- on the silver screen -- most often comes as a pandemic or climate cataclysm, but the most enthusiastic doomsayers will doubtless be stockpiling supplies as December 21 supposedly marked by the Mayan calendar as a world's end moment, draws near.


Photo illustration shows Chamonix region in France. Devoured by a giant squash, engulfed by flood or flames, frozen in a nuclear winter or new ice age, mankind has looked to The End with fear and fascination since the dawn of civilisation.

Photo illustration shows a motorbike passing through a over the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Islam also offers a repertoire of tales of mass destruction -- by sandstorm, invasion or fire.

Photo illustration shows sheep huddled on higher ground near flooded fields in northern Wales. For Judeo-Christians, the flood evokes the biblical story of Noah's Ark, but the motif of a deluge sent upon man by an angry divinity stretches back deep in time.

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« Reply #3425 on: Dec 10, 2012, 08:44 AM »

In the USA...

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

Posted: 12/07/2012 1:36 pm
Dan Froomkin

Post-mortems of contemporary election coverage typically include regrets about horserace journalism, he-said-she-said stenography, and the lack of enlightening stories about the issues.

But according to longtime political observers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein, campaign coverage in 2012 was a particularly calamitous failure, almost entirely missing the single biggest story of the race: Namely, the radical right-wing, off-the-rails lurch of the Republican Party, both in terms of its agenda and its relationship to the truth.

Mann and Ornstein are two longtime centrist Washington fixtures who earlier this year dramatically rejected the strictures of false equivalency that bind so much of the capital's media elite and publicly concluded that GOP leaders have become "ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition."

The 2012 campaign further proved their point, they both said in recent interviews. It also exposed how fabulists and liars can exploit the elite media's fear of being seen as taking sides.

"The mainstream press really has such a difficult time trying to cope with asymmetry between the two parties' agendas and connections to facts and truth," said Mann, who has spent nearly three decades as a congressional scholar at the centrist Brookings Institution.

"I saw some journalists struggling to avoid the trap of balance and I knew they were struggling with it -- and with their editors," said Mann. "But in general, I think overall it was a pretty disappointing performance."

"I can't recall a campaign where I've seen more lying going on -- and it wasn't symmetric," said Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute who's been tracking Congress with Mann since 1978. Democrats were hardly innocent, he said, "but it seemed pretty clear to me that the Republican campaign was just far more over the top."

Lies from Republicans generally and standardbearer Mitt Romney in particular weren't limited to the occasional TV ads, either; the party's most central campaign principles -- that federal spending doesn't create jobs, that reducing taxes on the rich could create jobs and lower the deficit -- willfully disregarded the truth.

"It's the great unreported big story of American politics," Ornstein said.

"If voters are going to be able to hold accountable political figures, they've got to know what's going on," Ornstein said. "And if the story that you're telling repeatedly is that they're all to blame -- they're all equally to blame -- then you're really doing a disservice to voters, and not doing what journalism is supposed to do."

Ornstein said the media's failure led him to conclude: "If you want to use a strategy of 'I'm just going to lie all the time', when you have the false equivalence meme adopted by a mainstream press and the other side lies a quarter of the time, you get away with it."

The Apostasy

Ornstein and Mann's big coming out took place in late April, when the Washington Post's Outlook section published their essay "Admit it. The Republicans are worse", adapted from their book It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism, which went on sale a few days later.

Political journalists had no doubt heard similar arguments many times before, mostly from left wing bloggers. But this time the charge was coming from two of the most consistent purveyors of conventional wisdom in town, bipartisan to a fault.

And they were pretty harsh in their critique of the media. "Our advice to the press: Don't seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views," they wrote in the Post. "Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?"

Initially, at least, Mann and Ornstein weren't completely ignored. "We had really good reporters call us and say: 'You're absolutely right'," Mann said. "They told us they used this as the basis for conversations in the newsroom."

But those conversations went nowhere, Mann said.

"Their editors and producers, who felt they were looking out for the economic wellbeing of their news organizations, were also concerned about their professional standing and vulnerability to charges of partisan bias," Mann said.

So most reporters just kept on with business as usual.

"They're so timid," Mann said.

Some reporters did better than others, Ornstein said, particularly crediting Jackie Calmes of the New York Times and David Rogers of Politico among a few others. "They grew a little bit more straightforward in what they do, and showed you can be a good, diligent unbiased reporter, report the facts, put it in context, and yet show what's really going on," he said.

Most reporters, however -- including many widely admired for their intelligence and aggressive reporting -- simply refused to blame one side more than the other. Mann said he was struck in conversations with journalists by how influenced they were by the heavily funded movement to promote a bipartisan consensus around deficit reduction and austerity. Such a bipartisan consensus doesn't actually exist, Mann pointed out. But if you believe it does, than you can blame both parties for failing to reach it.

"The Peterson world, I think, has given journalists the material to keep doing what they're doing," Mann said of the vast network of think tanks and other influential Washington groups underwritten at least in part by Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson.

Peterson's vast spending has given rise to an environment of contempt among the Washington elites for anyone who doesn't believe the government is dangerously overextended. And by that reckoning, the Democrats are therefore more out of touch with reality than Republicans, who at least pay the concept ample lip service.

How Fact-Checking Made Things Worse

Ornstein and Mann's views on journalistic failure have not been widely shared by mainstream media critics, who have instead focused on the fact that the press, in its enthusiasm to see the presidential race decided by a nose, ignored solid polling data to the contrary and called it wrong until the very end.

To the extent that the issue of widespread prevarication has come up at all, many media critics identified the rise of fact-checking as the big new trend of the 2012 cycle.

But Mann and Ornstein said that in practice, the fact-checkers may have made things worse rather than better.

"We had these little flurries of fact-checking -- which I found not worthless, but not a substitute for coherent, serious reporting -- and most of the time it just got stuck in the back of a news organization's output and there was no cost to a candidate of ignoring it," Mann said.

And then there was this terrible irony: "Fact checkers almost seemed obliged to show some balance in their fact checking."

"There was some damn good stuff done, and stuff that really did hold Romney to account," Ornstein said. But no fact-checker intent on "appearing to be utterly straightforward, independent, and without an axe to grind, is going to actually do the job of saying that we're going to cover 20 fact checks on one side, to three on the other."

So, Ornstein concluded: "If you looked at where the scales should have been, and where they were, they were weighted. And they weren't weighted for ideological bias. They were weighted to avoid being charged with ideological bias."

It's hard to exaggerate just how popular Mann and Ornstein were with the press before their apostasy. They were quite possibly the two most quotable men in Washington. They were the media cocktail party circuit's most reliable walking talking points.

And now they are virtual pariahs.

"It's awkward. I can no longer be a source in a news story in the Wall Street Journal or the Times or the Post because people now think I've made the case for the Democrats and therefore I'll have to be balanced with a Republican," Mann said.

Neither Mann nor Ornstein have been guests on any of the main Sunday public affairs shows since their book came out. Nor has anyone else on those shows talked about the concerns they raised.

Ornstein is particularly infuriated that none of the supposed reader advocates at major newspapers have raised the issues they brought up. "What the fuck is an ombudsman doing if he's not writing about this?" he asked.

Their phones are still ringing, they say -- but not from inside the Beltway. "We've gotten a tremendous amount of attention, but much of that is due to the Internet and our original piece going viral," Mann said. They were also featured on NPR.

There have been countless requests for speaking engagements. "We're just selling a shitload of books," said Mann. "There've been page-one stories in countries around the world."

Domestically, however, Mann and Ornstein said they refuse to be "balanced" on TV shows by Republicans -- because they are not anti Republican. The reason they wanted the press to expose what was really happening, they said, was to give voters a chance to respond in an appropriate way.

"The argument we're making is that our politics will never really get better until the Republican Party gets back into the game, instead of playing a new one," Mann said. "We want a strong, conservative Republican Party -- but one with some connection with reality."

Their critique came not out of ideology, they said, but out of their background as devoted process junkies and honest analysts, who finally realized that their vision of collegial governance wasn't possible any more, and it was clear why.

Both see the rise of Tea Party influence on the GOP as a major turning point. For Mann, the moment of reckoning came in the summer of 2011. "What flipped me over was the debt ceiling hostage-taking," Mann said. It was clear then that the Republicans would "do or say anything" to hurt Obama, even if it was overtly bad for the country and false to core Republican values.

"That and getting older. What do I give a shit about access," he said.

"The fact is that one of the parties stopped being a conventional conservative party," Mann said. "My own view is that what needed to happen is somehow the public had to take a two-by-four to the Republicans' heads, knock them back to their senses, and allow conservative pragmatic voices to emerge," he said.

Democrats won soundly in 2012 of course, so the two-by-four was administered. But because the media obfuscated what was going on, the message was not entirely clear -- and certainly not to the Republican leadership.

Their Message Going Forward

Mann and Ornstein don't get invited to talk to the leaders of news organizations anymore.

But if they were, again, here is what Mann would say: "First of all, I'd sympathize. I'd say I understand that you have the responsibility to use professional norms of accuracy and fairness and not let your own personal feelings get in the way."

But, he would add: "You all have missed an incredibly important story in our politics that's been developing over a period of time. You'll slip it in here and there, you'll bury it, but you really don't confront it."

Ornstein said his message would be this: "I understand your concerns about advertisers. I understand your concerns about being labeled as biased. But what are you there for? What's the whole notion of a free press for if you're not going to report without fear or favor and you're not going to report what your reporters, after doing their due diligence, see as the truth?

"And if you don't do that, then you can expect I think a growing drumbeat of criticism that you're failing in your fundamental responsibility.

"Your job is to report the truth. And sometimes there are two sides to a story. Sometimes there are ten sides to a story. Sometimes there's only one.

"Somebody has got to make an assessment of whether the two sides are being equally careless with their facts, or equally deliberate with their lies."

Dan Froomkin is in the process of launching a new accountability journalism project. He is contributing editor of Nieman Reports, and the former senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post. He wrote the White House Watch column for the Washington Post website from 2004 to 2009, and was editor of the site from 2000 to 2003. Dan welcomes your email and can be reached at


December 9, 2012

U.N. Ambassador Questioned on U.S. Role in Congo Violence


WASHINGTON — Almost two decades after the Clinton administration failed to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda, the United States is coming under harsh criticism for not moving forcefully in another African crisis marked by atrocities and brutal killings, this time in Rwanda’s neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have taken some of the blame, critics of the Obama administration’s Africa policy have focused on the role of Susan E. Rice, the United States ambassador to the United Nations and a leading contender to succeed Mrs. Clinton, in the administration’s failure to take action against the country they see as a major cause of the Congolese crisis, Rwanda.

Specifically, these critics — who include officials of human rights organizations and United Nations diplomats — say the administration has not put enough pressure on Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, to end his support for the rebel movement whose recent capture of the strategic city of Goma in Congo set off a national crisis in a country that has already lost more than three million people in more than a decade of fighting. Rwanda’s support is seen as vital to the rebel group, known as M23.

Support for Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government has been a matter of American foreign policy since he led the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front to victory over the incumbent government in July 1994, effectively ending the Rwandan genocide. But according to rights organizations and diplomats at the United Nations, Ms. Rice has been at the forefront of trying to shield the Rwandan government, and Mr. Kagame in particular, from international censure, even as several United Nations reports have laid the blame for the violence in Congo at Mr. Kagame’s door.

A senior administration official said Saturday that Ms. Rice was not freelancing, and that the American policy toward Rwanda and Congo was to work with all the countries in the area for a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

Aides to Ms. Rice acknowledge that she is close to Mr. Kagame and that Mr. Kagame’s government was her client when she worked at Intellibridge, a strategic analysis firm in Washington. Ms. Rice, who served as the State Department’s top African affairs expert in the Clinton administration, worked at the firm with several other former Clinton administration officials, including David J. Rothkopf, who was an acting under secretary in the Commerce Department; Anthony Lake, Mr. Clinton’s national security adviser; and John M. Deutch, who was director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Payton Knopf, a spokesman for Ms. Rice, declined to comment about whether her work with Rwanda at Intellibridge affected her dealings with Rwanda in her present job as the United States ambassador to the United Nations.

Two months ago, at a meeting with her French and British counterparts at the French Mission to the United Nations, according to a Western diplomat with knowledge of the meeting, Ms. Rice objected strongly to a call by the French envoy, Gerard Araud, for explicitly “naming and shaming” Mr. Kagame and the Rwandan government for its support of M23, and to his proposal to consider sanctions to pressure Rwanda to abandon the rebel group.

“Listen Gerard,” she said, according to the diplomat. “This is the D.R.C. If it weren’t the M23 doing this, it would be some other group.” The exchange was reported in Foreign Policy magazine last week.

A few weeks later, Ms. Rice again stepped in to protect Mr. Kagame. After delaying for weeks the publication of a United Nations report denouncing Rwanda’s support for the M23 and opposing any direct references to Rwanda in United Nations statements and resolutions on the crisis, Ms. Rice intervened to water down a Security Council resolution that strongly condemned the M23 for widespread rape, summary executions and recruitment of child soldiers. The resolution expressed “deep concern” about external actors supporting the M23. But Ms. Rice prevailed in preventing the resolution from explicitly naming Rwanda when it was passed on Nov. 20.

Mr. Knopf, the spokesman for Ms. Rice, said the view of the United States was that delicate diplomatic negotiations under way among Rwanda, Congo and Uganda could have been adversely affected if the Security Council resolution explicitly named Rwanda. “Working with our colleagues in the Security Council, the United States helped craft a strong resolution to reinforce the delicate diplomatic effort then getting under way in Kampala,” Mr. Knopf said.

The negotiations subsequently fell apart, and the M23 continued to make gains in eastern Congo. Last week, the M23 withdrew from Goma but left behind agents and remain in range of the city.

Mr. Knopf declined to confirm or deny the account offered by the United Nations diplomat about the conversation between Ms. Rice and the French ambassador. But he said that “Ambassador Rice has frequently and publicly condemned the heinous abuses perpetrated by the M23 in eastern Congo,” adding that the United States was “leading efforts to end the rebellion, including by leveling U.S. and U.N. sanctions against M23 leaders and commanders.”

Ms. Rice’s critics say that is the crux of the problem with the American response to the crisis in Congo: it ignores, for the most part, the role played by Mr. Kagame in backing the M23, and, as it happens, risks repeating the mistakes of the genocide by not erring on the side of aggressive action. “I fear that our collective regret about not stopping the Rwandan genocide, felt by all of us who worked for the Clinton administration, led to policies that overlooked more waves of atrocities in the Congo, which we should equally regret,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, who has worked closely with Ms. Rice both in the Clinton administration and after.

“For almost 20 years now, the premise of U.S. policy has been that quiet persuasion is the best way to restrain Rwanda from supporting war criminals in the Congo,” Mr. Malinowski said. “It might have made sense once, but after years of Rwanda doing what the U.S. has urged it not to do, contributing to massive civilian deaths, and ripping up U.N. resolutions that the U.S. sponsored, the time to speak plainly and impose penalties has come.”

When Mrs. Clinton appeared before reporters on Nov. 28 to talk about the M23’s seizure of Goma, she sprinkled her talking points with a demand that the rebel group withdraw, calling the humanitarian impact “devastating,” with 285,000 people forced to flee their homes, health workers abducted and killed, and civil workers under threat of death. But she made no mention of Rwanda’s role backing the rebel group, limiting her inclusion of Rwanda to a mention of negotiations with Rwanda, Uganda and the Congo to try to get a cease-fire.

“The M23 would probably no longer exist today without Rwandan support,” said Jason K. Stearns, author of “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of Congo and the Great War of Africa.” “It stepped in to prevent the movement from collapsing and has been providing critical military support for every major offensive.”

Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, noted that the United States cut a portion of its military financing for Rwanda — around $250,000. But the Rwandan military continues to receive substantial American training, equipment and financial help. In an interview, he said, “There is not an ounce of difference between myself and Ambassador Rice on this issue,” adding that quiet diplomacy was better than publicly calling out Mr. Kagame.

Ms. Rice, who has been at the eye of a political storm over her portrayal of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the American Mission in Benghazi, Libya, declined to be interviewed for this article. But in recent days, she seems to have tried to publicly distance herself from the M23 — although still not from Mr. Kagame. On Dec. 3, she posted on her Facebook page: “The U.S. condemns in the strongest terms horrific M23 violence. Any and all external support has to stop,” in a reference to action in the Senate.

Her posting drew immediate responses. “Condemn the rape but don’t name the rapist?” one of them said. “What kind of Justice is that?”


December 9, 2012

113th Congress: This Time, It’s Out With the New


WASHINGTON — As a fund-raiser for a local college scholarship program, Rick Nolan understands how much it costs to send children in northern Minnesota to technical school. Having run a sawmill, he can speak like a logger.

“I know what you can get for 1,000 board feet of lumber,” he said recently. “I know what you have to pay for stumpage.”

But there is another piece of Mr. Nolan’s biography that until recently few voters wanted to hear about, and that few politicians would dare own up to: the three terms he spent in Congress 30 years ago.

In fact, his success in Washington became one of his most marketable traits when he decided to make another run for office this year. “It’s time to get something done,” Mr. Nolan declared in one of his ads.

He beat his opponent, a former airline pilot who was elected in the Tea Party upheaval of 2010, by nine points. And when he takes his seat as one of 84 new members of the House of Representatives (49 of them Democrats, 35 Republicans) in January, Mr. Nolan, Democrat of Minnesota, will be one of the many who were elected despite their histories in politics and government.

The 2010 election, with its throw-the-bums-out, antigovernment furor, swept into office a host of people who had no government experience. There was an exterminator, a dentist, a youth minister and a pizza man. But this year, voters sent many of those people packing.

In their place will be a class of career bureaucrats and policy wonks who, after two years of intransigence and dysfunction on Capitol Hill, make up what could be characterized as the anti-antigovernment wave.

These members, many of whom ran on a promise to break the seemingly endless impasse in Washington, will face their first test early. The new Congress will almost certainly inherit complicated tasks like raising the nation’s borrowing limit, revamping the tax code and making adjustments to social welfare programs — issues that are not expected to be entirely resolved as part of the negotiations to head off the automatic tax increases and spending cuts set to take effect on Jan. 1.

The new House will include nine people, like Mr. Nolan, who have already been in Congress. It will also include a former Congressional chief of staff, a decade-long member of a local water board, an assistant secretary for veterans affairs and even a Kennedy.

In some cases, voters opted for nonpoliticians, albeit ones who sold themselves as more capable of handling the country’s problems.

In Florida, voters rejected Representative Allen B. West, a retired Army colonel who became one of the most visible faces of the Tea Party movement. His replacement, Patrick Murphy, is a former accountant for Deloitte & Touche.

“The substance, I think, prevailed over the rhetoric,” Mr. Murphy said. “Having a financial and accounting background, I know how to look for waste, inefficiencies and fraud.”

The makeup of Congress has not been this volatile in 20 years, a result of shifting political tides and redistricting. The number of House seats that changed hands in 2010 and this year — 96 and 84, respectively — is the highest since the early 1990s, a period of turnover not seen in nearly half a century.

First came the 1992 election, when district lines redrawn after the 1990 Census and a House scandal led to a class of 110 new members. In 1994, two years into President Bill Clinton’s first term, Newt Gingrich and the Republican Party seized control of the House, wresting it from Democrats for the first time since the 1950s. In that Congress, there were 86 freshmen.

But now, two years after voters shook up the Capitol, many of them seem to have cooled on the notion that a new group of citizen legislators can fix the country’s ills. And for aspiring politicians waiting in the wings — many of them given an advantage because of favorable redistricting — this year presented a rare opportunity.

“If the incumbent looks vulnerable, that’s when the ambitious career politicians decide it’s time to run for Congress,” said Gary C. Jacobson, an expert on Congressional races and a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego. “That’s when you get the mayors, City Council members, state legislators emerging. And usually they’re pretty shrewd.”

Take Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs in Iraq when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down. Ms. Duckworth first ran for Congress in northeastern Illinois in 2006 to fill the seat held for more than 30 years by Henry J. Hyde. She lost but was tapped later that year to lead the state’s Veterans Affairs Department. In 2009, President Obama nominated her as assistant secretary for veterans affairs.

Then late one night in April 2011 when she was at her desk on the ninth floor of the Department of Veterans Affairs, a spot with postcard views of the White House, she decided to run for Congress again. A budget stalemate had nearly brought the federal government to a halt, and Ms. Duckworth said she was fuming.

“I was sitting in my office at five minutes to midnight waiting for government to shut down,” she recalled. “And there was my congressman boasting about how he had brought Washington to a standstill. That’s when I thought, we’ve got to stop this.”

She beat her opponent, Joe Walsh, a Republican who had never held elected office, by nine points, a margin no doubt cushioned by district lines redrawn in Democrats’ favor.

Sean Patrick Maloney, a former aide to Mr. Clinton and two New York governors, defeated the Tea Party darling Nan Hayworth, an ophthalmologist with no history in government, to represent a district about 30 miles north of New York City.

Cheri Bustos of Illinois, a former alderwoman in East Moline, Ill., and a communications executive for a health care company, defeated Bobby Schilling, a Republican who, after being elected to office for the first time in 2010, had to suddenly decide who could run his popular pizza parlor.

Even though government experience may have helped some of this year’s winners, they all seem eager to maintain their distance from Washington. Asked the other day to reflect on his experience in learning the ways of Washington, Alan Grayson, a former one-term Florida congressman who was defeated in 2010 but prevailed after running again this year, said: “Oh, I don’t think I fit into that category. I wasn’t elected to anything the first half-century of my life.”

But Mr. Grayson, who along with a fellow incoming congressman, Raul Ruiz of California, can claim three Harvard degrees, acknowledged that being able to navigate the federal bureaucracy is something constituents value. “Wouldn’t you want somebody in Congress who actually knows how to do that stuff?” he said.

Mr. Nolan, who, during his first stint in Congress was named by the late columnist Jack Anderson as one of its most respected members, agreed that the extra knowledge he and others acquired from their previous stints in Congress would be a guide. “Because in Minnesota,” he joked, “maybe with the exception of Michele Bachmann, no one talks directly to God.”

Kitty Bennett contributed research.


Obama and Boehner meet to discuss fiscal cliff

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, December 9, 2012 19:23 EST

President Barack Obama and House of Representatives speaker John Boehner met Sunday to discuss the so-called impending fiscal cliff of steep tax hikes and spending cuts.

No details of the talks were given, but a statement from Boehner’s office said “the lines of communication remain open.”

That sounded relatively upbeat compared to Boehner’s statement on Friday, when he reported “no progress” in deficit talks. He accused the White House of recklessly pushing the country to the fiscal brink over tax hikes.

The last time the two leaders had spoken was Wednesday, by telephone.

The so-called fiscal cliff refers to a combination of severe tax increases and spending cuts due to kick in automatically in January if the president and Congress don’t find a compromise plan to cut the deficit first.

Economists warn that careening over the fiscal cliff would throw the country back into a recession.

Obama sent Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Capitol Hill last week with an opening gambit, proposing $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues over the next decade, mainly from higher tax rates on the wealthiest two percent of Americans.

A Republican counter-offer included a plan for $800 billion in tax revenue raised through closing loopholes and ending some deductions. Both plans have been rejected.

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama said he was willing to find ways to reduce health costs and make more entitlement spending cuts as sought by the Republicans.

But he said asking “the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates — that’s one principle I won’t compromise on.”


December 9, 2012

Same-Sex Issue Pushes Justices Into Overdrive


WASHINGTON — Life moves fast these days, and so does the law.

In the civil rights era, the Supreme Court waited decades to weigh in on interracial marriage. On Friday, by contrast, the court did not hesitate to jump into the middle of one of the most important social controversies of the day, agreeing to hear two cases on same-sex marriage.

By taking both, the court gave itself the chance to issue a sweeping ruling that would cast aside bans on same-sex marriage nationwide. But the speed with which the court moved also raised the possibility of a split decision, one that would provide federal benefits to same-sex couples married in states that allow such unions but would permit other states to forbid gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

Gay rights advocates said they were optimistic that the time had come for marriage equality across the nation.

“We are at a major turning point in the arc of gay and lesbian rights,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a law professor at Columbia. “The cases are moving fast, and the country is as well.”

There has indeed been a rapid shift in public opinion, with a majority of Americans now saying they support same-sex marriage. With last month’s elections, nine states and the District of Columbia now allow such unions.

Still, the Supreme Court’s move came just eight years after Massachusetts became the first state to permit gay and lesbian couples to marry and just four years after voters in California rejected a ruling of their Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriages there.

The cautious move for the justices would have been to hear just one of the cases they were asked to consider, the one posing the relatively modest question of whether the federal government can discriminate against same-sex couples married in the places that allow such unions.

But the court went big on Friday, also taking the case from California filed by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies. Their case seeks to establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in the remaining states, almost all of which have laws or constitutional provisions prohibiting it.

“We are now literally within months,” Mr. Boies said Friday, “of getting a final resolution of this case that began three and a half years ago.”

The speed with which the court is moving has some gay rights advocates bracing for a split decision. The court could strike down the federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, saying that the meaning of marriage is a matter for the states to decide. At the same time, it could reject the idea that the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriage, saying that the meaning of marriage is a matter for the states to decide.

That may be why supporters of traditional marriage sounded pretty cheerful on Friday.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Brian S. Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage. “Taking both cases at the same time exposes the hypocrisy on the other side.”

It is entirely possible, then, that the votes to grant review in the California case came from the court’s more conservative justices. They may have calculated that they had a shot at capturing the decisive vote of the member of the court at its ideological center, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, at least in the California case.

But while the court is moving fast, it has left itself plenty of offramps. Officials in California refused to defend Proposition 8, the voter initiative that banned same-sex marriage in the state, or to appeal the lower-court decisions invalidating it. They left those tasks to proponents of the initiative.

On Friday, the justices directed the parties to address the issue of whether the proponents of banning same-sex marriage had suffered the sort of direct injury that gave them standing to appeal. If the answer is no, the trial court decision requiring the state to allow same-sex marriage would stand, but its sweep in the short term could be limited to two California counties or perhaps even to just the couples who brought the case.

The justices could also affirm a California-only rationale relied on by the appeals court. That court said Proposition 8 must fall because voters had withdrawn a constitutional right from gay men and lesbians. Whether the establishment of such a right was required by the Constitution in the first place, it said, was a question for another day.

Finally, the justices could pursue what Kenji Yoshino, a law professor at New York University, calls the “eight-state solution,” one that would affect California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island. Those states give gay and lesbian couples all the benefits and burdens of marriage but withhold the name “marriage.” That distinction, the court could rule, violates equal protection principles.

Such a ruling, though, could have “perverse effects,” Professor Yoshino says. States prepared to enact laws allowing gay and lesbian couples to join in civil unions — marriages in everything but name — might hesitate, for fear of being forced by the courts to adopt same-sex marriage if they do.

But the eight-state solution would also be unlikely to give rise to the sort of reaction that imposing same-sex marriage on, say, Mississippi would. However the court rules in the California case, its very decision to consider it is a change from the caution of an earlier era.

In private correspondence in 1957, Justice Felix Frankfurter said the court was doing all it could to avoid hearing cases that would require giving the nation an answer about whether bans on interracial marriage — anti-miscegenation laws, in the parlance of the day — were constitutional.

“We twice shunted it away,” Justice Frankfurter wrote to Judge Learned Hand, “and I pray we will be able to do it again without being too brazenly evasive.”

Judge Hand responded that “I don’t see how you lads can duck it.”

But Justice Frankfurter was unpersuaded.

“I shall work, within the limits of judicial decency,” he wrote, “to put off decision on miscegenation as long as I can.”

The Supreme Court did not strike down laws banning interracial marriage until 1967, in Loving v. Virginia, when 16 states still had them on the books. That was almost two decades after the California Supreme Court in 1948 struck down a law making illegal “all marriages of white persons with Negroes” in Perez v. Sharp.

It has been just four years since the California Supreme Court, citing Perez, struck down two state laws limiting marriage to a man and a woman.

“We are in the midst of a major social change,” Justice Carol A. Corrigan wrote in dissent. She said she supported allowing “our gay and lesbian neighbors” to marry. But she said change must come from the political process, not the courts.

“Societies seldom make such changes smoothly,” Justice Corrigan wrote. “For some the process is frustratingly slow. For others it is jarringly fast.”


The Christian Science Monitor

More Republicans agree to higher tax rates for the wealthy

By Brad Knickerbocker
posted December 9, 2012 at 1:56 pm EST

One by one, Republicans seem to be toppling in the direction of President Obama’s insistence that wealthy Americans pay higher taxes.

On Sunday, it was Sen. Bob Corker (R) of Tennessee, who told “Fox News Sunday” that Republicans likely would have to give in on Mr. Obama’s demand that the Bush-era tax cuts for those making more than $250,000 be allowed to expire at the end of the year. The president, he acknowledged, “has the upper hand on taxes.”

“There is a growing group of folks who are looking at this and realizing we don’t have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year’s end,” Senator Corker said. “So a lot of people are putting forth a theory, and I think it has merit, where you go ahead and give the president the rate increase on the top 2 percent, and all of a sudden the shift goes back to entitlements.”

In other words, agreeing to let tax rates go back up a couple of percentage points for the rich – but not for working- and middle-class taxpayers, which has been Obama’s position since the beginning of the presidential campaign – gives Republicans leverage in demanding spending cuts. Specifically, that means tightening up on the costs of Social Security and Medicare, something most Democrats oppose.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday, Rep. Tom Cole (R) of Oklahoma voiced a similar theme.

His constituents, he said, “would like to be taken out of the line of fire” by an extension of tax cuts for the middle class.

“They expect me to continue to fight for everybody’s taxes not going up,” he said. “But if I can get a deal that protects 98 percent of them and leaves me free to continue fighting for them, they would say, ‘Take that deal, that’s progress, that’s maybe working together across the aisle a little bit, and get it done.’ ”

Representative Cole is urging his Republican colleagues to extend the tax cuts for middle-class earners while negotiating with the White House over a tax rate increase for top earners.

“You know, it’s not waving a white flag to recognize political reality,” he said.

While some Republicans in the Democratic-majority Senate (Susan Collins and Olympic Snowe of Maine among them) have indicated a willingness to let tax rates go back up for the wealthy, the White House is feeling a lot more resistance from the Republican-majority House – where members face more heat (including more frequent reelection challenges) from tea party conservatives.

“No Republican wants to vote for a rate tax increase,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R) of Texas, chairman of the House Republican Conference, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Obama’s plan would raise $1.6 trillion in revenue over 10 years, partly by letting decade-old tax cuts on the country’s highest earners expire at the end of the year. He would continue those Bush-era tax cuts for everyone except individuals earning more than $200,000 and couples making above $250,000. The highest rates on top-paid Americans would rise from 33 percent and 35 percent to 36 percent and 39.6 percent.

House Speaker John Boehner has offered $800 billion in new revenues to be raised by reducing or eliminating unspecified tax breaks on upper-income people. The Republican plan would cut spending by $1.4 trillion, including by trimming annual increases in Social Security payments and raising the eligibility age for Medicare.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.


December 10, 2012

Homeless Rates in U.S. Held Level Amid Recession, Study Says, but Big Gains Are Elusive


WASHINGTON — The federal government has made big strides in reducing the ranks of the chronically homeless and of veterans who are homeless, but it probably will not reach its goal of ending homelessness among those two populations by 2015, according to a government report to be released on Monday.

In an annual report to Congress, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said that the overall level of homelessness remained essentially the same from 2011 to 2012, with the number of homeless individuals falling slightly and the number of homeless families increasing slightly.

“As encouraged as I am that overall homelessness is holding steady during this economic period, we can’t be satisfied,” Shaun Donovan, the housing and urban development secretary, wrote in an e-mail. “Every number in this estimate is a person, a family or a veteran living in our shelters or even on our streets. It’s exactly why we have to redouble our efforts to find real and lasting solutions for those facing homelessness.”

The number of chronically homeless people — a particularly at-risk population often in need of mental and physical health services and other safety-net support — fell about 7 percent in 2011 and more than 19 percent since 2007. Homelessness among veterans declined more than 7 percent in 2011 and 17 percent since 2009.

“We are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among veterans,” Eric K. Shinseki, the secretary of veterans affairs, said in a written statement. “While this is encouraging news, we have more work to do and will not be satisfied until no veteran has to sleep on the street.”

In 2010, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness announced a plan to end homelessness, starting with the most vulnerable populations. The goals included ending chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015, and ending homelessness among families, the young and children by 2020.

“They have set ambitious goals for themselves, but I don’t think those are goals that aren’t doable,” said Nan Roman, the president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “But not at the rate that we’re going.”

Though chronic and veteran homelessness have declined markedly, it seems unlikely that the housing agency and its partners will be able to eliminate homelessness among those two populations by the 2015 deadline. According to the HUD estimates, there were 99,894 chronically homeless people when a survey was conducted in January 2012, and 62,619 homeless veterans.

Still, the government has played a major role in keeping homelessness from rising during the recession. Indeed, the number of people counted as homeless has fallen for four out of the past five years. It is now about 6 percent lower than it was five years ago. Many poverty experts anticipated that homelessness would increase during the recession, and many were surprised that it did not.

At the same time, other measures of economic distress have increased. According to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate has climbed for four out of the past five years. It is now 22 percent higher than it was five years ago.

The report’s data comes from a large survey conducted on a single night in late January, in which local teams counted the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people to provide a comprehensive “point in time” estimate of homelessness. The housing agency also keeps separate estimates of the number of people who become homeless for periods over the course of a year.

Housing officials said the declining population of homeless people could be credited in part to a $1.5 billion infusion of federal stimulus money. As part of the stimulus-financed Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, local governments identified vulnerable people and intervened to stop them from becoming homeless by helping them find and pay for new places to live, for instance. That program prevented or ended homelessness for more than one million people, the housing agency estimates.

HUD and its partners also increased the number of available beds in emergency shelters by about 15 percent over five years, and the number of beds in longer term housing by nearly 50 percent.

But with emergency stimulus financing at its end, experts worry that homelessness might increase for some vulnerable groups in the coming year. Ms. Roman, for instance, predicted that the end of the rapid rehousing program might result in more family homelessness in 2013.

Housing officials said they had invested in research and data analysis to learn how to use their resources more efficiently. “There’s always a start-up period where we’re trying to learn what works, and trying to understand the best and most effective uses of our resources,” said Ann Oliva, the acting deputy assistant housing secretary for special needs. “We know what we need to do now and between 2015 to get to zero.”

Some analysts say the large federal expansion of Medicaid coming in 2014 might help reduce homelessness. States that join the Medicaid expansion — with the federal government chipping in $9 for every $1 the state spends — will be required to provide coverage to all adults whose income is up to 33 percent higher than the poverty line. Many states do not provide Medicaid to childless adults now, no matter how poor.

Mark Johnston, the acting assistant housing secretary for community planning and development, estimated that homelessness could be effectively eradicated in the United States at an annual cost of about $20 billion. The housing department’s budget for addressing homelessness is currently about $1.9 billion.


December 9, 2012

Divining the Weather, With Methods Old and New



In these times of upset and uncertainty, comfort comes in knowing that dental floss can cut a dense cheesecake more cleanly than any knife. That cloves of garlic will send ants scurrying. That a cow requires at least 15 pounds of hay per day. That the state bird of South Dakota is the ring-necked pheasant.

For the 217th consecutive year, useful facts and tips like these have been assembled in J. Gruber’s Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack, a deceptively slim volume that is available to farmers, merchants and all good citizens — especially those residing in the Middle Atlantic States — at the nominal cost of $4.99.

Contained within its 82 pages is the accumulated wisdom of many generations of farmers who lived and worked according to the arc of the sun and the pull of the moon. This means that in addition to reporting that our nation’s fifth vice president was Elbridge Gerry and that the gift of a daffodil represents unrequited love, Gruber’s Almanack also provides “conjecture of the weather and other astronomical information.”

For example, if you want to know what weather to expect in New England next Thanksgiving Day, the almanac offers an answer with a better-than-even shot at accuracy: “Snow, heavy south.”

This is the educated guess of Bill O’Toole, 70, a retired college math professor who, for more than four decades, has served as the almanac’s seventh prognosticator — or conjecturer, or calculator — a line of work that began in 1797 with a star-savvy blacksmith. Mr. O’Toole is tall and bearded, with large eyes that convey wonder in all things, and a business card that declares in black and white his gray-area profession.

Working from desk space carved out of the book clutter of a brick row house here in Emmitsburg, about a mile south of the Pennsylvania line, Mr. O’Toole endeavors to divine the weather as much as 18 months in advance. He does so with a conjurer’s brew of age-old wisdom and 21st-century technology that includes a range of tools, from a software program of astronomical data produced by the United States Naval Observatory to the meticulous tracking — through some 30 computer programs he has written — of all things lunar.

The moon matters, Mr. O’Toole says, as people who work the land discovered long ago. “They noticed a trend,” he says. “When the moon changed phase close to midnight, the weather over the next lunar week, between six and nine days, would be fair, agreeable, calm. But it was just the opposite if it occurred close to noon: snowy, rainy, stormy, disagreeable.”

After completing his calculations, Mr. O’Toole charts his predictions on postcard-size weather maps of the continental United States, drawing a map for every week. Here, then, a test: Did the prognosticator foretell Sandy, the fall’s calamitous superstorm?

He points to a blue-ink swirl that he drew on one of those small maps. In June 2011. “Tropical storm from Atlantic,” the Almanack predicted — somewhat prematurely, it turned out. “I was off by a week and a few days,” he says. “Not too bad, considering this was done 16 months earlier.”

Mr. O’Toole ignores the occasional charge of quackery. He says that a person could predict the weather 25 percent of the time by simply throwing darts at a board, but that he shoots for better than 50 percent. And, in the annual “Conjecturer’s Column” that he writes for the almanac, he is nothing if not candid about his performance.

“Daily forecasts for the mid-Atlantic region were correct 55.1 percent of the time, slightly below last year’s 59.3 percent, which was the best in recent years,” Mr. O’Toole wrote in the current almanac. “The worst month for daily forecasts was October at 38.7 percent; the best was May, clocking in at 72.6 percent.”

Mr. O’Toole grew up in nearby Waynesboro, Pa. His father, William, was a toolmaker and sales representative, his mother, Dora, a homemaker and parish secretary who had grown up on a dairy farm. After she died at 91 last year, Mr. O’Toole found a diary in which his mother had faithfully recorded the weather every day for nearly 70 years.

High 76 degrees; rain; bright moonlit night...

“A deeply ingrained tradition among farmers,” he explained. A small way of trying to make sense of the natural world by those so grounded in it.

Mr. O’Toole was a boy so drawn to the moon and the stars that in high school he helped to establish an amateur astronomy club. After flirting with the idea of a career in astronomy, he graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University here, and promptly joined its math department as a teacher.

Then one day in 1969, he says, he received a call from “out of the blue” (a hoary expression that refers to the sky). It was the business manager of Gruber’s Almanack, and he wanted to know: Are you familiar with our publication?

Oh, yes.

Originally published in German, then German and English, then only in English when German became a dead-to-me language during World War I, the Gruber Almanack was as much a part of the local universe as Jupiter and Saturn. You’d punch a hole in the top left corner, hang it on a string, and consult it for — well, as the almanac puts it:

“The rising, setting, and Eclipses of the Sun and Moon; the phases, places, and southing of the Moon; the aspects of the planets; the rising, setting, and southing of the most conspicuous planets and fixed stars; the equation of time; with a variety of useful and entertaining matter, anecdotes, &c., &c.”

The business manager went on to explain that the almanac’s sixth prognosticator had passed away, and it was in need of its seventh. Was Mr. O’Toole interested?

Oh, yes.

He inherited his predecessor’s charts and notes and, before long, was using the lunar cycle and other variables to recommend the best days to plant, to weed, to harvest — even to go fishing (May 30 next year is good, for example, but May 31 is better).

The almanac has been passed on through the generations within the same family. These days it is owned and produced by three men driven more by loyalty than by money: Mr. O’Toole, a retired professor, is the prognosticator; Jerry Spessard, 63, a retired insurance agent and part-time inventor, is the longtime business manager; and Charles W. Fisher Jr., 63, a retired sales executive, is the editor and great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Johann Gruber.

Over the years, circulation has waxed and waned — it now is about 85,000 — but the readership remains fully engaged. Mr. Spessard often receives calls about sweet recollections of a grandmother’s reliance on the almanac, as well as angry complaints about a typographical error that might disrupt the spin of the earth.

But the earth continues to spin, and J. Gruber’s Hagerstown Town and Country Almanack continues to advise and to console. Dental floss can also be used as an emergency shoelace. The state flower of Maryland is the black-eyed Susan. And if you plan to be in the mid-Atlantic next Memorial Day, the prognosticator suggests that you might want to pack an umbrella.

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« Reply #3426 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:15 AM »

Syria: from revolution to all-out war

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, December 11, 2012 7:25 EST

Syria’s uprising has shifted from popular street protests against President Bashar al-Assad to a full-fledged war, increasingly influenced by armed Islamists, in a far cry from the idealism of the Arab Spring.

The fervour born in March 2011 for democratic reforms still runs high, but the initial peaceful protests against Assad’s regime have been overtaken by the government forces’ brutal crackdown.

Backed by the country’s Sunni Muslim majority against Assad, whose Alawite faith stems from Shiite Islam, the rebels launched the battle with arms smuggled into Syria, collected by defectors or bought from corrupt army officers.

Now nearly 21 months into the revolt, the insurgents control large swathes of rural territory as well as a number of medium-sized towns, say AFP correspondents on the ground.

In northwest Syria, they hold sway from Aleppo all the way to the Turkish border, although the metropolis itself remains the scene of endless street-to-street clashes.

After advances in the country’s oil-rich but mainly desert east, the battle lines have neared Damascus where the regime is battling to “secure” the capital’s province against what it brands foreign-backed “terrorists.”

Sheikh Tawfiq, a powerful Islamist commander in the Aleppo region, is convinced Assad’s regime is weakening by the day and that it is “the beginning of the end.”

Having failed to recover lost ground, the regime’s military strategy has switched to defending the capital, major cities, strategic main roads and the Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean coast.

Government forces pound rebel-held villages and town districts, apparently regardless of civilian casualties.

On October 18, a bomb dropped by a MiG warplane on an apartment building in the central town of Maaret al-Numan killed more than 40 people, including 22 children, crushed under the rubble, as witnessed by AFP.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has tirelessly documented the bloodshed, more than 42,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed over the past 21 months.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been displaced or forced into exile from villages such as Atme where they wait to cross the barbed wire into Turkey after wading though mud and negotiating olive groves.

The international community, meanwhile, has been reduced to an observer, stumped by divisions within the UN Security Council. Despite mounting diplomatic pressure, Assad has been able to count on the support of both Russia and Iran.

War-hardened, the rebels have also been strengthened by hundreds of foreign volunteers pouring in from Turkey, which openly calls for Assad’s fall.

But the past six months have been marked by a growing Islamisation of the conflict as Al-Nusra Front, suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda, takes a prominent role in the battle for Syria.

Al-Nusra has become active on all the front lines, threatening a takeover of the revolution.

Disciplined and battle-hardened, they are often contrasted with the allegedly “corrupt” revolutionaries in the form of some commanders of the mainstream Free Syrian Army battalions made up mostly of army defectors.

On Monday, rebels led by Al-Nusra seized Sheikh Suleiman base west of Aleppo. A video posted online showed fighters linked to Al-Nusra standing before black flags and reciting the Muslim profession faith inside the abandoned base.

Most FSA members are Syrians, but Al-Nusra has attracted jihadists from across the Muslim world. Their hatred of “non-believers” combined with the regime’s fight-to-the-death mentality adds fuel to the civil war.

The Syrian military, with its vast superiority and control of the skies, is still capable of mounting major operations, although its possible last-resort use of chemical weapons is stirring rising international concern.

In what could prove to be a turning point, AFP witnessed the shooting down of two aircraft in as many days near Darret Ezza in the northwest in late November with surface-to-air missiles which rebels say they seized from the army.

The insurgents say they have light weapons and ammunition as well as communications equipment, but that they still need more sophisticated offensive arms.

Their strategy, in the face of the regular army, the mukhabarat intelligence services and pro-regime “shabiha” militia, has been refined into one of cutting supply lines, choking off large urban centres and besieging isolated garrisons.


December 10, 2012

U.S. Places Militant Syrian Rebel Group on List of Terrorist Organizations


WASHINGTON — The United States has formally designated the Al Nusra Front, the militant Syrian rebel group, as a foreign terrorist organization.

The move, which was expected, is aimed at building Western support for the rebellion against the government of President Bashar al-Assad by quelling fears that money and arms meant for the rebels would flow to a jihadi group.

The designation was disclosed on Monday in the Federal Register, just before an important diplomatic meeting Wednesday in Morocco on the political transition if Mr. Assad is driven from power. The notice in the register lists the Al Nusra front as one of the “aliases” of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

In practical terms, the designation makes it illegal for Americans to have financial dealings with the group. It is intended to prompt similar sanctions by other nations, and to address concerns about a group that could further destabilize Syria and harm Western interests.

France, Britain, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council have formally recognized the Syrian opposition. European Union foreign ministers met Monday with the head of the Syrian opposition coalition, Ahmed Mouaz al-Khatib, in Brussels.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that he hoped the European Union would soon grant the group full recognition.

The Al Nusra Front comprises only a small minority of the Syrian rebels, but it includes some of the rebellion’s most battle-hardened and effective fighters.

“Extremist groups like Jabhat al-Nusra are a problem, an obstacle to finding the political solution that Syria’s going to need,” the American ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, said last week in an appearance hosted by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a nongovernmental group.

But a growing number of anti-government groups — including fighters in the loose-knit Free Syrian Army that the United States is trying to bolster — have signed petitions or posted statements online in recent days expressing support for the Nusra Front. In keeping with a tradition throughout the uprising of choosing themes for Friday protests, the biggest day for demonstrations because it coincides with Friday Prayer, many called for this Friday’s title to be “No to American intervention — we are all Jabhet al-Nusra.”

Many Syrian fighters consider the Nusra Front a key ally because of its fighters’ bravery and reliable supply of money and arms. It has never come under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, shunning the Western aid and input that other groups have sought, but it coordinates closely with many who do.

Adding to the complication is that some groups in the Free Syrian Army have similar ideologies, follow the strict Salafist interpretation of Islam, and count among them fighters who joined the insurgency in Iraq — though they are not known to share the Nusra Front’s direct organizational connections to Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Nusra Front celebrated another apparent battlefield achievement on Monday, declaring it had captured part of a large base outside the commercial hub of Aleppo. Activist groups and video posted online said that it had fought alongside other Islamic battalions including the Mujahedeen Shura Council and the Muhajireen Group.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based group that tracks events in Syria through a network of activists in the country, said that the rebels had taken control of the command center of the sprawling base and that many soldiers had fled. Videos showed gunmen taking possession of tanks and anti-aircraft weapons.

The decision to designate the group, the register noted, was made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Nov. 20, in consultation with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.

The State Department appeared to delay the publication of the decision to synchronize it with the expected announcement in Morocco that the United States will formally recognize the Syrian opposition. The United States closed its embassy in Damascus in February because of escalating violence in the capital.

Because Mrs. Clinton is not feeling well, she will not travel to North Africa and the Middle East this week as planned. Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns will lead the United States delegation at the Morocco meeting, an aide to Mrs. Clinton said Monday.

Michael R. Gordon reported from Washington and Anne Barnard from Beirut, Lebanon.
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« Reply #3427 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:22 AM »

December 10, 2012

Egyptian President Tries to Clarify Military Order


CAIRO — A day after President Mohamed Morsi formally directed the military to help keep public order and authorized soldiers to arrest civilians, a spokesman on Monday sought to draw distinctions between the order and the forms of martial law that the Egyptian Army had previously imposed.

The spokesman, Khaled al-Qazzaz, said the president empowered the military for the limited purpose of protecting polling stations during Saturday’s constitutional referendum. He also said the president had instructed the army to refer any civilians arrested by soldiers to a civilian court for trial, instead of military tribunals, reversing the blanket authorizations that the Egyptian military has long demanded when it takes on a policing role in the streets.

“This is very different from what happened under the SCAF,” said Mr. Qazzaz, referring to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled Egypt after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted and until Mr. Morsi took office. “There will be no military trials.”

But Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, noted that the text of the order allowed the military to keep taking civilians to military courts. “Had he wanted to,” Ms. Morayef said, “President Morsi could have stipulated that the military’s jurisdiction would have been limited in this case and that every civilian will be referred to a civilian court, but he chose not to.”

Mr. Morsi’s latest assurances were unlikely to comfort his growing cast of opponents, who have taken to the streets in large numbers repeatedly since late November, when he issued a decree putting his decisions above the law. The president was forced to rescind most of his decree, but he has not budged on a central opposition demand: that he cancel the Saturday referendum on the constitutional draft.

Faced with the possibility of the vote, Egypt’s opposition parties on Monday were weighing their approach to the referendum and said they would continue to hold large protests. The biggest opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, said it would announce Tuesday whether it would call for a boycott of the referendum, or instead urge the public to vote down the draft charter, which opposition groups have criticized as deeply flawed and written by a panel representing narrow, Islamist interests.

There appeared to be divisions and flux within the opposition. On Sunday, the opposition used language that seemed to favor a boycott, saying in a statement that it rejected “lending legitimacy to a referendum that will definitely lead to more sedition and division.” But in an interview broadcast Monday, the coalition’s coordinator, Mohamed ElBaradei, said, “We might go to the vote.”

During the interview with Christiane Amanpour of CNN, Mr. ElBaradei, the former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, urged Mr. Morsi to delay the referendum for a few months, saying that the draft constitution — a “sham,” he called it — did not adequately protect women, freedom of expression or religion.

Mr. ElBaradei asserted that at least half of the country harbored similar reservations about the charter, and insisted that the opposition’s tactics — holding large protests and raising the possibility of a boycott — were not just obstructionism by groups who have struggled to mount a credible challenge to the better-organized Islamist groups.

“We are at a cross in the road,” he said. “It’s not that we’re fighting for the sake of fighting. It’s not that we’re sore losers.”

Mr. ElBaradei left open several possible courses of action, including a boycott. “If need be, we probably will go to the polls and make sure the document will not pass. Even if it will pass, we will continue to fight.”

There were other signs of momentum toward a highly contested vote on Saturday. The April 6th Revolutionary Youth Group, which is not a member of the coalition but coordinates activities with the National Salvation Front, began a campaign urging a no vote, called “Your Constitution does not represent us.”

A group representing administrative court judges said its members would supervise the referendum, under certain conditions, demanding a secure environment and even life insurance policies for judges, possibly smoothing the way for a credible contest. Other judges’ groups have said they would boycott the vote. A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist party that forms the primary base of Mr. Morsi’s support, said on Monday that they believed a sufficient numbers of judges had agreed to supervise the polls, ensuring that the vote could go forward.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.


December 10, 2012

Morsi’s Opponents Describe Abuse by President’s Allies


CAIRO — Islamist supporters of President Mohamed Morsi captured, detained and beat dozens of his political opponents last week, holding them for hours with their hands bound on the pavement outside the presidential palace while pressuring them to confess that they had accepted money to use violence in protests against him.

“It was torment for us,” said Yehia Negm, 42, a former diplomat with a badly bruised face and rope marks on his wrists. He said he was among a group of about 50, including four minors, who were held on the pavement overnight. In front of cameras, “they accused me of being a traitor, or conspiring against the country, of being paid to carry weapons and set fires,” he said in an interview. “I thought I would die.”

The abuses, during a night of street fighting between Islamists and their opponents, have become clear through an accumulation of video and victim testimonies that are now hurting the credibility of Mr. Morsi and his allies as they push forward to this weekend’s referendum on an Islamist-backed draft constitution.

To critics of Islamists, the episode on Wednesday recalled the tactics of the ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, who often saw a conspiracy of “hidden hands” behind his domestic opposition and deployed plainclothes thugs acting outside the law to punish those who challenged him. The difference is that the current enforcers are driven by the self-righteousness of their religious ideology, rather than money.

It is impossible to know how much Mr. Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, knew about the Islamists’ vigilante justice. But human rights advocates say the detentions raised troubling questions about statements made by the president during his nationally televised address on Thursday. In it, Mr. Morsi appears to have cited confessions obtained by his Islamist supporters, the advocates said, when he promised that confessions under interrogation would show that protesters outside his palace acknowledged ties to his political opposition and had taken money to commit violence.

Khaled el-Qazzaz, a spokesman for Mr. Morsi, said Monday that he had ordered an investigation into the reported abuses and asked the prosecutor to bring charges against any involved. He said that Mr. Morsi was referring only to confessions obtained by the police, not by his supporters.

But human rights lawyers involved in the cases of the roughly 130 people who ended up in police custody Wednesday night, all or most of them delivered by the Islamists, say the police obtained no confessions. “His statement was completely bogus,” said Karim Medhat Ennarah, a researcher on policing at Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights, whose lawyers were on hand about an hour after the speech when prosecutors released all the detainees without charges. “There were no confessions; they were all just simply beaten up,” he said. “There was no case at all, and they were released the next day.”

Officials of the Muslim Brotherhood said the group opposed such vigilante justice and did not organize the detentions. And in at least one case one victim said a senior figure of the group rescued her from captivity. But the officials also acknowledged that some of their senior leadership was on the scene at the time. They said some of their members took part in the detentions, along with more hard-line Islamists.

Gehad el-Haddad, a senior Brotherhood official, defended the group’s decision to call on its members and other Islamist supporters of the president to defend the palace from a potential attack by the protesters. He said Mr. Morsi could not rely on the police force left over from Mr. Mubarak’s government. By keeping the protesters from trying to storm the palace walls, Mr. Haddad contended, the Brotherhood and the president’s supporters had prevented a bloodier conflict with the armed presidential guard. “We will protect the sovereignty of the state at any cost.”

Both sides that night were violent, and the use of force by the Brotherhood’s opponents appears to have been deadlier, though that is hard to corroborate given the fog of the moment. Brotherhood leaders have named eight members of their organization who died that night. Mr. Haddad said one friend who was next to him was shot in the neck and died in the street. Although one journalist is in a coma from wounds received during the battle, human rights advocates say they do not yet know of any deaths on the opposition side.

But some contend that the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest Islamist group, provoked the violence by summoning supporters and other Islamists to defend the palace from a planned protest.

“God willing, members of the Freedom and Justice Party will be on the front line,” Essam el-Erian of the party, affiliated with the Brotherhood, wrote in an Internet message to supporters.

Later, when the battle began, he declared on the Brotherhood’s television network, “This is the opportunity to arrest them and reveal the third party which is behind the shooting of live ammunition, and the killing of protesters.”

After nightfall, thousands of Islamists and their secular opponents battled over several blocks with volleys of rocks and gasoline bombs punctuated by occasional shotgun blasts. The riot police were on hand throughout, but did little to intervene.

Mr. Haddad, who was behind the Islamist lines, said the detentions began after Brotherhood leaders ordered their members to build and push forward a makeshift barrier to clear a space in front of the palace. “They realized that there were thugs on our side with knives and actual shotguns, shooting sideways,” he said, describing attackers who came from the opposition.

“These were some of the guys who got the massive beatings. When one of them was caught, everyone around them, who had been fighting for hours, would just start bashing them,” he said, asserting that Brotherhood leaders had tried to intervene.

A few captives were women. Ola Shahba, a well-known activist with a socialist party, was captured by a group of the president’s supporters when she tried to retreat from a collapsing battle line. Her captors began beating her, she said. Then they removed her hood and helmet and realized she was a woman, and she was groped as well.

“I didn’t imagine I could be harassed by a group affiliated with political Islam,” she said in an interview with the talk show host Yousry Fouda, one eye black and blue, and her neck ringed with bruises. “What embassy do you meet in and receive money from?” her attackers demanded to know, she said.

She was held in an empty police booth by a group of Brotherhood members and more hard-line Islamists, she said, and Ahmed Sobei, a more senior Brotherhood official, tried to persuade them to release her, both said.

“At that point we couldn’t get people out,” Mr. Sobei said in an interview. “They were a mix, from here and there. If they were just Muslim Brotherhood, we would’ve gotten her out since the first moment. I would’ve been able to get her out right away.”

“Did they beat people up? Yes, they did, but there were thugs there as well,” he said. “Thugs infiltrated both sides. It was impossible to tell who’s on which side.”

Ramy Sabry, a friend captured with Ms. Shahba, said he was held in a gatehouse by the presidential palace with a crowd that grew to nearly 50, according to an interview with Human Rights Watch for a report in progress.

“There were several members of the Brotherhood” among his captors, he said. “I knew they were Brotherhood because I heard them saying that they had spoken to Brotherhood leaders on the phone.”

Mina Philip, an engineer whose shirt was stripped off when he was beaten, said his captors called him “an infidel, a secular, a paid thug.”

“They kept asking, ‘Who paid you?’ ” he said.

Mayy El Sheikh contributed reporting.

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« Reply #3428 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:23 AM »

December 10, 2012

Libyan Reluctance Hampers U.S. Investigation Into Deadly Benghazi Assault


WASHINGTON — An unarmed American military surveillance drone now flies virtually every day over Benghazi, gathering information and poised to respond at a moment’s notice if any of the suspects believed to be behind the attacks last Sept. 11 on the American Mission in the Libyan city are located.

But three months after the assault that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, the investigation into the attacks has been hobbled by the reluctance of the Libyan authorities to move against Islamist extremist suspects who belong to powerful militias, officials briefed on the investigation said. While the F.B.I. has identified several suspects, none have been arrested and some have fled Benghazi.

In an effort to generate as many leads as possible, the F.B.I. issued a global appeal last month asking anyone with information about the assailants to send tips in an e-mail, a text message or a post on a bureau Facebook page.

Even as frustration builds over the inquiry’s sputtering progress, American officials insist that at least for now they intend to fulfill President Obama’s vow to bring the killers to justice by working with the Libyan authorities, though that means sorting through delicate issues like sovereignty and the weakness of the Libyan government. For now, a decision whether to try suspected assailants in Libyan or American courts has not been made, officials said.

“This case is surrounded and intertwined with sensitivities — it is a process of doing business there and respecting their sovereignty,” said one American official who has been briefed on the investigation and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is continuing.

Under increasing pressure from the Obama administration, there have been some halting steps forward in recent weeks.

Since first visiting Benghazi in early October, F.B.I. agents have returned to the city at least twice, accompanied by small United States military and Libyan security teams, to interview witnesses and collect other information related to the attack. Libyan witnesses have identified suspects caught on surveillance cameras at the mission and in photos taken during the attacks, American officials said.

Gen. Carter F. Ham, the head of the military’s Africa Command, said in an interview that investigators now believed that they had identified some but not all of the major actors in the attack on the diplomatic mission and the nearby C.I.A. annex, but “we don’t yet have sufficient information to indict anyone. They’re still collecting and building information.”

“The Libyans clearly accept responsibility” for investigating the attack, General Ham said, but “I have expressed to the Libyans that it hasn’t proceeded as quickly as any of us would have liked.”

A senior F.B.I. official is leading a team of what the American official described as “handpicked counterterrorism agents experienced in working overseas.” Many agents are from the F.B.I.’s New York office, the official said. The F.B.I.’s legal attaché from the United States Embassy in Cairo has also been involved with the investigation.

The official said that in contrast to a typical investigation in the United States, which is focused on making a case in a courtroom, the F.B.I. agents in Libya are primarily focused on establishing what occurred before and during the attacks.

“This is an intelligence-driven investigation, the goal is to establish the facts,” the official said. “Like this and other cases abroad, we have to be very sensitive. Every country is different when there is investigating on their turf.”

Among the obstacles the F.B.I. has encountered in Libya has been a reluctance by some police and government officials there to target members of Ansar al-Shariah, a local Islamist group whose fighters joined the attack, according to witnesses.

Government officials in Benghazi have said it would be impossible for their weak, lightly armed forces to arrest militia members. Leaders of Benghazi’s most powerful militias, some of whom fought with Ansar al-Shariah members during the Libyan uprising against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, say they would be hesitant to act against suspects unless they were presented with conclusive proof of their involvement.

One witness in Libya said in an interview that the F.B.I. tried to question him in front of other Libyans, making the witness nervous that the Libyans could reveal his identity. Other witnesses have said they fear that the F.B.I. will not protect them if they cooperate with the investigation.

The American official acknowledged that working with the Libyans may not be ideal but said there was little the F.B.I. could do because of the need to respect the government’s sovereignty.

“When you deal with a foreign country, you have to play by their rules,” the official said. “You can’t just go around the world and conduct an independent investigation wherever it is happening.

“This is nothing specific to Libya. You wouldn’t be able to go into London or somewhere in Canada, where you think you think they would be cooperative and friendly, and just do whatever you want. It is just a fact of doing business outside the United States.”

The official said: “You do the best you can. There are ways to address and mitigate some of the realities we face there to some degree. But the fact is that this is a fact of life of how different countries interact around the world.”

Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican who is the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said he was concerned that the Obama administration appeared to be treating the attacks like a criminal issue, not an act of war. He said the military, not the F.B.I., should have the lead in the investigation.

The top-secret Joint Special Operations Command has compiled so-called target packages of detailed information about possible suspects, senior military and counterterrorism officials said. Working with the Pentagon and the C.I.A., the command has been preparing the dossiers as the first step in anticipation of possible orders from Mr. Obama to take action against those determined to have played a role in the Benghazi assault.

A number of Libyan political figures have expressed wariness that unilateral military action by the United States, like a drone strike, would fuel popular anger and add a destructive new element to Benghazi’s persistent insecurity. So for now, the Obama administration is pursuing the criminal justice route with Libyan authorities.

“It would be a serious mistake to return to the policy of treating attacks as a law enforcement issue,” Mr. King said. “To me, this is a war — this is not a street crime and should not be considered a criminal justice issue.”

Kareem Fahim and David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Benghazi, Libya.
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« Reply #3429 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:26 AM »

December 10, 2012

Moroccans Fear That Flickers of Democracy Are Fading


TANGIER, Morocco — Until recently, politics in Morocco involved red carpets and speeches in high Arabic that the average citizen could not understand. But on a campaign swing this fall through a working-class area of this port city, Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane stood on a makeshift podium in a muddy vacant lot.

He spoke without notes, kissed babies passed forward by the crowd and promised, as he has done all along, to fight corruption and return the government to the people.

“We will get stronger with the help of God and accomplish what we wanted,” he told the crowd, which roared its approval.

But more and more Moroccans are questioning his ability to do that, wondering whether Morocco’s version of the Arab Spring brought anything more than cosmetic changes to this impoverished country, which has been one of America’s most stable and staunch allies in a region marked by turmoil.

A year ago, it seemed Moroccans were giddy with the sense that they had found a gentle, negotiated answer to the popular uprisings in the streets. The country’s king, Mohammed VI, 49, defused angry protesters by volunteering to share his power. Within months, Morocco had a new Constitution.

Mr. Benkirane’s moderate Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party, won a plurality in parliamentary elections in November. Western governments heaped praise on the election process, satisfied that this strategically important country, just 12 miles south of Spain and atop a changing and uncertain continent, was settling in to a new more democratic order. (This week, the Friends of Syria are scheduled to meet in Morocco.)

But these days, many here are questioning whether the king and his entourage really gave up anything at all. Telquel, perhaps the country’s most influential magazine, ran a cover story this fall saying that the palace had gradually taken back its concessions: the king’s shadow cabinet was interfering at will and was even sending its own emissaries to the United States and Brussels when Moroccan interests needed tending to. Mr. Benkirane, the magazine pointed out, had publicly admitted that the king’s advisers sometimes met with government officials without consulting him.

Some also point to a quiet clamping down on political activists. In October, the United Nations said there was evidence of a recent spike in reports of torture in Morocco. About 70 protesters associated with the pro-democracy February 20 Movement are still in prison. In May, a popular rapper was sentenced to a year in jail for a song about police corruption. And six political activists testified at a hearing in September that they had been physically — and sexually — abused after being arrested for protesting in July.

In other countries rocked by Arab Spring uprisings, tensions today are being felt largely over the role of Islam in government. These issues have come up in Morocco, too. But here, the larger tensions appear to be over the power of the old guard. Many Moroccans will not criticize the king, instead focusing on the network of power and privilege that surrounds him and the corruption that they believe sucks any hope of prosperity from this country.

The problems Morocco faces are enormous. The country has invested heavily in infrastructure: superhighways are everywhere and there are plans for a high-speed train, too. But 40 percent of the population cannot read or write. Forbes has estimated the king’s fortune to be more than $2 billion. But the average income here is low, roughly half of what it was in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring first took off.

Mr. Benkirane took office showing a flair for the dramatic. He quickly slashed ministerial salaries and perquisites, and he refused to move to the prime minister’s mansion. He also took on Morocco’s notorious cronyism. To widespread amazement, his government published the names of those who had been given lucrative bus licenses. Since then, however, his efforts have foundered.

Some critics say the prime minister has been outmaneuvered at every turn. Once last spring, Mr. Benkirane seemed to lash out at the king and his entourage, suggesting that protesters could easily return to the streets. But soon after, he said the remarks had been misunderstood.

In August, he suffered what some saw as a serious public humiliation when an outdoor event at which he was to be the main speaker, planned months ahead of time, was abruptly canceled the night before by the Interior Ministry for reasons that remain unclear.

“I think there are functionaries in the ministries who have not yet changed,” said Imane Yakoubi, a member of the governing board of the Justice and Development Party’s youth league.

When Mr. Benkirane spoke to the crowd in Tangier, he rarely addressed any concrete issues. He pledged his loyalty to the king and proclaimed that the two had a good relationship and that anyone who said otherwise was a liar. Yet he repeatedly talked of the ways in which an unnamed “they” undermined his efforts and spread lies, a subject he took up again last week in Parliament.

In a rare interview on Al Jazeera recently, he said democracy was advancing slowly, but surely. “If you thought the Benkirane government was going to end corruption in six months,” he said, “there is a problem with expectations there.”

But some say the underlying issue is that the new Constitution — drafted by a committee appointed by the king — did not go nearly far enough in shifting power to elected officials. The king remains head of the Council of Ministers and the Ulama Council, which runs the mosques. He also runs the military, the security forces and the intelligence service. He even chooses the prime minister, though he must choose from the majority party.

“We find ourselves with a Constitution that allows us to only pretend that things have changed,” said Fouad Abdelmoumni, an economist and an activist involved in the pro-democracy movement who was jailed under Hassan II, the king’s father.

Supporters see it differently. They say that the Constitution is exactly what the people wanted, as it was put to a referendum. They say Morocco is developing a unique way — a “third path” to democracy. “We are in a period of emergence,” said Mokhtar el-Ghambou, who is helping to found Rabat International University. “Morocco is in a democratic process. It is not yet a democracy. That needs time. We are not there yet.”

Certainly King Mohammed VI has proved himself to be far different from his father, who imprisoned thousands of his opponents and made many disappear. When he ascended to the throne in 1999, he established a reconciliation commission to acknowledge some of the worst abuses of his father’s rule. And he has also expanded women’s rights, a move that put him at odds with Morocco’s conservative Muslims.

But the king’s popularity remains something of an open question. Polling on this issue is illegal.

Those involved in street protests over the past year say that they have faced widespread brutality. In February, protesters took to the streets in Taza complaining about unemployment and an abrupt rise in the cost of electricity. But these days their banners sit in a puddle in the corner of the barely furnished offices of Mohammed Chiabri, who leads the local branch of the Moroccan Association for Human Rights. “It is just too hard to keep going,” Mr. Chiabri said of the protests. “They used so much violence against the protesters that people just stopped.”

Still, even those who are disappointed by the slow pace of change doubt whether Moroccans have the stomach for a second Arab Spring. “Moroccans like their comfort zone,” said Fadel Abdellaoui, a young businessman. “They see Syria, Libya, and they say, ‘O.K., we will be going slow.’ ”

Aida Alami contributed reporting.

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« Reply #3430 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:28 AM »

ecember 11, 2012

Mali’s Prime Minister Arrested by Military


BAMAKO, Mali – Soldiers arrested Mali’s prime minister at his residence late Monday night, in new turmoil in a West African nation racked by military interference and an Islamist takeover in the north.

Hours later, Prime Minister Cheikh Modibo Diarra appeared grim-faced on national television to announce his government’s resignation. A spokesman for soldiers who seized power earlier in the year — and later nominally relinquished to Mr. Diarra — confirmed the prime minister’s arrest on Tuesday morning, accusing him of “playing a personal agenda” while the country faced a crisis in the north.

Mr. Diarra was taken by soldiers late Monday to the military encampment at Kati, just outside Bamako, the capital, where Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the officer who led the March military coup, and others told him “there were proofs against him that he was calling for subversion,” said a military spokesman, Bakary Mariko.

On Tuesday morning, the streets of Bamako appeared calm following what appeared to be the country’s second coup d’état in less than a year. But the new upheaval was likely to be considered a setback in western efforts to help Mali regain control of territory lost to Al Qaeda-linked militants earlier in the year.

The west has watched with growing alarm as Islamists radicals have constructed a stronghold in the country’s vast north and the United Nations, regional African bodies, France and the United States have engaged to aid the faltering Malian army in a military strike to take back the lost north. Those efforts have so far not coalesced in a coherent plan, despite numerous meetings and United Nations resolutions. More meetings at the United Nations were planned for later this month.

The latest political turmoil in the capital will almost certainly slow down any campaign in the north, however. Already, the United States has expressed reluctance to provide too much direct military assistance, given the shakiness of the political order here. Those doubts will likely only increase following the latest upheaval.

Mr. Diarra — appointed last spring as a caretaker prime minister until new elections, interrupted by the coup, could be organized — was known to disagree with Captain Sanogo on military policy.

He has been an advocate of immediate international military assistance to recapture the north from the Islamists. Captain Sanogo has rebuffed suggestions that the Malian military was incapable of handling the job on its own. Indeed, the captain for weeks resisted the notion that troops from other African nations should even approach the capital.

While Mr. Diarra has made the rounds of foreign capitals, pleading for help to fight the increasingly aggressive Islamists, military leaders have remained at the Kati base, grumbling.

That conflict was evident in the declarations of the military’s spokesman on Tuesday. “Since he has been in power, he has been working simply to position his own family,” Mr. Mariko, the spokesman, said. “There has been a paralysis in government.”

On Monday night, around 11 p.m. here, as Mr. Diarra was preparing for a flight to Paris for a medical checkup exam when the soldiers appeared at his home, and took him to Kati, Mr. Mariko said. “He was getting ready to go to the airport,” Mr. Mariko said.

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« Reply #3431 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:38 AM »

Romania : Election results: Loser takes all?

10 December 2012
Presseurop: România libera, Jurnalul Naţional, Gandul,     

"The USL claims the right to form a government. Will Romania avoid a new crisis?" wonders Romanian daily România Liberă following the December 9 legislative elections. The centre-left USL (Social Liberal Union) of Prime Minister Victor Ponta won with a clear lead, taking nearly 60 per cent of the vote. The Right Romania Alliance (ARD) of President Traian Băsescu lagged behind with 17 per cent of the electorate while Dan Diaconescu's People's Party netted a surprising 14 per cent.

Five months after having survived an impeachment attempt, Traian Băsescu has suffered a setback. Yet, says România Liberă, the president –

    could be the major winner, or the major loser, of these elections. If Victor Ponta continues to be the USL candidate for the post of prime minister and if the president does not appoint him, the latter runs the risk of being suspended once again. His only true realistic option, in order to continue playing a positive role in society, is to remain within the bounds of the Constitution – as he has promised. If he is suspended while battling to defend what Romania has gained in recent years, his exit will be triumphant. And his defeat temporary. Because it is unimportant if those that want to make Romania leave Europe as well as the partnership with the United States will feel like winners, in the end they will lose.

As for conservative daily Jurnalul Național, it hails the "crushing defeat of the oranges," or the Democrat Liberal Party, the ARD partner associated with Băsescu. For the Jurnalul –

    the observation that this vote was a sort of run-off of this summer's referendum [on impeaching the president] is correct. Many people think that they have not finished settling scores with the man. This is his last chance to give it all he's got. If he bends at the knee, he will be history.

The new Parliament "will be no better than the last," notes news website Gândul. "It will include a few exotic characters," such as Diaconescu or populist Gigi Becali, "but no [one of] greater competence." Nonetheless, says the website –

    The situation is clear and the camps are delineated: it is the USL versus the rest of the world. But the leaders of the Union must understand that in the USL Republic, they carry the burden of their electorate's expectations. And that, lacking rapid action from the new government, their euphoria could be short-lived.

Meanwhile, in this election with a 60 per cent abstention rate, România Liberă notes that the most significant fact is the breakthrough of Dan Diaconescu, the media mogul who recently entered politics. The emergence of his new political force, considered to be populist, may be –

    seen as another joke in poor taste by its leader Dan Diaconescu. Yet, it was efficient when it came time to get out the vote of the most disappointed and rebellious Romanians.


Ponta and Antonescu triumphs. Basescu play their last card

December 9, 2012

by Dan Cristian Turturica

Sunday's parliamentary election results as they indicate an average of polls, no surprise. It became evident early during protests in January that if USL will be able to maintain the alliance score you will get will be very good, and PDL, if not a radical change, will lose power without appeal.

From this point of view, predictions were confirmed. USL won a majority and validate its claim electoral including taking power, made brutal by Ungureanu and fall of the government decision to suspend the President. Meanwhile, PDL received the second confirmation, after the local elections, a pungent failure due to a combination of causes, most of which are related to the performance of its administrative and not the international economic context.

Elections not only enshrine role reversal between the two political poles and the emergence of a third force, the People's Party, a party which many viewed it as a new joke in bad taste but Dan Diaconescu has demonstrated that it can be at least as effective in attracting the most despondent and rebellious votes Romanian were as in previous years the Greater Romania Party and the New Generation Party together.

On the other hand, UDMR confirms that is delicate and still do not know for sure if already cost her presence in Parliament (exit polls from polls indicated a score on the edge) or whether this will happen soon. After a long time they managed to do a ballet on the wire between the desires of its leaders to receive personal benefits arising from the presence in government, economic expectations of the Hungarian minority nationalist discourse and its rivals, UDMR has reached its limits.

If the hierarchy to the finish line did not surprise the figures (as far as they can be trusted at the moment, given that it is based on surveys and trecuţii years some estimates Sunday night Monday morning were severe disability) deserves analyzed .

For USL score above 50% indicates that the objective behind the establishment of the Union - acquiring majority. It is significantly lower, however, than many of the estimates in the last week, indicating a victory by over 62%. The difference is a clear sign that USL has already started to erode when Victor Ponta appointment as prime minister but also indicates a sharp drop to supporting table that invokes social liberals in the summer, during a referendum for dismissal of the President .

A turnout probably 43% equals 7.8 million votes. If current figures are confirmed, USL will not get more in absolute numbers, 4.5 million votes. A very high number, but at the same time small compared to the 7.4 million votes cast for president's impeachment. Why have missed Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu nearly 3 million votes, or the votes of almost half of those who no longer want Traian Basescu at Cotroceni?

In contrast, PDL failed attempt to escape the stigma of government painful for most Romanians by alloying with Civic Force, PNT-CD and New Republic. The alliance itself was not the problem but how its leaders were positioned in the campaign: listless and lame. Score is not only very weak but clear as the one that Traian Basescu would have received in august for reinstatement, if not adopted version exhortation to absenteeism.

Traian Basescu, in fact, could be the big winner or big loser of these elections. As long as most of PDL leaders were ready since two years ago to join the opposition score Sunday could hardly believe unfavorable. For Traian Basescu, however, could mean the end of politics.

If Victor Ponta will remain until the end of the USL Premier proposal and not yet president will appoint suspender and even his dismissal is imminent. And no one, not even Romania's strategic partners will not be able to save, assuming, hypothetically, that would be willing to go against the popular vote.

The situation will remain on the edge and if it succeeds, through a spectacular move, to find a challenger for Ponta willing to break the PSD and PNL votes. Chances that person to ensure a parliamentary majority are minimal and outcome for Traian Basescu will be the same.

The only realistic option for the president of playing a positive role in society is to stay within constitutional boundaries, as promised and in fact, last week to defend the vital institutions of the rule of law, as it did in the summer.

If you will be suspended and dismissed while trying to defend everything that Romania won in recent years, leaving the scene will be a triumph. And defeat is just a temporary solution, which will soon turn into a great victory for the country. Because no matter how triumphant feel today who want to remove Romania from Europe and the U.S. partnership ultimately lost.

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« Reply #3432 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:47 AM »

12/10/2012 06:17 PM

Return of the Undead: Berlusconi Revival Puts EU Leaders in Tight Spot

By Carsten Volkery and Philipp Wittrock

Chancellor Angela was by all acounts relieved to see the back of Silvio Berlusconi when he stepped down in 2011. Now, however, she and other European leaders are horrified at the prospect of his return to the pinnacle of Italian politics.

Not again! Just 13 months ago, European heads of state and government joined forces to usher Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi into retirement. Chancellor Angela Merkel and then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy marshalled all of their persuasive powers to clear they way for a reform government in Rome under the leadership of Mario Monti.

Now, with Prime Minister Monti having said over the weekend that he would resign as soon as he pushes through a key budget law, Italy's least serious politician is back. And Europe is groaning in displeasure. The French leftist paper Libération wrote "The Mummy Returns," a reference to a 2001 movie of the same name. And the otherwise dour German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk noted, "It is like a horror film: The undead keep coming back."

European political leaders, of course, tend to avoid such drastic formulations. Officially, capital cities on the continent were mum in response to Berlusconi's weekend pledge that he would seek a fifth term as Italian prime minister now that Monti is leaving. After all, diplomatic custom forbids meddling in other countries' internal affairs.

But it was difficult to miss the concern hidden between the lines of statements issued on Monday. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the situation in Italy threatened to spark renewed financial problems in the euro zone. "Italy can't stall at two-thirds of the reform process," he said. "That would just cause turbulence not just for Italy, but also for Europe." His counterparts from Sweden and Austria, Carl Bildt and Michael Spindelegger, were just as blunt. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned that Italy must continue on the reform path and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy emphasized that "Monti was a great prime minister of Italy" and that he hoped "the policies he put in place will continue after the elections."

Little Respect for Machos

German Chancellor Angela Merkel agrees. While not directly criticizing Berlusconi, she emphasized via her deputy government spokesmen how well she worked together with Monti. The spokesman said Merkel planned to tell the Italian premier just how highly she values him when they met on Monday in Norway, where they attended the ceremony bestowing the Nobel Peace Prize on the European Union.

The message is clear: Germany and the rest of the EU would like to see Monti continue. And they are terrified that Berlusconi might once again take the reins of the Italian government.

It is no secret, of course, that Merkel has little respect for machos in general, and those of Berlusconi's ilk in particular. Just how eager she was to see the back of Berlusconi as Europe was doing its utmost to prevent the euro crisis from spreading became clear in October 2011 during a joint press conference with Sarkozy. When asked about her relationship with Berlusconi, she and Sarkozy grinned at each other before demanding that Rome push through measures to pay down its debt load. Not long later, Berlusconi resigned.

Since then, newspapers belonging to Berlusconi's media empire have not been shy in their attacks on the chancellor, often printing photo montages showing her wearing Nazi uniforms and announcing the "Fourth Reich." They have proven just as harsh with Berlusconi's successor Monti. On the occasion of the first meeting between the two heads of government, the daily Il Giornale depicts Monti crawling on his knees to Merkel.

Berlusconi himself hasn't been above making derogatory comments about the chancellor either, allegedly referring disparagingly to Merkel's sex appeal in an overheard telephone conversation. He has also left no doubt as to his plan to campaign against Merkel and Germany's euro-crisis course in the coming campaign, saying over the weekend that it was time to "end the servility to Europe, which is dominated by Germany and Merkel."

Frightening Financial Markets

It's exactly this tone that worries Germany and a large part of Europe. No one is honestly expecting a Berlusconi victory -- very few political observers in Rome foresee him becoming prime minister again, with polls pointing to majority support for a center-left government.

Still, Berlusconi's campaign against the European austerity directive could frighten financial markets and put Italy's fate back into the hands of speculators. It's also very possible that his People of Freedom party could win a strong enough position in parliament to block or seriously delay the reforms necessary to restore investor confidence in Italy.

The Monti government has not fundamentally changed Italy in its one year in power. But it has been able to project an image of stability to the outside world. This success is now in danger. Markets will be looking more closely at Rome -- and they will find that there's still much to be accomplished. The first signs of a crisis of confidence were already visible on Monday, when risk premiums on Italian sovereign bonds shot up and share prices fell.

The past three years have shown that every political uncertainty makes the euro crisis worse. A return of Berlusconi, an unpredictable populist, is the last thing that the financiers of the euro rescue plan in Brussels, Paris and Berlin need right now.

Another Danger

Policy heavyweights, including European Stability Mechanism CEO Klaus Regling, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Central Bank board member Jörg Asmussen, have warned Rome to stay on the path of reform. Even the rest of southern Europe has reason to fear -- Spain watched with concern as risk premiums on their bonds went up as well.

Despite the precarious situation, other Europeans must be careful with their criticism of Berlusconi. Foreign interference in electoral campaigns is often counterproductive. If Monti were to run and foreign leaders were to come out too enthusiastically in support of him, they would be handing Berlusconi's media outlets an easy target. Monti already battles the image of being a Merkel protege -- likely one of the reason's for his reluctance to run.

When the electoral campaign in Italy really gets going, there's another danger: Shrill tones from Rome could also awaken the populists in Germany. Rabble-rousers like Alexander Dobrint, secretary general of the Bavaria's conservative Christian Social Union, have in the past gleefully decried what they see as the irresponsible budgetary policies of southern Europeans. German would-be disciplinarians would certainly not sit back and quietly observe a softening of austerity in Italy.


Italy: Monti refuses to be Berlusconi’s scapegoat

10 December 2012
La Stampa Turin


The resignation of Italy's Prime Minister, announced on December 7, has caused some concern in Italy and abroad. But in the face of Silvio Berlusconi's attempt to exploit social unrest, what other path was open to a technocratic government that has made such an effort to rehabilitate the country?
Mario Calabresi

Mario Monti took a day to reflect. Then he did the only thing he could do that was consistent with his character, his life and his way of governing: ensure the 2013 budget would pass, and resign.

It was not merely that he could not accept accusations from the person who had handed over to him a country in shambles. Nor did he intend to beg for weeks for the confidence of Italy's parliament in each measure he proposed.

Simply put, he had no desire to take one more step with the one who has now concluded that the fault of all the evil lies in the single currency. “I'm not going to Brussels to shield those who are making anti-European declarations. I want nothing to do with them,” Monti stated very clearly to the President of the Republic on December 8 when he announced his intention to resign.

It was a clear and transparent gesture, which obliges everyone to take responsibility, and leaves Berlusconi alone with his convulsions and his flip-flopping.

Intolerable behaviour

No one wants to discuss the right of "The Cavaliere" to run again (even if, for a year, he insisted he had no such intention), but it is intolerable that the majority shareholder in the technocratic government – which, let's remember, still includes the ex-prime minister who had left Italy on the brink – should wake up one morning and wash its hands of it.

It is intolerable that Monti is being accused of having caused all of Italy's problems, without acknowledging the work he did in just a single year. Faced with the inability to govern and the profound distrust of Italians in the party system, Monti's government was supposed to safeguard the balance-sheets of the State and to carry us over to fresh elections.

The pact was that each would share his burden of responsibility (and unpopularity) to try to avoid the bankruptcy of the country, without succumbing to the lure of populism and the temptation to profit from social unrest.

Handing back the keys to the government

So how then could the leader of the People of Freedom, Berlusconi's party, Angelino Alfano, think that Monti could carry on governing after Alfano had formally withdrawn that party's support in the National Assembly? Only a politician of the old school used to making deals and compromises on all sides would pretend it meant nothing. Monti, in contrast, took note and decided to hand back the keys to the government.

Thus, for the first time in the history of the Republic, we will be going to the polls in winter. Maybe even in the first half of February, if the budget vote passes and Parliament is dissolved before Christmas.

After trying to put things in order for the last 12 months, we have been wheeled back into the emergency room, suffering from spasms of terrible politics. With all the efforts and sacrifices we have made, we deserved better.

It is high time Italy became a normal country – predictable and, who knows, boring as well. A country that does not have to be ashamed and that can take a seat in Europe and be heard. For a year, we were nearly there.

“I want to be sincere and to avoid joining those who are sinking into despondency, begging Professor Monti not to resign, and who will thank him for the job he has done,” writes Alessandro Sallusti the day after the Italian government leader announced that he would step down. The director of the daily Il Giornale, Silvio Berlusconi’s brother, continues –

    I am on the side of the thousands of workers who have lost their jobs and the thousands of companies that have closed down under the enlightened leadership of the Monti government. We cannot live on so-called international credibility. We should re-establish the democracy suspended more than a year ago during the blitz mounted by the Italian president. We should retake control of the national sovereignty that has stupidly been entrusted to banks and a German-managed Europe. We should reassert the freedom to make our own decisions, take action, and to suffer if need be, not because we are subject to the whims of a privileged caste acclaimed by the press barons, but because we have chosen to do so. Let’s vote and make ourselves heard, regardless of the consequences. We should be proud that we have had the courage to put an end to a technocratic government that brought us nothing and was not about to bring us anything except for further hardship.

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« Reply #3433 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:51 AM »

December 10, 2012

Euro-Skeptics Turn Up Heat on Cameron


LONDON — Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain faced more pressure over his country’s fraught relationship with the European Union on Monday when an influential former cabinet minister said Britain should threaten to quit the bloc if it cannot negotiate much looser ties.

The comments, by former Defense Secretary Liam Fox, underline the extent to which policy toward the Union has become an ideological battleground in Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party, where an increasing number of lawmakers want a more arms-length relationship with Continental allies.

The man seen as Mr. Cameron’s main internal challenger, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, predicted during a weekend interview that the prime minister would pledge to hold a referendum asking voters to choose either a new, looser, relationship with the Union or complete withdrawal.

Mr. Cameron had been expected to explain his thinking in a speech this month but may now wait until next year. So far, he has said he wants to negotiate a looser arrangement, based on the single E.U. economic market, and seek popular approval for the outcome of those negotiations, perhaps in a referendum.

Some politicians appear to be upping the stakes — including Mr. Fox, who was seen as a right-wing rival to Mr. Cameron until the former defense secretary had to resign last year over his relationship with a friend and lobbyist, Adam Werritty.

Speaking at a meeting in London held by Open Europe and the Royal United Services Institute, two research institutes, Mr. Fox said Britain should set out its objective — membership in a customs union and single economic market, and a timetable for negotiation, followed by a referendum.

“Unless we are willing to say that, ultimately, Britain might be willing to leave, we would have no credibility in negotiations with our European partners,” he said.

“If the choice is between the current trajectory towards ever closer union and leaving, then I would choose to leave, albeit reluctantly, ” Mr. Fox said. “If the choice is between a looser, more economic relationship and leaving, then I would choose to stay.”

Britain’s debate about its European destiny comes as talks have deadlocked over the next seven-year E.U. budget. Mr. Cameron will join other European leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday to discuss other contentious issues, including plans to create a banking union for the euro.

At the heart of arguments made by British euro-skeptics is the notion that, when Britain joined the forerunner of the European Union, almost 40 years ago, voters believed they were joining a free trade area, known as the Common Market. “I for one hope to see ‘back to the Common Market’ as the Conservative slogan on Europe at the next general election,” Mr. Fox said.

However, earlier this month former Prime Minister Tony Blair said that European leaders would be unlikely to accommodate an attempt by Britain to keep the elements of membership it likes while rejecting other obligations.

There are also signs that business is nervous that Britain might end up leaving the bloc, thereby threatening its access to its large single market.

A key unanswered question for the euro-skeptics is how much of a change they would need in order to recommend to voters that they stay in the Union.

The alternative might be to negotiate a relationship with the Union, like Switzerland’s or Norway’s, though these nations still must comply with much of the bloc’s legislation. Mr. Fox said that he did not believe that the options were limited to the status quo.

He was also fiercely critical of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Union. “As the unelected bureaucrats bask in their reflected glory in Oslo they might want to spare a thought for the millions of Europeans, especially young Europeans, who find themselves with no other prize to show for the E.U. project than unemployment and fear for the future,” he said.


United Kingdom: Ukip: The party making the Tories tremble

11 December 2012
The Guardian London
Once described by UK Prime Minister David Cameron as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", the fiercely eurosceptic movement is becoming a mainstream political force. They are attracting the most europhobic elements of the Conservatives and helping shape government policy. Excerpts.
John Harris

This winter's biggest political story may turn out not to be focused on the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Dems, but an organisation that until recently was routinely condemned to the fringes, and mocked as a collection of eccentrics and oddballs.

The UK Independence Party has regularly drawn 6 per cent or 7 per cent in the polls, sometimes climbing as high as 11 per cent, but truly entered the mainstream in the run up to the Rotherham byelection in mid-November. The party's prospects were been boosted by a remarkable story in which the local council decided to remove three children from their foster parents when the couple were discovered to be Ukip members. The children are migrants from mainland Europe; Rotherham's director of child services said she had to be mindful of their "cultural and ethnic needs", in the context of Ukip's policies on multiculturalism.

Recently, the Tory MP and party vice-chairman Michael Fabricant published a report titled “The Pact”, in which he suggests an electoral deal between the Conservatives and Ukip, on the basis of a referendum on Britain's EU membership, and offering a place in a future Tory cabinet for Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

The Tory leadership duly poured cold water on his suggestion, but the underlying thinking was hardly revelatory: Ukip's rise is jangling Tory nerves, and with good reason.

Growing support

Ukip already has 12 members of the European Parliament and there are three other ex-Tory Ukip-ers in the House of Lords. The party now has 158 people serving on local councils – though the vast majority are concentrated at town and parish levels – a number regularly swelled by more revolting Tories.

They are all committed to a self-styled "libertarian, non-racist party seeking Britain's withdrawal from the EU," whose ideas are built on the claim that even the Conservatives – and read this bit slowly – "are now Social Democrats", and that the main parties "offer voters no real choice".

Aside from pulling out of Europe, Ukip's other notable positions and policies seem purposely designed to cut across what remains of the metropolitan "modernisation" agenda that Cameron and his supporters brought to modern Tory politics. Chief among them is the belief that climate change is a matter of debate and "wind power is futile", the contention that there should be "real and rigorous cuts in foreign aid" (to be "replaced with free trade", apparently). Given half a chance, Ukip would also freeze "permanent immigration" for five years.

The party's prevailing tilt is in the small-state, cut-spending direction, though it would hold on to Britain's nuclear weapons, and "make increased defence spending a clear priority". It is opposed to gay marriage (though it's OK with civil partnerships), and advocates an end to the ban on smoking in "allocated rooms in public houses, clubs and hotels." The party's radicals also believe in a flat rate of income tax, an idea that has found favour in Serbia, Ukraine, Slovakia, Georgia, and Romania.

In 2006, much to Ukip's fury, Cameron famously called them a party of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists", and there have been occasional reports about Ukip members with links to the far right. In the European parliament, their MEPs are part of a grouping called Europe of Freedom and Democracy, which also includes the Italian Northern League, the Lithuanian Order and Justice party, and an outfit from Greece called the Popular Orthodox Rally.

EU and Tory woes

Why has the party's support suddenly ballooned? According to John Curtice, the renowned psephologist and professor of politics at Strathclyde University, the answer is inevitably bound up with two institutions that have each had a grim 2012: the European Union, and the British Conservative party.

"The simple answer is that the public are getting much more eurosceptic," he says. "But it's not clear that it's any more eurosceptic than it was in the late 70s and early 80s. The other argument is, you've got a bunch of people out there who are normally Tory supporters, and they're not entirely sure that Cameron's got it. They've lost confidence in the competence of the Tories. Now, if you're in that situation and you're a voter on the centre-right, where are you going to go?"

In 1991, a London School of Economic historian and academic called Alan Sked formed the Anti-Federalist League, a group-cum-party opposed to the Treaty of Maastricht, the agreement that formally established what we now know as the European Union. Two years later, it became the UK Independence Party.

In 1999, Ukip got its first three MEPs. Five years later, it reached its first watershed moment, when 12 were elected. Nigel Farage, a commodity broker and former Tory, became Ukip leader in September 2006, although he resigned three years later. In November 2010, he once again became Ukip's leader, and is now a firmly embedded part of the culture.

‘Political earthquake’

Paul Nuttall, 35, is a Liverpudlian former academic, an MEP for the north-west region, and is now the Party's deputy leader. He puts their apparent surge down to "being proved right on everything to do with the European Union," and the endless warnings the party has dispensed about "mass, uncontrolled immigration".

In the European elections of 2014, he reminds me, the party's aim is to finish first. At next year's general election, they want nothing less than a "political earthquake", though what that might mean remains unclear.

But why not, I wonder, swallow hard and get with the Fabricant programme? A deal with the Tories, after all, would guarantee them at least one seat in cabinet – and, one assumes, a handful of MPs. "The biggest stumbling block at the moment is the prime minister himself," says Nuttall. "He can't be trusted on the European Union."

Rather than crashing with the EU fighter, Britannia prefers to eject. This is how British weekly The Economist illustrates the growing sentiment among Britons that it would be best to exit from the European Union. At the speed with which things are moving, it says, "a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU now seems a matter of timing." However, the magazine adds –

    A British exit would be a double tragedy. Britons would suffer far more than they currently realise. Excluded from the Single Market, London would see that "the carmakers that use Britain as their European operations base would gradually drift away, along with large parts of the financial-services industry. Britain would have to renegotiate dozens of bilateral trade deals from a much weaker position than it enjoyed as a member of the EU. It would cut a greatly diminished figure on the world stage." But, The Economist warns, "Europe would be damaged too. Britain has stood for free trade and low regulation, so without it the Union would be more lethargic and left ever further behind America and the emerging world.

"But it is still possible to avoid "this slow-motion disaster," notes the magazine, by relearning to negotiate and by making one's positions better understood. In the end, the magazine concludes: "Difficult and often humiliating as it may be, the best course is to stick close to Europe, and try to bend it towards Britain."


UKIP leader Nigel Farage adresses to his supporters in front of the British Parliament. London, may 2011

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« Last Edit: Dec 11, 2012, 07:59 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #3434 on: Dec 11, 2012, 07:54 AM »

12/10/2012 04:44 PM

SPIEGEL Interview with Israeli President

Shimon Peres: 'We Have to Open Negotiations Right Away'

The United Nations has recognized a Palestinian state and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to prefer confrontation over negotiation. But in an interview with SPIEGEL, Israeli President Shimon Peres says that there is no alternative to re-starting peace talks, adding that it is time to forget the past.

SPIEGEL: In a recent vote, the United Nations essentially recognized a state of Palestine by granting it "non-member observer status." Are you disappointed by that decision?

Peres: You can criticize the UN resolution, but it doesn't matter. I learned a long time ago that there is one thing in life you cannot change, and that is the past. What happened, happened.

SPIEGEL: Will the UN decision make peace negotiations with the Palestinians more difficult?

Peres: I don't know if more difficult, but more necessary. Now the major issue will be the International Criminal Court in The Hague and the two parties will try to hunt each other. Is that a prospect for the future? That's what we've done the whole time: They used to blame us, and we used to blame them. But we have to forget the past.

SPIEGEL: Yet when making claims to the Holy Land, both sides cite thousands of years of history.

Peres: We are not going to deal with Abraham, our father and brother. It's over.

SPIEGEL: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though, refers to that history on an almost daily basis.

Peres: History is necessary to justify the present. But to go back 2,000 years? My God, leave it to the historians. What happened 2,000 years ago is not being repeated today. My proposal is: Draw a line and say there is a forgiveness of the past; we are not going to sue each other. It's a waste of time. We have to open negotiations without prior conditions right away. And right away means after parliamentary elections on January 22.

SPIEGEL: Germany abstained in the recent UN vote on Palestinian status. One element contributing to Berlin's position was Chancellor Angela Merkel's frustration that Netanyahu has yet to enter into negotiations with the Palestinians. Can you understand her position?

Peres: I would have liked Germany to vote differently. But so what? When I look deeper and ask myself what I prefer, a German Europe or a Germany that is European, I prefer a European Germany. And this decision is part of Germany being European.

SPIEGEL: Last Thursday, high-level meetings between Israeli and German cabinet members were held in Berlin. Before arriving, Prime Minister Netanyahu complained about Germany's UN vote. What do you think about the state of German-Israeli relations?

Peres: I think the relationship is fair, and I think that the attitude of Chancellor Merkel is remarkable. She has her positions, and her thinking is constant. I respect her very much. Germany's ties to Israel are deep, not opportunistic. It happens from time to time that we have a disagreement. Even the blue skies of the Mediterranean have clouds sometimes. But the sky is blue.

SPIEGEL: Germany wasn't alone. With the exception of the Czech Republic, every EU country either voted in favor of the Palestinians or abstained. Is Israel becoming increasingly isolated?

Peres: They didn't vote for us because of the lack of negotiations. As soon as we start negotiations, they will support us.

SPIEGEL: But what if there aren't any negotiations?

Peres: No negotiations is not a possibility. We have to negotiate. Basically, we already have a foundation for an agreement: two states and the settlement blocks. There will be three blocks, and we shall give to the Palestinians an equal piece of land. The settlements take up maybe 2 to 6 percent of the West Bank. It's not unsolvable.

SPIEGEL: If the solution is really so simple, why wasn't peace achieved many years ago?

Peres: The real problem is how to start negotiations. You cannot begin the negotiations with the end. So we have to define how to start. And I think we have to start the following way: To say what happened until now will stop and there will be a forgiveness of the past. We have to start without prior conditions.

SPIEGEL: You had a series of secret meetings with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas more than a year ago. The two of you had gotten close to reaching an agreement on how to restart negotiations. But at that point, Netanyahu asked you to break off contact.

Peres: Look, that's the past again. But Netanyahu agreed to a two-state solution.

SPIEGEL: On paper, perhaps. But nothing has happened. And in all likelihood, the next government will be even less willing to negotiate.

Peres: The future government will have to make a strategic decision. And Israel doesn't have a better choice than the two-state solution.

SPIEGEL: Is that just your opinion? Or does Prime Minister Netanyahu share it as well? His actions would seem to indicate that he doesn't.

Peres: These four years will not be repeated.

SPIEGEL: What makes you so sure?

Peres: My experience. That's the difference between young and old. I am old. I can tell you, reality affects leaders more than any leader affects reality. I am sure Netanhayu doesn't want a bi-national state. A bi-national state would not have peace -- because of the tension, the differences and the smallness of the land.

SPIEGEL: But it seems more like Netanyahu wants to preserve the status quo.

Peres: At the moment, yes, maybe. But there will be another moment.

SPIEGEL: How have you retained your optimism over all these years of strife?

Peres: I remember the early days. I came to a country that had nothing, a small piece of land with a swamp in the north and a desert in the south. We didn't have water. We had two lakes -- one dead, the other dying -- and one river, the Jordan, which has more fame than water. In 1948, we were a small group of 650,000 people surrounded by tremendous hostility, outgunned, outnumbered, without natural resources. We had a war before we had a state. We had an army before we had a government. We didn't have a chance -- and yet, look what happened.

SPIEGEL: That was 1948. But if you compare the current situation to the hopeful times of August 1993, when the Oslo peace accords were signed, you have to admit that things have gotten much worse.

Peres: Some critics also said that we would never make peace with any Arab country. We made peace with Egypt; we made peace with Jordan. We started to make peace with the Palestinians. And, as a matter of fact, there is a Palestinian Authority, and there is sort of a relationship.

SPIEGEL: What are the chances that you will live to see successful negotiations concluded between the Israelis and Palestinians?

Peres: One-hundred percent. It may take a little bit more time than I wish. We have to be patient, we have to be constant and we shouldn't listen to pessimists. They make as many mistakes as the optimists.

SPIEGEL: One could also see your constant optimism as nothing more than a fig leaf for a government that lacks sufficient will to compromise.

Peres: Such accusations are nonsense. In my long political career, I have participated in doing unbelievable things for this country. What I did are real things -- not fig leaves, but figs, the fruits.

SPIEGEL: Some see Netanyahu's current term as prime minister as four lost years in terms of reform and important changes. During his term, the climate has also become more hostile toward African immigrants and Israeli Arabs.

Peres: I'm not so sure that everything is so bleak. Look at relations with Arabs in Israel itself: It looks like an impossible relationship. But if you look a bit closer, there are islands of peace between us. For instance, take health care. There is not a single hospital in Israel that doesn't have Arab nurses, doctors, patients and Jewish doctors, nurses and patients working together without problems. It's complete peace in the hospitals.

SPIEGEL: Many in Israel view the Arab Spring as an "Arab winter." Do you share that view?

Peres: I see it as a "world spring" rather than an Arab spring. The climate of change is global, not national. And you can't come to a world spring dressed for winter.

SPIEGEL: To what extent have the revolutions in the Arab world influenced what happens in Israel?

Peres: Not everything that happens in the Middle East is connected to Israel. The bloodshed in Syria is not connected to Israel. Egypt has nothing to do with Israel. And the same goes for Tunisia and Yemen. There are some fanatics who try to introduce the conflict between us and the Palestinians as an excuse for their extremism, but they are a minority. So I think we have to disconnect ourselves from this transitional period in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: You have spoken about a "new Middle East" for decades. Is the Middle East that is currently taking shape like the one you have envisioned?

Peres: There is not yet a new Middle East. There is a divorce from the old Middle East, but not yet a new Middle East. We're in a period of transition. But they are building governments; the process has started. The young generation has already achieved something. First of all, they got rid of their dictators. They pushed their countries to elections. They didn't know how to win elections, but they did introduce elections.

SPIEGEL: Four months ago, shortly before you celebrated your 89th birthday, you publicly warned Israelis against making a unilateral strike on Iran. What worried you so much that you chose to speak out?

Peres: The problem of Iran is a global problem. Israel doesn't have to monopolize it.

SPIEGEL: Does that mean you don't trust your country's current leaders to make the right decision?

Peres: I respect leaders, but I respect realities as well. And I prefer to go with a coalition led by the United States. President Barack Obama, in my judgment, is a serious and constant leader. He is against Iranians having a bomb because it's a danger to the world.

SPIEGEL: You recently complained about losing sleep because you're so worried. Should we be worried, too?

Peres: Sure, I am worried … and therefore I expressed my views. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin told me he can't stand a nuclear bomb in the hands of the Iranians. So why do it alone? I don't understand that.

SPIEGEL: Your positions on this and many other issues are contrary to those held by the current government and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Why aren't you more openly critical?

Peres: I prefer to express what I am for, and not what I am against.

SPIEGEL: Many Israelis were expecting to see you run as the head of the opposition in the upcoming elections. Why did you ultimately choose not to run?

Peres: I was elected for seven years as president. I want to fulfill what I took upon myself. I don't lack opportunities. I don't feel that I am idle. I think that I have to tell the story of my country and where we are heading.

SPIEGEL: Did you ever even consider running?

Peres: I feel that I can influence just as much with goodwill as with administrative power. I think I have, in a way, an educational responsibility to tell young people where we are heading. I hope I'm not exaggerating, but I hope that people are listening to me very carefully.

SPIEGEL: President Peres, we thank you for this interview.

Interview conducted by Hans Hoyng and Juliane von Mittelstaedt
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