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« Reply #4215 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:16 AM »

India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
January 24, 2013, 8:27 am

India Rape Trial Starts With Renewed Ban on Media Coverage


The trial of five men accused in the gang rape of a 23-year-old woman in a moving bus in New Delhi is being watched closely as a symbol of India's commitment to justice for women, but information about the ongoing court proceedings may be scarce.

As court proceedings began Thursday, the presiding judge said  there would be a blanket ban on reporting on the trial. The judge, Yogesh Khanna,  also warned defense lawyers, who have been openly speaking about the case, not to provide information about the proceedings to the press.

The five men accused in the Dec. 16 rape and murder of a physiotherapy student were ushered into the special fast-track court in South Delhi on Thursday at noon, flanked by policemen, with their faces were covered with gray woolen caps. During the two-hour court proceedings, the prosecution used the opening arguments to lay out charges against the men, which include gang rape, murder, robbery and destruction of evidence.

The police allege that the five accused men and a sixth teenager, who is being tried as a juvenile, committed a premeditated, vicious crime that included plans to kill their victim. The woman died nearly two weeks after the rape from injuries suffered during the attack, which included an assault with an iron rod. Her companion, a 29-year-old man, was also beaten, and is expected to testify  at the trial.

The court proceedings took place in room 305 of the Saket District Court complex, a small wood-paneled chamber. The next hearing will be on Monday, when the defendants' lawyers will respond to the charges the prosecution has laid out.

Separately on Thursday, India's Juvenile Justice Board rejected a plea that the juvenile, who according to school records is 17 years old, be tried as an adult. The petition, filed by Subramanian Swamy, president of the Janata Party, claimed that the extreme malice of the alleged actions of the juvenile showed that he was not of the "tender age and mind" of a juvenile.

Indian law requires that rape cases be held "in-camera," allowing only those directly connected with the case to be present in the courtroom, to protect the victim's identity, and bans publishing of information about the proceedings. The victim has not been named by the media, but her family has spoken openly to the press about her life and their willingness to let her name be used if it were for something that benefitted the public, like new legislation to protect women.

Some are agitating for the proceedings of this trial to be made public, because of the high profile nature of the case. "In this case, what is on trial is the criminal justice system -- investigating agencies, the administration and the judiciary," said Meenakshi Lekhi, a Delhi-based lawyer who has filed a petition in the Delhi High Court challenging the media ban.  The case has "brought women's rights to the center stage of public discourse," she said. "This would not have been possible without the media," she said.

The High Court will hear the petition on February 13.

The new fast-track court will try only cases related to crimes against women, and once trials have started, they will not adjourn for weeks or months, as is common in other courts. Several fast-track courts have already  been set up in Delhi to hear crimes against women in the wake of the Delhi gang rape, which brought thousands of protesters to the streets demanding justice for the victim and other victims of sexual assault.

Judge Khanna ordered  Monday that all court proceedings in ths current case would take place "in camera," allowing only those directly connected with the case to be present in the courtroom, reiterating an earlier magistrate's order on the case. He also renewed a blanket ban Monday on the printing or publishing of any information relating to the case's proceedings.

Defense lawyers were instructed by the court during the proceedings to "honor the spirit" of the gag order, they said, after the special public prosecutor Dayan Krishnan said he would file a petition of contempt of court if lawyers for the defendants continued to brief the media on developments.

V. K. Anand, the lawyer for Ram Singh, one of the accused, confirmed Thursday that he would now also represent Mr. Singh's brother Mukesh. Mr. Anand and Vivek Sharma, a second lawyer for accused, told the media after Thursday's court proceedings that they could not answer any further questions.

January 24, 2013

India’s Next Revolution



MANY think of India, born of a violent partition in 1947, as itself harboring two identities: a smartphone wielding, English-speaking, fast-growing democracy that prefers macchiatos to masala chai, and a predominantly lower-caste, mystically minded mass of peasants who spend their days herding buffalos and wading through water-clogged rice paddies.

Geographic and class divisions have come to the fore again following the notorious gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi last month — a case that drew more attention to the status of women in India than any event in recent history.

The sight of thousands of women demanding justice led observers to point to the demonstrations as “a middle-class movement,” akin in style to the Arab Spring. Their power was demonstrated in 2011, when a hunger strike by the anticorruption activist Anna Hazare set off a wave of protests against graft.

Armed with diplomas and aspirations for upward mobility, a rapidly expanding consumer class is said to be driving political activism and, thanks to its media savviness, forcing the government to listen. The woman who was killed fit this narrative: an ambitious college student who had watched “Life of Pi” with a male friend on the night of the attack.

But where does this narrative leave rural women, who make up about 70 percent of India’s female population? There can be no genuine change without them.

After the rape, Mohan Rao Bhagwat, the head of the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said: “Such crimes hardly take place in ‘Bharat,’ but occur frequently in ‘India.’ ” Bharat, the Hindi word for India, is, in this view, a rustic idyll where virtuous women keep their bodies covered, and thereby are safe and protected.

Of course, Mr. Bhagwat was swiftly ridiculed. Using the hashtag #Bharat, many posted tongue-in-cheek online comments. One wrote on Facebook: “Don’t live in India. Migrate to Bharat instead.” They noted the persistence of child marriages, domestic violence and sexual assault in what urban Indians still call “the hinterlands.”

With the record now corrected, attention returned to the capital and its middle-class protesters, whose adroit use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram had captured the world’s imagination. The gulf separating the women of “Bharat” and “India” seemed all too real.

But urban Indian women owe a debt to their rural forebears. In the 1970s, Himalayan women led one of the country’s most successful grass-roots mobilizations, the Chipko movement. By hugging trees destined to become timber, the women protected their soil from erosion, as well as their supplies of water and firewood. They started what many consider India’s first ecological movement.

Rural women have taken the lead in contemporary battles too. Consider the Pink Gang, or Gulabi Gang, based in Bundelkhand, a remote area of central India that is often written off as “lawless” and “bandit plagued.” Founded by Sampat Devi Pal, who was married off around the age of 13, had her first child at 15 and is essentially illiterate, the Pink Gang — an all-women’s vigilante organization estimated to have around 20,000 members, named after their pink saris and batons — gained fame for beating up men who had abused their wives. The gang has fought corrupt politicians and crooked police officers as well. It also runs vocational centers that empower women.

The women of Khairlanji village, in the state of Maharashtra, are another example. In 2006, after a mob raped and killed a mother and daughter from a dalit (lower-caste) family, and also killed two males in their family, lower-caste women used handbills to organize mass protests that swept across the region. “It was an entirely new kind of protest organization,” said S. P. S. Yadav, the police commissioner in Nagpur, one of Maharashtra’s largest cities.

The fate of India’s women will rely on the uniting of rural and urban activism — and there are signs of hope that this is happening. Shuddhabrata Sengupta, an artist with the Raqs Media Collective who has covered the protest for, a political blog, told me the mass movement “cuts across age, experience and class in ways that I don’t think any other mobilization has in recent times.”

A leading activist, Kavita Krishnan, a leader of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, said: “I met many women who work as domestic help at the protests. There were local protests held in working class slums and localities all over Delhi. I know there were protests in far-flung parts of India.”

Previously, when Ms. Krishnan tried to raise awareness about divisive subjects, like the rape of lower-caste women by upper-caste men, “we did not get support,” she recalled. This has changed. “I think that it is rare that you get this moment where people’s ears are wide open and you get an audience that is thinking of the nature of rape. You can’t compare this moment with any previous moment.”

If rape happens in “Bharat” as well as “India,” then the solution will come only from the mobilization of the women of both “nations.” That would be a double blow to bigots like Mr. Bhagwat, who deny that unity is possible, and to the oppression of women across the subcontinent. If anything can unite Indian women across the divide, it is this moment.

“I think there is an element of discovering solidarity with strangers,” Mr. Sengupta says of the movement. “I think it has even taken protesters by surprise.”

Amana Fontanella-Khan is the author of the forthcoming book “Pink Sari Revolution: A Tale of Women and Power in India.”

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« Reply #4216 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:17 AM »

01/24/2013 02:31 PM

Referendum Reactions: Cameron Faces Heat from Continent

By Carsten Volkery in London

In calling for a British referendum on EU membership, Prime Minister Cameron thought he might get some support from reform-minded partners on the Continent. But the praise has been almost non-existent, and Cameron is feeling the heat.

There was a celebratory mood among those sitting on the green benches in Britain's House of Commons on Wednesday. Among the ranks of the Conservatives, one critic of David Cameron after the other stood and praised the prime minister as the country's savior. Even Bill Cash, the most outspoken critic of Cameron's EU policies, expressed his respect.

Indeed, Cameron's announcement on Wednesday that his government would hold a referendum on Britain's membership in the 27-nation bloc before the end of 2017 put the island's euroskeptics in an ecstatic mood. The conservative Daily Telegraph wrote that Cameron "deserves extensive applause" for offering "the British public the key to the exit, an act of faith that even the sainted Mrs. Thatcher never managed."

With the announcement, Cameron has achieved his first goal. His fractured Conservative Party looked more united than ever on Wednesday. Euroskeptic Tory parliamentarian Mark Pritchard called it "a major triumph" that was "well considered, thoughtful and long overdue," adding that it would forge a "new consensus" for the party on Europe.

But Cameron also chalked up a second success on the domestic political scene because the issue of Britian's EU membership is driving a wedge into the Labour Party. Speaking in the House of Commons, opposition leader Ed Miliband criticized the call for a referendum, saying that it would cause uncertainty and harm the British economy. Nevertheless, many in his party see things differently -- and actually want to include a promise to hold a referendum in its platform for the next election. Before then, however, Cameron will get to watch as the opposition engages in internecine quarrels rather than battling the prime minister.

Cameron Places Hopes on Allies Merkel and Rutte

Still, the satisfaction Cameron enjoys from these domestic gains probably won't last long. The EU problem will catch up with him again soon -- in other words, when it becomes obvious that the demands he has made on Brussels have fallen on deaf ears.

Cameron was already defending himself in an international forum on Thursday. Speaking at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Cameron warned European leaders against forcing member countries into ever-deeper political union. "Countries in Europe have their histories, their traditions, their institutions, want their own sovereignty, their ability to make their own choices," Cameron said. "And to try and shoehorn countries into a centralized political union would be a great mistake for Europe, and Britain wouldn't be part of it."

In any case, Cameron has a two-stage plan: First he wants to negotiate a "better deal" that will give Britain further exceptions to EU regulations. Then he wants his people to vote on whether they want to remain in the EU under these new terms.

Cameron is betting that his EU partners will find a way to grant him concessions out of their desire to make sure that Britain remains part of the EU. And he's hoping that support for such exceptions will come from other reform-minded members of the bloc, such as Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries.

However, initial reactions from these countries' governments were not particularly promising. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that she was "of course prepared to talk about British wishes," which the British media interpreted as proof that Cameron's aggressive bargaining style was the right one. The Daily Telegraph, for example, interpreted Merkel's comment as signaling a "major victory."

But Merkel's response is really nothing more than a noncommittal and polite formality aimed at preventing any escalation of tensions between German and British officials. After all, locking horns with Cameron now would be a bad idea since she needs his signature in early February, when EU leaders meet for a summit to approve the bloc's budget for the next seven years.

Other leaders perceived to be warmer toward reform proposals also gave a cool response to his speech. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he didn't want to interfere with a domestic political issue in Britain, but followed up a day later in Davos saying he backed some of Cameron's statements. Meanwhile, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said that the United Kingdom and Denmark, which is also not a member of the euro zone, "have chosen to follow two different paths" and that Danish interest "are best served by staying as close to the EU core as possible." Finally, Swedish Prime Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted that: "Flexibility sounds fine, but if you open up to a 28-speed Europe, at the end of the day there is no Europe at all. Just a mess."

Deceptive Domestic Calm

There are no signs, either, that this opposition will abate anytime soon. Sooner or later, the British are likely to voice increasing doubt about Cameron's strategy. Cameron said that he would hold the referendum "in the first half" of the next parliamentary term if his party wins the next general election, scheduled for 2015. But two years is still a long way off. And if the Tories can't show that they've secured any concessions by then, Cameron is likely to face ire anew from the euroskeptic ranks of his party in parliament.

There is also the possibility that Cameron won't be in charge anymore following the 2015 election. Indeed, merely holding out the prospect of a referendum on EU membership won't be enough to drive masses of voters into his party's arms. In fact, the British polling company Ipsos MORI found that most British voters are indifferent to the EU issue and that they are primarily concerned about the country's ailing economy. This has led EU backers such as Nick Clegg, the deputy prime minister with the Liberal Democrats, to portray the referendum as a dangerous distraction from genuinely important issues.

By the time of the referendum, at the latest, the old divisions within the Conservative Party will surely resurface. While Cameron will advocate remaining in the EU under new terms, euroskeptic members of parliament within his Conservative Party -- such as Daniel Hannan, in the European Parliament, and Douglas Carswell, in the House of Commons -- have already signaled that they will call for a "Brixit," the name given to a possible British exit from the EU.

Indeed, it appears that Cameron cannot rid the Tories of their traditional curse. In 2005, at the beginning of his term as leader of the Conservative Party, he suggested that the Tories could solve the issue of divisiveness by finally ceasing to solely and incessantly talk about Europe. But now the party is right back where it was then.
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« Reply #4217 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:22 AM »

 Friday 25th January 2013  EPN.DK

The Danes will be in the EU

BY HEIDI Ploug OVERGAARD, Jyllands-Posten | JETTE Elbæk MARESSA, Jyllands-Posten correspondent

A Danish EU referendum rejected by voters, but they are prepared to renegotiate membership.
Article main points of Cameron's EU arguments

London / Copenhagen

A significant majority of voters rejected the idea of ​​following the British out of the EU, according to a poll by Ramboll / Analysis Denmark has made the Jyllands-Posten. 51.9 per cent. match that Denmark should not leave the EU, if the British end up leaving the union.

In return, 47.2 per cent. of the 951 respondents like the Danish Government initiate a renegotiation with the EU on the conditions for the Danish membership. 41.6 per cent. say no.

Almost half, 49.7 per cent. refuses, however, to be subsequently held a referendum for or against Danish membership of the EU.

Minister for European Affairs Nicolai Wammen (S) takes measurements as an indication that voters are behind the government's policy "not to jump on England boat '.

"It is important for the government to work for Danish interests, and we do that best by being close to the heart of the EU," he said.
Bourgeois skepticism

The measurement indicates that relatively more bourgeois voters want a renegotiation of the Danish EU membership, namely 52.3 per cent. of the 454 respondents with bourgeois leanings. Danish People's Party's foreign affairs spokesman Soren Espersen, believes that the Danes want more exceptions to the EU:

"If you ask them whether they want the big EU package or small, they take the small," he said.

But measurement also shows that voters are ready to follow the economic rules that euro area countries put up, even though Denmark is outside the single currency. On the question of whether Denmark should continue to follow new financial rules that euro adoption, corresponding 47.5 per cent. yes, while 31.7 per cent. answer no.

Economy and Interior Minister Margaret Vestager (R) notes that there is respect and responsiveness to Danish views.

"We are very close to the core of the EU and in a completely different situation than the UK," she says.

Danes say yes to the EU's common banking supervision Premium

What will Cameron? Premium

The word is yours: If Denmark follow the British out of the EU?
The main points of Cameron's EU arguments

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, put in a major speech on Britain's future relationship with the EU out with an historical overview of European cooperation and the British national character.

- Although we must never take it for granted, is the European Union's initial goal - to secure peace - reached (...). But today is the European Union's dominant target another: Not to win the peace, but to ensure prosperity.

- I know that the United kingdom is sometimes perceived as a diskussionslystent and pretty obsternasigt member of the family of European nations.

- It is true that our geography has influenced our psychology. We have island state characteristics - independent, direct and passionate in defense of our sovereignty.

- We can not change the British reality, just as we can drain the English Channel. We ask constantly: How, why, what does it lead to? But all that does not make us in any way un-European.

- I do not in any way that we pull the drawbridge up and pull us back from the world. I do not want just a better option for the UK but throughout the EU.
Three large main challenges

Then Cameron outlined three major challenges for the UK and the EU as a whole:

    Eurozone problems leading to fundamental changes in Europe.
    European competitiveness is in crisis, while countries in the world Pounces forward.
    The gap between Europe and its citizens has grown dramatically, and the democratic deficit is particularly acute in Britain.

Five principles

And he outlines a vision based on five principles:

1) Competitiveness. The internal market is and must be the EU's core, and Britain must be in its heart. But the EU should also be more flexible and less bureaucratic.

2) Flexibility. The EU needs a structure that relate to its members' diversity. There is no one size that fits all. Instead of "multi-speed Europe" will Cameron talk about "a flexible union of free member"

3) The power to be able to move back to the member states, not only away from them. A deep and well-functioning internal market does not mean that everything must be harmonized. Countries are different and make different choices. Nothing should be kept away from the negotiating table.

4) Democratic legitimacy. National parliaments is - and must remain - the foundation of democracy and accountability in the EU.

5) Justice. Whatever the eurozone implement the new, must also act fairly to those who are not in the euro.
The importance of Britain

Finally scratches Cameron up, what it all means for the United Kingdom:

- People feel that the EU is moving in a direction that they never signed up. And people feel that the EU is moving towards a level of political integration, which is far beyond Britain's comfort zone.

- They have been promised a referendum. But never got them.

- They see what has happened with the euro - and notes that many of our political and business leaders even advocated that Britain should go with. They have not heard them complain.

- The result is that the democratic support for the EU in Britain today are paper thin.

- Some believe that it is irresponsible to draw attention to it, and that it creates uncertainty for businesses and cast doubt on Britain's position in the EU. But the question mark is already there, and it will not disappear that we ignore it.

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« Reply #4218 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:27 AM »

Czech Republic:

Two worlds, one option: Presidential election 2013: What will the presidency if the head of state becomes Milos Zeman, or Karel Schwarzenberg

24 January 2013
Hospodářské Noviny, Respekt

Attack and talkative former prime minister actively and assertively occupying space. Phlegmatic, taciturn, often careless, inattentive to the Foreign Minister, consistently holding back ...

Long and in the end it tiring election battle Milos Zeman and Karel Schwarzenberg still highlighted the differences between the two candidates. The campaign has become a magnifying glass, under which voters ahead of today's and tomorrow's final decision on the Czech head of state could well see who and what they actually do as president for another five years to offer.

Zeman joined in the fight all their major advantages and weapons: rhetorical bravado (which famously takes up primarily to less literary voters with less education), a very good overview of the economic and political issues, practical experience relatively successful ruler that his rivals, even though it sits in second government, she was missing.

Schwarzenberg showed insight and ideological neutrality, or the wisdom of old age, say, life experience, and smoother, sleeker, and therefore less obtrusive and dissuasive sense of humor.

Ficus and alter ego premiere

In many opinions, both candidates agree unexpectedly (although rather represent the opposite pole of the traditional left-right divide of the political field, pointing to the center of the majority). Voters can thus be confident that whatever anyone chooses, Czech Republic remains an active member of the European Union, which does not want Europe to remain outside the mainstream of events, the president will not jeopardize the balance of the Constitutional Court or the Czech National Bank (on the contrary increase the diversity of opinions of both institutions). Will (almost certainly unsuccessfully) sought to reform the electoral system towards mainstream variant and will seek to minimize, if not eliminate, the controversial blanket amnesty and individual grace.

The biggest difference emerged in the interpretation of the powers of the president. The concept Schwarzenberg President should be really rather quiet and calm moderator policy should clearly and without embellishment say his, but should not be artificially build and demonstrate to center stage.

Schwarzenberg also disowned by his lifelong love of history and foreign policy, which is certainly very entertaining in the presidency, and certainly she would have devoted more than everyday political concerns: how much will taxes be as high fences around kindergartens, whether introduce fees for highway or whether retirees will be able to work or not.

Zeman vowed President obsessed conversely daily practice. Let's add: domestic political practice in which the still unfulfilled plans (Property Act), ambition (actually rule) and needs (show opponents what Zeman welcome). The president must be a "ficus in the corner", says former Prime Minister and head of state calls for more attention to the media spotlight. Any leader who would rule under President Zeman, can therefore be sure of not only the specific, principled, but also detailed and most consistent political opposition proceeding, but also by the fact that your opinion will regularly perform directly to the government. The President is in the interpretation of the Constitution Zeman active part of the executive power, almost co-government policy. As such, it is actually a premiere "alter ego" alter ego, which must be not only ubiquitous in the Castle, but must perform well in the Straka Academy, in parliament and in the media.

President předvádivý

Předvádivost general is probably the most significant feature, which campaigned on Zeman revealed. Not that it was a complete novelty (that's Milos Zeman in politics too well known company), but its accumulation in a short time brought Zeman typical feature up to monstrous dimensions. For President narcissistic tendencies are such a huge risk, as is also shown as a ten-year action Vaclav Klaus: If the main aim of heads of state present itself, it is the essence of politics as a community worries aside, radical politicians stepped up and is no longer able to convince anyone that cares about the "thing itself". (Not that he was Karel Schwarzenberg innocent in this regard, but this only for a moment.)

Zeman also confirmed that he too can not dampen his ambition and desire, especially when standing in the cameras, and that in critical situations can use any means to dishonor rivals and inciting the scandal, including lies and half-truths. The worst thing is that this is a serious situation, and is willing to deny his earlier statement while claiming that his opinion was always the same. For example, when reproached his rivals' sudeťácké "attitude, along with Vaclav Klaus warned Jr. allegedly dubious, polonacistickou, anyway insufficiently patriotic, Czech past little ancestors Schwarzenberg family, and yet pretended that he was and always will be building a common Europe without ethnic and another voltage.

This imbalance and maneuvering and vulgar, pub humor, served pseudoprofesorským style would certainly damage the future president. Most then abroad, where each such "uřeknutí" bad reputation not only the president, but also the whole country. It's not fear even, in an era prime minister Milos Zeman such "rush" occurred several.

Schwarzenberg similar outputs usually neatly sidesteps, although he showed in the campaign that are able to perform a certain bravado that he is not a stranger. The minister, incidentally, the worst mistake in the campaign - just the declaration of the postwar decrees, which he sent to President Benes Hague - was more bearing such předvádivého slope than carefully reasoned and politically, and philosophically sophisticated especially stroke.

Symbolic Czechs

Schwarzenberg in case it is rather the exception to the rule. As foreign minister in the past, controversial or even almost not making scandalous statements. Famous exception, which is reflected in the Minister's hidden bravado, was the moment when, as a fresh diplomacy chief said on Austrian opponents of Temelin, they are "lunatics". He later explained that the scandal was that word you used in hyperbole in the country, had been mistranslated. More would be said to fit the German "Spinner" dreamers because they were people who demonstrated against the Austrian government on the Czech border, rather than in Vienna before the Chancellery.

The second sharper "than" the ministerial post was Schwarzenberg's statement that the Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi "prošoustal" good time to support the growth of Italian economy. At the time, the Schwarzenberg also complained Italian ambassador, but then quickly fizzled affair.

Schwarzenberg frequent job was to counterbalance the radical views of his prime minister and the president (Topolánek, Necas, Klaus), which would be the moment where he would be as president of the main Czech face, could still change. An even longer history, however, shows that diplomatic friendliness while diffidence is not Schwarznebergovi own. Provoke sharp missiles and air - that's not his style.

Milos Zeman's potential as a "symbolic Bohemia", the main representative of the state abroad, far riskier investments. Combining extra tension, which was already partly speech. He can fully identify with mainstream European policies aiming to close coordination, to the attitude of Europe towards federalization abroad, but in many areas it wants to keep its own strong opinion that advocates principles and values.

"Terrorism is budging!" "Evil is evil for once!" - Zeman screaming into the world, when defending the right of the displacement of Palestinians, Israelis, or the Americans' pre-emptive strikes against Iraq and Iran. Then she forgets the absoluteness of principles, such as when the Prime Minister set out on a business trip to China, criticized for human rights abuses. Apparently did not want to be "more Catholic than the Pope": "When the deal Germans, Americans and others, why not us?" Zeman's presidential foreign policy, it would be a diverse mix of economic interests and realpolitik-driven rhetorical enthusiasm for pure moral values.

Furioso vs. moderato

Deciding between Zeman and Schwarzenberg may be motivated by many reasons. Some will prefer the first because of the proximity of political views, others purely out of personal antipathy choose another. Usually it will be a combination of factors, including the fact that, due to the lack of ideal candidates will vote "lesser evil". One thing is certain about one thing: Zeman its past political activities and demeanor during the election campaign promises presidency furioso, wilder, more active and visible at a glance. Schwarzenberg offers restraint and calm, moderátní pace.

The key difference between the presidency favorite and winner of the first round and Milos Zeman "black horse" of elections Karel Schwarzenberg is this: the first wants to expand formally and informally Institute and directed the country to poloprezidentskému system, the other one will be reserved until asleep. A "mode" is both motivated by both temperament and ambition - and ultimately, what all the world, and they want more competition to prove.

"Duke for President?" - Wrote in one of his articles in the last day of 2010 floral coauthor of the text (Kamberský). The idea began to hear all sorts of parties, but for a long time it just refused Karel Schwarzenberg words "I grew up in a castle, does not attract me." Truthfully - Long was not clear whether the candidacy is serious, or whether it is just a smart PR increasingly popular party TOP 09

However: If political scientists and "constitutional engineers" agree on something, it's the fear that people might vyvzdorovaná direct election of the president through active with "direct mandate" rozkolíbat constitutional system. Therefore it would be better if he sat down at the Castle human rather than a conservative activist.

Miloš Zeman

Assertiveness to Aggression

Miloš Zeman little secret that he wanted to play a more active role than Václav Havel and Václav Klaus. While Tomas Garrigue Masaryk held rather British model "of Her Majesty's Government" and their views and wishes often publicly disclose, both Wenceslas, proficient at the right time against a government ascend. But most of the time remained hidden in the castle and international oficialitách.
When Vaclav Havel said that "using its constitutional powers barely ten percent", then Milos Zeman is going to use one hundred percent and even more: he wants to go regularly to a cabinet meeting with ministers to discuss problems their departments, to discuss with members of law. Just move to a parliamentary republic from the semi-presidential model of the Polish, French or even better type. It's possible: formal constitutional definition and lived practice in many countries differ substantially.


Milos Zeman has - perhaps only together with Vaclav Klaus and Petr Necas - overview of virtually all key issues: economic, social, and foreign policy in the base. It would not be so dependent on his advisers as his opponent. Means taxes and benefits, and tuition benefit pensions. Perhaps only the legal issues are holding back - and unfortunately also strongly expresses international politics, which often sees only one side of the problem.


The fear of vindictive Zeman speaks in his latest book Discrete zone and one of the few people who always respected Miloš Zeman - Zeman's former Deputy Prime Minister and current President of the Constitutional Court Pavel Rychetsky. About vindictiveness speaks openly and former chairman of the Senate Petr Pithart with very serious consequences revenge Zeman met a social democracy. First, in 2006, Zeman allies helped establish a second government of Mirek Topolanek, both Zemanova behind them in 2010 grabbed the chance of a significant electoral victory. Revenge for Zeman was always more important than any value.


Strength and Stability

The greatest strength of Karel Schwarzenberg would be in the case of a serious crisis. Thinking about the Czech state really long cultural and historical context: in the event of any threat difficult to bear in the Castle, and as commander in chief of armed forces someone more competent.


Karel Schwarzenberg is surrounded from the beginning basically one type of people - dissidents and people of vicinity President Havel. A slightly wider contacts of course gained both as a senator and as foreign minister in the governments of Mirek Topolanek and Petr Necas - yet there is no doubt that the Czech personal view has its much larger competitor.


Under Article 63 of the Constitution, the President represents the state abroad, negotiates and ratifies international treaties - and few doubt that if something is Karel Schwarzenberg competent, it's foreign policy.

His opinion is often a minority - as one of the seven foreign ministers did not support the right of Palestinians to receive their state to full membership in the UN, but will not commit such faux pas as Miloš Zeman, who insists on a comparison of Yasser Arafat to Hitler, and who talked about the possible expulsion Palestinians from their territory.


Energy that pětasedmdesátiletý Karel Schwarzenberg expressed in a comprehensive campaign is admirable. Yet no one can predict what will fit in three years. It must be acknowledged that his overall condition in 2017, no one underestimate today. TGM was his age, almost to the height of his powers, VH vice versa at the end.
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« Reply #4219 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:33 AM »

Slovenia: ‘Janša won’t step down, DeSUS threatens to leave government’

25 January 2013
Delo, 25 January 2013

Ljubljana - 16 day following the publication of the anti-corruption commission Janša announced publicly: I'm not resigned.

The path to the fastest solution of the political crisis, according to Jansa is through constructive censure. Government in this way can be obtained in two weeks: "Those who caused the crisis are obliged to do. A large part of the members are afraid of elections, so probably will not be difficult to form a new coalition, "he Janša threw the gauntlet political competitors.

Vote of confidence is not an option, the Prime Minister Janez Janša, however, responded to the calls of three coalition partners and to leave Civic leaves from the government. In the hour and a half long appearance before reporters, Prime Minister has said the Government has full authority and not a minority, because this concept is not in the Constitution.

Janez Janša is performed after the session at which it received resignations of two ministers DL, that will clear mandate ended next week, when they will be informed of the resignation Parliament. Janša, the Anti-corruption Commission report described as an act of political inquisition, DL behavior and its President Gregor Virant and compared with the behavior Gregor Golobič in Pahor's government. The difference between 2011 and 2013 is that the position of a lot worse, so that you now can not afford more than four months backlash to early elections.

He listed some of the projects that are crucial for the country and for which the Government will continue to work, despite the resignation of some ministers, including the re-entry of fiscal rules in constitution. The compromise proposed by the SDS out of the crisis, has once again changed the electoral system to a more stable government. The SDS system is a major advocate or corrections of the current system, in order to strengthen large customers. Such a proposal other parliamentary parties have repeatedly rejected.

Janša points out that Slovenia is not in a situation where you would be able to afford more than four months backlash, because it would be reflected in the standard of living of the population, but is preceded by "some emergency decisions". But the adoption of such measures is necessary to ensure a two-thirds majority in Parliament. Among the priorities Janša also places a constitutional amendment relating to the referendum law, the ratification of the Accession Treaty of Croatia to the EU, reform of the judicial system, enrollment fiscal rules in constitution, as well as labor market reform. It is pointed out that the political crisis called into question the liquidity of the country, since it will have to implement the budget this year to borrow 1.5 billion euros. Non-operational government could he jeopardize the effective absorption of European funds. Slovenian Chamber of Commerce champions all political parties urged the government to urgently resolve the crisis in order to avoid even more severe economic crisis.

Erjavec: Departure from Government 5th February

President Desus Karl Erjavec Janša rejected the idea out of the political crisis: "It is interesting that whenever in trouble, raise the same topic - the electoral law. This is not the biggest problem. Instead, these responses we heard the old story about how the system would be a major best. "Erjavec on 22 February - until then will it sees members can already ratified the accession treaty of Croatia to the EU - resigned as minister.

The trio DL, SLS and the Desus says Erjavec, has coordinated the following features. First, the opposition will try to agree on the PS total withdrawal of Zoran Janković from customers - Ljubljana Mayor has explicitly rejected such a possibility - to be able to put together a constructive vote of no confidence and created a transitional government project. Another possibility is that the "triple play" proposed amendment to the Law on the Government, under which the government after the resignation of more than half of the ministers automatically dropped.

It is time for the government project?

PS proposed agreement between the parties on the government project . "We have not thought about who would be composed of government and who would of the Minister appointed. Content is at the moment far more important than party or personal interests, "said Alenka Bratušek, temporarily lead the party and all the leaders of the parliamentary parties and parliamentary groups bilaterna invited to the meeting.

A plan to convince customers, DL, SLS and Desus to make cooperation with them only in the event of a complete withdrawal of Zoran Janković, then resignation, and not just freeze function? "Once I said to my way of working, not Ultimate and it will not even take the other side. Requirements, which say they are already satisfied: I have full authority to manage customers and thus will have partners or colleagues on the other side to accept. World poobastil me for keeping customers up to Congress, where we will choose a new President or President, and I hope that we will allow other parties to the relationship to the client editing themselves, that they will not interfere in this. "

A Jankovic remains a "frozen"

Condition threesome DL, SLS and Desus Jankovic has already rejected. "With state policies do not work, I'm not Uncle background, but I want to work in the foreground. I can only replace the electoral congress, which will be later this year, triple-play champion and advice to each deals with its customer, "he said. As he said, personally I would not go into an alliance with President Gregory DL Virantom, but will be on the next moves PS Bratuškova decided that possess the full powers.

Now Janša says Virant and silent

DL today despite the fact that its President Gregor Virant main target Janša's speech did not change positions. Also SLS. Late yesterday afternoon at the Executive Board meeting on customers, but only one point: the preparations for the forthcoming Congress (2 March), where the client will probably get new leadership. So all remains as before: the world will Desus of departure from the coalition decided 5th February, at the beginning of March, the government is going SLS.

DS: In the government as long as it makes sense

The only coalition partner, which has yet to stand by the SDS, the NSI. As the President said Lyudmila customers Novak, insisting the government because they believe that this can still be effective. Early elections in her words would not solve much, Janša's proposal to change the electoral system is somewhat restrained Novak: DS does not support the majority of the electoral system, which is primarily for the benefit of large customers.

Luksic: Prime Minister, resign!

President SD Igor Luksic, like Virant, believes that Janša had to resign . "The only solution for Slovenia are early elections," he determined Luksic. It is also the fastest in his solution to the crisis and therefore SD defend this proposal. And what he thinks about the government project? "What is it?" He said Luksic. President of the Republic Borut Pahor will respond to the political situation today.

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« Reply #4220 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:36 AM »

01/24/2013 04:21 PM

'Barack, Be Bold!': What Hillary's Parting Advice Should Be

An Essay By Erich Follath

Hillary Clinton has amassed a wealth of frontline experience as US secretary of state, but she will soon be stepping down. Before leaving, though, she's in an excellent position to give her boss some good advice on America's foreign policy challenges. SPIEGEL envisions her fictional farewell letter.

An American president's first term in office is viewed as a practice round of sorts, while the second term is the crucial one, the one that counts toward his historic legacy. You had barely been elected to the White House in 2008, and had just defined a few basic tenets of your policy, when you were forced to make compromises with both your political rivals and your own party to prepare for the next election. Now you no longer have this burden. As far as your career is concerned, you don't have to make allowances for anything or anyone, lobbying groups and donors of all stripes included. In our system, a president hasn't had more than two shots in a long time, and that's a good thing.

There are enormous risks and opportunities ahead, but they are mainly your risks and opportunities, even if a Republican-controlled House of Representatives will try to thwart you here and there. Many presidents, after initial difficulties, have used their second term in optimal ways, becoming historic figures in the process. Take Woodrow Wilson, for example, who established the League of Nations in 1919, his penultimate year in office. If we ignore Franklin D. Roosevelt for a moment, a special case because of World War II, which enabled him to remain in office from 1933 until his death in 1945, there were 12 presidents before you who served for two terms. You could become one of the best second-term presidents ever. One for the history books. The first black president, a conciliator, a peacemaker. And I don't mean that in the Messianic, promising-the-impossible sense. By now, everyone has figured out that you can't walk on water -- even you.

You know me: I don't tell you what you want to hear. We've had our differences. In fact, there were even some bitter and personal attacks in the fight for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2008. But then we treated each other with great respect in the administration. We are both progressive pragmatists. We've achieved quite a bit in the last four years, and we've also missed some opportunities. Strategic depth wasn't exactly our strength. My reasons for leaving the State Department are purely personal. The distance I'm gaining at the moment helps me see things more clearly -- hence the advice, some of which will probably puzzle you.

Many are advising you now to focus on domestic issues. You could enhance that with a few relatively unproblematic foreign policy initiatives. You could lift the pointless embargo on Cuba, thereby weakening the Castro regime. And you could upgrade China's Asian neighbors with military alliances, depriving our bankers in Beijing of some of their aggressiveness, essentially leading from behind. The effective management of a comprehensive withdrawal from Afghanistan would also help, and be careful not to let our military leaders convince you to leave thousands of our troops behind. On the domestic front, do everything to promote the economic recovery at home, tighten gun laws, close the disgraceful Guantanamo Bay detention camp and improve our miserable infrastructure, which makes America look like a third-world country. In short, do some nation-building at home.

Navigating the Middle East Minefield

But don't be deceived. Foreign policy will catch up to you in your second term. Like some 800-pound guerilla, it'll turn up in the Oval Office and force its way into the spotlight. You can leave the Europeans to their permanent hibernation when it comes to global policy, to their obsession with themselves. But we don't have that luxury, and nor should we. Isolationism would be just as devastating a concept as the opposite policy was under your predecessor: striking out mindlessly without regard for international agreements.

Yes, I know, the Middle East is a minefield. Not everything is going the way we want it to between Cairo and Gaza, Jerusalem and Tehran. You, Barack, have gotten yourself into some hot water there with well-intended but poorly thought-out initiatives. But now a few things have changed fundamentally. 2013 is a year of destiny. Compared to the last few decades, the prospects for an American initiative have never been as promising as they are today. What is needed is courage to confront both friends (Israel) and enemies (Iran). And it won't work without creativity, diplomatic pressure and a few ugly but pragmatic compromises.

In January, as one of the first official acts of your second term, you should appoint a special envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iranian nuclear issue. The combination of these two issues will attract a great deal of attention, but in the region -- except perhaps in Jerusalem and Tehran -- it will meet with great approval. For the Arab world, these complex issues belong together. You should make it clear that you believe this, as well, and you should make sure that the diplomat you choose makes the greatest possible impression.

I'd like to suggest someone, a man you know well and a man I know even better. But the fact that this was my idea has to remain our secret. Take Bill Clinton for the job, and tell my successor John Kerry that for the time being he'll have to play second fiddle when it comes to foreign policy in the region. Provide Bill with extensive authority, a high-level staff and a large office. They don't need to be interns. Combine the appointment with a programmatic speech to the people of the region, similar to the one you gave in Cairo three-and-a-half years ago. But make it clear that this time the words will be followed by action. The motto should be: Startle your friends with threats and amaze your enemies with promises.

Fundamental Regional Change

There's no way around it: You have to tangle with (Israeli Prime Minister) Benjamin Netanyahu. And you also have to offer (Iranian Supreme Leader) Ayatollah Ali Khamenei direct negotiations with both extensive concessions and clearly defined limits. I know, it sounds naïve. But it could work, because, despite the loudmouthed rhetoric from Jerusalem and Tehran, a fundamental change has taken place in the region, a change that turns Israel and Iran into losers. And believe me, they both know it.

We have feared the rise of radical Shiites for decades, the threat of an Iranian-dominated, militantly anti-Western "arc of crisis." Iran plus Iraq plus Syria plus the powerful group Hezbollah in Lebanon plus the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip -- it was our nightmare.

That threat is now history, at least for the foreseeable future. Hezbollah remains on Tehran's side (for now), and there is (limited) Iranian influence in Iraq. But the Sunni group Hamashas distanced itself from Tehran. And, very critically, the ayatollahs have all but lost their most important ally in the region. The demise of the Assad regime in Syria seems to be a matter of weeks, or months at the most. Whatever the new leadership in Damascus looks like, it will likely be run by the country's Sunni majority and be critical of Tehran.

New Arc of Power

In truth, a new arc has formed across the Middle East. From Turkey to Egypt to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Sunni-dominated regions are setting the tone. If I were president in Tehran, I would be very concerned about the tectonic shift of power.

This development, in connection with the tough economic sanctions against Iran, has already been very effective. The leadership is worried. Nevertheless, it's unlikely that it will abandon its nuclear ambitions as a result. The regime is unquestionably pursuing the bomb. One faction wants to go all the way, including nuclear tests. The other faction "only" wants to be place itself in the technical position to flick the switch, if necessary, from a civilian nuclear program to a weapons program. There is no third faction, not even within the repressed opposition. We have to prevent the worst from happening by proposing a grand bargain, a comprehensive offer.

We won't be able to avoid making some painful concessions: We will officially grant the Iranians the right to enrich uranium to a level of 5 percent, and the right to produce small amounts of medically relevant materials, enriched to 20 percent. In return, we expect the transfer of large amounts of highly enriched material to Turkey or Russia, under international supervision. And ratification of the supplementary protocol, which grants United Nations inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency permanent and unannounced access to the Iranian facilities.

As soon as this process has begun, the economic sanctions will be gradually lifted. The establishment of mutual trust could lead to the resumption of diplomatic relations, and Washington's de facto recognition that Iran is an important regional power and that regime change through subversive measures is not on our agenda.

Does this approach guarantee that Tehran's nuclear program will remain peaceful? Probably not. We're past the point at which we could prevent Iran from reaching the "breakout capacity" that allows it to flick the switch. We can only make this decision as difficult as possible for the Iranians, and make the physical production of a bomb a distant possibility.

I am convinced that the Iranian leadership is primarily pursuing its nuclear program to remain in power. The country wants to be treated like a nuclear power, so we should behave as if it were. It's our best chance to prevent Iran from taking extreme measures. The people in charge in Tehran aren't suicidal, except perhaps President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to whom a certain amount of apocalyptic lunacy could be ascribed. But he'll be history in June, when he will no longer be able to run for re-election. His potential successor, Ali Larijani, as the former head of the country's nuclear authority, will be a very tough negotiator -- but also a very rational and realistic one. Incidentally, I'd venture to say that Larijani, as the author of philosophical textbooks, is more familiar with Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperative that most of our colleagues in Washington.

Time for Straight Talk

I already mentioned Netanyahu. Notwithstanding our everlasting friendship and solidarity with Israel, I have to say, unfortunately, that the man is part of the problem in the Middle East, not part of the solution. Barack, he has literally made you look like a fool during your first term, and he didn't even seriously consider the moratorium on settlement policy that we had demanded. He is a cold, power-hungry politician, and he sensed that you were not going to stick your neck out too far for the Middle East, so as to not to jeopardize your re-election, and he was banking on the oh-so-accommodating Republican winning the election. But now it's time for straight talk, not out of revenge but in the knowledge that we lose our credibility when we allow our Israeli partner to get away with everything. Only by putting pressure on Netanyahu can we become an honest broker in the region once again.

Israel's greatest worry, understandably enough, is the prospect of a nuclear Iran. This would be extremely objectionable for us, as well, as it would presumably plunge the entire Middle East into an arms race. But even if we didn't manage to stop Iran on the road to nuclear weapons, the threat to the United States and Europe would be limited. We criticized Israel mildly at best for its policy of expansion into Palestinian territory, in violation of international law. Now we must finally demand something in return, and convince Netanyahu to impose a moratorium on new settlements and quickly enter into negotiations with the Palestinians. And if that doesn't happen, we should threaten him with consequences, at least behind the scenes, even going so far as to include a freeze on certain arms shipments.

Admittedly, this step would be unusual, but not without precedent. President George H.W. Bush also resorted to similar coercive measures. Netanyahu will be indignant, but he'll capitulate. "When push comes to shove, Israel has always complied with Washington's wishes," said Avi Primor, the former Israeli ambassador in Berlin.

We have to wrest assurances from the Palestinians that they will not use their new UN status for prestigious but false successes in the indictment of Israeli "crimes" before the International Criminal Court. And we should do everything possible to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is probably the most moderate leader we have seen on the Arab side in a long time. However, he will have to finally back away from extreme demands, like the right of return for all Palestinians, and descend into the difficult work of practical negotiation, addressing such questions as: What sort of territorial exchange with the Israelis is possible so that some of the settlements in the West Bank can remain in place, and what exactly do we expect in return?

The White House also can no longer rule out a direct dialogue with Hamas, provided it continues to guarantee that rockets will no longer be fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, practically encouraged Washington to enter into such talks. Although our assessment of the radical Islamists hasn't changed, they are an important player in the power structure. We also talk to the Taliban, without having the slightest liking for them. There is a benchmark here: It is possible to negotiate with radicals with national objectives, even if they include such an absurd demand as the territorial claim to practically the entire territory of Israel. Such dialogue is not an option with al-Qaida terrorists, who are fighting in Mali, Pakistan or Syria, and who are calling for a terrorist global revolution. They must be eliminated militarily.

Establishing a Balance

This brings me back to Syria and the al-Qaida groups fighting on the side of the rebels, such as the Al-Nusra Front, which we have classified as a terrorist organization. To be honest, I'm more worried about the very real threat of chemical weapons in Syria today than the potential threat of nuclear weapons in Iran. I'm opposed to drawing red lines in politics, because they deprive you of room for maneuver. But it was right to draw a red line with regard to the use of chemical weapons. I fear that the beleaguered Assad regime would be capable of such an act of madness, and I'm almost more afraid that radical rebel groups will resort to provocation to force us to intervene.

The horrific images of the suffering civilian population that we see on TV every night are also heartbreaking, but we have good reason for not having intervened militarily so far. We cannot take the risk that, in doing so, we will strengthen the radicals and will then have to worry about what happens to highly sophisticated weapons. It goes against my sense of justice, but I'm sufficiently pragmatic to say: Let's forego putting Assad on trial before an international court. Instead, let us quietly offer him safe passage to Russia or Venezuela, as long as he clears the way for a new future. Despite his claims to the contrary, there are indications that he prefers comfortable asylum to a martyr's death.

The United States must be interested in establishing a balance among the various religious forces in the Middle East. The Arab revolutions create both opportunities and risks. When I mentioned a newly strengthened "Sunni gang of four" in the region earlier, I wasn't suggesting that I view countries like Turkey (relatively democratic), Egypt and Qatar (somewhat democratic) and Saudi Arabia (fundamentalist) as being the same.

Of course, we would all prefer to see a largely secular Islamic model like Turkey's take hold everywhere. But that doesn't seem likely. The Muslim Brotherhood is pushing beyond Egypt's borders to amplify the role of religion in people's lives. It has made sharia law a cornerstone of the constitution. President Mohammed Morsi is becoming a great disappointment. As remarks he made in 2010 demonstrate, he is a perfect anti-Semite, describing Zionists as "the descendants of apes and pigs," even if he did intercede on our behalf in the Gaza conflict.

Before the Winter

The euphoria of the Arab spring has passed. We are now in the Arab fall, but by no means in the Arab winter. Some of the disappointment stems from the fact that the West views elections as a cure-all, the most important element on the road to progress. But functioning institutions are much more important, and we should assist in their development and in the expansion of civil society (which, by the way, our European friends are more adept at than we are).

It's a bitter pill to swallow for liberals, but a majority of people between Cairo and Alexandria now seem to put their faith in the Islamists. Perhaps the country needs a painful transitional period with the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of the government, even if the only purpose of this period is to highlight their inability to improve the quality of life for ordinary people -- leading to their being voted out of office. The Arabs themselves must bring the Arab revolutions to an end.

But when it comes to Israel and Iran, Barack, be bold by sending a competent Middle East envoy into the minefield of the Middle East! I'm going to observe the international playing field from the sidelines for a while. Besides, I'm publishing my memoirs in 2013, under the working title "Creating History." And by the way, I really appreciate the fact that you, unlike so many others, aren't asking me whether I plan to run for president in four years and succeed you in the White House. Let me put it this way: If all goes well with your Middle East initiatives, it will also benefit the first female president in the history of the United States one day.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #4221 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:44 AM »

01/24/2013 05:22 PM

War Crimes: How Nazis Escaped Justice in South America

By Felix Bohr

After World War II, dozens of Nazi criminals went into hiding in South America. A new study reveals how a 'coalition of the unwilling' on both sides of the Atlantic successfully stymied efforts to hunt and prosecute these criminals for decades.

All it took was a transposed number -- 1974 instead of 1947 -- for Gustav Wagner to be allowed to stay in Brazil. It was a mere slip of the pen by the man who had translated the German document into Portuguese that prompted Brazil's supreme court to deny West Germany's request to extradite the former SS officer. And yet Wagner stood accused of complicity in the murders of 152,000 Jews at the Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland.

Josef Mengele, the notorious concentration camp doctor at Auschwitz, also benefited from mistakes and delays because French officials with Interpol, the international police force then headquartered in Paris, refused to conduct international searches for Nazi war criminals. And, in the case of SS Colonel Walther Rauff, who helped developed mobile gas chambers used to kill Jews, it was an official with the German Foreign Ministry who sabotaged his own government's extradition request to Chile for 14 months.

As a result of these breakdowns, all three of these Nazi thugs were never tried in German courts after the war. Wagner, the "beast" of Sobibor, died in São Paulo, Mengele drowned in Brazil, and Rauff died of a heart attack in Chile. Of the hundreds of guilty Nazi officials and mass murderers who had fled to South America after the surrender of Nazi Germany, only a handful of them were ever held to account.

How could so many criminals manage to go unpunished, even though they were clearly guilty? It's a conundrum that mystifies academics to this day. Was it because of the lack of cooperation by West German officials? The lack of interest on the part of South America regimes? Were there even secret ties and collaboration between Nazis on both sides of the Atlantic?

Historian Daniel Stahl has conducted research in European and South American archives in the process of writing a new book entitled "Nazi Hunt: South America's Dictatorships and the Avenging of Nazi Crimes." The work supplies a certain and disgraceful answer to what has long been suspected: that there was a broad coalition of people -- across continents and within the courts, police, governments and administrations -- that was unwilling to act or even thwarted the prosecution of Nazi criminals for decades.

Thwarted by Former Nazis

Stahl believes that the motives for being part of what he calls a "coalition of the unwilling" differed widely. West German diplomats sabotaged the hunt for Nazis out of solidarity. French criminal investigators feared that cooperation might expose their own pasts as Nazi collaborators. And South America dictators refused to extradite former Nazis out of concern that trials of war criminals could direct international attention to the crimes their own governments were then committing.

It wasn't hard for this coalition to torpedo the hunt for Nazis. Countless players -- in politics, the judiciary, the government and the administration -- had to work together in order to arrange and execute successful criminal prosecutions. Indeed, a small mistake or minor procedural irregularity was enough to foil the arrest of the criminals.

Stahl leaves no doubt that the West German judiciary was especially guilty of serious lapses. His findings confirm that it neglected to forcefully pursue Nazi murderers for decades.

Walther Rauff, for example, was able to travel between South America and Germany after the war as a representative of various companies. But he never ran into any difficulties because his name didn't appear on any lists of wanted criminals. It wasn't until 1961 that the public prosecutors office in the northern city of Hanover issued a warrant for Rauff's arrest on almost 100,000 counts of murder.

Finding Rauff's address in Chile wasn't a problem, and the German Foreign Ministry instructed Ambassador Hans Strack in Santiago to request extradition of the Nazi war criminal. But Strack, who had also worked at the Foreign Ministry before 1945, ignored the instructions from the ministry in Bonn and allowed the case to drag on for 14 months.

It wasn't until after justice officials in Hanover notified federal colleagues that they were "extremely disconcerted" over the fact that the embassy was treating the case "with such hesitancy" that the government disciplined the recalcitrant ambassador. Strack, a known opponent to redressing the crimes of Nazi Germany, finally applied for Rauff's extradition, which led to his arrest in late 1962.

But, by then, it was too late to punish Rauff because murder came under the statute of limitations in most South American countries at the time. Chile's supreme court denied Germany's request to extradite the former SS colonel. Despite international protests, Rauff continued to live as a free man in Chile for decades.

In other cases, a lack of cooperation by Interpol thwarted the pursuit of Nazis. Stahl uncovered one particularly revealing document, the minutes of a meeting of Interpol's executive committee from May 1962. A short time earlier, the World Jewish Congress had asked Interpol to participate in the global search for Nazi war criminals. Interpol's then-secretary general, Marcel Sicot, responded angrily. Why should war criminals be prosecuted, the Frenchman is quoted as asking in the minutes, "since the victor always imposes his laws, anyway? No international entity defines the term 'war criminal.'" In fact, Sicot regarded the criminal prosecution of Nazi crimes as "victor's justice."

In 1960, there were rumors that Josef Mengele, the concentration camp doctor known as the "Angel of Death," was hiding in Brazil or Chile. The German Justice Ministry advised the Federal Criminal Police Office to conduct a manhunt -- but without involving Interpol. Officials in Bonn were apparently trying to avoid bothering international investigators with the case, but Mengele's hiding place was never found.

Stahl attributes Interpol's failure to arrest Nazis and their collaborators to the wartime past of many French police officers. "As henchmen of the Vichy regime, (they) collaborated with the Nazis until 1944," Stahl writes. "They stood opposed to the criminal prosecution of Nazi crimes."

Stahl also notes that one of the major obstacles in the hunt for Nazi criminals was the fact that South American dictators wanted to cover up their own crimes. On June 22, 1979, the German ambassador in Brasilia wrote that the extradition of someone who had committed war crimes almost 40 years earlier would "bolster the demands of those who insist that all crimes should be prosecuted, including those committed by the military and the police." A short time earlier, the administration of then-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt had requested the extradition of Wagner, the former deputy commandant of Sobibor, a request that the judges on Brazil's Supreme Federal Court had denied.

In Germany, a new generation had entered the government bureaucracy -- and one that wasn't afraid to use unconventional means to put Nazi criminals behind bars. In 1982, the Munich public prosecutor's office initiated proceedings to apply for the extradition of Klaus Barbie, the former chief of the Gestapo in Lyon, France. Fearing that Barbie could be acquitted in Germany for lack of evidence, Justice Ministry officials asked their Foreign Ministry counterparts to hint to Bonn's French allies that "they should also seek Barbie's deportation, specifically from Bolivia to France."

When Paris agreed, the Foreign Ministry instructed the German embassy in La Paz, the Bolivian capital, to "encourage such a development with suitable means."

In early 1983, Barbie was deported to France. The notorious "Butcher of Lyon" died in a hospital in that city in 1991.

Covering Up Past and Ongoing Crimes

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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« Reply #4222 on: Jan 25, 2013, 07:48 AM »

Genetic analysis reveals how wolves evolved into dogs

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, January 24, 2013 9:20 EST

Genetic sequencing of wolves and domesticated dogs has revealed a key insight into how that evolutionary change happened, finding that it has to do more with human diets than previously expected.

To many dog owners, it probably won’t come as a surprise that food motivation has been a key driver in their pet’s makings, but scientists writing this week for the journal Nature explained that there’s genetic evidence to back up what’s long been mostly anecdotal knowledge of man’s best friend.

Researchers took DNA samples from wolves and dogs and compared the differences, finding a segment of 10 genes among the differentiation that account for dogs’ ability to digest starchy and fatty foods that humans love.

That feeds two different theories about how domestication came about: one which says wolves that could not find meat had to adapt by scavenging from human agricultural settlements, and another that suggests hunters plied wolves with food, developing a symbiotic relationship that saw wolves standing guard around camps at night.

In both scenarios, wolves that were better able to digest human foods became more reliant on people meaning they had an easier time surviving. And the rest is history.

“All dogs studied have this change, which I’d say puts it at least a couple of thousand years back in time,” study author Erik Axelsson told MSNBC. “But we cannot prove that it coincided with the onset of agriculture. This is something we are continuing to work on now.”

This video is from the BBC, published Thursday, January 24, 2013.

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« Reply #4223 on: Jan 25, 2013, 08:16 AM »

In the USA...

Fascism Has Taken Up Residence In the Republican Party

By: Rmuse
Jan. 24th, 2013

Most scholars agree that a fascist regime is foremost an authoritarian form of government, and as a political ideology, it referred to a political movement linked to Corporatism that existed in and ruled a single country (Italy) for less than 30 years. Early influences of fascist ideology date back to ancient Greece in the city state of Sparta that emphasized rule by a minority of elites and racial purity that was admired and embraced by the Nazis, and to preserve power in the hands of a few, it was necessary to deny equal rights to the population. According to most scholars of fascism, once in power, it historically attacked parliamentary liberalism, and attracted support primarily from the “far right” or “extreme right,” and in America fascism is the Republican Party.

When President Obama delivered his Inauguration speech on Monday, his message of equality for every citizen characterized America and the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Equality for all cannot be attributed to, or claimed as unique by, any particular political ideology, and it should be universally embraced by all Americans regardless their political or religious inclinations if they are indeed Americans. It is prescient then, that Republicans immediately assailed the President’s Inaugural Address for laying out a “liberal agenda,” and it informs that their perpetual war against liberalism is really a war against the Constitution and equal rights for all Americans. Even though Republicans portrayed the President’s inaugural speech as “far left” and out of the mainstream, the truth is the President was expressing the will of a majority of the American people who affirmed his American agenda in the last election that Republicans refuse to accept and will use any means to reverse.

A pair of polls revealed that Americans agree with the President that, intrinsically related to equality for all, taking care of the infirm, elderly, the poor, and victims of severe weather, and protecting the rights of gays, immigrants, and Americans exercising their right to vote is the agenda they expect as Americans. Republicans, however, oppose those basic rights as a matter of course and, regardless they are in the minority, to impose their Fascist agenda on the people, including attacking equal rights, they will rig elections and attempt to sway public opinion in their favor by attacking the President’s American agenda by labeling it “far left”  and extremist. It is the first time in memory that a political party has openly assailed equal rights as extremist, even though Republicans have spent decades opposing equal rights for all but white Christians and the wealthy, and to continue the practice, they will subvert the election process.

The news that Virginia Republicans secretly passed measures to rig elections in favor of Republican candidates for state and federal offices is a typically fascist ploy to seize power, but the practice is being repeated in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida; all Republican-controlled states that went Democratic in 2012. As Americans increasingly view the Republican Party negatively, and with even Republicans holding a dim view of Republicans in Congress, the GOP is attempting to take control of the government through any means necessary to implement their corporatist agenda and perpetuate the inequality Americans overwhelmingly reject as un-American.

To say the Republican Party is out of touch with the American people’s wishes, or are deliberately preventing equality for all Americans, is an understatement of epic proportion. They are against gay rights, women’s right to choose, maintaining worker-funded retirement and healthcare programs, and assistance for Veterans, the poor, elderly, and children that is contrary to the will of the voters and what it means to be American. Since they cannot legislate inequality from the halls of Congress and White House, they have enlisted the assistance of religious extremists and gun-fanatics with fear-mongering and claims President Obama is “shredding the Constitution” and give more than tacit approval to calls for a revolution.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that in giving the Inaugural Address, President Obama acted like America is a far left, liberal population instead of center-right leaning, but when in America’s history was the idea of equality ever a far left ideal? McConnell, and other Republicans, revealed that in their John Birch libertarian mindset, equality is anathema to what it means to be American and to seize power to impose their brand of fascism on the nation, they will rig elections, provoke outrage against the legally elected President, and enlist malcontents through fear-mongering to enact corporatist policies regardless the will of the voters.

Republicans have fallen out of favor with the electorate because of their preference for the wealthy and their far-right extremist positions on issues meant to deprive every American of their constitutionally guaranteed equal rights. As they continue losing support from the people and become irrelevant as a political party, they are becoming more extreme and not unlike a dictator losing power striking out at their enemies and the population. Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner told an audience the President wants to “annihilate” the Republican Party, but the Republican Party is annihilating itself with one extremist position after another and none as despicable as rigging elections and working to prevent every American from “most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal,” because part and parcel of fascism is reserving equality for a privileged few elite; a particularly fascist Republican tenet of authoritarian rule.


Kerry urges ‘fresh thinking’ to tackle global woes

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, January 24, 2013 19:58 EST

Probable next US secretary of state John Kerry called for “fresh thinking” Thursday as he outlined his foreign policy agenda and plans for relations with Iran, China and the Middle East.

“American foreign policy is not defined by drones and deployments alone,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, which must decide whether to not to confirm Kerry in the post of America’s top diplomat.

“We cannot allow the extraordinary good that we do to save and change lives to be eclipsed entirely by the role that we have had to play since September 11th, a role that was thrust upon us,” he said.

US foreign policy is also about aid, and food security, fighting disease, poverty and repression, and giving “voice to the voiceless,” Kerry said.

Kerry — a Democratic senator best known outside the United States for his unsuccessful 2004 presidential campaign — was nominated last month by President Barack Obama to take over from Hillary Clinton.

During his almost four-hour hearing, he laid out his thoughts on some of the world’s top challenges in a measured, non-confrontational way, earning praise and a warm welcome from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

He warned Iran the US would do “what we must” to stop it getting a nuclear weapon, told China he would work to strengthen ties and hinted he had an idea to breath fresh life into the Middle East peace process.

Kerry also vowed to be “a passionate advocate” to tackle climate change, urged the United States to build up its presence in Africa, and said Washington needed to “re-engage” with the fight against drug-trafficking in Latin America.

“I think you’ve acquitted yourself exceptionally well and know you’re going to be confirmed in the next very few days,” the top Republican member, Senator Bob Corker, said at the end of the hearing.

Sitting across from the committee which he has been a member of for 29 years, and which he has chaired since 2009, Kerry joked that he suddenly felt some sympathy for those he has grilled over the years.

Clinton, along with veteran Senator John McCain, stepped up to introduce Kerry and called him “the right choice, to carry forward the Obama administration’s foreign policy.”

Kerry, 69, is known to have long coveted the job, and he is expected to sail through his hearing.

But he almost lost out to US ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, who had been seen as Obama’s first choice until she withdrew under Republican fire over the administration’s response to an attack on a US mission in Libya.

Kerry choked up when he talked of his childhood, following his diplomat father around the globe, and described “a personal journey that brought home the sacrifices and the commitment the men and women of the foreign service make every day on behalf of America.”

The decorated Vietnam veteran turned anti-war activist has built impeccable credentials during his time in Senate. He has sat down with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, soothed nerves in Pakistan and visited the Gaza Strip.

He said he felt an opportunity to steer Syria in a different direction had been lost, when Assad discussed with him the concerns of a burgeoning young population, seeking “some kind of an accommodation.”

“History caught up to us. That never happened. And it’s now moot because he has made a set of judgments that are inexcusable, that are reprehensible and, I think, is not long for remaining as the head of state in Syria.”

Kerry also emphasized the continued need for diplomacy with Iran, but vowed there would be no policy of containment.

“The president has made it definitive — we will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he said.

He also warned of the dangers that a two-state solution between the Israelis and Palestinians could be slipping away, saying that would be “disastrous” and hinting he may have a plan to kickstart the peace talks.

“We need to try to find a way forward, and I happen to believe that there is a way forward,” said Kerry. But he refused to spell out his idea, saying: “I’m not going to say anything that prejudices our getting a negotiation going.”

On China, Kerry said he wanted to pursue the administration’s policy of rebalancing its policy towards an engagement with Asia “because it is critical to us to strengthen our relationship in China.”

And while there were tensions and disagreements, he said “we make progress. It’s incremental… It’s a tough slog.”

He also vowed to maintain some of the programs championed by Clinton such as the State Department’s emphasis on women’s rights around the world.


First Hillary Clinton, Now John Kerry Makes Sen. Ron Johnson Look Like an Idiot

By: Jason Easley
Jan. 24th, 2013

After being humiliated by Hillary Clinton yesterday, Sen. Ron Johnson was owned by John Kerry today for trying to push his Benghazi conspiracy.

Sen. Ron Johnson started his tea party what really happened at Benghazi shitick today, but like Hillary Clinton yesterday, John Kerry was having none of it. Kerry responded to Johnson’s repeat performance of what really happened at Benghazi by asking, “Were you at the briefing at the tapes?” Johnson answered, “No.” Kerry continued, “Well, there was a briefing with tapes, which we all saw, those of us who went to it, which made it crystal clear. We sat for several hours with our intel folks, who described to us precisely what we were seeing. We saw the events unfold. We had a very complete and detailed description.”

When Johnson started on his conspiracy nonsense with Hillary Clinton, she ate him alive.

In response to Sen. Johnson’s debut performance of what really happened at Benghazi, Sen. Clinton said, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided they’d go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make! It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, senator. Now honestly, I will do my best to answer your questions about this, but the fact is that people were trying in real time to get to the best information. The IC has process I understand going with the other committees to explain how these talking points came out. But you know, to be clear, it is from my perspective, less important today, looking backwards as to deciding why these militants decided they did it than to find them and bring them to justice, and then maybe we’ll figure out what was going on in the meantime.”

Sen. Johnson needs to realize that contrary to what Drudge and Fox News told him, there is no big Benghazi scandal. He is not going to make his name by bringing down the Obama administration with his hints of a massive Benghazi cover up. The only people who are buying this conspiracy are those on the right who have been pushing it since the attack happened.

Johnson and the other tea partiers in Congress are obsessed with Benghazi because they are trying to create a political opportunity to exploit. For them, these hearings aren’t about finding out what really happened in order to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Sen. Johnson and others of his ilk are trying to use the murder of four Americans for political gain.

Sen. Johnson is embarrassing himself and his state, and the only fact that has been uncovered by his line of questioning is that Ron Johnson doesn’t belong in the United States Senate.


SEC nomination signals Obama’s tougher approach to Wall Street

By Dominic Rushe, The Guardian
Thursday, January 24, 2013 20:03 EST

The woman who prosecuted Mafia boss John Gotti is about to take over the policing of Wall Street.

Barack Obama is expected to nominate former star government prosecutor Mary Jo White to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as the regulator attempts to dodge criticism that it has been soft on Wall Street.

White spent nearly a decade as the US attorney for the southern district of New York – the first, and so far only, woman to be named to the post. Among many high-profile cases, she oversaw the prosecution of Gotti, the mafia boss, as well as the individuals responsible for the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

She would become the first prosecutor to lead the SEC in its 80-year history.

White is also a former director of the Nasdaq stock exchange. While she made her name prosecuting crime bosses, white collar criminals and terrorists, she is now a partner at attorneys Debevoise and Plimpton, where she leads the white-collar criminal defence practice. She helped defend Bank of America’s former boss Ken Lewis against civil suits that followed the bank’s disastrous expansions during the financial crisis.

The president was expected to announce White’s nomination during a ceremony in the State dining room on Thursday.

At the same event, Obama was to renominate Richard Cordray to serve as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Cordray, too, is another former government prosecutor. As attorney general of Ohio he pursued lawsuits against some of the US’s largest financial institutions, including AIG and Bank of America.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said: “The president believes the appointment and renomination he’s making today demonstrate the commitment he has to carrying out Wall Street reform.”

Democrat senator Charles Schumer called White a “fearless, tough-as-nails prosecutor with the knowledge of industry to keep up with the markets’ swift innovation.”

Michael Robinson, executive vice-president of Washington strategist Levick and a former head of public affairs and policy chief at the SEC, said the appointment sent a clear signal to corporate America. “Mary Jo White will go after you hammer and tongs,” he said.

“Recently there has been the perception there has been ‘someone to blame’ for what has befallen the economy. It’s not for want of trying that prosecutions have not been brought. Everyone has been investigated.”

Fines have been levied against major banks but no senior executive from a top tier financial institution has been charged with wrongdoing. Robinson said it was unclear if ongoing investigations would result in such actions. But he said “going forward” the SEC under White was likely to be much more aggressive.

If approved, White will replace Elisse Walter, a longtime SEC official who took over after Mary Schapiro stepped down as the agency’s leader in December. © Guardian News and Media 2013


January 24, 2013

Governors Push Bigger Reliance on Sales Taxes


WASHINGTON — Republican governors are moving aggressively to cut personal and corporate income taxes, including proposals that would increase reliance on state sales taxes, setting up ambitious experiments in tax reform that could shape what is possible on a national level.

Even as Washington continues to discuss, if not act, on ideas for making the federal tax system simpler and more efficient, governors, some with an eye on the next presidential race, are taking advantage of the improving economy and a gradual rebound in revenues to act.

In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal is pushing to repeal the state’s personal and corporate income taxes and make up the lost revenue through higher sales taxes. Gov. Dave Heineman of Nebraska is calling for much the same thing in his state. Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas wants to keep in place what was supposed to be a temporary increase in the state sales tax to help pay for his plan to lower and eventually end his state’s income tax.

Along the way these governors are taking small first steps into a debate over what kind of tax system most encourages growth in a 21st-century economy. In particular they are focusing attention on the idea, long championed by conservatives but accepted up to a point by economists of all stripes, that the economy would be better served by focusing taxation on consumption rather than on income.

Taxing consumption has the potential to lift economic growth by encouraging more savings and investment. But the shift could also increase inequality by reducing taxes predominantly for the wealthy, who spend a smaller share of their income than middle- and lower-income people.

“The question of whether we should tax income or whether we should tax spending is really a proxy for a different debate,” said Joseph Henchman, vice president for state projects at the Tax Foundation, a conservative-leaning research organization. “Everyone agrees we’ll get more growth with consumption taxes. It’s just that some people prioritize fairness.”

Beyond citing economic growth, the governors and their supporters say their plans would help make their states more competitive in attracting employers and high-skilled workers, simplify their tax systems and curb pressure for more government spending.

For Mr. Jindal and other Republican governors who are considering a presidential run in 2016, there are obvious political benefits to having a robust income tax-cutting record to present to conservative primary voters.

But Democrats say the approach would lead to cutbacks in education, health care and other vital services while shifting relatively more of the tax burden to those who can least afford it.

“These aren’t pro-growth policies — they’re shell games that reward the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everyone else,” said Danny Kanner, a spokesman for the Democratic Governors Association.

Nationwide, sales taxes account for about 46 percent of state revenues, and personal and corporate income taxes for about 42 percent, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. States with relatively low income tax rates like Louisiana, which raises about $3 billion a year from its personal and corporate income tax system, can more easily shift toward a sales tax-only system than states with much higher rates, like New York or California.

Louisiana already has the nation’s third-highest sales tax, after Tennessee and Arizona. Combined state and local sales taxes average 8.84 percent, according to the Tax Foundation.

It is not clear whether any of the proposals will make it into law; even in states with Republican-dominated legislatures, governors face difficulty as they pursue their proposals because changing the tax code almost invariably creates losers as well as winners. In Kansas, Mr. Brownback wants to pay for lower income tax rates in part by making permanent what had originally been a temporary sales tax increase, but also by eliminating deductions for property taxes and mortgage interest, setting off objections even in his own party.

And just as President Obama has raised income tax rates on upper-income families, Democratic governors including Martin O’Malley of Maryland, Jerry Brown of California and Deval Patrick of Massachusetts have supported or put in place income tax increases on the wealthy.

“I don’t believe greater reliance on the sales tax is likely to be a broad trend in the country, although we may see it in some places,” said Donald J. Boyd, a senior fellow at the Rockefeller Institute of Government. “In recent years voters and politicians have generally shown in a variety of ways that they have been more willing to support tax increases on higher-income taxpayers than on the broad populace.”

The shift toward sales taxes in some states is incremental, and nowhere near the scale or complexity that would characterize adoption of a federal consumption tax.

Still, the results could resonate in other states and in Washington. Nearly all other wealthy countries have some version of a national consumption tax.

The debates going on in the states, said R. Glenn Hubbard, dean of the business school at Columbia University and a former top adviser to President George W. Bush, “offer suggestions for federal tax reform, too.” He cited proposals for marrying a broad-based national consumption tax with a wage tax on high earners to address concerns about fairness.

Mr. Jindal, whose status as a likely candidate for the White House in 2016 has drawn particular attention to his proposal, has signaled that he wants his plan to be revenue neutral, meaning that every dollar of revenue lost from eliminating the personal and corporate income tax would have to be made up elsewhere. The only viable source for making up most of the money is raising the state’s sales tax.

He has not yet settled on any specifics for changing the sales tax, and his aides say he would include safeguards to assure that lower-income people were not made worse off.

By focusing on sales tax revenue, Mr. Jindal has also opened up a fundamental issue in an Internet-heavy economy. Sales taxes were developed in an era when sales of physical goods dominated the economy, and they exempt many services, which now account for a majority of spending.

Hair spray is taxed, but not haircuts. So if states — or one day the federal government — want to shift toward a truly broad-based consumption tax, they would have to expand the definition of what should be taxable.

Officials in Louisiana have indicated that Mr. Jindal is at least open to looking at a broader sales tax that included some services.

“If the sales tax is going to stay a viable source of revenues for state governments, you have to bring in services,” Mr. Henchman said. “It’s not just haircuts and tattoo parlors. It’s lawyers and accountants and real estate agents.”


January 24, 2013

As California Bounces Back, Governor Calls For Lofty Goals


SACRAMENTO — Emboldened by a brighter fiscal horizon, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday recommitted himself to two ambitious projects, a high-speed rail line and a huge water tunnel system, in an optimistic State of the State speech that sought to secure California’s long-term future as well as the three-term governor’s legacy.

Grasping at California’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity and a model for the rest of the nation, Mr. Brown said the state was rebounding financially after a difficult period. In a speech citing sources as varied as the Bible, Montaigne and Yeats, Mr. Brown said the state’s budget was now sound, but he also warned of profligacy, a remark that seemed directed at the Democratic lawmakers listening to him in the State Capitol here.

“The message this year is clear: California has once again confounded our critics. We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget,” Mr. Brown, a Democrat, said in his third State of the State address since returning to office in 2011. “Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible.”

Mr. Brown spoke of wanting to reform school financing by empowering local school districts, and of continuing to lead efforts to fight climate change, like the cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions that went into effect recently.

Recalling the big infrastructure projects in the state’s past, Mr. Brown also voiced strong support for two big-ticket items that have drawn strong opposition: a bullet train that would eventually link Los Angeles and the Bay Area, and two tunnels that would funnel water directly from Northern California to more populated areas in the south.

“The London Olympics lasted a short while and cost $14 billion, about the same cost as this project,” he said of the tunnels. “But this project will serve California for hundreds of years.”

Mr. Brown’s speech came at what many are describing as a turning point for California after years of economic turmoil. The state’s economy is continuing to show signs of strengthening, with job growth and a housing market revival.

Fiscally, after years of ballooning budget deficits, the state is now projecting a balanced budget. In November, Mr. Brown surprised many by winning a hard-fought campaign to pass Proposition 30, a temporary tax surcharge that will pour $6 billion a year into the state treasury for the next seven years.

Still, Mr. Brown has repeatedly warned about the need to control spending. With Democrats now having supermajorities in the Senate and the Assembly, they can pass tax increases unilaterally. As experts predict that Democratic legislators will face pressure to increase spending, many are now describing Mr. Brown, long known as “Governor Moonbeam” for his eccentricities, as the only adult in the room.

Citing the story of Genesis and Pharaoh’s dream of seven cows, he said: “The people have given us seven years of extra taxes. Let us follow the wisdom of Joseph, pay down our debts and store up reserves against the leaner times that will surely come.”

In interviews, Mr. Brown, who served two terms as governor from 1975 to 1983, has brushed aside talk of his legacy. But in recent months, Mr. Brown, 74, who was treated recently for prostate cancer, has spoken about his mortality, mentioning the death of a close friend.

“This is my 11th year in the job, and I have never been more excited,” he said.


January 24, 2013

Senator Unveils Bill to Limit Semiautomatic Arms


WASHINGTON — During a lengthy and at times emotionally wrenching news conference, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California on Thursday announced legislation that would ban the sale and manufacture of 157 types of semiautomatic weapons, as well as magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

The bill, which Ms. Feinstein introduced in the Senate later in the afternoon, would exempt firearms used for hunting and would grandfather in certain guns and magazines. The goal of the bill, she said, is “to dry up the supply of these weapons over time.”

Surrounded by victims of gun violence, colleagues in the Senate and House and several law enforcement officials, and standing near pegboards with several large guns attached, Ms. Feinstein acknowledged the difficulty in pursuing such legislation, even when harnessing the shock and grief over the shooting of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., last month. “This is really an uphill road,” Ms. Feinstein said.

Since the expiration of a ban on assault weapons in 2004, lawmakers have been deeply reluctant to revisit the issue. They cite both a lack of evidence that the ban was effective and a fear of the gun lobby, which has made significant inroads at the state and federal levels over the past decade in increasing gun rights.

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, recently said that he was skeptical about the bill. Ms. Feinstein immediately called him to express her displeasure with his remarks.

Many lawmakers, including some Democrats, prefer more modest measures to curb gun violence, like enhanced background checks of gun buyers or better enforcement of existing laws.

One such measure has been introduced by Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who will begin hearings next week on gun violence. Among the witnesses will be Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association.

“Senator Feinstein has been trying to ban guns from law-abiding citizens for decades,” said Andrew Arulanandam, a spokesman for Mr. LaPierre. “It’s disappointing but not surprising that she is once again focused on curtailing the Constitution instead of prosecuting criminals or fixing our broken mental health system.”

More legislation is expected to arise over the next week or two, and some of it will have bipartisan support. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and Senator Mark Kirk, Republican of Illinois, have agreed to work together on gun trafficking legislation that would seek to crack down on illegal guns. Currently, federal law does not define gun trafficking as a crime.

Mr. Kirk is also working on a background check proposal with Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who is considered somewhat of a bellwether among Democrats with strong gun-rights records.

Mr. Leahy’s bill would give law enforcement officials more tools to investigate so-called straw purchasing of guns, in which people buy a firearm for others who are prohibited from obtaining one on their own.

Ms. Feinstein was joined on Thursday by several other lawmakers, including Representative Carolyn McCarthy of New York, who will introduce companion legislation in the House, and Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who emotionally recalled the day when the children and adults were gunned down in Newtown. “I will never forget the sight and the sounds of parents that day,” he said. Several gun violence victims, relatives of those killed and others gave brief statements of support for the bill.

Ms. Feinstein’s bill — which, unlike the 1994 assault weapons ban, would not expire after being enacted — would also ban certain characteristics of guns that make them more lethal. More than 900 models of guns would be exempt for hunting and sporting.

Such a measure is vehemently opposed by the N.R.A. and many Republican lawmakers, as well as some Democrats. “I don’t think you should have restrictions on clips,” said Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who has said he welcomes a Senate debate on guns. “The Second Amendment wasn’t written so you can go hunting, it was to create a force to balance a tyrannical force here.”

Proponents of the ban argue that in spite of claims to the contrary, the 1994 measure, of which Ms. Feinstein was a chief sponsor, helped curb gun violence. “The original bill, though flawed, had a definite impact on the number of these weapons faced by the police on streets and used in crimes,” said Adam Eisgrau, who helped write the 1994 ban while serving as Judiciary Committee counsel to Ms. Feinstein. The new bill, with more explicit language on the types of features on banned weapons, “is far more respectful of firearms for recreation uses,” he said.

Bans on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines were among the proposals unveiled by President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. last week. Mr. Biden took the campaign for tougher gun laws to the Internet on Thursday in an online video chat that was part of an effort by the White House to build public support for its guns package. Mr. Biden, who developed the plans embraced by Mr. Obama, will host a round-table event in Richmond, Va., on Friday, and officials have said that Mr. Obama will travel at some point to promote the package.

Peter Baker contributed reporting.


Republicans Turn Victims of Rape and Incest into Felons and Forced Incubators

By: Sarah Jones
Jan. 24th, 2013

In New Mexico yesterday, Republicans treated us to “Exhibit A” legislation, introduced as House Bill 206. It criminalizes the ending of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest in some cases, declaring the fetus to be evidence in a criminal trial.

I’ve been pointing out for a while now that House Republicans were going out of their way to give rapists more access to victims (via GOP’s version of the Violence Against Women Act) and forcing a rape victim to carry her rapist’s baby to term, while also granting the rapist access to the child, inadvertently (?) incentivizing rape. Republicans have also been working on redefining rape and trying to pass laws so that victims would be renamed “accusers”. But now, they have finally found a way to just come out and say it.

If you get raped or molested, you are the criminal. If you don’t carry the fetus to term, you may face up to three years in prison.

New Mexico Republicans got one of their token females, Republican State Representative Cathrynn Brown, to introduce HB206 in the New Mexico Legislature — new legislation that would force a rape victim to carry the fetus to term in order to preserve evidence (since when do Republicans care about rape evidence?).

The bill reads, “Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result or criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”

The only good news I can potentially see here is that Republicans are claiming to care about rape evidence, and so in a world in which their values were consistent, House Republicans would pass the new bipartisan Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. The new verion of the VAWA seeks to address the epidemic of untested rape kits. If Republicans want evidence, a rape kit might be a bit easier than forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term.

But if they really wanted evidence in order to prosecute rape, then they wouldn’t need to force a woman to carry a rapist’s fetus to term — they could simply test the aborted fetus, or better yet, process the rape kit. While science and the female body are proving to be too complicated for your modern day GOP, this bill isn’t about evidence. This is about finally finding a way to criminalize victims of rape and incest, so as to protect the perpetrators of those crimes, as all patriarchal systems do (Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Stuebenville football culture, etc). Money and power versus the rape/incest victim.

How many women will be reporting a rape if they know they’ll be forced to carry the fetus to term? Even less than report it right now.

“In addition to being blatantly un-Constitutional, the bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” said Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico in a statement to PoliticusUSA. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”

Incubators of evidence and felons? It’s called punishment for reporting a rape.

While hopefully this bill has little chance of passing, it’s important in the sense that it reveals the intentions behind Republican policies relating to women. Taken in context with their refusal to pass the Violence Against Women Act and their many egregious comments about rape and rape victims, it appears as if the intention behind this bill is to protect rapists by inhibiting the reporting of rape.
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01/25/2013 02:12 PM

Rape Tragedy in India: Dreams of 'the Fearless One'

By Sandra Schulz and Wieland Wagner

The case has shaken India and shocked the world. Relatives and friends describe the fate of the 23-year-old woman who was raped in mid-December in New Delhi and died.

He is standing in the doorframe, leaning on a crutch, with his right leg in bandages. He is the man who was there when six men raped the woman who was so close to him and rammed an iron rod into her body. His name is Awindra Pratap Pandey, and he is staring at the gold rings on his hands. The men took everything from him that evening, but they were unable to pull the two rings from his fingers because they were too tight.

The narrow ring is the one he gave her. She had returned it to him a few days before the two got on the bus where everything happened. She said that he should wear it, but only for a short time. Awindra, standing in his parents' house in Gorakhpur, a city in northern India, says: "I like wearing it. I try to think of the good things."

In his native village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the young woman's father is sitting on a plastic chair as he recalls how his daughter looked at him for the last time in the hospital's intensive care unit, how she gestured to him as if to ask if he had eaten yet, how he placed his hand on her forehead, and how she had kissed his hand. Tears well up in his eyes, and he can no longer speak. Finally, Badri Nath Singh says: "I always see her face in front of me."

In a small, windowless shop at a market in Delhi, a girl points to a lilac purse with gold rivets. It's the same purse her friend bought in the shop. The two women often went shopping together. They were so similar, both petite with long hair and fond of wearing jeans, and they both painted their toenails. They even used the same cherry-flavored Avon lip gloss. Bhawna Singh turns around so that the salesman can't hear her sob. "I miss her so much," she says.

The Indian media have dubbed the 23-year-old woman "Nirbhaya," the fearless one, and "Amanat," the treasure. Some simply call her "India's daughter," an icon. Under Indian law, the identity of a rape victim must be kept secret. But her father decided to release the name of India's daughter -- his daughter. He wanted the world to know her name. It was Jyoti Singh Pandey.

From Fields to Malls

Jyoti's fate has touched people around the world. A group of men raped her on a bus in Delhi on Dec. 16. She died in a Singapore hospital 13 days later. Since then, tens of thousands have taken to the streets in India to protest how their country treats women, humiliating and discriminating against them. The presumed perpetrators have been apprehended.

Jyoti's story also says something about a country that is changing rapidly. It's the story of people who come from mud huts and fight their way into modernity. They are either filled with hope or devoid of prospects.

The evening that began with chocolate ice cream ended when six men left Jyoti, bleeding and naked, on the side of a highway to the airport, where trampled plastic cups and cigarette packs lie in the dust, and where the filth of the city piles up.

It was the kind of evening Jyoti loved, spent together with Awindra, whom she called Awi, a 28-year-old software engineer. He took her out in Delhi's most popular shopping mall, Select Citywalk. They walked across the marble floor, passing shop windows displaying brands like Armani jeans and Estée Lauder. Jyoti loved brand-name articles and had a Levi's leather jacket.

They bought an ice-cream cone before they went to the movies to see "Life of Pi." When they were finally sitting in the movie theater, Jyoti told Awindra that he should fill out the form from the airline that the cashier had given him. It was for a drawing, and the prize was a flight to Europe. She wanted to go abroad so badly, preferably to stay there and work, perhaps in the United States or Canada.

In the shopping mall, she felt closer to the life she wanted to lead than anyplace else, and farther away from the world her father came from: the village of Medawara Kalan, surrounded by wheat fields and reachable only by paths through the fields. It's a place where children play on the sugarcane press, farmers repair their houses with lumps of mud, cow dung is laid out to dry on the walls lining the narrow streets, and the local shop is nothing but a hut made of wood and corrugated sheet metal.

A Woman with Dreams

Jyoti's father moved to Delhi in 1983. He worked in a washing-machine factory at first, and then he tried his hand at running a business selling voltage measuring devices. But the business didn't do very well, so he took a job as a security guard. Later he went to work loading aircraft at the airport.

He had to work overtime to earn enough to support his three children. All told, he made about 10,000 rupees a month, or roughly €140 ($186).

First he sent Jyoti and his sons to a newly opened private school. She was the first girl to be admitted to the school, he says. Jyoti's friend Bhawna Singh attended the same school, located in a poor neighborhood where cows stand around in the garbage. But it's also a school that encourages children. The entrance gate is painted in rainbow colors and decorated with flowers and butterflies, and sayings are written on the wall here and there, such as: "Education opens the door, but you must enter yourself."

Jyoti did walk in. She was a good student, so good, in fact, that she eventually began tutoring other children in English, Hindi and math. She used to berate her two younger brothers for talking instead of studying. "Boys cry when you send them to school," says her father, "but she would cry if you didn't let her go to school."

Jyoti knew early on that she wanted to be a doctor. She grew up to become a young woman who read the newspaper, the Hindustan Times, and books. She spent time in the library in the city of Dehradun, where she was learning to become a physical therapist. She worked in a call center at night because she needed the money. Her father was proud of his daughter and had already sold a piece of land to pay for her education. "Jyoti had a lot of self-confidence," says her father. "She wanted to stand on her own two feet."

Jyoti was one of many young Indian women in the capital. She had her own laptop and her own opinions. It was clear to her that she would eventually marry, but only an educated man. But first she wanted to have a career and a little fun.

When they left the movie theater on the evening of Dec. 16, Jyoti saw on her phone that her mother had tried to reach her. She became anxious and wanted to go home. The pair had initially intended to take a three-wheeled autorickshaw, which are considered relatively safe. They are open at the back so that passengers can call for help and jump out, and there is only room for one driver. But none of the rickshaw drivers wanted to take them to Jyoti's neighborhood, Mahavir, because they thought it was too far.

Instead, the two took an autorickshaw to the Munirka bus stop first. As her friend Awindra says, Jyoti was the one who had suggested that they board a white, privately operated bus. He adds that he had even told her that she should never take one of those buses if alone. But he thought it was okay this time because he was with her and could protect her.

It was on this bus that Jyoti encountered Ram Singh at around 9:15 p.m. The police believe that Singh was the leader of the pack of rapists.

Men without Dreams

The piece of land where Ram Singh and his brother Mukesh, who has also been arrested, spent their first few years is on a hill above a small river in Karauli, a district in the western state of Rajasthan. There are so many holdups there that even some taxi drivers avoid the area.

Their 70-year-old mother, Ram Bai, and her second husband are squatting on the ground in front of a hut made of mud and straw. They are emaciated, and their bare feet are covered with dust. The mother stares at the fields and says: "My sons have done something terrible. Now they are in the government's hands. I can do nothing more for them. I can only pray."

Ram and Mukesh's father died early, and their mother moved to Delhi with her new husband and the children 25 years ago. She says that they wouldn't have had enough to eat in Karauli, where the family owns only a tiny wheat field.

But life was hardly any better in the city, where they lived in the Ravi Dass Camp, a slum in the southern part of Delhi. The stepfather worked as a gardener for rich households, and even as children Ram and his brothers were expected to earn money. Ram was probably about 11 when he left school, although no one remembers exactly how old he was.

Ram and Mukesh later worked as drivers. Nine years ago Ram, the eldest, married a divorcée, but she fell ill and died. Then there was a traffic accident in which he suffered a compound arm fracture. Ram received a disability pension of 1,000 rupees a month, and he was able to take the train for free with his certificate of disability.

Ram's mother says he is religious, adding: "He worshipped all Hindu gods." Other than that, she knows little about him, except that he left the house early in the morning and returned late in the evening. Yes, she says, he did drink and smoke, "but he showed respect for us," she adds, with tears in her eyes.

Did Ram have any hopes for the future? "He earned so little, and it wasn't enough to fulfill any dreams," says his mother. "He had no dreams."

'We Could Talk about Everything'
Awindra Pratap Pandey is constantly haunted by images of the time on the bus. They torment him at night, and he wakes up frequently. He wants to say -- and he has to say it -- that he did everything he could to help Jyoti. He says that he hit one of the men and threw another one against the door of the driver's cabin. But they hit him on the head with that iron bar, they beat him on the legs, and he fell to the floor. The men dragged Jyoti to the back, and when he tried to reach her, the men pushed him down. At some point, he heard the men saying: "She's dead. She's dead."

The men dragged both of them to the door of the bus by their hair and threw them onto the street. When the bus started backing up to run over Jyoti -- his Jyoti -- he pulled her to the side.

There is a sparkle in his eyes when he talks about her. Sometimes he even finds himself laughing about Jyoti, who was crazy about sandals and who had such a good memory for numbers that she could recite the number of his second mobile phone, which he was always forgetting. Jyoti, who sang his favorite songs for him, who he skyped with in the evening when she was studying in faraway Dehradun, and who he traveled with to pilgrimage sites.

They were so different. She was exuberant while he was quiet. She liked to do yoga, while he was quickly out of breath. She had even devised a nutrition plan for him that included fruit and milk in the morning, hoping that it would help him lose his small paunch.

He could talk about her forever -- if it weren't for his strict uncle who keeps coming into the room to sit with us or peeking into the window from outside. When asked about the bond they shared, Awindra says: "We could talk about everything."

Still, he describes their relationship as a "friendship," using a term that doesn't cause problems for anyone in India, with its strict social mores. He does so because there was also another difference between them. "Deep down, I know how important castes are in India," he says. "When it comes to marriage, I would never do anything against my father's will."

'Girls Should Be Strong'

Awindra, the son of a lawyer, is a member of India's highest caste, the Brahmans. Jyoti was from a lower caste. "The people who call them engaged are foolish," says Jyoti's father.

It isn't easy for him to paint the picture that the world should remember of his daughter. He wants a law to be named after her, one that imposes the death penalty on rapists. He has proposed building a hospital in his hometown and naming it after her. He wants things to change as a result of Jyoti's death. "My daughter taught us something before she died," he says. "Girls should be strong. They should be independent. They should have the strength to fight."

Of course, he also knows what people are whispering, what the men in India like to say when a woman is raped: She provoked it. Just look at the way she dressed in public. What was she doing outside at night, anyway?

This explains why the height of Jyoti's heels is also such an important detail. Of course she loved high heels, say her friends. "She wasn't wearing shoes with very high heels, just normal ones," says her father.

After the men had attacked Jyoti, the family of her friend Bhawna tried to reach her. They had heard rumors, and they suspected that Jyoti could be the victim. They had all known each other for years. When they asked her brother about her, he could only mumble that his sister wasn't doing very well, and that Jyoti's mobile phone had no reception.

One of the reasons people have taken the streets in India is so that families will no longer have to remain silent in rape cases, for fear of being reproached for not having safeguarded a daughter's chastity. The protesters have been demanding that the government protect women rather than those who rape them. Bhawna was also one of the thousands who attended the candlelight vigil in Delhi, holding a candle in her hand and thinking of Jyoti.

Jyoti wanted to do so many more things in life. She was a vegetarian, but she wanted to try meat -- chicken -- once in her life. She wanted to buy a black dress trimmed with lace. She wanted to watch the next episode of "Bigg Boss," with her favorite star, Salman Khan. She dreamed of owning a car.

A few weeks before her death, Jyoti and Bhawna were sitting on the bed, playing with their hair. Jyoti wanted to have her hair straightened, perhaps with a few strands dyed different colors. But then her mother called out and asked: "Where do you intend to get the money for your haircut?" Jyoti replied that she would have a lot of money one day, and that she would be a famous neurologist.

She also said that, one day, everyone would know who she is.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


January 25, 2013

India Needs to ‘Reset Its Moral Compass,’ President Says


NEW DELHI — President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday warned about the danger of corruption corroding Indian public life and called on the country to “reset its moral compass” in light of a grisly gang rape and murder of a young woman that have stirred outrage and protests in India and around the world.

Mr. Mukherjee, speaking in a nationally televised address on the eve of Republic Day, the national holiday observing the enactment of India’s democratic constitution, made a blunt call for gender equity and described the Dec. 16 attack on the young woman in New Delhi as a “grave tragedy that has shattered complacency.”

“The brutal rape and murder of a young woman, a woman who was a symbol of all that new India strives to be, has left our hearts empty and our minds in turmoil,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “We lost more than a valuable life; we lost a dream. If today young Indians feel outraged, can we blame our youth?”

The position of president is largely ceremonial in India’s parliamentary democracy. But Mr. Mukherjee, who became president last year, is one of India’s most experienced and respected political figures. On Friday, he used what is often a bland and celebratory address to deliver a plaintive message to the nation.

“When we brutalize a woman, we wound the soul of our civilization,” he said, noting the sanctity of a woman in India’s Hindu religious traditions. “It is time for the nation to reset its moral compass. Nothing should be allowed to spur cynicism, as cynicism is blind to morality. We must look deep into our conscience and find out where we have faltered.”

Mr. Mukherjee’s remarks came as the rape and its aftermath continued to shake India. On Wednesday, a special government commission led by a former chief justice of the Indian Supreme Court released a report calling for major reforms in policing as well as legislation to expand criminal penalties for some crimes against women.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a judge presiding over a special “fast track” court in New Delhi began hearing the trial of five defendants in the rape case. The case could last for several months, with a huge list of witnesses, though the judge has invoked a gag order that has tightly restricted what information can be made public about the proceedings.

The case has resonated, not only because of the grisly brutality of the attack, but also because of the clumsy and, in some cases, insensitive response of India’s political class. The police were initially called in to beat back protesters, many of them college students. Several politicians and spiritual leaders were quoted making insensitive comments about the case.

More recently, political parties have sought to tap into the anger unleashed by the attack — often with unorthodox solutions. In Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, a right-wing Hindu nationalist party, the Shiv Sena, has distributed kitchen knives and chili powder to women, even as they described it as a symbolic gesture.

In his address, Mr. Mukherjee spoke about how the rape case had tapped into the disillusionment of India’s younger generation, one that had already been expressing disenchantment with the country’s political system. This group, often described as India’s “demographic dividend,” is struggling to find quality jobs, quality education and opportunity in India’s economy.

“The future belongs to them,” Mr. Mukherjee said. “They are today troubled by a range of existential doubts. Does the system offer due reward for merit? Has corruption overtaken morality in public life? Does our legislature reflect emerging India or does it need radical reforms? These doubts have to be set at rest. Elected representatives must win back the confidence of the people.”

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« Reply #4225 on: Jan 26, 2013, 07:44 AM »

Malian government says war will be over in days

Government troops advance on rebel stronghold of Gao after French air strikes on militant targets

Luke Harding in Bamako and agencies, Friday 25 January 2013 13.38 GMT   

The Malian government has predicted that the war against rebels in the north will be over in a matter of days after its troops recaptured another town and advanced on the rebel stronghold of Gao.

Malian forces reached the town of Hombori, 100 miles south of Gao, on Thursday following a series of French air strikes against militant targets, officials said.

Sources said the army, which was driven out of the north of the country last March, retook the central town of Douentza on Monday.

"We are winning very rapidly," Manga Dembélé, Mali's communications minister, told the Guardian on Friday. "We are making quick progress … The rebels have been dispersed. We expect this to be finished in days."

For nearly two weeks, French aircraft have bombarded rebel positions, vehicles and stores in the centre and north of Mali as a ground force of African troops assembles to launch a UN-backed military intervention.

On Thursday, around 160 troops from Burkina Faso deployed in the dusty central Malian town of Markala – the first west African troops to link up with French and Malian forces. France has some 2,150 troops on the ground.

The French have repeatedly warned that the Islamist enclave in northern Mali could become a launchpad for attacks in Europe and elsewhere in Africa.

Western powers, including the US and Britain, have provided air support for the mission, but are not planning to contribute combat forces.

An RAF surveillance aircraft has been deployed, the Ministry of Defence said. The Sentinel, which usually carries a crew of five, has joined two C17 transport aircraft which have already been sent to the region.

Dembélé said Mali would welcome more troops from any friendly country, including Britain. "All friends of Mali are welcome," he said.

France has said it will stay as long as needed in Mali, a former French colony. It has called, however, for African nations to take the lead in reinforcing the Malian army's efforts. There are currently around 1,750 troops from countries including Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Senegal, Niger and Chad in Mali.

The Malian army has been accused of committing retaliatory violence against civilians who appear to be northerners or those with suspected links to Islamists.

A French-based human rights group, the International Federation for Human Rights, or FIDH by its French acronym, charges that Malian forces have been behind about 33 killings since fighting erupted on 10 January.

Malian army captain Modibo Traore called the allegations "completely false", but declined to comment further. A government statement issued on Thursday called on the military to respect human rights, saying "the army should be irreproachable".

Human rights groups have long expressed concerns about retaliatory violence against northern Malians or anyone seen as having ties to the Islamists, whose capture of the north has divided the country in two.

Meanwhile, the west African regional bloc known as Ecowas said it was organising an emergency session of defence chiefs from the 15 countries that make up the group. The gathering on Saturday will be held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.


How the west misread Mali

Conflict in the Sahel isn't a legacy of western intervention in Libya. But imposing a new order would be a huge mistake

Ian Birrell   
The Guardian, Friday 25 January 2013          

For 10 months the collapse of Mali was largely ignored by the west. A country seen as a model democracy imploded, with an army coup in the south and an Islamist takeover of the vast desert regions in the north – but few cared outside France. Now everything has changed, and people who could barely place the country on a map are pontificating about its problems.

As ever, misconceptions become set in stone. Since the coup leader had trained briefly in the United States, conspiracy theorists see the Great Satan in the shadows. Others view France's intervention as some kind of neocolonialist adventure, or argue absurdly that its actions were driven by the desire for minerals – in this case gold rather than oil.

The charge heard most often is that the struggle in the Sahel is the legacy of western intervention in Libya. This is ill-informed. People forget that Libyans themselves rose up against Muammar Gaddafi. If the west had not intervened, Benghazi would most likely have been recaptured and the uprising quashed, probably amid hideous carnage. Alternatively, the conflict could have dragged on and, as in Syria, become increasingly nasty and sectarian, with implications for the wider region.

Neither option was desirable – and either way, arms would have seeped across the porous Saharan borders, as they have after the western intervention. The Tuaregs had long been supported by Gaddafi, although he also controlled them, fearing the consequence of insurrection among his own nomads. But when the revolt broke out, it was inevitable many Tuaregs backed him, gaining access to greater weaponry as well as funds.

Following Gaddafi's fall, well-armed Tuareg groups returned to northern Mali and reignited their uprising for the fourth time. Yes, this was a key factor in the subsequent collapse of the country. Western involvement, however, is irrelevant in this context, except possibly in the failure to take firmer action to disarm Libyan militias. But as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, the worst the west can do is think it can impose a new order on occupied countries.

The Sahel's struggles go back decades. They may be a legacy of colonial borders, the cause of so much conflict on the continent. The first Tuareg uprising began just two years after Mali's independence, and was brutally quashed. Then the desert regions' grievances were intensified by corruption, drought, repression, poverty, climate change and poor governance. Attempts to assuage them with aid flopped.

In recent years this toxic stew was stirred by Islamist groups, often from outside Mali, who grew strong exploiting traditional Saharan smuggling routes as cocaine began to carve its way through west Africa; then came the kidnapping of tourists which earned millions when western governments caved in to their demands. Their rise was almost certainly fanned by governments in Algiers and Bamako to counter secessionist Tuareg groups.

The implosion of Mali is far from simple. The Tuareg are not the only people in this desert region; in fact, they are a minority in northern Mali, although many from other ethnic groups have fled the Islamist gangs. And while some turned to the new Islamists, many still support the MNLA, the main separatist group that this week declared its intention to join the Franco-African forces fighting its former Islamist allies.

The politics of the desert are fiendishly complex, interwoven with scores of historic, tribal, regional, social and personal strands. If the west is guilty of anything, it is of misreading events in countries such as Mali. Britain ignored the country, wrongly seeing the Sahel as an irrelevant backwater, while the US and France invested too much faith in an ineffective democracy riddled with corruption. Now that we are finally waking up, we would do well not to inflate our own importance.
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« Reply #4226 on: Jan 26, 2013, 07:50 AM »

Algeria made mistakes over hostage crisis, foreign minister admits

Mourad Medelci also tells delegates at Davos that Algeria needs international help in its efforts to combat terrorism

Conal Urquhart and agencies, Saturday 26 January 2013 12.11 GMT   

The Algerian army made mistakes in its handling of the hostage crisis at a gas plant deep in the Sahara desert in which dozens of foreign workers, including six Britons, were killed, the country's foreign minister has admitted.

Speaking after international criticism of the four-day offensive by Algerian troops against Islamist fighters at the In Amenas gas facility, Mourad Medelci also conceded that his government needed international help to help it fight terrorism.

Algeria's decision to refuse foreign offers of help in handling the crisis, and to send the army to fire on vehicles full of hostages, drew widespread international criticism. At least 81 people are now belived to have died during the seige, including British, American, French, Japanese, Norwegian and Romanian workers.

The crisis began on 16 January when the jihadist group Signers in Blood, which is affiliated to al-Qaida, attacked the facility run by BP, Statoil and the Algerian state oil company. Some foreign workers were killed in the initial assault, but scores of others hid around the plant and its residential compound. The gunmen searched the plant and tied up those they found and rigged them with explosives.

The following day the Algerian army attacked the plant fearing the gunmen were trying to move the hostages out of the country. Some of the bodies found by the Algerian troops were badly burned, making it difficult to identify them.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Medelci said: "We are in the process of assessing our mistakes. In that assessment we are leaning more towards establishing that the operation was a success."

He said Algeria would reinforce security measures at sites where foreigners operate, and insisted they would "continue to work in Algeria and that is the best way to answer the terrorists".

He also defended the government's decision to attack rather than negotiate. "Faced with such an attitude, it's not just words that solve the problem. It's action," he told the Associated Press on Friday.

But he admitted that Algeria, which has experienced decades of internal extremist violence, needs support in its fight against international terrorism.

International investors and foreign workers were the target of the attack rather than Algeria, he said.

Six British nationals and a British resident are belived to have been killed in the seige.

Five names have been made public, Kenny Whiteside, 59; Paul Morgan, 46; Sebastian John, 26; Garry Barlow, 49; and Carson Bilsland, 46. Carlos Estrada, a Colombian national who worked for BP and lived in London is also believed to have died.

A further 22 Britons involved in the crisis have returned to the UK, the Foreign Office said.

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« Reply #4227 on: Jan 26, 2013, 07:58 AM »

Algeria hostage crisis: the full story of the kidnapping in the desert

Some were shot. Others hid and hoped. Using survivors' testimonies, photography and video - some filmed by the hostages themselves - we piece together the narrative of the four-day In Amenas gas plant siege

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Julian Borger, Justin McCurry in Tokyo and Terry Macalister
Video by Mustafa Khalili and Jad Salfiti. Design by Chris Cross with editing by Simon Jeffery, Friday 25 January 2013 14.26 GMT      

Wednesday 16 January: the attack

At 5.40am, Murielle, 46, the on-site emergency nurse at In Amenas gas plant was getting dressed in her bedroom. Her working day was due to start at 6am. The French nurse, specialised in anaesthetics, described herself as hardened to crisis: after a decade in emergency operating theatres, she was a medic in the Kosovo war and worked across Africa on petrol or forestry sites. At In Amenas she was in charge of “mass casualty” situations and ran the on-site ambulance.

But at 5.50am, when she would normally be thinking about breakfast, she was jolted by the “piercing sound” of the gas plant’s fire alarm. “It was extremely loud. Then the electricity cut out and plunged us into darkness. There was a lot of smoke. We assumed it was a fire and the team put on their suits and rushed to the emergency vehicles to go and put it out,” she said. But then an engineer skidded up in a 4x4, having fled a horrific scene at the living quarters 4km away at the site entrance.

He shouted: “Terrorists! Terrorists! It’s a terrorist attack!” He said the assailants had taken his radio. “Then we heard shots and explosions,” Murielle said. She ran back into the building. There was a clear security protocol for a terrorist attack: hide in offices or bedrooms turn out all lights, close all windows and doors, get under the bed, stay hidden and wait.

“I can deal with stress, I simply don’t panic,” Murielle said. But she knew she was the only expat woman on the site of around 800 people. “I said to colleagues, they mustn’t catch me, I’m a woman and worse I’m French. They will kill me, or at least rape me. I was very quickly conscious of my problem; my government had just intervened in Mali.”   

Hiding under furniture in their building Murielle and her colleagues – a group which swelled to 26, including Algerians and three British workers – kept hold of their radios. They were able to listen as the terrorists used the internal radio system to communicate among themselves. A picture emerged of bloodshed at the entrance to the site.

In the early hours of the morning, a group of militants had first attacked two buses of workers on their way off the site to In Amenas airport. Three foreigners who tried to escape the bus attack were believed to have been shot as they ran through the sand. Two others were killed as they challenged the militants: first, an Algerian security officer, who managed to activate the gas facility alarm system before he died. The second was Liverpool-born Paul Morgan, a former soldier in the French Foreign legion who fought in the first Gulf war and now worked as a liaison between gas field workers and local security staff.
Liverpool-born Paul Morgan, one of the first to die in the attack. Photo: Reuters

Next, at around 5.40am, heavily armed militant gunmen in Toyota Land Cruisers stormed the entrance of the gas plant site and headed to the living quarters, where many workers had been preparing for the start of their shift, some eating breakfast, when the alarm sounded.

The militants, who numbered around 30, had inside intelligence and detailed plans of the important 15 hectare site, according to the Algerian prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal. Run by BP, Norway’s Statoil and the Algerian state oil company, the remote site which accounted for 10% of Algeria’s considerable natural gas production, lay deep in the southern desert, 800 miles from the Algerian capital, Algiers, and 35 miles from the Libyan border.

There were two separate living quarters. One was for the expat workers: single-storey, yellow bungalows in a paved area decorated with the odd desert plant. Then there was an area called “company camp”, where local Algerian staff lived separately in airy, one-storey cabins. Many of the Algerians, including chefs, cleaners and restaurant workers, were employed by a subsidiary of the French catering firm, CIS Catering. Régis Arnoux, its company director, said they prepared meals for around 800 people a day at the site and provided the facilities, with “all the services of a traditional hotel”.

There were two dining rooms and sports facilities. The Japanese staff who worked for JGC, a Japanese engineering firm, employed their own Japanese chef.

Some workers were on a pattern of four-weeks on, four-weeks off, when they went home to their home countries, others did longer stints of seven to eight weeks. While the living quarters were near the entrance, it was a further 4km drive to the main gas facilities where only Murielle and the emergency team lived to deal with fires or explosions. There were around 700 Algerians and 130 foreigners on the site.

From 6am for several hours, the gunmen began a frenzied hunt for foreigners. One Algerian worker said: “They told us: “We have nothing against you Algerians, you can take your things and leave. They said they wanted expats and that they would find them.” There were several volleys of Kalashnikov fire and rounds of grenade explosions, then militants went from door to door of the foreigners’ living quarters, shooting out locks and searching bedrooms, dragging workers from under beds and behind cupboards. Several Filipino workers who refused to leave their rooms were beaten.

Foreigners were rounded up, many had their hands tied behind their backs with rubber cable-ties, others had their mouths taped. The hostage-takers, which Algerian officials said included at least three explosives experts, set about strapping Semtex bombs around the necks and waists of some of the hostages. Some survivors said foreigners were shot as they ran to escape. The Algerian prime minister later spoke of “numerous foreigners killed with a bullet to the head” in the course of the siege which would last four days.

An Algerian engineer working for the JGC told the French paper Humanité that when militants saw that there were mainly Japanese, Filipino or Malaysians in his block, he heard a commander say he wanted Americans, French and English and “didn’t need Asians”. He saw two Asian colleagues shot.

Several Algerians helped to hide foreigners, giving them their clothes. Algerians said they sent so many text messages that the local phone network quickly saturated. In the Algerian living quarters there was a residence for women, many of whom worked as administrative assistants. When the militants began shooting out the locks, the women shouted: “We’re women, we wear headscarves!” They were all allowed to leave in a vehicle.

Hostage crisis

By Wednesday afternoon, with little concrete information, the world was trying to picture the siege in straight-forward terms of the hostage-takers – who had told media they were from an Islamist group called Signed in Blood battalian – standing over their hostages.

But the truth – hidden from the public – was far more complex. There were in fact scores of foreigners hidden all over the site: under beds, in false ceilings, under desks, in offices, under tables, some even in enclosures on a roof. But international governments, who had been in contact with many after they had called their families by mobile phone, did not want to make this public and alert the terrorists to the fact there were more victims.

“We understood very quickly that there were two types of hostage, those who were in the assailants’ hands, and those who managed to hide,” said Didier Le Bret, the former French ambassador to Haiti who was running the crisis cell at the French foreign office on Paris’s Quai d’Orsay. “The line was decided to protect them by saying as little as possible. We didn’t want to give the hostage-takers any information they didn’t know.” This is why the French president François Hollande said he didn’t know how many French were involved. It also explains why British officials on Wednesday publicly said the number of their nationals was “very small”, despite knowing since the first news of the attack came into the British embassy at 7.10am that a significant number could be caught up in the crisis.

The French catering firm CIS maintained it only had 150 Algerian workers on site, while it knew that its French catering manager was hidden under a bed and four planks of wood, rationing out cereal bars to himself. He stayed there undetected for 40 hours.

Murielle and her team were still hiding in their building near the central gas plant. The group were afraid to leave their rooms in daylight because they thought there were militant snipers on top of the gas plant towers with binoculars, looking down for them. But they had made the decision on Wednesday afternoon that they would try to escape. “There was a very solemn announcement over the radio by the terrorists saying they would put all the expats inside the plant and blow it up,” Murielle said. “We were the nearest building to the plant. I wanted to leave, two other expats preferred to stay, saying it was too dangerous. Thank goodness, we persuaded them.”

There was a set of big metal-cutters in the ambulance. About 20 metres from their building was the fearsome –security perimeter: two wire fences, a few metres apart, each three metres high and topped with several rolls of barbed wire. They decided to cut holes through them. “I thought we should leave by night, but Algerian colleagues said it was safer at sun-rise. At night, in total darkness, we’d have to use lamps which meant attackers could shoot us easier. And the locals thought the Algerian army was surrounding us and if they heard a noise they would shoot.” 

Once they had decided to flee at day-break, they just had to get through the night. Murielle said stress levels were high. “I saw lots of people who found it very difficult, who were terrorised, both expats and local people. For Algerians, their personal experience of 10 years of civil war had marked them strongly in their youth: explosions, Kalashnikov fire took them right back to that.”

The three British expats slept in their rooms. But after an hour or two’s sleep in her own bed, Murielle felt too exposed, she moved to the medical storeroom opposite, next to the ambulance garage. She stayed hidden, upright, all night. “There was a little electricity from the clinic generator, so I made myself a nice hot cup of tea and hid myself in a gap between two buildings, listening out for every noise. Most of all, I stared up at the magnificent starry desert sky. At 5am, I made breakfast – tea, coffee and porridge – for my three expat colleagues, so we would have strength and a full stomach to flee. I thought a meal was symbolic”   

The Algerians in the group insisted they all put on their work uniforms to look as similar as possible. Murielle hid her light hair under a hat. One of the British men with her described how when they cut a hole in the first fence, the ping from the cutters felt like it was resounding across the camp and would be heard by the hostage-takers. They crawled through and began walking across the desert. “We’d been told the militants were dressed as military. We didn’t know, as we walked 500m, 600m from the plant whether the people we were to come across were hostage-–takers waiting for us or Algerian army. That was a long moment of extra stress.” The Algerians in the group carried white sheets above their heads to show they weren’t armed. The waiting Algerian army took them to safety in a nearby gendarmerie post.

Back at the living quarters, in the course of Wednesday night, a freelance journalist for the French paper Sud Ouest, who had been working on a story about the Islamist Mokhtar Belmokhtar, rang the mobile number of one of his Islamist contacts.

The contact answered, said he was one of the hostage-takers on the site and had French hostages. Asked for proof, he passed the phone to Yann Desjeux. Desjeux, 52, was a former French special forces soldier from near Bayonne in the French Basque country, where he co-owned a restaurant. A friend of Murielle, they had spent new year’s eve together with a British expat at the base. Clearly under pressure from hostage-takers, he said he was being treated “fine” and asked France to tell the Algerian army not to stage an assault on the base. A piece ran in Sud Ouest and he became the first named French hostage, a message of hope.

But the reality was that he had explosives strapped around his neck. According to accounts from friends, the soldier, who had served in the Gulf war, managed to neutralise the detonator and reassure other hostages chained with him. But Desjeux, used as a human shield, was to be killed by the hostage-takers the following day.

Thursday 17 January: Algerian forces attack

On Thursday morning, foreign governments were stressing that the situation on the site was extremely serious and difficult. At the crisis room at BP’s international headquarters in St James’s Square, less than a mile from No 10 and the Palace of Westminster, decisions were prioritised by the order “PEP”: “people, environment and property”. The company’s “instant management team” at Hassi Messaoud, 300 miles north-west of In Amenas, helped by British consular officials, were in contact with staff hiding within the complex, according to one hostage. At around lunchtime, according to accounts by Algerian officials, the Algerian forces understood that the militants wanted to blow up the gas facility. They had already mined the edge of the site and pointed five missiles at the main working-facility. The Algerian prime minister later said the militants had tried to take the hostages from the living quarters to the main gas site on Thursday, which sparked the army to begin its first assault on the vehicles they were travelling in.

At around 2pm, the Algerian forces launched an assault on the plant, with helicopters strafing a convoy of militants’ vehicles, each containing hostages. Four of the five vehicles were destroyed. All morning, the militants had lined up hostages, with taped mouths and bombs strapped to them, to prepare to transfer them in five 4x4 vehicles. 

A Filipino survivor, Joseph Balmaceda, who gave a press conference after his escape, said gunmen used him for cover: “Whenever government troops tried to use a helicopter to shoot at the enemy, we were used as human shields.”

Some hostages were killed at that point. “The terrorists lined up four hostages and assassinated them … shot them in the head,” a brother of one of the British killed, Kenneth Whiteside, told Sky News. “Kenny just smiled the whole way through. He’d accepted his fate.”

Balmaceda, nursing abrasions to his face and a loss of hearing, said he was the only survivor out of nine hostages who were aboard a van that exploded, apparently from a C-4 charge rigged to the vehicle by militants. “I was sandwiched between two spare tyres … I crawled about 300 metres to where the government forces were. When I reached them I fainted. I woke up in hospital.”

A west Belfast electrical engineer, Stephen McFaul, fled into the desert still wearing a vest of explosives after the vehicle he was travelling in crashed. Earlier in the siege, before being picked out by militants he had managed to stay hidden with colleagues, joking that he was from Northern Ireland “and had been through better riots”.

It was not clear how many of the total of around 37 foreigners killed during the siege died at this point. Among them was a British man, Garry Barlow, who had previously called his wife from the site saying: “I’m sat here at my desk with Semtex strapped to my chest.”

The first time the British government learned of the Algerian offensive was after the shooting started. The news was relayed to the embassy, almost certainly from BP. David Cameron immediately called his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmalek Sellal to remonstrate, pointing out he had asked the previous day to be informed in advance of any such action.

The Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe told reporters he had instructed Algeria’s prime minister to refrain from ordering any action that would put hostages’ lives at risk. His chief cabinet secretary described the Algerian forces’ actions as “very regrettable”.

With the army assault finished by around 8pm, according to Algerian media, the army went into the living quarters to free the hostages they could find. Many were still frozen in their hiding places, with little phone battery left and no electricity. Alexandre Berceaux, 32, the French catering manager, emerged from under his bed, still terrified that the troops were militants, only accepting to go with them because Algerian colleagues reassured him. Back in France he gave a press conference at the recommendation of his family, but his father cut it short, as he was still in a state of shock, haggard and ashen-faced as he pulled up the hood of his Parka to shield himself form the press.

It was after the army assault on Thursday that Tony Griesdale, 60, from Workington in Cumbria, emerged from two days’ hiding with seven litres of bottled water. “There was no food for two days, no telecommunications, no electricity, no running water. So I just lay still and relaxed. I made a game–plan for what I’d do if no one came for me and listened to some music on my phone. I don’t know if that was a good or a bad thing to do, as it could have attracted the bad guys. I slept most of the time really,” he said. Like other British workers who emerged from hiding at this point, he took only his passport as he left his room.

Others decided to make a move without the Algerian troops. Liviu Floria, a Romanian gas worker who had taken the gas site job to save enough money to send his teenage daughter to college in Britain, joined seven others who managed to scale a fence surrounding the compound. They left around 2am for a difficult desert trek, guided only by the flickering flame atop a gas well in the distance and a compass application on Floria’s iPhone. A Japanese hostage who had hidden under a truck for hours also waited until nightfall to walk through the desert for an hour until he met troops. As Algerian forces still search for a handful of missing this week, they have not ruled out people might have disappeared while trying to escape through the desert.

With few survivors to tell the tale, the details of Friday’s events remain patchy. As the sun-rose, there were still hostages hiding across the site. Peter Hunter, 53, from Durham, said he stayed calm in his hiding place, dressed in local clothes, trying to conserve water and his mobile phone battery. He said: “Thursday was probably the noisiest day. Friday was their equivalent of our Sunday out there. There might have been the odd pop shot during the night, but nothing in the light hours.” It wasn’t until Saturday that he felt confident enough to change his clothes for the first time in four days.

According to Algerian media reports, in the early hours of Friday morning, the Algerian army moved up to surround the core gas facility area where hostage-takers were holed up with at least seven hostages. The Algerian prime –minister said this second assault was more “laborious” because of the “difficulties of access” to the site. He said: “Unfortunately, the last hostages were executed by their hostage-takers with a bullet to the head. There was a collective assassination.”

On Saturday morning, the Algerian army made its final assault, to clear the central gas facility where the sound of shots was reported on Friday night. The army rounded up the final hostages from hiding, and began clearing the site.

Martyn Roper, the UK ambassador, finally managed to persuade the Algerian government to allow him to fly into In Amenas on Saturday morning, and he arrived with a private jet full of consular officials, police protection officers and forensic specialists. For a while, he was the only foreign ambassador at the field but he was still some 30 miles from the gas field at Tigantourine and could only wait for news of the final assault unfolding down the road, while overseeing the evacuation of the 22 British survivors from In Amenas and Hassi Messaoud. Even now, Tigantourine is closed to foreigners, but British police forensic officers are examining the bodies still in the morgue in Algiers in the hope of identifying the last few missing British nationals.

The Algerian prime minister would later announce at least 38 civilians had been killed during the course of the four-day siege, and 29 militants. Nearly 700 Algerians and 100 other foreigners survived. Five people were missing. With seven of the foreign dead unidentified, forensic teams from the UK, US and Norway arrived to help identify remains over the course of this week.   

Japan emerged with the biggest death toll of any country. With 10 dead, it was the biggest loss of Japanese lives overseas since the 9/11, in which 24 were killed. One of the Japanese victims, Rokuro Fuchida, 64, had written on Facebook that he was looking forward to his assignment in Algeria. “I work around the world to see the glittering night-time skies of foreign lands,” he said. “I look forward to seeing the starry sky above the desert.”
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« Reply #4228 on: Jan 26, 2013, 08:02 AM »

Deadly violence grips Egypt on revolution anniversary

Seven reported dead and scores of civilians and security forces injured as thousands protest for anti-Morsi protests

Patrick Kingsley and Abdel-Rahman Hussein in Cairo, Friday 25 January 2013 23.48 GMT   

Fatal clashes continued into the night in several Egyptian cities on Friday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to protest against President Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and police brutality – exactly two years after the start of the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

According to state media, at least seven people died in Suez and 379 were injured across the country as riots broke out in Cairo's Tahrir Square and cities including Alexandria, Mahalla, and Ismailia. Police repeatedly fired teargas across much of central Cairo and protesters pelted them with stones – bringing parts of the city's road and metro networks to a standstill.

As night fell, medics warned that the amount of teargas in Tahrir Square had reached a "dangerous level". According to Tahrir Bodyguards, a group protecting female protesters, at least nine women were sexually assaulted in the square – prompting memories of some of the worst moments of the Egyptian uprising in 2011.

For many on the streets, there was a painful sense of deja-vu. "There's no military dictatorship any more, but there are the beginnings of a theocratic one," argued Karim Abadir, a co-founder of the Free Egyptians – a liberal opposition party – who had set up a tent in the centre of Tahrir Square.

Hisham Abdel-Latif, another protester who took part in one of several feeder marches that snaked their way towards Tahrir from the Cairene suburbs, said Egyptians were "now ruled by a gang that is exactly the same as the Mubarak gang, except they now have beards".

Violence broke out in Cairo in the early hours of the morning, as police burnt down two tents in Tahrir Square. For much of the day, police and hundreds of protesters then took it in turns to lob chunks of rubble over two makeshift walls built to protect the interior ministry from attack.

One of the stone-throwers, Karim Ali, said it was revenge for the protesters killed by police since 2011. "The police are behaving the same as they did during the Mubarak years," he said.

Morsi may be Egypt's first democratically-elected president, but many Egyptians fear he only has the interests of Islamists at heart.

In particular, the opposition was incensed by the way he bypassed judicial protocols in November to push through a new constitution that the left sees as the first step towards Islamic law. In his defence, Morsi's allies claimed it was a clumsy but well-meant attempt to create longterm democratic stability.

Many also blame Morsi for failing to tackle Egypt's creaking infrastructure – more than 70 Egyptians have died in train accidents since December – and its dire economic predicament: Egypt's foreign reserves have fallen drastically in recent weeks.

"I'm here to get rid of Morsi," said Moustapha Magdi, an unemployed commerce graduate on a march from Giza. "First Mubarak, then Tantawi, now Morsi. We are only ruled by bastards."

Magdi criticised Morsi's failure to prosecute members of the military who killed Egyptians during and since the revolution.

"Where are these people? They are outside. They are not in prison. There is no justice," he said.

According to a recent poll, Morsi's approval ratings rose to 63% in January, and even some protesters were ambivalent about blaming the president himself for the problems besetting Egypt.

"Morsi has not been given a chance," said El-Sherbeeni Ahmed Mohammed, a retired financial consultant. "A barren patch of land must be given time to become fertile."

"The protests, it's too much. It's stopping the tourists," said Mohammed Gooda, a 43-year-old taxi driver who claimed the constant political instability wasdamaging business. Tourism is down by 22% since 2010. "For people like me, the constitution is not very important. It is more important that we work and we feed our families."

Marching from Giza, 20-year-old Moustapha el-Nahaal gave Morsi his backing, and instead blamed his technocrat ministers. "I want [prime minister] Hisham Qandil to go, along with all his team," said el-Nahaal, a 20-year-old commerce student and an activist for Strong Egypt, a moderate Islamist party.

"I'm supporting Morsi," says 65-year-old Hossam El-Deeb, a bearded mosque official, a former political prisoner under Mubarak. "The revolution has achieved a lot in psychological terms," he added, suggesting that it was too early to criticise Morsi for Egypt's dire economic predicament.

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood said that violent protests were unconstructive at a time when the country needed to pull together. "The country is dying because of malpractice over 30 years of Mubarak's dictatorship," the Brotherhood's Gehad al-Haddad told the Guardian. "Now we have to co-operate, or continue falling down."

Elsewhere in Cairo, protesters and supporters of the regime clashed outside an office of the Muslim Brotherhood. There were also clashes in Alexandria, Port Said, and outside the presidential palace in Heliopolis.

* Egyptian-protester-010.jpg (23.32 KB, 460x276 - viewed 74 times.)
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« Reply #4229 on: Jan 26, 2013, 08:06 AM »

January 25, 2013

Deadly Turn in Protests Against Iraqi Leadership


BAGHDAD — At least seven protesters and two soldiers were killed Friday in clashes that started after Iraqi Army forces opened fire on demonstrators who had pelted them with rocks on the outskirts of Falluja, west of Baghdad. It was the first deadly confrontation in more than a month of antigovernment protests by mostly Sunni opponents of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

As a result, a curfew was imposed on Falluja on Friday evening.

A security official said one clash started when protesters began throwing rocks at government forces at a checkpoint near a main highway. The forces opened fire, and demonstrators responded by burning army vehicles and two cars, one belonging to a lawmaker from the mainly Sunni Iraqiya bloc and the other to a local politician from Anbar Province, where Falluja is located. Seven civilians were killed and 44 people were wounded, according to medical sources.

Videos posted online by the Iraqi Spring Media Center show a man being treated in the main Falluja hospital and people trudging across open tracts of land with little cover from the intense rounds of gunfire.

Later, unidentified gunmen killed two soldiers and wounded one at an army checkpoint south of Falluja in apparent retaliation, and gunmen kidnapped three soldiers, a police official said.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry later broadcast a statement saying it would investigate and punish those responsible for the gunfire, while compensating the people who were harmed.

“Today a group of people attacked one of the checkpoints of the army in Falluja,” Mr. Maliki said in a statement, his first comments on the confrontation. “They started it with stones and, after that, gunfire, which was what led to increasing the tension.”

He called on security forces to avoid force and said protesters had the right to demonstrate, but he also warned them to resist the incitement of what he called the “conspiracies” of regional intelligence agencies, remnants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the former government and groups with sectarian agendas.

“I call the wise people of Anbar to move toward turning off the fire of a sectarian strife that neither Anbar nor Iraq will benefit from,” Mr. Maliki said.

Jaber al-Jaberi, a member of the Iraqiya bloc, asserted that it was the Iraqi Army that had provoked the confrontation.

“We have decided to stop all negotiations with the Maliki government,” he said in a telephone interview from Baghdad, adding that the Iraqiya Party was asking the Shiite bloc to present a new candidate for prime minister.

“The United States sacrificed to build an Iraqi Army that is supposed to protect Iraq, not kill Iraqi people who ask for their rights,” Mr. Jaberi said.

In Washington, the clash provoked concerns among experts on Iraq, who worried that it might lead to an escalation of sectarian violence. After the episode, officials at the State Department and the National Security Council made a round of calls to Iraqi officials urging restraint and recommending that talks between Mr. Maliki and his critics on power-sharing and other thorny issues continue. “We are urging them to show maximum flexibility,” an American official said.

Sectarian unrest and political tension have been worsening since December, when security forces loyal to Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, raided the home of the country’s Sunni finance minister.

The raid revived accusations by Sunnis and others that Mr. Maliki and his political bloc were seeking to monopolize power before provincial elections in April. Mr. Maliki, who became prime minister during the American-led military occupation of Iraq, has denied the accusations and rejected demands to resign.

Protests have been seething since then, mostly intensifying on Fridays, when the week’s largest communal prayer sessions are held, inspiring what are now known as No Retreat Fridays. There were also demonstrations in Nineveh, Salahuddin, Diyala and Kirkuk Provinces calling for government reforms.

“The army must get out of Anbar now and leave it to the police forces, because the people are very angry about the direct gunfire from the army toward the peaceful protesters,” said a local religious leader, Imam Ahmed Deri, who was at the demonstration in Falluja.

“We will continue protesting, and this will give us more strength to face any kind of force,” he added. While warning about the potential for retaliation from protesters angered over the shooting, he added, “We will do our best to keep it peaceful.”

One of the protesters, Muhammed Abdula, said: “This army is not wanted here anymore. We will not allow them in anymore; we are peaceful protesters. The army must protect us, not attack us. Is this the democracy that Maliki talks about? We give them words and they give us gunfire?”

In Nineveh, thousands of protesters called on the government to step down.

“Today we protest in Mosul; tomorrow we take the streets of Baghdad,” they shouted.

But in Firdos Square in Baghdad, where United States forces orchestrated the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in 2003, hundreds gathered to support Mr. Maliki’s government and to demand that efforts be made to prevent the return of Baathist leaders like Mr. Hussein to power.

Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York, and Michael R. Gordon from Washington.
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