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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1083008 times)
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« Reply #4755 on: Feb 25, 2013, 07:53 AM »

February 24, 2013

Nearly 100 Rebels Are Reported Killed in Mali Battle


PARIS — Nearly 100 Islamist fighters were killed in a firefight last week in the rugged northern reaches of Mali, the Chadian military announced on Sunday, in what appears to have been the single most deadly ground battle since the Malian war began in mid-January.

The Chadian military, which has provided about 2,000 soldiers to fight alongside French, Malian and other African forces, said that 23 of its soldiers and 93 militants were killed and that 3 Chadian soldiers were wounded in the heavy firefight on Friday. On Saturday, the military had announced an initial tally of 65 militants and 13 Chadian soldiers killed.

The conflict in Mali began when French forces intervened to stop a southward surge by fighters from a constellation of armed Islamist groups, including Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Those groups had overrun northern Mali — a desert expanse about the size of France — last year, imposing a violent and repressive iteration of Islamic law on local populations.

Many of the fighters, who are estimated by officials and analysts to total between 2,000 and 3,000, have retreated to their redoubts in the mountainous far north, near the Algerian border. French, Chadian and Malian forces are conducting coordinated operations in the area, according to the French military spokesman, Col. Thierry Burkhard.

The French authorities believe several French hostages may be held in the region. French aircraft were “in the area” and “able to intervene” on Friday, Colonel Burkhard said, though he refused to say whether or not they had aided the Chadians. The French have conducted regular airstrikes in upper Mali in recent weeks, generally targeting what have been described as arms depots and an occasional vehicle.

The French are eager to cede their leadership in the conflict, however, and French officials, including President François Hollande, have called the fighting in the far north the final phase. A withdrawal of French troops, who number about 4,000 in Mali, may begin within weeks, the officials said.

They envision the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force made up mostly of Africans to assume security responsibilities in the country once the French have left. A resolution to create that force, which could number about 6,000 peacekeepers, is being drafted, a French diplomatic official said on Sunday, requesting anonymity because of the delicacy of the discussions. France hopes to have the resolution approved within about three weeks.

It would also create a permanent French force based in Mali or nearby and able to deploy quickly if needed, the diplomatic official said.

But the peacekeeping mission would require “at least two months” of preparations before deploying, the official said, and would deploy only once Mali had been “sufficiently secured.” It remains unclear how those terms would be defined, however, and French officials have offered little indication as to what they would consider a successful outcome for the French intervention in Mali.

“The idea is to secure the situation to a maximum” before peacekeepers are deployed, the diplomatic official said, though “pockets” of Islamist fighters will “surely” remain.

“ ‘Sufficiently secured’ does not mean Switzerland,” the official said.

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« Reply #4756 on: Feb 25, 2013, 07:55 AM »

February 24, 2013

‘Framework’ Announced for Peace in Congo


NAIROBI, Kenya — Leaders of several African countries and United Nations officials on Sunday announced a new “framework” to tackle instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war-torn country that has become synonymous with suffering and has eluded countless attempts to build a lasting peace over the years.

The new effort calls for greater cooperation among Congo’s neighbors — several of which are suspected of sponsoring violence inside Congo — and political changes by the Congolese government. United Nations and African officials are also proposing a new beefed-up “peace enforcement” brigade of about 2,000 soldiers to go after rebel groups in Congo.

“We can only put an end to recurring cycles of violence through an innovative approach,” said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations, who witnessed the signing of the peace framework in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday.

But many Congo analysts doubt that this agreement, by itself, is going to make much of a difference in a place where myriad rebel groups haunt the hills, massacring civilians and raping women with impunity.

“If not accompanied by the swift appointment of a U.N. envoy and the initiation of a focused peace process between Congo, Rwanda and Uganda led by that U.N. envoy, this framework agreement will end up having no impact on ending the violence in eastern Congo,” said John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, a nonprofit anti-genocide group.

Parts of Congo, especially in the east, along the borders with Uganda and Rwanda, have been mired in various degrees of rebellion and mayhem since the mid-1990s, when rebel groups overthrew Mobutu Sese Seko, a Western-backed dictator who set new standards for wanton corruption. Congo is home to vast mineral riches, and many rebel groups who now control territory sustain their brutality by seizing minerals or taxing the mineral trade.

This fall, a relatively new rebel outfit, called the March 23 Movement, or M23, captured the provincial capital of Goma, though under intense international pressure it soon pulled out. United Nations investigators have accused Rwanda and Uganda of providing covert support to the M23.

The United Nations has more than 17,000 military personnel in Congo, but the peacekeepers have been roundly criticized for being too passive. Several African countries, including Tanzania and Mozambique, have discussed contributing troops to a new intervention brigade to confront and disarm rebel groups in Congo. The plan is for the new brigade to work with the other peacekeepers but engage in combat more often.

But analysts warn that this new brigade, which still needs to be approved by the United Nations Security Council, will be effective only if it is willing to go toe-to-toe with rebel fighters and take heavy casualties — as peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi have been doing in Somalia, with some success. Many observers say the United Nations has so far been unwilling to do this in Congo.

Jason Stearns, the author of a recent, well-regarded book on Congo and a blog that is considered required reading by Congophiles, said there had not been a genuine peace process in Congo since 2006.

“So are we back in a peace process?” Mr. Stearns asks on his blog. “Not really. Or more precisely: We don’t know yet. The agreement is more a statement of principles than a concrete action plan.”
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« Reply #4757 on: Feb 25, 2013, 07:58 AM »

UN ‘deeply concerned’ by Darfur tribal fighting

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, February 24, 2013 17:32 EST

The UN on Sunday expressed deep concern over the latest deadly tribal violence in Sudan’s Darfur region, which has hampered assistance for tens of thousands of people forced to flee earlier fighting.

Residents in the town of El Sireaf said an Arab militia firing heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades burned houses and killed more than 50 people on Saturday.

The North Darfur state governor, Osman Kbir, said 51 people died and 62 were wounded, the official SUNA news agency reported.

“We are deeply concerned by the violence,” Damian Rance of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told AFP.

“It’s affected our ability to run a humanitarian operation.”

About 100,000 people had already been displaced or severely affected by battles since early January between the Rezeigat tribe and rival Arabs from the Beni Hussein group in the Jebel Amir gold mining area of North Darfur.

The violence caused the largest uprooting of Darfur’s population in years, aid workers said.

People were displaced across a wide area but most ended up in El Sireaf town, where Saturday’s fighting occurred.

Aid convoys are still moving in the surrounding area but “we don’t have access to El Sireaf town” because of the fighting, Rance said.

He added that the violence had forced some people from the town into the surrounding district while others had moved over the nearby border to West Darfur state.

A local resident told AFP that displaced people who had sought shelter on the outskirts of El Sireaf, where the heaviest fighting occurred, had moved into the town centre.

Some were simply staying in the street or under trees, he said, adding that people feared further attacks although on Sunday there were no reports of fighting.

Residents said the attackers wore uniforms and belonged to a militia of the Rezeigat tribe.

A Rezeigat source could not be reached on Sunday.

Governor Kbir confirmed that Rezeigat were responsible for the latest attack but said they had come from West and Central Darfur states.

Speaking in El Sireaf, he said security forces will “intervene strongly” to ensure peace between the two tribes.

“The situation will improve within two days. There is communication between both sides,” Kbir said.

“The government will review the humanitarian situation so as to let the NGOs do their job of delivering aid to affected people.”

On Thursday, OCHA reported that about 65,000 displaced had been given soap, chlorine and other sanitation supplies.

“Water is trucked in daily, hand pumps have been repaired, and submersible water pumps and bladders to increase access to safe water have been installed,” OCHA said in its weekly bulletin.

In late January Amnesty International said the fighting began when a Rezeigat leader, who is an officer in Sudan’s Border Guard force, apparently laid claim to a gold-rich area in Beni Hussein territory.

The violence illustrates the changed nature of Darfur’s conflict, where 10 years ago on Tuesday rebels from black tribes began an insurrection against the Arab-dominated Khartoum regime.

Darfur’s top official, Eltigani Seisi, told AFP last week “the major issue” now is not rebel attacks but “ethnic violence” such as that in Jebel Amir.

He admitted that government-linked militia in North Darfur have “committed atrocities against innocent civilians” but he said the armed groups are to be disbanded.

The UN said 1.4 million people were already living in camps for the displaced before the Jebel Amir violence.
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« Reply #4758 on: Feb 25, 2013, 07:59 AM »

Afghan president: U.S. special forces creating ‘insecurity and instability’

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, February 24, 2013 12:12 EST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded Sunday the withdrawal of US special forces from Wardak within two weeks, accusing them of fuelling “insecurity and instability” in the volatile province neighbouring the capital Kabul.

“In today’s national security council meeting… President Karzai ordered the ministry of defence to kick out the US special forces from Wardak province within two weeks,” said presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi.

“The US special forces and illegal armed groups created by them are causing insecurity, instability, and harass local people in this province,” he told a press conference.

The announcement would be another blow to the prestige of US-led forces as they prepare to withdraw combat troops from the war against Taliban Islamist insurgents by the end of next year.

The bulk of NATO’s 100,000 troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

A US Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) spokesman said he was aware of the reported comments by Faizi.

“We take all allegations of misconduct seriously and go to great lengths to determine the facts surrounding them,” he said.

“Until we have had a chance to speak with senior (Afghan) officials about this issue we are not in a position to comment further. This is an important issue that we intend to fully discuss with our Afghan counterparts.”

More than 3,200 NATO troops, mostly Americans, have died in support of Karzai’s government in the war since the Taliban were ousted by a US invasion in 2001, but relations between the president and the US are often prickly.
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« Reply #4759 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:03 AM »

Indian land grabs in Ethiopia show dark side of south-south co-operation

The takeover of peoples' land and water by corporations – even if they are from the global south – is a new form of colonisation

John Vidal in Delhi, Thursday 25 February 2013 00.10 GMT    

The idea of south-south co-operation evokes a positive image of solidarity between developing countries through the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge. It's an attractive proposition, intended to shift the international balance of power and help developing nations break away from aid dependence and achieve true emancipation from former colonial powers. However, the discourse of south-south co-operation has become a cover for human rights violations involving southern governments and companies.

A case in point is the land grab by Indian corporations in Ethiopia, facilitated by the governments of both countries, which use development rhetoric while further marginalising the indigenous communities that bear the pain of the resulting social, economic and environmental devastation. It is against this scenario that international solidarity between communities affected by the insanity of a development model that prefers profits over people is reclaiming the principles of south-south co-operation.

Ethiopia's late prime minister, Meles Zenawi, welcomed India's expanding footprint in Africa as essential for his country's wellbeing, a vision shared by his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn. The Export-Import Bank, India's premier export finance institution, gave the Ethiopian government a $640m (£412m) line of credit to develop the controversial sugar sector in lower Omo. Indian companies are the largest investors in the country, having acquired more than 600,000 hectares (1.5m acres) of land for agro-industrial projects.

With 80% of its population engaged in agriculture, Ethiopia is home to more than 34 million chronically hungry people. Every year, millions depend on aid (pdf) for their survival. Amid such hunger, large-scale land deals with Indian investors are portrayed as a win-win situation, modernising agriculture, bringing new technologies and creating employment.

Research by the Oakland Institute, however, contradicts such claims. Most of what is produced is non-food export crops while tax incentives offered to foreign investors deprive Ethiopia of valuable earnings. The promises of job creation remain unfulfilled as plantation work at best offers menial low-paid jobs.

Worse still, the Ethiopian government is using its villagisation programme to forcibly relocate (pdf) about 1.5 million indigenous people from their homes, farms and grazing lands to make way for agricultural plantations. Those who refuse face intimidation, beatings, rapes, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, and even death. The repression of social resistance to land investments is even stipulated in some land lease contracts: "[it is the] state's obligation to 'deliver and hand over the vacant possession of leased land free of impediments' and to provide free security 'against any riot, disturbance or any turbulent time.'"

It was to challenge this form of south-south co-operation that the Oakland Institute, in partnership with Indian civil society groups the Indian Social Action Forum (Insaf), Kalpavriksh and Peace, organised an Indian-Ethiopian summit on land investments in New Delhi in February. Obang Metho of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia and Nyikaw Ochalla from the Anywaa Survival Organisation, members of the Anuak community of Gambela, Ethiopia, travelled to India with shocking testimonies of how their community has been dispossessed of livelihoods, ill-treated and subjected to misery while the Ethiopian government leases land to Indian corporations at giveaway prices.

This coming together of Indian and Ethiopian civil society groups marks a turning point in the struggle for land rights and livelihoods in the two countries and beyond. For the first time, the agony of communities who face human rights abuses as their lands are taken over has reached the investors' doorstep, sending a powerful message to the investors and governments of Ethiopia and India. At the same time, it initiated a rewriting of south-south co-operation where the takeover of communal lands that have been homes, grazing grounds and water sources for generations, by corporations – even if they are from the global south – is being recognised as a new form of colonisation. It was a starting point, and plans for further collaboration are under way.

Unlike the Ethiopian leaders who met the Indian business delegations in person, Metho and Ochalla did not get a hearing with Indian government officials, despite several requests. Instead, it was activists who are challenging land grabs across India who travelled to New Delhi to meet them. They told how control over land and natural resources is spurring violent clashes in nearly 130 districts of India. Meanwhile, reports came in that 12 platoons of police had moved in on villagers in Govindpur and Nuagaon in Odisha, to forcibly clear lands for the Korean Steel Posco project. Women and children were beaten indiscriminately and people were arrested as they tried to prevent the demolition of their betel vineyards – one of the most viable local livelihoods.

We need to challenge the paradigm of development that trivialises and ignores the human consequences of these land acquisitions by corporate investors and governments. The idea that "some have to be sacrificed" for the "larger national good", which is nothing more than the double-digit economic growth that benefits a few, must be rejected – even if the deals are between developing countries and framed by the rhetoric of south-south co-operation.

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« Reply #4760 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:09 AM »

Park Geun-hye takes office as South Korean president

Rightwinger calls for North to walk away from nuclear weapons and take path of 'peace and shared development'

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Monday 25 February 2013 06.32 GMT      

South Korea's new president, Park Geun-hye, has called on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, as Pyongyang edges closer towards membership of the global club of nuclear states.

Park, who was sworn in on Monday as South Korea's first female president, said she would not tolerate provocations from the North, which conducted its third nuclear test this month.

"North Korea's recent nuclear test is a challenge to the survival and future of the Korean people," Park, who was elected on 19 December, told a crowd of 70,000 people outside the national assembly building in Seoul. "Make no mistake, the biggest victim will be none other than North Korea itself."

Park's biggest foreign policy challenge will be to end five years of worsening ties with the North under her predecessor and fellow conservative, Lee Myung-bak, and persuade the regime to return to nuclear negotiations.

She indicated that she could soften her predecessor's hardline stance if the North, under its young leader, Kim Jong-un, was willing to make concessions on its nuclear programme.

"I will not tolerate any action that threatens the lives of our people and the security of our nation," she said. "I urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions without delay and embark on the path to peace and shared development."

At home Park has promised sweeping economic reforms to bridge the growing income gap and address youth unemployment and a stagnant economy.

The 61-year-old, who represents the conservative Saenuri party, promised to create jobs and build a "creative" economy that is less dependent on South Korea's dominant chaebol conglomerates. Park said she would bring about "economic democratisation" by prioritising job creation in IT and science and technology.

She called on South Koreans to help her repeat the Miracle on the Han River – a reference to the rapid economic development seen under her father, Park Chung-hee, a military dictator who ruled the country in the 1960s and 70s before he was assassinated by his own spy chief in 1979.

Five years earlier Park's mother, Yuk Young-soo, was shot dead by a North Korean agent, forcing her to return early from her studies in Paris to act as first lady at the age of 22.

Her father continues to divide South Koreans to this day. Some credit him with dragging the country out of poverty after the 1950-53 Korean war and laying the foundations for its modern-day status as an export powerhouse. But others have never forgotten his brutal suppression of political opponents during 18 years of rule that began with a military coup in 1961.

Park apologised to victims of her father's rule during last year's election campaign and benefited from generally warm feelings towards her mother, a popular first lady.

Despite her conservative roots Park has made conciliatory gestures towards the North. She met the regime's former leader, Kim Jong-il, in Pyongyang in 2002 and noted in her 2007 autobiography that Kim had apologised for a failed raid on the South Korean presidential Blue House by 31 North Korean commandoes in 1968.

North Korean state media marked her inauguration with a warning to the US and South Korea not to proceed with annual joint military drills.

"The US warmongers should think what consequence will be brought out for getting on the nerves of [North Korea], a dignified nuclear power," the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said in a commentary, adding that the allies would "die in flames" if they prepared to launched an invasion.

John Delury, a North Korea experts at Yonsei University in Seoul, said a new era of engagement could be possible despite Pyongyang's nuclear programme and tougher sanctions from the UN security council.

"I don't think this latest spike in the cycle of provocation and response undermines her whole platform of seeking to somehow re-engage the North," Delury told Associated Press.

Other experts, however, believe the North has set itself on the path to diplomatic gridlock and more regional tension.

"Normalisation of relations, a peace treaty, access to energy and economic opportunities those things that come from choosing electricity over bombs and have the potential of lifting the North Korean people out of poverty and hardship will be made much more difficult, if not impossible, for at least the next five years," Siegfried Hecker, a US scientist and regular visitor to North Korea, wrote on the website of Centre for International Security and Co-operation at Stanford University.


North Korea nuclear test fails to ruffle South Korean feathers

South Koreans unphased by nuclear test hope president-elect Park Geun-hye will change status quo on peninsula

Jonathan Kaiman in Seoul, Tuesday 12 February 2013 17.03 GMT   

The strong earthquake caused by North Korea's nuclear test did little to rumble the bustling shopping district of Itaewon in central Seoul. When news of the test broke, young Koreans in its brand-name clothing stores and trendy restaurants collectively winced, sighed and went on with their lives.

South Koreans are, however, looking for an antidote to the tired cycle of threats, tests, rebukes and sanctions, and some are cautiously hopeful that the president-elect, Park Geun-hye, who will take office in around two weeks' time, could change the status quo.

"I worry about what just happened," said Doo Bong, a 27-year-old part-time waiter in a Brazilian barbecue restaurant. "This is a very big problem, and this new Park must be serious about it."

Although Park called for an "evolution" in relations between Seoul and Pyongyang during her campaign, her policy plans are still unclear. The country's former president Kim Dae-jung won a Nobel peace prize for his "sunshine policy" towards the north, a strategy of humanitarian aid and economic investment which lasted from 1998 until the current president, Lee Myung-bak, was elected by a landslide ten years later. Lee was a notorious hardliner. Analysts predict that Park may fall somewhere in between.

Park, South Korea's first female president, has built a reputation as a solidly conservative, no-nonsense politician. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a military general who ruled South Korea through most of the 1960s and 1970s. Her mother was killed by a North Korean assassin in 1974.

Park strongly condemned Pyongyang's nuclear test after a 50-minute emergency national security council meeting on Tuesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency. "North Korea's nuclear test is a grave threat to the Korean peninsula and international peace, hampers inter-Korean trust-building and undermines efforts for peace," she said through her spokeswoman.

The stakes may continue to rise. According to Yonhap, Seoul's spy agency said North Korea could respond to the threat of UN reprisal measures by testing another nuclear weapon.

South Koreans are divided over how to move forward with their northern neighbour - the two countries have been technically at war since 1950 - and some of the deepest divisions are drawn along generational lines. "I'm hoping Park will be a bit softer and try to have more talks," said Park Eun-hee, 25, a left-leaning public relations worker, as she drank with friends at a bar in Seoul.

Kim Kyung-je, a 51-year-old taxi driver, was more conservative. "The whole world is against North Korea now, and I want our government to show a stern position," he said. "I agree that South Korea should help the north a little, because the people are starved. But we've given them a lot, and we don't even know if the food is getting to its people."

The scene at the sprawling demilitarised zone between North and South Korea on Tuesday was testament to how accustomed South Koreans have become to heightened tensions between the two countries. Soldiers conducted regular checks. Gift shops and exhibition halls were open for business.

"Oh great," one tour guide said blithely as he checked the news on his smartphone, about two hours after the nuclear test had been detected. "You know the price of instant noodle stocks used to go way up every time this happened." In the past, he explained, South Koreans would stockpile staple items in response to North Korean nuclear threats, and the country's capital markets would react accordingly. This time, markets remained relatively stable.

The guide added that the only thing preventing North Korea from attacking Seoul is its instinct for self-preservation. "They're crazy, but they're not suicidal," he said, adding that that was enough to keep South Koreans feeling generally safe.


South Korea launches rocket carrying satellite in battle for space supremacy

Launch of 140-tonne rocket likely to anger North Korea, which incurred tougher UN sanctions after December launch

Justin McCurry in Tokyo, Wednesday 30 January 2013 10.29 GMT   

The battle for space supremacy on the Korean peninsula intensified on Wednesday when South Korea launched its first satellite, weeks after a similar launch by North Korea.

Relief greeted the Naro rocket's flawless liftoff from a space centre on the south coast at 4pm local time. South Korea had twice failed to put a satellite into space, while two further attempts last year were aborted due to last-minute technical problems.

Reports from Seoul said the 140-tonne rocket, which was built in Russia and South Korea, successfully completed its stage separation before the satellite entered orbit. There was no immediate confirmation that the satellite was following its intended trajectory.

Before Wednesday, all of South Korea's satellite launches had been from overseas sites using foreign-made rockets. The country is thought to have about 10 satellites in orbit.

US experts believe the satellite launched by North Korea on 12 December is tumbling through space, despite claims by Pyongyang that it is functioning normally.

Seoul's launch is likely to anger the North, which incurred tougher UN sanctions after its recent launch.

The regime insists rocket technology is central to its peaceful space programme, but the US, South Korea and Japan say the launches are being used to test ballistic missile technology.

The North appeared to confirm those suspicions last week when its top military body, the national defence commission, said the rocket programme's secondary purpose was to target the US.

North Korea responded to widespread condemnation of its latest rocket launch and tighter sanctions with a threat to conduct a third nuclear test, as early as next month. Possible dates are the birthday of its former leader, Kim Jong-il, on 16 February, or the inauguration of South Korea's newly elected president, Park Geun-hye, on 25 February.

Intelligence officials in Seoul believe the North has a rocket capable of travelling 6,200 miles, potentially putting San Francisco in range, but it is not yet capable of mounting a long-range missile with a nuclear warhead.


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« Reply #4761 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:12 AM »

Italy awaits opening of general election polls amid uncertainty

Likelihood of weak government and rise of populist former comedian add to apprehension as Italian campaigning ceases

Matt Williams and agencies, Saturday 23 February 2013 20.51 GMT      

Political parties in Italy were forced to cease campaigning on Saturday, as the country prepared for a general election that is being closely watched across the eurozone amid fears of a damaging stalemate.

As candidates observed a mandatory 24-hour purdah ahead of polls opening, citizens were urged to vote. The polls are open on Sunday and Monday. A survey released in the run-up to the ballot suggested that the centre-left Democratic Party, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, held a five-point lead over a conservative coalition led by the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The outgoing premier, Mario Monti, heading a centrist coalition, is also running. But a lacklustre campaign has seen his chances fade in recent weeks.

Political analysts have suggested that the most likely outcome – which could ensure stability – is a governing alliance between Bersani and Monti. But Monti's faltering campaign has led to concern that he will not win enough senate seats to boost the centre-left bloc. A resulting weak government could lead to market fears over Italy's ability to implement measures to kick start its faltering economy.

Whoever takes power will face the arduous task of pulling Italy out of the longest recession it has faced in a generation. The election takes place amid deep public resentment at austerity measures brought in to curb national debt. Adding to the uncertainty has been the campaign of the comedian-turned-politician Beppe Grillo, an anti-establishment figure whose Five Star Movement is expected to poll strongly. Latest voter-intention surveys put him at around 16%, which would make his movement the third-largest electoral force.

As campaigning idrew to a close on Friday evening, Grillo stole the spotlight in Rome by attracting an estimated 500,000 people to hear his tirades against corrupt politicians and bankers. The success of the former comedian's "Tsunami Tour" has underlined the discontent felt by a large proportion of Italians regarding mainstream political parties.

"Grillo is saying the things that all ordinary Italians are thinking, he is giving us hope," said 41-year-old Luca Pennisi, a pastry chef at a café in Rome where several customers were still unsure who to vote for. "It's time to change the system, get rid of the old politicians and stop wasting public money," Pennisi said, adding that he had watched Grillo's final rally on the internet and would definitely vote for his grouping.

Others are less sure. A survey released on Tuesday found that 28% of Italians had yet to decide who to vote for, or were considering not voting at all. On Saturday, the Interior Ministry urged some 47 million eligible voters to vote, adding that it had made preparations for bad weather, including snow in some regions, to ensure that everyone could have the chance to cast their ballot.

"Elections are a fundamental moment for a democracy and we want all our citizens to experience them in the best way possible," interior minister Anna Maria Cancellieri said in a video posted on the ministry's website.

While Grillo's campaign ended on a high, others entered the mandatory 24-hour purdah on a quieter note. Berlusconi, who has promised tax refunds as a central plank of his platform, cancelled a planned appearance at a Naples rally, blaming an eye problem. Bersani rounded off at a theatre in Rome, while Monti held a similar event in Florence.

Despite fuelling anger among many Italians by introducing an austerity package while the country continues to struggle against rising unemployment, Monti – who replaced Berlusconi in November 2011 – is still supported by some who believe that the measures were necessary.

"My vote will go to Monti for a very simple reason, I think he is the only serious proposition," said one Rome resident, named Vito, who was on a stroll through the city on Saturday.
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« Reply #4762 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:13 AM »

Cyprus: ‘A president who must put his foot down from the start’

25 February 2013
Politis, 25 February 2013

On February 24, conservative Nikos Anastasiades polled 57.5 per cent of the vote to win the second round of presidential elections, and defeat communist candidate Stavros Malas, who took 42.5 per cent.

When the 66-year-old takes office on March 1, Anastasiades will have to negotiate a bailout for Nicosia with the ECB-EU-IMF troika.

His victory, notes the newspaper, “will be a relief for most EU leaders, including Angela Merkel,” who took a dim view of outgoing communist president, Dimitris Christofias’ bid to strike a deal with Moscow to rescue the island’s beleaguered banks.


02/25/2013 12:07 PM

Elections in Cyprus: Berlin Pressures New President on Reforms

Cypriot voters clearly expressed their preference for a euro-zone bailout of their financially struggling nation on Sunday, electing the conservative Nicos Anastasiades to be the country's next president. But Berlin remains skeptical and immediately pressured the incoming president to speed up reforms.

In a run-off presidential election in Cyprus on Sunday, voters made clear that they are in favor of pursuing a European bailout despite the tough austerity measures that will likely accompany it. On Monday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble released a joint statement with his French counterpart, Pierre Moscovici, urging that an emergency aid for the debt-ravaged country be finalized by the end of March.

"Discussions should resume shortly with a view to reach an agreement before the end of March," reads the statement. Saying that the final program "should achieve a significant financial, fiscal and structural adjustment," Schäuble and Moscovici added that "we are confident that the forthcoming government will significantly accelerate the pace of reforms to sustainable growth and to fiscal and financial stability, which are in the interest of Cyprus and the euro area as a whole."

Conservative candidate Nicos Anastasiades soundly defeated his leftist rival Stavros Malas, garnering 57.5 percent of the vote to Malas' 42.5 percent. The cornerstone of Anastasiades' campaign was a pledge to quickly reach a deal with Cyprus' euro-zone partners on a badly-needed bailout. He will be sworn in on Thursday.

"We will be absolutely consistent and meet our promises," he said in his victory speech on Sunday. "We will restore the credibility of Cyprus in Europe and internationally, I promise you."

That could be more easily said than done. Cypriot finances are in bad shape, with the country needing up to €17.5 billion to ward off insolvency and to prop up its ailing banking industry. The amount is roughly equal to the country's annual gross domestic product, which would make it by that measure the largest euro-zone bailout yet undertaken. Furthermore, there are deep concerns in the euro zone, particularly in Berlin, that a bailout would ultimately help the rich Russians who have parked their money in Cypriot accounts -- in addition to worries that the Mediterranean country isn't doing enough to combat money laundering.

Skeptical Germans

A bailout would also massively increase the country's sovereign debt load. Yet allowing the country to enter insolvency, as Schäuble had hinted at earlier this year, or involving bank depositors in a bailout by forcing them to accept losses could unsettle investors and re-ignite a euro crisis which has faded into the background in recent months.

Comments from Schäuble over the weekend indicate that Berlin has not yet committed to a course of action. It is up to Cyprus, he told the daily Stuttgarter Zeitung on Saturday, to prove that it is "systemically relevant" for the euro zone. "I will not allow myself to be put under time pressure," he added.

Furthermore, 2013 is an election year in Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel is aware that voters in the country view a Cyprus bailout with deep skepticism. Indeed, a new poll released over the weekend found that fully 63 percent of Germans are against providing Cyprus with aid, with only 16 percent in favor. In addition, 60 percent of those surveyed said that the issue is either "very important" or "important" to them in the approaching campaign.

Still, time remains short. The country has essentially been cut off from international capital markets for the last two years and the current interest rate on its 10-year bonds -- despite being an 18-month low -- is an unsustainable 9.96 percent, according to Thomson Reuters. In recent months, the government has been forced to borrow heavily from the pension funds of state-owned companies. Its banking industry is in a shambles as well, having been hit hard by write-downs of Greek debt on their books.

But in contrast to the previous government -- which had turned to Russia for possible bailout aid before approaching Europe -- Anastasiades is an avowed pro-European. "Cyprus belongs to Europe," he said on Sunday. "We want Europe on our side." He also promised to "take all of the necessary measures to lead Cyprus out of the financial crisis."

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« Reply #4763 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:22 AM »

Bulgaria: ‘The Church has a leader, the people do not’

25 February 2013
Trud, 25 February 2013

On February 24, while the Bulgarian Orthodox Church elected its new Patriarch Neofit, a demonstration took place in Sofia to mark a national anti-corruption and anti-poverty day.

Approximately 10,000 turned out in the streets of the Bulgarian capital, which, the daily reports, has “come under siege” at a time when the country has been without a government since the resignation of Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on February 20.

"However, the protest movement has not succeeded in designating leaders with the capacity to clearly articulate popular discontent,” remarks Trud.


Patriarch Neophyte


Neophyte elect Patriarch blessed the assembled hundreds of laymen in the patriarchal cathedral "St. Alexander Nevski".

The first Catholic Liturgy, Patriarch Neophyte head after his inauguration, is administered by representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches and bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.

Each of the bishops washed their hands in holy water and blessed the Bulgarian people. Clergy and laity, who welcomed Patriarch Neophyte, paid tribute to him as they kissed his hands.

Mass. passes in a solemn atmosphere in the presence of laymen, diplomats and many guests.

At 9:00 newly elected Patriarch, together with the heads and representatives of the Local Orthodox Churches headed by the Office of the Synod of the Patriarchate.

Catholic liturgy is held in sasluzhenie with representatives of Local Orthodox Churches and bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. The church is filled with people wearing flowers.

Expected at 11:00 Patriarch Neophyte make their message to the Orthodox Christians.

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« Reply #4764 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:30 AM »

Hungary: Ader: socialism is conceived in sin

Sophie Jobbágyi
- 2013th February 25, Monday

Across the country to commemorate the victims of communism - symbols of the dictatorship virulhatnak

Today is the Day for the Victims of Communism, as the 1947th On 25 February, the Soviets deported Bob Smith Smallholder politicians. Have a weekend of celebrations were held across the country. Janos Ader President's press conference, stressed the socialist system of public moral and legal sense is conceived in sin, as the Communist Party, blackmail, coercion seized power. Antal Rogan Fidesz politicians in Budapest Gulag prisoners said memorial, memory is vital that the same does not happen any more terrible, incomprehensible at the same time called the Constitutional Court's decision to "set aside the prohibition of totalitarian symbols". Stefka position of Editor in Chief Stephen writes that the crimes committed by the Communists at home and in the West, the left wing, liberal elites want to belittle respectively. Psalm Zatín lawyer in a study of the system changing in Hungary nobody held liable because of the party-state crime, apart from a very small circle of vezénylőinek volleys.


Dark Times on Saturday commemorated the victims of the Gulag prisoners cross of Budapest (Photo: Peter Julius Horvath)

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« Reply #4765 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:33 AM »

02/25/2013 01:12 PM

John Kerry Visits Berlin: Europe's Last Fan in Washington

An Analysis by Gregor Peter Schmitz in Washington

The new US secretary of state is visiting Berlin on Monday. He's promising grand things -- and he has a soft spot for Europe. But John Kerry has little room for maneuver. The Old World is of little interest to people in Washington, particularly President Obama.

John Kerry has been a politician for some 31 years, but he has had a weakness for nostalgia for much longer. And his fondness for overwrought rhetoric has been on full display in recent days, ahead of his Monday visit to Berlin, the destination of his first overseas trip as US secretary of state. In particular, Kerry has spoken of recent days of the time he spent in Berlin as a 12-year-old, when his father was stationed in postwar Germany as a diplomat -- and recalled fondly biking down the city's Kurfürstendamm boulevard or to the Brandenburg Gate.

It occasionally sounds as if Kerry would like to return to the Berlin of his youth, a time when the people of the world had one eye on the city and Germany was becoming firmly established in its roll as one of America's most important Cold War allies. Those close to Kerry say he is also measuring his own administration against historical role models from that era -- men like Henry Kissinger and George Marshall, the father of the Marshall Plan. Like them, his advisors say, Kerry wants to create visionary foreign policy, also in terms of Washington's relationship with Europe.

Such comments have led trans-Atlanticists, too, to succumb to nostalgia. They see Kerry's decision to visit Europe first -- in contrast to his predecessor Hillary Clinton -- as a sign that Europe may not have been completely ousted by Asia at the top of Washington's priority list.

Yet such hopes aren't just nostalgic -- they're pure fantasy. The only place where the divided Berlin of Kerry's youth still lives on is in the history books. And that's actually good news. The bad news is that the United States no longer has an eye on Berlin and, as nostalgic as he may be, there is little a man like Kerry can do about it.

Obama Is the Ultimate Diplomatic Pragmatist

After all, Kerry's boss, President Barack Obama, is perhaps the first genuine "non-European" in the White House. Unburdened by memories of the Cold War, Obama used Berlin in 2008 as an election stage. He hasn't made it back to the German capital since.

And during his re-election campaign last year, the president didn't shy away from scolding Europe. Obama's support for a planned free-trade agreement between Washington and the European Union is so half-hearted that he only added a sentence about it to his recent State of the Union address at the very last minute -- and even then, it only came after statements about the implementation of a trans-Pacific trade agreement.

Above all, though, Obama is the ultimate pragmatist when it comes to diplomacy. Vali Nasr, the influential Washington politics professor, recently came to the damning conclusion in a new book that Obama's foreign policy isn't based on strategic considerations, but solely on public opinion in the United States.

The desire of the American people is clear. They would rather rebuild their country's economy than focus on the rest of the world. Right now America is looking inside rather than outside, and moving forward it wants to act in the background rather than march at the front, as evidenced by its positions on Mali and Syria. In Washington these days, the usefulness of each diplomatic transaction trumps past priorities.

Little Influence

Kerry will be unable to do anything to change that. For one, America's political system grants the secretary of state very little influence. Indeed, there are more people in the US military's marching bands than are employed in the State Department. The office holder can only wield power if he or she has the president's ear. Ultimately, though, it is a small circle of confidants who influence Obama's foreign policy, and not even Clinton, a political superstar, was able to crack it. "It is incredible how little support she got from the White House," Admiral Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told the New York Times. "They want to control everything."

Besides, Kerry wasn't even Obama's first choice for the post. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was initially supposed to be secretary of state, but that fell through after the scandal surrounding the US diplomats killed in Libya made her untenable for the position.

Secondly, from Obama's perspective, there is no alternative to America's new foreign-policy restraint. The United States no longer wants to be the "irreplaceable nation" that Madeleine Albright once touted. And even if the country wanted that role again, it is unlikely that it would suddenly increase its focus and pay more attention to Europe, as former NATO commander Wesley Clark recently reminded German listeners during a speech. When the Americans actually do look to Europe, it will only be when working together actually pays dividends, as with the planned free-trade agreement.

It is fitting of the current state of the US that the most divisive trans-Atlantic debates during Obama's second term could surround poultry processing or medicine standards rather than the future of the West. Indeed, the role of America's top diplomat today is more that of a trade commissioner than a global strategist à la Kissinger or Marshall.

Someone now just has to explain that to Kerry.

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« Reply #4766 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:38 AM »

Ex-Vatican prosecutor: Cardinal cover-up suspects should get papal vote

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 25, 2013 7:00 EST

Cardinals suspected of having protected predator priests should be allowed to take part in next month’s papal conclave, the Vatican’s former prosecutor on child sex abuse cases said Monday.

Amid mounting criticism over the presence of such cardinals, notably Roger Mahony of Los Angeles, among the men who will choose a successor to Pope Benedict XVI, Monsignor Charles Scicluna said they had kept quiet “out of fear of scandal”.

Citing canon law, he said the cardinals “have the right and duty” to vote in the conclave.

“Wisdom is not (God)-given just to saints but also to sinners,” said Scicluna, who was in charge of Vatican efforts to combat the scourge of predator priests before his promotion to auxiliary bishop of Malta in 2012.

“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” he told the Italian daily La Stampa in an interview published Monday.

But he added: “The real scandal is not to have reported the abuses. Perceptions have changed. Silence has become scandal. And the credit goes to (the pope).”

Support groups for victims of paedophile priests in the United States, Belgium and Ireland say Mahony as well as former Philadelphia archbishop Justin Francis Rigali, Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels and Ireland’s Sean Brady should be barred from voting because of their records in the scandals.

On Sunday, according to the British weekly the Observer, another cardinal, Britain’s Keith O’Brien, has been reported to the Vatican over claims of inappropriate behaviour lodged by four people.

A Vatican communications aide, Greg Burke, said in an interview published Monday that the media “could try” to influence the conclave, adding that “some can be truly odious”.

The Vatican’s Secretariat of State — the government of the Catholic Church — took the unusual step on Saturday of issuing a statement condemning “completely false news stories” as an attempt to influence the secret conclave.

“The negative effects of a work of imagination and approximation directly affect people’s lives and reputations,” Burke told the Rome daily Il Messagero, adding: “People have suffered because of the documents stolen” in the so-called Vatileaks scandal.

“There are people who lost everything while some journalists profited immensely,” he said.

Benedict’s butler Paolo Gabriele leaked secret papal memos to a journalist revealing a series of alleged fraud scandals in the Vatican and intrigues between rival groups of cardinals.

The pope later pardoned Gabriele, who had been sentenced to 18 months in jail, but banished him from the Vatican.


Senior British cardinal quits after allegations of ‘inappropriate acts’

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 25, 2013 7:38 EST

Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Roman Catholic cleric, has resigned in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behaviour, the Catholic Church said on Monday.

“The Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has accepted on the 18 February 2013 the resignation of His Eminence Cardinal Keith Patrick O’Brien from the pastoral governance of the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh,” a statement said.

This story will be updated

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #4767 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:40 AM »

February 24, 2013

A New Cold War, in Cyberspace, Tests U.S. Ties to China


WASHINGTON — When the Obama administration circulated to the nation’s Internet providers last week a lengthy confidential list of computer addresses linked to a hacking group that has stolen terabytes of data from American corporations, it left out one crucial fact: that nearly every one of the digital addresses could be traced to the neighborhood in Shanghai that is headquarters to the Chinese military’s cybercommand.

That deliberate omission underscored the heightened sensitivities inside the Obama administration over just how directly to confront China’s untested new leadership over the hacking issue, as the administration escalates demands that China halt the state-sponsored attacks that Beijing insists it is not mounting.

The issue illustrates how different the worsening cyber-cold war between the world’s two largest economies is from the more familiar superpower conflicts of past decades — in some ways less dangerous, in others more complex and pernicious.

Administration officials say they are now more willing than before to call out the Chinese directly — as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did last week in announcing a new strategy to combat theft of intellectual property. But President Obama avoided mentioning China by name — or Russia or Iran, the other two countries the president worries most about — when he declared in his State of the Union address that “we know foreign countries and companies swipe our corporate secrets.” He added: “Now our enemies are also seeking the ability to sabotage our power grid, our financial institutions and our air traffic control systems.”

Defining “enemies” in this case is not always an easy task. China is not an outright foe of the United States, the way the Soviet Union once was; rather, China is both an economic competitor and a crucial supplier and customer. The two countries traded $425 billion in goods last year, and China remains, despite many diplomatic tensions, a critical financier of American debt. As Hillary Rodham Clinton put it to Australia’s prime minister in 2009 on her way to visit China for the first time as secretary of state, “How do you deal toughly with your banker?”

In the case of the evidence that the People’s Liberation Army is probably the force behind “Comment Crew,” the biggest of roughly 20 hacking groups that American intelligence agencies follow, the answer is that the United States is being highly circumspect. Administration officials were perfectly happy to have Mandiant, a private security firm, issue the report tracing the cyberattacks to the door of China’s cybercommand; American officials said privately that they had no problems with Mandiant’s conclusions, but they did not want to say so on the record.

That explains why China went unmentioned as the location of the suspect servers in the warning to Internet providers. “We were told that directly embarrassing the Chinese would backfire,” one intelligence official said. “It would only make them more defensive, and more nationalistic.”

That view is beginning to change, though. On the ABC News program “This Week” on Sunday, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, was asked whether he believed that the Chinese military and civilian government were behind the economic espionage. “Beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he replied.

In the next few months, American officials say, there will be many private warnings delivered by Washington to Chinese leaders, including Xi Jinping, who will soon assume China’s presidency. Both Tom Donilon, the national security adviser, and Mrs. Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, have trips to China in the offing. Those private conversations are expected to make a case that the sheer size and sophistication of the attacks over the past few years threaten to erode support for China among the country’s biggest allies in Washington, the American business community.

“America’s biggest global firms have been ballast in the relationship” with China, said Kurt M. Campbell, who recently resigned as assistant secretary of state for East Asia to start a consulting firm, the Asia Group, to manage the prickly commercial relationships. “And now they are the ones telling the Chinese that these pernicious attacks are undermining what has been built up over decades.”

It is too early to tell whether that appeal to China’s self-interest is getting through. Similar arguments have been tried before, yet when one of China’s most senior military leaders visited the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon in May 2011, he said he didn’t know much about cyberweapons — and said the P.L.A. does not use them. In that regard, he sounded a bit like the Obama administration, which has never discussed America’s own cyberarsenal.

Yet the P.LA.’s attacks are largely at commercial targets. It has an interest in trade secrets like aerospace designs and wind-energy product schematics: the army is deeply invested in Chinese industry and is always seeking a competitive advantage. And so far the attacks have been cost-free.

American officials say that must change. But the prescriptions for what to do vary greatly — from calm negotiation to economic sanctions and talk of counterattacks led by the American military’s Cyber Command, the unit that was deeply involved in the American and Israeli cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear enrichment plants.

“The problem so far is that we have rhetoric and we have Cyber Command, and not much in between,” said Chris Johnson, a 20-year veteran of the C.I.A. team that analyzed the Chinese leadership. “That’s what makes this so difficult. It’s easy for the Chinese to deny it’s happening, to say it’s someone else, and no one wants the U.S. government launching counterattacks.”

That marks another major difference from the dynamic of the American-Soviet nuclear rivalry. In cold war days, deterrence was straightforward: any attack would result in a devastating counterattack, at a human cost so horrific that neither side pulled the trigger, even during close calls like the Cuban missile crisis.

But cyberattacks are another matter. The vast majority have taken the form of criminal theft, not destruction. It often takes weeks or months to pin down where an attack originated, because attacks are generally routed through computer servers elsewhere to obscure their source. A series of attacks on The New York Times that originated in China, for example, was mounted through the computer systems of unwitting American universities. That is why David Rothkopf, the author of books about the National Security Council, wrote last week that this was a “cool war,” not only because of the remote nature of the attacks but because “it can be conducted indefinitely — permanently, even — without triggering a shooting war. At least, that is the theory.”

Administration officials like Robert Hormats, the under secretary of state for business and economic affairs, say the key to success in combating cyberattacks is to emphasize to the Chinese authorities that the attacks will harm their hopes for economic growth. “We have to make it clear,” Mr. Hormats said, “that the Chinese are not going to get what they desire,” which he said was “investment from the cream of our technology companies, unless they quickly get this problem under control.”

But Mr. Rogers of the Intelligence Committee argues for a more confrontational approach, including “indicting bad actors” and denying visas to anyone believed to be involved in cyberattacks, as well as their families.

The coming debate is over whether the government should get into the business of retaliation. Already, Washington is awash in conferences that talk about “escalation dominance” and “extended deterrence,” all terminology drawn from the cold war.

Some of the talk is overheated, fueled by a growing cybersecurity industry and the development of offensive cyberweapons, even though the American government has never acknowledged using them, even in the Stuxnet attacks on Iran. But there is a serious, behind-the-scenes discussion about what kind of attack on American infrastructure — something the Chinese hacking groups have not seriously attempted — could provoke a president to order a counterattack.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 24, 2013

An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect month for a visit to the Pentagon by a senior Chinese military leader. The visit took place in May 2011, not April 2011.
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« Reply #4768 on: Feb 25, 2013, 08:52 AM »

February 24, 2013

On Portugal Beach, Riding a Wave That Hits Like a Quake


NAZARÉ, Portugal — The big ones typically come only once a year, in the winter. Whipped up by powerful storms in the North Atlantic, they roll for days toward Europe, rising to seemingly impossible heights before crashing on the shores of Praia do Norte, a beach along the Portuguese coast just north of this picturesque fishing town.

“It is like an earthquake,” said Pedro Pisco, a city hall administrator from this old fishing port, a few miles away from Praia do Norte. “When it breaks, you can feel the earth shaking under your feet.”

The area has a reputation as a dangerous spot for its turbulent gales, crushing surf and frequent accidents, though on a recent day the sea was flat as a reflecting pool. Normally, though, the waves crash on shore with a special power, and for years residents were not even sure they were safe to surf.

Despite its charm and a stunning 14th-century church, Nazaré has seen some bad times, with the decline of its once-prosperous fishing industry and an exodus of local youth. And that was before the euro crisis and the deep slump in the Portuguese economy.

But thanks to a photo that electrified the world last month — showing a big-wave surfer named Garrett McNamara setting a world record by streaking down the face of an estimated 100-foot breaker — the city is now busily trying to cash in on its moment of fame to promote itself and its now famous beach, Praia do Norte, as a pre-eminent big wave surfing spot.

The waves here have long been compared to invincible enemies, killing fishermen, vacationers and frequently inundating streets and shops. There is even a spot called “the reef of widows,” where by legend the wives of fishermen would watch their husbands drowning after waves had destroyed their boats.

The town is still filled with widows wearing black dresses or the traditional seven layers of multicolored petticoats and long socks. A local legend says that women wore seven skirts because while waiting for their husbands to sail home, they would count seven waves until the sea would calm down.

Dino Casimiro, a 35-year-old body-boarder from Nazaré, is an ardent admirer of the waves and one of the major initiators of the city’s image makeover.

“For many years, we didn’t know if the waves were surfable or not,” said Mr. Casimiro, a physical education teacher in several local schools. “They were too big.”

In 2010, with the town’s big-wave fame spreading, several of the biggest names in surfing — including Mr. McNamara, who lives in Hawaii, and Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian and Tiago Pires, the Portuguese surf champion — came to Praia do Norte. “Praia do Norte is the best secret in the world,” Mr. McNamara said by telephone from Hawaii. “There is nowhere in the world where you can be so close to the giant waves.”

The project, called the “Zon North Canyon show” and developed with Mr. McNamara, was aimed at promoting him as well as the town. It was sponsored by Zon, Portugal’s main media holding company, after Mr. McNamara broke his first world record here by surfing a 78-foot wave.

Then last month Mr. McNamara spent about 30 seconds on the face of a giant wave still spoken of with awe by other surfers. “It was like riding a mountain, like snowboarding down a giant mountain,” he said.

There are big wave spots far from land, like Cortes Bank 100 miles west of San Diego, Calif. But there are very few in coastal areas, because the gently sloping continental shelf normally flattens out the giants, gradually sapping their strength before they can reach land. But this small part of the Portuguese coast sits at the end of a giant funnel called the “canyon of Nazaré,” 130 miles long and 16,000 feet deep (at its deepest), that points like an arrow toward the town.

The canyon, said Luis Quaresma, an oceanographer at the Lisbon-based Instituto Hidrografico, creates “a highway for the swell,” which arrives with a lot of energy, very close to the beach. “While the waves here are almost always imposing, local people say, occasionally — on average, once a year — a few swells of almost unimaginable height will roll in,” he said.

As a child, Mr. Casimiro says he would look at the waves almost every day from the 16th-century fortress and its lighthouse set atop a cliff overlooking Praia do Norte. “Just looking at the waves scares you,” he said. “They are very strong, powerful and hollow.”

In 2005, he bought a camera, took pictures of the most impressive waves at Praia do Norte and sent one to Mr. McNamara, who he knew only from the Internet.

“Garrett called me at 3 a.m. once,” Mr. Casimiro said. “He had seen the forecast.”

The swells are picked up by a midocean buoy several days before they come ashore, enabling big-wave surfers like Mr. McNamara to scramble to Nazaré in time to catch them. In recent years, Mr. McNamara has caught high waves in places like Tahiti, Hawaii and even on the coast of south-central Alaska, where he surfed tsunami waves formed by calving glaciers.

But Nazaré, he said, holds a special place in his heart. “It’s a place for everybody to go enjoy, it doesn’t matter if you surf or not,” he said.

Here, in a town that welcomed Vasco da Gama before and after his trip to India more than 500 years ago, Mr. McNamara is considered a modern hero of the sea.

Some days, when he surfs Praia do Norte, the children of the local school interrupt classes to watch him streaking down the breathtakingly high mountains of dark water.

In April, Mr. McNamara and the city will inaugurate a “High Performance Center” to teach people the dangers of the sea and to promote surfing and environmental protection.

Mr. Pisco, the city administrator, also plans to turn the fortress and its adjoining lighthouse into a museum of the big wave with a panoramic viewpoint.

From this particular spot, Mr. Pisco said, “you see the giant wave forming off in the distance and then growing little by little,” he said. “In a matter of a few minutes, it breaks like an explosion.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 25, 2013

A previous version of this article misspelled the name of surfer Garrett McNamara. It is Garrett, not Garett.

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« Reply #4769 on: Feb 25, 2013, 09:28 AM »

In the USA...

The Real Reason the Sequester Will Hit is that Some House Republicans Want It

By: Sarah Jones
Feb. 25th, 2013

I know it seems like Republicans think sequestration will be a bad thing, otherwise why are they blaming President Obama for it…

But in the lead up to its reality, there are way more Republicans than just Paul Ryan cheering it on. They can’t wait for sequester! They want it so badly they can taste it. They don’t care that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office warn it could push our economy back into recession.

Here’s a round up of quotes from the DCCC, which will give you a good sense of the real reason Speaker John Boehner is not proposing a sequester replacement bill (hint: he doesn’t have the votes):

Republican Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA). “I want to see it go into place.” [Cherokee Tribune, 2/9]

Republican Congressman Mike Coffman (R-CO). “I don’t think going over the fiscal cliff would have been a huge deal” [, 1/02/13]

Former NRCC Chairman Tom Cole. “We just had additional revenue for the federal government, so I don’t see any way in the world the sequester won’t happen either as written or renegotiated or reallocated cuts.” [Talking Points Memo, 2/05/13]

Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN). “Sequestration needs to happen…Bottom line, it needs to happen and that’s the deal we struck to raise the debt limit.” [Cleveland Daily Banner, 2/1]

Republican Congressman John Fleming (R-LA). “The sequester is law. Those cuts happen no matter what. We’re willing to hang in there and insist that those cuts go into place…” [NHPR, 1/30/13]

Republican Congressman James Lankford (R-OK). “greater chance that they’ll be implemented than not at this point.” [Politico, 2/13/13]

Republican Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis (R-WY. “Sequestration will take place…I am excited. It will be the first time since I’ve been in Congress that we really have significant cuts.” [Billings Gazette, 2/11]

Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). “Some conservatives are starting to say despite the fact there are a lot of defense cuts in there, this may be the only way we get real spending cuts over the next year”. [Yahoo News, 2/13/13]

Republican Congressman Mick Mulvaney (R-SC). “We want to keep the sequester in place and take the cuts we can get.” [Dow Jones Business News, 2/8]

Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS). “It’s going to be a homerun…I am very optimistic that on March 2nd, we’ll all wake up and America will have tremendous respect for what its House of Representatives led and what it’s federal government was able to accomplish.” [Politico, 2/13]

Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). “the sequester is going to happen.” [The Hill, 1/27/13]

Republican Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA). “The consensus is we want the sequester numbers to come in and to finally see spending reduced in Washington.” [Dow Jones Business News, 2/8]

Republican Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). “We’re willing to let it go through till they (Democrats) respond to us.” [McClatchy, 2/6]

POLITICO (2/13/13): “Top congressional Republicans predicted Wednesday that the sequester will hit at the end of the month – the latest chapter in the series of budget battles that have stymied Washington in the last few years.” [Politico, 2/13/13]

While some Republicans, including Paul Ryan, are now pretending that the sequester is Obama’s idea and it’s a horrible idea (redundant), sequestration is in principle a Republican idea. It’s been championed by Republicans like Paul Ryan and Jack Kingston, who have tried to get it into law year repeatedly to no avail.

All it took for Republicans to get their beloved sequester was holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling. You’d think they would be happy now that they’re finally going to get it. The tea caucus is high on it, because they can’t see what even Paul Ryan knows now. The sequester is sure doom for the Republican Party.

Republicans own it and it’s not going to be pretty. If the sequester hits, it will be because certain House Republicans wanted it. They think it’s going to be great. So while Republicans try to blame the Democrats, the real truth is certain House Republicans have been pushing for sequester. If it hits, it’s on them.


Republicans Are Ready to Traumatize Poor Children

By: Deborah Foster
Feb. 24th, 2013

People in poverty always dangle from a financial cliff, but this March 1st, Republicans have maneuvered and manipulated the political landscape to set up sequestration, and the people who will be harmed most disastrously will be the poor. If the Democrats and Republicans had been able to reach a reasonable agreement to stave off automatic cuts, over a million jobs would not be predicted to be lost, and millions would not suffer. A snapshot of some of the effects includes:

    Two million people will lose their SNAP (food stamp) benefits and another 44 million will see them cut
    Two hundred thousand children will lose school lunches
    $1.7 billion dollars per year will no longer go to child welfare services that address child abuse prevention
    Over half a million women and children will no longer receive WIC benefits (Women, Infants, Children) which provide milk, eggs, cereal, fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods to low-income families. About 1,600 will also be cut as a result
    Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP) is slated for dramatic cuts
    Twenty-five thousand children will no longer receive child care services
    Community health care centers serving the poor will lose $55 million in funding
    Over 7,000 special education teachers will be laid off
    Seventy thousand children will no longer be able to attend Head Start, and 10,000 Head Start teachers will be laid off
    Title I education funds will be cut resulting in the loss of funding for almost 1.2 million disadvantaged students, including another 16,000 teachers and staff laid off
    Rental assistance to 125,000 families in the very deepest poverty levels will be cut putting them at high risk for homelessness
    More than 100,000 formerly homeless people will be basically put back on the streets as the programs that serve them are cut
    People receiving unemployment benefits will see their benefits cut by 9.4% which translates into a loss of more than $400
    Almost 375,000 adults and children with serious mental illnesses will see their services cut
    The Indian Health Service will be able to provide 804,000 fewer outpatient visits and 3,000 fewer inpatient visits, and $130 million more will be cut from Tribal services ranging from social services to public education
    734,000 low-income families will no longer receive assistance with utilities

These are just numbers on a page to Republicans. They have proven time and again their heartlessness. To me, they are a wrenching punch to the gut and a flashback to a scarier time of vulnerability.

In the 1980s, I was abnormally politically aware for a teenager. I held my breath with each proposal Ronald Reagan made to cut welfare and programs to the poor, because my family relied on every single one of them.  For us, it started in 1980 when both my parents became unemployed in the recession that hit the Midwest particularly hard. It didn’t help that my mother and father both had serious mental illnesses, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, respectively. After losing custody of their children to foster care in 1981, because of living in an unheated farmhouse (it was 32 degrees Fahrenheit inside when the State took the temperature) and having very little food, my parents ending up divorcing. They had to. Reagan’s changes to welfare had resulted in the elimination of Aid to Dependent Children-Unemployed Parents (which allowed AFDC to go to two-parent families), so in order to receive government help, my mother needed to be single. At that point, child welfare workers were able to reunite my mother with her children setting her up in Section 8 housing, complete with AFDC, food stamps, and Medicaid.  Our family of six received $460 in cash and $242 in food stamps each month.

Unfortunately, my mother’s mental illness got the better of her, and soon she believed the management of the government housing project was out to get her, because she kept failing the monthly inspections. She was written up for storing pots and pans in the oven, for example. She moved us into a rental home that soon took more of our income than we could afford. We were homeless quite quickly. We utilized homeless services at that point, and we finally were  able to relocate into a rundown rental home in a dilapidated neighborhood. Rent took almost all of our monthly check because we received no rental assistance (only about 12.5% of poor families receive rental assistance). Food stamps usually lasted about two and half weeks. We had two children under five, so my mother was able to receive WIC, and those food items were coveted. After that, we relied on food banks, the Salvation Army and other churches for hot meals, free school lunches (free school breakfasts didn’t yet exist), and going hungry. One of the things that made food stamps dwindle faster was the practice of making change. Since we ran out of cash for things like shampoo, soap, or laundry detergent, our mother would send us kids one by one into the store to buy things that came as close to $1.01 as possible. This allowed us to receive 99 cents change. Afterwards, she would pool the change and go in and buy the cash-only items we needed. I can only guess how poor people today afford household goods with SNAP EBT cards that don’t allow them this kind of leeway.

Within a few years, because it takes that long, my mother applied for, and was accepted to, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for her mental illness. Nevertheless, her children continued to receive AFDC. My mother went on to receive extensive services through the state’s programs for people with serious mental illness. When we were sick, we went to the People’s Clinic; it was a community health center in our neighborhood. They took Medicaid. Unfortunately, I believe one doctor was just working there to get his student loans forgiven, because I clearly remember his snide remark to my mother about how poor people shouldn’t be getting health care on the taxpayer dime. Needless to say, his heart wasn’t in his work.

As it happens, I, my brothers, and my sister all went through Head Start. We also participated in the TRiO programs, specifically Upward Bound, which works to get low-income students through high school and geared toward college. We all eventually graduated high school, and three of us went to college. We were assisted with student loans and Pell Grants. One joined the military and served in Afghanistan.

We were children who didn’t ask to be born to disabled parents. We definitely didn’t ask to grow up in poverty. We are all grateful for the extensive services and help we received. As I look at the list of services that face dramatic cuts in just a matter of days, it takes my breath away. What would we have done? Where would we have gone? I know that, unfortunately, the State would have had to take us back into custody as we would have lost housing, sources of food,  and we would have ended up back in foster care. Devastated, my chronically suicidal mother, potentially cut off from mental health services as well, would have probably had her life in jeopardy. The educational programs that resulted in all of the children in my family becoming productive members of society, instead of criminal or poverty-stricken, would be inaccessible. To know that this is the fate of millions of other children and vulnerable adults at the hands of Republicans is infuriating. As usual it will be up to the Democrats and President Obama to somehow save the day.


House Republicans Are Now Begging Obama to Save Them From Their Sequester

By: Jason Easley
Feb. 24th, 2013

House Republicans are so desperate to avoid being held accountable for their sequester that they are asking President Obama to save them.

Transcript from ABC’s This Week:

    STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Rogers let’s begin. Are the — is the harm as great as the president suggests?

    ROGERS: Well, there will be impact on national security, there is no doubt. And I think there’s some misnomers. So it’s really only 2 cents on the dollar over the whole federal budget, but they’ve scrunched that down into seven months and highlighted, or at least put most of the burden on the Defense Department. So that is going to have an impact. That’s a 13 percent cut.

    The best way to get through this, I mean we can point fingers. We can get all through this. The best way to do it is just allow flexibility. If you allow flexibility you don’t have to shut down the carrier…

    STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanted to bring that to Congressman Engel, because the White House has been resisting having this flexibility.

    ENGEL: Well, you know, I think the sequester was a stupid thing. I voted against it when it first time came up. Congress keeps kicking the can down the road. It’s really a ridiculous thing to do.

    The fact is that we need to do things that are smart, not take a meat cleaver and just hack cuts.

    STEPHANOPOULOS: So should the White House accept this call from Republicans in congress to have more flexibility over where to hit with the cuts and when?

    ENGEL: I think congress should sit down and avoid the sequester. And if the sequester kicks in, for a week or go, we should then fix it so it doesn’t become a permanent thing.

Rep. Rogers’ comments did not come out of the blue. The Washington Examiner reported that House Republican leaders are trying to give away their power on the sequester to Obama, “Those conversations are happening and they’re happening at a leadership level. The bill would not try to replace the cuts, [but] it would instead give the president maximum authority to prioritize.”

They are trying this because they want to be able to blame Obama for any of the cuts that he might choose to make. Any defense cuts that the president made would be met with cries from Republicans that Obama doesn’t care about national security. House Republicans know that if the sequester cuts go into effect, they could lose control of the House. This real possibility is why Republican leaders are virtually begging the president to take their power away from them.

It is unlikely that the White House would entertain for a second taking responsibility for the cuts without asking for something big in return. That something would be more revenue. The White House would make it hurt by demanding a lot more revenue than is on the table right now.

Notice that Democratic Rep. Engel mentioned letting the sequester kick in, and then fixing it later. The message in that statement was clear. Democrats aren’t going allow House Republicans to weasel out of their responsibility for the sequester. Contrary to the BS that Bob Woodward is selling, Republicans like Paul Ryan have been pushing for the sequester since 2004.

House Republicans created this mess in 2011. They are now trying to pass the buck to President Obama, so that they can blame him for it later. Their latest move represents the sort of cynical, shallow, superficial tactics that the nation has learned to expect from the House leadership.

In a desperate effort to avoid being held accountable for their own actions, House Republicans are asking President Obama to save them from themselves.

Republicans have been looking for a way to blame Obama for the sequester since their latest attempt at a fiscal crisis started. What we are seeing today is a last ditch desperate gasp from party that is drowning in its own ideology and incompetence.

President Obama should laugh in their faces.


Paul Ryan Championed Sequester Since 2004, Now Calls His Own Idea Not Good Government

By: Sarah Jones
Feb. 24th, 2013

Representative (and failed VP nominee) Paul Ryan (R-WI) can tell you all about how great sequestration is. Why, he’s been a fan since 2004. Not just a fan — he’s pushed sequestration as the solution, as good governance, since 2004. When he finally got it in 2011, he bragged about it to Fox News. Oh, the conservatives finally got it, he told Sean Hannity! The holy grail of economic discipline is here! WOO HOO!

Ryan explained, “We want to make it very difficult for Congress to avoid this budget discipline.”

Now that it’s here, though, Paul Ryan no likey the sequester anymore. Budget discipline bad.

The first quote is taken from the House floor on June 24, 2004 when Ryan was proposing a sequester as an amendment to the Spending Control Act of 2004.

Here’s Ryan arguing for an amendment he proposed that would put a sequester in place in 2004 (the first quote is in the video above, the rest is provided for context since it was Ryan proposing the sequester):

Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin: Mr. Chairman, this is part of our larger effort, which is in our substitute. But what this will do is allow to have a sequester to kick in if Congress exceeds its spending items. Just like the sequesters we have talked about before in the old Committee on the Budget days, if Congress overspends, because we have this in law, a sequester kicks in and brings spending back into conformity with the budget.
Mr. SPRATT. But that is done already under existing law.
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. But we waive our budget caps all of the time under the current system.
Mr. SPRATT. Sure. We would waive them again, put it in a bill, send it to the White House, the President would sign it.
Mr. RYAN of Wisconsin. This way the President could veto breaking the budget caps early in the process and we could keep to these numbers.

And here are the counter arguments offered against his proposal, and why it was not taken up (my bold):

Mr. SPRATT. Well, I am convinced it will prolong the process, complicate the process, and lead to less results rather than better results. It is something we can long argue about.
Mr. NUSSLE. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. SPRATT. I yield to the gentleman from Iowa.
Mr. NUSSLE. Mr. Chairman, I am not going to change the gentleman’s mind, I understand that. But we have heard a lot today about bringing everybody together. There is nothing like bringing everybody together by the need to pass a law as opposed to just passing a resolution. By doing it by resolution, the House can have a version, the other body can have a version, the President has a version. You can go through the entire year with three versions.
I understand we are not going to change the gentleman’s mind or probably a lot of people’s minds, but what the gentleman is suggesting is by doing it this way, everyone has to come together at least once. That is the reason.
The CHAIRMAN pro tempore (Mr. BASS). The time of the gentleman from South Carolina (Mr. SPRATT) has expired. All time has expired.
The question is on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. RYAN).
further proceedings on the amendment offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. RYAN) will be postponed.

Okay, so the argument is that everyone has to come together at least once. No wonder Republicans are against it now. They are refusing to raise any revenue — the entire budget must be done their way and only their way or else the economy gets it.

Next clip from January 5, 2007 on the House floor:

Ryan: The reason PAYGO worked well in the 1990s is because it was statutory. If you did not comply, an across-the-board sequestration would take place, and the threat of that was one of the reasons why PAYGO was successful.

The threat of sequestration is one of the reasons why PAYGO was so successful. Got it? Budget discipline good.

Ryan’s statement on the House floor regarding the statutory Pay As You Go Act of 2009 on July 22, 2009:

Ryan: The reason we have a super-majority vote in Congress to break these caps is because we want to make it very difficult. You can never fully tie the hands of a future Congress. We want to make it very difficult for Congress to avoid this budget discipline. We want to make sure that we put a system in place with binding caps that are tough to circumvent, that are backed up with sequesters so that, you know what, Congress actually makes the tough choices.

Oh, so the sequester is all about forcing tough choices in 2009. It’s a great thing in 2009. It’s great when it’s not real.

Ryan on the House floor on July 19, 2011:

Ryan: When it comes to sequester, it’s basically an enforcement mechanism on spending caps.

Gee, do you think Ryan’s been fighting for just such an enforcement mechanism for spending caps ever since he came to Congress? Why, yes, he has, or so he told Fox News just a few weeks later.

Here’s Ryan on Hannity’s Fox News show on August 1, 2011, explaining why he supported sequestration in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (my bold and the first part is not in the video but provided for context):

Ryan: Because we’re cutting spending. Look, is this everything I want? Of course, not. Our budget proposed to cut $6.2 trillion. This cuts $2.1 to $2.4 trillion. First thing we get right off the bat is a trillion dollars out of government agency budgets. We actually got discretionary caps in law. I’ve been fighting for these spending caps ever since the day I came to Congress. We couldn’t even get these kinds of spending caps in the Bush administration. This kind of tells you just how far the culture has changed. So, we got $2.1 trillion to $2.4 trillion in just spending cuts. The president first started off asking us for a blank check, then he asked for a big tax increase, he got none of those, and we kept our pledge, which was we will cut more spending than we will raise the debt limit by. That pledge was maintained.

Notice how Ryan is saying the President got nothing whereas Republicans got 2.1 -2.4 trillion in spending cuts, and yet today, they say the President got everything and so it’s their turn to get nothing but spending cuts. Of course, they are also blaming the President for the sequester that they loved so much.

Ryan: What conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money. And if they breach that amount across the board, sequester comes in to cut that spending, and you can’t turn that off without a supermajority vote. We got that in law. That is here. So, the best way you can actually bank that trillion dollar spending cut is to have legal caps in law which we haven’t had since the 1990s. We now have them.

Wow, that’s quite a win for the Republicans, eh? They got their 2.4 trillion in cuts, they got the sequester that they’ve always wanted, they got legal caps in law…. Boy things are going to be tight in DC from now on. A new sheriff is in town and he’s going to whip up some budget discipline!

Wait. Ryan wasn’t lovin’ it so much on May 10, 2012:

Ryan: The select committee, people call the Super Committee, that committee failed to produce a result. And as a result of that, a sequester occurs. And the sequester, according to people on a bipartisan basis, is not good government.

But wasn’t this Ryan’s entire raison d’être? Ryan’s been pushing the great sequester since 2004. Perhaps the sequester that Ryan loved so much in theory shares the flaws of his entire economic theory (based as it is upon a work of fiction, this should surprise no one). Turns out, even Paul Ryan thinks his ideas are “not good government.”

It’s a bit late now. After all, the President was trying to find a way to stop Republicans from killing our economy when the sequester was presented as an appeasement of the very hard-lined ideas you read above from Rep. Ryan.

Republicans finally got the object of their desire (budget discipline) that they threatened the country over, and now that it’s here, now that they can have her, they’ve decided they don’t want her anymore.

Sorry, sequester, they’re just not that into you.


For those in America: The reincarnation of Joe McCarthy has manifested as Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas:

Hagel Accuser Ted Cruz Wants Everyone To Stop Asking Questions About His Past

By: Sarah Jones
Feb. 24th, 2013

What is this, the inquisition?

A guy can’t hurl a few Palin-esque “you’re a terrorist or terrorist lover” insults at another guy without people going all, “Hey didn’t you say there were Communists hiding out at Harvard?”

Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) spokesperson thinks it’s “curious” that the New Yorker would cover a speech he gave two years ago when he McCarthyed his way into the arms of the Koch brothers with suggestions that Harvard was a cover for a Marxist government take over plot. You see, Ted Cruz’s history has nothing to do with anything. Leave him alone!

The New Yorker reported yesterday:

    Cruz’s spokesman called it “curious” that The New Yorker would cover Cruz’s speech “three years” after he gave it. But Cruz’s hostile questioning of Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, and insinuations about Hagel’s loyalties had provided a fresh context for looking more closely at the nature of the accusations he has leveled at political opponents. Observers like Senator Barbara Boxer wondered if they were seeing a revival of McCarthyism. Judging from Cruz’s speech—and, now, his defense of it—it’s a good question.

FYI, Harvard is full of Commies, according to Cruz, so he stands by his accusation just like a Breitbart writer stands by his “reporting”. I meant I heard, not I know! Questions must be asked, people. But only of Republican opponents.

You want to know what is relevant? According to Cruz, a speech Chuck Hagel (R-NE) gave in 2000, which by my regular, unskewed math, is 12-13 years ago instead of 2-3 years ago. Curious, that.

Also, Cruz is still waiting to find out if Hagel is pallin’ around with terrorists. Sure, Breitbart’s “Friends of Hamas” has been widely debunked. But Cruz also asked during the confirmation hearings, “It is at a minimum relevant to know that if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my! This outraged John McCain, whose VP nominee talked that way on the trail, but not during official business. These sorts of things are not said by civilized people on the floor or during hearings. But Cruz is a “conservative” and hence, not civilized. Please lower your expectations.

What else is relevant? It’s what Ted Cruz thinks the Iranian government means via some American headlines of an Iranian spokesperson. Okay?

Politifact Pants-on-Fired Cruz’s claim that Chuck Hagel’s nomination as defense secretary “has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government.”

Cruz accused, “Hagel’s nomination has been publicly celebrated by the Iranian government — surely an occurrence without precedent for a nominee for secretary of Defense.”

When asked why, his office pointed to some headlines (yes, headlines). As you may have guessed, world affairs are a bit more nuanced than we might get in our headlines here (Does Cruz not know this or is he playing dumb?).

    The Fars account further quotes the spokesman, identified there as Ramin Mehman-Parast, as saying: “We hope that the U.S. officials will favor peace instead of warmongering and recognize the rights of nations instead of interfering in the countries’ internal affairs. If such a trend is adopted (by the American officials),” the Fars story quotes the spokesman as saying, “hatred for the U.S. hostile policies will decrease, although,” he is quoted as saying, that assessment only “can be made in action.”

PolitiFact was left nonplussed, “Our sense is there has been no Hagel party in Iran, leaving this claim worse than incorrect. It’s ridiculous. Pants on Fire!”

Ted Cruz doesn’t think it’s news when he gives a speech 2 years ago, but a speech Hagel gave 12 years ago is all the rage. Never mind that as a Cabinet member, Hagel will be (he will most likely be confirmed in spite of Cruz et al’s Little Boys Crying Wolf routines) enacting the President’s agenda, not his own.

Leave Ted Cruz alone! It’s hard out here for a Koch pimp.

Ted Cruz is more than a problem for the GOP. He is symbolic of the larger problem inherent within the party, driven by the sad, paranoid bubble of conservative media. And he personifies why Republicans can’t win national elections anymore. Sure, he’s fringe — but then so is the Republican Party.


Below are the birth charts for McCarthy and Cruz so you can draw your correlations, and pictures of them both.

* Cruz-Headshot.jpg (15.23 KB, 220x330 - viewed 71 times.)

* McCarthy.jpg (16.61 KB, 250x299 - viewed 65 times.)

* Cruz.jpg (128.02 KB, 1821x1014 - viewed 74 times.)

* McCarthy.jpg (131.88 KB, 1821x1014 - viewed 74 times.)
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