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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1080680 times)
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« Reply #5820 on: Apr 18, 2013, 06:55 AM »

Pentagon silent on Syria chemical weapons use

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 17:07 EDT

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel declined Wednesday to discuss Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons against rebels, raising doubts over whether Washington still viewed chemical arms a “red line.”

The United States has avoided intervention in the Syrian conflict but President Barack Obama has repeatedly warned Damascus against resorting to chemical weapons, evoking the possibility of US military action.

When asked direct questions by senators as to whether Syria fired chemical weapons, both Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sidestepped the sensitive issue.

They told lawmakers the US intelligence chief, James Clapper, would likely address their queries behind closed doors Thursday.

“Our intelligence agencies are going into more detail on what we know and what we don’t know,” Hagel told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“When General Clapper is before you tomorrow, he will get into that, but I suspect that some of this will have to be done in closed session,” Hagel said when asked by Senator Carl Levin.

Dempsey also refused to answer a yes-or-no question from Republican Senator John McCain on whether the Syrian regime had employed weapons from its chemical arsenal.

“I think director Clapper, he may have to take you into closed session to answer that question,” Dempsey said.

He said the United States was “eager” for a UN team to investigate reports about the possible use of chemical weapons and added that he could not say more in public.

Obama said last year that if the regime tried to move or use chemical weapons, that would “change my calculus” and that President Bashar al-Assad would be held accountable by the international community.

Fresh questions about US policy on Syria came as Hagel announced the Pentagon was reinforcing a US contingent in Jordan that has been deployed to help secure chemical weapons if necessary and prepare for a possible spillover of violence.

Last year, about 150 US military specialists were sent to Jordan and Hagel said he had ordered a US Army headquarters team to bolster the mission, bringing the total American presence to more than 200 troops, officials said.

“These personnel will continue to work alongside Jordanian Armed Forces to improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios,” Hagel said.


April 17, 2013

Top Obama Officials Differ on Syrian Rebels in Testimony to Congress


WASHINGTON — Sharply different perspectives within the Obama administration concerning the Syrian opposition emerged publicly on Wednesday when Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made separate appearances before Congress.

In a long day of hearings, Mr. Kerry highlighted the opportunities in working with the opposition and stressed the need to step up the pressure on the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

Mr. Hagel, joined by Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the Pentagon was moving to deliver medical supplies and food rations to that opposition. But highlighting the risks of deeper involvement in Syria, General Dempsey said the situation with the opposition had become more confused.

The differing assessments came as the White House is considering what steps to take next in a conflict that has killed more than 70,000 and defied resolution.

At the end of the day, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, wondered aloud if the Obama administration was sending a muddled message.

After huddling briefly with Mr. Hagel and General Dempsey, Mr. Levin told reporters that he had asked them if the United States was looking for a way to send a tough message to Mr. Assad.

“Their answer is yes,” he said. “That’s not what came out today in their testimony. We didn’t hear it.”

The day began with Mr. Kerry, who provided his assessment of the Syria situation at a morning hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Mr. Kerry noted that the United States had been working “very, very closely” with the Syrian opposition coalition, describing the positive role that arms deliveries had played in strengthening the Syrian resistance — arms supplies that he suggested had the blessing of the United States.

“The United States policy right now is that we are not providing lethal aid, but we are coordinating very, very closely with those who are,” he said.

That observation was consistent with similar remarks that Mr. Kerry made in March during a visit to Saudi Arabia, when he said there were moderate elements of the Syrian opposition who could be trusted to maintain custodianship of the arms they received from outside donors.

“There is a very clear ability now in the Syrian opposition to make certain that what goes to the moderate, legitimate opposition is, in fact, getting to them,” Mr. Kerry said at the time.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Mr. Kerry also noted that he was flying to Istanbul for a meeting on Saturday with the Syrian opposition and other nations that are supporting them.

One goal, he said, would be to identify “what accelerants to Assad’s departure might make the most sense.” He added that the opposition “is making headway on the ground.”

In contrast, Mr. Hagel and General Dempsey provided a less encouraging assessment of the Syrian opposition and of the military situation inside Syria during an afternoon hearing of Mr. Levin’s committee.

General Dempsey acknowledged that last year he had endorsed a proposal by David H. Petraeus, the C.I.A. director at the time, to arm vetted members of the Syrian opposition.

But he said he had rethought that position since then and was no longer sure the United States “could clearly identify the right people” to equip within the ranks of the armed opposition.

“It’s actually more confusing on the opposition side today than it was six months ago,” General Dempsey said.

While Mr. Kerry said the rebels were making headway, General Dempsey said, “There’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.”

At the start of the hearing, Mr. Hagel said that the Pentagon was sending a new Army headquarters to replace an ad hoc organization established last year to help the Jordanian military cope with Syrian refugees, prepare for the possible use of poison gas and provide command and control for “stability operations,” presumably in a post-Assad Syria. Slightly more than 200 troops would be involved. Since the purpose was largely to contain the crisis, Mr. Levin asked if President Obama had requested that the Pentagon recommend how to apply “additional military pressures” on the government. To Mr. Levin’s surprise, they said he had not. “We’ve had national security staff meetings at which we’ve been asked to brief the options, but we haven’t been asked for a recommendation,” General Dempsey said.

“We’ve not been asked,” Mr. Hagel added. “As I said, I’ve not been asked by the president.”

Mr. Levin has written a letter with Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican and a committee member, urging Mr. Obama to consider the establishment of a safe zone inside Syria for Syrian refugees and members of the opposition that would be protected, in part, by Patriot antimissile batteries in Turkey.

“I believe that the time has come for the United States to intensify the military pressure on Assad,” Mr. Levin said. But the Pentagon officials pointed out the complications, including the possibility that it would encourage Mr. Assad to escalate the fight by attacking the zone.

During the hearing, Mr. Levin asked both Mr. Hagel and General Dempsey if they agreed with the proposition that the United States had fallen short of its policy objectives in Syria.

“Well, it hasn’t achieved the objective obviously,” Mr. Hagel said. “That’s why we continue to look for other options.”

General Dempsey said: “It has never been our goal to see a prolonged conflict. So on that basis I would agree.”


April 17, 2013

Assad Frames Syria Struggle as Him Against Western Colonizers


BEIRUT, Lebanon — President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Wednesday night described what he said was an insidious Western attempt to recolonize his country, and he appeared to reject any thought of compromise or negotiation with the insurgency seeking to topple him.

“The truth is, what is happening is a war,” Mr. Assad said in an interview broadcast on Syrian national television. “It is not security problems. It is a war in every sense of the word. There are big powers, especially Western powers who historically never accepted the idea of other nations having their independence. They want those nations to submit to them.”

By the United Nations count, the two-year war has left more than 70,000 people dead, millions displaced and untold numbers traumatized by atrocities and fear.

The interview on the country’s Al Ikhbariya channel, conducted on Syria’s Independence Day celebrating the end of French occupation 67 years ago, suggested that Mr. Assad’s views on the conflict have only hardened — views that the opposition and its allies have called delusional.

“We must ask ourselves, did the colonizer take our sovereignty with him when he left?” he said sarcastically, referring to the end of French rule.

Mr. Assad extolled what he called the strength of Syria’s society, rejecting a widespread view that the struggle in his country has become a sectarian conflict pitting his Alawite minority sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam, against an insurgency drawn largely from the Sunni majority. Not once in the interview did he use the term Sunni or Muslim or name any religious sects. He characterized his opponents as terrorists, mercenaries, hooligans and members of Al Qaeda.

“We have to bet on the awareness of the people, and the Syrian people proved over the past two years that they’re aware,” he said. “I can say, without exaggeration, that sectarianism is less pronounced in Syria now than at the beginning of this conflict.”

At another point in the interview, Mr. Assad asserted: “We are not afraid of sectarianism, so there are no dividing lines. The communities are coexisting and mingling in the same villages, so there can be no division.”

He stressed that rumors of Syria breaking up into sectarian statelets in the near future were nothing but “psychological warfare” propagated by his foes.

“They want to convince Syrians that they are no longer capable of living together,” he said. “They’re telling them you can’t coexist as a people.”

He accused foreign powers and the international news media of framing the conflict in simplistic terms. He said that the media portray the Syrian conflict as “a president holding on to his seat against a population who wants him gone, but that’s not the case.”

Mr. Assad also expressed growing irritation with Jordan, which has become a point of entry for foreign fighters and weapons, rejecting Jordanian denials of complicity with the insurgency.

“I hope they learn the lessons that the Iraqi authorities learned,” he said. “Iraqi authorities know very well how important stability in Syria is. They learned that a fire in Syria will inevitably spread to the region.”

Mr. Assad’s answers were delivered without pausing or rephrasing during the interview, suggesting they had been rehearsed. Asked how it could be possible that so many of Syria’s neighbors were wrong about him and that he was the only one who is right, Mr. Assad answered, “We mustn’t blame those countries because they’re not independent; the decision is made by foreign countries.”

He ridiculed what Western powers have described as humanitarian intervention in Syria as a euphemism for occupation and colonialism. “We saw their humanitarian intervention in Iraq, in Libya, and now we see it in Syria,” he said.

At the end of the interview, Mr. Assad said he remained confident that his side would prevail.

“If there wasn’t optimism in Syria, we wouldn’t have fought in the first place,” he said. “But we get it from the people and I get it, personally, from meeting with citizens, especially the families of martyrs who offered their sons for this nation. They tell me they have lost a son but are willing to give a second one and a third one for this nation. This is nationalism without bounds.”

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« Reply #5821 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:01 AM »

April 17, 2013

Jordanian Activists Struggle On


AMMAN — When the Arab Spring started, Safwan al-Ma’aytah, 30, posted photos of himself online, wearing black sunglasses and carrying large signs calling for political and economic reforms.

Today, he and other members of Jordanian opposition movements say they are increasingly disillusioned by economic hardship and by regional violence across the border, especially in neighboring Syria.

Mr. Ma’aytah even stopped protesting for a while this year — but he was back on the streets last Friday in the southern city of Karak, where the government continues to face significant economic and political challenges, not least from the country’s Bedouin tribes, the historical backbone of support for the monarchy.

Also last week, an Islamist-led rally in Irbid, north of the capital, ended in violence after activists clashed with pro-government loyalists and police.

Among the factors stirring up fresh anger in the streets, demonstrators and analysts point to comments attributed to King Abdullah II, in an interview published by The Atlantic, an American news magazine, on March 18.

In the interview, the king was reported as criticizing a wide range of Jordanians, including tribal elders — whom he reportedly dismissed as “old dinosaurs,” leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and members of his own family.

A press release issued by the royal court said the king’s comments had been taken out of context, but did not deny the accuracy of the quotes.

“The tribes have long been the backbone of the regime and they have sacrificed their lives for this country, so it is hard to understand why the king would make such comments about them,” said Basil Okour, a writer and founder of Jo24, an online news Web site.

After two years of regional turmoil, the steam had appeared to be going out of Jordanian activists’ demands for political and economic change.

“At the beginning we had a list of demands about the types of reforms we wanted to see as a youth movement,” said Mr. Ma’aytah, who belongs to the national youth movement, Hirak. “It was mostly about demands for more freedoms, economic opportunities and an end to corruption,” he said in an interview. “But over the months, the movement has become weaker, our demands were not being met and employment opportunities are scarce. We are wondering if we have accomplished our goals.”

Jordan’s overall unemployment rate stands at 12.5 percent, and youth unemployment is double that, according to the Department of Statistics.

“The biggest challenge right now for Jordan is economic, but also there are external and internal factors that will determine the stability of Jordan in the near future,” said Oraib al-Rantawi, director of Al-Quds Center for Political Studies, an independent Jordanian research institute.

The conflict in Syria has sent more than 470,000 refugees across the border, straining scarce resources even further. Egypt’s political instability and violence elsewhere in the region have added to the disillusionment, leading some Jordanians to question whether the revolutions that swept the region have produced any winners so far.

Still, protests continue, including among the tribes, despite the fact that their support for the monarchy has been repaid with a disproportionate share of well-paid and prestigious posts in the army and administration.

“We are extremely worried about the political direction and the state of the economy in the country,” said Sheik Adel al-Mahameed, a tribal leader in the historically restive city of Ma’an, where several riots have taken place in the past two years. “We feel we are neglected here in Ma’an, even by the monarchy,” he said.

For Mr. Rantawi, of the Al-Quds Center, the king’s comments, and the reactions they have elicited, reflect a growing sense that the political leadership of the country has lost its way.

“The regime and the government are facing a credibility problem among Jordanians, who are growing increasingly apathetic,” Mr. Rantawi said.

“There is a deep loss of confidence right now between the government, the regime and the people.”

“Many Jordanians would generally agree with the king’s statements in the Atlantic article,” criticizing conservative supporters as obstructing reform, he added. “However, the way that the king said these words to the outside world was not appropriate. These are topics and debates that we should be having internally.”

The king’s comments equally offended Islamist opponents in the Muslim Brotherhood, which he reportedly labeled a “Masonic cult,” run by “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

Nimer al-Assaf, deputy secretary general of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, said, “We don’t believe such words would be said by the king.”

“But if it’s true, then we believe a big mistake was done,” he added, “because we are part of this country.”
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« Reply #5822 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:02 AM »

April 17, 2013

Lebanon Pins Economic Hopes on Oil and Gas


BEIRUT — As Lebanon prepares to move toward exploring and developing its potential offshore oil and gas resources, the prospect is being dangled that hydrocarbon revenues could fix many of its problems.

In Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone, the offshore area in which it retains rights over any resources, there is a high probability that a significant amount of gas and perhaps some oil could be found, according to Spectrum, a company that carried out a three-dimensional seismic survey of a 3,000-square-kilometer, or 1,160-square-mile, zone off the country’s coast.

“In terms of the 3-D area that we surveyed, we believe there could be as much as 25 trillion cubic feet of gas,” said David Rowlands, Spectrum’s chief executive, referring to 710 billion cubic meters.

But he noted that “you never get to prove anything until you actually start drilling” and that drilling was not going to begin until 2015 or 2016, at the earliest.

A 2010 U.S. Geological Survey report estimated the presence of 1.7 billion barrels of oil and 122 trillion cubic feet of gas in the 83,000-square-kilometer area off the coasts of Lebanon, Israel, Syria and Cyprus, which is known as the Levant Basin.

So far, Lebanon has lagged behind its neighbors in the search for hydrocarbons beneath the Eastern Mediterranean’s seabed.

The Tamar gas field, discovered off the coast of Israel in 2009, came online at the end of last month, while the country’s larger Leviathan gas field is scheduled to begin production in the coming years.

Cyprus, hobbled by recent financial troubles, has signed deals with a number of international oil companies to drill for gas within its own economic zone.

After delays caused by political disagreements, Lebanon formed its Petroleum Administration late last year, enabling it to start negotiating. Major energy companies, including the U.S. giants ExxonMobil and Chevron and Total of France, are among 52 to enter prequalification talks. The companies that qualify are expected to be announced Thursday, and the bid process is scheduled to begin next month.

Yet even without further delays, drilling and eventual production are still years away.

From an economic perspective, things can seem bleak in Lebanon. Shaky infrastructure irritates residents and dissuades foreign investment. Lebanon also has one of the highest ratios in the world of debt to gross domestic product; it is estimated to be about 128 percent for 2012, according tothe C.I.A.’s World Factbook. Furthermore, growth has been stalled by the civil war in neighboring Syria and by Lebanon’s own bouts of instability.

Within that backdrop, potential oil and gas revenues are being touted by some as a possible magic bullet.

Across the country, billboards sponsored by the Ministry of Energy and Water have appeared along highways in recent weeks, promising a better future.

“Our country now has oil — for the development of the transportation network” reads one billboard, depicting a high-speed train marked with a cedar tree, Lebanon’s national symbol. Lebanon has not had an operational rail network since the outbreak of the country’s civil war in 1975.

Other signs suggest that energy revenues could bolster the country’s army and health care system. The message is that hydrocarbons can bring modernization.

But without any actual discoveries yet, and without knowledge of how difficult extraction will be or whether Lebanon can export hydrocarbons, analysts say it is too early to count heavily on oil and gas.

“It’s way too premature to start spending the money and start daydreaming about Lebanon becoming a hydrocarbon exporter, having fiscal surpluses like Kuwait and writing off our debt as some politicians have suggested,” said Nassib Ghobril, the head of economic research at Byblos Bank, which is based in Beirut.

“They’re just raising the expectations of people unnecessarily without any concrete evidence at this stage,” he added.

Producing natural gas could potentially fix some problems, like Lebanon’s chronic electricity shortage. Lebanon’s power plants are so stretched that even Beirut’s more upscale neighborhoods see government-supplied electricity cut for three hours a day. Outside the capital, power is even more sporadic.

Lebanon’s power plants currently run on imported fuel. The state electricity company operates at a loss and blames its failings on empty coffers.

“The electricity deficit is costing the Treasury at least $2 billion every year, and in 2012 it was much more, almost $3 billion,” Mr. Ghobril said. “We shouldn’t be complacent about this.”

A domestic supply of natural gas could alleviate Lebanon’s electricity woes, although the country would first have to convert its power plants to use liquid natural gas and build an infrastructure to handle gas products, an expensive process.

But there are potential obstacles to exploring and developing the resources.

For one, Lebanon is in a period of transition after Najib Mikati stepped down as prime minister last month. Consultations are under way to form a new government, but the process has been slow as Lebanon’s divided politicians have continued to bicker.

A map delineating 10 offshore blocks to be bid on was submitted to Mr. Mikati’s cabinet for approval before he resigned. Now, approval of the blocks will have to wait for a new cabinet.

“There needs to be some assurances on the political level that there is going to be stability regardless of the change in governments,” Malek Takieddine, a Beirut lawyer who specializes in oil and gas, said.

There is also a fear that Lebanon’s raucous politics could find its way into the development program.

“I hope that the oil and gas sector will not be politicized, but I fear that this is likely going to be the case in Lebanon,” said Carole Nakhle, an energy economist based in London. “After all, most of our political figures have business interests in the country.”

The formation of the Petroleum Administration highlighted some of the inherent realities of Lebanese politics. Placating sectarian interests, the six seats of the Petroleum Administration were parceled out to Lebanon’s six largest religious groups, a reflection of the power sharing agreements underpinning the country’s governance.

Lebanon, meanwhile, has an undemarcated maritime border with Israel, a country it is technically at war with, and there is a sliver of sea that both countries claim as their own. If Lebanon offers to take bids on blocks that fall within the disputed zone, “it could seem aggressive to Israel and international parties,” Mr. Takieddine said. “So it’s a delicate decision that they need to make.”

Instability from the war in neighboring Syria, which has led to repeated bouts of violence in Lebanon and deepened the political divide here, could also affect the development of oil and gas resources. Analysts noted that many oil companies were used to working in unstable environments. Still, “some of the oil companies are more conservative than others because of the security situation in the region,” said Mr. Rowlands, the Spectrum chief executive, “and I’m sure some oil companies aren’t going to play the bid round.”

The uncertain security and political situation could mean better terms for oil companies wishing to explore and develop offshore hydrocarbons, though.

It is possible that “the Lebanese government is going to have a lot of difficulty getting good terms for Lebanon because of these unknown factors,” Mr. Takieddine said.”
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« Reply #5823 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:04 AM »

US calls for Venezuela election recount after narrow win for Nicolás Maduro

Hesitation over recognising Hugo Chávez's successor as president is likely to enrage left in Latin America

Virginia Lopez in Caracas and Jonathan Watts, Wednesday 17 April 2013 19.50 BST   

The United States is hesitating to recognise Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela and has called for a recount of the vote from Sunday's closely fought election.

The procrastination is likely to embolden Venezuela's opposition and enrage many on the left in Latin America, who have long accused the US of interfering in the region's politics.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said he had yet to evaluate whether the disputed result was legitimate when asked about the matter by members of the House of Representatives.

"We think there ought to be a recount," he told the foreign affairs committee in reference to Venezuelan opposition demands for a full audit of the vote.

At least seven people have died in the protests that have riven Venezuela following Sunday's narrow presidential poll. The National Electoral Council declared Maduro the winner by 262,000 votes out of 14.9m cast.

Henrique Capriles, the opposition candidate, claims the count may have been rigged and says he considers the outcome illegitimate unless it is checked in full.

Maduro initially agreed to a recount. But the electoral council as declared the result "irreversible".

On Wednesday, the president of the supreme court said a manual count was an impossibility and called the request for a recount "a deceit of the people" that aimed to destabilise the country.

The ruling party has accused the opposition of plotting a coup, as they did in 2002. Maduro – the political heir of Hugo Chávez – says the US embassy has been inciting violence. His supporters point to WikiLeaks documents that suggest US diplomats have been trying to divide the movement that Chávez pulled together.

The oil-rich country can call on support from foreign allies. The Argentinian president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and 13 other foreign leaders will attend Maduro's inauguration ceremony on Friday. Among the confirmed delegations are Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Ecuador, Honduras, Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

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« Reply #5824 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:10 AM »

International Energy Agency warns: Lack of progress in clean energy could be catastrophic

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 11:16 EDT

Progress towards the use of cleaner fuel technology has stalled, with production of the world’s energy as “dirty” now as it was two decades ago, the International Energy Agency said Wednesday.

Two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy sector and the lack of change should “serve as a wake-up call”, the IEA’s executive director Maria van der Hoeven told a Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in New Delhi.

She warned that with increases in wind and solar energy being offset by increased coal use in countries such as China and India, the world needed to act fast “to avoid a potentially catastrophic warming of the planet”.

“Despite much talk by world leaders and despite a boom in renewable energy over the last decade, the average unit of energy produced today is basically as dirty as it was 20 years ago,” Van der Hoeven said.

“The drive to clean up the world’s energy system has stalled.”

The Paris-based IEA has developed an Energy Sector Carbon Intensity Index, which indicates how much carbon dioxide is emitted on average to provide a given unit of energy, she said.

The index for the world’s energy stood at 2.39 tonnes of carbon dioxide per tonne of oil equivalent in 1990 and had barely moved by 2010, holding at 2.37 per tonne of oil equivalent.

While there has been investment in new forms of clean energy, such as solar or wind power, these benefits have been counter-balanced by the increasing use of carbon-intensive coal by rising economic powers such as China and India.

“Our analysis is stark reminder the world is not on track to realise the benefit of a low-carbon energy system — to limit long-term temperature rises to two degrees centigrade,” the IEA head said.

“We cannot afford another 20 years of listlessness,” she said, calling for a rapid expansion in low-carbon energy technologies.

Clean energy investment fell to its lowest in four years in 2012, she said at the Clean Energy Ministerial which brought together 22 countries and the European Union that are responsible for 80 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
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« Reply #5825 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:14 AM »

DNA blueprint of ‘living fossil’ coelacanth helps scientists track evolution of creatures from sea to land

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 13:55 EDT

Biologists on Wednesday said they had unravelled the DNA of the coelacanth, a “living fossil” fish whose ancient lineage can shed light on how life in the sea crept onto land hundreds of millions of years ago.

Analysis of the coelacanth genome shows three billion “letters” of DNA code, making it roughly the same size as a human’s, they said.

The genetic blueprint appears to have changed astonishingly little over the aeons, pointing to one of the most successful species ever investigated.

“We found that the genes overall are evolving significantly slower than in every other fish and land vertebrate that we looked at,” said Jessica Alfoeldi of the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

Found in deep waters off South Africa, with cousins off the coast of Indonesia, coelacanths are one of the oldest species that exist today. The grey-brown fish can grow up to two metres (6.5 feet) in length and weigh as much as 91 kilos (200 pounds).

A fossilised skull described by Chinese palaeontologists dates the first coelacanth to 375 million years ago.

One of the big interests in coelacanths is in their lobe-shaped fins.

These have sparked speculation that coelacanths were part of a group of fishes that used stubby appendages to ease their way out of water and eventually crawl onto land.

There, bit by bit, they evolved into four-legged animals called tetrapods.

The new study says a closer living relative to the tetrapods than the coelacanth is a freshwater fish found in Australia and Africa called the lungfish.

Even so, the coelacanth is a remarkable source, for it will help show which genes were squeezed out, and which emerged, in the touted sea-to-land transition.

Among the changes are how the new-found landlubbers developed a sense of smell to detect airborne molecules pointing to threat or food — and how their immune system changed in response to bacteria and viruses in a new environment.

Coelacanths were thought to have died out around 65 million years ago, roughly at the same time as the dinosaurs.

That changed when one was caught off South Africa in 1938, a landmark event in zoology.

The species was given the Latin honorific Latimeria chalumnae, after Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator of a small natural history museum in East London, South Africa, who identified an unusual fish given to her by a local trawlerman.

Since then, only 308 other coelacanths have ever been recorded.

The species’ success story is due to their ability to exploit a stable niche in the world’s habitat.

“We often talk about how species have changed over time,” said fellow researcher Kerstin Lindblad-Toh.

“But there are still a few places on Earth where organisms don’t have to change, and this one of them. Coelacanths are likely very specialised to such a specific, non-changing extreme environment — it is ideally suited to the deep sea just the way it is.”

The study appears in the British science journal Nature.

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« Reply #5826 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:16 AM »

Were ‘hobbit’ hominids island dwarfs?

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 5:58 EDT

Japanese scientists on Tuesday waded into a row over so-called “hobbit” hominids whose remains, found on a remote Indonesian island a decade ago, have unleashed one of the fiercest disputes in anthropology.

The most detailed computerised scan of a skull of Homo floresiensis — “Man of Flores” — backs theories that the minute humans were a local product of evolution, they said.

Marooned descendants of a hominid called Homo erectus, these people progressively “dwarfed,” becoming smaller and smaller to match the availability of food on the island, they suggested.

The findings are a knock to rival hypotheses that surfaced after an Australian-Indonesian team unearthed the bizarre remains in a cave in 2003.

Dubbed after the wee folk in J.R.R. Tolkien’s tale, the “hobbits” were just over a metre (3.25 feet) tall, weighed around 25 kilos (55 pounds) and had a brain roughly the size of a chimp’s, our closest primate relative.

The find raised huge questions about the human odyssey.

Was H. floresiensis a separate species?

And if so, how come it shared the planet with Homo sapiens some 13,000 years ago, when — so far as was known — anatomically modern man was the sole, supreme strain of human?

A team led by Yousuke Kaifu of the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo measured the brain capacity of “LB1,” the most intact specimen out of nine found on Flores, using a computed tomography (CT) scanner.

They put the brain size at 426 cubic centimetres (14.4 fluid ounces), somewhat higher than earlier estimates of around 400 cc (13.5 fluid ounces), but still only a third of a H. sapiens brain, which is around 1,300 cc (40.5 fluid ounces).

The small brain size, argues the Kaifu team, is consistent with a slimmed-down descendant of Homo erectus — “upright man” who was the first human to leave Africa.

H. erectus lived from around 1.7 million years ago to roughly 50,000 years ago. Fossil evidence points to a creature that was about the size and weight of H. sapiens, but with a smaller brain.

Kaifu’s team believe that the hobbits’ ancestor was a scrawnier, Javanese version of erectus. Its brain size would have been around 860 cc (29 fluid ounces).

Its descendants, cut off from the rest of the world, went through thousands of years of diminution, scaling down in size to match availability of food on the island, according to their theory.

This phenomenon, known as insular dwarfing, is well known among biologists. Indeed, Flores at the time had a pygmy elephant called a stegadon, butchered remains of which were found in the floor of the hobbits’ cave.

“Contrary to expectations by some researchers, it is possible that large-bodied Javanese Homo erectus migrated to the solitary island and evolved into Homo floresiensis by marked island dwarfism,” Kaifu believes.

Two other ideas have come forward to explain the mysterious folk.

One is that they were descendants of a much earlier, small-brained hominid called Homo habilis. But, say critics, no evidence has ever been found that this human reached Asia.

The other is that the Flores bones are simply those of H. sapiens who suffered from a neurological disability called dwarf cretinism, possibly because of iodine deficiency in their diet. This would have made their brains abnormally small.

But, say naysayers, cretinism does not explain how the little hominids were smart enough to kill animals, use fire and wield stone tools to butcher their prey.

The insular dwarfism theory is not new, but Kaifu said he can further back it by a computer simulation from 20 worldwide populations of modern humans.

These show that the scaling down of H. floresiensis’ brain, in line with its tiny body, is entirely possible.

“New models of the brain-size reduction in the evolution of H. floresiensis… show (a) more significant contribution of scaling effect than previously claimed,” according to the paper, appearing in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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« Reply #5827 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:18 AM »

Infant Universe had massive ‘star factory’ galaxy churning out 3,000 stars per year

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 14:03 EDT

Light captured from when the Universe was still in its childhood has shown a massive galaxy that churned out nearly 3,000 stars per year, a rate 2,000 greater than our own Milky Way today, astronomers said on Wednesday.

The galaxy, called HFLS3, has a mass of stars nearly 40 billion times the mass of the Sun.

Its light, snared by a network of 12 telescopes, was emitted around 12.8 billion years ago, less than 900 million years after the birth of the cosmos, according to their study, published in Nature.

“This galaxy is proof that very intense bursts of star formation existed only 880 million years after the Big Bank,” said Dominik Riechers of Cornell University in New York.

“We’ve gotten a valuable look at a very important epoch in the development of the first galaxies.”

Separately, the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Wednesday reported remarkable results from a brand-new telescope in the Chilean desert designed to pinpoint such “star factories” in the early Universe.

The instrument, the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA), uses a small forest of antennae to pick up light at relatively longer wavelengths, which penetrates dust that obscures star-forming galaxies.

ALMA was inaugurated only on March 13 but in the months before the ceremony, astronomers were able to put part of the network through its paces.

Even when incomplete, the telescope located more than 100 of the most fertile galaxies in early Universe, ESO said.

“ALMA is so powerful that, in just a few hours, it captured as many observations of these galaxies as have been made by all similar telescopes worldwide over a span of more than a decade,” the observatory said in a press release.

The data is published in the Monthly Notices of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society and the Astrophysical Journal.

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« Reply #5828 on: Apr 18, 2013, 07:41 AM »

In the USA...

April 17, 2013 05:00 PM

Angry President Obama Calls NRA Out For Lies After Gun Measure Defeat

By karoli

After cowardly Senators caved to the NRA and voted to defeat the Manchin-Toomey amendment to the gun safety bill allowing for near-universal background checks, a visibly angry President Obama took to his bully pulpit and spoke plainly about his disappointment and anger at the Senate.

Key moments:

    But instead of supporting this compromise, the gun lobby and its allies willfully lied about the bill. They claimed that it would create some sort of “big brother” gun registry, even though the bill did the opposite. This legislation, in fact, outlawed any registry. Plain and simple, right there in the text. But that didn’t matter.

    But the fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics -- the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections. They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-Second Amendment.

    And obviously, a lot of Republicans had that fear, but Democrats had that fear, too. And so they caved to the pressure, and they started looking for an excuse -- any excuse -- to vote “no.”

    One common argument I heard was that this legislation wouldn’t prevent all future massacres. And that’s true. As I said from the start, no single piece of legislation can stop every act of violence and evil. We learned that tragically just two days ago. But if action by Congress could have saved one person, one child, a few hundred, a few thousand -- if it could have prevented those people from losing their lives to gun violence in the future while preserving our Second Amendment rights, we had an obligation to try.

    And this legislation met that test. And too many senators failed theirs.

    I've heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?

Then he laid down the gauntlet:

    So to change Washington, you, the American people, are going to have to sustain some passion about this. And when necessary, you’ve got to send the right people to Washington. And that requires strength, and it requires persistence.

It just grinds me that the wingnuts in the NRA have enough power to cow Senators into voting against what the majority of people in this country want.

Here are the names of the Democrats voting no, excluding Harry Reid, who voted no to keep the bill alive: Pryor, Begich, Baucus, and Heitkamp. Republicans who voted yes: McCain, Toomey, Collins, and Kirk. Shame on the NRA-owned Democrats and props to the Republicans who stepped up.

That was just the background check piece. Here's what happened on the assault weapons ban:

    An amendment, put forth by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), to re-establish a federal ban on certain assault weapons was defeated by a vote of 40-60. A near-united Republican conference voted against the measure, with just one GOP senator, Mark Kirk (Ill.), voting in its favor.

As the President said, this is just Round One.

Click to watch:


Senate Republicans Have Shamed America By Ignoring the Will of 92% of the Population

By: Rmuse
Apr. 17th, 2013

School age children are taught in arithmetic that a majority is a subset of a set consisting of more than half of the set’s elements, or in very simple terms; a majority is a number or percentage equaling more than half of a total. In government, the group or political party having the greater number of votes is considered to be in the majority, but for the past four years in the United States Senate, Republicans successfully transformed their minority numbers into a majority, made a mockery of democracy, and thumbed their noses at the will of the voters at the behest of their special interest masters.

It is no secret that Republicans serve special interests who buy their votes regardless the effect of putting the health and well-being of the people on the same level as deadly bacteria, and in the Senate on Wednesday, Republicans and four Democrats acted to ensure that the epidemic of gun violence will continue laying waste to innocent victims at the behest of the NRA. Whether it was the idea that allowing criminals, the mentally ill, and hate groups to have unfettered access to assault weapons, or obeisance to Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre, Republicans and their Democratic gun zealots successfully voted down expanded background checks because 8% of the population is now the majority of the American people and to Republicans, the will of a nation.

The vote in the  Senate was 54-46 in favor of expanding background checks for gun purchases, and it included four Republicans voting yes because they regard reducing the senseless gun violence ravaging the nation a priority, and four Democrats voting no because they regard pleasing NRA leaders Nugent and La Pierre an important part of their jobs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, echoing his NRA-supporting cohorts, said the Senate measure went too far and infringes on gun-owners’ rights saying, “The government should not punish or harass law-abiding citizens in the exercise of their Second Amendment rights,” and the male version of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, said “In my view the approach of the federal government to violent crime should be very simple, it should be focused on stopping violent criminals.” It is too bad Republicans did not consider keeping guns out of the hands of violent criminals, but with Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre pulling the strings, rational consideration hardly enters into the thought process of Republicans in the employ of the NRA.

It is also too bad Republicans care so much about focusing on stopping violent criminals that they have, through their austerity madness, cut spending to such a degree that law enforcement across the nation is weakened due to lack of funding, but then again the Republicans’ legislative arm, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), enacted laws giving citizens the right to “stand their ground” to fill in for laid off law enforcement officers. One of the ways the NRA exerts is considerable influence is through ALEC by bankrolling their operations, and at one point co-chaired ALEC’s “Public Safety and Elections Task Force” that enacted stand your ground laws in states across the nation. Many of ALEC’s templates for Republicans to fill in as legislation were written by the NRA and adopted by ALEC’s legislators as models for a well-armed population, as well as enact bills to eliminate laws that protect Americans from gun violence. A little over a year ago at ALEC’s policy summit, the NRA garnered unanimous support from corporate lawmakers in ALEC’s task force to amend their “Consistency in Firearms Regulation Act” to expressly prohibit cities from banning machine guns and armor-piercing bullets, as well as making it legal to alter guns to make them more deadly.

Wednesday’s Senate vote revealed many atrocities going on in America at the hands of Republicans’ special interests, and it is clear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid must now give up his expression of “comity” for his esteemed colleagues across the aisle and put an end to their running this government from a minority position. A visibly angry President Obama summed up the sentiment of 92% of the American people who supported a sane measure to keep Americans safe and said “There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. All in all, it was a pretty shameful day for Washington.” The President was right, but he failed to say it was a shameful day for America because 8% of the population, Ted Nugent and Wayne La Pierre, ALEC, and gun-crazed Republicans thumbed their noses at the great majority of Americans and cemented what many pundits have said for four years; Democracy is dead, and like the Sandy Hook massacre and thousands of gun violence victims, it is not coming back.


A look at the key senators who killed the background checks amendment

By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 22:05 EDT

The senators, Democrat and Republican, who killed the bipartisan compromise amendment on background checks for gun sales explained their opposition in terms of principle. But gun reformers will view it more as political cowardice on the part of politicians fearful of damaging their re-election chances.

The vote was on a proposal agreed between Democrat Joe Manchin and Republican Pat Toomey that would have required criminal and mental health background checks for advertised sales of guns, including at gun shows and online.

It was the last meaningful measure left in a draft bill that had already been stripped of most of its substance.

Vice-president Joe Biden, on his way to the Hill for the vote, said: “I hope to God that there’s 60 people up there who have the courage to stand up.” Less than an hour later he got his answer.

Here are the key votes that killed the measure, just four months after Newtown.

Heidi Heitkamp, 57, Democrat, North Dakota

Heitkamp has the distinction of being the first Democratic senator to break ranks by announcing publicly that she would vote against background checks.

Unlike some of her colleagues, she does not face the prospect of re-election next year, having just been elected in November. But that victory was extremely tight, with her winning by just 2,994 votes.

She has said repeatedly in interviews that guns are part of the way of life in North Dakota and her priority is the interests of her state. One of her campaign ads set out her platform as “schools and tractors and guns”.

In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, she dismissed Barack Obama’s proposals for gun reform as “extreme”.

Mark Begich, 51, Democrat, Alaska

Begich is up for re-election next year in a state that normally votes Republican. He was one of only two Democrats to vote last week against starting a debate on gun reform.

A large part of the Democratic psyche is conditioned to believe that their disastrous losses in the 1994 congressional elections can be blamed to a large extent on Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban.

Barack Obama called Begich seeking his support, but the senator argued that what was needed is not new legislation but enforcement of existing laws.

In 2008, Begich became the first Democrat to represent Alaska in the Senate since 1980 after the long-serving Republican senator Ted Stevens was found guilty just eight days before the election of seven counts of making misleading statements. The indictment was later thrown out over prosecutorial misconduct.

Begich, who faces a tough re-election battle next year, attributed his win in part to his opposition to gun control.

Mark Pryor, 50, Democrat, Arkansas

Pryor was the other Democrat who voted last week against bringing the bill to the floor of the Senate. Although representing a traditionally red state, he won convincingly in 2002 by 54% to 46%, partly because he is an evangelical Christian.

Pryor was easily re-elected six years later when the Republicans opted against fielding a candidate. He famously said in a documentary: “You don’t need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate”.

Max Baucus, 71, Democrat, Montana

Facing re-election next year, Baucus is one of the Democrats scarred by the belief that gun reform in 1994 cost the party votes. A senator for 35 years, the closest Baucus came to defeat was that year, winning by a margin of five points.

He voted for the 1994 assault weapons ban, but is this time not repeating what he would view as that mistake. He is the only Senate Democrat with an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.

Kelly Ayotte, 44, Republican, New Hampshire

Gun reformers rested their hopes on securing the support of Republicans such as Ayotte to offset the loss of the four Democrats. She was classified as a potential swing vote. Those hopes rose further when she was among 16 Republicans who voted last week to open the debate.

But, in a statement on Wednesday, she said: “While steps must be taken to improve the existing background check system, I will not support the Manchin-Toomey legislation, which I believe would place unnecessary burdens on law-abiding gun owners and allow for potential overreach by the federal government into private gun sales.”

Lisa Murkowski, 55, Republican, Alaska

Like Ayotte, she is one of the few Republicans the gun-reformers hoped might be persuadable. But she announced on Tuesday night she was resisting all attempts to win her round and would vote against expanded background checks.

Unlike others who had been sitting on the fence but eventually voted against, she is in a relatively strong position electorally. Her popularity in Alaska was confirmed in 2010 when she lost a Republican primary to the Tea Party-backed Joe Miller but won re-election with a write-in campaign.

Manchin and Toomey altered their plan to try to win her over, putting in an exception to background checks for those living in remote areas far from gun stores.

It failed to sway her. In a statement, Murkowski wrote that Alaskans “want to keep Americans safe as much as anyone, but don’t believe they need to compromise their second amendment rights to get there”.

Dean Heller, 52, Republican, Nevada

Heller announced on Tuesday he would vote against the amendment.

“Despite the good faith efforts of senators Manchin and Toomey, the onerous paperwork and expansion of federal power mandated in this legislation are too great of a concern. I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens,” he said. © Guardian News and Media 2013


Progressives vow to fight Democrats who voted against background checks

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 17:03 EDT

Progressives vowed to target Democrats who voted against expanded criminal background checks after the Senate on Wednesday rejected an amendment to gun legislation that would close the so-called gun show loophole.

“Today, the Senate voted against the 91% of Americans who support background checks to stop gun violence. We’ll be holding accountable Democrats who voted against their constituents by running ads in their states, featuring some of the 23,000 gun owners who have joined our campaign for common sense gun reform,” said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder.

The progressive group Democracy for America made similar comments.

“Democrats who were too cowardly to get on the right side of a 90-10 issue like universal background checks better believe that the progressives will remember their spinelessness on gun violence prevention come reelection time. The over 1 million members of Democracy for America nationwide work to elect progressive fighters, not U.S. Senators who can be cowed by the right-wing fringe and gun industry lobbyists like the NRA,” remarked Neil Sroka, the communications director for Democracy for America.

The Toomey-Manchin amendment would have required background checks for firearm sales at gun shows and on the Internet. The Senate voted 54-46 in support of the amendment, but failed short of the 60 votes needed.

Democratic Sens. Mark Pryor (AK), Max Baucus (MT), Mark Begich (AK) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) voted against the amendment. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also voted against the amendment so that Democrats could bring the bill up again.

Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have proposed an alternative amendment, which does not expand background checks. Instead, it focuses on prosecuting individuals who fail background checks.

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, the co-chair of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, also blasted Democrats who voted against the Toomey-Manchin amendment.

“Today’s vote is a damning indictment of the stranglehold that special interests have on Washington,” he said in a statement. “More than 40 U.S. senators would rather turn their backs on the 90 percent of Americans who support comprehensive background checks than buck the increasingly extremist wing of the gun lobby. Democrats – who are so quick to blame Republicans for our broken gun laws – could not stand united. And Republicans – who are so quick to blame Democrats for not being tough enough on crime – handed criminals a huge victory, by preserving their ability to buy guns illegally at gun shows and online and keeping the illegal trafficking market well-fed.”


Mississippi man arrested over ricin laced letter sent to Obama

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 17, 2013 21:31 EDT

US authorities have arrested a suspect over mailings laced with the deadly poison ricin to President Barack Obama and a senator, officials said.

“Today at approximately 5:15 pm (2215 GMT), FBI special agents arrested Paul Kevin Curtis, the individual believed to be responsible for the mailings of the three letters sent through the US Postal Service,” the Justice Department said.

The letters “contained a granular substance that preliminarily tested positive for ricin,” it added in a statement.

Earlier reports had said that the letters to Obama and Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi were signed “I am KC and I approve this message.”

Curtis was arrested at his home in Corinth, Mississippi, the Justice Department statement said.

The US Secret Service said the letter to Obama had been intercepted at a mail screening site on Tuesday, the same day authorities said a letter was sent to Wicker that also showed traces of ricin.

Ricin — a highly toxic protein found in castor beans — can, when inhaled, cause respiratory problems. Ingested orally, it is lethal in even miniscule quantities.

Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said the agency, which protects the president and his family, was working closely with the US Capitol Police and the FBI.

The FBI said “There is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston.”

The White House deflected inquiries on the incident to the FBI and the Secret Service.

Senator Carl Levin meanwhile issued a statement saying one of his staffers had discovered a “suspicious-looking letter” at a regional office in Michigan and handed it over to authorities for further investigation.

The person had no symptoms, but was being held in hospital overnight as a precaution, the senator said.

Adding to nervousness in the US capital, two Senate office buildings were briefly cordoned off amid reports of a suspicious package, but were reopened after the all-clear was given.

Republican Senator Jim Risch told AFP that everyone on Capitol Hill was perpetually as “vigilant as they can be” and that such scares had been part of life for many years.

The poisoned mail episodes recalled the mysterious series of letters laced with anthrax sent to lawmakers and some journalists, which killed five people and sickened 17 others, following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Congressional mail has been screened off-site ever since.

Three Senate office buildings were shut in 2004 after tests found ricin in mail that had been sent to the Senate majority leader’s office.

The biological agent was also sent to the White House and the Department of Transportation in November 2003. There were no injuries in those incidents.


04/17/2013 03:36 PM

World from Berlin: US Reaction to Boston Shows 'New Maturity'

America's measured reaction to the deadly bombings at the Boston Marathon has been admirable, German editorialists write on Wednesday. Remaining calm in the face of deep uncertainty is the key to defeating the aims of terrorists, they argue.

Three people were killed and more than 170 injured when two bombs went off near the finish line of the prestigious Boston Marathon event on April 15. As authorities continue to investigate the deadly incident, Bostonians are mourning the victims.

Among the dead in the attack against spectators of the prestigious sporting event was 8-year-old Martin Richard, whose mother and sister were also injured. A photograph of the boy holding a sign that reads "peace" has quickly become a symbol of the tragedy as it is published around the globe. Krystle Campbell, a 29-year-old restaurant manager, and a Chinese graduate student at Boston University identified as Lu Lingzi by the Shenyang Evening News, also perished in the attack.

Some 70 people injured by the bombs remained hospitalized on Tuesday night, 24 of them in critical condition, according to the the Boston Globe. As they recovered, hundreds of people gathered in various spots around the city to mourn the victims on Tuesday evening, singing and holding candlelight vigils.

Widespread Anxiety

With police presence high across the city, investigators are still searching for evidence and sifting through videos and photos of the event. So far, they have reportedly found that the two bombs were likely made from pressure cookers and filled with shrapnel, then placed in dark nylon bags and left at the scene. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, and no suspects are in custody, which has prompted the FBI to ask the public for tips.

President Barack Obama, who will travel to Boston on Thursday to speak at a memorial service, has called the attacks an "act of terror." Following the worst bombings in the US since the Sept. 11, 2001, anxiety is high. Two flights were reportedly disrupted on Tuesday due to security fears and nervous passengers. Adding to these concerns, the FBI is investigating a suspicious letter sent to Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, which tested positive for the deadly poison ricin, police said Tuesday night.

Still, the country's reaction has been decidedly measured, German editorialists argue on Wednesday. They encourage Western countries to remain calm and resist curbing further civil liberties in response to terrorism.

The conservative Die Welt writes:

"After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans built a powerful network of institutions to prevent such attacks. And indeed, until Boston, it also managed to thwart many terrorist plots. It was clear, however, that this series of successes wouldn't last forever. The public will probably have to live with the fact that it will be under the threat of totalitarian forces for several more decades. The only thing that will help is a mixture of vigilance and calm. … At the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be distracted from our lives, our sports and other festivities, even if radicals manage to strike again. It took a few years, but after 9/11, the democracies of the West have found a balanced response to terrorism. All in all, open society has proven itself to be both tough and capable of learning. It is this inner strength that characterizes our societies and repeatedly challenges the rage of extremists. Anyone who thinks they need to use bombs has already lost the battle of ideas."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"Once again, terrorism's simplicity is clear. The same mechanisms that changed the course of history more than 11 years ago are still working today -- the attack on the unsuspecting crowd, the paralyzing effect of numerous images, the symbolic place, the collective fears. Although Boston doesn't come close to the dimensions of the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, terrorism still works the same way."

"But luckily, this also holds true: Because terror has the greatest effect on the mind, much of its devastating force can be eased through thoughtfulness and serenity. Given the monstrosity of 9/11, this inner distance was not possible at the time. But after Boston it must be possible. President Obama waited a long time before using the word terrorism. His prudence is helpful and contributes to a de-escalation."

"Hysteria is the triumph of terror, but America has responded remarkably unhysterically to the bombs in Boston. This demonstrates a new maturity -- but also an unceasing fatigue. The Americans want to leave the decade of terror behind them, but the terrorists aren't ready to give up. Not yet. Eventually, however, its futility will finally be understood."

The left-leaning daily Die Tageszeitung writes:

"What is so perfidious about bomb attacks is that their effect is so broad. In addition to the bystanders, they are also a strike against all of society, which subsequently has to live with restrictions and further curtailments of civil rights and liberties."

"The Boston bombs hit a marathon race rich in tradition. Thousands came here without checkpoints or body searches to cheer on 23,000 runners. That has now changed, and it's to be feared that the kinds of security checkpoints previously only seen at airports will be applied to city marathons and, more generally, events with mass crowds in the future."

"Sporting events, e.g. events with high symbolic significance and mass audiences, have always been potential targets. They were in Munich in 1972, at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 and at the 2010 Africa Cup in Angola, where the Togo national team was attacked. The drama at the Munich Summer Games 41 years ago fundamentally changed everything. Since then, Olympic Games have become high security events monitored by police, special forces and militaries. Free access to stadiums, sporting facilities or Olympic Villages is no longer possible. In fact, there are very few sports that still offer space where one can manuever freely. Marathons were among them. So will they now become the subject of intense security?"

"What remains is an uneasy feeling for the next visit to a marathon. But this feeling -- which arises at shopping areas, in the subway or as a demonstrator in a crowd of thousands -- cannot be allowed to become so overpowering that people are willing to abandon open spaces and progress made in civil liberties. The answer to the bombings of Boston can only be: We are all willing to endure this uneasy feeling for the sake of civil society."

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The Boston bombs were detonated on a public holiday in Massachusetts that commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary War. Maybe the murderers see themselves as descendants of those revolutionaries in a fight against the repressive power of the state. What madness that would be! The culprits behind the Boston attacks aren't brave heroes but cowardly murderers who turned a grand sporting event into a bloodbath. President Obama has repeatedly had to find comforting words for a troubled nation, most recently after the massacre at an elementary school. He's going to have to do so again, with Americans expecting authorities to quickly find the perpetrators. And with the hope that Boston doesn't mark the launch of a new spate of terrorist attacks, because the whole world felt the consequences of 9/11."

-- Kristen Allen


April 17, 2013

Suspicions in Boston Attack Turn to Man Seen in Videos


BOSTON — In the first major break in the hunt for the Boston Marathon bomber, F.B.I. personnel on Wednesday found security video clips that showed a man they believe may have played a role in planting the explosives that killed three people and injured more than 170 on Monday.

The videos also showed at least a handful of others whom the authorities want to question, either because of what they appear to be doing in the video or their proximity to the blasts, a senior law enforcement official said.

The official said the authorities were trying to boil down the number of people of interest in the videos and would then decide whether to ask the public’s help in locating them.

“It’s a crowd, there are a lot of different angles. It is not like some television-produced video — there’s a lot that isn’t clear,” said the official. “But most interpretations support the notion that one man is seen dropping a bag.”

The official added: “There are several videos with people in them, and we’re looking to talk to more than one guy. It’s still very squishy but there are a lot of interesting people” the authorities want to talk to.

As word spread of the videos Wednesday afternoon, officials emphatically denied a flurry of news reports that they had made an arrest. The F.B.I. was still “looking for a name to put with a face in a video,” one law enforcement official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Those denials did not deter hundreds of office workers and reporters from gathering outside the federal courthouse, where they anticipated that a suspect would be arraigned. A midday bomb scare caused the courthouse to be evacuated and created confusion as the crowds were moved far away from the building and it was ringed by police vehicles. By nightfall, no arrest had taken place.

At Copley Square, the crime scene, several blocks long, remained barricaded as investigators in white hazmat suits scoured the buildings and roofs for pieces of evidence from the two explosions, which occurred at 2:50 Monday afternoon near the finish line of the marathon.

Teams of investigators, including more than 1,000 F.B.I. agents, were tracking possible leads developed on Tuesday after they had discovered remnants from the two bombs.

Those remnants included: parts of one or two kitchen pressure cookers that had evidently been packed with nails, ball bearings and black powder and used as explosive devices; the torn remains of a dark nylon backpack or duffel bag in which one of the bombs had been hidden; and a circuit board, wires and other parts from timing devices. Investigators hoped to track the items back to where they were sold and compile a list of names or descriptions of the buyers.

A piece of the lid of one of the pressure cookers was found on a rooftop near the blast, a law enforcement official said on Wednesday — giving a sense of the tremendous force of the explosion.

The possible break in the case came as investigators scrutinized scores of videos and photographs from surveillance cameras from nearby businesses, as well as from marathon spectators’ smartphones and television crews that were filming the Boston Marathon when the deadly blasts went off. So far, no one has taken responsibility for the explosions.

As the investigation went into a third day, there were signs of jitters around the nation, which was on high alert. New York City officials said there had been an increase in reports of suspicious packages. In Oklahoma City, the scene of a devastating bombing in 1995, City Hall was briefly evacuated Wednesday morning as the authorities examined a stolen rental truck that was parked outside. (There was no bomb, officials there said.)

In Washington, parts of two Senate office buildings were shut down as officials investigated reports of suspicious letters or packages, and the Secret Service said that a letter addressed to President Obama contained a suspicious substance. It was intercepted at a screening facility outside the White House, and federal agents arrested a suspect on Wednesday evening.

The police in New York received 143 reports of suspicious packages between Monday afternoon, just after the Boston explosions, and midnight on Tuesday. This was an increase of more than 300 percent over a similar time period last year, said Raymond W. Kelly, the police commissioner.

And in Boston, the John Joseph Moakley United States Court House was evacuated in the afternoon as officials called out “code red” and bomb-sniffing dogs were sent inside.

The courthouse was swarming with scores of journalists from around the world, who had flocked there because of rumors — reported early Wednesday afternoon by several news organizations but forcefully denied by the F.B.I. and the Boston Police Department — that an arrest had been made in the case or was imminent.

One of those evacuated, Dave Greenup, 58, who works at a restaurant inside the courthouse, reflected the anxiety caused by the bombings. “For the past couple days, I have been in a daze,” he said. “All of a sudden, we get this evacuation thing. Every time we turn around now, there’s something. I was really hoping they caught somebody. You want closure.”

Court employees were allowed back into the courthouse at 4:15 p.m. No bomb was found there.

Boston prepared to mourn the victims at an interfaith church service on Thursday morning at the Cathedral of Holy Cross. President Obama and his wife, Michelle, were scheduled to attend.

The three people killed in the blasts represented a cross-section of Boston, brought together seemingly at random to watch one of the city’s proud traditions, the 117th marathon. There was Lu Lingzi, 23, from China, a graduate student at Boston University and one of the thousands of international students drawn to the area’s universities. There was Martin Richard, a vivacious 8-year-old third grader from a well-loved family in Dorchester, a tightknit community. And there was Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington, Mass., a woman known for her sense of humor who had started working at restaurants as a waitress in high school and worked as a restaurant manager.

If investigators in Boston can find a facial image of sufficient quality from the videos, it could provide a powerful lead.

The F.B.I. has been working for several years to create a facial recognition program, and the video of a suspect or suspects could be matched against the bureau’s database of mug shots of about 12 million people who have been arrested, officials said.

If there is no match, investigators can hunt for the suspects’ images in the voluminous videos and photographs from the bombing site that were submitted by members of the public in response to an F.B.I. appeal. That is still a technically difficult task, because the software is most accurate with head-on facial images and can be thrown off even by a smile, specialists said on Wednesday.

Still, “it’s vastly superior to just watching the video,” said Al Shipp, chief executive of 3VR Inc., a company that sells video analytics software. “You can sort through years of video in seconds. That’s the game changer.”

By piecing together more images of suspects and their movements, the F.B.I. might be able to come up with a name. Even without a name, Mr. Shipp said, investigators could program multiple cameras at airports and elsewhere with the suspects’ images so the cameras would send an alert to them if someone resembling a suspect passed by.

While investigators have focused on the images of the possible suspect, they are continuing to pursue a broad range of other avenues, one law enforcement official said.

“We try not to get tunnel vision about it,” the official said, adding, “we’re working a lot of other possibilities.”

The process, the official said, can be a painstaking one. Once an image like that of a potential suspect is identified, investigators and analysts will seek to track the person in the image, both back in time and forward, seeking other images — photographs and videos — from other sources, looking for different angles and lighting.

Using the universe of video and still images being compiled for the investigation, they will also try to see where the person came from before he or she was captured in the initial image, and where he or she went, the official said.

Dan L. Vogel, a retired F.B.I. agent and former profiler for the bureau, said that if a suspect is not identified quickly, investigators might put the security video images of the suspect or suspects out to the public in the hope that someone would recognize them. “The only reason not to put it out is they’ll get so many calls that it will take a huge amount of time away from the investigation,” Mr. Vogel said.

Appealing to the public would most likely put more pressure on the suspect. “He’d get nervous and turn himself in, or he could go to ground,” said Philip Mudd, a former senior C.I.A. and F.B.I. official. “But having several million people looking for him outweighs any downside.”

Simultaneously, said Chris Westphal, an author on investigative software and consultant to law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the F.B.I. is most likely compiling data from license-plate readers, which are now often located on police cars as well as tow trucks and even finance company vehicles. On the theory that the bomber would have surveyed the marathon finish line repeatedly in advance of the race, investigators might collect license tag numbers for vehicles that cruised the area in the days before the race and obtain driver’s license photos for the owners.

“Right now, it’s got to be a shotgun approach,” casting a wide net and following numerous possible chains of evidence, said Mr. Westphal, of Visual Analytics Inc. in Frederick, Md. “It’s an overwhelming task.”

In the meantime, amateur crime-solvers emerged on the online community Reddit, where a “findbostonbombers” message board popped up early on Wednesday. Hundreds of Reddit users combed through photographs and videos of Boylston Street, looking for suspicious people and packages while simultaneously marking other people as innocent.

Some of the users tried to cross-reference an F.B.I. photo of a shredded backpack found at the scene of the bombings with backpack-carrying people in the crowd around the finish line of the marathon. Other users singled out people who appeared to flee from the scene after the explosions.

Before long the most popular message was titled “Does anyone remember Richard Jewell?,” a reference to the security guard at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta who was wrongly cast as a suspect after a bomb blast there.

Katharine Q. Seelye reported from Boston, and Scott Shane and Michael S. Schmidt from Washington. Reporting was contributed by John Eligon, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Jess Bidgood from Boston; Michael Cooper, William K. Rashbaum and Brian Stelter from New York; and Eric Schmitt from Washington.


April 17, 2013

With a Bill Now in the Senate, Immigrants Weigh the Possible Impact


LOS ANGELES — In another era, Justino Mora might have been ashamed to talk about his mother coming across the border from Mexico illegally. But today, he calls her decision to immigrate more than a decade ago heroic.

When Mr. Mora, a student at the University of California, Los Angeles, received authorization to live and work in the United States late last year as part of the Obama administration’s plan to grant reprieves to young people who were brought to the country by their parents, he anxiously wondered whether his mother would ever receive the same benefits. Now, he said, there is a powerful sense of hope.

With the bipartisan group of eight senators having introduced their sweeping immigration bill in Washington this week, immigrants across the country are paying close attention to how the legislation might change their lives. They spoke with guarded optimism at the prospect of the proposal becoming law, enabling people who have lived here for decades without authorization to travel and work legally.

“We’ve all been living in fear, every day, but now people are finally starting to realize that every family like mine is part of this society and part of the fabric,” said Mr. Mora, 23. “Every family that comes here comes here with courage. We want the sense of security that comes with knowing we will not have to be separated.”

Since they received legal authorization last year, Mr. Mora and his younger brother have both obtained Social Security cards and driver’s licenses. But his older sister’s paperwork has not gone through, leaving her in a kind of legal limbo — she is worried she may lose her job as a secretary as soon as this week because she has not been able to show she is legally allowed to work.

“It’s no way to live,” Mr. Mora said. “But that is the life many people have.”

Many of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States work in low-wage jobs all over the country, making beds in hotels, cleaning tables in restaurants or laying brick at construction sites. And as the details of the bill were released Tuesday, many reacted with hopefulness that legal authorization would allow them to make more money, escaping jobs that can pay less than minimum wage.

But at the same time, they worried that they would never be able to scrape together enough money to pay the taxes and fees they would need to receive legal residency.

At a day-laborer site in North Phoenix on Tuesday, José Dominguez huddled under a tree with two other men, assessing their chances at legal status, wondering aloud whether they could assemble the necessary paperwork to prove they have lived in the United States long enough and paid enough taxes to qualify, even though they work in a business that deals almost entirely in cash.

For Luiz Alberto Herrera, 38, who left his native northern Mexico nine years ago, money may be the greatest obstacle to becoming a citizen.

“You live day by day” as a day laborer, he said. “How I’m going to be able to save to straighten up my paperwork, I don’t know.”

Mr. Herrera and Mr. Dominguez, 50, a day laborer from Michoacán, Mexico, recently spoke to a lawyer about what they might face under the new proposal to become legal residents. “Patience,” Mr. Dominguez said, was the advice he received from the lawyer.

Indeed, any legislation is likely to produce a legal labyrinth, and immigration lawyers are already gearing up for more business. Charles Kuck, an immigration lawyer in Atlanta, said he expected to hire more legal staff members to handle the crush of new clients he anticipates.

For the last several months, Mr. Kuck has spoken to Latino groups throughout Georgia, advising them what kind of impact a new immigration law could have. He has cautioned them that the process could take months or even years, but that they should begin assembling files of tax records and marriage licenses.

“What they really want is the ability to be legal,” he said. “What most people really want is just the ability to drive without fear, to live without fear.”

Like others who immigrated illegally, Maria Galvan speaks of living in the shadows, like a ghost that does not want to be seen. But in recent months Ms. Galvan, who came from Mexico City to the San Fernando Valley 13 years ago, has felt emboldened. Last week, she traveled to a large rally in Washington and made calls to members of Congress demanding a new immigration law.

“It used to be that we had no power, but we have worked very hard and we want the respect we deserve,” said Ms. Galvan, 43. She spoke longingly of wanting to go back to Mexico to see nieces and nephews whom she has never met and are now teenagers. “We all have dreams we’ve been holding on to for a long time.”

For all the excitement, for many the promise of legalization was tinged with disappointment — both at the length of the 13-year path to full citizenship and because the legislation will leave out anyone who arrived after Dec. 30, 2011.

John Acosta, a Colombian who has lived in North Miami since 1995, said that while he agreed with the proposals to tighten border security, the cutoff would create “another new problem.”

Santos Canelas has had a legal work permit since the 1980s, but is eager to make his status permanent. While he believes he will be able to meet any requirements for citizenship, he expects that many other immigrants will not.

“It’s like a funnel,” he said. “They’re putting us all through a funnel, and those that are able to pay and persist will make it through, but others won’t.”

Reporting was contributed by Lizette Alvarez, Vanessa Garcia and Anthony Cave from Miami; Fernanda Santos from Phoenix; and Kim Severson and Robbie Brown from Atlanta.


April 17, 2013

Court Says Police Need Warrant for Blood Test


WASHINGTON — The fact that alcohol dissipates from the bloodstream over time does not by itself give the police the right to draw blood without a warrant in drunken-driving investigations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The case arose from the arrest of Tyler G. McNeely, who was pulled over for speeding on a Missouri highway and, the State Supreme Court said, exhibited “the telltale signs of intoxication — bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and the smell of alcohol on his breath.” He performed poorly on a field sobriety test and was arrested.

Mr. McNeely refused to take a breath test and, after being taken to a hospital, to consent to a blood test. A blood test was performed anyway, about 25 minutes after he was pulled over, and it showed a blood alcohol level of 0.15 percent, almost twice the legal limit.

The state court suppressed the evidence, saying there had been no “exigent circumstances” that excused the failure to obtain a warrant. “Warrantless intrusions of the body are not to be undertaken lightly,” the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, in an opinion joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and, for the most part, Anthony M. Kennedy, affirmed the state court’s decision. Justice Sotomayor said many factors had to be considered in deciding whether a warrant was needed.

“Whether a warrantless blood test of a drunk-driving suspect is reasonable must be determined case by case based on the totality of the circumstances,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Among the relevant factors, she said, are “the practical problems of obtaining a warrant within a time frame that still preserves the opportunity to obtain reliable evidence.” She said technological developments made promptly obtaining a warrant possible in many circumstances.

In 1966, in Schmerber v. California, the United States Supreme Court said no warrant was required to take blood without the driver’s consent after an accident in which the driver and a passenger had been injured. The fact that alcohol levels diminish over time figured in the court’s analysis, as did the time it took to investigate at the scene of the accident and move the injured people to the hospital.

In the Missouri case, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr., concurred in part and dissented in part.

“A police officer reading this court’s opinion would have no idea — no idea — what the Fourth Amendment requires of him,” the chief justice wrote, referring to the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures. He said it was possible “to offer guidance on how police should handle cases like the one before us.”

“Simply put,” the chief justice wrote, “when a drunk driving suspect fails field sobriety tests and refuses a breathalyzer, whether a warrant is required for a blood draw should come down to whether there is time to secure one.” No warrant should be required, he wrote, unless a police officer reasonably concludes that there was enough time.

Thirty states use electronic warrant applications, Chief Justice Roberts said. Many allow police officers to call a judge directly. A Kansas county has officers e-mail warrant applications to judges’ iPads.

Chief Justice Roberts said he would have returned the case to the lower court to apply the standard he proposed.

Justice Clarence Thomas dissented in the case, Missouri v. McNeely, No. 11-1425. “Nothing in the Fourth Amendment requires officers to allow evidence essential to enforcement of drunk-driving laws to be destroyed while they wait for a warrant to issue,” Justice Thomas wrote.


House Republicans Warn That They Will Obstruct Guns and Immigration Bills

By: Rmuse
Apr. 17th, 2013

Over the course of the past four years, the idea that government can do anything to improve the quality of American people’s lives either in terms of economics, social justice, or providing services to the people has been met with non-stop hindrance and opposition to interrupt progress on the population’s behalf. It is true that ideological differences between the two parties in Washington precludes unanimous consent to pass legislation regardless the party in power, but Republicans have made it a condition of service to oppose any and everything President Obama or Democrats proposed regardless the population’s overwhelming support for their agenda.  It has made little difference whether Republicans were in the minority in the President’s first two years in office, or whether they controlled only one house in Congress, their primary goal is obstructing progress for obstruction’s sake and little else. A little over a month ago, Speaker of the House John Boehner chastised the Democratically-controlled Senate for not taking the lead on preventing the Republican’s sequester from being enacted, but whatever the Senate may have accomplished was fated dead on arrival in the Republican House, and now that the Senate is making progress on two very important issues to the American people, Boehner’s conservative caucus is ready to obstruct immigration reform and gun safety legislation because it is contrary to their ideology.

Last week, days before the tragic terror attack at the Boston Marathon, teabaggers in the House warned their leadership that despite an impending deal coming out of the Senate, putting immigration reform on the House agenda would be met with opposition and they told Boehner to slow down. Leading the charge against immigration reform is longtime anti-immigration advocate Steve King (R-IA) who said, “Up on our agenda came immigration … leadership is going to bring immigration, according to the agenda, sometime to the floor. How do we know we’re going to do immigration? How come I don’t know this?” King was not alone criticizing the idea the House would take up a Senate proposal to reform immigration, and as media reports emerged that a Senate deal was imminent, a number of House conservatives informed leadership they would not be steamrolled by the upper chamber. Referring to the so-called “gang of eight” in the Senate, Representative Mo Brooks (R-Ala) said, “Keep in mind, it’s just eight people. It’s not sanctioned by anybody; it’s going to be very difficult for me to agree to ratify illegal conduct.”

King’s opposition to immigration reform is legendary, and his comments last week were expository of his anti-immigration stance that led him to assail immigration reform in light of the Boston terror attack he used as a threat to kill any deal coming out of the Senate. King said, “Some of the speculation that has come out is that yes, it was a foreign national and, speculating here, that it was potentially a person on a student visa, if that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture,” and that on immigration, the nation’s security demanded that any discussion regarding a path to legalization should be put on hold because “we need to be ever vigilant, we need to go far deeper into our border crossings.” Representative Brooks echoed King’s stalling tactic and said immigration issues “deserve adequate time for discussion” and warned the House leadership that “Republicans in the House need to be convinced that border security issue is addressed, not in the future but now. You’ve seen the Senate pushing a deadline, and you have never seen the House pushing a deadline because we realize how difficult it is to get final agreement on those last few issues.” Translation; conservatives will obstruct immigration reform.

There is a similar situation developing on gun safety legislation, and despite what Republicans and Democrats in the Senate compromise on, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) issued a warning to Boehner not to bring a firearm bill to the floor. Stockman penned an op-ed in The Hill contending that “President Obama and the Astroturf anti-gun agenda are leading his party into political oblivion, and Boehner is missing an opportunity to solidify and rally a voting and activist base of millions.” Stockman must not be aware that an overwhelming majority of Americans, including Republicans and NRA members, support expanding gun safety laws despite the NRA’s contention that Americans should be armed and dangerous regardless if they have a criminal background, mental illness, or buy assault weapons over the Internet or from unregistered gun sellers. The House Republicans are not going to act on gun safety legislation because it does not fit into their worldview that a heavily armed populace is necessary to enrich the firearm industry, and feeling pressure from the Senate appears to strengthen their resolve to block gun safety legislation.

On Monday, House Republicans began conspiring on how best to delay and weaken any Senate legislation they see as limiting Americans’ right to bear arms besides warning Boehner to kill any gun safety bill passed by the Senate by refusing to take action on it. Boehner appears more than happy to comply with House gun zealots and is reportedly planning what promises to be a months-long review of the Senate bill that involves chipping away at gun-related measures while pushing for proposals to identify and treat the mentally ill as the best hope to reduce gun violence. Republicans in the House are following NRA spokesman Wayne La Pierre’s directive to focus on mentally ill criminals as the bipartisan Senate plan to expand background checks gained momentum. The insanity of honing in on criminals with mental issues without being able to do background checks is lost on any sane human being, but when obstruction is the order of the day and obeisance to the gun lobby is requisite to be a Republican, any reason to obstruct measures that protect the population is salient to recalcitrant Republicans.

The idea of obstructing immigration reform and gun safety measures contrasts the will of the people according to a new poll that revealed most Americans, including half of all gun owners, say it is reasonable enact new laws without infringing on gun ownership rights, and overwhelming majorities support expanded background checks at gun shows and for online gun sales. On the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, nearly two-thirds of Americans support legislation that includes a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., and yet House Republicans are intent on killing any Senate legislation because as anti-immigration crusader Steve King says, “we need to be ever vigilant and go far deeper into our border crossings” because of speculation the Boston Bomber “was a foreign national and potentially a person on a student visa.” It is little wonder the poll also revealed that 70% of Americans, and nearly half of all self-identified Republicans, believe Republicans are significantly out of touch and the party as a group is disconnected from the mainstream.

The Republicans in the House have exceeded being out of touch and disconnected from America, and they are the sole reason why government is not working for the people. It is one thing to have ideological differences on policy and how best to solve the nation’s problems, but Republicans made it their life’s mission to obstruct intelligent debate and discussion on every issue whether it is immigration reform or creating jobs, and until they are evicted from Congress, particularly the House, government will not function and that has been their goal for over four years.

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« Reply #5829 on: Apr 19, 2013, 05:27 AM »

04/18/2013 03:38 PM

'Like 1930s Germany': Greek Far Right Gains Ground

By Manfred Ertel in Athens

Nowhere else in Europe are neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists profiting as greatly from the financial crisis as in Athens. As they terrorize the country with violence, the police stand back and prosecutors are powerless.

The Municipal Theater in Piraeus, Greece, was bathed in an eerie light, with yellow floodlights and red torches combining to illuminate the theater's neoclassical façade, which now served as the backdrop for a macabre spectacle: At least 1,000 neo-Nazis and their supporters had turned out for a march, and red flags bearing a large, black swastika-like symbol flew from the building's front steps.

The right-wing extremist party Chrysi Avgi, or Golden Dawn, convened this demonstration on a Thursday in February to protest an arson attack on its local party office -- and to make another display of its strength.

Ringed by a group of brawny toughs, party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, 55, bellowed: "No one can stop us -- not the bombs, not all your filth. We will triumph!" His listeners, many of them hidden beneath black hoods, replied with a thunderous "Zito! Zito!" The phrase literally means something like "Long live!" but the affect is more like "Heil!" -- and deliberately so. Many also raised their right arms, while the police remained in the background. The right-wing extremists then took their burning torches and marched through the downtown of this port city. Foreigners and any young people dressed in alternative-looking clothing made sure to clear out of the streets before they arrived. The scent of danger hung in the air.

Right-wing thugs have been spreading fear and terror in Greece for months. The worse the financial crisis gets and the harsher the budget cuts imposed by European creditors are, the worse the terror gets on the streets. Foreigners have been attacked, homosexuals chased and leftists assaulted. Some were beaten to death. There are parts of Athens in which refugees and minorities no longer dare to go out alone at night, and streets that are echoingly empty. Foreign merchants have had to close their doors, while journalists and politicians who criticize these developments receive threats or beatings.

Ta Nea, a leading Greek daily, has described conditions here as similar to those of Weimar Germany. Vassiliki Georgiadou, a political science professor in Athens, likewise calls it "an atmosphere like in the 1930s in Germany against the Jews and their businesses."

As recently as Greece's October 2009 parliamentary election, Golden Dawn garnered just 0.29 percent of votes. But in the early election held last May, as well as in the subsequent new election in June, the right-wing extremist party suddenly received almost 7 percent of votes, securing 18 seats in the country's parliament.

Polls now show the party holding 10 to 12 percent of voter support. Together with two other right-wing nationalist groups, that puts the extremist block at about 20 percent. Nowhere else in Europe are neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists profiting as greatly from the financial crisis as in Athens.

And now these extremists are practicing what they once only preached.

Violent on the Streets

In 2005, the French monthly newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique wrote that party leader Michaloliakos had warned, "When we are strong, we will show no mercy. It won't be democratic anymore."

At the time, Michaloliakos' statements were derided, but now the party and its followers are proving on the streets of Athens just how serious they are with their threats. In some downtown city neighborhoods where many asylum seekers and refugees live, small bands of extremists calling themselves "stormtroopers" -- in allusion to the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) paramilitary organization better known as the "brownshirts" -- have taken to roaming the streets on foot or on motorcycles, attacking foreigners and leftists and beating them to the point that they require hospitalization. They use clubs, baseball bats, knives and in some cases even guns.

Human rights organizations have recorded hundreds of such attacks, with the list growing daily. These attacks are "systematic and organized" in their execution and unquestionably "racially motivated," was the conclusion reached late last summer by 19 aid organizations working in tandem with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Since then, the situation has only gotten worse.

Many victims of this violence no longer even go to the police, who are rumored to sympathize with the extremists. At polling places specifically designated for police, Golden Dawn received as much as 23.7 percent of the vote.

Attack victims relate stories of officers who were more interested in checking their residency permits than in tracking down the perpetrators -- or simply sent them away. Eyewitnesses also report incidences of open collaboration. One example occurred in October in front of the Hytirio Theater in Athens, after three members of parliament representing Golden Dawn led a gang of thugs in disrupting a play being performed there. When Christos Pappas, one of the parliamentarians, stepped in to release one of the arrested men from a police bus, officers stood by without intervening.

"The police are no longer an independent organization," says Dimitris Kyriazidis, a member of parliament for New Democracy (ND), the country's conservative ruling party. Kyriazidis was himself a police officer and co-founder of a police officers' union. He criticizes the government's failure to initiate criminal proceedings for these cases as a "breach of democracy."

Officially, Golden Dawn denies any participation in or responsibility for these incidents. But, in most cases, its members can be found in the thick of things. In the port town of Rafina, for example, Golden Dawn parliamentarians headed groups that swept local markets, beating up foreign merchants and destroying their stands.

Neo-Nazi parliamentarian Georgis Germenis described it afterward as "taking a stroll," adding, "Then we did what Golden Dawn must do." Fellow party member Kostas Barbarousis boasted, "We restored order."

Then there's party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, Golden Dawn's leading ideologue, who slapped a Communist member of parliament in front of the cameras on a television talk show and threw a glass of water in a left-wing politician's face.

Last summer, when Greek police confronted a black-garbed Golden Dawn motorcycle gang that had just beaten several foreigners so badly they ended up in the hospital, the daughter of party leader Michaloliakos was among those arrested. And following the recent stabbing death of a Pakistani man in Athens, the police's search of a suspect's house turned up massive amounts of Golden Dawn propaganda. Kyriazidis, the former police union chief and ND parliamentarian, has called Golden Dawn a "gang of murderers."

The extremists are both brutal and ruthless. They have recently started attacking hospitals to drive out "illegal" nurses and foreign patients. Young members of the group are also starting to band together at schools and terrorize teachers.

Ties to German Neo-Nazis

Of the party's 18 members of parliament, 17 are currently the subject of proceedings to revoke their parliamentary immunity. The petitions have already been granted in at least five of these cases. Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the country's socialist PASOK party and a former deputy prime minister, would prefer to ban the neo-Nazi party entirely.

But Golden Dawn's leaders aren't particularly worried. They feel emboldened by their strong showing in polls and validated by the effect their intimidation tactics have had. At the sole press conference the party has given so far, on the evening of the parliamentary election, journalists and camera operators were ordered, "Stand up! Show your respect! Anyone who doesn't stand leaves!" And the media representatives complied.

This made it all the more astonishing when party leader Michaloliakos appeared on February 1 and posed for photographs in parliament with two supposed journalists -- Germans, no less. In reality, the men turned out to be known neo-Nazis who had come to Greece as leaders of a delegation of around 30 German right-wing extremists.

These ties to Germany make perfect sense since Golden Dawn's ideologues see themselves as following in the tradition of historical role models. In the few interviews he has given, Michaloliakos hasn't held back the unvarnished truth about his views.

On Adolf Hitler, he says: "A historic figure, who is not judged objectively."

On the Holocaust: "An exaggeration."

On Auschwitz and its gas chambers: "There were no gas chambers; that's a lie."

And yet Greek investigators are having trouble pinning anything on the extremists. Nikos Ornerakis has been investigating his country's spate of right-wing terror since December 1, but he is the only public prosecutor working on the issue and hasn't even been assigned a secretary to help him. Left-wing extremists, on the other hand, have been under observation by various special commissions for years.

"It's a big problem," Ornerakis says. He's investigated about 30 cases so far, but none of them came from the police. Instead, they were "all drawn from the newspapers." The Greek government does plan to establish 68 police stations across the country dedicated to fighting racism and hate crimes -- eventually.

"So far, though," the investigator explains, "there isn't even a legal precedent for investigating and prosecuting racist crimes," because they aren't classified as an offense under Greek criminal law. "That's something that urgently needs to be changed," Ornerakis says.

That and so many things in this country, which lays claim to having invented democracy.

Translated from the German by Ella Ornstein

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« Reply #5830 on: Apr 19, 2013, 05:46 AM »

Poland: ‘The First Warsaw Uprising. 19 April 1943’

19 April 2013
Gazeta Wyborcza

"In the afternoon, there is no longer in the ghetto or a German. This is the first complete victory over Germany, the Jewish Fighting Organization. Rest of the day goes to> complete peace <- that takes only artillery (artillery is set Krasinski) and from time to time bombardment from the air "- he recalled the first day of the uprising, Marek Edelman
"The day got pretty sunny, but not hot.'s Even a cool" - Edelman wrote. The researchers of the history of the ghetto Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak agreed: "The heat, the temperature at 24 degrees Celsius." Here and there were blooming tree. In the Christian calendar began with just Holy Week. Religious Jews preparing for one of its major festivals - Passover - established to commemorate the escape of the chosen people of the land of Egypt. In 1943, the beginning of the evening fell on April 19. On that day, at dawn, in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.

"The ghetto is dead - a soul anywhere, armed only ZOB"

Still living in the ghetto (largely illegal) and employed about 60 thousand. Jews, most of them young and single. Their family of seven months earlier Germans deported to the gas chambers of Treblinka. Then murdered around 300 thousand. people.

They remained in the ghetto knew and death awaits them - why were preparing to fight.

In April, pick up the information concentrated in the Warsaw branch of the SS and collaborating with the Germans units of the Lithuanian, Latvian and Ukrainian. On the night of 18 to 19 April liaisons Jewish Fighting Organization celebrated the ghetto, telling residents to shelter in bunkers previously prepared under houses and hiding places in attics.

"(...) O h. 2 in the morning the first reports are coming from our forward detectors that the German police and the Polish Blue Police surround the 25-meter intervals, the outer walls of the ghetto. Immediately alerted all the battle groups, which in the chair. 2.15, the ie 15 minutes later, took their battle stations. Alarmed by our entire civilian population goes immediately into the prepared shelters and storage in basements and attics. Getto is dead - a soul anywhere, armed only ZOB "- reported one of the leaders of the uprising, Marek Edelman ("Ghetto Fights").

Some hours. 4 standing on guard Simon Ratajzer "Kazik" seen entering the ghetto street tinctures German cars , motorcycles, tanks and running. He told the girl to accompany him: "Ride like the war." "I felt how much we are weak, how small are our strength. Had only revolvers and grenades. But the fighting spirit never left me. Finally, it was necessary to count them" - he wrote years later.

The disproportion of forces was shocking.

To pacify the ghetto Germany set: panzer grenadier divisions and the SS Cavalry (821 men, nine officers), the German police detachments (228 gendarmes, 6 officers), Polish Blue Police (363 officers, four officers), artillery and sappers Wehrmacht (56 men and 3 officers), branches of Ukrainians, Lithuanians and Latvians (335 soldiers, 2 officers). They have included: 1174 rifles, 135 automatic guns, 69 light machine guns, 13 heavy machine guns, running, flamethrowers, three armored cars, tanks and air support bombing udzielało ghetto.

ZOB insurgent forces consisted of 22 battle groups of 10-12 people. The second insurgent formation - Jewish Military Union - were less numerous.

They had very few weapons. They were poorly trained.

The money to buy weapons acquired include of the Judenrat (Jewish Council, the civil administration of the ghetto) or wealthy people. Sometimes they moved at the same time to gangster methods, such as robbing money Judenrat or kidnapping for ransom wealthy Jews who refused voluntary contributions. Their participation in such an action described by Simon Ratajzer "Kazik": "The whole thing went on for two or three days. Father and daughter sat in the "cell", and we are asking the threat and tried to force him to pay a premium. Firmly insisted on his "I do not know". (...) I put him up against the wall, Nabil arms, finger on the trigger, and I say I'll shoot him ... Then I broke down and started to treat us as to the amount of the sum claimed. "

After putting the desired amount of the hostages were released. Also smuggled into the ghetto of dollars from the working organization Arbeiter Ring in New York. Thus, during the first three months of 1943, the Jewish Fighting Organization for the purchase of weapons collected 10 million zł.

The fighters have short arms, which usefulness in street fighting, however small. Much more firepower were produced in the ghetto grenades, Molotov bottles, light bulbs filled with an explosive mixture. Their production directed Eng. Michael Klepfisz of socialist Bund. "The abandoned houses gathered hydraulic pipe, piłowaliśmy them into pieces 20-30 cm in length, on the one hand spawaliśmy, on the other thread did. For iron pipe we put the thinner aluminum tube filled with explosive material. Space between the pipe and aluminum pipe filled the pieces of iron, nails etc. For a tapped hole in the lid to launch new fuse "- described the construction of a grenade launcher Yitzhak Zuckerman.

50 pistols, 50 grenades and explosives sent ŻOB Army. ZZW was supplied with a machine gun.

From the first armed confrontation with Germany - January 18, 1943 - fighters were waiting for the signal to fight. They were billeted in empty apartments, punctured transition between lofts and cellars, which in the future will allow them to move quickly in the cramped city development.

"Shame disaster! Stain on the honor and good name of the SS!"

With a total liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto and sent the remains of people to the gas chambers decided SS and police chief Heinrich Himmler. Burn management in this issue, the February 16, 1943 until the SS and Police Leader in the General Government Friedrich Krüger.

The Germans had the opportunity to take into account the resistance of the Jews, but they did not realize their determination and capabilities. They planned the whole operation will last only three days. The contractor was the head of the SS and police in Warsaw , Colonel Ferdinand von Sammern-Frankenegg.

He April 19 at. 6 am brought to the ghetto 850 heavily armed soldiers and 16 officers of the Waffen-SS.

Marek Edelman: "The SS are now ready to attack. Resilient loud step in solid ranks are entering into a kind of dead streets of the central ghetto. Seems on the surface as if the triumph was complete, though a handful of adventurers ulękła of this perfectly armed and equipped , a modern army. As if these immature boys suddenly realized that there is no purpose to kidnap a wild-goose chase. That gun on each of their machine guns there are more German than they are to the bullets "(" The Ghetto Fights ").

The insurgents, however, is not frightened. They waited lurking in tenements. When you move forward Nalewki German column reached the intersection of ul. Goose, from the windows of the surrounding houses the shots were fired. SS fighters threw grenades and Molotov cocktails. It was the first start of the uprising.

Almost at the same time near - at the intersection of Zamenhof and Mila - in the heat of battle was the second column of the Germans. "(...) The four corners barricaded street battle groups opened, as they say in military terminology, a coaxial fire. Bullets erupted from an unknown weapon (grenades are our own production), a series of automatic gun pruły air (you must conserve ammo), somewhere on guns chattered. That's how it started. Germans try to flee, but the road is closed. The street full of dead Germans. Survivors are looking for cover in nearby shops and gates. But it turns out to be inadequate shelter. "Heroic" SS so bring tanks into action, under cover of which the remnants of the two companies to start "winning" retreat. But I do not have much luck. The first tank was burned from the explosion of our incendiary bottles, others do not come close to our position. Los Germans closed the "cauldron" Nice - Zamenhof is doomed. Not one of them came out alive. They fought battle groups here Gruzalca (the Bund), Merdka (with Szomru), Hochberg (the Bund), Berk (with Dror), Paul (PPR). At the same time it takes a second battle at the confluence Nalewki and Gesia () Germany they build a barricade of mattresses found by chance, but under heavy fire fighters have to repeatedly withdraw. Street sinks in German blood "- recorded Marek Edelman (" The Ghetto Fights ").

Completely surprised the Germans withdrew from the ghetto.

For their part, the developments observed SS General Jürgen Stroop. Two days earlier, arrived at the command of Himmler to Warsaw to Lviv, where he enjoyed the dubious reputation of absolute specialist in the extermination of the Jews "() Heinrich Himmler ordered that I immediately went to Warsaw and ensure the deportation of the Jews from the ghetto, even though von Sammern-Frankenegg was There commander of the SS and police. Von Sammern, lower-ranking than me (he was SS-Oberführer), the pith, the Austrian Tyrolean intelligent, Doctor of Law and Philosophy, comfortable, a sucker for baby, alcohol, fun "- said the fellow prisoner of war, Stroop Kazimierz cell Moczarskiemu ("Conversations with an Executioner").

Conducting operations in the ghetto by von Sammern rated as bad: "The first five minutes of shares - quietly. Jews podpuścili ours. When the SS went into the streets, and von Sammernowi seemed to spring walk passes through the ghetto, he got a strong fire, planned and customs. After the welcome of our panic. Officers von Sammern pushing forward but columns like mad! Lord, they attacked the large branches and it's pretty tight! Hell began. Mine broke and struck us humans. Jews and "Aryans" actively resisted, in an organized manner. Actually, it attacked. () This idiot, von Sammern-Frankenegg, ushered in the streets and dense buildings one tank, assigned to the Waffen-SS with the gains on the French front, and two SS-ish cars armored. Jewish insurgents (Stroop was used here for the first time this term) and fired tank cars and threw it "coctailami Molotov". () Within half an hour the army von Sammern were broken and demoralized. The tank burned twice. It was disposed of. The same thing happened with one car armored. Von Sammernowi wounded as many as twelve people. Six SS panzer grenadiers and SS-Reiterów and six sergeants obcoplemiennego battalion of lawn. " Stroop argued that the German branch was not killed that day.

Himmler was furious. "Reichsführer, always delicate and subtle, often using heavy words" - reported Stroop. Also Krüger yelling into the phone: "Shame! Defeat! Stain on the honor and good name of the SS." Stroop took command. He had command of the troops to return to the ghetto for two hours and continue the operation. Increased the number of troops in place of the destroyed vehicles introduced a new tank and a new car armored. Fighting erupted for the second time at the intersection Nalewki and geese. There have also Muranowski Square, where the SS fighters clashed with the Jewish Military Union.

 Germany re-ordered retreat.

Marek Edelman: "At two in the afternoon is no longer in the ghetto or a German. This is the first complete victory over Germany, the Jewish Fighting Organization. The rest of the day goes to "complete peace" - that takes only artillery (artillery is set Krasinski) and occasional bombing from the air. "

Later that same evening in the ghetto trying to break a 25-man squad Army soldiers under the command of Captain Joseph Pszenny "Chwacki". He was going to make a dent in the wall. The action ended with an exchange of fire with the Germans and the death of two Home Army. Four were injured. A few times the soldiers of the Home Army and the People's Guard tried to break through the wall.

"I sit with her ​​mouth open and everyone else doing the same, hoping that we catch a little bit of air"

In the early days of the uprising fighters were still able to make the fight with the Germans, and even ask them a loss. On Tuesday, April 20 laid a trap for them in the shed face brush at. Świętojerska (now the Chinese embassy area). He constructed the engineer Michael Klepfisz who died that day. Mine fighters put in the gate the workshop, from the street. Wałowa.

Ratajzer Simon: "It was a great amount of dynamite. () In carrying out guard duty, suddenly saw approaching the ghetto SS column. With one hand pressed the alarm bell, second and grabbed the key. At this point, my commander came, Enoch Gutmann, snatched it from my hand, waited a few seconds and then pressed. For a moment I was paralyzed, and then I was filled with a crazy desire to see with my own eyes what happened. I saw the bodies of German soldiers flew into the air, and with them the stones and bricks crumbling buildings. There has been an incredible confusion. I looked and could not believe: German soldiers scream, run away, leave the dead and wounded. I pulled out a grenade - one, two - quit. Also my colleagues shot, throwing "Molotov cocktails". Not all of us were good shooters, but some Germans were hit, and the rest fled. After a short time back. Clearly frightened. Fingers on the trigger gun. They do not go anymore, but running adhere to the wall. We give a go top six - shame ammunition for such a small group. But then it's more of them. Attack. We have two grenades own-nine "Molotov cocktails" and revolvers "(" Memoirs from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising ").

Germany issued an ultimatum to the rebels - surrender or equal ghetto to the ground. He remembered that Marek Edelman: "We saw a great view: three SS officers tried to start negotiations with us. Suggested that we stopped the fire, and in return promised everyone a peaceful stay in the camp work ! In response we began to shoot them. then Germany decided to introduction of regular troops - directed against us formations SS, police and Wehrmacht, artillery and aviation. because they encountered fierce resistance, used a new and reliable way: every set fire to buildings where they were hiding our people, and they often prefer to die in a fire than hit the hands of the Germans "(" I was a Jewish quarter in Warsaw ").

Stroop applied tactics total. Street by street, quarter after quarter, and searched systematically destroyed the Jewish Quarter. First sent artillery, the infantry and the arsonists of flame-throwers, and later - a special group to locate underground bunkers where they were hiding ghetto inhabitants. To blow up the bunkers had sappers. "Most of the bunkers and weapons based. Need to throw smoke bombs, sometimes use flamethrowers. Pull out the Jews from the bunkers. Segregation. Removing stubborn and insolent" - boasted Stroop.

The tactic worked. Fire clog corridors, receiving oxygen, killing hiding heat and carbon dioxide. Shelters located in the basement of buildings and tunnels dug into backyards became useless, turning into a hot trap. Houses burn down to the foundations and concrete, brick and glowing remains of bunkers make the unbearable heat. People in the soul. "I can not think of anything else except breathing air. Bunker heat is unbearable. Beats the smell of the hot wall, as if the mold absorbed over the years suddenly broke away under the influence of heat. And lack of air. Sit with his mouth open and everyone else do the same, hoping that we catch a little bit of air. in the bunker do not talk. 'Cause when you said to breathe harder. And from time to time burst screams, roars. Nerves have strained to the limit. did not eat from 24 hours . withstood us biscuits and less potable water. Whole foods broke down from a high temperature, "- said in one of the memories.

People Stroop discovered bunkers every day - at Nowolipki, Nowolipie, Leszno Street and other streets. Do they seek to take advantage of the ghetto police and rangers with dogs. One day we were able to get out of the underground a few hundred people. Some were sent to concentration camps, some were shot on the spot.

Increasingly, the situation was worse soldiers uprising.

"During the fighting, as far as the Germans set fire to buildings, we had to retreat into the area, hiding in cellars and shelters - said Marek Edelman. - On the day of the ghetto seemed completely extinct, at night, on the contrary, the plunged into total darkness, patrolling our streets patrol encountered enemy: won one who fired first. () Day by day, our situation became more difficult: there was hiding places, water, food and ammunition. Our messengers went down to the channel to get to the city and look for escape routes for those who remained still alive. " The author of these words escaped from the ghetto on May 10 along with 30 fighters ZOB.

"They'll keep only a single people, the rest will die sooner or later"

Saturday May 8. Around noon, the German and Ukrainian troops surrounded the large fortified bunker at. Have 18 It housed the Jewish Fighting Organization Headquarters. Inside, there were dozens of people, among them - the chief commander of the Jewish Fighting Organization and the creation of Mordechai Anielewicz. The fighters were not going to give up. Nearly two hours answering fire with fire. At the end of Germany threw a gas bomb into the bunker. "He was killed by a bullet in Germany, who has not been gassed, that commits suicide.'s Clear that there is no way out and no one gets even think of living indulge in German hands" - Marek Edelman wrote ("I was a district Jews in Warsaw ").

The mass suicide in a bunker called all Arie Wilner "herb", the instructor left-wing Hashomer Hatzair Scout movement and co-founder of the Jewish Fighting Organization. This kind of death had already chosen the Jewish insurgents. It was in 73 AD by the Romans in the besieged fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea. Liaison Anielewicza - twenty years Ruth Hejman - fired at each other seven times. She was so shaken that she could not find it. Akiba Zionist activist killed Lutek Rotblat first mother, my sister, at the end of each other. Life took her most of the staff, including the commander.

The shelter somehow managed to get a few people. Thanks to them we know what happened there.

Getting ZOB bunker Germany recognized for his great success. The place came even Jürgen Stroop.

The Jewish revolt was dying. "The tragedy of the death of Staff and the main leaders were the most painful blow, which suffered a rise" - said Bernard Mark ("Struggle and destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto"). May 16 Stroop pacify the uprising ended symbolically-handedly blowing up the Great Synagogue in Tłomackie - the largest in the Warsaw Jewish house of prayer. Even a few days in the former ghetto could hear sporadic exchange of fire between Germany and the remnants of the insurgent troops.

Prophetic words proved that two weeks before his death he wrote Mordechai Anielewicz to his deputy Yitzhak Cukierman "Antek", which is when the Aryan side walls: "They'll keep only a single people, the rest will die sooner or later." This letter was also the leader of a farewell answered the call: "Be well, my dear, perhaps I'll see you yet. Most important: the dream of my life come true. Jewish self-defense in the Warsaw ghetto to become a reality. Realized the Jewish resistance and revenge. I witnessed the great, heroic struggle of the Jewish fighters. "

The losses of the Jewish population during the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto:

People caught and put to death on the spot - 56 thousand.

Deported to Treblinka - 6.9 thousand.

Those who died in the fire and blown up - 5-6 thousand.


April 18, 2013

Polish Museum Repairs a Tie to a Jewish Past


WARSAW — In the entryway of the new Jewish museum here this week, Poland’s chief rabbi unveiled an unusual sculpture: an old, hollowed-out brick engraved with a single Hebrew letter.

The brick, an imaginative adaptation of the traditional mezuza case that Jews put on their doorways as a sign of their faith, came from a demolished tenement building on Nalewki Street, once a vital part of Jewish Warsaw, and it serves as an apt symbol of the relationship between Jews and Poles: troubled, buried and only recently unearthed.

When dignitaries from around the world gather here on Friday on the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, they will find the imposing Monument to the Ghetto Heroes dwarfed by the grand museum, a shining symbol of Warsaw’s transformation from a dark and cheerless post-Communist city to a thriving Central European capital.

In neighboring Germany, the relationship with Jews may be troubled but it is much simpler. German society has accepted collective guilt as the perpetrator of the Nazi genocide and recognizes the Jews as its victims. But Polish identity is also bound to the nation’s victim status after a history of centuries of conquest, partition and occupation.

Among civic leaders here there is a strong sense that Poland will never fully recover from its 20th-century traumas until it recognizes its Jewish past, and the museum is seen as a major step. “Jewish memory is becoming part of Polish memory,” the chief rabbi, Michael Schudrich, said in an interview at the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, “and the building we’re sitting in is the best example of that.”

About 3.3 million Jews lived in Poland at the outbreak of World War II. The last census showed a mere 7,508 people identifying themselves as Jews in 2011, and that was a leap from the 1,133 who said they were Jews in 2002.

Clad in glass panels on the outside, the museum has a curved passageway inside that runs from front to back, almost like a natural canyon, which the building’s architect has compared to the parted Red Sea. A meticulous recreation of the colorful painted ceiling of a wooden synagogue is complete, but coiled cables rise from the bare concrete floor, waiting to be connected to the multimedia displays that have yet to be installed.

Although it chronicles centuries of Jewish history in Poland, the museum was not an exclusively Jewish undertaking. The Polish government, Jewish groups and private donors worked together to raise roughly $100 million. The city provided the land free of charge and, along with the federal government, covered the construction costs. The Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland raised money for the permanent exhibition, which was not ready for this week’s soft opening but will be ready next year.

“Economically we are not a poor country anymore,” said Waldemar Dabrowski, the minister of culture’s liaison to the museum. “As a society it is healthy to be morally capable of doing such a thing.”

While many significant donations came from American organizations and individuals, Poland’s richest man, Jan Kulczyk, who is not Jewish, gave $6.4 million last summer. “When the Jewish nation and the Polish nation, when we are together, when we look in the same direction, it is great for us, great for Poland and great for the world,” said Mr. Kulczyk, whose worldwide holdings include oil, real estate and beer.

It has not always been easy. A proposal to build a monument to Poles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust on the same square has provoked passionate opposition. Writing in the leading newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, the Holocaust scholar Barbara Engelking said, “This is a small fragment of Warsaw that belongs to the Jews and that should not be appropriated.”

When 1,250 Warsaw high school students were recently asked which group suffered more in the war, Poles or Jews, nearly half, 44 percent, said the two groups had suffered equally; 28 percent answered Jews; and 25 percent said Poles.

Poles are particularly sensitive about the Nazis’ decision to build death camps on occupied Polish territory. It was on a visit to Warsaw in 1970 that Chancellor Willy Brandt of Germany dropped to his knees in front of the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes.

The large black stone and bronze monument remains a moving icon of suffering and martyrdom. On one side, a relief depicts women, children and the elderly trudging to their deaths. On the other stand armed figures, representing the brave but doomed fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, which began on April 19, 1943.

When the permanent exhibition at the museum is complete, it will tell the story of the Holocaust, as well as the difficult chapters in Polish-Jewish relations, including the murders of camp survivors after the war and the Communist government’s 1968 anti-Semitic campaign. But it also covers the thousand-year history of Jews in Poland, from the shtetls to the cities, from successful businessmen to pioneering Yiddish writers.

Organizers and curators repeat the same phrase over and over again: “This is a museum of life.” They hope to remind visitors of the centrality of Jewish life to Polish society and history.

“You can’t put the pieces back together again, but you can build bridges,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, a Canadian-born ethnographer in charge of the permanent exhibition. “They’re fragile, but you can build them.” Her father left Poland in 1934 at the age of 17. While working on the project, she learned to speak Polish and acquired Polish citizenship last year.

Maciej Bulanda, 23, who with his father designed the brick mezuza holder, became interested in his Jewish great-grandmother as a teenager, learning that she had three brothers who perished in the Holocaust and even finding two of their graves in Lodz.

“Our parents’ generation did not have the courage or inclination or interest to find out about that,” Mr. Bulanda said of the growing interest among young Poles in exploring their Jewish pasts. “We were brought up in a completely different world.”

That does not mean it is always easy. The same poll that examined the question of Jewish versus Polish suffering found that 61 percent of students said they “would be unhappy” to learn a boyfriend or girlfriend was Jewish, while 45 percent would rather not have a Jew in their family.

“When you’re 7 years old and playing football in the courtyard, in a fight you hear people using Gypsy or Jew as swear words,” Mr. Bulanda said.

After the museum announced a design competition for the mezuza, Mr. Bulanda brought up the possibility of entering at the family dinner table. His father, Andrzej, an architect, had the idea of using a brick.

They used old maps of the city to find where Nalewki Street once ran and excavated a spot in what is now a public park and was once the foundation of No. 10, No. 12 or the retaining wall between them.

Piotr Wislicki, chairman of the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, speaking to an audience in the museum’s auditorium after the mezuza was unveiled, recalled: “When I was a little boy I was afraid to look up when someone said the word Jew. I had the urge to run. As a young man I only told my close friends, swearing them to secrecy.”

“Today,” Mr. Wislicki said, “I am standing in front of you proud to be a Polish Jew.”

Hanna Kozlowska contributed reporting.

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04/18/2013 04:13 PM

Book Burnings: How the Nazis Ruined Erich Kästner's Career

By Georg Diez

Nearly 80 years ago, Nazi supporters burned German author Erich Kästner's work as smut. Unlike other condemned writers, he showed up to watch, and refused to leave the country during WWII. But he paid a price for this, ultimately giving in to self-censorship from which he never truly recovered.

It was late and dark, and it was raining, but the students who had concocted this plan were undeterred. They didn't need Hitler or Goebbels to inspire them. It was their idea, and now they were standing there, hooting and carrying torches, only to realize that because of the rain they would need the fire department to pour a little gasoline on the books so that they would actually burn.

It was May 10, 1933, shortly before midnight, not exactly prime time.

But then Joseph Goebbels made an appearance after all, shouting: "The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character." This German man, he went on to say, would even "overcome the fear of death." This scene and these words, which Goebbels hurled at his audience like missiles, encapsulated everything that was yet to come: burning synagogues, Auschwitz, Stalingrad and firing squads on the Eastern Front. Goebbels had already thought of everything. All he needed was a few helpers.

During student elections in 1931, some 44.4 percent voted for the National Socialist German Students' League. In April 1933, the German Student Association conceived a campaign called the "Action against the Un-German Spirit," and on April 12, it published its "12 Theses," which argued: "A Jew can only think Jewish. If he writes in German, he is lying." This lie, the students continued, was to be "eradicated."

And now roughly 40,000 people were standing in the pouring rain at Opernplatz square in Berlin to see how this could be done. They included Erich Kästner, who would later call Goebbels a "little limping devil" and a "failed human being." Kästner had come to watch his own books being burned, especially "Fabian," which the Nazi Party newspaper Völkischer Beobachter called a "dirty tale," filled with "descriptions of subhuman orgies."

A Fateful German Figure

In "Fabian," Kästner, who is now chiefly known as a writer of children's books, did indeed describe quick sex, casual sex and lesbian sex, in addition to love bought and sold, desire and suicide, unfaithful spouses, the tender juggernaut of modernity, newspaper editorial offices full of opportunists, dance halls full of lunatics, and a city filled with beggars, brothels and chaos.

It wasn't quite the Nazis' cup of tea.

"Against class warfare and materialism, for the community of the people and an idealistic way of life! I deliver to the flames the writings of Marx and Kautsky," the first student at Opernplatz shouted with what they called a "flame verse."

"Against decadence and moral degeneracy, for decency and customs in family and government!" the second student shouted. "I deliver to the flames the works of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Glaeser and Erich Kästner!"

Near the top of the students' list was Kästner, the author of "Emil and the Detectives" and "Dot and Anton," and a theater critic, lyricist and humorist. He was even higher on the list than Sigmund Freud and his "soul-destroying glorification of the instinctual life," Theodor Wolff and his "alien journalism," Erich Maria Remarque and his "literary betrayal of the soldiers of the world war," Alfred Kerr and his "smug adulteration of the German language" and Tucholsky and Ossietzky and their "insolence and arrogance."

Many of these authors had already fled the country or were in prison, but Kästner chose to stand in the place where flames were consuming his books. He wanted to see what was happening, because he wanted to be a chronicler, and he still believed that this horrific episode would soon end and he would write a novel about it, perhaps even a humorous one. He couldn't have done anything else, it was his nature. But when a woman shouted: "There's Kästner," he decided it was better to leave. Famous, ambivalent, good-natured and lost Kästner, a fateful German figure.

Staying in Germany

His story reaches back to the Weimar period, and to understand how it all happened -- the book-burning 80 years ago and everything that followed, with the fanaticism, the cult of the masses, the German killing machine that culminated in its ultimate act of brutality on the Eastern Front -- it's important to look back to 1928, when Kästner began writing quickly and energetically, though in retrospect, by then it was already too late. First he wrote his "Monday poems," followed by the novel "Fabian," published in 1931 and burned in 1933 in Berlin, Munich, Greifswald, Göttingen, Heidelberg, Marburg, Kiel, Hanover and Dresden -- essentially every German university city. The students were nothing if not thorough.

But instead of fleeing the country, going into exile and being deprived of his citizenship, Kästner remained in Berlin after 1933. He tried in vain to be accepted into the compulsory Nazi writer's association, the Reichsverband deutscher Schriftsteller (RDS), but he did manage to publish a children's book, "The Flying Classroom." After an arson attack on the German parliament, the Reichstag, in February 1933, he wrote to his mother from the South Tyrol region of Austria: "Staying out of the country is out of the question. I have a good conscience, and if I left I would always blame myself for being a coward. It just isn't possible. Besides, I can only stand to be away for a few weeks at a time."

So he stayed, because he didn't want to abandon his mother, to whom he wrote a letter or a postcard every day. He also wanted to be a reporter at a dark time, and underestimated how long Germany's period of insanity would last, and how violent it would become. He was a gambler by nature, carefree and prepared to take risks, always a little insincere and probably somewhat arrogant. He remained that way for the rest of his life, even when the various women he had carefully juggled over the years suddenly began to make trouble for him. He began drinking even more heavily than before, and eventually the author Erich Kästner became "Erich Kästner, author," a shadow of the man he could have become if he hadn't made so many compromises. "He was cheeky and he was pleasant, but he was never courageous," German writer Fritz J. Raddatz wrote.

Submitting to Self-Censorship

Kästner paid a price for staying in Germany. His books were burned and banned, meanwhile the author, only in his early 30s, his prime, was productive and yet crippled professionally. "It seems that I am not at all in favor, because Klaus Mann printed something from my works in his magazine abroad," he wrote to his mother in October 1934. "And now the authorities believe that I sent it to him! What lunacy!"

So he played tennis and amused himself with "a blonde, 20-year-old actress, who has read and loved me since she was 15," he wrote to his mother. He did work, albeit under a pseudonym, writing theater comedies and film scripts. He was almost arrested by the Gestapo, and yet "Germany's most hopeful pessimist," as his friend Marcel Reich-Ranicki called him in 1974, managed to escape arrest and kept on drinking with his friends, spending his nights in the bars and brothels he described in "Fabian." It was his most important work, and yet it was only available in a mutilated version.

Kästner had agreed to the cuts, the toxic mood in Berlin having prompted him to exercise self-censorship. "What was the point of staying in this town, in this box of bricks gone mad?" Kästner wrote about the antihero and procrastinator Jakob Fabian, a lover of women, a mama's boy and a man of words, just as he was.

"He could just as easily await Europe's downfall in the place where he was born. It was his own fault for fancying that the world would turn around him, as long as he observed it. That ridiculous need to be present! Others had a profession, forged ahead, married, let their wives have children and believed that it was the way it should be. And he had to stand behind the fence, of his own free will, of all things, watching and despairing by installments. Europe was in a great recess. The teachers were gone. The lesson plan had disappeared. The old Continent was not going to achieve the goals of the class."

Kästner had first wanted to become a teacher, but chose to be a celebrated journalist instead, first in Leipzig and then Berlin. He rushed and rattled along at the city's pace, writing features and having affairs, subletting an apartment and enjoying success, both with his children's books, which so many people loved, and his poems, which so many hated.

A Lost Society
Kästner's political views at the time were certainly to the left, but he had no party affiliation. He supported Paul von Hindenburg in the election for president of the German Reich in 1932. In the same year, he supported an appeal for a "unified workers' front." As he wrote in one of his poems, he wanted to sit "between the chairs."

Or, as he wrote in another poem: "Germany will never awaken in the way that you dreamed, / because you are stupid, and you are not the chosen ones. / The time will come when they will say: / With those people a country could not be made."

Kästner wore his despair like a scarf loosely wrapped around his neck. In that sense, he resembled Jakob Fabian, who works as a copywriter until he is fired and then takes a long walk through the city, which seems garish and wicked to him: "Up there is a bar where perfumed, homosexual boys dance with elegant actors and smart Englishmen, revealing their skills and their price. And in the end the whole thing is paid for by an old lady with dyed blonde hair, who is allowed to come along in return for footing the bill."

In essence, everyone is having sex with everyone else, rarely taking a breather. Another passage reads: "When an older man walked into the room for the purpose of enjoying himself, he found what he had expected, a naked, sixteen-year-old girl. But unfortunately it was his daughter, which he had not expected."

The Berlin Kästner describes was a madhouse, a place that seemed both familiar and foreign to the reader. "Crime resides in the east, skullduggery in the center of town, poverty in the north, fornication in the west, and downfall is at home in every direction."

"And what happens after downfall?" asks the girl Fabian loves, who betrays him, leaving for money and career. "Stupidity, I fear," he replies.

The novel was initially supposed to be called "Going to the Dogs," the title of Kästner's original version, which has only recently been released without the Nazi-era revisions by publishing house Atrium in September 2012. This version includes the parts that were later removed, and in terms of language, it more closely resembles the crude tone Kästner had intended. The language is also harsher, and the book reminiscent, in terms of both title and content, of Hans Fallada's novel "Every Man Dies Alone," which became a worldwide success when a revised version was published a few years ago. Finally, it evokes a political consciousness that isn't readily associated with Kästner today. Though it rarely appears in explicit form in the novel, it remains omnipresent. The lost characters represent a lost society -- one that is willing to expose itself to the most homicidal stupidity imaginable.

A Satirist Turned Moralist

The original novel provides the background for the banality that followed. In particular, the parts that were deleted out of fear show how putrid the climate was in 1932. It wasn't just political innuendos that were softened as a result of the cuts. One of the deleted passages, for example, contains a fairly vivid description of the scar resulting from an appendix operation on the fat stomach of Director Breitkopf. Another, more humorous deleted passage describes how Fabian and his best friend Labude take the bus through Berlin and bring other passengers to tears of laughter when they make fun of national symbols, referring to the Berlin Cathedral as the "main fire station," the university as an "institution for moronic children" and the Brandenburg Gate as a "traffic tower."

Loathing and derision, in those early days it was something that the book burners and sticklers for order would later find intolerable, just as they would despise the ease with which Kästner described these things. It's a rare thing in German literature, a more journalistic approach to writing that is confident of delivering a punch line, and one that Jörg Fauser and Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre and Wolfgang Herrndorf would demonstrate again much later.

The society reflected in "Going to the Dogs" was the same one in which young Kästner circulated. The older Kästner, on the other hand, became a moralist after the war, portraying himself as an authority and demonstrating against rearmament and the military buildup. He never wrote the much-anticipated novel about the time between 1933 and 1945, and suffered greatly as a result. In fact, he never wrote anything that was particularly good again, probably because his compromises had exhausted him of his former cheerfulness and ease. The older Kästner, the columnist and well-known womanizer, lived out his fame for another 30 years, though it must have felt uncomfortable to him at times.

'A Tragic Buffoon'

Perhaps he should have left Germany instead of standing in the rain on that night in May 1933. It was only long after his death that his double life was revealed, including his drinking and an illegitimate son. He had always taken great pains to control what was printed about him. "Keiner blickt dir hinter das Gesicht," ("No One Can Look Behind Your Face") is the title of the Kästner biography written by Sven Hanuschek, a German literature expert who is also the publisher of "Going to the Dogs." He later wore the mask of the moralist, the same mask he refers to with irony in "Fabian," the laid-back and immoral novel subtitled "The Story of a Moralist."

In his speech "On the Burning of Books," which Atrium has just republished in a small volume, Kästner summarizes his and Fabian's dilemma in a way that is still valid today, when it comes to the contradictions of living and acting in a dictatorship.

"In the modern, undemocratic country," Kästner wrote in 1953, some 20 years after the book burning, "the hero becomes an anachronism. The hero without microphones and without the echo of a newspaper becomes a tragic buffoon. His human dimension, as undeniable as it may be, has no political consequences. He becomes a martyr. The official cause of his death is pneumonia. He becomes a nameless obituary."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #5832 on: Apr 19, 2013, 05:52 AM »

Fears of Russian internet crackdown as investigators search social network HQ

Investigators search office of VKontakte and home of its young founder, Pavel Durov, following allegations of traffic incident

Miriam Elder in Moscow, Thursday 18 April 2013 17.25 BST

The Russian version of Facebook has had its offices searched and its ownership structure shaken amid fears the Kremlin is looking to tighten its grip on the internet.

Investigators searched the office of VKontakte, Russia's most popular social network, as well as the home of its young founder, Pavel Durov, this week, following allegations he was involved in a traffic incident earlier this month.

Amid the ongoing scandal, a fund belonging to Ilya Shcherbovich, a board member at the state-owned oil giant Rosneft, swooped in to unexpectedly buy 48% of the network on Wednesday.

"Putin is now the de facto owner of VKontakte," a Russian internet insider said.

Kremlin fears over the internet have grown since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin last year amid an unprecedented wave of protests, many of which were aided by social media.

The internet has flourished as a home to dissenting voices, and is as yet untouched by the Kremlin's heavy hand, which controls most print and television media either directly or though friendly firms like Gazprom.

A source inside VKontakte said that pressure against the site began after Durov refused to co-operate with the Federal Security Service (FSB) when Moscow erupted in protest.

"A year ago, when the protests started, Durov showed he wasn't ready to close protest pages," the source said. "That's when his problems started." VKontakte said at the time it had denied an FSB request to shut several pages devoted to opposition groups.

Durov, 28, founded VKontakte in 2006 and has quietly led it to become the most popular social networking site in Russia with around 200 million users. It has come under fire for hosting pirated copies of films and television shows, which have helped its enormous popularity inside Russia.

In early April, rumours began to appear online that Durov was involved in an incident on 5 April in St Petersburg, where VKontakte is based, when a white Mercedes refused to yield to a traffic police officer after making a wrong turn down one of the city's main streets. Dashcam footage from the police car shows a white Mercedes brushing a traffic police officer while trying to speed away.

Georgy Lobushkin, the company's spokesman, denied that Durov was involved in the incident and has said that the infamously private figure does not and has never owned a car.

The rumours of Durov's involvement refused to fade, however, and this week members of the investigative committee, a body that answers directly to Putin and has become increasingly likened to a political police, searched VKontakte's St Petersburg headquarters and Durov's home. They have also called Durov in for questioning as a witness in the case.

The decision one day later by two VKontakte co-founders, Vyacheslav Mirilashvili and Lev Leviev, to sell their shares in the site to Shcherbovich's fund, United Capital Partners, took Durov by surprise, a source inside the company said.

With a 48% share, the fund has now become the biggest shareholder in the company.

Durov owns a 12% share of VKontakte and is chief executive. The remaining 40% is owned by, a Russian internet group controlled by Alisher Usmanov, a Kremlin-friendly oligarch who is Russia's richest man. Usmanov also owns a stake in Arsenal FC. Last year, handed Durov voting rights to its stake.

Yet Usmanov remains highly loyal to the Kremlin. He owns Kommersant, one of the country's most respected daily newspapers, where journalists have recently begun to complain of creeping censorship.

"Eight-eight per cent of the network is now controlled by businessmen loyal to Putin," the internet insider said. "If they make a deal, they can easily name another general director at the next board meeting."

VKontakte's spokesman refused to comment on the deal.

Writing in comments on VKontakte on Wednesday, Durov tried to calm fears that the social networking site would soon become subject to censorship.

"As long as I am general director, nothing in VK will change for the worse," Durov wrote. "Everything is okay. To start changing things for the worse, they have to deal with me first. That's impossible to do using legal means."

Unlike China, the authorities in Russia have only recently awoken to the potential of the internet. Amid a far-reaching crackdown on opposition to Putin, the Duma adopted a law last year that creates a blacklist of forbidden websites.

Ostensibly designed to shut down sites devoted to promoting drug use, suicide and paedophilia, it has been haphazardly applied. Critics warn it could provide a cover for widespread censorship of the internet.

Some analysts said the sale of VKontakte shares could have resulted from a business dispute between Durov and his co-founders.

"It looks more like a business dispute than a political affair," said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on the security service and internet in Russia. "But anyway it will affect the freedom of political debate on VKontakte."


April 18, 2013

Russia: Opposition Activist Faces More Legal Trouble


Russian authorities on Thursday announced yet another criminal case against the political opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, accusing him and his brother, Oleg, of defrauding business associates of at least $125,000 in a complex scheme. Mr. Navalny, a fierce critic of President Vladimir V. Putin who rose to prominence as an anticorruption blogger, is already facing four other criminal cases. One case, involving an embezzlement charge, began in Kirov, northeast of Moscow, on Wednesday. The judge in that case granted a one-week postponement to give Mr. Navalny’s lawyers more time to prepare. Mr. Navalny learned of the new charges as he arrived back in Moscow on an overnight train from Kirov. In response, he mocked investigators. “I woke up on the train and learned they filed another criminal case,” he wrote on Twitter. “This means we had a successful trip. Good morning.” Moments later, he added, “The Navalny Brothers are becoming a lasting phrase, like Mario Brothers.” Mr. Navalny has called the charges in all the cases politically motivated.


April 18, 2013

Russia: Dagestan Will Let Putin Choose Its Next Governor


Lawmakers in Russia’s Dagestan region voted Thursday to cancel popular elections for governor and allow President Vladimir V. Putin to choose its next leader. A new law signed by Mr. Putin this month allows Russian republics to scrap the elections, which were restored last year under Mr. Putin’s predecessor, Dmitri A. Medvedev. Dagestan is the first Russian republic to opt out of the elections. Mr. Putin has said the law was needed to protect the rights of minorities in regions like the volatile North Caucasus republics where elections could provoke ethnic strife.

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« Last Edit: Apr 19, 2013, 06:07 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #5833 on: Apr 19, 2013, 05:54 AM »

04/19/2013 11:53 AM

Access for Turkish Press: Court to Raffle Media Seats in Neo-Nazi Trial

Responding to an order from above, a Munich court has reopened the media accreditation process for reporters covering the biggest neo-Nazi trial in German history. Seats will now be allotted by raffle, with several being reserved for the Turkish, Greek and other foreign press.

In response to political pressure and an order from Germany's highest court, the Munich court overseeing the biggest neo-Nazi trial in German history said Friday it will redo the media accreditation process and allot seats to foreign and domestic media organizations based on a raffle.

Last month, the court sparked an uproar when none of the 50 seats reserved for media representatives on a first-come, first-served basis were allotted to media representatives from Turkey and other foreign countries.

After the court refused to budge to political and public pressure, the Turkish daily Sabah petitioned the Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court for access. The court responded last week by ordering that the accreditation process be started from scratch and that an appropriate number of seats be reserved for "representatives of the foreign media with a special connection to the victims of the accused."

On Friday, the Munich court said it would reserve four seats exclusively for the Turkish media, one seat for the Greek media and another for media publishing in the Persian language. Ten seats will be set aside for the international press as well as foreign-based German-language media. Finally, 35 seats are to be reserved for the German press.

The trial, which had been set to start this week, has been postponed until May 6 ass a result of the accreditation problems. The trial will focus on Beate Zschäpe, the sole surviving member of a suspected neo-Nazi terror cell, and four men accused of helping the group. The National Socialist Underground (NSU) is believed to have killed 10 people, eight of them of Turkish origin, one of Greek descent and a policewoman..

Of 100 Seats, 50 Will Go to Media

The courtroom has only 100 seats at its disposal, and 50 will be assigned to the media. In the original accreditation process, which allocated the same number of spots for the press, not a single seat had been allotted to the Turkish media. The court has chosen to assign one seat to Persian-language media organizations because the NSU is believed to be connected with a 2001 bombing attack in the western German city of Cologne that seriously injured a 19-year-old woman of Iranian descent.

The trial of Zschäpe, 38, is expected to generate considerable international media attention because of the apparently racist nature of the murders. Despite the heinous nature of their alleged crimes, Zschäpe, Uwe Böhnhardt and Uwe Mundlos, the creators of the NSU, managed to remain underground and avoid detection by police and intelligence agencies for years. They were only linked to the murders of foreigners and a string of bank robberies after Böhnhardt and Mundlos committed suicide and Zschäpe apparently set fire to the shared apartment they lived in. Investigators found a gun linked to the killings at the residence.

The failure to link the crimes to the group has prompted massive criticism of German police and the intelligence services set up after World War II to monitor and prevent the spread of radical ideology.
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« Reply #5834 on: Apr 19, 2013, 05:57 AM »

Votes for porn stars and footballers in farcical Italian presidential election

Italy has been locked in political stalemate since parliamentary elections in February

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Thursday 18 April 2013 19.12 BST

The porn star Rocco Siffredi, actor Sophia Loren and the Manchester City FC manager, Roberto Mancini, all received a vote in Italy's presidential election on Thursday night, as black humour and blank votes dominated the second ballot of a contest that plunged the beleaguered centre-left into crisis.

In the first ballot to elect a successor to Giorgio Napolitano, the centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani was dealt a stinging blow when the candidate he had backed for head of state garnered 521 votes – far short of the two-thirds majority needed.

Although Franco Marini, a former trade union leader and senate speaker, was supported by Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right and Mario Monti's small centrist bloc, he was rejected by many in Bersani's own Democratic party (PD) and by the other main players in his centre-left alliance, the Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party.

The so-called consensus candidate, therefore, appeared to have served only to exacerbate existing divisions in the fragile PD.

In the second ballot, most members of the centre-right and centre-left blocs appeared to have cast blank votes, with the candidate of the Five Star Movement, academic Stefano Rodotà, receiving the only significant support.

The tense atmosphere in the lower house of parliament, where the election took place, was alleviated only by the occasional vote for an Italian celebrity such as Maurizio Merli, an actor from the 1970s, and footballing legend Giovanni Trapattoni.

Italy has been locked in political stalemate since parliamentary elections in February which gave the PD an outright majority in one house but not in the other.

Whoever becomes the next president will have to decide whether the politicians can be persuaded into a stable government, or whether a fresh election is the only way forward. The presidency has itself been seen as a bargaining chip in the fraught negotiation efforts.

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