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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1080665 times)
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« Reply #5850 on: Apr 19, 2013, 07:01 AM »

In the USA...

Police kill one Boston Marathon bomb suspect and still hunt for second ‘white hat’ suspect

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, April 19, 2013 5:38 EDT

Police killed one of the suspected Boston marathon bombing suspects in a shootout early Friday and pursued a chaotic deadly street-to-street manhunt for his accomplice, officials said.

The two men, dubbed “Suspect One” and “Suspect Two” by the FBI, led police special forces on a violent cavalcade that left inhabitants of towns around Boston cowering in their homes as gunfire and explosions erupted through the night.

One police officer was killed and another wounded in the operation, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said. Davis also confirmed that Suspect One had been killed.

The man, whose identity is still not known, was shot several times and declared dead in hospital.

Police told inhabitants of Watertown to stay indoors and away from windows as they hunted the second man believed to have planted the bombs that killed three people and injured about 180 at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

The surviving fugitive was “armed and dangerous,” Davis said. “We believe this to be a terrorist, we believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people,” the police chief told reporters.

The suspects first tried to rob a convenience story in Cambridge, across the river from Boston, Davis said.

They then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where one campus police officer was shot several times and died, the commissioner added. The pair then hijacked a Mercedes car and eventually let the driver out in Watertown, which is close to MIT, Davis added.

The chase went on through Watertown where explosions and gunfire were heard in several districts.

During a shooutout, one wanted man was hit and died later in hospital, Davis said. Another police officer was also wounded. The second suspect, who has been shown in pictures wearing a white baseball cap, escaped.

MIT students were kept in a lockdown for three hours after the shooting on campus. Police with rifles flooded the streets, and search helicopters patrolled the skies.

MIT, one of the world’s top universities, is in Cambridge, just across the Charles River from Boston where the double bomb attack was staged on Monday in the worst militant attack on the United States since the September 11 atrocities in 2001.

Hours before the manhunt, the FBI released pictures and video of the two suspects, appealing for help to identify the pair who were carrying large backpacks.

Both appeared to be young men, one dressed in a white baseball cap and the other in a black cap. The FBI gave no details of their identities or origin, naming them only as Suspect One and Suspect Two.

Two bombs were placed around the marathon finish line on Monday, spraying nails, ball bearings and other metal fragments into massed spectators, many of whom suffered horrific injuries.

The men are seen in the video walking calmly, one a few paces behind the other, weaving between crowds on Boston’s Boylston Street where the race finished.

President Barack Obama vowed to the people of Boston Thursday that the “evil” bombers would be brought to justice.

At a special service at Boston’s Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Obama vowed: “Yes, we will find you, and yes, you will face justice.”

“We will find you, we will hold you accountable,” he told a congregation of 2,000, including relatives of the dead, survivors of the blasts, rescuers and city leaders.

“If they sought to intimidate us, to terrorize us,” Obama said, then “it should be pretty clear by now that they picked the wrong city to do it.”

Boston has held emotional tributes to the dead — eight-year-old Martin Richard, Boston University graduate student Lu Lingzi of China and Krystle Campbell, a restaurant manager. Obama paid tribute to all three at the service.

More than 100 of the wounded have left Boston hospitals and fewer than 10 of those still in hospital remain in critical condition. Some will require new operations, doctors said.


Gun lobby funded all but three senators who voted against background checks

By Dan Roberts, The Guardian
Thursday, April 18, 2013 20:19 EDT

All but three of the 45 senators who torpedoed gun control measures in Congress on Wednesday have received money from firearms lobbyists, according to new analysis by the Guardian and the Sunlight Foundation.

Some, such as Indiana Republican Dan Coats, registered donations from pro-shooting groups as recently as three weeks ago, when the proposal to extend background checks was still seen as likely to pass.

President Obama and congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a gun attack, have both accused the Senate of being in thrall to gun money following Wednesday’s vote. “They worried that the gun lobby would spend a lot of money and paint them as anti-second amendment,” said Obama.

Yet campaign disclosures show the group were also direct recipients of gun cash. The National Rifle Association alone has given $800,000 to 40 of the senators who voted against the amendment since 1990, much of it in the run-up to the last election, according to Sunlight Foundation figures.

Information for the period since the Newtown school shooting is harder to come by because many quarterly filings due out on Tuesday have been delayed by the suspected ricin attack on members of Congress.

But Guardian analysis of the data available so far for 2013 reveals that some groups have continued to be active outside the election cycle – including Safari Club International, a pro-hunting organisation which gave $1,000 to Senator Coats on 29 March, according to the filings.

Documents also show the NRA saw a surge in donations to its lobbying arm in the months following Newtown – registering a record $2.7m in cash during January and February. Further disclosures showing the scale of its recent donations, particularly to politicians in the House of Representatives, are expected on Saturday.

The Gun Owners of America and National Association for Gun Rights – two groups seen as more conservative than the NRA – have also been active in the Senate, giving $9,000 and $5,000 respectively to Ted Cruz, one of the leaders of Republican opposition to the amendment.

Others to receive arms-related donations recently include Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, who received $1,000 on 4 March from BAE Systems, a British defence group that manufacturers ammunition, although mostly for military purposes.

Some of the more relevant donations do not come explicitly from gun campaigners. Senator Jeff Flake, a crucial swing voter from Arizona who turned against gun control at the last minute, received $5,000 in 2012 from The Madison Project, a right-wing campaign group that lists gun rights as one of its top priorities. On 9 April, it warned against Republicans such as Flake, who voted for the gun debate, and urged members to call these senators and “tell them that when the Bill of Rights reads ‘shall not be infringed’ with regards to the second amendment, it means exactly that”.

Though the sums are relatively small they indicate the range of lobbying targets pursued by groups such as the NRA, which spent $8.5m before the last election on television ads and telephone drives. Far more money is spent on negative attack ads against politicians seen as weak on gun rights, than in favour of supporters.

Analysis of so-called ‘dark money’, or undisclosed expenditure, by the Sunlight Foundation shows the NRA was behind at least five TV ad campaigns against gun control since Newtown, targeting key swing states such as Ohio.

Kathy Keily, a campaign finance expert with Sunlight, said: “Keep in mind that the power of the NRA is to a considerable degree fear-based. So it’s not just how much they’ve given to support a politician but how much they might give to oppose.”

Such thinking may have influence the handful of Democrats, such as Mark Pryor of Arkansas, who voted against the amendment, says Keily. Pryor received $1,000 from the Safari Club before the last election, but none from the NRA.

Only three senators who voted against the measure have not declared any donations from gun lobbyists – Democrats Mark Begich and Heidi Heitkamp and Republican Rand Paul – although 2013 quarterly data for Begich does not appear to have made it through the congressional mail backlog. Rand Paul was recently found to have close family ties to the National Association for Gun Rights.

A growing number of groups in favour of gun control have also been spending money in recent months, including Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, but analysis of its campaign funding shows it to be dwarfed by the NRA.

The NRA has also tightened the screws on senators in recent days by taking the unprecedented decision to award negative scores to anyone who voted for a motion allowing the gun debate to go ahead. These scores are widely used during elections to show adherence to the gun cause.

Republican senators and the NRA both said they opposed the amendment on background checks because it would be a “slippery slope” to a national register of gun owners and would add burdensome delays and costs to gun purchases. They favoured measures to improve school safety and prosecutions of violent criminals instead.

Get the data here © Guardian News and Media 2013


‘Gang of 8′ admit immigration reform faces perilous future

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, April 18, 2013 18:44 EDT

A bipartisan group of US senators finally rolled out an immigration reform bill Thursday, insisting it was the best chance in a generation to fix a broken system, but admitting perils lie ahead.

The comprehensive reform effort, filed with the Senate this week, is a huge measure aimed at bringing 11 million undocumented workers out of the shadows and onto a pathway to citizenship, while securing the nation’s southern border.

The eight senators — four Democrats and four Republicans — came together over the span of three months for 24 closed-door negotiation sessions to hammer out the most significant immigration legislation in a quarter century.

“Today is just the beginning of our voyage,” Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer told a news conference delayed by Monday’s Boston terror attacks.

“It will be long and arduous, there will be perils we can’t even anticipate,” he warned, flanked by other members of the “Gang of Eight” while more than two dozen stakeholders, including union bosses, big business representatives, farm workers and evangelicals, stood behind him on stage.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is aiming to bring the sweeping bill to the Senate floor by June. At least three hearings, and hours of likely intense debate on the Senate floor are expected.

“We’re either going to get a bill or one helluva fight,” Republican Lindsey Graham quipped.

The clashing has already kicked off.

Republican Jeff Sessions has long voiced his opposition to the bill, which he derided on Thursday as a “presumption of amnesty” that has “no border requirement” — two assessments that the “Gang of Eight” hotly disputes.

Sessions is opposed to providing a pathway to citizenship, claims the bill’s guest-worker program is too generous at a time of high US unemployment, and winces at the excess benefits he believes the government would provide undocumented workers.

Under the bill, undocumented migrants who can prove they have been in the country since before December 31, 2011, would get a legal temporary status and would be allowed to work, travel and drive without fear of deportation.

After 10 years, these immigrants could file for a green card and become permanent residents. Three years after that, they could request citizenship.

But to convince hardline Republicans opposed to the idea of amnesty, the Senate negotiators included ambitious measures to tighten security along the 1,800-mile (3,000-kilometer) border with Mexico.

They want to avoid a repeat of 1986, when Republican president Ronald Reagan approved reforms that led to amnesty for 2.7 million people but, because of a lack of border resources, did little to stem the tide of illegal arrivals.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American and potential 2016 presidential candidate, has emerged as the face of the movement, and on Thursday went out of his way to urge citizens to come together on the immigration bill.

“It’s tragic that a nation of immigrants remains divided on the issue of immigration,” he told reporters.

“Let’s bring these people out of the shadows. They’ll undergo a background check, they’ll pay a fine, they’ll start paying taxes, they won’t qualify for federal benefits,” he added.

Senator John McCain agreed, but acknowledged the uphill climb toward final passage in the Senate and then the House.

“There’s a long and difficult road ahead,” he said.

The Senate recently rejected a controversial measure that would expand background checks for gun buyers, but Schumer insisted it did not bode ill for immigration legislation, which he said has far broader support.

“I think the majority in both caucuses really want to get this done,” Schumer said. “I believe that this is ours to lose.”


April 18, 2013

In Newtown, Realities Encroach on the Haze of Grief


NEWTOWN, Conn. — Mark Barden is a talented musician and composer who played in Nashville for years before settling in this bucolic New England town to raise his three children.

You can see their faces lighting up the home page of his Web site. The youngest, Daniel, 7, had an incandescent gaptoothed smile, swam with the Newtown Tornadoes, and played drums and sang in the family band. He was murdered Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. On a Facebook page — WWDD: What Would Daniel Do? — Mr. Barden celebrates his “caring ways, his empathetic soul, his joyful spirit.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Barden introduced President Obama in the Rose Garden after the Senate voted to block expanded background checks for gun sales. “I have to say it feels like it was just yesterday,” he said of the killings.

But four months after the shootings, it does not feel like just yesterday for most people in Newtown. The impromptu memorials, the cards and posters from around the world dominating everything from the Town Hall to the Blue Colony Diner have mostly been taken down. The old Sandy Hook school sign is no longer there, and a forlorn angel hangs from the frame, flying into the air when the wind blows. Where everyone was once united in grief, the messy realities of everyday life are beginning to intrude.

Still, like Mr. Barden, Newtown finds itself in a place it does not quite know, each element of local life seen through a new prism or reinvented, moving forward and tethered to that horrible day when 20 children and 6 educators were killed at Sandy Hook. Thursday, one day after the Senate vote, was yet another time to look for the right lens.

“I’m stunned, I’m shocked, I’m horrified,” Newtown’s first selectman, E. Patricia Llodra, a Republican, said of the vote. “It’s just a disgrace.”

Ms. Llodra said she was both proud of and heartsick for the local families who pushed for new gun laws.

“They’re not saying, ‘Let’s turn back the clock so I can get my child back,’ ” she said. “They’re saying, ‘Let’s turn the clock forward so that maybe, just maybe, we can spare some other families this kind of grief down the road.’ ”

There are, of course, reflections of the tragedy everywhere. Green and white signs read: “We Are Sandy Hook. We Choose Love.” Dec. 14 is still front-page news every week in The Newtown Bee.

Town residents are planning, as usual, for what has always been Newtown’s grand event, the Labor Day Parade. But, it will not be just any Labor Day Parade this year, so, breaking with tradition, there will not be a grand marshal; instead, it will be presided over by what organizers call the spirit of Newtown. Picking through all the groups that want to march will be a major ordeal.

For several years, Newtown has had its own version of “A Prairie Home Companion,” a music and comedy review called the Flagpole Radio Café. Organizers are planning the first show since the killings for May 18, and everyone is figuring out how to do it. How much humor? What kind? How to refer to the event hanging like a shroud in the air?

Rick Brodsky, a psychologist and musician, said Francine Wheeler, who lost her son Ben, and who filled in for Mr. Obama in his weekly address on Saturday, will sing as she usually does. He is not sure if her husband, David, will perform in the comedy routines. Song comes more easily than jokes.

John Woodall, a psychiatrist who has done crisis consulting around the world, said that almost from the start, Newtown resolved that it would not be a town of victims.

“We’re committed to showing how you can take an experience like this and build strength, compassion and resilience,” he said.

But no one is finding that easy — certainly not the families most involved, not those on the periphery either.

“I think in the beginning a lot of us had this naïve notion — I did, too — that, O.K., this horrible tragedy happened here, and we’re going to come together and find meaning in this and have a healing experience,” Mr. Brodsky said. “And then there was sort of a sobering time — it happened for me in February — when you realized, it’s going to take years and years, not months, to get to a different place.”

And while nearly everyone respects what the grieving families who have been most prominent in Washington have gone through, some say those families reflect only one point of view, not just among people in town but also among the other families who lost loved ones.

“The antigun sentiment is at a height because of the tremendous amount of emotion associated with it, but there’s probably the same percentage of people who are in favor of the Second Amendment as those who are in favor of these stringent laws,” said Daniel Cruson, the town historian. He puts himself in that first camp.

There are other divisive issues bubbling up, like how to divide the estimated $20 million raised since the attack and whether to find a new location for Sandy Hook Elementary.

Between the bombs in Boston and the vote in Washington, it was a tough week for many here.

But Mr. Barden, who will be back in Newtown and playing music on Friday night with his trio, Alternate Universe, said he was not discouraged.

“This town has shown a spectacular amount of support and resilience,” he said. “We’re not discouraged at all. We’re not going to let the N.R.A. have their way and wait for the ‘Connecticut effect’ to wear off. We feel a sense of obligation to honor our little Daniel and make a difference.”

Elizabeth Maker contributed reporting.


April 18, 2013

Keystone Pipeline Foes Vent in Nebraska


GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Hundreds of people braved heavy snow and wind on Thursday, streaming into this central Nebraska town to speak out on the Keystone XL pipeline at what may be the final public hearing on the project.

The hearing, conducted by the State Department, drew hours of emotional testimony, mostly from opponents of Keystone XL, who whooped and applauded when anyone from their ranks spoke, and solemnly hoisted black scarves that read “Pipeline Fighter” during comments by the project’s supporters.

“The Keystone ‘Export’ pipeline is not in the national interest, and it is most certainly not in Nebraska’s interest,” said Ben Gotschall, a young rancher, one of the first speakers at the hearing, which was held in a large events hall at the state fairgrounds here.

“Our landowners have been left to fend for themselves against an onslaught of dishonest land agents and corporate bullies,” Mr. Gotschall said.

Nebraska has been a rallying point for environmental groups, landowners and ranchers who oppose the 1,700-mile proposed pipeline, which would carry diluted bitumen from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

For several years, they have repeatedly voiced concern that a spill from the pipeline could seep into the Ogallala Aquifer, a major water source, and other environmentally delicate areas in the region.

An initial study from the State Department seemingly cleared the way for Keystone XL. But in 2012, President Obama rejected the route proposed by the pipeline’s operator, TransCanada, because of lingering environmental concerns.

TransCanada agreed to reroute the pipeline, and a revised study was released earlier this year, finding no conclusive reason that Keystone XL should not move forward.

Thursday’s meeting was the sole public hearing on the revised study, though State Department officials said there could be an opportunity for another hearing at some point.

Kerri-Ann Jones, assistant secretary of state for oceans and international environmental and scientific affairs, who attended, told reporters there had already been some 800,000 public comments submitted on the revised study.

“There are a lot of strong feelings about this,” she said.

In the weeks leading up to the hearing, both sides increased efforts to sway the public, as well as federal officials.

Bold Nebraska, one of the leading groups fighting the pipeline, organized meetings with local landowners and tours of the area. A commercial warning of the dangers of the pipeline flashed across television stations on Wednesday night.

Conversely, officials with TransCanada gathered reporters on Thursday morning to reiterate their contention that Keystone XL would be the nation’s safest pipeline.

“When it comes to safety, the public expects that infrastructure operates as safely as possible,” said Corey Goulet, vice president of Keystone pipeline projects for TransCanada. “So do we.”

As they have in the past, opponents harked back to recent spills involving heavy crude, like the Enbridge Energy pipeline in 2010 that spilled more than 840,000 gallons of oil around Marshall, Mich., and an ExxonMobil rupture in Arkansas last month.

Jenni Harrington, 49, said Keystone XL’s new route would run a mile and a half from her family’s farm in York County. “This farm is very dear to me and my sisters,” she said. “America is being sold out to big oil for Canada’s want. When is this not O.K.? Just ask Marshall, Michigan.”

Though outnumbered on Thursday, a small contingent of supporters echoed Mr. Goulet’s sentiments. A poll last year by The Omaha World-Herald showed Nebraskans supported construction of the pipeline by more than two to one.

Ron Kaminski, business manager for a local chapter of the Laborers International Union of North America, said that while he understood concerns about potential impacts on the environment, he believed Keystone XL would ultimately be safe.

“I love this state as much as I love the environment,” Mr. Kaminski said. “I urge the State Department that after four years of research and review, you ask the president to approve this much-needed project.”

Still, for every voice of support there were at least a dozen against. And there was a palpable sense among opponents that this represented one of their final chances to have the State Department’s ear.

President Obama is expected to make a decision on the pipeline this year.

“This has basically turned into a heavyweight bout between the ordinary citizens of this country and a foreign corporation,” said Randy Thompson, a barrel-chested Nebraska landowner, whose cowboy hat and silver hair have made him a familiar face of opposition to the project.

“We are about at the final bell.”


From The Boston Marathon to West, TX, The Cost of the Sequester Hits Home

By: Sarah Jones
Apr. 18th, 2013

With more than 780 troops still on state active duty in Massachusetts, the National Guard’s warning about the sequester cuts should serve as an impetus for Republicans to come to the negotiation table. If not Boston, how about the explosion in West, Texas.

The bombing in Massachusetts is exactly the kind of emergency that requires readiness from many agencies that faced random cuts, such as FEMA, the FBI, the National Guard, and more. The Massachusetts National Guard, which was deployed for the marathon itself, is remaining in active deployment status after the Boston Marathon bombings.

According to the Department of Defense, as of early Wednesday, more than 780 troops were still on state active duty, and earlier more than 1,000 Guard members were on duty continuing to assist local, state and federal authorities and provide support to the city of Boston. They have deployed helicopters, security, transportation, communications support and explosive ordnance support, according to the Situation Report at Foreign Policy.

On February 13, 2013, Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the devastating impact of the sequester on the National Guard’s readiness to protect the homeland.

    Sequestration and a yearlong continuing resolution would significantly hinder the National Guard’s ability to protect and defend the homeland, Army Gen. Frank Grass told the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning.

    “Sequestration will be devastating to the Department of Defense and the National Guard,” the chief of the National Guard Bureau said, joining other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior defense officials before the committee.

During that same week, the White House’s state-by-state break down of the sequester cuts warned that education and the military would take the biggest hits in Massachusetts.

    About 7,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $43.4 million.
    Army base operation funding would be cut by about $8 million.
    Funding for Air Force operations would be cut by about $5 million.

    About $300,000 to support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

    FBI and other law enforcement
    The FBI and other law enforcement entities would see a
    reduction in capacity equivalent to more than 1,000 Federal agents. This loss of agents would significantly impact our ability to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, secure our borders, and protect national security.

    Emergency responders
    FEMA would need to reduce funding for State and local grants that support firefighter positions and State and local emergency management personnel hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and other emergencies.

MassLive reported that the sequester cuts would impact the Massachusetts National Guard by cutting its budget by 10%, which amounts to about a $5 million a year loss from its $53 million annual budget.

Fortunately, the full impact of the cuts and furloughs won’t be felt just yet, as Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted Wednesday “the continuing resolution Congress passed in March to fund that period gives DOD some flexibility in operations and maintenance spending.”

In Texas, where the city of West is facing a chemical disaster from an explosion in a fertilizer plant that’s emitting toxic gas, the White House explained that the sequester cuts would make cuts to Public Health:
Texas will lose approximately $2,402,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events.

Now that we are facing multiple homeland security crises — the bombing, an explosion in West, Texas Wednesday evening that left a reported 60-70 dead as of this writing and missing first responders, the poisoned letters sent to the President and at least one lawmaker, and the evacuation of Senate buildings Wednesday — it’s more than past time to review the absolute ignorance of the indiscriminate sequester cuts.

The sequestration is on the House Republicans. They loved it in theory. They never stopped talking it up, as if a first unrequited love, prior to its actual implementation. Paul Ryan giddily cheered getting the sequester cuts on Fox News, “We actually got discretionary caps in law. I’ve been fighting for these spending caps ever since the day I came to Congress. We couldn’t even get these kinds of spending caps in the Bush administration.”

That’s right. Republicans got exactly what they’ve been asking for. Guess what? It’s not going very well. It was unplanned and irresponsibly executed. It wasn’t meant to be an actual budget, but rather a threat so awful it would force compromise.

Republicans have told us that their beloved idea of sequestration wouldn’t hurt. Republicans scoffed that President Obama was exaggerating as he warned about the long-term impact of the cuts. Where are they now? Will Republicans tell the cities of Boston and West that these cuts won’t hurt?

The tragic events in Boston and West provides potent examples of why Republicans need to stop their petulant extremism and actually propose a sequester alternative this session that can pass in the Senate. And no, the alternative proposed last session that Speaker Boehner keeps referring to doesn’t count and he knows it. This session, please, Mr. Speaker. It’s way past time to stop playing games.

Given that the sequester cuts will force $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense spending over the next 10 years, starting as we face a number of security threats, you’d think Republicans might have a rethink about their obstruction and refusal to compromise.

Meanwhile, our nation is under attack on multiple fronts and our resources have been drastically cut sans strategy, courtesy of Republican ideology gone wild.

“Strategery?” You don’t say.


Nancy Pelosi Blasts Paul Ryan and John Boehner for Avoiding Budget Conference

By: Sarah Jones
Apr. 18th, 2013

Nancy Pelosi blasted Paul Ryan’s cowardly dodge away from the budget reconciliation process in her letter to Speaker John Boehner, demanding that the Speaker appoint conferees for a budget reconciliation conference and follow regular order. This letter comes on the heels of House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s attempt to avoid reconciliation by calling for a pre-conference “framework”, the details of which were as sketchy as his budget.

Joining Pelosi in writing the letter were Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, and House Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman Joe Crowley.

The House Democratic leadership charged, “Republican leaders have repeatedly chastised the Senate for failing to approve a budget; now, the Senate has done its part. Republican leaders have called for regular order, demanding we allow Congress to work its will; Democratic leaders agree.”

They point out that the country can’t afford to sit around and wait for Ryan’s pre-conference “framework”, “We cannot afford to wait, as some Republicans have suggested, for a “framework agreement” before we begin talks. That is simply a recipe for further backroom negotiations, conducted behind closed doors, without the input of Members of Congress and out of view of our constituents. We must engage in a full, open, transparent process to produce a solution that best serves the interests and demands of the American people.”

The sequester is already taking a toll on us, especially as we face multiple security threats and disasters. House Democratic leadership points out in their letter, “There is no time to waste. Sequestration is already taking its toll on our investments in our national security, research, health, and economic growth. Congress has already missed the April 15th deadline to deliver a conference report on the budget.”

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« Reply #5851 on: Apr 20, 2013, 06:33 AM »

April 19, 2013

Russia: Leftist Group Suspended


Russian prosecutors suspended a leftist opposition group for three months on Friday in what critics of President Vladimir V. Putin say is an intensifying crackdown on dissent sponsored by the Kremlin. Since last May, Mr. Putin has signed laws increasing fines for protesters and tightening controls of foreign-financed groups while several opposition activists face prison terms in cases they say are trumped-up. The decision by Moscow prosecutors on Friday means that the group, the Left Front, whose leader, Sergei Udaltsov, played a prominent role in street protests last year against Mr. Putin, is not allowed to hold meetings or protests, or use its symbols or bank accounts until July 19. Opposition groups have vowed to stage a mass demonstration this spring to revive the protest movement.

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« Reply #5852 on: Apr 20, 2013, 06:36 AM »

Pier Luigi Bersani resignation plunges Italian politics into further chaos

Democratic party leader quits after both candidates he backed for presidency fail to garner enough votes in secret ballots

Lizzy Davies in Rome, Saturday 20 April 2013 01.17 BST   

The chaos gripping Italian politics deepened on Friday night as centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani announced his imminent resignation, lashing out at a rebellion which saw off both his candidates for president and exposed the deep divides within his party.

An angry and bitter Bersani told MPs he would stand down as leader of the Democratic party (PD) as soon as parliament managed to elect a new head of state – a contest that is crucial in deciding how and if Italy can extract itself from political gridlock.

The dramatic announcement came after the two men the PD head had backed for president – former union leader Franco Marini and two-time prime minister Romano Prodi – failed to attract the necessary number of votes in ballots.

Although his name had been greeted enthusiastically by many on the centre-left on Friday morning, Prodi, a former president of the European Commission, only managed to get 395 votes in the secret ballot, far below the 504 needed.

"Among [our MPs], one in four betrayed us," Bersani said, according to the Ansa news agency, denouncing "forces trying to destroy the PD".

The move spells an unclear future for the centre-left party, which in February's inconclusive election won an outright majority in the lower house of parliament but not in the upper house, or senate.

Bersani's most consistent and popular leadership challenger has been Matteo Renzi, the 38-year-old mayor of Florence who fought him in primaries last year. Renzi had been the most high-profile critic of Marini's candidacy, which had been agreed with Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right Freedom People (PdL) as part of a cross-party deal. He had, however, backed Prodi for head of state. Bersani's resignation also brings yet more uncertainty to Italy as a whole, which is still being run – in caretaker fashion – by Mario Monti's technocratic government appointed in the wake of Berlusconi's resignation in late 2011.

Bersani, 61, had been trying to form a government since the end of February, but had spurned Berlusconi's offer of a grand coalition and been spurned in turn by the newly powerful Five Star Movement led by erstwhile comedian Beppe Grillo.

Some observers said on Friday that his resignation could increase the possibility of snap elections. After eight bruising weeks in which Bersani's leadership credentials were under fire from figures both in and outside of the PD, the fiasco of the presidential election proved the straw that broke the camel's back.

"He accepted his responsibility after the disgrace of what happened," Paolo Gentiloni, a senior Democratic party parliamentary deputy said after Bersani's announcement.

On Thursday, Marini's candidacy was torpedoed despite the apparent cross-party consensus. On Friday night Prodi said he was withdrawing from the race after his candidacy also failed to muster sufficient support in the fourth ballot.

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« Reply #5853 on: Apr 20, 2013, 06:50 AM »

Savita Halappanavar died due to medical misadventure, inquest finds

Jury endorses coroner's recommendations in case of Indian woman who was denied an emergency abortion in Ireland

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent, Friday 19 April 2013 15.45 BST   

An Indian dentist who was denied an emergency abortion at an Irish hospital last autumn died due to medical misadventure, her inquest has found.

A jury sitting in Galway reached a unanimous verdict in the case of Savita Halappanavar, 31, who died from sepsis after suffering a miscarriage.

The jury endorsed nine recommendations of the coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin. Offering his sincere condolences to Halappanavar's widower, Praveen, MacLoughlin said: "You showed tremendous loyalty and love to your wife. All of Ireland followed the case."

Halappanavar had been 17 weeks pregnant before she died on 28 October at Galway University hospital. Her plight became the focus of an international outcry over Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws, which the current government plans to reform.

The first of MacLoughlin's recommendations was that the Irish Medical Council should lay out exactly when doctors can intervene to save the life of a mother. The coroner said this would provide clarity for patients and doctors.

The jury also endorsed recommendations that blood samples should always be followed up to guard against errors; that proper sepsis management training and guidelines should be available for hospital staff; and that there should be effective communication between staff on call and those on duty in hospitals. MacLoughlin recommended that a dedicated time should be set aside at the end of each shift for this to happen.

He said each hospital in the state should have a protocol for sepsis management; modified early-warning score charts should be introduced in all hospitals as soon as possible; and there should be effective communication between patients and relatives to ensure clarity over treatment plans.

The final two recommendations were that medical and nursing notes should be kept separately and that no additions should made to notes where the death of a person will be subject to an inquest.


Savita Halappanavar: the last week of her life

Halappanavar, 17 weeks pregnant, arrived in hospital on 21 October. Less than one week later she had died

Henry McDonald, Friday 19 April 2013 15.55 BST   

21 October: Savita Halappanavar, 17 weeks pregnant, arrives at Galway University hospital complaining of back pain. She is advised physiotherapy and is sent home. She returns a few hours later complaining of a dragging sensation in her body.

22 October: Her waters break and she is warned about the risk of infection. A scan shows a foetal heart beat. She is told by a midwife there is no possibility of the baby being saved. On her medical notes is written "inevitable miscarriage". She is put on antibiotics to guard against infection.

23 October: Halappanavar asks her consultant Dr Katherine Astbury for a termination. She is told that "in this country it is not legal to terminate a pregnancy on the grounds of poor prognosis for a foetus". A foetal heartbeat is present and her life is not at risk, so it is not legally possible to carry out the termination. Midwife manager Ann Maria Burke tries to calm an upset Halappanavar and explains that the termination cannot be carried out because Ireland is "a Catholic country".

25 October: The Indian dentist goes into toxic shock after her body starts to shake with cold.

27 October: Halappanavar is critically ill and doctors do not expect her to survive. A number of friends have come to the hospital to be with Praveen, her husband. Savita Halappanavar has an unrecordable blood pressure, an extremely high heart rate and is sedated with morphine.

28 October: She dies at 1.09am, slightly less than one week after she had arrived at the hospital with back pain. Her husband speaks publicly about their denied request for a termination, which reopens the debate on Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws.


Savita Halappanavar's widower condemns 'barbaric and inhuman care'

Praveen Halappanavar, whose wife died of septic shock in hospital after a miscarriage, says 'she was just left there to die'

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 19 April 2013 19.24 BST   

The widower of Savita Halappanavar – the 31-year-old dentist who has become an international symbol for those opposed to Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws – has condemned the "barbaric and inhuman care" she received in hospital, as an inquest ruled that she had died from medical misadventure.

The jury returned its verdict – on the day Savita and Praveen Halappanavar should have been celebrating their wedding anniversary. The Indian couple married five years ago.

Praveen Halappanavar said after the verdict that he had yet to find out properly why his wife had died. He said he had pleaded with medical staff at Galway university hospital for his wife to be given an emergency termination to save her life. She died in October last year of septic shock and E coli in her bloodstream after a miscarriage.

The coroner said the verdict did not imply that failings in systems at the hospital caused her death. However, speaking outside the inquest, Praveen Halappanavar said: "The care she received was no different from if she had stayed at home … She was just left there to die."

Savita Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant when she died following the miscarriage. Her husband claimed the couple had been informed she could not be given the termination they believed would save her life "because this is a Catholic country". Midwife Anna Maria Burke apologised at the inquest for her words.

Halappanavar's plight became the focus of an international outcry against Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws, which the Fine Gael-Labour coalition in Dublin has promised to reform. The proposed legislation is likely to include changing and clarifying the law to allow doctors to carry out emergency abortions. In the republic, there has to be a "real and substantial" risk to the mother's life before obstetricians can intervene, but there are no clear guidelines on measuring that risk to help them decide.

At Galway county hall on Friday, the jury endorsed all nine recommendations of the coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, including that the Irish Medical Council should lay out exactly when doctors can intervene with a termination to save the life of the woman. MacLoughlin had said this would provide clarity for patients and doctors.

The jury also endorsed recommendations that blood samples should always be followed up to ensure errors do not occur; that proper sepsis management training and guidelines are available for hospital staff; and that there is effective communication between staff on call and those coming on duty in hospitals.

Dr MacLoughlin had recommended that a dedicated time should be set aside at the end of each shift for this to happen. He had also recommended that modified early warning score charts are introduced in all hospitals as soon as possible; and that there is effective communication between patients and relatives to ensure they are fully aware of treatment plans.

The final two recommendations are that medical and nursing notes are kept separately and that no additions are made to notes where the death of a person will be subject to an inquest.

Offering his condolences to Praveen Halappanavar, MacLoughlin said: "You showed tremendous loyalty and love to your wife … You will also be watched over and protected by the shadow of Savita, who was in our thoughts during this painful and difficult journey."

The chief operating officer at the Galway Roscommon Hospital Group has acknowledged that there were lapses in the standards of care provided to Halappanavar. Speaking after the inquest, Tony Canavan said the deficiencies identified during the inquest would be rectified by the hospital and that all recommendations made by the coroner would be taken on board.

In an interview with the Guardian, midway through what were often harrowing proceedings inside the Galway court house, Praveen Halappanavar said: "Savita loved the limelight; she enjoyed the attention. And it's all for her, and maybe something out of this will be for good in the long run."

He said his wife loved living in the fashionable west of Ireland city of Galway, and had an eclectic range of friends. She had started classes in 2010 for local children, teaching them to dance.

Her death may have left a lasting legacy for the country the couple settled in, given that it has precipitated momentum towards relaxing access to abortion in Irish hospitals.

But for Praveen Halappanavar the future is uncertain, as he is unsure whether to stay in the state where his wife was so lethally let down.

After the jury's verdict, Praveen Halappanavar vowed to continue to seek answers and insisted that someone should be held accountable.

He said: "They could have intervened from day one because they knew the foetus wasn't viable."

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« Reply #5854 on: Apr 20, 2013, 06:57 AM »

April 19, 2013

Serbia and Kosovo Reach Agreement on Power-Sharing


PARIS — After months of difficult negotiations, Serbia and Kosovo reached an agreement on Friday aimed at overcoming ethnic enmities in Kosovo, a former Serbian province. It is a milestone that officials hope will enhance stability in the region and clear a path for both countries to join the European Union.

Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, told reporters that the prime ministers of the two countries had initialed an agreement during talks in Brussels. “It is very important that now what we are seeing is a step away from the past and, for both of them, a step closer to Europe,” she said.

Serbian officials said the accord was subject to approval by “state bodies” in Belgrade, the Serbian capital. But European officials said it was unlikely that Serbia would backtrack.

The European Union is scheduled to meet Monday in Brussels to decide whether to allow Serbia to start negotiations for entry into the group, and analysts said the accord was likely to swing the decision in Serbia’s favor.

The agreement hinged on how much autonomy Kosovo was willing to cede to Serb municipalities in the north, in return for Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo’s authority in the area. Until now, Serbia has had de facto control over the small Serb-majority area in the north, which does not recognize Kosovo’s authority.

Tensions have lingered since Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, nearly a decade after NATO bombs helped push out the forces of the Serbian strongman, Slobodan Milosevic. For Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian Muslim majority, independence was the culmination of a struggle for self-determination after a brutal ethnic civil war with Serbia.

Kosovo is now recognized by more than 90 countries, including the United States and a majority of nations in the European Union. But five member countries, including Spain and Cyprus, have refused to recognize Kosovo.

Serbia has also refused to recognize Kosovo, arguing that its declaration of independence breached international law. Serbia’s staunch ally, Russia, has blocked Kosovo’s membership in the United Nations, a hurdle to its economic and political progress.

Under the agreement, municipal bodies in the Serb-majority north will retain autonomy in matters like health care and education. In return, the police and courts will apply the Kosovo central government’s laws. The Serbian municipalities will be able to appoint a regional police chief.

Petrit Selimi, Kosovo’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, said Kosovo agreed not to deploy its security forces in the Serbian region for an unspecified number of years, except during emergencies like earthquakes. Even in that event, a senior NATO official said, the security forces would need authorization from NATO peacekeepers in Kosovo.

Analysts said the deal had been made possible, in part, because of the nationalist credentials of the respective leaders in the talks, including Prime Minister Hashim Thaci of Kosovo, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who told reporters that the agreement would “help heal wounds of the past.”

Even so, Mr. Thaci is despised by many Serbs for his role in the war. His Serbian counterpart, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, was the wartime spokesman of Mr. Milosevic, who died in jail in 2006.

The accord conspicuously omits any Serbian recognition of Kosovo’s independence. But analysts said the agreement was nevertheless a breakthrough.

For the European Union, struggling with a string of crises, the accord is also an important victory. “The incentive of joining the E.U. played a huge role in clinching an agreement,” said Mr. Selimi, the Kosovar deputy minister.

Misha Glenny, a leading Balkans expert, said the symbolism of Serbs and ethnic Albanians casting aside their differences could help spur regional reconciliation, in particular in ethnically divided Bosnia.

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« Reply #5855 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:00 AM »

April 19, 2013

Security at London Marathon Bolstered


LONDON — As the police in the United States hunted down and traded fire with the men suspected in the Boston bombings, Scotland Yard said on Friday that it had increased the number of officers assigned to guard the London Marathon on Sunday by several hundred to reassure runners and spectators of their safety.

The London event, one of the world’s biggest, with tens of thousands of competitors and many more onlookers, is the first major international race of its kind since Monday’s bombings in Boston killed three people and wounded more than 170. The 37,000 runners include many stars, like the British Olympic gold medalist Mo Farah, who is running only the first half of the race.

The finish line of the event lies within sight of Buckingham Palace on the broad avenue called The Mall. At the starting line, runners are to pause for a 30-second silent commemoration of the victims in Boston, and the organizers say they will hand out black armbands for contestants.

Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry, who is in charge of the policing of the London Marathon, said additional deployments would increase the number of officers by 40 percent compared with last year.

“I have increased the number of officers for reassurance patrols by several hundred. It’s about making sure that people who come to London on Sunday feel safe when they are in the city,” she told reporters. “It is a good 40 percent increase on last year on numbers of officers on the ground. We’ve got more search dogs out; we have got more on high-visibility patrols.”

She did not give a precise figure for the number of officers to be deployed. The number of spectators at the event routinely runs into the hundreds of thousands.

The British police say they are in close touch with their counterparts in Boston and have received no indication that the attack in the United States is part of a broader conspiracy involving London.

“At this time there is no link whatsoever between the Boston Marathon atrocities and the London Marathon on Sunday,” Chief Superintendent Pendry said. “What we have got is a number of contingencies. I have several contingencies should anything change between now and Sunday; we can then react to anything that should happen.”

“There is no link between the Boston Marathon and the London Marathon, and there is no change to the threat level at this time to London,” she said.

“The message I’d like to give to everybody coming is that we want you to come on Sunday, enjoy coming to watch your family and friends race, but please look after your own belongings because unattended packages will cause us to have more work to do,” Chief Superintendent Pendry said.

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« Reply #5856 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:02 AM »

04/19/2013 06:10 PM

Help Wanted: Will Dearth of Experts Starve German Economy?

By Charles Hawley

The success of Germany's economy has long been driven by small and mid-sized companies dependent on skilled labor. But a developing shortage of experts represents a threat to the country's economic future. With babies in short supply, immigration could be the answer.

Three long years. That is how long Carl Stahl GmbH München, one of the myriad lesser-known companies in Germany that keep the country's economy humming, has been trying to fill a trio of job openings. They need an expert in testing technologies. They need a specialized machinist. And they need a rope and cable expert.

But they can't find them. "The market is completely empty," says company head Rupert Hetterer. "We currently have full employment in southern Germany and it is extremely difficult to find people."

Hetterer's company, which belongs to the larger Carl Stahl Group, makes all manner of specialized cranes, cables, lifters and pulleys. As a family owned operation employing close to 100 people, it belongs to the category of German small and medium-sized firms known as the Mittelstand that drives exports and is widely seen as a key reason that the country has managed to avoid slipping into the economic distress afflicting much of the rest of Europe.

Increasingly, though, the Achilles heel of these companies is being exposed. They are extremely dependent on finding or developing highly trained personnel so as to remain a step ahead of competitors overseas. Yet the experience of Carl Stahl is not unique. Many companies have begun complaining in recent years of a growing shortage of qualified specialists in Germany, and projections that it could grow worse are enough to keep German economists and politicians up at night.

And, as has become increasingly plain, the development might be enough to force the country to accelerate its shift toward targeting immigration as a solution to the problem.

'10,000 Every Month'

"By 2025, we will need roughly 1.5 million experts from abroad," the new president of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Eric Schweitzer, insisted in an interview with the mass-circulation Bild newspaper in early April. "That means roughly 10,000 every month."

Though Schweitzer is anything but an impartial observer, the numbers do indeed look grim. According to the Federal Employment Agency, demographic realities in aging Germany mean that the labor force will decline by 6.5 million people by 2025. The agency also cites studies indicating that there will be a lack of 2 million skilled workers by 2020 and a shortage of 5.2 million a decade later.

"We will not be able to meet the demand with domestic supply," says Vera Demary, an expert on the German labor market with the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. "We will definitely be dependent on bringing in more immigrants."

That's a conclusion many German companies, chambers of commerce and other bodies representing a variety of economic sectors have already reached on their own. This winter and spring has seen an explosion of programs and consultants intent on bringing in technicians, craftsmen, healthcare workers and IT specialists from elsewhere in Europe.

Of particular note is a campaign launched by the Munich Chamber of Crafts which seeks to be a one-stop-shop for Bavarian companies interested in hiring specialists from regions of Spain suffering from high unemployment. Launched in December, the program handles recruitment, sets up interviews for companies in need, takes care of travel arrangements for workers coming to Germany and even helps with language difficulties. Already, the program has received hundreds of applicants and began placing workers last month.

Project leader Katrin Budick is quick to note that it is "but a drop in the ocean," but adds that the goal is for the newcomers to feel welcome. Rather than a repeat of the "guest worker" model pursued during Germany's postwar economic revival -- one which presumed that immigrant labor would eventually return home -- Budick says that "the goal is that the applicants will be employed long term, that they feel at home and that they become prosperous here."

The Importance of Language

There are indications that Budick's program could be on to something. According to Frank-Jürgen Weise, head of the Federal Employment Agency, the ongoing euro crisis and associated economic difficulties in Southern Europe resulted in a significant jump in immigration to Germany from that part of the Continent in 2012. Leading the list was Greece, with a 16.7 percent spike, and Spain, with almost 11 percent. Furthermore, Germany's Goethe Institute noted in December that it has seen record numbers of people signing up for its German language courses, particularly in countries hit hardest by the euro crisis.

Still, it is not clear that immigration will truly be able to sate Germany's growing hunger for specialists. For one, as Carl Stahl's Hetterer points out, language is a vital factor, particularly given that many of Germany's small and mid-sized companies have not adopted English as their official language in the way that many large international corporations have done.

"Immigration is certainly one possible solution," Hetterer said, making it clear that he supports a more open immigration policy. "I would welcome it very much if someone from Spain were to come over and look for a job for us. But they have to have taken German classes first and be well qualified for the job."

For another, Germany has long been reticent about opening its doors to significant immigration of the kind that might be needed to compensate for the country's demographic challenges. United Nations population projections forecast that by 2020, there will be about 60 percent more people leaving the working population in Germany than entering it, the worst mark among all countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Yet an OECD study released in February noted that Germany continues to lag behind other industrialized countries such as Canada, Australia, Britain and Denmark in recruiting overseas experts.

Worryingly, a survey conducted for the report found that the most common reasons given by companies for not looking beyond Germany's borders was that they "haven't even considered it" and that it was "too complicated." "Germany's prosperity depends to a considerable extent on whether it manages to remain competitive despite its ageing population," warned OECD Secretary General Yves Leterme when presenting the report.

Competing for Experts
Leterme did emphasize that Germany has taken several steps to remove hurdles. Last April, Berlin passed a law making it easier for foreign specialists to have their qualifications recognized in Germany. Since then, 30,000 people have taken advantage of the new measures. That, though, is a far cry from the 300,000 people former Education Minister Annette Schavan hoped for when she announced the program last April.

"We have made lots of progress in recent years because we know that we are in competition with other countries," said Demary from the Cologne Institute for Economic Research. "There are many companies that do a really good job of this, such as establishing a contact person for newcomers. But many companies don't have experience in working with foreigners. We have to establish a welcoming culture so that people want to stay here in the long term, particularly in small and mid-sized companies."

Still, complaints from companies such as Carl Stahl notwithstanding, analysts are quick to point out that Germany has yet to begin feeling the true brunt of a labor shortage most are sure will ultimately arrive. Thus far, scarcities have hit certain sectors, such as in the medical field, old-age care and highly specialized occupations, while others continue to have little trouble filling job openings. Furthermore, small companies in small towns have trouble luring experts, whether from Germany or abroad, away from the cities. And many of the best trained experts from Eastern Germany have long since sought their fortunes elsewhere, making it challenging for companies there. But the phenomenon is far from universal.

"I think the problem will ultimately be more in the countryside than in the cities," says Elisabeth Krekel, a researcher with the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training. "Cities are more attractive and can offer a better quality of life. Companies elsewhere will have to do a better job of attracting people and that will be a challenge."

Already, though, Germany's decades-long shortage of babies has been making itself felt in the country's vaunted training system. Called the "duale Ausbildung," or two-track vocational training, the system provides an even share of both classic classroom education and practical, hands-on training on factory floors, in offices or in the fields. It is this system, which arose centuries ago out of Germany's guilds, that President Barack Obama highlighted in his state of the union address in February when he said that the United States needed to be more like Germany. And it is one that has served the country well, being the primary source of highly trained labor for the country's numerous small and mid-sized enterprises.

Focusing on the Bottom Line

But recent indications are that it might be in trouble. A March article in the business daily Handelsblatt, citing an unpublished Education Ministry report, noted that only 21.7 percent of German companies still take part in the duale Ausbildung program, the lowest share since 1999 and the number of available traineeships is consequently sliding. Moreover, the number of traineeship contracts is dropping -- by 2 percent from 2011 to 2012 and, according to a forecast in the report, and likely by another 3 percent this year.

This parallel drop in supply and demand may, at first glance, seem to indicate that the system is merely reacting to Germany's growing demographic imbalance. But there are other possible factors at work as well. Such as cost.

"A traineeship takes three years and costs companies a lot of money," explains Frank Braun, formerly the director of the "youth transitions" research unit at the German Youth Institute. "Earlier it was such that larger companies thought far into the future to determine their needs. But then came a phase when they began looking toward the bottom line and stopped looking so far into the future. That could be a long-term trend."

If so, it would be an incredibly short sighted one. At Carl Stahl GmbH in Munich, all of the company's management positions and most of its specialists were trained on site via duale Ausbildung and have spent their entire careers at the company, explains CEO Hetterer. But he also notes another phenomenon his company has noticed recently. "We have long wanted to train more people," he says. "But we have been having increasing difficulties finding suitable trainees for certain jobs."

Martin Wansleben, head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was even more direct in a March interview with the Handelsblatt. He said that three out of four companies complained in a 2012 survey that "there are fewer and fewer youth who are qualified for traineeships."

A Danger to the Economy

The statement is not uncontroversial, but there is a possible explanation for why it might be true. Even as the number of school graduates in Germany is on a downward slide, the numbers of those going to university -- rather than entering the duale Ausbildung program -- is rising, and has shot up by over a quarter in the last decade, according to Germany's Federal Statistical Office.

The development is one the German government has done all it can to promote, not least because of external pressure. The OECD has repeatedly criticized Germany for lagging behind on university study. In 2009, the head of the OECD's Education Directorate, Barbara Ischinger, said: "If Germany wants to emerge strengthened from this financial crisis, now would be the time to invest in higher education and training." In 2011, the organization warned that Germany was lower than average when it comes to the share of young people studying at university. Politicians in Berlin have echoed the concerns and thrown millions at the perceived problem. Concurrently, the university system in Germany has adopted the bachelors and masters system seen in the US and the United Kingdom, radically shortening the time it takes to earn a degree.

A potential side-effect, however, is a shortage of qualified people available for high-end, technical traineeships.

It is a phenomenon that has only recently been introduced into the national debate on the traineeship program. But analysts are willing to allow that it may play a role in the downward trend. "When you have the option to study, and because Germany would like to have a certain level of people studying, it will certainly have an effect on the system," said Krekel from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training.

Just how Germany resolves its growing lack of specialized workers in the future remains to be seen. Certainly the trainee system will play a significant role, as will immigration. Many also point to a need to increase workplace flexibility so as to make it easier for women raising children to work full time, an issue which remains problematic in Germany. Furthermore, the country's substantial immigrant population must be tapped more efficiently.

After all, the dangers to German companies and to the country's economy on the whole are significant. "When companies don't have the personnel they need," warns Demary, "orders take longer to be filled or they can't be filled at all. That could lead to a situation where a company is unable to take on business. At that point, they would move out of Germany and go to where the workers are."

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« Reply #5857 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:05 AM »

04/19/2013 03:01 PM

Net Politics: Report Calls for German Internet Commissioner

A special Internet and Digital Society Commission convened by parliament has released several hundred recommendations for addressing data protection and other Internet-related issues in Germany. Chief among them: establishing a permanent Internet commissioner.

In a country where Internet privacy can often be a major political issue, the recommendations came as little surprise. A special commission set up by Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, submitted its final report Thursday evening, recommending that the German government get more serious about Internet-related issues and even establish the office a permanent Internet commissioner.

The 1,300-page report was drafted over three years by an Internet and Digital Society Commission made up of 17 parliamentarians and 17 experts from outside parliament. The main recommendations among several hundred were to solidly anchor Internet-related policies as a dedicated committee within the Bundestag -- similar to other bodies like the foreign affairs or budget committee -- and to create a related minister of state position, such as those that the government already has for federal-state coordination, migration, refugees and integration, and culture and media.

Among other major recommendations were reforming copyright laws, strengthening infrastructure against online attacks and expanding broadband access.

"The most important thing is that the Internet inquiry was there at all," Axel Fischer, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who chaired the commission, told the German news agency DPA. "We should know and acknowledge that the subject is relevant -- and keep at it."

Growing Importance in Germany

The issues handled by the commission are of particular importance in Germany, where matters related to online privacy and the power of computer-related companies are very present in voters' minds. The online giant Google has been repeatedly criticized for violating privacy rights with products such as its Street View application, and data-protection authorities have sparred with Facebook on issues such as requiring users to use their real names.

Last February, thousands of protesters gathered in more than 50 German cities to demonstrate against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), a multinational treaty that aims to help the music and film industries combat Internet piracy and intellectual property theft.

Interests in related topics even gave rise to Germany's Pirate Party, which has scored a number of impressive state elections results in recent years and rocked the political landscape in early 2012 by seizing 13 percent of the vote in an opinion poll. Since then, however, internal bickering, leadership issues and a series of scandals have caused its support to nosedive to a paltry 3 percent, according to a recent poll. A party requires 5 percent of the vote in order to gain seats in parliament in Germany.

In terms of government architecture, related issues are currently under the aegis of the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (FtDF). The agency, which is under the supervision of Germany's Interior Ministry, monitors data protection and data access in both the private and public spheres.

A number of non-EU countries, such as Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, India, Israel and Taiwan, have "information commissions, "privacy commissioners" or "data protection commissioners" with similar duties. Data protection at the EU level is handled by the Commissioner of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, which is currently pushing the adoption of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to supersede its Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC and cover more issues dealing with social networks, cloud computing, data protection and privacy. Likewise, all 27 EU member states have offices responsible for related issues.

Where Now?

Despite the strong voice of the recommendations, there were reportedly still rifts within the commission. Alvar Freude, an expert appointed to the commission by the center-left Social Democrats, told DPA that party divisions led some recommendations to be excluded and for the final report to include a number of "dissenting opinions" from commission members representing opposition parties.

Indeed, these parties have already expressed frustration over the report. Halina Wawzyniak, a parliamentarian for the far-left Left Party, complained that the recommendations "could have absolutely been bolder" and that only recommendations that can later flow into concrete legislative proposals were delivered. Thomas Jarzombek, a commission member from the CDU, countered charges of excessive partisanship, noting that a number of lawmakers from his party have become more open to Internet issues and that "a whole lot of persuading work" had been done over the last three years.

Although the commission's description of the situation has garnered unanimous praise, there has also been much criticism, primary from opposition parties, about the report's lack of common guidelines or directives for moving forward. "A lot of fundamental issues still remain," said Brigitte Zypries, an SPD parliamentarian who was Germany's justice minister between 2002 and 2009.

Other comments were more forceful. "The end of the commission of inquiry is not the end of Internet policies in the Bundestag, it must be the beginning," Konstantin von Notz, a commission member and parliamentarian for the Green Party, told DPA.

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« Reply #5858 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:08 AM »

European Union: ‘Europe has become its own worst enemy’

Il Sole-24 Ore,
19 April 2013

“A real attack is underway against the heart of the European Union,” writes Christian Rocca, director of IL, the cultural supplement of Sole 24 Ore:

    [It is] an attack launched from the interior of the continent; a home-grown reaction to the economic crisis. Europe has become its own enemy, responsible for all our national headaches, the target of all our corporate grievances. Things have not always been this way. Up to twenty years ago, Europe presented the dream, hope and challenge of a new departure: the peaceful liberation of the countries of the East, the reunification of Germany, the abolition of borders, the free circulation of ideas and people, Erasmus. Today, there is nothing but the Champions League to remind us that we are still a Union. For the rest: welcome to Euroland, the desolate land of the euro, a monetary union where the most ghastly words a European can hear are: ‘Greetings. I come from the EU and I am here to help you.’

To illustrate the “obvious rips” that have appeared in the Union flag in recent years, IL calls on four European intellectuals – the historian Niall Ferguson, former European Commissioner Peter Mandelson, MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit and the publisher and editor of Die Zeit Josef Joffe – to explain why. According to Rocca,

    the most important threat to the European project today is the loss of legitimacy of the European spirit, its shaky credibility [...]. This time, the usual scream of “More Europe – we need more Europe!” won’t be enough to salvage it.
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« Reply #5859 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:11 AM »

Nicolas Sarkozy investigated over Kadhafi campaign funding claims

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, April 19, 2013 13:22 EDT

French former president Nicolas Sarkozy is to be investigated over allegations that he accepted cash from former Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi to fund his 2007 election campaign.

Judicial sources confirmed Friday that a formal probe has been opened that could lead to Sarkozy facing a second set of corruption-related charges arising from his campaign.

Sarkozy, 58, was charged last month with taking advantage of a person incapacitated by illness in a case that centres on allegations he accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from France’s richest woman, Liliane Bettencourt.

He adamantly denies any wrongdoing and is suing investigative news website Mediapart over the Libya allegations.

Mediapart reported last April that Kadhafi’s regime had contributed 50 million euros ($65.5 million) to Sarkozy’s successful 2007 campaign.

Ziad Takieddine, a Franco-Lebanese businessman who is embroiled in a series of political financing scandals in France, has also repeatedly claimed that he has proof Sarkozy was financed by the Libyans but has refused to make his evidence public.

Kadhafi’s regime was toppled and he himself was killed in 2011 following an uprising backed by a NATO intervention that Sarkozy was instrumental in organising.

That won him international acclaim but his reputation has been blighted since leaving office last year by a slew of judicial probes into his conduct during his time as president or as a government minister.

As well as the Libya and Bettencourt cases, he is the subject of ongoing investigations into alleged cronyism in the awarding of contracts for opinion polls, an illegal police investigation into journalists and alleged kickbacks on a Pakistani arms deal.

Sarkozy lost his immunity from prosecution after losing the 2012 presidential election to Francois Hollande.

In March he was placed under formal investigation on suspicion of taking advantage of Bettencourt to secure up to four million euros in financing for his 2007 campaign. L’Oreal heiress Bettencourt has suffered from dementia since 2006.

Under French law, being placed under formal investigation is the equivalent of being charged in other legal systems but does not mean the case will necessarily end in a trial.

If convicted in the Bettencourt case, Sarkozy faces up to three years in jail, a fine of 375,000 euros ($480,000), and a five-year ban from public office which would destroy any hope he entertains of making a political comeback.

French judges demonstrated their readiness to go after former leaders with their successful pursuit of Sarkozy’s predecessor as president, Jacques Chirac. He was convicted in 2011 on corruption charges related to his time as mayor of Paris.

Chirac, who was excused from attending his trial because of ill health, was given a two-year suspended prison term.

Since losing to Hollande, Sarkozy has concentrated on making money on the international conference circuit, but he has repeatedly hinted that he is considering another tilt at the presidency in 2017.

In March, he told magazine “Valeurs actuelles” that his sense of duty to his country could see him return to the political arena.

“There will unfortunately come a time when the question will no longer be ‘Do you want to?’ but ‘Do you have any choice?’.”

Married to former supermodel Carla Bruni, Sarkozy remains popular with voters on the right of the political spectrum but he is regarded as a divisive figure by centrist swing voters who tend to decide elections in France.

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« Reply #5860 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:13 AM »

April 20, 2013

Pakistani Court Orders Musharraf Detained for 2 More Weeks


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A Pakistani antiterrorism court on Saturday extended by two weeks the detention of the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, ensuring that the legal wrangling surrounding the retired general will continue in the run-up to elections on May 11.

Following a hearing that lasted barely five minutes, the judge ordered that Mr. Musharraf be held in custody until May 4, during which time he is expected to face charges over his decision to sack senior judges while in power in 2007.

On Saturday afternoon, Islamabad district administration officials announced that Mr. Musharraf would be held at his fortified villa, declaring it as a "sub jail.” No visitors will be allowed at the villa on the edge of the capital, officials said.

It was Mr. Musharraf’s fourth court appearance in 48 hours, highlighting the unprecedented nature of a case that challenges not only the retired general’s liberty, but also the sense of impunity that military rulers have long enjoyed in Pakistan.

Mr. Musharraf arrived at the courthouse surrounded by the police and paramilitary soldiers, reflecting the danger to his life from Taliban militants who have threatened to kill him. But the greatest hostility came from a crowd of jeering, black-suited lawyers who chanted insults and pushed against the security cordon.

As he emerged from the hearing, Mr. Musharraf saluted in his signature military style before being escorted back to police headquarters. Muhammad Amjad Chaudhry, a close Musharraf aide, said the former commando general was in good spirits despite his situation.

“His morale is high," Mr. Chaudhry told reporters. "He says he will face the courts. He regrets that he is being accused of acts he never committed.”

The detention is an ironic twist for Mr. Musharraf, who had hundreds of people, including senior judges, placed under house arrest in November 2007 after he declared emergency rule as his grip on power slipped.

That period still rankles members of Pakistan’s judiciary. Mr. Musharraf’s case was heard in an antiterrorism court on Saturday because a judge earlier declared that his detention of senior judges constituted an act of terrorism.

Some critics are trying to have Mr. Musharraf tried for treason, a politically contentious undertaking that some fear could prompt an aggressive military intervention.

One retired general, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that senior officers were angered by the sight of Mr. Musharraf being dragged through the courts. And although Mr. Musharraf is facing trial in a civilian court, his security is being provided by serving soldiers, who helped him escape from court when a judge refused him bail on Thursday.

The treason case is due to come before the Supreme Court again on Monday.

While Mr. Musharraf’s difficulties have earned him little public sympathy, an incident outside the courthouse on Saturday was a reminder that his opponents have also engaged in questionable behavior.

Lawyers surrounded and attacked a young man who dared to raise slogans in favor of Mr. Musharraf, leaving him bloodied and dazed. He was saved after onlookers managed to wrest him from the lawyers.

The assault was a reminder of how Pakistan’s black-suited lawyers, who once helped oust Mr. Musharraf, have tarnished their own image in recent years. Some lawyers have attacked journalists outside courthouses and flung petals on the police officer who assassinated Salman Taseer, the Punjab governor who spoke out for an imprisoned Christian woman in 2010.
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« Reply #5861 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:15 AM »

April 19, 2013

Study Finds Sharp Rise in Attacks by Taliban


KABUL, Afghanistan — One of the closest-kept secrets in Afghanistan these days is data about how active the insurgents have become in their spring offensive this year.

No one doubts that the Taliban have stepped up their attacks, but what is less clear is whether they are trying — or able — to mount an all-out attempt to test the Afghan security forces as they begin to take over completely from withdrawing foreign forces. By early summer, Afghan forces plan to be in charge throughout the country, with American and other allies in a supporting role.

The American military, which last year publicized data on enemy attacks with meticulous bar graphs, now has nothing to say. “We’re just not giving out statistics anymore,” said a spokesman, Col. Thomas W. Collins, suggesting that the Afghan Ministry of Defense might do so.

At the ministry, Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, asked if he could divulge the number of enemy attacks that had occurred this spring, had only one word to say: “No.”

According to a respected independent group, the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office, the recent increase in violence has been dramatic, based on data for the first quarter of 2013, which the organization released Thursday.

There were 2,331 attacks by armed opposition groups in the first quarter, compared with 1,581 in the same period last year, an increase of 47 percent, the statistics show.

“We assess that the current re-escalation trend will be preserved throughout the entire season and that 2013 is set to become the second most violent year after 2011,” said Tomas Muzik, the director of the NGO office. That year was the most violent of the war, with the most attacks and victims.

One key finding is that attacks by the insurgents against international military forces make up only 4 percent of the first-quarter total, compared with 73 percent against the Afghan security forces (most of the rest are against civilians connected to the government in some way). It is a measure of the degree to which the Afghan government is bearing the brunt of the fighting, as international forces begin withdrawing their last 100,000 combat forces — 68,000 of them American, a process expected to be complete by the end of 2014.

The Taliban have complained that American troops “have lost all will to fight mujahedeen head-on in the battlefields,” according to a statement released Tuesday on an insurgent Web site that is monitored by the SITE Intelligence Group.

The NGO office data also shows that the war has substantially shifted in focus. The main battlefields had been in the southern provinces, from Helmand across to Paktika, Paktia and Khost. Now the focus has shifted to eastern provinces that are farther north, Laghman, Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan particularly, with new fronts developing in western parts of the country that were once little affected by the war.

That shift has largely been to areas where foreign military forces are already thin on the ground. According to the analysis, that raises challenges for Afghan security forces to move into new areas. “Until the Afghan national security forces demonstrate an ability to ‘hold’ deteriorating provinces where they stand alone, they cannot be viewed as successfully filling the gap left by international military forces,” the report said.

While the Ministry of Defense refused to give latest figures for Afghan casualties, one ministry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of orders against releasing the information, said ministry data showed that 1,183 soldiers were killed in the year ending March 20, compared with 841 in the year ending March 20, 2012, an increase of 40 percent.

In addition, the official said, the data showed that Afghan forces had killed 4,664 enemy fighters that year, and captured 6,401. Since most Western estimates are that the Taliban’s active strength is on the order of 20,000 to 25,000 fighters, that would represent more than half of the insurgents’ total numbers, which seems unlikely given the increased tempo of insurgent attacks.

The Afghanistan NGO Security Office is a European government-financed organization that gathers and shares information on attacks to help nongovernment organizations, mostly relief and aid groups, keep their operations safe. Its latest report showed no increase in attacks against NGOs.

Its information on trends in violence in previous years often corresponded closely to information compiled by the NATO-led coalition, the International Security Assistance Force.

In February, the force said that because of a clerical error, it had incorrectly reported that what it called “enemy-initiated attacks” had dropped 7 percent in 2012 compared with 2011; the figure had actually remained constant. The force acknowledged the error after The Associated Press asked why the report containing the statistic had been removed from the coalition’s Web site; from then on, the force stopped publishing the information.

The latest such reports on its Web site cover attacks through September 2012.

Anecdotally, there have been a steady series of attacks on Afghan forces this spring, involving substantial casualties. In Kunar Province on April 12, an Afghan National Army outpost was overrun and all 13 soldiers killed. In western Afghanistan, 10 Afghan soldiers and 34 civilians were killed in an attack on a government compound on April 3.

On Tuesday, six Afghan soldiers in civilian clothing were executed after their minivan was stopped in Jowzjan Province, according to Abdul Manan Raufi, a spokesman for the provincial police. And the day before, the Taliban ambushed and killed five Afghan Public Protection Forces soldiers who had been escorting a NATO fuel supply convoy in Wardak Province, according to Attaullah Khogeyani, a spokesman for the Wardak governor.

Jawad Sukhanyar contributed reporting.

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« Reply #5862 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:18 AM »

April 20, 2013

Reports of Rape of 5-Year-Old Set Off New Furor in India


NEW DELHI — The case of a 5-year-old girl who was kidnapped, repeatedly raped, starved and tortured has provoked a protest, official condemnations and calls for larger demonstrations this weekend in New Delhi.

The police arrested a 25-year-old man early Saturday morning in Bihar, said Rajan Bhagat, a Delhi police spokesman. The man accused in the case, Manoj Kumar, had recently married and was tracked down with the help of cell phone records to the town of his in-laws, according to Indian media reports.

Mr. Kumar had a ground-floor apartment in the same building as the family of the 5-year old, who went missing the night of April 14, according to Indian media reports. Her parents reported her disappearance to the police the next morning.

The girl was found on April 17 by her parents in the ground-floor apartment after they heard her crying, although the accused had already left by then. The girl was taken to a public hospital in New Delhi Friday night, where doctors said her condition was critical, according to Indian media reports.

“We found a 200-millimeter bottle and two, three pieces of candle inserted into her private parts,” R.K. Bansal, the medical superintendent of Swami Dayanand Hospital, said in a televised interview."This is the first time I have seen such barbarism.”

“There were injuries on her lips, cheeks, arms and anus area, her neck had bruise marks suggesting that attempts were made to strangle her,” Mr. Bansal added.

The alleged attack comes four months after a woman was gang-raped and tortured and her companion beaten in a case that shocked the nation and led to weeks of spontaneous protests by people demanding better security for women. That case led to a strengthening of in rape laws, but horrific rapes continue to be reported around India with regularity.

Whether women are less safe in India than in other emerging countries is uncertain, but the issue of rape and police competence in dealing with such crimes has become a burning political issue.

In the most recent case, the parents of the 5-year-old complained that the police failed to take their complaint seriously, failed to search adequately for her attacker and then offered 2,000 rupees — about $37 — if they would keep quiet about the case.

Those complaints prompted a small protest Friday, and rage seemed to build after TV news channels showed a large mustachioed police officer slapping a female protester in the face. A nascent political party in India promised to hold protest rallies on Saturday in New Delhi over the case.

Concern in India’s central government ratcheted up so quickly Friday night that Prime Mininster Manmohan Singh expressed regrets about the case. Two police officers — including the lead investigator on the case and the one seen slapping the protester — were suspended. The lead investigator is himself being investigated for allegedly trying to bribe the child’s family into silence, said Mr. Bhagat, the police spokesman.

Hari Kumar contributed reporting.

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« Reply #5863 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:22 AM »

Tajikistan opposition leader beaten as election looms

Leader of Islamic Revival party taken to hospital after being severely beaten outside house, according to colleague

Reuters in Dushanbe, Friday 19 April 2013 22.27 BST   

A leader of Tajikistan's largest opposition party, the Islamic Revival party (IRP), was severely beaten on Friday evening in Dushanbe, a colleague said, in a sign of rising tensions before presidential elections due in November.

The IRP is the only opposition party represented in the parliament of mainly Muslim Tajikistan, an impoverished Central Asian country of eight million ruled for 20 years by President Emomali Rakhmon.

Tajikistan, the poorest of the 15 former Soviet republics, lies on a major transit route for Afghan drugs to Europe and Russia and remains volatile after a 1992-97 civil war in which Rakhmon's Moscow-backed secular government clashed with Islamist guerrillas.

"Several people attacked the deputy head of the IRP just outside his house. They beat him and kicked him, he was all covered in blood," another leading IRP member, Khikmatullo Saifullozoda, said.

Mukhamadal Khayit was taken to hospital after sustaining moderate and severe wounds, Saifullozoda added.

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack and what the motives were, but Saifullozoda linked it to politics.

"The reason behind the beating is his active political activism, his civic opposition, his opposition to the current authorities," Saifullozoda said.

The IRP, which is campaigning for a bigger role for Islam in public life, has not yet named its candidate for the November ballot in which the 60-year-old incumbent Rakhmon is expected to seek a fresh term.

Critics accuse Rakhmon, a former head of a Soviet cotton farm, of clamping down on dissent. He defends his tactics by saying he wants to oppose radical Islam.

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« Reply #5864 on: Apr 20, 2013, 07:27 AM »

Japan lifts social media ban against political candidates

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, April 19, 2013 21:00 EDT

Japan’s parliament on Friday lifted a ban on Internet electioneering, permitting candidates and their supporters to tweet, use Facebook and update their websites on the campaign trail.

The upper house unanimously approved the bill to revise the public offices election law, ending a long-running debate on the strict ban, criticised by its detractors as an anachronism.

Despite its reputation for innovative wizardry, Japan has a sometimes confounding tendency to shun technology and the format of elections has changed little over the past few decades.

The previous electoral laws, which predate the Internet era, treated anything appearing on a screen as akin to a leaflet, which means it falls under restrictions on how many fliers any nominee can produce.

Unlike in the 24-hour, Internet-saturated world of US politics, for example, candidates in Japan campaign for two frenetic weeks ahead of polls, driving and walking around their districts doing little more than shouting out their names.

The first national election with e-campaigning will be upper-house polls that will take place in or after July.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s conservative Liberal Democratic Party is already gearing up for the polls after scoring a landslide win in the lower-house vote in December.

That election poll saw voter turnout fall to a record low 59.3 percent.

Abe, who enjoys wide support among a growing band of right wing fringe groups active on the Internet, had long signalled his inclination to change the law.
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