05/06/2013 06:05 PM
Father Figure: Putin Strives to Become Russia's Über-Patriot
By Matthias Schepp and Christian Neef
Exactly one year ago, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin following a brief hiatus. Since then, he has markedly reduced protest freedoms, undermined the judiciary and presented himself as a patriotic man of the people. He wants to free himself of his party and parliament.
Of course he arrives late. He always does. Since the early morning hours, hundreds of people have been waiting in this drafty factory building owned by Rosvertol, an aircraft manufacturer that has been producing helicopters for 73 years in the southeastern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. The bleachers set up for the audience look as though they were built to surround a boxing ring. Television cameras stand ready to roll and a bevy of bodyguards has been dispatched. Then the guest walks in, nearly an hour behind schedule: Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is wearing a dark blue suit, a white shirt and a red tie -- and his thin hair has been carefully combed over his head. The applause is thunderous.
Putin is putting in an appearance at the first conference held by the All-Russia People's Front, a movement he founded in 2011. The audience includes workers from the Urals, teachers from the Volga region, artists from Moscow and government officials from the Pacific island of Sakhalin -- plus government ministers, military officers and men in colorful Cossack uniforms. He is happy to be here, says the president, adding that the People's Front has a special mission: "It aims to bring together people with a wide range of views to draw up a strategy for the new Russia." The topic on today's agenda: social justice.
The people in the factory hall have prepared for this moment by meeting in working groups prior to delivering their reports on what's wrong in Russia: That teachers in Moscow earn 48,000 rubles a month, the equivalent of €1,170 or $1,530, while their colleagues in rural areas only earn one-third as much; that there is no standardized history textbook and no one knows how precisely to assess Stalin's role in the Soviet Union, that the head of state-run Rostelecom was recently showered with 233 million rubles, the largest severance payment in Russian history, while workers' wages are falling in a number of regions. They talk about child poverty, opportunities for social advancement and social security contributions paid by small entrepreneurs.
As always, the Kremlin's presentation is impeccable. The backdrop behind the seating area is a radiant, modern blue, and an attractive young woman has been placed next to Putin. It's all designed to reflect the new Russia that is the day's focus -- even if the old Soviet Union makes the occasional appearance. Speakers, for example, call for the reintroduction of honorary titles for meritorious workers, including the "Mother Heroine" award for raising large families, and they call for the use of school uniforms.
His Favorite Role
The president nods in agreement. He sees no reason to object. He lets the people speak and listens attentively to even the most long-winded speaker. He asks questions, praises, debates, takes the appropriate minister to task and knows almost every important statistic by heart.
"How do you do that, Vladimir Vladimirovich?" asks a doctor in the audience, who is absolutely amazed. Putin has just completed a 12-hour flight from South Africa, but it doesn't show.
Putin was playing his favorite role at Rostov-on-Don at the end of March: that of the dedicated father of the nation. No one asked about rumors of liaisons with young women or troublesome political issues. Nobody wanted to know about the Russian feminist band Pussy Riot, about raids on non-governmental organizations or the ban on the adoption of Russian children by American citizens. Unlike during his state visits in the West, he didn't have to justify the things that he thinks are right. No one challenged his authority.
It has now been exactly 12 months since he was reelected president and is beginning his 10th year as the head of the Kremlin -- and looking more confident and self-assured than ever. It appears to have been forgotten that just over one year ago tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the Kremlin. Putin can still count on the uncritical support of half the population and he has regained the aura of the apparently invulnerable ruler.
And yet the man who appeared in Rostov-on-Don was no longer the Putin who entered the Kremlin for the third time on May 7, 2012. Rather, Putin this year has radically changed course and changed his leadership style.
To find out who this new Putin is, and what he wants, it helps to meet three men: Gennady Gudkov, the sidelined former KGB man who joined the opposition, Dmitry Badovski, the Kremlin ideologue and Alexander Prokhanov, a Stalinist whom Putin brought back to the political stage.
"Putin has finally seen the signs of the times," says Prokhanov, 75. "For years, he talked about the need for giving the country a jolt, but nothing happened. Now, that is apparently changing and I will use my modest powers to help him achieve this."
Stalinist by Nature
Prokhanov is a prolific author of considerable renown and he has been compared to Dostoyevsky. Over a period of 40 years, he has written some 50 books: novels, short stories, works of non-fiction and volumes of poems. He worked as a correspondent in Afghanistan and Nicaragua, resisted Gorbachev and his perestroika -- and, later on, antagonized former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's oligarchs and the nouveau riche elite. Prokhanov describes himself as a left-wing patriot, an "orthodox socialist," someone who is fighting for the reestablishment of the old Russian state. He says that the Russian people are by nature Stalinist: "They will always place greater importance on the state than on the small happiness of the individual," he argues.
For a long time, Prokhanov and his ideas were banished to the political wilderness, but more recently he has been invited every few days to take part in talk shows on the quasi-state-owned television networks. But why does someone like Putin need the support of a Stalinist who talks about a new Russian empire that he says is currently emerging? Someone who never tires of warning of a "geopolitical disaster" that is encroaching upon Russia's borders -- and whose newspaper Zavtra is notoriously anti-Semitic?
Prokhanov receives visitors in the shabby offices of his small newspaper in Moscow. But one shouldn't gauge his political influence by these surroundings. The rooms are located on the premises of the general staff of the armed forces and he maintains close friends among the generals. He recently received two North Korean embassy staff members and the photo showing Prokhanov next to Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad is only a few weeks old.
Putin is a "very dynamic" politician, says Prokhanov: "He began his career in the entourage of the oligarch Boris Berezovsky, who tried to use him as a puppet after Yeltsin left office," he contends. "But Putin was not the man people thought he was."
He says that Putin got rid of Berezovsky, seized control of his media empire, stopped former Soviet republics from seceding from the Russian Federation and enticed Europe to become dependent on Gazprom. It was "a powerful geopolitical operation," says Prokhanov, who adds that in 2008 Putin regrettably strictly adhered to the constitution, which forbids presidents from serving more than two consecutive terms. Instead of continuing in office, he chose Dmitry Medvedev to serve as a nominal head of state. "That was a huge mistake," Prokhanov notes, "because he wasted four valuable years and weakened himself in the process."
During this interim period, the liberals rallied behind Medvedev, Prokhanov says, and tens of thousands of them took to the streets when Putin announced his intention to return to the presidency. It was only this pressure, he contends, that pushed the president to move.
Putin is not a strategist, but rather a man with political instincts. He very quickly realized that the interregnum with Medvedev was a mistake. In order to halt any developments that could become unmanageable, he set a new political course last May. Since then, he has curtailed the right to demonstrate and limited freedom on the Internet. Non-governmental organizations that receive money from the West now have to register as "foreign agents." "Insulting words or behavior" have again become a criminal offense, and opposition leaders like blogger Alexei Navalny are being tried on charges of fraud and embezzlement. In other words, all criticism of the regime has been criminalized.
It has worked. The argument that everything pernicious in this world comes from the West still triggers a visceral patriotic response in many Russians. And it is a reflex that Putin uses to his advantage.
Patriotism and the duty to defend the fatherland are more important than any other political inclination, the president recently wrote -- a message that is vaguely reminiscent of the rhetoric espoused by the German Kaiser in the run-up to World War I. According to Putin, what is at stake is nothing less than "preserving Russia's national character, its traditions and roots, along with its spiritual and cultural heritage."
Putin himself showed the way by announcing that he would replace his official car, a Mercedes, with a Russian-made presidential vehicle. Members of parliament and cabinet members are no longer allowed to maintain bank accounts abroad, and Russian oligarchs are being pressured to bring their capital back to the fatherland. Furthermore, parliament is debating whether to forbid the children of government employees from studying abroad. There is even a proposal to ban Russian women from marrying Western men.
"The president has remembered the national forces in this country," says Prokhanov, the author. He says that Putin is again investing in defense and pursuing genuine Russian foreign policy. "Anyone who can't see the encroaching disaster, the Americans' gradual occupation of the world, including Russia, need only look at Syria and the role of the West there," he argues.
The new nationalist course is threatening the political elite that Putin has traditionally relied upon for support: financial magnates, entrepreneurs and civil servants. If Russia cuts itself off from the rest of the world again, it will spell the end of their business model, which is based on globalization. But Putin has also distanced himself from his own fraud-tainted ruling United Russia party.
"'We have rigged the elections for you and gagged the opposition, which was all done on your orders. What will happen to us now?' That's what his party members will ask," says former parliamentarian Gennady Gudkov, 56. Recently, his own party, A Just Russia, which was founded by the Kremlin as a pseudo opposition group, chased him out of parliament under circumstances that appeared dubious even to the Russian Constitutional Court.
His crime: In a speech delivered shortly before parliamentary elections, he warned of the Kremlin's intention to fix the election results. Later, he put in an appearance at the mass demonstrations against Putin, and he is now a member of the protest movement's Opposition Coordination Council.
This step cost him parts of his business, as the Kremlin promptly withdrew the operating licenses for a number of his subsidiaries, after which he was stripped of his parliamentary mandate and, in March, expelled from his party. His son Dmitry, who is also a member of the Duma, was kicked out of the party as well.
"This approach is basically a return to Stalinist repression," says Gudkov. "The legal system is suspended. The difference is that people are not yet being sent to gulags and shot."
Others, including Navalny and left-wing political activist Sergei Udaltsov, have better established themselves as figureheads of the opposition over the past year. Why, then, was so much energy invested in politically neutralizing Gudkov, who was once seen as a supporter of the government?
"Because I was a real thorn in their side and I didn't fit into the pattern of Kremlin propaganda," says Gudkov. "I don't belong with either the old liberal opposition leaders or the new, wild ones dressed in jeans." Gudkov exhales loudly with indignation, as if he has just managed to get something heavy off his chest. Now, he is leaning back in his not particularly modest office, located in an old mansion east of downtown Moscow.
Relying on Fear
The villa is the headquarters of the Oskord Security Group, which now allegedly belongs to Gudkov's wife Maria. The company has 25 branch offices in the country and employs 7,000 people, most of whom are former military personnel, police officers and intelligence agents. Its customers include IKEA, IBM, Adidas and Lufthansa.
After working as an English teacher, Gudkov shifted gears and attended the KGB Military School. He remained with the intelligence service until 1992. Now, he is a retired KGB colonel, just like Putin. In the Duma, he served most recently as the deputy chairman of the Security Committee.
It is rare in Russia that someone who was on the side of the country's rulers and enjoyed their privileges for decades crosses over to the opposition. As such, the Kremlin saw the former KGB officer as more dangerous than the extra-parliamentary opposition and as one who could accelerate the regime's erosion from within.
And how does he see the new Putin?
"He is exhausted and won't achieve anything new," says Gudkov. "His system is amoral and relies entirely on fear."
The man who is widely seen as Putin's new ideologue and visionary receives guests at his research institute not far from the Moskva River. The premises are spartanly furnished, as if Dmitry Badovski were only here as a guest himself. Actually his real workplace is just a few hundred meters away -- in the domestic policy department of the Kremlin administration.
Badovski, 40, is a political scientist who wears a white shirt embroidered with his initials. His hair is already starting to gray on the sides. He glances at a map of Russia on the wall: "Putin's key mission is to keep the country from going to pieces and to maintain it as a strong and sovereign state," he says.
Return of the 'Hero of Labor'
Badovski chooses his words carefully as he provides a glimpse into the president's innermost thoughts. He says that Putin and his team are "steering Russia at a time of global instability" -- referring to unrest in the Middle East, radical Islam and the financial crisis in the United States and the European Union, which Putin and his advisers see as endemic to the system. "Democracy worked well as long as there were ongoing increases in prosperity -- but those days are over now," Badovski believes.
A television in his office is showing a debate in parliament, but virtually no one outside the Kremlin is interested in the lawmaking body anymore. Traditional party democracy, says Putin's ideologue, is proving to be increasingly incapable "of understanding all social trends and providing answers to today's issues."
Consequently, Putin is relying on new tools: an Internet platform that aims to allow citizens to make proposals for legislation; extended televised question-and-answer sessions with the president; and the People's Front, which has long been seen as Badovski's brainchild. Putin's appearance at Rostov-on-Don, says Badovski, was a successful example "of the government's dialogue with society."
In reality, Putin is undermining the state's institutions with his patriotic populism. He is striving to become a supreme father figure who is independent of parties and parliament, and directly appointed by the people.
In the mid-1990s, Badovski wrote his PhD dissertation on "Russia's ruling elite: tendencies in the transformation of the Soviet model," and he can very eloquently point out the weaknesses of the current system -- for instance, that a "change of government in Russia is always a difficult process and political power is always synonymous with control of the economy." That is a subtle way of saying that Russia's rulers have shamelessly amassed wealth and the elite have learned little aside from how to use their proximity to Putin to make money.
Yet the chief ideologist remains convinced that "Putin is not the cause of the problems, but rather their solution."
On May 1, formerly a holiday dedicated to defending the rights of workers and farmers around the world, the president gave a demonstration of how he intends to solve those problems in the future. Putin invited factory workers, miners and farmers to St. Petersburg and pinned a gold, star-shaped medal on their lapels: the "Hero of Labor" award. This honor was introduced under the Communists, and Yeltsin abolished it as a relic of the Soviet era. He thought it would be gone forever.
Translated from the German by Paul Cohen
Tens of thousands protest Putin in Moscow
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, May 6, 2013 12:34 EDT
Tens of thousands of people turned out for a protest in central Moscow on Monday marking one year since a demonstration ahead of Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin inauguration ended in mass arrests, organisers said.
“The whole square is full. There are tens of thousands of us,” prominent opposition figure Boris Nemtsov told a huge sea of people crammed into Bolotnaya Square across the Moscow river from the Kremlin.
Police however said only 6,000 were present at the start.
Russian prisoner makes rare escape from Moscow jail
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 6:54 EDT
A Russian prisoner charged with double murder on Tuesday escaped from one of Moscow’s most impregnable jails by breaking a hole in his cell ceiling and climbing to freedom, the prison service said.
In a rare break-out, reportedly only the fourth in two decades from Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina prison, Oleg Topalov “escaped through a hole in the cell ceiling that he had made and made his way onto the roof,” prison service spokesman Sergei Tsygankov told the RIA Novosti news agency.
“From the roof he escaped over the main fence,” he added.
It was unclear how Topalov managed to break a hole in the ceiling since cells are searched for banned objects. The only object he could have used was a spoon, a source in law enforcement told the Interfax news agency.
In an unusual move, the federal prison service released pictures of Topalov, 33, a slim man with dark curly hair, asking the public to call with any information.
Topalov was charged with murdering two people and with illegal arms trafficking as part of an organised gang. He had been held on remand since October 2011 and his case was sent to court last month, the Investigative Committee said in a statement.
He had been categorised as someone prone to escape attempts and with psychological problems, Tsygankov said.
Investigators opened a criminal probe into negligence after his escape, accusing prison staff of “dishonest or careless attitude to their work that was made use of by the prisoner Topalov.”
Reports said Topalov shared a cell with around seven other prisoners and it was unclear what role they played in his brazen early morning flight to freedom.
Matrosskaya Tishina in northeastern Moscow has operated since 1946. Its name means Sailors’ Repose, the name of the street where it is located. Its official title is Pre-trial Detention Centre Number 1.
Since 1995, three other prisoners have escaped from Matrosskaya Tishina, RIA Novosti reported.
The prison has its own hospital which is where lawyer Sergei Magnitsky died in 2009 after being transferred from the notorious Butyrka jail in a case that sparked international outrage.
05/07/2013 11:31 AM
Perpetrators of the Holocaust: Alleged Auschwitz Guard Arrested
Hans Lipschis, a 93-year-old thought to have been a guard at Auschwitz, was arrested in Germany on Monday. The Lithuanian-born man, who was added to the Simon Wiesenthal Center's most wanted list last month, says he was only a cook. But prosecutors believe he supported the killing in his role as a guard.
A man thought to have been a guard at the Auschwitz death camp has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of having assisted in the mass murder carried out there, the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office said on Monday.
A doctor had examined 93-year-old Hans Lipschis and found him to be fit for detention and a judge remanded him in custody. "We will try to ascertain what he did in Auschwitz" a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said.
Lipschis is believed to have been in Auschwitz from autumn 1941 until it was liberated in early 1945. He was added to the Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals list kept by the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem in April. The Wiesenthal Center welcomed the arrest.
"This is a very positive step, we welcome the arrest, I hope this will only be the first of many arrests, trials and convictions of death camp guards," the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Efraim Zuroff told AFP news agency.
Lipschis told Welt am Sonntag newspaper in April that he had only been a cook in Auschwitz. But investigators said he was "under strong suspicion of having supported the murders in the concentration camp," the office said in a statement.
More than 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were murdered in Auschwitz.
The prosecutors office has been investigating him since November 2012. He was arrested because authorities believed he might leave the country. He has a daughter in the US, German media reported.
According to information obtained by the German news agency DPA, Lipschis was a member of the SS "Death's Head" unit that ran the camp. He later worked as a cook for the SS adminstration.
Born in Lithuania, Lipschis emigrated to the US in 1956 and settled in Chicago. He was deported in 1982 because he hadn't told US authorities about his past in the SS. He moved to Germany in 1983 and has lived in Aalen, in south-western Germany, since then.
"Charges against him are being prepared," said the prosecutor's office.
Late Push on War Crimes
The arrest followed news last month that Germany's central office for investigating Nazi war crimes had launched a major push to bring Nazi death camp guards to justice and had obtained a list of 50 former Auschwitz guards still living in Germany.
The Central Office of the Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes said it had received the list of names of Auschwitz guards from the museum at the memorial site. The office is now checking which of the men, most of whom were likely to have been members of the SS, could stand trial.
Schrimm's office is exploiting a recent re-interpretation of German criminal law in order to bring to justice people who were small cogs in the Holocaust machine -- men and women who had hitherto been spared prosecution because they couldn't be proven to have committed specific crimes, and could hide behind the argument that they were following orders.
Prosecutions have been made easier by the precedent set by the trial of Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk, found guilty by a Munich court in May 2011 and sentenced to five years in jail for being an accessory to the murder of 28,060 Jews while he was a guard at Sobibor in occupied Poland.
Since the Demjanjuk trial, prosecutors no longer need to establish culpability in specific murders to secure a conviction. Having been a guard is now seen as proof enough of having assisted in murder.
The crucial piece of evidence against Demjanjuk was his SS identity card from Sobibor. He died in a nursing home in the southern Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach in March 2012, after being released pending his appeal.
05/06/2013 11:15 AM
First Day of Historic Trial: German Court Adjourns Neo-Nazi Case Until May 14
Germany's biggest neo-Nazi trial opened on Monday in the glare of the media as the main defendant, neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe, faced charges of complicity in a spate of racially motivated murders. But in the sign of how drawn-out the trial is likely to be, it was adjourned after her lawyers claimed the judge is biased.
The Munich court handling the historic trial of neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe on Monday adjourned proceedings until May 14 after her lawyers accused the presiding judge of being biased because he had ordered them to be frisked for weapons before entering the courtroom. Members of the prosecution weren't subjected to searches.
The adjournment on the first day is a fresh indication that the trial, which is being closely watched in Germany and abroad, especially in Turkey where most of the victims came from, will be lengthy and complex. The prosecution didn't even get a chance to read out the charges.
Zschäpe, 38, dubbed the "Nazi bride" in the German media, is believed to be the sole surviving member of the National Socialist Undergroundterrorist group that claimed responsibility in 2011 for murdering nine immigrants, eight of them of Turkish descent and one Greek man, as well as a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.
The other two members, Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, committed suicide in November 2011 after a botched bank robbery. Only after that did their involvement in the killings come to light.
Shortly after the trial started, Zschäpe's lawyers filed a motion claiming that judge Manfred Götzl was unfit to run proceedings because the weapons searches placed them under suspicion of "being involved in forbidden and criminal actions."
The judge then ordered the adjournment to consider their motion, along with another motion brought by a co-defendant.
The police never seriously considered that the motive may be racismand instead suspected that the victims, who included a flower seller, a grocer and a part-time tailor, themselves had links with criminal gangs.
The case has alarmed the country's 3 million people of Turkish descent and has been a huge embarrassment to Germany because of the catalogue of errors made by the police and security authorities that exposed them to accusations of institutional racism and of having been blind to the threat of right-wing extremism.
Last month, Germany apologized for those errors at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, describing the murders as "without a doubt one of the worst human rights violations in Germany in the last decade."
Chief Prosecutor Herbert Diemer warned on Monday against expecting too much of the trial. "The court proceedings are focused on the crimes and on the people charged with those crimes," he told a news conference. "It cannot be the aim of the trial to clear up possible mistakes made in past investigations and proceedings."
Zschäpe Silent But Defiant
Zschäpe walked into the courtroom smartly dressed in a white blouse and black blazer, with her arms crossed defiantly. She wasn't handcuffed and quickly turned her back on the photographers and film cameras, and on the relatives of the victims desperate finally to see justive done. She chatted quietly with her three lawyers and seemed relaxed.
Four alleged accomplices, all of them committed neo-Nazis, are also in the dock in the mammoth trial in which over 600 witnesses will be called to testify. A total of 84 court days have been slated but that may not be enough. Some observers are saying the trial could last more than two years.
One of the defendants, who can be named only as Andre E. due to German privacy laws, has the words, "Die Jew Die" tattooed on his stomach.
"With its historical, social and political dimensions, the NSU trial is one of the most significant of postwar German history," lawyers for the family of the first victim, flower seller Enver Simsek, said in a statement.
'Why Were the Authorities Blind?'
Some 500 police officers were deployed outside the courthouse -- where several hundred demonstrators, some waving the Turkish flag, demanded that justice finally be done, 13 years after the first victim, Simsek, was murdered in cold blood. Some held up photos of the victims. One banner read "Why were the authorities blind?"
The chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany, Kenan Kolat, said the defendants should get life in prison. "This is a historic trial. It's not enough to convict the accused," Kolat told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung newspaper on Monday. "We hope that the maximum sentences will be imposed. And the maximum sentence is life."
The trial start was delayed by almost three weeks because of controversy over the allocation of seats for the media. In the first round, no Turkish news organization obtained a press pass, which caused an uproar that threatened to further tarnish Germany's reputation.
Every aspect of the case is proving to be sensitive, including the names of Zschäpe's defense lawyers. Both the German and British press have remarked on the fact that the the alleged NSU member is being defended by Wolfgang Stahl, Wolfgang Heer and Anja Sturm, surnames that evoke German Nazi history -- although none of the lawyers are of a far-right political persuasion.
However, the lawyer representing the defendant Ralf Wohlleben, Nicole Schneiders, used to have a regional leadership post in the far-right National Democratic Party. Wohlleben, 38, stands accused of having provided the NSU with the murder weapon -- a Ceska Browning pistol used in all the killings.
05/06/2013 02:16 PM
World from Berlin: 'Germany Fooling Itself in Battle against Neo-Nazis'
The series of racist murders perpetrated by the neo-Nazi terror trio National Socialist Underground represents a massive failure on the part of German law enforcement officials. But as the trial starts on Monday, editorialists say that German society is also to blame.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of the trial that begins on Monday in Munich. Nominally, the proceedings are to determine the degree to which the defendant Beate Zschäpe was involved in the murder of 10 people, nine of them with immigrant backgrounds, between 2000 and 2007. Expectations, however, are much higher. First and foremost, German society is demanding answers to one central question: In a country marked so deeply by its Nazi past, how could a murderous trio of neo-Nazis remain undetected for so long?
Protesters in front of the heavily guarded courthouse highlighted those questions on Monday, with some holding up a banner which read "Why were the authorities blind?" Indeed, Germany's Turkish community -- to which eight of the murder victims belonged -- along with many others in the country continue to wonder how police failed for years to explore the possibility that racism was the primary motive behind the killings. The series of blunders that characterized official handling of the case has further undermined confidence in German authorities.
The trial, narrowly focused as it is, will not likely be able to answer all of the questions that have arisen since the existence of the terror trio, known as the National Socialist Underground or NSU, came to light in November of 2011. Indeed, there is no guarantee that Zschäpe, as the primary defendant, or any of the four alleged accomplices also in the dock will even be found guilty. The two NSU members widely believed to have been responsible for pulling the trigger in the 10 murders -- Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt -- committed suicide on Nov. 4, 2011 after being cornered by police following a bank robbery. And Zschäpe has refused to talk. Whether it can be proven that she and the other defendants knew about the killings and provided assistance remains to be seen; the trial is expected to last up to two years, and perhaps longer.
One aspect of the trial will be particularly important. For years, German police assumed that the victims were targeted due to their presumed connection to some sort of Turkish immigrant underworld. That they were, in fact, felled by a racist trio of neo-Nazis drastically undermined the faith of Germany's substantial Turkish population in the country's law enforcement. They are demanding answers.
Equally important, however, will be the trial's ability to shed light on painful questions the murders posed about German society. What, German editorialists ask on Monday, do the murders, and the shocking inability of justice officials to solve them, say about the country?
The business daily Handelsblatt writes:
"Citizens, politicians and journalists here in Germany fool themselves when it comes to right-wing radicalism. We tend to see it as being completely marginal, as though it takes place far from the center of society and the right-wingers will ultimately vanish by themselves. It has become apparent that they won't."
"Such widespread nonchalance is deplorable, but almost understandable. The long-standing and almost Pavlovian reference to Germany's horrific history with its myriad innocent victims has relativized all evil which has appeared since and has provided us with skin that is much too thick. It protects us from outrage over smaller crimes: The many ugly outgrowths of right-wing extremism seem in comparison to the gigantic barbarity (of the Third Reich) to be marginal. Which is why we either don't pay much attention or don't take them seriously. Both approaches are negligent."
"In February alone there were 941 right-wing crimes committed resulting in 29 injuries. Between 1990 and 2012, at least 152 people were murdered by right-wing extremists. The varnish painted over Germany's susceptibility to extremism is thin."
"Tragically, as the history of the investigation into the NSU shows, German authorities have allowed themselves to become infected by this nonchalance as well as by the inaction of both German society and its politicians."
Conservative daily Die Welt writes:
"For too long, investigators stubbornly followed the wrong trail. They did manage to come up with a connection between the murders, but it was a theory which, without a shred of evidence to support it, discriminated against the victims and hinted at their own culpability. If they were all foreigners or had foreign backgrounds, investigators seemed to assume, then they must have been criminals. In hindsight, it is easy to see the degree to which the victims were externalized from a German society that was presumed to be healthy and uninvolved in criminal activity. The fact that seven of the victims ran their own businesses was not interpreted as a success or as courageous. Rather it was merely seen as a confirmation that something was amiss and that those murdered were likely the victims of some kind of inner-Turkish milieu conflict."
"There is no other country in the world that has approached its own criminal history with the commitment and longevity that Germany has displayed. Civil servants in the country … share much of the credit for that. As does a German public which -- though delayed -- has accepted the country's National Socialist past as its own, one which cannot be forgotten. That is a positive and one which should be recognized. But this self-critical approach to history was unable to prevent the judiciary and the media from succumbing to blindness for years and failing to see the truth of these murders. It is difficult to apply lessons from the past to the present."
The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"One and a half years after the NSU was discovered, it remains impossible to understand how, in the country of Nazi crimes, a neo-Nazi terror cell was able to steal, bomb and murder for more than a decade. Why was the state, the society and the media so blind? The trial in Munich will be unable to provide a complete answer to that question."
"The proceedings will not shed light on the entire truth. But it can do much to heal the wounds by … fastidiously examining each fact and coming to a convincing verdict that survives the appeals process…. But it is also vital that the court includes the family members of the victims. That won't be easy with 77 co-plaintiffs and their 53 attorneys. But wounds can be healed only if the court takes their concerns seriously. The state has ignored them for too long."
The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The combination of bureaucracy, blunders and incompetence among officials (in the NSU investigation) was so potent that stupefaction is a more appropriate reaction than understanding. Indeed, it is one reason why Germany, even two years (after the discovery of the NSU) remains poorly prepared for the battle against right-wing extremism. The power of symbolic action, taboos and moral outrage has been the primary tool used thus far…. But did not the rise of the NSU take place exactly where this approach would like to push right-wing extremism: as a segregated, tabooed and disdained sub-culture? The path towards eroding this sub-culture -- one which grew out of the center of society -- is one that is seldom traveled, because it is rockier than the preferred and practiced route of indignant outrage."
"By following that path, the public unwittingly plays the game preferred by right-wing extremism. Nothing is preferred by extremists more than horrified attention, frothy polarization and tendentious moralizing."
-- Charles Hawley
05/06/2013 03:01 PM
Missing the Point: Hungarian Leader Whitewashes Anti-Semitism
By James Kirchick in Budapest
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán sought this weekend to convince some 500 Jewish leaders gathered in Budapest that his government is committed to combating a frightening increase in anti-Semitism. His speech, however, was notable more for what it left out than what it said.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán began his speech before the annual plenary of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in Budapest by attempting to downplay the problem of rising anti-Semitism in his country.
"Your leaders justified your visit by the fact that they wished to draw the world's attention to increasing anti-Semitism in Hungary," he said, before going onto claim that however bad anti-Semitism in Hungary might seem, the situation is worse in other European countries.
"There are places where anti-Semitism claims the lives of schoolchildren and where there's not even any consensus in these place on holding a minute of silence to honor the victims," he said on Sunday, in apparent reference to France, where an Islamist killed four people, including three young children, at a Jewish school in Toulouse last year. "Nothing of this nature has occurred in Hungary."
Tensions were running high weeks before the conference began. Orbán was put on the defensive by a scathing op-ed from WJC President Ron Lauder in Germany's daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, accusing the prime minister of having "lost his moral compass."
While praising the Hungarian prime minister's early political achievements, which included steering his country out from communism into Western institutions like the European Union and NATO, "his second term as premier has been marked by an increasing narrow-mindedness on certain socioeconomic and political matters." And despite having a massive, veto-proof, two-thirds majority in parliament, Lauder alleged, Orbán "panders to the far-right fringe of Hungarian politics," namely, the neo-fascist Jobbik Party, which won nearly 17 percent of the vote in 2010 parliamentary elections.
Dragging Hungary 'Through the Mud'
Lauder's article, and Orbán's subsequent accusation that the billionaire heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics fortune bore a personal grudge against him due to a lawsuit he had filed against the Hungarian government over a failed business deal, set the stage for Sunday's showdown. In his remarks introducing Orbán, Lauder mentioned several specific examples of anti-Semitic sentiment in Hungary, implicitly challenging the prime minister to address them one by one. Lauder referred to Miklos Horthy -- the authoritarian ruler who allied Hungary with Nazi Germany and presided over the deportation of over 400,000 Jews to Auschwitz -- as "a vicious anti-Semite." Since Orbán's Fidesz party came to power in 2010, municipalities across Hungary have erected statues honoring Horthy with no protest -- and at times active support -- of government figures.
Lauder next condemned the awarding of a prestigious state journalism prize to a TV presenter who had made bigoted remarks about Jews and Gypsies. "Thankfully the government withdrew this prize," Lauder said. "But the fact that it was awarded in the first place is the kind of thing that has us worried."
Lauder specifically called out right-wing journalist, Fidesz co-founder, and Orbán confidante Zsolt Bayer, who earlier this year penned a newspaper column referring to Roma as "cowardly, repulsive, noxious animals," who are "unfit to live among people" and "shouldn't be allowed to exist." Remarking that, "Such words are reminiscent of the darkest era in European history," Lauder said, "Jews are again wondering whether they will have to leave the country, for similar reasons."
Lauder concluded by acknowledging that, "Hungary's international reputation has suffered in recent years," not, as Orbán and his supporters claim, because it is being "smeared by the foreign press," but rather due to "extremists" in the Jobbik party. On Saturday, the day before the WJC conference opened, about 700 Jobbik supporters held a demonstration in downtown Budapest where they railed against "Zionists" who had "subjugated" the "indigenous people" of Hungary. "Jobbik is dragging the good name of Hungary through the mud," Lauder said.
Failing to Confront the Problem
Confronted with so many examples of anti-Semitic incitement, Orbán's speech was notable more for what it left out than what it said. The prime minister never once mentioned Horthy, who remains a popular figure with many Hungarians. His failure to do so was particularly worrisome when he spoke of "the Nazi and Arrow Cross destruction of an authentic Jewish community" in Hungary. The Arrow Cross was a Fascist party that headed a Nazi puppet regime from October 1944 until March 1945. While Arrow Cross members murdered many Jews, the mass deportations of hundreds of thousands occurred during the rule of Horthy, with the active assistance of Hungarian government police and gendarmerie. By failing to mention Horthy in this context -- in effect blaming the tragedy that befell Hungarian Jewry on the Germans and one particular Hungarian political party -- Orbán absolved Horthy and the Hungarian state itself of complicity in the Holocaust.
Orbán made no mention of the Jobbik party, whose provocations he has been hesitant to condemn throughout his tenure. By contrast, in a speech to the plenary Monday morning, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle described the far-right party as standing in opposition to the "community of values" embodied by Europe.
Orbán also appeared to attribute Hungarian anti-Semitism to the alleged failures of the European Union, which has criticized the Fidesz government on a raft of issues, from a restrictive media law to a controversial new constitution, which Orban on Sunday called Hungary's "first, democratic Constitution," implying that the country had operated with a non-democratic Constitution until Fidsez returned to power three years ago. "The economic crisis is shaking Europe to the core, and the unsuccessful crisis management of European leaders is causing increasingly deep frustration, and consuming people's hope," Orbán said.
Reaction to Orbán was mixed. Peter Feldmajer, the president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, told SPIEGEL ONLINE that the prime minister delivered a "very open speech" that was intended "not for Jobbik" but the average Hungarian. But less than an hour after Orbán finished speaking, the WJC released a statement that, while thanking Orbán for making clear "that anti-Semitism is unacceptable and intolerable," chided him for his failure to "confront the true nature of the problem: the threat posed by the anti-Semites in general and by the extreme-right Jobbik party in particular. We regret that Mr. Orbán did not address any recent anti-Semitic or racist incidents in the country, nor did he provide sufficient reassurance that a clear line has been drawn between his government and the far-right fringe."
Unionists welcome pardon for Irish who joined British army to fight Nazis
Irish government to formally pardon thousands branded traitors and deserters for fighting alongside Britain in second world war
Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 May 2013 10.09 BST
Unionists in Northern Ireland have welcomed the Irish government's decision to formally pardon thousands of Irishmen branded traitors and deserters for fighting for Britain against Hitler in the second world war.
The move will be perceived as another step in improving relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Thousands were barred from civil service jobs and ostracised in the Irish Free State after the war because they had joined the British armed forces, some of them deserting the Irish army to sign up against the struggle to defeat Nazi Germany.
The Free State had been neutral in the war.
The Irish defence minister, Alan Shatter, is due to announce details of the pardon during a debate in parliament on Tuesday. The decree is expected to be passed and signed into law by Irish the president, Michael D Higgins, within days.
Ulster Unionist assembly member Michael Copeland paid tribute to the 5,000 southern Irishmen who joined the allies and welcomed the move by the Dublin coalition.
"They were not traitors, they were heroes, and I welcome the fact that the Republic as a state now formally recognises that fact," he said. "With the passing of time, a relatively small number of the affected men are still with us, but many family members are still alive who have first-hand memories of the injustice and discrimination suffered in the post war years at the hands of the Irish state."
Copeland added: "I trust that the apology and pardon from the current Dublin government will be of some comfort to the veterans and their families. I salute their memory."
The relatives of the 5,000 soldiers have been campaigning for an apology and pardon.
Peter Mulvany, the co-ordinator of the Irish Soldiers Pardons Campaign, said: "It will be a recognition that the experience they went through was unfair. It was a punishment they should not have been given."
Greece's people show the politicians how to fight Golden Dawn
Greeks are becoming increasingly vocal in their disgust at the presence of fascists on their political scene
guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 May 2013 17.12 BST
For many Greeks, Orthodox Easter is a chance to see friends and family, to eat good food or to worship. But for the neo-Nazis in Golden Dawn, who only recently made the switch from "Hellenic" paganism to a professed love for Christianity, it has been an opportunity for propaganda. Last Thursday, the party made headlines with its attempt to stage a "Greeks-only" food distribution in Athens's Syntagma square. The next day, when Athenians were driving back to home towns and villages, Golden Dawn members held open motorway toll booths – which have become a symbolic point of resistance against the rising cost of living in the wake of austerity – so cars could pass for free.
Such stunts have become common for a party that seeks to exploit anger at Greece's social crisis, along with the undercurrent of racism that has accompanied it. As one Golden Dawn voter in the Athens suburb of Petropolis put it to me when I visited Greece last month, she saw them as the only party who would make politicians take responsibility for their "lying and cheating" against the people. She's not alone: almost a year after the elections that saw Golden Dawn shoot from obscurity to the third-largest party in Greece's parliament, it maintains a steady 10-12% in the opinion polls.
What is new, however, is that in the case of Syntagma, the event was prevented from going ahead in the square. A truck carrying food intended for distribution was blocked from entering the square by riot police, who then used teargas – a treatment usually reserved for leftwing demonstrators – to disperse about 50 Golden Dawn members who had assembled for the handout. Later, a Golden Dawn MP, Giorgos Germenis, tried to punch the Athens mayor, Giorgos Kaminis, who had requested the police intervention, as he moved to shut down a Golden Dawn stall selling Orthodox Easter candles to children. Germenis also reportedly reached for a gun – something he has since denied doing.
If the incident revealed something of the true face of Golden Dawn – cheap populist tricks, backed up by violent threats – it stands in sharp contrast to the general pattern. Its members frequently stage "Greeks-only" food handouts and blood donation drives, and they are rarely challenged by the authorities, despite the blatant racism of such initiatives, in a country where violence against ethnic minorities is on the rise.
This fits with a wider atmosphere of impunity. Klio Papapantoleon, a lawyer who has represented victims of assaults committed by Golden Dawn members, told me that the Greek justice system had been "unusually lenient" in judging them, while clients and witnesses had often been "obstructed and encumbered by police officers" when trying to pursue a complaint.
Encouraged by this treatment, Golden Dawn has been doing its best to sink roots into Greece's institutions, building networks of support inside the police force, entering hospitals and, perhaps most worryingly, trying to win teenage recruits by spreading its ideas in schools.
A recent Council of Europe report concluded that Golden Dawn's well-documented role in perpetrating racist violence meant it could be banned under existing laws, yet for now the Greek government seems unable or unwilling to act, preferring to mimic its rhetoric: in February, 85 MPs from New Democracy, the largest party in the coalition, signed a motion that called for anybody not of the "Greek race" to be barred from joining the country's police and armed forces. This contrasts with a recent crackdown on leftwing groups, which has included raids on squats, the closing of Athens Indymedia and the ongoing terrorising of villagers in the north of Greece opposed to a gold mining project.
Yet while journalists understandably want to draw attention to the threat Golden Dawn poses, every piece of sensationalist media coverage reinforces the party's deliberately crafted image. The violence it inspires is real enough, but Golden Dawn is far from being in a position of power. Its activist base remains small; it can not mobilise supporters in large numbers; and its rallies often take place unannounced, so that anti-fascist activists do not have time to gather and chase its members off the streets. The food handouts, staged mainly for the benefit of the media, pale in comparison with the network of solidarity initiatives like the "potato movement" – markets that allow farmers to sell their produce directly to customers, at around 30% less than supermarket prices – or volunteer-run medical clinics, or free after-school tuition for children, that are helping Greek people cope with the impact of mass unemployment and falling salaries. By contrast, as a member of Solidarity4All, a national network that co-ordinates such initiatives, described it to me, Golden Dawn's handouts are a grim affair: "They buy the food, they make everyone listen to 30 minutes of political speeches, then they make everyone wait in line. There's no co-operation."
What's more, many Greeks are simply disgusted by the presence of fascists on their political scene. They are becoming increasingly vocal about this, in public displays of solidarity with immigrants, as they did in a anti-fascist protest in Athens on 19 January, backed up by demonstrations outside Greek embassies around the world. Elsewhere, the expression has been more blunt: last month in Chania in Crete, angry residents threw the party's parliamentary candidate into the sea. International pressure has even forced the Greek government into making noises about tackling the problem, but it is at grassroots level where Golden Dawn is being opposed most effectively, and where it will ultimately be defeated.
One Golden Dawn member I interviewed last year, on condition of anonymity, put the party's appeal to me succinctly: "We do what others don't dare." This is posturing, and it can be broken. But it has to be broken now, before it's too late.
Greece not tough enough on rich tax evaders, IMF says
Tax evasion by the wealthy and self-employed is leaving those on salaries and pensions to bear brunt of austerity measures
The Guardian, Monday 6 May 2013 19.37 BST
Greece has not done enough to clamp down on "notorious tax evasion" by the rich and self-employed, leaving those on salaries and pensions to take most of the pain from the austerity measures imposed as part of the country's €240bn (£202bn) bailout, according to a much-anticipated verdict on its economic measures published on Monday.
The International Monetary Fund, one of the contributors to the Greek bailout, also said – at the conclusion of its mission to the debt-laden, recession-hit country – that a "taboo against dismissals" in the overstaffed public sector had led to a surge in unemployment in the private sector.
Greece has pledged to cut about 20% of the public sector – or 150,000 jobs – between 2010 and 2015 to help reduce spending, but progress has been slow, while unemployment has topped 27%. A bill has been passed recently to allow 15,000 public-sector posts to be axed.
However, the IMF said Greece had made progress in a socially painful recession. It had made "exceptional" improvements on its fiscal position, its competitiveness and preserving stability in the financial sector. "The achievements to date are evidence of a very strong and persistent determination on the part of Greece and its European partners to do whatever it takes to restore Greece to a sustainable situation inside the euro area," the IMF said.
The debt-to-GDP ratio for Greece is around 160%, but the IMF has called for this to be cut to 120% by 2020, resulting in the imposition of tough conditions.
But restoring growth to the country is "the overarching precondition of whether Greece succeeds", according to the IMF. In the face of criticism that some of the problems were caused by austerity measures, the Washington-based fund said that the deeper-than-expected recession was caused by a loss of confidence, concerns about a euro exit and political uncertainty.
The IMF is concerned about the lack of structural reforms, which has left the rich relatively untouched in an economy where 70% of the income is declared by wage earners and pensioners. "Very little progress has been made in tackling Greece's notorious tax evasion. The rich and self-employed are simply not paying their fair share, which has forced an excessive reliance on across-the-board expenditure cuts and higher taxes on those earning a salary or a pension," the IMF said.
The government's medium-term reform programme assumes an improvement in tax collection of 1.5% of GDP, but the IMF regards this as "very ambitious", given progress so far. It said that, as well as improving tax collection, reform of the labour market was needed to open up competition, and more should be done to pare back the public sector. "Decisive corrective actions are needed in each of these areas to promote an early supply response and achieve a more balanced distribution of the burden of adjustment," the IMF said. "The mission welcomes that the government is refocusing its programme in recognition of these problems."
EU needs more powers to fight racism, says German minister
Guido Westerwelle says Europe's current options are either as weak as a toothpick or as strong as a bazooka
Tom Heneghan in Budapest
guardian.co.uk, Monday 6 May 2013 17.20 BST
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has told Jewish leaders that the EU needs better legal means to fight racism in member states.
Speaking amid growing racism against Jews and Roma in Hungary, he told the World Jewish Congress (WJC) that the EU's legal options to curb violations of democratic norms were either as weak as toothpicks or as strong as bazookas.
"Between the toothpick and the big bazooka, there is not an instrument we can [use] if concerning developments start in a government or in a country," he told WJC leaders, who held their assembly in Budapest to highlight rising antisemitism.
"Tolerance is wise," he told the four-yearly assembly but "tolerance in the face of intolerance is historic foolishness".
About half a million Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust, the German mass murder of 6 million Jews during the second world war.
Four EU members – Denmark, Finland, Germany and the Netherlands – have proposed the European commission should be able to take action when fundamental rights are violated, without having to go through the complicated steps that now exist for such cases.
But the proposal, which Westerwelle said was supported by about three-quarters of all EU foreign ministers, names no countries causing concern and puts forward no concrete plans.
Brussels has threatened to take legal action to overturn constitutional changes that limit the powers of Hungary's top court. The prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has also clashed with Brussels over legislation on the media and the central bank.
Westerwelle mentioned far-right Jobbik, which has 43 of 386 seats in parliament and whose leaders addressed several hundred nationalists at a protest in Budapest on Saturday.
Antisemitism had no place "in Berlin nor in Budapest nor anywhere else in Europe or in the world", he said.
He spoke as Beate Zschäpe, the surviving member of a German neo-Nazi cell, went on trial in Munich for a series of racist murders that exposed the authorities' inability or reluctance to recognise rightwing hate crime.
His speech also came on the day that German authorities arrested a 93-year-old alleged former guard at the Nazi death camp Auschwitz on murder charges over the death of prisoners on his watch.
Prosecutors in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg said the man was believed to have worked at the camp between autumn 1941 and its liberation in 1945.
Slovenia sell-off planned in attempt to avoid bailout
Country preparing to sell largest telecommunications operator and second largest bank as it races to reassure investors
The Guardian, Monday 6 May 2013 22.52 BST
Slovenia is looking to sell its largest telecommunications operator and second largest bank, sources said, as it steps up efforts to shore up its finances and avoid an international bailout.
The country is racing to convince investors it has a credible strategy for raising the funds it needs to stay solvent, and is due to adopt an economic reform programme on Thursday before presenting it to the European Commission.
But the leading government party said parliamentarians were not likely to adopt a rule to cap budget spending on Tuesday, as promised, because parties had been unable to agree when the rule should take effect – indicating they might have trouble agreeing other reforms as well.
The Bank of Slovenia urged the government on Monday to speed up privatisations in sectors where "the market is more effective than state ownership", but gave no details.
Slovenian banks, mostly state-owned, are nursing €7bn (£5.8bn) of bad loans, which would probably have to be separated off into a standalone entity, a so-called bad bank, before the sector can be privatised.
Cyprus town remains hostage to inertia of Greece-Turkey reunification talks
Once popular with tourists, Famagusta is stuck in limbo within UN's 'green line' buffer zone set up after 1974 Turkish invasion
Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 7 May 2013 11.52 BST
Cypriots see Famagusta as a lost paradise. Before the Turkish invasion in 1974 the resort on the island's east coast, with its beaches of white sand, was the main tourist attraction on Cyprus. The town looked back on a rich past spanning several centuries, with Venetian ramparts and the Lala Mustafa Pasha mosque, formerly Saint Nicholas's, a replica of Reims cathedral built by the French Lusignan dynasty, which ruled the island in the 14th and 15th centuries.
But for the past 40 years Famagusta has been in limbo. Deserted by its residents, closed by the Turkish military and ringed with barbed wire, a large part of the town is waiting for a long-awaited thaw. Thousands of expropriated Greek Cypriots, who have taken refuge south of the "green line", still refuse to forget their old home. The fate of Varosha, a district that has been empty since the invasion, is a recurrent topic for talks between the two halves of the island. Last year rumours claimed it might be handed back to end the deadlock, which has continued despite the good offices of the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. But nothing has happened.
"The question has been on the agenda since the 1980s," says Osman Ertug, the Turkish Cypriot presidential spokesman and special adviser on negotiations with the south. "It is one of the cards we hold, but it is part of an overall agreement and cannot be separated from a share-out of energy resources, or the blockade of sea and airports. The UN security council is mainly responsible for the inertia."
The financial crisis in the southern part of the island has, momentarily, sidelined the issue of reunification, barely mentioned during the presidential election campaign in February, which brought to power Nicos Anastasiades, generally thought to be in favour of talks with the north. "Dervis Eroglu [the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus] called him to congratulate him and suggest a meeting. We sent him an invitation to dinner to get the process moving again," Ertug explains.
Turkey is also keen to restart negotiations quickly. "We should encourage both sides in Cyprus to find a solution together," the Turkish minister for European affairs, Egemen Bagis, told the Luxemburger Wort daily. "They are like married couples. Turkey, Greece and Britain are like parents who want to save their marriage." But so far there has been no response to this offer. Sapped by the crisis, Nicosia is reluctant to enter negotiations at a difficult time. "But it never is the right time," Ertug counters. "There have been seven leaders in half a century, including an archbishop [Makarios] and a communist [Dimitris Christofias], but still no peace. A crisis may offer opportunities too," he adds.
According to the north, the question of hydrocarbon reserves off the coast of Cyprus could lead to useful negotiations for both sides. Turkey disputes Cyprus's right to exploit these resources on its own. It is demanding a fair share-out between the two communities.
Both parts of Cyprus certainly stand to gain from greater co-operation. "Gas is an opportunity to kick-start negotiations on reunification," says Cengiz Aktar, a Turkish columnist and specialist on European affairs. "We must knock down the walls," advocates the Turkish Cypriot economist Hasan Gungor, another presidential adviser. "The biggest Toyota car factory is located in Turkey but Greek Cypriots import their Toyotas from Japan, despite the fact that they cost less on the other side of the island," he notes. The cost of separation could be a powerful incentive for both parties to reach a compromise.
05/06/2013 06:13 PM
Subject of Envy: Britain Discovers Germany as a Model
By Carsten Volkery in London
Britain, which has yet to recover from the 2008 financial crash, is peering enviously at Germany's economic structure with its focus on engineering, its medium-sized firms, apprenticeships, regional banks and long-term business approach. The opposition Labour Party, but also the Conservative-led government, are starting to embrace German ideas.
"Why can't we more like Germany?" center-left British weekly New Statesman asks on the cover of its latest issue. The cover image shows Chancellor Angela Merkel alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger, one of Bayern Munich's star players -- as role models in politics and football. Britain can prosper, the magazine suggests, if it understands Germany's success.
The author of the article, German-born Philip Oltermann, writes that British politicians and business people have the habit of talking about the "German model" every 20 years. That time has come again. The fact that two German teams, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, have reached the Champions League final which will be played in London's Wembley stadium on May 25 appears to have confirmed what a lot of people in Britain have been murmuring for months. The Germans are somehow getting it right.
Germany's top football league, the Bundesliga, whose clubs don't depend on the cash of oligarchs, sheikhs and business tycoons that own their top-flight English rivals, is often cited as an example of the successful, sustainable German business model. German clubs, many of which are majority-owned by their fans, are a microcosm of the structure of the German economy, the New Statesman's editorial states.
The British left has always admired Germany's concept of the social market economy, a principle that underpinned the West German post-war economic miracle, marrying free market economics with a focus on social progress. The system of giving workers a say in corporate decision-making, the state-owned savings banks whose purpose is to promote public welfare, the presence of strong, family-owned businesses that take a long-term approach in ther decison-making -- this is very much in line with the social democratic traditions of the opposition Labour Party.
Government Backs Apprenticeships
But even the Conservative-Liberal coalition of Prime Minister David Cameron is resorting to German recipes to get the stagnant British economy growing again. It launched an apprecenticeship scheme to encourage more busineses to train their own employees. A new state-owned business bank is to provide small and medium-sized businesses with credit. And state-backed credit guarantees are being used to help boost exports.
The Financial Times wrote in April that both the British government and the opposition were transfixed by German ideas. Even the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru recently demanded an investment program to regenerate structurally weak parts of Britain -- similar to Germany's more than €1 trillion Aufbau Ost program to rebuild the former communist east of Germany.
The rethink began after the 2008 financial crash. The British economy, so heavily reliant on its banking sector, has yet to recover from the blow, while the German economy rebounded relatively quickly. Part of the reason Britain had remained sluggish is that manufacturing only accounts for 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product. In Germany, the figure is almost twice as high at 21 percent.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said back in 2011 that Britain needed its own version of the Mittelstand -- the small- and medium-sized German manufacturing companies often referred to as the backbone of the German economy. CBI chief John Cridland said Britain should boost its small business sector to promote innovation and growth. The government responded by setting up the business bank.
But the Labour Party is the most ardent supporter of the German model. Its leader, Ed Miliband, likes to talk about "responsible capitalism." He has put a stop to the close ties New Labour had with the big London banks under former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. Insteady, Labour dispatched members to Germany to learn how the Sparkassen savings bank system operates. Shortly after that, Miliband announced that if he wins the next election in 2015, he will set up regional banks focused on promoting their local economies.
The Independent newspaper was only half-joking when it referred to "Neue Labour." Two of Miliband's advisers, Maurice Glasman and Stewart Wood, are experts on Germany. They are calling for the return to the "Mitbestimmung" system of codetermination, in which any company with a workforce of more than 2,000 people must have half its supervisory board made up of worker representatives. It was the British who introduced the system in Germany after World War II.
Even the current Golden Boy of British politics, Nigel Farage, the leader of the staunchly anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which just scored big in local elections, sees Germany as worthy of emulating -- at least in some respects. Instead of the strict smoking ban in force in British pubs, Britain should copy the Germans and allow pubs to designate smoking and non-smoking zones -- like they do in Germany.
Ancient Eurasiatic ‘superfamily’ found at root of European and Asian languages
By Ian Sample, The Guardian
Monday, May 6, 2013 19:52 EDT
Languages spoken by billions of people across Europe and Asia are descended from an ancient tongue uttered in southern Europe at the end of the last ice age, according to research.
The claim, by scientists in Britain, points to a common origin for vocabularies as varied as English and Urdu, Japanese and Itelmen, a language spoken along the north-eastern edge of Russia.
The ancestral language, spoken at least 15,000 years ago, gave rise to seven more that formed an ancient Eurasiatic “superfamily”, the researchers say. These in turn split into languages now spoken all over Eurasia, from Portugal to Siberia.
“Everybody in Eurasia can trace their linguistic ancestry back to a group, or groups, of people living around 15,000 years ago, probably in southern Europe, as the ice sheets were retreating,” said Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at Reading University.
Linguists have long debated the idea of an ancient Eurasiatic superfamily of languages. The idea is controversial because many words evolve too rapidly to preserve their ancestry. Most words have a 50% chance of being replaced by an unrelated term every 2,000-4,000 years.
But some words last much longer. In a previous study, Pagel’s team showed that certain words – among them frequently used pronouns, numbers and adverbs – survived for tens of thousands of years before other words replaced them.
For their latest study, Pagel used a computer model to predict words that changed so rarely that they should sound the same in the different Eurasiatic languages. They then checked their list against a database of early words reconstructed by linguists. “Sure enough,” said Pagel, “the words we predicted would be similar, were similar.”
Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the authors list 23 words found in at least four of the proposed Eurasiatic languages. Most of the words are frequently used ones, such as the pronouns for “I” and “we”, and the nouns, “man” and “mother”. But the survival of other terms was more baffling. The verb “to spit”, and the nouns “bark” and “worm” all had lengthy histories.
“Bark was really important to early people,” said Pagel. “They used it as insulation, to start fires, and they made fibres from it. But I couldn’t say I expected “to spit” to be there. I have no idea why. I have to throw my hands up.”
Only a handful of verbs appear on the list, but Pagel points out “to give”, which appeared in similar form in five of the Eurasiatic languages. “This is what marks out human society, this hyper-co-operation that we do,” he said.
From their findings, the scientists drew up a family tree of the seven languages. All emerged from a common tongue around 15,000 years ago, and split off into separate languages over the next 5,000 years.
“The very fact that we can identify these words that retain traces of their deep ancestry tells us something fundamental about our language faculties. It tells us we have this ability to transmit highly complicated and precise information from mouth to ear over tens of thousands of years,” said Pagel.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
Pakistan suicide attack on Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam candidate kills 12
Taliban suspected of carrying out latest bomb attack on Islamist party in north-west, as Mufti Syed Janan escapes unharmed
Associated Press in Parachinar
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 May 2013 11.16 BST
A suicide bomber on a motorcycle detonated explosives near a vehicle carrying an Islamist party candidate in north-west Pakistan, killing 12 people, police have said.
No one has claimed responsibility for the bombing on Tuesday, but the Taliban took credit for an attack the day before on the same party, claiming it was targeting a candidate who had supported military operations against the militants in the north-west.
The latest blast also wounded 35 people, but the candidate from the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party, Mufti Syed Janan, escaped unharmed, said police officer Haleem Khan. The attack occurred as Janan's convoy passed through a market in the town of Doaba in north-west Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Khan.
The Pakistani Taliban set off a bomb at a political rally held by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam in the north-west Kurram tribal region on Monday, killing 25 people and wounding 70, said government official Javed Khan. The targeted candidate was not harmed.
The Taliban have carried out multiple attacks in the runup to national elections scheduled for 11 May. Most of the attacks have targeted secular parties that have opposed the militants and backed the army's attempt to clear them from their sanctuaries in the north-west.
Prior to the last two days' bombings, there was concern that the attacks could benefit parties that take a softer line toward the militants, such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, because their candidates are able to campaign more freely.
But the Taliban has condemned democracy as a whole, meaning that any political party taking part in the elections could be considered fair game by the militant group. Militants have warned people in many areas to stay away from the polls on election day.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam is considered as a supporter of the Afghan Taliban's fight against the U S and its allies in neighbouring Afghanistan. It is also sympathetic to the Pakistani Taliban, which has been fighting Pakistani troops and would like to establish a hardline Islamic government in Pakistan. The group's leaders have generally opposed the Pakistani military's operations against the militants and instead called for negotiating with them.
But that has not made the group immune.
In 2011, a suicide bomber struck a convoy in which the party's head, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, was travelling through north-western Pakistan, killing 12 people.
300,000 day-old babies die each year from infections and other preventable causes in India: report
By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, May 7, 2013 7:13 EDT
More than 300,000 babies die within 24 hours of being born in India each year from infections and other preventable causes, a report said Tuesday, blaming a lack of political will and funding for the crisis.
India accounts for 29 percent of all newborn deaths worldwide, according to the charity Save the Children which published the findings at the launch of its annual State of the World’s Mothers report.
The report on 186 countries showed South Asia — which accounts for 24 percent of the world’s population — recording 40 percent of the world’s first-day deaths.
Bangladesh and Pakistan also have large numbers of yearly first-day deaths at 28,000 and 60,000 with chronic malnourishment of mothers one of the major factors for the fatalities in the region.
“Progress has been made, but more than 1,000 babies die every day on their first day of life from preventable causes throughout India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said Mike Novell, the regional director of the charity.
The charity identified three major causes of newborn deaths — complications during birth, prematurity and infections — and said access to low-cost, life-saving interventions could cut down the figures by as much as 75 percent.
Women care for babies at an orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh on November 18, 2009. Bangladesh has large numbers of yearly first-day deaths at 28,000 with chronic malnourishment of mothers one of the major factors for the fatalities.
“What is lacking is the political will and funding to deliver these solutions to all the mothers and babies who need them,” it said.
A decade of rapid economic growth has allowed India to boost spending on poor and rural communities but Save the Children said most such programmes had not benefited those most in need.
More than half of all Indian women give birth without the help of skilled health care professionals, leading to infections and complications.
In far-flung areas, doctors and hospitals are rare and villagers often put the health of their children in the hands of poorly trained substitutes.
But even in cities such as New Delhi with relatively better healthcare facilities women are delivering at home, said Sharmila Lal, a Delhi-based gynaecologist.
“Even if hospitals are near at hand, the women are having babies at home in a highly unsafe and unhygienic environment just because of lack of awareness,” Lal added.
Lal said India must invest in creating a pool of paramedical staff trained in childbirth to take the load off doctors “who often don’t have time or patience to explain simple life-saving measures to expectant mothers”.
The charity said the problem of infant mortality could be addressed by closing the equity gap in a developing country like India where economic benefits have been shared unequally.
“If all newborns in India experienced the same survival rates as newborns from the richest Indian families, nearly 360,000 more babies would survive each year,” the report said.
North Korea removes missiles from launch site as tensions lower
By Agence France-Presse
Monday, May 6, 2013 19:39 EDT
North Korea has moved two missiles from launch sites on the country’s eastern coast, US officials said Monday, signaling lowered tensions following worries Pyongyang was ready to test-fire the weapons.
The Musudan missiles had been ready to launch at any moment, but “they moved them,” a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
North Korea’s move meant there was no longer an imminent threat of a launch, and Pyongyang would have to make preparations before returning to a launch-ready status, two US officials said.
Amid dire threats and bellicose language from North Korea, two Musudan missiles had been deployed to the east coast, and the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea had braced for a possible test-launch in the run-up to national celebrations on April 15.
Japan and South Korea stepped up its missile defenses, while the US military deployed two destroyers equipped with anti-missile weapons and a powerful radar to the area to thwart any possible launch.
Commanders told lawmakers US forces would be ready to shoot down any missile that threatened allies or US facilities in Guam.
But North Korea never launched a missile and eventually toned down its inflammatory rhetoric, with the crisis appearing to ease in recent days.
Pentagon spokesman George Little noted the change in North Korea’s words, telling reporters Monday the “provocation pause” was a positive development.
A Musudan missile has an estimated range of about 400 (640 kilometers) to 3,500 miles (5,630 kilometers), according to military officers.
Analysts have disagreed about the missile’s capabilities and believe Pyongyang has never tested the weapon in flight.
North Korea has several hundred short and medium-range missiles available that could reach targets in Japan or South Korea, according to the Pentagon.
May 6, 2013
U.S. Directly Blames China’s Military for Cyberattacks
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Monday explicitly accused China’s military of mounting attacks on American government computer systems and defense contractors, saying one motive could be to map “military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”
While some recent estimates have more than 90 percent of cyberespionage in the United States originating in China, the accusations relayed in the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on Chinese military capabilities were remarkable in their directness. Until now the administration avoided directly accusing both the Chinese government and the People’s Liberation Army of using cyberweapons against the United States in a deliberate, government-developed strategy to steal intellectual property and gain strategic advantage.
“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the U.S. government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the nearly 100-page report said.
The report, released Monday, described China’s primary goal as stealing industrial technology, but said many intrusions also seemed aimed at obtaining insights into American policy makers’ thinking. It warned that the same information-gathering could easily be used for “building a picture of U.S. network defense networks, logistics, and related military capabilities that could be exploited during a crisis.”
It was unclear why the administration chose the Pentagon report to make assertions that it has long declined to make at the White House. A White House official declined to say at what level the report was cleared. A senior defense official said “this was a thoroughly coordinated report,” but did not elaborate.
On Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, criticized the report.
‘‘China has repeatedly said that we resolutely oppose all forms of hacker attacks,’’ she said. ‘‘We’re willing to carry out an even-tempered and constructive dialogue with the U.S. on the issue of Internet security. But we are firmly opposed to any groundless accusations and speculations, since they will only damage the cooperation efforts and atmosphere between the two sides to strengthen dialogue and cooperation.’’
Missing from the Pentagon report was any acknowledgment of the similar abilities being developed in the United States, where billions of dollars are spent each year on cyberdefense and constructing increasingly sophisticated cyberweapons. Recently the director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, who is also commander of the military’s fast-growing Cyber Command, told Congress that he was creating more than a dozen offensive cyberunits, designed to mount attacks, when necessary, at foreign computer networks.
When the United States mounted its cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities early in President Obama’s first term, Mr. Obama expressed concern to aides that China and other states might use the American operations to justify their own intrusions.
But the Pentagon report describes something far more sophisticated: A China that has now leapt into the first ranks of offensive cybertechnologies. It is investing in electronic warfare capabilities in an effort to blind American satellites and other space assets, and hopes to use electronic and traditional weapons systems to gradually push the United States military presence into the mid-Pacific nearly 2,000 miles from China’s coast.
The report argues that China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, commissioned last September, is the first of several carriers the country plans to deploy over the next 15 years. It said the carrier would not reach “operational effectiveness” for three or four years, but is already set to operate in the East and South China Seas, the site of China’s territorial disputes with several neighbors, including Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. The report notes a new carrier base under construction in Yuchi.
The report also detailed China’s progress in developing its stealth aircraft, first tested in January 2011.
Three months ago the Obama administration would not officially confirm reports in The New York Times, based in large part on a detailed study by the computer security firm Mandiant, that identified P.L.A. Unit 61398 near Shanghai as the likely source of many of the biggest thefts of data from American companies and some government institutions.
Until Monday, the strongest critique of China came from Thomas E. Donilon, the president’s national security adviser, who said in a speech at the Asia Society in March that American companies were increasingly concerned about “cyberintrusions emanating from China on an unprecedented scale,” and that “the international community cannot tolerate such activity from any country.” He stopped short of blaming the Chinese government for the espionage.
But government officials said the overall issue of cyberintrusions would move to the center of the United States-China relationship, and it was raised on recent trips to Beijing by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.
To bolster its case, the report argues that cyberweapons have become integral to Chinese military strategy. It cites two major public works of military doctrine, “Science of Strategy” and “Science of Campaigns,” saying they identify “information warfare (I.W.) as integral to achieving information superiority and an effective means for countering a stronger foe.” But it notes that neither document “identifies the specific criteria for employing a computer network attack against an adversary,” though they “advocate developing capabilities to compete in this medium.”
It is a critique the Chinese could easily level at the United States, where the Pentagon has declined to describe the conditions under which it would use offensive cyberweapons. The Iran operation was considered a covert action, run by intelligence agencies, though many techniques used to manipulate Iran’s computer controllers would be common to a military program.
The Pentagon report also explicitly states that China’s investments in the United States aim to bolster its own military technology. “China continues to leverage foreign investments, commercial joint ventures, academic exchanges, the experience of repatriated Chinese students and researchers, and state-sponsored industrial and technical espionage to increase the level of technologies and expertise available to support military research, development and acquisition.”
But the report does not address how the Obama administration should deal with that problem in an economically interconnected world where the United States encourages those investments, and its own in China, to create jobs and deepen the relationship between the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 economies. Some experts have argued that the threat from China has been exaggerated. They point out that the Chinese government — unlike, say, Iran or North Korea — has such deep investments in the United States that it cannot afford to mount a crippling cyberstrike on the country.
The report estimates that China’s defense budget is $135 billion to $215 billion, a large range attributable in part to the opaqueness of Chinese budgeting. While the figure is huge in Asia, the top estimate would still be less than a third of what the United States spends every year.
Some of the report’s most interesting elements examine the debate inside China over whether this is a moment for the country to bide its time, focusing on internal challenges, or to directly challenge the United States and other powers in the Pacific.
But it said that “proponents of a more active and assertive Chinese role on the world stage” — a group whose members it did not name — “have suggested that China would be better served by a firm stance in the face of U.S. or other regional pressure.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 7, 2013
An earlier version of this article gave the incorrect number for the unit identified by a New York Times article in February as the likely source of many of the biggest thefts of data from American companies and some government institutions. It is P.L.A. Unit 61398, not 21398. The name of China’s first aircraft carrier was also misspelled. It is the Liaoning, not the Lianoning.