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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1073213 times)
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« Reply #6315 on: May 12, 2013, 07:13 AM »

International Space Station astronauts hopeful that they have stopped leak

Nasa confident that spacewalk to replace pump which had been leaking frozen ammonia coolant has worked

Associated Press, Saturday 11 May 2013 17.14 EDT   

Link to video: Astronauts 'space walk' outside the International Space Station

Astronauts making a rare, hastily planned spacewalk replaced a pump outside the International Space Station on Saturday in the hope of plugging a serious ammonia leak.

The prospects of success grew as the minutes passed and no frozen flecks of ammonia appeared. Mission control said it appeared as though the leak may have been plugged, although additional monitoring over the coming days, if not weeks, will be needed before declaring a victory.

"No evidence of any ammonia leakage whatsoever. We have an airtight system – at the moment," mission control reported.

Christopher Cassidy and Thomas Marshburn installed the new pump after removing the old one suspected of spewing flakes of frozen ammonia coolant two days earlier. They uncovered no smoking guns responsible for the leak and consequently kept a sharp lookout for any icy flecks that might appear from the massive frame that holds the solar panels on the left side.

"Let us know if you see anything," mission control urged as the system was cranked up. Thirty minutes later, all was still well. "No snow," the astronauts radioed.

"We have our eyes on it and haven't seen a thing," Marshburn said.

Nasa said the leak, while significant, never jeopardised crew safety, but that managers wanted to deal with the trouble now before Marshburn returns to Earth in a few days.

The space agency had never before staged such a fast, impromptu spacewalk for a station crew. Even during the shuttle days, unplanned spacewalks were uncommon.

It was disheartening at first for Nasa as Cassidy and Marshburn reported seeing nothing amiss on or around the old pump.

"All the pipes look shiny clean, no crud," Cassidy said as he used a long mirror to peer into tight, deep openings.

"I can't give you any good data other than nominal, unfortunately. No smoking guns."

Engineers determined there was nothing to lose by installing a new pump despite the lack of visible damage to the old one.

"Gloved fingers crossed," space station commander Chris Hadfield said in a tweet from inside. "No leaks!" he wrote half an hour later.

Flight controllers in Houston worked furiously to get ready for Saturday's operation, completing all the required preparation in under 48 hours. The astronauts trained for just such an emergency scenario before they rocketed into orbit; the repair job is among Nasa's so-called Big 12.

The area in question on the space station is prone to leaks. The ammonia coursing through the plumbing is used to cool the space station's electronic equipment. There are eight of these power channels, and all seven others were operating normally. As a result, life for the six space station residents was largely unaffected.

The loss of another power channel, however, could threaten scientific experiments and backup equipment.

Nasa's space station programme manager Mike Suffredini said they did not know why the leak erupted. Possibilities include a micrometeorite strike or a leaky seal. Ammonia had already been seeping slowly from the location, but it increased dramatically on Thursday.

Marshburn has been on the space station since December and is set to return to Earth late on Monday. Cassidy is a new arrival, on board for just one and a half months.

By coincidence, the two had performed a spacewalk at this troublesome spot during a shuttle visit in 2009.

"This type of event is what the years of training were for," Hadfield said on Friday. "A happy, busy crew, working hard, loving life in space."

* International-Space-Stati-004.jpg (7.99 KB, 140x84 - viewed 64 times.)
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« Reply #6316 on: May 12, 2013, 09:26 AM »

In the USA...

May 11, 2013 12:30 PM

60 Minutes and America's Billionaires Want Us To Beg

By Richard RJ Eskow

If you’re a jobless person looking for food or a wounded vet who needs health care, “60 Minutes” has a solution: Beg a billionaire for it. That was part of the powerful, if covert, message behind last Sunday’s “60 Minutes” broadcast.

The rest of Sunday night’s message, which tracks closely with the right-wing agenda promoted by billionaires like Pete Peterson, goes like this: Keep downsizing government. Keep tolerating and promoting the hijacking of our national wealth by the rich, even as it suffocates the middle class and creates soaring poverty rates. Surrender democratic control over the social safety net to wealthy donors.

And whatever you do, keep stroking their insatiable egos.

The Agenda

Did the “60 Minutes” staff sit around a table and choose this message? Probably not. Chances are we’re just seeing more evidence of a herd mentality among our well-paid elites. But they might as well have.

This ideological bias agenda was glaringly evident in Lesley Stahl’s “Counterinsurgency Cops” story. Viewers weren’t informed that Stahl is on the board of anti-government billionaire Pete Peterson’s Foundation, for example, or that her foundation works closely with the defense contractors of “Fix the Debt.” Those contractors stand to make billions more in taxpayer-funded profits if America’s cities buy into Stahl’s premise and purchase even more military equipment – including tanks, sniperscopes, full battle regalia, night vision goggles, and drones.

The Peterson anti-government vision dovetails nicely with a conservative fantasy world in which all government spending is bad – but military and police spending somehow isn’t “government,” or “big government,” or whatever it is they’re railing against today. We discussed “Counterinsurgency Cops” in Part 1 of this piece.

Sunday’s broadcast also featured Scott Pelley’s flattering portrait of a hedge fund billionaire’s generosity, which failed to ask the fundamental question: Why do we need to depend on a hedge fund billionaire’s generosity in the first place?

As they say on “60 Minutes”: The answer might astonish you.

Say what?

The “60 Minutes” website[1] tells us that “Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones’ charity – the Robin Hood Foundation — fights poverty with the hardnosed, business sense of Wall Street.” Say what? The “hardnosed, business sense” of Wall Street? That “hardnosed, business sense” was actually, by any objective measure, fiscal incompetence and gross managerial negligence.Wall Street’s “business sense” would have driven every single financial institution in the country into catastrophic collapse – that is, if the government (which presumably lacks such “sense”) hadn’t stepped in to rescue them. Not only did Wall Street’s titans grievously mismanage their books. There is now overwhelming evidence that executives at every major bank criminally and fraudulently deceived their customers.

You could call that latter trait “hardnosed,” I suppose.

Mr. Jones

What about Paul Tudor Jones himself? We don’t hesitate to trash bankers and hedge funders, and there are plenty of them who deserve it. (See Robespierre of the Hedge Fund Revolution or any of our Jamie Dimon pieces.) But as hedge fund managers go, Jones seems to be one of the smarter ones.

As hedge fund managers go, that is … Jones’ apparent talent doesn’t change the fact that, based on current incentives, today’s hedge fund industry is unethical by design. We remain unconvinced that hedge funds as they’re currently structured are anything except economically and socially destructive.

That said, Jones the Trader seems to be an intelligent and effective business person. Jones the Political Donor is straight GOP, all the way, but that’s not surprising. And Jones the Philanthropist seems to be well-intentioned enough. He deserves a lot of praise for devoting so much time and energy to good works.

So far, so good.

You Are What You Measure

Even Pelley’s misguided “hardnosed” comment has a kernel of truth to it. There are new and smart initiatives which seek to apply better metrics to philanthropy. They’re sometimes called “SROI” (for “Social Return on Investment”). But, as in business, the value of your measurements is determined by what you choose to measure. Those are the decisions which reflect your values. “Applying business metrics” is a meaningless notion in philanthropy, since profit – the proverbial “bottom line” – is always paramount in business.

Profits are relatively easy to measure, compared to questions like: How many kids did we feed this year? Would they have eaten otherwise? Could we have fed more kids, and more needy kids, with different foods? Different advertising? A different location? There are thousands of questions like these for each charitable venture.

“60 Minutes” told us that Jones and his board like to do a lot of measuring, but they didn’t tell us how. The entire issue was glossed over after Jones said “we probably de-fund 5 percent to 10 percent of our grantees.” There’s nothing wrong with that percentage – it’s reasonable and, if anything, on the low side – but the important question was, “How do you decide?” Instead, we’re treated to the sight of a starry-eyed Pelley repeating with slack-jawed admiration: “You do that to 5 percent to 10 percent of your projects every year?”

We weren’t told which projects are de-funded or why. Instead the very idea is treated as a novel concept, as if the ordinary concept of withdrawing support for less effective programs is some new visionary breakthrough from the “hardnosed geniuses” of Wall Street.

Government measures its results, and so do independent economists and researchers. Did Paul Tudor Jones and his people find better ways to measure social services? There’s no way to know, because “60 Minutes” didn’t tell us. Apparently it was too dazzled to even ask.The Unasked QuestionAbout the question we asked earlier: Why would New York City need to rely on the generosity of billionaires? Pelley poses it in typically breathless fashion:

    “Paul Tudor Jones wonders that if billionaires, like him, are such geniuses, then why do nearly two million people live in poverty [2] in New York City alone?6], our Mr. Jones would have paid an additional $3.2 billion in taxes.

Taxpayers Are Subsidizing “Robin Hood”

Of course, Paul Tudor Jones doesn’t want to pay more taxes. That’s undoubtedly one reason why he donated to the McCain and Romney campaigns. It’s much more gratifying to give whatever you feel like giving, whenever you feel like it. And it must be way more fun to dictate terms to women running soup kitchens (as portrayed in “60 Minutes”), give pseudo-evangelical speeches to adoring crowds, and be lionized on television under the adoring gaze of Scott Pelley.

Can’t blame him for that, I suppose. But why should the rest of us subsidize it?

That’s right. If the “Robin Hood Foundation” has collected $1.2 billion in tax-deductible contributions, that means the U.S. government has given up nearly $200 million in tax income (perhaps much more) as a result.

[7] The rest of us are picking up the slack – either with our taxes, or in the loss of needed services. We’re subsidizing the generosity of billionaires.That’s no reason to end deductions for charitable giving, but here’s a thought: If we’re paying 15 to 40 percent of the price tag, shouldn’t taxpayers have a voice in how this massive foundation is run?

Robin Hood, My A**

Most Wall Street billionaires are Robin Hoods in reverse. The work of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the Levin Senate Subcommittee, and other investigative bodies have shown that they earned much of their wealth through the duplicitous treatment of bank customers, homeowners, union pension funds, and the plundering of other middle-class financial resources. And over the past several decades leaders in both parties (although the Republicans are far more extreme) have presided over the most extreme upwardtransfer of wealth in modern history.

“Robin Hood Foundation”? We admire his philanthropic instincts, but Jones should be ashamed of that name. It’s a gesture of supreme arrogance. Robin Hood, as we all know, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Far too many of his foundation’s benefactors have done precisely the opposite.Jones says he wants to be “at the forefront of actually finding a way to kick poverty’s ass.” Gotta love that attitude. But that particular ass-kicking will require systemic change – and genuine sacrifice from the likes of Paul Tudor Jones.

Nobody wants to steal from the ultra-wealthy class, a group which “60 Minutes” shows celebrating itself at a Jones fundraiser. But we do want them to pay their fair share. It would be nice if they stopped stealing from others, too.

Handout Nation

The Jones/”60 Minutes” vision of America is of that of a nation in which the majority must tolerate the slow siphoning off of its wealth, while hoping against hope that some of the siphoners will then deign to rescue them from poverty. Is that the kind of society we want to become? A “Handout Nation”? A people who must rely on the kindness of strangers?

We’ll close with a few words about the third and final story on last Sunday’s “”60 Minutes”,” entitled “The Invisible Wounds of War.” The producers couldn’t even coverthat story without ladling out a thick gravy of anti-government ideology. Instead of covering the Veterans Administration, for example (it’s done some impressive things), the story focuses on yet another private donor. Says host David Martin:

    “Head of one of New York’s most successful construction firms, (Art) Fisher offered to build a state of the art brain injury center. His foundation would raise the money. All he asked of the government was to stay out of his way.” (Emphasis ours)

The story never asks why our government doesn’t have the money or resources to treat brain-injured veterans, especially since we supposedly honor and respect their sacrifice. Again: One of the reasons is because people like Art Fisher don’t pay enough in taxes.

The report doesn’t even raise the issue. Instead it gives the floor to Fisher, who sneers that “we can build (a veterans’ brain injury facility) in half the time, half the cost and twice the quality” (as the government can).The numbers say otherwise. Government health care is more efficient, and more cost-efficient, than its private-sector counterparts. And its greatest cost limitations come from the restrictions which Republicans (beneficiaries of these donors’ generosity) have placed on its ability to negotiate prices and manage its services.

The Kindness of Billionaires

“All he asked of the government was to stay out of his way.”That’s Art Fisher’s agenda, and it’s Paul Tudor Jones’ agenda too: If you’re nice to us, and if you let us keep siphoning the nation’s wealth, a few of us will help you – just as long as the a) flattery keeps flowing, b) you keep subsidizing our gifts, and c) you relinquish control over your destinies to us. It seems to be the “60 Minutes” agenda, too.

“60 Minutes” was once a shining light of independent journalism. Now it’s a covert mouthpiece for the far-right, anti-government values of the Peterson crowd. Once it spoke to, and for, a majority whose interests it fought to defend. Now it represents an atavistically self-centered billionaire class which expects flattery from its subjects whenever it deigns to take notice of their misery. CBS News, I want my hour back. But then, I want my country back, too.


They’ll be back next week with another edition of “60 Minutes”.

FOOTNOTES:[1] Curiously, the CBS web page which touts his work also tells us that “Bill Clinton tried to get Led Zeppelin back together.” I don’t get the connection between these stories. That group’s bass player was John Paul Jones. Different guy altogether. Maybe the common thread is the Clintons, who have benefited mightily from the generosity of hedge funders. You’re not likely to find them challenging the “60 Minutes” narrative.

[2] Twenty percent of New Yorkers – one in five – live in poverty. Neither Pelley nor Jones seems curious about that – at least, not curious enough to investigate it.

[3] I don’t know why the CBS News website uses so many commas in its sentences. It’s distracting and hard to read, but that’s how they transcribe their scripts.

[4] The money-making talent doesn’t always equate with intelligence per se, although there are forms of intelligence that can be used to accumulate great wealth. Some billionaires are very gifted people. But sometimes average intelligence, when combined with rapacious greed, personality quirks, or character defects, can do the trick very effectively. And sometimes “idiot savant” is a better description of their gifts than “genius.”

[5] Let’s assume that Jones’ wealth comes from income taxed at the “hedge fund loophole” rate of 15 percent. (That’s generous, since he and his fellow billionaires often pay far less than that.) That would mean that he earned $4.235 billion and paid $635 million in taxes.

[6] Conservatives love to claim that the actual top tax rate under Eisenhower was much less than that. They base that argument on a simple math error, or deception, which has been explained elsewhere.

[7] Here’s the math: Even if all the donors were hedge funders (which is unlikely), they were able to write $1.2 billion off at a 15 percent rate, which comes to $180 million. At the 35 percent Bush tax-cut rate, the figure comes to $420 million in lost tax revenue. (We’re assuming these deductions came to less than 50 percent of donors’ adjusted gross income, which is the limit for charitable deductions.)


Tongue Tied Republicans Redefine ‘Act of Terror’ and Prove Obama Right On Benghazi

By: Sarah Jones
May. 11th, 2013

Here’s a huge, glaring logic problem for Republicans. Currently, they are arguing that Obama saying “Act of terror” in the Rose Garden on September 12 was not a real reference to terror. At the same time, they are arguing that the phrase — from the Benghazi email John Boehner never read until it was too late — “Islamic extremists” can be read and interpreted as “Islamic terrorists”.

Oh, really?

Republicans got themselves into this mess by screaming that President Obama did not use the right word at the right time with the right ending, and thus he should be impeached or at the very least, not reelected. The fact that he said “act of terror” isn’t good enough, because you see, words matter. He had to say “the terrorists!” or else.

But now John Boehner has made a fool of himself by publicly charging that an email said “Islamic terrorists” and that the administration changed the talking points to “Islamic extremists”. In fact, the email actually reads “Islamic extremists” (a fact Boehner would have had a better shot of knowing had he actually attended the briefing during which the emails were shared).

Republican Rep. Gowdy (R-SC) actually suggested that he was quoting the email during Wednesday’s hearing, and he said “Islamic terrorists”. But the email does not say that. The email uses the word “extremists”. For the record, an extremist is defined as “One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics.” No mention of violence necessarily implied with the word extremist. However, “terrorist” is defined as, “One that engages in acts or an act of terrorism.”

While we’re factchecking the definition of words so that we can chase the ever-moving goalposts of the Republican Benghazigasm, terror means “violence committed or threatened by a group to intimidate or coerce a population, as for military or political purposes.” Thank you, President Obama.

But now, Republicans are arguing that “Islamic extremists” is the same thing as “Islamic terrorists”.

As the administration has tried to explain to the lost boys, “the distinction is important”. If we have to explain again why it matters, Republicans should be directed to their own Benghazigasm over “act of terror”. Republicans are contorting themselves into the absurd as they attempt to make hay out of words and then claim the very same word can mean exactly what they claimed it did not mean when Obama spoke.

I submit to the free online dictionary this example of “terrorism”: Keeping track of Republicans on their bogus Benghazi claims is a form of mental terrorism.


With Zero Evidence Republicans Call For Obama To Be Impeached Over Benghazi

By: Jason Easley
May. 11th, 2013

Republicans are calling for Obama’s impeachment over Benghazi, even though those calling for impeachment admit that they have no evidence.

Audio of Sen. Inhofe (R-OK) mentioning Obama impeachment:

Inhofe said, “My point was that we didn’t have to wait until eight or nine months after this was over. We knew at the time that this was a cover up. My fear was that people would forget about it, and of course, that’s why I’ve been kind of rejoicing that they are bringing it up now, even though the networks aren’t not. People need to know how serious this. To me, we may be starting to use the I word before too long.”

Sen. Inhofe said that this is not a short story, and hinted that the Senate could take up impeachment after the 2014 election. He said that the proof of a cover up can be found in the closed door Senate confirmation hearings for Brennan and Clapper.

Mike Huckabee also called for Obama’s impeachment this week. On his radio show, Huckabee said, “I believe that before it’s all over, this president will not fill out his full term. I know that puts me on a limb, but this is not minor. When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up, he cannot continue to govern, and as the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next three and a half years.”

Benghazi marks the 15th time that Republicans have called for Obama’s impeachment. Republicans have called for Obama’s impeachment over his birth certificate, his opposition to extending the Bush tax cuts, immigration reform, the fast and furious, the Boston Bombing, and many other things.

The fact that Inhofe is using closed door private testimony as his evidence of a Benghazi cover up proves that Republicans have zero evidence. Sen. Inhofe has given up looking for document evidence, because none exists.

Republicans were never able to defeat President Obama at the ballot box, so they are trying to drum up a scandal to justify impeaching him. If this all sounds familiar, it should. A House of Representatives led by radical Republicans tried to elevate the Lewinsky affair to an impeachable offense against Bill Clinton. It backfired, and made Clinton more popular with the American people.

Benghazi isn’t a search for truth. It is a desperate political Hail Mary. Republicans seeing the looming possibility of 16 years of Democratic White House control. Benghazi is their desperate attempt to remove Barack Obama, and stop Hillary Clinton from being elected president in 2016.

Back in 2009, Republicans thought they could use Obamacare to win the election in 2012. They couldn’t. Inhofe’s comments made it clear that they are going to try to keep Benghazi alive until 2016, but this too will fail. Instead of worrying about jobs or the economy, Republicans are wasting our tax dollars trumping up a scandal.

If Republicans even think about impeaching Obama, they can probably kiss the 2016, and 2012 elections goodbye.

Republicans are forgetting their own recent history, which is why they are doomed to repeat it.


Boehner Would Have Had Those Benghazi Emails If He Hadn’t Skipped the Briefing

By: Sarah Jones
May. 11th, 2013

This is another case of Republicans blaming the White House for their own laziness, and the media buying it.

The emails Republicans have been accusing the White House of not releasing were actually released two months ago, senior administration officials told Salon yesterday during a conference call. House Speaker John Boehner skipped out on that briefing.

Furthermore, House and Senate Intelligence Committee members were briefed in March about the emails, senior administration officials told Salon. This is confirmed by Saxby Chambliss’ comment to The Hill at the time in February, where he says the emails put to rest many if not all of the committee’s concerns.

The emails were again shared with Congress during John Brennan’s confirmation hearing, Alex Seitz-Wald pointed out in his Salon column. That’s not a cover-up.

This might explain why Boehner made a fool of himself yesterday when his “smoking gun” email didn’t reveal what he said it would reveal about Benghazi. Boehner made a big stink that the email would prove that the administration had changed its talking points from “Islamic terrorists” to “Islamic extremists”, when in fact, the email said “Islamic terrorists.”

Boehner charged that the administration would not let them keep a copy of the email, but Boehner did not attend the briefing, so the truth is that he got second hand information about what it said. The Press needs to ask Boehner if he’s in the habit of making serious accusations based on unconfirmed hearsay. They should also ask why he didn’t attend the briefing.

Boehner also suggested that the emails were being hidden from the public, but according to senior administration officials speaking to Salon, they were not classified. Thus, Republicans were free to address any concerns they had when they were briefed on the emails months ago.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Republican Rep. Gowdy seems to have deliberately misled the committee, and only a copy of the email provided to the New York Times proved him wrong:

    During Wednesday’s hearing, Representative Trey Gowdy, Republican of South Carolina, read an excerpt from the e-mail, quoting what he said was a reference to the local militant group that carried out the attack, Ansar al-Shariah, as having links to “Islamic terrorists.”

    But a copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to “Islamic extremists,” not terrorists.

    The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.

John Boehner should know better than to take Gowdy’s word; he is not known for his accuracy, but rather for his willingness to perpetrate any conspiracy theory going. Gowdy was a big pusher of the now dead Fast and Furious opera, aimed at destroying AG Eric Holder.

As the media runs with the “cover up” meme and even knowledgeable pundits are conceding to reality that sure, the administration should have released those emails sooner, it turns out that the emails were released several times over the past months. Republicans either skipped the briefing where they were released, or read them back then and claimed that their concerns had been addressed.

But now Republicans are pretending they never got them, or that they say something they don’t say. Speaker John Boehner charged publicly that the emails said something they didn’t. It turns out that the Speaker must have gotten his information second hand, because he skipped a briefing held two months ago, during which those emails were released.

This is hardly the first time Republicans skipped briefings on Benghazi. Senator McCain was so busy making accusations on TV that he skipped a briefing on the issue last November. He was literally on TV demanding answers as the answers were being given in a meeting he skipped to be on TV.

It’s time for the media to start questioning Republicans as to where they are getting their information and why they are making accusations for which they don’t have proof. Even worse, they need to be called out when the evidence is submitted and it contradicts their allegations. These are serious charges to be making in a hearing, especially now that we know they were inaccurate and were based on recollection instead of evidence.

The media needs to start asking for proof before running with the hopeful and sloppy narratives of a desperate party that is proving that just like when Clinton was in office, their only function is to drum up charges, obstruct government, and waste money.


Republicans Meltdown Into Deranged Babble After Jay Carney Repeats Benghazi Facts

By: Sarah Jones
May. 10th, 2013

White House press secretary Jay Carney was trending on twitter Friday afternoon after a press conference in which he reminded reporters that Mitt Romney started the politicization of the Benghazi attacks. You see, conservatives are outraged that Carney repeated the Candy Crowley “lie” (also known as a fact in sane circles) that Obama referred to the Benghazi attacks as an “act of terror.”

Jay Carney said today, “There is the discussion about, you know, the Republicans again, and this ongoing effort that began hours of the attacks when Mitt Romney put out a press release to try to take political advantage out of these deaths, or out of the attack in Benghazi, and, in a move that was maligned even by members of his own party. And from that day forward, there has been this effort to politicize it.”

“If you look at the issue here, the efforts to politicize it were always about, you know, were we trying to play down the fact that there was an act of terror and an attack on the embassy. And the problem has always been with that assertion it is completely hollow because the President himself in the Rose Garden said this was an act of terror and he talked about it within the context of September 11th, 2001.”

This brought up the still simmering Romney debate wounds for the Right, who still to this day do not believe that President Obama used the words “act of terror” in his Rose Garden presser.

President Obama did, and it’s been factchecked relentlessly (to no avail for the right, whose epistemic closure causes them to deny all sources that aren’t lying to them). It shouldn’t matter, but since we are fighting a war with a fictional history, it’s incumbent upon me to remind everyone of the facts:

    Romney said that “it took the president 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror.”

    Obama is correct that he referred to “acts of terror” in a Sept. 12 speech in the Rose Garden.The transcript does show that Obama said in a Rose Garden speech on Sept. 12: “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character, or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for.” That night, he said at a Las Vegas fundraiser: “No act of terror will dim the light of the values that we proudly shine on the rest of the world, and no act of violence will shake the resolve of the United States of America.” Obama employed the “act of terror” phrase a third time a day later at a campaign event in Colorado.

(full transcript here: Remarks by the President on the Deaths of U.S. Embassy Staff in Libya, Rose Garden, Sept 12)

The right does not believe, per an article on Michele Malkin’s Twitchy entitled, “Paging Candy Crowley: Jay Carney repeats debunked Benghazi lie from presidential debates”:

Timothy P Carne:y @TPCarney Obama did NOT say in the Rose Garden “this was an act of terror.”
3:47 PM – 10 May 2013

Janice @jcdwms: Carney said Obama used act of terror in Rose Garden. Wasn’t that the Candy Crowley lie in the 1st debate? I can’t keep up w all the lies!

L. North @LadyLNorth: LIE: Carney just said President called #Benghazi an “act of terror” in the Rose Garden.

JivinJ @JivinJehoshaph: .@PressSec is so full of it on #Benghazi – Obama never specifically called the Benghazi an “act of terror” in the Rose garden #liar

Isaac Townes @IsaacTownes: So we’re still on the Rose Garden “act of terror” thing? How long is @BarackObama gonna get away w/ claiming that bs?

S.E. Cupp ✔ @secupp: Carney says there was no attempt to “play down” terrorism angle on Benghazi. Wait, what???

Joe Bonano Jr. @Gotmade: @secupp Obama called Benghazi a terrorist attack day after in the rose garden, what?Huh

So now the right is absolutely exploding in rage on Twitter because Jay Carney is a “liar”. #JayCarneyExcuses, #JayCarney, #Carney, and #CarneyShort were all trending due to the implosion of derangement (aka, reality coming too near the fictional Republican version).

If you’re thinking this is ridiculous, you would be correct. Not only is it irrelevant when the President labeled something an “act of terror”, but there are reasons the administration did not jump the gun and declare another preemptive invasion of an unrelated country, as Republicans are wont to do.

Right wing hero General Petraeus tried to explain this to the Right back in November, “classified intelligence reports revealed that the deadly assault on the American diplomatic mission in Libya was a terrorist attack, but that the administration refrained from saying it suspected that the perpetrators of the attack were Al Qaeda affiliates and sympathizers to avoid tipping off the groups.”

But the right only believe what they’re told on The Drudge and Fox News. Now they’re mad because Obama didn’t help the terrorists by giving them a heads up.

As of Jay Carney’s presser, Benghazi dergangement sydrome is officially an epidmeic.


John Boehner’s Benghazi Smoking Gun Email Backfires and Blows Up In His Face

By: Jason Easley
May. 10th, 2013

It turns out John Boehner’s smoking gun Benghazi email was more like a firecracker that has blown up in the Speaker’s face.

At his press conference yesterday, Speaker Boehner demanded that the the White House turn over a Benghazi related email,

I hope you all tuned in to yesterday’s hearing on the tragedy in Benghazi. We learned that on September 12 – the day after the attacks and four days before Susan Rice’s TV appearances – a senior State Department official emailed her superiors to relay that the Libyan ambassador – she had told the Libyan Ambassador that the attack was conducted by Islamic terrorists.

The State Department would not allow our committees to keep copies of this email when it was reviewed. And I would call on the president to order the State Department to release this email so that the American people can see it.

According to Boehner this was the Benghazi smoking gun, only it wasn’t.

The New York Times has looked at the email, and it doesn’t say what Boehner thinks it says,

But a copy of the e-mail reviewed by The New York Times indicates that A. Elizabeth Jones, the senior State Department official who wrote it, referred to “Islamic extremists,” not terrorists.

The distinction is important, administration officials said, because while the White House did not initially characterize the attack as terrorism, senior officials, including Ambassador Susan E. Rice, acknowledged the possibility that extremists had been involved in the assault.

Speaker Boehner demanded the release of an email that he thought would prove the White House Benghazi cover up, only to find that the email supports what the Obama administration has been saying.

This hasn’t stopped Republicans from claiming that it doesn’t make any difference whether the administration referred to Islamic terrorists or Islamic extremists, even though Boehner based his entire argument on the belief that the email referred to Islamic terrorists.

John Boehner has become a cartoon character. He is Wile E. Coyote falling off the cliff, as one harebrained scheme after another goes wrong.

Boehner hopped on the Benghazi train just as it went off the tracks, and now the derailed Speaker has to answer for yet another leadership failure.

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« Reply #6317 on: May 13, 2013, 05:58 AM »

New coronavirus can spread between humans, says WHO official

World Health Organisation expert plays down fears of pandemic, saying prolonged contact is needed to transmit disease

Reuters, Monday 13 May 2013 08.39 BST   

A World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said it seems likely that a new coronavirus that has killed at least 18 people in the Middle East and Europe can be passed between humans, but only after prolonged contact.

A virus from the same family triggered the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) that swept the world after emerging in Asia and killed 775 people in 2003.

French authorities announced on Sunday that a second man had been diagnosed with the disease after sharing a hospital room with France's only other sufferer.

The WHO's assistant director general, Keiji Fukuda, told reporters in Saudi Arabia, the site of the largest cluster of infections, that there was no evidence so far the virus was able to sustain "generalised transmission in communities" – a scenario that would raise the spectre of a pandemic.

But he said the main concern was that the clusters seen in several countries "increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact, this novel coronavirus can transmit from person to person".

Countries need to increase levels of awareness, he said.

A public health expert who declined to be identified said close contact meant being in a small, enclosed space with an infected person for a prolonged period.

The virus emerged in the Gulf last year but cases have also been recorded in Britain and France among people who had recently been in the Middle East. A total of 34 cases worldwide have been confirmed by blood tests so far.


Mysterious SARS-like virus kills 15 people in Saudi Arabia

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, May 12, 2013 14:01 EDT

Fifteen people in Saudi Arabia have died from a SARS-like virus out of 24 people who contracted it since last August, Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabia said on Sunday.

“The number of people who contracted the virus in the kingdom since August/September is 24, of whom 15 have died,” Rabia told a news conference in Riyadh.

An earlier toll provided on Tuesday by the World Health Organisation said 11 people had died in Saudi Arabia since last year from the disease whose medical term is NCoV-EMC, or novel coronavirus.

Rabia also said three other people are suspected of having contracted the virus in Saudi Arabia, pledging to announce with “full transparency” the results of their medical tests.

The WHO’s assistant director general for health security and the environment, Keiji Fukuda, told a Riyadh news conference on Sunday the new virus posed an “important and major challenge” for countries affected and the world generally.

He said experts were still grappling to understand all aspects of the virus and how humans become infected, stressing, however, that “this new virus is not the SARS virus.”

“This is a new infection and there are also many gaps in our knowledge that will inevitably take time to fill in,” a WHO statement cited Fukuda as saying.

“The greatest global concern, however, is about the potential for this new virus to spread. Of most concern, however, is the fact that the different clusters seen in multiple countries increasingly support the hypothesis that when there is close contact this novel coronavirus can transmit from person-to-person,” he said.

“This pattern of person-to-person transmission has remained limited to some small clusters, and so far, there is no evidence that this virus has the capacity to sustain generalised transmission in communities.”

Since the virus was first recorded in September 2012, there have been 34 cases reported worldwide, and 18 of those have died, according to the WHO.

While it has been deadliest in Saudi Arabia, cases have also been reported in Jordan, Germany, Britain and France where two patients are now in hospital in the northern city of Lille.

It is a cousin of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which triggered a scare 10 years ago when it erupted in east Asia, leaping to humans from animal hosts and eventually killing some 800 people.

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« Reply #6318 on: May 13, 2013, 06:07 AM »

Bulgaria: ‘30.1% — 26.1%. What do we do now?’

13 May 2013

In the May 12 general election, the conservative Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (Gerb) led by outgoing Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, which won 30.1 per cent of the vote, was awarded 98 of the 240 seats in the country’s parliament. The Bulgarian Socialist Party led by Sergei Stanishev obtained 26.1 per cent and was given 86 seats. The two other parties with scores above the 4 per cent threshold are the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (33 seats), which represents the country’s Muslim minority, and the ultra-nationalist Ataka (23 seats).

Barely more than three months after the fall of the government in the wake of a wave of anti-poverty demonstrations, the country has once again been plunged into political deadlock, points out Standart, which remarks that in a situation where none of the parties received enough votes to govern alone and all of the parties have ruled out an alliance with Gerb, “the formation of a new government will be a difficult puzzle."

For its part, the daily Troud wonders about the possibility of "Everyone against the Gerb," a scenario that has already been alluded to by the socialists, but one which would rely on their party forming a coalition with Ataka as well as the Movement of Rights and Freedoms.


May 13, 2013

Nationalists Cash In on Bulgarians' Unhappiness


SOFIA (Reuters) - A Bulgarian nationalist party which has protested against the Roma minority and wants to nationalize foreign-owned firms has emerged as a kingmaker from an election on Sunday by tapping into voters' disillusionment with mainstream politicians.

Volen Siderov, leader of Attack, stepped up rhetoric and populist pledges to improve the lives of poor Bulgarians after the previous government resigned in February in the face of demonstrations and self-immolations.

His success is part of a broader upswing of nationalists in central and eastern Europe's moribund economies such as Hungary's Jobbik, which has a similar agenda, vilifying Roma and opposing the European Union and other foreign influences.

Some party members wear shirts with swastikas and make Nazi salutes at rallies.

"The situation is dramatic, now it comes to the survival of our country and I believe that only Attack can save it," said student Milen Angelov. "These are the responsible politicians, the rest are traitors and servants of foreign interests."

At the start of the year, Attack had only 1 percent support but has the balance of power after a divisive election.

Former journalist Siderov, 57, canceled rallies to spend the money on helping the poor and partial results show Attack won 7.4 percent of the vote after attracting Bulgarians unhappy with the low living standards and widespread corruption.

As protesters failed to unite as a single political force, the stern, white-haired Siderov appealed to voters unhappy with an elite they view as entrenched and doing little to improve the lot of people in the EU's poorest country.

The center-right GERB - which stepped down at the height of February's protests - has kept tight fiscal policy and debt low. It will be the biggest party in parliament but is struggling to form a government due to its tarnished image.

Siderov has alarmed investors with his forthright style and pledges of nationalizations and revoking foreign companies' concessions. He has previously given unofficial backing to GERB, which did not adopt Attack policies.

Though GERB may be able to reach a majority with its support, Siderov immediately ruled out such a deal - which some analysts said may be a negotiating position.

The Socialists, running a close second to GERB, will also struggle to put together a working majority without some support from Attack and that may be difficult given their traditional alliance with the ethnic Turkish MRF. If no government can be formed, new elections will be held, possibly in September.

"I want to underline the negative role of the West, which through all these years of colonizing was actually pushing things in that direction - low incomes, cheap labor because foreigners benefit from it," Siderov told Reuters in March.


Attack made a breakthrough when Siderov won 21 percent to come second in a 2006 presidential poll but its fortunes had since faded.

It wants to destroy Roma ghettoes, many of which have no running water or electricity, and force them to attend schools and seek jobs.

It organized anti-Roma demonstrations in 2011 after villagers blamed a Roma leader for the death of a 19-year-old and provoked nationwide unrest and the burning of some houses.

Roma is a term for groups who have migrated across Europe for centuries and are now the biggest ethnic minority in the EU, most of them from countries like Romania, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. There are an estimated 10 million across Europe.

Attack also wants to stop the building of mosques, which is a sensitive topic in a country where some 15 percent of the population are Muslim.

"It's inconceivable that the big European political blocks could accept Attack being a formal part of a government," an EU diplomat said.

Siderov wound down his usual demagogic style and canceled rallies during the campaign, saying the party was instead using the money to help society's poorest pay bills and buy medicines.

Attack also wants to nationalize energy distributors - Czech companies CEZ and Energo-Pro and Austria's EVN, raise taxes for the rich and revoke concessions for gold and water granted to foreign companies. Siderov says they boost profits by underpaying their Bulgarian staff.

"I will make a coalition under the program 'Siderov's Plan Against the Colonial Yoke,'" he said on Sunday.

(Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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« Reply #6319 on: May 13, 2013, 06:11 AM »

05/13/2013 11:25 AM

'Hurried Action': Germany Criticized for Late Push on War Criminals

Last week's arrest of a 93-year-old on suspicion of abetting murder as a guard at Auschwitz is part of a late push by German authorities to bring lower-ranking Nazi helpers to justice. Legal experts say they should have -- and could have -- done so decades ago.

Legal experts say last week's arrest of a 93-year-old former Auschwitz guard in Germany has come decades too late and that prosecutors are making themselves look implausible with their sudden push to bring lower-ranking helpers of the Nazi regime to justice at this stage.

Frits Rüter, a Dutch law professor described as "scandalous" the behavior of Germany's Central Office of the Judicial Authorities for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, based in Ludwigsburg. "It's suddenly descended into taking hurried action," said Rüter, who heads a research project on justice and Nazi crimes.

Lithuanian-born Hans Lipschis, who lives in Aalen, southwestern Germany, was taken into custody last week on suspicion of having "supported" the mass murder in Auschwitz in his alleged capacity as an SS guard there between autumn 1941 until early 1945, the Stuttgart public prosecutor's office said. He was added to the Most Wanted Nazi War Criminals list of the Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem in April.

Fifty Auschwitz Guards Still Alive in Gemany

Lipschis is among 50 Auschwitz guards who are still alive in Germany today and who are being investigated following a precedent set by the conviction of Ukrainian-born John Demjanjuk in May 2011. Demjanjuk was found guilty by a Munich court 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.

According to Kurt Schrimm, the head of the Ludwigsburg Central Office, the Demjanjuk conviction represented a new interpretation of the law. It had made new trials feasible because prosecutors no longer need to establish culpability in specific murders to secure a conviction. Having been a guard in a death camp was now seen as proof enough of having assisted in murder.

However, Cologne-based law professor Cornelius Nestler said that supposedly legal interpretation had existed for decades. "This broad understanding of abetment already existed in Nazi trials back in the 1960s," he said. He added that prosecutors had been "judicially blind" by targeting only concentration camp guards whom they could accuse of individual crimes.

At the very latest, systematic investigations could have started as soon as the court allowed Demjanjuk to be brought to trial -- almost four years ago, said Nestler.

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« Reply #6320 on: May 13, 2013, 06:17 AM »

UK's top companies condemned for prolific use of tax havens

• Only two of FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in havens
• Big four banks and Tesco among biggest users
• ActionAid findings described as shaming by Lib Dem peer

Ben Quinn and James Ball   
The Guardian, Sunday 12 May 2013 18.49 BST   

The UK's 100 biggest public companies are running more than 8,000 subsidiaries or joint ventures in onshore and offshore tax havens, according to research published on Monday, raising fresh concerns about the full extent of corporate tax avoidance.

The figures, published by the charity ActionAid, show that only two of the companies listed on the UK's FTSE 100 have no subsidiaries in tax havens – while companies such as Barclays and Tesco own hundreds.

Corporate use of offshore subsidiaries has been roundly criticised by tax campaigners as a tactic to legally reduce corporate tax bills, with Vodafone, Starbucks and Amazon attracting widespread protests and criticism from MPs.

David Cameron has pledged to put tackling the issue of tax avoidance and offshore secrecy at the heart of next month's G8 summit, which Britain chairs this year.

Speaking after Saturday's meeting of G7 finance ministers, the chancellor, George Osborne, said international action was needed, adding it was "incredibly important that companies and individuals pay the tax that is due".

But many of the offshore jurisdictions used by the FTSE 100 have close ties to the UK, illustrating the challenge facing Cameron and Osborne ahead of negotiations with other G8 leaders.

In total, FTSE 100 companies have 1,685 subsidiaries in UK Crown dependencies such as Jersey, or overseas territories such as the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Bermuda and Gibraltar.

The Treasury recently secured a deal to share more information on potential income-tax evaders operating out of British overseas territories. But campaigners warn that agreements so far do little to tackle offshore corporate secrecy and structures.
Use of offshore tax havens graphic

The research also compiled data covered by a wider definition of tax haven, including onshore jurisdictions such as the US state of Delaware – accused by the Cayman islands of playing "faster and looser" even than offshore jurisdictions – and the Republic of Ireland, which has come under sustained pressure from other EU states to reform its own low-tax, light-tough, regulatory environment.

By this measure, the UK's biggest public companies keep a total of 8,311 subsidiaries in tax havens – more than one in three of all the FTSE100's 22,042 foreign subsidiaries, associates and joint ventures.

The figures show that banks are the most prolific user of havens with the big four – Barclays, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Lloyds – among the top 10.

Barclays said in 2011 it was working to cut the number of its offshore subsidiaries in the Caymans, but the research shows it still had more than 120 subsidiaries in the Caribbean territory, along with dozens of others in other overseas jurisdictions with low tax rates or limited disclosure rules to other tax authorities.

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat peer, who resigned as the party's Treasury spokesman after criticising the government's deal on banking regulation as "pitiful", said the research showed new measures on tax havens were needed.

He said: "Tax transparency must start at home. ActionAid's devastating research makes us ashamed to be British. Far too many of Britain's top companies wash billions of profits through pipelines of British tax havens to vanish behind shiny brass plates in shady places.

"Cameron and Osborne can't strut the world stage as fair tax crusaders until they end this tax abuse, starting with the banks we own, RBS and Lloyds."

But use of offshore jurisdictions extends far beyond the banking world. Food manufacturers, retailers, and drinks firms were among the FTSE 100 companies using offshore jurisdictions.

The retailer with the most subsidiaries in countries dubbed tax havens was Tesco, which had 107, often tied to its financial services provisions. These included eight firms based in Jersey, nine in the BVI, and 14 in the Cayman Islands.

Particular concern is expressed by campaigners about the cost of offshore tax deals to the populations of developing countries.

For instance, Tullow Oil, which describes itself as "Africa's leading independent oil company" draws 84% of its revenues from the continent, but only four of the 81 companies it lists as subsidiaries are registered in African countries. By contrast, more than half (47) are registered in tax havens including the BVI, St Lucia, the Channel Islands and Netherlands.

Three-quarters of these tax haven companies refer to developing countries, such as Liberia, Kenya, Malawi and Sierra Leone, in their names.

While the countries highlighted by the ActionAid study have been targeted because of their rules on secrecy or tax management, a company's presence in such countries does not mean they are necessarily engaging in such practices.

There is no suggestion that any of the FTSE 100 firms have engaged in practices in contravention of tax laws.

Mike Lewis, ActionAid's tax justice policy adviser, who did the research, called tax havens "one of the biggest hidden obstacles" in the fight against global poverty.

He added: "Poor countries lose three times more money to tax havens than they receive in aid each year. .

"Tax haven structures are almost universal amongst the UK's biggest multinationals and becoming ever more common for investments in developing countries.

"When David Cameron chairs the G8 summit in Northern Ireland next month he must deliver on his promise to call time on tax havens for the benefit of all countries, rich and poor."

The two FTSE 100 companies found to have no subsidiaries in tax havens were the mining group Fresnillo and the financial advice business Hargreaves Lansdown.

A spokesperson for Tullow Oil said the company did not avoid tax and did not use companies in tax havens to avoid tax, adding: "Our clear aim in tax planning is to ensure that the appropriate amount of tax is paid in the jurisdiction in which the activities are undertaken.

"As such, no country in which we operate is losing out because some of the companies that we own are located in tax havens."

Seven of its subsidiaries were dormant with no profits and were scheduled for elimination while five were holding companies with minimal activity, he added.

A Barclays spokesperson said the company was among the UK's top taxpayers and acted ethically.

She said: "This story is based on misconception and is misleading. Delaware is not a low-tax jurisdiction. Profits in the state are subject to US corporate tax at 35%, as well as Delaware state tax.

"Barclays has substantial businesses in many of the jurisdictions mentioned.

"In the Caymans virtually all of the profits generated in these companies are subject to corporate tax at the UK corporate tax rate. "The number of Barclays' entities in low-tax jurisdictions reduced from 339 in 2009 to 252 by February 2013 – a 26% reduction. We plan to make further reductions in 2013."

A Tesco spokesperson said: "We are one of the largest payers of tax in the UK. In the year ended February 2012 we contributed £1.5bn directly, including £519m in corporation tax. We do have a number of companies within low-tax jurisdictions, but these are all either holding companies, dormant, registered for UK tax, or subject to controlled foreign company regulations and agreed with HMRC."

While measures have been taken already to crack down on the separate issue of tax avoidance by individuals, campaigners have repeatedly said that without steps to tackle corporate activities in havens action will be futile.

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« Reply #6321 on: May 13, 2013, 06:24 AM »

David Cameron arrives in US buoyed by Russian signals on Syria

British prime minister will tell Barack Obama he believes Pig Putin is now more open to putting pressure on Assad regime

Nicholas Watt in Washington, Monday 13 May 2013 05.21 BST   

David Cameron will tell Barack Obama in the White House on Monday that he believes Vladimir Putin may be prepared to adopt a more flexible approach on Syria.

The prime minister will tell the president, in talks being convened ahead of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland for June, that he was greatly encouraged by his meeting with Putin at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.

A bilateral meeting between Cameron and Putin, attended only by their respective national security advisers, overran after being dominated by Syria. Cameron was struck when the Russian president made a point of moving his briefing notes to one side and asking to hear the prime minister's thoughts on the Syrian crisis.

Britain has been insistent for months that the Syrian crisis, which has claimed at least 70,000 lives, can only be solved if the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, is removed from power. Russia has been supportive of the regime and has vetoed a series of UN security council resolutions critical of Assad.

Speaking during his flight to Washington, Cameron described his talks with Putin as "extremely positive and good". He said: "I was very heartened that while it is no secret that Britain and Russia have taken a different approach to Syria I was very struck in my conversations with President Putin that there is a recognition that it would be in all our interests to secure a safe and secure Syria with a democratic and pluralistic future and end the regional instability.

"We have a long way to go. But they were good talks and I am looking forward to now taking them up with President Obama and seeing if we can turn this proposal for a peace process and a peace conference into something that can make a real difference."

The prime minister has previously expressed immense frustration that Russian has repeatedly vetoed UN security council resolutions that were critical of the Assad regime. But No 10 believes that a major step was taken when the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, agreed to convene a peace conference on Syria.

British sources say a great deal of work remains to be done and that Russia is far from abandoning support for the Assad regime. But the prime minister has high hopes for the peace conference, which is designed to involve Syrian rebels and representatives of the Assad government.

Cameron said he would use his meeting with Obama to "try to really put flesh on the bones of this plan for a peace conference and to think of all the things that would make it work and deliver a peaceful transition in Syria. A lot of progress has been made and I want to push on on that."

The prime minister, who is pushing with the French for the EU arms embargo on Syria to be lifted later in May, said Britain and the US were at one in wanting to help the rebels. Britain has provided non-lethal equipment to the rebels. Obama has faced criticism for refusing to arm the rebels though the US is co-ordinating weapons deliveries from Gulf states.

Cameron said: "There is very strong unity of purpose between Britain and America that we should be working closely with the rebels. It is important that we work with and shape what they are doing. I have always been in favour of that sort of engagement. That is why we are now giving them technical assistance. But I also think there is something bigger happening here which is a realisation that it would be far better if what we could do is bring about a political transition through a greater engagement and agreement between America, Russia, Britain, France and other powers."

Britain believes lifting the EU arms embargo would increase the pressure on the Assad regime, forcing the regime question whether its military dominance can last.


David Cameron faces EU cabinet crisis as ministers break ranks

Michael Gove and Philip Hammond say they would vote to leave European Union

Nicholas Watt and Rajeev Syal   
The Guardian, Monday 13 May 2013   

David Cameron is struggling to maintain Tory discipline over Europe after cabinet loyalists Michael Gove and Philip Hammond said on Sunday they would vote to leave the European Union if a referendum were to be held now.

Gove, the education minister, confirmed for the first time that he believes that leaving the EU would have "certain advantages", while Hammond, the defence secretary, later said he too would vote to leave if he was asked to endorse the EU "exactly as it is today".

The timing of their comments will cause consternation for the prime minister as he attends talks with Barack Obama in the White House, where he will press for an EU-US trade deal that he claims would bring £10bn of annual benefits to Britain.

The remarks, which follow similar calls by Lord Lawson and Michael Portillo last week for Britain to leave Europe, are particularly significant because they are the first cabinet ministers to say they would vote to quit if an immediate referendum were held.

The prime minister's enthusiastic endorsement of an EU trade deal, which will be negotiated with the US by the EU as a whole, stood in marked contrast to the intervention by Gove, who said Britain could prosper outside the EU.

Dozens of Tory MPs are preparing to vote in favour of a backbench amendment to the motion welcoming the Queen's speech, which is expected on Wednesday, regretting the absence of an in/out referendum on Britain's EU membership.

The remarks by Gove, described as "unhelpful" by party officials, went slightly further than Hammond, who said that it was "defeatist" to argue in favour of withdrawal because the prime minister would negotiate a better deal for Britain.

Gove told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 that he would abstain in the vote after No 10 said ministers would be free to take the rare step of declining to offer wholehearted support for the Queen's speech. No 10 is offering backbenchers a free vote and ministers the right to abstain.

The prime minister says that, if elected with a majority in 2015, he would hold a referendum by 2017. This would take place after a renegotiation of Britain's membership terms.

Friends of Gove told the Mail on Sunday last year he had said Britain should leave the EU unless substantial powers were repatriated. Asked whether he stood by those private remarks, he said: "Yes, I'm not happy with our position in the EU."

Gove said he supported the prime minister's plan to renegotiate the terms of Britain's EU membership after the election. But he added that life outside the EU could have benefits. "My preference is for a change in Britain's relationship with the European Union. My ideal is exactly what the majority of the British public's ideal is, which is to recognise the current situation is no good, to say that life outside would be perfectly tolerable, we could contemplate it, there would be certain advantages.

"But the best deal for Europe, and for Britain, would be if Britain were to lead the change that Europe needs." Explaining his abstention, he said: "I'm going to abstain ... it's an exercise in letting off steam."

Hammond, interviewed for Pienaar's Politics on BBC radio, later said: "If the choice is between a European Union written exactly as it is today and not being a part of that then I have to say that I'm on the side of the argument that Michael Gove has put forward."

Theresa May, the home secretary, said she too would abstain. But she declined to say whether she would vote to leave the EU if a referendum were held now. The prime minister will be in the US when the Commons vote is held.

Boris Johnson backed Tory backbench demands for an EU referendum bill and warned Cameron he must make it clear Britain is "ready to walk away" unless its relationship is fundamentally reformed,

But the mayor of London also suggested that leaving the EU would expose the idea that most of Britain's problems are self-inflicted. "If we left the EU, we would end this sterile debate, and we would have to recognise that most of our problems are not caused by 'Bwussels', but by chronic British short-termism, inadequate management, sloth, low skills, a culture of easy gratification and underinvestment in both human and physical capital and infrastructure," Johnson wrote in his Daily Telegraph column.

"Why are we still, person for person, so much less productive than the Germans? That is now a question more than a century old, and the answer is nothing to do with the EU. In or out of the EU, we must have a clear vision of how we are going to be competitive in a global economy."

Ministers have been excluded from a free vote granted to Tory backbenchers to support the rebel amendment – with about 100 MPs expected to take the rare step of formally criticising their own government's legislative programme. At least two parliamentary private secretaries are expected to vote for the amendment.

Supporters of the amendment believe that the party must take on board traditional Tory voters' views after large numbers voted Ukip in this month's local elections.

Cameron will show he believes Britain's long-term future lies in the EU by saying at the meeting with Obama that next month's G8 summit must launch negotiations on the EU-US free trade area. In an article in the Wall Street Journal, he writes: "The free trade area between Europe and the US ... could add as much as £10bn to the British economy and £63bn to US GDP."

Cameron, who has said that he too is not happy with the EU status quo, will nevertheless show he believes Britain has a long term future in the EU when he speaks of how the EU-US trade deal will provide a dramatic boost to economic growth. Pro-Europeans say that trade deals negotiated by the EU are more successful than those that would be negotiated by Britain outside the EU because the European trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, negotiates for more than 500 million people. Opponents of the EU complain that trade deals negotiated by Brussels represent an unacceptable loss of sovereignty for Britain.

The prime minister's decision to highlight the benefits of EU membership is likely to be welcomed by Obama, whose advisers expressed concern in the runup to Cameron's EU speech in January, when he outlined his referendum plan.


UK government to oppose 2025 European vehicle emissions target

Department for Transport argues that proposal will delay agreement on 2015 and 2020 targets

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent, Monday 13 May 2013 11.07 BST   

Greenpeace activists highlight the fact that Norman Baker MP opposed laws that make new cars cleaner
Activists from Greenpeace on Monday morning unveiled a large banner in Norman Baker’s constituency in Lewes, in east Sussex, calling on him to accept the proposals. Photograph: Greenpeace

The UK government is to oppose a proposal for a tough new EU-wide target on carbon emissions from vehicles, provoking protests from environmental campaigners.

The proposal for a 2025 target, by which emissions per car should not exceed 70g of carbon dioxide per kilometre, was made by Fiona Hall, a Liberal Democrat MEP.

At present, the European commission is working with member states and MEPs to put in place targets on emissions from cars that would apply for the period from now to 2020. The targets would be that emissions from new vehicles sold in 2015 should be no higher than 130g CO2/km, and cars rolling off production lines in 2020 should have emissions not exceeding 95g CO2/km.

Hall, who sits on the industry research and energy committee in the EU parliament, wants a 2025 target to be included as well, in order to give car companies more time to prepare for the changes beyond 2020.

But the Department for Transport (DfT), where Lib Dem Norman Baker is a minister, argues that trying to extend the targets beyond 2020 at this stage will only cause delays to the process of agreeing the 2015 and 2020 targets, which a spokeswoman said needed to be agreed as soon as possible to ensure that car manufacturers can put them in place in time.

After they have been accepted, then work could begin on considering proposals for 2025 and beyond, according to the department.

A DfT spokeswoman said: "It is important to strike the right balance by supporting ambitious targets, while ensuring we do not hinder industry growth or competitiveness and encourage continued investments in low carbon vehicle technologies in the EU. Beyond 2020, it is likely that some form of mandatory targets will continue to be an effective measure for reducing CO2. We would only consider specific targets following a commission review and assessment of the impacts to ensure that target levels were ambitious, but realistic and based on sound evidence."

But Sara Ayech, campaigner at Greenpeace, said a 2025 proposal could be included without delaying the current considerations, if it were put in place as an indicative target range that could be firmed up in future years after the requisite impact assessments. She said if such a target was not included in this round, it would make it much harder in future to set a 2025 limit in time. Greenpeace said that the proposed 2025 target could save motorists up to £400 a year in fuel costs.

The government's opposition to setting mandatory car emissions targets beyond 2020 mirrors its position on other environmental goals. The European commission wants to start work on setting targets for emissions cuts beyond 2020, and to put in place targets on renewable energy generation for 2030 that would allow for greater certainty beyond the current 2020 stipulation, of generating 20% of energy from renewable by that date.

But the coalition – despite the unease of many Lib Dems, and many businesses, which would like to see longer term targets on key green goals, as a way of helping companies and governments to prepare for the long term – has strongly opposed setting any new EU mandatory green goals beyond 2020.

It is understood that George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, has taken a stance against new mandatory targets.

Details of the transport department's position were contained in a document sent to MEPs, and seen by the Guardian. The document was publicly released by Greenpeace on Monday morning.

Ayech said: "These documents reveal that there is a split at the heart of the Liberal Democrats over policy to reduce carbon emissions and save motorists money. Baker should follow the progressive political lead of Hall and support laws that will help the environment while putting an average of £400 a year back into the pockets of hard-pressed motorists."

Activists from Greenpeace on Monday morning unveiled a large banner in Baker's constituency in Lewes, in east Sussex, calling on him to accept Hall's proposals. A petition with more than 20,000 signatures from the UK, and tens of thousands more from across Europe, will also be presented to the MP.

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« Reply #6322 on: May 13, 2013, 06:36 AM »

Hungary: ‘It is not about sanctions’

13 May 2013

In an interview with Népszabadság, Green MEP Rui Tavares, the author of a draft report on fundamental rights in Hungary, which was published on May 2, advocates the establishment of monitoring and alert mechanisms.

The goal, emphasises the daily, is to avoid recourse to the “nuclear weapon” of Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty, which stipulates that in the event of serious violation of European values, member states may have their voting rights suspended.

Rui Tavares rejects accusations of bias and claims he is “open” to discussion of the draft report, which has been strongly criticised by the Viktor Orbán government and the conservative Hungarian press

Full Story

There is no sanction in Tavares report

Rui Tavares expects the Hungarian opinions on the draft report, but the Fidesz rejects accusations.

Catherine Muharay, Lisbon

 "If I Hungarian MEP right I would, and left-wing Portuguese government should report to write, the same attitude towards the task as it is now," - said Rui Tavares, the rule of law in Hungary the situation of the draft report by making the In response to accusations it had. The Portuguese Parliament in Lisbon said the representative of the People's freedom.

"I believe that not a single politician is infallible and can not believe that I have to have or that the report would be" - said in response to calls by the government's charge that the draft is full of errors. "I am ready for any possible repairs and updating. I know that there were informal, according to the document, there are factual errors, but I have not seen the specific references to them. I'm waiting for you to send to the list, "- he added.

Tavares said that Hungary took an active role in the development of so-called second article, the values ​​given in (human dignity, democracy, rule of law, freedom, equality, respect) that is not forced on it from above. "What the EU does not seek an elemental democracy to be elections, then the majority will prevail. We want the highest possible level of democracy, based on respect for the rule of law, transparent and open to the participation of the opposition "- said, stating that, of course, each Member State is organized in a way that suits him. The autonomy of national parliaments, the EU should be in accordance with the values ​​of full sovereignty, but the functional forms of Member States.

With regard to the draft report would be direct intervention in matters which do not fall within the competence of the EU, said: "Europe is one of the country's democracy to others. Wherever doubts arise regarding the protection of fundamental rights, it is a matter of concern to the other Member States. "

Spring Rest of Fidesz accused, committed to the left, Green Party representative - was the party of the Left Bloc, which has nothing to do with the Portuguese Communist Party - launched a political attack. In response, explained that it "is not the right or left side of the problem, but rather the fundamental problem lies. Without them, without a functioning democracy can not exist on the right and the left. It can not be the only one of the fundamental rights of political térfelen prevail "- he argued.

Rui Tavares was important to emphasize that "the draft report does not include economic sanctions." The document, rather than right in the EU basic treaty 7 Articles affect the Recommendation effort to create various forms of cooperation. "You do not Importance of punishment 7 We developed a draft report around the article, but a positive and constructive way, the basic values ​​including 2 Art around "- he said. He pointed out that a correction mechanisms also makes an offer, such as an independent and respected legal experts, the Copenhagen committee which would monitor the EU institutions, such as yourself the EP is to independently and fairly acted .

"Should pay special attention to this, which is the main complaint of the Hungarian government to actually be double standards measured. This complaint must take it very seriously, because it would be an unforgivable mistake for the European institutions, different ways to treat small and large countries, the old and the new members, "- he stressed. As for the accusations made him "I'm not going to let any attack against me to deprive you from the awe that I felt towards the Hungarian state. I would like to deeply megbecsülésemről for the nation to ensure the Hungarians. As a historian, I consider particularly fascinating history of Hungary "- said Tavares. We encourage everyone that if you have any misconceptions about those contained in the report (the text is in English, there is the Parliament's website, the e-mail address as well), you can write to him.

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« Reply #6323 on: May 13, 2013, 06:38 AM »

05/13/2013 12:41 PM

'Violation of Treaties': Berlin Wary of ECB Plan to Help Southern Europe

The European Central Bank would like to encourage banks in Southern Europe to issue more loans. But Berlin is concerned that a planned move to trigger such lending could violate EU treaties. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has hit the brakes.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and European Central Bank head Mario Draghi have never seemed particularly eager to avoid conflict with one another. Just in January, the two got into a mini war-of-words over the need to bail out Cyprus, with Schäuble openly questioning whether the country was systemically relevant.

Now, the two are at odds again. SPIEGEL has learned that Schäuble is deeply critical of an ECB idea to purchase asset-backed securities, fearing that the plan could be little more than "obscured state financing," a no-no for the ECB. Schäuble made his remarks at a breakfast of conservative lawmakers last Wednesday, according to sources present. Schäuble said that such a plan would violate European Union treaties.

The motivation for considering such a move is clear. The ECB is eager to stimulate bank lending, particularly in Southern European countries where the debt crisis has made banks wary of issuing loans. But Schäuble is concerned that an ECB program of buying asset-backed securities could amount to the bank taking over some €70 billion in debt owed by Italy to private creditors.

Schäuble was backed on Monday by Hans Michelbach, the top conservative in the Finance Committee in parliament. "After the extremely questionable ECB purchase of sovereign bonds, this would be a clear violation of European treaties," Michelbach said, according to German news agency DPA. There are, he said, apparently some people in the ECB leadership "who consider the ECB to be the Bad Bank of Southern Europe."

Banking Union Challenges

Over the weekend, Draghi indicated that the plan is still under consideration. At a G-7 meeting near London on Sunday, Draghi said: "We looked at a variety of things, one of which was this ABS. We're still looking at that, it's one of many options. We don't have a position, certainly, on that."

Asset-backed securities got a bad name in the financial crisis and US housing crash in 2008. They were a key element in the housing bubble and served as a tool to bundle sub-prime mortgages -- investments which ultimately proved toxic for the banks that bought large quantities of them. They also, however, can be an important tool in freeing up capital to allow banks to lend more.

Schäuble, however, is not just concerned about the threat Draghi might pose to EU treaties. He also on Monday voiced his concern that efforts to push ahead a bloc-wide banking union could be in violation of EU rules. In a contribution for the Financial Times, Schäuble proposes a "two-step approach" that would leave bank bailouts in the hands of national authorities for now. The plan of having a super-national authority for the entire euro zone, he writes, require treaty changes before the have the necessary legal foundation.

Germany has long been pursuing a "banking union" as a way to prevent a repeat of the euro crisis in the future. Euro-zone leaders would like a separate bank bailout fund, the ability to wind down banks that run into significant difficulties and clear rules regarding when and if taxpayers must be responsible for a bailout.

"The EU does not have coercive means to enforce decisions," Schäuble writes. "What it has are responsibilities and powers defined by its treaties. To take them lightly, as is sometimes suggested, is to tamper with the rule of law."

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« Reply #6324 on: May 13, 2013, 06:45 AM »

PIG PUTIN'S RUSSIA............

May 12, 2013

Officials Say Homophobia Motivated Murder in Russia


MOSCOW — The brutal murder of a 23-year-old man in the southern city of Volgograd was motivated by homophobia, investigators said Sunday, a rare acknowledgment that comes during a period of rising conservative and antigay sentiment from Russian officials.

The man’s body was found naked in the courtyard of an apartment building, his skull smashed with a stone, and he appeared to have been sodomized with several beer bottles, according to local investigators. Natalia Kunitskaya, a spokeswoman for the Volgograd Regional Investigative Committee, said Sunday that the man’s sexual orientation appeared to be the reason that he was killed, according to the news agency RIA Novosti.

Three men have been arrested in connection with the crime, including one former classmate of the victim’s and one man who said he had watched as others beat the man to death. Federal investigators released a statement saying the crime began when a group of men who were drinking beer on Thursday in a park to commemorate the Allied victory over Nazi Germany in 1945 heard the victim say he was gay. The suspects “cruelly beat the victim,” and he “died on the spot,” investigators said.

NTV, a Russian television channel, reported that the man’s face had been so badly damaged that the police initially could not identify him. The crime’s unusual savagery made it national news in Russia. Critics of the government said Russian politicians had promoted homophobia in recent months, as part of a broad rejection of liberal influences that are seen as emanating from the West.

Early this year, by a vote of 388 to 1, Russian lawmakers approved a bill outlawing “homosexual propaganda,” with fines of up to $16,000 for violations. On two occasions, rights advocates who demonstrated against the bill were assaulted or pelted with eggs as police officers looked on. More recently, President Vladimir V. Putin has said Russia may curtail adoptions of Russian children by people from Western countries where same-sex marriage is legal.

Prosecutors are treating the investigation as a murder case, with sentences of up to 15 years for conviction.

Nikolai Alekseyev, a leading gay-rights activist in Russia, told the news agency Interfax that he was afraid that the murder in Volgograd “will be investigated as one caused by a trivial row, and the homophobic motive will gradually disappear from all the documents.” He said activists would push for the inclusion of hatred based on sexual orientation as an aggravating circumstance in violent crimes.

The Volgograd case “demonstrates the fruits of homophobic policy that is being pursued in the country,” Mr. Alekseyev said. “Such crimes will increase in number from year to year unless this policy is changed.”


May 13, 2013

Russia's Gays Fear More Violence After Brutal Murder


MOSCOW (Reuters) - They beat him. They shoved beer bottles in his anus. They tried to set him on fire. Then they crushed his head with a heavy stone.

A 23-year-old man in Russia's southern city of Volgograd was tortured and killed after revealing he was gay during a drinking session last Thursday night, investigators said, taking a rare step by linking a murder to homophobia.

The victim's 22-year-old friend and a former convict aged 27 were detained for the attack, which gay rights activists say is a brutal example of rising violence against homosexuals in the year since President Vladimir Putin latched on to family values to shore up support in Russia's largely conservative society.

Along with a planned new law banning the spread of gay "propaganda" among minors, Putin has also overseen a religious revival that aims to give the Orthodox Church, whose leader has suggested that homosexuality is one of the main threats to Russia, a more public role as a moral authority.

Gay rights campaigner Nikolai Alexeyev said the draft law, which could be passed this month, and Putin's criticism of gays for failing to help Russia's population decline, amounted to "a call to action for the scum who committed this crime".

"It essentially gives these people carte blanche to commit such crimes," he said of the law, a local version of which is already in place in Russia's second city of St Petersburg.

The number of documented cases of violence against gays in Russia is low. Rights group Sova, which tracks extremist violence, says violence against gays has risen sharply - but from only three recorded attacks in 2011 to 12 in 2012.

But there are no official figures on anti-gay crime in Russia, and gay rights campaigners say the numbers available mask the true number of attacks on gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people. Most go unreported, or are not classified as such by the police.

"Such crimes are committed around Russia every day," Alexeyev said. "As a rule, all these crimes are categorized as something ordinary - they argued over a bottle of vodka, or there was 'personal animosity'. The real motive of hate is not mentioned."

Lawyer Maria Kozlovskaya, who works with the LGBT community, points to an internet poll late last year that found 15 percent of about 900 LGBT people surveyed in Russia said they had been physically attacked at least once in the previous 10 months.


Gay activists say the government's conservative policies offer "unspoken support" for violence. This, they say, could even have made the suspects in the Volgograd murder describe their victim as gay to win some sympathy.

"I think they may want to say, ‘Look, we killed a gay person and not a regular, normal person'," Alexeyev said.

Andrei Gapchenko, a senior investigator in Volgograd, said one of the suspects had admitted torturing the victim.

"Four young people were drinking ... And one of them already knew, he'd heard from others, that he (the victim) was of an untraditional sexual orientation," he said by telephone.

"He asked him the question and the victim said yes .. After that, one of them hit him, he fell to the floor, and then they brutally beat him, set fire to the clothes he was wearing, slashed his anal area and then stuck three bottles in there, again beat him and then threw a 20-kg stone onto his head."

He said violent crime was not unusual in Volgograd, but that homophobic crime was.

Many Russian men like to be seen as a "muzhik" - which literally means "peasant" but now connotes a tough, single-minded man with conservative ideals who dominates his household.

Such men have been part of Putin's power base since he was first elected president in 2000. He has sought to rally their support since returning to the presidency a year ago, especially after protests against his return to the post after four years as premier, mainly by middle-class liberals in big cities.

As support for same-sex marriage and other forms of equality increases in the West, Russian gays say they face shrinking freedoms and rising violence.

"Since Putin's return to power it's got worse," said Igor Yasin, one of about 20 protesters who were attacked outside the Russian parliament in January when they tried to demonstrate against the planned bill on gay propaganda.

"Things were always difficult, but they only started getting dangerous about a year ago," said Yasin, a 32-year-old employee at a state-owned television station.

Yasin's face was bloodied after being punched by one of the black-clad men who called themselves Russian Orthodox activists. They pelted protesters with rotten eggs and ketchup, knocked men and women to the ground and called them demons and witches.

"They said they were doing God's will, and then they broke my nose," said Yasin.

Violence against activists has become so bad, he says, and police protection so meager, that four months ago he and nearly 20 other activists started their own martial arts classes at a gym in southern Moscow where they meet three times a week.


Putin says Russia does not discriminate against gays, but opponents say he has fostered prejudice with public remarks that seem to set them apart as second-class citizens.

When Putin was greeted by hundreds of rainbow flag-waving protesters on a trip to the Netherlands in April, he said the law would be no threat to the LGBT community, but suggested it could help reverse a decline in Russia's population, which fell to 141.9 million in 2011 from 148.6 million in 2001.

"It is imperative to protect the rights of sexual minorities, but let's agree that same-sex marriage does not produce children," Putin said.

Last month he said Moscow might seek changes in an agreement regulating adoptions of Russian children by French parents, as a French law allowing same-sex marriage went against "the ethical, legislative and moral norms of Russia".

Lawmakers say those morals are reflected in the proposed law against gay "propaganda", which could ban the promotion of gay events, including gay rights marches, and impose fines of up 500,000 roubles ($16,600) on organizers.

"The spread of gay propaganda among minors violates their rights," said Elena Mizulina, a pro-Putin deputy who chairs the lower house's family issues committee. "Russian society is more conservative, so the passing of this law is justified."

Russian psychologist Igor Kon wrote that in medieval times, Russian attitudes towards gays were more tolerant than those in western Europe, but that changed during the Soviet era, when Josef Stalin made sodomy punishable by up to five years in jail.

Homosexuals were then often persecuted and intimidated, and sometimes denied membership of, or expelled from, the ruling Communist Party when membership was key to promotion at work.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1993, two years after the Soviet Union broke up, but the stigma remains strong, and activists say the community is often blamed for chronic problems.

"The ultra-right radicals decide immigrants are responsible for unemployment, and then they decide that LGBT is guilty for the fall in the birthrate, that morals are in decline, that AIDS is spreading. All those problems can be dumped on the gays; it's convenient," said Yasin.

A survey by independent pollster Levada last year found that nearly 50 percent of Russians believe homosexuals should be given medical or psychological treatment, and 5 percent said they should be "destroyed".

Such attitudes mean life is fraught with danger for gays in Russia, opera singer Slava Kagan-Paley said.

"It's very hard ... I know a lot of young guys who cannot tell the truth to their parents," he said, speaking on a gay-friendly night at a central Moscow club.

"It ends up that they get thrown out of their house, and they end up on the street and end up actually being a prostitute because they have no money to live on."


LGBT Russians fear the propaganda law will bring a broader crackdown.

Gay rights campaigners say the bill that won preliminary parliamentary approval in January contains no details on what is considered propaganda, and fear the possible proximity of children could be used to apply it to any gay rights rally or even displays of affection.

Holding hands or kissing a same-sex partner in public, they say, might be enough to be hit with a $170 fine.

"The fact is that any demonstration of their sexual orientation is considered to be propaganda," said Yevgeny Arkhipovy of the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights.

Some of the local laws against exposing minors to gay "propaganda" are packaged with bans on promoting pedophilia.

"While an adult can choose how to live and whom to involve in your intimate life, it is forbidden to impose on children preferences of a non-traditional nature that contradict (our) traditions," Sergei Zheleznyak, a United Russia lawmaker and vice-speaker of the State Duma, said last month.

In an interview with Interfax news agency on the January 6 Russian Orthodox Christmas eve, Patriarch Kirill, the church's leader, equated homosexuality with drug addiction, prostitution and adultery as the biggest threats facing Russia.

"Society has always suffered blights, but in our time, as in the decline of the Roman Empire and other civilizations, they were considered as socially acceptable. And as a result the institution of the traditional family breaks down," he said.

(Additional reporting by Sonia Elks and Ludmila Danilova, editing by Elizabeth Piper and Will Waterman)

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« Reply #6325 on: May 13, 2013, 06:48 AM »

May 12, 2013

Arrests and Calls for Calm in Turkey


REYHANLI, Turkey — Turkish officials said Sunday that they had arrested nine people accused of carrying out twin bombings in this town near the Syrian border the day before, as the investigation moved at a clip that underscored the intense pressure on the government to contain the fallout from the attacks.

Officials said the detainees were all Turkish citizens and asserted that the group had been backed by the intelligence services of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

Anxieties were high in Turkey’s ethnically and religiously mixed southern border region, where some saw the bombings — which killed 46 and injured more than 100 — as a menacing consequence of the government’s strong support for Syria’s rebels. Officials’ repeated calls for calm reflected fears not only of the conflict’s spreading across the border, but also of the contagion of its sectarian fighting, with massacres and forced relocations compounding the horrors of the war.

Turkey, like Syria’s other neighbors, is increasingly worried that the conflict will inflame border areas, where tensions among various groups are deepening amid the flood of traumatized Syrian refugees.

The reaction to the bombings in Reyhanli was a reminder of how quickly fissures could open. In a predominantly Sunni town that was seen as sympathetic to Syria’s Sunni-led opposition and the plight of those who have been displaced, some residents lashed out at Syrian refugees, tens of thousands of whom have settled in the town over the past two years.

Some youths attacked cars with Syrian license plates, and Syrians spent a second day hidden indoors in fear. Yet it was not difficult to find Turks who said the government’s Syria policy had caused the violence.

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said the country needed to be “extremely calm in the face of provocations that are aimed at dragging us into the bloody quagmire in Syria.”

He added, “Today, we have to be one.”

Analysts said such appeals amounted to recognition of Turkey’s heightened risk of communal strife. “There is always a danger of events unfolding into something bigger,” said Ilter Turan, a professor of political science at Istanbul Bilgi University. “Both in terms of avoiding any possible reactions against Syrian refugees, and to prevent any negative interaction between ethnically and religiously diverse groups, the government used all possible tools to calm people.”

The calls for unity may have had another purpose: to quiet domestic arguments over the government’s peace talks with the P.K.K., the Kurdish separatist group, according to Guven Sak, the director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey. The P.K.K.’s armed conflict claimed tens of thousands of lives over three decades.

The peace talks may also have played a role in the government’s quick blame of Mr. Assad’s government for the bombings.

“Naming the Syrian regime as the usual suspect might have been aimed at clearing the names of the separatist Kurds, when peace talks remain fragile,” Professor Turan said.

The Syrian government on Sunday denied any involvement in the bombings, and said Turkey’s government bore responsibility. “Syria didn’t and will never undertake such acts because our values don’t allow us to do this,” Omran al-Zoubi, the information minister, was quoted as saying in Damascus.

Turkish officials said the bombers were members of a Marxist, pro-Assad organization with links they did not specify to Syrian intelligence. Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, suggested that the group’s “footprints” were on a recent massacre in the Syrian town of Baniyas, though he provided no details.

Muammer Guler, the interior minister, said Turkey’s assertions were backed by “concrete facts,” including the suspects’ own incriminating statements. If the Syrians wanted more evidence, “we will pass on our findings with related documents, together with code names,” he said, apparently referring to some detail of the investigation.

It remained to be seen whether the government’s reaction would be enough to console the people of Reyhanli. On Sunday, officials said they had identified 39 of the victims — 36 Turkish citizens and 3 Syrians.

Ibrahim al-Ibrahim, a Syrian refugee, sat in his apartment a few blocks from the scene of the attacks. After the bombings, youths threw rocks at his windows. On Sunday, three young Turkish men smashed the hood and windows of a white van that belonged to a Syrian neighbor.

Mr. Ibrahim said the bombings had occurred as he received word that his house in Syria had been destroyed. “I have no house there, and no house here,” he said.

Under pine trees at a cemetery at the edge of town, mourners gathered to bury Erkan Calim, a 41-year-old farmer and father who had been rushing to help victims of the first blast when he was killed by the second. Some of the mourners lashed out at Mr. Erdogan, holding him responsible for the bombings.

But a close friend of Mr. Calim, who declined to give his name, said it was pointless to assign blame after violence that had touched Syrians and Turks alike. “The dead are dead,” he said. “No accusation would bring them back.”

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« Reply #6326 on: May 13, 2013, 06:50 AM »

May 12, 2013

Pakistani Party Leader Looks Forward, as Claims of Vote-Rigging Swirl


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif began talks on Sunday to form a new government, as partial election returns suggested that he and his party would have a commanding hold on Parliament. But Pakistani election officials said final results would take days, even as outrage grew over accusations of rampant vote-rigging, particularly in Karachi.

Mr. Sharif’s main opponent, Imran Khan, in his first public comments since Saturday’s election, said his party would investigate reports of irregularities. His supporters staged protests in Karachi outside the Election Commission office and in the upscale Clifton neighborhood, demanding a new election for all of that port city’s parliamentary seats. They also demonstrated into the night in Lahore.

“There was rigging in Lahore,” Mr. Khan said in a video message recorded at the hospital in Lahore where he was recovering after a serious fall last week. “What happened in Karachi was witnessed by everyone.”

Mr. Khan’s anticorruption campaign electrified the news media and large crowds in the weeks before the vote. But as returns trickled in over the weekend, it became increasingly apparent that his party would get only about 30 of the 272 seats in Parliament. And even the news of possible consolation prizes — having his party win control of the regional government of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, and becoming the new opposition leader — was still up in the air, pending further results.

The secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan, said that the final parliamentary count was delayed because of legal requirements for verification, and that the official results would not come before midweek. But he denied claims by some political workers that the delay would make it easier to falsify results.

“The nation should not have any doubt or apprehension regarding the results,” he said during a news conference here in Islamabad, the capital. He emphasized that as of Sunday night, the winners of only 44 of the 272 seats had been officially determined.

Officials in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, said voting there had been marred by extensive violence and intimidation on Saturday, including the forcible takeover of polling stations in some districts. They also cited the late arrival of election materials and widespread reports of fraud.

Local observer groups claimed that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the political party that has traditionally controlled Karachi, often through brute force, frequently clashed with its political rivals in that city. Armed supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and the Pakistan Peoples Party were reported to have taken over polling stations in some Karachi election districts.

In particular, Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party and Jamaat-e-Islami, a political religious party, accused the Muttahida Qaumi Movement of extensive vote-rigging in a wealthy district of Karachi. The Election Commission said it had received complaints about seven parliamentary districts in the city.

Leaders of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Mr. Sharif’s center-right party, also made accusations of fraud in parts of the surrounding Sindh Province. Sindh has long been a stronghold of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the former national governing party whose fortunes greatly shrank in this election. Still, many projections had it managing to keep its hold on the Sindh provincial government.

Meanwhile, analysts projected a commanding victory for Mr. Sharif, a 63-year-old conservative politician who was ousted by the military and sent into exile in 1999, returning in 2007 to build a new political movement.

Most predictions had his party winning more than 120 parliamentary seats, well past the threshold of 100 that analysts said would allow him to form a government mostly on his own terms. On Sunday, he began meeting with senior party leaders about independent lawmakers and factions he could negotiate with to form a coalition government, party officials said.

Even as election officials noted a record turnout for the national vote — around 60 percent — analysts said many questions hung over an election widely celebrated as a triumphant moment for Pakistan’s often-troubled democracy. This would be the first time a full-term elected government would hand power over to a fairly elected new administration.

Militant violence was a constant and terrifying presence throughout the campaign season, particularly in the northwest, where Taliban violence nearly knocked the traditionally dominant party there, the Awami National Party, off the electoral map. On Election Day, at least 38 people were reported killed in violence, including bombings in Karachi and Quetta, the provincial capital of Baluchistan.

The violence continued Sunday. There were news reports that a bombing in Baluchistan had killed at least three people. And at least one person was reported to have died in a clash between rival political groups in Nawabshah, in Sindh Province.

Baluchistan, which has been torn by sectarian violence and by a war between secessionists and the Pakistani military and its allies, was a particularly dark spot on the election map. Analysts said voter turnout in the province had been very low, much of it derailed by the threat of violence. Initial projections showed Baluch nationalist parties in the lead, but it was unclear how either parliamentary or regional government seats could be determined fairly.

“Very few eyes were on Baluchistan,” said Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, the country’s leading English-language daily newspaper. “Nobody knows what really happened there.”

One factor, Mr. Almeida said, is that the province has little sway in national politics, with just 14 parliamentary seats. Additionally, military intelligence and paramilitary forces maintain a tight lid on the province, and the news media have very little ability to report there.

Still, despite sporadic episodes of violence, the results have by and large been accepted by most political parties.

Shahid Ali Yousafzai, the head of the United Nations’ team of election observers in Pakistan, said the turnout of women in areas where their participation has traditionally been low, especially Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, had been notable.

“Even in Malakand division, where almost all political parties, including the secular parties, had banned female voting, women were able to cast their votes,” Mr. Yousafzai said, adding that long lines of female voters were reported on the outskirts of Peshawar, the provincial capital.

The Free and Fair Election Network, a local monitoring group, on Sunday described the balloting as “relatively fair” in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

“The voting day went fairly smoothly by Pakistani standards,” said Mr. Almeida, the Dawn columnist.

Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud contributed reporting from Islamabad, and Zia ur-Rehman from Karachi, Pakistan.
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« Reply #6327 on: May 13, 2013, 06:51 AM »

May 12, 2013

2 Presidential Candidates in Iran Draw Resentment


TEHRAN — A day after two game-changing politicians signed up at the last minute as candidates for Iran’s presidential elections in June, the country’s governing establishment reacted angrily, predicting that they would not be allowed to participate or that they would definitely lose.

Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a protégé of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani signed up at the end of a five-day registration period on Saturday, shocking opponents who had bet on their preferred candidates’ being the only ones running in the June 14 election.

The governing establishment, a loose alliance of conservative Shiite Muslim clerics and Revolutionary Guards commanders who hold sway over the judiciary, security forces, Parliament and state news media, came out in full force on Sunday, attacking the candidates.

“Hashemi knows he is unpopular, a loser and is too old,” Mehdi Taeb, a hard-line cleric affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, was quoted as saying of Mr. Rafsanjani by the semiofficial Fars news agency on Sunday. He added that Mr. Mashaei “only registered because he wants to sabotage the vote, or make sure there is a low turnout and possibly cause riots on the streets.”

Iran’s Guardian Council, a conservative vetting body that will decide by May 23 who will be allowed to run, said it planned to report Mr. Ahmadinejad to the judiciary for what it said was his “illegal” support of a candidate, Mr. Mashaei.

On Saturday, Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is nearing the end of his second and last term as president, joined Mr. Mashaei when he was registering at Iran’s Interior Ministry, holding up the candidate’s arm for the cameras. Iran’s election law forbids presidents to openly support a candidate, but Mr. Ahmadinejad said he had taken a leave from office for the day before joining Mr. Mashaei.

“This act will be reported to the judiciary,” Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, a spokesman for the Guardian Council, told the semiofficial Islamic Students News Agency. “This is a clear violation of the election code.”

The state-run daily newspaper Kayhan, whose editor in chief is appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, accused Mr. Rafsanjani and Mr. Mashaei of secretly planning to start a smear campaign against the Guardian Council in the case that they are not allowed to run.

“Do they not see the council is there for the people?” the newspaper’s main editorial asked of the new candidates on Sunday. “They are locked in their cocoon of illusions and will receive a slap in the face.”

The two late entries took away focus from the establishment’s candidates: Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei; Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator; and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, the capital.

Mr. Velayati, a pediatrician who studied at Johns Hopkins University, was the only candidate to present a plan — his was 26 pages long — to solve problems in the economy and restore relations with the outside world. “The country needs stability,” he told reporters.

Mr. Rafsanjani, who was president from 1989 to 1997, does have some influential support. Former President Mohammad Khatami, who was in power from 1997 to 2005, issued a statement of support for Mr. Rafsanjani, who, in turn, on Sunday made his first public statement as a candidate.

Others had persuaded him to run, Mr. Rafsanjani said. “After months of consulting,” he said in a statement published on his Web site, “I decided to run and gamble my reputation and prestige.”
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« Reply #6328 on: May 13, 2013, 06:53 AM »

May 12, 2013

Bangladesh Plans to Raise Pay for Garment Workers


DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh's government plans to raise the minimum wage for garment workers after the deaths of more than 1,100 people in the collapse of a factory building focused attention on the textile industry's dismal pay and hazardous working conditions.

A new minimum wage board will issue recommendations for pay raises within three months, Textiles Minister Abdul Latif Siddiky said Sunday. The Cabinet will then decide whether to accept those proposals.

The wage board will include representatives of factory owners, workers and the government, he said.

The April 24 building collapse was one of the world's worst industrial disasters and has raised alarm about conditions in Bangladesh's powerful textile industry that supplies retailers globally.

Working conditions in the $20 billion industry are grim, a result of government corruption, desperation for jobs, and industry indifference. Minimum wages for garment workers were last raised by 80 percent to 3,000 takas ($38) a month in 2010 following protests by workers.

Rescue workers said 1,125 bodies had been recovered by late Sunday from the ruins of the fallen Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories employing thousands of workers. Teams were using hydraulic cranes, bulldozers, shovels and iron cutters to uncover bodies more than two weeks after the eight-story building collapsed.

"We are still removing the rubble very carefully as dead bodies are still coming up," said Maj. Moazzem Hossain, a rescue team leader.

Hossain said they are trying to identify badly decomposed bodies by their identity cards. "If we get the ID cards with the bodies then we are lucky," he said.

On Friday, the search teams received a much-needed morale boost when they found a seamstress who survived under the rubble for 17 days on dried food and bottled and rain water.

More than 2,500 survivors were rescued soon after the collapse, but until 19-year-old Reshma Begum was found the crews had gone nearly two weeks without discovering anyone alive.

Doctors said she was improving after treatment for dehydration, insomnia, stress and weakness.

The Rana Plaza owner and eight other people, including garment factory owners, have been detained in the collapse investigation. Authorities say the building owner added floors to the structure illegally and allowed the factories to install heavy equipment that the building was not designed to support.

The Textiles Ministry has also begun a series of factory inspections and has ordered about 22 closed temporarily for violating safety and working standards.

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« Reply #6329 on: May 13, 2013, 06:55 AM »

Arrival of U.S. aircraft carrier infuriates North Korea

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, May 12, 2013 10:20 EDT

North Korea has criticised the arrival of the US aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the South for a joint drill as an “extremely reckless” provocation and a rehearsal for war against the communist state.

A US naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered Nimitz arrived off the South’s southern port of Busan Saturday for the drill to be staged this week, following joint exercises that infuriated North Korea in recent months.

The 97,000-ton Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will participate in joint search-and-rescue operations as well as “sea manoeuvring” around the Korean Peninsula, the South’s defence ministry said.

The North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea that handles cross-border affairs called the arrival of the US fleet “a grave military provocation” that would dramatically ratchet up tension.

“The joint naval drill involving the latest weaponry including the nuclear aircraft carrier is a wanton blackmail against us and demonstrates…that their attempt to invade us has reached an extremely reckless level,” it said.

“The risk of a nuclear war in the peninsula has risen further due to the madcap nuclear war practice by the US and the South’s enemy forces,” the committee said in a statement carried by state-run KCNA Saturday night.

The latest joint naval drill between the two allies is expected to be staged off the South’s eastern coast from Monday to Tuesday, Yonhap news agency reported, citing an unnamed Seoul official.

Military tensions on the Korean peninsula have been high for months, with the North under the young leader Kim Jong-Un issuing a series of apocalyptic threats over what it sees as intensely provocative US-South joint exercises.

The friction has abated somewhat after the annual ground exercises were wrapped up at the end of April, and a US defence official said North Korea had moved two medium-range missiles off their launch pads.

North Korean troops near the disputed Yellow Sea border have been ordered to strike back if “even a single shell drops” in their territorial waters, the North’s army command said in a statement last week.

Any subsequent counterstrike would trigger an escalated military reaction that would see South Korea’s border islands engulfed in a “sea of flames”, it said.

The tense sea border off the west coast saw deadly naval clashes in 1999, 2002 and 2009. The North shelled one of the islands, Yeonpyeong, in November 2010, killing four South Koreans and sparking brief fears of a full-scale conflict.


North Korean defence chief replaced as Kim Jong-un solidifies grip on military

Little-known general Jang Jong-nam takes place of hardliner Kim Kyok-sik, but analysts do not expect softening of warlike stance

Associated Press in Seoul, Monday 13 May 2013 08.26 BST

North Korea has replaced its hardline defence chief with a little-known army general, according to a state media report, in what outside analysts call an attempt to solidify Kim Jong-un's grip on the powerful military.

Jang Jong-nam's appointment is seen as the latest move by Kim aimed at trying to consolidate control since succeeding his late father in 2011. The announcement comes as tensions eased after weeks of warlike threats between North and South Korea, including vows of nuclear strikes from the North.

Pyongyang's rhetorical outbursts against massive US and South Korean war drills and UN sanctions over the North's February nuclear test were seen, in part, as a push to portray Kim at home as a respected military commander on the world stage.

Jang's new role as minister of the People's Armed Forces, however, is not thought to indicate a potential softening of Pyongyang's stance toward Seoul and Washington any time soon, analysts said. Jang replaces Kim Kyok-sik, the former commander of battalions believed responsible for attacks on South Korea in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans. Outsiders do not know much about Jang, but analysts said it was unlikely that Kim Jong-un would name a moderate to the post at a time of tension with the outside world.

Mention of Jang's new role was buried in a state media dispatch listing those who attended an art performance with Kim Jong-un. It is not known exactly when Jang was formally appointed to the ministerial post.

The announcement coincided with the beginning of US and South Korean naval exercises involving a nuclear-powered US aircraft carrier on Monday. North Korea has criticised the carrier's inclusion in the drills, which it claims are preparations for an invasion of the North. Also, when tensions peaked in March, Washington took the unusual step of announcing that nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers had participated in the earlier, larger-scale joint drills between the allies. North Korea regularly cites the powerful US nuclear arsenal and Washington's deployment of those assets in the region as justification for its own pursuit of nuclear weapons.

One of the most notable changes from Kim Jong-un was the replacement of the powerful military chief Ri Yong Ho, who was dismissed because of what Pyongyang called an unspecified illness. Outside observers speculated that Ri, who held a different post from the one Jang has been appointed to, was purged as Kim tried to put his stamp on his government. Ri was also replaced by a little-known general.

State media previously identified Jang as head of the army's First Corps and said he pledged allegiance to Kim Jong-un and threatened South Korea in a speech last December. Jang was quoted as saying that his corps would annihilate its enemies and "turn each ravine into their death pitfall when the hour of decisive battle comes".

Kim Jong-un appears to be naming someone from a new generation to bolster his rule of the 1.2-million-member military, said Chang Yong Seok at the Institute for Peace and Unification Studies at Seoul National University.

Jang is believed to be in his 50s, while his predecessor is in his early 70s, according to Seoul's unification ministry, which is responsible for dealings with the North. Kim Kyok-sik was appointed to the ministerial job last year, but Chang portrayed him as belonging more to the era of Kim Jong-il.

Because outsiders know so little about Jang, it remains to be seen whether his appointment will lead to Pyongyang refraining from attacking South Korea, Chang said.

Another analyst, Cheong Seong-chang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea, said it was unlikely that Jang was a moderate. Appointing a moderate as defence chief after weeks of high tension with the outside world could trigger whispers at home that the North was surrendering to Seoul and Washington, he said.

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