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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 465002 times)
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« Reply #6480 on: May 21, 2013, 06:33 AM »

Pig Putin's Russia ..........

Russian independent pollster targeted in 'foreign agent' crackdown

Levada Centre says it may have to close after being told to register under new law on foreign-funded political NGOs

Miriam Elder in Moscow
guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 May 2013 17.16 BST   

Russia's only independent pollster has warned it may have to shut its doors after a government demand that it register as a foreign agent.

The Levada Centre, which carries out sociological studies and regularly rates Russia's top politicians, is the latest target for prosecutors seeking to enforce a new law requiring political NGOs that receive foreign funding to stamp themselves with the Soviet-era tag.

Levada's director, Lev Gudkov, said that by accusing the group of carrying out political work "the prosecutor is basically putting our organisation on the verge of possible sanctions on the one hand, and undermining our credibility and reputation on the other".

The group's public surveys are essential to journalists working in the country. In the past seven days it has published polls measuring Russians' attitudes towards homosexuality, the church and the tsarist system, as well as a survey documenting growing internet use in the country.

Unlike pollsters linked to the state, Levada regularly shows that Russians' approval of Vladimir Putin is not as high as the Kremlin portrays. According to its most recent poll, 26% of Russians approve of the president. Russia's two other pollsters, VTsIOM and the Public Opinion Foundation, put the number at 52%.

Gudkov said foreign grants amounted to between 1.5% and 3% of Levada's funding.

Critics of the law say it is designed to crack down on civil society and increase suspicion of foreigners. The law requires groups to stamp "foreign agent" on all publications and websites, and to undergo extra budgetary checks.

Several NGOs that receive foreign funding have refused to register as foreign agents, arguing that the term would scare away potential partners.

Hundreds of NGOs around the country have been raided in the past few months, after a speech by Putin in February demanding that the law be enforced.

In late April an election monitoring group, Golos, was fined 300,000 roubles (£6,300) for failing to register as a foreign agent, becoming the first organisation to be fined under the law.


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« Reply #6481 on: May 21, 2013, 06:35 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
05/20/2013 05:00 PM

Nazi Comparison: Berlin Calls Orbán Comment a 'Derailment'

Hungary's controversial prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has angered Berlin by comparing its policies to those of the Nazis. On Monday, Foreign Minister Westerwelle rejected the comparison, saying it was "regrettable."

A statement by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has sparked diplomatic tension with Germany, with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Monday calling the quip a "derailment."

The tiff originated with a remark by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday, in which she said Berlin would "do anything to get Hungary onto the right path -- but not by sending the cavalry."

Her statement came after Peer Steinbrück, her Social Democratic challenger for the Chancellery in the upcoming national election, said that he could see Hungary being excluded from the European Union, given recent worrisome constitutional changes that violate EU law. It was also reportedly a tongue-in-cheek reference to a well-known statement by Steinbrück in which he encouraged tougher measures against Switzerland's tax haven policies, comparing them to Indians running from the "cavalry."

The irony, however, was lost on Orbán, who on Friday compared Merkel's Hungary policy to Adolf Hitler's 1944 occupation of his country, though Hungary was technically a close ally of Nazi Germany. "The Germans have already sent cavalry to Hungary -- they came in the form of tanks," he said in a radio interview. "Our request is that they don't send any. It didn't work out."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is not amused. "That is a regrettable derailment that we clearly reject," he said while visiting Serbia on Monday.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he was astonished by the Hungarian leader's comments. "I am certain that he understood full well that the chancellor was sending an ironic warning in Hungary's direction -- but his populist leanings won't let him refrain from attacking even his fellow party friend Merkel," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE, referring to the fact that Orbán's conservative Fidesz party is a sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. "The fact that Orbán reacted this way shows just how vulnerable he is."

Budapest has been heavily criticized by European leaders, who say that Hungary's new constitution, ushered in by Orbán and his party, threaten democracy, limiting the independence of the judiciary and media. A number of infringement proceedings have been launched against the country within the EU.


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« Reply #6482 on: May 21, 2013, 06:38 AM »

May 20, 2013

Boruch Spiegel, Fighter in Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Dies at 93

By JOSEPH BERGER
IHT

Boruch Spiegel, one of the last surviving fighters of the Warsaw ghetto uprising of 1943, in which a vastly outgunned band of 750 young Jews held off German soldiers for more than a month with crude arms and Molotov cocktails, died on May 9 in Montreal. He was 93.

His death was confirmed by his son, Julius, a retired parks commissioner of Brooklyn. Mr. Spiegel lived in Montreal.

The Warsaw ghetto uprising has been regarded as the signal episode of resistance to the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum calls it the first armed urban rebellion in German-occupied Europe.

As a young man, Mr. Spiegel was active in the leftist Jewish Labor Bund, and when it became clear that the Germans were not just deporting Jews but systematically killing them in death camps like Treblinka, Bundists joined with other left-wing groups to form the Jewish Combat Organization, known by its Polish acronym ZOB.

In January 1943, when German soldiers entered the ghetto for another deportation — 300,000 Jews had already been sent to Treblinka or otherwise murdered in the summer of 1942 — ZOB fighters fought back for three days and killed or wounded several dozen Germans, seized weapons and forced the stunned Germans to retreat.

“We didn’t have enough weapons, we didn’t have enough bullets,” Mr. Spiegel once told an interviewer. “It was like fighting a well-equipped army with firecrackers.”

In the early morning of April 19, the eve of Passover, a German force, equipped with tanks and artillery, tried again, surrounding the ghetto walls. Mr. Spiegel was on guard duty and, according to his son-in-law, Eugene Orenstein, a retired professor of Jewish history at McGill University, gave the signal to launch the uprising. The scattered ZOB fighters, joined by a right-wing Zionist counterpart, peppered the Germans from attics and underground bunkers, sending the Germans into retreat once more. Changing tactics, the Germans began using flamethrowers to burn down the ghetto house by house and smoke out those in hiding. On May 8, ZOB’s headquarters, at 18 Mila Street, was destroyed. The group’s commander, Mordechai Anielewicz, is believed to have taken his own life, but scattered resistance continued for several more weeks in what was now rubble.

By then, Mr. Spiegel and 60 or so other fighters had spirited their way out of the ghetto through sewers. One was Chaike Belchatowska, whom he would marry. They joined up with Polish partisans in a forest.

“He was very modest, a reluctant hero,” his son Julius said. “He was given an opportunity and he took it. I don’t think he was braver or more resourceful than anyone else.”

Mr. Spiegel was born on Oct. 4, 1919, and reared in Warsaw, the son of an Orthodox woman and a leather worker who ran a small cottage industry that specialized in briefcases and spats. After the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, Mr. Spiegel and his brother Beryl made their way to Bialystok, in eastern Poland, which was newly occupied by the Soviets. When Beryl went back to Warsaw to get his parents and two sisters, he became involved in the Bundist underground. Mr. Spiegel joined him. While Jews all around them were taken for deportation, the family held out as long as it did because the Spiegel apartment had a steel door and the German police did not take the trouble to break it down.

Nevertheless, Mr. Spiegel’s father died of malnutrition and his mother, two sisters and Beryl perished in a manner that Mr. Spiegel never learned. Mr. Spiegel nearly died in a slave labor camp and was taken to the staging area for Treblinka, but managed to escape and return to the Warsaw ghetto.

Even after the ghetto uprising was crushed, he fought with partisans and went back to Warsaw for a revolt by Poles in August-September 1944. Warsaw was liberated on Jan. 17, 1945.

Ms. Belchatowska wanted to remain in Poland, but Mr. Orenstein said that Mr. Spiegel had “felt he could not live on the soil of the graves of his dear ones, and he didn’t believe there was a future for Jewish life in Poland.”

The couple went to Sweden, where they married and gave birth to Julius. Mrs. Spiegel died in 2002.

In addition to Julius, Mr. Spiegel is survived by a daughter, Mindy Spiegel, and four grandchildren.

In 1948, the Spiegels went to Montreal, where Mr. Spiegel took up his father’s leather craft, first as a worker making handbags, then establishing his own factory and finally serving as the foreman of a purse factory. In 2003, on the uprising’s 60th anniversary, Mr. Spiegel and the five other living ZOB fighters were honored by the Polish government. Dr. Orenstein said there were only two fighters left, Pnina Greenspan and Simcha Rotem, both in Israel.


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« Reply #6483 on: May 21, 2013, 06:41 AM »


G8 summit sparks biggest police operation in Northern Ireland's history

Eight thousand officers on duty as Fermanagh meeting prompts memories of 7/7 London attacks during Gleneagles G8 meeting

Haroon Siddique   
The Guardian, Monday 20 May 2013 17.06 BST   

Dissident republicans are likely to launch a terrorist attack during next month's G8 leaders' summit in Northern Ireland, police have warned.

With world leaders including Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin in attendance, the summit, at the Lough Erne golf resort in Fermanagh on 17 and 18 June, has prompted the biggest police operation in Northern Ireland's history, involving 8,000 officers, 4,400 of them local and 3,600 from England and Wales.

Alistair Finlay, the assistant chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), said: "During the G8 is a great opportunity for those groups … threatening harm to communities and threatening harm to my officers. People should not be surprised if there are incidents."

With the enlarged police presence surrounding the summit, Finlay said the threat was more likely to manifest itself elsewhere, in areas such as north and west Belfast, Newry and Derry. "What we anticipate is those incidents wouldn't be at, near or affecting any element of the G8," he said.

He said the threat was not necessarily directly linked to the summit but a consequence of the normal "rhythm of life" in the province. Groups such as the New IRA and Óglaigh na hÉireann continue to carry out attacks in Northern Ireland, and have more sophisticated weapons than dissidents have had for some years.

Finlay said he was "very aware" that terrorists carried out the 7 July attacks on London during the last G8 summit held in the UK, which was in Gleneagles, in Scotland, in 2005. Despite the threat, he described the Fermanagh summit as a "great opportunity" for the province to promote itself.

As well as preventing terrorist attacks, the police operation is charged with controlling protests. The PSNI has armoured cars and a water cannon at its disposal. Reports have suggested that Metropolitan police officers are being trained in the use of water cannon, but Finlay said they were being trained only in how to react if they are on the streets when it is deployed; they would not be operating the cannon themselves.

He said the police were committed to "facilitative, community-based policing", and would resort to robust tactics only in the event of any threat.

Protests are planned in Belfast before the summit, on the weekend of 15 and 16 June, and a demonstration that organisers hope will attract 20,000 people is scheduled for the first day of the summit in Eniskillen, close to where the world leaders are meeting.

Finlay said there was no indication that significant numbers of people intent on causing violence during the protests were travelling to the summit, and he was expecting fewer people than at Gleneagles.

He put this down partly to the remoteness of the location and also to the fact that demonstrations were being held in Dublin and London.

Groups planning to demonstrate include anti-capitalists, anti-fracking groups and unionists protesting against the decision to limit the number of days the union flag flies over Belfast City Hall.

With the G8 summit only 15 miles from the border with the Republic of Ireland, the PSNI has been closely co-operating with the gardai. The republic's justice minister, Alan Shatter, is bringing in legislation before the summit allowing gardai to order telecoms companies to shut off signals in order to stop terrorists using mobile phones to detonate bombs.


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« Reply #6484 on: May 21, 2013, 06:45 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
05/21/2013 12:35 PM

Urban Class Warfare: Are Cities Built for the Rich?

Today's class struggles are increasingly taking place in cities, says Marxist and social theorist David Harvey. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, he discusses how urbanization will play a key role in social conflicts to come.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why should a Marxist be concerned about major cities instead of the working class these days?

Harvey : Traditional Marxists admittedly see the avant-garde of the revolution in the industrial working class. However, since this is disappearing in the wake of Western deindustrialization, people are starting to grasp that urban conflicts will probably be decisive.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Over the course of the debt crisis, wages have decreased and social benefits have been slashed in Greece. Meanwhile, general strikes haven't generated enough pressure to reverse the changes. Can this be viewed as evidence to support your theory that the traditional proletariat can no longer paralyze a state?

Harvey : Yes. Today's working class is part of a wider configuration of classes in which the struggle centers on the city itself. I replace the traditional concept of class struggle with the struggle of all those who produce and reproduce urban life. Unions must look at the urban everyday existence -- a key for the social conflicts to come. In the United States, for example, this has prompted the AFL-CIO federation of labor organizations to start collaborating with domestic workers and migrants.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: One of the basic theses of your book "Rebel Cities" is that urban development solves the problem of surplus capital. One builds streets and develops property on credit -- and thereby attempts to escape recession.

Harvey : A report from the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco recently put it that way, saying that the United States has historically always surmounted recessions by building houses and filling them with things. Urbanization can solve crises -- but, more than anything, it is a way to get out of crises.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are there current examples of this strategy?

Harvey : Where are economies currently growing the fastest? In China and Turkey. What do we see in Istanbul? Cranes, everywhere. And when the crisis broke out in 2008, China lost 30 million jobs within six months owing to drops in US imports of consumer goods. But then the Chinese government created 27 million new jobs. How? The Chinese used their enormous trade surpluses to mount a gigantic urban-development and infrastructure program.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn't such a short-notice crisis strategy aided by having an authoritarian regime like China's?

Harvey : Just imagine Obama ordering Goldman Sachs to give money to developers -- good luck! But when a Chinese bank gets an order from the Central Committee of the Communist Party, it lends as much money as is desired. The Chinese government forced the banks to furnish development projects with large amounts of money.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is this kind of urbanization necessarily a bad thing?

Harvey : Urbanization is a channel through which surplus capital flows to build new cities for the upper class. It is a powerful process that newly defines what cities are about, as well as who can live there and who can't. And it determines the quality of life in cities according to the stipulations of capital rather than those of people.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: At the same time, in Istanbul, the state housing association Toki has built several large housing estates for the poor. Does this contradict your thesis?

Harvey: No, because the residents of the so-called Geçekondus, the informal settlements lying at least on the city's outskirts, were summarily transplanted into developing areas 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the downtown area -- a massive expulsion.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The subprime crisis in the United States arose precisely out of the attempt to incorporate the lower classes into home-ownership. Reckless financial products were created so that even the poorest could obtain loans.

Harvey : Give credit! -- This battle cry pushed through the neoliberal agenda. But that's nothing new. During the McCarthy Era after World War II, the ruling classes already recognized that home ownership plays an important role in preventing social unrest. On the one hand, left-wing activities were combated as un-American. On the other, building was promoted with financial and mortgage reforms. In the 1940s, the proportion of owner-occupied homes in the United States was still under 40 percent. In the 1960s, it was already at 65 percent. And during the last real estate boom in the 2000s, it was 70 percent. In the discussions about mortgage reforms at the end of the 1930s, a key sentence was: "Indebted homeowners don't go on strike."

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In their book "Commonwealth," philosophers Michael Hardt and Tony Negri claim that the city is a factory for the production of common goods. Do you agree?

Harvey : A lot revolves around the definition of "urban commons." The fact that central squares are public is significant in terms of the right to the city, as the Occupy movements in New York and London demonstrated when they took over privatized parks. In this context, I like the historical model of the Paris Commune: People who lived on the outskirts returned to the city center in order to reclaim the city they had been excluded from.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Should Occupy movements push for a right to the city? House by house, park by park?

Harvey : No, for that you need political power. But these days, the left unfortunately shrinks away from large-scale projects requiring state policies -- voluntarily yielding power, in my view.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You are a Marxist and social theorist. In your latest book, you refer to the "art of rent," that is, when capital makes extra profits from local discrepancies. What exactly do you mean?

Harvey : Simply put, a monopolist can demand a premium for a sought-after commodity. These days, cities try demanding premiums by advertising themselves as culturally unique. After the Guggenheim Museum was built in Bilbao in 1997, cities all over the world followed its example and began developing landmark projects. The goal is to be able to say: "This city is unique, and that's why you need to pay a special price to be here."

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But if every city had a Guggenheim Museum or a philharmonic like the one currently being built in Hamburg, wouldn't there be a sort of inflationary effect when it comes to such flagship projects that would lead them to fail?

Harvey : The bubble has already burst in Spain, and many of the huge projects remain only half-finished. Incidentally, major events like the Olympic Games, the soccer World Cup and music festivals serve the same purpose. Cities try to secure themselves a prime position on the market -- like a rare wine of an exceptionally good vintage.

Interview conducted by Christoph Twickel


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« Reply #6485 on: May 21, 2013, 06:47 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
05/21/2013 01:27 PM

Commission Reduction: EU Leaders to Sidestep Lisbon Treaty Rule

By Christoph Schult

The Lisbon Treaty clearly intends for the size of the European Commission to be reduced below its present size of 27 members. But EU leaders have reached unanimous agreement to sidestep the provision -- and even plan to add a seat to the table for the Croatians.

From the outside, it looks as though the European Union is hopelessly divided. Northern member states demand budgetary discipline while those in the south bemoan drastic austerity measures. Furthermore, the Franco-German alliance is brittle, to the point that a planned policy paper on the future of the European common currency area -- to be written jointly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande -- has yet to materialize.

Astoundingly, however, the 27 EU member-states can still reach consensus. At the EU summit meeting this Wednesday, leaders are set to rubber stamp an agreement that has been reached on the quiet in recent weeks -- that of ignoring the Lisbon Treaty provision that calls for a reduction to the size of the European Commission.

Currently, there are 27 commissioners on the European Union's executive body, one for each country in the club. With Croatia set to become the 28th member on July 1, the European Council on Wednesday plans to allow Zagreb to send a commissioner to Brussels for the rest of Commission President José Manuel Barroso's term.

Yet what looks to be little more than a routine resolution is actually the public face of a much more sweeping ruling set for passage at the summit. The formulation "one commissioner per country" is to be maintained beyond the year 2014, as SPIEGEL ONLINE learned from EU diplomats. It will be valid not only for the incumbent Commission, but also for the next Commission to be installed following European elections in May 2014.

No Opposition

It is a move which flies in the face of the intent of the Lisbon Treaty, which went into effect on Dec. 1, 2009. Article 17, paragraph 5 of the treaty states: "As from 1 November 2014, the Commission shall consist of a number of members, including its President and the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, corresponding to two thirds of the number of Member States." European leaders, however, want to make use of the clause in the treaty which allows the European Council to alter that number.

The decision must be a unanimous one. And thus far, neither among EU ambassadors nor in bilateral talks in the run-up to the summit has a single country indicated its opposition to the decision. Not even Britain, which is normally quick to take the bloc to task for profligacy and has threatened to withdraw from the EU if Brussels' power isn't limited, is planning to vote against the resolution.

When the Lisbon Treaty was being negotiated and ratified, the reduction of the size of the Commission was frequently highlighted as evidence that the EU sought to streamline its inflated bureaucracy. Once Ireland voted "no" to the treaty in 2008, however, Dublin was given a commitment that each member state would continue to be allowed to send a commissioner to Brussels. Many countries were concerned about the fact that a reduced Commission size would mean that some countries would have no presence at all on the EU executive body for an entire legislative session.

Critics of the Ireland commitment, however, note that even though the treaty allows EU leaders the ability to side-step the provision, the intent is clear: that of reducing the size of the Commission.

Room for Consolidation

Furthermore, at a time when Brussels is requiring many of its member states to commit to painful austerity measures, the message is a problematic one. Each commissioner earns some €20,000 per month; together with expenses, each member costs an estimated €1.5 million per year.

While the amount is surely not enough to make much of a difference in the EU budget, there is clearly plenty of room for consolidation. Why, for example, does Brussels need a commissioner for the environment as well as one for climate policy? The culture portfolio is also questionable, given that the EU has been granted no authority over cultural issues by its member states. There is likewise plenty of overlap between the offices of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Regional Policy Commissioner and Enlargement Commissioner.

Prior to the Irish referendum, the size of the body was originally to have been reduced in time for the current iteration of the Commission, led by Barroso. Allowing the size of the executive body to remain the same was seen as a way to alleviate the concerns of smaller member-states who feared they would lose influence under the reform. And it worked: The Irish approved the Treaty of Lisbon in the second referendum, held in October of 2009.

But it was always seen as a temporary measure. And if EU leaders were now to maintain the status quo despite the treaty's verbiage to the contrary, it would leave a bitter aftertaste. Dublin currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Council.


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« Reply #6486 on: May 21, 2013, 06:49 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
05/20/2013 05:14 PM

Cowboys on the Rhine: US Firms Flout German Labor Practices

By Janko Tietz

Last week workers walked out in protest at Amazon's two largest distribution centers in Germany. The online retail giant is one of several US companies to butt heads with employees in the country over corporate practices that chafe against German labor laws.

Steffen Jacob recently had an odd encounter with management. The 49-year-old has been working for online retailer Amazon since 2008. Jacob is a warehouse stower at the company's logistics center in the eastern German city of Leipzig -- and he represents the employees' interests.

It was these interests that were supposed to be on the agenda of a meeting called by workers to urge Amazon to commit to a wage agreement. But company management didn't bring along any wage experts or accountants from the controlling department. Instead, they showed up with a lawyer who said point-blank that there would be no wage deal. The German employees of the US company refuse to accept that. Last Tuesday, workers walked out in protest at Amazon's two largest distribution centers in Germany: at Leipzig and in the central German town of Bad Hersfeld. It was the first strike in the online retail giant's history.

It's not as if employees are being paid peanuts. During their first year of employment, they earn over nine euros ($11.55) per hour, and employee representative Jacob receives €10.56, plus bonuses and shares after two years with the company. But there's a catch: Amazon can cut these wages at any time. Although the company currently gears its pay scale to Germany's sector-wide wage deal for the logistics industry, it is not bound to maintain wages at that level and has refused to join a collective bargaining agreement for the country's retail sector. In other words, employees have no reliable guarantee for their income.

US Firms vs. German Labor Laws

Amazon is playing according to its own rules, and thus finds itself in the best of company with numerous other US corporations that have difficulty accepting Germany's so-called "social partnership," which is the traditional relationship that exists between employees and employers.

US technology giant Apple tried for months to prevent works councils -- the powerful bodies that represent employees inside a company -- from being established at the firm's own sales outlets. And even after the works councils were set up, its members dared to make only anonymous statements in the public sphere.

US retail chain Wal-Mart failed in Germany in part because it misjudged German labor laws. Wal-Mart banned its employees from having romantic relationships, or even flirting with each other. They were also urged to wear a permanent smile, and the company didn't understand why this was perceived as an infringement on their personal rights.

US conglomerate Honeywell put plans in place to close a plant in the eastern German city of Fürstenwalde -- without consulting the works council or giving any thought to severance schemes, both of which are required by the Works Constitution Act, the legislation that governs the system of workplace labor relations in Germany.

Fashion chain Hollister, which is owned by Abercrombie & Fitch, used cameras to monitor its employees -- and paid no attention to the issue of whether this was compatible with German data protection guidelines. After each shift, employees are frisked and their bags are checked as if they were potential shoplifters.

All of these companies have one thing in common: They have their problems with Germany's particular brand of capitalism, known as the Soziale Marktwirtschaft, or social market economy. They view employee representatives with suspicion, and they see the worker participation enshrined in the Works Constitution Act as a hurdle that has to be sidestepped. Furthermore, they get around Germany's dismissal protection laws by giving short-term contracts to as many workers as possible.

"In contrast to Germany's old and well-established industry, many of these companies are relatively new to the market," says Christoph Dörrenbächer, a professor for international business organization at the Berlin School of Economics and Law.

"It took Siemens 150 years before they conquered the international market, whereas Amazon and Apple did it in 15 years. They are not about to allow the side issue of worker participation to diminish their competitive edge," says the researcher.

Corporate Cowboys

Most US companies approach this challenge according to a strict regimen: Just as some supply the entire world with an identical product, they also intend to apply the same personnel policy worldwide. "Personnel is still the most local function in a multinational company. This kindles the desire for standardization and diminishes their determination to intensively deal with national specifics, such as in the area of worker participation," says Dörrenbächer. "Some ride around like cowboys and promulgate an anything-goes attitude that the Germans have a hard time dealing with," he contends.

American companies operate some 1,400 German subsidiaries, and roughly 3,000 US companies have invested capital in Germany. Approximately 10 percent of all companies in Germany with foreign participation come from the US. The hamburger chains McDonald's and Burger King alone employ nearly 90,000 people in Germany. Amazon, with 9,000 employees, reported sales of €6.7 billion last year in Germany.

Fred Irwin sees a key problem in that "many new US companies that are active in Germany don't have a German personnel department." Irwin knows all about economic relations between Germany and the US. As the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany and vice chairman of the German subsidiary of Citigroup, he has access to German politicians and numerous companies and CEOs on both sides of the Atlantic.

But the US companies Irwin deals with are primarily traditional ones like IBM and General Electric. "When it comes to new companies like Apple and Amazon," he admits, "I don't know a single German representative." That's hardly surprising. Apple Germany, for example, is managed from London. Hollister is run out of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

'The Company Belongs to Us'

With its subsidiary Opel, General Motors is a prime example of how companies that have been active in Germany for decades still have trouble with the rules of the game according to Rhine capitalism. While everyone was scrambling to save the German car brand in the wake of the financial crisis, the Americans tried for months to play the various production plants against each other -- along with their influential works councils.

GM executives in Detroit were flabbergasted at how the head of the Opel works council, Klaus Franz, acted as if he were running the company and desperately fought to keep Opel from being drawn into the US parent company's financial turmoil.

"The Americans say: the company belongs to us," said Franz after he left Opel. "In the US, trade unions have a protective function. They are there to negotiate wages and working conditions," says Franz. "Here in Germany, though, they play a key role in the area of products and their quality, along with each company's growth potential, and thus employment," he explains. "We are highly professional members of the supervisory boards and we get involved. American (corporate) culture has a problem with that," argues Franz.

US company executives also view the German model with suspicion because the US economy is strongly oriented toward shareholder value. Budgets are often only made on a quarterly basis, and rarely for more than a year at a time. By contrast, German companies tend to pursue long-term plans.

"US managers don't see the advantages of worker participation according to the German model," says the head of the general works council at Harman Becker, Klaus Rupp, referring primarily to the aspect of social satisfaction.

Although it is based in Karlsbad, Germany, Harman Becker is a division of a US automotive supplier. Until recently, the US company still employed some 2,800 people in Germany. Five years ago, the heads of the company ordered strict cost-cutting measures and pushed them through with an iron hand, without consulting the works council. Nearly 1,000 jobs have already been shed. Employee representatives made alternative proposals, but the German managers were not receptive. After all, their job was to execute the orders from America. "We can demonstrate until we turn blue in the face," says Rupp.

It will probably be a similar story at Amazon.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen


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« Reply #6487 on: May 21, 2013, 06:51 AM »


Italy: ‘Anti-Grillo law becomes an issue’

Corriere della Sera,
21 May 2013

The Democratic Party (PD) is preparing a law that would limit public funding to political parties and exclude unconventional organisations like Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement. Grillo reacted angrily to the proposal and called for a boycott of the next election if it is signed into law.

Grillo also called on PD dissidents to support a motion, to be voted Tuesday, that would bar People of Freedom (PDL) leader Silvio Berlusconi from running as a candidate on the grounds that he owns a TV network. If the motion were to pass, it would likely result in the collapse of the PD-PDL coalition government.

According to Corriere della Sera, the coalition government of Enrico Letta could prove even shorter-lived than predicted, and new elections could be called as soon as parties reach a deal on the new electoral law.
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« Reply #6488 on: May 21, 2013, 06:52 AM »


Germany: ‘CDU demands ban on GDR symbols’

Berliner Morgenpost,
21 May 2013

The leader of the Christian Democratic and Christian Social Union parliamentary group wants to outlaw symbols of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the former communist East Germany, reports Berliner Morgenpost.

Volker Kauder wants to avoid further “provocations”, following a May 9 parade of former soldiers of the National People’s Army (NVA), in which armed men, wearing Stasi and NVA uniforms and carrying flags of the GDR gathered around the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin's Treptow Park.

Kauder’s proposal is supported by liberals in the ruling coalition. The deputy president of the liberal parliamentary group, Martin Lindner, also wants to introduce a law to outlaw symbols of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany.
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« Reply #6489 on: May 21, 2013, 06:54 AM »


Romania: ‘Becali finally pays for the greatest ever swindle of the state’

România libera,
21 May 2013

Gigi Becali, an MP for the ruling National Liberal Party and owner of the football club Steaua Bucarest, has been definitively found guilty by the High Court of Appeals and Justice, which, on May 20, sentenced him to three years in prison for his part in a corrupt business deal that took place in 1997.

Becali was charged with unlawful profiteering in the deal, which involved the exchange of 30 hectares of land with the Romanian Ministry of Defence.

For România liberă —

    Becali is finally having to pay for the greatest ever swindle of the state. […] In the case, which was led by prosecutors from the National Anticorruption Directorate, two other public figures (the minister of defence of the period, and a former chief of general staff) were also sentenced to two years in prison.

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« Reply #6490 on: May 21, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Number of Afghan women jailed for fleeing abuse soars

More women imprisoned for 'moral crimes' as fears grow that hard-won rights are at risk as western troops head home

Emma Graham-Harrison   
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 21 May 2013 10.01 BST   

The number of Afghan women jailed for fleeing forced and abusive marriages, and other "moral crimes", has soared since 2011, according to Human Rights Watch.

About 600 women and girls are in prison for offences including running away from their husband or family, even though fleeing abuse is not a crime under Afghan law. Eighteen months ago, 400 women were being held for such "crimes", the rights group said, quoting figures from the ministry of interior, which runs the country's jails.

The report was released days after Afghanistan's parliament failed to pass a landmark law protecting women from violence, because religious conservatives rejected key provisions, including a minimum marriage age of 16 for girls.

There are growing concerns that hard-won rights for women are under threat as western troops head home, taking with them much of the scrutiny and some of the funds that have helped support progress since the fall of the Taliban over a decade ago.

More than half of Afghanistan's female prisoners are in jail for "moral crimes", and their numbers are rising faster than the overall numbers of women in detention, despite a shaky legal basis for many of their sentences.

Prisoners interviewed by HRW said the women had fled their homes in a bid to escape abuse, including underage marriage, beatings, stabbings, burnings and forced prostitution. Often they were subjected to unscientific virginity tests after their arrest, which the report said amounted to a cruel and degrading form of sexual assault.

Running away is not illegal under the Afghan criminal code, but the country's supreme court has ordered the prosecution of women who flee their families. Senior government officials have confirmed it is not a crime but those views have not translated into policy, HRW said, calling on the president to free all women jailed for leaving home.

Rape victims are also imprisoned for "forced adultery" because sex outside marriage is a crime in Afghanistan, and judges and prosecutors ignor questions of consent.

In all but a handful of the cases there was no investigation of the abuse that prompted the women to flee, while prosecution or punishment were even rarer.

"Twelve years after Taliban rule, women are still imprisoned for being victims of forced marriage, domestic violence, and rape," said Brad Adams, Asia director at HRW. "The Afghan government needs to get tough on abusers of women, and stop blaming women who are crime victims."

One bright spot is a modest increase in the number of shelters for abused women since 2011, but there still are none in conservative southern Afghanistan, and all of the existing safe houses are dependent on foreign funds.

The Afghan government is ambivalent at best about the shelters, which the justice minister denounced as little more than brothels, and has shown no sign it is willing to pay for them.

"Afghanistan's donors have a crucial role to play in supporting shelters that are literally life-saving for many women," Adams said. "They should not only help ensure the survival of the shelters that exist, but support expansion of the shelter system including in southern Afghanistan."

A landmark law for the elimination of violence against women, enacted by presidential decree in 2009 but never ratified by parliament, was put to a vote last week by women's rights advocates who hoped to strengthen it with a popular debate ahead of a change of leadership next year.

The law bans more than 20 forms of violence against women, including child marriage, forced marriage, buying and selling women for marriage, giving away women to settle disputes and forced self-immolation.

But after bitter debates over issues such as enforcing a minimum marriage age, which religious conservatives said was un-Islamic, the legislation was shelved indefinitely. The United Nations called on the government to ensure that this "critical" law was implemented.

*************

Afghan president Hamid Karzai to seek military aid as he arrives in India

Karzai is expected to ask India for help with 'military needs and shortages' during three-day visit to subcontinent

Jason Burke in Delhi
guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 May 2013 16.50 BST   

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has arrived in Delhi on a three-day visit during which he is expected to ask India to boost its assistance to Afghan armed forces.

The request would heighten tensions in the region, and raise concerns among western observers of a fierce battle for influence in Afghanistan after the bulk of US forces are withdrawn next year.

Key Karzai aides said last weekend the Afghan leader would be asking India to help "with military needs and shortages".

India and Afghanistan signed a strategic agreement two years ago and a number of Afghan army officers are being trained at Indian institutions. Officials in Kabul have repeatedly stressed that they are short of planes, heavy weapons, armoured vehicles and a range of other military supplies.

However, any transfers of Indian arms to Kabul would be seen as deeply provocative by neighbouring Pakistan, where senior military decision-makers have long been concerned about Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Indian officials told the Guardian they saw the statements from Kabul as "messaging", rather than a serious proposal.

"There are mechanisms to discuss those kind of issues. We are already providing equipment and assistance within our modest capabilities," one senior official said.

He also stressed that Delhi was also aware of "regional sensitivities".

Over the coming months, Indian policymakers will have to balance a desire to bolster influence in Kabul with hopes to improve relations with Islamabad. The election of Nawaz Sharif for a third time as Pakistan's prime minister 10 days ago has been broadly welcomed in Delhi.

Sharif, a rightwing businessman, has said he wants to see better ties with his country's giant eastern neighbour.

Afghan officials have explicitly linked the appeal for military assistance to a series of recent clashes between Pakistani and Afghan border guards and even suggested that they might ask India for artillery. Both Kabul and Islamabad accuse each other of harbouring militants who launch cross-border raids.

The Afghan ambassador in Delhi last week said that Karzai would seek further co-operation to tackle "terrorist groups".

"The Afghans are sending a very clear signal to India saying they are looking for more commitment. They are looking at the situation post-2014 and telling the Indians: show us that you are serious," said Raja C Mohan, a respected Delhi-based analyst.

Karzai's visit to Delhi, ostensibly to collect an honorary degree, follows that of Li Keqiang, the Chinese prime minister, in a hectic few days for diplomacy in the Indian capital.

Though Li made India the first destination of his maiden overseas trip, talks with Indian officials were overshadowed by a recent standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at a remote disputed point on their long and often ill-defined border. The confrontation in Ladakh, in the western Himalayas, was resolved only two weeks ago. Though both Li and his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, emphasised their desire to focus on trade between the two emerging economic powers, tensions were evident.

Indian officials told the Guardian that the border dispute had prompted a review of the relationship with Beijing.

"It was best to indicate that upfront as an area of concern," one said.

Li will travel on Tuesday to Islamabad, underlining another dynamic in the region with the potential to cause instability. Though the depth of the relationship is sometimes exaggerated, Pakistan and China have built closer links in recent years. India is also concerned about Beijing's relationship with Sri Lanka and its presence in Bangladesh.



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« Reply #6491 on: May 21, 2013, 07:00 AM »

May 20, 2013

Attacks in Iraqi Cities Raise Fears of Renewed Sectarian Conflict

By DURAID ADNAN
IHT

BAGHDAD — A wave of car bombings and shootings hit cities in Iraq late Sunday and on Monday, killing at least 76 people and wounding more than 250, medical and security officials said. Some news agency reports put the overall toll even higher, at 86 or more dead.

The attacks sharpened concerns that sectarian violence was pushing the country toward a conflagration similar to the widespread fighting of 2006 and 2007, before the withdrawal of American forces.

In Baghdad, at least seven car bombs went off on Monday in Shiite neighborhoods, killing at least 25 people and wounding at least 150; some news reports cited as many as 10 car bombs and 48 deaths. The string of attacks followed bomb blasts in Sunni areas on Friday that killed at least 66 people.

Also on Monday, two car bombs exploded at a restaurant and a bus stop in the southern city of Basra, killing 15 people, officials said. In Balad, north of Baghdad, a car bomb explosion targeting a bus of Iranian pilgrims killed 12 Iranians and 2 Iraqis, a police official said. The pilgrims had been returning to the capital after visiting a Shiite shrine in Samarra.

Late on Monday in Hilla, south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber stormed a Shiite mosque called Al Wardiya during the last prayer of the day, killing at least 10 people and wounding 50 others. Minutes later, a homemade bomb went off close to another Shiite mosque nearby, killing 2 people and wounding 30 others, a police official said.

In restive Anbar Province, which has been the scene of predominantly Sunni protests against the mostly Shiite government, 10 police officers were killed when unidentified gunmen armed with automatic weapons and antitank rockets struck a police station late on Sunday.

A tribal leader in the province said there would be further attacks on security forces because the government had not responded to the demands of demonstrators.

“We will not accept the army in Anbar; this is out of the question,” said Muhammed Khamis Abu Risha, a fugitive former member of the Sunni Awakening, fighters who were paid to switch sides and fight alongside the United States against Al Qaeda before the American pullback in late 2011. “The protest is not peaceful anymore, and we are ready for them. The coming days will not pass peacefully. We don’t want democracy any more.”

The bodies of five police officers who had been kidnapped in Anbar last week were found on Monday.

The fighting has trapped civilians. “Whenever we have hope and start to build our life again, whenever we feel healing from our wounds, a shock hits us and we feel that we lose again,” said Haider al-Musawi, 33, a shop owner who witnessed one of the bombings, at a market in Baghdad. “Iraq is never going to get better as long as we have those politicians that are not man enough to say that we have failed.”

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said on Monday that some Parliament members were to blame for the instability, alleging that they were exploiting sectarian passions for their own political interests.

He also accused Sunni leaders of stoking the unrest.

“The sectarian speeches at the demonstration sites are giving the insurgents a reason to kill,” he said at a news conference.

Yasir Ghazi contributed reporting from Baghdad.


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« Reply #6492 on: May 21, 2013, 07:01 AM »

May 20, 2013

India and China Vow to Cooperate on Border

By GARDINER HARRIS
IHT

NEW DELHI — The leaders of India and China papered over their recent border spat on Monday with a friendly joint statement and an array of promises for economic and military cooperation, but they resolved none of their most vexing problems.

The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, emphasized in his remarks that cordial relations between the countries depended on “peace and tranquillity on our borders,” and said he and his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, had “agreed that this must continue to be preserved.”

Mr. Li, who arrived in India on Sunday, offered some reassurances about the border difficulties, but he made no apology for Chinese troops’ recent incursion into a district of Kashmir claimed by India.

“Both sides believe we need to improve various border-related mechanisms that we have put into place and make them more efficient, and we need to appropriately manage and resolve our differences,” Mr. Li said.

Mr. Singh had met Mr. Li’s predecessor nearly a dozen times, and the highly scripted declarations of friendship the two leaders made on Monday could have emerged from almost any of those prior get-togethers. In 2010, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao visited Delhi with a huge delegation of business leaders eager to make deals, and Mr. Li’s delegation is similarly heavy on commercial interests.

The Chinese tend to want to discuss business, while the Indians tend to want to focus on borders. So far, the Chinese have prevailed: trade between the two countries has soared over the last 10 years, mostly to China’s benefit, while much of their immense border remains contested.

The Indians had hoped for an explanation for the contingent of 50 Chinese troops discovered on April 15 camped out in the mountainous Ladakh section of Kashmir, in an area India claims. India moved some of its own troops to within about 300 yards, and the two groups stared at each other for weeks as Indian military and diplomatic officials furiously tried to get the Chinese to pull up stakes. They left on May 5.

But there was no sign on Monday that Mr. Li had given a satisfying explanation. Instead, the two leaders agreed that special envoys would continue talking about the incursion.

The two men signed eight memorandums of understanding on lesser issues, including an agreement to jointly conduct the annual Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, which requires Indian citizens to enter China.

But the meeting seemed unlikely to halt India’s growing concerns about its increasingly powerful eastern neighbor. India’s present government is fairly introspective, has little appetite for grand international gestures and has begun to limit its expansive military spending. But Indian military leaders, both retired and active, have begun to insist that the nation pay less attention to Pakistan, its historic and increasingly irrelevant rival, and more to China.

China has grown increasingly assertive in the South China Sea and has been building ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan. China’s ports, referred to as “a string of pearls,” have alarmed India and unnerved the United States.

In a press briefing, India’s ambassador to China, S. Jaishankar, described the visit as “a significant visit — it’s a substantive visit, it’s a productive visit.”

“There are issues, but the view was that our shared interests are more than our differences,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

But Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor of Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, said that India had so far gotten little of value out of the visit, including no reassurance about the border.

“My assessment is that China has gained more from these meetings than India,” he said. “The Chinese side conceded nothing.”

One measure of the continuing unease between the world’s two most populous nations is that their leaders will almost immediately visit the other’s rival. Mr. Li is scheduled to fly to Pakistan on Wednesday, and Mr. Singh will go to Tokyo next week. Mr. Li could announce a civil nuclear deal with Pakistan when he visits Islamabad, an arrangement that India is unlikely to welcome.

The police in New Delhi closed roads in much of the central part of the city for security reasons on Monday, and they closed several metro stations to prevent Tibetan activists from gathering to protest Chinese rule in Tibet. Scattered protests were held in various parts of the city anyway.

Mr. Singh and Mr. Li also discussed India’s growing alarm over China’s plans to build a series of dams on the Brahmaputra River, which flows into India’s northeast provinces.

India has repeatedly asked China to provide more information about its plans and the effects they will have on India, but China has so far resisted. In a statement, Mr. Li said China was willing to “strengthen communication” with India over its dam developments.

The two leaders also discussed their common concerns about Afghanistan, efforts to increase tourism between the two nations and an effort by India to increase Chinese-language instruction.

“I think the point was that if India and China are both growing, surely our relationship should be growing at least as fast,” Mr. Jaishankar said.

Hari Kumar and Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting from New Delhi, and Chris Buckley from Hong Kong.
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« Reply #6493 on: May 21, 2013, 07:07 AM »


Thein Sein becomes first Burmese president to visit US since 1966

Former general's trip sparks human rights protests as President Obama uses controversial name Myanmar for country

Ewen MacAskill in New York
guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 May 2013 23.31 BST

Former general Thein Sein became the first Burmese president to visit the White House in almost 50 years on Monday – a visit human rights groups protested was premature, citing alleged ethnic cleansing and civil rights abuses.

Barack Obama, talking to the press alongside Thein Sein, acknowledged the human rights abuses but also praised him for the progress he had made towards democracy in the last two years.

In a symbolic moment, Obama became the first US president to talk about Myanmar rather than Burma. The US has long resisted the change, in part because of pressure from opposition groups and human rights organisations who said Myanmar was a name used by the military junta and was not inclusive of all the country's ethnic groupings, unlike Burma.

Earlier, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, anticipating the use of Myanmar, said it was not a change in policy by the US, which continued to view the name of the country as Burma, and there were no plans to officially adopt Myanmar. But there were times when its use as a courtesy was appropriate in certain settings, Carney said.

The visit underlines the extent to which Burma's status has changed. Two years ago it was still viewed as an international pariah, run by a military junta. Since then, there has been a partial transfer to civilian rule, with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi being allowed to enter parliament and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.

Obama, anxious to encourage reform and trade, visited Burma in November. It has been one of his few foreign policy successes, courting the country and shifting it away from China's sphere of influence.

Thein Sein was until September last year on a US blacklist that would have prevented entry to the country. It is the first visit by a leader from Burma since Ne Win in 1966. Ne Win led the coup that established military rule in 1962.

Obama praised Thein Sein for making a start towards establishing a democracy. "We've seen credible elections and a legislature that is continuing to make strides in more inclusivity and greater representation of all the various ethnic groups in Myanmar," he said, adding that Thein Sein would be the first to admit it was a long journey and "there is still much work to be done".

Obama said that Sein shared with him that he planned to release more political prisoners.

Thein Sein told journalists: "For democracy to flourish, we will have to undertake more economic and political reforms in the years ahead … and will need the assistance and understanding of the international community, including the US."
Muslim protesters demonstrating against Burma's President Thein Sein's Visit to the US Muslim protesters outside the White Hous on 20 May.A report on Monday detailed attacks against Muslims in Burma in late March which it said resulted in the deaths of 20 children and four teachers. Photograph: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Obama did not duck the human rights complaints. He said he had discussed with the Burmese president "our deep concerns about the communal violence directed at Muslim communities inside Myanmar. The displacement of people, the violence towards them needs to stop."

Brianna Oliver, a spokeswoman for the US Campaign for Burma, which organised protests to coincide with Thein Sein's visit, said: "We believe that President Obama has been giving way too many concessions to the Burmese government. We are seeing sanctions being lifted and we are seriously concerned about the ethnic cleansing and human rights."

She said the use of Myanmar was significant because Burma had been completely respectful to the rest of the union whereas Myanmar, the name used by the regime, had not been all-inclusive. "It is very unfortunate for President Obama to concede this," Oliver said.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released a report on Monday detailing attacks against Muslims that took place in central Myanmar in late March which it said resulted in the deaths of at least 20 children and four teachers.

The report said state authorities stood by watching the events unfold and were complicit in these crimes.

"President Obama must use this occasion to persuade Burma's leader that the only path from tyranny to democracy is through the promotion and respect of human rights," said Richard Sollom, the report's lead author and PHR's director of emergencies. "One concrete step toward this goal is for President Thein Sein to support an independent investigation into these killings, bring perpetrators to justice, and speak out forcefully against ongoing anti-Muslim violence."


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« Reply #6494 on: May 21, 2013, 07:11 AM »

May 20, 2013

Japan’s New Optimism Has Name: Abenomics

By MARTIN FACKLER
IHT

TOKYO — After years of grinding malaise, Japan suddenly has some of its bling back.

A humbled Sony — once a titan of Japan Inc. — recently sprang back into the black for the first year in five years, courtesy of a plunging yen. Honda, another corporate icon, triumphantly announced a return to Formula One racing, rejoining an exclusive club of high-performance carmakers after having slinked away when cash ran low.

Even some of Japan’s wary consumers are beginning to indulge. At the plush Takashimaya department store in Tokyo’s financial district, a clerk reported that $20,000 watches had become hot sellers. And a cut-rate sushi chain, which flourished in difficult times, just started a line of upscale restaurants for customers newly able to afford “petite extravagances.”

The reason for the exuberance? Early — and some say deceptive — signs that new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic shock therapy, called Abenomics, might just be working.

His plan, one of the world’s most audacious experiments in economic policy in recent memory, combines a flood of cheap cash (doubling the money supply in two years), traditional fiscal stimulus and deregulation of Japan’s notoriously ingrown corporate culture. The hope is that this will yank Japan from a debilitating deflationary spiral of lower prices and diminished expectations, stirring what Keynes called the “animal spirits” of investors and consumers.

And so it has. The stock market has soared more than 60 percent over the past year, and the yen has lost more than a quarter of its value, lifting corporate earnings in a country that is dependent on exports.

Last week, Abenomics got an early report card. Japan’s $5 trillion economy grew at a robust annualized pace of 3.5 percent in the first quarter, and — most important for Mr. Abe’s notion that consumer confidence is key — household consumption accounted for the lion’s share of that growth. Although there were some signs of weakness, most notably a drop in business investment, the numbers were a promising sign that the good news was not confined to financial markets.

“Young people even in their 40s don’t remember Japan’s good times,” said Hiroshi Sato, a 64-year-old executive treating himself to one of Takashimaya’s fancy watches. Choosing one from a black velvet tray, he explained his purchase as a bet on Mr. Abe’s success after two decades of his predecessors’ failures.

“I’m hopeful,” he said, “that this one is finally the real recovery.”

So far, that optimism appears to be largely limited to the nation’s well-to-do, including its tiny stock-holding class, and the weakening of the yen is creating tensions with its Asian neighbors. But if the optimism spreads, Japan will have taken a crucial first step toward recovery, persuading its famously cautious savers to spend their money to help revive the economy.

“This is Japan’s best chance in 20 years to escape from its deflationary mind-set,” said Hajime Takata, chief economist at Mizuho Research Institute in Tokyo.

That Japan would try such a seemingly radical policy path after years of political paralysis reflects a newfound feeling of urgency. With China’s economy and territorial ambitions growing, the Japanese have begun to see the potential dangers of resigning themselves to what many have called a “genteel decline.”

The fear has given Mr. Abe, who took office in December, some room to maneuver, even as he promises to take on entrenched interests through deregulation and to raise inflation. A pickup in the inflation rate would cause pain for Japan’s legion of politically active retirees, but nudge people to spend before their money loses value — reversing the deflationary psychology of delaying purchases in anticipation of ever-lower prices.

It has also thrust him into an unusual role for a Japanese prime minister, a generally colorless bunch who make decisions behind closed doors. Mr. Abe, 58, has become his country’s cheerleader in chief, proclaiming to audiences that “Japan is back” and even sharing personal details most Japanese politicians eschew. Referring to his own humiliating departure from his first term as prime minister, brought on by a stress-related illness, Mr. Abe tells people that they, too, can recover.

“It is my job to awaken Japan from the spell of prolonged deflation and lost confidence,” he declared in a recent speech to business leaders in Tokyo.

Despite the signs of success for Abenomics, skeptics abound.

Many economists say it will be impossible to judge Mr. Abe’s performance until he shoots the other two economic “arrows” in his quiver, particularly the politically divisive structural changes they say are necessary to shake up Japan’s sclerotic business interests and encourage entrepreneurship and competition. They also warn that unless the new wealth is more widely spread — through rising wages, for example — the current revival could fizzle like earlier ones or, worse, plunge Japan into the painful stagflation of runaway prices without growth.

“Without a revival of the real economy, this is all just voodoo economics,” said Yukio Noguchi, a professor of finance at Tokyo’s Waseda University.

Many Japanese, in fact, complain that their wages continue to fall even as prices have started rising.

“The only people benefiting from this boom are foreign money managers and the rich,” said Yuichi Magata, a taxi driver who waited for a fare on a recent weekend night in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza bar district. More people are indulging in after-work dinner and drinking, but he groused that they still refused to splurge on a cab home as they had a decade ago, during a similarly buoyant but ultimately short-lived rally.

Still, Mr. Abe has enviable approval ratings as high as 70 percent. And after years when Japan seemed only to be a hard-luck story, the foreign financial media have begun to gush again, with one declaring that Japan had its “mojo” back.

Some business leaders have even picked up Mr. Abe’s hopeful, “we’re all in this together” tone. In a scene reminiscent of Japan’s bubble-economy years in the 1980s, Honda positioned three Formula One racing cars in front of its headquarters in downtown Tokyo before the announcement that the company was rejoining the sport.

“We hope our re-entry in F-1 helps Japan become vibrant again,” said Honda’s president, Takanobu Ito.

Koshin Yamada, a 31-year-old hairstylist, is also hopeful. Strolling down Ginza’s boutique-lined main drag with a kimono-clad woman on each arm, Mr. Yamada said he made so much money in the stock market that he could buy a new sport utility vehicle and treat his friends to a performance at the nearby Kabuki theater.

“Stock prices suddenly started going up for the past few months thanks to Abenomics,” Mr. Yamada said. “I hope they keep going up.”

In other signs of optimism among the well-heeled, the JTB travel agency has reported surging numbers of reservations for its $10,000 business-class tours to London. And sales of condominiums in Tokyo are up by nearly 50 percent from a year earlier, according to the Real Estate Economic Institute, with units priced over $1 million proving popular.

“With the price hikes coming, consumers feel it’s time to buy,” said Tadashi Matsuda, the institute’s chief researcher.

At the Takashimaya department store, the signs of renewed confidence are palpable. Kaori Nirei, 52, out shopping with her mother and 23-year-old daughter, spent $4,000 on dresses, shoes and jewelry.

“The bill was twice as much as what I’d plan to spend, but I don’t mind,” Ms. Nirei said. “I can’t believe all the people shopping. And not just shopping, but buying.”

Even some who are not doing as well acknowledge the changes Abenomics has brought. Minoru Kimura, who sat alone in a corner of an electronics store in Ginza last week drinking canned coffee, said he regretted missing out on the current rally.

“I wish I had bought stocks,” said Mr. Kimura, 61, who retired last year. “My friends who did look so happy, going abroad and all.”

Makiko Inoue and Hisako Ueno contributed reporting.


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