US pushes Europe to amend arms embargo on Syrian rebels
John Kerry seeks support for British-led move as means of pressuring Bashar al-Assad to enter into peace negotiations
Ian Black, Middle East editor
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 May 2013 22.31 BST
The United States is lobbying European governments to back a British-led call to amend the EU arms embargo on Syria to put pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to enter into talks with the opposition.
John Kerry, the US secretary of state, has been urging the EU to reach consensus on a change that would allow weapons to be delivered to the rebels – though without any decision to do so at this stage.
Diplomatic sources said on Wednesday that Britain now has the support of France, Italy and Spain, while Germany is neutral. But Austria, Finland, Sweden and the Czech Republic are still opposed. Ambassadors of all 27 EU members have been called into the state department in Washington to be told of the latest US position ahead of a crucial foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels next Monday.
Speaking in Jordan on Wednesday, Kerry pledged publicly that the US and its EU allies would step up support for Syrian opposition forces to help them "fight for the freedom of their country" if Assad does not engage in talks with the rebels in good faith. Efforts are under way, with Russian backing, to convene a peace conference in Geneva some time in June.
In Britain, however, plans to amend the EU embargo are being complicated by disagreements between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats and a row in Whitehall about the risks of supplying weapons to rebels fighting Assad's regime.
William Hague, the foreign secretary, who is with Kerry in Amman to discuss Syria, made clear the UK wants to alter the embargo to put pressure on Assad, but without yet deciding to send any weapons. Options include an amendment to allow weapons to be supplied to the opposition Syrian National Coalition or removal of the word "non-lethal" from the text. Another possibility is a short rollover of the embargo, which expires on 1 June, to see if the Geneva talks have any prospect of success – or deadlock. If there is no agreement the ban will lapse. That leaves open the possibility of unilateral decisions to supply arms, though in the UK that could clearly trigger a coalition crisis.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, faces strong differences inside his own party. "There is a fallacy in the government position," Menzies Campbell, the senior Lib Dem foreign affairs expert, told the Guardian. "It is said that the purpose of giving more sophisticated weapons to the rebels is to send a message to Assad but his regime is so heavily supported by the Russians that if there was any imbalance Moscow would be bound to redress it."
Douglas Alexander, Labour's shadow foreign secretary, said that David Cameron had allowed speculation to build about the government's willingness to veto the EU embargo. "But how would the government prevent British-supplied weapons falling into the wrong hands?" he asked. "How does supplying weapons help to secure a lasting peace?"
The rebels and their supporters say the embargo must be lifted to help the anti-Assad camp resist overwhemingly superior Syrian government forces, which are equipped with tanks, aircraft and missiles and are supplied by Russia and Iran.
Labour says that regardless of the status of the embargo, any weapons deliveries would breach other EU and UN agreements that are binding on the UK.
Whitehall sources say the national security council, which is chaired by the prime minister, has "grave concerns" about the risk that weapons could fall into "the wrong hands", amid concern about the growing strength and prominence of jihadi-type groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which is linked to al-Qaida.
Alistair Burt, the foreign office minister for the Middle East, told MPs on Tuesday night: "There are no guarantees, but over time we have established a series of links with moderate groups who would have no vested interest in allowing equipment that might be used against them to fall into the wrong hands." Hague said on Monday that the UK could supply arms "only in carefully controlled circumstances, and with very clear commitments from the opposition side". Some arrangements would "necessarily be confidential."
Fighters with the Free Syrian Army, the mainstream rebel group, are being vetted in Jordan, where UK special forces and MI6 officers are believed to be involved. The CIA has reportedly been involved in training and coordinating arms deliveries from Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
Information about the vetting process is shrouded in secrecy, but Hague said in a written parliamentary answer last week: "We are in close contact with the leadership of the Syrian National Coalition and Supreme Military Command Council in order to identify training beneficiaries that meet our criteria for the Law of Armed Conflict training. To ensure that the recipients of the training are legitimate members of the opposition all beneficiaries are carefully screened before they are invited to attend the training."
The fragmentation of rebel groups, the lack of a centralised command structure, the kidnapping of UN peacekeepers and human rights abuses are all sources of concern. The recent incident in which a rebel commander in Homs was filmed eating the heart or lung of a dead government soldier caused widespread revulsion.
The Syrian National Coalition released a video yesterday entitled "Fighter not a Killer" — a YouTube and TV advert about the norms of international humanitarian law and human rights law. "In light of the recent events that have occurred within the Free Syrian Army, we felt that it is imperative to outline and educate what is acceptable and what is not," said a spokesman, Khaled Saleh.
Oxfam also issued a warning against lifting the embargo: "Sending arms to the Syrian opposition won't create a level playing field," it said in a statement. "Instead, it risks further fuelling an arms free-for-all where the victims are the civilians of Syria. Our experience from other conflict zones tells us that this crisis will only drag on for far longer if more and more arms are poured into the country."An estimated 80,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising began in March 2011. Millions have fled their homes inside Syria or become refugees abroad.
Syrian opposition calls upon rebel fighters to save embattled Qusair
Syrian National Coalition urges disparate groups of fighters to head to city under assault from Assad and Hezbollah forces
Associated Press in Beriut
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 22 May 2013 18.45 BST
Syria's main opposition alliance has urged fighters from around the country to reinforce a rebel-held city under attack by government troops and Hezbollah militants.
The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) sought to bolster on Wednesday embattled rebel fighters in Qusair, who for a fourth day in a row came under fierce assault from forces loyal to the Assad regime. The city, which is near the border with Lebanon, lies at the heart of a government offensive to secure a strip of land running from the capital, Damascus, to the Mediterranean coast.
The Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah has been fighting alongside Syrian regime forces in the city and surrounding areas in Homs province for weeks.
Forces from outside Syria aim to destroy Qusair and rebels should join the fight to rescue the city, George Sabra, acting head of the SNC, said. He also urged Lebanese authorities to respect Syria's sovereignty and prevent foreign gunmen from crossing the border to fight in the civil war.
The SNC has no control over the assorted groups of rebels fighting in Syria, and it was unclear what impact, if any, Sabra's appeal would have.
But an amateur video released by the Aleppo Media Centre showed what it said were dozens of members of al-Tawhid Brigade from the northern city heading to Qusair to help. The rebels were driving pickup trucks, cars and trucks, some of them mounted with anti-aircraft guns.
Opposition fighters in Qusair were holding out on Wednesday, but appeared to be under increasing strain as government tanks, artillery and warplanes pounded the city.
An official from the Homs governor's office said about 80% of Qusair was in government hands. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, added that troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad had discovered tunnels that linked areas of the city, and that the fighting was now concentrated in the north-west Qusair where the "terrorists" were still entrenched. His comments could not be independently verified because Damascus bans independent media access to much of Syria.
Rami Abdul-Rahman, who heads the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group, said Assad forces and Hezbollah units were bombarding Qusair with rockets on Wednesday. A group of rebels trying to reach the city from the nearby town of Ind Shamseen were ambushed by Syrian troops, killing at least two, he said.
A video released by activists on Tuesday showed destruction in several areas in the city as well as heavy damage to the minaret of its grand mosque. The videos appeared genuine and corresponded with Associated Press's reporting of the events depicted.
Hezbollah's role in the fighting has increased up tensions in Lebanon, which has been on edge of conflict since the Syrian war began in 2011. Lebanon and Syria share a complex web of political and sectarian ties and rivalries.
In an hour-long standoff on Wednesday, dozens of supporters of hardline Sunni cleric Ahmad al-Assir blocked the road leading to a cemetery in the southern city of Sidon to prevent the burial of a Hezbollah fighter who died recently in Qusair.
There was fighting in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli between supporters and opponents of Assad as well on Wednesday. Lebanese security officials said at least 10 people, including two soldiers, have been killed and more than 100 wounded since Sunday in Tripoli.
May 22, 2013
3 in Europe Now Oppose Hezbollah
By NICHOLAS KULISH
BERLIN — Three of Europe’s most powerful countries — Britain, Germany and France — have thrown their weight behind a push for the European Union to designate the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, a move that could have far-reaching consequences for the group’s fund-raising activities on the Continent.
On Wednesday, Germany signaled an about-face in its policy toward the group, with a statement saying Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle supported listing “at least the military wing” of the organization as a terrorist group. The announcement came just a day after Britain’s Foreign Office said it would pursue doing the same, promising to “work closely with our European partners on this issue to reach a robust, collective E.U. position.”
France had been undecided, but on Wednesday night Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said it would join Britain and Germany in seeking to have the “military wing” of Hezbollah put on the European Union terrorist list, according to Agence France-Presse.
Mr. Fabius was speaking in Amman, Jordan, after a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People, a group designed to aid the rebellion against Mr. Assad.
If approved, such a move could choke off sources of funds from Hezbollah’s members and sympathizers throughout Europe, at a time when the group’s image as a liberation movement has already suffered because Hezbollah fighters are battling in Syria on behalf of the government there.
The United States and Israel have long urged their European allies to list the organization either in whole or in part as a terrorist group. But pressure has grown substantially since a bombing in July in Bulgaria killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver. Bulgarian officials have said Hezbollah was behind the attack, which the group denies.
Law enforcement can already pursue Hezbollah for the sorts of criminal activities associated with the group, including smuggling and counterfeiting, but even a partial blacklisting would bring added scrutiny. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said Hezbollah had 950 members and supporters in the country in 2011, the latest figure available.
Still, many experts question the strategy of simply taking aim at Hezbollah’s military wing, arguing that it is impossible to separate the part of the organization that engages in politics and social services from the group’s large armed militia. Moreover, if only the so-called military wing is blacklisted, the group might still be able raise money in Europe under the banner of politics.
“I don’t know if that makes any sense or you really can say there’s a political wing and a terrorist wing,” said Sylke Tempel, editor in chief of Internationale Politik, the journal published by the German Council on Foreign Relations. “They belong together like my left leg and my right leg.”
Britain expects the European Union’s secretive working group on terrorist designations — known as CP931 — to take up the matter on June 4 and European foreign ministers to consider the proposal and make a decision later in the month. In addition to the Bulgaria bombing, the British government cited the conviction of a Hezbollah operative in Cyprus for planning attacks against Israelis vacationing there as grounds for the change in policy.
While no one was killed in Cyprus, experts said during the trial there that a conviction in a court of law would very likely carry more weight in the European Union’s bureaucratic decision-making process than accusations that the group was behind the deadly bombing in Bulgaria, no matter how well-founded the intelligence.
The shift in stance by Germany, the most populous country in the European Union and its largest economy, signals a significant change in momentum. “The German position is based on an increasingly clearer picture of the facts and on the progress achieved by Cypriot authorities in analyzing terrorist activities,” the statement said. “Minister Westerwelle hopes that the necessary consultations within the E.U. can be concluded rapidly.”
While German backing is critical, such a move would require unanimity among the 27 nations of the European Union, which could be difficult to achieve.
In the past, France and some other countries, like Sweden, have opposed putting Hezbollah on the terrorist blacklist, fearing it could destabilize the Lebanese government. The Palestinian group Hamas is on the list, and a number of European countries now believe that listing Hamas was a mistake because of the important political role it plays in Gaza and in the Palestinian political world. European officials are banned from talking openly to Hamas officials, for example.
Mr. Fabius explained the changed French position by emphasizing Syria, not Bulgaria. “Given the decisions taken by Hezbollah and the fact that it has fought very hard against the Syrian population, I confirm that France will propose to inscribe the military wing of Hezbollah on the list of terrorist organizations” of the European Union, he said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Having Paris support Britain and Germany will add considerable weight to their efforts.
In recent days, Hezbollah fighters have joined the Syrian military in attacking the city of Qusayr, a strategic point long held by antigovernment forces.
Neither the British nor the Germans mentioned the situation in Syria, but it clearly has affected attitudes toward Hezbollah. “Obviously they’re all sitting in Amman getting worried about Hezbollah,” said Ms. Tempel, referring to the foreign ministers gathered in the capital of Jordan.
There was no official reaction from Jerusalem, but one Israeli official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he had not been authorized to address the matter, called it “a half-baked move.” The official objected to the notion that only a “militant wing,” and not all of Hezbollah, would be deemed terrorist, saying it was akin to “trying to get in the pool and not get wet.”
“This is a distinction that we believe is absolutely artificial,” he said. “Hezbollah itself does not make any distinction between the political wing and the military wing, so why should anybody else? They’re not all carrying around bombs, but the whole organization is centered around terror — it’s one big military wing.”
Steven Erlanger contributed reporting from Paris, Andrew Higgins from Brussels, and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem.
May 22, 2013
Israel Finding Itself Drawn Into Syria’s Turmoil
By JODI RUDOREN
JERUSALEM — For more than two years, Israeli leaders have insisted they had no intention of intervening in the civil war raging in neighboring Syria, but they vowed to stop sophisticated weapons from being transferred to Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia group, and to respond to intentional fire into their territory.
Now, having followed through with a pair of airstrikes on weapons shipments this month and, on Tuesday, the destruction of a Syrian Army position, Israelis are asking what their options are, as if they feel it has become impossible to avoid deeper involvement.
Already, the language has grown more heated on both sides, with Syrian officials declaring they are prepared for a major confrontation with Israel — and Israel’s military chief warning of dire consequences.
“Clearly, a policy that functions successfully for more than two years for Israel, that policy is not working because Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia have all upped the ante,” said Itamar Rabinovich, Israel’s former chief negotiator with Syria, mentioning that Russia continues to send advanced weaponry despite American and Israeli protests. “They created new rules of the game that Israel needs to figure out. It’s a policy in formation; the answers are not definitive.”
Several senior government officials, as well as half a dozen experts on Syria and the Israeli military, said on Wednesday that there was no new policy in Jerusalem, but there was a growing awareness that continuation of the current policy was likely to yield different results.
The next time Israel strikes a weapons convoy, they say, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria is much more likely to retaliate, given the recent statements from Damascus. That could lead to further Israeli reaction, and a spiraling escalation.
“I think we’re being very measured and very cautious in a very volatile situation,” one Israeli official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Another, speaking under similar restrictions, said, “Up until now there is no change,” hinting that there could be one any day — or any minute.
Israel and Syria remain in a technical state of war, but have maintained a wary calm along the 43-mile cease-fire line between the two countries since it was established in 1973. Tuesday was the first time Syria acknowledged it had intentionally attacked an Israeli target, a military vehicle. Officials said the jeep had crossed into its territory near the Golan Heights, something Israel vehemently denied.
Analysts on Wednesday dismissed the possibility of Israel’s establishing a new buffer zone on the Syrian side of the line, and not just because doing so would be seen as a major incursion into Syrian territory.
Two rivers that are close to the line in the southern Golan Heights create geographical challenges, they said, and in other areas there are several key Syrian Army positions.
“A buffer zone doesn’t work there,” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “If you would try to create a buffer zone, it immediately gets you into proximity and friction with main Syrian military forces and camps.”
Another idea being discussed here is Israel’s establishing a sort of proxy force inside Syria, by arming or otherwise supporting residents of villages close to the cease-fire line, perhaps led by the Druse, a minority sect in Syria that also has some 20,000 members living in Israeli-controlled territory.
Several Israelis who follow Syria closely said Israeli security forces had already been quietly working with villagers who support neither the government nor the rebels, supplying moderate humanitarian aid and maintaining intense intelligence activity.
But they said any notion of arming such villagers was far off if not far-fetched, noting that the main Druse leadership in Syria has so far stayed steadfastly out of the conflict.
“Much, much premature,” Mr. Rabinovich, who is now vice chairman of the Institute for National Security Studies, said of a proxy force. “This is what you do if the state collapses and you have to deal with anarchy on the border. We’re not there yet.”
But while those ideas have been discounted, there is little consensus about what Israel might do next. Most here agree that the landscape has shifted, if only because of the newly heated threats from all sides. “The Syrians are tying their own hands with their own tongues,” Mr. Yaari said.
For Mr. Assad, engagement with Israel could distract attention from his massacre of his own people and win him support at home and across the Arab world. On the other hand, Mr. Assad would be risking severe retaliation by Israel that could devastate his military, possibly shifting the balance of power in his fight against the rebels.
For Israel, deeper involvement in the Syrian conflict could lead to an unwanted result: hastening the fall of the Assad government, leaving areas close to the cease-fire line in the hands of radical jihadi groups.
It could also have dire diplomatic consequences for Israel’s complicated relationship with Russia. And many here believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to conserve his military resources and public support for the continuing possibility of an attack on the Iranian nuclear program.
“Whenever we tried in the past to influence the internal problems of a neighboring country, the results were very poor,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser, citing Israel’s gambit in South Lebanon in 1982, which led to a two-decade occupation and the creation of Hezbollah. “Sometimes there is a tension between two things. First is the situation that might affect your important interest, and second is your inability to do something in order to change it. Sometimes the only thing you can do is to do nothing.”
May 22, 2013
Argentina: Increases of Cash Handouts to Poor
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Argentina’s president has announced increases of as much as 35 percent in cash handouts to the poor, students, pregnant women and retirees. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said the programs also will reach nearly 700,000 more children, expanding the social safety net and encouraging consumer spending this election year. She said the total cost of the subsidies would grow $7.8 billion a year.
Small town vigilantes refuse to disarm in tense Mexican state of Michoacan
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 7:18 EDT
Farmers wearing bulletproof vests and toting assault rifles ride in pick-up trucks emblazoned with the word “self-defense” to protect this rural Mexican town from a drug cartel.
The government deployed thousands of troops to the western state of Michoacan this week, but in some towns like Coalcoman, population 10,000, vigilantes are wary of putting down their weapons until they feel safe again.
“We won’t drop our guard until we see results,” Antonio Rodriguez, a 37-year-old avocado grower and member of the community force, told AFP.
Authorities detained four members of a self-defense group in another town called Buenavista on Wednesday, angering about 200 residents, some wielding sticks, who surrounded some 20 soldiers to demand their release.
The situation was defused about five hours later, when two of the detainees were released, according to an interior ministry source. Local media reported that all four had been released.
Interior Minister Miguel Angelo Osorio Chong said earlier that the soldiers were merely having a “dialogue” with the residents to resolve the dispute, but he insisted that the authorities would disarm and detain anyone with a weapon.
“The army is there. They asked for security and protection, and they have it. There is no justification to walk around armed,” he told Radio Formula.
Last week, Coalcoman residents packed the main square to show their support for the 200-strong vigilante patrol, making it the latest Michoacan town to take up arms in recent months to combat cartel extortion and violence.
AFP journalists saw civilians Wednesday carrying handguns, hunting rifles and even AR-15 semi-automatic rifles in the town, which lies in Tierra Caliente, a region known as a hotbed of cartel activity.
“We got tired of paying the quota,” said Adriana, a 32-year-old woman working in a pharmacy.
The “cuota” is extortion money the Knights Templar cartel charges business owners, farmers, taxi drivers and even mayors.
“Anyone who didn’t pay would be kidnapped and ‘bang, bang,’ they’d kill him,” said Adriana, squeezing her finger as if pulling a trigger.
In recent months, the self-defense groups detained people they accused of working with the cartels and clashed with drug traffickers. The gangsters responded by besieging towns and preventing food deliveries.
Michoacan was the first state to see troops when then-president Felipe Calderon deployed soldiers and marines across the nation to crack down on cartels in 2006.
But the gang violence surged throughout Mexico, leaving 70,000 deaths in its wake by the time Calderon left office in December.
The government of President Enrique Pena Nieto sent around 4,000 soldiers and marines this week to Michoacan along with 1,000 federal police to restore peace in the agricultural state.
Military surveillance planes fly over towns while soldiers man checkpoints in Tierra Caliente. But self-defense groups still staff their own road blocks in some parts of the state.
“They should first disarm organized crime, then the people,” said a young man wearing body armor and a white T-shirt inscribed with the words “self-defense group” on the back.
Late Tuesday, a vigilante patrol detained an alleged thief in Coalcoman, beating him until his face was bloody and then parading him through the town square in front of residents and dozens of federal police.
The road linking Coalcoman to the village of Buenavista is littered with the charred remains of buses and other vehicles that were used by the cartel to block the delivery of food, medicine and other goods.
At the entrance of Buenavista, a sign greets drivers with the words: “Welcome to the village of Buenavista, free of quotas and Knights Templar.”
A checkpoint was installed near a white altar with a red cross built by the Knights Templar on the side of the road in honor of Nazario Moreno, alias “El Chayo,” a drug lord the government believes was killed in a clash in 2010.
His body was never found and the religion-inspired cartel reveres him like a saint. The words “Saint Nazario” are painted on the Buenavista altar, which is riddled with bullet marks.
Buenavista’s vigilantes say the area has become safer since they took up arms.
The Knights Templar accuse the vigilantes of being backed by their enemies, the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel, which is linked to the Sinaloa syndicate led by Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
The self-defense militias deny any links to drug traffickers, but the defense minister suggested Tuesday that some were getting support from dubious groups.
Guatemala’s Maya outraged at genocide ruling annulment
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 8:05 EDT
Native Mayas who survived massacres during Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war voiced outrage Wednesday at the overturning of the genocide conviction of former dictator Efrain Rios Montt.
Guatemala’s Constitutional Court on Monday struck down the 80-year sentence given to Rios Montt along with his conviction for genocide and war crimes.
The annulment “mocks the Ixil people,” said Nebaj mayor Ana Laynez.
Nebaj, along with the municipalities of Chajul and Cotzal, form the Ixil Maya region in the northern department of Quiche.
Rios Montt went on trial in March on charges of ordering the massacre of indigenous Ixil Maya people in the 1980s as part of a scorched-earth policy during his dictatorship.
He was convicted on May 10 of genocide and war crimes and was sentenced to 80 years prison.
However the Constitutional Court struck down the conviction and the sentence on grounds the 86-year-old Rios Montt was denied due process.
The Monday ruling is an “outrage” and an example of racism towards the indigenous people of Guatemala, Laynez said at a press conference.
From the point of view of the indigenous people, “justice in Guatemala has been kidnapped by those who have economic, political and military power,” said said Manuel Vail, a Maya priest.
“They can overturn the sentence,” said Vail, “but they cannot overturn the stain they carry in their conscience, or Guatemala’s shame in the eyes of the world,” he said.
Several of the Maya natives that testified in Rios Montt’s trial are “disappointed” by the “lack of seriousness” in the legal process, added Edwin Canil, a leading rights activist.
With more than 14 million people, Guatemala’s population is about 40 percent indigenous, overwhelmingly from ethnic Maya groups.
The Christian Science Monitor Dinosaur chomped like a bird of prey, say scientists
A study of an Allosaurus fossil found that the massive dinosaur dined more like a kestrel than a crocodile, tearing flesh from carcasses by pulling its head straight back.
Temp Headline Image
By Eoin O'Carroll, Staff / May 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm EDT
At first glance, a nearly 30-foot long, 150-million-year-old dinosaur may not seem to have much in common with a modern-day bird of prey, but according to new research, the Allosaurus and the falcon at least had the same table manners.
In a study published this week in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica, Ohio University researchers used a CT scanner to create a digital image of an Allosaurus fragilis skull. After adding neck and jaw muscles, air sinuses, and a windpipe to the image, they then, using a physics simulator, modeled how the dinosaur would have moved its head.
They found that, unlike the Tyrannosaurus, which paleontologists say dismembered its victims by thrashing its head from side to side like a crocodile, the Allosaurus, which, like Tyrannosaurus walked on two legs and had stubby forelimbs, most likely dined by biting into its prey and then tearing the flesh retracting its head back and upward.
Their discovery hinged on a neck muscle that was unusually positioned on the Allosaurus. On most predatory dinosaurs, such as the T. rex the longissimus capitis superficialis runs along the side of the neck, where it attaches to a bony protrusion at the base of the skull. But on the Allosaurus, the muscle is attached much lower on the skull.
"This neck muscle acts like a rider pulling on the reins of a horse's bridle," said Ohio University paleontologist Eric Snively, the study's lead author, in an Ohio University press release. "If the muscle on one side contracts, it would turn the head in that direction, but if the muscles on both sides pull, it pulls the head straight back."
Most Allosaurus specimens, including the one used in this study, have been unearthed in the western United States, in a fossil-rich region known as the Morrison Formation. During the late Jurassic period, about 150 million years ago, the Allosaurus sat at the top of the food chain. In 2005, paleontologists detailed evidence of combat between Allosaurus and Stegosaurus, suggesting that the armored quadroped was on the Allosaurus's menu.
The Tyrannosaurs lived much later, about 65 million years ago.
"Apparently one size doesn't fit all when it comes to dinosaur feeding styles," said Dr. Snively. "Many people think of Allosaurus as a smaller and earlier version of T. rex, but our engineering analyses show that they were very different predators."
Both genuses are theropods, a group of two-legged dinosaurs that includes today's birds. In other words, the Allosaurus and the falcon have at least one more thing in common: they are both dinosaurs.
Click to watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tdezagMXE2w
23 leading academics, authors and film-makers accuse New York Times of treating Latin American political leaders differently
By Roy Greenslade, The Guardian
Wednesday, May 22, 2013 8:18 EDT
Chomsky, Stone and Moore sign petition urging editorial inquiry
Here’s a story that the New York Times has yet to carry. A petition, signed by 23 leading US academics, authors and film-makers, has been launched which urges the paper’s “public editor” to examine the Times’s inconsistent coverage of two Latin American countries.
They argue that there are disparities between its largely negative reporting on Venezuela during the presidency of Hugo Chávez (who died in March) and its less critical reporting on Honduras under its successive leaders, Roberto Micheletti and Porfirio Lobo.
Among the petition’s signatories are more than a dozen experts on Latin America and the media plus Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman, and the film directors Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. Here’s the full script of the petition…
Dear Margaret Sullivan,
In a recent column, you observed:
Although individual words and phrases may not amount to very much in the great flow produced each day, language matters. When news organisations accept the government’s way of speaking, they seem to accept the government’s way of thinking. In The Times, these decisions carry even more weight.
In light of this comment we encourage you to compare the New York Times’s characterisation of the leadership of the late Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and that of Roberto Micheletti and Porfirio Lobo in Honduras.
In the past four years, the Times has referred to Chávez as an “autocrat,” “despot,” “authoritarian ruler” and a “caudillo” in its news coverage. When opinion pieces are included, the Times has published at least 15 separate articles employing such language, depicting Chávez as a “dictator” or “strongman.”
Over the same period – since the June 28 2009 military overthrow of elected president Manuel Zelaya of Honduras – Times contributors have never used such terms to describe Micheletti, who presided over the coup regime after Zelaya’s removal, or Porfirio Lobo, who succeeded him.
Instead, the paper has variously described them in its news coverage as “interim,” “de facto,” and “new.”
Porfirio Lobo assumed the presidency after winning an election held under Micheletti’s coup government. The elections were marked by repression and censorship, and international monitors, like the Carter Centre, boycotted them. Since the coup, Honduras’s military and police have routinely killed civilians.
Over the past 14 years, Venezuela has had 16 elections or referenda deemed free and fair by leading international authorities. Jimmy Carter praised Venezuela’s elections, among the 92 the Carter Centre has monitored, as having “a very wonderful voting system.” He concluded that “the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”
While some human rights groups have criticised the Chávez government, Venezuela has had no pattern of state security forces murdering civilians, as is the case in Honduras.
Whatever one thinks of the democratic credentials of Chávez’s presidency – and we recognise that reasonable people can disagree about it – there is nothing in the record, when compared with that of his Honduran counterparts, to warrant the discrepancies in the Times’s coverage of the two governments.
We urge you to examine this disparity in coverage and language use, particularly as it may appear to your readers to track all too closely the US government’s positions regarding the Honduran government (which it supports) and the Venezuelan government (which it opposes) – precisely the syndrome you describe and warn against in your column.
In the USA...
GOP Hero Petraeus, Not Obama, Was Behind Changed Benghazi Talking Points
By: Sarah Jones
May. 22nd, 2013
The bombshell that Republican hero David Petraeus was behind changes in the Benghazi talking points is another reason why Obama should not only clean out the Bush appointees, but should stop trusting Republicans in general.
The Washington Post reported late Tuesday that the emails released by the Obama administration reveal a rather shocking surprise. No, the Obama White House did not craft the Benghazi talking points to protect their reputation or that of the State Department. Nor did the State Department protect their image with “changes” to the talking points.
It was Republican hero, General David Petraeus, then the head of the CIA, who sought to burnish his image with demands to change the talking points. In fact, his version put him at “odds” with the State Department, the FBI, and officials within his own agency:
A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies, reveal Petraeus’s early role and ambitions in going well beyond the committee’s request, apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency.
The information Petraeus ordered up when he returned to his Langley office that morning included far more than the minimalist version that Ruppersberger had requested. It included early classified intelligence assessments of who might be responsible for the attack and an account of prior CIA warnings — information that put Petraeus at odds with the State Department, the FBI and senior officials within his own agency.
Ironically, given Republican claims going back to just hours after the attacks that killed four Americans, it was not the White House that tried to take over the talking points or craft them to appear in a more favorable light. In fact, the White House “played the role of mediator in the bureaucratic fight that at various points included the CIA’s top lawyer and the agency’s deputy director expressing opposition to what the director wanted.”
See, apparently even after it came out that ABC’s Jonathan Karl had misled the public by publishing Republican versions of the Benghazi emails that had been altered drastically enough to change their meaning, Republicans still claimed that the newly released emails proved that talking points had been changed. No word on whether they are investigating the Republican who leaked the lying emails to willing dupe Jonathan Karl, but Karl himself claimed that the actual emails (has he actually read this batch?) supported the Republicans’ original claims.
So even by their own argument, at the end of the witch hunt, they are face to face not with their mortal enemies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but their own hero and a Republican staffer or member of Congress.
You can be sure Republicans won’t be apologizing to President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or the reality based world any time soon.
This is the second time today that a Republican has been lurking behind a highly hyped by Republican-alleged “Obama scandal”. Aren’t you glad we spent millions to get to the bottom of this, and aren’t you glad that Republicans are heeding Hertitage’s orders to cease legislating in order to go after Obama with manufactured scandals? It is Republicans patriotic duty, after all, to unwittingly out their own malfeasance repeatedly, until one day they implode, choking on their own hypocrisy and refusal to govern.
There was no cover up by the White House or State Department. There was, however, a deceptively edited email leaked to the press by a Republican on Capitol Hill, and there was a Republican hero who demanded changes to the talking points in order to make himself look better. We call this Republican projection.
At the bottom of this scandal, Republicans are left facing themselves as the only cover up artists who made changes to emails for political reasons.
Mitch McConnell Loses His Mind and Accuses Harry Reid of Intimidating Him
By: Jason Easley
May. 22nd, 2013
Mitch McConnell is claiming that Harry Reid is intimidating him by threatening filibuster reform if Republicans don’t cease their endless campaign of obstruction.
McConnell said, “Recently, we’ve seen troubling signs that there are some in the Executive Branch who would use the power of the federal government to intimidate political opponents. For instance, reports that the IRS targeted conservative citizens’ groups for harassing and discriminatory treatment simply because they sought to exercise their First Amendment rights of association and speech. Or during the debate on Obamacare, when the Department of Health and Human Services issued a gag order on insurance plans in an attempt to prevent them from telling their customers about problems with the bill. Now, there are published reports that the same Department is trying to shake down some of those same companies for money so it can try to convince Americans to finally like Obamacare. And over at the FCC, the President’s allies are trying to shut down or make it difficult for people who want to buy advertising to exercise their First Amendment rights to criticize the Administration.”
He continued, “It all points to a culture of political intimidation. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that the culture of intimidation is simply confined to the Executive Branch. The Administration’s allies in the Senate are trying to intimidate their political opponents as well. What I’m talking about, is the persistent threat by the Majority to break the rules of the Senate in order to change the Rules of the Senate—in other words, to use the nuclear option—if they don’t get their way.
Oh no, big bad Harry Reid is threatening the Republicans by suggesting that something be done to stop their obstruction. In the same speech on the Senate floor, McConnell tried to claim that the talk of Republican obstruction was all part of a Democratic power grab, “Let’s be clear. These threats to use the nuclear option because of obstruction are just pretexts for a power grab. The Senate has confirmed 19 of the President’s judicial nominees so far this year. By this point in his second term, President Bush had a grand total of four judicial confirmations.”
What Sen. McConnell didn’t say was that Obama’s judicial nominees have waited an average of 227 days for confirmation compared to 175 days for George W. Bush’s nominees. Chuck Hagel was the first defense secretary nominee ever to be filibustered. Obama’s EPA nominee is being filibuster by Sen. Roy Blunt. In fact, McConnell didn’t bother to mention that Republicans used the filibuster 252 times during Obama’s first term. Senate Republicans are averaging nearly three filibusters a month in so far in 2013.
Harry Reid is “intimidating” Mitch McConnell by suggesting that the rules be changed so that Republicans will be forced to stop gumming up the works of the legislative process. What Mitch McConnell called a culture of intimidation is what the rest of us refer to as a functioning government.
There has been no word yet on McConnell’s other claims that Harry Reid took his lunch money, and knocked his books out of his hands on the way to 6th period study hall, but we should put nothing past noted master of intimidation Harry Reid.
Republicans Use Budget Cuts as Retribution for Re-electing Barack Obama
May. 22nd, 2013
For Americans who make it their business to follow politics, it is a recurring theme that every time a Democrat is elected president, fiction writer Ayn Rand’s novels become all the rage in conservative circles. When teabaggers took control of the House in 2011, Rand devotee Paul Ryan made waves when he decried the “takers” draining assets from the beleaguered richest one percent he referred to as “makers,” and although Ryan’s characterization of the poor is despicable, he is correct that Americans are being raped by “takers.” However, the takers are not Americans ravaged by the Bush-Republicans economic malfeasance that destroyed millions of jobs and increased the number of Americans living in poverty, but Republicans in Congress and state legislatures who have spent the past two-and-a-half years taking any and everything from the American people they can lay their dirty hands on. In fact, it is an exercise in futility to cite anything Republicans have not attempted to take from Americans and with the debt and deficit falling at a record pace, it appears their cuts are anything other than retribution for electing an African American President.
Last year it was revealed that America ranked second to Romania as the nation with the highest rate of children living in poverty (23.1%) and hunger, and this week House Republicans celebrated their proposal to cut $21 billion from SNAP (food stamps) that will take food stamps away from 2 million people, as well as ensuring that 210,000 hungry kids are no longer able to get free school lunches. It is the ultimate expression of evil to take food out of the mouths of any hungry human being, but it takes a special kind of monster to deliberately withhold food from hungry children. Conservatives prevented a farm bill from passing last year because they opposed the Senate’s bill as not harsh enough and forced them to start anew in this session of Congress.
The Senate is working on its second farm bill in less than a year that cuts $4 billion from the SNAP over ten years to garner support from selfish Republicans. Democrats attempted to eliminate cuts to food stamps, but Republicans refused to vote for any measure that fails to take food away from the poor; especially hungry children. It is just what they enjoy doing. Last year the Senate passed a similar farm bill but conservatives in the House balked because the Senate bill did not take enough food from hungry seniors, children, and working-poor Americans. As it stands now, food stamp recipients receive on average about $133.42 per month that poverty experts say is barely enough to cover two weeks in groceries, and when temporary provisions from the stimulus package expire, SNAP recipients will have even less to spend on food, regardless if the House farm bill passes or not. However, hungry Americans and their children should not feel singled out because Republicans have left no group unaffected from their agenda of taking from Americans who are not in the richest one percent of income earners.
Over the past two years, in their drive to take everything from the people, Republicans have left few Americans untouched whether it is senior citizens’ Social Security and Medicare, low-income Americans’ Medicaid, students, seniors and minorities’ voting rights, the Affordable Care Act, meals on wheels, and even disaster relief. The dust barely settled from the devastating tornado in Oklahoma two days ago before Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn promised he will insist that before giving disaster relief to victims in his home state, the cost will have to be paid for by taking something away from other Americans in the form of spending cuts. Officials had not yet estimated the cost of the damage, or the number of lives that were lost, and Coburn said he would “absolutely” demand offsets for any federal aid that Congress provides that has been the practice of Republicans since President Obama has been in office. Republicans have typically balked at providing disaster-relief funds when there’s a devastating storm unless they can take from other Americans, but they change their minds when their constituents are affected, but Coburn is callous enough to ransom his own constituents to take something from other Americans. The depth of Republicans’ heartless taking is not confined to spending, and it informs the true nature of their evil tendencies.
They are taking representative government in states like Michigan where the Republican governor disbanded local governments and appointed dictators in the form of an “emergency managers.” In states with Republican legislatures they have taken away a woman’s right to choose their own reproductive health and put it in the hands of religious extremists, and are taking the right to vote from students, seniors, and minorities because they do not vote for Republicans. Republicans have also taken away American workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively for decent wages, and as a canard to cut budgets have regularly taken public sector workers’ pensions and delivered the proceeds to corporations in the form of tax cuts. In Congress, Republicans are actively pursuing taking away the minimum wage as well as overtime pay that prevents most working people from falling into poverty, and they have intimated they will take away child labor laws that have been in effect for over 70 years. In an alarming number of states, Republicans are taking away women’s 14th Amendment rights to conform to religious maniacs’ demand that single-celled organisms are living breathing “persons” worthy of the Constitutional protections, and all Americans are losing their right to clean air and water as Republicans are fighting to take away environmental protections at the behest of the Koch brothers and energy industry contributors.
There is really no end to what Republicans are going to take away from the American people, and they cannot claim it is because the nation is drowning in debt. Taking away women’s rights, voting rights, environmental protections, minimum wage, overtime pay, or religious freedoms have nothing whatsoever to do with debt and deficit and everything to do with callous disregard for the people they are elected to serve. One might hope that Republicans would be aghast that the richest nation on Earth has nearly a quarter of its children living in poverty and going hungry, or that the nation’s infrastructure ranks below every developed and several undeveloped countries, but they are unfazed and seek out more to take from the people. What is stunning, really, is their apparent anger that they are prevented from taking even more despite the harsh Draconian cuts they have imposed on the poorest Americans.
Conservatives hate change, but something changed since the people elected an African American as President and it is not Democrats and it is not the majority of the American people. It is Republicans and their vile teabag supporters who have taken what were typically universally supported policies of caring for the people and made it a carnal sin to help Americans whether they are disabled, elderly, hungry, sick, or jobless, and they seem to take the greatest pleasure in taking what little the great majority of Americans have left. Paul Ryan is right; there is an epidemic of takers in America, but they are wicked conservatives who are not taking out of selfishness or greed, but because it feeds their vapid soulless egos.
House GOP Cut Budget for Firefighting But Raise Their Own Security Budget
By: Sarah Jones
May. 22nd, 2013
While you were busy watching the latest fake scandal drama, House Republicans pulled another rug out from under Americans.
The Republican controlled House Appropriations Committee passed via a party line vote on Tuesday a move to give themselves a budget increase as they cut budgets already reduced via the sequester. These include firefighting efforts, cutting an additional 18% of the funding out of labor, health and education programs including Indian healthcare, which are already facing sequester cuts.
Naturally the Republicans spared Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and even Veterans Affairs. (They cannot afford to be seen screwing over veterans again so soon.) Republicans claim they need the extra money for security and police upgrades:
Appropriations panel spokeswoman Jennifer Hing said the reason for the slight budget increase include greater police costs and security upgrades for the House’s oldest office building.
Sigh. It becomes more and more expensive to keep the rabble away from the castle. Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!
So, less firefighting for you, but increased security for them.
To be fair to Republicans, although they can’t manage any kind of fiscal responsibility when their party is actually in power, they’ve been making cuts to the House budget for the past three years (though they work substantially less each year, so perhaps they use less resources because they are not actually in D.C.). Obstructionism sort of suits them, causing them to convulsively restrict into a cruel parody of GOP values, which they naturally reject while actually in power.
So they view this as a needed boost. I do wish they’d explain to Americans how their salaries must remain the same and they can’t operate at their slightly lower level budgets, but YOU SHOULD. Bad firefighters in Oklahoma saving Americans lives.
If Republicans weren’t running around screaming about how only austerity can save us all (in spite of the facts), this wouldn’t be a huge deal. Also, since they’ve suddenly gone all mute on their talking point of the last four years, the DEFICIT (!!) is improving under Obama. Yeah, it turns out that ‘the President’s policies are contributing to the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.’
Why so quiet, GOP?
Cue the next scandal to distract from the awesome news that another Democrat took care of the spending problem Republicans suffer from when actually in power. Uncle Sam’s endless credit card is way too much fun for frat boys to use wisely, what with the countries to invade and the unpaid for Medicare Part D giveaways….
For a body that rarely comes to work — and when they do, blows money on fabricated investigations — to raise their own budget strikes a bitter note.
Sarah Palin’s Mushroom Cloud of Obama Hate Babble Nukes the IRS Scandal
By: Jason Easley
May. 22nd, 2013
Sarah Palin’s incoherent attempted fingering of President Obama as the IRS scandal mastermind demonstrates how Republicans have killed this potential scandal with their complete lunacy.
Palin emerged from her secure and undisclosed Facebook bunker long enough to post some Obama conspiracy laden gibberish on Breitbart.
The president would like us to believe that he only learned about the IRS corruption from watching the news. But we recently learned that the White House was actively working with the IRS on how to roll out the story of this scandal. So, Mr. President, how can you have your staff work on the roll out of the biggest controversy since Watergate, and yet claim that you only heard about it by watching the news with the rest of us?
For the president to deny any knowledge of what was brewing and to claim to know nothing about the Benghazi cover-up or anything about anything White House-related lately, he’s either a liar or a hugely incompetent CEO. You decide.
Yesterday, we also learned that the top IRS official involved in the targeting scandal is planning on pleading the Fifth during her Congressional hearings. That’s keen – she’ll be able to enjoy her Fifth Amendment rights in a hearing about how her intimidating organization denied Americans the ability to fully exercise their First Amendment rights.
These atrocious government actions are bigger, uglier, and much more dangerous than “a few rogue employees.” It’s time for all Americans to stand together and join in the growing outraged chorus that looks at our out-of-control government and says, “Enough is enough!”
Palin’s rant illustrates why no one outside of the Republican Party and the mainstream media is taking this IRS scandal seriously. Palin was so desperate to link Obama to this, even though there is no evidence of presidential involvement that she assumed that everyone irrationally hates President Obama as much as she does.
Republicans are claiming their First Amendment rights were denied, but the center of this scandal is tax exempt status. This is not about persecution or a loss rights. Republicans don’t want their shady dark money groups to be held accountable for anything, including taxes.
Interestingly, Sarah Palin’s Obama hate speech also highlights one of the great contradictions on the far right. The Obama haters can’t figure out whether the president is ruthless tyrant bent on their destruction, or if he is incompetent.
Palin’s claim that only limited government can save America ignores the fact that Republican administrations of Nixon, Reagan, and George W. Bush were riddled with scandals.
Sarah Palin is one of the main reasons why Republicans have no credibility when they start screaming about Obama scandals. Palin invented her own version of the IRS scandal where Obama is the evil mastermind who persecuted the poor little right wing billionaires who are trying to buy our government with secret money. Palin is one of least popular figures in America, so trotting her out to make the case that Obama was behind the IRS scandal is a laughable bit of poor strategy.
The right’s desperation is growing. They haven’t been able to connect this President Obama, and they know that this scandal is fading fast. Instead of helping conservatives grow their little scandal that isn’t, Sarah Palin has nuked their momentum with more paranoia and irrational Obama hate.
Ukrainian court bans LGBT-rights march
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 14:56 EDT
A Ukrainian court on Thursday banned gay rights activists from holding their first gay pride march through central Kiev, citing fears of violence.
Kiev’s district administrative court ruled that no events could be staged in the capital on Saturday because of City Day celebrations, the Interfax Ukraine news agency reported.
Activists had planned to hold Kiev’s inaugural “Equality March” that day calling for an end to rampant discrimination against sexual minorities in Ukraine.
But opponents of the gay pride event announced plans for a huge alternative rally on the same day in support of family values and against the “promotion of homosexuality”, raising the threat of violent attacks against the participants.
The city authorities said they had received more than 500 complaints from members of the public over the planned gay pride march, while 61 parliamentary lawmakers signed a letter calling for a blanket ban on all gay pride events in May and June.
In Ukraine, city authorities do not have the power to ban such public events but can ask a court to rule on whether they can go ahead.
The gay pride march’s organisers said they intended to appeal the court decision and were also seeking to hold the event in a different format.
“We want to express our position, but we do not intend to breach the law,” a spokesman for the organising committee told AFP.
In May last year the organisers themselves cancelled a planned gay pride rally over fears of violent clashes with opponents.
Amnesty International had urged city authorities to allow this year’s march to go ahead and to ensure adequate security to protect the participants.
The United States Embassy and the European Union Delegation to Ukraine also expressed their support for the event.
The EU delegation called on local authorities and police “to effectively ensure that all persons can exercise their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly without putting their personal safety at risk.”
Earlier this month the parliament of ex-Soviet Ukraine postponed a vote on a EU-backed bill that would have barred employers from firing staff because of their sexual orientation.
Cars torched in Stockholm after fifth night of riots
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 23, 2013 18:03 EDT
At least six cars were torched in Stockholm Thursday evening as police called in reinforcements bracing for a fifth night of riots in the Swedish capital’s immigrant-dominated suburbs.
The riots, which have shattered Sweden’s image abroad as a peaceful and egalitarian nation, have sparked a debate in Sweden about the assimilation of immigrants, who make up about 15 percent of the population.
Many of the immigrants who have arrived due to the country’s generous refugee policy struggle to learn the language and find employment despite numerous government programmes.
Police said Thursday they would be calling in reinforcements from other parts of the country as they braced for more trouble in coming days.
In Rinkeby, one of the city’s immigrant-dominated areas, firefighters rushed late Thursday to put out flames that engulfed six cars parked alongside each other. Five cars were totally gutted, and one sustained more moderate damage, according to an AFP photographer on the scene.
Police said between 300 and 500 people were gathered around the blazing cars.
Firefighters meanwhile said a school in another immigrant-heavy suburb, Tensta, was set ablaze but quickly extinguished.
The previous night, the fire brigade had been called to some 90 different blazes, most of them caused by rioters.
Early Thursday, rioters hurled rocks at a local police station in the Kista district, near the suburb of Husby where the unrest began on Sunday night. Rocks were also thrown at two local police stations south of the Swedish capital.
In the southern suburb of Skogaas, a restaurant was badly damaged after it was set ablaze.
“We are gradually becoming more like other countries,” said Aje Carlbom, a social anthropologist at Malmoe University.
The troubles are believed to have been triggered by the fatal police shooting of a 69-year-old Husby resident last week after the man wielded a machete in public.
The man then fled to his apartment, where police have said they tried to mediate but ended up shooting him dead in what they claimed was self-defence.
Local activists said the shooting sparked anger among youths who claim to have suffered from police brutality. During the first night of rioting, they said police had called them “tramps, monkeys and negroes.”
Two people, including one police officer, were reported injured in the first four nights of rioting.
Police meanwhile downplayed the scale of the events.
“Every injured person is a tragedy, every torched car is a failure for society… but Stockholm is not burning. Let’s have a level-headed view of the situation,” said Ulf Johansson, deputy police chief for Stockholm county.
Residents of areas largely populated by immigrants are suffering from segregation, anthropologist Carlbom told AFP.
“Living as a young person in these segregated areas can be very hard in many ways. You have virtually no contact with other Swedes and a lot of times I don’t think you have a good understanding of Swedish society,” he said.
For example, some 80 percent of the 12,000 residents in Husby are immigrants.
Due to its liberal immigration policy, Sweden has in recent decades become one of Europe’s top destinations for immigrants, both in absolute numbers and relative to its size.
In the past decade it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and the Balkans, among others.
This is not the first time the Scandinavian country has seen riots among immigrants.
In 2010, up to 100 youths threw bricks, set fires and attacked the local police station in the immigrant-dominated suburb of Rinkeby for two nights.
And in 2008, hundreds of youths rioted against police in the southern Swedish town of Malmoe, sparked by the closure of an Islamic cultural centre in the suburb of Rosengaard that housed a mosque.
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag attributed the violence to high unemployment and social exclusion in Sweden’s immigrant-dominated areas.
“We know that there is discrimination in these areas, and these events don’t improve the image of these areas, where there is a lot of positive stuff going on but which is totally eclipsed right now,” he told TT.
In Husby, overall unemployment was 8.8 percent in 2012, compared to 3.3 percent in Stockholm as a whole, according to official data.
And a total of 12 percent in Husby received social benefits last year, compared to 3.6 percent in Stockholm as a whole.
The riots have received international media attention, with some comparisons being drawn to similar problems assimilating immigrants in other European countries such as Britain and France.
05/24/2013 01:50 PM
Stockholm Riots: Sweden's 'Urban Underclass' Demands Attention
By Frauke Lüpke-Narberhaus
For most people, Sweden is a place of prosperity and order. But this week, a different side of the country is showing itself. Many in Stockholm's suburbs are deeply frustrated and demanding to be heard. Those familiar with the capital's immigrant neighborhoods are not surprised.
It hasn't taken long for such images to seem almost normal: In the Stockholm suburb of Husby, six cars stood in flames as some 400 people looked on when the fire department arrived to extinguish the fires on Thursday. "We are receiving reports that there are a lot of people there," a police spokesman told news agency TT as the situation developed.
It was the fifth consecutive night that the Swedish capital has been wracked by rioting. Other suburbs, too, saw rampaging youth on Thursday night. Three cars were lit on fire in Norsborg while a police station was set alight in the suburb of Aelvsjoe. Police reported that two schools were attacked by arsonists elsewhere.
The violence followed the pattern set on previous evenings this week, which included burning cars and attacks on police stations. "Here we have a group of young men who believe they can and should change society with violence," said Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at a Tuesday press conference. On Wednesday he added that setting cars on fire "was not an expression of freedom of opinion but rather one of hooliganism." Sweden, he said, "is a country that welcomes large groups of people from other countries and I am proud of that."
His disgust with the ongoing violence is difficult to ignore. But for the young men involved in the rioting, the message is a different one. Finally, they are being talked about, and that gives them a sense of power.
"At least everyone is listening to us now," one 20-year-old told Swedish broadcaster SVT. Born and raised in the suburb of Husby, he speaks a harder dialect of Swedish that is different from those who can afford to live in the center of Stockholm. He admits that burning cars won't solve problems and that the violence has given Husby a bad name. But, he adds, "we just want to say: Treat us like the rest of Sweden. We want to be treated like everyone else."
'Didn't Surprise Me at All'
The unrest began in Husby, but it has since spread to several other suburbs around Stockholm. On Wednesday evening, there were cars burning in 15 different places in and surrounding the capital, according to the paper Dagens Nyheter. The fire department was called out 90 times, the paper reported, with 12 youth taken into custody, six of them with prior records.
For many, of course, the image of Sweden in flames is a surprising one. Outsiders tend to associate the country with wealth, order and bucolic beauty.
Others, though, have a more realistic view of the Scandinavian country. "Husby didn't surprise me at all," says Jerzy Sarnecki, a professor at the Institute of Criminology at Stockholm University who previously worked with delinquents at a youth center. He points out that this isn't the first time Sweden has seen such unrest, even if it has been some time since the violence was quite this intense. "We have places in Sweden like Husby -- they exist elsewhere too, like in France and England," Sarnecki says.
London was hit by riots most recently in the summer of 2011, whereas Paris' last confrontation with similar unrest was in the winter of 2007. The problems fueling the violence are similar. Husby has a population of some 11,000 people, and 80 percent of them have foreign roots, a reflection of the fact that in recent years Sweden has been a top destination for those coming to Europe from abroad.
Unemployment in the quarter is twice as high as it is for the whole of Stockholm. Sarnecki uses the term "urban underclass" to describe young people who are jobless and lack a good education -- those who feel excluded by society. "They know that they don't have a radiant future ahead of them. And they are filled with rage against the established society," he says.
'A Difficult Task'
That rage is now being discharged. The trigger was likely an incident that took place last week. Police shot and killed a 69-year-old man who they said had threatened them with a machete. The exact circumstances of his death, however, remain unclear. Police said in an Internet statement that he died in the hospital, which turned out not to be true. A police spokesman told the daily Svenska Dagbladet that he regrets the error.
But the youth organization Megafonen, which is also active in Husby, believes that the misinformation was intentional. In a message posted on their website, they wrote: "If what happened to Karl-Eric, 69, had taken place in Kungsholmen, it would have been a scandal." Kungsholmen is a prosperous quarter in central Stockholm. The youth activists called for a demonstration "to stop police violence in our suburbs."
The 20-year-old who spoke with broadcaster SVT said that "we feel like we are being harassed by the police," who frequently perform checks and drug searches. "You accept this shit repeatedly, but at some point you've had enough," he said.
Amid the rioting, some say police are using excessive force now too. Sarnecki, for his part, declines to pass judgement. "What I can say is that the police are faced with a difficult task," he says. They have to be diplomatic and attempt to establish a dialogue, not just with those throwing the rocks, but also with neighbors, parents and other youth, he adds.
'Come and Speak with Us'
Some have already sought to start the process. One Swedish fireman published a letter to the rioters on his Facebook page. "Last night, you threw rocks at us," he wrote. "I am there when your father needs help, when he has a car accident. I help your sister if there is a fire in the kitchen. I jump into the water to help your brother when he has fallen out of a boat, even if the water is ice cold. Why are you treating me like this?" The letter has received a wide audience. In addition, a group for young women called Streetgäris called on Wednesday evening for a peaceful demonstration. "We want everything to calm down again," a member of the group told Swedish television.
And what then? The unemployment rate in the Stockholm suburbs is not going to sink rapidly, nor will the residents of Husby suddenly be able to afford an apartment in Stockholm.
One young man involved in the riots, though, seemed to indicate that his wishes are not all that difficult to fulfill. In comments to a Swedish journalist, he said: "We would like politicians to come here and speak with us."
05/23/2013 05:52 PM
Stagnation Stress: German Exporters Expect Bleak Future
Companies in Germany that rely on exports are becoming increasingly concerned about the future of the country's economy, according to a new industry survey. The downturn in optimism is yet another indication that Europe may be in for a period of extended stagnation.
In April, Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, was optimistic. Springtime would bring a rapid recovery from the winter blues and an increase in investment, it said. "Business activity expectations for the German economy have recovered quickly and strikingly in the last three months," the Bundesbank wrote in its report.
The bank's optimism, however, may have been a touch premature. German exporters are becoming more pessimistic as the spring progresses. On Thursday, the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) released the results of a survey showing that companies dependent on exports are much less optimistic than a short time ago. While 30 percent still expect overseas turnover to rise, one in eight believe it will fall.
"Exports are likely to develop less dynamically in the coming months," the DIHK writes in the report, which is based on survey of 25,000 companies.
The new report comes at a time when many are forecasting an extended period of stagnation for the euro-zone economy. Last week, the European Union statistics office released growth numbers for the first quarter of this year indicating that nine of 17 member-states of the common currency zone are now in recession, with the zone as a whole shrinking by 0.2 percent in the first three months of this year. Germany's economy, while showing growth, is hardy robust, expanding by a mere 0.1 percent from January to March. With several bloc economies mired in debt and economy malaise, the future is murky.
'Dangers of Half-Measures'
Mark Carney, outgoing Bank of Canada governor, who is heading across the Atlantic to become head of the Bank of England on July 1, became the latest Cassandra earlier this week. In his final speech as Canadian central bank chief, Carney said of Europe: "Deep challenges persist in its financial system. Without sustained and significant reforms, a decade of stagnation threatens." He added that: "Europe can draw lessons from Japan on the dangers of half measures."
The DIHK on Thursday also lowered its own expectations for German economic growth, sinking its prognoses for the entire year from 0.7 percent to a paltry 0.3 percent. "The German recovery has been postponed," said DIHK head Martin Wansleben in Berlin. In addition to concern about exports, Wansleben also noted the unusually cold late-winter weather in March.
Some 41 percent of German companies that took part in the survey said that weak foreign demand was the primary risk facing their businesses. "The uncertainty hasn't been this great since 2010," the DIHK said.
Eurozone crisis: time for France to step up
Germany cannot carry the euro on its shoulders alone indefinitely. France needs to become a second anchor of growth and stability
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 23 May 2013 16.09 BST
There is no magic Keynesian bullet for the eurozone's woes. But the spectacularly muddle-headed argument nowadays that too much austerity is killing Europe is not surprising. Commentators are consumed by politics, flailing away at any available target, while the "anti-austerity" masses apparently believe that there are easy cyclical solutions to tough structural problems.
The eurozone's difficulties, I have long argued, stem from European financial and monetary integration having gotten too far ahead of actual political, fiscal, and banking union. This is not a problem with which Keynes was familiar, much less one that he sought to address.
Above all, any realistic strategy for dealing with the eurozone crisis must involve massive write-downs (forgiveness) of peripheral countries' debt. These countries' massive combined bank and government debt – the distinction everywhere in Europe has become blurred – makes rapid sustained growth a dream.
This is hardly the first time I have stressed the need for wholesale debt write-downs. Two years ago, in a commentary called "The Euro's Pig-Headed Masters," I wrote: "Europe is in constitutional crisis. No one seems to have the power to impose a sensible resolution of its peripheral countries' debt crisis. Instead of restructuring the manifestly unsustainable debt burdens of Portugal, Ireland, and Greece (the PIGs), politicians and policymakers are pushing for ever-larger bailout packages with ever-less realistic austerity conditions."
My sometime co-author Carmen Reinhart makes the same point, perhaps even more clearly. In a May 2010 Washington Post editorial (co-authored with Vincent Reinhart), she described "Five Myths About the European Debt Crisis" – among them, "Myth #3: Fiscal austerity will solve Europe's debt woes." We have repeated the mantra dozens of times in various settings, as any fair observer would confirm.
In a debt restructuring, the northern eurozone countries (including France) will see hundreds of billions of euros go up in smoke. Northern taxpayers will be forced to inject massive amounts of capital into banks, even if the authorities impose significant losses on banks' large and wholesale creditors, as well they should. These hundreds of billions of euros are already lost, and the game of pretending otherwise cannot continue indefinitely.
A gentler way to achieve some modest reduction in public and private debt burdens would be to commit to a period of sustained but moderate inflation, as I recommended in December 2008 in a commentary entitled "Inflation is Now the Lesser Evil". Sustained moderate inflation would help to bring down the real value of real estate more quickly, and potentially make it easier for German wages to rise faster than those in peripheral countries. It would have been a great idea four and a half years ago. It remains a good idea today.
What else needs to happen? The other steps involve economic restructuring at the national level and political integration of the eurozone. In another commentary, "A Centerless Euro Cannot Hold", I concluded that "without further profound political and economic integration – which may not end up including all current eurozone members – the euro may not make it even to the end of this decade."
Here, all eyes may be on Germany, but today it is really France that will play the central role in deciding the euro's fate. Germany cannot carry the euro on its shoulders alone indefinitely. France needs to become a second anchor of growth and stability.
Temporary Keynesian demand measures may help to sustain short-run internal growth, but they will not solve France's long-run competitiveness problems. At the same time, France and Germany must both come to terms with an approach that leads to far greater political union within a couple of decades. Otherwise, the coming banking union and fiscal transfers will lack the necessary political legitimacy.
As my colleague Jeffrey Frankel has remarked, for more than 20 years, Germany's elites have insisted that the eurozone will not be a transfer union. But, in the end, ordinary Germans have been proved right, and the elites have been proved wrong. Indeed, if the eurozone is to survive, the northern countries will have to continue to help the periphery with new loans until access to private markets is restored.
So, given that Germany will be picking up many more bills (regardless of whether the eurozone survives), how can it best use the strength of its balance sheet to alleviate Europe's growth problems? Certainly, Germany must continue to acquiesce in an ever-larger role for the European Central Bank, despite the obvious implicit fiscal risks. There is no safe path forward.
There are a number or schemes floating around for leveraging Germany's lower borrowing costs to help its partner countries, beyond simply expanding the ECB's balance sheet. For meaningful burden-sharing to work, however, eurozone leaders must stop dreaming that the single currency can survive another 20 or 30 years without much greater political union.
Debt write-downs and guarantees will inevitably bloat Germany's government debt, as the authorities are forced to bail out German banks (and probably some neighboring countries' banks). But the sooner the underlying reality is made transparent and becomes widely recognised, the lower the long-run cost will be.
To my mind, using Germany's balance sheet to help its neighbours directly is far more likely to work than is the presumed "trickle-down" effect of a German-led fiscal expansion. This, unfortunately, is what has been lost in the debate about Europe of late: however loud and aggressive the anti-austerity movement becomes, there still will be no simple Keynesian cure for the single currency's debt and growth woes.
May 23, 2013
British Leader’s Liberal Turn Sets Off a Rebellion in His Party
By SARAH LYALL
LONDON — First, a prominent Tory called the party’s rank and file “swivel-eyed loons.” Then the populist politician Nigel Farage called Prime Minister David Cameron and his Tory-led government “a bunch of college kids.” Then The Daily Mail called Mr. Farage, the leader of the U.K. Independence Party, a “pint-guzzling eccentric.”
At the heart of all this competitive insulting in the halls of Westminster this week was something deadly serious: a battle over the future of the fractured, fractious Conservative Party and its leader, the increasingly fragile prime minister.
Mr. Cameron had a respite Thursday from the negative chatter swirling around him when he appeared outside 10 Downing Street to denounce the murder a day before of a British soldier on a London street. The attack, he said, “will only bring us together and make us stronger.”
The country, maybe. But the Conservative Party itself is in no mood for unity.
Buffeted by criticism of his policy on Europe, battered by rebellion in the ranks over his bill to legalize same-sex marriage and wounded by the perception that he is supercilious, contemptuous and out of touch with mainstream Conservatism, Mr. Cameron earlier this week took the highly unusual step of sending a mass e-mail (or, as he called it, “a personal note”) to his party’s grass-roots members.
Mr. Cameron praised what he said were common Conservative values like “duty, decency and civic pride.” He said he believed “that you change things not by criticizing from your armchair but by getting out and doing.” And then, in a reference to damaging reports that one of his closest allies had dismissed provincial Tories as unhinged (and crazy-eyed), he declared that he had nothing but respect for such Tories.
“I am proud of what you do,” Mr. Cameron wrote. “And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise. We are a team, from the parish council to the local association to Parliament, and I never forget it.”
At a time when Mr. Cameron is being squeezed from both sides — from the right by members of his own party and by the anti-immigrant, anti-Europe U.K. Independence Party, and from the left by his Liberal Democrat coalition partners — the move seemed uncharacteristically clunky.
“Is it not a bizarre moment when a party leader has to write to his members to say he respects them?” Chris Bryant, a Labour member of Parliament, said on Twitter.
Indeed, the party does not seem convinced. Last week, the problem was Europe; this week, it was same-sex marriage. When Mr. Cameron said he would introduce legislation to make it legal for same-sex couples to marry, the bill seemed like a sure thing, a chance for him to fulfill one of his progressive social policy goals with relative ease.
But the bill ran into unexpected trouble this week, as more and more Tories publicly attacked it, with 129 of them deviating from the party line to vote against it Tuesday. The bill is likely to become law eventually, but only with help from the Labour opposition and only after inflicting substantial wounds on the government.
With Mr. Cameron already on the back foot after a parade of influential Tories declared that Britain should hold an immediate referendum on whether to leave the European Union — instead of waiting, as Mr. Cameron favors — other unhappy party members have seized on the chance to air wider criticisms.
Their basic complaint: Mr. Cameron is too liberal, too metropolitan, too snobby, too out of touch with what traditional Tories, who tend to be older and live outside London, are feeling.
Tim Bale, a professor of politics at Queen Mary, the University of London, and the author of “The Conservative Party From Thatcher to Cameron,” said the prime minister had made a fundamental mistake in trying to impose his socially liberal agenda on members of his party without convincing them of its merits.
“One can make a reasonable argument that the guy is out-Thatchering Thatcher in some ways,” Dr. Bale said, referring to the government’s austerity spending program and increasingly tough line on immigration, “and yet his party still has a problem.”
Capitalizing on the restive mood, Mr. Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader, took out an advertisement in The Daily Telegraph this week inviting unhappy Tories to defect. In it Mr. Farage sniped that the Cameron government — made up disproportionately of career politicians who graduated from Eton and Oxbridge — was “run by a bunch of college kids, none of whom have ever had a proper job in their lives.”
Moreover, he said, these “kids” are “obsessed with wind farms and introducing gay marriage, and happy to open the door to 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians from January 1 next year.” (The last bit was a reference to the lifting in 2014 of restrictions on the movement of Bulgarian and Romanian citizens through the European Union).
London’s right-leaning newspapers, which tend to run hot and cold on the prime minister, are veering toward Arctic right now.
The Times of London said that Mr. Cameron was weak and “lacking in the most basic party management skills.” The Daily Mail, which provides a running litany of how the country is going down the tubes, accused the prime minister of “sublime incompetence,” calling his management of the European Union issue a “fiasco” and his handling of the same-sex marriage bill “an embarrassment.” The Daily Telegraph compared the current situation to that faced by former Prime Minister John Major, whose premiership was buried beneath a mountain of internecine squabbling, mostly over Europe.
And then, from out of right field, came Norman Tebbit, a former Conservative Party chairman who tends to speak for a small but steady right-wing minority in the party, dead against same-sex marriage.
In an interview with the magazine The Big Issue, Mr. Tebbit imagined a situation in which some future queen is a lesbian “who marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child.” If “someone donates sperm,” he continued, “and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?”
Downing Street had no comment.
05/23/2013 03:29 PM
Holocaust at Sea: The Lone Survivor of the 'Struma'
By Marc Pitzke in Bend, Oregon
In 1942, a Soviet submarine in the Black Sea torpedoed and sank the Struma, a ship filled with almost 800 Jewish refugees headed from Romania to the Holy Land. David Stoliar, the lone survivor, agreed to share his story with SPIEGEL ONLINE.
David Stoliar's neat house sits atop a hill on the edge of Bend, a small city in central Oregon. A few steps lead up to the front door. Stoliar's wife, Marda, opens, followed by a happy beagle. "Come in," she says cheerfully. "Come in."
Her husband is waiting in the living room, surrounded by souvenirs and family photos. Stoliar, his light-blue eyes twinkling, appears much younger than 90. He laughs, chats about the weather, mentions the road conditions up on nearby Mount Hood. He's making small talk, obviously, to avoid the actual topic of this visit.
David Stoliar needs time to bring his thoughts -- and himself -- all the way back to that night. He's actually never discussed it before with a German reporter. "Nobody has asked me," he says with a shrug, adding emphatically that, after this meeting, he won't ever speak of it again -- with no one, no matter what or where they're from.
"Not a good memory," Stoliar states matter-of-factly. "I just want to finish my life in peace."
But memories, of course, can't be dismissed so easily. Especially these memories. The explosion, catapulting him into the water. The screams of the others, fading slowly. The wait for his own certain death on that icy night at sea.
Stoliar's story has always been a taboo of sorts. His ordeal illuminates a forgotten, inconvenient chapter of the Holocaust, which the then-Allies would rather not be reminded of. For, if anything, they chose to look the other way -- before, during and after.
"Everybody had an excuse," Marda says.
That chapter found its horrifying conclusion in the Black Sea, near Istanbul, in the wee hours of February 24, 1942. That's when a Soviet submarine sank a Jewish refugee ship en route to what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. All told, 786 people, among them 101 children, either died instantly or slowly froze and drowned in the wintry water.
Only one of them made it.
"There was no reason for me to survive," Stoliar says. "I feel like I survived by luck. Pure luck." To this day he struggles with guilt. Psychologists call this the Holocaust Syndrome.
So even today, after all these years, Stoliar approaches that memory warily, reluctantly and carefully coached by his wife. Born an American, almost 20 years younger than him and a gentile, Marda lacks David's trauma but knows his story almost better than he does.
"Talk about Romania," she goads him gently.
Setting Out for Freedom
David Stoliar grew up in Romania, home to nearly 800,000 Jews before World War II. By the summer of 1940, their life, too, had become unbearable, thanks to anti-Semitic laws, deportations and, ultimately, bloody pogroms.
Stoliar's mother fled to Paris to seek safety. The 19-year-old son stayed behind with his father, who eventually bought him a passport and a ticket to freedom -- or, rather, a ticket to Palestine on a ship named Struma. In today's value, that ticket cost $1,000 (€775).
The Struma followed an armada of previous ships that had been trying to make it to the Holy Land since the beginning of the war. Many of these passages, however, ended in death, and most were illegal. Great Britain, which administrated the British Mandate of Palestine back then, had been curbing Jewish immigration since 1939 and ultimately blocked it altogether in the hopes of keeping the Arabs from taking up arms in support of Nazi Germany.
The Struma was no more than a pile of junk. Built in 1867, this former luxury yacht had been sadly degraded to a cattle transport ship. The masts were long gone, leaving just a wooden hull, barely held together by metal plates. The engine, added later, worked only sporadically.
That didn't prevent two Jewish groups from Romania from chartering the Struma in 1941 for their escape from the Nazis. They advertised the journey into the unknown with promising pamphlets, some of which read "Bon voyage!" and "Welcome to Palestine!"
Stoliar signed up along with his fiancée, Ilse Lothringer, and her parents. But when they finally caught a first glimpse of the Struma in the Black Sea harbor of Constanta, it was a bad omen: The ship, originally meant for only 150 passengers, had been retrofitted to carry almost 800, in tiny wooden bunks on three low levels -- and that in the coldest winter in generations.
"Like sardines," Stoliar says. "We couldn't even turn over. But we had no way of going back."
After several delays they finally put out to sea on December 12, 1941. Their route was supposed to take them through the Black Sea, the Bosporus and the Mediterranean to the port of Haifa. But they had gone only a few kilometers when the engine started sputtering - and then died completely as they approached the Bosporus.
A Turkish tugboat schlepped them to the harbor of Istanbul, supposedly to have the engine fixed. The refugees, lacking visas, were forbidden to disembark. Instead, the authorities raised the black and yellow quarantine flag over the Struma.
Trapped in Turkey
Meanwhile, a long, diplomatic tussle began behind the scenes. Great Britain refused to allow the Struma to continue on to Palestine. Romania didn't want it back, either. The United States stayed out of it completely. And Turkey, still neutral at the time and not wanting to get on the wrong side of anybody, forced the passengers to stay on board, where they were slowly starving.
"We were not considered human", Stoliar says. "So why should you help?"
Conditions on board worsened rapidly. Food became scarce; a pregnant woman suffered a miscarriage. The only help came from Simon Brod, a local Jewish businessman who rescued many refugees over the course of the war. He occasionally brought food and water.
Turkey eventually took action on its own. On February 23, 1942, policemen stormed the Struma, cut the anchor chain, tugged the ship back into the Black Sea -- and set it helplessly adrift.
"We knew we had nowhere else to go," Stoliar recalls. "We all smelled the end of it."
A Sudden, Explosive End
Indeed, that end came in the early hours of the following day -- in the form of a sudden explosion.
Most of the passengers were asleep, including Stoliar. "It was probably three or four in the morning," he says, now softly and haltingly. "I woke up as I was thrown into the air. I fell back into the water, and when I surfaced, there was no vessel anymore. Nothing. Just debris."
What they didn't know at that point was that the Struma had been hit by a torpedo fired from a Soviet submarine a kilometer away. Decades later, it was revealed that Stalin had given out a secret order to sink all neutral ships in the Black Sea.
Most passengers and the Romanian crew of the Struma died in the torpedo's explosion. Among them were Stoliar's fiancée, Ilse, and her parents, who had been sleeping in the bottom part of the ship's hull. One reason Stoliar survived was that his bunk was right below deck.
Back in Bend, Stoliar gets up, rummages about and brings out an album. All he has left is a single black-and-white photo of Ilse, showing her on a balcony, laughing and holding a puppy. It's a copy; the original is in the archives of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Marda nudges her husband back into the past. "So, that night, what happened next?"
Oh, yes, that night. Stoliar sighs and sits down again.
More than 100 survivors were still struggling to stay afloat and alive in the ice-cold water around him. Stoliar and a few others clung to a piece of floating wreckage, a section of the wooden deck. But one after another they froze to death and slipped into the abyss. "Eventually," he says, "I was just by myself."
This time Marda doesn't interrupt him. The living room grows silent.
Survival and Liberation
At some point, a man swam over. He introduced himself in Russian as Lazar Dikof, the Struma 's chief mate. They sat on that piece of wood talking, yelling, trying to keep each other alive.
Morning passed, then afternoon, then evening. Night fell again. At dawn, Dikof was dead.
Stoliar lost hope. He tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists with a pocket knife. But even that didn't work: "My hands were too swollen from the frost."
After 24 hours, a coast guard rowboat appeared and picked Stoliar up. He was brought to the port of Sile and then to a military hospital in Istanbul. A week later, he was moved to a jail, where he was detained for being in Turkey "illegally."
Stolier was kept in jail for 71 days. Only then did the British government decide to grant an "exception" and allow him to enter Palestine. A train took him to Aleppo, a car to Tel Aviv, both arranged by Brod.
Efforts at Forgetting
After the war, Stoliar tried to forget about the Struma and start a new life. His mother had died in Auschwitz. His father survived in Bucharest, and Stoliar brought him to Palestine.
But not even his first wife, Adria, whom he married in Cairo in 1945, knew about the Struma.
In 1954, Stoliar ended up working for a trade company in Tokyo. Adria died of cancer. An arranged date with Marda, a shoe designer from Oregon who was living in Paris then, turned into his second marriage. After a life traveling the world, they settled in Bend.
Stoliar didn't mention the Struma until two years into their marriage.
The story of the Struma faded into obscurity. MGM once wanted to make a movie about Stoliar's story, but he declined. There were a few articles in newspapers and magazines. In 2003, Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, two former New York Times correspondents, reconstructed the tragedy in their book Death on the Black Sea. Stoliar, albeit reluctantly, was their main source.
So now he wants to stop talking about it altogether. "Why did the others die," he still asks himself, "but I didn't?"
It's a question with no answer.
His mind returns to the present, and his light-blue eyes twinkle again. He laughs, talks about the weather, discusses the road conditions up on Mount Hood. The happy beagle jumps onto his lap.
This article originally appeared in German on einestages.de, SPIEGEL ONLINE's history portal.
Viktor Ullmann's opera written in Nazi concentration camp revived in Berlin
Czech-German composer's satire on Adolf Hitler, The Emperor from Atlantis, to be staged at former SS and Gestapo HQ
Kate Connolly in Berlin
guardian.co.uk, Friday 24 May 2013 13.08 BST
It is a small operatic gem that was written under tortuous circumstances and almost failed to see the light of day when its composer was dragged off to the gas chambers before even being able to hear it performed. But it lives on thanks to a professor of philosophy who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp where it was written and who preserved the manuscript.
Now a Berlin orchestra and an American conductor are to revive The Emperor from Atlantis by Czech-German composer Viktor Ullmann on a more than unusual stage – the former headquarters of the SS and Gestapo in the German capital, known as the Topography of Terror. "We wanted to reinforce the immediacy of the genocide of Ullmann and whole schools of composers of that time and this is a far more effective mis en scene than an opera house would be," said John Axelrod, the US conductor who is leading the project.
Ullmann, who was Jewish and had been a pupil of the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, wrote the operatic satire on Adolf Hitler knowing full well that it would lead to his death. The blatant irony of its contents were not lost on the SS authorities of Theresienstadt who soon after the final rehearsal of the work, which took place in March 1944, deported Ullmann to Auschwitz, along with his librettist Peter Kien, where he was murdered on 18 October aged 46.
"Ullmann clearly set out to make an anti-Nazi piece, in which art should hold up a mirror to what the Nazis were doing," said Axelrod, in between rehearsals with the musicians from the Kammersymphonie Berlin. The one-hour opera is an energetic mix of jazzy interludes, touches of cabaret, Bach-style chorales and sweet lyricism. It serves, according to Axelrod, as a bittersweet tribute to the long lineup of musicians whose murder or expulsion from Europe "destroyed much of the continent's musical legacy".
He points to the direct cribbing in Ullmann's opera of many of the works of the great composers of the German-speaking world who were either classified as degenerate because of their Jewishness by the Nazis and their music banned – as was the case with Mahler, Mendelssohn and Weill – or whose music was commandeered for propaganda purposes like Brahms or Wagner.
"He's using the opera to ask, what happened to German enlightenment and its key ideal 'all people become brothers?'" Like many musicians, Ullmann who was considered one of the leading composers of his day, was sent to Theresienstadt in what is now the Czech Republic. The concentration camp was presented to the outside world as a pristine model fortress town whose "inhabitants" – so Nazi authorities were keen to show – were treated decently, to the extent that they were able to carry on their musical, acting or artistic careers. In reality tens of thousands were murdered there and for more than 150,000 others it was a holding camp from which they were taken by rail transport to death camps elsewhere.
At a rehearsal this week before the first performance on Friday, the somewhat unusual array of instruments in the orchestra, including a guitar, banjo and saxophone, poignantly reflected the fact that Ullmann had to write his opera around whatever musicians were available to him in the camp. There are no female voices among the singers. Rather tellingly Eva Braun, Hitler's longtime companion, is represented by the drums. Despite his musical prominence in his lifetime, most of Ullmann's music was lost during the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. That The Emperor of Atlantis survives at all is thanks to Emil Utiz, a Prague professor who was Theresienstadt's librarian and took the score out of the camp when it was liberated.
It was first performed in Amsterdam in 1975, parts of it having been lightly edited after a spiritualist who claimed she could contact dead composers, said she had received communication of the changes directly from Ullmann.
Iceland: ‘New government takes office’
24 May 2013
Almost a month after the April 27 general elections, Iceland’s new government took office on May 23. None of the nine members of the country’s new cabinet, which is made up of a coalition of 38-year-old Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson’s Progress Party and the Independence Party led by Bjarni Benediktsson, have previous ministerial experience.
In an interview with Morgunblaðið, Benediktsson, the new Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, confirmed that he intends to cut income taxes in the summer in order “to relaunch the economy.”
The day before he took office, Benediktsson announced that “Iceland’s accession to the European Union would immediately be suspended.
New government with the president of Iceland
Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, President of Iceland, led today's State Council meeting where the new government Progressive Party and the Independence Party, Ministry of Sigmund David Gunnlaugsson, took over and was appointed to the office of the Minister.
None of them has sat in Government but Kristjan Thor Juliusson is the oldest minister and Sigmund David Gunnlaugsson is the youngest.
The Prime Minister
Sigmund David Gunnlaugsson, born 12 March 1975. BS degree from the Economics and Business Administration University in 2005 and part-time studies in media. Political Studies at the University of Copenhagen in international relations and public administration. Graduate in economics and political science at Oxford University. Chairman of the Progressive Party. MP Reykjavik north 2009-2013 and constituency NA-2013.
Fisheries, Agriculture and Environment
Sigurdur Ingi Jóhannsson, born 20 April 1962. Candidate of Veterinary Medicine of the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University in Copenhagen. General veterinary license in Denmark in 1989 and Iceland in 1990. Vice Chairman of the Progressive Party. MP in the South since 2009.
Secretary of State
Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson, born 9 June 1968. Graduated FNV, Sauðár 1989. Learning to professional sociology UI. MP in the Northwest since 2009. Chairman of the Progressive Party an MP since 2009.
Eygló Harðardóttir, born 12 December 1972. Fil.kand. degree in art history from the University of Stockholm in 2000. Graduate in Business Administration University since 2007. Varaþingmaður Progressive Party in the South in February-March 2006. Member of South 2008-2013. Member of the Southwest 2013.
Finance and Economy Minister
Bjarni Benediktsson, born 26 January 1970. Legal UI Test 1995. Learning and German law in Germany from 1995 to 1996. LL.M. degree from the University of Miami School of Law in the United States 1997. Attorney. 1998. Certified stockbroker 1998. MP in the Southwest since 2003. Chairman of the Independence Party.
Kristjan Thor Juliusson, born 15 July 1957. Deck Test of navigation college in Reykjavik 1978. Studies in Icelandic literature and general UI from 1981 to 1984. Teaching Test UI 1984. Mayor Akureyri 1998-2006. MP Independence in the Northeast since 2007.
Hanna Birna Kristjánsdóttir, born 12 October 1966. BA degree in Political Science University 1991. Master's degree in international and European politics from Edinburgh University in 1993. Mayor of Reykjavík 2008-2010. MP Reykjavik South 2013. Cand.
Education and Culture
Illugi Gunnarsson, born 26 August 1967. BSc in Economics University 1995. MBA from London Business School in 2000. MP Reykjavik 2007-2009 south and north of the capital in 2009. 2009-2010 Chairman of the Independence Party and an MP from 2012.
Industry and Commerce
Sally Elin deformation, born 30 September 1967. BA degree in political science from the University in 1991. MS degree in international relations from Georgetown University. Senator 2007-2009 Southwest and South since 2009. Chairman of the parliament party Independence 2010-2012.