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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1078585 times)
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« Reply #7530 on: Jul 15, 2013, 07:22 AM »

July 14, 2013

Rebels Drive More Than 60,000 From Congo to Uganda


KAMPALA, Uganda — More than 60,000 residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo have fled to Uganda after a rebel attack on a town near the border, in a continuing influx that is stretching the capacity of humanitarian workers to help the refugees, an aid group said Sunday.

The group, the Uganda Red Cross, has already registered 41,000 refugees, and 20,000 more are waiting to be registered, said a spokeswoman, Catherine Ntabadde. “Currently we are looking at about 65,000 people,” Ms. Ntabadde said.

The refugees are entering Uganda though the frontier district of Bundibugyo, and many have found temporary shelter on the campuses of three schools there, she said.

The refugee influx continues three days after a Ugandan rebel group attacked the town of Kamango and killed some people on Thursday, according to Ugandan military officials who are concerned that the rebels are about to launch a major assault on Ugandan territory.

The rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, had been hiding in the jungles of eastern Congo for years since it was driven from Ugandan territory. The group was formed in the early 1990s by Ugandan Muslims who said they had been sidelined by the policies of Uganda’s president and who want to rule Uganda according to Shariah law.

The rebels at the time staged terrorist attacks in Ugandan villages as well as in the capital, Kampala, including a 1998 attack in which 80 students were massacred in a frontier town. A Ugandan military assault later forced the rebels into eastern Congo, where many rebel groups are able to roam freely because the central government has limited control there.

Ugandan military officials have been warning about the rebels’ resurgence for several months, but they say they now believe that the rebels may be plotting an attack on Ugandan territory. The rebels have largely been quiet over the years, staging sporadic attacks on towns in eastern Congo and against Congolese military units. A United Nations report last year said those rebels “expanded their military capacity and cooperated” with Somalia’s Shabab militants. Ugandan officials do not know how many rebels are in the bush.

The rebels’ attack came at a time when another group, the M23 rebel movement, has seized the attention of regional and international diplomatic efforts to bring peace to eastern Congo.

Angelo Izama, a Ugandan analyst who runs a regional security consultancy called Fanaka Kwawote, said the attack by a long-dormant group highlighted eastern Congo’s precarious security situation and the need for an ambitious “political solution” backed by Uganda and Rwanda, neighboring countries that in the past have sent their armies into Congo in pursuit of rebels hiding there.

In the case of Uganda, increased rebel activity so close to the border could hamper its young oil industry even before the first drops of oil flow. Uganda has discovered large quantities of crude on the Albertine belt along the border, and oil companies are drilling for more crude there.

“The main impact of the attack could be to draw Uganda back into Congo,” Mr. Izama said.

The Ugandan Army spokesman, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, on Friday ruled out the possibility that Ugandan troops would invade Congo in pursuit of the rebels, saying the situation with the Allied Democratic Forces is not yet urgent.

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« Reply #7531 on: Jul 15, 2013, 07:31 AM »

In the USA...

07/15/2013 01:59 PM

World from Berlin: 'Trayvon Martin Will Happen Again and Again'

The acquittal in Florida's Trayvon Martin murder trial has drawn criticism around the world. In the German media, the focus is as much on misguided vigilante justice laws as it is on race.

News media around the world covered Saturday night's ruling in the Trayvon Martin murder trial as top news. In Germany, it featured as a leading story on one of the top news programs, where the host's first question to the station's Washington correspondent was why there hadn't been a single African American on the jury.

Another leading news broadcast noted the case had drawn considerable international attention because it "appeared to be so systematic and also divided the country." The correspondent added that, for many, Martin's death had "become a symbol for racism that is still present in America."

Many had feared that if an all-white jury issued a not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who had been unarmed, it could trigger race riots across the country. Zimmerman claimed he had shot the 17-year-old in self-defense after a nighttime confrontation in his gated community, despite police advice not to pursue the young man. Zimmerman claimed that Martin had punched him and slammed his head into the ground during a fight before he fired at him in self-defense. Prosecutors had portrayed Zimmerman as a wannabe cop who profiled and pursued Martin.

Mostly peaceful protests were held across the country following the verdict. US President Barack Obama had cautioned against allowing passions to boil over. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," President Barack Obama said Sunday in a statement. "I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher. But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken."

Just as in the United States, one of the primary focuses of editorials and coverage in Germany is of Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which critics have dubbed a "shoot first" law. Implemented in 2005, and adopted by 20 other US states, it says that anyone who fears harm or death is not required to retreat from a potential perpetrator, even if they have the possibility of safely doing so. It also places the burden on prosecutors to prove without any doubt that the shooter feared harm or death.

'Wild West Times'

Although senior German politicians aren't commenting on the case, that hasn't stopped at least one on the fringe from doing so.

Speaking on Deutschlandradio, the German equivalent to NPR or BBC Radio, Dietmar Bartsch, the deputy head of the far-left Left Party's parliamentary group, said US laws urgently need reform. "These are laws in the spirit of the Wild West times," he said. "It is incomprehensible and I am angered, but there is still hope that the federal court will open the case again."

A handful of German newspapers also published editorials on Monday that are critical of the Florida law, which they argue promotes vigilante justice in ways that are dangerous for society.

A commentary in the leftist Die Tageszeitung takes aim at Florida's "absurd" "Stand Your Ground" law, describing the ruling as "predictable," but still "scandalous."

"With this combination of racist prejudices, lax weapons controls and vigilantism anchored in law, incidents like the death of Trayvon Martin will happen again and again. … It may be that a black president's charisma and the statements from a number of African-American opinion leaders calling for calm will prevent massive riots like those seen after the Rodney King verdict in 1992. But things cannot be good in the long term. If societal peace means anything to the USA, then laws like 'Stand Your Ground' belong in the trash can of history, and coexistence must have a different basis than through some overarmed deterrent."

Public radio station Deutschlandfunk stated:

"Laws of this type serve a weapons lobby that argues very effectively, that the unlimited right to possess weapons is indispensable when it comes to self-defense. So even though in this individual case, the ruling was legally appropriate and faultless, it still raises serious questions. If politicians continue to blur self-defense as codified in 'Stand Your Ground' law, the self-proclaimed protectors of the law will also be empowered in the future to make bad decisions that at times result in a deadly outcome. Martin's death was and remains a tragedy, and state politicians in Florida are partially responsible for it."

The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung is also critical of vigilante justice in America:

"In this case, the Americans argued so much over the influence of the color of a person's skin that another idea was mostly overlooked -- that of the dangers and excesses of vigilante justice. Many Americans only feel secure if they are allowed to carry a loaded weapon, and the Zimmerman case shows what this can lead to. Amateurs with crudely developed suspicions who overestimate their abilities run roughshod on neighborhoods, ultimately spreading the insecurity they are supposed to be curbing."

The regional Stuttgarter Zeitung writes:

"A black teenager wearing a sweatshirt in a middle-class housing development can only mean trouble. But that puts what the Americans call 'racial profiling' in the spotlight -- blanket suspicion based entirely on a person's skin color, clothing or taste in music. The fact that there are police officers who tend to target young African American men more often that young white men is indisputable. That drug dealers with dark skin tend to be prosecuted more severely is a statistical fact. And the fact that African Americans in southern US states are given the death penalty more often than whites also hasn't changed since Obama became president."


A ‘disposition matrix’ system is now generating Obama’s secret kill list

By Ian Cobain, The Guardian
Sunday, July 14, 2013 16:56 EDT

When Bilal Berjawi spoke to his wife for the last time, he had no way of being certain that he was about to die. But he should have had his suspicions.

A short, dumpy Londoner who was not, in the words of some who knew him, one of the world’s greatest thinkers, Berjawi had been fighting for months in Somalia with al-Shabaab, the Islamist militant group. His wife was 4,400 miles away, at home in west London. In June 2011, Berjawi had almost been killed in a US drone strike on an al-Shabaab camp on the coast. After that he became wary of telephones. But in January last year, when his wife went into labour and was admitted to St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, he decided to risk a quick phone conversation.

A few hours after the call ended Berjawi was targeted in a fresh drone strike. Perhaps the telephone contact triggered alerts all the way fromCamp Lemmonier, the US military’s enormous home-from-home at Djibouti, to the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Maryland. Perhaps a few screens also lit up at GCHQ in Cheltenham? This time the drone attack was successful, from the US perspective, and al-Shabaab issued a terse statement: “The martyr received what he wished for and what he went out for.”

The following month, Berjawi’s former next-door neighbour, who was also in Somalia, was similarly “martyred”. Like Berjawi, Mohamed Sakr had just turned 27 when he was killed in an air strike.

Four months later, the FBI in Manhattan announced that a third man from London, a Vietnamese-born convert to Islam, had been charged with a series of terrorism offences, and that if convicted he would face a mandatory 40-year sentence. This man was promptly arrested by Scotland Yard and is now fighting extradition to the US. And a few weeks after that, another of Berjawi’s mates from London was detained after travelling from Somalia to Djibouti, where he was interrogated for months by US intelligence officers before being hooded and put aboard an aircraft. When 23-year-old Mahdi Hashi next saw daylight, he was beingled into a courtroom in Brooklyn.

That these four men had something in common is clear enough: they were all Muslims, all accused of terrorism offences, and all British (or they were British: curiously, all of them unexpectedly lost their British citizenship just as they were about to become unstuck). There is, however, a common theme that is less obvious: it appears that all of them had found their way on to the “disposition matrix”.
The euphemisms of counter-terrorism

When contemplating the euphemisms that have slipped into the lexicon since 9/11, the adjective Orwellian is difficult to avoid. But while such terms as extraordinary rendition, targeted killing and enhanced interrogation are universally known, and their true meanings – kidnap, assassination, torture – widely understood, the disposition matrix has not yet gained such traction.

Since the Obama administration largely shut down the CIA’s rendition programme, choosing instead to dispose of its enemies in drone attacks, those individuals who are being nominated for killing have been discussed at a weekly counter-terrorism meeting at the White House situation room that has become known as Terror Tuesday. Barack Obama, in the chair and wishing to be seen as a restraining influence, agrees the final schedule of names. Once details of these meetings began to emerge it was not long before the media began talking of “kill lists”. More double-speak was required, it seemed, and before long the term disposition matrix was born.

In truth, the matrix is more than a mere euphemism for a kill list, or even a capture-or-kill list. It is a sophisticated grid, mounted upon a database that is said to have been more than two years in the development, containing biographies of individuals believed to pose a threat to US interests, and their known or suspected locations, as well as a range of options for their disposal.

It is a grid, however, that both blurs and expands the boundaries that human rights law and the law of war place upon acts of abduction or targeted killing. There have been claims that people’s names have been entered into it with little or no evidence. And it appears that it will be with us for many years to come.

The background to its creation was the growing realisation in Washington that the drone programme could be creating more enemies than it was destroying. In Pakistan, for example, where the government estimates that more than 400 people have been killed in around 330 drone strikes since 9/11, the US has arguably outstripped even India as the most reviled foreign country. At one point, Admiral Mike Mullen, when chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, was repo rted to be having furious rows over the issue with his opposite number in Pakistan, General Ashfaq Kayani.

The term entered the public domain following a briefing given to the Washington Post before last year’s presidential election. “We had a disposition problem,” one former counter-terrorism official involved in the development of the Matrix told the Post. Expanding on the nature of that problem, a second administration official added that while “we’re not going to end up in 10 years in a world of everybody holding hands and saying ‘we love America’”, there needed to be a recognition that “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us”.

Drawing upon legal advice that has remained largely secret, senior officials at the US Counter-Terrorism Center designed a grid that incorporated the existing kill lists of the CIA and the US military’s special forces, but which also offered some new rules and restraints.

Some individuals whose names were entered into the matrix, and who were roaming around Somalia or Yemen, would continue to face drone attack when their whereabouts become known. Others could be targeted and killed by special forces. In a speech in May, Obama suggested that a special court could be given oversight of these targeted killings.

An unknown number would end up in the so-called black sites that the US still quietly operates in east Africa, or in prisons run by US allies in the Middle East or Central Asia. But for others, who for political reasons could not be summarily dispatched or secretly imprisoned, there would be a secret grand jury investigation, followed in some cases by formal arrest and extradition, and in others by “rendition to justice”: they would be grabbed, interrogated without being read their rights, then flown to the US and put on trial with a publicly funded defence lawyer.

Orwell once wrote about political language being “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”. As far as the White House is concerned, however, the term disposition matrix describes a continually evolving blueprint not for murder, but for a defence against a threat that continues to change shape and seek out new havens.

As the Obama administration’s tactics became more variegated, the British authorities co-operated, of course, but also ensured that the new rules of the game helped to serve their own counter-terrorism objectives.

Paul Pillar, who served in the CIA for 28 years, including a period as the agency’s senior counter-terrorism analyst, says the British, when grappling with what he describes as a sticky case – “someone who is a violence-prone anti-western jihadi”, for example – would welcome a chance to pass on that case to the US. It would be a matter, as he puts it, of allowing someone else to have their headache.

“They might think, if it’s going to be a headache for someone, let the Americans have the headache,” says Pillar. “That’s what the United States has done. The US would drop cases if they were going to be sticky, and let someone else take over. We would let the Egyptians or the Jordanians or whoever take over a very sticky one. From the United Kingdom point of view, if it is going to be a headache for anyone: let the Americans have the headache.”

The four young Londoners – Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and the Vietnamese-born convert – were certainly considered by MI5 and MI6 to be something of a headache. But could they have been seen so problematic – so sticky – that the US would be encouraged to enter their names into the Matrix?
The home secretary’s special power

Berjawi and Sakr were members of a looseknit group of young Muslims who were on nodding terms with each other, having attended the same mosques and schools and having played in the same five-a-side football matches in west London.

A few members of this group came to be closely scrutinised by MI5 when it emerged that they had links with the men who attempted to carry out a wave of bombings on London’s underground train network on 21 July 2005. Others came to the attention of the authorities as a result of their own conduct. Mohammed Ezzouek, for example, who attended North Westminster community school with Berjawi, was abducted in Kenya and interrogated by British intelligence officers after a trip to Somalia in 2006; another schoolmate, Tariq al-Daour, has recently been released from jail after serving a sentence for inciting terrorism.

As well as sharing their faith and, according to the UK authorities, jihadist intent, these young men had something else in common: they were all dual nationals. Berjawi was born in Lebanon and moved to London with his parents as an infant. Sakr was born in London, but was deemed to be a British-Egyptian dual national because his parents were born in Egypt. Ezzouek is British-Moroccan, while al-Daour is British-Palestinian.

This left them vulnerable to a little-known weapon in the government’s counter-terrorism armoury, one that Theresa May has been deploying with increasing frequency since she became home secretary three years ago. Under the terms of a piece of the 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act, and a previous piece of legislation dating to 1981, May has the power to deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship if she is “satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.

This power can be applied only to dual nationals, and those who lose their citizenship can appeal. The government appears usually to wait until the individual has left the country before moving them to deprive them of their citizenship, however, and appeals are heard at the highly secretive special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), where the government can submit evidence that cannot be seen or challenged by the appellant.

The Home Office is extraordinarily sensitive about the manner in which this power is being used. It has responded to Freedom of Information Act requests about May’s increased use of this power with delays and appeals; some information requested by the Guardian in June 2011 has still not been handed over. What is known is that at least 17 people have been deprived of their British citizenship at a stroke of May’s pen. In most cases, if not all, the home secretary has taken action on the recommendation of MI5. In each case, a warning notice was sent to the British home of the target, and the deprivation order signed a day or two later.

One person who lost their British citizenship in this way was Anna Chapman, a Russian spy, but the remainder are thought to all be Muslims. Several of them – including a British-Pakistani father and his three sons – were born in the UK, while most of the others arrived as children. And some have been deprived of their citizenship not because they were assessed to be involved in terrorism or any other criminal activity, but because of their alleged involvement in Islamist extremism.

Berjawi and Sakr both travelled to Somalia after claiming that they were being harassed by police in the UK, and were then stripped of their British citizenship. Several months later they were killed. The exact nature of any intelligence that the British government may have shared with Washington before their names were apparently entered into the disposition matrix is deeply secret: the UK has consistently refused to either confirm or deny that it shares intelligence in support of drone strikes, arguing that to do so would damage both national security and relations with the US government.

More than 12 months after Sakr’s death, his father, Gamal, a businessman who settled in London 37 years ago, still cannot talk about his loss without breaking down and weeping. He alleges that one of his two surviving sons has since been harassed by police, and suspects that this boy would also have been stripped of his citizenship had he left the country. “It’s madness,” he cries. “They’re driving these boys to Afghanistan. They’re making everything worse.”

Last year Gamal and his wife flew to Cairo, formally renounced their Egyptian citizenship, and on their return asked their lawyer to let it be known that their sons were no longer dual nationals. But while he wants his family to remain in Britain, the manner in which his son met his death has shattered his trust in the British government. “It was clearly directed from the UK,” he says. “He wasn’t just killed: he was assassinated.”
The case of Mahdi Hashi

Mahdi Hashi was five years old when his family moved to London from Somalia. He returned to the country in 2009, and took up arms for al-Shabaab in its civil war with government forces. A few months earlier he had complained to the Independent that he been under pressure to assist MI5, which he was refusing to do. Hashi was one of a few dozen young British men who have followed the same path: in one internet video clip, an al-Shabaab fighter with a cockney accent can be heard urging fellow Muslims “living in the lands of disbelief” to come and join him. It is thought that the identities of all these men are known to MI5.

After the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr, Hashi was detained by al-Shabaab, who suspected that he was a British spy, and that he was responsible for bringing the drones down on the heads of his brothers-in-arms. According to his US lawyer, Harry Batchelder, he was released in early June last year. The militants had identified three other men whom they believed were the culprits, executing them shortly afterwards.

Within a few days of Hashi’s release, May signed an order depriving him of his British citizenship. The warning notice that was sent to his family’s home read: “The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamist extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities.”

Hashi decided to leave Somalia, and travelled to Djibouti with two other fighters, both Somali-Swedish dual nationals. All three were arrested in a raid on a building, where they had been sleeping on the roof, and were taken to the local intelligence agency headquarters. Hashi says he was interrogated for several weeks by US intelligence officers who refused to identify themselves. These men then handed him over to a team of FBI interrogators, who took a lengthy statement. Hashi was then hooded, put aboard an aircraft, and flown to New York. On arrival he was chargedwith conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.

Hashi has since been quoted in a news report as saying he was tortured while in custody in Djibouti. There is reason to doubt that this happened, however: a number of sources familiar with his defence case say that the journalist who wrote the report may have been misled. And the line of defence that he relied upon while being interrogated – that Somalia’s civil war is no concern of the US or the UK – evaporated overnight when al-Shabaab threatened to launch attacks in Britain.

When Hashi was led into court in Brooklyn in January, handcuffed and dressed in a grey and orange prison uniform, he was relaxed and smiling. The 23-year-old had been warned that if he failed to co-operate with the US government, he would be likely to spend the rest of his life behind bars. But he appeared unconcerned.

At no point did the UK government intervene. Indeed, it cannot: he is no longer British.

When the Home Office was asked whether it knew Hashi was facing detention and forcible removal to the US at the point at which May revoked his citizenship, a spokesperson replied: “We do not routinely comment on individual deprivation cases, nor do we comment on intelligence issues.”

The Home Office is also refusing to say whether it is aware of other individuals being killed after losing their British citizenship. On one point it is unambiguous, however. “Citizenship,” it said in a statement, “is a privilege, not a right.”
The case of ‘B2′

A glimpse of even closer UK-US counter-terrorism co-operation can be seen in the case of the Vietnamese-born convert, who cannot be named for legal reasons. Born in 1983 in the far north of Vietnam, he was a month old when his family travelled by sea to Hong Kong, six when they moved to the UK and settled in London, and 12 when he became a British citizen.

While studying web design at a college in Greenwich, he converted to Islam. He later came into contact with the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, and was an associate of Richard Dart, a fellow convert who was the subject of a TV documentary entitled My Brother the Islamist, and who was jailed for six years in April after travelling to Pakistan to seek terrorism training. In December 2010, this man told his eight-months-pregnant wife that he was going to Ireland for a few weeks. Instead, he travelled to Yemen and stayed for seven months. MI5 believes he received terrorism training from al-Qaida in the Arabian peninsula and worked on the group’s online magazine, Inspire.

He denies this. Much of the evidence against him comes from a man called Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, a Somali who once lived in the English midlands, and who was “rendered to justice” in much the same way as Hashi after being captured in the Gulf of Aden two years ago. Warsame is now co-operating with the US Justice Department.

On arrival back at Heathrow airport, the Vietnamese-born man was searched by police and arrested when a live bullet was found in his rucksack. A few months later, while he was free on bail, May signed an order revoking his British citizenship. Detained by immigration officials and facing deportation to Vietnam, he appealed to SIAC, where he was given the cipher B2. He won his case after the Vietnamese ambassador to London gave evidence in which he denied that he was one of their citizens. Depriving him of British citizenship at that point would have rendered him stateless, which would have been unlawful.

Within minutes of SIAC announcing its decision and granting B2 unconditional bail, he was rearrested while sitting in the cells at the SIAC building. The warrant had been issued by magistrates five weeks earlier, at the request of the US Justice Department. Moments after that, the FBI announced that B2 had been charged with five terrorism offences and faced up to 40 years in jail. He was driven straight from SIAC to Westminster magistrates’ court, where he faced extradition proceedings.

B2 continues to resist his removal to the US, with his lawyers arguing that he could have been charged in the UK. Indeed, the allegations made by the US authorities, if true, would appear to represent multiple breaches of several UK laws: the Terrorism Act 2000, the Terrorism Act 2006 and the Firearms Act 1968. Asked why B2 was not being prosecuted in the English courts – why, in other words, the Americans were having this particular headache, and not the British – a Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: “As this is a live case and the issue of forum may be raised by the defence in court, it would be inappropriate for us to discuss this in advance of the extradition hearing.”
The rule of ‘imminent threat’

In the coffee shops of west London, old friends of Berjawi, Sakr, Hashi and B2 are equally reluctant to talk, especially when questioned about the calamities that have befallen the four men. When they do, it is in a slightly furtive way, almost in whispers.

Ezzouek explains that he never leaves the country any more, fearing he too will be stripped of his British citizenship. Al-Daour is watched closely and says he faces recall to prison whenever he places a foot wrong. Failing even to tell his probation officer that he has bought a car, for example, is enough to see him back behind bars. A number of their associates claim to have learned of the deaths of Berjawi and Sakr from MI5 officers who approached them with the news, and suggested they forget about travelling to Somalia.

Last February, a 16-page US justice department memo, leaked to NBC News, disclosed something of the legal basis for the drone programme. Its authors asserted that the killing of US citizens is lawful if they pose an “imminent threat” of violent attack against the US, and capture is impossible. The document adopts a broad definition of imminence, saying no evidence of a specific plot is needed, and remains silent on the fate that faces enemies who are – or were – citizens of an allied nation, such as the UK.

But if the Obama administration is satisfied that the targeted killing of US citizens is lawful, there is little reason to doubt that young men who have been stripped of their British citizenship, and who take up arms in Somalia or Yemen or elsewhere, will continue to find their way on to the disposition matrix, and continue to be killed by missiles fired from drones hovering high overhead, or rendered to courts in the US.

And while Obama says he wants to curtail the drone programme, his officials have been briefing journalists that they believe the operations are likely to continue for another decade, at least. Given al-Qaida’s resilience and ability to spread, they say, no clear end is in sight.


Fraud trial of notorious Ex-Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre begins Monday

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 15, 2013 1:24 EDT

The trial of former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre, who is accused of misleading investors about risky assets linked to the US housing market meltdown, starts Monday in New York.

Tourre, a 34-year-old Frenchman also known by the nickname “Fabulous Fab,” has been charged with fraud by securities regulators, in connection with a fund which lost investors around $1 billion.

His trial, which is expected to last two to three weeks, will be heard in a Manhattan courtroom presided over by Judge Katherine Forrest.

After jury selection, lawyers for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and for the defense will begin their arguments.

Goldman Sachs, which was also named in the initial SEC complaint, is no longer sitting at the defense table, having agreed to pay a record $550 million to settle the government’s charges of fraud.

But Tourre has denied any liability.

In a document filed with the court in 2010, the Frenchman said he “reasonably relied on Goldman Sachs’ institutional process to ensure adequate legal review and disclosure of material information, and cannot be held liable for any alleged failings of that process.”

Tourre is one of several traders who have become symbols of the excesses of the financial sector that contributed to the global economic crisis of 2007-2008 — whose repercussions are still being felt today.

At Goldman Sachs, in early 2007, Tourre designed the complex “Abacus” investment product, based on subprime, or higher-risk mortgage-backed, securities.

He was accused of failing to warn investors that a hedge fund headed by investor John Paulson was involved in the selection of the composition of Abacus. Paulson was betting on the fall of the US housing market.

When the affair became public in April 2010, US media lambasted the apparent arrogance of Tourre, who refused to apologize during a hearing in Congress.

In private emails published after the scandal broke, Tourre, then a vice president at Goldman Sachs, called the financial products he was creating “monstrosities” and little “Frankenstein,” and made fun of the “poor, little subprime borrowers.”

“Fabrice Tourre has done nothing wrong. He is confident that when all the evidence is considered, the jury will soundly reject the SEC’s charges,” his lawyers said in an email sent to AFP.

The trial, however, could cost him dearly as the SEC is demanding reimbursement for losses, as well as a fine.

A conviction could also result in him being banned from the trading floor — but Tourre has already left Goldman Sachs.

The graduate of France’s Ecole Centrale and of America’s Stanford University has become a student again, at the University of Chicago, after some time working with humanitarian groups in Rwanda.


President Barack Obama is in a slump

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, July 14, 2013 10:10 EDT

President Barack Obama has little to show so far for a second term stifled by political inertia at home and foreign crises that have defied American might and influence.

Nearly six months after delivering an inaugural address brimming with liberal intent, Obama is in a familiar spot: banging his head against a brick wall of Republican opposition.

Big hopes of action on immigration, the economy and taxation are fading, meaning Obama’s second term may be more about cementing gains of his first four years than adding to his legacy.

With the Middle East aflame, allies angered by US spy snooping and amid challenges from North Korea and Iran, Obama may also look in vain for wins abroad that second term presidents crave.

Vindicated by voters, Obama returned to the White House with vigor in November. But there has been little to cheer since.

He did secure victory over Republicans in a row over raising tax rates on the rich at the turn of the year.

But since, he has seen a gun control drive crumble and had to delay implementation of part of his top achievement, the ObamaCare health overhaul.

Rows over National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping programs exposed by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden have meanwhile consumed presidential energy.

And Obama is known to be frustrated that a clutch of political scandals — which he sees as frivolous — have whipped up media outrage and forged an opening for Republicans.

He is said to chafe at critiques of his incapacity to bend Congress to his will, and out-of-context comparisons to legislative alchemists such as ex-president Lyndon Johnson.

“Barack Obama is in a slump,” said Peter Brown, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, unveiling data showing the president’s approval rating had dipped to 44 percent.

Obama’s rating on foreign policy — a strength during last year’s election — hit a worst-ever 40 percent, as he struggled to keep pace with carnage in Syria and a coup in Egypt.

Obama had hoped that a thumping election victory would break the “fever” he diagnosed in a Republican Party dedicated to thwarting his presidency.

Some hope.

“Sadly, all too often, we’re not getting much cooperation from the other side,” Obama complained at a Democratic Party event in Miami in June.

“They seem more interested in winning the next election than helping the next generation.”

Bruce Buchanan, a specialist on the presidency at the University of Texas, says Obama’s struggle with his foes is unique in modern times.

“I don’t think any other president has had quite this difficult situation in terms of the other party’s visceral hatred of him,” he said.

The struggle is rooted in a sincerely felt ideological clash between conservatives who view government as the problem and Obama’s reflex to wield state power to meet his era’s challenges.

Currently, the Republican-led House of Representatives is holding hostage Obama’s best bet for a significant second-term domestic achievement — immigration reform.

Many House Republicans fear challenges from their right in 2014 primary contests if they pass a bill to give 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

But hopes the logjam may break are validated by fears of national Republican leaders that continuing to infuriate Hispanic voters — for whom immigration reform is a key issue — could lead to years in the political wilderness.

The immigration debate encapsulates Obama’s paradoxical political plight: so toxic is his image among Republicans that his best chance of getting something done is stay on the sidelines.

Congressional opposition also shapes Obama’s strategy on tackling global warming, which he hopes to make a centerpiece of his second term.

Knowing climate change bills are dead on arrival in Congress, he ordered officials to write strict new rules to curb emissions at power plants.

He may also need to use executive power to bypass Congress to fulfill another promise renewed in his second term, closing the war on terror jail at Guantanamo Bay.

With big wins elusive, Obama may use his second term to secure earlier achievements for posterity, a common pursuit of two-term presidents.

This will require smooth implementation of ObamaCare, and a continued slow mending of the US economy.

Obama got little kudos for containing economic meltdown when he took office in 2009, but his role, including saving the US auto industry, may draw more praise over time.

“I don’t know that he gets a lot of short term credit for that,” said University of New Hampshire political scientist Dante Scala.

“Maybe, he gets long-term historical credit down the road.”

Abroad, cementing his legacy means Obama must wind down NATO combat in Afghanistan without leaving chaos behind.

And he must also navigate the Iranian nuclear showdown and the war in Syria without again embroiling US forces in the Middle East.
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« Reply #7532 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:12 AM »

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden applies for temporary asylum in Russia: lawyer

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:50 EDT

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has applied for temporary asylum in Russia, a pro-Kremlin lawyer said Tuesday, after President Pig Putin accused Washington of “trapping” him in the country.

Snowden, wanted by the United States for revealing sensational details of its vast spying operations, is now spending a fourth week in the transit lounge at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport without crossing the Russian border.

“The application has been filed with the Russian authorities” through the Federal Migration Service (FMS), prominent lawyer Anatoly Kucherena, who has been in contact with Snowden, told AFP.

“I have just left him,” he said after meeting the fugitive earlier Tuesday. Federal Migration Service officials declined to comment immediately.

Kremlin-friendly lawyer Kucherena participated in Snowden’s meeting with rights activists and pro-Kremlin lawmakers at Sheremetyevo last week and said Snowden had contacted him for consultations after the get-together.

“He is actively consulting with me,” Kucherena said earlier Tuesday. “After the meeting we’ve been in frequent touch.”

Snowden flew into Russia from Hong Kong on June 23 and has since been marooned in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo.

He was checked in for an Aeroflot flight to Cuba on June 24 but never boarded the plane.

On Monday, President Vladimir Putin said Snowden would leave Russia “as soon as he can,” likening him to an unwanted gift.

But he accused Washington of “trapping” the American in Moscow, saying no country wanted to take in Snowden due to US pressure.

Kucherena said he was helping Snowden negotiate the complexities of Russian legislation and the difference between the status of refugee, political asylum and temporary asylum.

“Before our consultations he did not have an understanding of those issues,” the lawyer said. “He needs to understand what suits him and what rights and obligations a certain status will generate.”

Breaking silence for the first time since he arrived, Snowden, who is essentially stateless after Washington revoked his passport, held the closed-door meeting at the airport on Friday.

At the meeting, he said he would file for asylum in Russia before he could work out a way to travel legally to Latin America, asking the activists to petition Putin on his behalf.

Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have indicated that they would be open to offering the 30-year-old a safe haven.

Activist Svetlana Gannushkina, who has championed the rights of refugees for decades, said Russian authorities generally considered an application for refugee status for up to three months.

After such an application is accepted, an applicant may live and travel locally, she added.

Gannushkina said the procedures to receive temporary asylum or refugee status were pretty straightforward.

A bid for political asylum is considered by the president but is granted very rarely, she said.

Speaking to AFP earlier Tuesday, she said she was surprised he had taken so long to apply for asylum.

“This is the theatre of the absurd,” she said.

“Everyone is playing a role in this. I do not know whether he himself is not taking the necessary steps or whether this is all being played out by other people.”

Even though the Kremlin has repeatedly said it had nothing to do with Snowden, political observers have said that his meeting with activists at the state-controlled airport would have been impossible without a green light from the Kremlin.

The head of the Amnesty International in Russia, Sergei Nikitin, said after the Friday meeting, he believed plain-clothed representatives of Russian special services had taken part in the get-together.

Washington has reacted sharply to the possibility that Moscow might offer Snowden a safe haven and accused it of providing him with a “propaganda platform.”


07/15/2013 02:34 PM

Whistleblower Blues: Snowden Puts US-Russia Ties On Ice

By Marc Hujer, Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp

Edward Snowden has asked for the Kremlin's help to avoid arrest by US authorities. The case is a godsend for President Pig Putin because it is distracting from domestic Russian problems. But it will worsen the country's already strained ties with America.

Pig Putin once again appeared not to know what was happening in the Edward Snowden affair unfolding in the capital of his own country. It was last Friday, shortly before 5 p.m. local time in Moscow. The news about the American whistle-blower's application for asylum was making the rounds.

The computer expert had invited 13 representatives of "human rights organizations" to the transit area of the city's Sheremetyevo airport, where he has been stranded since flying from Hong Kong to Moscow on June 23. He told his select audience that he would like to stay in Russia, and would apply for asylum to do so, until he was permitted to travel on to one of the Latin American countries that have offered or considered granting him asylum.

Meanwhile, Pig Putin was outside the capital on a visit to Belgorod. The city lies about 600 kilometers (370 miles) south of Moscow, which isn't very far considering the country's vastness. But those around Putin gave off the impression of being surprised. "We regrettably had no chance to review the announcement," Pig Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters by telephone.

Even the headlines of Russian news agencies were rather misleading. "Snowden Meets with Human Rights Advocates at Moscow Airport" -- made it sound as if the former intelligence contractor for America's National Security Agency (NSA) and current crusader against Internet surveillance had formed an alliance with Kremlin opponents. But, in reality, they were only meant to serve as props aimed at concealing the Kremlin's involvement.

Moscow-based lawyers and politicians close to the government had already been in close contact by phone on Thursday. At that point, it was already clear that Snowden would stay in Russia. Likewise, it's hard to imagine that Snowden could have gotten out the invitations to his meeting at the Moscow airport without Russian help.

Orchestrated by the Kremlin

In fact, among the invited guests were not only activists such as Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch and the prominent Russian lawyer Genri Reznik, but also a man like Vyacheslav Nikonov. This grandson of Stalin's long-serving Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov is also a member of parliament with Putin's United Russia party and a heavyweight within foreign-policy circles. Nikonov had received Snowden's invitation at the email address of one of the political foundations he belongs to. But Nikonov would have never crossed Snowden's mind without the prompting of Russian officials.

Given these facts, it wasn't difficult to discern the Kremlin's handwriting -- and the fact that it was Putin's government, rather than Snowden himself, that had orchestrated the latter's appearance. It was the first time that Snowden had emerged from the depths of the airport since arriving over three weeks earlier. He was sporting a gray shirt, jeans and parted hair. The asylum application was missing only a signature. And, according to sources who attended the meeting, Snowden also uttered the key words: "No actions I take or plan are meant to harm the US … I want the US to succeed." Of course, this had been precisely the deal that Putin had offered on July 1, when he said: "If (Snowden) wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage on our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound coming from my lips." And it was also Putin's gesture of appeasement toward the Americans.

The next chapter in the Edward Snowden drama has begun. On July 2, Pig Putin spokesman Peskov announced that the 30-year-old had withdrawn his request for asylum after Pig Putin had laid out his terms. But now everything has suddenly changed. In the statement he read at his appearance on Friday, Snowden thanked Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador for their willingness to offer "support and asylum." Since his passport has been revoked, he is not allowed to leave Sheremetyevo airport, Snowden continued. So, in order to regain at least some freedom of movement, he said he has been forced to ask Russia for asylum.

Moscow is Snowden's Best Option For Now

Temporary asylum until he can continue his journey to Latin America? Officials in Moscow had looked into this possibility early on. While Putin was still playing aloof, Sergey Naryshkin, chairman of Russia's lower house of parliament and a former Kremlin chief of staff, piped in, saying that granting Snowden asylum was permitted by Russia's constitution and laws, and that it would comply with international legal norms. Naryshkin also said that he thought there was a "very high risk" that the alleged traitor would face the death penalty if American authorities ever got their hands on him. "We simply don't have the right to allow something like that to happen," he added.

The question is: Why was it claimed on July 2 that Snowden had turned down Pig Putin's first conditional offer? The likely answer is that Snowden only recently realized that, at the moment, Moscow is still the best of all the options open to him. By now, he will have surely had contact with Russian officials. And they will have undoubtedly tried to convince him of this fact. Flights from Sheremetyevo to Latin America have seemed risky, especially after a plane ferrying Bolivian President Evo Morales from Moscow to La Paz was forced to land in Vienna -- most likely due to pressure from the Americans because they suspected Snowden was on the plane.

Meanwhile, countries like Bolivia and Ecuador -- both of which have offered him asylum -- are too small and weak to ensure Snowden's safety. But one could hardly imagine that Washington would send elite military units into the territory of Russia, a fellow nuclear heavyweight, in order to fetch him back to America.

Pig Putin knows that. And Snowden does, too.

However, like the Americans, President Pig Putin will have also carefully weighed the benefits and drawbacks of his current strategy for dealing with Snowden.

Pig Putin Has Been Exploiting Snowden Storm

For the Kremlin, which has been under attack for both its domestic and foreign policies ever since Putin started his third term as president in May 2012, Snowden is a godsend. Putin has been exploiting the storm kicked up by the fugitive computer expert to draw attention away from his own problems, such as Russia's stagnating economy and the hard line he is taking against the opposition, which is weakening public support for him in the country's major cities. Fresh turmoil might be on the horizon this week, when a verdict is expected in the embezzlement trial of Alexei Navalny, a popular anti-corruption blogger and leading figure in Russia's opposition movement. Prosecutors are seeking a six-year prison sentence in what is widely viewed as a politically motivated case.

The US data scandals have allowed Russia to shift the focus away from its own actions and onto how Americans treat their own opponents -- first with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange; then with Pfc. Bradley Manning, the source of the WikiLeaks information who has already been in jail for over three years; and now with Snowden. The Russian government's message is: compared with what our American counterparts are getting up to, we're choirboys.

And the majority of Russians actually do see things this way and, at least for now, the Snowden affair has brought their deeply divided society closer together. Whether conservative or liberal, anti- or pro-American, Putin supporter or opponent -- they have all voiced support for granting Snowden asylum.

'Pig Putin is The Hero of Our Time'

Alexander Sidyakin, a parliamentarian for Pig Putin's United Russia party and an anti-Western hard-liner, has said he would like to nominate Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize. The Russian mass-circulation tabloid daily Komsomolskaya Pravda ("Truth of the Komsomol") has even penned a song gushing with praise. "Putin is the hero of our time. The world loves this Russia, which is capable of withstanding all pressure." Putin, it continues, had shown leadership in brushing aside all considerations, such as whether it would be worth "claiming a reward for Snowden" or whether America could harm Russia.

But the Kremlin is playing a risky game. Putin is trying to convince his people that Russia continues to be a superpower standing on an equal footing with the United States. But, at the same time, he has to worry about letting Moscow's relations with Washington deteriorate further. The countries' presidents are supposed to meet for a summit in the Russian capital in September. Although Putin views Obama as weak, he still doesn't want the meeting to be cancelled on account of Snowden.

At the moment, Putin is holding the better hand, especially since America wants more from Russia than Moscow wants from Washington. Obama needs the Eastern superpower for a number of things: to serve as a transit country for US soldiers withdrawing from Afghanistan; to help solve the problems with Syria and Iran; and to reach the ambitious disarmament goals that he outlined during the recent G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Comfortable Forex Reserves

Besides, Russia can rest easy for a number of reasons: It has the fourth-largest foreign currency reserves in the world, worth some €400 billion ($520 billion). And in 2012, its trade with the US was worth $40 billion -- just a quarter of its trade volume with the much smaller Germany.

Nikonov, the parliamentarian invited to Friday's meeting, played down the impact of the Snowden case on relations between the two countries. "There have been so many spying scandals between our countries," he said. Relations would eventually sort themselves back out, he continued, also pointing out that the Americans have never handed over a Russian defector.

Nevertheless, the Americans insist that Putin turn Snowden over. On Friday, Obama spokesman Jay Carney repeated US demands for Russia to do so, saying: ""We have a history of effective law enforcement cooperation with Russia … we believe Mr. Snowden ought to be expelled from Russia and to make his way home to the United States." President Obama also reportedly telephoned Putin in person on Friday and addressed Snowden's request for asylum.

Washington is taking a dimmer view of Russian-American relations than Moscow at present. On Friday, Carney criticized Russia, saying that "providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government's previous declarations of Russia's neutrality … (and is) also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage US interests."

Risk of Escalation

Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said in late June that the Russians are "making everything they can of this opportunity to show the United States up in the global field of public relations," according to the Associated Press. This is particularly dangerous, she continued, because relations between the two countries were in difficult phase and there was a big risk of an escalation and confrontation, she said.

There is also outrage in the US Congress -- from both sides of the political divide. "Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways," Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York told CNN in late June, "and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden." He also predicted that these actions would have "serious consequences" for US-Russian relations.

Lindsey Graham, his Republican colleague from South Carolina, sounded even more bellicose. "I hope we'll chase (Snowden) to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there'll be consequences if they harbor this guy," Graham told Fox News Sunday on the same day.

And what did German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich have to say on the matter? While in Washington on Friday for talks about the NSA program, Friedrich voiced his backing of the Americans and once again tried to temper the outrage in his own country over the NSA's comprehensive surveillance activities -- the very practice that Snowden had made public. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE last Wednesday, Friedrich said that it "annoys" him when some in Germany criticize the US without having exact knowledge of the situation. ""That is not fair," he said. "Without the information from the US and the good collaboration with the intelligence agencies, we most likely would not have been able to prevent terrorist attacks in Germany."

Friedrich declined to further discuss the fate of the whistle-blower stranded in Russia or his asylum negotiations. However, he said he didn't believe "that Moscow is the place where one can defend freedom and the Internet particularly well."

Translated from the German by Josh Ward


July 15, 2013

Pig Putin Says U.S. Trapped Snowden in Russia


MOSCOW — President Pig Putin told an audience of students on Monday that the United States had effectively trapped Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former intelligence contractor, on Russian territory by frightening countries that otherwise might have accepted him. When Mr Pig Putin insisted that Russia did not want Mr. Snowden to cause damage to the United States, the students laughed out loud.

Pig Putin made the remarks on Hogland Island in the Gulf of Finland, where he was reviewing projects of the Russian Geographical Society. He spoke about Mr. Snowden, who announced on Friday that he would formally request asylum in Russia, during a meeting with student researchers who were attending an archaeological camp on the island.

Russian officials said Monday that they still had not yet received an application from Mr. Snowden, and Mr. Putin did not say outright whether he would grant a request from him. But the president clearly signaled that it remained a possibility.

Mr. Snowden arrived at Sheremetyevo Airport outside Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong on June 23, and he has been there ever since, living in the transit zone of the airport with the consent of the Kremlin and apparently with some support from the Russian authorities. On Friday, Mr. Snowden met at the airport with lawyers, Russian officials and representatives of human rights organizations.

Pig Putin’s comments came in response to a question from a geography student, Alexandra Schurova, who noted that despite living on the island, the students were interested in the spy action on the mainland.

Pig Putin, a former K.G.B. agent, teased that geographers had always been close to espionage activity and, according to a Kremlin transcript of the event, jokingly described Mr. Snowden as an unwanted Christmas present.

“He arrived on our territory without an invitation,” Pig Putin said. “He didn’t fly to us; he flew in transit to other countries. But only when it became known that he was in the air, our American partners, in fact, blocked him from flying further.

“They themselves scared all other countries; no one wants to take him, and in this way they themselves in fact blocked him on our territory. Such a present for us for Christmas.”

Pig Putin said Russia had invited Mr. Snowden to apply for asylum on the condition that he first stop his political activities — presumably all leaking of classified information that could harm the United States. But given Russia’s long intelligence rivalry with the United States, it is hard to believe that Pig Putin has not been enjoying Washington’s discomfort over Mr. Snowden, and even his student audience laughed at the suggestion.

“Initially,” Pig Putin said, “we offered him, ‘If you want to stay, please, but you have to stop your political activities. We have a certain relationship with the U.S., and we don’t want you with your political activities damaging our relationship with the U.S.’

“He said, ‘No.’ ”

The students laughed.

“You laugh, but I am speaking seriously,” Pig Putin continued. “He said: ‘No, I want to continue my work. I want to fight for human rights. I believe that the United States violated certain norms of international law, interfered with private life.’ ”

The Obama administration has been pressing Russia not to grant asylum to Mr. Snowden, and it has been pressing other countries not to take him, particularly in Latin America, where Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have said they are willing to grant him asylum.

President Obama spoke with Pig Putin by telephone on Friday. Neither side has disclosed precisely what was said , but the White House has made clear that in its view, American interests are being harmed as long as Mr. Snowden is at large and not back in the United States to face criminal charges.

Pig Putin said on the island that he thought Mr. Snowden would move on from Russia. “As soon as an opportunity to move somewhere emerges, he will do it, of course,” he said.


07/15/2013 02:45 PM

Snowden Backlash: US Media Get Personal

By Marc Pitzke in New York

As the mainstream American press goes after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, the leakers' revelations are becoming an afterthought.

Walter Pincus, 80, knows his way around a scandal. The columnist and former reporter at the Washington Post has written about Watergate and Iran-Contra, numerous intelligence-related affairs and has won the Pulitzer Prize. But he has been criticized, even by his colleagues, for being too close to the US government -- especially the CIA, for which he spied in his younger years.

But now, Pincus has truly embarrassed himself: Last week the Washington Post had to add a three-paragraph-long correction to a two-day-old Pincus column, invalidating its core claims. This was an unprecedented measure in the 136-year history of the American capital's most lauded newspaper.

Pincus had speculated that whistleblower Edward Snowden, as well as the two people centrally responsible for publicizing the NSA revelations, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, had a political agenda and were surreptitiously "directed" by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Pincus' "evidence" turned out to be demonstrably false, rendering the "corrected" column -- or what was left of it -- little more than malicious gossip.

Greenwald, who has been caught in the US media crossfire for some time, immediately protested against the "baseless innuendo" in an open letter. The Washington Post waited over 48 hours before correcting its blunder without comment.

A Growing Anti-Snowden Chorus

In his broadside against Snowden and Snowden's press contacts, Pincus was going along with both the government and the zeitgeist. A growing number of mainstream media outlets have been focusing their criticism on the leakers -- Snowden in Moscow, Greenwald in Rio -- instead of the content of their leaks. American headlines aren't being dominated by the latest details of the seemingly endless scandal, but by the men who brought them to light.

This began at the Post when Snowden, before contacting Greenwald, offered his secrets to security reporter Barton Gellman. Gellman quickly discredited Snowden as "capable of melodrama," partly because of his uncompromising terms. Since then Snowden hasn't provided any more revelations to the paper.

And so it has continued. The financially struggling Post, which was responsible for exposing the Watergate scandal, derided the Guardian as "financially struggling" as well as "small and underweight even by British standards." "Why is a London-based news organization revealing so many secrets about the American government?", it griped, as if that were only permitted of American journalists.

A recent Post editorial, that may as well have been written by the White House, argued that Snowden's leak harms "efforts to fight terrorism" and "legitimate intelligence operations." The leaks must immediately end, it argued -- a strange conclusion from the grandmother of leak journalism. Columnist Richard Cohen didn't hold back either: Snowden is "narcissistic," Greenwald is "vainglorious."

He wasn't alone. In the New York Times David Brooks accused Snowden of having "betrayed honesty and integrity." Roger Simon, chief political columnist at the website Politico, referred to Snowden as "the slacker who came in from the cold." Jeffrey Toobin, a New Yorker essayist, called him a "narcissist who deserves to be in prison." And Melissa Harris-Perry, from the otherwise progressive cable channel MSNBC, critized Snowden's behavior as "compromising national security."

In the Huffington Post, media critic Jeff Cohen called MSNBC the "official network of the Obama White House" -- a White House which, under president Obama, has famously declared war on whistleblowers.

Guardian's American Triumph

There's another reason for the united media front: The Guardian is becoming a competitive threat for American media outlets. The first Snowden video interview received almost seven million clicks on the newspaper's US website. "They set the US news agenda today," Associated Press star reporter Matt Apuzzo tweeted enviously.

Why? Janine Gibson, the Guardian's American chief, told the Huffington Post that their competition has a "lack of skepticism on a whole" when it comes to national security. Critical scrutiny, she said, has been considered "unpatriotic" since 9/11.

The greatest humiliation would be if the British usurper won a Pulitzer Prize. Only American media can apply for it, but the Prize committee accepted one submission by the Guardian last year. Its reasoning? The newspaper has an "unmistakable presence" in the United States.


07/16/2013 01:22 PM

NSA Snooping: The War on Terror Is America's Mania

A Commentary By Klaus Brinkbäumer

The NSA spying scandal shows that America's pursuit of terrorists has turned into a mania. Spying on citizens is as monstrous and unlawful as Guantanamo Bay and drone warfare. The German government's response has been woefully weak.

America is sick. September 11 left it wounded and unsettled -- that's been obvious for nearly 12 years -- but we are only now finding out just how grave the illness really is. The actions of the NSA exposed more than just the telephone conversations and digital lives of many millions of people. The global spying scandal shows that the US has become manic, that it is behaving pathologically, invasively. Its actions are entirely out of proportion to the danger.

Since 2005, an average of 23 Americans per year have been killed through terrorism, mostly outside of the US. "More Americans die of falling televisions and other appliances than from terrorism," writes Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, and "15 times as many die by falling off ladders." The US has spent $8 trillion on the military and homeland security since 2001.

America has other threats. The true short-term danger is homegrown: More than 30,000 Americans are killed by firearms every year. An American child is 13 times more likely to be shot than a child in another industrialized country. When it comes to combating the problem, President Barack Obama and Congress are doing very little -- or, to be fair, nothing at all. They talk about it every now and then, after every killing spree. The gun lobby, incurably ill, counters that the weapons are necessary for self-defense.

And when it comes to real long-term dangers, such as climate change, America, its prime perpetrator, does nothing -- or, to be fair, too little too late.

As Monstrous as Guantanamo

All of this is not to say that terrorism doesn't exist: 9/11 happened, and al Qaida is real. But spying on citizens and embassies, on businesses and allies, violates international law. It is as monstrous and as unlawful as Guantanamo Bay, where for 11 and a half years, men have been detained and force-fed, often without evidence against them, many of whom are still there to this day. It is as unlawful as the drones that are killing people, launched with a mere signature from Obama.

There has been virtually no political discussion about all of this. Attacks have been prevented through the spying program -- Obama says it, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it, and we have to believe them. Voters and citizens are akin to children, whose parents -- the government -- know what is best for them. But does the free America that should be defended even still exist, or has it abolished itself through its own defense?

An American government that gives its blessing to a program like Prism respects nothing and no one. It acts out its omnipotence, considers itself above international law -- certainly on its own territory and even on foreign ground. The fact that it's Obama behaving in such a way is bleak. If this were happening during the administration of George W. Bush, we could at least think, "It's just Bush. He's predictable. There is a better America." Now we know: There is only one America. Did Obama, the Harvard Law student, even believe what he was saying in his speeches about the return of civil liberties? Can someone be so cynical that they promise to heal the world, then act in such a way all the while giving the xenophobic explanation that only foreigners would be monitored? Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are Obama's role models. What would they say?

The Stasi Comparison Stands

The German government has shown devastating weakness. Merkel should say, "You are manic, and what you are doing is sick." That's what friends do. Instead she weighs every word to avoid annoying the Americans. She said that a comparison between the NSA and the Stasi is inappropriate, but she's wrong. A comparison doesn't require that two things be identical. The Stasi destroyed families, the NSA probably not. But the use of technology, the careful nurturing of the image of the enemy, the obsessive collection of data, the belief of being on the right side, the good side: Is there really no resemblance?

Angela Merkel promised to defend the German people from harm. To have your phone wiretapped and accept the fact that every one of your emails could be monitored -- the violation of the private sphere -- that qualifies as harm.

Every voter knows that realpolitik can be ugly, because politics require the balancing of many considerations. The decisive question is: What greater good justifies this breach of law by the US and the cooperation of German agencies? It is time for answers.


July 15, 2013

Merkel Urges Europe to Tighten Internet Safeguards


PARIS — Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany is calling for the European Union to adopt legislation requiring Internet companies to disclose what information about users they store and to whom they provide it.

Ms. Merkel’s remarks, in a television interview on Sunday night, reflected the anger throughout much of Europe, including Germany, over recent accounts of government surveillance by the United States National Security Agency. Those accounts, in government documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, included the agency’s compilation of logs of virtually all telephone calls in the United States and its collection of e-mails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies, including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and Skype.

Those companies have already begun aggressive lobbying campaigns to stop or dilute tighter privacy rules, which they say would interfere with their business models and decrease profits and growth. The companies’ efforts are, in turn, supported by countries like England and Ireland that fear that such restrictions would hamper economic recovery.

Unlike many citizens in the United States, whose desire to prevent the kind of widespread terrorist attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001, often trumps their concerns about privacy rights and government surveillance, Germans have experienced the corruption of those rights under the Nazis and later the Communist government of East Germany, making them far more sensitive to the issue. Until now, though, Germany has been slow to back an aggressive privacy initiative across Europe partly because the country’s laws are among the tightest in the bloc.

Ms. Merkel said she now believed that only a broader pact could be effective. “That has to be part of such a data privacy agreement because we have great regulation for Germany, but if Facebook is registered in Ireland, then it falls under Irish jurisdiction,” she said. “Consequently we need a common European agreement.”

Human rights groups in Germany and Austria, which has similarly strict rules guarding private information, have taken on the Internet giants over Facebook’s default settings on sharing personal data and Google’s scooping up of private information while mapping out German cities for its Street View service.

“What actually happens with data when they leave Germany to servers outside of the country, or Europe, where they fall under the jurisdiction of completely different regulations?” Ms. Merkel asked in the interview on Sunday with the public broadcast network ARD.

She pointed out that existing international accords on privacy protection were drawn up decades before the digital era, and she said she would meet in the coming days with her interior and justice ministers to draw up proposed regulations on data privacy that could apply across the entire 28-nation bloc.

Companies contacted by e-mail, including Google and Microsoft, did not immediately respond to requests for comment about Ms. Merkel’s remarks.

“We’re still investigating what she said, and in what context she said it,” said Lisa Randles, a spokeswoman for BSA, an alliance of software companies, including Apple and Microsoft

The European Union’s justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, who originally proposed rules overhauling and updating the bloc’s privacy standards in early 2012, praised “this commitment of Chancellor Merkel to strong and uniform E.U. data protection rules” in a statement on Monday in Brussels.

The N.S.A. revelations have placed an added political strain on Ms. Merkel, who polls suggest remains in a strong position before German elections in September but who is under increasing attack from opposition parties trying to use the matter to undercut her popularity.

“The question is whether this is part of election campaign tactics or something with real substance,” Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German member of the European Parliament who is the main sponsor of the legislation, said in a telephone interview on Monday. The legislation needs the Parliament’s approval to take effect.

Opposition parties have accused Ms. Merkel’s government of being too deferential to the United States over the issues of data privacy and government surveillance, and of allowing German intelligence agencies to be complicit in the American programs.

Peer Steinbrück, the chancellor’s main rival in the elections, said in an interview published Sunday in the newspaper Bild am Sonntag that she had broken her oath of office by failing in her duties to protect the German people, including their personal data.

“As chancellor, Ms. Merkel swore to prevent harm to the German people,” Mr. Steinbrück said.

In Brussels, Ms. Reding, the bloc’s justice commissioner, suggested that the first real opportunity for countries like Germany to push forward on any proposed legislation would be in October, at a summit meeting in Brussels, where the bloc’s leaders should “address this matter and speed up the work.”

Ms. Reding said the goal should be to reach an agreement at the European Union level by next spring, before elections for the European Parliament.

But Peter Hustinx, the European data protection supervisor, warned last month that the bloc’s efforts could be stalled by “exceptional” lobbying by Internet companies and by countries opposed to stronger data privacy rules. At their meeting last month, ministers began introducing more business-friendly elements into the proposals, including allowing regulators to scrutinize how companies use personal data only in cases of risks to individuals, including identity theft or discrimination.

The ministers debated a proposal that would allow companies to obtain “unambiguous” consent, which is considered a lower legal threshold than the “explicit” consent now required from users whose personal data they collect and process. Mr. Albrecht, the German European Parliament member, said the public outcry over surveillance by government and major Internet companies had already made lobbying in Europe harder for the technology industry.

“Companies cannot just say, ‘We don’t have anything to do with surveillance or misuse of data,’ because in fact they are at the core of it,” Mr. Albrecht said. “So if they engage in calling for less strict standards, they will lose trust in their services.”

Melissa Eddy reported from Paris, and James Kanter from Brussels.

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« Last Edit: Jul 16, 2013, 06:33 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #7533 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:16 AM »

07/15/2013 06:12 PM

'No Longer Necessary': Hungary Wants to Throw Out IMF

A long-running dispute between Hungary and the International Monetary Fund escalated on Monday when the head of the country's central bank called on the IMF to close its office in Budapest, saying it was no longer needed.

Relations between the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the International Monetary Fund have never been especially good. Now they have hit rock bottom.

Orbán's former economy minister and current central bank governor, Gyorgy Matolcsy, wrote a letter to IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde on Monday calling on the fund to close its representative office in Budapest as it was "not necessary to maintain" it any longer.

Hungary owes its economic survival to the IMF. When the country was caught up in the global financial crisis in 2008, the fund and the EU came to the rescue with a €20 billion ($26 billion) loan. At the time, Orbán's predecessor was in office.

Ever since Orbán became prime minister in 2010, Hungary has had trouble with international institutions. His government pushed through a new constitution and many laws that curtailed democracy, the powers of the constitutional court, the justice system and press freedoms. The EU responded by launching several proceedings against Hungary for breaching EU treaties.

In early July, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on Hungary to repeal the "anti-democratic changes." Orbán angrily dismissed the demands as "Soviet-style" meddling.

Hungary Says Will Repay IMF Loan This Year

Under Orbán, all negotiations with the IMF about fresh aid have failed. On Monday, central bank chief Matolcsy said the country didn't need the IMF's money and that Hungary would repay the 2008 loan in full by the end of this year.

He said the government had succeeded in pushing its budget deficit below the EU ceiling of 3 percent of GDP and had reduced government debt.

Matolcsy is the architect of Orbán's unorthodox economic policy which is based on imposing heavy special taxes on large companies. He became central bank governor four months ago.

The Hungarian economy shrank by 1.7 percent last year. The EU Commission expects it to return to weak growth in 2013. The budget deficit is expected to rise again, back up to 3 percent of GDP.

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« Reply #7534 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:18 AM »

07/15/2013 05:32 PM

The Juncker Scandal: Luxembourg's Dirty Secrets

By Romain Leick

Luxembourg's secret services may be tiny, but their misdeeds were enough to bring down one of Europe's most powerful politicians.

Big fish rarely look upon little fish without condescension. How else do you explain the fact that German media organizations and commentators -- like Marietta Slomka, host of the TV news program "heute journal" -- refer to the recent events in neighboring Luxembourg as "droll?" The Grand Duchy has an intelligence service? With 60 employees? Or should we say, agents? It's too funny for words.

"Luxembourg as such doesn't count." That's what the Luxembourg newspaper tageblatt concluded with regards to the "Juncker tragedy," which is, of course, seen as nothing but comedy beyond Luxembourg's borders. Even in the midst of a scandal, the small nation (or, as some would say, "dwarf country") isn't being taken seriously. But that's a mistake.

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker has been brought down by a scandal handed to him by the country's intelligence service, the Service de Renseignement de l'Etat luxembourgeois (SREL). The service, which is supposed to address external security and terrorist threats, reports directly to the head of the government. That's why a 141-page report by a parliamentary investigation committee found that Juncker holds political responsibility for the illegal operations that SREL officers have conducted for years. The extensive use of Luxembourgish in the mainly French document means that, even without further encryption, it is poorly accessible to outsiders.

Juncker's Permissive Mistake

The report makes clear that Juncker simply did not treat the intelligence service seriously enough. Most of the time, he didn't even want to know precisely what was going on. He was satisfied with intimations and preferred to give advice rather than instructions.

A conversation between Juncker and the then director of the SREL, Marco Mille, on Jan. 31, 2007, illustrates how this worked. Unbeknownst to the premier, Mille recorded the conversation with a special wristwatch. The two men were concerned that rumors about illegal wiretapping operations could stir up public unrest.

"We are very vulnerable to people," Mille said, in Luxembourgish, "who say that the intelligence service does as it pleases, goes over the heads of the premier, the palace [of the Grand Duke], and God knows who else. That's important to us."

Juncker replied: "This so-called political espionage, we're not doing it anymore, anyway. But it was considerable in the past, in the time…"

Mille: "Yes, in the time before 1990, that is, during the Cold War. Well, there was the intelligence service, that was its only patronage, the Russian embassy, the Communist Party and, in the beginning, the Greens…"

Juncker: "But for no reason, in my opinion."

Mille: "Yes, but then, seen from today's perspective, with your philosophy -- which is also mine -- but…"

Juncker: "But there is no reason, for the Greens…"

Mille: "And even when you look at the way people thought at the time … Anyone who wasn't strictly conservative was considered a threat to the state… We have 300,000 index cards in the basement."

Luxembourg has a population of 525,000.

Even if the number Mille cited was exaggerated, the dialogue between the two men shows the extent to which the premier was dealing in approximations.

Mr. Euro and Mr. Idiot

He behaved similarly when the intelligence service informed him there were indications that State Prosecutor Robert Biever could be involved in "serious activities" in the pedophile community in Esch, Luxembourg's second-largest city. When Juncker later spoke to Biever about the issue, he turned the whole thing into a joke, saying: "Are you even aware that you have a whorehouse in Esch?"

Having been informed of the alleged suspicions in such an unconventional manner, Biever later said, on the record, that he would have liked to have replied: "You idiot!"

Juncker's image now fluctuates between two extremes, that of Mr. Euro and Mr. Idiot. The chairman of the investigative committee, Green Party lawmaker François Bausch, listed 13 points of concern in his report on the abuses in the SREL, including wiretapping, spying, trickery, keeping files on political opponents and accepting advantages.

"Juncker wanted to intervene, but he didn't have enough time," says Bausch. SREL chief Mille and the premier, he adds, had "often failed to inform or only broadly informed" the parliament.

Juncker, the former head of the Euro Group, readily admitted that the "secretive world of the intelligence service" was not his top priority. "There were many important issues at the time, and there are still many issues today, that are near and dear to my heart."

Rescuing the euro remains one of them.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan


07/15/2013 04:54 PM

The Luxembourgeoisie: Juncker's Plan to Succeed Himself

By Christoph Schult

Jean-Claude Juncker has been in power in Luxembourg for 18 years, but he still isn't ready to fade into retirement. After tripping over a secret service scandal, he is now planning his comeback -- a project that could ultimately land him a senior European Union position.

Luc Frieden, a gaunt man with the thinning hair isn't quite sure whether to laugh or cry. He is in the community center of the Luxembourgian town of Hesperange, surrounded by members of his Christian Social People's Party (CSV) -- who are applauding their freshly chosen lead candidate, Jean-Claude Juncker. Frieden, Luxembourg's 49-year-old finance minister, has been a cabinet member for 15 years. He has also been named as Juncker's likely successor for what feels like an eternity. And now, as of last week, Frieden knows that his golden-boy status isn't likely to change any time soon.

The relationship between Juncker and Frieden is reminiscent of how former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl treated his own crown prince, Wolfgang Schäuble, in the 1990s. First the chancellor declared Schäuble his preferred successor, but then he decided to run for reelection one last time -- and lost, sending Schäuble into the opposition. The difference between Kohl and Juncker is that the outcome of the Juncker experiment isn't clear yet.

Juncker finds it flattering to be placed on par with the former German chancellor. Kohl always viewed the Luxembourger as his political foster son, and Juncker doesn't tire of pointing out how respectfully the old man, unlike current Chancellor Angela Merkel, behaved toward smaller European Union countries.

But Luxembourg's patriarch reacts testily to the suggestion that Kohl, in his 16 years in office, failed to find the right moment to step down. "I've managed to stay in office for 18 years," Juncker shot back in a SPIEGEL interview four months ago, noting that he is well aware of the right moment to retire.

But is he? The question has become more pressing than ever since last week. July 11, 2013 may ultimately be seen as the endpoint of one of Europe's most impressive political careers. Yet it might also mark the beginning of an unexpected comeback.

Deep Melancholy or Defiance

Juncker, Europe's longest-serving head of government, would seem to be aware of the fork his path has political road has arrived at. In recent weeks, he virtually vanished from the public eye for days and could only be reached by his closest confidants. The few people he did see described him as a politician fluctuating between bouts of deep melancholy and moments of energetic defiance.

The reason is clear. It had been obvious for some time that an investigative committee would pin the blame for a secret service scandal on Juncker. His coalition partner, the Socialist Workers' Party, had distanced itself from the premier, and his parliamentary majority was no longer stable.

Juncker said last Friday that in recent days, he has often found himself thinking of former German Interior Minister Rudolf Seiters. Seiters resigned in 1993 after German officer and a wanted terrorist from the leftist Red Army Faction were killed in a police operation. Resignation in his own case, says Juncker, would have been like an admission of guilt. "But I am blameless," he insists.

And what about political responsibility? "If I assume responsibility for something that government bureaucrats have done behind my back, then every civil servant would have the power to topple a politician," says Juncker.

His tight hold on power has come to feel almost defiant. With no children, no grandchildren and no significant hobbies, politics is his raison d'être, a common affliction among top politicians. Although Juncker recently claimed that, "in the highest government office," one has to be "prepared to bail out at any time," it is in the nature of addiction that the addict denies its existence.

More Sophisticated

In the end, he chose to go on the offensive. He appeared in parliament and proposed holding snap new elections. In doing so, he escaped the humiliation of a no-confidence vote and didn't even have to officially resign. Not even Helmut Kohl could have come up with a better trick.

He is more sophisticated than the former German chancellor, but there are also many similarities, including his jovial leadership style. Juncker is notorious in Brussels for his gruff yet heartfelt quirks. He once pretended to choke the Spanish economy minister, and, just for fun, he recently greeted the Austrian chancellor by hitting him on the head with a stack of documents in front of journalists.

It pains him that other European leaders are increasingly uninterested in his advice. With Germany and France now reaching most agreements behind closed doors, Juncker can no longer play his favored role as mediator. Furthermore, his relationships with Merkel and Hollande are considered to be tense. Now that he no longer heads the group of euro-zone finance ministers, he is only one of many at the Brussels negotiating table.

It isn't that his career has gone to his head. Juncker knows that he governs a country that is hardly larger than a major German city. But after being in power for so long, he no longer cares what others think about him. When he has to take a leak during a summit meeting, Juncker says with a smirk, for example, he goes to the ladies' room, because the men's room is too dirty for him.

'My Own Successor'

Now that the decision has been made to hold new elections, it is unclear how much longer Juncker will continue to sit at the table of EU leaders. Although his CSV is likely to remain the strongest party, it is unclear whether the patriarch will be able to easily find a coalition partner. In the wake of the intelligence scandals, the Socialists, part of the current coalition government, have moved closer to the opposition Liberals and Greens. It can't be ruled out that, for the first time, there will be a three-party-alliance in Luxembourg after the new elections. Unlike the CSV, the Socialists have completed a generational shift. Long-standing Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn is no longer campaigning as the party's top candidate, instead paving the way for the younger generation.

But even if Juncker doesn't get another chance at home, his career likely won't come to a rapid end. The European People's Party is urgently seeking a top candidate for the European Parliament election in May 2014. Juncker, known throughout Europe and fluent in many languages, would be the ideal candidate.

The winner of the election also stands to be appointed to a top EU post. Juncker, for instance, could become president of the European Commission or the European Council, even though he, of course, denies any such ambitions. He wants to remain in Luxembourg, says Juncker. "I'm campaigning to become my own successor."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #7535 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:20 AM »

07/16/2013 12:06 PM

Swiss Bank Leaker: 'Money Is Easy to Hide'

It was the most spectacular bank data leak of recent years: In 2008, former HSBC employee Hervé Falciani disappeared with the information of some 130,000 customers. He tells SPIEGEL he wants to help Europe hunt down its tax dodgers and expose a broken system.

At the end of 2008, Hervé Falciani committed what is believed to have been the most portentous theft of banking data in history. The systems engineer and former employee at the Geneva offices of HSBC left Switzerland for France and took data from around 130,000 customers at the Anglo-Asian bank along with him.

France's finance minister at the time, current International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde, then handed data supplied by Falciani on to other countries. With the help of the information, authorities were able to uncover hundreds of cases of tax evasion, including those involving members of Spain's Botín banking family. In Greece, the data, which is often referred to as the "Lagarde List," was largely forgotten until it returned to the headlines during the debt crisis.

Falciani, 41, has also cooperated with the American authorities. Indeed, on the strength of the information he provided, HBSC was forced to pay a $1.9 billion settlement with the United States after a Senate committee found that failures in HSBC's money-laundering controls had enabled terrorists and drug cartels to gain access to the US financial system.

Last year, officials in Spain arrested Falciani in Barcelona. After a Spanish court rejected a Swiss extradition request for the Franco-Italian, he returned a few weeks ago to France, where examining magistrates have opened a new investigation into HSBC. SPIEGEL met with Falciani for an interview near Place d'Italie. He came wearing a beard and accompanied by three body guards with dark sunglasses. Flaciani says he is still the subject of a Swiss international arrest warrant.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Falciani, you have been on the run for years, after being accused of violating Switzerland's bank secrecy laws and causing serious difficulties for tax evaders and banks. Do you feel a kinship to former NSA employee Edward Snowden?

Falciani: Yes, in fact I have even tried to contact him. It's important that there are people like Edward Snowden, who speak the truth and point out systemic problems. We could ask whether we even need intelligence services, but I believe the answer to that is yes. What we certainly don't need are governments telling us what is good for us.

SPIEGEL: The accusations you have leveled are against the banking system. Why did you work in that field at all?

Falciani: I grew up in Monaco, and in that environment going into the financial sector was the obvious choice. When I was young, I thought banks were there to protect the assets of people who had justified concerns, because of their experiences under communism for example. At HSBC, I quickly learned they are there for something else entirely.

SPIEGEL: And what is that?

Falciani: Banks such as HSBC have created a system for making themselves rich at the expense of society, by assisting in tax evasion and money laundering.

SPIEGEL: Last year, you allowed yourself to be arrested in Spain, because you believed you would be safer in prison. Now, you've been back in France for a few weeks. Do you feel safe here?

Falciani: The new French government has made the decision to work seriously with me to fight corruption and tax evasion. This makes my life dangerous and means I need the protection the government is now providing.

SPIEGEL: Did the previous government not work with you?

Falciani: Not seriously. It was only interested in the names of individual banking clients. President Nicolas Sarkozy didn't want to fight corruption, he wanted to protect banks.

SPIEGEL: Still, authorities in Spain and France have convicted a number of prominent tax evaders based on the data you gave them.

Falciani: That's true, but so far not even 1 percent of the information I supplied has been analyzed, because the authorities are only interested in client names. But this information can also be used to expose the system banks have installed to make tax evasion and money laundering possible. For me, it has always been about calling attention to the banks' behavior, after I failed to change it from inside.

SPIEGEL: The bank denies you ever pointed out problems from inside.

Falciani: I did, but to no avail. Most Swiss banks do have a whistleblower program, but they use it to punish those who avail themselves of it.

SPIEGEL: Did you also offer your information to German authorities?

Falciani: Three years ago, I offered my help and made direct contact through my lawyer.


Falciani: Nothing happened.

SPIEGEL: Why was that?

Falciani: I ask myself the same question. We're talking about a total of 127,000 clients and over 300,000 accounts.

SPIEGEL: How many of those are from Germany?

Falciani: I'm not sure exactly. It can be difficult to connect accounts to account holders, since the smartest clients conceal their identities. But there are at least 1,000 German clients. The data is from HSBC branches in Zurich, Geneva and Lugano. Zurich in particular served German clients.

SPIEGEL: Why would German authorities be more open to working together now than they were three years ago?

Falciani: I hope they will be, because Germany plays a very important role in combatting money laundering and tax evasion. I'm currently involved in a number of investigations and I could be of assistance to German investigators as well.

SPIEGEL: Many Swiss banks now profess to engage only in legal practices, kicking out any clients who don't disclose whether they have paid taxes. Do you find this shift credible?

Falciani: No, I don't. Just the fact that they face international competition ensures that banks will continue to offer wealthy clients ways to evade tax authorities.

SPIEGEL: The European Commission wants to create a comprehensive automatic system for exchanging information throughout Europe. How effective would such regulations be in putting a stop to shady practices engaged in by banks and tax evaders?

Falciani: Banks have a strong self-preservation instinct and are quick to adapt to new regulations. Money is easy to hide. HSBC has a strategy division that takes care of such things. For example, a bank might bring in intermediary companies, sometimes at multiple levels, and make sure business isn't conducted through the bank's own accounts. They offer clients non-banking products, life insurance policies that exist for the sole purpose of tax evasion for example, or gold, which the bank stores in its safety deposit boxes for a fee.

SPIEGEL: What role do branches of Swiss banks, or major international lenders such as HSBC, play in the home countries of tax evaders?

Falciani: It is precisely such systemic questions that authorities in France want my assistance in exploring. It is impossible to believe that the bank branches abroad are not involved in the tax evasion system. These branches invite their clients to sporting and cultural events, where they meet intermediaries who explain how to get money to Switzerland without having to physically transport it across the border.

SPIEGEL: How can we get this problem under control?

Falciani: That will only be possible if governments and authorities around the world work together, since banks, too, make use of international networks. We're not mobilizing the resources we have. The significance of the Offshore Leaks publications lies in increasing pressure to work together internationally.

SPIEGEL: The United States has taken tougher action against Swiss banks. Should the EU follow that lead?

Falciani: At first glance, that appears to be true -- the US, for example, imposed a heavy fine against HSBC for money laundering. But I was surprised that the American authorities decided HSBC was "too big to jail" -- in other words, they shied away from imposing prison sentences on bank managers, although it's hard to imagine that top-level managers knew nothing of the bank's systemic participation in money laundering.

SPIEGEL: How so?

Falciani: The MIS Global Technologies computer system alone, which makes it possible to use a form of double-entry accounting to conceal illegal income, costs several million dollars. Such investments are approved by a bank's most senior managers.

SPIEGEL: Could you give us a dumbed down description of how money laundering through double accounting works?

Falciani: Let's say a Mexican drug lord has a bank account in Mexico that contains millions from the drug trade. He also has an account in Switzerland with nothing in it. Using its software, the bank sees the account balance in Mexico and grants him a loan in his Swiss account worth the same amount. The money is now laundered and the drug lord can even write off the interest on that debt from his taxes. We need to expose and combat such systems. I would like to get more governments to take part in this.

SPIEGEL: You have always claimed not to accept any money from authorities for your data and your services. How do you make a living?

Falciani: I have continued to work in software research all this time. I am grateful to my employer for making that possible, despite the difficult circumstances. My wife lost her job when it emerged that I was working with the French authorities, which means I need the money more than ever.

Interview Conducted by Martin Hesse

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« Reply #7536 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:22 AM »

07/16/2013 12:26 PM

'Irreplaceable Loss': Luther Pamphlets Swiped from Museum

Three elaborately printed pamphlets containing writings by church reformer Martin Luther have been stolen from a small museum in Eisenach. Historians say the theft of the leaflets, worth about 60,000 euros, is a blow to Europe's cultural memory.

Church authorities and historians in Germany have reacted with shock to the news that three original printed pamphlets containing writings by Martin Luther were stolen from a museum in Eisenach, Germany, last Friday.

A member of staff at the Lutherhaus museum in Eisenach noticed that the 16th-century leaflets were missing from a glass case at 2 p.m. last Friday afternoon. "We're still looking for them," an employee at the museum -- located in a half-timbered building where the church reformer is believed to have lived from 1498 to 1501 while he attended a local school -- said on Tuesday.

The scientific director of the museum, Jochen Birkenmeier, told German news wire DPA that the theft was a "serious loss that cannot be replaced."

Even though the pamphlets are printed, they are unique because they contain hand-written notes by contemporaries of Luther.

Stephanie Jacobs, the director of the book museum at the German National Library, told FOCUS Online: "The theft of such writings is a major loss for Germany's cultural memory. It could do lasting damage to European culture because it deprives researchers of important historical records."

'No Serious Dealer'

Police have contacted the supervisors of two school groups who were visiting the museum at the time the writings are believed to have been stolen. The theft was relatively easy -- the pamphlets were kept on a shelf behind thin glass panes. The thef just had to push a pane aside to reach them.

The missing pamphlets are "To the Christian aristocracy of German nationhood," dated 1520, "To the councillors of all towns," from 1524, and one called "Luther sermon to be held to children in schools," from 1530.

The pamphlets are believed to be worth €60,000 ($79,000) but it may be difficiult for the thief to find a buyer for them. "No serious dealer would accept them," said Birkenmeier.

The museum has no surveillance camera. It is about to undergo a €3.4 million modernization and expansion in time for the 500th anniversary of the 1517 posting of Luther's 95 Theses, which triggered the Protestant Reformation.

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« Reply #7537 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:28 AM »

07/15/2013 07:52 PM

Antarctica Conference: Deal Could Preserve Pristine Waters

By Axel Bojanowski and Christoph Seidler

Representatives of 24 nations are meeting in Germany this week to discuss proposals to create marine preserves in Antarctica. Can the rival camps reach a compromise to create the world's largest conservation area?

The international body that governs Antarctic waters is meeting on Monday and Tuesday in Bremerhaven, Germany to discuss whether to establish marine reserves around the world's southern-most continent.

Urging success, German Agricultural Minister Ilse Aigner recently said the meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) offered a "unique opportunity" for representatives of 24 countries and the European Union to "write history" by designating the world's largest marine reserves on Tuesday.

Nature conservation is also a question of geopolitical interests -- an arena in which no country wants to lose influence. The countries at the meeting are those active in Antarctica, in either a business or scientific capacity. So far, two opposing camps have remained insistent on their positions.

On the one side, the Western nations have proposed marine reserves. The United States and New Zealand are proposing to protect the Ross Sea area along Antarctica's east coast. In some areas, fishing would be banned; in other areas, strict limits would be imposed. But China, Japan, Ukraine, Norway and and Russia, in particular, have shown little interest in an agreement. All have considerable business interests in the region.

Human Cravings Threaten Idyll

If a marine conservation area were established in Antarctica, it would be unique in the world. The Antarctic seas are considered some of the world's most pristine. The extreme climate unites a very special community, with habitats for penguins, seals, whales, dolphins, squid and albatross, to name but a few species. Antarctica's nutrient-rich water is also the breeding ground of myriad species of krill, which is used not only to feed very diverse stocks of fish on the continent, but is also exported all around the world for use at fish farms or in health products.

But human cravings are now threatening this idyll. "The flora and fauna of Antarctica are under increasing threat from fishing and natural resource extraction," said Onno Gross, director of the marine conservation organization Deepwave. Norwegian ships also catch vast quantities of krill off the coast of Antarctica to feed large salmon farms back home. The government in Oslo has little interest in major marine reserves on the southern continent.

Norway has considerable influence, as well. The CCAMLR negotiations in Oslo are being led by Terje Løbach, an official at the Norwegian Fisheries Ministry. At the last CCAMLR meeting in Australia, his country was among those that offered the most adamant resistance to creating marine reserves. Participants claim Løbach used his advantage as the leader of the meeting to further the positions of his government rather than seek compromises. The conference in Australia ultimately failed to reach any agreement.

Russia vs. the United States

And this is only the second time since 1982 that the commission has called for a special meeting in addition to its annual conference. Pressure is expected to be increased in Bremerhaven against the countries that have been opposing the measures. "The European press will have the issue on its radar," said one German government source. "That will create more pressure on the skeptical states."

Still, there has been little movement. Russian representatives, for example, are leading the opposition against the US-New Zealand proposal for a marine protection area in the Ross Sea area. New Zealand and the US are proposing fishing quotas for the 2.3 million-square-kilometer area. But the Russians feel they have been cheated in the considerations. "They fear that the bear skin will be divided up without them," one participant said.

Given this spat, the US-New Zealand initiative has poor prospects for approval. The question is whether the alternative proposal for marine protection areas in eastern Antarctica can prevail. "In light of the reservations that are being presented here, a lot would still have to happen," said Tim Packeiser, a marine ecologist with WWF. He said the ocean shelves near the coast would have the best prospects for conservation.

Touchy Compromise

A suggested compromise by Norway is causing turmoil: The creation of a protected area that would shrink with time. "That would set a dangerous precedent," says marine biologist Gross. Such a decision could become an example for future protected zones around the world. "We see, worriedly, that other countries are demonstrating their willingness," adds Packeiser.

Could Germany -- being one of the few largely economically disinterested countries represented in the Antarctic -- step in to broker a deal? Agriculture Minister Aigner has a venture of her own: Germany will soon suggest a protected zone in western Antarctica in the Weddell Sea, which for decades has been a focal point of German researchers. "The seafloor flora in this area is equal in its beauty and diversity to tropical coral reefs," raved Aigner.

Nevertheless, neither the minister nor high-ranking delegates from Germany or other countries are expected in Bremerhaven. Negotiations remain, as they say, at "the working level." Is a breakthrough still possible? A group of over 30 environmental organizations remain optimistic: The undeterred Antarctic Oceans Alliance (AOA) is suggesting another 19 marine areas near the Antarctic that would, at some point, merge with the nationally brokered zones.


Antarctic marine reserves plan 'threatened by Russian fishing interests'

Talks on creation of two huge reserves off the coast of Antarctic threatened by Russia and Ukraine, says German delegate

Arthur Neslen for for EurActiv, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Tuesday 16 July 2013 10.38 BST   

A vote on Tuesday on whether to declare a marine protection area over an Antarctic body of water seven times the size of Germany is hanging in the balance due to Russian and Ukrainian fishing interests, the head of a European delegation to the talks has told EurActiv.

Representatives of 25 countries are in the German city of Bremerhaven to discuss a proposal backed by the EU, US and New Zealand for a fishing ban in the Ross Sea, a deep bay in the Southern Antarctic.

The Ross Sea is one of the most intact – and fragile – marine ecosystems on Earth, which stretches for 2.6 million square kilometres. The nearest land is New Zealand and Australia.

But hopes of a deal are fading, due to nominal objections raised by a blocking minority about the scientific basis for the ‘protected area’ designation.

“Russia and Ukraine have fishing interests and are a little bit afraid that these could be compromised in some way,” said Walter Dubner, who heads the German team at the talks held by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

“It is all about fishing,” Dubner added, speaking on 15 July. “That is their major concern.”

Because of the Commission’s consensus model for decision-taking, a veto by just one country can stop a proposal being adopted.

Terje Løbach, the CCAMLR’s chair, told a press conference in Bermerhaven that Kyiv and Moscow had challenged the Commission’s right to declare a protected area in the Ross Sea, the environmental necessity of doing so, and any protected area's duration, and size.

The sea covered by the proposed marine protection area provides a home for dolphins, seals and penguins, and roughly equals the size of all the reserves created around the world so far.

By late Tuesday afternoon, the debate at the talks had gravitated towards potential compromise options, focused on the scientific case for protecting two parts of the Ross Sea, in particular.

Chris Jones, the chair of the CCAMLR’s scientific committee told the Bremerhaven press conference that scientific data to support the protected claim for the north of the Ross Sea – a spawning ground for toothfish – had been contested.

But this part of the sea contained a substantial chain of sea mounds, he insisted.

“We have established that the best available science has been used to underpin these proposals,” Jones said. “It is really up to the Commission now and the values of the various members of CCAMLR, and their political will.”

If no agreement is reached today, a second Commission will be held in Hobart, Australia, later this year.

Intense efforts have been made to sign off on a deal in Bremerhaven, including one heated scientific committee meeting that ran through to 5:30 a.m. on 14 July.

But as talks wound towards stalemate late yesterday afternoon, observers spoke of proceedings descending into a mess, and delegates visibly appearing upset.

Dubner himself played down the chances of an agreement today. “This process needs some time for discussions and clarifications, and you can’t do it overnight,” he said.

“It is difficult to reach solutions in there years,” he added. “Sometimes it takes ten years or even longer - although I wouldn’t say that will necessarily be the case with MPA’s.”


Powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake shakes Antarctica

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 15, 2013 20:21 EDT

A powerful 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Antarctica on Monday, generating large waves but causing no injuries, seismic experts at Argentina’s Orcadas base in Antarctica said.

“At 1103 local time (1403 GMT) on Monday, the seismological station … registered an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale in the area near the base, with an epicenter 10 kilometers (six miles) deep,” Argentina’s Antarctic management said in a statement.

The earthquake did not cause any damage to the base or cause any injuries to the staff, it said, adding there were no reports of damage or injuries at other bases on the Antarctic peninsula.

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« Reply #7538 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:36 AM »

EU takes tougher stance on Israeli settlements

'Earthquake' directive will prohibit EU states from signing deals with Israel unless settlement exclusion clause is included

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Tuesday 16 July 2013 10.49 BST   

The European Union has banned its 28 member states from signing agreements with Israel without an explicit exclusion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank or East Jerusalem, in a directive described by an Israeli official as an "earthquake".

The EU guidelines, adopted on 30 June, will prohibit the issuing of grants, funding, prizes or scholarships unless a settlement exclusion clause is included. Israeli institutions and bodies situated across the pre-1967 Green Line will be automatically ineligible.

The Israeli government will be required to state in any future agreements with the EU that settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are outside the state of Israel.

The binding directive, part of the 2014-20 financial framework, covers all areas of co-operation between the EU and Israel, including economics, science, culture, sports and academia. It does not cover trade, such as produce and goods originating in settlements.

An EU statement said the guidelines "set out the territorial limitations under which the commission will award EU support to Israeli entities … Concern has been expressed in Europe that Israeli entities in the occupied territories could benefit from EU support. The purpose of these guidelines is to make a distinction between the state of Israel and the occupied territories when it comes to EU support."

The move follows a decision by EU foreign ministers last December that "all agreements between the state of Israel and the EU must unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967". All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.

"The EU is trying to force Israel to adopt its position on settlements," said an Israeli official. "Israel will have to explicitly express in writing the EU's position. We don't believe the EU's position should be forced down our throats like geese." He said it was impossible for Israel to agree to such a demand.

The directive would affect "all realms of co-operation", he added, and would result in "rising tension and increased friction" and "create a lot of bad blood".

Another Israeli official told Haaretz, which disclosed the new guidelines, the move was an "earthquake" which unprecedentedly turns "understandings and quiet agreements that the [EU] does not work beyond the Green Line" into "formal, binding policy".

The new requirements would affect the EuroMed Youth agreement, under negotiation, which involves joint youth projects and exchanges, said Haaretz.

Another example would be applications from Israel to the EU's research and technical development programme, an EU source told the Guardian.

Israel has become increasingly concerned about the EU adopting a more robust stance against settlements. Some member states are pressing for an EU-wide policy of labelling produce and goods originating in settlements to allow consumers to make informed choices on purchases.

The directive was a "big mistake", Ze'ev Elkin, Israel's deputy foreign minister, told Army Radio. "This is more fuel for Palestinian rejectionism."

Another minister, Silvan Shalom, said: "Once again, Europe has demonstrated just how detached it is, how it can't really be a full partner to the negotiations."

The directive emerged as the US secretary of state, John Kerry, arrived in the region on his sixth visit in a drive to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He is expected to meet the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, in Amman on Tuesday.

Unusually, Kerry is not scheduled to visit Jerusalem or meet with the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Some analysts have suggested this is because Israel has signed up to Kerry's parameters for a resumption of talks, but he still needs agreement from the Palestinian side.

However, an unnamed Israeli minister was reported by Israel Radio as saying that Netanyahu's primary objective was merely to show willingness to negotiate and that he did not intend to engage in a far-reaching peace process.

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« Reply #7539 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:38 AM »

Let Italy and the UK usher in a new era for the EU

Italy values the UK's position in the EU and the two countries can work together to write the script for the union's future

Enrico Letta, prime minister of Italy, Tuesday 16 July 2013 11.42 BST       

Italy's prime minister Enrico Letta walks past Britain's PM David Cameron during an EU summit
'A European Union without the UK would be different from the EU which Italy wants.' Photograph: Yves Herman/Reuters

After years of "just-in-time" measures to avoid crisis within the eurozone, it is time to reflect on what kind of Europe we want for the future, and what arrangements will help fill the gap with citizens. Either Europe is able to answer fundamental questions about its future, or it can no longer be a sustainable project. This means that in the coming months there is an opportunity to forge a new Europe in which all countries, those that share the single currency and those who have decided not to join it, see their common future. Italy and UK should engage together in leading such a reflection.

For the euro area, further steps will be needed to improve the governance of the single currency. More integration is necessary to ensure that the system works better for stability and growth. This applies for instance to banking union, where an appropriate resolution mechanism should be established to match the progress made in the area of supervision. This will help separate sovereign and banking risks, mitigating the credit crunch and reducing the fragmentation of the financial markets along national borders.

Progress should also be made in the co-ordination of economic policies, to ensure that eurozone economies advance on structural reforms and converge more in the policy areas relevant for strengthening productivity and growth. Greater co-ordination should go hand in hand with a system to provide incentives for the member states committing to implement difficult reforms in times of consolidation, for instance through an embryonic form of a fiscal capacity of the eurozone. While moving towards more integration, we also need to ensure appropriate accountability to parliaments, at both EU and national level. This will mean moving towards deeper economic but also political integration.

Clearly, greater integration in the eurozone should not challenge the integrity of the single market or leave countries outside the eurozone less comfortable with their membership of the union. Italy has always advocated that any progress towards eurozone integration should take into account the rights of countries outside the eurozone. Now we need to reshape the union, so that it can accommodate the interests of countries which want to move forward towards greater political and economic integration, and countries which prefer a co-operation around the single market. It is in our interest that the UK is actively engaged in the EU. We both need a European Union that is more focused on competitiveness and more accountable to citizens. We will work together to give good reasons for the UK to see its future in a reformed European Union.

The starting point is that we should work together to reduce the irritants that make membership more difficult for the UK. For instance, we can work together to ensure that EU regulation works to support private sector competitiveness and do not stand in its way with too many rules and excessive administrative burden. We need more effective common institutions and a constant attention that money is spent in well-targeted and efficient ways.

At the same time, we can work together to improve what brings value added to the UK membership of the EU. It is in our common interest to put the focus of EU policies squarely on growth. This means for instance deepening the single market – the powerhouse of the EU economy. More can be done in the area of services, energy or in the digital economy. We should also join forces to push for a conclusion of the transatlantic free trade agreement (TTIP) with the United States, which will see the UK and Italian economies as the main beneficiaries. There is also scope for advancing a common agenda in the area of external relations and in the defence sector.

If the union has to change its policies, we cannot escape a discussion on the political dimension and on legitimacy. Europe needs also a new narrative for the generation of citizens born after the second world war. The election of a new European parliament and the appointment of a new European commission will be an opportunity for a fresh and frank look at the kind of Europe we want for the future. We want these issues to be at the heart of the Italian presidency of the council in the second half of 2014.

A UK with a strong, confident, secure position in the EU is a shared interest for the UK and Italy. A European Union without the UK would be different from the EU which Italy wants: less liberal in its economic policies, less open-minded and pragmatic in its approach to policies, with less leverage in world affairs. The EU is set to change in the coming years. It is in the interest of both Italy and the UK, and for the benefit of Europe, if our two countries work in partnership to write a new script for the European Union of the future.

• This is an excerpt from a speech Enrico Letta is making at Chatham House in London tonight

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« Reply #7540 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:43 AM »

Pig Putin dives 50m below to examine shipwreck in latest stunt

Russian president takes to the Gulf of Finland in attempt to boost populist appeal following street protests against his rule

Reuters, Monday 15 July 2013 22.30 BST   

Russian president Pig Putin took to a red submersible on Monday to dive 50 metres and examine the wreck of a 19th century frigate, his latest stunt in 13 years of power to assert his carefully crafted action man image.

The 60-year-old former KGB spy, more than a year into his third presidential term, is eager to boost his populist appeal to make up for the support lost among Russians following the largest wave of street protests against his rule in 2011-12.

In the past he has submerged in Russia's Lake Baikal, fired darts from a crossbow at a gray whale, extinguished forest fires, and hopped on massive racing trucks.

Wearing a black jacket, blue jeans and white sporting shoes, Pig Putin sat comfortably in the capsule's glassed front and submerged into the Gulf of Finland to look at the wooden wreck.

He resurfaced smiling after 20 minutes and praised the work of the Russian Geographic Society, which has been studying the sunken vessel, for honouring the memory of Russian sailors who perished in the sea, including during the second world war.

"We didn't really do such work before. I think the time has come now, we can finally do that in terms of financial and technical capabilities. The moral duty towards the fatherland defenders goes without saying," said Pig Putin, who managed to stay dry.

In a sign of his changing fortunes, his stunts have increasingly drawn satire and he was ridiculed online as a troubled "alpha-crane" when he flew a deltaplane to lead the rare birds on their migration route last autumn.

Pig Putin was forced to admit earlier that a 2011 stunt in which he discovered an ancient amphorae at the bottom of the sea was a set-up, and he faced accusations that a seemingly wild tiger he tranquilised had been brought in from a zoo.

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« Reply #7541 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:45 AM »

Norway invites ideas for Utøya massacre memorials

Government seeking submissions from artists around the world for £1.8m project to honour victims of 2011 attacks

Kate Connolly in Berlin
The Guardian, Monday 15 July 2013 19.40 BST   

An invitation has been issued to artists around the world to submit proposals for memorials to mark the Norwegian terror attacks of two years ago that claimed 77 lives.

The Norwegian government, which has earmarked 17m Norwegian krone (£1.8m) for the project, said it had opened it up to as wide a range of international participants as possible as an expression of the spirit it hoped the final memorials would embody.

"We are looking for ideas from everyone from visual artists, architects, sculptors, and landscape architects, from anywhere in the world, to produce memorial sites of relevance for the victims' families and the Norwegian public as a whole," said Jorn Mortensen, of the government's public arts agency Koro.

Two memorials are planned, one in the government quarter in Oslo where eight people were killed and 209 injured on 22 July 2011 when a car bomb planted by Anders Behring Breivik exploded, and the other in the Hole district within sight of Utøya island where two hours later Breivik shot dead 69 people and injured 110.

Initially a temporary memorial will be built in Oslo because of the extensive reconstruction work that is going on in the government quarter to increase its safety in the light of the attacks. It will later be replaced by a permanent monument.

Mari Aaby West, 27, one of hundreds of members of the youth division of the Norwegian Labour party (AUF) who witnessed the attacks as she participated in a summer camp on Utøya island, said it was important for Norwegians, especially those who lost family and friends, to have sites of remembrance to visit.

"It's necessary to create places where people can gather and grieve and reflect on what happened, and of course to remember those who were killed," she said. "For many families it's still too difficult to go to Utøya and so it will be important for them to have an alternative place they can meet and remember as well as to learn something from it."

Aaby West will represent the AUF on the jury that will select eight projects from the initial submissions. The winners are expected to be announced in spring 2014. The AUF also plans to erect a monument of its own on Utøya.

Artists will be invited to draw inspiration from the national archive's collection of items that were gathered around the time of the attacks and during Breivik's trial last summer, including letters and drawings left at the massacre sites, Twitter and Facebook messages and even the compost that was created out of the millions of flowers laid as tributes.

"If the artists truly involve themselves with what happened, it's possible they will be able to come up with a memorial that will speak to as many people as possible," Aaby West said.

The public has also been consulted in a nationwide survey. While some have said it is still too soon for a memorial, Mortenson said: "The trial made quite a heavy impact in helping Norwegian society deal with the trauma of the incident, and to secure the relevance of the memorial it feels right to do it now rather than reigniting the trauma again in years to come."

• This article was amended on 16 July 2013 to correct a conversion of Norwegian kroner to pounds.

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« Reply #7542 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:47 AM »

Femen-inspired postage stamp angers French right

Designers say youthful depiction of Marianne for new stamp was partially inspired by Femen founder Inna Shevchenko

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Monday 15 July 2013 16.55 BST      

It was supposed to be a straightforward new postage stamp to mark François Hollande's presidency: a more youthful depiction of Marianne, the feminine symbol of the French Republic, reflecting the Socialist president's promise to help the younger generation.

Instead, the portrait has sparked a spat on the political right after one of its designers said it was partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group Femen.

The designers, David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa, had previously said their inspirations ran from the Renaissance to French comic strips and Japanese manga. But after the stamp's launch on Sunday, Ciappa tweeted: "For all those who are asking who the model was for Marianne, it's a mix of several women, but above all Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen."

Christine Boutin, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and founder of the Christian Democrat party, tweeted her disgust and her party called for a boycott of "this outrageous stamp", saying it was an attack "on the dignity of women and the sovereignty of France" and should immediately be withdrawn.
Inna Shevchenko Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women's rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Femen's most high-profile protests in France have targeted the street demonstrations against same-sex marriage. It also recently staged an anti-fascist protest in Notre Dame cathedral and attempted to ambush the French president at an airshow.

Ciappa, whose exhibition of photographs of imagined gay couples was vandalised in Paris the anti same-sex marriage protests, wrote on Facebook on Monday that he had received "messages of threats and hatred" against him on Twitter, "some violent and some funny, such as Christine Boutin's call to boycott my stamp".

Shevchenko tweeted: "Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter."

Several French artists have designed different Mariannes for French stamps, but this is thought to be the first inspired in part by a woman who isn't French.

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« Reply #7543 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:49 AM »

Why ignorant racists still flourish in multicultural Italy

Italy is changing – but the racist 'joke' made about minister Cécile Kyenge shows why progress is so painfully slow

John Foot, Monday 15 July 2013 14.41 BST   

"I love animals, but when I see her, I can't help but think of an orangutan". These words were uttered by the Italian politician Roberto Calderoli in reference to Cécile Kyenge, Italy's black minister of integration, at a recent festival organised by his party, the Northern League. Kyenge was appointed to the cabinet in April, and Calderoli added that "maybe Kyenge should be a minister in her own country [sic] … she is only encouraging illegal immigrants to dream of success".

Calderoli's is the latest in a long line of revolting racist comments from politicians and others from right across the political spectrum. Incredibly, Calderoli himself claimed that what he had said was a "little joke" and that it was "not racist". What is going on here? Why has Kyenge's rise to the cabinet led to such an outpouring of racism and hatred?

When I started living in Italy in 1988 (in Milan), immigrants were few and far between. Things changed in the 1990s and 2000s as more than 4 million foreign workers arrived to work largely, at first, in the "dirty" sector of a booming economy. Italy's ageing population and increasing wealth led to huge demand for cleaners, home helpers and ordinary workers – all jobs Italians were no longer willing to do in large numbers.

These immigrants were excluded from the political system, and restrictive citizenship laws made it very difficult for the second and third generation (the so called Balotelli generation) to gain any rights at all. Even those born in Italy had to wait until their 18th birthday before being allowed to become officially Italian. This was also the context in which the Lega Nord (Northern League) rose to power and prominence.

Kyenge arrived in Italy in 1983, and is a qualified ophthalmologist. She married an Italian man in 1994 and her two daughters were born and have grown up in Italy. She is Italian and black, and has promised to try to reform Italy's citizenship laws, a change the Italian centre-right violently opposes.

The Lega began as a party that concentrated on an anti-political and anti-southern-Italy stance, with its heartlands in the provinces of northern Italy. Its politicians took power in a number of northern cities (including Milan) in the 1990s, and in alliance with Silvio Berlusconi they rose to national power. Calderoli himself has been a minister, and was vice-president of the senate, one of the most important institutional positions in the Italian political system.

The Lega has always been a racist party, fanning the flames of ethnic and religious conflict whenever it has been able to. You could compile an encyclopedia of the League's racist comments and activities. There was, for example, the mayor of a major Italian city who argued that immigrants should be dressed as animals and hunted down, or the League politician who recently claimed to be happy on hearing of the death of immigrants trying to arrive by sea.

This kind of thing has been going on for more than 20 years. The Lega's founder and former leader, Umberto Bossi, referred to somewhere called "Bongo Bongo land". Racism has been official government policy, handed down from above, tolerated at all levels, including by the Italian left (who were in an unholy alliance with the League for a time). One of the problems is that there is disagreement over what racism actually is. Calderoli thinks that comparing a black woman to an orangutan is a "little joke", or even a "funny joke". When Mario Balotelli was depicted as King Kong in a cartoon, many people didn't see any problem at all.

Things have been changing. Debates are starting to alter the language used. For a long time, even mainstream quality newspapers used racist language to stereotype immigrants. It took years for the Corriere della Sera to stop using the term vu cumprà to stereotype foreign workers as street traders who couldn't speak Italian properly.

Individual acts, such as that of the footballer Kevin Prince Boateng who walked off the field in the face of disgusting racist chants (surprise, surprise: one of the chanters turned out to be a Lega militant), have led to further discussion. But progress is painfully slow, and the exclusion of immigrants from the political system and from any sense of power makes them vulnerable to attack and exploitation.

Italy is not a racist country, but it is a country where racism is tolerated and where a person like Calderoli has held institutional power. Yet the racists will not win, because the future is with the Italy of Balotelli and Kyenge. Italy is a multicultural country, whether they like it or not. And when I see Roberto Calderoli, I can't help but think of an ignorant racist.

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« Reply #7544 on: Jul 16, 2013, 06:53 AM »

July 15, 2013

Spain’s Premier Refuses to Resign in Fraud Scandal


Confronted by an intensifying corruption scandal, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain insisted on Monday that he would not yield to “blackmail” and resign, even as his former party treasurer reportedly acknowledged before a judge that he had made payments for years to Mr. Rajoy and other center-right politicians from a secret party slush fund.

Mr. Rajoy was responding to reports in leading Spanish newspapers that Luis Bárcenas, the former treasurer of the governing Popular Party, had made new and damaging allegations in a four-hour closed hearing on Monday. The newspapers cited judicial sources whom they did not identify.

Mr. Bárcenas has been at the heart of the scandal since January, when he was found to have amassed millions in secret Swiss bank accounts. On Monday, the newspapers said, he told the judge in charge of the case, Pablo Ruz, that he had made undeclared cash payments to Mr. Rajoy and others as recently as 2010, the year before Mr. Rajoy was elected prime minister.

The newspaper reports said Mr. Bárcenas, who previously denied any wrongdoing, had told the judge that he made payments in 2010 to María Dolores de Cospedal, the secretary general of the Popular Party. Ms. de Cospedal called the accusations defamatory.

Mr. Bárcenas has been increasingly ostracized and derided by his former party colleagues as the scandal has mounted. He has been in prison since late June awaiting trial after being denied bail.

Mr. Rajoy has tried to distance himself from the scandal, but on Monday addressed a rising tide of fraud accusations and calls for his resignation.

“I will fulfill my mandate,” Mr. Rajoy said at a news conference. Dismissing the newspaper reports as “insinuations” and “rumors,” Mr. Rajoy said that “the state of law doesn’t bow to blackmail.” He added, “If others want to play other things, that is their responsibility.”

His Popular Party has a substantial parliamentary majority, and Mr. Rajoy’s government seems safe for now. But the scandal has weakened Mr. Rajoy in opinion polls and is becoming an increasing distraction from pressing economic issues. Mr. Rajoy has not delivered on some of his campaign pledges, and has faced widespread protests over budget cuts and Spain’s failure to climb out of recession.

“The real problem for Spain is that the corruption allegations have created a situation of worrying and rising political instability, when, ironically, the government was expected to benefit as one of the few in Europe to have a strong parliamentary majority,” said Jaime Pastor, a politics professor at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid.

Mr. Pastor said Mr. Rajoy’s challenge now was to keep his party unified, “which is far from easy when this avalanche of accusations is likely to make other party heavyweights increasingly scared about the electoral cost of such a scandal.”

If the allegations Mr. Bárcenas reportedly made are sustained by the court, they would seriously threaten the Popular Party, even if Mr. Rajoy succeeds in staving the case off until 2015, when his four-year term ends and the next election is scheduled to be held.

The statute of limitations also comes into play. The central allegations so far concern ledgers of secret party accounts apparently managed by Mr. Bárcenas, which were published by the newspaper El País in January. Those ledgers show secret payments to Mr. Rajoy and other party members from 1990 to 2008, when the construction boom ended; the statute of limitations on financial crimes in Spain is five years.

Investigators have been unearthing steadily rising amounts of money deposited outside Spain by Mr. Bárcenas — $61 million at the last count — and have begun to identify companies that they say paid into the party slush fund in return for public works contracts.

Mr. Bárcenas’s court appearance on Monday appeared to signal that he had decided to retaliate against his colleagues’ disparaging comments by revealing more about the party’s inner workings, even if doing so weakens his own defense against accusations of tax fraud and other financial crimes.

“It’s now one man’s word against another’s, with no real room left for compromise,” Mr. Pastor, the politics professor, said, referring to Mr. Rajoy and Mr. Bárcenas.

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