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« Reply #8760 on: Sep 16, 2013, 06:48 AM »

Comet collisions increase chance of life across solar system, research suggests

By Ian Sample, The Guardian
Sunday, September 15, 2013 13:18 EDT

Findings by astrobiologists at Imperial College suggest violent celestial impacts deliver building blocks for life to planets

Violent impacts from comets and other hurtling bodies can pepper planets and their moons with the molecular building blocks of life, new research suggests.

The high-speed collisions unleash intense shockwaves that can turn simple organic compounds found in comets and on icy worlds into amino acids, which make proteins, cells and ultimately all living organisms.

The findings suggest that rather than being a purely destructive force, the impacts increase the odds of life originating and being widespread across our solar system.

“We know that impacts are very common in the solar system, because we can see the craters left behind on different planetary bodies,” said Zita Martins, an astrobiologist at Imperial College in London.

“If impacts occur then more complex molecules can be made, so these building blocks of life could be widespread throughout our solar system.”

The surfaces of planets and moons are scarred from billions of years of violent impacts with space rocks left over from the birth of the solar system. The impacts release profound amounts of energy: the meteor that tore into the sky over Chelyabinsk in Russia this year arrived at more than 18 kilometres per second and exploded with 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb.

Scientists have previously used computer models to demonstrate that shockwaves could turn simple molecules found in icy comets, such as ammonia, carbon dioxide and methanol, into complex amino acids. That work prompted researchers to test the idea by reconstructing celestial impacts in the laboratory.

Researchers at Imperial College and the University of Kent teamed up with Nir Goldman, a researcher at the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, whose models showed that amino acids might be made in comet strikes. They made batches of ice mixture laced with ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide to represent different compositions of comets. To mimic a comet’s impact on a planet, they fired sterilised steel balls into half-kilogram lumps of each ice mixture using an instrument called a light gas gun.

After each shot, the scientists looked for traces of amino acids in the ice they had fired at and also in a block of the same ice mixture that had not been fired at. This second lump acted as a control to ensure that any amino acids they found had been created, and were not caused by contamination before or during the firing stage.

Writing in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers show that an impact at around seven kilometres per second produced scores of amino acids in one ice mixture. The impact creates an intense shockwave that fragments the simple compounds, which then recombine into amino acids, such as alanine and glycine. Among the numerous roles they play in life, glycine is a neurotransmitter that is active in the brain stem and retina, while alanine is found in bacterial cell walls.

“Although there are other chemical paths that can generate amino acids, the one we describe can occur during an impact, where no special conditions, such as UV radiation, are required, if the initial ingredients are present,” said Mark Price, a co-author on the study at the University of Kent at Canterbury.

“The important implication is that the complex precursors to life, such as amino acids, are widespread, thus increasing the chances of life evolving elsewhere,” he said.

The creation of amino acids through violent impacts is expected to happen not only when icy comets laced with simple compounds slam into rocky planets and moons, but when meteorites and other space rocks crash into icy surfaces, such as those found on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, and Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

“What we have done is demonstrate a process that takes molecules that were present at the time of the birth of the solar system and made them into molecules that are required for life. It’s like taking simple lego bricks and sticking two together. You are along way from building a house, but it is a start,” said Price.

Charles Cockell, professor of astrobiology at Edinburgh University, said the work demonstrates that there are many ways to create amino acids, the components of proteins. “Although we once thought that the formation of the molecules required for life was highly improbable and rare, evidence increasingly suggests that they might be common throughout the universe. Of course the probability that they assemble into life is still unknown,” he said.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013


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« Reply #8761 on: Sep 16, 2013, 07:15 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America ....

September 15, 2013

Brief Respite for President, but No Plan B on Syria

By PETER BAKER
NYT

WASHINGTON — The Russian-American deal to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal gives President Obama some breathing space after a politically damaging few weeks. But the list of things that could still go wrong is extensive and daunting.

The two sides could deadlock over the text of a United Nations Security Council resolution codifying the agreement. Syria could insist on deal-breaking conditions or fail to turn over a complete accounting of its weapons within a week, as mandated. International inspectors could be obstructed on the ground or chemical stocks could be hidden from them.

Given all that, Mr. Obama has decided to leave American destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to preserve the possibility of a military strike. But as the president and his team look ahead several steps, they are struggling to come up with a viable Plan B in case the agreement does not work, finding that they have few if any appealing options.

“Ronald Reagan says, ‘trust but verify,’ and I think that’s always been the experience of U.S. presidents when we’re interacting with, first, Soviet leaders and, now, Russian leaders,” Mr. Obama said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. But he offered little insight into what he would do if he could not verify Syria’s compliance with the Russian-brokered deal to turn its chemical weapons over to international inspectors for destruction.

As he waits to see if the diplomacy succeeds, Mr. Obama also faces the issue of whether to increase aid to the rebels fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and John McCain of Arizona, the Republican champion of the Syrian opposition, urged him to during interviews on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Doing so, however, could upend the chemical weapons deal. Mr. Obama has said his now-aborted military strike was aimed only at punishing Mr. Assad for an Aug. 21 chemical attack that the United States says killed more than 1,400 people and deterring future attacks — not at changing the equation of a civil war that has killed more than 120,000 people. But the president also has said Mr. Assad should step down. Increasing aid to make that happen, even on a separate yet parallel track, could provoke Mr. Assad into refusing to hand over his chemical stockpiles.

The situation is reminiscent of the years-long international oversight of Iraq after the Gulf War of 1991, when Saddam Hussein often seemed to play cat-and-mouse games with United Nations inspectors, and the United States had to decide when it amounted to punishable defiance. In late 1998, President Bill Clinton concluded that Mr. Hussein was violating his agreement to destroy his unconventional weapons and ordered several days of airstrikes.

“The toughest thing going forward is what amounts to a breach of deal,” said Representative Adam Smith of Washington State, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee. “If Syria is two days late giving us all the information on the weapons or we don’t destroy them as quickly as we want to — that’s what the president has to deal with. It’s not going to be a clear line. There’s a variety of ways for them to slow-walk this.”

Russia, which advanced its diplomatic initiative to prevent an attack on Syria, has made clear it will use its veto in the Security Council to block any authorization of military action to enforce the deal. So if it falls apart, Mr. Obama again will face the prospect of ordering a strike without international backing.

The more pressing question would be whether to go back to Congress. Although Mr. Obama claimed the power to attack Syria on his own, just as Mr. Clinton did with Iraq, he sought authorization from lawmakers anyway on the theory that a unified front would be stronger. Instead, he found that the more he argued for a strike, the more polls showed him losing public support and the more certain defeat on Capitol Hill became.

For the moment, aides say it is still Mr. Obama’s position to have Congress sign off on any military operation if the Russian-American disarmament agreement collapses. But senior lawmakers have told the White House that it cannot win such a vote, and some outside advisers said Mr. Obama should skip Congress if the Russian gambit fails.

“Plan B needs to be carrying out strikes” and “probably avoiding a vote on the Hill,” said Dennis B. Ross, a Middle East expert who has advised Mr. Obama. “To have the diplomatic initiative fail and not carry out strikes would certainly make it hard to convince anyone that our words mean anything.”

Colin Kahl, a former Pentagon official under Mr. Obama, said a “credible threat of military force needs to be left on the table” and suggested the president might seek a conditional measure authorizing action if Syria reneges. “If there was widespread support for that sort of contingent authorization, I think they would go ahead and move forward with it,” Mr. Kahl said. “But otherwise, I think there’s a possibility that they wouldn’t” go back to Congress.

Yet having asked Congress once to weigh in, Mr. Obama would be hard pressed to explain why he would now bypass it. The criteria he set for requesting a Congressional vote — a situation that was not an imminent or a direct threat to the United States — would still apply. Some allies believe that could leave him more politically isolated than if he had never asked in the first place.

Some Democrats said Mr. Obama might be bolstered in Congress if the Russian initiative did not work. “I would say that actually strengthens the president’s hand coming back to Congress because he’s able to say, ‘All right, I walked the extra mile you asked me to even though it was a little embarrassing. I did what you asked me to do,’ ” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly, a Virginia Democrat.

But lawmakers and aides in both parties said Mr. Obama has so little support for a strike that it might not make a difference. They said they saw no chance that Mr. Obama would prevail in the House, and he might even lose in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority. Yet it would be hard to “un-ring the bell,” as one Congressional aide put it, and act without Congress, having asked once.

Most lawmakers on both sides of the aisle just want the issue to go away. Indeed, the White House recommended to lawmakers that they move on to other subjects. The White House itself pivoted its public message back to economic issues on Sunday. Mr. Obama and Congress face critical deadlines in the next few weeks to keep the government open and avert a default.

The prolonged process of finalizing a disarmament plan and putting it into effect over the course of a year would take Syria off the front burner for a while and could give Mr. Obama an opportunity to avoid action altogether. Senior administration officials made the case last week that the process itself serves as a deterrent because Mr. Assad presumably would not use his chemical weapons in the interim.

“I just don’t know what the answer is,” said Representative Peter T. King, a Republican from New York who has argued that Mr. Obama should not ask Congress for permission to strike. “I’ve never seen a policy going in so many different directions.” He added: “In many ways it’s like amateur night. This just seems to be ad hoc.”
 
**************

September 15, 2013

G.O.P. Expresses Hope as Obama Praises Syria Deal

By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
NYT

WASHINGTON — President Obama’s Congressional critics expressed guarded optimism about an agreement reached with Russia over the weekend to seize and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons, even as Mr. Obama hailed the diplomatic effort as a “foundation” that could lead to a political settlement in that country’s civil war.

Mr. Obama said in an interview that was broadcast on Sunday that the United States was in a “better position” to prevent President Bashar al-Assad of Syria from using poison gas again because of the deal produced by Secretary of State John Kerry and Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.

“Look, we’re not there yet,” Mr. Obama said in the interview, taped Friday, with George Stephanopoulos for the ABC News program “This Week.” “We don’t have an actual, verifiable deal that will begin that process. But the distance that we’ve traveled over these couple of weeks is remarkable.”

In interviews on Sunday, lawmakers in Washington described the agreement as a risky one, with potential benefits for stability in the Middle East if it succeeds and huge risks for Mr. Obama — both abroad and at home — if it fails. Several senators said Mr. Obama would deserve credit for avoiding a military strike if the chemical weapons could be eliminated in the midst of a civil war.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who just days earlier had described Mr. Obama as seeming “uncomfortable” in the role of commander in chief, said the president may have turned a “muddled” and “clunky” foreign policy response into a tentative diplomatic win.

“It’s hard for anybody to pooh-pooh the idea that we may be on the way to a diplomatic solution,” said Mr. Corker, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Another Republican, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, said the United States now had the opportunity to “parlay” the negotiations over chemical weapons into broader talks to find a political end to Syria’s civil war and the removal of Mr. Assad from power.

“If the framework can actually be implemented, obviously it will be a big step in the right direction,” Mr. Johnson said. Of Mr. Obama and his strategy, he said: “I hope it works out. I truly do. If he succeeds with this framework, people have to give him credit.”

But senators from both parties also expressed deep concern about the possibility that the diplomacy could fail, perhaps spectacularly, and that Mr. Obama’s actions over the past two weeks had strengthened the credibility of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia at the expense of America’s reputation around the world.

“I have to be honest with you, it’s also fraught with danger,” said Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey. “The president will reap whatever achievements can be gleaned from this agreement — if it is successful.”

In the ABC interview, Mr. Obama said his critics had been judging him on the style but not the substance of his policies during the past several weeks. He said he was not concerned with earning “style points” in the conduct of foreign policy, and he pointed to President George W. Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq as an example of making the wrong call.

“Had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and linear, they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “We know that, because that’s exactly how they graded the Iraq war.”

After watching the interview, Mr. Johnson said Mr. Obama’s international credibility would be repaired somewhat if the chemical weapons were neutralized through the diplomatic process. But he said that did not excuse some of the choices the president had made.

“This process has not been particularly stylish. It hasn’t been pretty,” Mr. Johnson said. “Unfortunately, President Obama’s credibility hasn’t been strengthened.”

Lawmakers expressed concern and appreciation of Mr. Putin’s role. Some, like Senator Tim Kaine, Democrat of Virginia, said Russia’s willingness to be at the center of negotiations over the chemical weapons may foreshadow a willingness to be part of talks aimed at ending the Syrian civil war.

“If the parties are at the table negotiating over this chemical weapons issue,” Mr. Kaine said in an interview, such talks might eventually “roll right over to a negotiated resolution to the overall civil war.”

But others said they were dismayed that Mr. Putin, as Mr. Corker put it, now had his “hands firmly on the steering wheel of this policy.” And Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Mr. Obama had been badly outmaneuvered by a cannier opponent who, he said, had gotten everything he wanted.

“Right now, we are being led by the nose by Putin through this horrible morass that is the United Nations,” Mr. Rogers said on the CNN program “State of the Union.” “He wanted Assad there. He gets to keep his warm-water port, he gets to keep his military contracts, and he gives breathing space to both Hezbollah, which is fighting on behalf of Assad, and Assad.”

Mr. Obama, in the television interview, responded to criticism that by seizing control of the diplomatic efforts, Mr. Putin has been “playing” his American counterpart. He said the Russian president did not have the same “values” as the United States, but still played an important role in the Syrian conflict.

“I welcome him being involved,” Mr. Obama said. “I welcome him saying, ‘I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime, to deal with these chemical weapons.’ ”

Mr. Obama added that despite the recent disagreements between the United States and Russia over a variety of issues — including the granting of temporary asylum to Edward J. Snowden, who is wanted by the United States government for leaking classified documents — the two presidents were still able to work together on issues like the chemical weapons in Syria.

“I know that sometimes this gets framed or looked at through the lens of the U.S. versus Russia, but that’s not what this is about,” he said.

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

September 15, 2013

Newcomers Challenge Leadership in the House

By ASHLEY PARKER
NYT

WASHINGTON — Representative Justin Amash, a sophomore Republican from Michigan, is not one to mince words.

For President Obama to strike Syria without seeking Congressional authorization, Mr. Amash warned on Twitter, would be “unquestionably unconstitutional and illegal.”

And when he mounted a challenge to the National Security Agency, over the objections of the leadership, that nearly passed the House this summer, Mr. Amash rallied his followers on Facebook, declaring ominously: “Have you talked to someone who has talked to someone who has talked to someone who has talked to someone who might be a terrorist? Well, the government might be spying on you.”

Mr. Amash, elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010, is part of a cadre of young, libertarian-leaning House members who have repeatedly hijacked their party’s agenda, frustrating Republicans and Democrats alike. Their approach has prompted backlash, like when House Republicans stripped Mr. Amash, 33, and others of plum committee assignments after they repeatedly challenged the leadership.

But now, armed with social media and a rigid set of beliefs, the self-styled revolutionaries in an already unmanageable Republican majority are making their presence felt — weighing in on issues like health care, government surveillance and Syria.

“There’s always a Justin Amash of every Congress,” said Ari Fleischer, a press secretary to former President George W. Bush. “It’s an uncomfortable, difficult, healthy part of the Congressional process.”

At a lunch this summer sponsored by the Heritage Foundation, Representative Raúl R. Labrador, an Idaho Republican and fellow Tea Party conservative, said that he and Mr. Amash were part of a group he jokingly called “the Wing Nut Coalition — where you have the right wing and the left wing working together and trying to get things done.” Mr. Amash, he added, was “chief Wing Nut.”

Mr. Amash rose to prominence in Michigan’s Third Congressional District — filling a seat previously held by a mild-mannered Republican physicist — by capitalizing on a five-way Republican primary, which split the vote and allowed him to coast to his party’s nomination with nearly 40 percent of the vote.

Boyish looking with an easy grin and rimless glasses, Mr. Amash quickly became a nuisance in his own party’s ranks, irritating the leadership and some of its more establishment members, who viewed him and his cohort as petulant and unwilling to compromise.

He was one of four Republicans stripped of their committee assignments last year, and one of a dozen Republicans who did not vote to re-elect Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, as the House speaker.

“They never ever vote yes,” a Republican familiar with the dynamics of the House said on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending a fellow Republican. “There’s always some more perfect thing that’s completely impractical that they insist upon. They wind up pulling policy in the opposite direction from their stated goal, because if you are trying to pass something and you know they’re going to vote no, you have to go to the left to pick up votes.”

Mr. Amash says that he is simply representing his constituents, and that he frequently votes with his party. Mr. Amash has broken with a majority of his Republican colleagues 27.5 percent of the time, the most of any House Republican.

“We’re filling a gap in leadership,” Mr. Amash said. “There have been a number of important issues that have come up where our constituents are asking us to take a position to present their perspective.”

Only midway through his second term in Congress, Mr. Amash is already considering a bid for Michigan’s open Senate seat in 2014, though he is not expected to announce his decision until the fall. Liberty For All, a political action committee that supports candidates with libertarian principles, has already pledged “six figures” to support a Senate bid by Mr. Amash.

“Democrats are mad at Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and Republicans are mad at the Republican leadership,” said John Ramsey, a co-founder of the PAC. “So it’s a powder keg for libertarianism.”

That libertarian streak surfaced quickly in July after revelations of sweeping surveillance by the National Security Agency.

Even though Mr. Boehner and other leaders supported the data dragnet and said they saw no reason for Congress to intervene, Mr. Amash rallied support and ultimately forced a vote on an amendment to the annual military spending bill that would have limited the N.S.A.’s ability to collect phone record data.

“It was a fairly interesting case of a junior member challenging, quite aggressively, the leadership and very nearly winning,” said Christopher A. Preble, the vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. “Americans like those sorts of stories. It’s a David versus Goliath sort of story.”

Though the amendment failed narrowly, 217 to 205, Representative Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who supported the measure, said the main goal was to get the lawmakers to take a tough, on-the-record vote about the government’s surveillance program.

“We lost the N.S.A. vote, but that wasn’t the battle,” Mr. Massie said. “The battle was getting a vote on that issue. Leadership did not want to have a vote.”

Not everyone, however, was so pleased. Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, took to the House floor to excoriate his home-state colleague and the amendment.

“This isn’t a game, this is real,” Mr. Rogers said. “Are we so small that we can only look at our Facebook likes today in this chamber, or are we going to stand up and find out how many lives we can save?”

When talk began of a strike against Syria, Mr. Amash went to work again, calling for Mr. Obama to involve Congress. Representative Scott Rigell, a Virginia Republican who was also first elected in 2010, organized a letter to Mr. Obama similarly urging him to consult Congress.

When Mr. Obama agreed to give Congress a voice on military action, Mr. Amash launched into overdrive — lobbying other conservatives to oppose the resolution; picking a fight on Twitter with Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, over his support for broad strikes; and holding 11 events over two days in his district in southwestern Michigan, where, he said, “there were zero people in favor of airstrikes in Syria.”

Recent developments have favored Mr. Amash. On Sunday, he said on the ABC News program “This Week” that he was pleased with the deal reached over the weekend between the United States and Russia to destroy all of Syria’s chemical weapons.

“I think most Republicans believe we’re in the right spot now in the sense that at least there’s a process where we can get the chemical weapons out there,” Mr. Amash said. “We haven’t achieved success yet, but at least we’re avoiding the bombing.”

But if the diplomatic solution fails and the House does vote on a resultion to use force, Mr. Amash will, as always, take to Facebook to explain the reasons behind his decision. And if Congress votes against military strikes in Syria and Mr. Obama proceeds anyway, Mr. Amash has words of warning.

“I think that’s a serious violation of the Constitution,” he said, “and there will be serious consequences.”

Derek Willis contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: September 15, 2013

Earlier versions of this article misstated the home state of Representative Raúl R. Labrador. He is from Idaho, not Iowa.

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

Obama Obliterates The Republican Myth That Putin Saved Him on Syria

By: Jason Easley
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

On ABC’s This Week, President Obama destroyed the Republican created myth that Putin saved him on Syria, and obliterated the GOP talking points on the issue.

Transcript via This Week:

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And you’re- and President Putin has become your unlikely partner-

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:Yeah.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: -in this. And, you know, even in this op-ed, which has stirred up a lot of controversy here in United States, he said, “There’s every reason to believe that the rebels are the ones who used the chemical weapons.” So does that tell you he’s willing to lie to protect Assad?

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels- were the perpetrators of this—

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: He wrote it in The New York Times.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I understand. What I said is nobody around the world takes seriously the idea that the rebels perpetrated this attack. Now what is true is that there are radical elements in the opposition- including folks who are affiliated with al-Qaeda, who, if they got their hands on chemical weapons, would have no compunction using them in Syria or outside of Syria.

    And part of the reason why we’ve been so concerned about this chemical weapons- issue is because we don’t want- those folks gettin’ chemical weapons, anymore than we want Assad to have chemical weapons. And so the best solution is for us to get them out of there.

    But- with respect to Mr. Putin- I have said consistently that where the interest of the United States and Russia converge, we need to work together. And I had talked to Mr. Putin a year ago- saying to him- the United States and Russia should work together to deal with these chemical weapons stockpiles, and to work to try to bring about a political transition-

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you trust-

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: -inside of Syria.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: -he has the same goal? Do you really trust that?

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, I don’t think that- Mr. Putin has the same- values that we do. And I think- obviously, by- protecting Mr. Assad- he has a different attitude about- the Assad regime. But what I’ve also said to him directly- is that we both have an interest in preventing chaos, we both have an interest in preventing terrorism, the situation in Syria right now is untenable, as long as Mr. Assad’s in power, there is gonna be some sort of conflict there, and that we should work together to try to find a way in which the interests of all the parties inside of Syria, the Alawites, the Sunnis, the Christians, that everybody is represented and that there is a way of bringing the temperature down so that- that horrible things that are happening inside the country-

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you-

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: -are continuing to happen.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you -

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And I think there’s a way for- Mr. Putin, despite- me and him having a whole lot of differences, to play an important role in that. And so I welcome him being involved. I welcome him saying, “I will take responsibility for pushing my client, the Assad regime- to deal with these chemical weapons.”

    Because- I think that if, in fact- not only Russia gets involved, but if- potentially Iran gets involved- as well in recognizing that what’s happening there is a train wreck that hurts not just Syrians but destabilizing the entire region-

The president confirmed again that he discussed this with Putin a year ago. He talked to Putin about this at the G20. The notion that Putin saved Obama is political spin by his critics who are trying to tarnish his diplomatic victory in any way that they can. It is a display of how deeply Republicans hate this president that they are so willing to label Putin a hero, not even a year after their presidential nominee called Russia our biggest rival.

Republicans are out to score cheap political points, and they can’t fathom that they were again routed by a president who has spent his presidency ten steps ahead of them. This Putin saved Obama story line is fiction that created to further the Republican agenda of making the president look weak at every turn.

Obama also confirmed that his administration got Russia to take the risk and responsibility of delivering Syrian compliance on the deal. Making Russia shift from denying the existence of Syria’s chemical weapons and Assad’s responsibility for the attack in less than a week is a sign of presidential strength.

To Republicans, diplomacy equals weakness. The right is trying to turn Obama’s strength into a shortcoming, and sacrificing facts, the truth, and consistency while trying to score cheap political points. Obama’s critics are stunned, and the comprehensiveness of the president’s victory can be seen in their retreat back to old talking points.

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

John McCain Complains That We Should Have Been Massively Bombing Syria Already

By: Sarah Jones
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

John McCain (R-AZ) is against President Obama’s diplomatic victory regarding Syria because there is nothing in the agreement about the use of force and we could have just bombed them from the get go.

When confronted by Meet the Press host David Gregory regarding the difference in goals between McCain and Obama, the Senator’s criticism was that Obama wouldn’t have been bombing already and if he had, it would have been too small, “Of course, the president probably wouldn’t have been bombing and if it had been an unbelievably small attack, I’m not sure -”

DAVID GREGORY: Joining me now senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, member of the Armed Services Committee as you know, one of the most outspoken voices in the senate about US’s policy in Syria which is why I wanted to you here, senator. Look where we’ve gone in a week. I’ve talked to the chief of staff at the white house. He says, look, Russia was not on board a week ago. Assad denied even having chemical weapons a week ago. And now they’re both on board to destroy these weapons and yet you’ve called this deal an act of provocative weakness, why?

JOHN MCCAIN: Well, if — suppose that this deal is made and then Bashar al Assad does not comply and continues, by the way, the slaughter of over 100,000, the problem by the way in Syria is not chemical weapons although as horrible as they are, the 100,000 that have been killed, but suppose that he doesn’t comply. They go to the United Nations. Let me give you the quote from Mr. lavrov. He said, “Nothing is said about the use of force or sanctions.” so they go to the United Nations. It’s clear they would veto again. It is now in the hands of Russia to decide whether Bashar al Assad is really complying or not.

DAVID GREGORY: Can I ask you then how might we be in the United States in a different position if the goal — if the goal was to prevent him from ever using chemical weapons again? I realize your deal is different. Work with me. Don’t use chemical weapons again how might the situation have been different had the president stayed on course and been bombing by now.

JOHN MCCAIN: Of course, the president probably wouldn’t have been bombing and if it had been an unbelievably small attack, I’m not sure –

DAVID GREGORY: Secretary Kerry said -

JOHN MCCAIN: – how often difference it would make. No’s not scary and unbelievably small attack. The point is if the agreement had said that there will be the use of force automatically or the Russians had agreed that they could go under Chapter 7 to the United Nations Security Council, that puts an entirely different cast on it. Right now it’s up to the Russians to decide that.

So, under McCain we would have already bombed – a big attack – no small attack for him, because you see by waiting and trying diplomacy first, we might fail; whereas we all know that invasions never fail, especially in Middle Eastern countries.

Mission Accomplished.

Kudos to David Gregory for actually pushing back against the idea that there is only one goal for Syria and that is regime change. Regime change is McCain’s goal, and he presented it as the solution in this interview. But we’re deducting a point for Gregory’s repeating of the narrative that Obama didn’t “stay the course” and bomb Syria.

It is clear that the President was never on course to bomb Syria if he could get a diplomatic solution in place, and that he used the threat of force in order to get that solution. This shouldn’t be a huge shock, since it’s the exact same foreign policy Obama has always supported, and has explained numerous times.

It is unclear why anyone is still asking John McCain for his opinions on foreign policy, as he has a consistent record of being wrong. Also, this is the man who can’t sort out the newspapers in Russia, so it’s a decent bet that he can’t sort out complex issues like foreign policy.

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

Democratic Congressman Goes On Fox News and Destroys Their Anti-Obama Syria Lies

By: Jason Easley
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) put on a clinic on Fox News Sunday as he called out Fox News’ anti-Obama Syria lies as absurd, and knocked down the claim that Putin outfoxed Obama.

Transcript:

    ROBERTS: Let me put the final question to Congressman Van Hollen.

    Do you believe, as some members of Congress do, that Putin has outfoxed President Obama on all of this?

    VAN HOLLEN: Well, if outfoxing means giving the president of the United States everything they asked for and more, maybe that’s kind of outfoxing we need because, look — again, the president had a clear objective: stop Assad from using chemical weapons. In the last six days, we have accomplished that and more.

    So, what — and why? Look, Putin was sitting out there –

    ROBERTS: Senator Lindsey Graham believes Putin has put the president in a box.

    VAN HOLLEN: That’s absurd. Look, Putin was out there. His big ally, Assad, is sitting there, and Putin’s powerless to stop a potential military strike from the United States. What kind of message does that send any other allies Russia has around the world?

    So, Putin was acting from a position of weakness, and the reality, as Mike said, is he has some leverage over Assad. He did not want to see military action taken. And at the end of the day, he helped deliver exactly what the United States wanted, which is to put an end to Assad’s weapons of mass destruction.

Rep. Van Hollen demonstrated how Democrats should handle Fox News. The question that was posed to him was based on the biased assumptions that Obama was weak, and Putin got the better of him. Van Hollen used a little bit of common sense to show how absurd the idea is that Obama lost on Syria by getting everything that he wanted.

Those on the left and right who insist on claiming that Putin saved Obama are running into the same logic brick wall that Fox News hit this morning. How did Putin save Obama, when he took all of the risk, and the president got everything that he was asking for? It doesn’t make sense. Putin was acting from a position of weakness, and I think it logical to assume that Obama’s threat of military action is what got Putin to the table.

Putin was faced with a situation where one of his biggest allies could have potentially seen the civil war that he was fighting tilt against him, and he had to do something to prevent the United States from striking Syria to keep Assad in power.

Rep. Van Hollen demolished Fox News’ talking points, and in the process demonstrated that while Republicans fear appearing on any other network than Fox, Democrats can flourish anywhere because they have the facts on their side.

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

Obamacare Lies Dealt a Death Blow By Study that Finds Full Time Job Growth Expected

By: Rmuse
Sep. 14th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

“Obamacare is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress. It is the most existential threat to our economy.” That ominous warning is courtesy of Republican Representative John Fleming of Louisiana and it is an oft-repeated claim by all manner of conservatives who either are unaware what existential means or are so freakishly deluded they actually believe it. Apparently most Republicans believe it because it has been their raison d’être since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010, and as obsessions go, it may be an existential threat to Republicans. It is curious that Republicans have persistently claimed the health law is a threat to the economy when it is not yet fully implemented, but if Fleming was referring to the tired assertion the ACA will kill jobs; their fallback contention was dealt a serious blow this week.

Republicans argue that like taxes on the rich, the Affordable Care Act will force employers to lay off current employees and stop hiring new workers, but according to a survey that went unnoticed on Tuesday, that is not the case. The Duke Fuqua School of Business Finance survey revealed that chief financial officers expect to increase the number of full-time employees by nearly 2% over the next 12 months as key parts of the Affordable Care Act go into effect. The survey dispels conservative assertions that the ACA will restrict business growth and expansion, and force companies to abandon full-time employees and shift to a part-time workforce to avoid providing insurance coverage mandated for companies with more than 50 employees in the health law.

The professor who directed the survey, John Graham said “The expected two percent growth in employment is solid, given the context of long-run shifts away from full-time employees largely because of concerns about health care reform and economic uncertainty.” However, according to research by a Moody’s economist, most industries “are actually using fewer part-timers than last year.” There is growth in part-time employment, but it began long before the Affordable Care Act and is restricted to “industries such as restaurants and hospitality that use as much as twice as many part-timers as other companies.”

Even though the healthcare reform law is not an existential threat to the economy, it hasn’t deterred conservatives preparing to shut down the government on October 1st unless the President acquiesces to demands to eliminate all aspects of the ACA in return for funding the government. Speaker of the House John Boehner met with Congressional leaders of both parties on Thursday under the guise of resuming budget cutting negotiations to pacify teabaggers and prevent a government shutdown, as well as to bolster chances they will go along with raising the government’s borrowing limit. After the meeting, Boehner put the onus of finding a solution to his teabagger problem on Democrats and said, “It’s time for the president’s party to show the courage to work with us to solve this problem,” and argued that budget deals have been part of past agreements to raise the debt limit. Except for the 2011 debt limit crisis that resulted in a credit downgrade, a million jobs lost, a devastating sequester, and a nearly $19 billion cost to the government, the debt limit is routinely raised unconditionally. Boehner is lying and with only 4 legislative days remaining until the government shuts down due to lack of funding, he is likely getting desperate.

Boehner’s deficit reduction focus was thwarted when 43 House Republicans introduced their own one-year funding bill that would increase Pentagon and Veterans’ spending and delay implementation of the ACA; the deal would certainly add to the budget deficit. The budget deficit, by the way, that fell to its lowest level in 5 years leaving Boehner little bargaining room in budget cuts or debt ceiling negotiations and stuck facing a recalcitrant teabagger caucus Hell-bent on eliminating the ACA.  In fact, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and Congressional Democrats informed Boehner that there would be no negotiations on raising the debt ceiling, and made it clear they would never accept demands to repeal, defund, or delay the President’s signature health care law; the White House summarily dismissed the idea as a nonstarter.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, “I had to be very candid with him and I told him directly, all these things they’re doing on Obamacare are just a waste of their time, their direction is the direction toward shutting down the government.” Reid also said “I like John Boehner, I do feel sorry for him,” and his sentiment was echoed by Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) who said “Sometimes I sympathize with Speaker Boehner, but the fact of the matter is, if he wants to lead for the good of the nation, he has to step beyond the Tea Party faction of his caucus.” Durbin and Reid’s sympathies are misplaced because it is the American people who are paying the price for Boehner’s lack of leadership and disinterest in governing. One wonders if Reid and Durbin felt sorry for Boehner for holding 40 symbolic votes to repeal the health law, or when he was happy he got 98% of what he wanted when Republicans held the debt ceiling hostage.

Republicans have known the government would run out of funding on October 1 for months, and yet they wasted time on manufactured scandals and ridiculous repeal votes. When the Senate passed a budget months ago, Senate Republicans refused to appoint representatives to negotiate with their House counterparts. Republicans spent their generous 5-week vacation plotting and convincing their constituents that defunding the ACA was their sole intent when they returned for nine days in September and it is that obsession that will cause a government shut down and threaten the full faith and credit of the United States; a real existential threat to the economy.

Republicans are lost and the House leadership is floundering with only 4 legislative days to prevent a government shut down and no workable resolution in sight which is why Boehner desperately needs Democrats to save the day to avoid voters blaming Republicans for closing the government. Republican leaders said decisions to prevent a government shutdown would have to be made next week on a way forward, and it will have to be with Democratic votes because there is no such thing as Republican unity; except their obsession with defunding the Affordable Care Act. Boehner said “There are a million options that are being discussed by a lot of people. When we have something to report, we’ll let you know.” Maybe if Boehner and his cohort would get over their Affordable Care Act and austerity obsession they would have something to report other than “Obamacare is the most existential threat to our economy.” The only threat to America’s economy is incompetent Republicans in Congress and their impotent leadership and Americans still want to know; where are the jobs?

*********

Bob Woodward Says Republicans Are Using Extortion and Blackmail to Defund Obamacare

By: Jason Easley
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

In a rare lucid moment, Bob Woodward has accused the Republican Party of trying to blackmail and extort Obama into defunding Obamacare,

Woodward said, “This is really serious. Back in 2011, when the crisis visited them, the Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner was running around and saying if we don’t fix this, we could trigger a depression worse than the 1930s. And when I talked to Obama about this, he said, it was the most intense three weeks of his presidency. More than Osama Bin Laden and so forth. so — and the Republicans are out here, a group of them in the House essentially using extortion and blackmail methods to say, if we don’t defund Obamacare we’re not going to do the routine things of government.”

If even a blind squirrel finds a nut, then I guess this is visually impaired squirrel, meet nut. When even noted Sean Hannity fan boy Bob Woodward can see that Republicans are using blackmail and extortion in their attempt to defund Obamacare, things are really going badly for the GOP.

The same Bob Woodward who was a fixture on Fox News when he had an anti-Obama book to sell has changed his tune a bit now that he is not trying to convince the brainwashed, Republican voting, white haired masses to plop down a bit of their Social Security checks on his latest book.

The shocking thing is that Woodward is right. Republicans are using blackmail and extortion in their attempt to defund Obamacare. Republicans can try to dodge this description, but when a group of Republicans are running around threatening to wreck the economy if Obamacare isn’t defunded, it is virtually impossible for the GOP to claim that they aren’t trying to blackmail the president into taking away healthcare for 30 million Americans. If the death panel lie fits, wear it.

Just when I thought that all hope was lost, Bob Woodward had a rare lucid moment. It is sad to see how far one half of the team that will always be remembered for setting the modern high mark in journalism has fallen. Woodward will likely continue to pander to the right, because the only thing that the man seems to care about is selling his books. But when even Bob Woodward calls the efforts to defund Obamacare extortion and blackmail, the Republican Party is seriously screwed.

***********

Obama Humiliates John Boehner By Laughing At His Debt Ceiling Threat

By: Jason Easley
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

President Obama handed John Boehner the ultimate humiliation today by laughing off Speaker of the House’s threat that the president must negotiate on the debt ceiling or else.

Transcript of Obama on ABC’s This Week:

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Boehner says, “Listen, you just have to sit down and negotiate with me.” Are you still absolutely refusing to talk, in any way, shape or form?

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No. No, no. Keep in mind- my position here, George. ‘Cause I’ve- I have been through this a couple times (CHUCKLE) with Speaker Boehner. What I’m- what I’ve said is, with respect to the budget, we’ve presented our budget. And now it’s the job of Congress to come up with a budget that keeps our long-term trends down of- or- or- or our- our current trends of- of reducing the deficit moving forward, but also allows us to invest in the things that we need to grow.

    And I’ve told him, and I’ve told the country, what I think we need to do. I’m happy to have a conversation with him about how we can deal with the so-called sequester, which is making across-the-board cuts on stuff that we shouldn’t be cutting, while continuing tax breaks, for example, for companies that are not helping to grow the economy. There are ways of doing this, it’s just that they haven’t been willing to negotiate in a serious way on that. What I haven’t been willing to negotiate, and I will not negotiate, is on the debt ceiling.

Republicans might want to rethink this whole scare Obama into spending cuts with a threat not to raise the debt ceiling plan, because the president isn’t looking scared. The only person who should be scared here is Speaker John Boehner, because Obama clearly has the upper hand.

The president has been around the block more than a few times with Boehner and his House Republicans. He knows how this drama plays out. Despite all of their huffy warnings of doom, everyone knows that the wealthy billionaires who fund many Republican campaigns do not want their party to crash the economy (again).

President Obama was burned by Boehner the first time that he tried to negotiate, and he learned a valuable lesson. Unless Obama will negotiate with them, all Republicans have are empty threats. When Obama waits the House Republicans out, he wins. The president has nothing to lose. The pressure is all on the House Republicans. They are up for reelection next year. Paying the nation’s bills is their constitutional duty. House Republicans will feel the wrath of the voters if they hurt the economy.

The president knows that Boehner’s threats are meaningless. He can laugh them off because they are nothing more than hot air from an empty suit. House Republicans keep trying the same crisis creating tactics and failing. President Obama already knows how the debt ceiling issue is going to end, and whether they’ll admit it or not, Republicans do too.

All John Boehner has accomplished with his threats is to make himself and his party an even bigger punchline.

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

Obama Turns The Tables and Tells Republicans Debt Ceiling Demands Are Unconstitutional

By: Jason Easley
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

President Obama took one of the Republican Party’s favorite lines of attack, and turned it around on them by telling the House GOP that their debt ceiling demands are unconstitutional.

Transcript:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The- George- I think it’s fair to say- you- that never in history have we used just making sure that the U.S. government is paying its bills as a lever to radically cut government at the kind of scale that they’re talking about. It’s never happened before. There’ve been negotiations around the corners, because nobody had ever presumed that you’d actually threaten the United States to default.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But how does this end, then? You know- they say they need changes in Obamacare. You say you’re not gonna negotiate. Are you just betting they’re gonna cave?

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, no- George, here’s the problem. The- the- if we set- if we continue to set a precedent in which a president, any president, a Republican president- a Democratic president- where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives- if- if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills- the other party can simply sit there and say, “Well, we’re not gonna put- pay the bills unless you give us what our- what we want,” that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.

Republicans have tried to claim that virtually everything that this president has done has been unconstitutional. The GOP has reacted to every move that this president has made by screaming unconstitutional at the top of their lungs. They have done this as a steady tactic to delegitimize the Obama presidency, and it was fascinating to see this president turn the tables on Republicans and use their argument against them.

However, there is one key difference between Obama’s argument, and the one used so often by Republicans against him.

Obama is correct. While the mainstream media gets caught up in the drama of the standoff, hardly anyone bothers to ask Republicans why they are engaging in unconstitutional behavior. House Republicans have a constitutional obligation to pay the nation’s bills. What Republicans are trying to do is change the separation of powers and structure of government without changing the constitution.

What Boehner and the Republicans are doing on the debt limit is sabotaging the constitution. But as we have seen over the past two decades, Republicans would rather talk about the constitution than actually follow it.

The debt ceiling stare down hasn’t even begun yet, but Barack Obama has already checkmated the House Republicans. This is why the biggest question isn’t if House Republicans will cave, but how much damage will they do before they inevitably give in?

***********

Americans Are About to Discover That the GOP Not the ACA is Hazardous To Their Health

By: Rmuse
Sep. 15th, 2013
PoliticusUSA

When Americans think back on historically evil and depraved human beings, they may think of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or even Osama bin Laden for their profound immorality in wantonly taking human life and creating terror. If the American people took stock of the Republican Party over the past four years and considered the terror and distress they have caused tens-of-millions of American citizens, it is likely they would conclude that, as a group, conservatives are as depraved, wicked, and inhumane as any of history’s human monsters. Whether it is deliberately withholding food, shelter, or medical assistance from people in need, there are no bounds Republicans and their conservative activists are unwilling to cross to inflict damage on Americans. As the government runs out of money to operate and its ability to borrow to repay Republican debts looms, the true extent of the GOP’s malicious nature is becoming clear.

In what has to be the epitome of evil in the face of good news for New Yorkers, the pantheon of conservative malice, the Heritage Foundation led by the vile Jim DeMint erected a sign in Times Square warning “Obamacare may be hazardous to your health.” The sign’s message is to invoke fear as New Yorkers discover that, because of the ACA, their healthcare insurance premiums are falling by at least 50% on top of no pre-existing conditions, no lifetime limits on coverage, and parents’ ability to keep children on their policies until age 26. That DeMint is responsible for fear mongering and disregard for Americans is not surprising. Last week DeMint told an audience that Veteran’s healthcare benefits and Medicare senior citizens pay for are un-American. However, DeMint is just one face of the conservative movement waging a ferocious battle with itself to determine which group can inflict the most damage on the American people.

On Thursday, 43 Republicans garnered support from conservative groups Club For Growth, FreedomWorks, and Heritage Action for legislation to shut down the government unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. The House measure attracted support from teabag Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to “save America from Obamacare.” The groups boast that “momentum is building” to stop the healthcare reform law and prevent tens of millions of Americans from getting healthcare insurance and to allow the insurance industry to keep raising premiums. Republican leadership in the House is disappointed because their proposal to maintain sequester spending levels and force the Senate to defund the ACA is in jeopardy of failing. Both groups’ ultimate goal is ending the ACA and cutting spending to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the most Americans possible, and they are threatening a government shut down and defaulting on the nation’s debt to achieve their goal.

With the country’s debt and deficit falling at a record pace, and Americans suffering the effects of the GOP’S sequester, the only reasonable explanation of Republican’s actions is that in their malicious minds, people are not suffering enough.  In a very recent Gallup poll, a record number of Americans are unable to afford the basic necessities of life including 20% who said they lacked the money to buy the food that they or their families needed, and 75% are barely surviving living from paycheck to paycheck. The Republican answer is to vote next week to slash food stamp funding when 15% of American families already live with perpetual food insecurity Republicans exacerbated by cuts to school lunches, Meals on Wheels, and Head Start. Republicans are dissatisfied that only 24% of America’s children live in dire poverty because their parents are unable to find work or struggle with part time-employment at minimum-wage jobs. To rub salt in their wounds, one Republican quoted his Christian bible and said, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” to justify cutting food stamp funding regardless that 42% of food stamp recipients work and the rest are seniors and children.

The level of inhumanity endemic to Republicans belies their so-called Christian faith; particularly their drive to increase the number of Americans who are hungry and in poor health. In the next week, with only 4 legislative days to fund the government, Republicans will battle among themselves to see which group can inflict the most damage on the people, and it is barely mentioned that Speaker of the House John Boehner lusts to slash Social Security he hopes will be his lasting legacy. Boehner promised to hold the debt ceiling hostage unless Democrats and President Obama accept a deal to cut to Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, farm programs and government pensions to inflict even more suffering on  Americans.

Boehner’s evil is represented in his response to criticism that slashing crucial domestic programs is unfair when people are hungry and struggling through no fault of their own. Boehner said, “It may be unfair but what I’m trying to do here is to leverage the political process;” to achieve the “goal to stop Obamacare, to cut spending.” Despite the debt and deficit falling, and dissatisfied the sequester damage is limited, Eric Cantor proposed keeping the sequester cuts in perpetuity and Boehner said “Now, it’s time to deal with the mandatory side.” The mandatory side are programs that require funding by law including Social Security, Medicare, and Veteran’s benefits; all programs that benefit senior citizens will ensure that Republicans leave no American unaffected.

To be fair, it is wrong to single out Boehner, Cantor, or teabaggers as inherently malevolent because the entire conservative movement is intrinsically evil. It is bad enough Republicans have not proposed or supported one piece of legislation to help any American who is not filthy rich, but they have been on a crusade to withhold food, shelter, and medical care from people in need. That the Heritage Foundation is assisting Republicans in their effort to eliminate the Affordable Care Act coupled with their inability to explain how it is dangerous reveals their only purpose is inflicting pain on Americans; especially since the Heritage Foundation proposed the ACA’s primary components in 1989.

Republicans, teabaggers, libertarians, and their belief tanks have resorted to fear-mongering, misinforming, and warning Americans for three years the Affordable Care Act is an existential threat, and now according to the Heritage Foundation it is “hazardous to your health.” Americans will discover in the next week the only hazard to their health is Republicans on a crusade to see which faction can cause the most damage to the people and the nation. They are just as evil as any of history’s monsters and although they are not slaughtering millions of Americans quickly, they are intent on inflicting slow death by withholding food and healthcare from the working poor, seniors, and children.



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« Reply #8762 on: Sep 16, 2013, 10:23 AM »

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Rad
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« Reply #8763 on: Sep 16, 2013, 11:31 AM »

And while Americans take a moment to reflect, and give themselves high fives over Wall Street, versus their own misery, they also ponder the nature of the utterly corrupt corporate media that generate their own 'narratives', 'framing', and corporate induced propaganda telling them what and how to think...

September 15, 2013 07:00 PM

Obama Slams Critics For Focus On Style Over Substance

By karoli
CrooksAndLiars

One of the more astonishing themes to emerge from the past few weeks' focus on Syria and foreign policy has been the shallow, empty commentary about the President's foreign policy and style of negotiation. It appears that a requirement for punditry these days is a complete refusal to actually consider what this man has said in the past about how he conducts himself with regard to foreign policy. Here is a clue from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2009:

    For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

That speech was a road map to the way he conducted his response to Syria's use of chemical weapons. The threat of force combined with an invitation to negotiate. It also gave him an opportunity to actually follow the Constitution by sending the issue to Congress for a debate and authorization. And as always, that made for a loud, messy debate that our high-profile media did nothing to enhance and actually harmed.

Never let facts get in the way of our favorite vapid Sunday talking head, GSteph, who actually asked this question:

    Senator Corker, Foreign Relations Committee, said-- you're not comfortable as Commander-In-Chief, it's like watching a person who's caged. The president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, "Words like ad-hoc, improvised, unsteady come to mind. This is probably the most undisciplined stretch of foreign policy in your presidency." What do you make of that?

Quoting the far-right CFR and a Republican hawk Senator from Tennessee, George? That's surely a fair representation. But never fear, because President Obama tossed it right back at him and the horrible media hacks who wanted to make a war where none was actually contemplated:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well-- you know, I-- I-- I think that-- folks here in Washington-- like to grade on style. And so had we rolled out something that was very smooth and disciplined and-- linear-- they would have graded it well, even if it was a disastrous policy. We know that, 'cause that's exactly how they graded the Iraq-- War-- until it ended up--

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So this doesn't change your view--

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: --blowing in our face.

    GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: --of President Bush.

Oops! There it is, right there on the table. Roll out the PR machine along with the war machine in 2003, get a disaster that keeps on giving. Actually follow the Constitution and try diplomacy in 2013, get a diplomatic outcome that may actually lead to keeping the whole world safer in the long run. As the President noted earlier in his interview, three weeks ago Assad was denying that he even had chemical weapons. Now he's signing the UN Convention and agreeing to submit his stockpile for destruction. I'd say that was less of an "undisciplined approach" and more of one that actually got a result, wouldn't you?

But he didn't stop there, either:

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No-- no. What it-- what it-- what it says is that I'm less concerned about-- style points, I'm much more concerned about getting the policy right. And-- what I've said consistently throughout is that-- the chemical weapons issue is a problem. I want that problem dealt with. And as a consequence of the steps that we've taken over the last two weeks to three weeks, we now have a situation in which Syria has acknowledged it has chemical weapons, has said it's willing to join the convention on chemical weapons, and Russia, its primary sponsor, has-- said that it will pressure Syria to reach that agreement. That's my goal. And if that goal-- is achieved, then-- it sounds to me like we did something right.

Let's follow the whole thread here. President Obama means what he says and has been consistent from the get-go about his policies on chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. He states clearly that a credible threat of force is sometimes necessary to bring about a diplomatic solution. We now appear to be on a fast track to a diplomatic solution without actually lobbing one Tomahawk missile into Syria.

No matter what conservative idiots and warmongers like John McCain might say about it, I don't think anyone who actually thinks about this for thirty seconds or so would call it incoherent or wimpy at all. Last week I wrote this:

    Let me suggest an argument which, if honestly made, might work better. Simply explain that we need some way to put pressure on Assad and the bad actors in the region to arrive at a diplomatic solution. As long as Russia and China give Assad cover with the United Nations to not be accountable for anything he does, there is no space to negotiate. Putting some counterpressure on him by authorizing force, whether or not it is used, gives leverage to come to a diplomatic solution.

I'm just a person on the sidelines. If I could figure it out, you'd think folks like GSteph, who have actually worked inside the White House, might be capable of it, too.

Is there some point where these pundits stop parroting stupid things politicians say and start being somewhat critical about events in play? I won't hold my breath.

As for style points, I'll take this style over the entirely predictable drumbeat of conquest we hear from Republicans all the time. Did you hear that President Obama is corresponding directly with Iran's new president? No? Well, he is, and communication is always a beautiful thing, especially if it might possibly deter Iran from a nuclear path and point them on a way out of the sanctions Iranians have suffered under for years now.

Wait for GSteph and partners to suggest that's a wimpy way to conduct diplomacy. Style points still matter to these guys and always will.

**********

Awkward: CNBC host speechless after Barney Frank asks about high salaries for ‘poor’ bankers

By David Edwards
RawStory
Sunday, September 15, 2013 14:08 EDT

CNBC host Maria Bartiromo and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson were momentarily stunned on Sunday when former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) asked them why the “poor beleaguered bankers” could afford to pay themselves excessively high salaries but could not find a way to pay their debts without a government bailout.

During an NBC Meet the Press segment to mark the five year anniversary of the 2008 economic collapse, Frank explained that new regulations meant that banks could not become “too big too fail” because they would not receive government help if they were overly indebted.

NBC host David Gregory observed that only 14 percent of Americans had a positive view of Wall Street firms, and that growing income inequality meant that the banks may have come out on top.

“We need to get beyond the conversation of ‘Is Wall Street evil? Are the bankers evil and causing pain?’” Bartiromo insisted. “And toward the conversation of how do you create sustainable economic growth. That will answer the issue of inequality. Because with growth, come jobs.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Paulson said. “I mean, to me, that’s what it’s all about is sustainable economic growth.”

Frank interrupted with a simple question: “I do want to add one thing to your point about those poor, beleaguered bankers, who have been forced to do so much that they can’t lend money. If they really are running businesses that are so stressed that they can’t do their basic work, why are they paying themselves so much money?”

“Where did these enormous salaries come from if they were, in fact, such serious trouble,” he asked.

That query was met with several seconds of awkward silence as members of the panel looked at each other nervously.

Finally, Gregory and Bartiromo broke the silence with forced laughter.

“Thank you for giving me that one,” Bartiromo quipped.

With that, Gregory quickly pivoted to how Washington could help to “get beyond some of the resentment of the bankers.”
« Last Edit: Sep 16, 2013, 11:49 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #8764 on: Sep 17, 2013, 06:58 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/17/2013 11:34 AM

Going Nowhere: France Opts for Meek Reforms and Hope

By Mathieu von Rohr

French President François Hollande's announced reforms have either been delayed or watered down so much that they will do little to address his country's pressing problems. Fearing unrest, he prefers hope over hardship.

Only rarely in a Western democracy does the head of state call together the country's business leaders to charge them with tasks for the future and to jointly evoke their country's greatness.

Precisely this, though, is what happened last week at the Élysée Palace in Paris, where President François Hollande got a tour of what French technology currently has on offer. The president held a robot, cast an approving glance at 3-D printers and electric vehicles, and received a run-down on such innovations as fuel-efficient "two-liter" cars and electric airplanes.

The high point of the day was a film shown in the presence of the president and his industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg. The dramatic string strains of Vivaldi's "Summer" accompanied images of things France has invented and "given the world" in the past -- among them the steam locomotive, the automobile, radioactivity and, finally, the high-speed TGV train and the supersonic Concorde plane.

The fact that all these innovations lie in the past serves to highlight the country's real problem: Over the last decade, French industry has lost over 700,000 jobs. Now the government has unveiled a new plan to encourage growth in 34 selected industry sectors, with the aim of bringing about a "third industrial revolution."

However, since the French government doesn't have the money to fund these projects, it is relying primarily on private investment. The "new industrial France" of Hollande and Montebourg is not a governmental investment program of the type seen in the past, although France does want to take the lead on industrial policy-making once again. Last week's event also seemed driven by the hope that recollections of a glorious past will provide the country with the courage it needs to pursue a better future. And, since France is currently faring so poorly despite some tentative signs of recovery, a better future is certainly needed.

Pseudo Reforms

The weeks following the summer recess were widely expected to be a time for Hollande to set a new course. The announcement of a coming large-scale pension reform was meant to demonstrate that the president was capable of taking decisive action on a fundamental issue. But that reform, which has now been unveiled, has primarily demonstrated one thing: that Hollande doesn't believe in large-scale reform.

The pension reform didn't touch France's retirement age or the special rules that apply to government employees. Instead, both employees and employers are to pay more contributions, with the number of years of contributions required before qualifying for a full pension being raised to 43 by 2035.

Making more profound change would bring with it "the risk that many people would take to the streets, without the certainty that we would be able to see the reform through to the end," Hollande told Le Monde in justifying his decision.

Instead, Hollande prefers to make small changes, as was also evident in his reform of French labor laws this spring. Now, on the pension question, all sides have been left unsatisfied anyway, with strikes and demonstrations taking place in Paris last week. Still, at least the issue is unlikely to lead to nationwide unrest.

This, though, leaves the precarious financial state of the country's pension fund beyond 2020 still unresolved. "The pension non-reform is a decision with far-reaching consequences," writes economist Élie Cohen, who usually supports Hollande. "It confirms that the president has no interest in making structural reforms and marks the end of any attempts at reform until the end of his term in office."

When European Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn criticized the slow pace of the reforms last week, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici issued a clear response: It's simply not possible to go any faster, he said.

New Tax Increases and Fees

In order to meet the Maastricht criteria limiting budget deficits to 3 percent of GDP by 2015, France plans to cut government spending by €15 billion ($20 billion). But a fundamental -- and urgently needed -- restructuring of France's bloated public sector, with its convoluted levels of government, is still not in the cards.

The government did promise the French people a "tax pause," but the very phrase seems to suggest a short period of rest that would then naturally be followed by new tax increases and fees. And, indeed, it emerged last week that the government is planning new surcharges on electronic cigarettes, energy drinks and sweeteners, and there are widespread fears that taxes will continue to rise, as well. In a prime-time interview on Sunday night, Hollande was seeking to reassure his felllow countrymen by promising there would be no new taxes whatsoever.

Meanwhile, the president is holding on to hope that economic growth will finally return to his country. At the moment, however, projected growth for 2014 is not even 1 percent.

What remains is a feeling of stasis, a general bad mood -- and serious concerns about upcoming local and EU-level elections next year. Politicians and polling institutes fear the current situation in France may lead to record results for the right-wing populist National Front.


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« Reply #8765 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:01 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 04:14 PM

'Follow the Money': NSA Monitors Financial World

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark

The NSA monitors banks and credit card transactions -- sometimes in apparent violation of national laws and global regulations. The European SWIFT financial transaction network is being tapped on different levels, internal documents from the US spy agency show.

In the summer of 2010, a Middle Eastern businessman wanted to transfer a large sum of money from one country in the region to another. He wanted to send at least $50,000 (€37,500), and he had a very clear idea of how it should be done. The transaction could not be conducted via the United States, and the name of his bank would have to be kept secret -- those were his conditions.

Though the transfer was carried out precisely according to his instructions, it did not go unobserved. The transaction is listed in classified documents compiled by the US intelligence agency NSA that SPIEGEL has seen and that deal with the activities of the United States in the international financial sector. The documents show how comprehensively and effectively the intelligence agency can track global flows of money and store the information in a powerful database developed for this purpose.

"Follow the Money" is the name of the NSA branch that handles these matters. The name is reminiscent of the famous catchphrase by former FBI Associate Director Mark Felt, the whistleblower known as "Deep Throat" who offered the information to Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters investigating the Watergate scandal in 1972.

Financial transfers are the "Achilles' heel" of terrorists, as NSA analysts note in an internal report. Additional fields of activity for their "financial intelligence" include tracking down illegal arms deliveries and keeping tabs on the increasingly lucrative domain of cybercrime. Tracing international flows of money could help reveal political crimes, expose acts of genocide and monitor whether sanctions are being respected.

Data Access vs. International Laws

"Money is the root of all evil," joke the intelligence agents. According to the classified documents, the spies' activities primarily focus on regions like Africa and the Middle East -- and their efforts often focus on targets that fall within their legal intelligence-gathering mandate. However, in the financial sector, just as in other areas, the NSA also relies on maximum data collection -- an approach that apparently leads to conflicts with national laws and international agreements.

Some members of the intelligence community even view spying in the global financial system with a certain amount of concern, as revealed by a document from the NSA's British counterpart -- the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) -- that deals with "financial data" from a legal perspective and examines the organization's own collaboration with the NSA. According to the document, the collection, storage and sharing of "politically sensitive" data is a highly invasive measure since it includes "bulk data -- rich personal information. A lot of it is not about our targets."

Indeed, secret documents reveal that the main NSA financial database Tracfin, which collects the "Follow the Money" surveillance results on bank transfers, credit card transactions and money transfers, already had 180 million datasets by 2011. The corresponding figure in 2008 was merely 20 million. According to these documents, most Tracfin data is stored for five years.

Monitoring SWIFT

The classified documents show that the intelligence agency has several means of accessing the internal data traffic of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a cooperative used by more than 8,000 banks worldwide for their international transactions. The NSA specifically targets other institutes on an individual basis. Furthermore, the agency apparently has in-depth knowledge of the internal processes of credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard. What's more, even new, alternative currencies, as well as presumably anonymous means of payment like the Internet currency Bitcoin, rank among the targets of the American spies.

The collected information often provides a complete picture of individuals, including their movements, contacts and communication behavior. The success stories mentioned by the intelligence agency include operations that resulted in banks in the Arab world being placed on the US Treasury's blacklist.

In one case, the NSA provided proof that a bank was involved in illegal arms trading -- in another case, a financial institution was providing support to an authoritarian African regime.

The most politically explosive revelations, though, concern the agency's secret access to the SWIFT networks. Following extensive debates, in 2010 the European Union signed the so-called SWIFT agreement with the US. From its headquarters in Belgium, SWIFT handles international transactions for banks and other financial institutions. For many years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US lobbied for access to this international financial data, which SWIFT virtually monopolizes worldwide.

An initial agreement failed in early 2010 after it was vetoed by the European Parliament. A few months later, a slightly watered-down SWIFT agreement was signed with the express approval of the German government.

EU Compromise Violated by US

NSA documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden now show that the compromise reached with the EU is apparently being circumvented by the US. A document from the year 2011 clearly designates the SWIFT computer network as a "target." The secret data collection also involves the NSA department for "tailored access operations."

According to the documents, one of the various means of accessing the SWIFT information has existed since 2006. Since then, it has been possible to read the "SWIFT printer traffic from numerous banks."

In the wake of revelations that the NSA bugged the EU embassies in New York and Washington, the attack on SWIFT could be the next major stress test for relations between the US government and the European Union. The NSA failed to comment on the latest allegations before SPIEGEL's printing deadline on Friday.

Late last week, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström said that the Americans should "immediately and precisely tell us what has happened, and put all the cards on the table." If it's true "that they share information with other agencies for purposes other than those outlined in the agreement … we will have to consider ending the agreement," the Swede said after Brazilian broadcaster TV Globo first reported on the attack on SWIFT on Sept. 8.

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green Party representative in the European Parliament, spoke of an "open breach of law." Four out of seven factions in the European Parliament have joined the growing number of calls to suspend the agreement.

The conflict is also particularly sensitive because the documents reveal the close involvement of the US Treasury in selecting the program's spying targets. Indeed, according to the documents, there is an exchange of personnel in which NSA analysts are transferred for a number of months to the relevant department in the US Treasury.

Spying on Banks and Credit Card Firms
The revelations of spying on credit card transactions are also incendiary. Under the codename "Dishfire," the intelligence agency collects information on credit card transactions from some 70 banks worldwide, most of them in crisis-ridden countries, including banks in Italy, Spain and Greece. The Americans also take advantage of the fact that many banks use text messages to inform their customers of transactions. The Dishfire program has been running since spring 2009.

The documents also show that the intelligence agency targets large credit card companies, such as the US company Visa. At an internal conference in 2010, for instance, NSA analysts provided an extensive and detailed description of how they searched for possible points of access in the complex network that Visa uses to process its transactions -- and were allegedly successful in penetrating the company's network.

During the presentation, the analysts said that the target was the transactions of Visa customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, adding that the idea was to "collect, parse and ingest transactional data for priority credit card associations." One slide depicts in detail how the authorization process for each transaction works, starting with a credit card reader in a store, continuing via the bank and a data processor, and finally reaching the credit card company itself. A subsequent chart points to possible "collection access points."

When contacted by SPIEGEL, a spokeswoman for Visa responded, "Visa Inc. does not have a processing facility in the Middle East or the UK." In addition, she stated, "We are not aware of any unauthorized access into our network. Visa takes data security seriously and, in response to any attemption intrusion, we would pursue all available remedies to the fullest extent of the law. Further, it's Visa's policy to only provide transaction information in response to a subpoena or other valid legal process."

Nevertheless, Visa data from the Middle East apparently ends up in the NSA database. The XKeyscore spying program is used to skim regional data from the Visa network, according to a document.

A Wide Range of Credit Card Companies

The agency's snooping efforts now focus on more than one provider. According to another document, transaction data from a wide range of credit card companies flows into the NSA financial database Tracfin. This allegedly includes data from payment authorization processes by Visa and MasterCard. All in all, "credit card data" and related text messages made up 84 percent of the datasets within Tracfin in September 2011.

MasterCard did not comment by SPIEGEL's printing deadline.

In order to find their way through the jungle of information, Tracfin analysts even have their own manual for "credit card tap search tips." On top of that, the intelligence agents have their own electronic tool that allows them to independently and very rapidly verify the authenticity of credit cards.

By all appearances, the NSA collects everything that it can in the sensitive financial sector -- at least that's the message of a presentation from April. The agency sets out to access "bulk global financial data," which is then fed into the Tracfin database, the presenter noted. Furthermore, the author concluded, thanks to network analyses and the use of the XKeyscore spying program, NSA analysts had stumbled across the encrypted traffic of a large financial network operator in the Middle East.

According to the presentation, the NSA was previously only able to decrypt payment transactions by bank customers, but now they have access to the internal encrypted communication of the company's branch offices. This "provides a new stream of financial data and potentially encrypted internal communications" from the financial service provider, the analysts concluded with satisfaction. This bank data comes from countries that are of "high interest." It's interesting to note that the targeted company is also one of the many SWIFT service partners.

The documents reveal how short-lived intelligence agencies' access to the financial world can be, as well as the fact that encryption actually can present problems, at least temporary ones, for the spies. According to one document, the agency had access to data from Western Union, a company that manages money transfers in over 200 countries, for quite some time. But in 2008 Western Union began to protect its data with high-grade encryption. This made access virtually impossible, as NSA staff members complain in one paper.


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« Reply #8766 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:10 AM »


Edward Snowden 'living incognito in Russia'

Whistleblower's lawyer says he has security protection but can travel freely and plays down prospect of US bid to capture him

Shaun Walker in Moscow
theguardian.com, Tuesday 17 September 2013 10.59 BST   
   
Edward Snowden is living under guard at a secret location in Russia, but is able to travel around the country freely without being recognised, according to the former NSA contractor's Russian lawyer.

"We believe the danger remains quite high and, as I see it, it is impossible at the moment to reveal where he's living or to talk openly about it," said Anatoly Kucherena in an interview with the Kremlin-funded television station Russia Today, excerpts of which were released on Tuesday.

Kucherena said Snowden has security protection, but was evasive on whether this was provided by the Russian state, noting that there were many private security firms in Russia.

Snowden is wanted by the US for leaking details of government surveillance programmes to the GuardianHe has not been seen in public since he landed in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong in June. He spent several weeks in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, before he was granted asylum by Russia and left the airport on 1 August.

A meeting Snowden held with human rights activists during his time at the airport and a grainy photograph of him getting into a car when leaving Sheremetyevo are the only traces left by the fugitive whistleblower. Western diplomats and Russian government sources say they have no idea where he is staying or whether he has the protection of the Russian state or security services.

President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy, this month referred to Snowden as "a strange guy" and said life in Russia would not be easy for him.

"In effect, he condemned himself to a rather difficult life," said Putin. "I do not have the faintest idea about what he will do next."

According to Kucherena, despite the secrecy Snowden has been moving unimpeded around Russia. "He walks around. He can travel. He does travel, because he is interested in our history," said the lawyer, adding that nobody had yet recognised Snowden on his travels.

Kucherena admitted it was unlikely the US government would attempt an audacious operation on Russian soil to capture Snowden, but said he had to remain vigilant.

"I don't think that is going to happen but we saw American special forces intervening in other countries. Also, our citizens get detained abroad and transferred to US territory."

He said that Snowden had "the same rights and responsibilities as any Russian citizen" and had received a large number of job offers, as well as messages from Russians offering to help. One of the more unusual suggestions came from a 50-year-old woman, who inquired whether it might be possible to adopt Snowden.

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Kiev's luxury ghost town where millionaire buyers fear to tread

Prime properties in Vozdvyzhenka empty as anger grows against developers accused of ruining historic area of Ukraine capital

Oksana Grytsenko in Kiev
The Guardian, Monday 16 September 2013 22.22 BST   

They call it the millionaires' ghost town; dozens of brightly coloured houses in mock-19th-century style positioned elegantly in a ravine in the historical heart of Kiev.

By day, Vozdvyzhenka is popular for city walkers, wedding photo sessions and music clip shoots. But by night, the 17-hectare (42-acre) development falls quiet, its buildings dark, its street all but deserted.

Despite its prime location and agreeable facades, hardly anyone lives here. It was conceived 10 years ago as a desirable neighbourhood for the great and the good of the Ukrainian capital. But after a deep economic downturn withered Kiev in 2008 and 2009, the £85m development has lain fallow, a headache for its developers and a monument to the folly of grand designs in fragile economies.

"We were knocked down in 2008," says Taras Ziabkin, deputy head of Kievgorstroy-1, the company that developed the project. "I will not hide that the demand dropped drastically then."

Ziabkin remembers that at the peak of sales in summer 2008 an average price of a 120 sq m apartment was more than £533,000. Now the same flat costs only £228,000. Ziabkin rejects descriptions by locals of Vozdvyzhenka as a "dead town", saying that 50 of its 250 apartments have residents and that repairmen are working on a further 50 for new tenants.

"You should understand that many of our buyers live abroad and did the purchases as an investment," explains Ziabkin, adding that he hopes to sell the remaining apartments by the end of 2014.

But Georgy Duchovychniy, a prominent Kiev architect, thinks modern Vozdvyzhenka will never be inhabited, blaming its developers for ruining one of the most beautiful areas of the city.

"There are building rules, common sense and there is also a greed which destroys them," he says.

Sitting in his studio, Duchovychniy looks at photos of old Vozdvyzhenka that was for centuries inhabited by the craftsmen – potters and skinners – after whom the local streets received their names. Vozdvyzhenka is named after the local Khrestovozdvyzhenska church, known as a place of baptism of the Soviet Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov.

The new plan of reconstruction emerged in the early 2000s and works started in 2003. Duchovychniy says the developers wanted to echo past-Soviet plans, but in the pursuit of profit they increased the number of floors, ignoring the need to expand the foundations and develop building communications.

Complaints about cracks in the walls, water in the basement, and heating problems at Vozdvyzhenka have been reported in the local media since 2010, when its first few residents tried to start living there. Ziabkin claims all of these issues have been solved, adding that a number of top politicians, sportsmen and pop stars have homes in this district.

But for now only construction workers and passers-by are seen at Vozdvyzhenka. One of them, a student, Oleksiy Vasylevsky, says he likes to walk along this "nice, spacious and deserted" area.

He believes its homes are empty because of their cost. "People, who have money for such apartments, probably may find better places to live," he says.

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Russian MP's Obama with banana picture sparks racism debate

Irina Rodnina tweeted doctored photo of US leader with fruit – in country where black athletes are taunted with them regularly

Shaun Walker in Moscow
theguardian.com, Monday 16 September 2013 13.35 BST   

The subject of racism has become the focus of a public discussion in Russia after an MP from the Duma caused outrage by posting an image of Barack Obama on Twitter that was photoshopped to include a banana.

Irina Rodnina, an MP from Vladimir Putin's United Russia party and a triple Olympic champion figure-skater, posted the picture on her personal Twitter account.

The image features Obama chewing, while a hand in the foreground waves a banana at him.

Rodnina insisted that there was nothing wrong with the photograph, and said she had been sent it by friends in America. "Freedom of speech is freedom of speech, and you should answer for your own hang-ups," she wrote.
The doctored image of Barack Obama The doctored photograph of the US president looking at a banana that was posted on Twitter. Photograph: www.propagandes.info

The US ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, wrote on Twitter that Rodnina was guilty of "outrageous behaviour, which only brings shame to her parliament and country". A spokesperson for the US embassy quoted Thomas Jefferson in response to the tweet: "Bigotry is the disease of ignorance."

Racism is rife in Russia, and black football players often face racial abuse involving bananas. In 2011, the Brazilian Roberto Carlos, playing for Russian team Anzhi Makhachkala, left the pitch in anger after a banana was thrown at him from the stands. In a separate incident, the club Zenit St Petersburg was fined the equivalent of about £6,300 when a fan offered Carlos a banana before a match.

Rodnina, who lived in the US for many years, deleted the photograph but has not apologised and remains unfazed by accusations of racism. Instead, she suggested that the wave of criticism she prompted from liberal journalists and other Russians was a conspiracy.

She implied on Twitter that the criticism was a campaign ordered by opposition politician Alexei Navalny. "Are there still some of you who haven't had their say on Daddy Navalny's orders?"

Navalny is a stringent Kremlin critic who earlier this month won 27% of the vote in Moscow mayoral elections, and who has himself been accused of racist statements.

The incident was widely discussed in the Russian press, with many commentators coming to the defence of the MP and figure skater.

"What Irina Konstantinovna put on Twitter is her business; it is her own personal space," wrote the pro-Kremlin television presenter Vladimir Soloviev in a Moscow freesheet on Monday. "This is not a big scandal."

He claimed that the reaction was oversensitive and that the photograph was not racist.

"I advise everyone who attacked her that the next time they go out for a coffee, they should not call it a black coffee but an African-American coffee."

**********

Cher: I won't play Winter Olympics due to Russia's anti-gay laws

Singer claims to have rejected invitation from oligarch friend to perform at ceremonies over concerns about recent legislation

Sean Michaels   
theguardian.com, Monday 16 September 2013 13.16 BST   

Cher claims to have rejected an invitation to perform at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Although she was asked to participate in February's official opening ceremonies, the singer said she "immediately" refused out of solidarity with Russia's gay community.

Speaking with the Canadian magazine Maclean's, Cher recounted receiving a call from a friend "who is a big [Russian oligarch]". "[He] asked me if I'd like to be an ambassador for the Olympics and open the show," she said. "I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there. He said the Russian people don't feel the way the government does."

Cher is no stranger to Russia: she has performed there twice in the past year. And while she said she "can't name names" when it comes to her friend the oligarch, both of her recent gigs were at the invitation of billionaire businessman/politician Suleyman Kerimov. Kerimov is the world's 162nd-richest man, according to Forbes; he is also a huge Cher fan. He brought the Believe singer to Moscow for a private party in December 2012, and then to his home province of Dagestan this July for the opening of a new football stadium. "Russia is Great … COLD BUT GREAT!" Cher tweeted at the time of the December show. "Here is pic of me wearing my friend's [giant, fur] hat!"

Cher is a longtime advocate of LGBT rights, spurred by events "in the early days" of Sonny and Cher, as well as her experiences as mother to a transgender child. "People hated Sonny and I ... because we looked and acted so different," she told Maclean's. "Sonny was always getting into fights – people would called him 'fag' and he'd get his nose broken – only because we were dressing different … You can't forget that."

Artists such as the Bloodhound Gang, Madonna and Lady Gaga have spoken out against Russia's recent anti-gay legislation, including a law that prohibits teaching minors about "non-traditional sexual relations". The upcoming Sochi Games have become a focal point for the controversy, with activists calling for formal protests and boycotts, with some even proposing that Russia be stripped of its role as Olympic host.

Closer to the Truth, Cher's 26th studio album, is out on 24 September.


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« Reply #8767 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:22 AM »


Merkel must ensure Germany takes a strong moral stand against NSA spying

The chancellor's weak response to the issue suggests she is sitting it out until after the election – but what is she afraid of?

Priya Basil in Berlin
theguardian
Monday 16 September 2013 13.54 BS

A German police helicopter swoops in low over the United States' consulate in Frankfurt, hovers and then departs. Photos of antennae on the roof of the building have been taken. Mission accomplished. This scene, reminiscent of a bad cold war movie, is the German government's most visible action in response to the whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations that America is spying on the world and has, among other things, "eavesdropping posts" at 80 US embassies and consulates around the world.

If the internet is a global highway, one of its busiest junctions, called DE-CIX, is buried deep under Frankfurt. We don't require specifics from Snowden to know that US spy agencies must be monitoring this. They have taken Obama's "Yes we can" to a sinister new level. In this context, photographing rooftop antennae is almost laughable.

There have been voices calling for a more robust reaction from the German government, and a number of protest marches by citizens. Nevertheless many, even critical Germans, are resigned to saying in the face of the NSA scandal: "We all know everyone is watching everyone all the time anyway. That's just the way it is."

How can we just shrug at the fact that our private lives are subject to unsanctioned state surveillance? We are in danger of forgetting that there is a crucial distinction between us choosing to have some personal data in a space where it might be accessible to strangers, and all our personal data being available for foreign spy agencies to view without permission, and without us having a clue. Article 10 of the German constitution enshrines the right of citizens to privacy – no surveillance of an individual is possible without court approval. This emphasises that only those who may be guilty should be watched.

We cannot be complacent about how this basic law is being undermined by the NSA. In an open letter to Angela Merkel published in July, the novelist Juli Zeh described it as "a historic attack … on the innocent until proven guilty principle". Zeh also highlighted Merkel's unsatisfactory response to the issue and since then the chancellor has simply continued with hinhaltetaktik (delaying tactics), even peddling a weak argument that many emails sent within Germany go via a server in the US and may therefore be outside the jurisdiction of German law. The cause of Merkel's evasiveness is obvious – she's hoping to sit out the issue until after the election. Which begs the question – what is she afraid of?

Whatever she might be reluctant to reveal, however she dissembles, we will not stop probing. It is in this indignant, challenging spirit that Zeh and around two dozen authors plan a march to the chancellor's residence on Wednesday to hand over the signatures of the 65,000 German citizens who have signed the open letter (now a petition at Change.org).

Throughout history, writers have resisted oppression, lies and censorship with their work. Sometimes, they have to step outside their writing to declaim injustice publicly on behalf of the people. And, occasionally, the threat to freedom is so immense that writers band together in their outrage. It happened in Germany in 1947, when leading German writers including Heinrich Böll, Günter Grass and Paul Celan formed Group 47 with a view to upholding democracy and ensuring accountability in the aftermath of the Nazi era.

The writers who will march on the chancellery on 18 September do so with an awareness of their illustrious predecessors, and the knowledge that it has been a while since writers took such a public stand together.

Data is probably the most precious resource we have in Europe – the only commodity we can hope to mine endlessly is our brain. We depend on our thoughts, our ideas, our innovations, and if we can't protect this domain, we risk losing copyright over our own identity – and therefore over our inventions and over our future. Moreover, our very ability to create will be undermined by the fact that we can't do so freely – because being free means not being watched.

As a British citizen who spends a lot of time in Berlin, I'm relying on Germany to take a strong moral stand on the NSA issue in the hope that this will help steer the rest of Europe in a backlash against such indiscriminate, blanket surveillance of citizens. Germany needs to tell America: no you can't.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 06:07 PM

Lower Expectations: SPD Secretly Hopes for Coalition Under Merkel

By Florian Gathmann and Veit Medick

The Social Democrats are realizing that the best they can hope for is a grand coalition under Chancellor Angela Merkel after the Sept. 22 election. Publicly, they're sticking to their goal of a government with the Greens. But the Greens are looking too weak.

Listening to leading Social Democrats after Sunday's Bavarian election, one could be forgiven for imagining that they had won a respectable victory. Chancellor Candidate Peer Steinbrück said he had gained a "good portion of confidence" from the vote, and General Secretary Andrea Nahles said in every media interview she gave that it had been a "good result."

This confidence is surprising. The SPD won less than 21 percent, a modest result for a party that aims to oust Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Sept. 22 election. In fact, this is the first time since 2010 that the SPD has failed to be part of a government following a state election. But there are a few positive points in Bavaria that the Social Democrats have been stressing:

• The miserable performance of the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP), Merkel's junior coalition partner, in Bavaria, where they slumped to 3.3 percent, far short of the five percent needed for parliamentary representation. The SPD will relish emphasizing the FDP's weakness in the remaining days of the campaign.

• The fact that the SPD managed to improve its result by two points in Bavaria against the resurgent Christian Social Union, led by popular governor Horst Seehofer.

• The increased voter turnout, which tends to benefit the SPD.

SPD Still Officially Aiming for Center-Left Alliance

The final point in particular has triggered hopes in the SPD's campaign headquarters that the party could achieve a decent result after all on Sunday. The SPD will spend the coming days mobilizing its supporters. Officially at least, it's sticking to its target of forming the next government with the Greens. "We stand for one coalition: for Red-Green," said SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, referring to the two parties' colors. "If the FDP doesn't make it into parliament there's a big chance of that." But in truth, leading SPD members know that the best they can hope for is another "grand coalition" -- as junior partner to Merkel's conservatives, a repeat of the power-sharing alliance with which she governed from 2005 to 2009. The Bavarian election result makes this outcome seem even more likely.

Bavaria confirmed a trend that that has been seen for some time in nationwide polls. The SPD has managed to inch up a couple of points in opinion polls over the last week. The Emnid polling institute had it at 26 percent in a poll published on Sunday, but that's still 13 percentage points short of Merkel's conservatives. Meanwhile, the Greens are getting weaker. That's not conducive to a governing coalition between the two parties, but the SPD can live with the trend. The stronger it gets, the easier it will be for the SPD to form a grand coalition with the conservatives, and the more scope it will have to push through its policies as part of a new government.

Greens Struggling

Sentiment among the Greens was predictably downcast after the Bavarian result. They had hoped for double digits but instead fell almost a point to just 8.6 percent. They are scoring below 10 percent in national polls -- a marked decline from their dream poll results of 18 months ago when they were at well over 20 percent -- and even close to 30 percent according to some. The party has been hit by tax hike plans and by its call for a "Veggie Day" -- a meat-free day in public canteens, which critics in other parties said made the Greens look like a nannyish, spoilsport party.

Greens leader Jürgen Trittin has promised to reverse the trend. "We've had headwind since we were founded," he said. "We can still turn things around."

But how? Trittin himself is now embroiled in controversy after it emerged on Monday that he had in 1981 backed a local Green party manifesto calling for sex between children and adults to be be decriminalized.

The party will spend this week focusing on its pledges to fight global warming, manage the transition to renewable energy and adapt government to modern trends in society. But the Greens know that their prospects of forming a coalition with the SPD are dwindling. They can no longer blame the SPD for that. It's their own fault.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 12:10 PM

Life Support for FDP: Merkel's Coalition Partner Needs Help

Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition partners, the Free Democrats, stumbled badly in Sunday's state election in Bavaria. The party hopes to convince conservatives to lend their votes in the general election next week. But Merkel is in no mood to be generous.

One could hardly imagine a worse result for the Free Democrats (FDP) than the one the business-friendly party received in Bavarian state elections on Sunday. A paltry 3.3 percent of the vote was all they could muster -- well below the five percent hurdle necessary for representation in the state's parliament. And a terrible omen for the national elections set to take place this coming Sunday.

Or is it? The FDP, once the powerful kingmakers on the national political stage in Germany, is now hoping that its pathetic showing in Bavaria could lead to a larger than expected share of the votes nationwide -- from conservatives who "loan" their votes to the FDP to ensure a continuation of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition. Indeed, top party members have already launched a campaign to convince voters of the wisdom of doing so.

"This coalition of conservatives and FDP, you can vote for it," said FDP General Secretary Patrick Döring on Monday. He said it could be "very clever" of voters to support Merkel's current coalition "by supporting a strong conservative candidate locally and then casting their second vote for the FDP."

The strategy requires a quick explanation. German voters have two votes: one for their local candidate of choice and a second for the party they would like to support on a nationwide level. The FDP is trying to encourage voters to be tactical in the use of that second vote -- by helping to push the FDP over the five percent hurdle and into the federal parliament, and thus ensure a continuation of Merkel's current governing coalition.

Needing Help

"We will explain to people that it makes sense to split their votes if they want to see a continuation of the center-right coalition," said leading FDP member Wolfgang Kubicki in comments to the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper.

Even before the election in Bavaria, it had appeared likely that the FDP would need outside help to attract enough votes for representation in the Bundestag, Germany's federal parliament. But Sunday's vote brought that suspicion into focus. The Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union, received 47.7 percent of the vote behind its powerful leader Horst Seehofer. It was enough for an absolute majority, easily outpacing the Social Democrats (20.6 percent), the Free Voters (9.0 percent) and the Greens (8.6 percent). Five years ago, the FDP received 8.0 percent in Bavaria, making Sunday's result look even worse.

The phenomenon of conservative voters casting their ballots for the FDP for tactical reasons is far from theoretical. In January, the FDP was in danger of failing to clear the five percent hurdle in Lower Saxony state elections. But some 100,000 CDU voters made the tactical decision to support the party, resulting in an astounding 9.9 percent result for the FDP -- and a disappointing showing for the CDU. The CDU and FDP under conservative state Governor David McAllister ultimately lost the election in the state to the SPD and Greens.

No Love from the CDU

It is an experience that the CDU would prefer not to repeat, particularly in Sunday's vote. It is, after all, becoming increasingly obvious that German voters are more interested in a grand coalition -- matching up Merkel's conservatives with the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) -- than a continuation of the chancellor's alliance with the FDP. A new survey carried out by the pollsters at Emnid for the newsmagazine Focus shows that 26 percent of those asked would like to see a grand coalition against just 17 percent favoring a center-left coalition and only 13 percent wanting to see a continuation of Merkel's current pairing.

As such, Merkel is in no mood to sanction any strategy that might eat into her share of the votes on Sunday. Should she find herself in coalition negotiations next week with the SPD, every additional vote for her camp translates into valuable leverage. Indeed, she is actively campaigning for CDU voters not to cast their second vote to aid the FDP. In a campaign TV spot that has been running for several weeks now, the candidate admonishes voters, "Both votes for the CDU."

Senior CDU members were at pains on Monday morning to nip the FDP strategy in the bud. Party General Secretary Hermann Gröhe on Monday morning told German public radio station Deutschlandfunk that "the second vote is a vote for Merkel and we want it for the conservatives." He was echoed by senior CDU member Armin Laschet, who said on public television that "it is important that CDU voters cast their ballots for the CDU."

So what will happen to the FDP next week? Polls show that it will be close. A survey conducted by INSA for Focus and released on Sunday found that nationwide support for the party stands at 4 percent.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 03:39 PM

Pedophilia Scandal: Old Document Haunts Green Party Candidate

With the general election only days away, the Green Party's top candidate Jürgen Trittin is under fire over a document more than 30 years old. The party manifesto, which he approved, advocated legalizing sex with minors.

The latest politician to be dragged into the Green Party's pedophilia scandal is Jürgen Trittin, the party's top candidate in the upcoming federal election. He was responsible for a 1981 election platform that included a call for the decriminalization of sex between children and adults.

The platform belonged to the Göttingen branch of the Alternative Green Initiative List (AGIL), a forerunner of the current Green Party, and was uncovered by political scientists Franz Walter and Stephan Klecha of the Göttingen Institute for the Study of Democracy. The organization was hired by the Green Party in May to investigate the party's affiliations with pedophile activists in the 1980s.

In an essay for the left-leaning Die Tageszeitung newspaper on Monday, Walter wrote that Trittin, at the time a student who was running for city council, was one of five members of an editorial board that signed off on the election manifesto. The document called for sex between children and adults to be made exempt from punishment, so long as it involved neither violence nor the threat of violence.

As Walter explains, it was not uncommon for the AGIL to take over the platforms of minority interest groups.

Jürgen Trittin told Die Tageszeitung that the researchers' findings were correct. "It was simply taken for granted that we adopted one-to-one the demands of various fringe initiatives, such as those of the 'Homosexual Action Göttingen,'" Trittin said. "The responsibility was mine and it's a mistake I regret."

Co-Candiate Offers Support

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, who shares Trittin's position as the leading candidate in the upcoming election, said Trittin was unaware at the time that he was listed as one of the platform's co-authors. Trittin's name was the only one on the document that included a footnote stating he was "responsible according to press law" -- meaning he took legal responsibility for the contents of the document.

Göring-Eckardt said on public television broadcaster ZDF it was an "absolutely incomprehensible" that pedophiles found support in the Green Party of the 1970s and 1980s, and that she was "very glad" the chapter in the party's history is over.

The Green Party is spending more than €200,000 ($267,000) on the study to investigate its past history of support for pedophiles. The price tag is a handsome sum, considering the party's annual budget of €5 million, and suggests the party is eager to clarify and resolve the murky chapter in its history.

That history caught up with the party earlier this year, when comments on children's sexuality in the 1975 autobiography of Daniel Cohn-Bendit, Green Party representative in the European Parliament, resurfaced in the media.

The most recent revelation comes at an unfortunate time for the Green Party. With less than a week to go before Germany's general election, Trittin's political opponents have already begun to exploit the issue to discredit his campaign.

"Trittin needs to consider whether he really is the right man to be fronting the Greens," said Philipp Missfelder of the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Alexander Dobrindt, general secretary of the conservative Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU), told the website of the magazine Focus that Trittin should withdraw from his position as the Green Party's leading candidate in the election.

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SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 03:39 PM

Merkel Buzzed by Mini-Drone at Campaign Event

Just when the scandal surrounding the Merkel administration's bungled purchase of a multi-million euro surveillance drone was beginning to fade, the Internet activist Pirate Party has managed to draw attention to it once again.

A Christian Democrat (CDU) campaign event taking place on Sunday in the eastern city of Dresden was interrupted when a miniature drone started circling above the audience. Chancellor Angela Merkel and Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière, who were on the stage alongside several other CDU politicians, looked on with amusement as the 40-centimeter (16-inch) aircraft came crashing down at their feet.

Soon after the event, the Pirate Party released a statement confirming it was responsible for the stunt. "The goal of the effort was to make Chancellor Merkel and Defense Minister de Maizière realize what it's like to be subjected to drone observation," said Markus Barenhoff, deputy head of the party.

The unnamed 23-year-old Pirate Party member who was operating the drone from a nearby hide-out was quickly located by the police and briefly taken into custody for disturbing the event. "The deployment of the drone served the purpose of capturing Chancellor Merkel and the other CDU politicians on camera," he said upon release.

The aircraft was being operated by remote control from a nearby hideout. Zoom
DPA

The aircraft was being operated by remote control from a nearby hideout.
De Maizière came under fire earlier this year amid reports that his Defense Ministry had tried to cover up a scandal over the bungled purchase of a multi-million euro surveillance drone. The aircraft proved uncertifiable for use in European air space. Among other deficiencies, the drone, known as the Euro Hawk, was found not to have a proper collision-avoidance system.

The Defense Minister is considered one of Merkel's closest allies and has been tipped as one of her possible successors.

"Though the crash landing wasn't part of the plan, we did achieve what we wanted," Pirate Party deputy head Markus Barenhoff told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The intention was two-fold: firstly, to draw attention to the government surveillance scandal, and secondly to put de Maizière's Euro Hawk failings back on the agenda."

The party was also likely hoping that the drone might manage to help its current abysmal poll numbers take flight. Support for the pirates is hovering around 3 percent.

Whether it will be enough to win over more voters to the party remains to be seen. But it did inject a bit of lightness into an afternoon on the stump. "This kind of event is supposed to be fun, after all," concluded Stanislaw Tillich, the Christian Democrat governor of Saxony who hosted the rally.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 03:39 PM

Political Parties Shifting to the Left

It is hard to refute the idea that Angela Merkel, after eight years as chancellor, has made an indelible mark on Germany's political landscape. The irony is that the Christian Democrats' leader, who is known for her conservative views on tax policy and gay rights, is partly responsible for a cross-party shift to the left.

A new study by the WZB Berlin Social Research Center shows the country's main political parties -- with the exception of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP) -- have shifted to the left of the political spectrum over the past six election cycles.

"Certainly this is an indication of the CDU's powerful position on the political landscape," says Sven Regel, who co-authored the report. "The conservatives' drastic move toward the left, especially between 2005 and 2009, is likely to have prompted the other mainstream parties to follow suit."

The study, dubbed the "Manifesto Project", includes the analysis of 24 election manifestos spanning nearly two decades: those of the CDU; its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU); the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD); the FDP; the ecologist Green Party; and the far-left Left Party.

The party platforms were analyzed according to 56 previously determined subjects, each of which the researchers placed on a left-to-right spectrum. To this end, topics including "military disarmament" and "welfare state expansion" were placed on the left side of the spectrum, while subjects such as "law and order" were placed on the right.

The data show the CDU and SPD have both undertaken a drastic turn to the left in the two most recent election cycles. Regel says this is in part due to a backlash against the Gerhard Schröder era of 1998 to 2005, which some deride as a neo-liberal abandonment of his SPD's traditionally progressive values.

"The Schröder- and Blair-induced swing to the right that manifested itself well into the 2005 election cycle should certainly be taken into consideration," he says. "I'm sure the financial crisis has a role to play, too."

The FDP is the only party to have shifted to the right since the general election in 1994, the study finds. In comparison to previous election cycles, researchers say the party is placing more of an emphasis on individual freedom and economizing, and less of an emphasis on education.

The FDP's turn to the right likely comes down to internal party dynamics. Regel points to the powerful position of conservative former party chairman Guido Westerwelle -- who serves as foreign minister in Merkel's cabinet -- as one of the reason for the shift.

Interestingly, the research disputes the widespread assertion that the mainstream parties' manifestos have become impossible to differentiate. According to Regel, who alongside his three co-authors coded every single sentence in the five parties' 24 electoral platforms, the media is partly to blame for this misconception.

"If journalists dug a bit deeper, they would find that the parties' positions are quite unique," he says. "The positions tend to get lost in the daily churn of news reporting, though."


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« Reply #8768 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:27 AM »

September 16, 2013

Shalom Yoran, Jewish Resistance Fighter, Dies at 88

By WILLIAM YARDLEY
IHT

For three years, Shalom Yoran survived the German occupation of Poland even as he saw his fellow Jews slaughtered by the Nazis. When he and his family inevitably became targets themselves, his mother knew she would not escape.

“Go, my beloved children,” she told Mr. Yoran and his brother, Musio, as they fled into a field to escape German gunfire. “Try to save yourselves and take vengeance for us.”

That was in September 1942. The brothers disappeared into the woods and went on to spend the rest of World War II fighting the elements, injury, illness and the Nazis.

After enduring the winter in an underground shelter that they had built, they shifted from trying to survive to striking back. They became Jewish partisans, joining many others in fighting an insurgent war against the occupying Germans in Poland and elsewhere.

By the spring of 1943, they had conducted their first mission: burning a factory that made rifle butts for German weapons. Mr. Yoran began to feel that he was fulfilling his mother’s wish.

“For me, this was the turning point in the war,” he wrote in a 1996 memoir, “The Defiant: A True Story of Jewish Vengeance and Survival.”

He continued: “Instead of constantly being on the run, or hiding underground trying to survive, I had actually participated in an attack on the German war machine. This was the beginning of my revenge.”

Mr. Yoran, who died on Sept. 9 in Manhattan at 88, was 14 when German forces invaded his hometown, Raciaz, and 17 the last time he saw his parents. His mother, Hannah, and his father, Shmuel, were killed within days of his escape into the woods with his brother, who was four years older. The Nazis eventually killed 1,040 Jews in Raciaz, virtually its entire Jewish population.

Mr. Yoran and his brother became full-time fighters, killing German soldiers on patrols or at their camps, planting mines, destroying roads and bridges — all while scrounging and stealing food and clothing. They soon made their way through northeast Poland, to the forests near Lake Naroch in what is now Belarus, to join a group of Jewish partisans who were coordinating their missions with Soviet forces.

Yet even there, fighting alongside non-Jewish Russians and Poles, they encountered anti-Semitism.

“So here we were, fighting against a common enemy — the Germans, whose aim it was to totally annihilate the Jewish people and to take over the Soviet Union — side by side with fellow fighters whose own hatred of Jews was notorious,” Mr. Yoran wrote.

“In this demoralizing situation I told myself again and again that I was fighting as a Jew — with them, but not as one of them. I dreamed of having my own country, of fighting for it, and even dying for it. That was what kept up my morale.”

He and his brother joined the Polish Army, advancing into Germany in 1945 as Allied forces closed in on Berlin.

Mr. Yoran was born Selim Sznycer on June 29, 1925, in Warsaw, the son of a lumberyard owner. He had only limited schooling before his family fled the Nazis.

After the war he worked for a group that helped smuggle Jewish refugees into British-controlled Palestine, resisting British efforts to prevent them from entering.

He assumed many identities on his own journey there, including that of a British soldier. Finally, to convince the authorities that he was not a refugee but a lifelong resident of Palestine, he assumed the name of a dead cousin, Shalom Yoran, in 1946.

“When I finally became a ‘legal’ citizen of Palestine,” Mr. Yoran wrote, “I bore my mother’s maiden name and my cousin’s date of birth.”

With the founding of Israel, and after receiving his high school equivalency diploma, Mr. Yoran joined the Israeli Air Force, learning aircraft maintenance. While in the Air Force he met Varda Granevsky. They married in 1954.

He later became an executive with Israel Aircraft Industries, which helped supply the Israeli government. It is now called Israel Aerospace Industries. He moved to the United States in the late 1970s to run an American office of an aircraft trading and manufacturing company.

It was after he had arrived in Palestine that Mr. Yoran began writing about his life, recording his memories in notebooks and on loose sheafs of paper while recovering from abdominal surgery in a hospital.

Decades later, while he and his wife were clearing out their apartment near Tel Aviv, he found the papers in a suitcase. The couple spent years translating the notes from Polish into English, often first into Hebrew. The fruit of their work was “The Defiant.”

Mr. Yoran died after a long illness, said his wife, a sculptor. He is also survived by two daughters, Dafna and Yaelle, and two grandsons.

His brother, who became known as Maurice Sznycer, moved to Paris after the war and became a professor of antiquities and West Semitic languages at the Sorbonne. He died in 2010.

Mr. Yoran helped found the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. Near the end of his life, when he had dementia and other illnesses, his family established the Rose Art Foundation, which donates mobile reclining chairs to patients in need.

After “The Defiant” was published, Mr. Yoran frequently spoke publicly about his experience as a partisan.

“If there is a lesson to be gleaned, it is that no person should succumb to brutality without putting up a resistance,” he wrote in his book. “Individually it can save one’s life; en masse it can change the course of history.”


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« Reply #8769 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:30 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 01:30 PM

Rookie Rodents: Dutch Police Train Rats to Sniff Out Crime

By Benjamin Dürr

Police in the Netherlands are hoping to save money by training rats to sniff out things like drugs and gunshot residue. The animals are cheaper and faster than traditional lab work -- and they're very accurate.

"Derrick" is unbeatable. He's right in 98.8 percent of all cases, the kind of accuracy only machines can achieve. But Derrick is no machine. He's part of an elite group of sewer rats currently being trained in Rotterdam to sniff out drugs, gunpowder or traces of other substances that cling to someone after they've committed a crime.

Shooting a gun leaves behind gunshot residue that until now could only be detected in a costly laboratory. Dutch police, under pressure to save money, now see Derrick and his four classmates as a cheaper and faster option than traditional science. The project's potential savings has won it the support of the police's "innovation manager."

Derrick is named after the protagonist of a popular German TV series that ran from the 1970s through the 1990s -- and also enjoyed a loyal following in the Netherlands. The four other mice are also named after famous fictional detectives: Magnum, Poirot and Thomson and Thompson from "The Adventures of Tin Tin."

They're kept in the darkened room of a small house in the northeast of Rotterdam, next to storage space for ropes, blankets and the equipment belonging to the canine unit. The noise of the nearby highway provides a backdrop to the barking of police dogs, whose training grounds, complete with tunnels and miniature bridges, lies behind the building. The horses are here, too, making the rats police animal No. 3.

The rats' trainer is Monique Hamerslag. She scoops Derrick up from the table and places him in a cage, where four small bags are hanging. One of the bags contains alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile, or APAAN, a precursor to methamphetamine, and his job is to determine which one it is. Biology is on his side -- rats have 1,000 different receptors that are crucial to the perception of smells. That's more than dogs, which have 900, and well more than humans, with a paltry 380.

Speedy Results

The rats have an average success rate of 95 percent, Hamerslag says, which would be good stats for a dog. Soon enough Derrick and the others will be so skilled that they can actually be used in crime investigations.

"Rats cannot replace police dogs," says Hamerslag, primarily because they are not sent out to the crime scene. They also don't sniff the suspects themselves, but rather samples taken from their face, arms and hands. "But they can make the police cheaper and more efficient," Hamerslag adds. If a shooting were to take place today and several suspects were arrested, tests for gunshot residue would require chemicals, microscopes and employees, all taking at least two hours. "Rats can do the same thing in two seconds," Hamserlag says.

The speed with which the rats can work is especially useful in the Netherlands, where police are legally prohibited from holding suspects longer than six hours without charge. Slow test results can mean criminals walk free. Quick results from the rats can help filter out innocent bystanders, and provide an indication as to whom should be investigated further, Hamerslag says. If the case against a suspect proceeds to court, however, a lab test would still be necessary to be upheld in court.

The idea for the police rats came about two years ago, when Hamerslag wrote her thesis at the police academy on animals used at crime scenes and in investigations. She noted that rats were already being trained in Africa to search for land mines, and questioned whether they could be used to detect other substances as well.

The past two years have been an ongoing experiment in Rotterdam. "Theoretically you can train them on any substance," Hamerslag says. "Even toothpaste." As training has proved to be the most time-consuming aspect of the program, police hope to soon develop a computer-driven machine that can take over.


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« Reply #8770 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:33 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/17/2013 01:36 PM

End in Sight: Costa Concordia Successfully Raised

The wrecked Costa Concordia was successfully lifted to an upright position off Italy's coast on Tuesday, revealing a severely damaged starboard side. Salvage workers and residents of Giglio are celebrating the technological feat.

At 4 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a foghorn wailed as engineers completed the complicated parbuckling operation raising the wrecked Costa Concordia cruise ship into an upright position. Residents of the island of Giglio and workers alike celebrated the successful operation.

"We completed the parbuckling operation a few minutes ago the way we thought it would happen and the way we hoped it would happen," said Franco Porcellacchia, a project manager for Costa Crociere, the owner of the Costa Concordia. "A perfect operation, I must say," he said, claiming there had been no apparent environmental spill detected.

Speaking to reporters, Admiral Stefano Tortora, who took part in the operation, spoke of "great satisfaction" over the outcome. He said the parbuckling maneuver to turn the ship upright had been perfectly calculated.

The parbuckling operation was the most dramatic and vulnerable of the salvage effort, because no one knew how badly damaged the starboard side of the ship would be. "The condition it's in is really shocking," said Tortora. "It is disturbing because you are looking at a tragedy."

Nick Sloane, a salvage master with Titan Salvage of Florida, one of two companies with technical responsibility for the maneuver, said serious damage had been caused by the capsizing, 20 months of the ship's weight and the operation to rotate the ship had caused serious damage.

The Costa Concordia rammed into a reef on Jan. 13, 2012, and then drifted, listed and capsized just off the coast of Giglio island. The accident -- and the chaotic and much maligned evacuation operation -- resulted in the deaths of 32 people. The ship had been carrying some 4,000 passengers and crew.

A 19-Hour Operation

In the end, it took 19 hours to lift the 290-meter-long (951-foot-long), 35-meter-wide ship into an upright position. Ten to 12 hours had been initially planned, but stormy weather led to delay in the operation's start by two hours. Then problems had to be resolved with the system of huge jacks and cables set on artificial platforms used to lift up the 115,000 ton ship.

"We raised the ship very slowly," said Andreas Rosponi, CEO of the Hamburg engineering firm Overdick, which helped to handle the calculations. "If we had used bigger oil pumps in the hydraulics, we would have been faster. But better safe than sorry!"

Although parbuckling is a standard procedure for lifting ships that have capsized, it had never been used on a cruise ship before of Costa Concordia's size, and this week's righting of the ship was a first in nautical history.

After stabilizing the ship in its upright position and resting it on an artificial platform that has been constructed on the seabed to support the ship, efforts in the coming weeks will be focused on repairs to make the vessel safe for towing. During the first half of 2014, salvage operators plan to tow away the massive ship, which is larger than the Titanic, for scrapping.

'She's Strong Enough to Be Towed'

"We have to do a really detailed inspection of the damage," salvage master Sloane told reporters. But "she was strong enough to come up like this, she's strong enough to be towed."

Local residents of Giglio will be happy once the eyesore is gone. "We salute the work of the engineers and technicians," said Eugenio, a man sitting at a bar with friends in the port. When asked if things would soon be back to normal on the island, he said, "When the Concordia is gone, when we finally have an open view of the sea again."

Costa Concordia's captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial on charges of manslaughter, causing a shipwreck and abandoning ship during the evacuation. Four other crew members, as well as the head of Costa Crociere's crisis unit, have been convicted and handed down short sentences for their roles in the accident. The captain and crew have been accused of numerous failures in the evacuation of the ship, including delays and chaos.

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Costa Concordia captain Francesco Schettino lies low amid lifting operation

Schettino, who faces charges of multiple manslaughter and causing a shipwreck, is expected back in court on 23 September

Lizzy Davies   
The Guardian, Monday 16 September 2013 23.05 BST   

While the ship he used to captain was in the international spotlight, Francesco Schettino appeared to be doing his best to keep out of it.

The 52-year-old, who was heard being ordered to "get back on board" the stricken Costa Concordia by an incredulous coastguard on the night of the disaster, spent the day of the parbuckling with his lawyers in his home in Meta di Sorrento, near Naples, the Ansa news agency reported.

Five employees of the company Costa Cruises have already been convicted of multiple manslaughter and negligence, and Schettino is in the middle of his own trial on charges including multiple manslaughter and causing a shipwreck.

It began in July in a theatre in the town of Grosseto – the unusual space was needed to accommodate the hundreds of witnesses, lawyers and journalists expected to be present at the hearings.

Schettino denies the charges, arguing that more than one person was to blame for what went wrong that night and that he has been made a convenient scapegoat for the tragedy given that within days of the disaster he had already been christened "Captain Coward" by the world's media. He says his manoeuvrings in response to the crash in fact saved lives.

Schettino is expected back in court – and in the spotlight– next Monday on 23 September.


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« Reply #8771 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:38 AM »


Romanians mobilise in protest against gold mine plans

Street protests are snowballing in Romania against a Canadian-led gold mining project in Rosia Montana

Claudia Ciobanu for IPS, part of the Guardian Environment Network   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 17 September 2013 11.28 BST   
   
Street protests are snowballing in Romania against a Canadian-led gold mining project in the Rosia Montana area in the Apuseni Mountains. More than 20,000 people joined a protest march in Bucharest on Sunday, and thousands in other Romanian cities took to the streets.

The Sunday marches represent the third major countrywide weekend mobilisation to oppose the project since Sep. 1. They drew the biggest numbers of participants so far. Smaller numbers of people have been protesting daily in Bucharest, in the western city of Cluj, and in others cities.

The protests erupted after the Romanian government proposed a draft law Aug. 27 that gives extraordinary powers to the project promoter, Rosia Montana Gold Corporation (in which Canadian group Gabriel Resources is the majority stakeholder).

According to the text, the company can relocate people whose homes are on the perimeter of the mine. Additionally, the law asks state authorities to grant the company all necessary permits within set deadlines regardless of national legislation, court rulings or public participation requirements.

Gold Corporation plans to build Europe's largest gold mine at Rosia Montana to extract 300 tonnes of gold and 1,600 tonnes of silver over 17 years. The operation would involve the destruction of three villages and four mountains.

In all, 12,000 tonnes of cyanide would be used yearly and 13 million tons of mining waste produced each year, according to a project presentation submitted by the company to the Ministry of Environment.

The proposed law is meant to give the project a definitive green light after over 14 years in which Gold Corporation has not been able to secure all necessary permits.

In 2004, the Romanian Academy of Science – the most authoritative scientific body in the country – called for the project to be scrapped because environmental and social costs far outweigh benefits. Apart from environmental risks and displacements, the large-scale mining proposed by Gold Corporation would threaten the cultural heritage in Rosia Montana, a mining area since Roman times.

Hundreds of people in the 3,000-strong village have been opposing the project for years, setting up the NGO Alburnus Maior and successfully battling the corporation and state authorities in courts.

Contributing to the growth in public sympathy for the movement has been the seemingly close alliance between Gold Corporation, politicians across the political spectrum and mainstream media.

Political arch-rivals, such as centre-right President Traian Basescu and Socialist Prime Minister Victor Ponta, have at various points declared themselves in favour of the project.

Most major media outlets in the country have run Gold Corporation advertisements while failing to cover arguments against the exploitation. In a country where corruption is a big feature of public life, this consensus in favour of gold mining at Rosia reeked of backroom deals.

The predominant discourse about Rosia Montana in the public sphere has been that gold mining would create employment and enrich state coffers. According to the most recent agreement between the Romanian government and the company (annexed to the Aug. 27 draft law), Gold Corporation would employ 2,300 people during the two-year construction phase and 900 during the 17 years of exploitation. Over the duration of the operation, the Romanian budget is set to win 2.3 billion dollars while other benefits for the Romanian economy are estimated at 2.9 billion dollars.

The popular mobilisation now targets the Parliament, whose vote will effectively decide the fate of Rosia Montana. If the law is approved, even if it is challenged as unconstitutional in the Constitutional Court (the premises for such a procedure exist since a judicial committee in the Senate issued a negative opinion on the draft law), construction could begin immediately, pending the supreme court ruling.

"We cannot tell what will happen with this project, but all that we can say is that we keep fighting, that united we will save Rosia Montana," Eugen David, leader of Alburnus Maior told IPS. "We are under siege right now in Rosia Montana, but in the end we will manage to lift it."

The protests that began on Sep. 1 are remarkably strong for Romania. Since their start, misinformation in the public space has been abundant: the main television channels originally failed to cover the protests despite their size; on Sep. 10, media wrongly announced that the draft law had been rejected by the Senate; and Ponta declared that the project could not go ahead against popular will, only to later express again support for the project.

In spite of this, protesters – who function according to a non-hierarchical structure and have no official leaders – have skillfully kept the public informed and engaged via Facebook. The weekly hours-long marches go through neighbourhoods with the goal of spreading the word about opposition to the project and showing that protesters are not hooligans as depicted on TV.

Their strategy seems to have worked since numbers this Sunday were bigger than ever. The first days of mobilisation brought mostly youth to the streets, but older participants and youth-parent couples are increasingly visible. After two weeks of well-mannered street actions, police presence on Sunday can be considered symbolic.

"It is very interesting that such a revolt began with a case of protecting the environment, but this is not only about the environment," Claudiu Craciun, an active participant in the protests, told IPS. "It is also about the right of people to keep their properties, about our duty to safeguard a patrimony that belongs not only to us, but also to the world and to future generations.

"The Rosia Montana case – in which you see legislation custom made to serve the interests of a corporation – highlights some failures of both democratic institutions and of the economic system, capitalism in a broader sense," Craciun added.

"Rosia Montana is the battle of the present and of the next decades," the activist said. "It illustrates the end of post-1989 cleavages [communist vs anti-communist, European vs. non-European] and the emergence of new ones. People today confront a corrupted political class backed up by a corporation and a sold out media; and they ask for an improved democratic process, for adding a participatory democracy dimension to traditional democratic mechanisms."


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« Reply #8772 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:40 AM »


Valentina Tereshkova, 76, first woman in space, seeks one-way ticket to Mars

People from the corners of the Earth are queuing up to join a group that aims to colonise the red planet in 2023

Robin McKie, science editor
The Observer, Sunday 15 September 2013   

Having reached the age of 76, it might be expected that Valentina Tereshkova would be planning a life of quiet gentility: a bit of gardening, perhaps, or catching up on reading. Far from it. The grande dame of astronautics has no intention of retiring gracefully, she has revealed. Indeed, she has a very different idea of how her future will unfold: she wants to go to Mars, her favourite planet. More to the point, she says she is happy if the mission turns out to be a one-way trip.

"Of course, it's a dream to go to Mars," says Tereshkova, who became the first woman in space after she spent three days orbiting Earth in 1963. "I want to find out whether there was life there or not. And if there was, then why did it die out? What sort of catastrophe happened?"

Such curiosity is shared by many others, of course. What distinguishes Tereshkova – nicknamed "little seagull" by Sergei Korolyov, the father of the Soviet space programme – is the fact that she is willing to take that trip without any prospect of returning to Earth. At an age when most people are thinking of settling down to play with their grandchildren, Tereshkova is now seriously contemplating taking a manned flight to another world where she would end her life eking out an existence in a tiny colony with a few other hardened Mars dwellers who would live on supplies ferried, sporadically, from Earth.

It would be little more than a suicide trip. Nevertheless, Tereshkova is committed. "I am ready," she says.

Nor is the former cosmonaut alone in committing herself to a such a mission. Thousands of people from around the world have signed up to a project called Mars One, which has announced plans to launch a private mission to land a group of four men and women on Mars in 2023 to found a permanent colony. Earlier this year the group revealed it was seeking volunteers for the mission. To date, 165,000 have signed up. Most are male, a quarter come from the US and many are students.

It is an astonishing response, given that the organisers have also made it clear there would be no prospect of any return for the winning applicants. It's one thing to launch a small space probe towards Mars, it is pointed out, but quite another to land one that would be big enough to carry crew, oxygen, food and enough fuel to blast off again, after several months' exploration, to carry its astronauts back to Earth.

The answer for cosmonauts such as Tereshkova and for groups like Mars One is straightforward: dispense with all that pesky kit that you need to bring your crewmen back and instead keep them alive on Mars for the rest of their lives. This would be done by ferrying supplies to the red planet by robot spaceships.

In fact, says Bas Lansdorp, the Dutch entrepreneur behind Mars One, their plans involve rockets carrying cargo, food and living modules to Mars several years in advance of the first manned landing. Then, after their astronauts had settled for a couple of years, a further crew of four would be sent out. As to the estimated £4bn cost of Mars One, that would be met through television rights and other media sponsorship, although Lansdorp is quick dismiss the idea that the mission would be a low-gravity version of Big Brother. He envisages orchestrating an event that would be more like London 2012 than a reality show, he insists. "Mars One should be exciting, inspiring and beautiful, just like the Olympics."

Despite the fact that no nation has ever got near to sending humans to another planet, Mars One insists the technology exists to send humans to Mars and to keep them alive there. Water could be extracted from ice in the soil and specially adapted solar panels would be able to supply ample power, for example.

As to the men and women who would go to Mars, they would selected for their ability to co-operate, Lansdorp has insisted. "We're not looking for individuals. We are looking for perfect teams. They must be healthy, smart enough to learn new skills and with a character and mindset that can function in a small group." A selection committee is set to start studying applications this year. The aim to select teams of four people, each from a different continent. After seven years' training, the first manned mission would be launched in 2022 and would reach Mars the following year.

Many astronomers have voiced caution about such missions, however. Mars is a much more hostile environment than people realise, they point out. Indeed, it is deadly. Its atmosphere is thin and – unlike our own atmosphere – provides little protection against the Sun's powerful ultraviolet radiation. In addition, the colonists' spacecraft, which would take six months to travel from Earth, would be perilously exposed to potentially fatal radiation storms emanating from the Sun. Given that the success rate of landing robot spaceships on Mars is little more than 50%, it is no certainty that a manned craft would survive the final part of its mission. Tereshkova's Martian dream needs a fair bit of work if it is to be realised, it would seem.


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« Reply #8773 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:43 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
09/16/2013 03:48 PM

Intelligence Sources: Rohani Prepared to Shut Down Nuclear Site

By Erich Follath

International sanctions are taking their toll on Iran's economy, and it now appears that new President Hassan Rohani could thus be willing to make concessions in the country's long-running standoff with the West over its nuclear program.

Nothing -- not even Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons -- is a source of such deep concern for the West and Israel as Iran's nuclear facilities, such as Natanz, Isfahan and Fordo. The installation at Fordo, not far from the holy city of Qom, is viewed as a particularly grave threat.

Researchers working underground there are using 696 centrifuges to enrich uranium to 20 percent. Afterwards, it only takes a relatively small step to create the material required to build nuclear bombs. Fordo, which didn't go into operation until late 2011, is reportedly the most modern plant in the Iranian nuclear program which -- despite all denials from Tehran -- the world believes is designed to give the Islamic Republic the ultimate weapon. What's more, Fordo is believed to be virtually indestructible. Even bunker-buster bombs would hardly be powerful enough to disable the facility -- the enrichment cascades lie 70 meters (230 feet) under the surface.

But the long-smoldering nuclear dispute with Tehran may be about to take a sensational turn. SPIEGEL has learned from intelligence sources that Iran's new president, Hassan Rohani, is reportedly prepared to decommission the Fordo enrichment plant and allow international inspectors to monitor the removal of the centrifuges. In return, he could demand that the United States and Europe rescind their sanctions against the Islamic Republic, lift the ban on Iranian oil exports and allow the country's central bank to do international business again.

Rohani reportedly intends to announce the details of the offer, perhaps already during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly at the end of the month. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, will meet Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, in New York next Sunday and give her a rough outline of the deal. If he were to make such wide-ranging concessions, President Rohani would initiate a negotiating process that could conceivably even lead to a resumption of bilateral diplomatic relations with Washington.

Disastrous Economic Situation

Other developments seem promising as well. On Monday, Iran's new nuclear energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi reportedly told the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) member states that the country was ready to "enhance and expand" cooperation. Additionally, US President Barack Obama revealed on Sunday in an interview with broadcaster ABC that he and Rohani had exchanged letters, though he did not discuss the content of their correspondence. Some media sources have suggested that this could pave the way for leaders of the two countries to meet for the first time since Iran's 1979 revolution.

Rohani, who has only been in office since early August, is walking a fine line. He risks losing support at home if he fails to show concrete concessions from the other side in exchange for each of his compromises. Furthermore, he cannot afford to call into question his country's fundamental right to enrich uranium -- a right that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, insists on and, indeed, Rohani himself has always defended in his former role as a nuclear negotiator. Nevertheless, the powerful, radical Revolutionary Guards would probably brand him as a traitor if it came to that. They see Rohani, who studied in Qom and Glasgow, as too cosmopolitan and therefore view him with suspicion.

It was probably not until Rohani was sworn into office that he learned the full extent of his country's disastrous economic situation and now sees the need to take action. According to intelligence sources, the economic data is much worse than Tehran has been willing to admit. Iran can reportedly only avoid a national bankruptcy if the international sanctions are lifted and new money flows into the country. The purchasing power of the national currency has drastically dwindled in 2013. During the first four months of 2013 alone, inflation rose by 40 percent compared to the same period the previous year. The banks are debt-ridden and millions of private households can no longer meet their financial responsibilities. Iranian industry is also in the red, and car production has plummeted by 50 percent.

Devil in the Details

Rohani is aware of the miserable living conditions of the vast majority of his constituents, and he relies on their backing. Above all, he needs Khamenei's support -- but he will only be able to retain this as long as he manages to significantly improve the economic situation, and thus also achieve political stabilization. Speaking in an interview on Iranian TV last Tuesday, Rohani did his best to ward off any potential criticism when he spoke of the "flexibility and the courageous steps that the (supreme) leader also supports."

The president has cleverly appointed trusted individuals to key positions, above all his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who studied international law in Denver, Colorado, served as a UN ambassador and has a reputation as a pragmatist. In addition to entrusting him with the Foreign Ministry, he has made him responsible for the nuclear negotiations which, until recently, were in the hands of a hardliner faction.

When it comes to a possible deal, though, the devil is in the details: Who would monitor the dismantling of the centrifuges? Will the 185 kilos (408 pounds) of enriched material that has been produced so far -- three-quarters of what is needed to produce a nuclear warhead -- be placed under supervision? And how will it even be transported? What will happen with the heavy water reactor at Arak, which is expected to become operational in 2014 and begin producing plutonium that can also be used to build nuclear bombs? Friends and foes alike agree that the Iranians are master tacticians.

Translated from the German by Paul Cohen


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« Reply #8774 on: Sep 17, 2013, 07:47 AM »

Taliban shooting survivor’s activism honored by Amnesty International

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, September 16, 2013 22:29 EDT

Rights group Amnesty International announced on Tuesday it had awarded its highest honour to Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen shot in the head last year by the Taliban for campaigning for girls’ education.

Malala will share the 2013 Ambassador of Conscience Award with American singer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte, the London-based NGO revealed.

The award, which recognises “individuals who have promoted and enhanced the cause of human rights through their life and by example,” will be presented by Irish rock singer Bono at a ceremony in Dublin, Ireland, on Tuesday.

“Our two new Ambassadors of Conscience are different from each other in many ways, but they share a dedication to the fight for human rights everywhere and for all,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.

“Harry and Malala are truly Ambassadors of Conscience, speaking up for universal rights, justice and human dignity and inspiring others to follow their example.”

Malala was shot in the head by the Taliban on a school bus last October, an attack that drew worldwide condemnation.

She was flown to Britain for surgery for her head injuries and returned to school in Birmingham in March.

The 16-year-old said she was “truly honoured” to receive the award.

“I would like to take the opportunity to remind everyone that there are many millions of children like me across the world who fight every single day for their right to go to school,” she added.

“I hope that by working together we will one day realise our dream of education for every child, in every corner of the world.”

Emmy award winner Belafonte paid tribute to his co-winner.

“I am especially honoured to receive the Ambassador of Conscience Award because I am having the distinction of sharing this with Malala Yousafzai, a true hero of our time,” he said.

“My admiration for her is unending. She has awakened many in the global family to a commitment in struggle against tyranny. For all this I remain eternally grateful.”

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