Silvio Berlusconi to request community service for tax fraud sentence
Former PM could opt to spend year under house arrest, but community service would allow him to remain in public eye
Lizzy Davies in Rome
theguardian.com, Sunday 6 October 2013 16.09 BST
"Silent and humble manual tasks" are not something to which Silvio Berlusconi has ever felt naturally drawn. Before big business and politics he sold vacuum cleaners and sang on cruise ships.
Now, however, thanks to the Italian legal system, a very different kind of activity awaits him. His lawyer has said he intends to ask to serve his sentence for tax fraud in a community service placement.
Franco Coppi said that barring any last-minute changes, the former prime minister's legal team would submit the request to the Milan courts by the end of this week. It would be then up to the judges to decide how to proceed.
The embattled 77-year-old billionaire has until the middle of the month to decide how to spend his commuted one-year sentence, which his lawyers reportedly hope will be further whittled down to nine months for good behaviour.
Berlusconi could yet opt for house arrest, but for a man who continues to nurse great political ambitions despite recent setbacks, the logistical restrictions would perhaps prove unacceptable.
Last week he was forced to perform a humiliating U-turn in parliament following an unprecedented party rebellion, only for a committee then to recommend he be expelled from the senate due to the tax fraud conviction.
Community service, however arguably undignified, would allow Berlusconi to remain in the public eye in some capacity. It would also be unlikely to begin before the spring, buying him yet more time with which to try to rebuild a political power base that has never looked so shaky.
It remains unclear quite what publicly useful activity he would be assigned, but there is no shortage of charities and organisations keen to offer him a place.
"I would like very much to have him among my guys - not as an act of mischief but to work for his redemption," Antonio Mazzi, a Catholic priest from Exodus, a rehabilitative foundation, told La Repubblica. "I would like to be the one who gets him out of bed in the morning and tells him to make his bed. I would like him to do silent and humble manual tasks, starting with cleaning the bathroom."
Mazzi added: "At the moment he feels like the idol of the masses, but I think that inside he has something saveable. But he will have to sink his hands into the earth, plant his tomatoes in silence."
This is perhaps not the likeliest of scenarios. Some of those close to Berlusconi object to the community service option because it usually implies a desire for rehabilitation and admission of guilt, neither of which the centre-right leader – who has always insisted on his innocence – appears close to expressing.
Writing in La Stampa, the commentator Jacopo Iacobini suggested a more likely possibility: that Berlusconi would regard community service as a chance for rehabilitation of not his soul but his political brand.
He could be seen spending time "among poor children, troubled adolescents, 20-somethings with drug problems, young people with disabilities, abandoned elderly people". It could yet prove, remarked Iacobini, "a glorious propaganda opportunity".
Middle East turmoil is fuelling Ottoman nostalgia. But it's a dead end
For the empire's successor states, romanticising political union is a mistake – they need to guarantee the rights of minorities
The Guardian, Sunday 6 October 2013 13.30 BST
They called it the Sublime Porte. It was the seat of an empire that stretched from Algiers to Baghdad and Aden to Budapest. The name suggests something dreamlike and luxurious. In reality, the Ottoman state was an extraordinary and ruthless machine. Its administrators, plucked from their families as children so they would be loyal only to the sultan, fought wars, collected taxes and founded cities with an efficiency unmatched at the time.
But the most intractable problems of the modern Middle East are found where that empire once had its core: Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine. This is no coincidence. The civil war in Syria, in particular, has cast people's minds back to the collapse of Ottoman power, and the arbitrary carve-up that created states which now, nearly 100 years later, seem on the brink of failure.
A renewed focus on the legacy of this disastrously mismanaged transition means the empire itself is being seen in a more sympathetic light. Millions across the region now tune in to Magnificent Century, a swashbuckling TV drama set in the glory days of Ottoman rule. Until recently, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was massively popular in Arab countries and his government was said to be pursuing a neo-Ottoman foreign policy, shifting its attention away from the west and towards Muslim partners. On Sunday evening the BBC broadcasts the first in a grand series aimed at explaining the empire to under-informed Europeans. But we should be wary of nostalgia.
Yes, the Ottomans managed to yoke together Arabs, Turks, Kurds and many others, and keep the peace for 600 years. When Ferdinand and Isabella expelled more than 100,000 Jews from Spain in 1492, Bayezid II welcomed them with open arms. The sultan, as caliph, was supposed to be a figurehead for Muslims regardless of their ethnicity. Trade and the arts thrived. On the other hand, non-Muslims had to pay extra taxes, including a levy of Christian boys destined for imperial service. And the Ottomans were committed to expansion, always at the point of a sword.
For the successor states in particular, to romanticise political union would be a mistake. The Ottomans sustained it using a slave army. Pan-Arabists managed it briefly only through coup d'etat and dictatorship. As for the magic binding powers some now ascribe to the imperial caliphate: this is nonsense. In the BBC programme there is talk of "post-caliph chaos". Writing in the Independent, Peter Popham argues that "a central point of reference for Muslims everywhere" was lost – forgetting millions of Shia Muslims to whom the caliphate meant nothing. He attributes both the partition of India and the rise of the Taliban to the lack of a single Sunni authority. But, by the time it was abolished, the title "caliph" had meant little in practical terms for many decades.
Ottomanism is a dead end. Ironically, a more realistic model might be that of the neighbouring Safavid empire, in Iran. Avoiding imperial overstretch, the Safavids were confined to a single linguistic, geographical and ethnic area – though they accommodated minorities as least as well as the Ottomans.
In the new Middle East, de facto borders are being drawn along majority ethnic or religious lines (the Kurds in northern Iraq, the Sunnis in the west and Shias in the south, for example). Ottoman nostalgists such as Edward Said called it a "ridiculous notion" that "every millet [the imperial term for a religious community] has to have its own state". But it is a political order that seems to exert a strong gravitational pull. The real challenge is to get to a point where minorities within these states have their rights guaranteed. Given the brutalising effects of the past 100 years in post-Ottoman lands, that may be a very long way off.
• This article was amended on 6 October 2013. It originally referred to a Turkish TV series as Conquest 1453. Its actual name is Magnificent Century. This has now been corrected.
October 7, 2013
Greek Ex-Minister Is Convicted in Bribery Case
By NIKI KITSANTONIS
ATHENS — In a landmark verdict on Monday, a former Greek defense minister and co-founder of the country’s once-mighty Socialist Party, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, was found guilty of setting up a complex money-laundering network to cover the trail of millions of dollars in bribes he is said to have pocketed from government weapons purchases.
After a five-month trial - the highest-profile against a Greek politician in more than two decades - judges convicted Mr. Tsochatzopoulos, 74, along with 16 other people, including his wife, daughter and several business partners. All were found to have colluded with the former minister to launder the bribe money using a network of offshore companies and property purchases. Sentencing was expected later in the day or on Tuesday, according to court sources.
Regardless of the sentencing decision on the money laundering charges, Mr. Tsochatzopoulos will not escape prison. He was sentenced in March to eight years in prison for concealing assets from the authorities, chiefly for failing to report the purchase of a house near the Acropolis, one of several properties connected to the money laundering scheme.
Mr. Tsochatzopoulos, who has been in custody at the capital’s Korydallos Prison since his arrest in April 2012, accused the authorities of political persecution and state violence during the trial, which was marked by high drama and vicious exchanges between him and his former associates.
He is the most senior government official to stand trial since 1991, when former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou was acquitted on charges of accepting bribes in return for forcing state companies to prop up a troubled private bank.
In a telephone interview after the verdict, Mr. Tsochatzopoulos’s lawyer, Leonidas Kotsalis, said he had “strong reservations about the legal substantiation” of claims that his client accepted bribes. “We will appeal the verdict, absolutely,” he said.
The court heard that Mr. Tsochatzopoulos pocketed at least 55 million euros, or nearly $75 million, in bribes while he was defense minister from 1996 to 2001 when he signed two major deals worth an estimated 3 billion euros, roughly $4 billion, for the purchase of a Russian missile defense system and German submarines.
Mr. Tsochatzopoulos had repeatedly called for members of a political and defense council that co-signed those contracts — including two former prime ministers, Costas Simitis and George A. Papandreou — to testify at his trial. But the request was rejected by judges who said the bribery allegations, not the arms deals, were under scrutiny.
The conviction on Monday was unusual in a country where top-ranking state officials are rarely prosecuted. But over the past year, the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has intensified a crackdown on corruption among the political elite, blamed by most Greeks for a dysfunctional state system that created the country’s huge debt problem and led Greece to dependence on foreign rescue loans.
In February, Vassilis Papageorgopoulos, the former mayor of Salonika, the country’s second city, was sentenced to life in prison for embezzling at least 18 million euros, about $24.5 million, from city coffers.
Greece vows to eradicate police links to neo-Nazis
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 6, 2013 15:32 EDT
Greece is determined to rid its police force of any links with Golden Dawn, the minister for public order said Sunday, after the arrest of officers with ties to the neo-Nazi party.
Nikos Dendias said there should be “a total catharsis so that there is nothing suspicious that could cast a shadow on the majority of police officers, who are honest,” in an interview with Greek daily Kathimerini.
Dendias admitted that there were “corrupt officers who had collaborated with Golden Dawn”, which he labelled “a criminal organisation”.
Four police officers have been arrested over their links to the far-right party, whose leader was indicted this week along with five others for taking part in a criminal organisation following the murder of an anti-fascist musician last month.
Among the officers arrested are a former police chief of the Agios Panteleimon neighbourhood of central Athens — the scene of multiple attacks by neo-Nazis on immigrants in recent years — on charges of abuse of power and arms trafficking, and an officer at the Piraeus port near the capital charged with belonging to a criminal organisation.
The arrests are part of efforts by the Greek authorities to dismantle the Golden Dawn following the murder of hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a self-confessed neo-Nazi.
The killing sparked protests, forcing officials to take action against a group long accused of attacking immigrants, charges that it denies.
“We are talking about a party that, aside from its sickening ideology, behaves like a mob,” Dendias said.
Golden Dawn, which only entered parliament in 2012, struck a chord with Greeks angry at having to struggle under the weight of heavy austerity measures and high unemployment in a sixth year of recession for the debt-wracked nation.
But the party’s popularity has fallen since the murder of Fyssas. A poll published in the weekly Proto Thema on Sunday put the party’s popularity rating at 6.7 percent, down from 10 percent in June.
Binyamin Netanyahu riles Iranians with fashion faux pas over jeans
Israeli PM's interview on Iran-US thaw overshadowed by mistakenly saying iranians are banned from wearing jeans
Reuters in Dubai
theguardian.com, Monday 7 October 2013 08.50 BST
The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, may have sought to win over Iranians in an interview with British Persian-language television, but a casual assertion that they were banned from wearing jeans won ridicule from some of his audience on Sunday.
Netanyahu has watched with concern a diplomatic drive by the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, to build closer ties with the US and other western powers and achieve an easing of sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear programme.
But his statements in an interview with the BBC Persian television on the need for Iran to end its uranium enrichment programme were somewhat overshadowed by his comments on Iran's restrictions on fashion.
"I think if the Iranian people had freedom, they would wear jeans, listen to western music, and have free elections," Netanyahu said in the interview, which was dubbed into Farsi and released late on Saturday.
The statement drew a barbed reaction from Iran, where, although women are required to cover their hair and wear loose clothing in public, jeans are not forbidden and are worn. Much western music is illegal, but people find a way to listen to it at home.
Dozens of Iranians published pictures of themselves on Twitter on Sunday wearing jeans and addressed their posts to Netanyahu's official Twitter account, saying he was out of touch with Iranians.
"Mr. Netanyahu, here is a shop selling weapons of mass destruction in Iran," one popular tweet read, showing a picture of a denim shop originally published by an Iranian semi-official news agency. "Netanyahu, three days ago I bought a pair of jeans," another Iranian user tweeted.
Twitter is blocked by a government filter in Iran, but many use special software to cirumvent the block.
Netanyahu also said in his interview that the people of Iran and Israel had a "deep friendship into modern times" that had been destroyed by Iran's theocratic government. He criticised the censorship of social media and satellite channels inside Iran as well as the government's treatment of women and gay people.
"This is not what the Persian people deserve," Netanyahu said.
He said the election that had brought Rouhani to power was not free, and that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, holds the real power over the nuclear programme. Iran denies it is seeking nuclear weapons, and says its nuclear programme is purely peaceful.
"I would welcome a genuine rapprochement, a genuine effort to stop the nuclear programme – not a fake one. Not 'harfe pooch'," Netanyahu said, using a colloquial Persian phrase meaning "empty words".
October 6, 2013
Pakistan Army Chief Says He Will Retire Next Month
By SALMAN MASOOD and DECLAN WALSH
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, confirmed Sunday that he would retire next month, laying to rest media speculation that he would extend his term or take a powerful new position in the military.
General Kayani, 61, who has already served two three-year terms as army chief, said in a statement released through the military press office that he would step down on Nov. 29.
“It is time for others to carry forward the mission of making Pakistan a truly democratic, prosperous and peaceful country,” he said.
The announcement was significant because it paves the way for the appointment of a new army chief — always a delicate matter in a country that has suffered four military coups — at a time when Pakistan’s military is playing a central role in dealings with Taliban insurgents in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistani and Western media outlets speculated in recent days that General Kayani’s military service could be extended, possibly by moving him to a new role in which he would have oversight of the country’s nuclear arsenal. But the general’s aides privately dismissed those reports, and in his statement on Sunday the general said, “Institutions and traditions are stronger than individuals.”
Delaying his retirement might have caused discontent in the ranks. Some soldiers expressed unhappiness with General Kayani after the American commando raid in May 2011 that killed Osama bin Laden near a major military base.
And an extended tenure for him would delay promotions for the senior generals who serve directly under him.
General Kayani has cultivated an aura of mystery and inscrutability since he became army chief in November 2007, succeeding Gen. Pervez Musharraf, following a period as the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the military’s powerful spy agency.
In recent years, the public image of the chain-smoking general has been that of a quiet, thoughtful figure, credited with distancing the military from the political power grabs that discredited several previous army chiefs.
He led a successful military operation against the Taliban in the Swat Valley of northwestern Pakistan, as well as less decisive campaigns in South Waziristan and other parts of the tribal belt.
But during his tenure there was also an alarming surge in Taliban violence across the rest of the country, including a 2009 assault on the military’s heavily fortified general headquarters in Rawalpindi that embarrassed the senior leadership.
And though the military claims to have turned away from tacitly supporting Islamist militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, Pakistan’s Western allies believe that it maintains links with selected groups.
“The announcement is not unexpected or surprising,” Hasan Askari Rizvi, a military analyst based in Lahore, said of General Kayani’s retirement. “He had already received one extension.”
Mr. Rizvi said the general would go home “as a satisfied man who tried to perform his responsibility within the constitutional ambit.”
Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Declan Walsh from London.
Myanmar’s ancient temple city faces modern danger
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:09 EDT
The spires of Bagan have survived wars, earthquakes and centuries of tropical sun, but in recent years Myanmar’s ancient capital has faced a distinctly modern threat — scaffolding and cement.
The temples, some of which are around 1,000 years old, are one of the country’s most treasured religious sites and a top attraction for foreign tourists flocking to the country as it emerges from decades of military rule.
While many have largely withstood the ravages of man and nature, haphazard renovation work has also seen new temples built on the foundations of crumbling structures, and experts say they bear little resemblance to the originals.
“Several hundred monuments have been completely rebuilt. It has obviously damaged the historical landscape,” architect Pierre Pichard, a former UNESCO consultant, told AFP.
“It is totally contrary to what is accepted internationally in terms of good practice.”
Pichard helped restore the temples after a huge earthquake struck the region in central Myanmar in 1975, but was forced to leave the site in the early 1990s when the rulers effectively closed the country to the outside world.
After asking Buddhists for donations, the junta then started rebuilding the temples, many of which were just piles of bricks.
Around 2,000 have so far been renovated, many with hastily done stone and plaster work, using bright orange bricks and other modern materials.
A huge number of trees have also been planted across the vast plain dotted with pagodas and temples.
“One of the characteristics of Bagan in the past was to be able to see hundreds of monuments in the middle of fields, and now we see them less,” said Pichard.
“These trees are an aberration in terms of the environment because the climate is very dry and they need to be watered during the dry season.”
Today new building works have been halted, but some structures are still being renovated, and archaeologists have been allowed back into the country to oversee the work.
Experts warn that much of the damage cannot be reversed, and could threaten Bagan’s chances of winning World Heritage status.
‘Waiting for the next earthquake’
One engineer who worked at the site after the 1975 earthquake, but stopped when the foreign experts left, said a lot of the restoration work was done quickly and cheaply to maximise the profits of local building firms.
“People donated to get a close relationship to the generals,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“Most of the new reconstructions are by the road where they can be easily seen. Those in the centre have been badly reconstructed, as no one visits them.”
“We are waiting for the next earthquake. The new ones will fall down as they used very poor mortar.”
Over the centuries, the buildings have deteriorated in the tropical weather, been damaged by successive earthquakes and looted by light fingered visitors.
“These pagodas were built a long time ago, and the rain water has managed to get between the bricks and damage them, so we are filling up the holes,” said U Kyain, who is overseeing restoration work on the roof of the Dhammayazika Pagoda.
In its heyday Bagan was one of the most important centres for learning in Asia, if not the world.
The Burmese kings and rulers built thousands of temples, more than 3,000 of which are still standing today.
The structures are mostly built from brick, and over the years gold leaf roofs have been added to some.
Renovations ‘a tribute to Buddha’
Constructed in 1197 by King Narapatisithu, after he received four holy relics from the king of Sri Lanka, the Dhammayazika pagoda is one of the most impressive in the whole of Bagan, and survived largely unscathed in the 1975 earthquake.
Since that fateful July day, U Kyain has helped rebuild many of the temples.
“The people of the world might see the renovations as us destroying the original form of the ancient monuments. As a Buddhist in Myanmar, seeing these old piles of brick it is not graceful or respectful to Buddhism.”
The temples, he added, are still in use by pilgrims who come to pray.
“The new generation of Buddhist people in Myanmar renovate and rebuilt the pagoda to show their respect to the old people who built these pagodas and to express their emotion to Lord Buddha.”
The restoration work does not seem to put off visitors, who start arriving early each day as haze rises from the spires of thousands of temples against a backdrop of distant hills bathed in the morning sunlight.
More and more foreigners are coming every year, often passing the newly built structures to visit their more ancient neighbours.
And despite the controversial renovations, Bagan could still win World Heritage status one day, said Tim Curtis, head of the culture unit at UNESCO’s office in Bangkok.
“Quite a bit of the restoration would not have been what we would have recommended,” he told AFP.
But it was also important to recognise that Bagan — which is on a tentative list to be considered for the coveted status — is a living heritage site, he said.
“These temples are places of worship. They are not just heritage sites or archaeological sites — they are living cultural expressions.”
Singapore mega-church founder embezzles $26M to finance pop-singer wife’s career
By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:07 EDT
A multimillion-dollar scandal involving a Christian pastor, his singer wife and a glamorous financial executive has gripped Singapore, with allegations of fraud and tantalising glimpses into the expensive process of making a pop star.
Kong Hee, 47, the pastor and founder of the 20,000-strong City Harvest Church, is on trial alongside five other church officials for an alleged scheme to siphon off Sg$24 million ($19 million) to finance the singing career of his wife Sun Ho.
The accused allegedly misappropriated another Sg$26 million to cover up the original diversion.
Ho, 41, an established Mandarin pop singer who co-founded the evangelical megachurch with her husband in 1989, moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to launch an English-language singing career before the scandal scuttled her showbiz ambitions.
She does not face any charges herself, appearing stoically with her husband for his court appearances as her music videos continue to draw hits on video-sharing site YouTube.
The video for her song “China Wine” — in which she dances in a nightclub alongside the rapper Wyclef Jean — has attracted more than one million views so far.
In another video, the reggae-tinged “Mr Bill”, she plays a skimpily-clad Asian wife who calls herself a geisha and sings about killing her African-American husband, played by the male supermodel Tyson Beckford.
Ho also posed for numerous pictures at exclusive events with American celebrities as part of her image-building campaign.
Evidence reportedly produced in court showed that the church had earmarked more than US$10 million as its marketing budget — “in line with Shakira’s marketing budget and less than the budget for Beyonce” — to boost her Hollywood foray.
The Straits Times said the documents also showed more than US$1.6 million was spent on production fees for Wyclef Jean.
The church has defended Ho?s attempt to become an international music star as part of a ?crossover? campaign to spread God’s message to the secular world through pop music.
But prosecutors say Kong and his subordinates engaged in a practice called “round-tripping” by channelling money allotted for a church building fund into sham bonds in church-linked companies so they could finance Ho’s music career.
They falsified church accounts to make it appear the bonds were redeemed, prosecutors say. All six accused deny the charges.
The trial, which went into recess on September 20 and will resume in January, exposed complex money dealings and drew attention to the financial might of evangelical Christian churches in the largely Buddhist and Taoist city-state.
The trial also created a buzz in the mainstream press and on social media thanks to the church’s photogenic former financial manager, Serina Wee, a 36-year-old mother of three whose stylish courtroom outfits have turned her into a fashion icon.
Wee faces six charges of criminal breach of trust for her role in the alleged scam, and four other charges for falsifying accounts.
Jeaney Yip, an Australia-based academic who has studied the marketing methods of fast-growing churches, said they make Christian teachings attractive by drawing on pop culture.
“Whatever?s in fashion, whatever?s stylish, whatever looks cool is used and infused in megachurch practice,” Yip said.
“Because of the religious and humanitarian element to giving, I do not think churchgoers generally question or pay attention to how the funds are managed,” said Yip, a lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School.
“The issue is not in the giving; it is in the management of the funds received that deserves accountability and transparency.”
City Harvest, which has 20,000 followers in Singapore and 49 affiliates in eight Asian territories, acquired a stake in one of the city-state’s biggest convention centres in 2010 for Sg$310 million and holds its weekly services there.
Give and you shall receive
Terence Chong, a sociologist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said some independent churches like City Harvest preach the “prosperity gospels” which seek to convince followers that offerings made to God through donations and voluntarism will be rewarded with spiritual and material blessings.
Singapore is one of the world?s wealthiest societies, with a per capita income of Sg$65,048 ($51,800) in 2012 according to official data.
“In essence, the prosperity gospels appeal to the culture of self-improvement and upward social mobility in capitalist societies,” Chong said, adding that the followers tend to come mostly from the “emergent middle class”.
The church’s website exhorts members to donate money as a “form of worship” and lists acceptable credit cards.
“As we give, we have faith that He will never shortchange us,” the website says.
“He will certainly bless our lives abundantly in return, because we can never out-give God!”
Libya demands explanation for 'kidnapping' of citizen by US forces
Demand comes hours after separate failed US military raid on terrorist target in Somalia
Chris Stephen in Tripoli, Abdalle Ahmed in Mogadishu and David Smith in Johannesburg
The Guardian, Monday 7 October 2013
Libya has demanded an explanation for the "kidnapping" of one of its citizens by American special forces, hours after a separate US military raid on a terrorist target in Somalia ended in apparent failure and retreat.
In Tripoli the US army's Delta force seized alleged al-Qaida leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Liby and wanted for the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people.
The New York Times reported that Liby was being held in military custody and interrogated on board a navy ship, the USS Antonio, in the Mediterranean.
But US navy Seals suffered a major setback when they launched an amphibious assault to capture an Islamist militant leader said to be Ahmed Godane, described as Africa's most wanted man and the architect of last month's attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya. The elite Seals were beaten back by heavy fire and apparently abandoned equipment that the Somali militants photographed and posted on the internet.
As dramatic details of Saturday's twin operations emerged, US secretary of state John Kerry insisted that terrorists "can run but they can't hide" , but faced growing questions about America's military reach in Africa and the consequences of unilateral aggression.
Speaking in Indonesia on Monday, Kerry said the seizure of Liby complied with US law, the Associated Press reported. He said the suspect was a "legal and appropriate target" for the US military and would face justice in court. It was important not to "sympathise" with wanted terrorists, Kerry said.
Liby was captured outside his family home at 6.15am in Noufle'een, a quiet suburb in eastern Tripoli, according to witnesses, but there were conflicting reports over who took him. His brother, Nabih, told the Associated Press that Liby was parking when a convoy of three vehicles encircled his car. Armed gunmen smashed the car's window and seized Liby's gun before grabbing him and taking him away, the report said. The brother said Liby's wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed "commandos".
But Liby's son Abdullah insisted Libyan forces were involved. Appearing on Tripoli's Nabir TV station, he said: "The people who took my father were Libyan, not Americans – they spoke with Tripoli accents.
"My mother was listening to the voices in the street and could see it all through the window. There were two cars and a bus with blacked-out windows and no number plates."
He said his father was dragged from his car and arrested while it was still moving, and the vehicle, driverless, continued driving empty down the road.
Liby, who was thought to be a computer specialist for al-Qaida and lived in Manchester in the UK during the 1990s, is believed to be 49 and on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5m (£3m) bounty on his head. Pentagon spokesman George Little said he is "currently lawfully detained by the US military in a secure location outside of Libya".
Liby was expected eventually to be sent to New York for criminal prosecution, the New York Times reported.
Libya's government refused to say whether its forces were involved in the arrest and claimed it had not been informed in advance. A statement from the prime minister, Ali Zaidan, said: "The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by US authorities. The Libyan government has contacted US authorities to ask them to provide an explanation."
Thousands of miles away in Somalia, US special forces carried out a raid that was no less audacious but had a very different outcome. It was reportedly planned a week and a half ago in response to the Nairobi attack and came 20 years to the week after an American mission that infamously went awry when Somali fighters shot down two Black Hawk helicopters.
Members of Seal Team Six – the unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in 2011 – swam ashore from speedboats before members of the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab rose for dawn prayers, officials and witnesses said. They stormed a two-storey beachside house in Barawe said to be occupied by foreign members of al-Shabaab and battled their way inside, a fighter who gave his name as Abu Mohamed told AP. There was a heavy gunbattle at about 2.30am on Saturday, according to locals in Barawe, about 60 miles south of the capital Mogadishu. Mohamed Hassan, a schoolteacher, said: "Nearly an hour before the morning prayer I heard dogs bark and I got up, but within minutes I heard small gun fire towards the direction of the beach. I raised my ears up as the shooting continued and continued. Soon it became like an exchange of fire. Then I heard one big explosion and two other explosions occurred. I could not go outside so I remained in my room to wait what was happening."
Hassan said the shooting he could hear was that of al-Shaabab's fighters because he understood the US forces were using silencer guns so no one could hear their shooting. "In the morning, we saw people gathering near the house the US forces targeted and there was a lot of blood everywhere. The al-Shabaab fighters told us not to go to the direction of the house. I saw one dead and two others injured but they were not very critical."
No one in Barawe town could have imagined such an attack, he added, and they kept saying only "white soldiers attacking Barawe town". Local residents said late on Saturday that al-Shabaab deployed additional fighters in Barawe to keep guard at the beach where the navy Seals landed.
US officials told AP that the Seals encountered fiercer resistance than expected, so after a 15- to 20-minute firefight, the unit leader decided to abort the mission and they swam away.
A local resident, Haji Nur, said he saw military equipment which al-Shabaab claimed to have confiscated from the soldiers. "I saw in the centre of the town a crowd of people gathering and looked at three rounds of M16 ammunition, one US-made hand grenade and one also a bulletproof jacket."
Al-Shabaab, which has a formal alliance with al-Qaida and claimed responsibility for the Nairobi mall killings that killed at least 67 people, posted what it claimed were pictures of the equipment on the web.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Mus'ab, a spokesman for al-Shabaab, said: "Early on Saturday morning, around 2am, white soldiers attacked a house resided in by some members of the Mujahideen leaders in Somalia. They came from a waiting speedboat from warship and as they were approaching the house, our Mujahideen fighters repulsed them. They ran away. We chased them until they have reached the seaside where they urgently boarded their speedboats."
Mus'ab said one al-Shabaab member had died and claimed that the Seals lost a "senior officer". US officials said there were no US casualties in either the Somali or Libyan operation.
A resident of Barawe who gave his name as Mohamed Bile told the AP that militants closed down the town in the hours after the assault, and that all traffic and movements have been restricted. Militants were carrying out house-to-house searches, likely to find evidence that a spy had given intelligence to a foreign power used to launch the attack, he said.
A Somali intelligence official was quoted as saying that Godane, the al-Shabaab leader also known Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, was the target of Saturday's raid. Mohamed Ansari, a former al-Shabaab member now working with Somalia's counter-terrorism unit in Mogadishu, said: "Godane is the only big fish in Barawe to hunt. Godane as the top leader of al-Shabaab and the only planner of the group's operations is seen as the mastermind of Westgate mall siege in Nairobi."
Unlike his Libyan counterpart, Somali prime minister Abdi Farah Shirdon welcomed the US intervention. "We have close cooperation with the world, especially the western countries in the fight against al-Shabaab," he said in Mogadishu on Sunday. "We welcome any operation to hunt the terrorist leaders and we are at the forefront. Al-Shabaab is a Somali problem, a regional problem and world problem."
The dual raids were a vivid of expression of how the US has quietly been building its military capacity in Africa. Kerry, who is in Indonesia for an economic summit, said: "We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror. Members of al-Qaida and other terrorist organisations literally can run but they can't hide."
But a diplomatic source focused on Somalia said: "This is knee-jerk stuff and smacks of a massive failure of intelligence. Are extrajudicial killings and covert kidnapping raids the best way of dealing with the problem? Why is the international response so feeble?"
But Dr Adekeye Adebajo, executive director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution in South Africa, said that while it was in the interest of African governments to fight terrorism, he does not "think the heavy-handed and unilateral way the US acts is helpful and it risks causing further instability, especially where there are weak governments like in Libya and Somalia".
Abu Anas al-Liby in US custody following 15-year manhunt
Islamist militiaman accused of masterminding 1998 embassy bombings detained 'peacefully' in custody, officials claim
theguardian.com, Monday 7 October 2013 02.52 BST
He was one of the world's most wanted men with a £3m FBI bounty on his head. Now Abu Anas al-Liby, the scarred Islamist militiaman accused of masterminding the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, is in US custody.
Despite US accusations that the Libyan national was carrying out surveillance for the east African bombing missions in 1993, Liby – an opponent of the former dictator Muammar Gaddafi – did not always fly under the radar. He is even believed to have been granted asylum in Britain in 1995 and to have spent time living in Manchester. Scotland Yard arrested him four years later but was forced to release him for lack of evidence.
When officers later raided his home, they found a terrorist training manual, dubbed the Manchester manual. Liby, however, had already fled the country. His involvement with al-Qaida would eventually take him back to his homeland, where there were fears he was involved in building an Islamist cell.
The chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, Keith Vaz, said the case would be raised with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, when she appeared before the committee on 15 October, the Press Association reported.
"This case raises serious questions about the motives behind asylum and national security decisions in the UK," Vaz said. "It is not the first time that someone who has been brought to the attention of the authorities and released has gone on to be linked to further terrorist activity."
Some reports suggested Liby returned to Libya in about 2010 under a plan of reconciliation run by the former dictator's son Saif Gaddafi. Time magazine reported that his son was killed in the civil war which began soon after. Intelligence sources were thought to have been alerted to his presence in Tripoli, where he apparently lived in the open. But the precarious situation in the Libyan capital precluded any action against him.
Liby is believed to have been an early associate of Osama bin Laden when he set up al-Qaida and went with him to Sudan in the early 1990s. Reports suggested he fled to Afghanistan. He was a renowned surveillance and computer specialist within the group.
His wanted poster described him as between 5'10" and 6'2" (178cm and 188cm) and said he had a scar on the left side of face and usually wore a full beard.
According to a US indictment, he "conducted visual and photographic surveillance of the US embassy in Nairobi" in 1993, five years before it was bombed. The following year, the indictment says, he carried out a review of files on possible terrorist attacks against the US embassy there, as well as the building that was then housing the US Agency for International Development in Nairobi and other British, French and Israeli targets in the city.
In the end, his capture after a 15-year manhunt was carried out "peacefully", American officials claimed. They say his life thus far has been anything but. The bombings he is accused of having involvement in killed more than 200 people. A courtroom in New York is the likely next destination for a man whose work with al-Qaida has taken him across the globe.
Al-Shabaab target may explain US secrecy over failed Somali raid
It would be seen as a serious setback if Westgate mall plotter Ahmed Adbi Godane was the intended prize in Barawe
theguardian.com, Sunday 6 October 2013 14.41 BST
Official US reluctance to identify the target of the failed Somali raid by Seal Team Six special forces commandos may stem from a wish not to further bolster the reputation of al-Shabaab's shadowy leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.
The Islamist militia's hardline emir emerged as Africa's most wanted man after the 21 September Westgate mall attack in Nairobi that killed least 67 people, for which he claimed responsibility. His capture would have been portrayed as a triumph. By extension, his eluding of US-style justice will be seen as a serious setback. Pentagon officials will say only that the target of the dawn raid on the seaside town of Barawe, south of Mogadishu, was a "high-value" al-Shabaab terrorist linked to Westgate. Local sources said the Seals attacked a building housing foreign fighters, and that an unidentified Chechen fighter may have been their quarry.
But this is unlikely to be the whole story, given the elaborate preparations for the raid, which began soon after Westgate. The US navy Seals are the same crack unit that killed the al-Qaida leader, Osama bin Laden, two years ago in Pakistan. This time, too, Barack Obama was reportedly kept closely informed of the progress of the Somali plan, and of the almost simultaneous operation in Libya.
Given the political sensitivity, at home and in the Muslim world, that surrounds such US on-the-ground incursions, Obama will have personally given the go-ahead for both raids. His orders were reportedly to capture, if possible, rather than kill.
It was a high-risk gamble that paid off in Tripoli, where the wanted al‑Qaida leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, also known as Anas al-Liby, was seized, but not in Somalia. And it was likely to be a gamble that could only be justified if the prize was the capture of Godane, the al-Shabaab eminence grise.
An unnamed Somali intelligence official confirmed Godane was the target, and the Somali government had been informed in advance. Obama's hope was for high-profile trials. In al-Liby's case, that may now happen, probably in New York. But for now, Godane is free to plan more atrocities.
Little wonder the Americans are keeping mum on the Barawe flop. Ever since the Black Hawk Down disaster in Mogadishu 20 years ago this month, Somalia has occupied a dreadful place in the American psyche. Since then, thanks to Godane, al-Shabaab has joined in formal alliance with al-Qaida.
As the group has internationalised its outlook, it has attracted hundreds of fighters from the US, Britain and Middle East countries. Latest assessments from Kenya say the Westgate attackers belonged to al-Hijra, the local al-Shabaab affiliate. One unwanted consequence of the US operation may thus be to exacerbate the Islamist challenge across the Horn of Africa, as Godane, a self-styled global jihadist, surely wants. It further highlights the growing importance of northern Africa, Yemen and the Saudi peninsula to the fight against al-Qaida.
The relatively more straightforward Libyan operation may nevertheless have a similar negative effect. Much longer in preparation, it was clearly timed to coincide with the Somali raid, thereby in theory diminishing the public impact in Libya and the Muslim world generally. US officials say it was not directly linked to the calamitous 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, although US counter-terrorism operations in Libya were stepped up after that incident.
A Libyan spokesman, contradicting statements in Washington, said the Libyan government was unaware of the operation and had not supported it. Such embarrassment is understandable. Libyans were already questioning their current government's pro-western stance.
"Disclosure of the raid is likely to inflame anxieties among many Libyans about their national sovereignty, putting a new strain on the transitional government's fragile authority. Many Libyan Islamists already accuse their interim prime minister, Ali Zeidan, who previously lived in Geneva as part of the exiled opposition to [deposed dictator Muammar] Gaddafi, of collaborating too closely with the west," the New York Times reported.
The two raids may provide Obama with temporary relief from his domestic troubles, distracting attention from the government shutdown. But secretary of state John Kerry's claim on Sunday that the operations showed terrorists they "can run but they can't hide" was macho bombast straight from the George W Bush school of utter thoughtlessness.
The raids yielded one wanted man. They shed yet more blood. They played the terrorists' game. They invited further retaliation and escalation down the road. They reminded Muslims everywhere that the US, in righteous mood, has scant regard for other countries' borders and national rights. And they did nothing to address the roots and causes of confrontation between Islam and the west.
Egypt: dozens of protesters killed as rival factions tear Cairo apart
Opposing rallies to commemorate Egypt's participation in 1973 Yom Kippur war flare into day of violence across the country
Patrick Kingsley in Cairo
The Guardian, Monday 7 October 2013
At least 51 people died in clashes across Egypt as the country's two largest political factions gathered in rival commemorations of Egypt's participation in the 1973 war with Israel, a day of deep significance for many Egyptians.
Both opponents and supporters of the country's ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, rallied in their thousands – ostensibly to mark the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur war which is viewed in Cairo as an Egyptian victory, despite ending in a stalemate that favoured Israel.
But rather than emphasising Egypt's unity, the different messages conveyed by each faction's demonstrations underscored divides. Morsi's supporters, whose marches filled highways in west Cairo, used the day to protest against his ousting, while his opponents took to Tahrir Square to praise General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's role in his overthrow. Deadly violence flared when tens of thousands of Morsi supporters tried to reach Tahrir Square. Soldiers, police and armed vigilantes blocked their path and started firing.
Arriving in west Cairo's Dokki suburb around 3pm, the marchers were met first by teargas, then rubber bullets and then live rounds, according to one witness who was at the front of the march.
"It was three groups of armed people – police, army, and residents – attacking helpless protesters, who didn't even do much to fight back," said Mosa'ab Elshamy, a photographer known for his pictures at Cairo clashes. "Today's march was made up largely of families, lots of women, lots of children. Sometimes marches take things into their own hands, start trouble, break something. But today's march was really remarkably peaceful until the police just shot at them without any kind of trigger."
Some reports suggested that a number of marchers carried firearms, but Elshamy said the protesters, who included hardcore football fans unaffiliated with Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, simply held their ground for three hours – throwing stones and burning tires – before retreating.
He added: "As a couple of people were running away, they were gunned down, and they left quite a trail of blood."
Opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood argued the Islamists and others had sought a violent response in order to garner sympathy internationally, or to gain concessions during negotiations.
"They are trying to make trouble everywhere so that at some point, the deal will be: fine, stop the trouble, what do you want?" Alaa al-Aswany, one of Egypt's best-known authors and a fierce critic of the Brotherhood, argued in the buildup to the celebrations.
As the day wore on, Cairo became a tale of two Tahrirs – Tahrir Square in the east, where army helicopters flew over pro-military bands, and Tahrir Street in the west, where police and secular locals fired bullets and teargas on the pro-Morsi marches.
The juxtaposition highlighted Egypt's ideological divisions. "Today feels like a second victory," said Mohamed Abdel Aziz, a cleaner wearing a picture of Sisi around his neck. "We feel like we have won our country back from a gang that doesn't belong to Egypt."
Across town, protesters carrying yellow placards – in memory of those who died at several summer massacres of Morsi supporters – had a different idea about what the day meant. "Today is about saying no to the military coup, and bringing back liberty," said Saber Nafi, a pro-Morsi journalist.
What had been a festive afternoon quickly soured, with gangs of vigilantes and plain-clothed policemen in some streets attacking people suspected of being a foreigner, a journalist or a Muslim Brother.
Two liberal politicians – including Khaled Dawoud, a one-time spokesman for Egypt's main secular coalition – were attacked by Brotherhood supporters this weekend. Dawoud was spotted while driving through central Cairo, hauled from his car, and stabbed in his hand and twice in his chest. He is now recovering in hospital.
Clashes were reported in several other neighbourhoods in Cairo and across Egypt, though much of the country remained calm. Some Egyptians expressed frustration at their fellow citizens' overbearing nationalism, and at being pulled between what they feel to be two sides of the same authoritarian coin: the army and the Brotherhood.
Binyamin Netanyahu: occupation is not cause of conflict
Hardline speech fuels suspicion PM is unwilling to agree to dismantle settlements and withdraw from West Bank
Harriet Sherwood Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Monday 7 October 2013 07.53 BST
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyhau, has said there will never be peace with the Palestinians until they recognise Israel as a Jewish state, and has dismissed Israel's military occupation of Palestinian land and the growth of Israeli settlements as the root cause of the conflict.
In an uncompromising speech, Netanyahu insisted the Palestinians must abandon their core demand of the right of refugees to return to their places of origin. "Unless the Palestinians recognise the Jewish state and give up on the right of return there will not be peace," the prime minister said in an address at Bar-Ilan University on Sunday.
But, he added, even such recognition by the Palestinian leadership would be insufficient. "After generations of incitement we have no confidence that such recognition will percolate down to the Palestinian people. That is why we need extremely strong security arrangements and to go forward, but not blindly," he said.
The tone of Netanyahu's speech will dismay those on both sides and in the international community who believe that renewed peace talks, brokered by the US, represent possibly the last chance for a deal to create a Palestinian state and end the decades-old conflict.
It will fuel suspicion that, despite his professed readiness to engage in peace talks, Netanyahu is unwilling to make an historic agreement involving Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, dismantling settlements and sharing Jerusalem as the capital of both states.
The prime minister's speech was delivered at the same venue where Netanyahu first acknowledged the need for a two-state solution to the conflict in 2009. That address was hailed by many commentators as a significant breakthrough by the Israeli leader, and was vehemently attacked by rightwingers as a dangerous concession.
In Sunday's speech, Netanyahu dismissed Israel's 46-year-long occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza as the root cause of the conflict, saying it was based in Arab rejection of Jewish immigration to what was Palestine.
"When anyone is asked what is the source of the conflict, the standard answer is the occupation, the territories, the settlements. They say that the Israeli takeover of Judea and Samaria [the biblical term for the West Bank] following the  Six-Day war to a large extent created the conflict, and I ask whether that is true," he said.
"The conflict, if I have to choose a date when it began in earnest, began in the year 1921, on the day Palestinian Arabs attacked the immigrants' house in Jaffa. This attack, of course, had nothing to do with the territories or settlements. It was against the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel.
"Then came the partition plan in 1947, with the suggestion of an Arab state alongside a Jewish state. The Jews agreed, the Arabs refused. Because the issue was not then the question of a Palestinian state – the issue was and remains the Jewish state. Then 19 years later came the stranglehold around us aimed at uprooting us. And why? After all, then there was no occupation."
The Palestinians say that their goal in peace talks is an end to the Israeli military occupation and the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital. They say they have long recognised the state of Israel, but formal recognition of it as a Jewish state would be to deny the existence and rights of the 20% of Israel's population that is Palestinian and to effectively abandon the right of return.
Peace talks resumed in July and are scheduled to last until next spring but are said to be progressing slowly. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said last month that talks would intensify and "American participation should be increased somewhat in order to try to help facilitate [progress]". His comments strongly suggested that the two sides were making little headway.
10/05/2013 07:54 PM
Assad Interview: 'West Is More Confident in Al-Qaida than Me'
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Syrian President Assad continues to describe the rebels as terrorists, accuses the West of lies and maintains that he is only seeking to defend his country. The leader also admits mistakes.
In an interview to be published in the Monday issue of SPIEGEL, Syrian President Bashar Assad speaks out about inspections of his country's chemical weapons, possible new elections and the role of Germany, the United States and Russia in his country's crisis. He also continues to vehemently deny any role in chemical weapons attacks on civilians and the armed opposition.
"We did not use chemical weapons," he tells the magazine. "This is a misstatement. So is the picture you paint of me as a man who kills his own people."
He also expresses doubts about the United Nations report on the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack. "No one can say with certainty that rockets were used," he says. Instead, he accuses the rebels themselves of using Sarin gas.
Addressing the chemical weapons inspections now beginning in Syria, he says: "We're very transparent. The experts can go to every site. They are going to have all the data from our government." Until the weapons are destroyed, they will remain "under full control," he adds.
'I Would Like to See Envoys from Germany'
Assad also criticizes the international community. "It seems to me that the West is more confident in al-Qaida than me," he says. As for US President Barack Obama, he says: "The only thing he has is lies." In contrast, he describes the Russians as "our real friends," adding that they "understand the reality here much better."
Assad also suggests that Germany could act as a mediator in the conflict. "I would like to see envoys from Germany come to Syria to discuss the reality," he says.
The Syrian president also admits that his army has cooperated with Hezbollah in fighting that has taken place in areas on the border with Lebanon.
Asked if he believes a solution to the Syrian crisis could still be negotiated, he counters, "With the militants? No. Because by its very definition, a political opposition doesn't have an army."
Assad also raises the prospect of early elections before his term as president expires in August 2014. "I'm not in a position to say right now whether I will run or not," he says. "If I no longer know that I have the will of the people behind me, then I will not run."
He also concedes, "There were personal mistakes made by individuals. Every human makes mistakes. A president also makes mistakes." One can't just say "they did everything and we did nothing, 100 percent and zero percent," he adds. Reality has "shades of gray."
Finally, addressing the potential outcome of the Syrian conflict, Assad says: "We don't have any other option than to believe in our victory." The Syrian leader says he also doesn't have any fears about his own well-being. "If I were afraid," he says, "I would have left Syria a long time ago."
SPIEGEL International will publish the full interview in English on Monday.
World Cup 2014: Rio's favela pacification turns into slick operation
Programme to clear drug gangs from shanty towns delivers security, street cleaners and satellite TV in battle for hearts and minds
Jonathan Watts in Rio
theguardian.com, Monday 7 October 2013 11.33 BST
First came troops with assault rifles and flak jackets, then street cleaners with brooms and buckets of whitewash, and finally satellite TV salesmen with a three-month special offer to first-time subscribers.
Rio de Janeiro's 35th favela pacification operation, which aimed to clear drug gangs from 12 shanty towns in the Lins favela complex, was over within hours on Sunday morning without a shot being fired.
But the commercial barrage has only just begun for the latest communities – all within three miles (5km) of the Maracanã World Cup final stadium – to be brought closer into the fold of government authority and global consumer culture.
Following a series of scandals relating to excessive use of force by the police, the latest battle was as much for hearts and minds as the city streets.
The paramilitary operation began when armoured personnel carriers roared through the suburban streets just after dawn while curious residents took smartphone pictures from their balconies and delivery men dropped off bundles of Sunday morning papers. Hundreds of heavily armed troops and paramilitary police then moved into the hillside favelas, sweeping the steep, narrow pathways. They are likely to stay for two weeks, after which a more lightly armed resident force known as the UPP will set up a base in the area.
While the morning's operation passed without incident, this pacification was not without casualties. One officer was killed and two injured in a gunfight during the "softening up" preparations the previous week. However, the police spokesman Claudio Costa said he was satisfied with the way things had gone.
"It's a success," he said. "It was quiet today. This operation today will improve the confidence in the UPP."
Following the military operation, the authorities moved immediately to demonstrate the benefits that come with a return to the bosom of the state. A team of street cleaners swept the roadsides and picked some of the rubbish from the filthy stream below. The Rio state governor, Sergio Cabral, said the authorities would spend £140m to improve living conditions.
Next followed a switch of symbols. Red Command graffiti was whitewashed over and the Policia Militar insignia – a dagger through a skull – was draped over the walls. A brief propaganda display followed: local children were invited to ride on police horses, a PR team displayed the bags of cocaine, cellophane-wrapped blocks of hash and the gun clips they said had been found in the search operations, and a mobile sound van repeatedly broadcast an appeal for support: "People of Rio de Janeiro. As part of the ongoing pacification of our city, your community is being occupied. We rely on your co-operation to maintain stability. The new era begins now."
The change of power was marked with a ceremony in which marines and police presented arms as the flags of Brazil and Rio state were raised to mark the recovery of the territory by the authorities.
"I don't know if this will be an improvement yet," said a local resident, Diane de la Rosa, looking out across an open sewer at the flag-raising ceremony. "But I hope so. We all hope so."
There have long been questions about the pacification programme and whether it is merely a cosmetic exercise aimed at improving the city's image before the World Cup and Olympics. The authorities, however, insist it represents a long-term shift in priorities.
The results so far have been impressive. Official statistics show a sharp fall in murders, gun-related incidents and other crimes.
But concerns about excessive police violence have been revived in recent months. In June, police killed nine residents, including seven suspected drug traffickers, after an officer was murdered at the Maré complex, forcing the authorities to delay the planned pacification of that vast community. Last week, 10 UPP officers were charged with the torture and killing of Amarildo de Souza, a resident of Rocinha, Rio's biggest favela.
"There is a lack of confidence in the police. The Amarildo case showed that. It's not the first time," said Rodrigo Martins, an observer of the Lins pacification operation from the public defenders' office. "Some people were a little afraid because there were so many police here, but we saw no arrests or incursions today. People are afraid to change."
The transformation has been dramatic.
The Guardian had visited one of the seven Lins communities, Bairro Preto, six months earlier when it was still controlled by Rio's most powerful gang, the Red Command. Back then, armed traffickers kept watch at the entrance of the favela, a makeshift drug factory had been set up in a back alley and dozens of zombie-like addicts lolled around inside a filth-strewn crack den.
The contrast this time was striking. The gangsters had faded into the backstreets and neighbouring favelas, the drug-packaging workshop had moved on and the crack den was empty of all but three sleeping or unconscious addicts. All that was left was a Mary-Celeste-like scene with a still blaring radio and empty tin-foil crack wraps scattered over the floor. The departure of the residents was rapid.
"They were still there last night when I got home," said their neighbour Michelle Xavier. "But it is very quiet now. That's an improvement already. It was noisy all the time before. The crack users never sleep."
Her neighbours expressed amazement at the sight of a first taxi on their street, which drivers had previously deemed too dangerous to drive into.
Another eye-popping change was the arrival of two Sky salesmen, who quickly set up plastic tables for their subscription leaflets on exactly the same spots as the drug dealers had previously used to market their wraps of cocaine and hash.
"I just came today. We always do this after a pacification operation," said Renate Isahu, who said he had already signed up 10 customers. "It's a good time to pick up business." The Claro phone network was also following in the wake of the troops with a team of leaflet distributors.
Most residents were hopeful that pacification would bring an improvement in their lives.
"We won't have to be so fearful. The community will be more peaceful," said Antonia Pereira, who has lived in the Gamba community of Lins for 30 years. "It'll also be good for property values."
In nearby neighbourhoods which had often been targeted by crack users, there was a sense of relief. Claudia Guerreiro said she didn't dare wear jewellery or carry a phone in the street for fear of thieves. Her neighbour said he had been assaulted nine times. "We've experienced so much crime here. I think the police presence will definitely make things better."
But there was more scepticism among those who had previously experienced pacification. Milena Moura had come to Lins from Alemão, a favela that had been the headquarters of the Red Command until it was taken over by police last year.
"I've seen how it works. The police did bad things," she said. "I've no confidence that they will be any better here."
Additional reporting by Sam Cowie
In the USA...United Surveillance America
Dear President Obama: Don’t cave to the GOP’s extortion politics
By Michael Cohen, The Guardian
Sunday, October 6, 2013 10:30 EDT
To a casual observer of American politics the ongoing government shutdown and prospect of a cataclysmic debt default in the next two weeks may look like just another round of “DC dysfunction” between two parties hopelessly polarized and ideologically divided. It’s not. While the government shutdown is nominally about the Republican crusade against Obamacare, the issues at stake are far bigger than one law or even one president or one Congress. In reality, the psychodrama playing out in Washington is about the future of democracy in America.
And no, I’m not exaggerating. Unless the GOP’s brand of extortion politics is thwarted, America’s democratic institutions will be so badly subverted that the nation will simply find itself in the position of staggering from one manufactured crisis to another with potentially both political parties threatening economic and political Armageddon if they don’t get their way. That is, quite simply, no way to run a democracy and it’s why the only option facing President Obama and the Democratic party is to win this showdown and force the GOP to concede defeat.
It’s important to understand at the outset that US democracy, for all of it many flaws, is one based on the idea of political compromise. In a system with so many obstacles to legislative outcomes – two houses of Congress, a separate executive branch and tons of minor obstruction points in each institution – there really is no other way to get things done.
That has dramatically changed in just the past few years. It’s not that compromise was always achievable in the past (the failure to break the Southern block on civil rights legislation is an obvious example), it’s that the search for common ground has simply been thrown asunder, replaced instead by extortion politics.
For example, traditionally, raising the debt limit has been something of a pro forma exercise in Congress, done multiple times (sometimes begrudgingly) to ensure that the federal government can continue to issue debt and thus pay its obligations. But beginning in 2011, the Republican party came to see the debt limit as a tool for what they could not accomplish either at the ballot box or through the legislative process – namely an instrument for political blackmail.
The result was a set of protracted negotiations between Congress and the White House in the summer of 2011, all conducted with the prospect of debt default (which would occur if the debt limit was not raised) hanging over the head of official Washington.
The result was the Budget Control Act, a pernicious piece of legislation that trimmed the federal budget by billions of dollars and led to sequestration – a set of mandatory spending cuts that has hamstrung the economic recovery and caused untold and unnecessary distress for millions of Americans. Unsatisfied with just that policy outcome, Republicans are now upping the ante – and using not just the debt limit but also the budget to get their way.
Once upon a time, government shutdowns occurred because both parties could not agree on budgetary priorities. Ironically, that isn’t even the issue today as both sides have agreed on the basic parameters of a continuing resolution to fund the US government. Rather this is about Obamacare, which Republicans have been unable to thwart though the legal, elective or legislative process (and satisfy their goal of denying healthcare coverage to millions of Americans). So now Republicans are holding the federal government as a hostage to get Democrats to agree to any possible concession that would weaken Obamacare. First their goal was fully defunding the legislation; then it was delaying it a year; now it appears to be repealing certain parts of the bill, including the employer subsidies for their own congressional employees’ health care coverage (because nothing says compassionate conservatism like screwing over your own employees to make a political point).
But the GOP brinkmanship over Obamacare is nothing compared to what they are asking for this year in return for raising the debt limit. Unlike 2011, when they were demanding a dramatic reduction in government spending, they are now insisting on the full implementation of their policy agenda.
No, I’m not exaggerating.
Here are the GOP’s demands for extending the nation’s debt limit and preventing an economic catastrophe that would derail the fragile US recovery, likely spark a recession and fundamentally weaken America’s economic competitiveness and in turn, national security: One year debt limit increase-Not a dollar amount increase, but suspending the debt limit until the end of December 2014 (similar to what we did earlier this year). -Want the year-long to align with the year delay of Obamacare.
One year Obamacare delay
Tax reform instructions-Similar to a bill we passed last fall, laying out broad from Ryan Budget principles for what tax reform should look like. -Gives fast track authority for tax reform legislation.
Energy and regulatory reforms to promote economic growth-Includes pretty much every jobs bill we have passed this year and last Congress-All of these policies have important positive economic effects.-Energy provisions: Keystone Pipeline, Coal Ash regulations, Offshore drilling, Energy production on federal lands, EPA Carbon regulations-Regulatory reform: REINS Act, Regulatory process reform, Consent decree reform, Blocking Net Neutrality
Mandatory spending reforms-Mostly from the sequester replacement bills we passed last year-Federal Employee retirement reform-Ending the Dodd-Frank bailout fund-Transitioning CFPB funding to Appropriations-Child Tax Credit Reform to prevent fraud-Repealing the Social Services Block grant
Health spending reforms-Means testing Medicare-Repealing a Medicaid provider tax gimmick-Tort reform-Altering disproportion share hospitals-Repealing the Public Health trust Fund
As Jonathan Chait points out, this is basically Mitt Romney’s economic agenda. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, Romney is the Republican presidential candidate who lost last year’s presidential election by around 5 million votes. What Republicans are doing here is basically saying to the president (the guy who won by 5 million votes) “implement our policy agenda or we will cause a catastrophic debt default”.
That isn’t governing. It isn’t democracy. It’s a shakedown.
That Republicans would even risk the possibility of default to get their way should, in an ideal world (or at least one in which Americans paid more than passing attention to their government), invalidate their credentials as a political party. Since that’s unlikely to happen, the only appropriate course of action for President Obama and the Democrats to take is not simply to resist the Republican’s ransom demands, but, in fact, to force them to cave in and pass a clean debt limit extension.
If they don’t, Republicans will do it over and over and over again. Just as they are doing it again right now after they got a quarter loaf from the president in 2011. Moreover, what reason would there be for Republicans to ever moderate their politics? They wouldn’t even need to win presidential elections. As long as they could hold on to their majority in the House (a majority lubricated by gerrymandered and polarized districts that encourage Republicans to take even more radical positions to appeal to their conservative supporters), they could simply hold the country hostage every couple of years to get their way.
This debate is not your garden-variety political crisis. It’s the battle for the long-term viability of American democracy, and it’s a battle that the Democrats simply must win even if it means risking default.
And no, I’m not exaggerating.
Republican Rep. Peter King: ‘We are the ones who shut down the government’
By David Edwards
Sunday, October 6, 2013 13:52 EDT
At least one Republican member of Congress is admitting that his party is to blame for shutting down the federal government.
In an interview with Fox News on Sunday, Rep. Peter King (R) bucked Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his party’s standard talking points and told host Chris Wallace that Republicans “are the ones who shut down the government.”
“I’m talking basically about Ted Cruz, who was saying if we [voted in the House to defund] Obamacare, he could manage to both keep the government open and defund Obamacare,” King explained. “The fact is, it was done in the House and the government is now closed and Obamacare is going forward. This was a strategy that never could work. It was almost sort of a nullification, to say we’re going to shut down the government if we don’t defund a law that we don’t like.”
“If we want to defund something, we should repeal it,” he continued. “And do it the same way the president got it signed: elect Republicans to both Houses of Congress, repeal it and then have a Republican president sign it. This was a strategy doomed to failure.”
As for the Republicans who were blaming the Democrats and the president for shutting down the government, King said that he just wasn’t buying into that argument.
“We are the ones who did shut the government down,” he insisted. “You don’t take the dramatic step of shutting down the government unless you have a real strategy.”
CBS host grills Cornyn: It’s like shutting down government and demanding a ‘cure for cancer’
By David Edwards
Sunday, October 6, 2013 14:45 EDT
CBS News host Bob Schieffer on Sunday told Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that his party’s strategy of trying to defund President Barack Obama’s health care reform law was like shutting down the government and demanding a “cure for cancer.”
“This all started because Ted Cruz, your colleague from Texas in the Senate, didn’t like Obamacare,” Schieffer noted. “Which is almost like, you know, I’m going to throw a brick through your window unless you give me $20.”
Of course, Cornyn insisted that he looked at the government shutdown “a little different way” because of “what Obamacare is doing to our economy.”
“That’s beside the point,” Schieffer interrupted. “The law has been passed. Why not keep the government running and then everybody can sit down and decide what they want to do about it?”
The Texas senator argued that “this government would still be up and running” if the president and Democrats agreed to gut the Affordable Care Act by exempting Americans from the individual mandate to buy insurance, the core mechanism which allows the law to function.
“Senator, isn’t there something wrong when you say I won’t fund the government unless I can attach my personal wish list to the legislation every time we vote?” Schieffer pressed. “I’d love to see the government find a cause — cure for cancer, but I don’t think you can say, I’m not going to pass any funds for the rest of the government until [the National Institutes of Health] finds a cure for cancer.”
“I mean, isn’t that just kind of the same thing here?”
October 6, 2013
Boehner Hews to Hard Line in Demanding Concessions From Obama
By JACKIE CALMES and JEREMY W. PETERS
WASHINGTON — Speaker John A. Boehner stood his ground on Sunday alongside the most conservative Republicans in Congress, insisting that the House would not vote to finance and reopen the government or raise the nation’s borrowing limit without concessions from President Obama on the health care law.
“The fact is, this fight was going to come one way or the other,” Mr. Boehner said on the ABC News program “This Week,” adding, “We’re in the fight.”
With his hard line, Mr. Boehner reaffirmed that the stalemate with the White House over the six-day-old government shutdown was now compounded by an even more economically risky fight over raising the government’s borrowing limit by Oct. 17 to pay for bills already incurred.
Most of the government remains shuttered with no end in sight, and markets and businesses are growing increasingly fretful over the chaos that could result from the first government default on its debt.
Both houses of Congress will be back in session on Monday afternoon after making no progress toward breaking the budget deadlock last week. With Mr. Boehner and other Republicans expanding their demands from changes in the health care law, which was passed in 2010, to broader budget reductions to Medicare and Medicaid, senior administration officials said the White House would challenge them to propose specific savings they want from Medicare. On Sunday, Mr. Boehner disputed those lawmakers — Democrats as well as some Republicans — who have said a bipartisan majority exists in the House to approve the money needed to run the government in the new fiscal year, which began last Tuesday, if the speaker would defy his most conservative Republican colleagues and allow a vote on the spending measure with no conditions, a so-called clean bill.
“There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean C.R.,” he said on the ABC program, referring to a continuing resolution to provide money for military and domestic programs.
The speaker’s assessment that he did not have the votes to pass a clean budget bill was contradicted by members of both parties. “I’m positive that a clean C.R. would pass,” said Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York.
“If it went on the floor tomorrow, I could see anywhere from 50 to 75 Republicans voting for it,” he added. “And if it were a secret ballot, 150.”
Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, a Democratic leader, was just as blunt in a telephone interview. “Nobody believes that,” he said of the speaker’s comment.
Mr. Schumer challenged Mr. Boehner to put a clean budget bill on the floor and prove that he is right. He called the speaker’s remarks “a step back.”
“I’m hearing from my Republican colleagues that this is a strategy going nowhere that’s hurting them and hurting the country,” he added, noting that several Republicans have approached him recently asking him to help broker a deal that ends the shutdown. “What they’re saying to me is we’ve got to help Boehner find a way out of this,” Mr. Schumer said.
Mr. Boehner also said the House would not pass an essential increase in the debt limit without concessions from Mr. Obama. Republicans have said in recent days that Mr. Boehner had privately assured them that he would not allow a breach of the debt limit, though it was unclear how far he would be willing to go to avoid it.
In his television appearance, he said firmly, “We’re not going to pass a clean debt-limit increase.”
“I told the president, ‘There’s no way we’re going to pass one,’ ” he added. “The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.”
Describing the negotiations he wanted with Mr. Obama, Mr. Boehner seemed to shift from demands that the president agree only to defund or delay his signature health care law — a nonnegotiable condition, as Mr. Obama sees it — to calling once again for deficit reduction talks that would result in savings from Medicare in particular.
Mr. Obama has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in long-term savings in the entitlement programs, including Social Security, but only if Republicans agree to raise additional revenues by closing tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and some corporations.
Mr. Boehner ruled that out. “We’re not raising taxes,” he said.
On the budget impasse, the speaker acknowledged that in July he had gone to the Senate majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and offered to have the House pass a clean financing resolution. His proposal would have set spending levels $70 billion lower than Democrats wanted, but would have had no contentious add-ons like changing the health care law.
Democrats accepted, but they say that Mr. Boehner then reneged under pressure from Tea Party conservatives.
“I and my members decided the threat of Obamacare” was so great, Mr. Boehner said, “that it was time for us to take a stand. And we took a stand.”
For the administration, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew appeared on four Sunday talk shows to keep the pressure on Republicans to raise the debt limit.
Mr. Lew, speaking on the CNN program “State of the Union,” emphatically reiterated the administration’s legal opinion that Mr. Obama cannot constitutionally raise the debt ceiling by himself if Congress fails to act.
“There is no option that prevents us from being in default if we’re not paying our bills,” Mr. Lew said, rejecting the idea that the president could invoke a constitutional power or take some other action. Mr. Obama has also ruled that out.
Mr. Lew, who wrote to Congress on Tuesday to say he had used his last “extraordinary measure” to manage federal accounts in ways to buy time, reiterated that the government would most likely have about $30 billion available on Oct. 17.
“And $30 billion is a lot of money, but when you think about the cash flow of the government of the United States, we have individual days when our negative or positive cash flow is $50 or $60 billion,” he said on CNN. “So $30 billion is not a responsible amount of cash to run the government on.”
“It’s very dangerous,” he added. “It’s reckless.”
Mr. Lew dismissed questions about why Mr. Obama would not negotiate with House Republicans over the debt limit. The president has said that increasing the borrowing authority is a basic Congressional responsibility under the Constitution, and not one for which lawmakers can extract ransom — in this case the demand that he defund or delay his health care law.
“The president wants to negotiate,” Mr. Lew said on Fox News. “Congress needs to do its job, and we then need to negotiate.”
John Boehner Threatens to Destroy the Economy If Obama Won’t Give Him What He Wants
By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 10:15 am
On ABC’s This Week, Speaker of the House John Boehner issued threatened President Obama and the country with default on debts if his demands aren’t met.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press that. There have been some reports that you have told your own members that you would be willing to put a debt limit on the floor that would pass with democratic votes, even if it didn’t get a majority of the republican caucus. Is that no longer true?
BOEHNER: My goal here is not to have the United States default on its debt. My goal is to have a serious conversation about those things that are driving the deficit and the debt up and the president’s refusal to sit down and have a conversation about this is putting our nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He continues to refuse to negotiate, the country is going to default?
BOEHNER: That’s the path we’re on. The president canceled his trip to Asia. I assume — he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call.
The faux Republican position of compromise has now shifted to one of threats. President Obama has refused to give Boehner what he wants, so now he is threatening to blow up the economy. Speaker Boehner is sticking to the extremist position that Obamacare must be delayed, or the economy gets it.
The interview itself contained a giant Boehner lie. The Speaker falsely claimed that their aren’t the votes to pass a clean CR. This is simply not true. Boehner flatly stated, “We are not going to pass a clean debt limit.” At least 22 House Republicans have publicly stated that they are willing to vote for a clean CR.
Boehner also flip flopped and claimed that he has always wanted to use a government shutdown to get rid of Obamacare. Speaker Boehner made it clear where the Republicans stand. Kill Obamacare, or the economy gets it.
John Boehner Loses It When He’s Caught In Several Shutdown and Debt Ceiling Lies
By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 12:05 pm
When caught several lies about the government shutdown and the debt ceiling on ABC’s This Week, John Boehner lost it and had himself a little angry meltdown.
There were a several parts of this interview Boehner visibly lost his cool. On each occasion that the Speaker lost his temper, he was lying.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He has not, perhaps, but I take it from your answer that you’re not prepared to schedule a clean bill on government funding.
BOEHNER: There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you sure that’s true? The Democrats say they have 195 Democrats who have already signed a letter saying that they would vote it. 21 Republicans, 21 House Republicans have said they are for it, as well. And Democrats are confident, you add those Republicans to the Democrats, a few more would come along and they have the votes.
BOEHNER: The American people expect in Washington, when we have a crisis like this, that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. I told my members the other day, there may be a back room somewhere, but there’s nobody in it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not what you want. I want to go back to several points you’ve made about this over the last few — here you were right after the election with Diane Sawyer.
BOEHNER: It’s pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land.
If we were to put Obamacare into the CR and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So right there, you say that’s not your goal. You don’t want to put Obamacare on the CR. You did it.
BOEHNER: George, I have made it clear to my colleagues. I don’t want to shut the government down. We voted to keep the government open.
STEPHANOPOULOS: They’re saying it’s at risk because of your refusal to pass a clean debt limit. There have been some reports–
BOEHNER: We’re not going to pass a clean debt limit increase.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Under no circumstances?
BOEHNER: I told the president, there’s no way we’re going to pass one. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us.
On the three occasions in the transcript above Speaker Boehner was lying. He told other basic Republican lies about the ACA during the interview, but his defense of his own behavior was built on lies. Each time Boehner lied, he got angry and his voice changed.
The Speaker knows that he is lying. The votes are there in the House to pass a clean CR. There is video evidence of Boehner saying repeatedly that he did not want to shut the government down. There is also evidence that enough Republicans would join with Democrats to support raising the debt limit.
John Boehner is a total mess right now. He is defending a position that he doesn’t really hold, with lies that are impossible for anyone to believe. This interview was a train wreck. The only thing that the American people got to see was that Boehner is desperate to hold on to his speakership. The Speaker will do, say, and threaten anything to stay in power.
Boehner has thrown the bogus Republican position of compromise out the window, and shifted to straight threat mode. The stress is getting to Boehner. Here is a man that is cracking up right before our eyes. Rep. Boehner’s angry outbursts can’t hide the fact that he refuses to sacrifice himself in order to save his own party. With each day that this crisis drags on, the odds that Republicans will lose the House next year increase.
John Boehner is a man on the edge, and the looming debt ceiling deadline may push him over.
Poll Finds That Republicans Are In Danger of Losing The House Over Government Shutdown
By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 10:54 am
A new PPP poll looked at 24 House districts held by Republicans, and since the government shutdown 21 of them now have generic Democratic candidates leading.
PPP found that, “The surveys, commissioned and paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action, show Republican incumbents behind among registered voters in head-to-head contests with generic Democratic challengers in 17 districts. In four other districts, the incumbent Republican falls behind a generic Democratic candidate after respondents are told that the Republican incumbent supported the government shutdown. In only three districts do Republican incumbents best generic Democratic challengers after voters are told the incumbent supported the government shutdown.”
The districts, with the exception of one, all had something in common. They were seats held by Republicans in states that were won by President Obama in 2012. This poll strikes right at the heart of the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering will keep House Republicans safe no matter what they do.
As Robert Costa pointed out in The Washington Post, there are more centrist Republicans in the House than you might think. Costa wrote, “They may sometimes be silent and fearful of stirring conservative ire, but more than 100 members of the House GOP are much more centrist than you’d imagine. These are the members from purple and light-red districts, who rarely go on television and, unlike their more unruly colleagues, stick with the leadership. They are critical to sustaining Boehner’s power, and, should the GOP find a way to extend the debt limit and once again fund the government, they’ll deserve credit”
Those 100 House Republicans in blue or purple states all are their seats put in jeopardy by the behavior of their Republican colleagues who reside in safe red districts. House Republicans are being widely blamed for the shutdown. John Boehner continues to refuse to open the government, and raise the debt limit. Boehner and the extremists that he is listening to are still making demands as if they are in charge of the situation.
The House Republicans who are following Ted Cruz have put themselves in a position for defeat by not facing reality. They think that they will “win” by getting the president and Senate Democrats to cave to their threats. Cruz and his House Republicans really believe that they can get the country to blame President Obama for the shutdown and any potential default.
What they don’t understand is that the country has been watching House Republicans threaten and obstruct for years. They already know who is to blame. The moderate House Republicans are trying to save their own hides by floating anonymous proposals in the media for a short term funding and raising of the debt ceiling.
John Boehner’s refusal to hold a clean vote on a CR and the debt limit could hand Democrats back control of the House of Representatives. Obamacare isn’t going anywhere, but scores of House Republicans could find themselves out of a job after November 2014.
As Support for the Republican Party Plunges, Ted Cruz Claims the GOP is Winning
By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 6th, 2013, 1:29 pm
Despite the fact that polls show disapproval of the Republican Party might lose the House, Ted Cruz went on CNN to claim that GOP is really winning the government shutdown.
Candy Crowley asked Sen. Cruz about the criticism from his fellow Republicans, and President Obama about his courting of the media and shutting down the government. Cruz responded, “The fact you are seeing so many nasty partisan jabs from Democrats.” Crowley reminded him that Republicans are criticizing him too, but Cruz continued, “But you just quoted the president, and certainly Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats haven’t been shy using all sorts of ad hominem inflammatory attacks. The fact that you are seeing those attacks, I think is indicative of the fact that we’re winning the argument.”
Ted Cruz and the Republican Party are winning the government shutdown in the same way that Charlie Sheen was #winning during his bender after he got fired from Two And a Half Men.
Disapproval of the Republican Party is skyrocketing nationally. A new poll released today found that Democrats lead in 21 of 24 House districts that Republicans currently hold, thanks to Cruz’s government shutdown. Seventy two percent of the American people are opposed to Cruz’s strategy of shutting down the government to delay or defund Obamacare.
During the interview Sen. Cruz repeated his bundle of Obamacare lies, and then claimed that he doesn’t support shutting down the government.
Ted Cruz is trying to have it both ways. He is the man who led the charge to shutdown the government. Cruz is guiding the House Republican strategy on both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling, yet he is publicly claiming that he doesn’t support a government shutdown.
This is not winning. The Republican Party is losing, and losing badly. The only winner on the Republican side has been Ted Cruz, who has elevated himself to the leadership position of the anti-government far right. Sen. Cruz still has no exit strategy on the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. He seems to be holding the delusional belief that if he just keeps blaming Obama for his mess, the Democrats will give in.
Ted Cruz and his party are being routed, but the arrogant senator for Texas is too wrapped up in his lust for publicity and the 2016 Republican presidential nomination to bother to notice.
Weak German exports and Asia Pacific fears highlight sluggish global economy
German exports rise more slowly than expected as Asia Pacific leaders warn of weak trade and low global growth
theguardian.com, Tuesday 8 October 2013 11.07 BST
The sluggishness of the global economy has been highlighted, with German exports rising by less than expected and leaders from across the Asia Pacific region warning that trade is weakening.
Exports from Europe's largest economy rose 1% in August but came in short of the expected 1.5% increase.
Despite the rise, which followed an unexpected fall in July, the data from the federal statistics office showed German exports continue to be hit by weak demand from the eurozone.
Imports rose by 0.4%, widening Germany's trade surplus to €15.6bn (£13.2bn) from €15bn in July – higher than analysts had predicted but below a surplus of €18.1bn in the same month last year.
On an annual basis, German imports were 2.2% lower than in August 2012 while exports of goods were 5.4% lower.
Meanwhile, leaders at an Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) meeting in Bali warned global growth was too weak and trade was slowing.
"Global growth is too weak, risks remain tilted to the downside, global trade is weakening, and the economic outlook suggests growth is likely to be slower and less balanced than desired," leaders said in a statement.
"We will implement prudent and responsible macroeconomic policies to ensure mutually reinforcing effect of growth and to maintain economic and financial stability in the region, and prevent negative spillover effect."
The group of 21 countries includes Japan, China, Russia, Australia and the US, although the US government shutdown meant President Barack Obama was not present at the meeting to back the statement.
Elsewhere, HSBC said British companies needed more help from the government to fulfil their export potential. Since the onset of the financial crisis, UK policymakers have repeatedly emphasised the need to rebalance the economy away from a reliance on spending and towards manufacturing and exports.
The government has an ambition to double exports to £1tr by 2020, an increase HSBC said would require "considerable work".
Britain's largest bank said UK business confidence was rising, and predicted growth in hi-tech manufacturing, but it said companies needed more practical help.
Publishing a manifesto for British exports, HSBC said businesses required assistance to make connections with other parts of the world, support with the initial costs and risks of exporting, and the confidence that came from clear information about international opportunities.
Among its recommendations was an examination of the case for export tax credits for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), an improvement in SME access to export credit guarantees, and a simplification of the business visa process.
"Britain's businesses are among the most innovative and imaginative in the world. But in recent years, these talents have failed to deliver significant export growth," said Alan Keir, chief executive of HSBC Bank.
"Achieving the government's target of doubling exports to £1tn by 2020 will take considerable work by all parties, yet we know from talking to our customers that many businesses with massive export potential are still holding back from looking overseas."
October 7, 2013
Default Threat Generates Fear Around Globe
By STEVEN ERLANGER
LONDON — The bitter fiscal stalemate in Washington is producing nervous ripples from London to Bali, with increasing anxiety that the United States might actually default on a portion of its government debt, set off global financial troubles and undercut fragile economic recoveries in many countries.
Five years after the financial crisis in the United States helped spread a deep global recession, policy makers around the world again fear collateral damage, this time with their nations becoming victims not of Wall Street’s excesses but of a political system in Washington that to many foreign eyes no longer seems to be able to function efficiently.
There is plenty of evidence that the United States remains engaged globally on many levels, with the dual commando raids on targets in Africa this weekend the most recent. But the partial shutdown of the United States government has shown again that Washington’s problems extend beyond American borders. Effectively grounded by the political crisis at home, President Obama was absent from a summit meeting of Pacific Rim leaders in Indonesia on Monday, giving China greater opportunity to highlight its role in the region.
One of the attendees, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, provided a possibly sardonic statement of sympathy for Mr. Obama. “We see what is happening in U.S. domestic politics and this is not an easy situation,” Mr. Putin said, adding, “If I was in his situation, I would not come, either.”
In Europe, the effort to reach a big new trade accord with the United States is at a standstill, with many government agencies in Washington operating with skeletal staffs. And as worrisome as that kind of delay is in Europe, it is only a precursor to the almost certain economic fallout if the United States does not raise the debt limit and defaults for the first time on government securities.
Foreigners often complain, usually with some forbearance, that the United States is so powerful that its president is in some important sense their president, too. In their case, however, they lack the opportunity to cast a vote.
There is not much that any foreigner can do about Mr. Obama’s confrontation with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, who said Sunday that his Republican members would not accept a clean bill — one with no conditions — that would raise the American debt limit before the government hits its borrowing limit and risks technical default as soon as next week. At the same time, Mr. Boehner has told colleagues privately that he would avert a default, but whether he actually has the ability to do so remains uncertain.
“The international community is asking, ‘Does the U.S. still have the will to act?’ ” said Xenia Dormandy, a senior fellow at London’s Chatham House and a former American official in the State Department and the National Security Council under President George W. Bush.
“Both the Syria vote and the current budget crisis are nerve-racking for the world,” she said, referring to Mr. Obama’s sudden decision to ask Congress to authorize a strike on Syria and then changing his mind.
Alain Frachon, a columnist and former Washington correspondent for the French newspaper Le Monde, said, “Washington is looking more like the Italian political system, with its permanent crises, and not a presidential system, as before.”
“People are worried about the debt ceiling — it could be the little drop that could trigger another crisis in financial markets,” he said. “And it’s just when there was the perception for the first time in the long sovereign debt crisis that there is a window of opportunity to breathe a little bit, and to introduce a bit more suppleness into the way we’ve managed it.”
The anxiety is all over Europe, Mr. Frachon said, and it comes just as Greece and Spain seem to be turning around, as there are spurts of growth that promise an end to recession, and as Germany has gotten through its elections and Rome through another political crisis. Another financial meltdown would hurt France, too, he said, not just Greece, Portugal and Spain.
“People don’t want to see all this fragile equilibrium destabilized by a possible financial crisis provoked in Washington,” he said.
Jean-Paul Fitoussi, an economist at the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris, said a default would slow the American economy and depreciate the dollar, “so it would lead to a loss of competitiveness in Europe at the very moment when all policies in Europe are aimed at increasing competitiveness, and that would be very bad news.”
Perhaps worse, he said, is that “the banking system in Europe remains fragile, so more bad news could have unforeseen consequences on the world’s financial system.”
The United States has gone through government shutdowns before, Mr. Fitoussi noted, but this time it feels different, even if it turns out to be short-lived.
“Perhaps we have not completely understood the American Constitution, and the effective power of the president is not as strong as we believed,” he said. “And maybe it’s because Obama is not using his constitutional power very well.”
The weekend military strikes on terrorist targets in Libya and Somalia are a perfect indication that the American government can act when its direct interests are at stake, said Ms. Dormandy of Chatham House. But the deeper question is whether a more insular, less globally active United States is emerging for the longer term, or is just a function of the Obama administration’s reaction to events.
“The jury is still out,” Ms. Dormandy said, “but I would say it seems like a more profound transition.”
Alexander Lambsdorff, a member of the European Parliament for the German Free Democratic Party, sees a possible benefit for the euro and the euro zone if the United States defaults, however briefly. Investors will seek an alternative to the dollar in German, Dutch and Finnish bonds, he said. “If European leaders have proven one thing,” he said, “it is their resolve to keep the euro afloat and their countries out of default.”
Mr. Lambsdorff said that he admires the United States Constitution, but that the founders never imagined “a media democracy.” The weakness of the American system is in the constant political campaigning required for the House of Representatives, he said.
“In the permanent campaign mode the representatives find themselves, there is an incentive to be more radical and less compromising,” he said. “But no democracy works without compromise, and if compromise starts to be elusive, then a democratic system has to rethink itself.”
10/08/2013 10:37 AM
EU Immigration: Only the Rich Are Welcome
By Claus Hecking
Hundreds of poverty-stricken refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean, while at the same time, many European Union member states issue residence permits to wealthy Chinese, Arabs and Russians. Anyone is welcome who can pay the asking price.
When the shutters come up inside Latvia's immigration office at 8 a.m., they are waiting: Well-to-do Russians, Kazakhs and Chinese accompanied by their interpreters and advisors with sales contracts in hand. Some have been property owners in Latvia for just hours; many are in the capital Riga for the first time, most simply in transit. And they all want just one thing from the office: The residence permit. Their ticket to Central Europe.
The residence permit program attracts thousands of foreigners to Latvia. Hardly any of them will end up living here. But anyone who buys property worth at least 50,000 Lats (€71,000 or $96,500) in the provinces or 100,000 Lats in major cities such as Riga receives a five-year residency permit. And that means unfettered access to the border-less Schengen zone, to which 26 European states are signed up. The Latvian government introduced the controversial program to save the Baltic state's ailing property market. Now it is being mimicked by other countries in Europe.
Money in exchange for a Schengen visa -- governments in Greece, Spain and Hungary are using this offer to try and attract new investors from around the world. The model undermines Europe's strict asylum and immigration laws. And the tragedy off Lampedusa, where more than 150 Africans drowned last week when their boat caught fire and sank, has shown how morally dubious it is.
'Europe is Losing its Credibility'
Fortress Europe is rigorously defending itself from these poverty-stricken refugees: According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, some 2,000 people have perished in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2011. All while some EU governments allow wealthy foreigners in through the backdoor.
"This is cynicism," says Karl Kopp, director of European affairs at refugee rights organization Pro Asyl. "The real refuge seekers are being repelled by any and all means. But those who have enough money are getting a free ride." It is the EU states suffering financial crises in particular who are interested in the Latvian model:
In Spain, a new law came into force on Tuesday that provides a residence permit to foreign investors who invest at least €500,000 in property. Real estate industry experts hope to see up to 300,000 new buyers.
Since the summer, Greece has been giving five-year permits to anyone investing €250,000 in property. Technically, the permits only allow non-EU citizens to spend 90 out of every 180 days in other Schengen states, but virtually no one checks this in practice.
Since October 2012, Portugal has been offering what the locals call a "golden visa": At least two years residency in exchange for a real estate investment of at least €500,000.
Hungary's right-wing nationalist government, which usually tries to keep foreigners away from precious Hungarian soil, created the "Residence Permit Bond" in July. This involves buying Hungarian government bonds in exchange for the permit. Foreigners need to pump at least €250,000 into the country; on top of which there are further charges of around €40,000 payable to dubious partner companies of the Hungarian government based in offshore tax havens like the Cayman Islands or Cyprus.
"With programs like these, Europe is losing its credibility," says Birgit Sippel, security and migration policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group of Germany's center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). In principle, the right of residence is a matter for individual states. "But what is happening here affects all of Europe. It cannot be that we stringently exclude one group of people while on the other hand allowing all those with visas to travel around the entire Schengen area at will."
In Latvia, at any rate, hardly any of the new residents hang around for long. According to a survey carried out by the immigration department, not even a fifth of those taking part in the residence permit program are settling permanently in Latvia. The others rent their new properties out immediately, or just let them stand empty, and move on to countries like France, Austria and Germany.
"I was initially very skeptical," admits Ilze Briede, head of the department. "A residence permit has the intention that one will stay in that country." In the meantime, however, the program has gained a political consensus: It has already seen about €600 million pumped into the Latvian real estate industry.
Haggling over Schengen visas, it seems, is simply too lucrative to give up.