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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1083375 times)
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« Reply #9285 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:03 AM »

October 11, 2013

Anger Lingers in Sudan After a Crackdown


KHARTOUM, Sudan — On the first Friday after the protests began, Samar Ibnoaf, 23, said, she stepped outside her grandmother’s house to take a look at the growing demonstration nearby.

“I wanted to see what was happening,” she said. “I started filming using my cellphone.”

The thousands of marchers who passed the house were met with tear gas, she said, and when that did not deter them, the police used live ammunition. “A man got shot and died in front of me,” she said.

Plainclothes security forces rushed to pick up the body while she was filming, and “then they saw me,” Ms. Ibnoaf said. Two men grabbed her and threw her in a pickup truck with other detainees. For the next several hours, she said, she was interrogated and beaten repeatedly. The authorities have accused her of inciting riots, and the charges she now faces could include prison time, a fine or a flogging.

“No one has explained to me what I have done wrong,” Ms. Ibnoaf said.

The streets, alleys and public squares of the capital, Khartoum, are calmer than they were three weeks ago, suggesting that the government’s self-declared “iron fist” policy has put a cap on the protests that rattled the country in recent weeks, at least for now.

But while the crackdown, the dozens of deaths, the hundreds of arrests, the lack of clear leadership among the protesters and the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha next week have all damped the upheaval, the anger still lingers.

“The prices of goods are getting higher, and after Id al-Adha, if a strong cause sparks more protests, it will be difficult for the government to control things,” said Abd al-Latif al-Bony, a local columnist.

Feeding the outrage, some released detainees have given detailed accounts of their time in custody, accusing the government of serious abuses.

Amal Habani, a 39-year-old columnist, said she was attending the funeral of Salah Sanhouri, a young pharmacist who was killed by the security forces during the protests and has become the movement’s symbolic martyr. A demonstration followed the funeral, with riot police officers firing tear gas and cornering protesters in an alley.

“Welcome, Ms. Habani,” she recalled a plainclothes officer telling her. “Please join us.”

“They blindfolded me, tied my hands,” she said. Eight days later, she was released, but hundreds remain in custody.

Protests broke out in Khartoum and other Sudanese cities in late September when the government — reeling from the loss of oil revenues after the independence of South Sudan — lifted gasoline subsidies, nearly doubling the price of fuel overnight and causing an increase in the price of other goods.

The government reacted forcefully to what it called “destructive actions,” including vandalism. The authorities now say that nearly 70 people died in the violence and that 700 people were arrested. Referring to the protesters, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir said recently, “They brought agents, thieves and road bandits and said Khartoum will fall.”

A report by Amnesty International said that 210 people were believed to have been killed in Khartoum, mostly from “gunshot wounds to the chest and head,” and that 800 had been arrested.

Many detainees and wounded protesters are scared to talk about their experiences, but Ms. Ibnoaf, the young woman detained while filming, has been particularly outspoken, even posting two YouTube videos about it.

After she was thrown into the pickup truck, she said, security officers held her down, cursed at her and threatened to rape her. She was taken to a police station where officers looked at what she had recorded on her cellphone and became furious.

“One of them slapped me with his left hand on my face, and his big ring hit right above my eye,” she said.

Ms. Ibnoaf, a pharmacist, said she was in tears, dumbfounded by what was happening. She said she saw an older police officer and ran to him, thinking he would be more sympathetic.

“I said: ‘Uncle, why are they hitting me? I didn’t do anything.’ ”

But the older officer hit her with a heavy stick, she said, accusing her of being a reporter for “foreign organizations.” Another officer joined the beating, she said, striking her arms with the stock of his rifle.

She said that she passed out, but that the questioning and beating began again after she awoke, this time with officers kicking her in the stomach with their heavy boots.

“I was about to vomit,” she said.

The officers tried to cover her mouth with her shawl, she said, warning her “not to make their floor messy.”

She had been in the station for hours, she said. Suddenly, she heard the screams of a familiar voice. Her mother stormed in, frantic.

“When I saw Samar in the condition she was, I started screaming,” said Tahia Ahmad, 52, Ms. Ibnoaf’s mother. Later, other relatives went to the station, and Ms. Ibnoaf was released.

In addition to the charge of inciting riots, the authorities have accused her of disturbing the peace, participating in a demonstration and possessing lewd photographs on her cellphone.

“They must think that the photos of my friends without a scarf was lewd,” Ms. Ibnoaf said, laughing.

The video she took of the protest could not be retrieved from her damaged cellphone despite the efforts of technicians in two court hearings, she said. Another hearing is scheduled for the end of the month.

“I was never political” before, she said, “but I think now I will become more active.”

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« Reply #9286 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:11 AM »

Amnesty International slams plan for ‘tests’ to ban gays from Gulf

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, October 11, 2013 18:32 EDT

A Kuwaiti proposal to require “medical tests” to prevent homosexual or transgender migrants from entering Gulf countries is “outrageous” and should be rejected, Amnesty International said Friday.

“This proposal will only further stigmatise people who already suffer extremely high levels of discrimination and abuse on the grounds of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity,? said Philip Luther, the rights group’s Middle East and North Africa director.

“Instead of continuing to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual,transgender and intersex individuals, authorities in Kuwait should work to ensure that people are not harassed and abused because of who they are and repeal laws that criminalise sexual acts between consenting adults.?

Amnesty said the proposal, put forth earlier this month by Kuwait’s director of public health, would ban anyone found to be homosexual, transgender or a cross-dresser from entering the country.

The proposal will be debated by the expatriate labour committee of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Oman on November 11.

Amnesty said the proposal, if adopted, would add a new test to the medical assessments already required for migrants, most of whom hail from South and Southeast Asia.

?It is an affront to the fundamental human right to privacy and underscores the continuing persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” Luther said.

Kuwait, like other Gulf countries, bans homosexuality, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The GCC also comprises Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar.

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« Reply #9287 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:15 AM »

Media gives climate change deniers disproportionate amount of attention: report

By Dana Nuccitelli, The Guardian
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:45 EDT

There’s a 97 percent consensus on human-caused global warming in the peer-reviewed climate science literature and among climate experts. There’s a 96 percent consensus in the climate research that humans are responsible for most of the current global warming. The 2013 IPCC report agrees with this position with 95 percent confidence, and states that humans are most likely responsible for 100 percent of the global warming since 1951.

Yet a new study conducted by Media Matters for America shows that in stories about the 2013 IPCC report, rather than accurately reflect this expert consensus, certain media outlets have created a false perception of discord amongst climate scientists.

Conservative News Outlet False Balance and Fake Experts

Specifically, politically conservative news outlets like Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and the Wall Street Journal were responsible for the lion’s share of the false balance, disproportionately representing climate contrarians in their stories about the IPCC report.

The Media Matters study focused on American news outlets, but similar patterns have been observed in other international media markets. Mat Hope at Carbon Brief reviewed UK media coverage of the IPCC report. Similarly, he found that the politically conservative Times, Daily Mail, and Telegraph gave climate contrarian views disproportionate coverage, unlike The Guardian, Observer, and Independent. Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian also heavily featured climate contrarians in its climate stories leading up to the 2013 IPCC report.

Because there are so few climate scientist contrarians to choose from, most of the guests casting doubt on human-caused global warming and the IPCC report were not climate scientists. It’s important to remember that the scientific evidence has no political bias, which suggests that the disproportionate representation of climate contrarians is a result of the political biases in the media outlets themselves.

The 19 percent of guests classified as ‘climate scientists’ in the above graphic is also very generous to the conservative American media outlets. The 19 percent is comprised of Judith Curry, Willie Soon (who has received $1m from coal and oil industry interests since 2001), and Anthony Tsonis (whose research on ocean cycles is entirely consistent with human-caused global warming, but whose views Fox News portrayed inaccurately).

This practice is known as “false balance,” where the 3 percent of climate contrarians are given a disproportionate amount of media coverage, creating the perception that there is a significant divide amongst climate experts. In their purported efforts to be “fair and balanced” and represent “both sides,” these media outlets are actually creating an unbalanced perception of reality. The reality is that 97 percent of climate experts and evidence support human-caused global warming. The findings in the IPCC report are consistent with that expert consensus, as we would expect, since the IPCC report is simply a summary of the body of scientific research.

Bias Seeping into the BBC

Unfortunately this practice of false balance appears to be spreading to politically neutral media outlets. The BBC has been heavily criticized for its interviews of climate contrarians leading up to the publication of the IPCC report. BBC editor Ehsan Masood attempted to defend the network’s false balance coverage this week, arguing that there is a difference between climate contrarians and skeptics, and that it’s important to cover the latter to avoid “shutting out dissenting voices.”

There certainly is a difference between biased contrarians and open-minded skeptics. The problem is that the BBC can’t seem to tell the difference. For example, they granted an extensive interview to Bob Carter, a marine geologist with minimal experience in climate science, who works for numerous conservative think tanks including the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In fact, the interview largely centered on the right-wing think tank response to the IPCC report, the NIPCC report, which is neither a legitimate scientific document, nor skeptical. Rather it is the epitome of cherry picking and myth regurgitation.

If the BBC wants to give airtime to “dissenting voices” in climate, it should invite them to debate policy solutions. Amplifying the voices of climate contrarians who reject fundamental aspects of climate science is not constructive. As Masood admitted,

“Very few journalists (at least in the developed world) would give space to those claiming HIV doesn’t cause Aids, to flat-Earthers, or those who believe that vaccines make us ill.”

Will the BBC begin following every Attenborough program by giving Creationists airtime? Giving space to those like Bob Carter that reject the expert consensus on human-caused climate change is no different. It amplifies the voices of the 3 percent minority and creates the false impression of a division amongst climate experts. As a result, only 45 percent of Americans are aware of the 97 percent expert consensus on human-caused global warming.

Media false balance as illustrated in the IPCC reporting by outlets like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, and Fox News is largely to blame for this “consensus gap.” This practice of false balance misinforms the public and does us all a disservice. © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #9288 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:16 AM »

International Monetary Fund strongly suggests countries tax the rich to fix deficit

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, October 11, 2013 23:03 EDT

Tax the rich and better target the multinationals: The IMF has set off shockwaves this week in Washington by suggesting countries fight budget deficits by raising taxes.

Tucked inside a report on public debt, the new tack was mostly eclipsed by worries about the US budget crisis, but did not escape the notice of experts and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

“We had to read it twice to be sure we had really understood it,” said Nicolas Mombrial, the head of Oxfam in Washington. “It’s rare that IMF proposals are so surprising.”

Guardian of financial orthodoxy, the International Monetary Fund, which is holding its annual meetings with the World Bank this week in the US capital, typically calls for nations in difficulty to slash public spending to reduce their deficits.

But in its Fiscal Monitor report, subtitled “Taxing Times”, the Fund advanced the idea of taxing the highest-income people and their assets to reinforce the legitimacy of spending cuts and fight against growing income inequalities.

“Scope seems to exist in many advanced economies to raise more revenue from the top of the income distribution,” the IMF wrote, noting “steep cuts” in top rates since the early 1980s.

According to IMF estimates, taxing the rich even at the same rates during the 1980s would reap fiscal revenues equal to 0.25 percent of economic output in the developed countries.

“The gain could in some cases, such as that of the United States, be more significant,” around 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, said the IMF report, which also singled out deficient taxation of multinational companies.

In the US alone, legal loopholes deprive the Treasury of roughly $60 billion in receipts, the global lender said.

The 188-nation IMF said that it did not want to enter into a debate on whether the rich should pay more taxes.

But, it said: “The chance to review international tax architecture seems to come about once a century; the fundamental issues should not be ducked.”

The IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, kept up the sales pitch for a more just fiscal policy.

“It’s clearly something finance ministers are interested in, it’s something that is necessary for the right balance of public finances,” said Lagarde, a former French finance minister, in a panel discussion Wednesday.

“There are lot of wasted opportunities,” she added.

After the French Socialist government’s proposal of a 75 percent tax on the wealthy was overturned by the country’s highest court last year, France’s finance minister cautiously welcomed the Fund’s new direction.

“If the core idea is that fiscal policy is a policy that aims to reduce inequalities, I wouldn’t know how to protest against that,” Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said at a news conference in Washington.

The minister said it was a “positive development” but he downplayed that it marked a “significant change” for the IMF.

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which is leading the global battle against tax havens and tax evasion by multinationals, welcomed the IMF at its side.

“We’re happy to see this. There is a place for everyone. The Fund can bring a real contribution on economic analyses,” Pascal Saint-Amans, head of the OECD’s center for tax policy, told AFP.

In the corridors, however, a quiet skirmish is underway between the two organizations for the leadership of the tax-haven offensive ordered by the Group of 20 major economies.

The IMF’s Copernican revolution is still in the twilight stage. In its report, the IMF continued to push for a wider scope for value-added tax (VAT), a tax consumption tax that some say is inherently unfair, and on reductions in public spending.

“These proposals are heading in the right direction, but a lot remains to be done,” said Oxfam’s Mombrial, calling notably for the IMF to do more against illegal capital flows which, according to the NGO, cost billions of dollars in fiscal revenues in the developing countries.

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« Reply #9289 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:18 AM »

October 11, 2013

What's Missing in Roma Debate? Voices of Roma


PARIS — There is something odd about the pointed political debate under way in France about an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Roma migrants, mostly from Romania and Bulgaria, who, depending on who’s talking, are either a menace to society or victims of systematic discrimination.

Turn on the television, or open a newspaper, and you will see no shortage of strongly held opinions. Even the governing Socialist Party is sharply divided. Last month, Manuel Valls, the minister of the interior, said flatly that the foreign Roma — distinct from France’s estimated 350,000 native Gypsy, or “traveler,” population — are incapable of integrating into society and should go home. He was swiftly denounced by another cabinet minister who accused him of stigmatizing an entire ethnic group.

And so the debate continues, with both sides, each backed by small armies of editorialists and experts, talking past each other and over the heads of the Roma themselves. With six months to go before France’s critical municipal elections, many politicians, mostly on the right (plus Mr. Valls), blame the Roma for a rise in petty crime, a major factor in the overwhelming popular support — 77 percent, according to one poll — for the interior minister’s hard-line position.

They point to assorted statistics like a 69 percent increase, between 2009 and 2011, in crimes committed by Romanian citizens (by law, French statistics do not identify ethnic groups like the Roma) and the 23 percent of crimes committed by minors in Paris in 2010 attributed to young Romanians.

These statistics are brushed aside by human rights groups and politicians, mostly on the left, who concentrate on the unjust treatment of the Roma, a people who, having fled misery and discrimination back home, are facing both again in France.

Yet these views are not mutually exclusive. Both crime and misery are on display every day in the center of Paris, where women with children in their arms sit begging, where families spend the night on the streets and where bands of young girls, waving fake petitions, throng tourist sites, eyeing the purses of unsuspecting visitors.

Somehow, though, these people are invisible when it comes to the public debate. A recent demonstration in support of the Roma was held in the center of Paris, blocks away from a street corner where an extended family of Roma migrants had set up camp on two mattresses covered with food, blankets, children and stuffed animals. They did not attend the protest; they were not even aware it was taking place.

“So who are the Roma, and where are they?” asked Saimir Mile, president of the Voice of the Roma, a small organization founded in 2005. “You cannot understand certain realities without knowing the facts.”

Facts about the Roma, who number between 10 million and 12 million across Europe, are always difficult to come by. As citizens of the European Union, they can come and go without going through passport control, leaving no record of their stay.

The French estimate has remained the same for several years even as successive governments continue to deport Roma from France. In the first eight months of this year, a total of 3,180 Romanians and Bulgarians, many presumed to be Roma, have been escorted out of the country.

Meanwhile, within France, they are continually being moved from place to place, as courts, under pressure from local mayors, order them to evacuate their squalid shantytowns. In 2012, 12,841 Romanians and Bulgarians, mostly Roma, were evicted, an increase of 18.4 percent over 2011. Despite promises by the Socialist government to conduct these evictions in a more humane way, they have not slowed; in July and August this year, 3,746 Roma were displaced in 39 separate operations.

Mr. Mile, 38, an Albanian-born Rom in France since 1996, was a lecturer on Roma culture at a Paris university when he decided to create a group that could speak for the Roma, rather than about them.

“The Roma are a highly prized topic for structures of all kinds, which have their own interests, on the left, on the right,” he said.

His tiny group, with just 50 members, has had meager results. In one case, Mr. Mile managed to get some 30 Roma children ready for school, with the right vaccinations and documents, just when their families were evicted from a local campsite.

The fact is most migrant Roma have overstayed their three-month sojourns in France that are permitted without visas. Their encampments are also mostly illegal, since local officials are reluctant to give the necessary permission. Without jobs or legal residency, their access to social services is limited, and their vulnerability to evictions and expulsions is high.

The larger Roma community in France is not much help, Mr. Mile said. “They, too, have suffered from racism and discrimination,” he said. “Their first reaction is to say, ‘We’re not like those people.’ They are torn between a feeling of proximity and a fear of even greater stigmatism.”

This kind of silence leaves the Roma on the outside of the discussion. It is a complaint heard elsewhere in Europe as officials, on a national and E.U. level, try to come up with solutions to the centuries-old, Continent-wide problems of a population still in search of integration.

“Without the participation of the Roma, solving Roma issues is much more difficult,” said Peter Pollak, a Roma member of the Slovak Parliament and chief representative of a Roma community that makes up 10 percent of all Slovaks, in a recent interview in Bratislava.

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« Reply #9290 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:21 AM »

Brazil's Japanese community gets apology for abuse

Country take belated step towards making amends for maltreatment of Japanese community during second world war

Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro, Friday 11 October 2013 18.41 BST   

Brazil's truth commission has apologised for the government's "racist" maltreatment and detention of its large Japanese community during the second world war in a step that could open the way to compensation claims.

Twenty-five years after similar steps by the US and Canada, the move to make amends has been welcomed by groups representing the 1.5 million migrants and second and third-generation descendants in Brazil who now make up the biggest ethnically Japanese population outside of Japan.

After Brazil declared war on Japan in 1942, thousands of families from this community were arrested or deported as potential spies or collaborators.

The government also closed hundreds of Japanese schools, seized communications equipment and forced the relocation of Japanese who lived close to the coastline. A Japanese community in the northern Para state was restricted from travel.

Survivors have testified about the use of torture, and the degrading loyalty test in which Brazilian Japanese were forced to step on an image of Emperor Hirohito, who was then considered a deity in his country.

The truth commission saw video testimony of survivors and their children, including Akira Yamachio who said his father was arrested and tortured in Anchieta along with other prisoners: "A bit of the truth is better than silence," he said. "There inside [the penitentiary] there was persecution and torture. They ordered people to take off their clothes and pass through a 'corridor of death'," he said.

The commission made a formal apology and will include their findings in a final report to the government, which will also include other infringements of human rights in modern Brazilian history.

"I apologise and ask forgiveness on behalf of all Brazilian citizens with a generous view of society because the background of this episode is racism. The Brazilian elite have always been racist," Rosa Cardoso, a lawyer with the national truth commission, said.

She later told the Guardian the Japanese migrants had suffered from prejudice since they first started to arrive in the early 20th century. Many were from the poor northeast of Japan and thought they would be able to make their fortune overseas.

Instead, many ended up working in dire conditions on coffee plantations, or being given tranches of land in inhospitable areas. Most eventually moved to São Paulo.

After the Japanese imperial army's attack on the US fleet in Pearl Harbour, Brazil – which aligned with the allies – prohibited this community from reading or writing their own language.

"They were totally isolated culturally. Then many were imprisoned," said Cardoso. "It's time for us to ask forgiveness in relation to the Japanese. There has never been anything formal. I have now asked through the truth commission."

Japanese filmmaker, Mario June Okuhara, who recorded testimonies from many of those who suffered during that era in his film Yami no Ichinichi, thanked the truth commission and said the statement marked the beginning of the recognition of the violence suffered by a group of people who helped to build Brazil.

"There was a lot of torture, discrimination and violence, legitimised by the nationalism of that period," Okuhara said in a statement. "This was silenced during the dictatorship and many have forgotten it, like they have forgotten to speak Japanese ... Rescuing the truth about the arduous ordeal of the Japanese was a bold initiative."

Several other countries interred or maltreated large numbers of their citizens with Japanese heritage. In the wake of Pearl Harbour, the United States moved about 110,000 people into "war relocation camps", while Canada held 27,000 without charge and auctioned off many of their belongings. Redress came far earlier in those cases. The US government apologised in 1988 and paid out $1.6bn in compensation. A month later, Canada followed suit and subsequently gave $21,000 to each of the survivors as well as $36m to race-relations groups.

In Brazil, Fernando Morais, the author of a book about the detention, torture and killing of Japanese, German and Italian migrants during that era, said the next step should be compensation because the government had confiscated the money and property of people in those groups.

"Brazil should not only apologise. It owes money, a lot of money, to the Japanese community," he told the Globo newspaper. "The confiscation of assets is well documented in the Centra Bank's archives. Nobody ever got anything back."

• Additional research by Anna Kaiser

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« Reply #9291 on: Oct 12, 2013, 07:44 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Secret U.S. court approves further phone tracking

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, October 12, 2013 7:58 EDT

The secret federal court overseeing US wiretapping programs has extended the government’s authority to collect US telephone records, the office of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said late Friday.

Clapper “has decided to declassify and disclose publicly that the government filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court seeking renewal of the authority to collect telephony metadata in bulk, and that the court renewed that authority,” the statement read.

This disclosure is “consistent with his prior declassification decision and in light of the significant and continuing public interest in the telephony metadata collection program,” the statement read.

In mid-August President Barack Obama pledged to overhaul US spy programs amid a debate sparked by the leaks of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, which revealed vast telephone and Internet surveillance programs.

Obama promised a new era in intelligence with more supervision, transparency and safeguards in the NSA’s collection of electronic information.

His administration has however maintained a hard line against the leaking of such information, and is seeking to prosecute Snowden on espionage charges.

After the disclosures Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia, where he has been granted one year’s temporary asylum despite Washington’s demands that he be returned.


Blind adherence to ‘balance’ makes the media dangerously dumb

By Bob Garfield, The Guardian
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:39 EDT

Let us state this unequivocally: false equivalency – the practice of giving equal media time and space to demonstrably invalid positions for the sake of supposed reportorial balance – is dishonest, pernicious and cowardly.

On the other hand, according to the grassroots American Council of Liberty Loving Ordinary White People Propped Up by the Koch Brothers, the liberal media want to contaminate your precious bodily fluids and indoctrinate your children in homosocialism.

Haha, kidding. Of course, there’s no such group. But false equivalency in the news has been very much, in fact, in the news lately – thanks to reporting on the US government shutdown that characterizes the impasse as the consequence of two stubborn political parties unwilling to compromise on healthcare. For instance, this was the final paragraph of a Washington Post editorial:

Ultimately, the grown-ups in the room will have to do their jobs, which in a democracy with divided government means compromising for the common good. That means Mr Boehner, his counterpart in the Senate, Harry M Reid (D-Nev), minority leaders Sen Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) and Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and the president. Both sides are inordinately concerned with making sure that, if catastrophe comes, the other side takes the political hit. In truth, none of their reputations stands to benefit.

Mutually obdurate pols – it’s a fetching narrative, since Republicans and Democrats are undisputedly more polarized than they’ve been in a century, yielding endless posturing and partisan gridlock. Except, the narrative is wrong. The shutdown is not the result of the divide between Republicans and Democrats on Obamacare: that issue has been legislated, ratified by two presidential elections, affirmed by the US supreme court and more than 40 times unrepealed by Congress.

No, the shutdown is the result of the divide between mainstream, center-right Republicans and Tea Party extremists. The latter are wrapped in suicide belts and perfectly willing to blow the GOP and the economy to kingdom come if they can: a) kill Obamacare (as if); or b) guarantee campaign windfalls from likeminded anti-government crackpots.

This is not gridlock. It is a hostage situation.

Others, however, see things differently. In a recent post calling for Obama’s impeachment, headlined “Barack Hussein Obama: The New Leader of al-Qaida”, the website Tea Party Nation accused the president of treason. As US Representative Virginia Foxx (Republican, North Carolina) warned the House upon passage of Obamacare in 2009:

I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.

Haha, not kidding. Those quotations are real – and why not? There has never been a shortage of paranoia in politics. What has changed is the press’s willingness to give it oxygen.

As an institution, the American media seem to have decided that no superstition, stupidity, error in fact or Big Lie is too superstitious, stupid, wrong or evil to be disqualified from “balancing” an opposing … wadddyacallit? … fact. Because, otherwise, the truth might be cited as evidence of liberal bias.

Thus do the US media aid and abet Swiftboaters, 9/11 “Truthers”, creationists and “Birthers”, whose bizarre charge that the president was born overseas required us to believe a conspiracy involving hospital employees and Honolulu newspapers dating to infant Barack Hussein Obama’s first day on earth.

Birthers are liars, morons, bigots or some combination of all three, yet, for four years, the press treated them as if they were worthy of consideration, dignifying their delusion by addressing it. Note the equivocating language from this Associated Press dispatch:

So-called “birthers” – who claim Obama is ineligible to be president because, they argue, he was actually born outside the United States – have grown more vocal recently on blogs and television news shows.

Yeah, blogs, TV news shows … and wire reports. Question: what is so difficult about calling bullshit on a lie?

As recently as a week ago, upon the release of the United Nations’ latest report on climate change, CBS Evening News led with this:

Another inconvenient truth has emerged on the way to the apocalypse. The new UN report on climate change is expected to blame man-made greenhouse gases more than ever for global warming. But there’s a problem. The global atmosphere hasn’t been warming lately.

Wow. Juicy stuff – except that Mark Phillips goes on to explain that temperature increases have shifted for the moment to the oceans, and that the UN report was its most apocalyptic to date. Yet, immediately after debunking his own premise, he twice trots out a prominent climate-change skeptic (with no climate-science training) named Benny Peiser and identifies him only as director of a “thinktank”. Never mind that his Cambridge Conference Network thinks mainly that climate “debate” is bogus.

Needless to say, the conservative media jumped all over this liberal media vindication of climate denialism. “CBS Stunned By Climate Change ‘Inconvenient Truth,” headlined, propaganda organ of the Media Research Council, a founding member of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.

On the other hand, denialism is a time-honored tactic to coalesce the haters. In spite of millions of eyewitnesses and archives full of documentation from the perpetrators – not to mention, film footage of the victims – there is no shortage of prominent personages, from David Irving to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad‎, who have earned global attention by questioning history. I am pleased to report that, in this rare instance, the press continues to treat them as dangerous wingnuts, and never invokes them for an opposing view on history.

But why? Is it because 6 million murders are more real than legislative intransigence or fossil records or melting ice caps? Or just that some truths carry less political risks than others?

Do the math. Just don’t worry too much about where you put the = sign. © Guardian News and Media 2013


Government Shutdown Backfires on Republicans and Makes Obamacare More Popular

By: Jason Easley
Friday, October 11th, 2013, 2:16 pm

The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reveals that the government shutdown has completely backfired on the Republicans. The ACA (Obamacare) has become more popular since House Republicans used it as an excuse to shut down the government.

According to the poll, 38% of Americans think that the healthcare law is a good idea, and 43% think it is a bad idea. Last month 31% thought the ACA was a good idea, and 44% thought it was a bad idea. This means that support for Obamacare has increased by 7 points since Republicans used it their reason for shutting down the government. Support for eliminating the funding to Obamacare has dropped from 50% last month to 44% today. Perhaps the worst number for Republicans are that a majority of Americans (52%) now think that the government should do more to help solve problems. In June, the country was deadlocked at 48%-48% over whether the government should do more to solve problems.

The entire congressional Republican strategy for 2014 is to run against the ACA (Obamacare). Ted Cruz has admitted that the government shutdown was designed with the intention of creating a public outcry against Obamacare. Cruz was trying to rally the Republican base for 2014 by picking a fight with Democrats over Obamacare. The Texas senator convinced a bloc of House tea party Republicans to go along with him, and government shutdown was born.

Something funny happened as the Republicans were on the path towards priming the pump for what they saw as a victory in 2014, or in Cruz’s case, a presidential run in 2016. People like Obamacare. In fact, they flooded they servers trying to sign up. Instead of directing their anger at the government shutdown towards President Obama and his healthcare law, voters have directed their wrath at the Republican Party.

The government shutdown has not only made the ACA more popular, but it has made people question ideological foundation of the Republican Party. The shutdown has revealed to people something that they already knew, but didn’t want to admit. Americans not only like their government, but they also like their government to solve problems.

Republicans are fond of quoting Ronald Reagan who said during his first inaugural address that, “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” President Reagan was wrong. Government is just a system. Government itself has never been the problem. It is the elected politicians who misuse government for their own ends that have always been the problem.

Congressional Republicans have abused their power in an attempt to carry out an ideological agenda. The American people are not only punishing them for their abuse, but are embracing the very program (Obamacare) that the Republicans are trying to destroy.

The government shutdown has not only wrecked the Republican strategy for 2014, it has also caused many Americans to reject the anti-government ideology of today’s GOP.

The government shutdown started out as a self inflicted wound, but it has ended up being an act of political suicide for the Republican Party.


October 12, 2013

Both Houses of Congress Try to Keep Fiscal Dialogue Going


WASHINGTON — The House and the Senate were expected to meet on Saturday to continue parallel — and at times competing — negotiations to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling less than a week before the Treasury’s borrowing authority runs out on Thursday.

The mood on Capitol Hill and in the White House was one of tempered optimism, even though neither the House Republicans nor the Obama administration has yet to produce any tangible areas of agreement. A phone call from President Obama to Speaker John A. Boehner on Friday afternoon yielded little more than an exchange of pleasantries. “They agreed that we should all keep talking,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for Mr. Boehner.

House Republicans were expected to hold a meeting for all members at 9 a.m. at which Mr. Boehner and his leadership team were to brief them on the latest developments in their negotiations with the White House. The Republicans have proposed increasing the Treasury Department’s authority to borrow money through Nov. 22, but only if Mr. Obama agreed to more expansive talks about overhauling the budget.

At the same time, the Senate was expected to vote Saturday on a Democratic proposal that would extend the debt ceiling through the end of 2014, with no strings attached. The plan appeared to lack enough Republican votes to pass, but was intended to pressure Republicans to take action to avert what could be a staggering fiscal crisis if the government defaults on its debts.

Despite the expected failure of the Senate Democrats’ proposal, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, could execute a procedural maneuver known as a motion to recommit that would allow him to bring the plan to a vote again.

Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, were also working to nail down the details of their own plan, which would extend the debt ceiling through the end of January and include a stopgap spending measure to reopen the government and finance it through the end of March.

The proposal would simultaneously call for an immediate bipartisan conference of members of the House and the Senate to address broader budget concerns. Republicans hoped the conference would consider some of the cuts to social programs — like means-testing for Medicare benefits — that Mr. Obama has suggested could be options.

The plan would also call for a delay, or at least an easing, of a tax on medical devices unpopular with some Democrats, and would give government agencies more flexibility on how to carry out the existing across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration.

When Ms. Collins presented a similar proposal to the president during a meeting on Friday, Mr. Obama called it “constructive.”

Senate Democrats have expressed confidence that they hold the upper hand in the showdown with Republicans, whose poll numbers are falling. But there was some unease, especially from Mr. Reid, that the president could agree to a deal that offered too many concessions to the Republicans.

But many conservative activists say that Congressional Republicans have already ceded too much in a fight that began as a battle to defund the president’s health care law. With most big proposed changes to the law, the Affordable Care Act, now off the table, the Heritage Foundation posted a blog on Friday that said any deal that did not deny financing to the health care law or delay it “may be a political win inside the Beltway but a loss for the American people.”

“This debate has never been about satisfying one political party or another,” read the blog post. “It’s been about common-sense solutions that protect the American people from Obamacare.”

Any Senate plan is likely to meet resistance in the Republican-controlled House. Representative Charlie Dent, a Republican who represents a swing district in Pennsylvania, said that Ms. Collins’s plan closely follows a similar proposal he and Representative Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, offered in the House. But he said he expected the Collins proposal would be a tough sell to members of both the far right and the far left.

“Some of them won’t like it, obviously, because it doesn’t repeal or defund Obamacare,” Mr. Dent said, referring to his party’s more conservative members. “I’m sure some on the far left aren’t going to like it either, because it does make a change to Obamacare.”

In his weekly address, Mr. Obama called the efforts of House Republicans to end the standoff “a positive development,” adding that “there is no good reason anyone should keep suffering through this shutdown.”

“Once the debt ceiling is raised, and the shutdown is over, there’s a lot we can accomplish together,” Mr. Obama said.

In the Republican response, Representative Howard P. McKeon, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the meeting at the White House had been positive. Mr. McKeon said the two parties had agreed on some funding programs during the shutdown, and he urged Democrats to sit down with Republicans and reach a compromise.


The Valueless Voters Summit Recap

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Saturday, October 12th, 2013, 8:01 am

Michele Bachmann Values Voter SummitThe Values Voter Summit has once again exposed the sinister lunacy of the Religious Right. Everything whacky and hateful is welcome there and each year conservative religious leaders and politicians parade their bigotry before their peers and their followers, and for the entire world to see.

Frankly, its embarrassing for the rest of us, because these people claim to be movers and shakers in both our society and government (and all too often, are) and here they are two centuries or more behind the rest of the world.

It is difficult to believe much thought goes into any of the speeches given, as though each is vying with the last to attain new levels of stupidity. What we saw at this year’s summit was rampant American exceptionalism fueled by a Church militant targeting everything outside itself as evil. Let me put it this way: FRC Senior Vice President Rob Schwarzwalder sounds pretty stupid now complaining about all the mean things he says liberals say about Republicans.

Look at a few examples, courtesy of Right Wing Watch. We will start with the Church militant and American exceptionalism, since the two seem to be linked in the conservative brain:

The FRCs own retired general, Jerry Boykin, was too extreme even for George W. Bush, but he’s not too extreme for Tony Perkins and the Republican base. Says Right Wing Watch of his appearance:

    Boykin was his blunt self, asserting, “we are in a culture war today like America has never been” and complaining that the problem was with the church in general and with “Christians in name only” in particular. “The majority of the Christians in America today are dead, asleep,” he groused. “They are not involved in what’s going on in our culture. They’re not engaged in this culture war. They are not putting their faith into action.” He said it was the church that brought about the Revolutionary War and the abolition of slavery through the Civil War. When he looks at America today, he said, “There is no other solution to our ills than for the church to wake up, get off your dead behinds and get in this culture war that we’re involved in.”

Wow, they haven’t woken up yet? Could’ve fooled me. Hate to think now nasty these people will be when they wake up. I wouldn’t hold out hope of them being any smarter, however.

And then we’ve got E.W. Jackson, the lunatic fringer who wants to be Lt. Governor of Virginia. Jackson had a twofold message: that he’s not crazy, just persecuted as part of “a growing hostility against Christianity, a growing hostility against those of us who believe in the Bible as truth.”

I am certain all the people the United States has crushed underfoot on its way to empire might disagree about just how great we are and I find it very difficult to believe that anyone in the would agree with Jackson’s characterization if he and his lunatic friends ever get in control of the country. The world’s only hope at that point will be to gang up on the U.S.A. and destroy it before the U.S.A. destroys them in some ill-conceived Crusade to spread Jesus’ love to every corner of the world.

Rick Santorum, who perhaps best embodies the low intellectual output of the Values Voter Summit, found a way to blame the French Revolution for contraception, asserting that the ACA’s contraception mandate is “a descendant of the French Revolution.” This led Kyle Mantyla of Right WIng Watch to say, “We’re not even going to bother trying to explain how this works because, frankly, we don’t understand.” And to be fair, I don’t understand either. I’ll just let “Frothy” Santorum speak for himself:

If we are lucky, Michele Bachmann will spend next year’s Values Voter Summit becoming intimately familiar with broom handles but for this year we’re stuck with her mindless attacks on Obamacare, quipping that it is “egregious system” that “will ultimately be known as DeathCare.”

Ooooh. I don’t know if she was going for some Star Wars reference there or not but I’m certain she thought she was clever. After all, she thinks her husband isn’t gay.

She also thinks Obamacare will turn the U.S. into a “police state” (I’ve got news for her: it was a Republican, George W. Bush, who gave us the biggest push in that direction). She said Obamacare is “the battle of our time” but I suspect by this time next year she might be thinking broom handles are the battle of our time.

Just sayin’.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Values Voter Summit without gay bashing, which brings us to Sandy Rios, who says “Millions of gay men and lesbians are caught in a powerful web of deceit that is breaking hearts.” She also accused our public schools of responsibility for an “ocean of propaganda on the homosexual issue.”

Right. Because my 9-year-old comes home from school every day to say how badly he wants to be gay.

This is a real face-palm moment. If only Rios would look in a mirror when she says stupid things like this.

Look, this is ironic coming from somebody who practices deceit as a profession, and at a place – the Values Voter Summit – which is founded upon the dissemination of deceit.

Finally, I want to give dishonorable mention to a piece of white trash known as Gary Bauer, a guy who says China ought to clean up its human rights record while thinking it’s great if America gets rid of its human rights. Bauer spent his allotted time at the summit dishonoring Sandra Fluke. Bauer said that when “a president praises a promiscuous co-ed,” it is “the definition of civilization decline”:

So there you have it: Another Valueless Voters Summit brought to you by the Big Three: Hatred, Bigotry and Intolerance. These people want to create an America founded not on the spirit of equality and freedom, but on the premise that some people are less equal and less free than others. They want a nation that, far from prohibiting laws establishing religion, mandates one religion – their religion -for all.

And then they want to export this faux freedom to other countries and, with any luck, trigger the End Times.

It doesn’t take a third-grade knowledge of American history to know that this is not what the United States Constitution is all about. These people talk about American exceptionalism but as they are violently opposed to everything that is American – because the Constitution defines what it means to be American – what they are really preaching is theocracy and a warped biblical exceptionalism.

And every year they remind us why we need to keep them out of office. I guess after we’re all done throwing up we should thank them for that. The line forms to the left.

Just sayin’.


Levin tells Values Voter Summit: ‘America is a blue state’ so change the Constitution

By David Edwards
Friday, October 11, 2013 12:30 EDT

Conservative radio host Mark Levin on Friday proposed changing the United States Constitution because he said “America is a blue state right now.”

Levin told the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C that legislative efforts like President Barack Obama’s health care reform law meant that the country was facing “tyranny.”

To fix the problem, he proposed that two-thirds of the states meet for a convention to pass amendments to the Constitution.

“Now some of you come from blue states, I apologize that you’re in these blue states, I refuse to live in a dark blue state, but some of you live in dark blue states,” he told the audience. “And some of you are saying, ‘Well, this is great for those of you who are in purple states and red states.’ And my answer to you is this: America is blue state right now!”

“And the only way to address this is to find 34 state legislatures, and to take the time to do it. It took us a century to get here and so it make us 20 or 30 years get out of this. But we have no options. This is the only option,” Levin said. “I don’t care if no senator or no member of Congress supports this, we bypass them. That’s the entire purpose of this project.”

“If you have one out-of-control Supreme Court, one out-of-control Congress and one out-of-control president, there’s no where to go!”


Fox News’ Ben Carson: ‘Re-educate the women’ because ‘they get all riled up’ over abortion

By David Edwards
Friday, October 11, 2013 13:20 EDT

Newly hired Fox News contributor Dr. Ben Carson proposed on Friday to “re-educate the women” so that they would stop having abortions.

Speaking to a group of overwhelmingly Christian attendees at the Values Voter Summit, the retired neurosurgeon said that your health “is the most valuable thing that you have.”

“And that’s the reason that your health should be controlled by you and not be the government,” he explained. “But when we’re talking about things that are important, life is important. And that includes the life of the unborn.”

“You know, there are those of us in this society who have told women that there’s a war on them because that cute little baby inside of them, they may want to get rid of it and there are people that are keeping you from doing that,” Carson continued. “And women say, ‘No, no, they’re not doing that to me! No!’ And they get all riled up.”

He added there was obviously not a “war on women” because men give up their seats to pregnant women.

“There is no war on them, the war is on their babies,” Carson insisted. “Babies that cannot defend themselves. Over the past few decades, we have destroyed 55 million of them. And we have the nerve to call other societies of the past heathen.”

“What we need to do is re-educate the women to understand that they are the defenders of these babies.”


Louie Gohmert tells Values Voter Summit: John McCain ‘supported Al Qaeda’

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, October 11, 2013 21:28 EDT

At the Values Voter Summit earlier today, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) spoke about “some senator from Arizona” who, he contends, “supported Al Qaeda.”

The thinly veiled reference to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was not lost on the crowd, which applauded as Rep. Gohmert berated “a guy who liked Gaddafi before he wanted to bomb him, a guy who liked Mubarak before he wanted him out, a guy that’s been to Syria and supported Al Qaeda and the rebels.”

Sen. McCain traveled to Syria in May and met with rebel leaders, and has repeatedly said that he doesn’t want the United States government to make deals with groups that support Islamic extremism.

Earlier this month, the group that Mccain met with, the Northern Storm Brigade, was actually attacked by the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, an Al Qaeda affiliate loyal to Ayman Zawahiri. Al Qaeda even nicknamed the group “the Shabiha of McCain” after the senator’s visit.

The Huffington Post contacted McCain’s representatives for comment, but was told that the senator “wouldn’t dignify [Gohmert's claims] with a response.”

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Surveillance drives international Internet group to take control from U.S.

By George Chidi
Saturday, October 12, 2013 22:20 EDT

The United States nominally controls the Internet, through the sponsorship of the Department of Commerce of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, an international standards-setting body.

Well, ICANN is about through with them.

Earlier this week, leaders of organizations responsible for coordination of the global Internet technical infrastructure met in Montevideo, Uruguay and decided to hasten their planned withdrawal from the Commerce Department’s nominal oversight. In a statement, the group “expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.”

ICANNs members called for accelerating the globalization of its functions “towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.”

Among its other duties, ICANN sets standards for how Internet traffic flows through international networks, how top-level domains like “.com” and “.org” work and how servers translate numerical designations for IP addresses into recognizable URLs like or ICANN is ultimately responsible for keeping the international Internet from fracturing into smaller networks that cannot be reached outside each network.


Edward Snowden says NSA surveillance programmes 'hurt our country'

Video clips posted to WikiLeaks website show former NSA analyst speaking for the first time since July asylum plea

Associated Press in Moscow, Saturday 12 October 2013 15.51 BST   
Link to video: Edward Snowden awarded the Sam Adams prize for integrity in intelligence

The National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has said that the mass surveillance programmes used by the US to tap into phone and internet connections around the world is making people less safe.

In short video clips posted by the WikiLeaks website on Friday, Snowden said that the NSA's mass surveillance, which he disclosed before fleeing to Russia, "puts us at risk of coming into conflict with our own government".

A US court has charged Snowden with violating the Espionage Act, for disclosing the programmes which he described as a "dragnet mass surveillance that puts entire populations under sort of an eye that sees everything even when it's not needed".

"They hurt our economy. They hurt our country. They limit our ability to speak and think and live and be creative, to have relationships and to associate freely," Snowden said.

The videos are the first of Snowden speaking since 12 July, when the former NSA analyst was shown at a Moscow airport, pleading with Russian authorities to grant him asylum, which they did on 1 August. That decision has strained relations between the US and Russia; President Barack Obama called off a meeting with President Vladimir Putin at a Russia-hosted summit in September.

Snowden said the US government was "unwilling to prosecute high officials who lied to Congress and the country on camera, but they'll stop at nothing to persecute someone who told them the truth".

In a note accompanying the videos, WikiLeaks said Snowden spoke on Wednesday in Moscow as he accepted the Sam Adams Award, named for a CIA analyst during the Vietnam War who accused the US military of deliberately underestimating the enemy's strength for political purposes, and given annually by a group of retired US national security officers.

Four former US government officials who were at the ceremony told the Associated Press on Thursday that Snowden is adjusting to life in Russia and said they saw no evidence that he was under the control of local security services. They refused to say where they met with Snowden or where he is living.

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US shutdown threatens global recovery, bankers warn

International Monetary Fund delegates press US policymakers to agree deal before debt ceiling deadline as talks break down

Larry Elliott in Washington, Sunday 13 October 2013 11.28 BST   

A still-fragile global recovery is being put at risk by Washington's squabbling politicians, finance ministers and governors of central banks have warned as they stepped up the pressure on the US to avoid a catastrophic debt default this week.

In a series of attacks encouraged by the Obama administration, policymakers gathered in the US capital for the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund used the platform to call for an agreement before Thursday's deadline to raise America's $16.7tn debt ceiling.

Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, said: "It is unthinkable that an agreement won't be found. If this situation were to last a long time this would be negative, very negative for the US economy and the world economy and could certainly harm the recovery."

Financial markets rallied strongly at the end of last week as hopes were raised that a deal might be achieved by the weekend. But after talks broke down on Saturday, there were concerns that dealers would take fright at the show of brinkmanship taking place in Washington.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore's finance minister and chairman of the IMF's key policymaking committee, said: "It's a clear negative when you think about the key element of the recovery – private sector investment – that has to take place over the next one to two years.

"Private investment relies on confidence and if we don't see a resolution of the US fiscal dispute it is hard to see how that is going to come back".

Asked to grade politicians in Washington as if he were a school teacher, Tharman replied: "Clearly room for improvement."

Jim Kim, the president of the World Bank, said: "We are now five days away from a very dangerous moment. I urge US policymakers to quickly come to a resolution before they reach the debt ceiling deadline. The closer we get to the deadline, the greater the impact will be for the developing world. Inaction could result in interest rates rising, confidence falling, and growth slowing. If this comes to pass, it could be a disastrous event for the developing world, and that in turn will greatly hurt the developed economies as well. I urge US policymakers to avert this potential crisis."

US administration sources said they had been encouraging the IMF and the G20 group of developed and developing countries to ratchet up the pressure on policymakers to reach a budget deal.

The communiqué released by the IMF said: "The US needs to take urgent action to address short-term fiscal uncertainties". This echoed word-for-word the communiqué released by the G20.

Jens Weidmann, the president of the Bundesbank, ruled out the possibility of a default. "I don't think it's a realistic scenario. I think one can trust that now, as in the past, the political [opponents] will manage to unite on a solution."

The IMF believes that the impasse in Washington is holding back what would otherwise be a recovery in the global economy. It singled out Britain as one of the areas where progress had been made.

"The recovery in the US has gained ground, stimulus measures have induced a recovery in Japan, the euro area is emerging from recession, and in some other advanced economies including the UK growth is already picking up."

The IMF told emerging market economies to prepare for likely volatility when the US starts to reduce the amount of stimulus it is providing for the world's biggest economy – the timetable for which is likely to be put back for several months by the government shutdown.

It said that in certain circumstances, countries should seek to manage capital flows but the Fund's managing director, Christine Lagarde, said they should not "be the first tool that should be relied on".

The IMF meeting came five years after emergency action taken to bail out banks caught up in the financial panic that followed the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.

Paul Tucker, the deputy governor of the Bank of England, said the most important part of the reform programme prompted by the near-collapse of the financial system was to find a way of resolving the problems of the world's biggest banks without the need for taxpayer support.

In his last speech before leaving the Bank at the end of the week, Tucker said: "It is absolutely essential that the 'too big to fail' problem is cracked. Nothing is more important to the success of the international reform agenda. Without it, global finance would remain fragile; and to protect against that, the international financial system would balkanise as individual countries sought to protect themselves. The stakes are high."

Tucker said countries would have no exuse if they didn't solve the "too big to fail" problem through resolution regimes and reforms. "The necessary technology is clear. The necessary restructuring of firms is clear. The necessary degrees and forms of cross-border co-operation are clear. It is a matter of: just do it," he said.

The Bank of England was in principle prepared to step aside and allow the UK subsidiaries of big US financial groups to be reformed as part of a group-wide resolution led by the US authorities, Tucker said. Britain wants the US to offer a reciprocal deal, but has so far not happened.


Senators seek to end US government shutdown and avoid default

Majority leader Harry Reid hopes for deal with Mitch McConnell 'in next 48 hours' after Obama rejects six-week debt ceiling extension offered by House Republicans

Paul Lewis in Washington, Saturday 12 October 2013 23.30 BST   

Two senior senators have taken on the fraught process of finding a congressional deal to reopen the US government and raise the country's borrowing limit, just four days before the Treasury is scheduled to run out of money.

The Democratic Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and his Republican counterpart, Mitch McConnell, long-time adversaries, met on Saturday morning after it became clear that a separate attempt to broker a deal, between the Republican-dominated House of Representatives and the White House, had failed.

Focus shifted to the Senate when President Barack Obama rejected a plan from House Republicans to extend the so-called debt ceiling by just six weeks and made no offer lift the US government shutdown. Reid told reporters his meeting with McConnell had been "cordial" and added that they were only at preliminary stages.

"We don't have anything done yet – there's a long way to go before something like that will happen," he said, adding that he hoped to achieve a deal "in the next 48 hours".

Reid, McConnell and two other senators – the Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander and New York Democrat Charles Schumer – met in Reid's office at 9am on Saturday, for just under an hour. Later in the day, Reid and Schumer met Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.

The four senators were described by a senior congressional aide as a "nucleus" that could now rescue the country from default. However at a press conference, Reid and Schumer expressed only cautious optimism, and after a strategy meeting with fellow Democrats, the California senator Dianne Feinstein said she could not see any way through the current impasse. "There are people that have different proposals – there are probably four or five of those," she said. "But the proposals that will get the leadership of the House, the Senate, and the president, are not out there at this time."

On the Senate floor, a Democratic procedural measure that would have moved the Senate to a vote to extend the debt ceiling through the end of 2014, with no contingencies attached, fell after it failed to secure the 60 votes required.

There was then hope that a bipartisan bill, by the Maine Republican senator Susan Collins with input from a West Virginia Democrat, Joe Manchin, might offer a way forward. That would have increased the borrowing limit until January 2014 and reopening the government until March, in return for concessions aimed at pleasing Republicans, who precipiated the crisis when they failed to pass a budget resolution to ontinue the funding of federal services without measures designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature healthcare reform.

However in a sign of the disarray that has affected an apparently directionless Capitol Hill, interest in that proposal lasted no more than a few hours.

The risk of a possible US default – which most economists agree would be catastrophic and reverberate across the world – has concentrated minds on Capitol Hill. Some Repulbicans have become increasligly concerned that they are being blamed for the crisis. They hoped that by focusing on the unpopularity of Obamacare and characterising the president's stance as a refusal to negotiate, that the White House would be seen as responsible for the first shutdown since 1996.

But an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week showed the public largely blaming Republicans, with the party suffering its all-time worst rating since the survey began. Support for Obama's health reforms, which were introduced on the day the shutdown began, has increased despite early problems with enrolment websites.

Procedural complications

There appears to be little prospect of a deal before markets opened on Monday. All eyes are now on a deadline of Thursday when, according to the Treasury, the $16.7tn debt limit must be raised in order for the US to continue paying its creditors. Even if a deal between Reid and McConnell is reached over the next 24 hours, procedural complications mean a vote might not be taken until Wednesday or even Thursday, a senior congressional aide said.

Republican members of the House gathered for a private meeting with the speaker, John Boehner, on Saturday morning. The Republican leader informed his fellow representatives that discussions with the president had not yielded any prospect of a deal. "The president rejected our deal," said the Idaho representative Raul Labrador, immediately after the meeting. "It is now up to the Senate Republicans to hold firm." Representative Thomas Massey, of Kentucky, added: "We made an offer to the president and he turned it down. He's still refusing to negotiate – the president is refusing to offer anything."

Obama has repeatedly said he will not be taken "hostage" by House Republicans, and will only enter into formal negotiations once they remove the treat of a US default and reopen the government. Speaking in his weekly address, on Saturday morning, Obama said he was against any stop-gap measures which would buy time but still leave the country under the shadow of a possible default.

"It wouldn't be wise, as some suggest, to just kick the debt ceiling can down the road for a couple months, and flirt with a first-ever intentional default right in the middle of the holiday shopping season," he said.

Even if a deal is reached between Reid and McConnell, with backing from the White House, the challenge will lie in securing the support of the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. Republican leaders now appear to have all but given up their initial efforts to defend Obamacare, or delay the "individual mandate" of Obamacare, which compels US citizens to obtain healthcare or face fines.

They now appear to be seeking some kind of concession that will justify a course of action that resulted in an initial 800,000 government workers being furloughed, or temporarily suspended from work, and damaged local economies across the country which are dependent upon federal funds.

The shutdown, now entering its 13th day, has laid bare the bitter divisions in the Republican Party. What began as classic congressional deadlock between a Republican-dominated House and a Democratic-controlled Senate has become an internecine dispute between the Tea Party movement and more moderate Republicans.

Its impact has been felt most acutely in Washington, where there is a concentration of employees of federal agencies and departments. At least 500,000 government workers are still thought to be furloughed. But across America federal outposts have also felt the squeeze, particularly in the many rural, local economies dependant upon national parks. One of the worst affected area is in the rural North Carolina district which elected Tea Party Republican congressman Mark Meadows.

He was described as the "architect" of the shutdown after orchestrating a petition among House Republican members to force the leadership to use the federal budget as leverage to undermine Obamacare.

Meadows denied he was particularly instrumental in starting the shutdown, telling the Guardian that he was striving to reopen the government for his constituents, many of whom are reliant on tourism from nearby national parks. "Honestly, if they're angry with me, I'm doing all I can to get the government back open and make sure the harmful affects don't hurt people back home."

Under a deal agreed reached late on Friday, the Statue of Liberty, Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore as well as some national parks in Colorado and Utah reopened this weekend, after the government allowed them to be temporarily funded by state money and other non-federal sources.


Connecting the Dots

The Ten Hardline Conservatives Pulling the Strings of the GOP Shutdown

October 11, 2013
by Staff

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., center, speaks at a news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded the House leadership to include defunding the Affordable Care Act in legislation to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. From left to right are Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., center, speaks at a news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded the House leadership to include defunding the Affordable Care Act in legislation to prevent a government shutdown at the end of the month, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013. From left to right are Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), center, speaks at a news conference with conservative Congressional Republicans who persuaded the House leadership to include defunding the Affordable Care Act in legislation to prevent a government shutdown, at the Capitol in September. From left to right are Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Much of the coverage of the government showdown has focused on a relatively small group of hardline conservatives within the Republican caucus who have backed their party’s leaders into a fight they didn’t want.

As Ryan Lizza noted in The New Yorker, these lawmakers mostly represent very safe, heavily Republican and disproportionately white districts that don’t look much like the rest of the country. Many of those on the front lines are recent arrivals to Capitol Hill, and they’re pushing a leadership they see as having been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past.

It’s an important angle. Yet it also obscures what should be an obvious question: Since when do freshmen senators or one- or two-term reps push their congressional leadership around? Historically, it’s been the reverse. And since when does a newcomer to the Senate such as Ted Cruz (R-TX) have the right to tell House Republicans what to do? If there’s only a relatively small group of lawmakers who think defunding the law is a dandy idea, why has every budget resolution with such a provision won more than 200 Republican votes in the House of Representatives during the showdown? Why is this supposedly silent majority of Republicans so docile? Why don’t they push back?

The answer lies in the clout wielded by an extensive web of non-governmental conservative groups supported by mountains of dark money. Those groups see the Affordable Care Act as an existential threat to their worldview and their party and have waged a multipronged campaign to kill it in its cradle. Theirs is the ultimate inside/ outside strategy: They fund primary challenges from the right by upstart candidates against incumbents they view as insufficiently pure. When those true believers get into office, these groups promote them relentlessly to the party’s activist base – filling their re-election coffers with donations by portraying them as courageous mavericks fighting against ossified “RINOS” (Republicans in Name Only). They mount “public education” campaigns and buy ad blitzes, and they coordinate messaging among friendly voices within the conservative media.

According to a report by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Mike McIntire in The New York Times, a coalition of these groups has been plotting a budget crisis to shut down Obamacare for months.

    Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.

    Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.

    It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.

With a broad, well-funded campaign, these groups have effectively shifted the balance of power in conservative Washington away from Republican leaders on the Hill and onto a cadre of true believers who will go to any length to destroy a modest set of health care reforms that, just 20 years ago, the very same conservative movement was itself advancing.

So just looking at the rank-and-file members of the “suicide caucus” isn’t enough – it’s like focusing on the marionette rather than the puppet-master.

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« Reply #9294 on: Oct 13, 2013, 06:32 AM »

Italy to triple Mediterranean naval and air units to address migrant safety

Enrico Letta announces military and humanitarian mission after 390 deaths from capsized vessels 'turn sea into a tomb'

Lizzy Davies in Rome and agencies, Sunday 13 October 2013 13.04 BST   

Italy is to triple its air and sea presence in the Mediterranean between north Africa and Sicily in a bid to make it "as safe as possible" for migrants making the perilous journey in overcrowded rickety boats, the prime minister, Enrico Letta, has said.

Speaking after a fortnight during which at least 390 people lost their lives in disasters involving capsized vessels, Letta announced that Italy would on Monday launch a military and humanitarian mission in the part of the Mediterranean he said had been "turned into a tomb" in recent days.

"We will spend a lot of money. We will triple the naval and air units that are currently working in the Strait of Sicily," he was quoted by La Repubblica as saying on Saturday.

Italy has repeatedly called for co-ordinated action by the European Union to tackle the crisis on its doorstep, and the issue looks set to feature prominently at a summit on 24 October.

But, he said, the issue needed to be tackled immediately and "we cannot wait for European decisions to be taken and acted on".

"We will work so that Europe tackles it but on the other hand we will immediately do our bit," he said.

"I can therefore announce that on Monday an Italian military and humanitarian mission will be launched – by sea and air – in order to make the part of the Mediterranean that in recent days has been transformed into a tomb as safe as possible."

Earlier, his Maltese counterpart, Joseph Muscat, said Europe was turning the Mediterranean into a "cemetery" through its failure to deal with the migrant surge.

"I don't know how many more people need to die at sea before something gets done," Muscat told the BBC. "The fact is that as things stand, we are just building a cemetery within our Mediterranean Sea," he said. "Until now we have encountered statements, words but little more than that."

The interventions came after another 34 bodies were recovered from the latest stricken vessel that sank south of Sicily on Friday. More than 200 passengers were rescued. Meanwhile, a further 19 bodies were found in a boat that sank last week, bringing the death toll from that incident to 358.

Italian naval spokesman Commander Marco Maccaroni said his units also rescued 180 people from other boats in the same area overnight in a further indication of the relentless flows of migrants braving the Mediterranean.

"The flows have never stopped, especially over the summer months," Maccaroni said. "The two accidents in such a short period have raised the attention of the public, but the tensions have been going on all summer."

More than 30,000 migrants arrived in Italy and Malta in the first nine months of 2013, compared with 15,000 in all of 2012, according to the UN refugee agency.

The UN secretary-general, Ban-Ki-moon, called for action to prevent future tragedies "that places the vulnerability and human rights of migrants at the centre", while Pope Francis lamented that "too often we are blinded by our comfortable lives, and refuse to see those dying at our doorstep".

At least 70,000 Syrians are registered in Egypt as refugees. Many, including thousands of Palestinians who fled the war in Syria, are not registered and use the country as a stopover before making the perilous sea trip to Europe.


Death toll of African migrants rises after boat disaster near Lampedusa

34 dead and at least 221 rescued by Italian and Maltese ships after boat capsizes in Mediterranean

Staff and agencies, Saturday 12 October 2013 17.31 BST   

Link to video: Capsized migrant boat: survivors are rescued as death toll rises

The death toll from a boat laden with African migrants that capsized near the Italian island of Lampedusa has risen to 34 people.

An Italian navy spokesman, Marco Maccaroni, told the Associated Press that at least 221 people had been saved from the capsized vessel. Approximately 250 people are believed to have been on board.

Reacting to news of the disaster on Friday night, the Italian prime minister, Enrico Letta, reportedly said the latest deaths were a "new and stark confirmation" of how serious the situation in the Mediterranean is.

The shipwreck on Friday was the second recent tragedy in the waters where more than 300 migrants travelling from north Africa to southern Europe lost their lives on 3 October.

The official toll for that tragedy – in which a boat loaded with about 500 migrants caught fire and sank in one of the worst disasters to hit the area in recent years – rose to at least 339 on Friday .

Malta was co-ordinating the emergency response to the latest incident, with its ships and aircraft assisted by the Italian authorities. The more seriously injured among them were being flown by helicopter to Lampedusa.

Passengers on board the boat had been able to make an emergency call with a satellite phone which enabled rescuers to pinpoint their location, a spokesman for the Italian coastguard said.

The head of the Italian Red Cross said the latest deaths were yet more proof that urgent steps needed to be taken to open humanitarian corridors to protect migrant boats.

"Reading the news that is coming out about a new tragedy at sea, I feel anger and bitterness. There is a need for concrete action, as we have said repeatedly, more than words," said Francesco Rocca in a statement.

"This is the dramatic proof of everything we have been saying up to today: that we need to take urgent measures to open humanitarian corridors. There is no time to lose."

Even before the most recent disaster, it had become clear earlier on Friday that the potentially deadly perils of the crossing had not stopped the flow of migrants to Italian shores. The coastguard said that in five separate operations more than 500 migrants had been rescued in quick succession.

"This is not just another wake-up call for Europe. This is the time for action," the Maltese prime minister, Joseph Muscat said, adding he had spoken to Letta to discuss the latest disaster.

"This is a European problem, not a problem for Italy or Malta only."

Italy is asking for more EU support and an overhaul of the bloc's immigration rules after last week's shipwreck.


The tiny Italian village that opened its doors to migrants who braved the sea

As yet another boat filled with desperate migrants tragically capsizes in the Mediterranean, Tom Kington finds one mainland community that has secured its own future by offering them homes and jobs

Tom Kington in Riace
The Observer, Saturday 12 October 2013 22.09 BST   

In an ancient palazzo in the toe of Italy, the mayor banged his fist on the table as he set about organising a candlelit vigil for the hundreds of migrants who drowned this month trying to reach the island of Lampedusa. "We need to show it that it has touched us all," said Domenico Lucano, "but we mustn't just weep – that is not enough."

As mayor of Riace, a small village in Calabria, Lucano has spent a decade trying to do something real to help the asylum seekers who risk their lives on rickety boats. The resettlement programme he has set up is one the European Union would do well to study as it wakes up to the waves of refugees pouring into Europe from Eritrea, Somalia, Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Lucano, a hyperactive former schoolteacher who looks younger than his 54 years, walked out on to the balcony of the palazzo perched over the winding alleys of Riace that he has turned into a "welcome centre" for immigrants, offering Italian classes to children, setting up parents with jobs and handing out tokens that can be exchanged for food in local shops.

"That house has been taken by an Egyptian family, that one by an Eritrean family," he says proudly, jabbing his finger at the tiled rooftops of the village, which is now home to 180 refugees.

Lucano sprang into action in 1998 when 200 Kurds fleeing the savage Turkish-Kurdish conflict landed on a beach near Riace. Instead of watching them get packed off to one of Italy's grim holding centres, he offered them houses in the village that had been abandoned as the local population dwindled.

As more migrants followed, the local school was saved from closure as their children enrolled. This term, the nursery school boasts eight nationalities. "Integration is spontaneous, and the foreign kids are sharp – they learn faster than the Italians," said one teacher, Anna Niciforo.

After school last week, a gaggle of African children heading home with their satchels waved at the elderly Italian men lined up on chairs for a gossip outside the barber shop.

"The village was in danger of becoming extinct as people disappeared to northern Italy for jobs during the economic boom," said Lucano. "One village near Turin has more people from Riace than Riace itself."

Lucano describes the Italians who work with him in the centre as "potential emigrants who didn't leave", thanks to the migrant scheme. The centre is a mix of races. As he spoke a grey-bearded Egyptian Coptic priest wandered in, handing out homemade bread before heading out to hold Orthodox mass for Christian Africans in the local church.

Working with the team as an interpreter is Ethiopian Lemlem Tesfahun, 31, who recalled how Lucano drove her to Riace a decade ago from an immigrant holding centre in Calabria. "It was like a jail there," she said. "I didn't know where I was and cried every day to be released."

Today, local funding has spurred the opening of artisan workshops where migrants can earn a wage learning trades that were dying out locally. At the glassmaker just past the ceramics workshop, an Afghan woman who fled the Taliban is concentrating on a glass mosaic, while across the street at the embroidery shop, Nigerian Tayo Amoo, 34, is learning the tricks of the trade from a Riace woman who originally learned her skills from local nuns.

Formerly a journalist in Nigeria, Amoo says she was briefly jailed at home following accusations of insulting Islam, and fled to Italy in 2010. Now, a year after being granted asylum, she is making a go of needlework, as her 15-month-old daughter plays at her feet.

Ghanaian Daniel Yaboah is paid €800 a month to tend the donkeys that haul carts up and down the narrow alleys collecting household rubbish for recycling. With a stable of 13 animals, the next step is to sell donkey's milk.

While Lucano waits to hear if the Italian government will send him any of the 155 survivors from the vessel that sank off Lampedusa more than a week ago, and as Italy reels from another fatal sinking on Friday 60 miles from the same island, a group of Eritreans has arrived after surviving a panicked landing in Sicily last month, where 13 drowned as they tried to leap from their vessel. "They have given us everything here – so far so good," said Fasil Hidad, 46, who was still nursing a bruised eye after being punched by his minders when he refused to get on the overloaded boat as it prepared to leave Libya. Now, after leaving his wife and children in Eritrea to escape the country's brutal military conscription, and after handing over $7,400 for the trip over desert and sea to Italy, he said he was itching to work.

Lucano's efforts have not been universally appreciated. Apparently irked by his growing influence, the local 'Ndrangheta mafia shot through the windows of a restaurant where he was eating in 2009 and poisoned two of his dogs. Last year, a bureaucratic error temporarily halted funding for the migrant programme, which meant shopkeepers refused to accept immigrants' tokens. As mothers ran out of milk for their children, protesting migrants blocked the highway with upturned rubbish bins and Lucano threatened to go on hunger strike.

Even when the funding flows smoothly, many refugees choose to move on from Riace when their asylum papers come through. "There are no opportunities in Italy – I need to get to Holland to carry on my veterinary studies," said Eritrean Awtsana Issak Kahsay, 29, who arrived on the same boat as Hadid.

Locals admit that goodwill towards migrants is partly linked to the government funding they bring – €25 to €30 per migrant per day – and the social service jobs they generate. "Many people here are unemployed, so this means work for us too," said Monica Audino, who works for an agency helping new arrivals file asylum claims and find accommodation.

But whatever the hurdles, Riace's experiment marks a dramatic U-turn away from Calabria's traditional fear of foreigners following centuries of attacks by pirates. This is why villages such as Riace were built up in the hills, away from the vulnerable coast.

"Whatever the challenges, this has to be a better solution for migrants than being locked up in a holding centre where their children cannot go to school," said local Francesca Salerno.
Bahram Acar, a Kurd who arrived by accident in Riace Bahram Acar, a Kurd who arrived by accident in Riace while fleeing the Turkish-Kurdish conflict in the 1990s. Photograph: Francesco Sorgiovanni for the Observer

Bahram Acar, one of the Kurds from the first boat, back in 1998, said he had found support to find a job as a builder, raise a family and get Italian citizenship. Fifteen years on, still in Riace, he is working to help new arrivals settle in.

"It all started with me," he said. "I was helped, and now I am helping."

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« Last Edit: Oct 13, 2013, 06:49 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #9295 on: Oct 13, 2013, 06:37 AM »

Madeleine McCann: new pictures of men sought to be released by UK police

BBC Crimewatch to broadcast efits of men seen in Portuguese town of Praia da Luz at time of girl's disappearance in 2007

Press Association, Sunday 13 October 2013 10.50 BST   

Link to video: Madeleine McCann: new appeal including reconstruction

Pictures of men seen in and around the Portuguese town of Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine McCann's disappearance are to be released by British detectives.

A number of efits are to be shown during Monday night's episode of BBC Crimewatch in a bid to identify the men and eliminate innocent sightings, Scotland Yard said.

A short video clip has been released before the broadcast showing a reconstructed scene of Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry, playing tennis.

Madeleine, dressed in pink shorts, a pink T-shirt and pink hat, runs across the court, clutching a batch of tennis balls.

A full reconstruction lasting 25 minutes will feature in the programme, which airs at 9pm.

In another clip, the McCanns are asked how often they think of their daughter, who went missing when she was three years old on 3 May 2007 from a holiday apartment as her parents dined at a nearby tapas restaurant with friends.

Gerry McCann says: "When it's a special occasion, when you should be your happiest and Madeleine's not there, that's when it really hits home. Obviously, Madeleine's birthday goes without saying."

Kate McCann adds: "It's when you have big family occasions really. That's it isn't it? 'Family occasion' and you haven't got your complete family."

Crimewatch presenter Kirsty Young will speak to the McCanns live in the studio during the programme, while presenter Matthew Amroliwala has been to Praia da Luz to explore the fresh focus of the police investigation.

During the programme, the senior investigating officer, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood, discusses how the police have approached the inquiry.

He says: "Primarily what we sought to do from the beginning is try to draw everything back to zero if you like. Try to take everything back to the beginning and re-analyse and reassess everything, accepting nothing."

He adds: "The careful and critical analysis of the timeline has been absolutely key. Primarily, we're focused on the area between 8.30 and 10. We know at 8.30 that was the time Mr and Mrs McCann went down to the tapas area for their dinner and we know that around at 10pm that was when Mrs McCann found that Madeleine was missing."

An incident room will be staffed during Monday's appeal and the days that follow, when the appeal moves to the Netherlands and Germany.

A dedicated call centre will also be opened at Hendon, north-west London.

Redwood and his team recently revealed that a vast log of mobile phone traffic could be the key to finding out what happened to Madeleine.

Scotland Yard detectives, who have interviewed 442 people as part of their review-turned-investigation, hope to track down people present in the Portuguese town at the time.

Since launching its own investigation, 41 people of interest have been identified by the Metropolitan police, including 15 UK nationals.

Detectives have issued 31 international letters of request to mostly European countries in relation to some of the persons of interest as well as accessing phone records.

A large list of phone numbers identified as being present in Praia da Luz – though not necessarily used to make phone calls – has been drawn up by detectives, with a "significant" number unattributed to any named person.

Before the programme, Redwood, said: "The timeline we have now established has given new significance to sightings and movements of people in and around Praia da Luz at the time of Madeleine's disappearance.

"Our work to date has significantly changed the timeline and the accepted version of events that has been in the public domain to date. It has allowed us to work with Crimewatch to build the most detailed reconstruction as yet, and highlight very specific appeal points. I hope that when the public see our investigative strands drawn together within the overall context of that appeal, it will bring in new information that moves our investigation forward."

The Portuguese investigation has officially closed but authorities there are backing the Scotland Yard inquiry and officers from both countries will work together in pursuing new leads.

The Metropolitan police has a team of six Portuguese detectives based in Faro who are carrying out inquiries on its behalf.

The McCanns are suing former police chief Goncalo Amaral for libel over claims in the book The Truth of the Lie.

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« Reply #9296 on: Oct 13, 2013, 06:43 AM »

Enda Kenny confirms December date for Ireland's bailout exit

Republic's prime minister says country is on course to 'retrieve economic sovereignty and independence'

Henry McDonald, Ireland correspondent, Sunday 13 October 2013 01.23 BST   

Ireland will leave the international bailout programme run by Europe and the IMF on 15 December, the republic's prime minister has promised.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the country was now on course to "retrieve our economic sovereignty and independence".

The exit from the IMF/EU bailout will fulfill one of the key goals of the Fine Gael-Labour coalition since it came to power. The last Fianna Fáil-led government had to go cap in hand to the IMF and the EU back in November 2010 to seek a multibillion euro rescue package and save the country from national bankruptcy.

Kenny told his Fine Gael party's annual conference in Limerick on Saturday night: "There's still a long way to go. But at last, the era of the bailout will be no-more. The economic emergency will be over. "

Warning that there was still a long way to go to rebuild the Irish economy after the Celtic Tiger's collapse, Kenny said: "Ireland is at long last on the road back to recovery and to work. Yes, our competitiveness has improved. We have 34,000 new jobs in the last year alone."

He said: "Yes, there are too many people still out of work. Yes, there are too many people still leaving the country. But you know something, there's a change happening.

"Job creation is now at its highest level in five years. The live-register number has fallen every month for 15 consecutive months. That's progress.

"Before we came to office, Ireland was losing 7,000 jobs a month. Now we're creating 3,000 new jobs every month."

The Irish premier added: "After some disastrous years, confidence is gradually being restored. Despite a tough international environment, our economy has started to grow … Across the world, investors are watching Ireland and they like what they see."


Irish entrepreneurs show signs of life amid positive growth forecasts

After a spectacularly bleak period of austerity, Ireland is forecast to grow by more than 2% next year. Three people involved in its hardest-hit business sectors discuss their hopes for a chastened – and still fragile – economy

Henry McDonald   
The Observer, Sunday 13 October 2013         

Five years after the Irish government decided to stand behind its crippled banks – in a bailout that cost €70bn (£60bn) and forced the country to go cap in hand to the EU and International Monetary Fund for its own rescue package – Ireland is officially out of recession. Growth is projected to be 2.7% next year.

It has been a very rough road – 14% wiped off GDP, house prices down by more than 50%, unemployment peaking at 15% – and recovery is not yet guaranteed. This week, finance minister Michael Noonan will deliver the country's seventh consecutive austerity budget, with deep cuts to social welfare spending and other controversial measures expected.

Given how crucial this budget may be in terms of guiding the economy back to growth and prosperity, the Irish cabinet is holding an unprecedented emergency meeting on Sunday to hammer out every detail in this year's financial plan for the country.

But three sectors of the republic's economy that suffered gravely in the Celtic Tiger's collapse – construction, small businesses and tourism – are all reporting some signs of recovery.

Each is arguing against any VAT hikes or indirect tax rises, and for the government to create a more favourable, flexible environment to boost private business, big and small.

With the budget looming and Ireland on course to leave the international bailout programme and recover its economic sovereignty in the coming year, three people working in the three sectors hit hardest by the economic collapse – construction, small business and tourism – look ahead to their own and their nation's prospects.


When Brian McKeon's brother was coming in to land last week on a flight from Turin, he noted with pride two yellow cranes below, just to the north of Dublin bay. They were among very little construction plant visible anywhere in the city, where property prices have crashed more than 50%.

"He told me that he could see our cranes as the plane was coming into Dublin airport. There were hardly any others down there on the ground," says Brian McKeon.

His family firm, MKN, has been increasing its workforce on the site, which has spectacular views out to Howth, the Irish sea and the Dublin mountains in the far background.

They started back on the site in March with 30 workers and will eventually employ up to 150 people to complete the building of high-grade luxury apartments – exactly the type of properties most battered by the housing crash.

Over the last weekend of September and first week of October, McKeon also completed the sale of 20 new houses, in the town of Swords, near Dublin airport. He hopes he can repeat the same trend-bucking sales achievement when the job in north Dublin is finally finished next spring.

"We sold the homes up at Swords over the space of two weekends," he says, "and it shows that there is a demand for houses out there once more. There was even a slight increase in the prices of the homes – by a couple of thousand euros here and there."

MKN's construction director says that the last thing the Irish building industry needs in Tuesday's budget is an increase in VAT on the vital materials they need to keep their project going.

"Each house we build, we have to give a percentage in tax already to the taxman – but if VAT went up for things like concrete, flooring and the other materials you need to build apartments and houses, then we would have no choice to pass these rises onto the consumer."

McKeon passionately believes the coalition government should create, for the first time, the post of minister of construction in the cabinet. His suggestion chimes with the republic's Construction Industry Federation. Some 60% of all the jobs lost in the recession were in that sector, and of the 9,600 new jobs created in the first two quarters of 2013, around 6,400 were people being recruited back into the building trade.

McKeon says a minister of construction would be just as vital to the economy as the three ministers who currently look after farming and agriculture in Ireland, and he is irritated that the building business gets little government support.

"If PayPal creates 15 extra jobs in the hi-tech quarter of Dublin, you get Enda Kenny or a big minister turning up," he says. "I am employing 30 people here, with the hope of another 120 workers coming on to the site, and we get no recognition.

"The trouble is building and construction got a bad name because of the bad apples that played the property casino in the boom years. But they have all gone from the industry, leaving the genuine builders and developers left to get the industry moving again.

"We didn't make the mistake of overstretching ourselves in the boom like they did, as they built everything, everywhere, without any controls. But people still need houses to live in, and there is a shortage of decent homes in this country."

A survivor of the building bust, McKeon praises the coalition government in the UK for stimulating the construction sector with its Help to Buy newbuild scheme and other programmes.

"They have created incentives to build over in Britain now, with the removal of red tape and so many regulations. Our problem coming down the track here is that we are about to introduce some of the most stringent regulations in the industrialised world on building.

"For example, when these new regulations come in, I am going to have to employ an independent architect to check every day that we are adhering to all the new regulations and controls. I have to pay this architect, which adds to our costs every single day. But overall, I'm still optimistic: I can see the green shoots."


A possible increase in VAT is also the thing Garrett McMahon and his partner Triona fear in the budget.

A few months ago the couple defied the doomsayers and took an enormous gamble by setting up a coffee shop in Glasnevin, close to Dublin's Botanical Gardens and the river Tolka.

Having invested their life savings in what appears so far to be a thriving small business, McMahon worries that any rise in VAT in the hospitality industry from its current 9% would severely dent profits and put their dream in danger.

The Irish government lowered VAT in the sector from 13% to 9% to boost consumer demand, which has been one of the main deadweights on the domestic economy.

"If they were to put it back up to 13%, that would mean 4% off every euro we make. Raising VAT again would shut down some small businesses and weaken demand," McMahon says, inside the small but extremely busy cafe, which sells a range of products from breakfast bagels to homemade banana bread.

"We don't want to be passing on higher prices to our customers, especially since we are still building a base here, because we have been pleasantly surprised by the footfall coming through the door.

"There is demand in this area for a better product, for nice food, and it's great that in Glasnevin we are not reliant on one single market. You have the workers from the Met Office up the road, and the builders over there working on extending the Botanical Gardens. You have pensioners coming in, parents with young children on a day off looking for a nice coffee. People are still willing to spend money out if the product is right."

As well as hoping for an unchanged VAT rate, McMahon says the climate for small businesses like theirs needs to be less restrictive: "We pay €2,500 rates to Dublin city council. We pay for our water, we pay for our bins and we still have to sweep our own footpath every day. There are too many regulations which constrict small to medium-sized businesses. It limits what we can do."

Garrett and Triona are putting in 12 hours a day, getting up at 5am to prepare fresh food. While they admit they are exhausted when Sunday comes and they can take time off, they remain upbeat about their prospects.

"Am I optimistic? Absolutely! From opening this business a couple of months ago the sales have increased at the till every week. We have all had to endure several really tough years but I do think we are pulling ourselves up bit by bit," Garrett says.


More passengers have arrived and departed from Dublin's airport this year than in the last year of the Celtic tiger boom.

Paul O'Kane, the ebulliently optimistic public affairs director at the airport, notes that between January and July this year there was a 14% increase in traveller numbers: "For the first time since 2007 there has been monthly growth in numbers coming through our doors. That is a sign of real improvement in business."

O'Kane puts down the rise to several factors: a huge spike in transatlantic traffic; the presence on Irish soil of the US customs and immigration service, which means passengers don't have to go through heavy security checks after landing in the US; the growing presence of Gulf-state-owned airlines in Dublin; and the recession-proof Irish wanderlust.

"We are becoming more attractive to travellers from Northern Ireland and Britain who are going to the States and Canada, because you can go through all the security and customs checks by American staff here before you even touch down in north America," he says. "We also have more routes across the Atlantic than many British and European cities: there are now 224 flights per week from Dublin to north American destinations."

To cope with the boom in transatlantic business, Irish state carrier Aer Lingus is opening up new routes to San Francisco and Toronto in spring next year. Other airlines, such as United, have begun flying from Dublin to Washington DC, while US Airways now flies direct to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Cynics in Ireland grumble that the 700,000-plus passenger figures are boosted by a massive number of young emigrants seeking jobs and a new life outside recession-blighted Ireland. O'Kane, however, dismisses this theory as a myth.

"It's a nonsense to say the extra numbers are made of emigrants getting out. If these figure were to constitute up to even 100,000 leaving through Dublin airport due to emigration, there would be whole villages and towns completely empty across Ireland. It just doesn't add up," he says.

"The real reasons for this number are the extra tourists coming into Ireland and the additional numbers from Northern Ireland, Britain and further afield using Dublin as their hub connection to North America – and the Far East, Australia and New Zealand with Etihad and Emirates."

Others, particularly in the Irish government, claim that a recent tourist campaign, "The Gathering", aimed at appealing to the worldwide Irish diaspora (including those who claim Irish lineage several generations back), has contributed to the surge in traffic at Dublin airport.

The number of passengers from Northern Ireland taking advantage of the ever-improving road links on the eastern side of the island has definitely played a part.

"Last year 521,000 Northern Ireland passengers travelled through Dublin airport, which is equivalent to almost 30% of the population of the north," O'Kane, a northerner himself, says. He believes the numbers from across the border will increase next year.

As for the budget, the one thing O'Kane doesn't want to see is any increase in the €3 flat-rate tax imposed on all flights, whether long- or short-haul. Given that tourism is one of the republic's main invisible exports, and that the government has invested heavily in "The Gathering", that would seem unlikely.


Iceland and Ireland found themselves facing parallel financial meltdowns in the autumn of 2008: their banks were hopelessly over-extended, leaving the two small nations staring into the abyss. Both eventually had to approach the IMF and others for emergency loans to avert state bankruptcy.

Before the fall, their economies had been star performers: banks such as AIB and Kaupthing had hastily bulked up and were playing in the top flight of European banking.

Over the water, Scottish first minister Alex Salmond spied a seductive blueprint for how a small, dynamic nation could rapidly blossom into a financial powerhouse. Indeed, with the rapid expansion of Scottish-based Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS in mind, he frequently spoke of an "arc of prosperity" emerging across Europe's northern fringe.

Had his wished-for independence come to pass before 2008, of course, Scotland too, in all likelihood, would have found itself horribly in hock to the IMF.

But if Iceland and Ireland shared a similar fate when the crash came, the two nations then took dramatically different paths.

Ireland, locked in to the eurozone, was unable to rely on the cushioning effect of a weakening currency. In contrast, the Icelandic króna lost much of its value, greatly helping export businesses.

Then, while Ireland insisted it would use taxpayer funds to bail out its banks – and, in effect, their international bondholders – Iceland took a bold new tack. It said it could not afford to bail out any of its big three banks, and allowed them to collapse into administration. Foreign creditors, including hundreds of thousands of UK retail depositors with Icesave, could go hang. They would have to wait, and are still waiting, for partial recoveries on their bonds and deposits.

The move was controversial, but it was not long before economists were declaring it a masterstroke. Iceland, said Paul Krugman, had demonstrated the case "for letting creditors of private banks gone wild eat the losses".

Nobel prizewinner Joseph Stiglitz agreed. "What Iceland did was right. It would have been wrong to burden future generations with the mistakes of the financial system." For Financial Times economist Martin Wolf too, it was a triumph. "Iceland let the creditors of its banks hang. Ireland did not. Good for Iceland!"

In truth, the contrasting reactions owed a great deal to necessity. Iceland, a tiny country of 317,000 people with an output of less than $15bn, could never have mustered the financing to bail out its biggest banks. That said, its rich natural resources – fertile fishing grounds and abundant geothermal and hydro energy – made the prospect of wiping the slate clean and starting again distinctly less daunting.

Ireland had no such resources to fall back on. The outstanding feature of its economy is that it is substantially built on housing the European headquarters of US multinationals such as Apple, Google and Facebook. So active are the multinationals in the Irish economy that statisticians say they flatter GDP figures well beyond their actual contribution to the Irish economy.

Looking after overseas investors was, and is, a central tenet of Irish economic policy – and one from which the political class feels it dare not stray.

Simon Bowers


October 12, 2013

Behind Flurry of Killing, Potency of Hate


LONDON — From a comfortable couch in his London living room, Sean O’Callaghan had been watching the shaky televised images of terrified people running from militants in an upscale mall in Kenya. Some of those inside had been asked their religion. Muslims were spared, non-Muslims executed.

“God, this is one tough lot of jihadis,” said a friend, a fellow Irishman, shaking his head.

“But we used to do the same thing,” Mr. O’Callaghan replied.

There was the 1976 Kingsmill massacre. Catholic gunmen stopped a van with 12 workmen in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, freed the one Catholic among them and lined up the 11 Protestants and shot them one by one.

Mr. O’Callaghan, a former paramilitary with the Irish Republican Army, has particular insight into such coldblooded killing.

On a sunny August day in 1974, he walked into a bar in Omagh, Northern Ireland, drew a short-barreled pistol and shot a man bent over the racing pages at the end of the counter, a man he had been told was a notorious traitor to the Irish Catholic cause.

Historical parallels are inevitably flawed. But a recent flurry of horrific bloodletting — the attack in Nairobi that left 60 dead, the execution by Syrian jihadis of bound and blindfolded prisoners, an Egyptian soldier peering through his rifle sight and firing on the teenage daughter of a Muslim Brotherhood leader — raises a question as old as Cain and Abel: Do we all have it in us?

Many experts think we do. For Mr. O’Callaghan, it was a matter of focus.

“What you’re seeing in that moment,” he said in an interview last week, “is not a human being.”

It is dangerous to assume that it takes a monster to commit a monstrosity, said Herbert Kelman, professor emeritus of social ethics at Harvard.

“We are all capable of such things,” said Mr. Kelman, 86, whose family fled Vienna under the Nazis in 1939. “It doesn’t excuse anything, it doesn’t justify anything and it is by no means a full explanation. But it’s something that is worth remembering: We are dealing in a sense with human behavior responding to certain circumstances.”

Overcoming a deep-seated proscription against killing is not easy. In his book “Ordinary Men,” Christopher R. Browning described how a German police battalion staffed with fathers, businessmen and plumbers struggled as they executed thousands of Jews in Poland. How many among them missed at point-blank range. How they vomited and cried in the forest after massacring mothers and their children. How hard they had to work at becoming killers.

A culture of authority and obedience that supplants individual moral responsibility with loyalty to a larger mission helps loosen the moral inhibition against murder, social psychologists say. So does a routinization of violence, as well as injustice or economic hardship that allows the killer to see himself as the true victim.

But perhaps the most important ingredient is the dehumanization of the victims, said David Livingstone Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of New England and author of “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others.”

“Thinking about your enemies in subhuman categories is a way of creating a mental distance, of excluding them from the human family,” he said. “It makes murder not just permissive but obligatory. We should kill vermin or predators.”

The Hutus in Rwanda called the Tutsis cockroaches, the Nazis depicted the Jews as rats. Japanese invaders referred to their Chinese victims during the Nanjing massacre as “chancorro,” or “subhuman.” American soldiers fought barbarian “Huns” in World War I and godless “gooks” in Vietnam.

In Northern Ireland, “taig” was a popular slur for Catholics. Where Mr. O’Callaghan grew up in Tralee, County Kerry, they called Protestants “sassanagh,” Gaelic for “foreigner.”

Later, after The Troubles had started in 1968 and images of Catholics being bombed out of their houses in Belfast flooded the news, creating an army of angry young Catholic men, Protestants, too, became “Huns.”

Such labels help, said John Horgan, director of the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, and author of “Walking Away From Terrorism,” a book on experiences of former militants. Still, he said, “They wrestle with their conscience. They don’t sleep well at night.” It is no coincidence, he said, that terrorist executions often involve hooding the victim or slitting the throat from behind. “Watching the face when you kill someone is a very difficult thing to do,” he said.

Mr. O’Callaghan never dared look into the face of the man he killed that day in 1974. When he closes his eyes and searches for it, all that comes back is a grainy photograph from the next day’s newspaper.

He had joined the Irish Republican Army at 15. A country boy seething at the injustice he saw in the Belfast refugees streaming into his southern Ireland county, he became an explosives and firearms instructor, training young men in mountain camps near his home. “We felt that we were part of something,” he said.

The older men taught the younger ones about the 1916 uprising, an event elevated to a near-mystical status because it fell on Easter Monday. He fell hard for the Irish republicans’ emotional blend of Catholic religion and Irish nationalism.

A six-month jail term after he was caught with explosives only made him angrier. In May 1974, he was sent to Northern Ireland and took part in bombings and robberies. One night he got a call from Harry White, a Welshman who worked for the I.R.A., with a tip that Peter Flanagan, legendary in the I.R.A. as a Catholic turncoat and “torture chief” for the Royal Ulster Constabulary, often ate lunch at the Broderick bar. “He drives a blue Volkswagen,” Mr. White told Mr. O’Callaghan, and said to look for the car outside the bar.

Mr. O’Callaghan was 19. He found his quarry, and trained his eyes and his gun on a faceless torso in a blue shirt. The newspaper dropped to the floor. The torso followed, a blue mass rolling off the bar stool in slow motion. A voice pleaded, “Don’t.”

He recalled what his grandmother had told him when he was only 9: “When you shoot a British policeman, dig him up and shoot him again because you can never trust them.”

He fired eight times. It took perhaps 10 or 15 seconds.

Years later he learned that Peter Flanagan was not the monster that the I.R.A. had made him out to be. Mr. Flanagan had been unarmed, had testified against British police officers at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, and had probably never tortured a soul.

Mr. O’Callaghan eventually became an informer for the Irish police and later turned himself in, pleading guilty to 42 crimes including this one, a journey he partly chronicled in a memoir called “The Informer.” He was sentenced to 539 years in prison. After eight years he was pardoned, and in 1996 he walked free. He turned down an offer for witness protection — to take responsibility and to make peace. “But of course you never really do,” he said.

He had killed many times, ambushing shadows in the dark on army barracks, firing a mortar, but never like this, up close. The torso still comes back to him, in dreams and sometimes in the middle of the day.

But what haunts him most was a comment his driver made that day. She was a Belfast woman with a worn face who went by the nom de guerre Lulu. On the way to the bar, she had been so nervous she drove the wrong way up a one-way street and had gotten them lost.

Later, after they sped off, dumped the stolen car, and made it to a safe house, Lulu finally caught her breath.

“I feel sorry for his mother,” she said.

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« Last Edit: Oct 13, 2013, 06:56 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #9297 on: Oct 13, 2013, 06:53 AM »


Gay rights protest in St Petersburg ends in clashes

Police arrest 67 during protest against law introduced in June banning 'homosexual propaganda' directed at children

Reuters in St Petersburg, Saturday 12 October 2013 18.28 BST   

Police have arrested 67 people after a fight broke out between gay rights activists and their opponents at a demonstration in the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Gay rights campaigners in Russia have held several small protests since the adoption of a law in June banning "homosexual propaganda" directed at children. Critics say the law curtails gay people's rights to free speech and assembly.

The issue has attracted growing international attention before Russia's hosting of the Winter Olympics in Sochi next year. Gay rights activists have called for participants and sponsors to boycott the games in protest at the law.

The disturbance in central St Petersburg began after a group of around 15 gay rights activists tried to hold a demonstration to mark International Coming Out Day.

They were far outnumbered by the anti-gay demonstrators, including several dressed as Cossacks and orthodox priests, who had occupied the site of the planned demo.

The anti-gay demonstrators included several elderly women who chanted Russian Orthodox prayers.

"The homophobes broke up the action with the help of the police," said Natalia Tsymbalova, one of the organisers of the gay rights demo.

Another demonstrator called Maria said that when a pro-gay demonstrator tried to unfurl a rainbow-coloured flag, she was manhandled to the ground and the flag torn from her.

A police representative said that 67 people had been detained. They included both gay rights activists and their opponents.

Russia's president Pig Putin has denied the new law is aimed at cracking down on gay rights.

Opinion polls suggest it is backed by a majority of Russians, including many conservative Russian Orthodox believers who regard homosexuality as a sin.

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« Reply #9298 on: Oct 13, 2013, 06:58 AM »

Swiss climber's 'greatest' Himalayan ascent

Ueli Steck, in the headlines after a row with Sherpas on Everest earlier this year, has made the first ever solo climb of Annapurna's feared south face, a feat that has amazed his fellow mountaineers

Peter Beaumont   
The Observer, Sunday 13 October 2013      

This spring the Swiss climber Ueli Steck, one of the world's most accomplished and fastest mountaineers, was thrust into the glare of the media spotlight after he was attacked with two companions by a group of angry Sherpas on Everest.

Now Steck, 37, is being talked about for a different reason – a ropeless and lightning-fast solo ascent of Annapurna's gigantic south face – which is already being hailed as one of the greatest in modern Himalayan mountaineering.

Although the details remain sketchy, it appears that Steck – nicknamed the "Swiss machine" – made the 2,500-metre face's first ever solo ascent, without oxygen and in a single push from his base camp to the 8,091-metre summit and back.

Steck recorded his achievement with a short text message on his return to base camp: "Summit, alone, south face."

The British climber Jon Griffith – who is a friend of Steck and was with him during the altercation on Everest earlier this year, when they were attacked by a large group of Sherpas, some armed with rocks – confirmed the ascent and described his friend as "shattered".

"He has just gone and soloed it," he told the Observer from his home in Chamonix in the French Alps on Friday. "When Ueli releases all the details it will be recognised for what it is – truly phenomenal – a mind-blowing effort."

The ascent was quickly applauded by Climbing magazine's Dougald Macdonald as a "landmark ascent in Himalayan mountaineering".

Before setting off for Annapurna, Steck wrote of his motivation on his blog: "To walk through life in a comfortable way is not my goal. That is why I want to try to climb Annapurna a third time … I would like to turn my dreams and visions into reality."

Steck's ascent last week came at his third attempt on the face in recent years, the details of which put his achievement in context.

Although Annapurna was the first of 14 Himalayan 8,000-metre peaks to be climbed – by a French expedition in 1950 – the first ascent of the towering south face would wait another 20 years. Then it was climbed in 1970 by an expedition led by Sir Chris Bonington, whose companions Dougal Haston and Don Whillans reached the summit.

Annapurna is regarded as the most dangerous of the 8,000-metre peaks while its south face, which funnels avalanches and rock falls, is regarded as one of its toughest undertakings.

Steck's own first attempt on the face in 2007 saw him attempt a hard new unclimbed line. It was first attempted unsuccessfully by Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille in 1992. Beghin fell to his death and Lafaille was forced to climb down the face alone in one of mountaineering's greatest feats of survival.

On that first attempt, however, Steck only narrowly survived himself after falling some 300 metres down the face after being hit by rock fall.

He abandoned a second solo attempt the following year to join an effort to rescue another stricken climber, the Spaniard Iñaki Ochoa de Olza, who had suffered a seizure on the mountain and later died. After the tragedy on that attempt, Steck admitted he needed time before returning to the mountain.

Steck, who has previously climbed the Eiger's notorious north face in winter in less than four hours, is regarded as one of the leading exponents of extremely fast, lightweight mountaineering, carrying little except food and liquids and climbing non-stop.

Bonington, 79, who has met Steck, was effusive in his praise. "He is a fantastic climber as well as a very nice guy," he said. "It is a really spectacular undertaking and a sign that Himalayan climbing is very much alive, despite all the media attention on the queues on Everest each year."

Steck's ascent is doubly impressive given that he was forced to quit Everest earlier this year following the Sherpa incident high on the mountain's slopes. He had reportedly left the Himalayas feeling despondent.

Speaking to the news website Swissinfo before returning to Nepal, he had been phlegmatic. "After what happened in spring, coming back to Nepal is really important for me … the spring expedition is over, and it was certainly not the greatest story I've ever had, but it happened.

"The south face of Annapurna is an old project," he added. "I have attempted it twice already and I guess you need patience if you want to climb hard routes on an 8,000-metre peak."

On this attempt Steck had been with the Canadian climber Don Bowie, who had accompanied him on several acclimatisation trips lower on the mountain. On Saturday the two men were returning to the town of Pokhara, promising more updates when they arrived.

1950 First ascent

The world's 10th-highest mountain, at 8,091 metres, Annapurna is regarded as the most dangerous, with a fatality to successful ascent ratio of almost 40%. It was the first of the world's 14 8,000-metre peaks to be climbed – by the Frenchmen Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal – three years before Everest was first conquered. Herzog subsequently lost all of his toes and most of his fingers to the frostbite he suffered.

1970 First ascent of the south face

The second ascent, by a British army expedition, was overshadowed by the first ascent of the towering south face by Don Whillans and Dougal Haston, part of an expedition led by Chris Bonington and described in his book, Annapurna South Face. A member of the party, Ian Clough, was killed by falling ice.

1987 First winter ascent

Polish climbers Jerzy Kukuczka and Artur Hajzer climbed the mountain in 16 days.

2007 First solo ascent of south face to eastern summit

The Slovenian alpinist Tomaz Humar, who would die two years later on Langtang Lirung, climbed an already established route that finished on the mountain's subsidiary and slightly lower eastern peak, rather than on the main summit.

2013 First complete solo ascent of south face to the main summit

According to a report in the Swiss media, Ueli Steck's new climb follows hard terrain first attempted unsuccessfully by Pierre Béghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille in 1992, when Béghin died. It follows snow slopes to a prominent rock buttress on the left of the face before joining the British route at the summit ridge.

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« Reply #9299 on: Oct 13, 2013, 07:04 AM »

Her film about an 'honour' killing won an Emmy. Now it's being used to train police

Deeyah Khan hopes her documentary about the murder of Banaz Mahmod can help to highlight the social pressures behind such crimes and help bring change

Tracy McVeigh   
The Observer, Sunday 13 October 2013   

Amid the glitter and glamour of this month's Emmy awards in Los Angeles, one winner dressed in a sober black suit and polo neck looked more than a little dazed as she collected her statuette.

"I had to be pushed out of my seat when they announced that Banaz had won. I just sat there," said Deeyah Khan, a music producer and former pop star who picked up the Emmy for best international documentary. "I was perfectly happy just to be there and proud that a clip was being shown. I was really pleased but utterly shocked to win."

It was a remarkable accolade for a low-budget first film that was not only an outsider among other big-budget documentaries on the shortlist, but was also heavily based around poor quality police video footage of a young woman talking shyly and sometimes inaudibly to officers at a London police station.

Banaz: A Love Story is the account of an "honour" killing in south London in January 2006 when Banaz Mahmod, aged 20, was murdered by her family, Iraqi Kurds who felt she had dishonoured their community by deserting her abusive rapist husband and later falling in love with a man of her own choosing.

Banaz went five times to the police to ask for their help and tell them she believed her life was at risk. She even named her future killers on videotape with the words: "If anything happens to me, it's them."

She was raped and strangled and her body was buried in a suitcase.

The Emmy has made Khan a new force in documentary-making but what has made her proudest is the news that it is now to be shown as part of the UK's police training programmes to educate officers on the real threat that face many young women trapped inside honour-based cultures in Britain. In so doing they will be bringing full circle a case that brought reprimand from the Independent Police Complaints Commission for the way officers failed Banaz Mahmod in life, as well as praise for the Scotland Yard team who secured justice for her in death, travelling to Iraq to capture the murderers.

"You cannot celebrate an award when a girl is dead," said Khan. "My friends all said what dress will you wear to the ceremony? But I went in black, how could I think about a dress?

"But I hope that if Banaz's story has done anything, it's made more people realise that this can happen, it exists. Now that it is to be used by police for training is extraordinary. That is one step, they have implemented more tools for frontline officers and crime investigation teams. There is a flagging system now in some parts of the UK.

"I'm pleased because I didn't want the film to be an excuse for people to justify their prejudices, against Muslims or against immigrants. 'Honour' killings and forced marriages are not a Muslim thing, they happen in Sikh, in Hindu, even in Christian societies structured so that the rights of the group are enforced at the expense of the individual."

Banaz's father and uncle were jailed for life for murder in 2007. Two other men, who had fled the country after the murder, were brought back, the first ever extradition from Iraq to the UK, by Detective Inspector Caroline Goode and jailed for more than 20 years each.

"I only intended the film to be something for women's groups and maybe a few film festivals. I was active in women's rights and I was following my heart in doing this film on 'honour' killings. But when I sat down to talk to Caroline, everything changed," said Khan.

"She told me that she felt that the people who should have loved Banaz didn't, so she had decided she loved her. The fact that this white woman, a policewoman, carries such love for this Asian girl – it was extraordinary. If you cut out Caroline then you feel nothing but disgust and tremendous sadness. But you add her in and you have real hope.

"People do the most remarkable things in the most difficult of circumstances. That's why this case was so important. It has all the failings but also all the lessons."

Khan, 36, born in Norway to immigrant Punjabi and Pashtun parents, was a successful singer, dubbed the "Muslim Madonna", until constant threats and attacks led her to give up the stage for her own safety. She moved to London and became a music producer and an activist, working alongside several women's rights groups including the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, which says the number of incidents of this type of crime being recorded in the UK is rising.

The charity Karma Nirvana, which helps young women facing forced marriage, is so concerned at the unchecked prevalence of forced marriage it is presently campaigning for headteachers to face reprimands for failing to report any child who disappears from their school registers.

"It's hard to explain the nuances of the rigid patriarchal structures of social cultures like Banaz's and mine," said Khan. "Our young people are suffocated and suppressed. Banaz is the most extreme outcome, but many, many other girls like Banaz are still walking around among us facing the abuse meted out on women in these honour-based social structures."

Khan's next project is looking at the radicalisation of British young men. "I know some women's rights activists have seen so much abuse that they can't stand men but I have a sense of empathy with the men. Without excusing the abuse they are capable of, many of them are trapped within these communities and bound by expectations they didn't necessarily ask for.

"There are men who suffer different types of abuses, where can they get help? I don't think men such as Banaz's father should get more lenient sentences. In countries like Germany they are trying to understand perpetrators as victims of their own culture and sentencing accordingly. We need to understand, not excuse," said Khan.

She believes Britain needs to focus less on what may or may not be racism and more on ignorance.

"Maybe there's racism, but at heart it is ignorance. How many generations have brown people been here? For the burdens and the benefits, we have to understand each other's stuff.

"The answer isn't that they can just all go home. We have to learn about each other. We need to claim girls like Banaz as our own. We need to move beyond cultural sensitivity and let people ask questions. The moment people feel they can ask the silly or awkward question that they haven't dared to ask, the layers start to come off.

"There's a lot of work to be done. Old, deeply engrained systems take time to change but we can't leave it to time. People – police, teachers, health workers or in the media – are in a position to help. When there is as much outrage when a young Asian girl disappears from the school roll as there is when a white girl runs off to France with her teacher, we can move on to have gender equality. But we have to be equal to white women before we can be equal to men."

Khan had almost finished making her film when she was given the two hours of police videos. She said: "I didn't know Banaz in life and seeing her in the interviews, a girl so shy it pains her to say the word penis, it's so courageous. Imagine what it must have taken for a girl like her to ask the police for help: she did as much as she could to save her own life.

"The majority do not ask for help. They compromise for the sake of community honour, and sacrifice themselves, not contributing to our society. There is a sickeningly large number of kids in the UK suffering a living death."

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