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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1073469 times)
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« Reply #9315 on: Oct 14, 2013, 05:52 AM »

October 13, 2013

France to Send More Troops Into Africa


BANGUI, Central African Republic — France will boost its troop presence in the Central African Republic by the end of the year to help prevent the country from spiraling out of control, the French foreign minister said Sunday.

The Central African Republic has descended into chaos since rebels ousted President François Bozizé in March, the latest coup in a country that remains one of the world’s poorest despite resources that include gold and uranium. Geographically, it sits at the center of what some analysts have called an “arc of insecurity,” from Somalia in East Africa to Mauritania in the west.

France has urged world and regional powers not to ignore the conflict, which has already led to more than 400,000 people being driven from their homes. Last week, the United Nations Security Council unanimously approved a resolution sponsored by France, the nation’s former colonial power, demanding that the weak interim government put in place after rebels took over adhere to previously-negotiated plans to hold elections in early 2015.

The African Union has deployed about 2,500 troops there, but its resources are limited, prompting the Security Council resolution pledging support and potentially turning the operation into a United Nations peacekeeping force.

“We will increase our support, especially in the logistics domain,” said France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius. “We will also increase troops, a little at first. This will be done before the end of the year.”

France currently has about 400 troops in Bangui, protecting the airport and French interests. Mr. Fabius did not say how many troops would be added, but some officials said the number could be increased to about 700 or 750.

Mr. Fabius said the dissolution of the rebels, an alliance known as Seleka, must be real and concrete.

“We cannot have armed bands roaming the country,” Mr. Fabius told a news conference in the riverside capital. “We will not let you down.”
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« Reply #9316 on: Oct 14, 2013, 05:56 AM »

Despite the tough talk, this government is far too soft on tax evasion

The treatment of the British tax dodgers exposed by the Lagarde list of secret Swiss bank accounts has been very lenient. Why?

Chris Huhne   
The Guardian, Sunday 13 October 2013 17.00 BST   

You might have thought the politics of hard times would be the same whatever the country, and that burgeoning public deficits would mean tough measures to collect tax. The surprise, though, is in the differences. In Germany and France tax evasion is hot politics. In Britain, there are some tremors about corporate tax dodging – but personal tax evasion seems the dog that does not bark.

Once upon a time the British would have argued that we were more inclined to pay our taxes, so our problem was small. If this were ever true, it isn't now. According to the UK taxmen's estimate last week, they are still failing to collect £35bn a year. If by some miracle HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) could collect the lot, basic income tax could be cut from 20p to 12p in the pound.

Tax evasion matters. In theory, the government is getting tougher. The chancellor, George Osborne, has promised: "We will be as tough on the richest who evade tax as those who cheat on benefits." Admirable sentiments, but the delivery has been woeful. The government is being far softer on tax evaders even though it estimates tax evasion costs 29 times more than benefit fraud.

Take Britain's handling of the infamous Lagarde list. Christine Lagarde, now head of the International Monetary Fund, was France's finance minister when the French intelligence service acquired details in 2009 of 130,000 bank accounts held at a Geneva branch of HSBC – yes, our British HSBC. Lagarde, being a good European, duly shared the information with France's EU partners.

The Treasury received 6,000 British names. To date, 1,100 people who had secret HSBC bank accounts in Geneva, and who had testified on their tax returns that the accounts did not exist, have settled. The HMRC has received £120m in unpaid taxes, which means that the average HSBC tax dodger was probably evading £54,454 (allowing for the penalty).

Astonishingly, all those who settled were given anonymity and immunity from prosecution despite new powers that allow anyone who has evaded more than £50,000 in tax to be named and shamed on the HMRC website. Though there is more money going into criminal investigation, there has been just one prosecution in the UK as a result of Lagarde's list: a multimillionaire property developer called Michael Shanly.

Shanly had already reached a civil settlement with HMRC on £1.5m of evaded taxes, and HMRC was stung into a prosecution when he was subsequently discovered to have evaded a further £430,000 on his mother's estate. How long did he serve in prison? Not an hour. He was fined £470,000. Given his estimated net worth of £130m, the whole experience, while no doubt unpleasant and time-consuming, amounted to a pinprick.

Compare his case with a recent benefit fraud: Abdurrahim Bendaw was convicted in August of a 10-year fraud worth a total of £54,493, almost the average evaded by the British Lagarde listers. No immunity or anonymity for him. He has to repay the amount, faces confiscation orders, and was jailed for 10 months. Judge Leslie Hull warned: "If I don't send you to prison it will send the wrong message to the public." Clearly, the message is that tax evasion is just fine and dandy.

Is this soft touch on tax evasion political? Is the government trying to hide political donors, or members of the royal family? HMRC claims that ministers had nothing to do with the Lagarde decisions, as all individual cases are kept away from political interference. But dealing with 1,100 tax evaders as a group is surely a policy matter. The guidelines should be determined by ministers.

Yet, at every turn, the British have taken the herbivorous option. We run something called the Liechtenstein disclosure facility, allowing tax evaders to fess up and avoid charges. As KPMG, the big accountancy firm, tells their clients: "The Liechtenstein disclosure facility (LDF) provides a framework for the disclosure of UK tax irregularities connected with overseas assets held anywhere in the world with unique benefits and on favourable terms."

If you think the taxman is on to your British Virgin Islands accounts, you open one in Liechtenstein and disclose it – then you will be covered not just for your Liechtenstein account but for everywhere else too. It's an Amnesty-lite.

HMRC is also considerate about those who want to continue to bank secretly in Switzerland. The UK and Switzerland have reached a withholding tax deal – where the Swiss deduct tax from the accounts of UK residents, paying it to the UK without telling us who they are. The withholding tax is (a little) lower than the UK top tax rate, providing potential tax savings for banking in Switzerland.

That arrangement is justified as raising revenue for the UK, but revenue is lower than forecast. Swiss banks have decades of experience in hiding money. A similar deal was rejected by the German Bundestag for being too soft. Instead, the Germans aggressively pursue citizens who evade taxes. Berlin's intelligence services have paid €4.3m to a whistleblower for information about the Liechtenstein General Trust (LGT) group. France has rejected a UK-style LDF.

The better way? Public rewards for information: a share of the proceeds, as with the US citizen paid $14m for whistleblowing. Using the intelligence services to extract banking information. And locking up offenders. Tory ministers say prison deters crime. Perhaps they should try harder on tax evaders.

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« Reply #9317 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:01 AM »

British detectives release efits of Madeleine McCann suspect

Despite being placed at the crime scene by two people on the night in question the man has never come forward   

Sandra Laville, crime correspondent
The Guardian, Monday 14 October 2013   

Link to video: Madeleine McCann: police release e-fits of suspect

The face of a suspect in the investigation of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been released to the public by detectives.

Police have issued two efits that they believe are descriptions of the same man, who is now being sought as a priority by the British detectives leading the new McCann inquiry.

He was seen in the vicinity of the Praia da Luz resort in Portugal six years ago at the time that the three-year-old went missing. Despite numerous appeals for information over the years, the man has not come forward to talk to investigators in Portugal or Britain.

Descriptions of the suspect were given to the Portuguese inquiry by two witnesses after Madeleine disappeared.

It is only now, after Metropolitan police detectives cross-referenced all the information gathered by Portuguese detectives, private investigators and the mobile phone data from the resort, that the significance of the witness statements has been fully understood. In an appeal to be broadcast on Monday night on BBC1's Crimewatch, Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood of the Metropolitan police will call for anyone who recognises the man to contact him immediately.

A 25-minute reconstruction of the events of 3 May 2007, with a child actor playing Madeleine, will also demonstrate that the accepted account and timeline of events on the night she went missing six years ago is wrong, police say.

"The efits are clear and I would ask the public to look very carefully at them," Redwood said. "If you know who this person is, please come forward.

"Whilst this man may or may not be the key to unlocking this investigation, tracing and speaking to him is of vital importance to us. We have witnesses placing him in the resort area around the time of Madeleine's disappearance."

The significance of the man has come to light as detectives have analysed tens of thousands of documents from the original investigation and mobile phone footprints in the resort on the night the child went missing.

Redwood said: "Our work to date has significantly changed the timeline and the accepted version of events that has been in the public domain to date."

Redwood is leading the £5m British investigation into the suspected abduction of Madeleine in May 2007 while her family were on holiday in Praia da Luz.

The inquiry is focusing on 41 suspects and requests for assistance have been issued to 30 countries in a bid to identify and eliminate these people, 15 of whom are British. Crimewatch will feature other efits of individuals that the police would also like to trace.

But it is this man in particular whom detectives are very keen on finding. The man was described by the two witnesses as being inside the Ocean Club complex in Praia da Luz area on the evening that Madeleine went missing from the apartment. Redwood will travel to Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland to repeat his appeal as detectives from the British investigation attempt to close in on the man. He was described by the witnesses as white, aged between 20 and 40, with short brown hair, of medium build, medium height and clean shaven.

Redwood will outline the new theory of what happened on Crimewatch on Monday, in a 25-minute reconstruction which he said amounted to the most detailed narrative yet of what happened.

It dramatises the hours before Madeleine's disappearance, with the child actor dressed in a floppy hat, T-shirt and shorts, filmed running around picking up tennis balls on the court where her parents played that afternoon.

Later, the film shows the couple leaving apartment 5a, where their three children – Madeleine, then three, and twins Sean and Amelie, 18 months – slept inside, and sitting down with their friends at a pool-side table in a tapas bar a few hundred yards away.

At 8.30pm Kate and Gerry McCann went for dinner with seven friends, leaving the children, who were checked on at least twice, according to Kate McCann's autobiography.

The McCanns' friend, Jane Tanner has said that at about 9.15pm she saw a man carrying a small child, walking away from apartment 5a. That man has never been traced. At 10pm Redwood said Madeleine's mother found the child gone when she checked the apartment.

By putting these 90 minutes under intense scrutiny, Redwood's team have established new theories about the events and exactly when Madeleine was abducted.

In an interview with Crimewatch, Kate McCann said: "We are not the ones that have done something wrong here. It's the person who has gone into that apartment and taken a little girl away from her family."

Redwood said: "Through meticulously drawing together specific information, the team has been able to refocus the timeline and now places more significance on events that night.

"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.

"I hope that when the public sees our investigative strands drawn together within the overall context of that appeal, it will bring in new information that moves our investigation forward."


3 May 2007 Kate and GerryMcCann leave their three children asleep in their holiday apartment in Praia da Luz while they dine with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant. Madeleine is missing when her mother checks at 10pm.

17 June Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa admits vital forensic clues may have been destroyed in the hours after Madeleine's disappearance as the scene was not protected properly.

11 August Exactly 100 days after Madeleine disappeared, investigating officers publicly acknowledge for the first time that she could be dead.

28 April 2010 Near the third anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, Gerry McCann says it is "incredibly frustrating" that police in Portugal and the UK had not been actively looking for Madeleine "for a very long time".

12 May 2011 In an open letter in the Sun newspaper, the McCanns ask the prime minister to launch an "independent, transparent and comprehensive" review of all information relating to the disappearance of their daughter.

13 May 2011 David Cameron writes to the McCanns telling them the home secretary will set out "new action". Metropolitan police begin a review.

4 July 2013 The Met says it has new evidence. It says it is investigating 38 "persons of interest" after launching a formal investigation.

14 October Detectives release an efit of a man they want to identify. There is a new reconstruction on Crimewatch of the events of the night.


Madeleine McCann's disappearance – timeline

It has been six years since the three-year-old disappeared from her holiday apartment. Here are major developments since then

Simon Jeffery, Monday 14 October 2013 11.48 BST   

3 May Madeleine disappears from a holiday apartment at the Ocean Club resort in the Algarve village of Praia da Luz, while her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dine with friends at a nearby tapas restaurant.

4 May The McCanns make an emotional plea for Madeleine's safe return, directly appealing to their daughter's abductors and speaking of their "anguish and despair".

25 May In their first interviews, the McCanns say the guilt of not being with Madeleine will never leave them. Police release a description of the man seen carrying a child on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

6 June Madeleine's parents deny any involvement in her abduction when questioned by a German journalist at a press conference in Berlin.

16 June A British couple report seeing a small blonde girl in the Maltese capital, Valletta. A full-scale investigation is launched in the wake of a number of other possible sightings.

17 June Portuguese police say Madeleine's friends and family may have unwittingly destroyed vital evidence in the first few hours after her presumed abduction, during their search for her.

28 June Spanish police arrest an Italian man and a Portuguese woman suspected of trying to extort money from Madeleine's parents by offering them information about the missing girl.

6 July Dutch police reveal they have arrested a man in Eindhoven suspected of attempting to defraud Gerry and Kate McCann by demanding €2m (£1.35m) for information on Madeleine's whereabouts.

6 August A Portuguese newspaper reports that British sniffer dogs have found traces of blood on a wall in the apartment where Madeleine went missing. A Portuguese paper, the Jornal de Noticias, claims detectives now believe it is most likely that Madeleine is dead, having been killed accidentally.

15 August Blood traces found in the bedroom where Madeleine was sleeping the night she was snatched were not hers, the Times reports. Forensic results show the blood came from a man, it adds.

31 August It emerges that the McCanns are to launch a libel action against a Portuguese newspaper that claimed police believed they killed their daughter. The action will be against the Tal & Qual paper, based in Oporto.

6-8 September Kate McCann arrives at a Portuguese police station to face further questioning by detectives. Both McCanns are declared official suspects (arguido) after police questioning.

9 September The McCanns return to their home in Rothley, Leicestershire, with their twins, Sean and Amelie.

10 September Portuguese police sources suggest DNA tests prove Madeleine's body was in the boot of a car hired by her parents 25 days after she disappeared. Some DNA experts doubt the claims.

11 September A dossier outlining the police case against the McCanns is passed to the local prosecutor, José Cunha de Magalhães e Meneses, who then asks a judge to assess the information.

18 September Clarence Mitchell, a former BBC reporter, confirms he has resigned as the head of the government's media monitoring unit to become the spokesman for the McCann family. His salary is paid by a Cheshire businessman, Brian Kennedy.

19 September The Evora district attorney general, Luís Bilro Verão, rules there is not enough evidence to justify further questioning of the McCanns about the disappearance of their daughter.

2 October The police officer in charge of the inquiry, Gonçalo Amaral, is removed from the case and demoted for criticising British police involvement in the investigation.

16 November Jane Tanner, one of the McCann family's closest friends and part of the so-called Tapas Seven, says she saw a man carrying a sleeping child away from the holiday apartments 45 minutes before Kate McCann discovered her daughter was missing.


13 February Portuguese authorities say the search for Madeleine is winding down, more than nine months after she vanished.

19 March The Daily Express and the Daily Star carry unprecedented front-page apologies for publishing more than 100 articles on the disappearance of Madeleine, some of which suggested her parents were involved in her death. The papers pay £550,000 in damages.

7 April Portuguese police arrive in the UK to be present as Leicestershire constabulary officers begin interviewing the Tapas Seven.

3 May The first anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance is marked with a renewed appeal for information and church services in Portugal and the UK.

7 July Leicestershire police agree to share with the McCanns 81 pieces of information from their investigation. The McCanns ask to have access to Portuguese police files, too.

15 July Robert Murat, a British expat living in Praia da Luz, wins about £600,000 in damages from 11 British newspapers and Sky News for defamatory reports of his involvement in the disappearance.

24 July A book by the former head of the investigation, Amaral, is published claiming that Madeleine died in her family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz.

4 August The Portuguese police file on the disappearance is made public. It shows that days before the McCanns were formally named as suspects, a British scientist had warned that tests on DNA recovered from the family's hire car were inconclusive. It also shows that during a subsequent interview with Portuguese police, Kate McCann refused to answer 48 questions about her daughter, apparently fearing they were intended to implicate her in the girl's disappearance.

15 October The Tapas Seven receive a reported £375,000 in damages from Express Newspapers.


10 March Gerry McCann, appearing before MPs, calls for more stringent regulation of the press and labels coverage of his daughter's disappearance as some of the most "irresponsible and damaging" in press history.

1 May A digitally enhanced image of how Madeleine might look now is revealed as the second anniversary of her disappearance approaches.

17 May The McCanns announce they are to sue Amaral over claims made in his book that Madeleine died in her family's apartment and the parents were involved in hiding the body.

3 November A one-minute video message – produced in seven languages – is launched by Britain's Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, showing new images of how the girl might look more than two years after her abduction.


28 April Near the third anniversary of Madeleine's disappearance, Gerry McCann says it is "incredibly frustrating" that police in Portugal and the UK have not been actively looking for Madeleine "for a very long time".


12 May In an open letter in the Sun newspaper, the McCanns ask the prime minister to launch an "independent, transparent and comprehensive" review of all information relating to the disappearance of their daughter.

13 May David Cameron writes to the McCanns telling them the home secretary will set out "new action". The Metropolitan police begin a review.

23 November The McCanns appear as witnesses at the Leveson inquiry into press standards. Kate McCann says she felt "totally violated" after the publication by the News of the World of her personal diaries and Gerry McCann says he believes British newspapers declared "open season" on them a few months after Madeleine's disappearance.


4 July The Metropolitan police say they have new evidence. They say they are investigating 38 "persons of interest" after launching a formal investigation.

14 October Detectives release an efit of a man they want to identify. There is a new reconstruction on Crimewatch of the events on the night of Madeleine's disappearance.

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« Reply #9318 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:08 AM »

Cameron has no plans to meet Dalai Lama, says Osborne

Chancellor says UK wants to move on in its relations with China after row over last meeting with Tibetan spiritual leader

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent, Monday 14 October 2013 08.48 BST   

David Cameron has no further plans to meet the Dalai Lama, George Osborne has said as he made clear Britain is determined to move on from a row with Beijing over contacts with Tibet's spiritual leader.

Unveiling plans to streamline visas for Chinese business leaders and tourists, the chancellor said the UK should show respect for a "deep and ancient civilisation" as Beijing deals with its problems.

Osborne told BBC Radio 4's Today programme from Beijing: "There is a bit of a British attitude which treats China as a sort of sweat shop on the Pearl river. One of the things I am trying to do this week in China is to change British attitudes to China. This is a country that is right at the forefront of medicine and hi-tech and computing and hi-tech engineering."

The chancellor is leading a five-strong ministerial delegation to China that is designed to pave the way for an official visit by the prime minister, who has not visited the country for three years. Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to China earlier this year after Beijing downgraded its relations with Britain after he met the Dalai Lama in May last year.

Osborne, who has dismissed Foreign Office calls for Britain to tread carefully in its relations with China, said the prime minister was unlikely to be meeting the Dalai Lama for some time. "We have said the prime minister is not planning to meet the Dalai Lama," he told Today. "But of course he did meet the Dalai Lama, as previous British prime ministers have. We understand we have different political systems and we raise the issues we have about that but we have an incredibly important economic relationship and I want to make sure this week we take the next big step in Britain and China's relations with each other so that we can create jobs and investment in each other's countries."

The chancellor announced on Monday that Britain would make it easier for Chinese business leaders to visit the UK by introducing a 24-hour "super priority" visa service. A separate pilot scheme will allow selected Chinese travel agents to apply for UK visas simply by submitting the application form used for the EU Schengen visa.

The scheme is aimed specifically at the high-end tourism market, after figures showed that wealthy Chinese tourists were not bothering to apply for a UK visa after applying for a Schengen visa, which allows them to visit 22 out of the 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Osborne highlighted China's interest in Britain as he pointed out that 160 million Chinese people watch Downton Abbey "which is more than double the number of people who actually live in the UK", he said.

The Foreign Office has no difficulty with the relaxed visa system, which will be administered through its embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and other high-growth cities. But concerns have been voiced to the chancellor and the prime minister from within the Foreign Office that Britain needs to tread with care in the light of China's human rights record and its aggressive cyber-attacks.

Cameron is understood to have listened to the Foreign Office's concerns with sympathy. But he is determined to open a new chapter in Britain's relations with China after declaring that the "Bric" countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are a priority. He has led two trade missions to India but has visited China only once as prime minister, three years ago.

Osborne said Britain should show respect for the way the new Chinese leadership was dealing with problems such as corruption. He said: "Britain and China are two very old civilisations. China represents a fifth of the world's population. Of course we can bring up issues we have concerns about. But we do also have to respect the fact it is a deep and ancient civilisation that is tackling its own problems and going about it in the way it thinks is appropriate. We can point out where we would do things differently. But we do need to show some respect for that."


George Osborne opens doors to rich Chinese with new visa system

British chancellor moves to improve relations with Beijing after rift over David Cameron's meeting with Dalai Lama

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent
The Guardian, Sunday 13 October 2013 04.30 BST   

George Osborne has heralded the "next big step" in Britain's relationship with Beijing, unveiling a new visa system to make it easier for Chinese business leaders and rich tourists to visit the UK.

In a sign of Downing Street's determination to reset relations with Beijing, which unofficially downgraded Britain's status after David Cameron met the Dalai Lama last year, the chancellor told an audience in the Chinese capital that no country in the west is more keen to attract Chinese investment than Britain.

Osborne, who began a five-day trade mission to China at the weekend, told students at Beijing University: "I don't want us to try to resist your economic progress, I want Britain to share in it.

"And I want, this week, us all to take the next big step in the relationship between Britain and China. Because more jobs and investment in China mean more jobs and investment in Britain. And that equals better lives for all."

As a first step the chancellor announced Britain will make it easier for Chinese business leaders to visit the UK by introducing a 24-hour "super priority" visa service.

In the biggest step, a separate pilot scheme will allow selected Chinese travel agents to apply for UK visas simply by submitting the application form used for the EU Schengen visa.

The scheme is aimed specifically at the high-end tourism market, after figures showed that wealthy Chinese tourists are not bothering to apply for a UK visa after applying for a Schengen visa, which allows them to visit 22 out of the 28 EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

Ministers were understood to be alarmed when one study found that Chinese tourists were buying vastly higher numbers of expensive designer handbags in Paris than in London. The chancellor said: "These changes will streamline and simplify the visa application process for Chinese visitors, while ensuring the system is strong and secure. This is good news for British business and tourism."

The Foreign Office has no difficulty with the relaxed visa system, which will be administered through its embassy in Beijing and consulates in Shanghai and other high-growth cities.

But concerns have been voiced to the chancellor and the prime minister from within the Foreign Office that Britain needs to tread with care in the light of China's human rights record and its aggressive cyber-attacks.

Cameron is understood to have heard the Foreign Office's concerns with sympathy. But he is determined to open a new chapter in Britain's relations with China after declaring that the "Bric" countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – would be a priority. He has led two trade missions to India but has visited China only once as prime minister, three years ago.

Ed Davey, the energy and climate change secretary, who has recently returned from Beijing, spoke of a "massive Chinese investment" worth tens of billions of pounds in nuclear power and other sources of energy in Britain.

Davey told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 that there would also be major energy investments from Japan and South Korea. The China General Nuclear Power Group has been in talks with EDF Energy about taking a stake of up to 49% in the deal to build a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point.

Osborne's trip – in which he is being accompanied in part by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, and four other government ministers – is designed to pave the way for a long-awaited trade mission to China by the prime minister.

Cameron was forced to abandon a visit to China earlier this year when Beijing punished him for meeting the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, at St Paul's Cathedral in May 2012 with Nick Clegg.

The prime minister abandoned tentative plans for a trip to China in April after Beijing indicated that he was unlikely to be granted meetings with senior figures. The UK government said no plans had been finalised and the new Chinese leadership, which only took over in March, needed time to bed down.

The Osborne and Cameron trips, which have been pencilled in for the autumn for some months, have been the subject of intense negotiations in Whitehall. The chancellor is said by some ministerial sources to be adopting a gung-ho approach and is keen to explore every opportunity to boost trade links with China. "With George it all comes to pounds, shillings and pence at the end of the day," said one ministerial source.

Britain's nervousness about the Dalai Lama was highlighted when Johnson declined on five occasions on Sky News to say whether he would like to meet Tibet's spiritual leader. On the fifth occasion an exasperated mayor told Dermot Murnaghan: "This is the fifth time, I'm coming up for air again, Dermot, I'm just repeating that it's not my job as mayor to insert myself into controversial areas of international dispute. My job is to promote the interests of the city."

In his speech Osborne said: "There are some in the west who see China growing and they are nervous. They think of the world as a cake – and the bigger the slice that China takes, the smaller the slice that they will get. I totally and utterly reject that pessimistic view. If we make the whole cake bigger, then all our peoples will benefit. That should be the basis of our relationship with China."

In addition to Beijing Osborne will visit Shenzen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.


George Osborne's e-trade visit to China aims to repair damage of Cameron's meeting with Dalai Lama

Delegation from 20 leading British tech companies will join chancellor on five-day trip that will include a meeting with China's new finance minister

Larry Elliott in Washington
The Observer, Saturday 12 October 2013 15.39 BST   
George Osborne will showcase Britain's vibrant hi-tech sector in China as he seeks to repair relations damaged by last year's meeting between David Cameron and the Dalai Lama. The chancellor plans to use a five-day trip to the world's second biggest economy to open up "e-trade routes" and will be accompanied by executives from 20 businesses seeking to break into the Chinese market.

The visit, which will include talks with China's new finance minister, Ma Kai, marks the resumption of an economic dialogue that was put in deep freeze due to Beijing's sensitivity over the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Treasury sources admitted Chinese anger over the prime minister's meeting with the Dalai Lama had led to a marked cooling in relations. Osborne's visit marks the first talks at senior government level for 18 months.

Osborne believes that China's economic development is entering a new phase where products developed by fast-growing companies in Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester and London's so-called Silicon Roundabout will be in demand. "I want to use my visit to China this week to strengthen strategic ties between Britain and China in areas that will drive both our countries' growth," Osborne said.

"The Chinese economy is changing," he said. "Those who think it is just a low-wage, low-tech economy are making a mistake; it is becoming a cutting-edge player in industries like tech. This is a huge opportunity for Britain – we have some of the most innovative tech companies in the world and China can be a huge market for their exports."

The chancellor, who flew to Beijing from the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Washington, has made building up trade between Britain and China a top priority for the rest of this year.

Osborne will be accompanied by four other ministers and has identified two sectors – asset management and hi-tech – where Britain can use its global advantage over other countries to break into the Chinese market.

"That is why I am taking a tech delegation with me to China and will travel to Shenzhen to see some of China's leading tech firms," the chancellor said.

There are now more than 1,500 companies in Tech City and the UK is the highest net exporter of computer games and information services in the G7. These firms see China as potentially a lucrative market for UK tech companies, with the increase in demand for apps as a result of the rollout of mobile broadband seen as providing openings for companies specialising in online games and education technology.

However, the government believes the UK tech sector will be unable to exploit its strengths unless it becomes more familiar with the way Chinese consumers access online content. Sina Weibo is China's version of Twitter, Alibaba is its eBay and Baidu is a search engine offering a similar service to Google. "The tech delegation will meet with all these Chinese companies and platforms," the Treasury said. "By meeting with all these gatekeepers to the Chinese online economy, it is hoped that new e-trade routes will be forged between the UK and China, creating a mutual benefit where UK companies can bring their product to a maturing Chinese market and, in turn, China can take advantage of the UK's skilled workforce and entrepreneurial environment."

Ian Livingstone, chairman of Playdemic, said: "The UK excels in the creative and hi-tech industries and has a huge amount to bring to the Chinese marketplace with the right understanding of the region's digital landscape."


October 12, 2013

London’s Great Exodus


LONDON — OUR neighbors Lauren and Matt and their kids moved out of London to Cambridge the other week. Bibi, Andy and their two left for Bristol in June. Another of my 8-year-old’s classmates and her family are heading out after Christmas.

In my book this is a trend.

The moves are not examples of the life cycle of the striving middle classes. Nor are they examples of middle-class folks being thrown on hard times by the sluggish British economy. The families moving out had good incomes.

Matt, who had been looking for a house for more than three years, summed up the reason for leaving best: “I don’t want to be a slave to a mortgage for the next 25 years.” Given the astronomic rise in house prices here, he wasn’t speaking metaphorically.

This is what happens when property in your city becomes a global reserve currency. For that is what property in London has become, first and foremost.

The property market is no longer about people making a long-term investment in owning their shelter, but a place for the world’s richest people to park their money at an annualized rate of return of around 10 percent. It has made my adopted hometown a no-go area for increasing numbers of the middle class.

According to Britain’s Office for National Statistics, London house prices rose by 9.7 percent between July 2012 and July 2013. In the surrounding suburbs they rose by a mere 2.6 percent. The farther away from London you go, the lower the numbers get. When you finally cross the border into Scotland, house prices actually decline by 2 percent.

The gap between London prices and those of the rest of the country is now at a historic high, and there is only one way to explain it. London houses and apartments are a form of money.

The reasons are simple to understand. In 2011, at the height of the euro zone crisis, citizens of the two countries at the epicenter of the cataclysm — Greece and Italy — bought 400 million pounds’ worth of London bricks and mortar. The Italian and Greek rich, fearing the single currency would collapse, got their money out of euros and parked it someplace where government was relatively stable, and the tax regime was gentle — very, very gentle.

Considering that tax evasion in Italy and Greece was a significant contributory factor to their debt problems, it just seems grotesquely cynical to encourage this kind of behavior.

But that’s what Britain in general and London in particular do. The city is essentially a tax haven with great theater, free museums and formidable dining. If you can demonstrate you have a residence in another country, you are taxed only on your British earnings.

And the savings on property taxes are phenomenal.

The property taxes on Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s $20 million London home come to £2,143.30 per year. That’s $3,430. Clearly, the mayor bought in at the right time. The Google executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, is reported to be house hunting here — he’s looking in the £30 million (about $48 million) price range. Yet he will pay a similar amount in property tax.

There are other facets of London real estate as a medium of exchange. British gross domestic product has yet to return to pre-crash levels, but the financial-services industry has roared back. Banks are paying out big bonuses again, and anyone looking for a safe investment is getting into London property.

From the top of Parliament Hill, on Hampstead Heath, look eastward. Out around the Olympic Park and beyond you see clumps of high-rise apartment buildings sprouting like toadstools in a meadow after a particularly heavy rain. These aren’t being built to meet the calamitous shortage of affordable family housing in the city; they are studio and one- or two-bedroom apartments. The developments are financed by “off plan” buying. Bonus babies look at the blueprints and put their money down with no intention of living in what they’ve bought — just collecting decades of rent.

And it’s not just those who work in London’s financial district, the City, who buy in. Hot money from China, Singapore, India and other countries with fast-growing economies and short traditions of good governance is pouring into London.

When I say property is money I mean it. An astonishing £83 billion worth of properties were purchased in 2012 with no financing — all cash purchases. That’s $133 billion.

I suppose the development that houses equals medium of exchange isn’t all bad. I have friends who were seriously successful “creatives” (architects, cinematographers, commercial and television directors, etc.) in their 30s and 40s. They bought houses when houses were places to live in. Once they turned 50, they passed through a mirror that turned them invisible. Work dried up. They have survived in London via the magic of remortgaging. They accept that their children will never be able to afford to stay on in the city.

The ripple effect of this frankly demented situation is felt all over town. The foreign rich and the City rich (there is some overlap) have made most of the center of London unaffordable to any but their own kind. Those who were once considered rich — in the top 10 percent of earners — now can barely afford to move to my neighborhood, where a typical row house, with three bedrooms (the third bedroom wouldn’t qualify as a closet in Manhattan) and a total living space of around 950 square feet tops a million dollars, three times what it cost in 2000.

THE overall economy of Britain certainly doesn’t justify these prices. Bank lending for businesses is flat, but mortgage lending? Hoo-ha, it’s soaring up and up, and the bulk of it is concentrated in London. It’s as if the whole British economy is based on housing speculation in the capital. David Cameron’s government seems to think that is the case. Mr. Cameron may be pursuing austerity policies elsewhere in the economy, doing virtually nothing to help subsidize employment or industry, but his government has just started a “Help to Buy” program. The government will guarantee up to 15 percent of the purchase price of a house up to £600,000 ($960,000), if you have a 5 percent down payment.

The ordinary uses of the city have been changed beyond recognition. London was never a cheap place to live, but now more expensive property means more expensive everything else: restaurants, cinemas, bars and theater tickets.

And as for services, the minimal tax paid by those who have made property into money means that a city whose population has increased by 14 percent in the last decade can’t afford to build new schools. There will be a capacity shortfall of an estimated 90,000 places by 2015. Children won’t be turned away from school, but class sizes will grow to untenable proportions.

So younger people, like my former neighbors, feel compelled to leave — even though they were making a very decent living. The delicate social ecology that made London’s transformation into a great world city over the last two decades is past the tipping point, I fear.

For the quarter of a century I have lived here a sense of community has defined my life. A very organic sense of London pride has allowed this city to withstand substantial shocks — some welcome, like its transformation into a true cosmopolis; some unwelcome, like jihadist terrorism.

Now it is beginning to feel that the next phase of London’s history will be one of transience, with no allegiance to the city. I wonder whether those just parking their money here by buying real estate will ever be able to provide the communal sensibility to help the city survive the inevitable shocks it will experience in years to come.

How this story will end doesn’t bear thinking about. It seems a very reasonable bet, though, that those who use London property as just another form of money aren’t thinking about it at all.

Michael Goldfarb is a writer whose most recent book is “Emancipation: How Liberating Europe’s Jews From the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance.”

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« Reply #9319 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:16 AM »

Iran refuses to ship out uranium stockpiles but hopes rise of breakthrough

Negotiating team shows willingness to discuss curbs on nuclear programme as it prepares to fly to Geneva for talks with west

Julian Borger, diplomatic editor, and Saeed Kamali Dehghan, Sunday 13 October 2013 15.28 BST   

Iran has said it would not allow any of its enriched uranium stockpile to be shipped abroad, but could sanction other curbs on its nuclear programme to reassure the international community, it is not interested in building a bomb.

The statement, the clearest outline of Iran's negotiating position since the election in June of President Hassan Rouhani, was delivered as an Iranian negotiating team prepared to fly out for nuclear talks in Geneva on Tuesday, with hopes of a breakthrough at their highest point in four years. A senior member of the team, the deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, told Iranian state television: "Of course we will negotiate regarding the form, amount, and various levels of [uranium] enrichment, but the shipping of materials out of the country is our red line."

In earlier rounds of nuclear negotiations, a group of six major powers had suggested a confidence-building measure by which Iran would stop producing 20%-enriched uranium – the main proliferation concern – ship out its stockpile and shut down its underground enrichment plant at Fordow, in exchange for limited sanctions relief, on trade in gold, precious metals and petrochemicals.

The 20% enriched uranium is seen as a particular worry because it could relatively easily and quickly be turned into weapons-grade uranium (90% enriched and above – the percentages refer to the concentration of the highly fissile isotope, U-235). Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu has said that Iran's accumulation of enough 20% uranium to make a bomb – about 250kg – would trigger a military response. The Iranian stockpile is currently about 190kg.

However, a refusal to ship this medium-enriched uranium out of the country will not necessarily be a deal-breaker in Geneva. In previous discussions, the option has been floated of keeping it under surveillance by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a remote part of Iran such as the island of Kish. Furthermore, the clear statement from Araqchi that his country was willing to accept curbs on its future enrichment activities will be seen as encouraging by the diplomats arriving in Switzerland from the six-nation group: the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China. The group is chaired by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

After positive talks at the UN general assembly last month, Ashton asked Iran to send its proposals early so a response could be prepared before this week's two-day talks. But the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, who will lead the delegation to Geneva, said on his English-language Twitter account on Friday: "We will present our views, as agreed, in Geneva, not before. No Rush, No Speculations Please (of course if you can help it!!!)"

Four years ago in Geneva, Iran struck a tentative agreement to stop 20% enrichment, but the deal was later rejected by conservatives in Tehran and ultimately by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

However, an Iranian official said President Rouhani was in a much stronger political position in Tehran than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was locked in a long-running power struggle with Khamenei.

"Rouhani has the full backing of the Supreme Leader, but not only that. He is respected as a veteran of the [1980s] war with Iraq, by the military and the Revolutionary Guards," the official said. "People feel that Rouhani has always been with us. With Ahmadinejad they didn't feel that way. They didn't know where he had come from."

The official said that the Rouhani government was confident a deal could be done. When asked whether Iran would be prepared to accept strict curbs on its enrichment programme and more stringent IAEA inspections in return for sanctions relief and the recognition of Iran's right to enrich uranium in principle, the Iranian official nodded. But he added: "Everything depends on how this is done, the sequencing. Rouhani and Zarif has to be able to show he is gaining something for Iran - that this is not a trick."

William Luers, a veteran US diplomat who runs the Iran Project advocating reconciliation with Tehran, said: "I get the impression from talking to both Zarif and Rouhani … that they have made a decision that they want to open up their economy to the world again, and are prepared to do substantial things to make that happen. And they will say: 'We want to know what you will do in terms of sanctions relief.'"If progress is made at the talks, the impasse between Congress and President Barack Obama could become a significant obstacle as most US sanctions have been imposed by Congress and would require congressional approval to be limited permanently. However, European officials point out that Obama has the power to suspend US sanctions and that the EU could independently lift its oil embargo and financial sanctions if it was thought necessary to maintain momentum towards a comprehensive deal.

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« Reply #9320 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:19 AM »

October 13, 2013

To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq


PARIS — More than a decade before the international agency that monitors chemical weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, John R. Bolton marched into the office of its boss to inform him that he would be fired.

“He told me I had 24 hours to resign,” said José Bustani, who was director general of the agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. “And if I didn’t I would have to face the consequences.”

Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state and later the American ambassador to the United Nations, told Mr. Bustani that the Bush administration was unhappy with his management style.

But Mr. Bustani, 68, who had been re-elected unanimously just 11 months earlier, refused, and weeks later, on April 22, 2002, he was ousted in a special session of the 145-nation chemical weapons watchdog.

The story behind his ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then. But with the agency thrust into the spotlight with news of the Nobel Prize last week, Mr. Bustani agreed to discuss what he said was the real reason: the Bush administration’s fear that chemical weapons inspections in Iraq would conflict with Washington’s rationale for invading it. Several officials involved in the events, some speaking publicly about them for the first time, confirmed his account.

Mr. Bolton insists that Mr. Bustani was ousted for incompetence. In a telephone interview on Friday, he confirmed that he had confronted Mr. Bustani. “I told him if he left voluntarily we would give him a gracious and dignified exit,” he said.

As Mr. Bustani tells the story, the campaign against him began in late 2001, after Iraq and Libya had indicated that they wanted to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty that the watchdog agency oversees. To join, countries have to provide a list of stockpiles and agree to the inspection and destruction of weapons, as Syria did last month after applying. Inspectors from the agency were making plans to visit Iraq in late January 2002, he said.

“We had a lot of discussions because we knew it would be difficult,” Mr. Bustani, who is now Brazil’s ambassador to France, said Friday in his embassy office in Paris. The plans, which he had conveyed to a number of countries, “caused an uproar in Washington,” he said. Soon, he was receiving warnings from American and other diplomats.

“By the end of December 2001, it became evident that the Americans were serious about getting rid of me,” he said. “People were telling me, ‘They want your head.’ ”

Mr. Bolton called on Mr. Bustani a second time. “I tried to persuade him not to put the organization through the vote,” Mr. Bolton said.

But still Mr. Bustani refused, and his fate was sealed. The United States had marshaled its allies, and at an extraordinary session, Mr. Bustani was ousted by a vote of 48 to 7, with 43 abstentions. He was reportedly the first head of an international organization to be pushed out of office this way, and some diplomats said the pressure campaign had made them uneasy.

Mr. Bolton’s office had also circulated a document that accused Mr. Bustani of abrasive conduct and taking “ill-considered initiatives” without consulting with the United States and other member nations, diplomats said.

But Mr. Bustani and some senior officials, both in Brazil and the United States, say Washington acted because it believed that the organization under Mr. Bustani threatened to become an obstacle to the administration’s plans to invade Iraq. As justification, Washington was claiming that Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, possessed chemical weapons, but Mr. Bustani said his own experts had told him that those weapons were destroyed in the 1990s, after the Persian Gulf war.

“Everybody knew there weren’t any,” he said. “An inspection would make it obvious there were no weapons to destroy. This would completely nullify the decision to invade.”

Mr. Bolton disputed that account. “He made that argument after we invaded,” he said. Twice during the interview, Mr. Bolton said, “The kind of person who believes that argument is the kind who puts tin foil on his ears to ward off cosmic waves.”

But diplomats in The Hague said officials in Washington had circulated a document saying that the chemical weapons watchdog under Mr. Bustani was seeking an “inappropriate role in Iraq,” which was really a matter for the United Nations Security Council.

Avis Bohlen, a career diplomat who served as Mr. Bolton’s deputy before her retirement, said in a telephone interview from Washington on Saturday that others besides Mr. Bolton believed that Mr. Bustani had “stepped over some lines” in connection with Iraq and other matters. “The episode was very unpleasant for all concerned,” she said.

Speaking from São Paulo, Brazil, on Saturday, Celso Lafer, the former Brazilian foreign minister, said that in early 2002, he was asked to meet privately with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who a year earlier had praised Mr. Bustani’s leadership in a letter.

Mr. Lafer said Mr. Powell told him, “ ‘I have people in the administration who don’t want Bustani to stay, and my role is to inform you of this.’ ”

“It was a complicated process,” Mr. Lafer recalled, “with the United States and particularly John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld wanting the head of Bustani.”

“My view,” he continued, “is that the neocons wanted the freedom to act without multilateral constraints and, with Bustani wanting to act with more independence, this would limit their freedom of action.”

Getting Mr. Bustani fired took some doing. Washington failed to obtain a no-confidence motion from the chemical weapons watchdog’s executive council. Then the United States, which was responsible for 22 percent of the agency’s budget at the time, threatened to cut off its financing and warned that several other countries, including Japan, would follow suit, diplomats have said.

Mr. Bustani recalled that the ambassador from Britain, one of the agency’s most committed member nations, told him that London had sent instructions to vote with Washington. With the United States and Japan covering almost half the budget, the organization ran the risk of collapsing, Mr. Bustani said.

On Friday, while fielding a flow of messages in his office, Mr. Bustani said he felt gratified about the Nobel Prize news and did not regret his days at the agency. “I had to start it from the beginning, create a code of conduct, a program of technical assistance,” he said. “We almost doubled the membership.”

He reflected on the contrast between Iraq and Syria. Inspectors from the agency are there now, cataloging the government’s stockpiles of chemical weapons as a step forward in Syria’s civil war, now in its third year.

“In 2002, the U.S. was determined to oppose Iraq joining the convention against the weapons, which it did not even have,” he said. “This time, joining the convention and having the inspectors present is part of the Syrian peace plan. It is such a fundamental shift.”

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« Reply #9321 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:21 AM »

October 13, 2013

In India’s Politics, Jail Time Is a Badge of Honor


DALTENGANJ, India — When he decided to run for a parliamentary seat from this impoverished, and mainly low-caste constituency in northeast India, Kameshwar Baitha made no effort to sugarcoat his criminal record.

Obediently, he cataloged the serious charges pending against him, all of which he says are false. There were 17 for murder, 22 for attempted murder, 6 for assault with a dangerous weapon, 5 for theft, 2 for extortion, and so on, a legacy from Mr. Baitha’s previous career as a leader of the local Maoist insurgency. On top of that was the fact that he was in jail.

But this did not hurt him with voters here, noted his son, Babban Kumar, who hopes to follow his father into politics. With people in this area, who look to elected leaders as Robin Hood figures, it may have helped.

“You have to fight against something, how else can you get into politics?” Mr. Kumar said. “Without going to jail, you cannot be a big politician.”

New impulses are rippling through Indian politics this year, as a growing, urbanized middle class demands that hundreds of tainted politicians be driven from the system.

In Delhi, crowds driven by Internet campaigns have rallied around an anticorruption platform, holding brooms to symbolize the coming cleansing. The Supreme Court, sensing the public mood, ruled in July that it was illegal for politicians who had been convicted of crimes to continue holding office by simply filing an appeal against their convictions. The ruling would disqualify politicians sentenced to more than two years in prison by a lower court. This change, which could uproot formidable political forces, was endorsed this month by the governing coalition’s crown prince, Rahul Gandhi.

The effort will meet its greatest challenge in another India — the old one, where voting is still largely driven by caste. In the tribal region that Mr. Baitha represents, the vast majority of elected officials face criminal charges, most related to corruption, but many for violent crimes. Voters typically dismiss such charges as trumped-up, one more attempt by elites to crush the champions of the poor.

These are some of the things that allowed Mr. Baitha to discuss the subject comfortably in the red-velvet seating area of a government guesthouse, as a ceiling fan turned slowly overhead. He urged his guest to imagine if everyone convicted of a crime were barred from politics.

“The whole Parliament will be empty,” he said. “It will become a joke.”

A big test of the new measures’ effect will come in the case of Lalu Prasad, the longtime leader of the neighboring state of Bihar, who was disqualified from holding office and running in coming elections this month after being sentenced on corruption charges. The case against him had proceeded at a snail’s pace for 17 years, as Mr. Prasad had thumbed his nose at prosecutors.

A master of populist showmanship who came from a caste of cow herders, he transformed his court dates into political theater. He arrived for one session in the back of a bicycle rickshaw, surrounded by throngs of adoring supporters, and once left jail on the back of a small elephant.

The dance seemed to end with his sentencing. But last week, sitting inside the Birsa Munda jail in Ranchi, it seemed he was perfectly capable of managing his still-formidable political empire. Scores of aides and supporters were clustered outside the jail’s iron gate, bearing coconuts and handwritten letters. Prison guards let visitors in and out at regular intervals, as if they were operating a reception center. The Telegraph, Ranchi’s main English-language daily newspaper, reported that he had summoned a tailor to his cell.

When a local anticorruption activist filed a complaint, charging that the visits were a major violation of prison regulations, Mr. Prasad decided to keep a “low profile” by receiving visitors only after 3 p.m., the newspaper reported. His visitors all said the charges were false. “People in Delhi don’t want the poor people to rise,” said one of them, Kumar Lakshman, 28. “Lalu is causing the poor people to rise.”

Nationwide, the number of Indian officeholders facing criminal charges is extraordinary: 30 percent of winners in national and regional elections since 2008, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms, a research group based in New Delhi. The reasons are manifold; as India’s democratic system evolved, candidates depended heavily on thuggish “muscle men,” and later “money men,” to influence voters and sweep them into office. Corruption is widespread.

But it is also true that spending limits are so low that virtually any candidate bent on winning would have to be willing to break the law. The penalty for filing false charges is negligible. And India’s independence movement was founded on civil disobedience, so lawbreaking is enmeshed in the political culture.

It is not yet clear whether this will change now, said Neerja Chowdhury, a journalist and political commentator. Major parties may steer clear of candidates facing criminal charges, fearful of losing a seat in case of disqualification. But they may also consider the outpouring of popular support extended to Mr. Prasad or Jaganmohan Reddy, another regional leader facing corruption charges. “It is a strange paradox, there is huge sympathy for him, and by all accounts he is gaining ground,” Ms. Chowdhury said of Mr. Reddy. Corruption, she added, “is more of an urban middle-class issue rather than for groups who are in ascendance.”

A similar dynamic drove the improbable rise of Mr. Baitha, 60, a former revolutionary who received visitors in a snow-white tunic and pajamas, discreetly accepting a packet of chewing tobacco from an aide.

Mr. Baitha’s region erupted in a peasant rebellion in the 1970s, as Maoist fighters clashed with private armies fielded by high-caste landlords. The authorities have identified Mr. Baitha as an expert in explosives who masterminded many attacks. He denies this, saying he served strictly as an ideological leader after his organization was banned by the Indian government in 1986 and never took up arms.

Mr. Baitha decided to enter politics after he was jailed pending trial in 2005. With time on his hands, he reread the writings of Mao and Lenin, considered the effects of economic growth and technology on Indian society and began to question the Maoists’ confidence that an armed struggle would sweep away the government in New Delhi.

“It was a difficult period for me, but I decided,” he said. “I changed my ideology.”

He had such high name recognition in Jharkhand, he said, that he easily won the seat without leaving the jail to campaign. There was, however, the somewhat delicate matter of the criminal charges pending against him; of all 4,807 candidates elected since 2008, he had the longest record, according to the Association for Democratic Reforms. Voters made it clear, however, that the charges did not matter, and he said most of the cases were dropped after he was elected to Parliament.

People approached in Jharkhand’s capital said the accusations were false, advanced by Mr. Baitha’s political opponents. Others conceded that there was truth in the charges, but said it had in no way damaged Mr. Baitha’s image. Santosh Kumar Dube, who holds a municipal office in Ranchi, said he believed that Mr. Baitha “fought with arms, and participated in some massacres” during his time as a Maoist. But he added: “All these charges against him were made in the process of fighting for poor people. People are not afraid of him.”

For his part, Mr. Baitha admitted some anxiety about the changes in Indian politics, which he acknowledged could have prevented him from running in the first place. The new rigor over leaders’ criminal convictions, he said, has put a powerful new weapon in the hands of political opposition and has called into question the judgment of voters, who are, he said, perfectly aware who they are voting into office.

“I have this concern, that my political career ends because of these charges,” he said, but then he collected himself.

“I have full faith it will not happen to me,” he said. “I have faith in the judicial system.”

Hari Kumar and Malavika Vyawahare contributed reporting.


Indian temple stampede: officials launch investigation after scores left dead

Officials say many people injured on bridge at Ratangarh village during Navratri festival have now died

Jason Burke in Delhi, Monday 14 October 2013 10.37 BST   

Indian authorities have ordered a judicial investigation into the stampede near a temple in central India that killed more than 100 pilgrims on Sunday.

The death toll from the stampede at the temple in a remote part of central Madhya Pradesh state has risen to 115 after many succumbed to injuries, officials say.

Nearly half a million pilgrims had gathered at Ratangarh village temple to honour the Hindu mother goddess Durga on the last day of the popular 10-day Navratri festival. Thousands were crossing a bridge over the Sindh river leading to the temple when rumours spread that the narrow structure would collapse. Panic triggered a stampede that police appear to have tried to control with baton charges, worsening the situation.

At least half of the casualties were women and children, officials say.

Fatal crushes are not rare in India, where huge gatherings at religious festivals often expose poor planning by underprepared, poorly equipped and ill-trained local officials.

A similar tragedy killed 56 in the same location in 2006 when pilgrims were washed away after the river surged following a release of water upstream. The 500-metre-long bridge where the latest stampede occurred was constructed to prevent a recurrence of that disaster.

Earlier this year, 36 people died in a crush at a train station in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh as they travelled to the huge Kumbh Mela festival. Delayed trains had led to massive overcrowding and the collapse of a footbridge.

More than 100 worshippers were killed in a stampede in January 2011 in the southern state of Kerala, while 224 pilgrims died in September 2008 at a temple in Rajasthan.

Witnesses in each incident described police using metal-tipped bamboo staves known as lathis in an effort to control the crowds.

DK Arya, the deputy inspector general of police in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh state, told the Press Trust of India that police wielding sticks had charged the crowd in an effort to contain the panic. People retaliated by hurling stones, leaving one officer badly injured.

More than 100 people were recovering in hospital.

State authorities have ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident and announced compensation of 150,000 rupees (£1,500) to the families of the dead.

Sonia Gandhi, the leader of India's ruling Congress party, expressed "shock and deep anguish over the tragic incident", according to a party statement.

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« Reply #9322 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:25 AM »

Hard road to world domination for Chinese

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 13, 2013 10:05 EDT

In the global contest for business Chinese brands struggle to rival big Western and Japanese names, but some are now looking to reinvent their identities to overcome image and political hurdles.

The world’s second largest economy does not have a single one of the world’s top 100 brands, as compiled by marketing consultancy Interbrand.

And according to a survey by HD Trade Services, 94 percent of Americans are unable to name a single Chinese brand, with a third saying they would not buy one they knew to be Chinese.

“Brand China has many problems — transparency, ethical practices, treatment of employees, the quality of the products,” Richard Edelman, head of public relations giant Edelman told a World Economic Forum meeting in Dalian.

“And unfortunately the China reputation for companies is too much overshadowed by reputation of government.”

Chinese phone security company NQ Mobile dealt with the problem by effectively presenting itself as an American firm.

It created an entirely new headquarters in the Lone Star state, listed on Wall Street, has an American co-CEO brought over from US banking giant Citigroup, and its English website proclaims: “Made in Dallas, Texas”.

Henry Lin, the group’s founder, told AFP: “All our employees in the US are American people… the consumer will feel it’s a US company.

“We divided the global market in two parts, developing countries, for which the headquarters is Beijing… and developed countries, with a headquarters in Dallas.

“If you can be successful in the US, you would be successful in western Europe, Japan, Australia.”

Others are simply buying foreign firms, as decades of inward investment into China begins to move in the other direction.

Last month a $7.1 billion takeover by Shuanghui International was agreed by shareholders of US pork giant Smithfield Foods, the biggest ever Chinese acquisition of a US company.

Chinese car manufacturer Geely bought out Sweden’s Volvo, while its rival Chery created a new brand, Qoros, in partnership with an Israeli group.

Most symbolically, electronics group Lenovo took over the PC arm of venerable US computer firm IBM in 2005, and went on to become the world’s biggest PC maker.

‘Corporate suicide’

But others prefer to stick with their own name, such as the world’s top fridge maker Haier, or telecoms giant Huawei — which has been described as one of the world’s most controversial companies.

It generates 67 percent of its sales from outside China, and last year was listed among the top five companies in the world for numbers of patents.

But despite marketing its flagship smartphone as the world’s slimmest, it struggles to compete with South Korea’s Samsung and Apple of the US — and faces accusations that it could be a spy agency masquerading as a commercial enterprise.

The US Congress last year ordered Huawei be excluded from public contracts, and Australia has banned the firm from providing its broadband networks.

Huawei’s vice president Scott Sykes told AFP such moves were down to protectionism and fear of China.

“We’ve been in business for 26 years, we operate in 140 countries… and there has never been a security issue of any kind, in all that time and all these places,” he said.

“We were accused of the potential for doing that, but nobody has ever proved that.

“Our motivation is commercial, if we ever do anything on the behalf of the Chinese government that would be corporate suicide, we’ll lose 70 percent of our revenues, it would be foolish.”

He prefers to stress Huawei’s research and development spending, and points out that many of the West’s biggest companies themselves have their products assembled in vast factories in China.

“The difference is that our headquarters is in China… this is about trade protectionism, it’s about fear and lack of trust of China.”

Sykes, an American hired in 2011, is not the only foreigner recruited by Chinese firms to a high-profile role.

In September, electronics company Xiaomi hired Hugo Barra, a former Google vice-president in charge of its Android operating system, to help it develop.

When Apple founder Steve Jobs died, many Chinese media outlets pointed out that despite the occasional figure such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma, the emergence of such a major entrepreneur in China was unlikely because of an educational system that discourages creativity and risk taking.

But for James McGregor, China president of the US strategy group APCO Worldwide, it is the domination of the state sector that stifles innovation the most.

“China’s private sector can innovate,” he said, pointing to WeChat, a messaging app for smartphones made by Chinese Internet giant Tencent.

With 400 million users, only 100 million of them in China, WeChat is the fifth most downloaded app in the world according to GlobalWebIndex — even ahead of Twitter.

But it too has had its hitches.

Early this year, several media outlets said Tencent had for a time imposed worldwide censorship on certain words considered “sensitive” in China — a charge denied by the company.

Nonetheless McGregor said: “It’s a Chinese product, it’s very efficient, it’s getting worldwide because it’s a brilliant product.”

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« Reply #9323 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:27 AM »

Cristina Fernández out of hospital

President of Argentina under doctor's orders to rest for a month following surgery to remove blood clot on brain

Associated Press in Buenos Aires, Monday 14 October 2013 06.41 BST   

Cristina Fernández, the president of Argentina, was released from hospital on Sunday, five days after undergoing surgery for a cranial blood clot, but doctors said she needs another month of rest.

Doctors at the Fundacion Favaloro hospital issued a statement saying she should be in "strict repose" and should avoid air travel for 30 days. Despite the restriction her spokesman Alfredo Scoccimarro said she was recovering well and is "in excellent spirits".

That period of rest would keep her out of the campaign for legislative elections on 27 October. Polls indicate that her party could suffer losses.

Supporters cheered and chanted slogans as her official car drove out of the hospital under heavy guard.

Fernández, 60, underwent surgery on Tuesday to drain a blood clot that was pressing on her brain and causing pain. Officials said it was caused by a previously unreported blow to the head that she suffered on 12 August.

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« Reply #9324 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:29 AM »

Brazil creating secure email system to beat U.S. surveillance

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 13, 2013 19:57 EDT

AFP – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff announced Sunday that her government was creating a secure email system to try and shield official communications from spying by the United States and other countries.

“We need more security on our messages to prevent possible espionage,” Rousseff said on Twitter, ordering the Federal Data Processing Service, or SERPRO, to implement a safe email system throughout the federal government.

The agency, which falls under Brazil’s Finance Ministry, develops secure systems for online tax returns and also creates new passports.

The move came after Rousseff publicly condemned spying against Brazilian government agencies attributed to the United States and Canada.

“This is the first step toward extending the privacy and inviolability of official posts,” Rousseff said.

After bringing her complaints against US intelligence agencies to the United Nations General Assembly last month and canceling a state visit to Washington, Rousseff announced that the country will host an international conference on Internet governance in April.

In recent months, Brazilian media outlets have published documents showing that the US National Security Agency’s spied on Rousseff’s official communications, her close associates and state-controlled oil giant Petrobras.

The information was revealed by Edward Snowden, a 30-year-old former NSA contractor who has sought refuge in Russia and is wanted by the United States after revealing details of the agency’s massive snooping activities.

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« Reply #9325 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:33 AM »

Fracking comes to Saudi Arabia despite limited water resources

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:16 EDT

The U.S. shale gas boom will spread “far and wide,” the head of Saudi Aramco said Monday, announcing the state oil giant was set to supply gas to a massive Saudi power plant project.

The world’s largest oil exporter launched an unconventional gas program in northern Saudi Arabia two years ago, as it sought alternative domestic fuel supplies that would allow an expansion of lucrative oil exports.

“We are now ready to commit gas for the development of a 1,000 megawatt power plant, which will feed a massive phosphate mining and manufacturing center in the region,” company president Khalid al-Falih told the World Energy Congress underway in Daegu, South Korea.

Oil Minister Ali Naimi estimated in March that Saudi Arabia had 600 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas.

With domestic energy consumption rising, Saudi Arabia has less oil available for the exports on which its economy depends, and shale gas is seen as a possible solution.

But experts note that the vast amounts of water needed to produce shale gas by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would be a major challenge.

Al-Falih gave no details as to how much gas Aramco could commit to the power plant, or when supplies might start, but he was bullish on the sector’s overall future.

“I believe the US shale revolution will spread far and wide… The rush, ladies and gentlemen, is definitely on,” he told the Congress in a keynote speech.

The Congress, which takes place every three years, draws leading energy officials from around the world and is dubbed the “Energy Olympics”.

Highlighting what he described as the world’s “colossal endowment” of fossil fuels, Al-Falih said the main challenge of providing energy for a growing world population lay in improving end-use efficiency.

“It is not preordained that demand has to rise to unsustainable levels, even if we provide everyone with sufficient energy,” he said.

“Improved energy intensity is our low hanging fruit and can deliver similar economic growth using considerably less energy,” he added.

Al-Falih said the world’s current gas reserves of more than 7,000 trillion cubic feet had “enormous room” to grow, as the unconventional gas revolution has expanded the world’s technically recoverable gas resources to 30,000 trillion cubic feet.

“If we could economically recover them, they could meet global gas demand at current rates for more than 250 years,” he said.

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« Reply #9326 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:35 AM »

10/14/2013 01:01 PM

Boxing in Congo: Boys Learn to Throw Punches, Not Grenades

By Johannes Korge

He was a child soldier in Congo until a bomb fragment cost him his eye. Today, the boxer known as Kibomango teaches young men his skills in the hopes it will keep them from joining rebel militias.

As Kibomango trains, pummeling a grey punching bag with his fists, the red sand crunches under his feet. There's no boxing ring in Goma, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There's not even a real boxing club. Kibomango and his boys work out in a tiny room in the football stadium's catacombs. The young men follow his fists with their eyes. Many of them have killed people in their previous lives as child soldiers. Kibomango wants to prevent them from doing it again.

The 35-year-old has wide shoulders and impressive muscles, which come in handy, given his real opponents -- rebel recruiters who stand on the street in front of his boxing club. They whisper to the boys: "Come to us. We'll pay you. We have women." Despite knowing what really awaits them in the jungle, some give in and disappear with them into the militias.

Goma is Congo's unofficial rebel capital. Militias maraud in the surrounding forests, and in December 2012, the M23 militia even occupied the city for 12 days. Although it's calm right now, the rebels are never far off. The poverty in the slums drives new recruits and veterans back into their arms.

Italian photographer Francesca Tosarelli has visited and even trained with Kibomango. She travelled to the eastern Congo crisis region in early 2013. There, she photographed female fighters in rebel groups and spent time with Kibomango and his boys. "He's a father figure for the young men, they look up to him," says Tosarelli. "They're all angry and frustrated. When they box they can let it all out."

Kibomango calls his group -- which meets every morning to train at 6 a.m. -- the "Friendship Club."

"I feel at ease when I see them practicing," he told the US broadcaster National Public Radio earlier this year. "Considering what we passed through, when I see young people practicing like this, it pleases me a lot."

A Grim Personal Connection

Kibomango knows exactly what horrors many of his fighters have both experienced and inflicted on others. His left eye is missing and scar tissue covers the eye socket. The injury is not from boxing. Before he began his school, Kibomango -- born Balezi Bagunda, though now people in Goma call him by his boxing name -- scoured the Congo as a militia member. He fought and killed people until a bomb fragment hit him in the eye, making him useless with a weapon.

He still steps into the ring, despite his disability. He even calls himself Congo's boxing champion, though the exact circumstances of that title win are nebulous. Whether real of not, it's not helping him financially; he doesn't make any money through boxing. Kibomango supports his extended family by working as an auto mechanic.

Every day, he works on the streets of Goma inside or underneath different vehicles. He can fix any car, he says, and passes those skills along to his young boxers too. He knows that a paid job will make the rebels' offers less enticing.

Training is held under the football stadium before the workday begins. The sport helps the boys express their anger and forget their traumas, but Kibomango impresses upon them that boxing isn't just pure aggression. His message: Technique, patience and self-control make a good fighter. He wants his fighters to pass this on. He wants to turn them into versions of himself, preventing other young people from falling into the rebels' traps.

But he also understands that his fight is largely futile. Too many young people are just hanging around on the streets of the Congo, and the recruiters' offers are too seductive. But in the ring, he's never run away from a fight or an overpowering foe. That's why, every morning at 6 a.m., he stands in front of his students and wallops the punching bag. He's fighting for his vision of the Congo, a land in which the only things flying are fists, not grenades.

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« Reply #9327 on: Oct 14, 2013, 06:38 AM »

Seven Red Cross workers kidnapped by gunmen in northern Syria

Abduction of six International Committee of the Red Cross workers and one volunteer took place in Idlib province

Associated Press
The Guardian, Sunday 13 October 2013 18.39 BST   

Gunmen kidnapped a team of seven workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross after stopping their convoy early on Sunday along a roadside in northern Syria, a spokesman said.

Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the ICRC in Damascus, said the abduction took place near the town of Saraqeb in Idlib province at about 11.30am local time (08.30 GMT) as the team was returning to Damascus. Six of the people kidnapped are ICRC staff and one is a volunteer from the Syrian Red Crescent, he said.

Schorno declined to provide the nationalities of the six ICRC employees.

Syria's state news agency, quoting an anonymous official, said the gunmen opened fire on the ICRC team's four vehicles before seizing the Red Cross workers. The news agency blamed terrorists, a term the government uses to refer to those opposed to President Bashar al-Assad.

Schorno said the team of seven had been in the field since October 10 to assess the medical situation in the area and to look at how to provide medical aid. He said the part of northern Syria where they were seized by definition is a difficult area to go in.

Much of the countryside in Idlib province, as well as the rest of northern Syria, has fallen into the hands of rebels over the past year and kidnappings have become rife, particularly of aid workers and foreign journalists.


October 14, 2013

Syrian Rebels Face Pressure to Let Inspectors Visit Chemical Sites


LONDON — Pressure mounted on Syrian rebels on Monday to permit access to chemical weapons sites in areas under their control, as the head of the international watchdog on such toxic munitions said the rapidly shifting lines in the civil war made it difficult for inspectors to reach some locations.

Ahmet Uzumcu, director general of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last Friday, told the BBC that the government of President Bashar al-Assad had been cooperating with inspectors who had reached 5 out of 20 chemical weapons production sites.

But some other sites had “access problems,” he said, reflecting perils facing inspectors who are trying to dismantle chemical weapons facilities as the war rages around them.

Some roads “change hands from one day to another, which is why we appeal to all sides in Syria to support this mission, to be cooperative and not render this mission more difficult,” Mr. Uzumcu said. “It’s already challenging.”

A Western diplomat in the Arab world, moreover, said that while the Syrian government was legally responsible for dismantling its chemical weapons, its opponents should cooperate in the process, as several chemical weapons sites were close to confrontation lines or within rebel-held territory.

“The international community also expects full cooperation from the opposition,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

There were clear signs from inspectors in Syria “that the government is delivering on its responsibilities and the opposition needs to hear a clear signal that they must play their part, too, in making sure that the inspectors have free and unhindered access to the chemical weapons sites with complete safety and security,” the diplomat said. “However divided the opposition might be, it would look very bad if the government was seen to be cooperating fully, while inspections were held up because of problems with the opposition.”

The inspectors began arriving in Syria on Oct. 1 under an agreement brokered by the United States and Russia for Syria to dismantle its chemical weapons capability after a poison gas attack on Aug. 21 in a suburb of Damascus. Mr. Assad has denied accusations from the United States that Syrian government forces were responsible for the attack, which killed hundreds of people.

The agreement to destroy Syria’s arsenal defused American and French threats to launch retaliatory military strikes against targets in Syria in reprisal for the attack.

Mr. Uzumcu said inspectors from his organization, which is based in The Hague, had been so close to the fighting that mortar shells had exploded “next to the hotel where our team is staying, and there are exchanges for fire not far from where they go.”

Last Friday, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to the organization, which was founded in 1997. The organization and the United Nations together have a team of about 60 experts and support staff in Syria, the BBC reported.

Mr. Uzumcu said the Nobel award had come as “a very big boost of morale to them.”

“They are working in very challenging circumstances in the field,” he said. “In awarding the prize, they said it was about recognizing the work of the past 16 years, but also the work that lies ahead, in Syria.”

The inspectors are facing a tight deadline set by the United Nations to complete their work by mid-2014.

In a report to the United Nations Security Council on Oct. 7, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged that the most difficult phase of work would start in November, when the teams of inspectors and United Nations personnel — a total of about 100 people — turn to the task of destroying an estimated 1,000 tons of precursor chemicals and weapons after disabling production facilities.

On Monday, Syria became the 190th member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons by formally acceding to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which is intended to rid the world of such munitions. Officials at the organization said there would be no formal ceremony of accession.

Highlighting the perils of working in Syria, activist groups there said a car bombing in a northwestern market town under rebel control in Idlib Province killed at least 12 people on Monday, The Associated Press reported. Some activists put the number of dead as high as 20.

Since it began as a crackdown on civil protest in March 2011, the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives. In recent days, car bombings appear to have become more prevalent, with two such attacks near the state television building in Damascus on Sunday.

Alan Cowell reported from London, and Anne Barnard from Beirut, Lebanon.

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« Reply #9328 on: Oct 14, 2013, 07:15 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

October 13, 2013

Privacy Fears Grow as Cities Increase Surveillance


OAKLAND, Calif. — Federal grants of $7 million awarded to this city were meant largely to help thwart terror attacks at its bustling port. But instead, the money is going to a police initiative that will collect and analyze reams of surveillance data from around town — from gunshot-detection sensors in the barrios of East Oakland to license plate readers mounted on police cars patrolling the city’s upscale hills.

The new system, scheduled to begin next summer, is the latest example of how cities are compiling and processing large amounts of information, known as big data, for routine law enforcement. And the system underscores how technology has enabled the tracking of people in many aspects of life.

The police can monitor a fire hose of social media posts to look for evidence of criminal activities; transportation agencies can track commuters’ toll payments when drivers use an electronic pass; and the National Security Agency, as news reports this summer revealed, scooped up telephone records of millions of cellphone customers in the United States.

Like the Oakland effort, other pushes to use new surveillance tools in law enforcement are supported with federal dollars. The New York Police Department, aided by federal financing, has a big data system that links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists. Police in Massachusetts have used federal money to buy automated license plate scanners. And police in Texas have bought a drone with homeland security money, something that Alameda County, which Oakland is part of, also tried but shelved after public protest.

Proponents of the Oakland initiative, formally known as the Domain Awareness Center, say it will help the police reduce the city’s notoriously high crime rates. But critics say the program, which will create a central repository of surveillance information, will also gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents, raising legal and ethical questions about tracking people so closely.

Libby Schaaf, an Oakland City Council member, said that because of the city’s high crime rate, “it’s our responsibility to take advantage of new tools that become available.” She added, though, that the center would be able to “paint a pretty detailed picture of someone’s personal life, someone who may be innocent.”

For example, if two men were caught on camera at the port stealing goods and driving off in a black Honda sedan, Oakland authorities could look up where in the city the car had been in the last several weeks. That could include stoplights it drove past each morning and whether it regularly went to see Oakland A’s baseball games.

For law enforcement, data mining is a big step toward more complete intelligence gathering. The police have traditionally made arrests based on small bits of data — witness testimony, logs of license plate readers, footage from a surveillance camera perched above a bank machine. The new capacity to collect and sift through all that information gives the authorities a much broader view of the people they are investigating.

For the companies that make big data tools, projects like Oakland’s are a big business opportunity. Microsoft built the technology for the New York City program. I.B.M. has sold data-mining tools for Las Vegas and Memphis.

Oakland has a contract with the Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, to build its system. That company has earned the bulk of its $12 billion in annual revenue from military contracts. As the federal military budget has fallen, though, SAIC has diversified to other government agency projects, though not without problems.

The company’s contract to help modernize the New York City payroll system, using new technology like biometric readers, resulted in reports of kickbacks. Last year, the company paid the city $500 million to avoid a federal prosecution. The amount was believed to be the largest ever paid to settle accusations of government contract fraud. SAIC declined to comment.

Even before the initiative, Oakland spent millions of dollars on traffic cameras, license plate readers and a network of sound sensors to pick up gunshots. Still, the city has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. And an internal audit in August 2012 found that the police had spent $1.87 million on technology tools that did not work properly or remained unused because their vendors had gone out of business.

The new center will be far more ambitious. From a central location, it will electronically gather data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, analyze that data and display some of the information on a bank of giant monitors.

The city plans to staff the center around the clock. If there is an incident, workers can analyze the many sources of data to give leads to the police, fire department or Coast Guard. In the absence of an incident, how the data would be used and how long it would be kept remain largely unclear.

The center will collect feeds from cameras at the port, traffic cameras, license plate readers and gunshot sensors. The center will also be integrated next summer with a database that allows police to tap into reports of 911 calls. Renee Domingo, the city’s emergency services coordinator, said school surveillance cameras, as well as video data from the regional commuter rail system and state highways, may be added later.

Far less advanced surveillance programs have elicited resistance at the local and state level. Iowa City, for example, recently imposed a moratorium on some surveillance devices, including license plate readers. The Seattle City Council forced its police department to return a federally financed drone to the manufacturer.

In Virginia, the state police purged a database of millions of license plates collected by cameras, including some at political rallies, after the state’s attorney general said the method of collecting and saving the data violated state law. But for a cash-starved city like Oakland, the expectation of more federal financing makes the project particularly attractive. The City Council approved the program in late July, but public outcry later compelled the council to add restrictions. The council instructed public officials to write a policy detailing what kind of data could be collected and protected, and how it could be used. The council expects the privacy policy to be ready before the center can start operations.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California described the program as “warrantless surveillance” and said “the city would be able to collect and stockpile comprehensive information about Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing.”

The port’s chief security officer, Michael O’Brien, sought to allay fears, saying the center was meant to hasten law-enforcement response time to crimes and emergencies. “It’s not to spy on people,” he said.

Steve Spiker, research and technology director at the Urban Strategies Council, an Oakland nonprofit organization that has examined the effectiveness of police technology tools, said he was uncomfortable with city officials knowing so much about his movements. But, he said, there is already so much public data that it makes sense to enable government officials to collect and analyze it for the public good.

Still, he would like to know how all that data would be kept and shared. “What happens,” he wondered, “when someone doesn’t like me and has access to all that information?”


October 13, 2013

World Leaders Press the U.S. on Fiscal Crisis


WASHINGTON — Leaders at World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings on Sunday pleaded, warned and cajoled: the United States must raise its debt ceiling and reopen its government or risk “massive disruption the world over,” as Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, put it.

The fiscal problems of the United States overshadowed the official agendas for the meetings, with representatives from dozens of countries — including two of Washington’s most important economic partners, Saudi Arabia and China — publicly expressing worries about what was happening on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

The leaders came to Washington to talk about the international recovery, Ms. Lagarde said in an interview on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “Then they found out that the debt ceiling was the issue,” she added. “They found out that the government had shut down and that there was no remedy in sight.”

“So it really completely transformed the meeting in the last few days,” Ms. Lagarde said.

With only three days left before a potential default, Senate leaders failed on Sunday to reach agreement on a plan to reopen the government and raise the debt limit.

Many leaders at the World Bank and I.M.F. meetings said they believed the impasse would be resolved before Thursday, when the government would be at severe risk of not having enough money to pay all its bills on any given day going forward.

But they pressed Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke — who were both at the I.M.F. meeting — on the issue, predicting that even a near-default would lead to higher borrowing costs and a slowdown of the global economy.

“This cannot happen, and this shall not happen,” Baudouin Prot, chairman of the French bank BNP Paribas, said at a meeting of the Institute of International Finance also being held in Washington. “The consequences of this would be absolutely disastrous.”

Mr. Lew acknowledged the threat. “Our work begins at home,” he said. “We recognize that the United States is the anchor of the international financial system. With the deepest and most liquid financial markets, when risk rises, the flight to safety and to quality brings investors to U.S. markets. But the United States cannot take this hard-earned reputation for granted.”

Participants at the meetings remained on edge, given the gravity of the threat. Ms. Lagarde said “that lack of certainty, that lack of trust in the U.S. signature” would disrupt the world economy.

Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, issued his own urgent appeal. “The fiscal standoff has to be resolved without delay,” he said in a statement released by the I.M.F.

Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, painted a bleak picture of the days ahead if there is no resolution.

“As you get closer to it, the panic will set in and something will happen,” Mr. Dimon said at the international institute event. “I don’t personally know when that problem starts.”

He added that JPMorgan had been “spending huge amounts of time and money and effort to be prepared.”

Many of the high-ranking officials present in Washington for the meetings made open appeals to Congress, with warnings coming from many of Washington’s allies and creditors. Ms. Lagarde’s counterpart at the World Bank, the American physician Jim Yong Kim, said the world was “days away from a very dangerous moment.”

“The closer we get to the deadline the greater the impact will be for the developing world,” he said.

Fahad Almubarak, governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency, said “urgent political agreements on budget and debt issues are necessary to preserve and, indeed, reinforce the modest recovery.” And Yi Gang, an official with China’s central bank, said the fiscal uncertainties “must be addressed promptly.”

Concern over the impasse has already led to a slide in stocks — including the worst two-day dip in months. American economic confidence has taken the worst hit since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. And investors have dumped certain short-term Treasury debt because of fears that the Treasury might not pay them back on time.

Markets ended last week with a burst of optimism, after House Republicans took the first steps toward a compromise. But that optimism faded over the weekend. On Sunday, with negotiations in the Senate stalled, the value of the dollar was sliding.  

In the Asia-Pacific region early Monday, stock markets moved lower in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia. Markets in Hong Kong and Japan were shut for holidays.

On Monday, all eyes in the American and European markets will be focused on the negotiations in Congress. Big American companies will announce their quarterly results this week, normally a significant event for Wall Street. But that is likely to attract little attention until the political negotiations are settled.

There has been much debate about how quickly problems will ripple through the economy before and after the deadline. The Treasury Department will continue to take in money and might be able to pay its bills for as long as two weeks. Some House Republicans have said that even if the Treasury misses some payments, it will have enough money to avoid defaulting on its debt, the most frightening outcome for financial markets.

The I.M.F., which lends to governments that have trouble finding financing on the sovereign debt markets, said it had been planning for any market disruptions. Mr. Kim of the World Bank said that the United States’ flirtation with default in 2011 raised borrowing costs for many poor countries.

Much of the attention has been on the enormous outstanding pool of Treasury bonds and bills. Short-term government bills are used to grease the wheels for many financial transactions and provide a benchmark from which other assets are priced. If the value of that debt was suddenly drawn into question, markets could quickly seize up.

Money market funds, the popular mutual funds that own large amounts of Treasury bills, have been selling those that are scheduled to pay out in late October and November.

Anshu Jain, the co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank, said on the international institute panel that his executive team had been trying to make contingency plans in case of a default, but it had struggled to come up with measures that would significantly stem the losses.

“You don’t want to go into all of it,” he said. “This would be a very rapidly spreading fatal disease.”

Annie Lowrey reported from Washington, and Nathaniel Popper from New York.


China Calls For a ‘De-Americanised’ World Thanks to GOP Shutdown & Default Threat

By: Sarah Jones
Sunday, October 13th, 2013, 3:35 pm

China’s official news agency wonders why America is in charge when it’s creating mayhem in the financial markets, according to International Business Times. They write, “… the cyclical stagnation in Washington for a viable bipartisan solution over a federal budget and an approval for raising debt ceiling has again left many nations’ tremendous dollar assets in jeopardy and the international community highly agonised.”

IBT continues:

    The official news agency of China, which is seen as the pretender to the world’s superpower crown, then rubbed in more salt, calling American economic pre-eminence just a seeming dominance.
    It asks why the self-declared protector of the world is sowing mayhem in the financial markets by failing to resolve political differences over key economic policy.

This led the Xinhua news agency to gleefully call for a “de-Americanised world”, noting that the world would be better off in the hands of folks with a functioning government.

This isn’t just political posturing, as IBT reports that per the Treasury, “China is the biggest foreign owner of US Treasuries at $1.28 trillion as of July.”

According to the Treasury, next up to feel the pain of Republican economic terrorism would be Japan, Carib Banking Centers, and Oil Exporters. Good going, GOP.

This will impact more than just large holders of our bonds. According to PolitiFact, your mutual fund could be invested in what used to be considered “safe” t-bills.

    If you hold a savings bond your grandmother gave you on your 10th birthday, or if you go to to purchase Treasury bills, then you are loaning money to the government, with the promise of receiving your principal plus interest at a specified future date. Alternately, if your mutual fund buys a Treasury bill, you indirectly own that security. Investment banks, sovereign wealth funds and other large investors purchase Treasury debt all the time in auctions held by the Treasury. If you hold a U.S. security in this way, “it means that you have loaned money to the U.S. government, and it has borrowed from you,” said Neil H. Buchanan, law professor at George Washington University and author of The Debt Ceiling Disasters.

This is what the President meant when he explained that the the bond market is boss. President Obama told reporters, “Ultimately, what matters is: What do the people who are buying Treasury bills think?”

The answer?

The Xinhua news agency called for an end to the US dollar as the international reserve currency in order to protect the international community from Republicans’ economic jihad.

This must be what conservatives mean by “USA! USA! USA!” Kill the exceptionalism, violate the Constitutional mandate to pay our debt, and turn America into an international joke, causing America to lose its world standing even when W isn’t in office. Check, check, check and check.

This is WINNING, Tea Party style. Meanwhile, Tea Partiers are calling for a non-violent revolution against this President and demanding that he put his “Quran” down.

Political Ticker reported on the folks Republicans brought to the dance:

    “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come out with his hands up,” said Larry Klayman of Freedom Watch, a conservative political advocacy group.

This country had better get a handle on these Republicans, or they are going to do what Al-Qaeda never managed to do to the US.


October 13, 2013

Spending Dispute Leaves a Senate Deal Elusive


WASHINGTON — With a possible default on government obligations just days away, Senate Democratic leaders — believing they have a political advantage in the continuing fiscal impasse — refused Sunday to sign on to any deal that reopens the government but locks in budget cuts for next year.

The disagreement extended the stalemate that has kept much of the government shuttered for two weeks and threatens to force a federal default.

The core of the dispute is about spending, and how long a stopgap measure that would reopen the government should last. Democrats want the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration to last only through mid-November; Republicans want them to last as long as possible.

The Democrats’ demand shows a newfound aggressiveness. Previously, they had favored a so-called clean bill that would reopen the government and lift the debt ceiling without any policy changes attached. With Republicans on the defensive, it remains unclear whether the Democrats are using a negotiating ploy to raise the likelihood that any final deal will include their priorities as well as the Republicans’.

Democrats said Sunday that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader — who spoke only briefly by telephone — were inching forward, and that a breakthrough was possible before the debt default deadline on Thursday.

“They had a good conversation,” Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat, said on Sunday evening. “They are moving closer together, and I’m hopeful the Senate can save the day.”

Republicans accused Democrats of accepting nothing short of capitulation without offering anything in return. “The Democrats keep moving the goal posts,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, one of the lead Republican negotiators. “Decisions within the Democratic conference are constantly changing.”

Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, warned on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” that the Democrats “better understand something.”

“What goes around comes around,” he said, “and if they try to humiliate Republicans, things change in American politics.”

A rally on the National Mall, led by Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, and former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, was intended to show that Tea Party activists — supporters of the House Republicans who forced the shutdown over their opposition to the new health care law — were in no mood to give in. Some waved Confederate flags and called for President Obama to be impeached.

The dispute may involve debt ceiling technicalities, but at the core of the fight is a more fundamental question: with polls showing that Republicans are carrying the brunt of the blame for the shutdown, can Democrats demand total surrender, or should they offer concessions to complete the deal?

“You can’t just demand pure capitulation,” said Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma. “Negotiations don’t work that way.”

Republicans once said that they would finance the government only if the president’s health care law was gutted. A bipartisan Senate framework drafted by Ms. Collins and Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, started with a face-saving move for Republicans of a repeal of a tax on medical devices that helps pay for the Affordable Care Act. When Senate Democratic leaders objected, that was tempered to a two-year delay of the tax.

Republicans had also insisted on tightening income verification rules for the health care law’s subsidized insurance exchanges. Now Democrats are rewriting that language as well.

“What am I getting?” Ms. Collins said. “I’m serious. I’ve bent over backward.”

Democrats have agreed to engage in formal budget negotiations — where, they acknowledge, Republicans may have the upper hand once the government is reopened and the threat of default is lifted. Both sides say they want a deal that reduces the deficit over the long term.

Republicans have one advantage: if no deal is reached during those talks, the next round of automatic cuts, even deeper than the first, go into force on Jan. 1.

“We know that come 10 years from now, Medicare is not sustainable financially,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said on the NBC News program “Meet the Press.” “We’ve got to do something.”

“And I have to say to the Republican side, ‘For goodness’s sakes, we cannot find some savings, closing some loopholes, quote, raising revenue?’ Well, of course we can,” he said.

The Collins plan would maintain sequestration-level spending through Jan. 15, when formal budget negotiators would be required to complete a House-Senate agreement on spending and taxation over the next decade. That date was already a concession. Ms. Collins, along with Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, both Republicans, initially wanted to finance the government for six months at those levels. The initial proposal by Ms. Collins would also have extended the debt ceiling only to Nov. 15, but at the request of Senate Democratic leaders, she and Mr. McConnell pushed it back to Jan. 31.

Mr. McConnell formally endorsed the Collins proposal on Sunday.

“It would reopen the government, prevent a default, provide the opportunity for additional budget negotiations around Washington’s long-term debt, and maintain the commitment that Congress made to reduce Washington spending,” he said in a statement. “It’s time for Democrat leaders to take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

But Democratic leaders have balked, and they flexed their muscle Sunday with a group of Democratic and independent senators negotiating with Ms. Collins.

Ms. Collins said eight Democrats were now involved in negotiations, including Mr. Manchin, and Senator Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats.

“The Democratic leadership is clearly very strong and has a lot of sway over its members,” Ms. Collins said.

Underscoring those concerns, six of the senators negotiating with Ms. Collins — Mr. Manchin, Mr. King, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — released a joint statement acknowledging involvement in the talks but saying they could not support the proposal “in its current form.”

“There are negotiations,” they said, “but there is no agreement.”


October 13, 2013

Obamacare: The Rest of the Story


Unless you’ve been bamboozled by the frantic fictions of the right wing, you know that the Affordable Care Act, familiarly known as Obamacare, has begun to accomplish its first goal: enrolling millions of uninsured Americans, many of whom have been living one medical emergency away from the poorhouse. You realize those computer failures that have hampered sign-ups in the early days — to the smug delight of the critics — confirm that there is enormous popular demand. You have probably figured out that the real mission of the Republican extortionists and their big-money backers was to scuttle the law before most Americans recognized it as a godsend and rendered it politically untouchable.

What you may not know is that the Affordable Care Act is also beginning, with little fanfare, to accomplish its second great goal: to promote reforms to our overpriced, underperforming health care system. Irony of ironies, the people who ought to be most vigorously applauding this success story are Republicans, because it is being done not by government decree but almost entirely with market incentives.

Using mainly the marketplace clout of Medicare and some seed money, the new law has spurred innovation and efficiency. And while those new insurance exchanges that are now lurching into business will touch roughly 1 in 10 Americans (the rest of us are already covered by private employer plans or by government programs like Medicare), these systemic reforms potentially touch every patient, every taxpayer.

“This is the 90 percent of the story that doesn’t make the headlines,” said Sam Glick, who follows health care reform for the Oliver Wyman consulting firm.

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed three years ago, more than 370 innovative medical practices, called accountable care organizations, have sprung up across the country, with 150 more in the works. At these centers, Medicare or private insurers reward doctors financially when their patients require fewer hospital stays, emergency room visits and surgeries — exactly the opposite of what doctors have traditionally been paid to do. The more money the organization saves, the more money its participating providers share. And the best way to save costs (which is, happily, also the best way to keep patients alive) is to catch problems before they explode into emergencies.

Thus the accountable care organizations have become the Silicon Valley of preventive care, laboratories of invention driven by the entrepreneurial energy of start-ups.

These organizations have invested heavily in information technology so they can crunch patient records to identify those most at risk, those who are overdue for checkups, those who have not been filling their prescriptions and presumably have not been taking their meds. They then deploy new medical SWAT teams — including not just doctors but health coaches, care coordinators, nurse practitioners — to intervene and encourage patients to live healthier lives.

Advocates of these reforms like to say that they are transforming medicine from the treatment of disease to the treatment of patients — and ultimately the treatment of populations.

At Cornerstone Health Care, a 250-doctor organization in North Carolina, patients with a history of congestive heart failure get a daily phone call from a nurse asking them to step on a scale and report their weight, the best early indicator of an impending emergency. The next stage, Grace Terrell, the president of Cornerstone, told me, will be to give these patients scales that automatically transmit their weight directly to the nurse. (“If the N.S.A. is Big Brother, we’re Big Mother,” Terrell says of the weight surveillance program.) Diabetes patients are invited in for low-cost pedicures. Why? Because diabetics are notoriously vulnerable to infections that lead to amputation, and a common cause of those infections is ingrown toenails. (Both of these practices were pioneered by CareMore, a California-based company that runs clinics for Medicare patients and that has become a major role model since Obamacare.)

The Heritage Provider Network, a huge accountable care organization in California, offers Medicare patients free dance lessons, healthy cooking classes and casino excursions that feature “brain power” activities on the bus. The Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network, a new, seven-doctor practice in upstate New York, is building a gym and a teaching kitchen for its patients, who are mostly inner-city minorities.

“Most doctors were on treadmills,” plodding through their routines, said Raul Vazquez, the chief executive of the Buffalo venture. Now they’re reinventing health care for the inner city with an invigorated sense of mission.

This is not the heroic medicine that turns surgeons into gods and emergency rooms into Hollywood material. Don’t expect to see a toenail-clipping episode on “Grey’s Anatomy.” But these services address the embarrassing fact, reiterated in study after study after study, that Americans pay much more for medical care than other developed countries, with no better results. Obamacare addresses this problem by going, as Willie Sutton famously advised, where the money is. It concentrates resources on the unhealthiest. According to Kaiser Health News, the sickest 1 percent of patients account for 21 percent of health care costs; 5 percent account for half of the total costs.

“There are organizations that are bringing emergency room visits down by 15 to 20 percent,” Glick said. “Hospital admissions, you see numbers like 20 and 30 percent. That can make a huge difference not only in the cost of care but also in the quality of care.”

The best sign that these innovations are beginning to go viral is that they have caught the attention of some giant businesses. Drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS are now partnering with hospitals or accountable care organizations to give patients convenient points of access and to coordinate treatment. Companies that spend heavily on employee health care plans are learning the best lessons of the Obamacare laboratory. Walmart, the country’s biggest private employer, will fly workers who need transplants or heart or spinal surgery to premier facilities like the Mayo or Cleveland Clinics to assure that their problems get fixed right the first time, avoiding costly readmissions.

Obamacare has also had some important indirect consequences. According to Catherine Dower of the Center for the Health Professions at the University of California at San Francisco, since the Affordable Care Act states have become more aggressive about challenging some of the protectionist laws that prevent well-qualified medical professionals — pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, emergency medical technicians — from offering some kinds of primary care. California just passed a law that will allow pharmacists to check your blood pressure and cholesterol level and to dispense prescription birth control and antismoking drugs. Letting pharmacists perform services that don’t require seven years of medical training makes those services cheaper and more convenient, increasing the chances consumers will take better care of themselves.

Dower said that while the formal doctor lobby continues to resist this as a threat to the M.D. cartel, many physicians have embraced it, recognizing that outsourcing some of these services leaves them more time to do what only doctors can do. And with an estimated 29 million new clients expected to join the ranks of the insured, there is a lot of work to share.

The emerging system is far from perfect. As Elisabeth Rosenthal reported in The Times on Sunday, Congress buckled to drug company lobbying and refused to let Medicare use its purchasing power to bring down obscenely inflated drug prices. And like any upheaval, the reform of health care will produce some losers. Not all of the new organizations will make a go of it. Since hospitals account for about a third of our health care bill, they are a particular target of cost-cutters; some will fail to adapt and will go out of business. Taking costs out of the system means taking money out of somebody’s pockets. This is what the business world calls “creative destruction.”

Grace Terrell of Cornerstone said that of its 250 doctors, “20 percent are still, ‘Down with Obamacare,’ though even they like the private-enterprise approach; 30 percent really get it; and the others are moving faster than the market. We may ultimately fail, but we’re pretty far ahead of the curve.”

One reason you may not have heard much about this part of the Obamacare story is that it is numbingly complicated. (Stephen M. Davidson of Boston University has written a concise and accessible guide to the law and its consequences.) But I suspect another reason is partisan spite. The Democrats were passionately in favor of enrolling the uninsured, but many would have preferred a government-run program, or at least a public option. What Obamacare has wrought is the kind of market-driven reformation that Republicans pretend to believe in. Which makes you wonder how much of their opposition rests on the merits, and how much is just a loathing for anything associated with Barack Obama.

Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »


October 13, 2013

Pulling Aid Away, Shutdown Deepens Indians’ Distress


CROW AGENCY, Mont. — Worlds away from Washington, Audrey Costa wondered aloud about keeping her family warm. A mother of three, she relies on lease payments from the Bureau of Indian Affairs on land owned by her family, which can run up to a few hundred dollars a year, to pay for food and electricity. But since the partial shutdown of the federal government began on Oct. 1, Ms. Costa, 41, has not received a check.

“We’re having such a hard time,” she said outside her tattered clapboard home in this poor prairie town deep in the heart of the Crow reservation. “I don’t know what I’ll do. Just tough it out, I guess.”

Like other largely impoverished Indian tribes that lean heavily on federal dollars, the Crow have been battered by the shutdown.

Some 364 Crow members, more than a third of the tribe’s work force, have been furloughed. A bus service, the only way some Crow are able to travel across their 2.3-million-acre reservation, has been shuttered. A home health care program for sick tribal members has been suspended.

Though the tribe has enough money to keep a skeleton government operating for now, it is running out.

“They don’t have a clue what’s going on out here,” the tribal chairman, Darrin Old Coyote, said of politicians in Washington from his office in Crow Agency, which sits in the shadows of the Little Bighorn battlefield, itself closed because of the shutdown. “It is hurting a lot of people.”

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, which provides a vast sweep of services for more than 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, has kept essential programs, like federal police and firefighting services, running. But it has stopped financing tribal governments and the patchwork of programs and grants that form the thin blanket of support for reservations racked by poverty and other ills.

“You’re already looking at a good number of tribes who are considered the poorest of our nation’s people,” said Jacqueline Pata, the executive director of the National Congress of American Indians. “When you are dealing with cutting off food supply programs and even nominal payments to tribal members, it creates a dangerous impact immediately.”

The Yurok tribe in Northern California, for example, relies almost solely on federal financing to operate. Its reservation, which spans parts of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties, already has an 80 percent unemployment rate, said Susan Masten, the tribal vice chairwoman. With money suddenly unavailable, the tribe has furloughed 60 of its 310 employees, closed its child-care center and halted emergency financial assistance for low-income and older members.

Financing for an environmental program that ensures clean drinking water on the reservation is running low. A second round of furloughs could affect tribal police officers, Ms. Masten said.

“The saddest thing about this is that the federal government has an obligation to the tribes,” she said. “In times like this, where it’s already extremely difficult, any further damage to our budget would be devastating.”

On the reservation of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in northern Minnesota, all nonemergency medical procedures have been placed on hold, said Dave Conner, a tribal official who helps manage the Red Lake’s government services.

The Red Lake were supposed to have received about $1 million from the Bureau of Indian Affairs this month to help operate their government, but the money was not released before the shutdown, Mr. Conner said.

The tribe has budgeted enough money to keep the most critical services running until the end of the month.

“This is a poor, rural, isolated reservation,” Mr. Conner said. “A lot of people rely on our services, so there’s a lot of fear right now.”

For some tribes, the pain of the shutdown has been sharpened by federal budget restrictions this year, known as sequestration, that imposed 5 percent cuts to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Aaron Payment, the chairman of the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Michigan, said his tribe had already shut down its H.I.V. prevention program and furloughed employees for its Head Start program for a month because of sequestration.

Now, with nearly $1 million in federal money lost since the shutdown, the tribe is scrambling to shift casino revenue from other programs to keep its government afloat.

“We’re in turmoil right now,” Mr. Payment said. “The impact here is going to be felt by the people who need the services the most.”

Kevin Washburn, assistant secretary for Indian affairs, said the shutdown could have long-term effects on tribes and tribal members. Financial deals and economic programs have been suspended. Environmental reviews of tribal projects will be delayed. And the impact on the thousands of Bureau of Indian Affairs employees who have been furloughed is compounded because many support poor relatives, he said.

“The cushion that tribes might have had to help them get through tough times is gone because of sequestration,” Mr. Washburn said.

In Hardin, Mont., a gritty reservation border town, Presina Grant has been caring for her sister, who broke both of her wrists in a fall. Until recently, Ms. Grant, who is Crow, had been reimbursed $8 an hour as part of the tribe’s health care program.

But after the program was suspended because of the shutdown, Ms. Grant, 43, found herself in a long line of other tribal members applying for food stamps. Her daughter is a high school cross-country runner and craves nutrition. But with money tight, she often must feed her three children frozen food.

“Everyone was just sad — you could just feel it,” Ms. Grant said, recalling the day this month when she collected her final paycheck from the tribe. “People are worried. We’re praying every day.”


The Zombie Apocalypse is Here and it is Called the Tea Party

By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Monday, October 14th, 2013, 7:52 am

Tea Party ApocalpyseZombies are mindless killers. Everybody agrees on that. They just do what they do, which is bite people in order to spread their contagion. They serve no useful purpose. They are not interested in the common good because they don’t think. It seems, rather, that they are driven by a mindless hate.

Hmmm, sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Zombies and Zombie apocalypses are popular in our culture. But they’re popular not because the zombies eat your face, but because you get to shoot the zombies. Or hit them with baseball bats.

Kill the zombies; end the apocalypse.

The problem is, we cannot so easily deal with our real zombie apocalypse, which we know as the tea party.

Yes, zombies have overrun Washington, D.C.. The White House and the Senate chamber are safe zones but they are under siege, and other than those havens, the nation’s capital is mayhem, and as they say in the zombie thriller World War Z, about to “go dark.”

But where did the Zombie apocalypse come from? What can we do? These are questions that is always asked by people facing a zombie apocalypse.

The first thing to understand is that zombies are not born, but made. As in another thriller, Resident Evil, these zombies were manufactured, and as in Resident Evil, by big business. In Resident Evil the culprit is the Umbrella Corporation. In the real world, it is Koch Industries.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) present as a public service zombie preparedness 101. If you can deal with a zombie apocalypse, the reasoning goes, you can deal with any catastrophe. The CDC examines potential disease vectors:

    In movies, shows, and literature, zombies are often depicted as being created by an infectious virus, which is passed on via bites and contact with bodily fluids. Harvard psychiatrist Steven Schlozman wrote a (fictional) medical paper on the zombies presented in Night of the Living Dead and refers to the condition as Ataxic Neurodegenerative Satiety Deficiency Syndromecaused by an infectious agent. The Zombie Survival Guide identifies the cause of zombies as a virus called solanum. Other zombie origins shown in films include radiation from a destroyed NASA Venus probe (as in Night of the Living Dead ), as well as mutations of existing conditions such as prions, mad-cow disease, measles and rabies.

But in real life, the cause of the disease is much easier than this and far more frightening: the vector is fear and anger. Well, and catastrophic levels of ignorance. And sadly, these things are as contagious as any fictional agent, as contagious as cholera. Victims are everywhere; sadly, we have about as much chance of finding Patient Zero and manufacturing a cure as the protagonist did in the film World War Z.

And attractive as the thought is (imagine the House chamber sealed for all time to become the problem of future archaeologists), we cannot isolate and quarantine the infected as the CDC recommends.

In World War Z, Brad Pitt found a way to make people “invisible” to zombies but that won’t help us here. They have the means to hurt us even if they don’t see us. We can run, but we cannot hide.

The only real measure available to us is to stop the spread of the contagion. This means education. But as anyone knows, zombies are education resistant. It turns out that being mindless is a real impediment to learning.

As a result, we can’t save those already infected. All we can do is to immunize those people who have not succumbed. Facts immunize against ignorance and without ignorance fear and anger are helpless to effect change.

So please, as a public service, help those around you. Introduce them to something other than Fox News. Present them with facts and help us stop this disease while there is still time. We need to stop it before to save itself the rest of the world is forced to perform triage on the United States.

Zombies don’t have Big Brothers; sad as it is, it is too late for them. But it is not too late for the rest of us; there are others we can save. So please, do whatever you can to help. Let’s take away the zombie’s food source: ignorant people. Let’s save America from the zombie apocalypse.


October 13, 2013 01:00 PM

Tea Partiers March To White House To Protest Monument Shutdown They Caused

By karoli

Narcissists Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Sarah Palin joined flag-waving lunatics outside the White House today to protest their own work. Funny how they give a damn about veterans when it comes to memorials but not when it comes to the Veterans Administration or health benefits for veterans, or GI Bill benefits for veterans or housing assistance for homeless veterans. Those things? Meh. But memorials are a BFD.

Also, there are a couple of interesting points to make about CNN's coverage of this protest. Notice how they keep the shot very tight and focused on the American flags carried by a few?

Here's what they missed:

    That Confederate flag at the White House today is really a nice touch:

    — Joan Walsh (@joanwalsh) October 13, 2013

Yeah, really great form there, teaBirchers. I think it's great that you're outside the White House protesting with a Confederate flag. Sort of highlights all the racism pouring out of you onto the airwaves quite nicely. Kudos to CNN for covering their backsides by keeping the shot aimed straight in and missing that little piece.

Also? I'd like some clarity from Candy Crowley about why she is so sympathetic to people whining about national parks being shuttered during the shutdown, but had nothing whatsoever to say about senior citizens getting their benefits cut if chained CPI is passed, or people having to worry about whether Medicare benefits will be delayed until they're 67. Those things are worth protesting, but instead we get this crap about monuments.

At least they didn't mention the Narcissist Brigade (CruzLeePalin) showing up to play to their 'dozens' of protesters:

    WTOP Radio ( ) reports Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas were among those who gathered Sunday morning, along with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Cruz says President Barack Obama is using veterans as pawns in the government shutdown.

Please do click into that article and have a look at the photo they've got. Trust me, it's worth the click.

As the mom of a veteran, these people need to STFU and quit using them like blankets to wrap their evil in. I've had it with the lot of them. But according to NRO's Robert Costa, Congressional nutcases think this protest is a game-changer.

    This is a big story; House conservatives tell me it's a "game-changer," gives Right new momentum ahead of this week

    — Robert Costa (@robertcostaNRO) October 13, 2013

Maybe, but the game changer I'm looking for is the one where a giant sinkhole opens right in front of the White House and/or Capitol building and swallows them all whole. It would be delicious divine retribution.

It's going to be a rocky ride, no thanks to the likes of Candy Crowley and CNN, who can't be bothered to actually talk about facts when they're gazing upon all those fabulous Americans bravely waving their Confederate flags.

Update: Buzzfeed has a great collection of photos. All hail the flag, Mom and apple pie laced with poison.


Million Vet March Organizers Condemn Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and the Tea Party

By: Jason Easley
Sunday, October 13th, 2013, 10:53 pm

The tea party, Sarah Palin, and Ted Cruz tried to hijack the Million Vet March for political and personal gain, and event organizers condemned them for politicizing the march.

According to a message on their website, the problem began when a local DC organizer turned the march into a tea party rally, “The political agenda put forth by a local organizer in Washington DC was not in alignment with our message. We feel disheartened that some would seek to hijack the narrative for political gain. The core principle is about all Americans honoring Veterans in a peaceful and apolitical manner.”

In a post on their Facebook page, organizers went into more detail,

    It is our official position that the purpose of this march and the accompanying rallies is focused on the re-opening of the Veterans memorials and keeping them open. While we understand that a Constitutional republic requires the equilibrium of checks and balances to maintain the democratic process, the memorials, monuments and parks built in honor of Veterans should NEVER be closed, blocked or restricted from use. We take the official position that no government office holder shall have ability to abridge the freedom of access to these hallowed grounds.

    We have, as a group, been prevented from certain groups that have piggy-backed off our grassroots efforts, to effectively create a comprehensive media message campaign. We made the mistake of trying to partner with some Washington insiders that thwarted many of our genuine concerns for keeping this apolitical and grassroots. While we support many of those groups common causes for Veterans, we do not support the manner in which they go about it. We chose instead to not incite or create panic.

    We chose to listen to all Americans and all Veterans that have asked us to keep going on despite the disingenuous politicians, political action committees, talking heads on the televisions and press reports attempting to hijack the message. This included many threats of personal and political attacks on our group’s character, businesses, colleagues and our true intentions. While our hearts were heavy by the disheartening acts of a few powerful Washington elite and political extremists jumping on the opportunity to make money, we decided to stay true to our message of a non-partisan effort to assist Veterans.

A few powerful Washington elites? I believe that would be Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and the political extremists are Sarah Palin and the tea partiers. The “incite or create panic” line refers to those tea partiers who tore down the barricades at the WWII memorial and marched to the White House. The extremists waved the confederate flag in front of the White House and chanted things like impeach Obama.

I suspect that Cruz and Palin were not invited, and a Facebook account of their behavior for one vet who was there fits the description of using the event for political gain, “I was disappointed when Ms. Palin and Mr. Cruz walked up to us to say hello but then walked down to the center to try to use us for they’re own purpose so I left to visit the viet nam memorial ty Brats.”

Tea partiers are proud of themselves for taking an event about veterans and turning it into another platform to showcase their hatred of this president, but they should be ashamed of themselves. The people who turned the march into an anti-Obama rally shamed and humiliated our veterans. Every vet knows that it doesn’t matter what political party a president is from, they are still the Commander in Chief. The organizers of this event may or may not be conservatives, but it is clear that they didn’t want the tea party mob, or Palin and Cruz’s grandstanding at their event.

Veterans are about honor and sacrifice. The Republicans who politicized the event brought dishonor to the very values that our veterans embody. To self-promoters like Palin and Cruz, veterans are nothing more than props to be used for political and financial gain, and they have proud to have tarnished our nation’s veterans with their selfish extremism.


The Christian Science Monitor

How 'reasonable Republicans' could oust Speaker Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner has spent much of his speakership placating tea party conservatives. Now, he should worry more about the 23 mainstream Republicans who hate debt-ceiling brinkmanship and government shutdown. They could join with Democrats to oust Boehner.

By Jeremy R. Mayer / October 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm EDT
Arlington, Va.

The word in Washington this morning is that House Speaker Boehner has a deal in the works to temporarily raise the debt ceiling limit. This is good news, as it would avoid default. But it won’t eliminate the debate over spending and Obamacare that will surround budget negotiations. And there’s still no guarantee the tea party members of Mr. Boehner’s party will agree to support this deal, putting him right back in the position he is in now – reluctant to bring a bill to the House floor without the majority support of his party.

Boehner has spent much of his speakership worried about placating tea party conservatives. But if he again bows to their demands over a short-term debt-ceiling extension, he should be more worried about those in his caucus who hate this shutdown and the debt-ceiling brinkmanship. There are at least 23 of them – “reasonable Republicans” who could join with Democrats to occupy a powerful middle ground – and even oust Boehner as speaker.

Removing a speaker has actually never been done before, but neither has America seen this level of rancorous/reckless obstructionist politics exerted by the tea party to the threat of the entire government – and even the economy. Desperate times may just call for desperate measures.

The procedure to oust the speaker gets to the floor as a privileged motion. It takes one member to put it on the calendar, and there’s really no way of stopping the motion if the votes are there to support it. Boehner, to stay as speaker, would need the support of a majority of all members present and voting.

Why would any honest Republican support such a move and risk being branded a traitor, a RINO (Republican in Name Only), or worst of all, an Obama-enabler? Recent primary elections have seen tea party candidates defeat incumbent Republicans deemed not conservative enough.

But the favorability of tea party candidates in the eyes of the electorate may be shifting. We’ve seen examples of this at the state level, in Michigan for example.

And state-level budget crises have forced radical bipartisanship, which voters have rewarded. Look at what happened in the Senate in Washington State not too long ago. Three Democrats walked across the aisle, and worked with minority Republicans to craft a compromise budget, breaking a months-long deadlock. The anger of the Democratic leadership and base was fierce. But the state benefited. And voters and editorial boards around the state sang the legislature’s praises.

Peter King (R) of New York, Frank Wolf (R) of Virginia, Charles Dent (R) of Pennsylvania, and 23 other House GOPers have already let it be known in some form that they would likely vote for a “clean” continuing resolution. What if one of them were to walk into Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office and say: “What would you give me for reopening the government? How about the speakership for me? And some committee chairs for all the other independent Republicans behind me and some committee chairs for the Democrats?”

With a united Democratic caucus behind them, the rebellious Republicans would only need 17 solid GOP votes to take the speakership.

The Democrats would be eager for that deal, since it would allow them to gain some influence in a chamber that has been hostile to the initiatives of the minority party. And it would get the government working again, and avoid a default. And both the Democrats and these reasonable Republicans would get to share the credit.

Would those 17 Republicans willing to work with Democrats and oust Boehner be committing political suicide? Not necessarily. Many of them come from districts that don’t take kindly to tea party extremism. Peter King, for example, is a blue-collar Republican from Long Island. His constituents are practical people who support practical problem-solving.

In all but the most hard-right districts, the government shutdown is wildly unpopular. And economists are almost unanimous that a default by the United States risks a global recession, a run on the dollar, and hundreds of billions of dollars in higher interest payments for the US for decades to come.

National polls show that 60 percent of Americans blame Republicans for the government shutdown. It’s fair to assume that spearheading the solution that gets the government running again and avoids default is more likely to improve voters’ esteem of these Republicans than not.

As the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson suggested, these more moderate Republicans should adopt a moniker for their renegade caucus like “True Republicans” or “Independent Republicans.”

If a successful breakaway movement emerges, it could become, at least for the next year, a fixture in the House, the necessary part of any winning coalition if the Democrats or tea party Republicans want to pass anything. They would become the deciders, much like Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

These rebel Republicans would also have something to show their districts: national headlines and editorials praising their judgment and daring; perhaps a chairmanship of a key committee; and a chance to continue to find workable solutions between left and right up until election day.

And out on the campaign trail, these Republicans would have great speeches: “I rose above partisan bickering, and saved America. I put country first.”

Jeremy D. Mayer is an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.


October 13, 2013 06:00 PM

David Gregory: Entitlements are 'Cannibalizing' the Budget

By Nicole Belle

Why does David Gregory hate seniors and poor people so much?

In a discussion over the government shutdown, Gregory laments that the intransigence preventing a debt ceiling agreement is also keeping congresspeople from sitting down to deal with the great, looming problem of "entitlements cannibalizing" the budget.


Why is it that those cushy, isolated and well-off Beltway denizens ignore that thirty years of kowtowing to irresponsible Republican policies have resulted in the worst level of income inequality in the developed world and the only answer that occurs to them is to make those who can least afford it suffer even more? We're creating more and more people who need to be able to rely on the government for a minimal level of subsistence, and David Gregory thinks taking more out of their mouth and reducing their health care options is what the congress should really be focusing on.

And while I'm at it, Dick Durbin, don't let the door hit you on your way out, you neo-liberal traitor. Simpson/Bowles didn't put everything on the table. It was a budget spending plan; nowhere did they address investment to grow the economy. It couldn't even get the approval of the "Catfood Commission", for crying out loud. On what planet do you have to reside to believe it could get through this Congress?

You're not helping, Dick. And Gregory? You're just flat out hating on the people in this country who are not at your socio-economic level (which is 95% of us, you insular hack). What's cannibalizing this country is the unmitigated greed and ignorance of Beltway chumps like you.

Methinks it's time for another "Modest Proposal". Let's start with Beltway pundits.


October 13, 2013 03:00 PM

David Gregory, King of the False Equivalencies

By Nicole Belle

It's David Gregory's dumb luck that I drew the "Meet the Press" straw this morning, because I really feel compelled to highlight what a toxic presence this man is to the six decades-long institution that was "Meet the Press".

I can't decide if it's willful ignorance, partisanship or a concerted plan to turn every issue into "he said/she said" between the Democrats and Republicans without bringing in any context. But in speaking to Leon Panetta, David Gregory let fly the mother of false equivalencies:

    As you hear all of this, I want to come back to this one hundred percent point. Is part of the real problem in Washington that you have two sides, who are not interested in really negotiating, but really digging in and saying, look this is truly, a hundred percent the other side’s fault?

No, no, no....the real problem in Washington are hacks like David Gregory who pose questions like this, without any information, without any context, without any facts.

Let me quote Steve Benen, whom David Gregory could potentially run into in the halls of NBC News:

    It's been nearly two weeks since congressional Republicans shut down the government, and we're just days from a debt-ceiling calamity, suggesting policymakers should theoretically be working towards some kind of resolution. But while there was a flurry of activity yesterday, it was largely a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

    House Republicans, for example, thought they'd presented the White House with a credible offer: Congress would temporarily raise the debt ceiling, the government would remain closed, Democrats would accept Medicare and/or Social Security cuts, and the severity of the sequestration cuts that neither party likes would be eased. President Obama declared this a joke, told House GOP leaders he could probably get a better offer from Senate Republicans, and so dejected House members promptly left Capitol Hill yesterday.

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), meanwhile, thought she too had come up with a solution: Congress would reopen the government for six months and raise the debt limit for a year. Democrats would have to accept sequestration levels and throw in a two-year delay of the medical-device tax in the Affordable Care Act, and in exchange, Republicans would concede nothing. Yesterday, Democrats rejected this as wholly unacceptable, too.

    And as a practical matter, it doesn't much matter that Dems didn't like it, since House Republicans said they'd refuse to even vote on the Collins plan -- a plan in which Republicans give up nothing except temporary hold on some hostages -- even if the Senate approved it and even if House GOP leaders could tolerate it.

Tell me again, you vomitous excuse for a journalist, just who is digging in their heels?

David Gregory is actively hurting this country just as much as the Republicans are by framing this debate as recalcitrance between parties both acting in good faith.


October 13, 2013 09:00 AM

White Conservative Men Still Dominate Sunday Talk Shows

By John Amato

We talk about this problem all the time on C&L, and other left-leaning groups and blogs do as well. But as you can see from Media Matters' new report, all complaints go completely ignored.

    White, Conservative Men Still Made Up The Largest Proportion Of All Guests.

    White, conservative men were hosted on the Sunday shows more than any other demographic by a large margin. Twenty-eight percent of guests were white, conservative men. The next largest group -- white, neutral men -- were only 19 percent of guests by comparison.
    In the first nine months of 2013, white men dominated the guest lists on the broadcast network Sunday shows and CNN's State of the Union. MSNBC was the only network achieving notable diversity in its guests, particularly on Melissa Harris-Perry's show. Republicans and conservatives are hosted significantly more on the broadcast Sunday shows than Democrats and progressives.

    Media Matters has continued its monitoring of the Sunday morning talk shows on broadcast and cable networks. Following up on our previous studies, we've added data for July, August, and September to the existing data collected for the first six months of this year on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, CBS' Face the Nation, Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, NBC's Meet the Press, CNN's State of the Union with Candy Crowley, and MSNBC's Up with Steve Kornacki and Melissa Harris-Perry. Unless otherwise specified all charts and analysis below are based on the full nine months of data.

    The White Male Stranglehold On The Sunday Shows

    White Men Still Represent The Largest Proportion Of Guests Except On Melissa Harris-Perry. Six of the seven shows analyzed -- This Week, Face the Nation, Fox News Sunday, Meet the Press, State of the Union, and Up -- have hosted white men at a significantly higher rate than their 31 percent portion of the population.Melissa Harris-Perry provided the greatest diversity among guests, providing a much higher rate of white women and African-American guests than the other programs; Up also hosted a higher percentage of people from those demographics than CNN or the broadcast programs. Latino, Asian-American, and Middle Eastern guests have been largely absent from the Sunday shows. Native Americans fared even worse, with only two appearances (one on Melissa Harris-Perry and one on Up) out of a total of 2,436 appearances over the nine-month period studied.

Wonder what the breakdowns are for all those pundit panels? No surprise, Republicans dominated there.

As for ideology, three of the networks leaned more heavily to Republicans except ABC's This Week, which had a two point advantage to the left. As usual, Fox News is the worst for being shills for one party.

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