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« Reply #9735 on: Nov 03, 2013, 06:46 AM »

Sinosphere - Dispatches From China
November 1, 2013, 2:46 am

Chinese Doctors Becoming the Targets of Patients’ Anger


China’s hospitals are a battleground — not just for the war on illness but also for the one between physicians and their patients.

If that statement seems extreme, consider these data points from state-run medical organizations:

Medical staff are attacked by patients or their relatives at a rate of once every two weeks per hospital, according to the China Hospital Association, Chinese news agencies reported.

In the last two weeks there have been at least six serious incidents, including in Guangdong Province on Oct. 21, when a Dr. Xiong Xuming was left with a damaged eye and ruptured spleen after being beaten up by a patient’s relatives for refusing to allow them into the intensive care unit, and in Zhejiang Province on Oct. 25, when Dr. Wang Yunjie was stabbed to death by a patient unhappy with his treatment.

Since 2002, attacks have risen by an average of nearly 23 percent a year, the China Hospital Management Society said in a paper published in December in Chinese Community Doctors, a medical journal.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Li Keqiang addressed the issue, in a sign that the Chinese government is seriously concerned by the mounting violence.

Mr. Li was “paying utmost attention” to the situation and had written “important comments” requesting all government departments to take seriously the problem of conflict between doctors and patients, according to a post on the government’s official Tencent Weibo, or microblog, account. He had ordered government departments to take measures to “protect medical order,” it said.

The reasons for the problems in China’s health care system are, by now, well known: a widespread lack of trust in doctors and hospital administrators, the high cost of care, long waiting times and short appointments — and corruption, at every level. A public that lacks basic knowledge about medical problems and outcomes is also a factor, commentators say.

But why turn to violence? One reason is illness can bankrupt a family. People who exhaust their savings on care want to see positive results and blame doctors when that’s not possible, commentators say.

While violent incidents in major cities and well-known hospitals receive the greatest attention, the problem is actually more severe in smaller or local hospitals, said Deng Liqiang, the head of the legal department of the Chinese Medical Doctors Association, in an interview with Yanzhao Metropolitan News, based in Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province.

“It’s not hard to discover that third-tier hospitals and regional medical centers are the disaster ground for medical conflicts,” said Mr. Deng.

Underfunding by the government is a major problem, Mr. Deng said.

“In the late 1980s, the state provided about 60 percent of investment in most public hospitals and then it fell from there,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “After medical reforms, by 2009, they were providing 20 percent, and the remaining 80 percent had to be covered with revenue generated by the hospitals.”

While the government has made few comments on the substance of the problems in the health care system, experts say another complaint of ordinary Chinese — the concentration of good hospitals in big cities and shortage of medical services in local communities — arises because the state is reluctant to decentralize medical care, fearing the rise of poorly trained medical personnel or outright quacks.

After the death of Dr. Wang, the Chinese Medical Doctors Association and three other professional groups issued a statement urging the government to better protect medical staff members.

“Why are doctors being injured without cease?” it asked. “In order to save lives, doctors and patients should become friends, not enemies,” it said.

Meanwhile, the central government’s National Health and Family Planning Commission has announced emergency measures: Hospitals should assign one security guard per 20 beds, and guards should account for no less than 3 percent of the total medical staff.

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« Reply #9736 on: Nov 03, 2013, 06:48 AM »

Egypt on high alert as Mohamed Morsi trial threatens to revive civil unrest

John Kerry flies in for surprise visit day before ex-president is due to be tried for inciting murder of opposition demonstrators

Patrick Kingsley in Cairo, Sunday 3 November 2013 11.25 GMT

Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi plans to reject the authority of a court due to try him on Monday, in what could be his first public appearance since being deposed and hidden in a secret location in July.

The trial is expected to increase Egypt's political tensions, with Morsi supporters planning a series of nationwide protests and police announcing a state of alert. Security fears are so high that on Sunday court officials had not yet confirmed whether the trial would be televised, or even whether the ex-president would be allowed to attend in person.

Morsi stands accused of inciting the murder of protesters demonstrating outside Cairo's presidential palace last December, charges also faced by 14 other senior officials from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsi, who still regards himself as Egypt's legal president, plans to defend himself because he believes engaging a lawyer would be an indirect acknowledgment of the court's authority.

"Neither us nor President Morsi acknowledges the legitimacy of this trial," said Amr Darrag, a cabinet minister during Morsi's year in office, speaking on behalf of the Muslim Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice party.

Morsi's trial is likely to spark renewed unrest. A spokesman for the anti-coup alliance – a coalition of Morsi backers from the Brotherhood and its allies – has promised to "make this day an international day of protest. We will defeat this brutal traitorous military coup."

More than 1,000 pro-Morsi supporters and dozens of security officials have died during confrontations at protests since Morsi's 3 July overthrow. Terrorist attacks by Islamist extremists have also risen.

Fears that Morsi's re-emergence might reinvigorate his supporters have led Egypt's authorities to keep quiet about the precise arrangements for his trial. While it is likely to take place at a police compound on the eastern outskirts of Cairo, this has not been officially confirmed. An official at the prosecutors' office told the Guardian it had not yet been decided whether the trial would be televised orwhether Morsi would be allowed to attend, out of fear for public order.

In news that may exacerbate tensions further, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, arrived in Egypt on Sunday – the first time a US secretary of state has travelled to Egypt on what is known as an unannounced visit for security reasons.

A US official said Kerry's visit was entirely unrelated to Morsi's trial, but his presence could anger both Morsi supporters and his critics, who each accuse the US of meddling in Egyptian affairs and of siding with their opponents.

The US has never described Morsi's overthrow as a coup, but last month Washington cut the amount of aid it gives to Egypt. The unannounced nature of Kerry's arrival suggests he is keen to keep a low profile.

For the first time in its history, Egypt will have two ex-presidents on trial at the same time, with Morsi following his predecessor Hosni Mubarak into the dock. But whereas Mubarak's first trial (he is currently being retried) was greeted eagerly by most Egyptians, Morsi's prosecution has provoked mixed emotions.

"A lot of Egyptians feel pity for Morsi, even people who like Sisi [the army chief, General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi]," argued Ahmed Shabani, a 30-year-old doctor who took part in anti-Morsi protests this June, and who was also involved in the December demonstrations against Morsi that led to this trial.

"We know he was just a pawn for the Brotherhood, an engineering professor who became the president," Shabani added. "And now he's probably going to be sentenced to life."

In some quarters, the case is seen as a trial of the Brotherhood rather than just Morsi himself, said HA Hellyer, a Cairo-based analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, a foreign affairs thinktank.

"When Mubarak was in court, it was the prosecution of a president who'd been around for 30 years, and those who were very vigorously in support of the trial really wanted a death sentence," said Hellyer. "But with Morsi, it feels more like it's the Brotherhood on trial, rather than Morsi as an individual. I get the impression that as long as the Brotherhood get stamped out, it wouldn't go down so badly. I don't think they're looking for Morsi's blood."

Morsi and his co-defendants are accused of ordering hundreds of Brotherhood cadres on 5 December 2012 to attack secular protesters camped outside his presidential palace demanding the abandonment of a constitution drafted by Morsi's allies. The confrontation sparked night-long clashes that left at least 10 dead, and began a spiral of political upheaval that led the army to overthrow Morsi this July, following days of mass protests.

"It was a turning point in Egyptian history," said Shabani, the Morsi critic, of the December clashes. "For the first time two groups of people directly faced each other on the basis of their political beliefs. It was a civil war – a small one, just on one street. But ever since everything went violent."

Morsi was arrested along with several of his aides on 3 July, and has since been held virtually incommunicado in at least three government compounds. Beyond a visit from EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, and two phonecalls with his family, his jailers have limited Morsi's contact with the outside world – treatment his supporters say is extrajudicial and does not bode well for a fair procedure in the courtroom.

"There is no evidence in Morsi's 4 November trial," Morsi's legal adviser, Mohamed el-Damaty, told Egypt's flagship state newspaper, al-Ahram.

But Egypt's new interim government says his treatment and his prosecution are legitimate. "He will have full rights to a free and fair trial," said Badr Abdellaty, a spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry. "He will be charged on criminal charges before his normal judge according to the Egyptian penal code. Nothing extraordinary. Nothing exceptional."

Whatever else happens, Morsi's prosecution is unlikely to be speedy. Mubarak's trial was subject to frequent administrative delays and postponements. "If it's anything like Mubarak's trial, this session may start and finish within about five minutes," said Hellyer. "It could be the start of a very drawn-out process."

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« Reply #9737 on: Nov 03, 2013, 06:50 AM »

Deloitte promotes Mauritius as tax haven to avoid big payouts to poor African nations

ActionAid charity says poor countries such as Mauritius are losing hundreds of billions of pounds

Jamie Doward   
The Observer, Sunday 3 November 2013   

A global consultancy giant has been accused of advising big business, including UK firms, on how to avoid paying tax in some of Africa's poorest countries.

ActionAid has obtained documentation showing that Deloitte, which employs more than 200,000 people in over 150 countries, has been advising foreign companies on how, by structuring their investments though the tropical island of Mauritius, they can enjoy significant tax advantages.

The charity claims that the strategy could help companies to avoid paying hundreds of millions of dollars in tax. Deloitte insists the strategy is not about tax avoidance and attracts much-needed investment to the countries involved.

A Deloitte document, "Investing in Africa through Mauritius", passed on to the Observer, advises on investing in African companies via the island nation, which has a population of 1.3 million. The document provides the example of a foreign company investing in Mozambique, where more than 50% of the population live below the poverty line and average life expectancy is 49 years. Normally, the foreign company could expect to pay a withholding tax on the dividends flowing back to it from Mozambique of 20%. A sale of its Mozambique investment would see the company liable for a capital gains tax bill of up to 32%.

However, the Deloitte document explains that, if the foreign company made its investment through a holding company in Mauritius, it could limit the withholding tax it would have to pay to just 8%, while capital gains tax would be reduced to zero. The potential value of capital gains tax to developing economies is considerable. An Italian oil company was recently required by the Mozambique government to pay $400m (£250m) in capital gains tax.

The document explains that Mauritius could tax the holding company's profits at 15%, but that this does not happen in practice. The firm explains that any tax liability in the island is wiped out by a foreign tax credit, issued because the company has been taxed in Mozambique.

Deloitte presented the document at a conference for international businesses two weeks before this year's G8 conference in Loch Erne, Northern Ireland, when world leaders promised action to help impoverished nations improve their tax regimes. It followed claims by David Cameron that aggressive tax avoidance was "morally wrong".

More than 80 major international organisations attended the conference addressed by Deloitte. Representatives from major banks and legal firms, including Clifford Chance, Citibank, JP Morgan, the World Bank, Standard Bank and several Chinese firms, were present.

Tax campaigners are increasingly concerned about how Mauritius is used by big business with interests in Africa. The island has taken steps to aggressively position itself as the "gateway to Africa" for companies looking to invest in the continent. It currently has 14 double taxation treaties in place with African countries and a further 10 under negotiation. But ActionAid said the terms of the treaties could easily be abused by companies seeking to minimise their tax bills.

The charity wants a global clampdown on tax avoidance, which it says costs developing countries hundreds of billions of pounds a year in lost revenue. It said that, if companies paid their fair share of tax, the money could be used to fund food, health and education programmes. It cited the example of a British sugar company operating in Zambia. The money saved by the company through the legitimate use of tax avoidance schemes was enough to put 48,000 of the country's children through primary school every year.

"The tax strategy advised by Deloitte could potentially be used to deprive some of the poorest countries in the world of desperately needed tax revenues," said Toby Quantrill, ActionAid Tax Justice Policy Adviser. "In using the example of Mozambique to illustrate their strategy Deloitte chose a country where the average income is less than two dollars per day and one third of the population is chronically food insecure. Developing countries need to grow their tax revenues, which are vital to help lift people out of poverty. But that can only properly happen if large companies stop avoiding their taxes."

A Deloitte spokeswoman said it was wrong to describe applying double tax treaties, such as that between Mauritius and Mozambique, as tax avoidance: "The absence of such treaties could result in a reduction of investment, and less profit subject to normal business taxes in the countries concerned."

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« Reply #9738 on: Nov 03, 2013, 06:52 AM »

10/31/2013 05:28 PM

Cut Off: Starving Syrians Hope to Live Through Winter

By Christoph Reuter

As the world focuses on Syria's chemical disarmament, thousands of people in the country face a more pressing concern: starvation. Cut off by ongoing violence, they are dying because they have no access to supplies. Many will not survive the winter.

Three-year-old Ibrahim Khalil survived the chemical weapons attacks on Aug. 21. But then, 10 days later, he died of hunger -- just as the next child died hours after him and a third died four days later in the Damascus suburb of Muadhamiya.

When the world learned of the sarin gas attacks that took place in the suburbs of Damascus this past summer, it reacted with outrage, leading to Syria's dismantling of its chemical arsenal, which was declared complete by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Thursday. Yet hardly anyone seems to be taking notice of these new deaths. After being under siege for months, cut off from food supplies, electricity, water and any form of aid, people are beginning to die of malnutrition.

Children are also starving to death in Yarmouk in the southern part of Damascus and other places sealed off by government troops. But nowhere is the situation as fatal as it is in Muadhamiya, where six children had died by mid-October "and dozens are already so weak that an ordinary cold would kill them," says Dr. Amin Abu Ammar, one of the last doctors in the suburb.

The fact that President Bashar Assad agreed to destroy his stockpiles of chemical weapons is a piece of good news from a war that is not producing any other positive reports. In fact, it's too good, so good that the chemical weapons inspectors were promptly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and it seemed as if the rest of the war had ceased. And while European governments are mainly concerned about foreign jihadists infiltrating Syria, there are about 1,000 armed local fighters in Muadhamiya who don't even have any contact with neighboring towns.

Protesting Near Syria's Nerve Centers

The location of the city, once home to more than 60,000 people, has become its undoing. As in hundreds of other towns and cities across Syria, the residents of Muadhamiya demonstrated against Assad in the spring of 2011. But of all the places where protests were held, Muadhamiya was the closest to the regime's nerve centers: the headquarters of the Syrian army's 4th Armored Division in the north, the quarters of the Republican Guard in the west and the "president's airport" in Mezzeh in the northeast.

Muadhamiya was already surrounded before a single soldier was deployed. The fact that the population wasn't poor but consisted of the well-educated middle class made the situation even worse.

Muadhamiya was to be subjugated. When the government failed to achieve this goal, despite mass arrests and shots being fired at demonstrators, they decided to take it by force. And when that plan could not be implemented, despite mortar fire and air strikes, rockets armed with sarin gas rained down on the city, killing 85 people, according to doctors there.

But what the chemical weapons failed to achieve is now being gradually accomplished by hunger: the annihilation of a city. And it is happening without any of Washington's red lines being crossed or any public outcry in other countries -- and even without propaganda efforts from Damascus to conceal the problem. "Let them starve for a bit, surrender and then be put on trial," a member of the newly-formed paramilitary "Defense Committee" from Assad's Alawite faith told a reporter with the Wall Street Journal in early October.

Mosques Targeted with Mortar Fire

The suburb of Muadhamiya has been cut off from the outside world since Nov. 18, 2012. Soldiers at checkpoints are not allowing anyone in or out. Snipers shoot anyone who tries to cross the lines. The physicians' committee has counted 1,700 deaths since the beginning of the uprising, including 738 since the blockade alone. Almost all of the city's 22 schools are in ruins. Classes were held in a few mosques at first, but that stopped when the mosques were targeted with mortar fire from the hills by the 4th Division.

The last shops closed in March because there was nothing left to sell. Electricity, water lines and the telephone network have been cut off. Bread is only available when someone manages to smuggle in some flour. Assad has turned Muadhamiya into a ghost town.

"At first, we survived on our supplies and what we found in the houses of those who had fled," says Ahmed Muadamani, a former businessman and current member of the revolutionary town council, who is now in charge of outside contacts through one of the last Internet connections, via satellite phone.

"Then many people tried to grow tomatoes and potatoes in all open areas, but there were several deaths when the snipers kept shooting at people in the fields and gardens." Women were shot in the chest and men in the head, says the doctor, adding that there is now nothing left to eat for the winter.

For a while, friends and relatives of the trapped residents were able to drive by along the road between Damascus and the Golan Heights, near Muadhamiya, and toss bags of food out of their cars. Residents would then perform the life-threatening task of collecting the bags. But the road has been closed for half a year now, and snipers have also taken positions there.

'There Are No Lambs Anymore'

Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, which is based on the Biblical tale of Abraham who, at God's behest, went out to sacrifice his son Isaac, only to be stopped by an angel at the last minute, was held in mid-October. In Islam, the story mirrors the Biblical account, except that Abraham is known as Ibrahim and Isaac is Ismail. In addition, the salvation of the son is traditionally celebrated with the slaughtering of an animal, usually a lamb, and the meat is distributed among the poor.

Syrian friends in Germany wanted to give the starving residents of Muadhamiya a lamb, or more than one, if possible, to celebrate the festival. Using Skype, they asked how they should go about doing this and to whom they should send the money. They received their answer after three days: "There are no lambs anymore. Not a single lamb in the entire city. We have already eaten anything that crawls, runs and flies. And you can't eat money."

Up to 40,000 people have become trapped in Yarmouk, which has only been under siege for three months. For the Feast of the Sacrifice, an imam there issued a fatwa, or religious opinion. "We have permitted the consumption of dogs, cats, donkeys and cadavers," declared Sheikh Salah al-Khatib. "Otherwise, there is nothing left. How much longer do you intend to look on?" he asked Muslims celebrating the holiday around the world. "Until we eat each other?"

The last animals that have not been slaughtered in Muadhamiya are three cows, although again, gathering grass for the animals has become dangerous because open meadows are within the target range of the snipers. But without the cows there would be no milk left for the children.

All attempts to organize subsistence are failing one after another. The undernourished are getting sick more quickly; medicine is in short supply. The two underground hospitals have almost no electricity, because there is no diesel fuel left to run the generators. The same soldiers who are shooting at them sometimes sell them sugar for the equivalent of €20 ($27) a kilo, "but never rice or milk," says the doctor.

Appeals For Humanitarian Aid

In recent months, the Red Crescent has tried to bring food into the city seven times, but to no avail. The United States State Department and the United Nations have appealed to Damascus in recent weeks to allow humanitarian aid for the besieged civilians, but there was no reaction from the Syrian government. The official position is that those surrounded by government troops are all terrorists or their supporters.

Suburbs in the northeast of Damascus have also been sealed off for months. But they cover larger areas, there are smuggling routes and, most of all, there are no snipers to shoot children as they gather firewood or grass for livestock. The tool of besiegement has become an omnipresent weapon, which is also employed by the rebels, who have surrounded the western part of Aleppo. The difference is that civilians there are not prevented from leaving, and food supplies are allowed in.

In mid-October, after weeks of negotiations, two groups totaling about 1,600 civilians were permitted to leave Muadhamiya. They included women and children, but no men between the ages of 14 and 60. When a third group arrived at the western checkpoint on Oct. 16 to be evacuated, as arranged, the artillery units on the 4th division's hill opened fire without warning. Four people died and several were severely injured. The rest fled back into the city, where 10,000 people remain.

Abdul Rassak al-Hamshari, 65, was in the last group that was allowed to leave. He has made it to Lebanon, to a small village in the Bekaa Valley near the border. He is now living in an unfinished concrete basement shared by 10 people, which is luxurious compared to life in Muadhamiya. "At least there isn't any shelling anymore!" says Hamshari.

His son is dead, but he holds out hope that his daughter-in-law will manage to escape. He has no illusions about the men who are still in Muadhamiya. "They are our sons, cousins and grandsons, and they will not give up, even if they all die. But what could I have done there? I'm old and useless."

When told about the "cat fatwa" in Yarmouk, he laughs briefly and intensely. "It's a good idea. But when we left, I hadn't seen a cat on the streets in weeks. They've all been eaten already."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #9739 on: Nov 03, 2013, 06:58 AM »

Operation Able Art: How a 1983 American-NATO war game came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack

By Jamie Doward, The Observer
Saturday, November 2, 2013 9:16 EST

Former classified documents show how close the Soviet Union came to launching an attack in 1983

Chilling new evidence that Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack has emerged in former classified documents written at the height of the cold war.

Cabinet memos and briefing papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a major war games exercise, Operation Able Art, conducted in November 1983 by the US and its NATO allies was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility.

When intelligence filtered back to the Tory government on the Russians’ reaction to the exercise, the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, ordered her officials to lobby the Americans to make sure that such a mistake could never happen again. Anti-nuclear proliferation campaigners have credited the move with changing how the UK and the US thought about their relationship with the Soviet Union and beginning a thaw in relations between east and west.

The papers were obtained by Peter Burt, director of the Nuclear Information Service (NIS), an organisation that campaigns against nuclear proliferation, who said that the documents showed just how risky the cold war became for both sides.

“These papers document a pivotal moment in modern history – the point at which an alarmed Thatcher government realised that the cold war had to be brought to an end and began the process of persuading its American allies likewise,” he said.

“The Cold War is sometimes described as a stable ‘balance of power’ between east and west, but the Able Archer story shows that it was in fact a shockingly dangerous period when the world came to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe on more than one occasion.”

Able Archer, which involved 40,000 US and Nato troops moving across western Europe, co-ordinated by encrypted communications systems, imagined a scenario in which Blue Forces (Nato) defended its allies after Orange Forces (Warsaw Pact countries) sent troops into Yugoslavia following political unrest. The Orange Forces had quickly followed this up with invasions of Finland, Norway and eventually Greece. As the conflict had intensified, a conventional war had escalated into one involving chemical and nuclear weapons.

Numerous UK air bases, including Greenham Common, Brize Norton and Mildenhall, were used in the exercise, much of which is still shrouded in secrecy. However, last month Paul Dibb, a former director of the Australian Joint Intelligence Organisation, suggested that the 1983 exercise posed a more substantial threat than the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. “Able Archer could have triggered the ultimate unintended catastrophe, and with prompt nuclear strike capacities on both the US and Soviet sides, orders of magnitude greater than in 1962,” he said .

The exercise took place amid heightened international tension. In September 1983 the Russians shot down a Korean Airlines Boeing 737, killing all 269 people on board, after the plane had mistakenly strayed into their airspace. There is evidence to suggest that the Russians thought the Boeing was an American spy plane.

Earlier in the same year the US president, Ronald Reagan, made a high-profile speech describing the Soviet Union as “the evil empire” and announced plans to build the “Star Wars” strategic defence initiative. With distrust between the US and USSR at unparalleled levels, both sides were operating on a hair trigger.

As Able Archer commenced, the Kremlin gave instructions for a dozen aircraft in East Germany and Poland to be fitted with nuclear weapons. In addition, around 70 SS-20 missiles were placed on heightened alert, while Soviet submarines carrying nuclear ballistic missiles were sent under the Arctic ice so that they could avoid detection.

Nato and its allies initially thought the Soviet response was the USSR’s own form of war-gaming. However, the classified documents obtained by the NIS reveal just how close the Russians came to treating the exercise as the prelude for a nuclear strike against them.

A classified British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) report written shortly afterwards recorded the observation from one official that “we cannot discount the possibility that at least some Soviet officials/officers may have misinterpreted Able Archer 83 and possibly other nuclear CPXs [command post exercises] as posing a real threat.” The cabinet secretary at the time, Sir Robert Armstrong, briefed Thatcher that the Soviets’ response did not appear to be an exercise because it “took place over a major Soviet holiday, it had the form of actual military activity and alerts, not just war-gaming, and it was limited geographically to the area, central Europe, covered by the Nato exercise which the Soviet Union was monitoring”.

Armstrong told Thatcher that Moscow’s response “shows the concern of the Soviet Union over a possible Nato surprise attack mounted under cover of exercises”. Much of the intelligence for the briefings to Thatcher, suggesting some in the Kremlin believed that the Able Archer exercise posed a “real threat”, came from the Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky.

Formerly classified files reveal Thatcher was so alarmed by the briefings that she ordered her officials to “consider what could be done to remove the danger that, by miscalculating western intentions, the Soviet Union would over-react”. She ordered her officials to “urgently consider how to approach the Americans on the question of possible Soviet misapprehensions about a surprise Nato attack”.

Formerly secret documents reveal that, in response, the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence drafted a joint paper for discussion with the US that proposed “Nato should inform the Soviet Union on a routine basis of proposed Nato exercise activity involving nuclear play”.

Information from the JIC report and Gordievsky was shared with Reagan, who met the spy and was apparently so swayed by the arguments that he pushed for a new spirit of detente between the US and USSR.

However, Burt stressed that the end of the cold war did not mean that the risks had gone away. “Even though the cold war ended more than 20 years ago, thousands of warheads are still actively deployed by the nuclear-armed states,” Burt said. “We continue to face unacceptably high risks and will continue to do so until we have taken steps to abolish these exceptionally dangerous weapons.” © Guardian News and Media 2013

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« Reply #9740 on: Nov 03, 2013, 07:15 AM »

In the USA..United Surveillance America

Portrait of the NSA: No detail too small to watch

By Ewen MacAskill, The Guardian
Saturday, November 2, 2013 17:33 EST

Barack Obama hailed United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon as a “good friend” after the two had sat down in the White House in April to discuss the issues of the day: Syria and alleged chemical weapons attacks, North Korea, Israel-Palestine, and climate change.

But long before Ban’s limousine had even passed through the White House gates for the meeting, the US government knew what the secretary general was going to talk about, courtesy of the world’s biggest eavesdropping organization, the National Security Agency.

One NSA document – leaked to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden just a month after the meeting and reported in partnership with the New York Times – boasts how the spy agency had gained “access to UN secretary general talking points prior to meeting with Potus” (president of the United States). The White House declined to comment on whether Obama had read the talking points in advance of the meeting.

Spying on Ban and others at the UN is in contravention of international law, and the US, forced on the defensive this week over the Snowden leaks about worldwide snooping, ordered an end to surveillance of the organization, according to Reuters.

That the US spied on Ban is no great surprise. What is a revealing is that the disclosure is listed in the NSA’s ‘top-secret’ weekly report from around the world as an “operational highlight”.

It sits incongruously alongside other “operational highlights” from that week: details of an alleged Iranian chemical weapons program; communications relating to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria and a report about the Mexican drug cartel, Los Zetas.

Bracketing the benign, US-friendly Ban alongside drug traffickers and weapons in the Middle East and Central Asia points to a spy agency that has lost its sense of proportion.

The incident is consistent with the portrait of the NSA that emerges from the tens of thousands of documents leaked by Snowden. Page after page shows the NSA engaged in the kind of intelligence-gathering it would be expected to carry out: eavesdropping on Taliban insurgents planning attacks in remote Afghanistan valleys, or listening in on hostage-takers in Colombia.

But the documents reveal, too, the darker side of the NSA. It is indiscriminate in the information it is collecting. Nothing appears to be too small for the NSA. Nothing too trivial. Rivals, enemies, allies and friends – US citizens and ‘non-Americans’ – are all scooped up.

The documents show the NSA, intent on exploiting the communications revolution to the full, developing ever more intrusive programs in pursuit of its ambition to have surveillance cover of the whole planet: total command of what the NSA refers to as the ‘digital battlefield’.

‘Graying and shrinking’

When the NSA was founded in 1952, its task was primarily to target the Soviet Union.

And so it did, decade after decade, until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the cold war soon afterwards.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the NSA entered a decade of uncertainty. Morale slumped. The mood is caught in a document dated February 2001, only a few months before 9/11. In it, the agency admitted its capacity for intercepting electronic communications had been eroded during the 90s.

“NSA’s workforce has been graying and shrinking. The operational tools have become antiquated and unable to handle the emerging signal structure,” it says.

“Ten years ago we had a highly skilled workforce with intimate knowledge of the target and the tools to analyse the data.

“We have now reached the point of having a workforce where the majority of analysts have little-to-no experience.”

Tellingly, in the light of the attacks on New York and Washington six months later, the document complained about a lack of linguists and analysts covering Afghanistan. The same pool of experts covering Afghanistan as a whole were the same that “assist NSA’s Office of Counter-terrorism in following the Taliban-Osama bin Laden relationship”, it said.

‘Sanitize personal effects’

The attacks on New York and Washington ended the NSA’s decade of torpor. Suddenly, it found funding, and staff recruitment was no longer a problem. Since 9/11, expansion has been rapid. The NSA was one of the main beneficiaries of the doubling of the intelligence budget since 9/11.

Its proposed budget allocation for 2013 is $10.8 billion, with 35,000 staff and bases in Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Hawaii and Utah adding to its headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland. Its antennae can be found on the rooftops of 80 American embassies around the world.

It has large posts in the UK, Australia and Japan, but also operates elsewhere, sometimes covertly. In one country, Americans are secretly present at a base where exposure of their presence would provoke a major diplomatic incident, as it is in breach of an international treaty signed by the NSA’s host nation. Agency staff visiting the base have to hide their real identities, posing as contractors working on communications equipment and carrying fake business cards to back up their story.

A PowerPoint briefing warns staff heading to this secret base: “Know your cover legend”. It urges them to “sanitize personal effects” and to send no postcards home. Nor should they take souvenirs home with them. The NSA briefing makes an exception for jewelry, because “most jewelry does not have markings identifying it” as coming from that country.

The NSA refers to the people it serves as “external customers”: the White House, the State Department, the CIA, the US mission to the UN, the Defense Intelligence Agency and others.

Its remit for those customers has become ever more complex. During the cold war, the NSA mainly targeted state institutions: the political, military and intelligence structures of Russia and Eastern Europe. Today, the main targets – al-Qaida and its related groups – are much more diffuse and elusive.

The NSA sets out its mission statement in its current five-year plan. In it, the agency insists Sigint (signals intelligence, or the interception of communications) will adhere to the highest standards. “Sigint professionals must hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms. Some of our adversaries will say or do anything to advance their cause; we will not.”

Summing up the reason for its existence, it says: “Our mission is to answer questions about threatening activities that others mean to keep hidden.”

But its actual scope goes well beyond that. It is hard to see where surveilling Ban Ki-moon or German chancellor Angela Merkel fits into answering questions about “threatening activities”.

Mission creep

At a press conference in August, Obama defended the NSA and defined its role in narrow terms. He described the agency’s remit purely as counter-terrorism. “We do not have an interest in doing anything other than that,” he said.

The remark was striking. Counter-terrorism has been the justification for huge budget increases, but the agency is involved in much more than that. The NSA discloses in one leaked document that only 35% of available resources are dedicated to the ‘global war on terrorism’.

Obama later amended his statement. The NSA was not only engaged in counter-terrorism, he said, but also cyber-security and combating weapons of mass destruction. Even this does not begin to capture the sheer variety and reach of NSA operations.

Its own list of strategic targets includes: support for US military in the field; gathering information about military technology; anticipating state instability; monitoring regional tensions; countering drug trafficking; gathering economic, political and diplomatic information; ensuring a steady and reliable energy supply for the US; and ensuring US economic advantage. It boasts it can collect information from “virtually every country”.

Hundreds of the documents show the NSA engaged in activities that would generally be applauded. One credits the NSA’s Texas base as intercepting 478 emails that helped to foil the Jihad Jane plot to kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks over his depiction of the prophet Muhammad.

Another shows the NSA, during a deadly takeover of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul by the insurgent Haqqani group, able to listen in, minute-by-minute, to what the gunmen were saying.

There is an account, too, of the NSA’s part in disrupting a human trafficking racket based in Fuzhou, China. It led to two arrests at New York’s JFK airport. One of those lifted allegedly carried details of the smuggling routes in his pocket.

Remote surroundings might fool some into thinking they are beyond snooping. An alleged cocaine smuggler might have thought he was relatively safe aboard a yacht in the Caribbean. But he failed to take account of the fact that his partner, also on board, was chatting on Facebook, providing valuable information about the boat’s location and planned landfall; information intercepted by one of the NSA’s intelligence partners.

Nor is the Iranian leadership beyond reach. In 2009, the NSA was was able to track almost every move made by Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on a rare visit outside Tehran to the mountainous Kordestan province.

The most valuable service the NSA has provided for America and its allies since 9/11 is in support of the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. A 2007 NSA file, called ‘State of the Enterprise’, is typical of many of the spy agency’s documents which list wartime successes.

“Specific results included the identification and location of a sniper targeting personnel inside the Baghdad Green Zone; the confirmation that a CIA asset was operating as a potential ‘bad actor’.”

Other intelligence agencies such as the CIA complain privately about the degree of co-operation from the NSA in sharing intelligence, but in the end, like most other intelligence agencies, it is generally thankful for it. There are complaints, too, from soldiers in the field that live information is not always transferred to them fast enough, but they, too, express gratitude for snippets passed on about potential Taliban attacks.

The NSA, according to one document, overheard a Taliban figure, Mullah Rahimullah Akhund, known on the US military’s kill-or-capture list by the codename Objective Squiz Incinerator, instructing an associate to buy and organize components for a roadside bomb, suicide vests and a Japanese motorbike.

The appreciation of Americans and their allies in Afghanistan for such information is summed up in this letter back to headquarters: “You guys/gals probably have no idea how much we rely on your tool for enabling our CT (counter-terrorism) capture operations in Afghanistan. It really does help us get our enemies off the playing field, so to speak.”

Technological spread

When the NSA, the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community spied illegally on American anti-war protesters, civil rights leaders and trade unionists in the 1970s, there was at least a technical limitation of their actions. The difference today is that technological revolution allows them to spy on almost everyone.

The expansion in surveillance that accelerated under George W Bush has continued under Barack Obama. And this growth has not been matched by any corresponding reform of the legal framework or political oversight.

While there are frequent warnings in the documents reminding NSA staff of rules for protecting the privacy of Americans, other documents show repeated violations. Such violations are almost inevitable given the way the NSA collects so much, the technology and analysts unable to distinguish between data on foreigners and American citizens.

The NSA says in public it only collects a tiny percentage of internet traffic, smaller than “a dime on a basketball court”. But there is a gulf between what the NSA says in public and what it says in documents, in which technicians and analysts express their glee at finding novel ways of cracking into electronic communications and expanding their reach in ever more imaginative ways.

The question critics of the NSA raise is: just because it has the technical ability to do these things, should it?

One document shows the NSA engaged in a massive snooping operation targeting a United Nations climate change conference in Bali in 2007.

Ban, speaking at the conference, which attracted thousands from around the world, described combating climate change as “the moral challenge of our generation”.

However, the NSA’s Australian base at Pine Gap was less interested in combating climate change than collecting the numbers of Indonesian security officials in case of a future emergency.

“Highlights include the compromise of the mobile phone number” for one senior Balinese official, an NSA report boasted. “Site efforts revealed previously unknown Indonesian communications networks and postured us to increase collection in the event of a crisis.”

This effort-filled collection of the cell phone number falls under the category of information that spies have always gathered. The rationale is: should there be an attack at the conference or some future outrage, such numbers could be valuable. The counter-argument is that Indonesia is a friend of the US and might be expected to share information in the event of an attack, so why does the NSA devote grand resources to harvesting such numbers?

One of the biggest criticisms of bulk data collection is that the agency cannot look at, let alone analyse, all the data it is collecting. One document echoed the problems the agency faced in 2001 when it lamented the lack of linguists pre-9/11. An officer, after checking some messages that might have been from a terrorist group, admitted: “Most of it is in Arabic or Farsi, so I can’t make much of it.”

The 5-Eyes

The NSA operates in close co-operation with four other English-speaking countries – the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – sharing raw intelligence, funding, technical systems and personnel. Their top level collective is known as the ’5-Eyes’.

Beyond that, the NSA has other coalitions, although intelligence-sharing is more restricted for the additional partners: the 9-Eyes, which adds Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Norway; the 14-Eyes, including Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Sweden; and 41-Eyes, adding in others in the allied coalition in Afghanistan.

The exclusivity of the various coalitions grates with some, such as Germany, which is using the present controversy to seek an upgrade. Germany has long protested at its exclusion, not just from the elite 5-Eyes but even from 9-Eyes. Minutes from the UK intelligence agency GCHQ note: “The NSA’s relationship with the French was not as advanced as GCHQ’s … the Germans were a little grumpy at not being invited to join the 9-Eyes group”.

Significantly, amid the German protestations of outrage over US eavesdropping on Merkel and other Germans, Berlin is using the controversy as leverage for an upgrade to 5-Eyes.

The NSA’s closest ties are with the GCHQ. Documents suggest the British contribution is significant. In a random selection of NSA documents monitoring weekly reports, the British agency is frequently listed alongside the US agency’s biggest regional bases such as Texas and Georgia.

GCHQ operates a vast internet tapping operation based on partnerships between the UK government and telecoms companies based in the UK and overseas. This allows the NSA to “touch” about 90% of the traffic crossing the UK.

Given the UK’s location, this is a huge proportion of the internet: the UK hosts one of the major transatlantic internet cables, as well as numerous cables connecting Europe and the Middle East. Each day, a quarter of all internet traffic traverses the UK.

The information collected and stored by the program, codenamed Tempora, is stored by GCHQ for up to a month, with NSA analysts granted direct access to the intelligence.

The NSA – in theory at least – operates inside a legal framework that requires warrants to target Americans. But the Fisa court turns down few such requests. GCHQ operates in an even looser environment. One GCHQ document, referring to UK oversight, says: So far they have always found in our favour.”

A GCHQ legal briefing suggests some of the distinctions stressed in policy documents and public statements by staff of both agencies may not be so rigorously enforced in practice. A lengthy legal training slideshow includes several slides explaining the often-complex differences between content and metadata, which requires substantially different handling, especially under US law.

However, the notes for the presentation say: “GCHQ policy is to treat it pretty much all the same, whether it’s content or metadata.”

The blurred boundaries are acknowledged, too, in NSA documents, one of which states: “It is often unclear whether individual communication elements, particularly content-related metadata (CRI) – information derived from the message body – is content or metadata? For example, are email subject lines metadata or content? What about an email’s signature block or telephone numbers within a message? Questions like these are not necessarily clear-cut.”

Gaining access to the huge classified data banks appears to be relatively easy. Legal training sessions – which may also be required for access to information from Australian, Canadian, or New Zealand agencies – suggest that gaining credentials for data is relatively easy. The sessions are often done as self-learning and self-assessment, with “multiple choice, open-book” tests done at the agent’s own desk on its “iLearn” system. Agents then copy and paste their passing result in order to gain access to the huge databases of communications.


The NSA, once the most secretive of the 16 US intelligence agencies but now embarrassingly penetrated as a result of Snowden, is facing more scrutiny that at any time since its founding, even more than during the domestic spying scandals of the 1970s.

It is being challenged in Congress. It is being challenged in the courts by an unholy alliance of the liberal American Civil Liberties Union and the right-leaning National Rifle Association. It is coming under pressure from the internet companies to be more transparent. And there is review panel announced by Obama in August. There is also pressure from Germany and France, Mexico and Brazil.

In spite of the furore, reforms may prove modest. The agency is hardly likely to easily relinquish its new-found capability of snooping almost everywhere.

In one of the leaked ‘State of the Enterprise’ documents from 2007, an NSA staff member says: “The constant change in the world provides fertile ground for discovering new targets, technologies and networks that enable production of Sigint.”

The official happily embraces this: “It’s becoming a cliché that a permanent state of change is the new standard. It is the world we live in – navigating through continuous whitewater.”

It’s an environment in which the NSA thrives, the official says. And adds: “Lucky for us.” © Guardian News and Media 2013


November 01, 2013 07:52 PM

Oops, CBS '60 Minutes' Benghazi Source Is A Liar

By Diane Sweet

CBS "60 Minutes" with Lara Logan.

UPDATE: From the comments, witsended notes a report in The Telegraph on October 14th of last year:

    "Blue Mountain, the Camarthen firm that won a $387,000 (£241,000) one year contract from the US State Department to protect the compound in May, sent just one British employee, recruited from the celebrity bodyguard circuit, to oversee the work."
    "Darryl Davies, the manager of the Benghazi contract for Blue Mountain, flew out of the city hours before the attack was launched. The Daily Telegraph has learned that relations between the firm and its Libyan partner had broken down, leading to the withdrawal of Mr Davies."

Then there's this:

    " US congressional investigators have told the Daily Telegraph that consular staff had reported Blue Mountain guards to the Libyan police on one occasion last year. The diplomats believed that two disgruntled Blue Mountain employees were behind a minor pipe bomb attack on the facility.

    However after questioning no action was taken by the police or company over the incident."

A pipe bomb attack on the consulate committed by the "security contractors," members of congress were aware of this, and yet Blue Mountain was left to continue to "guard" the diplomats. WTF?

And more confirmation that "Darryl Davies" was no where near the Benghazi consulate.

That belated "60 Minutes" hit job on the Benghazi tragedy -- highly touted by Fox News, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and others on the right -- is now under attack over serious credibility issues.

Graham used the “60 Minutes” report to justify calling Monday for additional hearings into Benghazi and threatened to block a vote on President Obama's nominees until lawmakers had heard from all the surviving witnesses to the attack.

The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung strongly calls into question the star witness promoted by Lara Logan, who just happens to have a book to sell, has asked for money for his account, and told a completely different tale in his official report on the night of the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The man CBS called Morgan Jones, a pseudonym, described his heroic efforts to save the besieged Americans at the Benghazi compound while the attack was underway, scaling a 12-foot wall and taking down a terrorist with the butt end of a rifle.

So brave. So full of shit.


    "But in a written account that Jones, whose real name was confirmed as Dylan Davies by several officials who worked with him in Benghazi, provided to his employer three days after the attack, he told a different story of his experiences that night.

    In Davies’s 21 / 2-page incident report to Blue Mountain, the Britain-based contractor hired by the State Department to handle perimeter security at the compound, he wrote that he spent most of that night at his Benghazi beach-side villa. Although he attempted to get to the compound, he wrote in the report, “we could not get anywhere near . . . as roadblocks had been set up.”

    He learned of Stevens’ death, Davies wrote, when a Libyan colleague who had been at the hospital came to the villa to show him a cellphone picture of the ambassador’s blackened corpse. Davies wrote that he visited the still-smoking compound the next day to view and photograph the destruction.

    The State Department and GOP congressional aides confirmed that Davies’s Sept. 14, 2012, report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, was included among tens of thousands of documents turned over to lawmakers by the State Department this year."

After the program aired, Fox News' correspondent Adam Housley revealed that he had spoke with Jones on the phone a number of times, but the conversations ended when "he asked for money."

Jones' new book written about the attacks, "The Embassy House," was released this week by a publisher with ties to CBS, a disclosure not included in the "60 Minutes" segment.

Damien Lewis, who co-authored Jones' book, was unaware of the incident report submitted to Blue Mountain but offered one possible explanation to the Washington Post:

“All I can presume, and again I’m speculating, is that his boss told him to stay in the villa and not go anywhere. So he would have penned a report and said he had done what was ordered."

When asked if Senator Graham's hold on all White House nominees was still in effect in light of the criticisms of Jones's account, Graham's spokesman said "no change."

CBS spokesman for "60 Minutes" Kevin Tedesco said, “We stand firmly by the story we broadcast last Sunday.”

Media Matters chairman David Brock is calling on CBS to retract its story. In his letter to CBS executives, Brock writes that the story should be "immediately retracted and an independent investigative committee needs to probe all aspects of how the story was reported."

You can read Brock's full letter to CBS here.

Click to watch this intentional propaganda by the corrupt corporate news in the USA:


Bill Moyers: Republicans stalked Obamacare ‘like Jack The Ripper’

By Arturo Garcia
Friday, November 1, 2013 18:45 EST

The criticism surrounding the Affordable Care Act did not come out of nowhere, Bill Moyers argued in a commentary on Friday, nor is it without historical precedent.

“This happened back in the thirties, after Congress passed Social Security, but failed to sufficiently fund the board that was supposed to run it,” Moyers said on Moyers & Company on Friday. “Republican opponents of ObamaCare have gone further. After it passed they stalked it like Jack The Ripper. In the states, through the courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, which, uh-oh, ruled it constitutional. In last year’s election, when they lost again. But quit? Never. For Republicans, this has become their Alamo.”

And it was House Republicans, Moyers said, who refused to provide enough funding to maximize the efficiency of the law’s implementation, giving them the opportunity to complain about its performance since.

But he also criticized President Barack Obama for backing away from the single-payer option he endorsed as a candidate under a filibuster threat from Senate Democrats, specifically Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT).

“Rube Goldberg would have been a very happy man,” Moyers observed His principle — ‘Why do something simple when it can always be made harder?’ — carried the day. And by the time it became law the Affordable Care Act was a monstrosity of complexity.”


U.S. food banks struggle to meet new demand caused by food stamp cuts

By David Ferguson
Saturday, November 2, 2013 13:50 EST

Across the country, food banks that were already struggling to feed the millions of U.S. citizens who need nutritional assistance are now bracing for a surge in demand for help as deep cuts in the food stamp program take effect. According to NBC News, one in seven Americans will be affected as Congress allowed $5 billion in funding to be stripped from food assistance programs by declining to renew emergency programs started by President Barack Obama in 2009. The reductions kicked in on Friday, Nov. 1.

USA Today reported that 37 million Americans were reliant on food banks to meet their nutritional needs in 2010, up from 25 million in 2006. The numbers have only grown through the recession brought on the deregulation of the financial markets and cuts to social programs.

In 2009, President Obama added stimulus funding to the budget for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Republicans in the House have stymied the effort to get that funding renewed.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, spokesperson for the nonprofit Feeding America, an umbrella group that coordinates more than 200 food banks nationwide, told USA Today, “This is taking food off the plate and out of the mouths of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.”

Children, seniors, disabled veterans and other groups will be hardest hit because of their reliance on the SNAP program to feed themselves and their families. It is a double-edged sword, she said, that the holidays are approaching.

Food banks received more than half their donations for the year during the holidays, she said. However, the holidays are also when most people apply for help.

“Our members are panicking,” said Food Bank of New York City director Margaret Purvis to NBC. “We’re telling everyone to make sure that you are prepared for longer lines.”

“This isn’t just a New York issue,” Purvis said. “In the world of hunger relief, food stamps are supposed to be the first line of defense.”


Right-Wing Madness Stalks Government Officials at LAX

By: Tim From LA
Saturday, November, 2nd, 2013, 4:03 pm   

On the very first day of November, a right winged anti-government man walked into the Los Angeles’ LAX Airport Terminal 3 with an assault rifle, shot up and killed a TSA agent and injured as many as five around 9:20 a.m. according to KPFK 90.7 F.M. Pacifica reporter. The shooter walked around with his rifle in his bag, asked people if they were TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents.

NBC news stated that the shooter, Paul Anthony Ciancia of Los Angeles formerly from New Jersey, had a ‘new world order’ conspiracy theory tract. According to anti-government conspiracy theorists, the New World Order is a code word by George Bush Sr. to take over the world, create a one-world government controlled by Rockefeller, Rothschild and the Queen of England, reduce the population to 500,000 and to enslave the people.

This is the mental illness Ciancia is suffering. So where did this all come from? Alex Jones. According to Jones’ radio show, the Alex Jones Show, this is evidence that a liberal plot to control the population is at foot. Abortion and eugenics is done by Planned Parenthood. Jones states, “Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, who during her lifetime extolled ‘The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” and its effectiveness at “improving the quality of the race.’”

Following the footsteps of Jones, Ciancia walked into terminal 3, specifically looked for TSA agents and had a gun battle, fighting the New World Order’s puppets. Currently, the TSA agents are unarmed, under-paid and lack the training needed to do what they are doing. Yet according to Ciancia’s madness, these are the people who are taking away our freedom in order to prepare us to go up against Rockefeller, Rothschild and the Queen of England.

And Republicans are against the Affordable Care Act?

Yet even more sickening are the right wingers who comment from the conservative rag the Washington Times:
    It’s “interesting” to see that this isolated incident which unfortunately resulted in one death is being given news media attention on almost the same scale as the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack which inspired the creation of the TSA. Clearly, the news media wants to do its part in distorting public perception. Kudos to the shooter’s father who attempted to alert police of his son’s potentially dangerous state of mind. But this case only shows that a few threatening individuals will evade attempts to stop them, leaving only disarmed-by-law Americans to “lie as flat on the ground as we can.”

    The scandal here is that, in an airport filled with people, everyone was forced into a state of helplessness and had to rely (as always) on late-arriving law enforcement to save them. America has been turned into an insane asylum and the anti-gun crazies are running the asylum. It’s time to put a stop to anti-gun crazies – which is the real message of this incident.

    It takes only one sheepdog to guard a flock of sheep. But in many places, sheepdogs are not allowed so the human sheep must die without human dignity or rights. Once again, the Democrats have helped a killer carry out his insane plan. Lets thank them all at election time.

What avatar got incorrect was that the TSA was started in 2001 when the Bush Administration created the obtrusive government organization with Michael Chertoff, former Homeland Security head. It helped Rapiscan, the X-Ray machine company get the contract, now defunct, at our airports.

Avatar blames the Democratic party for the shooting, but never admits that it was the Republicans who profited off of fear after 19 hijackers commandeered four jets on 9/11 killing more than 3,000 people.

So fear still grips the minds and hearts of the right wingers and when their gun-toting lifestyle is damaged by a fellow conspiracy theorist conservative, their lives are in shamble, their cognitive dissonance is in full gear and the Democratic Party is in full blame. Ironically, if the TSA is shut down and Homeland Security is history, every Republican will blame President Obama and the Democratic Party of being supportive of the terrorists.


Bad Apple Ted Cruz Didn’t Fall Far From His Father’s Equally Rotten Tree

By: Rmuse
Saturday, November, 2nd, 2013, 4:20 pm   

Most Americans have heard the adage “you’re known by the company you keep” regarding an individual’s friends and associates, or the parent-child reference that “the apple didn’t fall far from the tree” alluding to a child as a mirror of their parent. If Americans wondered what drove the man who, with Heritage Foundation president and teabag leader Jim DeMint, masterminded the $24 billion government shutdown and credit default crisis, all they need to know is that Ted Cruz did not fall far from his father’s evangelical tree.

Cruz’s Cuban-born immigrant and rabid Dominionist father illuminates the ideology that drives his son’s lunacy and steadfast will to transform America. Teddy-boy regularly deploys his dad as surrogate to speak on his behalf and dutifully espouse Ted’s political stance to teabaggers, evangelical activists, and extremist conservatives. The elder Cruz  tells his son’s devotees that “the wicked are ruling the United States, “death panels are in ObamaCare,” government will “take all your money and confiscate our fortunes,” “Social justice is a cancer,” and that “Democrats promote everything contrary to the word of God.” Preacher Cruz also claimed America is a Christian nation and the Declaration of Independence and Constitution “were divine revelations from God,” and that “America was formed to honor the word of God.” A few months earlier, Rafael Cruz told teabaggers that President Obama is an “outright Marxist seeking to destroy all concept of God” and urged them to send him “back to Kenya.”

Although the main-stream media kept it from the public, it turns out that Ted Cruz, like his father, is driven by religion and likely believes Christian true believers like him were “anointed by God to take dominion of every area of society, education, government, and economics.” An ally of elder Cruz predicted that because god got Canadian-Ted elected, “God will begin to rule and reign. Not Washington, God’s people and his kingdom will begin to rule and reign. I know that’s why God got Rafael’s son elected.” It should not be a surprise, then, that when Cruz directed the Republican Party to shut down the government and threaten an economic catastrophe; he said it was because it was god’s will.

Claiming to know god’s will is an affliction most evangelical fanatics suffer, and claiming to know god’s will is all well and good in private, but when it drives the leader of the Republican Party and the movement intent on Christian domination it presents a clear danger to all Americans. Cruz’s remarks that his supplication to god were answered with a government shutdown order were not meant to pander to the religious right for electoral support, and when he said he sees “a particular susceptibility for candidates to be like Pharisees who wear their faith on their sleeve as convenient political garb,” he is not referring to himself. In fact he said “It is far better to let actions speak louder than words” and by all indications Cruz’s actions are likely founded in evangelical fundamentalism and Dominionism as much as they are “conservative purity.”

Dominionists are more likely than not to work behind the scenes and infiltrate every aspect of American society including government so they can transform America into a nation ruled over by conservative Christians and their understanding of biblical law. It is theocracy and theonomy that advocates the bible’s Mosaic Law as the basis of America’s government. In fact, last Friday a group of conservative Christian activists compared Ted Cruz to Jesus Christ that elicited a chorus of “amens” from the Iowa Republicans gathered to cheer on their new messiah. One conservative Christian activist, Steve Scheffler, thanked god for Cruz because he engineered the 16-day government shutdown and prayed for more conservatives like Cruz who were willing to “be crucified for their belief system.” It is likely the fundamentalists also thanked god for directing Ted to shut down the government and answering his prayers; even if it was a short-lived shut down.

Ted Cruz is not his father, but understanding Rafael (dad) is to understand Ted, his ideology, desires, and long-term goals for America as the de facto leader of the Republican Party. It is no coincidence that like Ted, Rafael Cruz goes around the country telling supporters that “We’ve had enough compromise…enough of Establishment Republicans that don’t stand for anything,” and that it is crucial to their American transformation to “elect constitutional conservatives to retake the Senate.” It is important to remember that constitutional conservative is code for fundamentalists who believe that god gave the Founding Fathers the Constitution to “form this nation to honor the word of God.”

Skeptics may conclude that Ted Cruz has not deemed himself the “anointed messiah” to lead Dominionist to take control of America, but he has not denied or made any effort to tone down his father’s assertions. In fact, he has no problem sending his father to speak in his stead and claim the United States is a Christian nation, Obamacare is death panels, social justice is a cancer, President Obama hates god, or that the “wicked” are in charge in Washington that all perfectly inform Ted’s extreme conservatism and Christian fundamentalism that make him the archetype of evangelical teabaggers.

Americans are already suffering from the inordinate influence evangelical extremists wield over the government at the state and federal level. There is, unfortunately, a large movement afoot injecting Christianity into every aspect of society and the last thing this country needs is the leader of one of the major political parties gaining any more power than he already has. It was bad enough that Cruz successfully shut down the government, cost the people $24 billion and over half-a-point growth in GDP, but the fact that he prayed for, and believes he won, god’s will to achieve his goal is something that should make American people recoil in outrage. Unfortunately, with a media beholden to protect conservative Christians at all cost, the people will only learn of Cruz and his appeal to god’s will after Dominionists control the government, replace the Constitution with the bible, and declare with certainty that America is indeed a Christian nation; something the Founding Fathers denied at the nation’s founding.

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« Reply #9741 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:18 AM »

NSA leaks: UK government reaction eroding freedom, rights groups warn

Coalition of organisations says Cameron's response has damaged UK's reputation for freedom of expression

Matthew Taylor and Nick Hopkins   
The Guardian, Monday 4 November 2013   
Seventy of the world's leading human rights organisations have written to David Cameron to warn that the government's reaction to the mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden is leading to an erosion of fundamental rights and freedoms in the UK.

The coalition, which includes organisations from 40 countries, said it had become increasingly alarmed at the way the UK government had applied pressure on media groups covering the leaks and its use of national security concerns to close down important public interest debates.

"We have joined together as an international coalition because we believe that the United Kingdom government's response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country," the letter states. "The government's response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society."

The intervention comes five months after the Guardian, and major media organisations in other countries, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, began disclosing details of the extent and reach of secret surveillance programmes run by Britain's eavesdropping centre, GCHQ, and its US counterpart, the National Security Agency. The revelations – now appearing in European media outlets – have sparked a huge debate on the scale and oversight of surveillance by the US and UK intelligence agencies.

The open letter to the prime minister, which was organised by Article 19 in the UK and is signed by groups from the US to Malaysia and Israel, says the British government response has damaged the country's longstanding reputation for freedom of expression and a free press.

"The UK has a strong history of democracy, and while targeted surveillance may play an important role in protecting national security, in doing so it should not erode the very values it seeks to protect. We call on you to honour the UK's international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government's pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them."

The letter, signed by Liberty, Privacy International and Reporters without Borders, highlights the detention of David Miranda, the partner of the former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 in August, which is subject to an ongoing challenge at the high court, and what it describes as the sustained pressure the government has brought to bear on the Guardian.

"We believe these actions clearly violate the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under British, European and international law … We also believe that this use of national security will have dangerous consequences for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the UK and beyond, creating a hostile and intimidating environment and discouraging those who could reveal uncomfortable truths and hold those in power to account."

Last week Cameron issued a veiled threat to take tougher measures against the Guardian and other newspapers that have covered the story. "I don't want to have to use injunctions or D notices or the other tougher measures," Cameron said. "I think it's much better to appeal to newspapers' sense of social responsibility. But if they don't demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act."

He has also encouraged a parliamentary select committee to investigate whether the Guardian has broken the law or damaged national security in its reporting.

Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, said Cameron's response had been to shoot the messengers rather than engage with the wider issues that had been raised.

"Edward Snowden, David Miranda, Glenn Greenwald and the Guardian are being painted as the villains of this piece. They are being targeted for raising a matter of serious public interest. This seems to be a convenient distraction from what might otherwise be a story about state overreach and inadequate oversight of power."


Germany 'should offer Edward Snowden asylum after NSA revelations'

Writing in Der Spiegel, more than 50 high-profile Germans add to increasing calls for Berlin to welcome NSA whistleblower

Philip Oltermann in Berlin, Sunday 3 November 2013 12.39 GMT     

An increasing number of public figures are calling for Edward Snowden to be offered asylum in Germany, with more than 50 asking Berlin to step up it support of the US whistleblower in the new edition of Der Spiegel magazine

Heiner Geissler, the former general secretary of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, says in the appeal: "Snowden has done the western world a great service. It is now up to us to help him."

The writer and public intellectual Hans Magnus Enzensberger argues in his contribution that "the American dream is turning into a nightmare" and suggests that Norway would be best placed to offer Snowden refuge, given its track record of offering political asylum to Leon Trotsky in 1935. He bemoans the fact that in Britain, "which has become a US colony", Snowden is regarded as a traitor.

Other public figures on the list include the actor Daniel Brühl, the novelist Daniel Kehlmann, the entrepreneur Dirk Rossmann, the feminist activist Alice Schwarzer and the German football league president, Reinhard Rauball.

The weekly news magazine also publishes a "manifesto for truth", written by Snowden, in which the former NSA employee warns of the danger of spy agencies setting the political agenda.

"At the beginning, some of the governments who were exposed by the revelations of mass surveillance initiated an unprecedented smear campaign. They intimidated journalists and criminalised the publication of the truth

"Today we know that this was a mistake, and that such behaviour is not in the public interest. The debate they tried to stop is now taking place all over the world", Snowden writes in the short comment piece sent to Der Spiegel via an encrypted channel.

As calls for drastic measures in response to the NSA revelations are increasing in Germany, Angela Merkel seems to be avoiding direct confrontation with Washington. Several politicians from the chancellor's party have expressed their eagerness to meet Snowden in Russia while simultaneously seeming to rule out the possibility of inviting the whistleblower to Germany. "There is no reason to make a call on a Snowden stay in Germany at this stage," Michael Grosse-Brömer told Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung.

The Kremlin has signalled that it would allow German delegates to meet Snowden in Moscow. Snowden was free to meet anyone and would not be stopped from doing so, said a spokesperson for Vladimir Putin.

During a meeting with a politician from the German Green party in Moscow on Thursday, however, Snowden reportedly expressed reluctance about such a solution. Testifying to a German parliamentary inquiry in Russia, where his asylum runs out next June, would get the whistleblower nowhere nearer to solving his current dilemma. If Snowden left Russia to testify to the Bundestag, he would lose his current status but could potentially apply for asylum in Germany.

Meanwhile, signs are increasing that Merkel is trying to resolve the current diplomatic crisis with a new bilateral agreement with the US, instead of pushing for a pan-European reform of data protection laws. Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported on Sunday that the two countries were close to a "no spy" agreement, which is expected to be signed at the start of the new year. A delegation of German politicians visited the White House for discussions last week.

There is some speculation as to whether Merkel is using the crisis to try to negotiate German membership of the "five eyes" group – the intelligence-sharing network between America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand created during the second world war. Last week, Merkel's spokesperson denied Germany had intentions to join the anglophone club.


Google chief: NSA spying ‘outrageous’ and potentially illegal

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 4, 2013 7:06 EST

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said reports that the U.S. government spied on the Internet giant’s data centers were “outrageous” and potentially illegal if proved true, in an interview Monday.

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal during a visit to Hong Kong, the technology guru said that Google had filed complaints with the National Security Agency, President Barack Obama, as well as members of Congress.

“It’s really outrageous that the National Security Agency was looking between the Google data centres if that’s true. The steps that the organisation was willing to do without good judgement to pursue its mission and potentially violate people’s privacy, it’s not OK,” Schmidt said.

“The NSA allegedly collected the phone records of 320 million people in order to identify roughly 300 people who might be at risk. It’s just bad public policy … and perhaps illegal,” he said in the interview conducted in the southern Chinese city.

“The Snowden revelations have assisted us in understanding that it’s perfectly possible that there are more revelations to come.”

A recent news report said the NSA had tapped into key communications links from Yahoo and Google data centres around the world.

The Washington Post, citing documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with officials, said the program could collect data from hundreds of millions of user accounts “at will”.

The report said the program, called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the NSA’s British counterpart GCHQ, indicated that the agencies could intercept data flows from fiber-optic cables used by the US Internet giants.

The NSA disputes key details of the report.


British community searches soul, investigates misconduct after man dragged into street and burned to death

By George Chidi
Sunday, November 3, 2013 16:50 EST

British constables, emergency call handlers and officials find themselves under scrutiny for their response when a man falsely accused of pedophilia was beaten unconscious, dragged into the street and set alight by his Bristol neighbors.

Bijan Ebrahimi, an avid gardener, took pictures of some kids stomping on his plants in July with the intent of showing them to police as evidence. Instead, three police officers arrested him while a crowd chanted “pedo, pedo” as he was led away, The Independent reported Sunday.

Three days later, two neighbors attacked the Iranian-born resident of the council estate, dragging his body into the courtyard, and setting him on fire, killing him. The men pled guilty to murder and assisting in a crime last week.

The three officers who initially arrested Ebrahimi have been suspended and warned of charges of gross misconduct, while three other officers have been similarly charged. Six civilian emergency operators will be questioned about whether they treated Ebrahimi’s cries for help with due seriousness, the Telegraph reported.

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« Reply #9742 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:28 AM »


Russia toughens anti-terror laws ahead of 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

Games will take place a few hundred miles from republic of Dagestan, where rebels are fighting to establish an Islamic state

Reuters in Moscow, Sunday 3 November 2013 17.02 GMT   

The Russian president, Pig Putin, has signed tougher anti-terrorism measures into law ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that could oblige the relatives of militants fighting a separatist campaign in southern Russia to pay for any damage they cause.

The Games will take place in February in and around the Black Sea resort of Sochi, a few hundread miles from the mountainous North Caucasus region where rebels are fighting to establish an Islamic state.

Moscow has cracked down on the insurgency in Dagestan, the epicentre of North Caucasus violence, but a 21 October suicide attack staged outside the region but blamed on a woman from from the republic, has highlighted the threat to security.

According to the Russian authorities' legal website, the Pig signed the new law on Saturday, introducing prison terms of up to 10 years for undergoing training "aimed at carrying out terrorist activity".

"Compensation for damage … caused as a result of a terrorist act is covered … with the means of the person that committed a terrorist act, and also the means of close relatives, relatives and close acquaintances if … they obtained money, valuables and other property as a result of terrorist activity," the law also stipulates.

The law, originally proposed to parliament by the Kremlin, also allows for the seizure of property of relatives and close acquaintances of suspected militants if they fail to provide documents proving their rightful acquisition.

Human rights workers accuse the Russian authorities of serious violations in North Caucasus, and say such heavy-handed tactics only fuel anger and resentment among local inhabitants.


Arctic 30 activist tells of Russian detention

Australian government urged to act as Greenpeace protester Colin Russell describes freezing conditions in cell

Australian Associated Press, Sunday 3 November 2013 20.46 GMT    

Tasmanian Greenpeace activist Colin Russell, who is being held in jail in Russia, says there would be outrage if prisoners were kept in similar conditions in Australia.

Russell, 59, is one of 28 international activists and two journalists who have been detained by Russian investigators for piracy and hooliganism charges, which carry sentences of up to 15 years.

The group was detained in the arctic city of Murmansk but may be moved to Saint Petersburg.

Among those facing charges are two freelance journalists, Alexandra Harris from Sydney and Jon Beauchamp from Adelaide.

Russia seized the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and detained its multinational crew in September, after activists attempted to storm an oil rig in the remote Pechora Sea.

In a letter to his wife Christine and daughter Madeleine, Russell, who is kept in his cell for 23 hours a day, describes the below freezing conditions in Murmansk.

He says the iron bars on his bed cut into his back.

"They don't give you anything at all. I am OK with it but there would be outrage if this was at home," Mr Russell said in the letter.

"I do not want to think of what happens if you are convicted. God knows what they do with the real crims."

Mr Russell has lost weight due to the poor food.

Greenpeace says that oil drilling in the Arctic is dangerous and risks destroying the sensitive environment.

Greenpeace spokesman Reece Turner has said the conditions in the Russian prison are inadequate.

"We urge foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop to do all that she can to make sure there isn't an empty seat at the Russell family table this Christmas," Mr Turner said.

Greens leader Christine Milne urged the Abbott government to act.

"Consular support is one thing, but political intervention is what is needed now," senator Milne said in a statement.

"When the prime minister won't even pick up the phone to help secure the release of a peaceful protester held by a foreign power on ridiculous charges, something is seriously wrong."


Russian nationalists stage anti-Muslim march in Moscow

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, November 4, 2013 7:14 EST

Thousands of Russian nationalists planned to march in Moscow on Monday in an annual show of anger against the presence of Muslim migrants that has previously spilled into violence.

The city-sanctioned demonstration was to take place through the same blue-collar region on the city’s outskirts that saw riots break out three weeks ago over a stabbing murder blamed on a citizen of Azerbaijan.

Organizers hope to bring up to 30,000 people out on the streets in a show of Slavic pride.

The so-called “Russian March” — an annual event coinciding with a new Unity Day holiday President Pig Putin introduced to commemorate the expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612 — has been previously accompanied by violent attacks against ethnic minorities and foreigners working in the city.

The U.S. embassy in Moscow urged Americans to steer well clear of the protest and be diligent throughout the day.

“Extreme violence has been witnessed during previous nationalist protests, and spontaneous demonstrations of support may appear anywhere throughout the city, at any time of the day,” the US embassy said in special security message.

Analysts and Kremlin critics have long accused Pig Putin of fostering dangerous nationalist sentiments in society in order build a broad-based coalition of middle-class Russians around his rule.

Ethnic tensions have grown in Moscow and other major cities that have been flooded by migrant laborers from poor Muslim regions of the Caucasus and Central Asia.

The workers often endure hazardous labour and living conditions and are increasingly regarded with disdain by many Muscovites.

The tensions came to a boil on October 13 when a crowd of thousands chanting “Russia for Russians!” and other neo-Nazi slogans rioted in the southern Biryulyovo district following the murder of a young Muscovite.

Smaller protests continued until city authorities arrested a man from Azerbaijan who worked at the vegetable warehouse where the stabbing occurred.

Ways to stem the migration of ethnic Muslim laborers was also a major theme of Moscow mayoral elections in September that Pig Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin won over opposition leader Alexei Navalny — a nationalist who has attended previous “Russian March” rallies.

Navalny said he still believed in the need to rid Moscow of migrants but would not be joining Monday’s demonstration.

“I still support the Russian March as an idea and as an event,” Navalny wrote in his blog.

“But today, my participation in the Russian March would turn into a hellish comedy,” Navalny said in reference to the growing media attention he has been gaining both in Russia and abroad.

the Pig meanwhile planned to commemorate Unity Day by attending an exhibit honoring the Romanov dynasty together with Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill.

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« Reply #9743 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:30 AM »

State funeral held for Poland's first post-communist prime minister

Tadeusz Mazowiecki funeral in Warsaw attended by Polish and European leaders including José Manuel Barroso

Associated Press in Warsaw, Sunday 3 November 2013 15.31 GMT

Thousands of people, including Polish and European leaders, attended the state funeral on Sunday of Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Eastern Europe's first post-communist prime minister.

A pro-democracy activist and writer, Mazowiecki served as an adviser to Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity freedom movement, which ousted the communists from Poland in 1989.

Mazowiecki, who died last Monday at a Warsaw hospital aged 86, became Poland's first post-communist premier that year.

Poland's transformation inspired the rejection of communism in the region, but the stringent economic reforms initiated under Mazowiecki led to his bitter defeat in the first popular presidential vote in 1990. He later served as UN envoy to war-torn Bosnia, but resigned in 1995 to protest against what he perceived to be world inaction in the face of atrocities there.

The president of the European commission, José Manuel Barroso, was among the mourners for the funeral mass at St John's archcathedral in Warsaw.

Messages of condolence were sent from President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Pope Francis and other leaders.

Mazowiecki was laid to rest in Laski, near Warsaw.

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« Reply #9744 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:34 AM »

Abdullah Gul hints at battle for Turkish presidency

Gul not ruling out challenging authoritarian prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for presidency next summer

Simon Tisdall, Sunday 3 November 2013 18.16 GMT   

The Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, has again hinted he is prepared to challenge the country's authoritarian prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in presidential elections next summer that could decide the increasingly vexed question of who runs Turkey.

Asked during an exclusive weekend interview with the Guardian whether he would seek a second term, Gul said it was too early to make a decision. When pressed, he declined to rule out his candidacy, saying he was keeping "all options open".

Erdogan has served three consecutive terms as prime minister since 2003, during which time he transformed Turkey's economy and its international standing but has been heavily criticised for perceived dictatorial tendencies.

Under rules adopted by his neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AK), Erdogan is barred from seeking a fourth term as an MP.

But he has done little to discourage speculation that he may seek the presidency next year, when the winner will be elected for the first time by popular vote.

Speaking in a television interview last month, Erdogan indicated he would stand for president if nominated. "Whatever duty my party burdens me with, whatever it wishes of me, I will endeavour to do it," he said.

Yet for Erdogan to achieve his aim, the popular Gul, a former foreign minister and political moderate who became president in 2007, would have to agree to voluntarily make way – and it is increasingly unclear whether he will.

A job swap has also been floated, with Gul moving to the prime minister's office while Erdogan takes on a presidency with enhanced powers, following the model created last year by Russia's Vladimir Putin and the former president, Dmitri Medvedev.

But a growing divergence of views over the government's handling of last summer's violent street protests, and over what Gul calls Turkey's "democratic deficit" and the "normalisation" of Islamic values within Turkey's secular constitutional framework, has prompted suggestions that the two men, who together have dominated the Turkish political scene for more than a decade, may soon turn on each other.

Speaking to the Guardian, Gul insisted Erdogan was a friend, not a rival, and dismissed talk of policy rifts over his more inclusive stance on issues such as alcohol use and when Muslim women may wear the headscarf.

"We established the ruling party together with Tayyip Erdogan, we're the founders of the party. We took the party to government together and we changed Turkey together.

"Erdogan is a friend and we have worked shoulder to shoulder with him in the course of all these years," Gul said.

But Gul reiterated his support for peaceful protests, for official investigations into police conduct, and for his view that Turkish society needed greater openness.

All are positions opposed to varying degrees by Erdogan, who scorned the demonstrators as "riff-raff" and has offered only limited reforms to Kurds and other minority groups.

"I always have openly expressed my views and I expressed them at the time of the [summer] demonstrations and in my inaugural speech to parliament [last month].

"There is a democratic deficit in Turkey, in other words we have a way to go in taking our standards and criteria further," Gul said.

Much had been achieved, but there was still more to do, he said, referring to his recent speech in Izmir when he called for a second generation of social and legal reforms.

Opinion is divided over whether Gul will launch a serious challenge to Erdogan's dominance. Some observers say that he is carefully positioning himself for a run at a second term, but others disagree.

"Gul talks a lot but he does not do anything," a leading Istanbul businesswoman and political insider said.

"They are playing good cop, bad cop like they always do. This is a winning team. Why change the team?"


Radicalisation in Syria poses growing threat to Europe, says Turkish leader

In exclusive interview, president Abdullah Gul says Syria risks becoming 'Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean'

Simon Tisdall   
The Guardian, Sunday 3 November 2013 13.42 GMT      

The Syrian nation is dying as an indifferent world looks on, and the territory it occupies risks becoming "Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean", the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, has said.

Radicalisation of ordinary people by Islamist jihadist groups was spreading across Syria and posed a growing risk to its neighbours and the countries of Europe, Gul said in an exclusive interview with the Guardian.

But the response of the international community – including Turkey's American and British allies – to the security, humanitarian and moral challenges posed by the crisis had been very disappointing, he said. He reiterated his view that the UN security council's performance was a disgrace.

In a forthright and sometimes angry critique of western policy on Syria, Gul said the deaths of more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, in fighting over the past 32 months could have been avoided. Turkish mediation efforts early on in the war were not supported and were even undermined by western powers, he complained.

With the conflict showing no sign of ending, Turkey faces extreme instability and dislocation along its 565-mile border with Syria, the prospective radicalisation of its Kurdish, Alevi and Sunni Muslim populations, the spread of infectious diseases such as polio, TB and measles, and many new additions to its current total of 500,000 Syrian refugees.

Asked about the risk of the war spreading beyond Syria, Gul said that if Turkey were attacked or Turkish territory invaded, his government would respond militarily "in the strongest way possible".

He said: "There is no question about this. In fact we have already stated that we have changed the rules of engagement and we have given authority to Turkish armed forces in that respect … I don't see how much worse it can get, it's already very bad. But let me also say that this is not a bilateral issue between Turkey and Syria. We did not have any conflict with Syria, but when those human rights violations begun to occur and there was massacring of the people of Syria, then it become a matter for mankind, for us all, the international community. It's only by virtue of being a neighbouring country that Turkey is so very much involved. Also from the point of view the fact that we are hosting 500,000 Syrians in Turkey. Two hundred thousand of them live in camps and 300,000 in the cities through their own means.

"We have so far spent $2bn (£1.25bn) for them. We will continue to do so because this is a humanitarian matter [but] it's very regrettable seeing the indifference on the part of the international community."

Gul said that if the current deterioration in Syria continued unchecked, it would pose an increasingly grave security and counterterrorism challenge for Turkey.

"If the atmosphere remains as it is, then this can lead to more radicalisation and some groups in the civil war becoming more extreme, dividing up, not being under control, and spreading across that country. Because under those circumstances, ordinary people could become much more extreme and this is something that poses a danger and threat not just for Turkey – it's an issue for everyone.

"I don't think anybody would tolerate the presence of something like Afghanistan on the shores of the Mediterranean. For that reason, the international community must have a very solid position with respect to Syria."

Unfortunately, that unified stance appeared lacking and meanwhile the country was being destroyed.

"At the very beginning the international community's rhetoric was very high [calling for president Bashar al-Assad to stand down immediately] but then it reverted to its current position now. And that is a contradiction itself. And morally too, there is a country, Syria, exhausting itself, consuming itself, with many people dead, the infrastructures gone, there is a lot impact of what is going on, and the international community is watching this. Simply watching this, and this is very regrettable."

Gul said Turkish efforts to engage Assad in a dialogue two years ago had not received sufficient backing from Turkey's allies, but could have headed off the disaster that ensued.

"We talked to Assad because we wanted things to be resolved by peaceful means. That engagement was at all levels, it wasn't just myself, the prime minister, the foreign minister, we all worked very hard and at the time we even faced pressure from our allies because they said this was going on too long and it wasn't going anywhere. This is what I mean about the high rhetoric of the international community at the very beginning. They should have done something to follow up on their rhetoric and this was not done.

"What we tried to do did not work out and there wasn't much more we could do. I wish Assad had understood what we were telling him. In my very last message to him I said that if things went on as they were, whatever might be done would be too little, too late, and that he should take the initiative and lead the change in his country so the country would not fall to pieces.

"He read my letter and said it was all very important and good but he did not act on it, he did not do anything. Most certainly, yes, if he had heeded my advice, 100,000 people may not have died and Syria would not have faced so much destruction."

Gul suggested that the chemical weapons deal with Assad brokered by Russia was a distraction that Assad had exploited to bolster his position.

"It might be said Assad made good use of an opportunity with the chemical weapons deal with the Russians. But the question comes back to the international community again … Of course we are very pleased about the chemical weapons and we support that. But was it just the chemical weapons? Do we reduce the whole thing to chemical weapons? I think there is a moral question there that is presented to the international community."

Asked whether the US and Britain should be doing more to end the crisis, he replied: "Our expectation was different, we expected more. I think it is very disappointing to see the whole discussion reduced to a discussion solely on chemical weapons."

Gul said it was important that the proposed Geneva II peace conference, due this month, was better prepared than its forerunner. He felt last month's London meeting of the Friends of Syria group had been helpful. But he expressed scant hope that the next Geneva meeting would achieve a breakthrough, if and when it takes places. "The country is destroyed … There really isn't in my opinion much that can be done now."

Gul spoke to the Guardian during a weekend visit to Edinburgh, where he attended the Turkey-Britain Tatli Dil bilateral forum, met Scottish residents of Turkish origin and was given dinner by the Duke of York.

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« Reply #9745 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:36 AM »

Violence mars Kosovo elections

Masked men fire teargas and smash ballot boxes at three polling stations on Serb side of Mitrovica

Reuters in Mitrovica
The Guardian, Sunday 3 November 2013 19.22 GMT   

Link to video: Kosovo elections marred by violence as Mitrovica polling station attacked

Elections in Kosovo were marred by violence and intimidation by Serb hardliners on Sunday.

Two hours before polls closed in the ethnically divided town of Mitrovica, a volatile Serb pocket in northern Kosovo, masked men burst into three schools on the Serb side being used as polling stations, firing teargas and smashing ballot boxes.

Voting in north Mitrovica was halted as election officials fled, EU police in armoured vehicles spread out through the neighbourhood and helicopters flew over the town. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which is helping to manage the election, pulled out 60 of its more than 200 staff in the area.

Participation of the north Kosovo Serbs in the Kosovo-wide council and mayoral elections is central to an EU-brokered agreement reached in April to integrate the 40,000-50,000 Serb inhabitants with the rest of Kosovo, which is majority Albanian and declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

Serbia had called on Serbs in northern Kosovo to take part for the first time, with the EU holding out the prospect of membership talks – scheduled to begin in January – as a reward for Belgrade's support for the process.

But on the mainly Serb side of Mitrovica, a former mining town split along ethnic lines since Kosovo's 1998-99 war, turnout was just 7% by mid-afternoon, compared with 32% across the country.

"The election will not resume tonight or tomorrow and the question is whether it will resume at all," said Oliver Ivanovic, a candidate for mayor of north Mitrovica.

The municipal election is unlikely to bring about much change at the state level, but is the most tangible sign yet of the shift in official Serbian policy towards its former province.

Milka, a 43-year-old Serb woman who refused to give her full name, said she would not vote for fear of losing her job in a state-run company, She said the manager had threatened to fire any worker he saw voting. Others said they would not be deterred.

"I've been living here for almost 80 years and I came to vote because if we do not take part in elections, Serbs will vanish from Kosovo," said pensioner Milorad Stijovic.

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« Reply #9746 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:37 AM »

Golden Dawn shooting survivor could hold clues to identities of killers

Two men died in Athens drive-by shooting but third man, though badly injured, is likely to recover

Helena Smith in Athens, Sunday 3 November 2013 19.27 GMT   

Greek counter-terrorism experts are hoping that a man who survived a drive-by shooting at a branch of the far-right Golden Dawn party in Athens will help shed light on the assailants' identity.

As supporters of the extremist group held a memorial event on the spot where two of its members were shot dead on Friday, there was growing speculation that far-left radicals, seeking revenge for the murder of an anti-fascist musician, were behind the attack.

The man who survived, by diving into a building, is believed to have come face to face with the assassins.

"He is our best hope," said one source. "He's the one who got a close-up view of them."

The brazen nature of the attack has sparked fears that with the nation mired in economic crisis and political divisions growing, Greece is being pushed into a cycle of violence.

The two victims, identified as Manolis Kapelonis, 23, and Giorgos Fountoulis, 26, and described by Golden Dawn as "members of our family", were shot dead after two men on a motorcycle approached one of the party's local offices and fired indiscriminately at the building.

A third man, Alexandros Gerontas, was severely injured in the assault. After extensive surgery, doctors said his condition was improving.

Gerontas's mother, who has been praised for her dignified response and outspoken rejection of the course the country is taking, has issued a televised appeal for unity.

"I want to send a message especially to our youth, who are going through such difficult times, not to create such extremism," she said. "Bloodshed is not the right way. Where do we live? In a jungle?"

Outrage has been voiced by politicians across the spectrum amid concerns that the attack, which lasted 10 seconds and was captured on CCTV, will intensify what has been likened to a civil war between radical factions on the left and right.

Parties that only weeks ago were deploring the neo-fascist Golden Dawn have called it an "assault on democracy".

The shooting comes barely two months after Pavlos Fyssas, a leftwing hip-hop artist, was stabbed to death by a self-confessed member of Golden Dawn in another Athens suburb.

The murder elicited nationwide protests and an unprecedented crackdown on the extremist group that has since seen its leader and two other senior members imprisoned on charges of operating a criminal gang.

"The undeclared, low-grade civil war that we are living should not be declared officially," wrote Christos Dervenis, a leftwing commentator, in the Ethnos newspaper. "Our democracy may be strong but it is not a given."

Others warned that Golden Dawn, which has seen its support drop dramatically since the clampdown – even if it remains Greece's third biggest political force – would use the attack to gain sympathy in the polls.

"They were executed. If Greeks saw the images, they would be shocked," said the party's press spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris.

Ballistics experts said that the professionalism of the assailants – the victims were killed at point blank range when one of the gunmen got off the bike and approached the building – left no doubt that guerrillas were behind the attack. Twelve bullets fired from a Serbian-made 9mm Zastava handgun were found at the scene.

"Whoever is behind this attack had a message and it has been heard," said Mary Bossis, professor of international security at the University of Piraeus.

"In the absence of any group assuming responsibility all options are open," she added. "In Greece today there are many groups that are politically violent and very active."


Greece relieved as troika agrees to return to country

Visit to discuss continued assistance to cash-strapped nation begins on Tuesday

Helena Smith in Athens
The Guardian, Sunday 3 November 2013 21.45 GMT      

Greece is set to resume talks with the men who hold the keys to its financial stability after international inspectors said they would return to the country in a move that ends days of drama over whether they would come at all.

Mission heads representing the European Union, the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund– the three bodies that have propped up the debt-stricken Greek economy since May 2010 – will meet government officials in Athens on Tuesday.

"The visit will happen," said one visibly relieved Greek government official.

"This is no time for thrillers, even if we have our differences with the troika," he added, referring to the three organisations.

The auditors accepted they should return after Greece's finance minister, Yannis Stournaras, incensed at the possibility of the talks being postponed, reportedly negotiated late into Friday night to ensure that didn't happen.

The troika's most recent inspection began in September before being paused and was initially expected to resume at the end of October, then pushed back to Monday.

At stake is a €1bn (£850m) cash instalment – the latest handout from a €240bn package of rescue loans – that the cash-strapped nation desperately needs to pay the salaries and pensions of its large public sector.

Stournaras, an Oxford-trained macro-econonomics professor, is believed to have presented a new proposal to the team outlining plans to plug a fiscal gap that the troika says will likely be as much as €2.5bn in 2015.

Athens has argued vehemently that it will be much less. In recent weeks, amid mounting opposition over the prospect of fresh austerity, the government has insisted that if social security contributions are adjusted, adequate savings can be made.

With the country's prime minister, Antonis Samaras also ruling out new belt-tightening measures on a populace worn down by years of cuts, it remained unclear how Stournaras had managed to defuse the standoff or what his new proposal entailed, though some insiders said the stalemate was broken when Greece sent the lenders information on how it could fill the fiscal gap and meet other bailout targets, including privatisations.

"We have [on Friday] evening received further information from Athens which means we can confirm our travel plans. Our team will thus be in Athens at the beginning of the coming week," the European Commission's spokesman, Simon O'Connor said.

Until now the troika has dug in its heels, demanding that Athens's ruling coalition press ahead with increasingly stringent budget-reducing policies to fill the gap.

Highlighting the tensions that have gradually built up between the two sides, the normally mild-manned Stournaras called for common sense to prevail in an interview published on Sunday.

"There are solutions for all matters, as long as there is realism, flexibility and common sense on all sides," he told the Sunday Kathimerini.

"We all have to be calm. Our lenders have to pay close attention to the fact that the Greek economy is turning around which the markets have already recognised."

After managing to pull off the biggest fiscal consolidation on record in the four years since the extent of its debt load was revealed, Athens has stepped up demands that it be cut some slack.

But the country's creditors have claimed that Greece is not making enough progress with the privatisations of state industries and lay-offs in the public sector.

In return for continued financial assistance, Greece has agreed to cut up to 40,000 civil servants from the payroll over the next two years.

"There are growing differences between Athens and the troika," one eurozone official said in Brussels.

"The Greeks are saying 'we are doing enough' and the troika says they need new steps to close the budget."

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« Reply #9747 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:39 AM »

German police recover 1,500 modernist masterpieces 'looted by Nazis'

Works by Chagall, Klee, Matisse and Picasso – worth up to £860m – had been considered lost until raid on flat in Schwabing

Philip Oltermann in Berlin
The Guardian, Sunday 3 November 2013 19.59 GMT   
About 1,500 modernist masterpieces – thought to have been looted by the Nazis – have been confiscated from the flat of an 80-year-old man from Munich, in what is being described as the biggest artistic find of the postwar era.

The artworks, which could be worth as much as €1bn (£860m), are said to include pieces by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Max Beckmann and Emil Nolde. They had been considered lost until now, according to a report in the German news weekly Focus.

The works, which would originally have been confiscated as "degenerate art" by the Nazis or taken from Jewish collectors in the 1930s and 1940s, had made their way into the hands of a German art collector, Hildebrand Gurlitt. When Gurlitt died, the artworks were passed down to his son, Cornelius – all without the knowledge of the authorities.

Gurlitt, who had not previously been on the radar of the police, attracted the attention of the customs authorities only after a random cash check during a train journey from Switzerland to Munich in 2010, according to Focus. Further police investigations led to a raid on Gurlitt's flat in Schwabing in spring 2011. Police discovered a vast collection of masterpieces by some of the world's greatest artists.

The artworks are thought to have been stored amid juice cartons and tins of food on homemade shelves in a darkened room. Since their seizure, they have been stored in a safe customs building outside Munich, where the art historian Meike Hoffmann, from Berlin university, has been assessing their precise origin and value. When contacted by the Guardian, Hoffmann said she was under an obligation to maintain secrecy and would not be able to comment on the Focus report until Monday.

According to Focus, Cornelius Gurlitt, described as a loner, may have kept himself in pocket over the years by occasionally selling the odd artwork. Several of the frames in the flat were empty. He is thought to have sold at least one picture – a painting called Lion Tamer by Beckmann – since his flat was first raided by the police. On 2 December 2011, the painting was sold for €864,000 at an auction house in Cologne.

At least 300 paintings in the collection are thought to belong to a body of about 16,000 works once declared "degenerate art". Others are suspected to have been owned by fleeing Jewish collectors who had to leave belongings behind.

One Matisse painting used to belong to a French art dealer, Paul Rosenberg, whose granddaughter is Anne Sinclair, the TV journalist who is also the ex-wife of the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Rosenberg was renowned for representing Picasso, Georges Braque and Matisse.

Sinclair and her family have been campaigning for the return of looted Nazi treasures for years. "We are not willing to forget, or let it go," Marianne Rosenberg, another granddaughter, told the New York Times in April. "I think of it as a crusade."

Gwendolen Webster, an art historian who has spent time studying works from the Nazis' "degenerate art" collection, told the Guardian the significance of the find was "absolutely staggering for historians" but opened a legal can of worms.

One of the reasons why German customs may have been sitting on their find for such a long time is that they can expect a huge number of claims for restitution from around the world, with all the diplomatic difficulties that entails.

Descendants of Jewish collectors who were blackmailed or simply robbed of their works by the Nazis may now be able to legally claim ownership of some of the works in Munich.

The looted art trove may help to shed light on one of the more obscure chapters in Nazi Germany's history. Modernist art was banned soon after the Nazis came to power, on the ground that it was "un-German" or Jewish Bolshevist in nature.

From spring 1933 right up to the start of the war, exhibitions of the art toured the country, showcasing works that are now considered classics of expressionism, surrealism, cubism and Dada. Records of which artworks the authorities had looted from where are incomplete. "It was complete anarchy," says Webster.

Hildebrand Gurlitt, who had been a museum director in Zwickau until Hitler came to power, lost his post because he was half Jewish, but was later commissioned by the Nazis to sell works abroad. The discovered loot may show that Gurlitt in fact collected many of the artworks himself and managed to keep them throughout the war.

After the war, allied troops designated Gurlitt a victim of Nazi crimes. He reportedly said he had helped many Jewish Germans to fund their flight into exile, and that his entire art collection had been destroyed in the bombing of Dresden.


November 3, 2013

East German Model City Rusts, Quarter-Century After Berlin Wall’s Fall


EISENHÜTTENSTADT, Germany — For a little while, at least, Tom Hanks put Eisenhüttenstadt back on the map.

So what if he flubbed the translation of the name — it means Ironworks City, not Iron Hut City, as he called it, describing his brief tour here for a late-night American television audience. For a few months after his visit two years ago, residents of this former Communist model city hoped that perhaps other tourists would follow.

It was not to be. Instead, as Germany readies to mark 24 years since the collapse of Communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall on Saturday, the dwindling number of people who call Eisenhüttenstadt home seem condemned to confront a depressingly persistent question: What becomes of a model city once the model goes bust?

“It’s complicated, it’s complex, and it’s fraught in every sense of the word,” said Justin Jampol, a historian who specializes in cultural artifacts from Cold War-era Eastern Europe, explaining the challenge that Eisenhüttenstadt and other cultural sites constructed or commissioned by the Communists in the former East Germany still face in trying to carve out an identity in a reunified country.

“We’re looking at almost 25 years since the fall of the wall, and it’s more emotional and dangerous than it has ever been,” Mr. Jampol said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he is the director of the Wende Museum. “Eisenhüttenstadt represents more than any other place that I can imagine the complexities of dealing with the past.”

Perhaps no other city is as deeply entwined with socialist identity as Eisenhüttenstadt. Founded in 1950 as Stalinstadt — its name was changed in 1961 — the city was created around a newly established ironworks as a showcase for the Marxist principles promoted by the East German authorities.

Young people flocked here from the countryside, attracted by the availability of jobs and the offer of apartments in low-rise buildings clustered around leafy courtyards interspersed with schools, day care centers and offices. By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, some 40,000 people lived in Eisenhüttenstadt. Their average age was 28.

“You have to remember that at the time this was built, most people were still living in ruins” in the rest of East Germany, said Kathrin Henck, a native who runs the local tourist association, gesturing to the boulevard that forms the backbone of the city’s downtown, built wide enough to hold biannual military parades.

For decades, the city enjoyed special privileges. It got more generous rationing of hard-to-get goods, and cultural offerings like a new theater and commissioned artworks that graced courtyards. Buildings were constructed in an imposing Socialist realist style. As tensions mounted in the months leading up to Nov. 9, 1989, the demonstrations and protests that broke out in cities across the country were largely absent in Eisenhüttenstadt, Ms. Henck recalled. “We lived almost a charmed life.”

Today, the ironworks that gave the city its name are owned by ArcelorMittal, a multinational steel company. It remains the city’s largest employer, although increasingly workers commute from surrounding areas.

Unemployment has stabilized at 8.6 percent, higher than the 6.5 percent across all of Germany. But despite four industrial parks and an officially designated person to help newcomers settle in, Eisenhüttenstadt has struggled.

Like so many smaller and midsize cities in the former East German regions, the city has seen its population plummet, while the average age has shot up. Official numbers show 30,300 people living here, but some authorities say that number has sunk as low as 28,000. For every young family there are several retirees, raising the average age to 45. City planners are renovating some apartments to make them accessible for older people.

“Everything is fine until kids are finished with high school,” Ms. Henck said. “Then the young people leave to attend university, and they simply never come back.”

Ben Kladen, a blogger living in Berlin, is such an example. Now 37, he left Eisenhüttenstadt to go to college and never returned, although his mother still lives here. For years he devoted himself to promoting his home city among artists. In 2012 he helped the Berlin Biennale contemporary art fair set up an artist-in-residence program in Eisenhüttenstadt.

But after a matter of days, the artists cut short their stays and moved back to Berlin, 90 minutes away by car or train, frustrated with the slow pace of life and the lack of interest for their projects. Mr. Kladen views the exercise as yet another example of the city’s inability to capitalize on its socialist past.

“The city could do so much more when it comes to historical tourism,” Mr. Kladen said. “Given its history as a city entirely planned by the socialist government and fully documented from its beginning, it is a truly unique historical example.”

That’s not to say it has not tried. Housed in a former kindergarten is the Documentation Center to Daily Life in the G.D.R., a museum filled with posters, packaging, clothing and furniture of the life of the German Democratic Republic — the formal name for East Germany, a country that no longer exists.

The museum owns some 170,000 objects, only a fraction of which are on permanent display, collected over the past two decades. Last year the museum was taken over by the city, after the foundation that had set it up ran out of money. Its future is guaranteed only through next year.

A similar, privately funded G.D.R. Museum in Berlin attracts more than 500,000 visitors annually by offering what it calls a “hands-on history” of East Germany — from watching reels of old state television programs from an orange couch in a reconstructed living room, to taking a simulated drive behind the wheel of a Trabant. Here in Eisenhüttenstadt, the Documentation Center lures just 5,500 visitors a year.

Karin Panzer, 63, who moved with her family to Apartment Complex I as an infant and likes to say she is as old as this city, would like to see more visitors here as well. Sitting at a table in the bakery she runs in the former car showroom on Eisenhüttenstadt’s main street, she explained how her customers had dropped off steadily in recent years.

“Once I was the only bakery in the city,” Ms. Panzer said, recalling how during Communist times she had worked for the large state bakery that delivered to the entire region. Now most people buy their baked goods at the supermarket, she said, looking out the window at the empty street on a recent afternoon. “Customers? There could be more.”

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« Reply #9748 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:55 AM »

November 3, 2013

European Borders Tested as Money Is Moved to Shield Wealth


PARIS — There was nothing extraordinary about the casually dressed businessman waiting on a Paris train platform except, it turned out, for the envelopes he carried — stuffed with 350,000 euros in cash, and seized by French customs agents as he prepared to depart for Belgium.

The passenger, Boris Boillon, 43, is a former French ambassador to Iraq and Tunisia with two degrees from prestigious universities and a Legion of Honor medal. But to customs agents, who seized the money in July, he was just one of a growing number of “cash commuters.”

At the borders of European countries in economic crisis, customs agents say they are seizing increasing amounts of undeclared cash exceeding the €10,000 ($13,750) that each traveler is allowed to carry. They find it stashed in luggage, cake boxes, potato-chip bags, cookie tins and sometimes even children’s pockets. The cash, often in bundles of 500-euro notes, is moving with political currents as some Europeans seek to hide their wealth from rising taxes, high-profile tax investigations, and tightening rules at Swiss banks and other traditional havens.

The agents say they are routinely detaining business travelers who are on their way to European financial capitals, carrying minimal luggage and behaving nervously. “We see professionals and businessmen in insurance and banking, like him, every day,” said Philippe Bock, secretary general of the French solidarity trade union for customs agents, referring to Mr. Boillon.

“Three hundred fifty thousand euro was nothing exceptional,” Mr. Bock said. “Every month it passes like that, and there’s more and more money because of the crisis.”

For decades, banking secrecy laws in Switzerland made banks there a refuge for foreigners hoping to keep assets away from official notice. But Switzerland signed a treaty in October providing for the automatic exchange of tax information with depositors’ home countries, and bankers have been warning clients to make tax declarations or risk having their Swiss accounts closed. That has left many would-be tax avoiders with little choice but to move their money around the old-fashioned way.

“The main reason for the increase in seizures is simply the rising use of cash by fraudsters, including criminal networks and tax evaders,” said Mathieu Delahousse, a French journalist and co-author of a book about the phenomenon, “Cache Cash.” “People are still taking money abroad for tax evasion, but it is also moving in the other direction, because Swiss banks are closing accounts of foreign customers, and then they have to make a choice: Declare these bank accounts and pay high taxes, or hide the money.”

The rule requiring travelers crossing borders within the European Union to make a written customs declaration when carrying more than €10,000 in cash was introduced in 2007 in the hope of deterring money laundering and tax evasion. Undeclared cash can be seized and held for six months, and fines of 25 percent or more can be withheld. The authorities can also start broader investigations into the origins of the money in special customs courts.

Customs agents are blasé about catching businesspeople, but they were amused to see an American family of four, including two young children, in a discreet corner of a railway station near the Swiss border, dividing €600,000 among themselves. The money was seized when they boarded a train, according to Mr. Bock of the customs trade union.

Cash seizures by French customs agents have soared over the last decade even as budget cuts have thinned the agents’ ranks by 25 percent. The total for the first quarter of 2013 was up sixfold from a year earlier, to €103 million, most of it from a man who tried to drive into France from Switzerland with €86 million in bearer bonds, which are tantamount to cash. On an average day in 2012, French agents seized €300,000, 50 percent more than the 2011 average, according to government figures. And the customs agency estimates that it catches only 5 percent of the undeclared cash crossing the country’s borders.

The precautions are growing more elaborate, and the finds more eye-catching. In February, inspectors on the fast train between Zurich and Paris stopped a Spanish traveler who was carrying €1.8 million ($2.5 million), made up entirely of 500-euro notes. Those bills, the largest denomination in circulation, have come to be nicknamed Bin Ladens for their association with money laundering and illicit transactions.

In Italy, cash-sniffing Labrador retrievers and German shepherds helped the financial police who prowl the country’s five main airports and its northern border to nearly triple their seizures of cash in 2012, to €124 million. The authorities were close to exceeding that figure this year by mid-autumn.

Sergio Callipo, national secretary of the Italian customs agents’ union, said that much more cash slipped through. “Millions of passengers pass every week, and some officers and one or two dogs are not a real deterrent for smugglers,” he said. “We would need an army, and we are just sentinels.”

Some experts believe that widespread publicity about tax investigations of well-known figures in struggling countries is driving an increase in cash smuggling. Those ensnared include Jérôme Cahuzac, the former French budget minister; Uli Hoeness, the president of the Bayern Munich soccer club in Germany; and the soccer star Lionel Messi of F.C. Barcelona in Spain.

Some wealthy travelers complain that they feel like targets. A European aristocrat who did not want to be named, for fear of drawing more scrutiny, said that friends were sharing stories of Italian financial police boarding docked yachts to check for undeclared cash in safes on board.

Like their French counterparts, Spanish customs agents and tax authorities say they have been making more seizures this year despite their ranks’ having been depleted by budget cuts. In Spain, most seizures are of undeclared money leaving the country, but some are of cash on its way in.

The bulk of the seized Spanish cash is in euros — about €17.5 million so far this year — but some seizures involve other currencies, including American dollars, Korean won and Chinese renminbi. Increasingly, it seems, intermediaries are being used to move the money, according to Eladio Barrado, a spokesman for Siat, the main union representing employees of Spain’s national tax agency.

In a prominent case last year, named Operation Emperor, the authorities broke up a ring that was using a fake import-export company to launder hundreds of millions of euros belonging to Chinese criminal gangs and wealthy Spaniards. The network was smuggling cash out of Spain by train and car.

That case resulted in the arrests of more than 100 people. But in most cases, people caught moving undeclared money are dealt with more discreetly, in private judicial proceedings, and are fined rather than imprisoned.

In the case of Mr. Boillon, the former diplomat, news of the cash seizure leaked out almost immediately to the French investigative website Mediapart. His case is pending before the National Judicial Customs Service. Efforts to reach him for comment or to leave messages at the registered Paris address of his business were unsuccessful.

Doreen Carvajal reported from Paris, and Raphael Minder from Madrid. Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting from Rome.

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« Reply #9749 on: Nov 04, 2013, 06:59 AM »

November 3, 2013
Iran’s Top Leader and U.S. Counter Criticism of Talks

TEHRAN — With talks over Iran’s nuclear program set to resume in Geneva this week, both sides engaged in a bit of public diplomacy Sunday: Iran’s supreme leader moved to quiet hard-liners in his country by expressing support for his negotiating team, while the chief American negotiator reiterated in an Israeli television interview that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds Iran’s final word on the nuclear talks, told a group of students here that he was not optimistic the negotiations would succeed, but he also sent a negative message to the conservative clerics and military commanders who in recent weeks have attacked the diplomatic initiative.

“No one has the right to see our negotiating team as compromisers,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to a recounting published on his personal website. “They are our own children and children of the revolution. They have a difficult mission, and no one has the right to weaken an official who is doing his job.”

On Thursday and Friday, Iran and the so-called P5-plus-1 group of world powers are scheduled to hold their second round of negotiations since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s president in June. Mr. Rouhani has pledged a resolution on the nuclear issue within a year in the hope of easing sanctions that have crippled his nation’s economy.

During two days of talks last month, Iranian negotiators presented an unusually detailed proposal whose contents were not revealed publicly but led Western leaders to suggest progress was possible.

In a lengthy interview with Channel 10 News in Israel that was broadcast Sunday night, Wendy Sherman, who leads the United States delegation to the nuclear talks, sought to reassure a skeptical ally of “President Obama’s commitment that Iran not obtain a nuclear weapon.” She stressed that Israel, which is not a party to the talks, would be informed and “have consulted with us” about any possible deal “because Israel’s security is bedrock, and there is no closer security relationship than what we have with each other.”

As she did during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee early last month, Ms. Sherman, a senior State Department official, suggested a two-stage process: first, to stop the advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, then to “negotiate a comprehensive agreement.” But she did not indicate how the United States and the five other powers — Britain, China, Russia, Germany and France — could be certain the nuclear program was not advancing. And she suggested that some sanctions might be eased during the negotiations, something that Israel’s leadership has staunchly opposed.

“If we can, in fact, stop the program from advancing further while we negotiate a comprehensive agreement and offer very limited, temporary, reversible sanctions relief,” Ms. Sherman said in the interview, taped Friday in Washington, “but keep in place the fundamental architecture of the oil and banking sanctions — which we will need for a comprehensive agreement, not for a first step — then I think we are starting to make progress.”

Ms. Sherman twice repeated Secretary of State John Kerry’s statement that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” and said Mr. Kerry’s recent criticism of people using “fear tactics” to derail the diplomatic initiative had not been directed at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as many Israelis believed. As the interview was broadcast, Mr. Kerry was on his way to Saudi Arabia, another critical American ally that has been incensed by the warming of relations between Washington and Tehran.

Monday is the 34th anniversary of the seizing of the United States Embassy in Tehran and the capture of 66 hostages in a crisis that lasted 444 days. The episode froze relations between the countries until Mr. Obama’s September telephone call to Mr. Rouhani. Iranian hard-liners were organizing nationwide events for Monday, emphasizing the “Death to America” slogan that characterized the embassy takeover and ensuing Islamic revolution.

Ayatollah Khamenei, who had not appeared in public in over three weeks, had his own harsh words on Sunday for the United States, particularly for its close relationship with Israel, which he calls “the Zionist regime.”

“Do not trust a smiling enemy,” he told the students in something of an echo of Mr. Netanyahu’s warnings against Mr. Rouhani. “On the one hand, the Americans smile and express their desire to negotiate, but on the other, they immediately say that all options are on the table,” a reference to a military strike.

“The Americans have the most consideration for the Zionists, and they have to consider them, but we do not have this consideration,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “We have said from the very first day that we regard the Zionist regime as an illegal and illegitimate regime.”

Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that the fact that some Iranians refer to the anniversary of the hostage-taking as Death to America Day “makes it clear that pressure on the Iranian regime must be continued.”

“Iran is continuing to try and arm itself with nuclear weapons: It has not changed its goal — its method maybe, but not the goal — and it has not changed its ideology,” Mr. Netanyahu said at the start of Israel’s weekly cabinet meeting. “The pressure has brought them to the negotiating table. I am convinced that if the pressure is maintained and not relaxed, Iran will dismantle its military nuclear capabilities, and if the pressure is relaxed, Iran will advance toward this goal.”

Thomas Erdbrink reported from Tehran, and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem.


Iran sticks to ‘Death to America’ on embassy takeover day

By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, November 3, 2013 17:54 EST

Iran on Monday marks the anniversary of the 1979 US embassy takeover with its customary “Death to America” chants despite a taboo-breaking telephone call between their presidents.

Islamist students stormed the embassy compound in Tehran 34 years ago, holding 52 U.S. diplomats hostage for 444 days, rupturing diplomatic relations and provoking decades of mutual hostility.

Iran marks the takeover anniversary in a state-organised ceremony each year.

Hardline organisations, including the Basij militia, have called for a massive turnout this year in response to new President Hassan Rouhani’s overtures towards Washington.

Two thirds of Iran’s MPs have said they plan to attend the event held in front of the “Den of Spies” — the U.S. compound turned into a museum showcasing American “crimes” against Iran.

The “Death to America” slogan is “the manifestation of our nation’s determination and resistance against the dominance of oppressive and untrustworthy America,” the powerful Revolutionary Guards said on Saturday.

The Guards said in a statement that the current row between Europe and Washington over alleged US spying on its allies was proof that Washington cannot be trusted.

This year’s ceremony comes after Rouhani, who has pledged to improve ties with the West, held a historic telephone conversation with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.

It was the first direct contact between leaders of the two countries in more than three decades, raising hopes of a rapprochement while provoking criticism from hardliners at home against overtures towards the “Great Satan.”

The mistrust of Washington is also shared by Iran’s all-powerful supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The Americans smile and express a desire for negotiations; on the other hand, they immediately say that all options are on the table,” Khamenei said Sunday.

“We should not trust a smiling enemy,” he said, warning Iran’s nuclear negotiating team engaged in fresh talks with representatives from the U.S. and five other world powers.

In recent weeks however, some government supporters have questioned the merits of the “Death to America” slogan chanted at most official events.

“I hope no member of the government will participate in the event this year,” said Sadeq Zibakalam, a political commentator close to the reformist camp.

“It was expected that the ceremony would not be held this year.”

He even asked Rouhani, voted in with the support of reformists and moderates, to “condemn” insults against other countries, in reference to the burning of American flags during the anniversary.

Last week, the government ordered anti-American banners questioning Washington’s sincerity in nuclear talks with Iran removed from the streets of Tehran.

The move provoked the ire of conservatives, even though not all posters were removed and similar ones appeared in other major cities across the country.

In one poster, American and Iranian negotiators are seated at a table facing each other, while the American wearing jacket and tie but with army pants and boots holds a rifle under the table.

At Friday prayers in Tehran this week, hardliner Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami proposed “Death to America” be kept on for “political pressure” during the nuclear negotiations with world powers.

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