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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1078248 times)
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« Reply #10200 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:27 AM »

Paris shootings: suspect charged with attempted murder and kidnapping

Abdelhakim Dekhar is charged with shootings at television station, newspaper office and bank in Paris

Kim Willsher in Paris and Peter Beaumont, Saturday 23 November 2013 13.03 GMT   

A man who allegedly shot and seriously wounded a photographer at the French newspaper Libération has been charged with attempted murder and kidnapping.

Abdelhakim Dekhar is the suspect in shootings at a television station, a newspaper office and a French bank. He is also believed to have forced a driver to take him into central Paris.

In one of the shootings, a photographer's assistant was gravely wounded.

After a two-day manhunt, police found Dekhar semi-conscious in a parking garage following what they say was a suicide attempt.

Authorities found a letter with him that spoke of fascist plots and criticised media manipulation and capitalism.

Dekhar was described in a 1996 psychiatric evaluation as a "voluble fantasist" and compulsive liar in thrall to his own sense of importance.

The evaluation – seen by Le Monde – has emerged amid a wealth of new details about Abdelhakim Dekhar, who is thought to have spent much of the last 13 years living in Britain.

The assessment was prepared by a psychiatric team in 1996 before Dekhar's trial and conviction for his role in another high-profile shooting incident, when he supplied a shotgun used by two young French anarchists during an infamous 1994 murder spree in Paris that left five people dead.

The evaluation gives a picture of Dekhar, who is suspected of causing panic in Paris this week, as an often-troubled individual who spent time in care as a teenager before briefly joining the French army.

If the story of 48-year-old Dekhar is in some respects a hangover from a bygone era – a man who first came to public attention at the lingering end of a European revolutionary movement that embraced violence – it has more modern aspects too.

Not least of these is Dekhar's more recent attachment to a DIY ideology – (as French analysts have noted) – shot through with strands of narcissism, whose acts of violence appear to have had as much to do with grandiose self-invention as political grievance.

It was in the mid-1990s, however, that Dekhar first came to the attention of the French authorities as the man who supplied one of the guns used by two young French radicals, Florence Rey and Audry Maupin, for which Dekhar was tried and sentenced to four years in prison.

At the time of his trial for his role in the Rey-Maupin affair – which is sometimes described as France's "Bonnie and Clyde" moment – Dekhar compared himself to Nelson Mandela.

Known in radical circles as "Toumi", Dekhar was suspected by prosecutors of a much greater involvement, although it was never proved.

After prison Dekhar dropped off the map with some of his old radical colleagues believing he had gone to Algeria where his family originally came from. The reality, it has emerged, was more prosaic.

Dekhar had moved to Britain where he married – twice by some accounts, once to a 27-year-old Turkish student in 2000 – and worked, at least for a while, in a restaurant in Ilford.

It was an unidentified friend and co-worker from that period who named Dekhar as a suspect in the shooting of the photographer at Libération and a gun attack on the offices of Société Générale bank.

When French police and media looked into his background after the Rey-Maupin shootings, they found long gaps and evidence of complex fantasies that he had built.

The question of Dekhar's sanity was extensively investigated at the time of his trial, with psychologists concluding that while he did not possess a "grain of madness" he was a voluble and compulsive fantasist.

According to his 1996 psychological report, doctors concluded: "Most of his statements take the form of a logical but fantastical construct centred around one main theme in which he is a shadowy agent, tasked with a definite political mission in service of the cause of Algerian democracy."

The report, prepared by doctors Henri Grynszpan and Daniel Zagury, added he had a "constant tendency of overestimating his options … openly compar[ing] himself to Nelson Mandela…"

The report's authors added: "It is quite unrealistic to unravel right from wrong with him… As soon as one tries to question or raise the slightest doubt over one of the points of his argument, he immediately falls back on the line of persecution and is capable of showing, on occasion, great verbal aggression."

None of this was news to his former colleagues in the radical movement. As one anonymous leader told Libération in 1996, Dekhar "behaved like a secret agent … who would not disclose his mobile number, supplied a false name for his girlfriend" and who came across as "a solitary but loudmouthed" figure "who liked to provoke meetings" he attended and disdained others in the movement for their "wishy-washy" commitment to bringing about real social change.

What is perhaps most odd is not that Dekhar, who left behind two rambling and confused letters before attempting suicide last week, popped up again as a suspect in a violent attack, but that he appears to have lived a relatively normal life in Britain in the intervening years.

If some preoccupations had not changed in that time, including his belief in his own victimisation and wider society by the elite, the precise focus had been transformed. Indeed the letters recovered last week apparently suggested his conspiratorial belief in a "fascist plot" in which Dekhar accused the media of "participating in the manipulation of the masses" and referred to western conflicts in the Middle East.

Born in 1965 in Moselle, the third child in a family of 11, his childhood was evidently troubled. Dekhar ran away from home and spent a short period in care. At 17 he joined the 9th parachute regiment based in Pamiers in the far south of France, but appears not to have served for long.

More than a decade later he would tell a judge that his military service was cut short ostensibly by problems with his eyesight but in reality because he was an agent of the Algerian secret services. He claimed to have been sent to infiltrate radical circles suspected of supporting armed Islamist terror. Nobody believed him.

If the web of dissimulation that he spun then obscured what really drove him, what he did in the intervening years in London is equally opaque.

His sister Farida Dekhar-Powell, a French teacher who lives in Essex, told journalists this week she had stopped talking to him 20 years ago after the Rey-Maupin shootings.

"He is not part of my life and that's how it stays," she said.

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« Reply #10201 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:36 AM »

November 23, 2013

Women in Domestic Slavery Case Lived in a ‘Collective’ With Suspect, Police Say


Two of three women who say they were held as domestic slaves for 30 years in a London home had previously lived in a political “collective” with a suspect in the case, a police commander leading the investigation said on Saturday.

The women had met the suspect through a “shared political ideology” and then moved in with him, said the commander, Steve Rodhouse, of the Metropolitan Police. When the collective ended, the women were said to be too frightened to leave, bound by what investigators have called “invisible handcuffs.”

The man and a second suspect, a woman who is believed to be his wife, are of Indian and Tanzanian origin and arrived in Britain in the 1960s, Commander Rodhouse said. They were arrested on Thursday and released on bail after surrendering their passports. Both are 67, but their identities were not made public. The British police generally do not name suspects until they have been charged.

“We believe that two of the victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology, and that they lived together at an address that you could effectively call a ‘collective,’ ” Commander Rodhouse said in a statement.

“The people involved, the nature of that collective and how it operated is all subject to our investigation and we are slowly and painstakingly piecing together more information,” he said. “How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims’ lives.”

The idea that three women might have been kept as domestic slaves in an ordinary neighborhood in their city has shocked and confounded Londoners.

Frank Field, a Labour member of Parliament who has advocated a modern slavery bill and the appointment of an anti-slavery commissioner, said the case was just the “tip of a rather large iceberg.”

“We’ve had this example of domestic slavery, but people are being imported to work, almost for nothing, in industry,” he told the BBC.

Aneeta Prem, the founder of the Freedom Charity, which specializes in helping victims of forced marriage, and who worked with the police to help free the three women, said requests for help from the charity had surged since the story broke on Thursday.

“We have seen an extraordinary rise in calls to our help line since the rescue of the three women came into the public domain,” Ms. Prem said. “We received five times as many calls in 24 hours as we normally do in one week and are needing to increase our resources to cope with this extra demand.”

The three women — a Malaysian woman, 69; an Irishwoman, 57; and a British woman, 30, — are at a secret location and are being questioned by officers who are specialized in trauma, according to the police.

They were freed from the house in the Lambeth district in South London on Oct. 25, a week after the Irishwoman had contacted the Freedom Charity. She had memorized the charity’s help number after watching a television documentary that featured the group and made a whispered call on a cellphone she had secretly obtained.

The exact conditions the women were held under and what why they apparently felt too terrified to leave for three decades remain unclear. At least one woman has complained of beatings and one might have been forcibly married to the male suspect, a person familiar with the case said. The women did not say they had been sexually abused, the police said, but the person familiar with the case said investigators still suspected they were.

A birth certificate was the only document found for the youngest victim, the police said Saturday, leading investigators to believe she had been held captive her entire life. It was unclear whether she is related to either of the other women or the suspects.

The case is unusual compared with others involving domestic servitude, investigators said, in that it did not appear the women were physically restrained. Instead, the picture slowly emerging is one of emotional control over many years, they said.

“Brainwashing would be a simple term, but I think that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure,” Commander Rodhouse said at a news conference on Friday.


'Emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the slavery victims' lives'

Neighbours describe their shock at the captivity of three women for 30 years

Tracy McVeigh, Charlotte Latimer and Lin Jenkins   
The Observer, Saturday 23 November 2013 23.22 GMT   

In the days since news broke of the plight of three women rescued from domestic slavery in an unremarkable residential street in London the wild speculation about their ordeal has been replaced by some factual details that have proved even more bizarre.

Yesterday detectives began the task of sifting through 55 bags of evidence containing some 2,500 exhibits collected during a 12-hour search of the home shared by the women and the couple who held them captive for more than 30 years. Police conducted door-to-door enquiries around Peckford Place in Brixton trying to discover who knew what about the strange living arrangements and how such a crime could go undetected despite the gaze of neighbours.

The couple, who have been released on bail, but not allowed to return to the property, were familiar to people living in the area. There was no suggestion that they lived a reclusive existence.

Abdul Rogers, 40, a support worker, who is also on the estate management board and lives in a building opposite the council-owned home, said he was "very surprised" to hear the news. But, he maintained, while residents might recognise one another, they did not necessarily form close bonds.

"I think that is the problem you have when different communities all live in the same community," he said.

"So at the end of the day people don't really speak to each other. You don't talk to each other. Even if I saw my neighbour on the street I probably wouldn't know him.

"I think people really need to look out for each other, but unfortunately that doesn't happen. People don't want to get involved in other people's business."

Tyonna Morris, 18, student, has lived in the area for eight years but was unaware for years that anyone lived in the house until a few months ago when she saw a woman pushing another elderly and possibly Malaysian woman in a wheelchair into it. "You wouldn't ever think anything like that would happen where you live," she said.

One neighbour who once knocked at the door of the property to retrieve a toy his son had dropped off a balcony said two people came to the door and there were others in the background who looked nervous. He thought something suspicious was going on, "but nothing like this", he said.

A woman, who gave her name only as Valerie, said the area was "nice, quiet and calm". "People who live here respect where they live," she said. "There is still a little community. Seeing all this going on is quite surprising to me. It's shocking really."

Commander Steve Rodhouse, from Specialist Crime and Operations, explained the amount of mystery that remains surrounding the case by saying: "What we must do is everything we can to protect the integrity of our investigation and ensure that we do not damage the collection of evidence or the chances of bringing this to a successful criminal prosecution. Equally we need to respect the needs of the victims in this case.

"This investigation will take some considerable time. There are a number of lines of inquiry to follow up, numerous statements to take, and a number of exhibits to examine. We are unpicking a story that spans at least 30 years of these women's lives.

"I have said from the start that our priority was the safety of the women who are the victims at the heart of this. That does not just mean their physical safety but their emotional and mental wellbeing also.

"To gain the trust and confidence of highly traumatised victims takes time, and this must move at their pace, not anyone else's.

"We must take every step to protect the identities of the victims who are understandably emotionally fragile and highly vulnerable. For that reason we will not provide any information that will lead to the identification of the suspects or these women that require our every effort to protect them."


London 'slaves' had been in political collective with captors, police say

Two of the three women allegedly held as slaves first met male suspect through shared political ideology, says Met

Conal Urquhart and agencies, Saturday 23 November 2013 15.45 GMT   

Two of the three women allegedly held for 30 years as slaves had lived in a political collective with their captors, police have disclosed.

Metropolitan police commander Steve Rodhouse told reporters that two of the alleged victims met the male suspect in London through a shared political ideology and began living together in a "collective".

The address where the women lived with their alleged captors is understood to be a three-storey block in Peckford Place, Stockwell, south London. Police are conducting house-to-house inquiries in the area.

The suspects, both 67, are of Indian and Tanzanian origin and came to the UK in the 1960s, police said. They have been released on bail to a date in January.

A 30-year-old British woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman were rescued from a house last month, after one of the women called a support charity asking for help. All three women are believed to have suffered emotional and physical abuse.

Scotland Yard revealed that part of the agreement when the women were removed from the address on 25 October was that police would not at that stage take any action.

None of the women was reported missing after they were rescued. Officers have recovered a birth certificate for the 30-year-old woman, who is believed to have lived her entire life in servitude.

Rodhouse said police agreed to move at a slow pace to accommodate the fragile state of mind of the alleged victims.

"Part of the agreement on 25 October when they were removed from the suspects' address was that police would not at that stage take any action. Since that date we have been working to gain their trust and evidence. That came to fruition on 21 November, when we were in a position to make arrests," he said.

Rodhouse said police were examining the nature of the cult. "The people involved, the nature of that collective and how it operated is all subject to our investigation and we are slowly and painstakingly piecing together more information," he said.

"Somehow that collective came to an end and … somehow the women ended up continuing to live with the suspects. How this resulted in the women living in this way for over 30 years is what are seeking to establish, but we believe emotional and physical abuse has been a feature of all the victims' lives."

The 30-year-old woman's birth certificate was the only the official documentation that police have recovered.

"We believe she has lived with the suspects and the other victims all her life, but of course at this early stage we are still seeking out evidence," Rodhouse said.

Meanwhile, as officers stood guard on Saturday at the three-storey block in Stockwell, neighbours spoke of their shock. One local resident, Abdul Rogers, said many people living in the area did not speak to each other. "It's really shocking," he said. "It's a kind of quiet area. I don't even know my next-door neighbour. If I met them on the street now I would not be able to tell it was my next-door neighbour, which is not good for community cohesion. Nobody speaks to each other."

A woman, who gave her name only as Valerie, said the area was usually quiet and calm.

"People who live here respect where they live," she said. "There is still a little community. Seeing all this going on is quite surprising to me. It's shocking really."


London 'slavery' case the tip of an iceberg, warns MP Frank Field

MP leading review of modern slavery says scale of problem becoming clear after three women allegedly found in captivity

Staff and agencies, Saturday 23 November 2013 10.39 GMT   

The case of three women allegedly held as slaves for 30 years in south London is the "tip of a rather large iceberg", an MP in charge of reviewing evidence of slavery in Britain has warned.

Frank Field, chairman of the evidence review for the modern slavery bill, said criminal gangs were making "huge sums of money" from people being imported into the UK to work "almost for nothing".

Field said many victims who escape have no way of communicating because they speak little or no English and often come from countries where they are "deeply suspicious" of the police.

"We've had this example of domestic slavery but people are being imported to work, almost for nothing, in industry," he told BBC Breakfast.

"We've got begging gangs being developed, with people being imported. And of course we've got the whole question of how children are being imported to work. It's a whole range of issues we've got to wake up to."

Field, who is vice-chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, said it appeared the scale of the problem was being revealed as authorities became more successful with prosecutions.

"If you think where other countries have started to be serious about this, the numbers have risen sharply," he said.

"I would have thought it's safe to act on the assumption that the examples we've had in the last few months are the tip of a rather large iceberg."

The modern slavery bill, which is due to be published in the coming weeks, is expected to increase the penalty to life imprisonment and create an anti-slavery commissioner.

Field said he hoped the commissioner would become a "focal point" for the campaign to tackle the issue.

"It's so shocking to just be talking to people who have been through this," the Labour MP for Birkenhead said.

"It's incredibly brave that people have been able to talk about it. They themselves say the one thing they want from the bill above all others is a champion, a spokesman."
Link to video: London slave case involves physical and psychological abuse, say police

Detectives are examining whether the three women who were held in a south London house under what detectives described as extreme emotional control for 30 years were part of a cult which used beatings and brainwashing to bind them to their captors.

Police said a man and woman, both 67, bailed on Thursday had been arrested on suspicion of immigration offences as well as in connection with the investigation into slavery and domestic servitude.

The couple, who are not British citizens but have been in the country for "many years", had previously been arrested in the 1970s, according to Scotland Yard.

Police say the three women were not trafficked, and they are not looking for any more suspects or victims.

The alleged victims – a 30-year-old British woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 69-year-old Malaysian woman – are receiving specialist care after they were rescued from a residential address last month.

The youngest woman may have been born in the house and allegedly had no contact with the outside world.

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« Reply #10202 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:39 AM »

November 23, 2013

Syria Seen as Most Dire Refugee Crisis in a Generation


KILIS, Turkey — As the boom of shelling resounded along Turkey’s border with Syria here on a recent afternoon, Zakaria Deeb had nowhere left to run.

He had traveled 100 miles to Kilis with his family, chasing a false rumor that refugees would be allowed into a Turkish-run camp in the city, about 50 miles north of the Syrian city Aleppo. Instead, along with hundreds of other Syrians, the Deebs were now squatting in a gravel-strewn field across from the camp, sleeping under plastic sheets hanging from the branch of a cypress tree.

Nearly three years of bloody civil war in Syria have created what the United Nations, governments and international humanitarian organizations describe as the most challenging refugee crisis in a generation — bigger than the one unleashed by the Rwandan genocide and laden with the sectarianism of the Balkan wars. With no end in sight in the conflict and with large parts of Syria already destroyed, governments and organizations are quietly preparing for the refugee crisis to last years.

The Deebs fled their home a year ago because of fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces. Recent clashes between Kurdish fighters and the Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, pushed them into Turkey. Now, just on the other side of the border here, ISIS fighters were battling yet another rebel group, the Northern Storm.

“We expected the revolution to be over quickly, like in Libya and Egypt, but it’s been nearly three years already, and God knows when this war will end,” Mr. Deeb, 31, said, peering at the plumes of white smoke rising inside Syria. Children shrieked as another large mortar shell exploded across the border.

A stray bullet from Syria had landed inside the camp in the morning, wounding a 5-year-old girl in the foot. “If this camp is full, we’re willing to go to any camp inside Turkey,” he said. “We don’t want to go back to Syria.”

Syrians have been pouring out of their country in recent months, fleeing an increasingly violent and murky conflict that is pitting scores of armed groups against one another as much as against the government. Numbering just 300,000 one year ago, the refugees now total 2.1 million, and the United Nations predicts their numbers could swell to 3.5 million by the end of the year.

“The fighting continues, people are getting displaced and we don’t know how long it’s going to take,” said Amin Awad, the head of the United Nations’ refugee agency in the Middle East. “Therefore, aside from making sure the humanitarian operations are running, we need to support the host communities and governments.”

The exodus has stretched the resources of the region’s host countries — Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and even Turkey, the biggest and richest by far. Camps are full. But so are many neighborhoods in cities, towns and villages, where the Syrians’ presence has raised rents, undercut wages and increased tensions. In Lebanon, the smallest of the host nations and the most politically fragile, Syrian refugees are expected soon to make up a quarter of the population.

The flood has also raised fears that the refugees will import the Syrian conflict into the host countries, and destabilize already fragile borders. Like the other host nations, Turkey, which is actively supporting the Syrian opposition, was struggling to control the mass movements across its border.

In Hatay, Turkey’s southwestern province, hundreds of Syrians could be seen crossing illegally, unchecked by border guards or soldiers. Stretches of the border appeared porous and lawless. Criminal gangs thriving in the cross-border smuggling of gasoline and other goods could be seen working in broad daylight, using walkie-talkies to direct trucks in and out of Syria.

A few miles from one of the biggest smuggling centers, the Turkish border town Bes Arslan, soldiers could sometimes be seen chasing individual Syrians clambering down a hill into Turkey. In a cat-and-mouse game played out over the day, Syrians crouched behind trees and rocks, some successfully slipping into Turkey; others were caught by soldiers and sent back.

Those turned away often try again later in the day. As soon as darkness fell, hundreds of Syrians began pouring out of Bes Arslan onto the highway, where relatives and taxi drivers were waiting. Slipping in and out of the headlights, they stuffed large suitcases into vehicles that quickly took them deeper into Turkey.

One weeping woman was ushered into the back seat of a car as the driver and others took care of her luggage and five children. Her baby, who had been sitting on the asphalt, was finally put inside, and the car whisked the family away. Her husband had died in a bombing earlier that day during the family’s flight.

“She had to leave his body behind in Syria,” said one of the men who had helped her with her luggage. “The driver is taking her into town for free.”

Rising Frustration

Saher Hardan, another squatter in Kilis, fled Syria two years ago with her children. With the money she earned from selling a modest piece of land, the family lived in a $75-a-month apartment here until recently. Now out of money, the Hardans sleep inside a tent with their neatly stacked belongings. A framed portrait of Ms. Hardan’s husband — a former school janitor who fought for the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and was killed, “torn into pieces” in an explosion — sat prominently in the middle of the tent.

“We tried four times to get into a camp, but they keep telling us that there is no space,” Ms. Hardan, 45, said.

Turkey has already spent $2 billion sheltering 200,000 Syrian refugees in 21 camps. But an estimated 400,000 live in Turkish communities, and many, like Ms. Hardan, have exhausted their savings and are turning to Turkey for help. Turkish officials, who have been praised for their well-run camps, are expressing frustration.

“The Syrian refugees want more than what we can provide,” said Suleyman Tapsiz, the governor of Kilis. “So we’re caught in a dilemma. On the one hand, if we provide good services, more and more people will come. On the other hand, if we don’t provide good services, we risk being labeled a government that doesn’t provide humanitarian help properly.”

The United Nations has asked for more than $5 billion in humanitarian aid this year for Syria, its biggest financial appeal ever for a single crisis. Officials say the high costs result not only from the scale of the crisis but also from the difficulties of catering to a refugee population used to middle-class conditions.

Dry food rations have been typically distributed inside refugee camps during crises in Africa, while registered Syrian refugees are given vouchers or debit cards to buy food at supermarkets. The cost is greater, but the Syrians prefer the freedom of preparing their own meals. The practice also injects money into the host communities — $160 million from the World Food Program has trickled into local stores in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt so far this year.

Governments and humanitarian groups are increasingly working under the assumption that the crisis will be a long-lasting one.

The Danish Refugee Council recently established two community centers in Turkey where refugees can study Turkish and English, as well as take computer lessons and learn other skills. In the center in Altinozu, in Hatay Province, the Syrians and Turkish locals have also mixed in cooking classes and soccer matches.

“We need projects to bring host and refugee communities together,” said Sarah Saleh, the council’s Turkey director.

At a Turkish language class offered by the city of Gaziantep, a couple of dozen Syrian men and women were being taught the pronunciation of vowels and the differences with Arabic.

Anas Hejazi, 26, was attending the class with his father. They both worked as dentists in Damascus before coming to Turkey six months ago. Acquiring some Turkish, he hoped, would increase his chances of eventually earning a license to practice.

“I need to enter the Turkish community because my life is now here,” he said. “I need to speak their language.”

Divisions and Risks

At the main border crossing in Reyhanli, a southwestern town in Turkey, Khaldun Ibrahim, 20, a black backpack slung over his right shoulder, was going back to Syria. He had spent a week with his parents, refugees inside Turkey, to celebrate the recent Muslim new year, Eid al-Adha.

“I ate too much,” he said with a pat on his belly. Then turning serious, Mr. Khaldun, whose facial hair — bushy beard but no mustache — reflected the Islamist leanings of his brigade, Ahrar al-Sham, added: “I’m a fighter out of his homeland. So I’m happy to be going back to Syria.”

The ease with which fighters are crossing in and out of Syria, as well as their strong ties with the refugee population in the region, underscores the fears that the refugees will inevitably bring the conflict with them, as refugees have often done in the past.

The Assad government, led by Alawites who are considered an offshoot of Shiite Islam, is supported by Shiite Iran and Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militia; Syria’s Sunni opposition is backed by Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The host countries themselves have carved out positions on the Syrian conflict along sectarian lines.

The refugee population in the region reflects that divide and carries its risks.

In Sunni-led Turkey, which backs the Syrian opposition, most of the Syrians in the camps and cities are believed to be Sunni. Alawite and Shiite Syrians have gravitated to southwest Turkey, a religiously mixed region, or tried to melt away in the Istanbul megalopolis. Syrians of both sects have fled to Lebanon, a country with a weak central government and a fragile balance between its Sunni and Shiite populations.

Syrian Kurds have gone to the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Young refugee men are joining Kurdish militias that are increasingly locked in battles along the Turkish-Syrian border with Sunni-led Islamic extremists, who move easily between eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Jordan, a Sunni country that supports the Syrian opposition, has received Sunni Syrians. But the kingdom, an American ally, fears the contagion of an increasingly potent dimension of the Syrian conflict: the battle between moderate and radical Islam.

“The longer the conflict continues, the more we see Jordan becoming a destination for extremists,” said a high-ranking Jordanian government official.

Jordan is worried not only about extremists among the Syrian refugees but also about their effect on its own jihadist Salafists. “More and more young Jordanians are becoming extremists because of Syria,” said Osama Shihadeh, a prominent moderate Jordanian Salafist. His own nephew, he said, had gone to fight inside Syria despite his parents’ opposition.

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« Reply #10203 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:41 AM »

Egypt asks Turkish ambassador to leave over support for Muslim Brotherhood

Military government accuses Turkey of seeking to create instability by backing party of ousted president Mohamed Morsi

Staff and agencies, Saturday 23 November 2013 12.51 GMT   

The Egyptian government has asked Turkey's ambassador to leave in protest for its support of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt's military government accused Turkey of supporting organisations bent on spreading instability. Turkey has denounced removal of the elected Morsi as an "unacceptable coup".

Since the coup in July, thousands of the new government's opponents have been detained and hundreds killed by security forces.

Turkey was "attempting to influence public opinion against Egyptian interests, supported meetings of organisations that seek to create instability in the country," said a foreign ministry spokesman, Badr Abdelatty, on Saturday.

Turkey's ruling AK party has a similar background to the Muslim Brotherhood and both have endured a rivalry with their national armies.

Turkey and Egypt recalled their ambassadors in August after Turkey criticised Egypt's new leaders over the overthrow of Morsi. Turkey's ambassador returned weeks later, but Egypt had declined to return its envoy to Ankara.

Saturday's decision comes after the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, renewed his criticism of Egypt's new leaders. He dismissed the trial of Morsi on charges of inciting murder of his opponents while in office, which opened this month, and on Thursday described the situation in Egypt as a "humanitarian drama".

The Egyptian foreign ministry said Turkey "has persisted in its unacceptable and unjustified positions by trying to turn the international community against Egyptian interests and by supporting meetings for groups that seek to create instability in the country and by making statements that can only be described as an offense to the popular will".

Egyptian officials and media have repeatedly accused Muslim Brotherhood leaders of meeting in Turkey to plan protests and other ways to undermine the new government in Cairo.

In response to Egypt's decision, the Turkish president, Abdullah Gul, said: "I hope our relations will again get back to its track."

But a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said Ankara was in touch with the ambassador "and we will respond with reciprocal steps in coming hours".

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« Reply #10204 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:43 AM »

The British mine owners, the police and South Africa's day of blood

In August 2012, police shot 34 strikers dead in the bloodiest crackdown since the end of apartheid. Now new evidence shows meetings between police and employees of mine owner Lonmin in the crucial days before the killings

Maeve McClenaghan and David Smith   
The Observer, Sunday 24 November 2013   

On 16 August 2012 the summertime sun streamed through the leafy canopy of Green Park and into the windows of the Belgravia headquarters of platinum mine company Lonmin plc. But 5,500 miles away there was a chill in the air as the company's biggest South African mine became a frenzy of activity.

Striking workers had gathered for the eighth day in a row at the Marikana mine, while media crews watched from nearby. Four thousand rounds of live ammunition were delivered and ambulances rolled ominously into place. As the cameras flashed, Zukiswa Mbombo, police chief of North West province, announced: "Today is D-day: we are ending this matter."

By nightfall, 34 striking miners had been shot dead and 78 wounded in the bloodiest security crackdown since the end of apartheid.

As the country tried to make sense of the events, blame was apportioned to police, the unions involved and the striking miners themselves.

But 15 months on from the massacre, executives from British-owned Lonmin, which counts the Church of England Commissioners and several UK borough councils among its shareholders, have not yet been called to appear before the official commission of inquiry into the massacre.

Now, evidence examined by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for the Observer raises new and potentially damaging questions about the relationship between Lonmin, the company at the centre of the strike, the police and the government.

A transcript of a meeting between Lonmin and police submitted to the inquiry suggests company officials worked with police chiefs to formulate a joint plan to break the strike. The investigation has also found that company executives lobbied politicians and police chiefs to ramp up the police presence and that the company provided resources and intelligence to the police. The research has also shed light on the political and financial pressures that the company was facing at the time.

Rehad Desai, spokesman for the Marikana Support Campaign, said: "It all starts adding up to a very poisonous picture which undermines the very fabric of South African democracy. If true, this is an outrageous collusion that adds up to a huge injustice."

Lonmin grew out of mining firm Lonrho, the company that owned the Observer from 1981-93. In 1999, Lonrho was renamed Lonmin. Earlier this month the company announced its end-of-year results, recording a profit and increased production for 2013.

The company came to international attention last year when the week-long strike came to its bloody climax. There is no suggestion that either the police or Lonmin officials intended for shots to be fired that day. However, evidence now shows that on 14 August, just two days before the massacre, there was a joint agreement between the company's management and police that the strike should be broken in a decisive manner.

The details of this meeting have only just surfaced. A transcript submitted to the commission shows provincial police chief Zukiswa Mbombo in discussions with three Lonmin employees, including head of security Graham Sinclair and executive vice president for human capital Barnard Mokwena.

In the meeting, the group discuss the political and industry pressures influencing the situation. The group also discuss a similar strike that had happened at another South African-based mine, Impala Platinum, six months earlier. There the strike resulted in the company giving in to workers' demands for a wage increase, and the establishment of a new union at the mine, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

Lonmin's chief executive at the time, Ian Farmer, attended a presentation by Impala in which they discussed what had happened. Farmer told the Observer that Impala's agreement to a wage increase "rippled through the rest of the industry and "created an expectation".

In the meeting on 14 August, Mbombo notes that Lonmin should learn lessons from Impala, and take care to not look sympathetic to the AMCU rather than the established union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – which was an ally of the African National Congress.

The group also recall that political points were scored at the Impala strike by outspoken politician Julius Malema, who was pushing for nationalisation of the mines. The transcript records Mbombo noting that what they do at the Lonmin mine "has a serious political connotation that we need to take into account … we need to act such that we kill this thing". Lonmin's Mokwena agrees: "Immediately, yes."

At the meeting a plan is formulated that Lonmin will issue an ultimatum to the miners to return to work or be fired, and if that does not work the police will move in to break up the strike.

If they do not surrender their weapons, "then it is blood", says Mbombo. She adds: "Emotions are very high … I do not want a situation where 20 people will be dead. This is not what we are here for: what we are here for is to maintain peace and make sure there is peace between us, the people and the company."

Mokwena agrees and tells her: "The two plans go together".

Later, Mokwena compliments the police chief on the force's resources, saying: "I must tell you, the ones that impress me [are] these snipers."

Mbombo then assures Lonmin's head of security, Sinclair, that she can provide him with a water cannon.

There had already been a number of violent incidents at the mine in which strikers, police and security personnel had been killed. On the morning of 16 August, ambulances were put on standby by Lonmin and attempts were made by the police to order mortuary vans.

The police waited until the miners had amassed at the rocky hillside that had become their base before rolling out razor wire and opening fire. Evidence shows the water cannons were used just seven seconds before live ammunition was fired.

The meeting on 14 August arose after a concerted effort by Lonmin to get the police interaction that they wanted.

Acts of intimidation and violence had been bubbling up even before an official strike was called and emails, telephone calls and a letter between top Lonmin executives show the company lobbying politicians and police chiefs to increase police pressure. Three days before the massacre, Albert Jamieson, the chief commercial officer of Lonmin, wrote to the minister for mineral resources, Susan Shabangu, and asked her to act more decisively and to "bring the full might of the state to bear on the situation".

In the letter, Jamieson also reminds the minister of the importance of Lonmin to the South African economy, and the pressures on the mining industry, writing: "I have spoken to the CEOs of Implats and Anglo [two other platinum mines] and we are all concerned about the prognosis for [platinum] miners in the [North West] province and the consequences for the industry, province and the country if the various organs of the states are unable to bring these repeat situations under control."

The mining sector is important to the South African economy. In 2012 it brought in $21bn, or 5.5% of GDP and 38% of all South African exports.

The day before the massacre, Cyril Ramaphosa, an ANC stalwart and at the time a non-executive director of Lonmin, called Shabangu. In an email he told his Lonmin colleagues what he said. "I called her and told her that silence and inaction about what is happening at Lonmin was bad for her and the government."

The message got through. Ramaphosa later noted that Shabangu "is going into cabinet and will brief the president as well and get the minister of police Nathi Mthethwa to act in a more pointed way". In a statement to the commission of inquiry dated 30 May 2013, Ramaphosa said his engagement with government officials served to inform them of the gravity of the situation in Marikana.

"Lonmin management took the view that this was not simply an industrial dispute and that Lonmin needs the [police] to restore and maintain law and order and prevent further loss of life," he said. "Lonmin was anxious that government be informed of the seriousness of the situation."

Ramaphosa has since left Lonmin and become deputy president of the ANC. Political analyst Adam Habib points to the importance of his role in the affair. "Cyril Ramaphosa's emails don't demonstrate he's responsible for the massacre but they do suggest Lonmin had used his office to get access to ministers and security officials in a way that would not otherwise have been possible," he said.

Between the sending of Jamieson's letter on 13 August and the follow-up emails and lobbying two days later, the number of police on the Marikana site more than tripled.

Reports of violence and intimidation had been coming in to Lonmin security in the weeks before the massacre. In the week leading up to it, two police officers and two security guards were killed. Six miners were also killed, four of them shot by the police.

In public statements, Lonmin announced it had handed control and responsibility over to the police. On the day of the massacre, the chairman of Lonmin sent out a statement saying: "The South African Police Service have been in charge of public order and safety on the ground".

However, Lonmin had more than 500 contracted security officials working for them. Police officer Charl Annandale told the Farlam commission – the inquiry set up to investigate the massacre – that during the strike, the police "relied on their [Lonmin] feedback … they had literally hundreds of security officers spread over their site that gave us valuable feedback".

In earlier days, informants among the striking miners had fed back information to Sinclair, the company's head of security, according to security officers' written statements to the commission.

Lonmin supplied CCTV, helicopters, jail cells and ambulances to the police operation. Lonmin staff also had access to police radios and logged information received on them. A photograph from the police command centre at the mine centre shows a plan for 16 August detailing the deployment of Lonmin security agents. The plan also notes the staff's arsenal, which includes 9mm pistols, LM5 assault rifles and shotguns.

The Farlam commission has heard from several parties arguing that they called on Lonmin to negotiate with their employees, including the head of the South African police, Riah Phiyega, and the bishop of Pretoria, Johannes Seoka.

However, the situation was complicated. Infighting between rival unions has proved a serious issue in the mining sector, and growing disillusionment with the NUM led to one of Lonmin's mineshafts, Karee, being left ununionised from mid-2011. It was in this vacuum that, in the month before the massacre, the company had negotiated directly with striking miners at Karee and agreed to an increase in allowances.

An internal memorandum from Lonmin officials shows that in July the company knew it was paying its rock drill operators less than other companies. The decision then to engage with workers directly, rather than through the unions, was approved by the executive committee.

Farmer, Lonmin's former chief executive, explained the effort to avoid any trouble, calling it "an attempt to pour oil on troubled water", but conceded it might have sent mixed messages to the workers.

When, in August, the miners attempted to talk directly to management again, the company's attitude had changed, with executives stating they would only negotiate through the official channels: the then-discredited NUM.

Five days before the massacre, the workers marched, armed only with placards and a few sticks, to the NUM offices. Statements from NUM leaders allege that Lonmin security warned the union leaders there that the miners intended them harm. NUM officials opened fire on the unarmed miners, wounding two and effectively breaking off relations for good.

Some attempts were made by Lonmin to open communications with the leader of the AMCU, Joseph Mathunjwa. The night before the massacre, he was sent by Lonmin and the police to talk to the miners and was told by the miners to return the next day to continue talks. However, the following morning, Lonmin cut off all contact through Mathunjwa.

As well as the political and industry-wide pressures, Lonmin was facing significant financial pressure in the months before the massacre. Mid-year financial reports, produced a month before the incident, show that Lonmin's first-half profits had decreased nearly 90% compared to the same period the year before. Production and platinum prices were down, while the company's net debt had increased by 20% since the year before.

To compound the pressures, Lonmin's bank loan covenants were due to be tested in September. Passing that review relied on the company hitting certain profit margins.

"Revenue at the time was not generating the sufficient margin for us to be generating the cash needed, there was a risk that covenants could be breached. Of course when we had the strike for that protracted period of time, that pushed it over the tipping point," Farmer.

When asked if the financial pressures could have affected the way the strike was dealt with, the former chief executive said: "In any situation the financial considerations for the company are first and foremost, it's always a balancing act. Get everyone back and working as quick as possible: not only for financial reasons but also you need peace and harmony in the workforce."

When 3,000 Lonmin workers downed tools and went on strike it effectively brought the entire plant to a standstill, and the bank covenants were eventually breached.

Although he was ill at the time and therefore not present while the strike was going on, Farmer defends the actions of his former colleagues. "It would be normal for the police to call on the company and ask them to explain as a company what they think is happening … but they would not have sat there and agreed a plan of action for the day with them, because we don't have that expertise. We're a mining company, we're not riot-control specialists," he said.

However, Andile Mngxitama, spokesman for Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters party, claimed: "The relationship between Lonmin and the [ANC] determined every action that happened in the buildup to the massacre. It confirms an unhealthy relationship between the mining companies and the state."

Lonmin declined to comment on the allegations, stating that it has undertaken not to comment publicly on issues under investigation before it has given evidence and representations to the Farlam commission.

A spokesperson said: "The company believes that this is vital to ensure the integrity of the inquiry, and to avoid pre-empting its processes or subsequent findings."

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« Reply #10205 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:45 AM »

New mass graves in Mexico dredge up plight of missing

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, November 23, 2013 15:35 EST

Amid Mexico’s continuous drug conflict, the recent discovery of dozens of bodies in mass graves has led some to describe the plight of the country’s disappeared as a national emergency.

At least 54 corpses have been recovered in clandestine pits in three states this month alone, including 33 in a western region plagued by violent cartels.

The discoveries have left authorities scrambling to identify the dead in a country where thousands of people have been missing for years.

“We have a very serious humanitarian crisis, a national emergency regarding the disappeared,” Julio Hernandez, a member of the government’s victim care commission, told AFP.

The prosecutor’s offices in Mexico’s 31 states and the capital need more forensic experts and DNA laboratories, Hernandez said, comparing the situation to the Balkan wars.

Some of the dead found at the border of the western states of Jalisco and Michoacan are mere bones, suggesting they were buried months ago. Other corpses found in the southwest and north of the country may be more than a year old.

The appearance of so many mass graves within such a short period revived memories of the gruesome finds regularly made during the 2006-2012 presidency of Felipe Calderon, who had declared war against the cartels.

“The state has ignored the search of thousands of disappeared,” Hernandez said.

More than 26,000 missing

The attorney general’s office documented the exhumation of 847 bodies in mass graves between December 2006 and September 2011, according to the most recent official figures obtained by AFP through a freedom of information request.

Most victims were in the northern states of Tamaulipas, Durango and Nuevo Laredo, all hotbeds of conflict between cartels such as the Zetas, Gulf and Sinaloa gangs.

And the great majority, 656, were found in a nine-month period in 2011 alone, compared to just 15 in 2007.

The bodies have included enemies of cartels and innocent bystanders, as well as migrants and women.

More than 70,000 people have died in Mexico since Calderon sent troops to the streets to contain the cartels.

Another 26,121 people disappeared during Calderon’s six-year term, according to an official database that the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto is updating.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said in May that the figure would likely be lower because many of the people reported missing simply left their homes for personal reasons or emigrated.

But the government has yet to release a new figure.

Pena Nieto also created a special unit dedicated to finding the missing, but the fact that only 12 prosecutors were assigned to the job has drawn criticism.

An official in the attorney general’s office, who requested anonymity, said identifying a body depends on the state of decomposition and whether the person matches a list of missing people.

“It’s more problematic when they are migrants going through the country” since they often don’t match any missing list, the official said.

In the case of the bodies found in 19 pits at the Jalisco-Michoacan border, authorities expect to identify the individuals since they are believed to be from the region, the official said.

Those mass graves were found as part of an investigation into the disappearance of two federal officers allegedly detained by Michoacan municipal cops, who handed them over to the Jalisco New Generation cartel.

The official said the federal agents are not among the bodies, which were sent to the Jalisco state prosecutor’s forensic office for identification.

A son’s skull

The discovery of mass graves brings anxiety but also hopes of closure to countless families who have desperately sought any sign of their missing relatives for years and have little faith in overwhelmed state authorities.

Even Mexico City, considered a relative oasis from the drug cartel violence plaguing many parts of the country, was recently hit by the discovery of a mass grave near the capital.

The bodies of 13 young people were found outside the city in August, three months after they were kidnapped from a downtown bar in broad daylight.

Authorities say the victims were identified through DNA samples, but some parents refuse to believe them.

“If they told you this is your son, would you believe it?” Leticia Ponce said, showing a cell phone picture of a skull that authorities said belonged to her 16-year-old Jerzy Ortiz. “As long as I don’t see my son dead or alive, for me he is missing.”

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« Reply #10206 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:48 AM »

Argentina to slap steep taxes on luxury imports

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, November 22, 2013 19:20 EST

The Argentine government said Friday it will slap stiff tax increases on luxury cars, boats and planes, in its latest bid to staunch a flight of hard currency.

“We will send a bill to Congress to modify the tax code, with the goal of increasing taxes on luxury cars, boat and tourist planes,” said President Christina Kirchner’s new chief of staff Jorge Capitanich.

The government’s goal is to “discourage extravagant consumption,” which Capitanich said does not contribute to the overall productivity of the nation.

The measure is the latest in a series of government moves aimed at curbing inflation, which could exceed 30 percent in 2013, and stemming a sharp drop in its hard currency reserves.

Sales of luxury cars — almost all of which are imports — have exploded this year in Argentina, as the rich have taken advantage of favorable exchange rates to acquire top car brands like Mercedes, Audi and Land Rover, among others.

At official exchange rates, one dollar is worth six Argentine pesos, but on the black market one can get as many as 10.

The euro officially trades at eight pesos, but can fetch 12.5 on the black market.

Central Bank reserves in Argentina are on the brink of falling below a $32 billion dollars — a huge decline from $52 billion just three years ago.

Inflation also is seen as a huge problem. Earlier this year, Buenos Aires imposed a price freeze on Argentina’s largest retailers, but that measure was by and large unsuccessful in preventing consumer prices from spiraling upwards.

Capitanich also announced Friday that Kirchner has named Augusto Costa, who has close ties with new Economy Minister Axel Kicillof, to be Argentina’s new minister of commerce.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #10207 on: Nov 24, 2013, 07:49 AM »

Internet founder Tim Berners-Lee warns growing surveillance ‘threatens democracy’

By Agence France-Presse
Friday, November 22, 2013 13:36 EST

The growing surveillance and censorship of the Internet “threatens the future of democracy”, the inventor of the world wide web said on Friday.

Tim Berners-Lee was speaking at the launch of his World Wide Web Foundation’s second annual index measuring the Internet’s contribution to social, economic and political development and human rights.

“One of the most encouraging findings of this year’s Web Index is how the web and social media are increasingly spurring people to organise, take action and try to expose wrongdoing in every region of the world,” said Berners-Lee.

In 80 percent of the 81 countries surveyed, the Internet and social media played a role in public mobilisation in the last year, the foundation said.

“But some governments are threatened by this, and a growing tide of surveillance and censorship now threatens the future of democracy,” Berners-Lee said.

“Bold steps are needed now to protect our fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of opinion and association online.”

Developing countries are most likely to block and filter online communications, but leaks from fugitive US analyst Edward Snowden revealed that developed countries are more likely to spy on the web, the foundation said.

China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are among the worst offenders for censoring politically-sensitive web content and having inadequate safeguards against government surveillance, the report said.

But the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India were listed alongside Mali, Yemen and Kenya as having “inadequate” safeguards against government spying.

Sweden topped the overall Web Index for developed countries for the second year running, largely because of the widespread penetration of broadband, followed by Norway, Britain, the United States and New Zealand.

Mexico topped the list of emerging market countries, followed by Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica and South Africa, while the Philippines was number one among developing nations followed by Indonesia, Kenya, Morocco and Ghana.

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« Reply #10208 on: Nov 24, 2013, 08:10 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

November 23, 2013

A Step, if Modest, Toward Slowing Iran’s Weapons Capability


WASHINGTON — The interim accord struck with Iran on Sunday interrupts the country’s nuclear progress for the first time in nearly a decade, but requires Iran to make only a modest down payment on the central problem.

The deal does not roll back the vast majority of the advances Iran has made in the past five years, which have drastically shortened what nuclear experts call its “dash time” to a bomb — the minimum time it would take to build a weapon if Iran’s supreme leader or military decided to pursue that path.

Lengthening that period, so that the United States and its allies would have time to react, is the ultimate goal of President Obama’s negotiating team. It is also a major source of friction between the White House and two allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have made no secret of their belief that they are being sold down the river.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has described the terms of the accord announced early Sunday as a “bad deal” that does not require Iran “to take apart even one centrifuge.” That bitter assessment reflects the deep suspicion inside Mr. Netanyahu’s government that Mr. Obama will settle for a final agreement that leaves Iran a few screwdriver turns short of a weapon.

The Saudis have been equally blistering, hinting in vague asides that if the United States cannot roll back the Iranian program, it may be time for Saudi Arabia to move to Plan B — nuclear weapons of its own, presumably obtained from Pakistan, which entered the nuclear club on Saudi subsidies.

Such warnings are part of the expected theater of these negotiations, in which the United States must look simultaneously accommodating enough to a new Iranian leadership to keep fragile talks going and tough enough to its allies and Congress that it cannot be accused of naïveté. That is why Mr. Obama, speaking at the White House late Saturday, called the interim deal a necessary first step.

Iran’s agreement to convert or dilute the fuel stocks that are closest to weapons grade, Mr. Obama said, means that the deal would “cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb.” But it would cut them off only temporarily, long enough to pursue negotiations without fear that Iran would use the time to inch closer to a weapons capability.

But the rollback he won for this first stage, according to American intelligence estimates, would slow Iran’s dash time by only a month to a few months.

The most immediate risk to the interim agreement comes from hard-liners in Washington and Tehran who, after examining the details, may try to undo it. Mr. Obama met with senators from both parties last week, hoping to dissuade them from imposing new sanctions just as he is lifting some in an effort to coax Iran toward disarmament. But even some of his closest allies are unconvinced: Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week noting that the temporary accord “would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations Security Council resolutions,” which require complete suspension of nuclear production.

On the Iranian side, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which American intelligence agencies have accused of running a secret weapons-design program, may try to chip away at the accord as well, arguing that the sanctions relief is puny and that even the caps on enrichment will slow Iran’s efforts to build its nuclear capabilities.

Mr. Kerry and his chief negotiator, Wendy Sherman, say they have no illusions that the interim agreement solves the Iranian nuclear problem. It simply creates time and space for the real negotiations, they say, where the goal will be to convince Iranian leaders that the only way to get the most crippling sanctions — those that have cut the country’s oil revenue in half — lifted is to dismantle large parts of a program on which they have spent billions of dollars and staked national pride.

“Rollback may be a step too far for the Iranians,” said Vali R. Nasr, the dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. Iran’s recently elected president, Hassan Rouhani, “can’t go there for some time,” Dr. Nasr said, “because he can’t been seen at home giving up such a huge investment or abandoning national security.”

Lurking over the American negotiating team is the specter of what can go wrong even with a seemingly good deal to buy time. As Ms. Sherman was coaxing Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, toward the interim agreement, the North Koreans were restarting a nuclear reactor that they had partly dismantled in a similar agreement struck late in the administration of President George W. Bush — a deal meant to halt North Korea’s ability to produce plutonium fuel for weapons.

“It lasted five years, which isn’t bad,” said Christopher R. Hill, who conducted the North Korean negotiations for the Bush administration and is now dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. “But the reality is that, over time, everything is reversible.”

The North Korean example has become Exhibit No. 1 in Israel’s argument that the deal struck on Sunday gives a false sense of security. “There are two models for a deal: Libya and North Korea,” Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, said in an interview during a recent trip to Washington. “We need Libya.”

Mr. Steinitz was referring to a 2003 agreement in which Libya gave up all of its nuclear equipment and was left with no ability to make nuclear fuel. But Libya had barely managed to unpack its equipment, purchased from Pakistan; it had invested far less than Iran and was nowhere near enriching nuclear fuel. In reality, no one imagines the Iranians will give up everything. The question is, how much is enough?

The complexity of the task ahead is evident from a glance at the main measurements of Iran’s progress since Mr. Obama took office in 2009, promising a new opening to the Iranians — an opening they had largely rejected until this summer, when the mounting toll of economic sanctions helped Mr. Rouhani win the presidential election.

At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Iran had roughly 2,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, barely enough for a bomb. It now has about 9,000 kilograms, by the estimates of the International Atomic Energy Agency. A few thousand centrifuges were spinning in 2009; today there are 18,000, including new models that are far more efficient and can produce bomb-grade uranium faster. A new heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak promises a new pathway to a bomb, using plutonium, if it goes online next year as Iran says it will.

True rollback would mean dismantling many of those centrifuges, shipping much of the fuel out of the country or converting it into a state that could not be easily adapted to bomb use, and allowing inspections of many underground sites where the C.I.A., Europe and Israel believe hidden enrichment facilities may exist. There is no evidence of those facilities now, but, as a former senior Obama administration official said recently, speaking anonymously to discuss intelligence, “there has never been a time in the past 15 years or so when Iran didn’t have a hidden facility in construction.”

There is also the problem of forcing Iran to reveal what kind of progress it has made toward designing a weapon. For years, its leaders have refused to answer questions about documents, slipped out of the country by a renegade scientist nearly eight years ago, that strongly suggest work on a nuclear warhead. Inspectors have never been able to interview Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the academic believed to be in charge of a series of weapons development projects.

The good news for the American negotiators is that if there are no hidden facilities, it will take Iran several months to produce weapons-grade fuel from its current stocks, and perhaps a year or more to fashion that fuel into a usable weapon and shrink it to fit atop one of the country’s Shahab missiles.

Even then, a single weapon would do Iran little good next to Israel’s 100 or more and the United States’ thousands, as Mr. Zarif, the foreign minister, often points out. But the mere knowledge that Iran was on the cusp of a weapon would affect the perception of its power around the world, and that may be all its leaders seek.

Ultimately, the toughest challenge for Mr. Obama may be bridging the gap between the United States’ interests and those of Israel and Iran’s Sunni Muslim neighbors. For Mr. Obama, the interim deal to freeze Iran’s program is a major win, and a deal that rolled it back, even to where it was when he took office, would be an even bigger win.

After all, his stated goal has always been to prevent Iran from getting a bomb, not to prevent it from getting the capability to do so. He knows he cannot destroy, by bombs or deals, whatever knowledge Iran has gained of how to build a weapon. It is too late for that.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: November 24, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified the title of Yuval Steinitz. He is Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and intelligence, not its defense minister.


November 23, 2013

In the Health Law, an Open Door for Entrepreneurs


In the weeks since the health insurance marketplaces of the Affordable Care Act went online, a well-publicized ripple of alarm and confusion has permeated the ranks of small-business owners. But less well known is the response of another contingent: newcomers to entrepreneurship who see the legislation as a solution to the often insurmountable expense of getting health insurance. Some even view the Affordable Care Act itself as a business opportunity.

The hopeful include founders of start-ups who otherwise wouldn’t have access to affordable health insurance — people like Rajeev Jeyakumar, a co-founder of Skillbridge, a Manhattan-based online job marketplace for business consultants.

Mr. Jeyakumar is uninsured. But unlike many people who were thwarted by the government’s faulty health care website, he was able to sign up for individual coverage three weeks ago. He will pay just $74 a month, after tax credits, for his new plan through the New York State exchange.

His story illustrates how, when finances are tight, new entrepreneurs often place the health of their businesses over their own health. “In the early days, a venture is often very much self-funded,” Mr. Jeyakumar says. “You always trade off between the money you need to survive in terms of paying rent and food. And when you have health care as an additional cost, it’s always very tempting to not put money into it.”

But come January, Mr. Jeyakumar will have a health plan that “even includes dental,” he wrote in an email. “I’m very pleased with the outcome.” Until then, he’s refraining from using his Citi Bike membership or playing sports, lest he sustain an injury requiring medical care.

And when it’s time to hire employees, he says he will most likely avoid the extra work of administering a company health insurance plan and instead encourage employees to shop the new health care exchanges on their own and bump up their salaries to cover the cost.

Research published in the journal Health Affairs showed that small businesses with 10 to 24 employees have paid 10 percent more than large ones for the same health care coverage, and that companies with fewer than 10 employees have paid 18 percent more until now. Small businesses’ plans were also more vulnerable to rate increases; as a result, they often provided less coverage, if they offered it at all, resulting in a competitive disadvantage in hiring.

Constantia Petrou, owner of Konnectology, a website that provides information on health care specialists, expects the new law to broaden her hiring options. When she started her company seven years ago in Burlingame, Calif., she realized that she couldn’t afford to offer a group plan.

“In terms of hiring, the health care expenses contribute a huge, huge component to your cost of operation,” Ms. Petrou says. So instead of bringing on full-time employees, she relied on contract workers.

She is looking forward to getting price information online from the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, an exchange that was created by the new law. (Currently, business owners can obtain estimated SHOP prices online, but specific ones are only available by mail after filling out and mailing in a PDF downloaded from Some states, including California, have their own SHOP exchanges, and their procedures vary.)

Ms. Petrou says the law could enable her to hire full-time employees, depending on the new costs of coverage. If so, she will either pay for a portion of the individual plans that her employees shop for on the exchange, or she may take advantage of tax credits and offer a small group plan. “We now have options to explore,” she says.

Some experts say this type of flexibility may have a big impact on the economy over all.

“Assuming we get the website working, it’s going to be the biggest step we’ve had in a long time in the U.S. in terms of changing the structure of the economy,” says Craig Garthwaite, assistant professor of management and strategy at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. Mr. Garthwaite is a co-author of one of two recent studies that conclude that the Affordable Care Act could spur entrepreneurship by easing job lock — where people stay in a job mainly for the health insurance.

The act was aimed at people like Jeannie Armstrong, who in 2009 was planning to quit her job within a couple of years to start a private clinic for adolescents with substance-abuse problems. But then her 18-year-old son learned that he had diabetes. Fearing that he would be unable to find individual health insurance, she has stayed in her job so her son could keep receiving coverage under her employer’s health plan.

“We’re talking pre-existing condition, we’re talking no money, we’re talking health care costs out of the roof,” Ms. Armstrong says of her son’s situation.

But in January, her son will be eligible for individual health insurance. That will free Ms. Armstrong to quit her job as a social worker in the juvenile court system of Fairfax County, Va., and to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams. Now, instead of opening a for-profit clinic, Ms. Armstrong has decided to go the social-entrepreneurship route. In September, she founded the nonprofit Center to End Adolescent Substance Abuse Encounters.

Over the next year, she plans to stay in her job while her son finishes school; in her free time, she will assemble a board of directors and write the organization’s bylaws. By next fall, she plans to be running the nonprofit full time.

“I’m not hamstrung by having to stay in this job,” she says.

Ms. Armstrong sees the new law as an opportunity to start something new. But Kevin Kuhlman, manager of legislative affairs for the National Federation of Independent Business, says that while job lock is a real concern for entrepreneurs, he remains skeptical that the new law will be able to solve the problem.

The federation unsuccessfully challenged the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people obtain health insurance or pay a tax penalty,  in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court last year. The plaintiffs were uninsured and didn’t believe that the government could require them to buy insurance.

Certainly, many established small-business owners are not clamoring for information on new health coverage. Barry Sloane, chairman and chief executive of Newtek Business Services, based in New York, says a majority of his customers haven’t bothered to visit the exchanges.

“The negative publicity that’s come out about the site not functioning has kept people from thinking they can go to it and get a result,” Mr. Sloane says.

Some small businesses aren’t shopping the exchanges because they don’t yet need to, he says. Businesses with fewer than 50 people will not be required to offer health insurance; those with 50 or more employees will have to do so, but not until 2015.

Small-business owners are “very confused and they’re very concerned,” Mr. Sloane says. And those feelings are only intensifying amid news reports that just a tiny number of Americans have enrolled in the exchange plans and amid questions about the government’s ability to keep enrollees’ personal information secure. “The negative stigma around the Affordable Care Act is building steam,” he says.

A new crop of Internet companies, meanwhile, is convinced that Americans will need help navigating the new health care landscape. Benefitter, for example, based in San Francisco, provides business owners and individuals with information on the new law’s requirements.

The Young Entrepreneur Council, based in New York, is focusing on small-business owners and solo entrepreneurs with a website,, that it founded in September. It offers health insurance plans from six carriers.

“Whether the government is in there or not, whether corporations are in there or not, this is a big void,” Scott Gerber, the council’s founder, says of health care insurance for the small-business market.

Jack Hooper is among those who see the law as a business opportunity. A former intelligence analyst for the federal government, he enrolled at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 2012 and hoped to start a company after graduation. His wife, Brittany, was to provide financial support and health care benefits through her job while he got the business going, but when she became pregnant with twins, those plans collapsed.

As he began investigating his own health care options, he realized that the Affordable Care Act could provide more than just access to coverage for his family.

“What’s been a very stagnant industry, health insurance, is being shaken up and people are starting to re-evaluate their plans,” Mr. Hooper says. He anticipates that premiums will remain expensive, pushing many Americans to high-deductible plans, and that these people will need help in managing care-related expenses.

Last spring, he started a service called Command Health, which he describes as “a or TurboTax for high-deductible health insurance plans.”

Based on his previous experience working for the federal government, he says, he is not surprised by the problems that have emerged in the site. Entrepreneurs like him will end up providing the ultimate solutions to the problems that have emerged from the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Hooper says.

Mr. Jeyakumar of Skillbridge says of the law’s rocky start: “Being a tech entrepreneur myself, I appreciate that technology is often not perfect in the first release, and a lot of great products from Facebook to eBay were buggy when they first came out.”

He adds: “I think the concept is good, and as with anything, it’s a wait-and-see on execution. If it works, great, and if not, we will fall back on existing alternatives.”


John Boehner Lied and Faked Problems With Website While Signing Up for Obamacare

By: Jason Easley
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 5:55 pm

It turns out that Speaker Boehner lied about his struggles to sign up for Obamacare. The Speaker wasn’t having trouble with the website. He put the ACA rep on hold for 35 minutes.

Boehner described signing up for the ACA as, “Earlier this afternoon, I sat down to try and enroll in the DC exchange under the president’s health care law. Like many Americans, my experience was pretty frustrating. After putting in my personal information, I received an error message. I was able to work past that, but when I went to actually sign up for coverage, I got this “internal server error” screen. Despite multiple attempts, I was unable to get past that point and sign up for a health plan. We’ve got a call into the help desk. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying…Updated (5:35 pm ET:) Kept at it, and called the DC Health Link help line. They called back a few hours later, and after re-starting the process on the website two more times, I just heard from DC Health Link that I have been successfully enrolled.”

Lies, lies, and even more lies.

The truth according to Washington, DC NBC affiliate reporter Scott MacFarlane:

    DC health exchange spokesman says Speaker Boehner office kept DC representative on hold 35 minutes, "lots of patriotic hold music", hung up

    — Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) November 21, 2013

It turns out that it took Boehner so long to sign up, because he left the ACA rep who called him on hold for 35 minutes. That is a little fact that the Speaker left out of the story posted on his website. The Republican propaganda campaign to smear the ACA knows no boundaries. Boehner was more than happy to fake a bad experience, because his sign up was designed to be a publicity stunt to discredit the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans can keep lying about the ACA, because the mainstream media has been such a willing accomplice. If you watch cable news for any amount of time, you will see talking heads wondering with bated breath if the ACA website will be fixed. What they aren’t telling viewers is that the website is already fixed for most users.

A fixed website isn’t a good news story for a media that seems to be rooting for the ACA to fail, so they pretend like the status of the website is a big unknown and that nothing has changed since October.

John Boehner has demonstrated an ability to lie about any issue, but this time he got caught.

Boehner’s ACA sign up wasn’t all that frustrating, and what he doesn’t want you to know is that it can be just as easy for you too.


John Boehner Must Stop Using Imaginary Rule to Silence House Democrats

By: Sarah Jones
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 1:57 pm   

It’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop taking refuge in an imaginary, unwritten rule.

Speaker Boehner keeps the Democratic minority marginalized and usurps the democratic process by pretending that there’s a thing called a Hastert Rule. The Hastert Rule is the belief that no legislation should be allowed to come up for a vote without the support of a majority of the House Republican caucus.

Republicans have expressed complete outrage at the idea that Democrats might be allowed to bring a bill up for a vote. A VOTE. That is all. This from the same party crying that Harry Reid is a dictator for not letting them filibuster anything other than legislation and Supreme Court nominees. In case this isn’t clear, Republicans in the Senate still get to filibuster legislation but in the House, the minority party is not even allowed to bring something up for a vote.

David Axelrod, former Obama senior adviser and analyst for NBC News, pointed out that the Hastert Rule is the same abuse but in reverse. Calling the Hastert Rule the “de facto ‘filibuster’ in House”, he tweeted:

    Now that Sen filibuster has been curbed, problem is de facto “filibuster” in House–the Hastert rule, by which Tea Party Rs block votes.1/2
    Without unwritten Hastert rule, bipart coalition in House could pass immigration reform, budget compromises. Progress would come. 2/3
    Sadly, only GOP House leadership can waive Hastert, & internal caucus politics makes that highly unlikely. So maj rule often thwarted. 3/3

    Now that Sen filibuster has been curbed, problem is de facto "filibuster" in House–the Hastert rule, by which Tea Party Rs block votes.1/2

    — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013

    Without unwritten Hastert rule, bipart coalition in House could pass immigration reform, budget compromises. Progress would come. 2/3

    — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013

    Sadly, only GOP House leadership can waive Hastert, & internal caucus politics makes that highly unlikely. So maj rule often thwarted. 3/3

    — David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) November 23, 2013

Speaker Boehner didn’t even bother to announce a rule change or change the rules formally as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did. He just started excusing his failure to bring anything up for a vote that wasn’t supported by the majority by taking refuge in the Hastert Rule. Magically invoked rule that allows Republicans to usurp democracy? CHECK.

It’s time for Speaker Boehner to stop taking refuge in a non-existent rule. Even Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) knows there is no such thing as the Hastert Rule — “The Hastert Rule never really existed. It’s a non-entity as far as I’m concerned.”


Obama Booya: The Media Ignores the Good Things Happening in Our Economy

By: Sarah Jones
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 12:54 pm   

For those of you who are partial to reality, you’re going to get a real kick out of the President’s weekly address.

Here’s a hint “(I)f you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy.” Perhaps he’s referring to the surging markets, as seen this summer and fall with the DOW hitting a record high of 16,000 or the huge, record surplus in June.

Booya. The Republicans, and hence the MSM, do not want to talk about the good things happening in the economy. That’s why they’re so busy making Kardashian mountains out of tech glitches, and why before that they distracted you with Darrell Issa’s Benghazi and IRS witch hunts, all based on Republican aides telling stories to the media and the media buying it without sourcing it. If anyone faces the fact that this President cut the deficits by more than half, Republicans could no longer justify trying to use their austerity measures to kill Social Security and Medicare.

President Obama said our economy is moving in the right direction. He mentioned that we cut our deficits by more than half (by the way, in June we had a record surplus), businesses have created millions of new jobs, and we have taken significant steps to fix our broken health care system.

Watch here:

The President acknowledged that people must be frustrated with the government shutdown and the launch of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “But if you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy. And that’s been my top priority since the day I walked into the Oval Office.”

The President is very aware of the vast and increasing income disparity and he has tried to address those issues with policies like ending oil subsidies, raising the minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and his jobs bill. None of these things have gone over well with the Republican Party. “After decades in which the middle class was working harder and harder just to keep up, and a punishing recession that made it worse, we made the tough choices required not just to recover from crisis, but to rebuild on a new foundation for stronger, more durable economic growth.”

But things are improving. Obama noted, “Five years later, we have fought our way back. Our businesses have created 7.8 million new jobs in the past 44 months. Another 200,000 Americans went back to work last month.”

Another way Obama addressed the growing income disparity was through healthcare reform. So, even though the rollout was “rough”, he said “about 500,000 Americans are poised to gain health coverage starting January 1st. And by the way, health care costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years.”

He wasn’t done schooling the press and Republicans.

“And one more thing: since I took office, we’ve cut our deficits by more than half. And that makes it easier to invest in the things that create jobs – education, research, and infrastructure.
Imagine how much farther along we could be if both parties were working together.”

And the velvet glove came off… “Think about what we could do if a reckless few didn’t hold the economy hostage every few months, or waste time on dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than try to help us fix it.”

Yes, imagine where we could be if Republicans actually wanted to help this country – if they put this country and her citizens ahead of covering up the fact that they have no ideas.

That’s a lot of good news that we hear almost nothing about. Of course, Obama won’t be remembered for any of that if you believe the beltway press. Oh, no. He’ll be remembered for that time desperate Americans without health insurance had to spend hours trying to log on to ObamaCare exchange, because it’s so annoying when you can’t get everything you want right when you want it.

According to beltway logic, when these Americans finally have affordable healthcare for the first times in their lives, all they will be able to think about was the hours it took to log on. They will never forgive Obama for being half as irritating tech wise as trying to pay their credit card bills. When their lives are saved by having free mammorgrams or access to doctors other than the emergency room, they’ll only be thinking about that tech glitch.

The only way this conclusion makes any sense is if you realize that the beltway press has always had insurance and has no clue what the rest of the country is going through, so for them, maybe waiting a few hours really is the End of the World as they know it.

In reality, the political press was so busy being led around by the nose by fake Republican scandals that they never asked themselves what all of the hoopla might have been distracting them from noticing.

If the press were really concerned with political implications and Obama’s legacy, they’d have been telling you for months that the impressive economic news is more likely to be something Obama is remembered for given the near Depression he walked into when he took office. If they want to talk legacy, they’d dig into his stimulus to find the hidden nuggets of liberal paradigm changers. But that would be hard. Much easier to follow the GOP’s playbook from accusation to accusation, never pausing to wonder why.

Obama will be the president who saved us from a depression, in spite of unprecedented obstruction from the GOP. He will be the president who saw the financial collapse as a time to address the growing income disparity between the haves and the have-nots, and although many of these policies were blocked by the Republicans, the Affordable Care Act was a huge step forward in protecting the middle class and working poor.


It Is The Mainstream Media’s Fault That America is Plagued By Sarah Palin

By: Rmuse
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 10:42 am   

A “bad penny” does not necessarily mean a counterfeit or damaged penny. As an idiom, it means an unpleasant, disreputable, or otherwise unwanted person who repeatedly appears at inopportune times to disrupt periods of normalcy and cause distress. The intermittent, and all too brief, periods of respite the American public enjoy was brutally disturbed again during the government shutdown when America’s bad penny, Sarah Palin, crawled out of the swamp to join Ted Cruz to rail against President Obama for her male counterpart’s crowning achievement as de facto House Republican leader. Although Palin attracts attention from her Neanderthal devotees clamoring to eat her bovine excrement disguised as political commentary and invites ridicule due to her predictably unintelligible rants, it is the main stream media’s fault the nation is plagued with Palin’s recurring appearances on the national stage.

It is not that the media loves Sarah Palin; they certainly comprehend that every second she is on air, or the subject of a report, semi-intelligent Americans’ blood pressure elevates and they mourn the decline of intelligent political discourse in America. However, corporate media know that giving Palin a forum is another opportunity to take shots at President Obama by surrogate and ramp up opposition from a certain class of American that may have abandoned Fox News for a more “fair and balanced” view of national politics only to discover that maybe Palin really is a victim of the media. Martin Bashir fell into the media Palin-trap last week when he lashed out at her filthy reference to the national debt as slavery.

Was Bashir’s righteous indignation toward the Alaskan Neanderthal’s vile analogy comparing the nation’s debt to slavery justified? Of course it was. He certainly expressed the sentiment of tens-of-millions of Americans repulsed at Palin’s deliberate attempt to garner media attention to continue attacking President Obama because she received a wealth of media time for using what she admitted was “politically incorrect” (read racist) rhetoric. However, all Bashir accomplished was elevating Palin’s victim status among her acolytes and gave her a larger forum to rail against her media accomplices with faux outrage because she revels in additional air-time to advance her toxic brand of stupidity. It is not like Bashir was surprised at Palin’s obvious racial callousness and he knew his job was secure if he followed corporate media procedure and expressed remorse for pointing out Palin’s racial insensitivity.

It is inconceivable that Palin’s slavery reference was not calculated and probable it is a practice she endorses based on her staunch advocacy and devotion to the Old Testament’s approval of keeping other human beings as expendable property. Old Testament god directed his chosen people to exterminate his enemies’ slaves without remorse and threatened Israelites with death if they hesitated to annihilate his enemies and their slaves as retribution for not worshipping him, but that is another story. The point is that Palin’s despicable and flippant reference to the national debt as slavery was a calculated move to garner media attention as a victim, as well as sell her latest anti-Obama screed based on a non-existent war on the baby Jesus fable and its relationship to big business’s great commercial holiday season.

Palin knew her comments would spark outrage if corporate media got wind of her slavery comments because she said, “And this isn’t racist, so try it and try it anyway” as she waved off stage and then proceeded to compare the national debt to slavery. Palin was speaking to about 750 supporters at an event held by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition event, and if it had been left there she would have impressed her devotees in attendance and little else. But she knew some corporate media outlet would take her to task and run with the story and besides playing the victim, she booked appearances on other corporate media outlets and garnered a world of attention to sell books and continue running her mouth about the President, the Affordable Care Act, and still more slavery. All the while the “bad penny” kept herself in the news and corporate media increased their audience share because Palin’s victim outrage sells and corporate conservative media will never pass up a chance to put an avowed Obama hater in front of a camera; especially if they assail the Affordable Care Act.

America is plagued with real issues affecting real people that is lost every time corporate media gives the Neanderthal Palin air time and a forum to spread her particular brand of right-wing evangelical drivel. It is true that John McCain first unleashed the brainless Palin on the nation in 2008 and the people suffered through months of unintelligible Palin-speak until she was sent back to Alaska to torture her constituents. It has been over five years and the media just cannot help themselves from resurrecting another round of Palin to besmirch the intelligence of the American people at regular intervals and it is getting old.

Right now, 47.8 million Americans, working families, seniors, children, and Veterans are going hungry and instead of addressing hunger in America or giving air time to politicians with real solutions, corporate media is pandering to Sarah Palin’s media addiction to sell books, promote television shows, and rail against social programs. Millions of Americans are out of work or toiling at part-time minimum-wage jobs and wondering how they will feed their families or pay rent next week, and Martin Bashir had to apologize to Sarah Palin for expressing outrage that, although justified, started a vicious cycle of more Sarah Palin media appearances. Should someone defecate in Neanderthal Palin’s mouth as Bashir suggested? As appealing as that prospect is to some Americans, she needs to be ignored by corporate mainstream media. However, there is an entertainment industry saying that any publicity is good publicity, and every time Palin opens her mouth to criticize President Obama, the Pope, or social programs some corporate-owned news outlet is obliged to give her a forum and it is damn high time they let Palin go back to the swamp, give the people a rest, and stop using the Alaskan Neanderthal as their anti-Obama propaganda machine.


Senator Elizabeth Warren And The New Economic Populism

By: Michael A Maynard
Saturday, November, 23rd, 2013, 8:48 pm   

Will  Senator Elizabeth Warren’s  political economic populist movement change US economics and politics now and in the future?

In the one year since Elizabeth Warren first arrived in the Senate, the kindly looking Midwestern-born, but Massachusetts based, Harvard University professor, academic, author, banking and financial industry expert, reluctant politician grandmother has become an unlikely media sensation and policy making force. Remember her first major Senate meeting?

It was her Senate floor speech about why government matters may have been one of the final impetus, along with the on-going Republican blocking of President Obama’s judicial and agency nominees for the change in the Senate filibuster rules. Her speech is the best explanation of what government is and should be doing, as well as a scolding of the Senate’s “business as usual” approach. Senate Republicans, you can’t say the Senior Senator from Massachusetts didn’t warn you.

Elizabeth Warren is the voice of the middle and lower classes, those who believe the system is rigged against them. The voice of all those who feel frustrated with, but powerless to change the government of self-imposed inaction, unjustifiable fiscal limits protestations, and protection of the wealthiest. Senator Warren is very intelligent, well-spoken and intense. She is one of the leaders of the new economic populist movement in the Senate, along with Senators Sherrod Brown, Bernie Sanders, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jeff Merkley.  Newly elected Cory Booker, with his advocacy of community development  and anti-consumerism, makes this a strong contingent in the Senate.

This economic movement has support from leading political economic figures as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Professor Reich’s views about economic inequality are featured in the new movie, “Inequality for All”. The Economic Policy Institute agrees:

These charts explain the growing economic inequality where the top 10% of Americans have 73% of all net worth and the top 1% have 70 times the net worth of the lower classes:


    The Top 10% Control 2/3 of Americans’ Net Worth

    The Middle Class Isn’t Winning

    Change in Wealth from 1983 to 2010

    1/3 of Americans Consider Themselves Lower Class

What are the ideas of the new economic populism?

• Increasing the minimum wage, perhaps up to $15 to $22 per hour
• Protecting existing Social Security and Medicare benefits and increasing them
• Expanding the scope of the Affordable Health Care Act, potentially leading to having a one-payer system
• Putting more controls on banks and financial institutions through new Glass-Stengall like legislation
• Changing the current federal college student loan program financing program, reducing the existing amount of student debt, driving down college tuition rates and increasing the number of Pell Grants
• Overhauling the existing affordable housing programs to make housing more affordable to the middle and lower classes.

Most importantly, changing the existing tax code so that the very wealthy and corporations pay their fair share in taxes to pay for the new initiatives.

To win election, Senator Warren was involved in the most expensive Senate race ever. Over $78 million was spent in her defeat of former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, What was remarkable that in the era of big money political contributors, nearly half of her campaign contributions, $22 million, came from small individual donors. Nor is it a surprise that her opponent received approximately 25% of his campaign contributions from the financial and insurance industries that Senator Warren wants to regulate and reform. This race helped improve her campaign style and toughened her against political attacks.

Senator Warren, despite all the media furor, states that she will not run for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. While she has become increasingly comfortable in the public spotlight, she is still a relative political neophyte. While she has financial backers, she does not have the extensive financial backing that Hillary Clinton does. But Senator Warren’s economic populism ideas are resonating with the public, especially the Democrats’ progressive/liberal base.

John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and associate editor for The Capitol Times writes:

    But Warren is not just a fall-back contender—or even a progressive alternative to the centrist Clinton. She is more than just a prospective candidate. She is a purveyor of ideas, whether advanced on the campaign trail or in the Senate, that really do make her what Politico suggests: “Wall Street’s Nightmare.”

    What is appealing about the prospect of a Warren bid—against Clinton or in a race without Clinton—is the determination of the Massachusetts senator to reach far beyond the traditional space filled by centrist and even liberal Democrats. She goes to where Bill de Blasio went in a progressive populist bid that swept him into New York’s mayoralty with an almost fifty-point margin of victory.

    Warren’s message, in the Senate and beyond, is that Democrats can and should have an economic agenda that speaks to the great mass of Americans.”

In light of her popularity and influence, it will be interesting to see which 2014 Senate campaigns will be asking Elizabeth Warren’s support and appearances. Will female Senate candidates in close races like Alison Lundergren Grimes, Kay Hagan and Michelle Nunn want her help? Will male Senators in tossup races, like Mark Pryor and Mark Begich, benefit from her campaigning? Will she campaign against a potential 2016 presidential rival  (and current colleague) like Lindsey Graham? What effect, if any, would she have on electing a House Democratic majority?

It will be interesting to watch whether Wendy Davis asks Warren to campaign for her in the close Texas gubernatorial race and whether Warren would draw the large crowds she has elsewhere. Student Elizabeth Warren got her undergraduate degree at University of Houston and Professor Warren taught at the University of Texas.

Maybe, just maybe, the presence of Elizabeth Warren and the new economic populism movement forces Hillary Clinton to move her views from centrist/slightly left to more liberal/progressive, especially economically. Maybe, just maybe, having a new political leader in the Senate spurs the current leader, Harry Reid, to step down. Maybe, just maybe, the combination of the first female President and first female Senate Majority Leader, possibly with a new progressive Speaker of the House, would be able to reverse the direction of and damage done by the old boys’ club that has led to the partisan gridlock and visceral hate manifest in current Washington D.C. politics.

Maybe, just maybe ………….

Senator Elizabeth Warren is not your typical pointy-headed, academic, ineffectual progressive/liberal politician. She is the real deal. The bigger question is: Does Elizabeth Warren and the economic populism she believes in represent the future of American politics and the future of America?

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« Reply #10209 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:32 AM »

11/25/2013 12:27 PM

Aborted EU Deal: Massive Protests Rock Ukraine After Pull-Back

In the wake of Ukraine's withdrawal from EU trade deal discussions, Kiev was rocked by the biggest protests since the Orange Revolution while the daughter of imprisoned former Ukrainian leader Yulia Tymoshenko pled for Germany's help.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Kiev to protest the Ukrainian government's decision to call off plans for a trade deal with the European Union. The protests were the largest to take place in the country since 2004's Orange Revolution, when accusations of corruption and electoral fraud during that year's presidential election brought thousands of people to the streets and helped overturn the election of Viktor Yanukovych. According to police estimates, Sunday's protest attracted 23,000 people while organizers estimated the number at over 100,000.

The protests were set off by the announcement on Thursday that the Ukrainian government would no longer pursue preparations for the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union in order to "ensure the national security of Ukraine" and "restore lost trade volumes with the Russian Federation." The deal would have created a new framework for trade between the former Soviet republic and the EU, but was seen as worrisome by Russia, which had threatened economic sanctions and travel restrictions should the deal go through.

The Ukrainian parliament had also voted down bills last week which would have allowed imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko -- a key figure in the Orange Revolution -- to go to Germany for medical treatment. The release of Tymoshenko, whose jail term for abuse of power and embezzlement is widely seen as politically motivated, was one of the conditions for the EU deal. Kiev has instead announced intentions to create a joint commission to discuss relations between Ukraine, Russia and the EU.

Clashes with Police

It was Tymoshenko who had called for the Sunday protests, where demonstrators marched with flags of the European Union and Ukrainian opposition parties, and shouted slogans like, "We are not the Soviet Union, we are the European Union." Speakers included opposition politician and boxer Vitali Klitschko, who claimed authorities had delayed his plane from landing and said his pro-European party, the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform, would "fight for the signing of the Association Agreement." Opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk described the debate around the deal as a "choice between the past and the future." After the protest, demonstrators clashed with police, which used tear gas to disperse the crowd.

Tymoshenko's 33-year-old daughter, Eugenia, read a statement from her mother at the protest and, in an interview with Germany's Bild tabloid on Monday, asked the German government for help. "I think Germany is my mother's last chance," she told the newspaper. German Chancellor Angela Merkel "cannot give up," she said, adding that if her mother, who is hoping to come to Germany to be treated for a herniated disk, "is not freed soon, she will die." She also called for Germany to "play a decisive role" in the next few days in order to move the Association Agreement forward.

Growing Tension

European politicians have reacted angrily to Ukraine's decision to veer away from the European Union. Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski described Russia's tactics as a "19th-century mode of operating towards neighbors." EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said, "This is a disappointment not just for the EU but, we believe, for the people of Ukraine." In her weekly video podcast on Saturday, Merkel expressed a desire to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue.

This week's planned EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithunia -- where Ukraine was slated to discuss the deal -- will, however, move forward. In the wake of the Ukraine decision, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili reaffirmed his country's intention to pursue an Association Agreement with the European Union. Moldova is also expected to sign an agreement at the summit.

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« Reply #10210 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:37 AM »

ovember 24, 2013

Neo-Nazi Wins Regional Election in Slovakia


BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — A Slovak neo-Nazi whose party says NATO is a terrorist organization and wants the country to abandon Europe's common currency has won a regional election.

Marian Kotleba won 55.5 percent of votes in Saturday elections to lead the government in the central region of Banska Bystrica.

Kotleba was chairman of the banned neo-Nazi Slovak Togetherness-National Party, which organized anti-Roma rallies and expressed sympathy for the Slovak Nazi-puppet state during the World War II.

The results published Sunday show the leftist Smer-Social Democracy of Prime Minister Robert Fico winning six of the country's eight regions, cementing its position as Slovakia's strongest party.

Pavol Freso, who won the capital, Bartislava for the center-right opposition, called Kotleba's victory "a huge blow for democracy."
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« Reply #10211 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:42 AM »

Arctic 30 captain re-evaluates protest methods after Russian jails

Veteran Greenpeace skipper Peter Willcox was also captain of Rainbow Warrior – which was bombed by French agents in 1985

Shaun Walker in Saint Petersburg, Sunday 24 November 2013 13.41 GMT   

When armed Russian coast guards descended on to the Arctic Sunrise from helicopters and screamed at everyone to get on the ground, Captain Peter Willcox took it as just another day at work.

The 60-year-old American has a long history of entanglements with law enforcement across the world, and has been arrested at various times in Turkey, the Philippines, Peru and Denmark. He was also the captain of the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior, which was bombed by French special forces in 1985, not long after the start of his 32-year affiliation with the environmental organisation.

"It didn't seem to be that unusual," said Willcox, during an interview at the hotel in Saint Petersburg where the Greenpeace Arctic 30 are staying since their release on bail in recent days, an empty bottle of Merlot on the table and a selection of English-language magazines strewn across the bed.

"When guys come on board with machine guns, they're going to take control and you're going to sit down. That's understood. The shock was when we got back to Murmansk and they said the word piracy."

Despite being arrested across the world, Willcox had never spent more than a night in a cell until the ill-fated Arctic voyage. "In Turkey, we had a trial and at one point my lawyer looked at me and said you're going to get three months, but 15 minutes later we were walking free," he recalled.

"I did spend a night in a Danish prison but it was nicer than many of the hotels I stayed in that summer."

Spending two months in Russian prisons, first in the Arctic port of Murmansk and then in Saint Petersburg, was a very different experience.

"The first five weeks when we were being hit with the piracy charge I lost a lot of sleep," he recalled. "I was nervous, I was scared. I just couldn't believe that they were going to put us to jail for years and years. You keep telling yourself you know they're not going to do it, but then a month later you're still sitting there. If I'm in jail for five years, I never see my father again, maybe my mother too. That's a game changer."

Russian authorities initially accused the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists with piracy for their protest against oil drilling at the Gazprom-operated Prirazlomnaya rig, in the Pechora Sea. This was later downgraded to hooliganism, which still carries a maximum jail term of seven years. The first sign of a relaxation in policy from Russian authorities came last week, when courts in Saint Petersburg began to free the activists on bail. Only two remain in jail, Briton Philip Ball and Australian Colin Russell, but both are expected to be freed soon.

Willcox, who was released on Friday, started out as a youngster on the fringes of the civil rights movement in the US, and having experienced the "tremendous feeling of optimism that we can get the job done", thought things would be similar when he began working on environmental issues 40 years ago, and that in five or 10 years, laws would be passed that improved the situation.

"But every year it gets worse, and now it's got to the point where I'm honestly scared for the future of my kids. I don't feel like I can stop."

After the Rainbow Warrior incident, in which photographer Fernando Pereira died, Willcox said his determination to fight for the cause only increased. Although he suffered greatly over the death of Pereira, he said the French response was a "reaffirmation" of the importance of the cause. "If we had got them so scared, a boat full of hippies with a single old sideband radio, we felt we must have been doing something right."

Nevertheless, nearly three decades later, he is more cautious. British detainee Anthony Perrett told the Guardian that if he could turn back the clock, he would still travel on the protest but Willcox says the experience will change his perspective, even if he does plan to be back captaining the new Rainbow Warrior in February.

"I'm going to be much more conservative with the way I do actions in the future," he says. "You can't go through what I went through and not have it affect you."

As for the ship itself, the Arctic Sunrise is moored in Murmansk harbour under the guard of Russian authorities. "I really liked that boat. I'm feeling bad for it, and I'm hoping we can get a crew on as soon as possible and get her out of there."

During his incarceration in Murmansk, he was taken by Russian investigators as a witness on to the ship several days running, where he stood, in handcuffs, and watched as they tore through the boat. "They went through everything, took every hard drive out of every machine they could find. That's the heart of the boat. I watched them go through people's cabins. They took our cash, wallets, laptops, phones, and I don't know if we'll ever see that again."

Although the 30 still face hooliganism charges, the rumour in Saint Petersburg is that they could soon be allowed to leave Russia. It is unclear whether Russia would fully drop the charges against the activists or simply turn a blind eye to them leaving.

A Greenpeace spokesperson refused to comment on the rumours, and said "it will only be over when they all land at airports in their home countries around the world".

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« Reply #10212 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:44 AM »

French horse riders take tax protest on to streets of Paris

François Hollande's plan to treble VAT on equestrian centres will 'send 80,000 horses to the abattoir', warns industry

Kim Willsher in Paris, Sunday 24 November 2013 14.59 GMT   

A French mood of mutiny that has rippled through Brittany and infected teachers, farmers and shopkeepers, skipped species on Sunday when horses took to the streets of Paris to complain about tax rises.

Thousands of disgruntled horse and pony riders rode through the French capital to complain about tax increases they say will put many of them out of business and send 80,000 animals to the abattoir.

The "cavaliers" blocked roads from the symbolic Paris squares, Place d'Italie, Place de la Bastille and Place de la Nation, in protest at government plans to almost treble VAT on equestrian centres.

It was the latest manifestation of the growing revolt over President François Hollande's tax reforms, many of them aimed at reducing the country's public deficit to meet European Union demands.

The country has been beset by protests in recent weeks by workers including teachers, ambulance staff, farmers, shopkeepers and lorry drivers.

Hollande is France's least popular leader since 1958, according to opinion polls, caught between pressure from Brussels and the anger of a population already hit with one of world's highest tax burdens.

Inhabitants of Brittany, in north-west France, who claim they are bearing the brunt of company closures, layoffs and tax rises, are symbolic of the spirit of mutiny sweeping the country.

Tens of thousands of protesters wearing revolutionary-era "bonnets rouges" have clashed with police, promising to make the region Hollande's "cemetery".

The caps are reminiscent of a 17th-century revolt against Louis XIV's stamp tax in Brittany and became one of the official emblems of the 1789 revolution.

Breton protesters against the Ecotax, nicknamed the '"lorry tax", aimed at making heavy goods vehicles pay for polluting the environment through additional road levies, have destroyed more than 46 traffic radars. The damage is estimated at more than €6m (£5m), according to TV channel France 3.

On Thursday, French farmers brought traffic in Paris to a crawl as they drove tractors on to main roads into the capital to protest about changes in the European Common Agriculture Policy that would increase subsidies for livestock farmers to the detriment of those producing cereals.

Farmers' associations are also angry at the imposition of higher VAT on fertiliser and at new anti-pollution laws, which they claim would curtail their use of tractors.

Thierry Merret, the president of the FDSEA farming union in Finistère, said the government "understood nothing" and that "decisions are being made by Parisians who know nothing about the realities and needs" of those in Brittany.

"We ask them for concrete responses on the question of employment and preserving industrial activity, they reply with talk about helping staff deal with redundancy," he told centre-right newspaper Le Figaro.

The increase in VAT on equestrian centres from 7% to 20% has been imposed on France by an European commission directive that has the backing of the European court of justice. French equestrian associations want the directive renegotiated.

Serge Lecomte, the president of the Fédération Française d'Équitation, told journalists: "The situation is exceptional. The whole sector is now in danger."

Lecomte said the VAT increase would lead to the closure of 2,000 horse centres out of 7,000 with a loss of 6,000 jobs out of 40,000, in the next 18 months. "It will send 80,000 horses to the abattoir," he said.

France has about 700,000 horse-riding instructors and 2.3 million people who ride, 82% of them women. It is the third most popular sport in France.

The government has promised subsidies to prevent riding schools from going under, but Lecomte said this was not a solution.

"Today we're one of the rare sports which is self-financing. To change this and become dependent on subsidies to function is neither enviable or possible," he said.

The French sports minister, Valérie Fourneyron, has voiced sympathy with the equestrian lobby, agreeing that the government needs to renegotiate the European directive.

She added: "But this negotiation is not for the short term. In the meantime we will do all we can in conjunction with the sector to ensure the impact of the VAT [rise] is limited."

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« Reply #10213 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:47 AM »

Switzerland votes against cap on executive pay

Referendum on limiting bosses' pay to 12 times that of lowest-paid staff follows vote on 'golden hellos and goodbyes'

John Hooper, southern Europe editor
The Guardian, Sunday 24 November 2013 18.53 GMT    

Swiss voters on Sunday decisively rejected a proposal to cap "fat cat" pay, in a ground-breaking referendum on the issue.

Final results showed that votes against carried the day by 65.3% to 34.7% in favour. David Roth, the president of Switzerland's Young Socialists and the referendum's leading sponsor, said: "We're disappointed [we] lost today."

His proposal would have meant executives would have been unable to earn more in a month than their lowest-paid workers in a year. The so-called 1:12 referendum was the second ballot this year in traditionally conservative and business-friendly Switzerland on the subject of executive remuneration.

In March, voters approved a measure that boosted shareholders' power over managerial salaries and banned one-off bonuses – so-called "golden hellos" and "golden goodbyes".

Roth blamed Sunday's defeat on "scare tactics" by his opponents. Employers had mounted a vigorous counterattack, claiming approval of the initiative would undermine Switzerland's competitiveness, slash tax revenues and breach a taboo on giving the state a role in relations between employers and employees.

Christian Keuschnigg, professor of public economics at the university of St Gallen, said a study he had carried out for the employers found the cost to the state would have ranged from "close to zero to as much as Sfr4bn [£2.7bn]", depending on the reaction of business. The proponents of the scheme, backed by the Socialists and Greens, argued that the savings in top executive pay would be redistributed among the lower paid.

But, said Keuschnigg, companies might have increased their dividends or relocated to other countries. "Multinational corporations could easily switch their headquarters elsewhere," he told the Guardian. "That danger in our view was quite real."

Both the government and parliament had called for a "no" vote.

Claude Longchamp, head of the polling group gfs.bern, said that, unlike the sponsors of the March referendum, "the Young Socialists were unable to convince older voters".

Deborah Warburton, a partner in London-based executive search firm Hedley May, highlighted the radicalism of what voters had been asked to endorse.

"The Swiss proposal was much stricter even than the 20 times ratio that the TUC is calling for in the UK, so it's perhaps not surprising that it was rejected," she said. "Even though it was a 'no' vote, the question of how to make executive pay fairer is still very much a live issue, with the UK having implemented a law giving shareholders a binding vote on executive pay only last month, France and Germany also considering such measures, and the EU working on potential draft legislation to give shareholders voting rights over executive pay."

Nor will Sunday's verdict dispel concerns over pay imbalances in Switzerland. A separate initiative by the trade unions, aimed at the introduction of a minimum wage, is expected to go to a national vote next year.

Roth said: "Our fight will continue against 'fat cat' salaries and an unfair pay system. This system has no future. We succeeded in mobilising many people and launching a broad debate."

The issue leapt into the headlines earlier this year after the Swiss drug group Novartis agreed to pay its outgoing chairman Daniel Vasella SFr72m (£49m). The payment, which the firm scrapped, was aimed at preventing Vasella from using his knowledge to help rival pharmaceutical firms.

The young Socialists claimed during the 1:12 campaign that the ratio of the average salary among Swiss CEOs to the average wage had leapt from six to one in 1984 to 43 to one in 2011. Calculations based on figures compiled by the trade union Travailsuisse indicate that the biggest pay imbalance is at another drug company, Roche, where the salary of the best-paid executive is 236 times that of the lowest-paid worker.

Other firms where the ratio was in excess of 200 to one were ABB, Novartis and Credit Suisse. They were followed by Nestlé, UBS and Lindt & Sprungli.

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« Reply #10214 on: Nov 25, 2013, 06:53 AM »

Cameron must see past the hysteria and grasp the nettle on immigration

The pressure on community relations can no longer be ignored. Doing nothing plays into the hands of xenophobes

Sarah Wollaston, Monday 25 November 2013 09.30 GMT          

It cannot be easy; one day you are a self-respecting Guardian journalist then suddenly people are asking if you are related to a Tory MP. But Sam Wollaston can relax: I am not a "real" Wollaston.

Scratch the surface of any Briton and you will find a migrant. In my case, it was my great-great-great grandfather John Israel Wollstein, who emigrated from Poland and settled in England in the 1830s after marrying a local girl, Mary Carter.

Fast forward three generations and his entire extended family in England simultaneously anglicised their names by deed poll, apparently after choosing the name from Burke's Peerage. It was more than a marker of patriotism; bricks through the window were a common problem for those with Germanic names during the Great War.

Sadly some attacks are again being levelled at some of today's eastern European migrants.

People fretted about them in Edwardian England, just as they do today. The "real" Wollastons took umbrage; in a book about their own family's achievements, my ancestors made the final pages, but only as a warning about the European Jewish family who had usurped their historic name.

Within a generation, the Wollstein's distant cousins back in Poland faced genocide under Hitler, a stark reminder of the potential consequences of scapegoating and xenophobia.

Language matters. Witness the disturbing stereotyping of Roma people. But there are also dangers in silencing debate. Branding people as racist when they questioned the benefits of mass immigration crushed open debate very effectively until Gordon Brown derided Gillian Duffy as a "bigoted woman". People listened to his sneering comments from the back of his limousine and something snapped.

Over 2 million people had moved to Britain within a decade but the infrastructure was not in place to accommodate them. The consequences of the scale and pace of change were not borne by the political elite or champagne socialists, but in deprived areas where young people in particular were already struggling to find homes and jobs.

Labour now admits that its failure to apply transitional controls to new accession nations was a terrible mistake. Roger Daltrey said he would never forgive the party for "destroying the jobs of my mates", pointing out that mass immigration had fuelled a resentment which was no fault of the migrants themselves.

In all the noise it is easy to forget the serious consequences for accession nations, too. While the NHS is keen to recruit more nurses, a mass exodus of skilled staff from hospitals in eastern Europe leaves behind far greater difficulties. It is the same with schools and industry.

Immigration from Bulgaria and Romania from January seems unlikely to be on the same scale as from Poland and elsewhere in 2004 as many Bulgarians and Romanians will choose to settle in Germany or Italy – but frankly no one knows how many will come. Our population is already rising faster than in any other country in Europe, with one-third of this the result of immigration. The pressures on infrastructure and employment can no longer be ignored.

This week, David Cameron will come under intense pressure from a small minority in his own party who want Britain to close its doors and refuse to accept its treaty obligations, even if that means eye-watering daily fines. According to some reports, the prime minister is considering extending the length of time new arrivals have to stay in this country before they qualify for state benefits – he will have to find a way that can be done without discriminating between British citizens and other Europeans in eligibility for benefits. He should try to find a way of reducing the "pull effect" for unskilled migration by increasing the length of the so-called habitual residence test. He could perhaps exempt anyone who has been educated or worked for a year in the UK.

Prime ministers should not direct others to break the law. Nor should they pander to the hysteria that risks engulfing this sensitive issue. Immigration is putting strain on the infrastructure in some areas, but the British economy is recovering, unemployment is falling, and skilled migrants have always contributed a great deal to this country, and must be allowed to continue to do so.

However, it is also right that Cameron should concern himself with deteriorating community relations in places like Sheffield, and right that he consider the consequences of doing nothing. He must grasp the nettle.

Britain stands to gain just as much from migration today as it did when the multilingual Wollsteins brought their expertise and enthusiasm to the Victorian Baltic timber trade.

We must, however, get the balance right. Failure to acknowledge or respond to reasonable concerns about the scale and pace of change will only play into the hands of those with an entirely different agenda, fanning the flames of xenophobia and dividing our society.

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