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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 30 March

by Fran Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:17:39 PM EST

On this date in history:

1853 - Birth of Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch Post-Impressionist artist. Some of his paintings are now among the world's best known, most popular works of art. (d. 1890)

More here and here

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by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:18:20 PM EST
Police identify 200 children as potential terrorists - Crime, UK - The Independent
Drastic new tactics to prevent school pupils as young as 13 falling into extremism

Two hundred schoolchildren in Britain, some as young as 13, have been identified as potential terrorists by a police scheme that aims to spot youngsters who are "vulnerable" to Islamic radicalisation. Related articles

The number was revealed to The Independent by Sir Norman Bettison, the chief constable of West Yorkshire Police and Britain's most senior officer in charge of terror prevention.

He said the "Channel project" had intervened in the cases of at least 200 children who were thought to be at risk of extremism, since it began 18 months ago. The number has leapt from 10 children identified by June 2008.

The programme, run by the Association of Chief Police Officers, asks teachers, parents and other community figures to be vigilant for signs that may indicate an attraction to extreme views or susceptibility to being "groomed" by radicalisers. Sir Norman, whose force covers the area in which all four 7 July 2005 bombers grew up, said: "What will often manifest itself is what might be regarded as racism and the adoption of bad attitudes towards 'the West'.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:20:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why don't we render these kids down to Gitmo, torture the crap out of them, and if they weren't extremists when they went in, they sure as hell will be by the time they get out.  The Govt. has to think to the future.  They need a constant supply of enemies, real or imagined, to keep the populations in check with fear.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:42:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Guardian - Gary Younge - Where will we find the perfect Muslim for monocultural Britain?

A wonderful de-construction of the short-sighted counter productive stupidities of Labour's relationship with the diverse muslim communities

And when it does talk to them as Muslims, it demands they join a society that doesn't exist, on terms that would not be set for any other religious group. The Home Office pledge to challenge those who "reject parliamentary democracy, dismiss the rule of law and promote intolerance and discrimination on the basis of race, faith, ethnicity, gender or sexuality," is laudable. But, in a period that has seen the Catholic church stained with endemic child sex abuse and the Church of England rent asunder over homosexuality, the idea that Muslims should be singled out is laughable. Given the rise of the British National party in areas where Labour once dominated, you would think the ministers might launch such a challenge closer to home. And if these are "shared British values" then opposition to war and torture are no less so.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:41:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France, Germany Bolt EU Doors to Western Balkans | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.03.2009
Seven western Balkan nations aspiring to join the EU had their hopes dampened by French and German officials reluctant to see the 27-member bloc expanding in times of unfinished inner reforms and global economic crisis. 

"There will be no enlargement if there is no Lisbon Treaty," said French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Saturday, March 28, during an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Czech Republic.

That position was echoed by German foreign ministry officials, who said: "We will not be in a position to accept new member states in the EU without the Lisbon Treaty."

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:21:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bonn Climate Talks Give Obama's Green Team First Chance to Impress | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.03.2009
The Obama administration will enter the complex world of global climate talks this weekend in Bonn amid a furious domestic debate about whether the US should be placing limits on the pollutants that cause global warming. 

As government negotiators begin a two-week meeting in Bonn, Germany, on Sunday, Obama's team will be pointing to some immediate policy shifts by the administration that environmentalists have hailed as a dramatic change from former president George W Bush.

Some 190 nations will launch a marathon of meetings, starting in Bonn, designed to culminate in Copenhagen in December with a new pact for curbing greenhouse gases beyond 2012, when provisions under the Kyoto Protocol expire.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:21:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
French Plan for Armed EU Police in Afghanistan Raises Concerns | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 28.03.2009
Several EU nations have concerns about a French scheme to send European armed police into Afghanistan, officials admitted during a foreign ministers meeting in the Czech Republic on Friday. 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner launched the idea at an EU summit last week.

He made the case again at two days of talks with his European Union counterparts at Hluboka castle in the southern Czech Republic, which were winding up Saturday.

Kouchner himself recognised that several of his EU colleagues had reservations about the project of sending armed gendarmes to train Afghan police.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:22:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarko himself in his Napoleon outfit (he looks so cute in the hat!) will be leading the charge in person, right?  Chickenhawks to the front of the line, right?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:46:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh... whoever heard of unarmed police, and in Afghanistan of all places?

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 11:29:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thousands in Germany, UK Protest Ahead of G20 Summit | Germany | Deutsche Welle | 28.03.2009
Trade unionists, environmentalists, and anti-globalization activists took to the streets of Berlin, Frankfurt and London on Saturday, March 28, to protest against the measures taken to tackle the global financial crisis. 

"We will not pay for your crisis," was the motto of the German campaign spearheaded by the anti-globalization network Attac.

Demonstrators said banks must be held to account for the crisis, rather than allowing employees and the world's poor to suffer as a result of the economic downturn.

A speaker for Attac said roughly 15,000 people had come to the Frankfurt demonstration. Several hundred police protected the entrances to office blocks in Germany's banking capital.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:25:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brown tells demonstrators: I will meet all your concerns - UK Politics, UK - The Independent
As 35,000 protest in London, and Germans leak alleged G20 paper, Prime Minister takes a gamble

At the start of a week that could determine the economic fate of the planet, as well as his own future, Gordon Brown last night took the gamble of raising expectations for the G20 Summit by pledging it would meet the concerns of protesters demanding fundamental change to haul the world out of recession.

The Prime Minister insisted the landmark gathering in London would respond to unprecedented global demands for action, with measures to "create jobs, stimulate business and get the economy moving".

His pledge came as a broad alliance of activists demonstrated in European capitals including London, where at least 35,000 people took to the streets in a march for "jobs, justice and climate".

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:26:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thousands on march in Europe - World News - World - General - The Canberra Times

THOUSANDS of people have marched through European cities to demand jobs, economic justice and environmental accountability, the start of six days of protest and action planned before the Group of 20 summit in London.

More than 150 groups supported the Put People First march in London. Police said about 35,000 were at the demonstration on Saturday, snaking their way through the city to Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park. Organisers want leaders from the world's top 20 economies to adopt a more transparent and democratic economic recovery plan.

The general secretary of the Trades Union Council, Brendan Barber, told protesters in Hyde Park that the G20 needed to "take actions to lay the foundation for a better world".

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:32:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Police to use Tasers if rallies in London become violent | The Australian

LONDON: London police will deploy officers armed with 50,000-volt Taser stun guns to deal with violent demonstrators planning to disrupt this week's G20 summit in London.

The centrepiece of the security plan will be hundreds of officers from the metropolitan police territorial support group, who are armed with speedcuffs, extended batons and CS gas spray.

The Met confirmed they would be supported by officers equipped with Tasers on stand-by should trouble break out.

"There will be an armed response vehicle element to this operation and those officers will be carrying Tasers," a spokeswoman said.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:33:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a little wine in me so please forgive.  I have this image of a suicide bomber, a dirty bomb, and a cop using a taser all meshed in my head.  Quite a scene for one image.  As I said, my mind tends to wander under these conditions.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:52:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was interesting that on the Andrew Marr show yesterday morning (Sunday UK politics TV) both AM & his guest referred to the protests as "riots" without acknowledging that they were peaceful protests and no actual rioting or damage had occured.

As I said a couple fo days ago, the media narrative is already out there with the casual conflation that all protesters are ne'er-do-wells who have nothing positive to say. I also noticed that they chose to broadcast those vox-pops from within the crowd where the person inverviewed ummed and ahhed and didn't seem ot have much idea of focus or alternative planning. Just a vague "Down with this sort of thing" that makes the whole more easily dismissable.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:48:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"When the time comes" (whenever that is) we will have to do better.  The show has barely even started.  And I'm back to being sober.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 10:58:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Having apropriate anti-riot gear (tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets) is crucial, because it allows staged escalation.

If you don't have those things (for PC-reasons, or otherwise) there will be a huge escalation when the police feel truncheons aren't enough, panic, and start firing live ammunition at random into the crowd. Like they did during the Gothenburg riots in 2001.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 11:33:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Spanish town in bullfight vote

The residents of a small town in central Spain are taking part in a referendum this weekend to decide whether their annual bullfighting festival should be cancelled, the BBC's Steve Kingstone reports.

Like many small towns in Spain, Manzanares el Real considers the annual bull fight to be part of its DNA.

But the price of 120,000 euros (£112,000, $160,000) meant the cost of staging the festival this year would eat up a quarter of the municipal budget for culture, sport and social services.

In a letter sent to 6,000 homes, the town's mayor said that if the event went ahead it would be at the expense of basic services like street cleaning.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:26:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an average of €20 per home, which doesn't seem insurmountable. But they can't manage to break even on bullfighting events? It's hard to see a need for subsidies.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:14:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not a private event but (my guess) part of the festivities for a (the?) key local holiday. The organizers - the local council - doesn't intend to break even (they could be charging €20 for admission but they don't) but to have as many people as possible attend.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Usually these things are suppposed to break even by encouraging visitors who more than make up the shortfall with spending that wouldn't optherwise have happened, plus showcasing and advertising.

I imagine there's more going on here cos it's almost certainly counter-productive financially.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:51:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's the position of the local councillor in charge of festivitiesMadrid - Manzanares decide mañana si suprime los toros en las fiestas - ADN.es
Fernández ha explicado que en Manzanares los festejos taurinos representan un atractivo turístico para los vecinos y visitantes de la Sierra de Guadarrama.

"Hay que tener en cuenta que es mucha la gente que se desplaza para disfrutar de los festejos taurinos, que vienen a pasar el día; son muchas las personas que se toman el aperitivo y comen en los establecimientos de la localidad", ha subrayado.

El concejal considera que el ahorro que se pretende conseguir en el erario público con la supresión de la Fiesta puede ser contraproducente, ya que este tipo de celebraciones han sido, "por atractivo turístico, por tradición o por cultura", una herramienta de desarrollo de pueblos como Manzanares El Real.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:41:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I don't know spanish so I can't even guess what the councillor's postion was

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 10:10:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly what you were saying - that the bullfights bring tourists to the region and contribute to developing the local economy.

This is not contradictory with a heavy net subsidy of the bullfights.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 10:17:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, every municipality here subsidizes the annual local festivities quite heavily. (With "taurine festivities" in some areas of the SW.) But if the corridas are any good, I'd have thought they'd pay their way. Whereas here, there are expensive show bands that are put on for free.

I expect the first mayor who said: I'm not paying any more, would get turfed out of the town hall by an angry mob. S/he wouldn't be a proper mayor.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 03:35:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Slovenia clears way for Croatia's NATO entryEUobserver
Slovenia on Friday finalised the ratification of Croatia's NATO membership after a small non-parliamentary group failed to collect enough signatures to call a referendum on the issue. The remaining 25 countries have already approved Croatia's bid and Zagreb is to join NATO at the 3-4 April summit.
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:29:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In search of political will « Behind the Scenes

Earlier this week, former Spanish prime minister Felipe Gonzalez outlined his vision for a strategy that would see the European Union through to 2020 or 2030. It's a crowded field this whole opining on the future of the EU business, but Gonzalez' views carry some weight as he heads a reflection group set up by member states to deliberate on what the main challenges for the Union will be for the coming years.

According to Gonzalez, who remains Spain's longest-serving prime minister, most of the fundamentals upon which Europe and its societies stand need to be changed. Education must be shaken up to stop the flood of overly educated but not company-attractive graduates emerging into the jobs markets. The way society approaches its working day must be turned on its head so it is viewed as a function of productivity per hour rather than length of time worked by per week while risk-taking entrepreneurship must be actively encouraged. And lastly of course, that big elephant in room, creaking under the EU's ageing population, the welfare system. Relatively vague on details, he suggested moving away from the idea that employees have to retire at a certain age while involving women more in the workforce and encouraging migration without which "social welfare would have gone ages ago."

But all of this would imply some courageous and far-sighted political leadership. And there is not much of that around at the moment. The recent acrimonious haggling over how to allocate a €5bn overflow among member states for energy and internet projects and the thin consensus on the EU's position ahead of next week's G20 summit only serve to underline how difficult it is for member states to agree short-term measures, never mind the long-term structural changes needed for Europe.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:29:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In search of political will « Behind the Scenes
...using this crisis to transform Europe...

This is Honor Mahony, Brussels correspondent of the EUObserver, hoping that the crisis will lead at last to economic-liberal "reforms" (see discussion re Gonzalez here). Conventional wisdom regarding these is repeated without examination. The free-market basis of the EU and the years of the Barroso Commission don't count for these people, it's not enough.

But they have the money behind them and they're holding the microphone. They're more likely than we are to push their message across thanks to the crisis.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:20:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to Gonzalez ... [e]ducation must be shaken up to stop the flood of overly educated but not company-attractive graduates emerging into the jobs markets.
Gah, f*ck.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:23:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about companies need to be changed to accept the highly-educated school-leavers?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:27:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Exactly! Education is not about clones. The teaching/learning that is missing is about entrepreneurship. i.e. about changing corporations.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:40:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about when they stop avoiding tax, then we'll provide a percentage of education based on the percentage that companies pay in taxation into education suitable for their purposes? till then we'll provide education for people that they want.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:47:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Job-specific skills should be acquired on the job, too. Especially in an environment when the expectation is no longer a job or even a single career for life.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 08:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Education imo is a gift from a previous generation to the next generation.  It should involve the giving of the social and communication tools that any person needs as a functioning member of society. Also the tools to be critical and analytical. The feedback of creativity and an appreciation of the arts are also essential.

But above all to learn how to learn, so the process of being an active member of society doesn't stop.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 12:20:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sven Triloqvist:
Education imo is a gift from a previous generation to the next generation.
González's generation appear rather stingy when it comes go gifts for their grandchildren (the children went to University just fine, thank you very much).

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 12:26:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Education is also, as I said in a comment linked to in my comment above, public investment in cultural infrastructure (from which business in fact benefits). This call for education to produce ready-made candidates so business can cut down on recruitment and training budgets is so typical of the small-minded, shortsighted focus on reducing labour costs that makes up a great deal of the "necessary reform" they keep on telling us is good sense and inevitable.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 03:47:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like a Spanish defence minister said not so long ago, "dumb soldiers obey better". Who wants an educated populace?

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Mar 31st, 2009 at 02:30:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This coming from the son of a farmer who became a Labour Lawyer after studying in the local state University.

It seems he doesn't think the future generations shouldn't enjoy the high-quality education that he enjoyed and allowed his own upwards mobility.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 08:59:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the UK's university funding debate all over again.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:34:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought "top-up fees" have been shown to be an unmitigated disaster.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:36:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
well last week we had a campaign from university chancellors to be allowed to increase them.

(The similar arguments actually date back to the Thatcher/Major era and the introduction of Loans. Theres some quotes then about why should miners be paying for the sons of the middle classes to go to university, when in fact it was so that the sons of people other than the middle classes could go there was the reason that grants came from general taxation)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:42:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
why should miners be paying for the sons of the middle classes to go to university

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:44:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember having thesame thoughts at the time only in much more colourfull language.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 10:04:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the defence of the argument this was a time when university attendace was still heavily middle class dominated. I think the figures at the time did show that, just as with local council taxes, central government support was efectively a net transfer of money from the lower to the middle classes.

however, the tories were panicking because the balance of attendance was changing and something had to be done to keep equality at bay. So they used this argument just at the time when it was ceasing to be true.

But education and its organisation in the UK is completely up the creek that criticising any part of it seems pointless. Just grub it up and start again, preferably by going to find best practice from succesful educaitonal regimes and copying them. Instead, as with practically every policy initiative, we get that which failed in the US.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 10:17:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems he doesn't think the future generations shouldn't enjoy the high-quality education that he enjoyed and allowed his own upwards mobility.
Gah, double negatives.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 09:37:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Rural deaths mar Turkish election

At least five people have been killed more than 50 injured in mainly Kurdish areas of eastern Turkey, as the country voted in key local elections.

The fatalities came as supporters of rival candidates for the non-party position of village chief fought armed battles in several locations.

Votes are being counted in the polls, seen as a referendum on the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The AKP was put on trial last year and faced closure.

It was charged with threatening Turkey's strictly secular system.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
David Davis: We did things differently in my day, Mr Miliband | Comment is free | The Observer

The sunlight was streaming through the windows of MI6 headquarters as I sipped my Earl Grey tea from a bone china cup and gently teased the head of the Secret Intelligence Service. "You chaps are hardly James Bond these days, are you?" I said. "Why, you don't even kill people any more."

Sir Colin McColl smiled. "Well, that's because you don't ask us to, minister."

As the famed C, he was head of the organisation that ran Britain's spies and provided the backdrop for the stories crafted by Ian Fleming and John le Carré. He was a formidably intelligent and civilised man, as he had to be, providing as he did one of our major defences against the then Soviet threat. He no doubt viewed with quizzical amusement the impertinent badinage of the junior minister from the Cabinet Office, as I then was.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:31:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An urbane but ultimately self serving and rose-tinted suggestion of adult behaviour from the conservatives Labour are incapable of achieving.

Good try and may work for those with no memory of the Ulster conflict and the ghastly behaviour by the security forces. Some elements of which actively conspired against government policy and probably delayed resolution of the conflict for several years.

David Davies attitude to liberties is supposedly beyond question, it's a shame his voting record doesn't support that belief.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:04:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlusconi eyes presidency with stronger powers - Times Online

THE Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, wants to give the largely ceremonial office of president some real teeth - and then campaign for the job himself. If successful, he would be entrenched as the most powerful Italian politician since Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader who ruled from 1922 to 1943.

Aides said Berlusconi would use his closing speech at a party conference in Rome today to call for a directly elected president, modelled on the French system.

Georgio Napolitano, who is president until 2013 when Berlusconi's term as prime minister ends, is a former communist who was elected by MPs and regional representatives. His role is mainly confined to dissolving parliament and calling elections.

Berlusconi, 72, is expected to argue that Italy, whose postwar prime ministers have rarely spent more than a year or two in office, needs more decisive government. He is said to favour a president directly elected by the people and with a beefed-up role to match the powers enjoyed by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 03:17:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are Sarko and Berlu doing each other?  At state functions, when they sit next to each other, can you see their hands?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:57:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the largely ceremonial office of president

The writer confuses the Presidency of the Republic with the Council Presidency. Berlusconi is President of the Council and complains he hasn't enough power. He has also reiterated that parliament is fairly useless and only party chairpersons should vote bills into law. This insistence on the uselessness of parliamentary procedure came directly after Gianfranco Fini, who is president of the House of Deputies, had clearly criticized Berlusconi for his previous attacks on parliament.

Berlusconi also remarked- as if Italy were inhabited by chronic idiots- that his delirious concept of parliament already exists in France and elsewhere. Now the only procedure remotely close to his concept in France is the possibility of a party chairperson to vote in the stead of a member of parliament in absentee on official mission and (as I understand) only on request. This is a far cry from simply eliminating the votes of all members of parliament.

In his speech to his grovelling mass of squealing lemmings for the foundation of his New! Improved! Stronger! personal political entity, the Tribe of Freedom, Berlusconi individuated 50 articles in the Constitution that he wants to change. He menaced that if the opposition does not want to agree with him, he'll do it alone.

We're talking about today, not when Giorgio Napolitano steps down in 2013. By then, the way things are going, there will be no need for the Presidency of the Republic.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 05:04:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How do sane people NOT see this as the road to a dictatorship, or don't they care, or are there no sane people, or what?  And why don't we hear about this in America?  Is Italy so nothing that they don't matter?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 11:04:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera English - Europe - Russia 'to aid Afghan fight'

Russia has said it is ready to increase co-operation with the Nato military alliance over its war in Afghanistan.

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, told an international conference on Afghanistan in Moscow on Friday that his country was "ready to examine other kinds of constructive co-operation".

Lavrov did not say what kind of assistance Russia might provide, but it already allows Nato to transit non-lethal material to Afghanistan through its territory.

The hosting of the conference was seen as a sign of the Kremlin's desire to expand its role in the region.

Moscow said it hoped the talks would help to improve the co-ordination of global efforts to combat Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters, as well as tackle drug-trafficking in Afghanistan.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 03:18:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France 24 | Mayotte to decide on overseas department status | France 24
The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte is voting on whether to become France's fifth overseas department and the first with a 95% Muslim population. FRANCE 24 special correspondents Lucas Menget and Johan Bodin report from the field.

The citizens of Mayotte are voting Sunday in a referendum on whether to become a French overseas department. Currently, the French dependency holds the hazy status of "collectivité d'outre-mer" (overseas collectivity). If the "Yes" vote obtains a majority, as expected, Mayotte would be on its way to becoming France's fifth overseas department (out of 101 French departments in total) and the first with a 95% Muslim population.

By midday, 26.4% of the population had cast their ballot. "This is a higher turnout compared to previous polls. People have come out to vote despite the crushing hot weather," said Lucas Menget, FRANCE 24's special correspondent in Mayotte.

"For several decades, France has promised the Mahorais that the territory could become a French department if they wanted," added Menget. "President Nicolas Sarkozy made a campaign promise to allow a referendum on the issue".

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 03:18:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mayotte votes to join France

AMOUDZOU, Mayotte, March 29, 2009 (AFP) - The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte voted Sunday to become a full part of France in a referendum that will end local traditions like polygamy and curb powers of Islamic courts.
    More than 95 percent of those who voted supported Mayotte becoming France's 101st department, the French government announced. Mayotte is currently anoverseas "collectivity" with specific autonomy powers.
    The vote means that by 2011 the Muslim-majority island will complete anintegration with France begun in 1974, when Mayotte split from three otherislands in its archipelago which chose independence and became the Comoros.

I didn't realize they could do this!  Any French care to elaborate on why New Caledonia, for example, chooses to remain "independent?"

by paving on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:13:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
New Caledonia society is set up quite differently, with a large "white" community and a strongly independentist "native" one. Also, New Caledonia with its Nickel mines has some wealth by itself. Whereas Mayotte looks at the rest of the Comoros - a country with one of the highest coup d'etat rate in the world - and compounds it with the increase in social transfers that comes with being a déparetment...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 10:03:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a quick thought: If you have a "coup d'etat rate" does it really matter if it's particularly high or not?
by paving on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 01:38:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The "coup d'etat" era is long gone in Comoros: there was a time (from 1975 to the early 2000's) when you could do it with half-a-dozen mercs, but that's no longer the case -- thankfully.

It's difficult to understand this Mayotte-as-a-département business, without knowing the past 40 years history of the Comoros archipelago: a long and convoluted story -- and I have no time to tell it today.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 05:58:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Tomorrow then ? :)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 08:28:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll give it a try next week-end :)
by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 04:03:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:18:50 PM EST
The European Citizen: We want informed debate on Europe! (But Europe shouldn't take part)
The EU is distant; it doesn't engage; people feel uninformed about the issues and there is rarely any debate on substantive issues - the only debate seems to be infrequent, confused and hurried grandstanding on the constitutional issues.

People want more information. There should be more debate on what legislation is passed and decisions are made at an EU level.

Perhaps a campaign to try to engage people in the European elections would be a good idea? No, that would be propaganda.

Now this campaign is not at all likely to be effective - billboards cannot replace a vigorous political party debate and campaign, and these billboards aren't much good to start off with - but it does highlight a certain attitude which is sadly quite widespread in some approaches to debates on Europe, on both the pro-Europe and Eurosceptic sides. And it's mainly this: if a viewpoint on Europe comes from outside the member state, it is derided as foreign and therefore invalid and not worthy of consideration; official information campaigns are automatically labeled propaganda and are unhelpful to the debate.
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:22:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A Choice for Europe? - The New Federalist, webzine of the Young European Federalist
The European institutions are fighting the low turnouts in the European Parliament elections with a common strategy and a single message throughout Europe: "It's your choice". The problem: A choice requires different alternatives. A single campaign requires a single discussion.

Paradoxically, the turnout in European elections has been decreasing ever since the first direct elections in 1979 while the power of the European Parliament has been steadily increasing. More and more laws are made by the `citizen's chamber' while less and less people take advantage of their right to directly influence these decisions. It's all about choice

This year, there will be no lectures about citizen's responsibilities or duties in the European Parliament's communication strategy - the European elections 2009 are all about choice. The key message is that all citizens can influence policies by giving their vote. This message is spread with a single campaign throughout Europe: Postcards, billboards and 3-dimensional street installations will raise important questions concerning energy, climate change, agriculture, consumer protection, security, free markets and other important topics. In room-sized cubes with the name "choice boxes", citizens can record their views on European issues - selected scenes will be played on Europarl TV, Youtube and on screens outside the boxes. In order to reach all potential voters, the campaign will also be present on TV and radio, young voters are supposed to be attracted by My Space, Facebook and Flickr.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:23:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC:Tory party to expel donor Wheeler

The Conservative party says it is expelling one of its multi-millionaire donors after he gave £100,000 to UKIP.

Spread-betting tycoon Stuart Wheeler said he had made the UKIP donation because he believed the Tories were too soft on European integration.

Mr Wheeler, an outspoken Eurosceptic, gave £5m to the Conservatives in 2001 and wanted to remain a party member.

by Sassafras on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 06:54:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
at least UKIP are being honest about being anti-europe. The conservatives won't admit it.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:11:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The British political race to the right continues.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:28:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:19:11 PM EST
Germany to take 8.7 percent stake in Hypo Real Estate | World News | Deutsche Welle | 29.03.2009
The German government is set to take an 8.7 per cent stake in the troubled commercial property lender Hypo Real Estate. The company said in a statement that Germany's national banking sector stabilisation fund SoFFin will buy 20 million shares at three euros a piece. The statement described this as a first step to recapitalize the bank, adding that SoFFin intended to gain full control over the Hypo Real Estate Group. Berlin is concerned that the failure of the company could have catastrophic consequences similar to those sparked by last year's bankruptcy of US investment bank Lehman Brothers which hit financial markets around the world. Hypo Real Estate ran into trouble last September. Since then, the government has shored it up with loan guarantees of more than 80 billion euros. Legislation is currently making its way through parliament that would allow the government to take over the bank by expropriating shareholders if necessary.
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:23:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Geithner: Gov't Must Not Let Up, Banks Need To Start "Taking Risks Again"

WASHINGTON -- The banking crisis. The credit crisis. The recession. The auto bailout. The bonus furor.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner (GYT'-nur) has had to deal with so many hot button issues in little more than two months since joining President Barack Obama's Cabinet.

So what's the most important thing he has learned in trying to fix the economy?

He says it isn't the risk that the government does too much. Instead, Geithner says it's the risk that the government does too little to try to help solve the financial problems.

Geithner says the financial markets cannot not solve all those problems -- it's up to the federal government to act and that's what he says the Obama administration is trying to do.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:32:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"To get out of this we need banks to take a chance on businesses, to take risks again," he declared.

In other words, we need to give the banks more time to completely loot the system and enslave the populations.  This can't be done overnight, you know.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 09:02:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Frog, Toad, Cookies, and Financial Regulation « The Baseline Scenario

What happened to the global economy and what we can do about it Frog, Toad, Cookies, and Financial Regulation

with 55 comments

My two-year-old daughter loves Frog and Toad.

There is a Frog and Toad story called "Cookies." It is the only Frog and Toad story I remember from my childhood. Toad bakes some cookies and takes them to Frog's house. They are very good. Frog and Toad eat many cookies, one after another. They try very hard to stop eating cookies, but as long as the cookies are in front of them, they cannot help themselves.

So Frog puts the cookies in a box. Toad points out that they can open the box. Frog ties some string around the box. Toad points out that they can cut the string. Frog gets a ladder and puts the box on a high shelf. Toad points out .  . .

Finally Frog takes down the box, cuts the string, opens the box, and gives all the cookies to the birds.

"Read more, Daddy," my daughter says.

"One moment, I have to tell all the nice people the moral to the story."

On last Friday's Planet Money, Alex Blumberg talked to Republican Congressman John Campbell (starting around 24:30), who happens to be on the House Financial Services Committee. According to Campbell, there are three broad regulatory designs under consideration:

  1. Break up the banks and impose rules to keep them small (simple size caps).
  2. Allow large banks, but impose stringent regulations on them.
  3. Similar to 2: Allow large banks, but impose regulatory constraints that increase with size (for example, increasing capital adequacy requirements), so that at some point being large becomes unprofitable.

These may all seem like plausible solutions when you look only at economic considerations, but not when you consider political factors. The most fundamental problem is that as long as you have big banks, they can climb the ladder, take down the box, cut the string, open the box, and eat all the cookies. For example, when Citigroup merged with Travelers in 1998, there was this thing called the Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited mergers between banks and insurance companies. Sandy Weill, chairman of Travelers, said at the time: "We are hopeful that over that time [two to five years] the legislation will change . . . We have had enough discussions [with the Fed] to believe this will not be a problem." Sure enough, the legislation changed.

Options 2 and 3 allow banks to become big and then use their power to weaken the regulations. Frog should have put the box on the shelf, climbed down, and smashed the ladder. Yes, someday he might have built a new ladder, and no regulatory scheme can serve its intended purpose forever. But the simpler it is, and the weaker the parties who want to undermine it, the stronger it will be.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:08:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
El Gobierno acude en ayuda de Caja Castilla La Mancha ante sus problemas de liquidez · ELPAÍS.comThe [Spanish] government comes to the rescue of Caja Castilla La Mancha faced with its liquidity problems - ElPaís.com
Pedro Solbes lo advirtió el 23 de marzo pasado. En un mensaje que no fue muy bien entendido, el vicepresidente económico dijo que "las entidades insolventes deben ser fusionadas o intervenidas". Quizá estaba pensando en la Caja Castilla La Mancha (CCM), presidida por el ex diputado socialista Juan Pedro Hernández Moltó, que ayer tuvo el dudoso honor de inaugurar la lista de cajas de ahorros intervenidas por el Banco de España. El apoyo a la entidad mediante préstamos avalados por el Estado se convierte en el primero desde que estalló una crisis financiera internacional que ha obligado a rescatar grandes bancos en EE UU y la mayor parte de los países europeos.[Spanish Economy and Treasury Minister] Pedro Solbes warned about it last March 23. In a message that wasn't well understood, the economic vice-president said that "insolvent institutions must merge or be intervened [by the regulator]". He may have been thinking about Caja Castilla la Mancha (CCM), presided by the former Socialist member of parliament Juan Pedro Hernández Moltó, who yesterday had the dubious honour of beginning the list of Cajas [savings banks] intervened by the Bank of Spain. The support to this entity by means of state-guaranteed loans is the first since the begiining of a international crisis that has forced the rescue of large banks in the USA and most European countries.
Tras fracasar el viernes el intento de que CCM fuese absorbida por Unicaja, la Comisión Ejecutiva del Banco de España decidió el sábado intervenir la entidad, mediante el cese de todo el consejo, con Hernández Moltó a la cabeza, y el nombramiento de tres funcionarios del banco central para dirigir la caja. De inmediato, el Banco de España comunicó la intervención a Solbes, así como la necesidad de facilitar financiación a la caja ante la crisis de liquidez en que se veía inmersa ante la continuada fuga de depósitos.After the attempt to have CCM taken over by Unicaja, the Executive Committee of the Bank of Spain decided on Saturday to intervene the entity, by firing the entire board, with Hernández Moltó at its helm, and the appointment of three functionnaries from the Central Bank to run the Caja. Immediatele, the Bank of Spain reported the intervention to Solbes, as well as the need to provide funding to the caja on account of the liquidity crisis it was in, faced with a continuous flight of deposits.
Un Consejo de Ministros extraordinario aprobó un decreto-ley para facilitar esa financiación a la caja. Para ello, el Gobierno dará un aval máximo de 9.000 millones de euros, una cifra que el vicepresidente espera que no haga falta alcanzar. Inicialmente, según explicó, el Banco de España habrá de inyectar en Caja Castilla La Mancha entre 2.000 y 3.000 millones.An estraordinary Council of Ministers approved a legislative decree to facilitate this financing of the caja. To this end, the Government will guarantee a maximum of €9 billion, a figure that the vicepresident hopes won't be reached. Initially, as he explained, the Bank of Spain will inject between 2 and 3 billion into CCM.
[Spain's Toast Watch!™ Technology]

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 05:05:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anglo-American Capitalism on Trial - NYTimes.com

But Mr. Brown has a plan, set out at the briefing. His goal at the G-20 meeting is to make a start on reforming, and eventually saving in more regulated form, the model of the Anglo-American free-market system. It is a plan that Mr. Brown hopes will give Canary Wharf a place in history somewhat like Bretton Woods, the New Hampshire resort where, in July 1944, the United States and Britain led other nations in creating the International Monetary Fund, the first of a group of international organizations that became the pillars of the postwar international system.

In many ways, the new order was the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, embodying the common beliefs in freedom that had bound the wartime alliance, as they had infused the wider bonds between what Churchill called "the English-speaking peoples" since the flowering of liberal thought in the 17th and 18th centuries.

by Bernard (bernard) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 06:11:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Business | GM chief Wagoner ousted by Obama

The chief executive of struggling US car company General Motors has been ordered to step down by US President Barack Obama.

Rick Wagoner will leave immediately, a government official confirmed.

Mr Obama is preparing to outline terms for offering more help to GM and fellow car giant Chrysler.

The two firms have already received $17.4bn (£14.4bn) in bail-outs. Chrysler has requested a further $5bn while GM says it needs $16.7bn more.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:52:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's a TV talk due soon from Obama on this topic.  Will report it in today's OT if anything of consequence is stated.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 11:07:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:19:31 PM EST
Al-Bashir Arrest Warrant: Qatari Emir Warns of 'Chaos' in Sudan - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

In an interview with SPIEGEL to be published on Monday, the emir of Qatar has warned that Sudan could descend into chaos if President Omar al-Bashir is arrested. The Sudanese president is expected to defy an international warrant for his arrest to attend the Arab League summit in Doha on Monday.

The emir of Qatar has warned that the international warrant for the arrest of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir could destablize the entire region. "If anything happened to Omar al-Bashir and Sudan ended up in chaos, the whole of Africa will sink into chaos," Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani said in an interview with SPIEGEL to be published on Monday.

Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. He said that the terrorist group al-Qaida would be "happy to see Sudan become like Iraq." The emir has invited al-Bashir to attend the summit of the Arab League, which begins in Doha on Monday. Qatar does not belong to the signatory nations of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president earlier this month for war crimes in connection with the conflict in Darfur.

The emir also greeted US President Barack Obama's offer of dialogue with Iran and clearly voiced his opposition to any possible US attacks on the country. "We will not be with America against Iran," he said, adding: "Iran never created a problem for us." The biggest US air base in the region is located in Qatar and the headquarters of the US central command is also located in the Gulf state.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israeli drones destroy rocket-smuggling convoys in Sudan - Times Online

ISRAEL used unmanned drones to attack secret Iranian convoys in Sudan that were trying to smuggle rockets into Gaza. The missiles have the range to strike Tel Aviv and Israel's nuclear reactor at Dimona, defence sources said.

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) attacked two convoys, killing at least 50 smugglers and their Iranian escorts. All the lorries carrying the long-range rockets were destroyed. Had the rockets been delivered to Hamas, the militant Islamic group that controls Gaza, they would have dramatically raised the stakes in the conflict, enabling Palestinians to wreak terror on Tel Aviv.

According to western diplomats, Israel attacked the Iranian convoys at the end of January and in the first week of February in the remote Sudan desert, just outside Port Sudan. The convoys had been tracked down by agents from Mossad, Israel's overseas intelligence agency.

The raids were carried out by Hermes 450 drones. One source claimed they were accompanied by giant Eitan UAVs, which have a 110ft wingspan, similar to that of a Boeing 737. The drones, controlled via satellite, can hover over a target for 24 hours. The Hermes 450 squadron is based at the Palmahim air base, south of Tel Aviv, but it remains unclear from which airfield they took off.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:35:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Keys to the kingdom: Inside Saudi Arabia's royal family - Middle East, World - The Independent
The crown prince is seriously ill, and Saudi Arabia's normally secretive royal family is openly clashing over who will take the throne, reports Hugh Miles

A dispute over Saudi Arabia's royal succession burst into the open yesterday, revealing a power struggle in which one of the most senior princes in the oil-rich kingdom is reported to have disappeared. The prospect of instability in a country that is not only the world's largest oil exporter but also a key Western ally at the heart of the Middle East will cause serious concern in Washington, London and beyond.

Rumours are rife over the position of Prince Bandar bin Sultan, 60, son of the heir to the Saudi throne, who has not been seen in public for weeks. Prince Bandar is better known abroad than almost any other member of the Saudi royal family, not only for his extravagant lifestyle, but because of his daring foreign policy initiatives during 22 years as the Saudi ambassador in Washington, where he played an important role after 9/11 and during two Gulf wars. His absence from public life comes at a sensitive time in Saudi Arabia: his father, Crown Prince Sultan, is gravely ill with cancer, throwing the succession to King Abdullah into question.

One theory in political circles in Riyadh is that Prince Bandar was seeking to oust King Abdullah before Prince Sultan dies, thus placing his father on the throne. Other rumours claim that Prince Bandar is ill, or that he angered King Abdullah by dabbling in Syrian politics without authorisation. The Saudi embassy in London could not be contacted for comment last week, but this weekend political tensions in the kingdom came dramatically to the surface.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:27:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spanish court considers trying former US officials - Europe, World - The Independent

A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said.

Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes.

"The charges as related to me make no sense," Feith said Saturday. "They criticize me for promoting a controverial position that I never advocated."

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:28:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots - washingtonpost.com
Waterboarding, Rough Interrogation of Abu Zubaida Produced False Leads, Officials Say

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:34:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama will face a defiant world on foreign visit - International Herald Tribune

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama is facing challenges to American power on multiple fronts as he prepares for his first trip overseas since taking office, with the nation's economic woes emboldening allies and adversaries alike.

Despite his immense popularity around the world, Mr. Obama will confront resentment over American-style capitalism and resistance to his economic prescriptions when he lands in London on Tuesday for the Group of 20 summit meeting of industrial and emerging market nations plus the European Union.

The president will not even try to overcome NATO's unwillingness to provide more troops in Afghanistan when he goes on later in the week to meet with the military alliance.

He seems unlikely to return home with any more to show for his attempts to open a dialogue with Iran's leaders, who have, so far, responded with tough words, albeit not tough enough to persuade Russia to support the United States in tougher sanctions against Tehran. And he will be tested in face-to-face meetings by the leaders of China and Russia, who have been pondering the degree to which the power of the United States to dominate global affairs may be ebbing.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:28:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | South Asia | US to consult Pakistan on strikes

US President Barack Obama has said he will consult Pakistan's leaders before targeting militants in that country.

"If we have a high-value target within our sights, after consulting with Pakistan, we're going after them," Mr Obama told CBS television.

But Mr Obama ruled out deploying US ground troops inside Pakistan.

On Friday, the US leader announced a major policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying the situation on their border was "increasingly perilous".

Kabul and Islamabad have welcomed the review, but Pakistan has urged the US to halt recent cross-border missile strikes by unmanned Predator drone aircraft.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:39:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
US to consult Pakistan on strikes

It goes something like this:

Hello Pakistan.  We're going to bomb the crap out of whomever we want, including your citizens if we're in a crappy mood. Deal with it.

We're so diplomatic.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 09:34:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:20:03 PM EST
Al Jazeera English - Asia-Pacific - World cities mark Earth Hour

Major cities and world landmarks have been plunged into darkness as part of a campaign to raise awareness of potentially devastating climate change.

Homes and offices in major cities and landmarks turned their lights off for an hour on Saturday to promote energy-saving in response to the threat of climate change cuased by global warming.

Two of the first landmarks to switch off their lights were the iconic Habour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney, Australia's largest city, with Hong Kong's waterfront, Egypt's pyramids, the Acropolis in Athens, Nigeria Falls and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, following suit.

Notable buildings and streets in China, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines also switched off their lights, and others in London, Brazil and at the Vatican were doing the same later.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Environmentalists Hail Earth Hour As A Big Success

BONN, Germany -- For environmental activists, the message was clear: Earth Hour was a huge success.

Now they say nations have a mandate to tackle climate change.

"The world said yes to climate action, now governments must follow," the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said a day after hundreds of millions of people worldwide followed its call to turn off lights for a full hour.

From an Antarctic research base and the Great Pyramids of Egypt, from the Colosseum in Rome to the Empire State building in New York, illuminated patches of the globe went dark Saturday night to highlight the threat of climate change. Time zone by time zone, nearly 4,000 cities and towns in 88 countries dimmed nonessential lights from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:33:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
La Vida Locavore:: Organic White House Garden Puts Some Conventional Panties in a Twist
In the aftermath of breaking ground on the new, 1100 square foot White House garden, Michelle Obama named chef Sam Kass to head the White House Food Initiative. And we know how Kass feels about food... he agrees with us!

All of this positive PR for organics feels very threatening to Big Ag. So one group, the Mid America CropLife Association, has sent an email defending chemical ag to Mrs. Obama. See the letter reprinted below.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:51:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Talk about sad. Isn't Obama's secretary for agriculture a Monsanto briefed GM clone ? enough already.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China's global cyber-espionage network GhostNet penetrates 103 countries - Telegraph
A vast Chinese cyber-espionage network, codenamed GhostNet, has penetrated 103 countries and infects at least a dozen new computers every week, according to researchers.

The discovery of GhostNet, which is designed to infiltrate sensitive ministries and embassies - and is known to have succeeded in many cases - is the latest sign of China's determination to win a future "information war". A ten-month investigation by the Munk Centre for International Studies in Toronto has revealed that GhostNet not only searches computers for information and taps their emails, but also turns them into giant listening devices.

Once a computer has been infected, hackers can turn on its web camera and microphones and record any conversations within range.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 03:17:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As per conversation in Salon yesterday ; why this scare story, against that country, now ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:23:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Muslim Old Guard Relent To Young Reformers After Mosque Power Grab (from Sunday Herald)

A DECADE-LONG battle between Scotland's Muslim old guard and a new generation of reformers has been won by the young liberals who will now move into positions of power in the country's largest mosque.

The clash is being interpreted as a battle between older believers who define themselves as Pakistani and younger ones who see themselves as Scottish-British. Young muslims have been pushing for reform at Glasgow's Central Mosque for 10 years.

They want women and children to play a greater role and for imams to engage more with the non-Muslim community. They also want the religious focus of Islam in Scotland to contend with modern social evils, including drug abuse and gang violence.

Siddaqat Khan, 31, who negotiated for the reformers, said: "The older guys thought there was a threat to their kingdom. But society changes. The older generation are focused on being Pakistani, whereas we're focused on being British. That's where the clash happens. British society doesn't work by shutting itself off in a mosque."

According to Humza Yousaf, director of public affairs for the Scottish Islamic Foundation, breaking down the "gatekeeper mentality" of the older generation is essential for the long-term stability of the Muslim community.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 07:33:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds very positive. Except that cynical voices might suggest that the voiced aspirations are too close to New Labour preferences to be a coincidence. Methinks someone's making a play for secular power by owning the muslim community in Scotland.

As Gary Younge said of the perfect New Labour Muslim

Somewhere out there is the Muslim that the British government seeks. Like all religious people he (the government is more likely to talk about Muslim women than to them) supports gay rights, racial equality, women's rights, tolerance and parliamentary democracy. He abhors the murder of innocent civilians without qualification - unless they are in Palestine, Afghanistan or Iraq. He wants to be treated as a regular British citizen - but not by the police, immigration or airport security. He wants the best for his children and if that means unemployment, racism and bad schools, then so be it.

He raises his daughters to be assertive: they can wear whatever they want so long as it's not a headscarf. He believes in free speech and the right to cause offence but understands that he has neither the right to be offended nor to speak out. Whatever an extremist is, on any given day, he is not it.

He regards himself as British - first, foremost and for ever. But whenever a bomb goes off he will happily answer for Islam. Even as he defends Britain's right to bomb and invade he will explain that Islam is a peaceful religion. Always prepared to condemn other Muslims and supportive of the government, he has credibility in his community not because he represents its interests to the government, but because he represents the government's interests to Muslims. He uses that credibility to preach restraint and good behaviour. Whatever a moderate is, on any given day, he is it

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Mar 30th, 2009 at 07:28:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:20:29 PM EST
A life in the day of: Jose Manuel Barroso, EC president - Times Online

I wake up, almost mechanically, at 6am, unless I'm extremely tired. I can usually manage my day on five to six hours' sleep, but as I can often find myself travelling to three countries in a day, I may nap on a train or plane. I have a shower, shave and dress in 20 minutes.

I always wear a classic suit in grey or dark blue, a blue or white shirt, dark blue or black socks. As I dress I listen to classical, opera or jazz.

The precious time is before 9am, when I have no phone calls and no one is trying to see me. That's when I read my briefings and papers and make plans. For breakfast I just have coffee and an apple, because I have to watch my weight. But then I'll often have a working breakfast at 8am at the Commission. We don't serve an English breakfast, which I love -- just croissants.

My wife and I rent an apartment in Brussels, but last year I was away for 200 days. Our three sons are in their twenties. I was foreign minister when they were young, so I didn't give them the time most Portuguese fathers might. Of course I miss that time, but fortunately my wife looked after them.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:35:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The years of loving dangerously - Times Online
They were communist agents trained -- and surgically enhanced -- to seduce the West's Moneypennys and Bonds. Lauren St John finds out what went on between the sheets behind the iron curtain

In the mist-shrouded forests and mountains of Transylvania, home to the castle of Bram Stoker's Dracula, a more modern myth, dating from the cold war, has survived down the generations. This, some say, was the location of an extraordinary "sex school", one in which the most beautiful and handsome of cold-war spies were trained in lovemaking before being sent forth to seduce and inveigle secrets from western diplomats and agents. In the mid-1960s, one American author claimed he'd been taken to one such school, housed in a former royal hunting lodge outside Brasov. He alleged that it had a curriculum of sex studies run by the Romanians and that at least three of its young students were jaw-droppingly beautiful.

It takes only a cursory examination of the history of Transylvania's former royal hunting lodges to establish that the possibility of any of them ever having housed a college for 15-year-old female sex spies is fanciful in the extreme. However, four decades on, the myth of an intelligence school for government whores is still deeply ingrained in the Romanian psyche. So is there any truth in it?

"Before 1989, everybody hears about this," says Csendes Ladislau-Antoniu, president of the CNSAS, the archive of f the Securitate, the secret police who terrorised Romania for decades, "but in my position I didn't see any papers [proving it]." He admits: "About spies as spies we know very little as an institution. Its [the Securitate's] job was not to see if James Bond was blond or not."

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 02:36:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Glamour girl Rachida Dati refuses to leave Nicolas Sarkozy's government quietly - Telegraph
Rachida Dati, France's glamorous justice minister, is refusing to go quietly after being shunted out of government by President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The 43-year-old single mother is enjoying an unprecedented wave of popularity and exposure as she works out her notice.

Despite Mr Sarkozy's wish that she keep a lower profile and avoid being photographed in expensive designer clothes in celebrity magazines, her media star has never been brighter.

by Fran on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 03:17:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
An unprecedented wave of popularity ? What galaxy is the Telegraph written in ?

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 06:53:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The one where Dati's PR flack gets them to do a fluff-job
by paving on Sun Mar 29th, 2009 at 08:09:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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