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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 29 May

by Fran Thu May 28th, 2009 at 02:10:50 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1860 – Isaac Albéniz, a Spanish Catalan pianist and composer best known for his piano works based on folk music, was born.(d. 1909)

More here and video

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by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:44:53 AM EST
EUobserver / EU sketches out conditions for upgrade with Israel

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU will at a meeting with Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman next month sketch out three conditions for upgrading relations, according to a draft declaration seen by EUobserver.

The text says that the meeting in Brussels on 15 June "confirms the great importance the European Union is attaching to its relations with Israel and its readiness to continue strengthening our bilateral relationship."

Man surveys war damage in Gaza after Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December and January

But it does not give any timetable for implementing a formal upgrade in bilateral ties, envisaged before Israel launched "Operation Cast Lead" in Gaza in December.

The omission effectively continues a freeze imposed on the project by Israeli-critical EU countries, such as Belgium, Sweden and Portugal, which feel that the upgrade would give an untimely endorsement to Israel's hawkish new government.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:54:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany to investigate leak of election result on Twitter - Telegraph
Twitter, the microblogging website, is at the centre of a political furore in Germany, after MPs used it to leak news of the president's re-election.

News that Hörst Köhler had been re-elected as German president on Saturday was published on Twitter almost 15 minutes before the official result was announced, the Financial Times reports.

Julia Klöckner , of chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, told her Twitter "followers": "People, you can watch the football in peace. The vote was a success."

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:54:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kosovo minorities leave, claiming discrimination | Europe | Deutsche Welle | 27.05.2009
The refusal of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership to ensure minority rights is driving out many non-Serb minorities, a new human rights report says.  

The London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says exclusion from political and social life and discrimination are forcing ethnic Bosniaks, Turks, Roma, Croats, Gorani, Ashkali Egyptians and even some Serbs out of Kosovo.

Non-Serb minorities have criticized the international community for paying too much attention to Albanian-Serb relations and ignoring other groups.

"The priority for the international community should be to ensure that there is some kind of international human rights mechanism to which minorities in Kosovo can turn," MRG director, Mark Lattimer, said.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:58:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lechergate continues with a hot spread in the Italian weekly L'Espresso

L'Espresso reveals that Berlusconi also had a week long party bash in 2007 with droves of aspiring Sophonisbes decorating every angle of his villa. The article points out that Berlusconi is likely to be subject to blackmail and notes some possible coincidences involving beautiful women who become happy owners of roof-top apartments in the center of Rome.

The real treat is a wiretap between Berlusconi and "Evelina" Manna within minutes after la Repubblica revealed the famous Agostino Saccà taps (among others, here). The conversation reveals that Evelina felt there was something special between them, that she wasn't just another little whore.

Evelina: I still believe there's something special, I still do. In the world of dreams, no? So, I...I was about to call you-
Berlusconi: Dream worlds are the diametrically opposed to the world of the press-
Evelina: No, no! A world of dreams with you! So, I... I was about to call you-
Berlusconi: OK, listen, take my advice, do what you want... there's no way to resist the wave of mud that the press is capable of. Enough, I'm not going to repeat it again. Don't talk to the press.
Evelina: Don't be so cold with me, oh!
Berlusconi: I cannot not be cold, now, OK. Bye. ...Follow my advice. Ciao.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 06:52:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
L'Espresso has been unable to find out where 950,000 euro came from to pay for Evelina's attic apartment in Via Giulia overlooking Rome rooftops, following the exposé.

Ms. Manna refused to answer questions.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 06:56:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:45:22 AM EST
Egged: Czech opposition leader attacked at European Parliament election meeting - Telegraph
Czech activists pelted the leader of the leftist Social Democrats with hundreds of eggs at a rally on Wednesday ahead of European and national elections.

The eggs flew as Jiri Paroubek, the opposition leader, and his entourage addressed a pre-election meeting in Prague.

"We won't let this discourage us. Shame on you," said Mr Paroubek, as yolk dripped from his chin and belly.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:52:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No explanation offered beyond that Paroubek is said to have annoyed Czech youth by supporting the closing of "a techno party" four years ago.

But photos of egged faces.

Eggs for the Telegraph! Splat!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:06:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Union washed up on an island of bliss | Presseurop

Only 21% of Austrians intend to vote this June 7th. Europe, with its open borders, leaves its timorous citizens longing for the days when this "small, beautiful, prosperous" land was "an enclosed garden plot", argues Barbara Coudenhove-Kalergi.

A foreign fellow-journalist asks: Why are such a disproportionate number of Austrians against the EU, though the country has benefited so much from being part of the Union? And why do such a disproportionate number of Austrians vote for far-right parties? In the run-up to the EU elections over the next few weeks, plenty of foreign observers are bound to ask the same questions. Here is a stab at an answer.

The past few decades have quite unhinged Austrians. After World War II, they had for all intents and purposes bid farewell to world history, the most recent chapters of which clearly hadn't done them much good. The First Republic comprised the leftovers of a multinational empire that had fallen apart in World War I. Later they had half volens, half nolens joined the German Reich, which also ended in defeat. The upshot: Austrians holed up in their small, beautiful, prosperous land. Under the bell jar of neutrality they felt safe and secure from the trials and tribulations of the outside world. They retreated to an island of bliss.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:52:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Free love or a Union of like-minded souls? | Presseurop

With a low turn-out predicted for this June's European elections, Dutch and Romanian political parties are going for the electorate's funny bone - with gadgets, gags and innuendo.

"I fancy having intimate European relations". So goes the slogan on condoms the Green Party has been distributing in The Netherlands - a pun on the Dutch word for sexual intercourse, gemeenschap, which also means "community" depending on the context.... "Humour or despair?" wonders columnist Willem de Bruin in the Volkskrant. That pleasure can help promote the European project, which right now doesn't really "arouse" many young people, is a matter of course in a country known for its laissez-faire mores - and low turn-out in European elections.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:54:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Socialists lose monopoly on socialist policies | NRS-Import | Deutsche Welle | 28.05.2009
Banks are being nationalized, CEO's salaries are being curbed and the financial system is being restructured. Those policies were once associated with socialists. So why are left-of-center parties not sweeping elections? 

The latest opinion polls ahead of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament paint a familiar picture. The European conservatives are expected to remain the strongest bloc in the assembly with the socialists again being relegated to second place, a position they have held since 1994.

It doesn't look much better for socialist parties at the national level either. Currently they lead governments in only eight out of 27 countries and the prospects for a reversal of that trend are not good. According to recent surveys, they face an uphill struggle in many upcoming elections, some of them in large European countries such as Britain and Germany.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:55:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
French Socialists in Crisis: Archrivals Royal and Aubry Attempt Show of Unity - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Support for France's Socialist Party has plummeted lately, partly due to the fierce rivalry between party boss Martine Aubry and ex-presidential candidate Segolene Royal. The two tried to bury the hatchet for a European election rally on Wednesday. But for how long?

The technician with the local radio station had a vital role to play on Wednesday evening. He was measuring the audience applause and cheers at a rally in the Trocadiere music hall in the French town of Rezé near Nante, using a digital recorder to see which of the two speakers got the better reaction: Segolene Royal or Martine Aubry.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:56:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Estonian man casts first online vote in EU history

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - An Estonian man has become the first person in EU history to vote online, as internet campaigns make their mark on the 2009 elections. But a throwback in Northern Ireland has seen canvassers threatened with a gun.

Vahur Orrin from Tallinn cast his vote in Brussels one second after the virtual polling station opened at 8.00am local time, with the moment captured on video for the YouTube file-sharing website.

EU history was made in Brussels at 8.00 on Thursday morning

Voting has also begun early in Finland and Sweden, with Nordic and Baltic countries leading the game in terms of helping geographically-scattered voters cast remote ballots. The Lithuanian government has in another first also opted to give official media accreditation to bloggers covering the vote.

In France, centre-right President Nicolas Sarkozy has attracted 106,000 "friends" on his personal page on the Facebook social networking site. His nearest rival in terms of online popularity is far-left leader Olivier Besancourt with 17,000 friends.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:00:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Er... Shouldn't it be Olivier Besancenot ? </Fact checking, dead science snark>

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:26:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, excellent, how fitting. Estonia there, home of infamous black-hat internet provider Esthost.

I wonder: when will we see the first elections compromised by trojans installed on home PCs by the Russian-sphere malware gangs?

by bobince ([and](at)doxdesk(dot)[com]) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 07:35:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or by Americans. After all, the CIA and related groups have a long history of manipulating foreign politics when it suits them.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 10:57:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Socialists list 'terrible' potential MEPs

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - In a provocative move ahead of next week's EU vote, the Party of European Socialists have listed "a selection of terrible European election candidates" from other political parties.

The list, published on Thursday (28 May), contains eight nominees from the centre-right European people's party, one from the liberal group, two others - a Dutch politician and the head of Britain xenophobic British National Party, Nick Griffin.

The Socialists' blacklist comes just one week ahead of the European elections

A twelfth space has been left for the "Dear Reader" to fill in.

There seems to be no fixed criteria for appearing on the list, and the reasons given differ in length, content and seriousness.

Mr Griffin, on the list due to have being convicted for incitement to racial hatred and Holocaust denial, appears alongside Romania's Monica Macovei, a former minister of justice, who is down for "being a perpetual critic of the justice reform pace in Romania" and being a "controversial person."

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:01:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Even allowing for the fact that this is from EUO - whoa. The PES PR mojo is really cooking.
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 08:00:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anti-immigrant and Europhobic - far right parties ride populist wave
By Ian Traynor, guardian.co.uk

In Europe's biggest port, where nearly half the population of 600,000 is of immigrant origin, Geert Wilders appears to be knocking on an open door.

The platinum-blond, Islam-baiting populist is soaring in opinion surveys in the Netherlands, hammering the anti-immigration message to double his ratings this year to the point where his Freedom party is challenging to be the strongest in the country, according to a leading weekly tracking poll.

Wilders' acolytes are also poised to enter the European parliament for the first time after elections for the EU's sole democratically elected institution, covering 375 million people across 27 countries, take place next week...

Wilders' success represents, in part, a souring of traditional Dutch enthusiasm for the EU. It also appears symptomatic of a broader insurrectionary mood across Europe that is expected to favour extremists, ­mavericks and populists in the voting taking place over four days from next Thursday. Overt racism and the calculated use of Nazi language are featuring in what is otherwise a lacklustre campaign.

by Magnifico on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:38:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Beppe Grillo's Blog
For the European elections there's the need to talk about Europe. To put forward a programme. Instead, I just see manifestos with the Centre that is neither on the Right or the Left (*). Big posters with more Left, more Right, more Moderate than the Centre Left. So many big faces with "bimbi" in tow (but was it not forbidden?). Nothing about Europe. It's not an election campaign, but a road map.
Brussels is the cemetery of the elephants. The most deficient get sent abroad as has happened with Albertini and Occhetto. It's a "Club Med" to have a holiday well away from national political crises. The unpresentables, convicted like Pomicino, or on trial like Mastella, are rewarded with the highest salary in Europe. Is this Europe useful to us? We know nothing about Europe. The European Commission has no power. If it doesn't even manage to get the "Rete 4" verdict respected. To get Fede out of our hair.
Obscure European functionaries place their signature (like taking dictation) and every year send billions of Euro to Campania, Calabria and Sicily. Our money, paid with our taxes. No real control from Europe. No verification from the Government and from Parliament. Guess where the money lands up. Guess why the Lega stays in religious silence. Billions of life annuities for organised crime while there's a lack of money for Abruzzo, for schools, for security, for health. For everything! Even for the flying squad police who can only give a single truncheon blow before going on strike.
In Italy, the dialect is coming back. We no longer know how to speak Italian. When they go to Europe, our representatives express themselves in gestures. The European Central Bank does what it wants. Economic policy, capital flows, investments are decided by a group of people. Who are these people? Who gives them the authority to cause the failure of rice cultivation in Italy or the wine production in another country? It's a Europe founded on the euro, a supermarket that always has new shelving. Without a common social policy, without an army. A Europe occupied by the Americans since 1945. From 63% of voters in 1979, it went down to 45.7% in 2004. The European voter is starting to disappear. Participation is born from knowledge, from transparency. Raise your hand if you know which laws have been voted on in the European Parliament and why they were put forward.
To change Europe, there's a need for new faces, for new air. Luigi De Magistris and Sonia Alfano are my candidates for Europe. If they are elected they have guaranteed me that they will make visible on the Internet all the funding assigned to Italy (8 to 9 billion euro a year), who gets it, and what they really do with it. And this for the whole of their period of office. Luigi and Sonia are honest people who are presenting themselves as independents for Italia dei Valori.

'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 Fri May 29th, 2009 at 10:00:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:45:42 AM EST
'Not Exactly Helpful': Germans Angry with US Role in Opel Negotiations - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

Despite an entire night of non-stop negotiations in Angela Merkel's Chancellery, there is still no plan in place to save Opel from following GM into bankruptcy. The problem, say Berlin politicians, is a lack of transparency -- and a surprise 300 million euro demand -- from the Americans.

By the end of the night, following almost 11 hours of negotiations aimed at finding a way to save the crisis-plagued carmaker Opel from the clutches of bankruptcy, Germany's political elite looked exhausted. It was 4:15 a.m. on Thursday morning by the time the team emerged from the Chancellery, and most eyes had dark rings under them. Finance Minster Peer Steinbrück even mumbled something about how desperately he needed sleep.

Chancellor Angela Merkel (third from left) with members of her cabinet during late night negotiations on the future of Opel in the Chancellery on Wednesday night. But exhaustion wasn't the only problem. The talks, as quickly became clear, had failed. And as deep and dark as the rings under most eyes were, the flash of anger was likewise unmistakable -- anger at Germany's negotiating partners from the US.

Roland Koch, governor of the state of Hesse, which plays host to Opel headquarters, complained that the American role in the negotiations "was not exactly helpful." Economics Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg said "once again General Motors confronted us with surprises."

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:48:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vauxhall and Opel rescue in chaos over GM demand for extra state aid - Times Online

Talks to secure thousands of jobs in Vauxhall and Opel have broken down in acrimony after the German Government accused the US parent company, General Motors (GM), of "scandalous" behaviour by requesting extra state aid.

Peer Steinbruck, the German Finance Minister, said this morning: "We were unpleasantly surprised when this new demand came out of the blue. We found that pretty scandalous."

The German Government, which faces a federal election in four months, had already said that it would provide billions of euros in state guarantees for the winning bidder, with Fiat, the Italian carmaker, and Magna, the Canadian car parts manufacturer, now competing for the business after Ripplewood Holdings, the American private equity group, pulled out.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:58:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Surprise cash demand stalls Opel talks

An unforeseen request by General Motors for an additional €300 million to help its European subsidiary Opel, caused talks with the German government and potential buyout companies Fiat and Magna to stall in the early hours of Thursday morning (28 May).

"We had a nasty surprise when this demand turned up literally at 8 pm [an hour before the talks started]," said German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, reports Bloomberg. "We did consider this a bit of an outrage."

EU economy ministers are to meet soon to discuss the future of Opel

The German government now hopes to secure a deal by Friday, economy minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told journalists in Berlin.

Detroit-based General Motors - likely to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US if it does not meet a US administration-imposed restructuring deadline of 1 June - said the additional cash was needed in order to keep Opel operating.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:01:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:46:01 AM EST
Amnesty International Human Rights Report: 'We Are Seeing a Catastrophe' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

In its annual report released on Thursday, Amnesty International scolds China and the United States for human rights violations. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, AI head Irene Khan warns that the global economic crisis is leading Western governments to put the push for universal human rights on the back burner.

 Amnesty International warns that the global financial crisis is distracting governments and that humanitarian crises and human rights issues are being put on the back burner. SPIEGEL ONLINE: The past year has been totally dominated by the global recession. That's even reflected in your annual report. How has it affected the human rights situation around the world?

Khan: We are seeing a catastrophe. After years of going down, the number of people in poverty is growing again. We saw social uprisings across Africa and China -- and very harsh repression by governments that left many protesters dead. Food shortages allowed several governments, among others Zimbabwe and North Korea, to use food as a political weapon.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Could that have been prevented?

Khan: Leading governments have been distracted by the recession. Humanitarian crises, like in Darfur and Palestine, do not get the attention they deserve. The poorest are hardest hit by the economic crisis, but all the thought and investment goes to shore up the economy and the banking system in the West. Human rights are put on a backburner.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is it surprising to you that Western politicians think of their own countries first?

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Economic crisis damaging human rights, report says

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Human rights violations remained widespread across the world in 2008, including Europe, with the global economic crisis not only aggravating the existing problems, but creating new ones as well, human rights group Amnesty International's yearly report released on Thursday (28 May) shows.

Roma communities and settlements in Italy have been subjected to ongoing discrimination

"The global economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis. A combination of social, economic and political problems has created a time bomb of human rights abuses [across the world]," said Irene Khan, the group's secretary general.

"There are growing signs of political unrest and violence, adding to the global insecurity that already exists because of deadly conflicts which the international community seems unable or unwilling to resolve. In other words: we are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and it is about to explode," she wrote in the introduction to Amnesty's report on the situation of human rights in the world.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:56:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Amnesty accuses leaders of losing focus on human rights abuse | World | Deutsche Welle | 28.05.2009
Disaster is brewing and could lead to a humanitarian crisis of poverty, repression and unrest as human rights take a back seat to the global economic downturn, Amnesty International warns in its annual report. 

In its annual report, released on Thursday, Amnesty International details human rights abuses from China to the United States and Sri Lanka to Russia and says the ongoing economic crisis is partly to blame for deteriorating rights.


"Underlying the economic crisis is an explosive human rights crisis. The economic downturn has aggravated abuses, distracted attention from them and created new problems," Amnesty chief Irene Khan said. "In other words: we are sitting on a powder keg of inequality, injustice and insecurity, and it is about to explode."

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:00:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israelis get four times more water than Palestinians, says World Bank report | World news | guardian.co.uk
Palestinians losing out in access to vital shared aquifer in the occupied territories

A deepening drought in the Middle East is aggravating a dispute over water resources after the World Bank found that Israel is taking four times as much water as the Palestinians from a vital shared aquifer.

The region faces a fifth consecutive year of drought this summer, but the World Bank report found huge disparities in water use between Israelis and Palestinians, although both share the mountain aquifer that runs the length of the occupied West Bank. Palestinians have access to only a fifth of the water supply, while Israel, which controls the area, takes the rest, the bank said.

Israelis use 240 cubic metres of water a person each year, against 75 cubic metres for West Bank Palestinians and 125 for Gazans, the bank said. Increasingly, West Bank Palestinians must rely on water bought from the Israeli national water company, Mekorot.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:59:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reuters AlertNet - Afghan was taken to Guantanamo aged 12-rights group
KABUL, May 26 (Reuters) - An Afghan who has spent over six years at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison was only around 12-years-old when he was detained, not 16 or 17 as his official record says, an Afghan rights group said on Tuesday.

Interviews with the family of Mohammed Jawad, who like many poor Afghans does not know his exact age or birthday, showed he was probably not even a teenager when he was arrested in 2002, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said.

He was picked up by Afghan police in connection with a grenade attack in Kabul in which two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter were wounded. He was transferred to U.S. custody the same day and flown to Guantanamo in early 2003.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Iraq redux? Obama seeks funds for Pakistan super-embassy | McClatchy

ISLAMABAD -- The U.S. is embarking on a $1 billion crash program to expand its diplomatic presence in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, another sign that the Obama administration is making a costly, long-term commitment to war-torn South Asia, U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The White House has asked Congress for -- and seems likely to receive -- $736 million to build a new U.S. embassy in Islamabad, along with permanent housing for U.S. government civilians and new office space in the Pakistani capital.

The scale of the projects rivals the giant U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which was completed last year after construction delays at a cost of $740 million.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:00:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the evil empire continues, even under Obama.  How did I end up in this schlock country, anyway?  Who do I blame?

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 06:46:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Photos show rape and sex abuse in Iraq jails: report - Yahoo! News

LONDON (Reuters) - Photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse which U.S. President Barack Obama does not want released include images of apparent rape and sexual abuse, Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on Thursday.

The images are among photographs included in a 2004 report into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison conducted by U.S. Major General Antonio Taguba.

Taguba included allegations of rape and sexual abuse in his report, and on Wednesday he confirmed to the Daily Telegraph that images supporting those allegations were also in the file.

"These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency," Taguba, who retired in January 2007, was quoted as saying in the paper.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:21:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Russian Arms Exports Grow By 800 Million Dollars In 2009
Moscow (RIA Novosti) May 28, 2009
Russian arms exports are expected to increase by $700-$800 mln in 2009 despite the global credit crunch, state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said on Wednesday.

"Rosoboronexport sells an additional $700-800 million [worth of weaponry] every year. Despite the crisis, 2009 will be no exception," company official Valery Varlamov said.

The arms export monopoly sold $6.75 billion worth of arms in 2008, and earlier said its defense order portfolio was worth $27 billion.

"We could have signed deals worth a total of $50 billion, but we did not do this, and settled for $27 billion. We believe this figure is realistic," the official said.

Combat aircraft have a 50% share in sales of Russian weaponry, followed by air defense systems, military equipment for ground forces, and naval equipment.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:22:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to articles I read a few months back, China is also raising their levels of military (especially naval) spending.

Russia is actually downsizing and reorganizing it's armed forces following the American model of a smaller, more highly trained and better equipped force. Which, frankly, was needed. The lack of professionalism, corruption and brutality (towards its own troops) of the Russian army is well known. Russia also prepares to build its first operational aircraft carrier as well as additions to its submarine fleet.

Both nations are gearing up to project some power, at least regionally.

"It Can't Be Just About Us"
--Frank Schnittger, ETian Extraordinaire

by papicek (papi_cek_at_hotmail_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 07:27:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | Alert level raised on North Korea

South Korean and US troops have gone on higher alert after North Korea said it was scrapping the treaty that halted the Korean War more than 50 years ago.

Seoul's defence ministry said it would increase reconnaissance operations over North Korea.

North Korea recently tested a nuclear device and several short-range missiles but no significant troop movements within the country have been reported.

The UN Security Council is discussing a response to North Korea's nuclear test.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 08:23:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:46:27 AM EST
China Is Said to Plan Strict Gas Mileage Rules - NYTimes.com
HONG KONG -- Worried about heavy reliance on imported oil, Chinese officials have drafted automotive fuel economy standards that are even more stringent than those outlined by President Obama last week, Chinese experts with a detailed knowledge of the plans said on Wednesday.

The new plan would require automakers in China to improve fuel economy by an additional 18 percent by 2015, said An Feng, a leading architect of China's existing fuel economy regulations who is now the president of the Innovation Center for Energy and Transportation, a nonprofit group in Beijing.
The average fuel economy of family vehicles in China is already higher than in the United States, mainly because cars in China tend to be considerably smaller than those in the United States -- and are getting even smaller because of recent tax changes.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:57:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Chinese officials have drafted automotive fuel economy standards that are even more stringent than those outlined by President Obama last week

Remember that the standards Obama has proposed for 2030 are not as good than what the cars on sale in Europe today achieve already overall... "stringent", not.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:01:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sustainable Ecosystems and Community News: ENN -- Know Your Environment

A recent study by Yale University's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies reports that if humans commit to the restoration effort, most ecosystems can recover from very major disruption within decades to half-centuries. The study was written by Holly P. Jones and Oswald J. Schmitz and will appear in the June edition of the journal PLoS ONE. According to the study, researchers compiled information from 240 independent studies conducted since 1910 that examined large, human-scale ecosystems recovery following the termination of both human and naturally imposed disruption.

Researchers grouped the data into seven broad aquatic and terrestrial types of ecosystems, and disruptions such as deforestation, hurricane, invasive species, oil spoils, power plant and sea trawling. Most of the studies measured multiple response variables, which researched grouped into three categories: ecosystem function, animal community, and plant community. The researchers evaluated the recovery of each of the variables in terms of the time it took for them to return to their original state as determined by each study's author. The study also assessed whether recovery times were related to the magnitude of the disturbance.

Reportedly, 83 studies demonstrated recovery for all variables; 90 demonstrated a mixture of recovered and non-recovered variables; 67 demonstrated no recovery for any variable; and 15 percent of all the ecosystems in the analysis are beyond recovery.
The average recovery time was 20 years or less, and reportedly did not exceed more than 56 years. It was found that recovery from human disturbances was slower than natural disturbances, such as hurricanes. Recovery following agricultural, logging, and multiple stressors was significantly slower than all of other disturbance types.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:18:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poo power to the people
By Helen Pidd, guardian.co.uk

A German town will become the first in the world to be powered by animal waste when it launches a biogas network this year.

Lünen, north of Dortmund, will use cow and horse manure as well as other organic material from local farms to provide cheap and sustainable electricity for its 90,000 residents.

Biogas is already used around the world - it will power buses in Oslo from September - but Lünen claims to be the only town to build a dedicated biogas network.

Material such as animal slurry and spoiled crops from local farms will be fed into heated tanks, where natural fermentation will break it down into methane and carbon dioxide - the same basic ingredients as natural gas. This biogas can then be burned to generate electricity and heat in a combined heat and power plant (CHP) before the heat is distributed across the town through a new biogas pipeline, which is being built underground.

The plant can produce 6.8MW, enough to power and heat 26,000 houses. According to Peter Kindt, director of Alfagy Ltd, which distributes CHP plants, the Lünen network could provide 30-40% of the town's heat and electricity needs.

by Magnifico on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:31:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A poo plant is one of the very few "renewable energy" projects on which banks have lost money. However strange that may sound, it is rather hard to obtain reliable supplies of fuel over long term periods.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:02:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Constipation Factor™
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:06:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Society, Culture, History, Information 

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:46:50 AM EST
Nazi Jet Fighter: The Story of Hitler's 'Miracle Weapon' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

At the very end of World War II, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler still hoped that state-of-the-art technology could turn the tide in his favor. One of those projects, the Messerschmitt jet fighter, found a home in a remote corner of eastern Germany. But it was too late.

It took four and a half years, but finally, on March 20, 1944, World War II -- and more specifically, the armaments industry -- came to a remote corner of eastern Germany called the Lausitz. As the Allies flew an ever-increasing number of air raids over Germany's industrial and urban centers, large weapons factories in Nazi Germany began an exhaustive search for suitable places to relocate, sites as inconspicuous and isolated as possible. Indeed, by 1943 Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe, had already forged plans to relocate the aviation industry to areas the Allies were unlikely to bomb.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
French, it's rocket science | Presseurop

Irregular verbs, rebellious participles, arbitrary genders - French is a fiendishly difficult language to master, all grammarians agree. And what if its very complexity explained the success of French mathematicians?

There are times when you have to laugh at grammarians. They describe French as a horribly difficult language, full of complicated knots that only a lace maker could pick apart. They make a living out of highlighting everything that is contradictory or uncertain in our beloved Gallic tongue, which is presented as a tissue of nutty expressions, replete with irregular verbs, rebellious participles that refuse to agree, uncontrollable adjectives, singular plurals and outmoded tenses. In short, if you believed their descriptions, you would think that French was a dog's dinner.

Take genders for example. There is no doubt that French genders are completely arbitrary, whereas in Hungarian, there is no such thing as a `masculine' or `feminine' common noun, nor is there in English. Ooh Hungarian! Ooh English! Neuters of the world, come forth and unite! Well all right, there is no intelligent reason for "le bureau" and "la Rose," or "le lys" -- and if that bothers the Magyars, big deal!

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:55:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
we have a school system that values maths and science and uses competence in these fields to select the best students - so good students study maths quite intensively, and that creates a larger pool from which those that will actually remain in the field, and continue to study and teach math, can emerge in larger (and better) numbers...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 05:05:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Mosuo Matriarchy: 'Men Live Better Where Women Are In Charge' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

How does a matriarchy really work? Argentinian writer Ricardo Coler decided to find out and spent two months with the Mosuo in southern China. "Women have a different way of dominating," the researcher told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Coler, you are from Argentina, where macho behavior is not exactly unheard of. What was it like living for two months in the matriarchical society of the Mosuo in China?

Coler: I wanted to know what happened in a society where women determine how things are done. How do women tick when, from birth onwards, their societal position allows them to decide everything? We men know what a man is, we put that together quickly -- but what constitutes a woman? Although, I didn't get any wiser on that point.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 12:02:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
in such a beautiful, relaxing, pleasant place as Lugu-hu.

The Mosuo Matriarchy: 'Men Live Better Where Women Are In Charge' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What is life like for a man in a matriarchy?

Coler: Men live better where women are in charge: you are responsible for almost nothing, you work much less and you spend the whole day with your friends. You're with a different woman every night. And on top of that, you can always live at your mother's house. The woman serves the man and it happens in a society where she leads the way and has control of the money. In a patriarchy, we men work more -- and every now and then we do the dishes. In the Mosuo's pure form of matriarchy, you aren't allowed to do that. Where a woman's dominant position is secure, those kinds of archaic gender roles don't have any meaning.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What astonished you the most?

Coler: That there is no violence in a matriarchal society. I know that quickly slips into idealization -- every human society has its problems. But it simply doesn't make sense to the Mosuo women to solve conflicts with violence. Because they are in charge, nobody fights. They don't know feelings of guilt or vengeance -- it is simply shameful to fight. They are ashamed if they do and it even can threaten their social standing.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are men raised to be incompetent?

Coler: For the Mosuo, women are simply the more effective and reliable gender. However, they do say that the "really big" decisions -- like buying a house or a machine or selling a cow -- are made by the men. Men are good for this kind of decision-making as well as physical labor. The official governmental leader of the village, the mayor, is a man. I walked with him through the village -- nobody greated him or paid him any attention. As a man he doesn't have any authority.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: A paradise of free love, in other words?

Coler: The sexual life of the Mosuo is very distinctive and very active -- partners are changed frequently. But the women decide with whom they want to spend the night. Their living quarters have a main entrance but every adult woman lives in her own small hut. The men live together in a large house. The door of every hut is fitted with a hook and all the men wear hats. When a man visits a woman, he hangs his hat on the hook. That way, everybody knows that this woman has a male visitor. And nobody else knocks on the door. If a woman falls in love, then she receives only the specific man and the man comes only to that woman.

fascinating interview.  last fall i was lucky enough to spend two nights on beautiful Lugu-hu (Lugu Lake) 泸沽湖, where the Mosuo 摩梭 make their home.  this was on a trip to southern Sichuan last October with a Chengdu-based NGO i was volunteering with in Chengdu, China last summer and fall.  predictably, as better roads have been extended into this very deep and hard to reach location, the tourist industry is starting up there, with all the downsides that it usually brings (gift shops, tourist inns, musical performances in traditional garb, etc.)  furthermore, the mystique of the Mosuo as a matriarchal society is very played up, as is that of the "walking marriages" 走婚 whereby a man -- of a woman's choosing -- is invited to walk over to her house, discreetly if not secretly, spend the night in her room (women of a certain age are accorded private rooms, whereas everyone else in the extended family lives in communal quarters), and then head back to his house in the morning.  while of course there is much truth behind the marketing, i felt uneasily confused about how much we were being told was accurate, and how much of it was romantization.

i was told that in fact, while the simple story told to outsiders is that women call all the shots, it is much more complicated than that, and men hold important power behind the scenes.  but i never got much detail on that.  this is what this Argentinean writer appears to be referring to above.

but Lugu-hu is a gorgeous, sensual, almost magical place.  just a pleasure to visit.  i pray it doesn't get completely spoiled by encroaching tourism, commercialization and industrialization.

below are some pictures i took:

Boating across 泸沽湖 Lake Lugu from the Sichuan side to the Yunnan side:

Mosuo children coming home from school:

Mosuo traditional architecture (home of the head lama in that region, if i remember correctly):

At performance of traditional courting dance where young men and women dance together and then line up on opposite sides challenging each other by seeing who can sing more songs -- great fun:

View onto Lugu Lake from high on Goddess Mountain (aka Lion Mountain):

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 04:15:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great photos, marco!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 02:41:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Diary! Diary! It's not just personal, I learn fascinating things!

Don't be shy!!

by Nomad (Bjinse) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 08:51:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would You Slap Your Father? If So, You're a Liberal | NYTimes.com - Op-Ed Columnist - Nicholas D. Kristof

... Simply exposing people to counterarguments may not accomplish much, he said, and may inflame antagonisms. <...>

The larger point is that liberals and conservatives often form judgments through flash intuitions that aren't a result of a deliberative process. The crucial part of the brain for these judgments is the medial prefrontal cortex, which has more to do with moralizing than with rationality. If you damage your prefrontal cortex, your I.Q. may be unaffected, but you'll have trouble harrumphing.

One of the main divides between left and right is the dependence on different moral values. For liberals, morality derives mostly from fairness and prevention of harm. For conservatives, morality also involves upholding authority and loyalty -- and revulsion at disgust. <...>

So how do we discipline our brains to be more open-minded, more honest, more empirical? A start is to reach out to moderates on the other side -- ideally eating meals with them, for that breaks down "us vs. them" battle lines that seem embedded in us. (In ancient times we divided into tribes; today, into political parties.) The Web site www.civilpolitics.org is an attempt to build this intuitive appreciation for the other side's morality, even if it's not our morality. <...>

Thus persuasion may be most effective when built on human interactions. Gay rights were probably advanced largely by the public's growing awareness of friends and family members who were gay. ...

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:12:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
From an email my friend sent me:

Hi, I don't normally use my lists to promote things, but this is worth having a look; reality TV of a different order,  Eion Bailey and his collaborators are film makers, documentarians and activists, trying to make a difference in the world. I met them last summer at the Convergence conference in Iquitos, where I learned about their rather amazing project.  The concept is unique and original; identify a community with a need (e.g., a school, a sanitation system, etc.), put together a group of multitalented folks with requisite skills, and work in collaboration with the community to address and solve the problem, within 10 days! Make a documentary of the project, and that becomes the 'episode' in the series.  I was blown away by their pilot film, with a community in the mountains around the Urubamba valley in Peru.  Now they are on the cusp of selling the program to a major network, and they need our help, both to sell it and to continue this important work. This is reality TV, alright, but of a completely different order than what we associate with that term; self-indulgent, self-preoccupied clueless gringos pretending to rough it in some third world venue.  This project is 180 degrees from that, really very inspiring and moving. Look at the web  site, watch the movie, and let your friends know about it. These folks are being the change we want to see in the world!

Imagine This! TV

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 05:40:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is real goose-bumps stuff. Thanks.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 08:51:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
siegestate: That is real goose-bumps stuff.

Yeah, me too.  I'm real curious to see exactly how effective these projects were, and what kind of impact they will leave on the people they are meant to help.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 08:57:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good pilot. I've seen other (less professional) videos like this, where the tendency was to focus more on the experience of the nice white folks who are going to some exotic location to do good, and less on the experience of local children and their families. I hope the full documentary will balance that out.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 02:40:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew: where the tendency was to focus more on the experience of the nice white folks who are going to some exotic location to do good, and less on the experience of local children and their families.

My worry as well.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 08:19:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Autism: study finds 12-fold rise in cases - Health News, Health & Families - The Independent

Up to 250,000 children have autism or a related condition on the autistic spectrum, but have not been diagnosed, researchers say. They are in addition to the 500,000 children who are known to be affected.

The authoritative study by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and colleagues of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, sets a new benchmark for future studies of the prevalence of autism in the UK, and has grave implications for education and other public services which are already overstretched. The findings imply that many more young people may need intensive lifelong support.

But the authors dismissed suggestions that changes in lifestyle or the environment were behind the rise. They put it down to improved awareness and detection, and the inclusion of milder conditions within the diagnosis.

Note how the article quotes the researchers contradicting the headline - which can be casually understood as a 12-fold increase in the prevalence of autism [spectrum disorders] as opposed to a 12-fold increase in diagnosed cases.

I've been trying to collect my thoughts regarding the "medical vs. social models of disability", (h/t In Wales)

In the UK the medical model prevails - it focuses on the individual as the problem that needs fixing and to be made as normal as possible.

The social model which disability campaigners promote focuses on society as being the source of the barriers that cause disability, rather than focusing on the individual as the problem.  

given that
Autism is a disorder of social functioning which makes it difficult for sufferers to form relationships and to communicate with other people. In the 1990s it was recognised that there was a spectrum of cases from the severely to the mildly affected, and the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome was included to cover those at the milder end.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri May 29th, 2009 at 04:43:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:47:10 AM EST
Ooh la la! Bidding frenzy expected for nude photo of France's First Lady Carla Bruni | Mail Online

We've seen it all (and more) before. But this nude picture of Carla Bruni is still expected to fetch a high price when it goes up for auction in Berlin next week.

Only ten numbered copies exist of the image of the French First Lady taken by U.S. photographer Pamela Hanson, and this one is being sold with a reserve price of around £3,000.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:48:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Left Out of D-Day Events, Queen Elizabeth Is Fuming - NYTimes.com

Indeed, she is decidedly displeased, angry even, that she was not invited to join President Obama and France's president, Nicolas Sarkozy, next week at commemorations of the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, according to reports published in Britain's mass-circulation tabloid newspapers on Wednesday. Pointedly, Buckingham Palace did not deny the reports.

The queen, who is 83, is the only living head of state who served in uniform during World War II. As Elizabeth Windsor, service number 230873, she volunteered as a subaltern in the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and a mechanic. Eventually, she drove military trucks in support roles in England.

While serving, she met the supreme Allied commander for the D-Day landings, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and developed a fondness for him, according to several biographies. This prompted Queen Elizabeth, who was crowned in June 1953, to say in later years that he was the American president with whom she felt most at ease.

by Fran on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 11:57:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
pretty funny:

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu May 28th, 2009 at 07:09:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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