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European Salon de News, Discussion et Klatsch - 8 June

by Fran Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:19:26 PM EST

 A Daily Review Of International Online Media 

Europeans on this date in history:

1903 – Birth of Marguerite Yourcenar, a French novelist. She was the first woman elected to the Académie française in 1980, and the seventeenth to occupy Seat 3. (d. 1987)

More here and here

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by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:20:06 PM EST
EUobserver / Sarkozy and Obama continue to disagree over Turkey

"Perhaps never in the history of our countries have the United States and France been that close on the big dossiers and on the big topics," Mr Sarkozy said at a joint press conference after the meeting.

But when it comes to Turkey's EU membership bid, Washington and Paris remained poles apart. While Mr Obama believes Ankara should join the EU, Mr Sarkozy remains firmly against the idea.

"I've said publicly that I think Turkish membership of the EU would be important," Mr Obama said.

"What the US wants to do is just to encourage talks and discussions where Turkey can feel confident that it has a friendship with France, with the United States, with all of Europe and to the extent that it defines itself that it has an opportunity to be a part of that," he added.

For his part, Mr Sarkozy said he agreed on the general principle of having strong and friendly relations with Turkey, as well as of having the country as "a bridge between East and West." But he reiterated his opposition to letting Ankara enter the EU as a full member.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:26:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is entitled to his opinion, but it really shouldn't be anything to do with him.

I don't agree with Sarkozy on this, but at least his opinion is relevant.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:36:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, given that about half the fucking EU leaders will consider Obama's opinion extremely relevant, I'm afraid it is something to do with him. <sigh>
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Obama is trying to force the hand of those who are opposed to Turkey joining the EU.  If Sarkozy is against it, he should speak publicly about why.  

Frankly I think there are very good reasons to be opposed to Turkey joining the EU.  The best one is that the EU isn't ready to have anyone else join right now.  That excuse, however,  will only carry water if it's backed up by some concrete steps the EU can take to get to a point where expansion is again possible.  These benchmarks would provide a roadmap and a timeframe.  At some point, through lengthy delays, a country like Turkey may find itself presented with different opportunities for allegiance.  

I certainly think Turkey joining the EU is better than Turkey hitching its post with the rest of the middle east.  I think Obama would prefer it as well.

Basically Obama is calling out Sarkozy for being full of it.  Who can argue with that?

by paving on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:13:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Sarko's opposition is pretty much opportunistic keep-out-the-darkies stuff. A white, christian Turkey wouldn't pose a problem for him.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:15:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain's universal jurisdiction under fire | Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Victims of mass atrocities from around the globe have turned to Spain's National Court of Justice throughout the past decade. But Madrid is likely to limit a generous law which allows its judges to investigate alleged human rights abuses in other countries.

Spain is one of a few countries that embraces the principle of universal jurisdiction. Since 1985, Spanish criminal law has allowed the National Court, or Audiencia Nacional, to reach beyond national borders in cases of serious human rights abuses, even if there are no Spanish victims.

Spanish judges have used the doctrine in recent years to try to seek prosecution in atrocities cases from Tibet to Rwanda. Judge Balthasar Garzon rose to fame when he ordered the arrest of Chile's former despot Augusto Pinochet in London in 1998. From that moment, serious human rights abusers were aware that they could no longer rely on global impunity.

The National Court now has 13 cases open involving genocide or crimes against humanity involving eight countries, including China, Israel and the US.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:28:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Glenys Kinnock: the lucrative transition from MEP to Europe Minister - Telegraph
When Glenys Kinnock quit her job as an MEP, it looked as though her days on a public-funded salary were over.

Yet a surprise call from Number 10 has seen the wife of the former Labour Party leader make the seamless transition from a £63,291-a-year euro MP to the £83,275-a-year Europe Minister in Gordon Brown's troubled government.

The appointment, coupled with the fact that she will be joining her husband Neil (Baron Kinnock of Bedwellty), in the House of Lords marks an astonishing political - and financial - coup for the former primary school teacher from south Wales.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:30:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
make the seamless transition from a £63,291-a-year euro MP to the £83,275-a-year Europe Minister


Meanwhile the salary of the Telegraph's editor is 'rumoured to be' around £300k.

The editor of the Faily Wail earns more than £1m.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:34:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But IOKIYA conservative. She's really only a jumped up primary school teacher, not properly deserving of a living wage.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:41:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Berlusconi dispute highlights battle with Murdoch over Italian broadcasting | Media | guardian.co.uk
Silvio Berlusconi's attack on Rupert Murdoch group comes as state broadcaster RAI threatens to pull channels from Sky Italia

Silvio Berlusconi's account of why he thinks Rupert Murdoch's media outlets are out to get him came as a surprise to observers of the broadcasting scene in Italy. The VAT row he mentioned was resolved at the end of last year, to the detriment of Murdoch's Sky Italia.

The Australian-born media magnate now has another bone to pick with Berlusconi. But Italy's prime minister has good reason for not citing it.

Critics argue that the two media tycoons' latest dispute offers the most blatant example yet of something Berlusconi has always vigorously denied - that, when he is in power, Italy's public broadcaster RAI acts in his personal interests, providing him a virtual monopoly of what voters see on their screens.

RAI and Berlusconi's Mediaset together operate six of the country's seven terrestrial TV channels. The only serious competition facing this "duopolio", as Italians call it, is Sky Italia, which has carved out an 11% share of the overall Italian TV market.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:32:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Old news and not surprising. The Berlusconi government has been using its power to hamper Murdoch. It's Italy's unique variant of liberalism and free enterprise.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 07:04:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The D-Day shindig has been bad news for Sarkozy - Telegraph

However, it was the fracas involving the Queen's invitation - or the lack of it - that really stirred things up. As it happens, nobody in Paris reacted at first to the accusation of a snub to Buckingham Palace. The French, who were originally planning to have Sarkozy attend a specific French-American ceremony, acceded to Downing Street's request that Gordon Brown tag along. But it was only when Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, insisted that Mr Obama wanted the Queen to attend, and was "working with those involved to see if we can make that happen", that the whole affaire took off.

The French opposition, which is expected to trail behind Sarkozy's UMP party in the Euro-elections tomorrow, realised that while French law forbids political campaigning from midnight onwards on the Saturday before a Sunday poll, Sarkozy would be on every television screen before the vote, saying worthy, statesmanlike things. They grabbed the Obama-validated royal story and ran with it. Sarkozy was pelted with insults by every opposition candidate in the country, who flew - with no sense of irony - to the defence of Britain, usually painted as the fly in the Euro-ointment. Sarkozy's behaviour towards Her Majesty was that of a cad, a buffoon, a jerk, a pathetic human being with no manners - a bad European, and a worse Frenchman.

Then, into this heated atmosphere, came the translation of Obama's speech in Cairo. Fabricated outrage was instantly replaced by very real indignation, in a country where the neutrality of the public space is sacrosanct. Obama's pointed words defending the hijab aroused the ire of feminists, teachers' unions, and even moderate Muslim groups, who have come to a civilised arrangement with the headscarf law, which bans the conspicuous display of religious symbols in schools. Equally vocal were France's political parties - not least the president's own.

For the first time, newspaper websites were full of anti-Obama comments - a decided first in France. However much he looked forward to standing shoulder to shoulder with the US president, Sarko may rue the day he dreamt up this D-Day photo-op.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A perfect storm on D-Day for Sarkozy.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 02:50:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While I agree in general with Obama's statement regarding headscarves I think French law provides a valid exception, namely that all religious garb is banned in schools.  If French schools actually enforce these rules equally it will not be an issue for anybody.  If they allow yamika's (?) and crosses to be on full display then banning headscarves would be silly.

The French have a very different history of religion in the public sphere, one that Americans really cannot relate to.  In the US they frequently ban baseball caps, certain colored clothes and "offensive" t-shirts in schools.  We're hardly models of tolerance on this matter.  Even worse these rules are not consistent so people are subject to extremely different standards in public schools whereas the French have a more equitable standard.

I think Obama's position is not against this principal but rather against the use of it as a shield to allow discrimination under the guise of something else.  I look forward to another country taking him up on his challenge and then turning it back on us, making a similar request that the US get it's shit together.  On that day, progress!

by paving on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:21:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Al Jazeera English - Europe - Greek farmers rue cotton's legacy

During the 1980s and 1990s, Greek cotton farmers prospered with large European Union subsidies, but that aid fell away as the bloc switched its help to African growers.

As European elections begin, the farmers, in common with many other Greeks, are losing their enthusiasm for the EU and are increasingly sceptical about its policies.

Yannis Vagkos is a worried man.

For five generations, his family has been growing cotton on the plains outside the southern Greek town of Livadia.

Now, as a new crop is coming up, he wonders whether he can carry on much longer.

"We used to call cotton white gold," he says, "but comparing cotton farming now with the way it was in the 1990s is like comparing day and night." 

He says the prices he can get for his cotton are barely one-sixth of what they were in the early 1990s, while the cost of inputs such as fertiliser and diesel has risen dramatically.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:46:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a shame at an individual level, but agricultural subsidies seem to be the bane of europe. I'm sure afew at least will have a more informed opinion but I really believe subsidies should go, not least because they always seem to end up encouraging the worst practices..

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:46:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm looking forward to the new narrative when there's no farming left in Europe at all.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:49:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Krugman does Brown:

Do Mr. Brown and his party really deserve blame for the crisis here? Yes and no.

Mr. Brown bought fully into the dogma that the market knows best, that less regulation is more. In 2005 he called for "trust in the responsible company, the engaged employee and the educated consumer" and insisted that regulation should have "not just a light touch but a limited touch." It might as well have been Alan Greenspan speaking.

There's no question that this zeal for deregulation set Britain up for a fall. Consider the counterexample of Canada -- a mostly English-speaking country, every bit as much in the American cultural orbit as Britain, but one where Reagan/Thatcher-type financial deregulation never took hold. Sure enough, Canadian banks have been a pillar of stability in the crisis.

But here's the thing. While Mr. Brown and his party may deserve to be punished, their political opponents don't deserve to be rewarded.

After all, would a Conservative government have been any less in the thrall of free-market fundamentalism, any more willing to rein in runaway finance, over the past decade? Of course not.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt ät gmail dotcom) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy - The wrong way round
Italian GDP during the first quarter was 5.9% lower than in the same quarter of the previous year. This fall - almost 10% when measured at a seasonally-adjusted annualised rate (the normal US practice) - was one of the worst of the major European countries, excepting only Germany and Sweden. It would be wrong to lay much of the blame for this on the current government - the international environment has been the main culprit, and the inheritance of the past - including the inheritance of past Berlusconi governments - leaves no Italian government with much room for manoeuvre. But a crisis of this kind would normally call forth some coherent response - some plan of action - from a government. This seems to be lacking in Italy, essentially because macro-economic problems do not give rise to photo-opportunities. If there is an earthquake, you can get a photo-opportunity with an arm around a grieving widow. If there is a refuse crisis, you can pose with a spade and a refuse bin. But the narcissistic world of the Silvio Berlusconi reality show - look at me, I'm governing! - does not know how to respond to economic crisis. Apart from optimistically announcing that the crisis is over, there has been little reaction from Mr Berlusconi. Unfortunately, many of world's most pressing problems - climate change, for example - give equally little scope for photo-opportunities, and are therefore equally neglected.


'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 Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:06:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:20:38 PM EST
Europe votes: Spain's Socialists can smile in defeat | Sarah Morris | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

For a man whose party is predicted to be defeated in Sunday's European elections, Spain's Socialist prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero seemed smiley and relaxed in a TV interview on Friday morning. Perhaps he's relieved the stakes aren't as high here as they are for the leader of his sister party in the UK. Win or lose, Zapatero's party is unlikely to demand his head on a platter despite the conservative People's party (PP) opposition's best efforts to turn the elections into a vote of no-confidence against him.

The PP started out with a campaign designed to hit the Socialists where it hurt. The party's TV ads featured ordinary people, telling the camera they were unemployed or worried about their jobs in a country that had created about half the layoffs in the EU in the past year, putting unemployment at about 15% of the active population. But, perhaps inspired by the way the British expense scandal clobbered Brown, the conservatives and their supportive media sniffed out what they thought Spanish voters would see as a crack in Zapatero's moral armour. Why does he use a military plane to fly to his party's rallies on the campaign trail at the expense of the taxpayer?

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:25:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Without stars in their eyes -  Il Sole-24 Ore/ Presseurop

Record abstention for the elections this year come as no surprise, writes Il Sole 24 Ore. Confined to economic and geopolitical priorities, the European project, born out of the post-war reconciliation, no longer inspires.

Ever since we began electing our European representatives by universal suffrage in 1979, MEPs have seen their powers - both legislative and budgetary - wax as voter interest waned. Voter turnout, then 62%, dwindled to 45.4% in 2004. People keep saying Europe is a mysterious and remote entity. That is not true. Sometimes incomprehensible, to be sure, but definitely not remote. 80% of our national legislation originates in the Community matrix, produced by the Council of Ministers every bit as much as by the European Parliament. Our euro currency, interest rates, the fight against inflation and mega-deficits, studies, passport-free travel, safety standards, the environment, consumption: Europe is part and parcel of our day-to-day lives in these and plenty of other domains.

If Europe didn't exist, we'd have to invent it. It has provided a providential shelter from the storms we are now weathering - globalisation, the emergence of the colossal Chinese, Indian and Brazilian powerhouses, the current global socio-economic crisis. Admittedly, the model is not perfect, but it is an invaluable regional shock absorber for its Member States, whose national governments can no longer cope with global upheavals on their own.

And yet Europe is not understood by its people, eliciting only apathy - even outright hostility. According to the latest opinion poll by TNS Opinion, which came out just a few days ago, half the electorate (49%) will go to the polls. Assuming these forecasts hold true, the theorem of Europeans' mounting disaffection towards a Union that neither maltreats nor ignores any of its 27 member countries will remain an insoluble enigma.

Why is Europe steadily losing popularity?

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:25:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | Final round of marathon EU vote

Nineteen European Union countries are voting in the final round of the election for the European Parliament.

A number of nations of the 27-member union - including Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic - have already voted.

The 736 seats in the European parliament are up for grabs.

There are fears that voter turnout will reach a record low. No results are supposed to be announced until polls close on Sunday night.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Watching the eurosceptics | Presseurop

Opponents of the Lisbon Treaty, anti-capitalists, far-right extremists - dissenting parties may well be the major winners in the European elections, but what weight will they carry in the future parliament? wonders the European press.

Analysis of polls and results of the vote in the Netherlands suggest that Eurosceptics will be more numerous in the next parliament. As Polish daily Dziennik reports, the prospective alliance between British Conservatives, the Polish Law and Justice party and the Czech ODS has supporters of the Lisbon Treaty breaking out in a cold sweat, especially since this group may become the second largest force in Parliament, with the added anxiety that it will possibly benefit from the support of a extreme-right group led by Jean-Marie Le Pen and the Netherlands' Geert Wilders. If the Eurosceptics win enough votes, worries Dziennik, the European Union will have to postpone projects for common diplomatic initiatives, and plans to appoint a President of the European Union and a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Not all Eurosceptics are extremists, however, though extremists may be well be major winners in the current elections. German weekly Die Zeit reports that at least 12 extreme-right parties are expected to send representatives to Brussels and Strasbourg. "The extreme-right has now established a powerful network in Europe," it claims, and traditional parties have been unable to devise a strategy to oppose them. "All too often, democratic parties avoid taking these groups to task in constructive debate, but simply tolerate them with a condescending smile," says political analyst Britta Schellenberg. They tend "to respond on a strictly local level instead of reasoning in terms of Europe."

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:29:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | Europe | A toast to Europe's diversity

"Hi," I've said, 100 times and more. "My name's Jonny Dymond, I work for the BBC and I'm going round Europe ahead of the European Parliament elections and I'm trying to find out what people think of the EU. Are you going to vote? What do you think the big issues are?"

Some people engage willingly. A fair few look for a nurse or a policeman to help. Most people's eyes glaze over at the mention of the words "European Parliament".

They generally re-engage at the phrase "EU".

In some countries I thought I knew what was going to come. In many I was surprised.

"I would rather have met you today," I told a school teacher in Latvia, "than interviewed five prime ministers".

The fantastic thing about talking to people - as I have mentioned too often to friends and family - is that that they say such interesting things.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:34:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver / Bulgaria uses weather, music charts as code to get around exit poll rules

The Bulgarian media have been using the weather, as well as music and literary charts, as a fairly obvious code to get around a law that forbids the publishing of exit polls before the end of the elections.

On a day where the temperatures have in reality reached above 35 degrees, the temperature at the city hall - home to the mayor and leader of the centre-right Gerb party, Boyko Borisov - has oddly dropped to 25.5 degrees, the Bgnes news agency reports.

Some media have been using sunny weather as a code for election results

Meanwhile, near the governing Socialists' headquarters the temperature is an even chillier 20 degrees, it says.

The number of degrees celsius are a none-too-subtle code for the percentage the parties are supposed to have obtained.

Wind speed, code for voter turnout, was 26 metres per second at aroud 5:30 p.m., it also reported.

For its part, the Focus news agency is using books for its winking election result update. Focus has reported that 38 percent of people had gone to buy books by 6.00 p.m. on Sunday.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:40:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:21:12 PM EST
Darling bucks EU on banks - Times Online

Alistair Darling will this week tell fellow European finance ministers that the buck has to stop with national regulators when its comes to monitoring the activities of banks and other financial institutions.

It will be the chancellor's first important meeting since last week's intense speculation that he was about to be moved out of the Treasury - which he successfully fought off.

Hh will backl steps to enhance coordination of financial regulation at European level. However, he will say that ultimate responsibility must continue to rest with national regulators, not least because the banking crisis has revealed that taxpayers in individual countries are left to pick up the bill after regulatory failures.

"The fiscal aspect is very important in this," said a senior Treasury official.

  [Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:59:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Observer: Tunnel fraud leaves Gazans on verge of financial ruin

For years, a network of underground smugglers' routes from Egypt to the Gaza Strip has supplied a besieged population with everything from cement to cattle. But now a series of major scams has destroyed the dreams of desperate investors who saw the tunnels as a path out of poverty

In the "intolerable" situation that is Gaza, as described last week by President Barack Obama in Cairo, the lure of such schemes was understandable. With few opportunities to do business, trade or even work, the chance to make money out of the illicit cross-border trade with Egypt seemed like a godsend. But this is the tale of a Gaza success story that turned sour.
by Sassafras on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:22:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Team Obama Con Game Gets Official Notice  Yves Smith  Naked Capitalism

Readers have been sending various Pangloss/Orwell sightings on a daily basis, with one's take on whether they fall in the absurdist or merely creeping authoritarian camp depending on one's degree of cynicism. I have only posed about 1/10th of them simply because it often takes a fair bit of parsing (headline v. meaningful comment close to the end that undercuts it). plus in many cases guest bloggers have already taken a cut at the topic (overly optimistic reports on employment data, for instance) so a piece on a paricular new item looked to be overkill.


While the "nary a bad word will be said", or to the extent it is, it is countermanded by an even more positive take, has gotten some notice in the MSM. But I cannot recall anyone taking issue with it frontally. So an article today in the New York Times, "The Economy Is Still at the Brink" by Sandy Lewis and William Cohan, is a badly needed contirbution:

After the first question posed by the authors: "so why then are we so desperately anxious to restore that model as the status quo?" Yves Smith interjects:

Yves here. Finally, someone besides folks like Willem Buiter, who is well respected but not widely read, is saying the obvious. Back to the story:

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 11:31:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Bond WarWhy Paul Krugman and Niall Ferguson are hammering each other about T-Bill interest rates.

It's fair to say that 10-year and 30-year Treasury bonds are not subjects that enthrall the American public the way, say, Kate Gosselin does. In the last six months, however, the state of those bonds has become the subject of feverish argument in the economic elite. The interest rate of the 10-year Treasury bond has spiked from 2.07 percent in December 2008, when the world was falling apart, to a recent high of 3.715 percent on June 1--a 79 percent increase. The 30-year bond has risen from 2.5 percent last December to about 4.5 percent today. Now factions led by economist Paul Krugman and historian Niall Ferguson are feuding bitterly about the import of these charts. In late April, Krugman and Ferguson squared off at a New York Review of Books/PEN panel, and they've continued with an op-ed war in the Financial Times and New York Times (Ferguson here and Krugman here).

An excellent article contextualizing the ongoing argument about bond rates and setting out the agendas of each side.  It is full of links, including a 30 year chart of bond rates that puts the recent run up clearly in the context of the aberration that was the December, '08 low.  H/T to Phillip Durden.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 12:16:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:21:42 PM EST
U.S. May Permit 9/11 Guilty Pleas in Capital Cases - NYTimes.com
The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom.

The proposal, in a draft of legislation that would be submitted to Congress, has not been publicly disclosed. It was circulated to officials under restrictions requiring secrecy. People who have read or been briefed on it said it had been presented to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates by an administration task force on detention.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:24:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
M of A - Perverse 'Justice': Suicide By Guilty Plea

Will this become another great perversity by the Obama administration?

The Obama administration is considering a change in the law for the military commissions at the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that would clear the way for detainees facing the death penalty to plead guilty without a full trial.

The provision could permit military prosecutors to avoid airing the details of brutal interrogation techniques. It could also allow the five detainees who have been charged with the Sept. 11 attacks to achieve their stated goal of pleading guilty to gain what they have called martyrdom.

The military law forbids death penalties based solely on guilty pleas for two good reasons:

  • the guilty plea could be coerced
  • the guilty plea could be way for people who are not guilty to commit a form of suicide.

Such has happened for example in the case of the Beatrice Six four of which had falsely confessed in a rape and murder case and were later exonerated through DNA analysis.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:24:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The continuation of the Bush doctrine. If he has them killed, he can brush the whole thing under the carpet, job done.

This may make sense domestically, but I'm less convinced the people he really needs to persuade will be impressed.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 08:05:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
France 24 | Voters rush to polls in high-stakes election | France 24
Large number of voters are turning out for a tight election that could see a Hezbollah-led coalition defeat the current ruling US-backed majority.

AFP - Lebanese voters flocked to the polls on Sunday in a high-stakes election that could see an alliance led by the Shiite militant group Hezbollah defeat the current ruling Western-backed coalition.

Thousands of people, many sporting their party colours, lined up outside polling stations even before the vote opened in a country which has endured years of wars, sectarian unrest and political instability.

"There is a huge turnout," a high-ranking security official told AFP. "We expected big crowds but not this early."

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:27:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Lebanese elections not expected to disrupt EU ties, experts say | World | Deutsche Welle | 06.06.2009
Observers of Sunday's parliamentary elections in Lebanon expect the Hezbollah-led opposition to win the majority. Analysts agree that the European Union will greet such an outcome cautiously, yet respectfully. 

Hezbollah is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, and a victory in Sunday's elections would certainly impact US-Lebanese relations. US Vice President Joe Biden said last month in Lebanon that Washington would weigh its continued military assistance on the outcome of the elections.

The European Union, however, is expected to continue its association with its Mediterranean partner, analysts believe.

"There will be continuity rather than rupture, as the first phase," said Michael Emerson, senior research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels. He said the EU would view the elections as "part of a civilian democratic process."

"And it has to be treated with respect," Emerson said.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:34:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France 24 | Anti-Syrian coalition wins parliamentary elections | France 24
An anti-Syrian coalition led by Saad al-Hariri has defeated Hezbollah in Lebanon's parliamentary election on in a blow to Syria and Iran and a boost to the United States.

REUTERS - An anti-Syrian coalition defeated Hezbollah in Lebanon's parliamentary election on Sunday in a blow to Syria and Iran and a boost to the United States.


"Congratulations to Lebanon, congratulations to democracy, congratulations to freedom," the coalition's leader Saad al-Hariri said in a victory speech at his mansion in Beirut.


The outcome was also welcome news for Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which back Hariri's "March 14" alliance - the date of a 2005 rally against Syria's military presence in Lebanon.

by Fran on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 01:45:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Castro questions timing of Cuban spy arrests - Americas, World - The Independent

Fidel Castro called the case of two Americans accused of spying for Cuba "strange" yesterday and questioned whether the timing of their arrests was politically motivated.

In an essay read by a newscaster on state television, the former Cuban leader noted that the retired Washington couple were taken into custody just 24 hours after the Organization of American States voted to lift a decades-old suspension of Cuba's membership in that group.

Though the US ultimately supported the OAS vote Wednesday, the administration of President Barack Obama initially wanted to see more democratic reforms on the communist island before Cuba was readmitted.

Castro called the OAS vote "a defeat for United States diplomacy."

Walter Kendall Myers and his wife, Gwendolyn, were arrested Thursday in Washington after a three-year investigation that began before Myers' retirement from the State Department in 2007.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:28:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran's presidential candidate seeks votes by campaigning with wife - Telegraph
If his performance in the television studios is anything to go by, Mir-Hossein Mousavi is scarcely the obvious choice to oust President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and bring Iran back in from the cold.

A former hardliner, whose plodding style evokes comparisons from John Major to Leonid Brezhnev, he is as much a blast from Iran's revolutionary past as a breath of fresh reformist air.

Yet the bespectacled 67-year-old, who was Iran's prime minister during its revolutionary heyday in the 1980s, has come out of retirement in an attempt to end what he describes as Mr Ahmadinejad's "disgraceful" presidency.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:30:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mikhail Gorbachev -- Time for a Global Perestroika - washingtonpost.com

Years ago, as the Cold War was coming to an end, I said to my fellow leaders around the globe: The world is on the cusp of great events, and in the face of new challenges all of us will have to change, you as well as we. For the most part, the reaction was polite but skeptical silence.

In recent years, however, during speaking tours in the United States before university audiences and business groups, I have often told listeners that I feel Americans need their own change -- a perestroika, not like the one in my country, but an American perestroika -- and the reaction has been markedly different. Halls filled with thousands of people have responded with applause.

Over time, my remark has prompted all kinds of comments. Some have reacted with understanding. Others have objected, sometimes sarcastically, suggesting that I want the United States to experience upheaval, just like the former Soviet Union. In my country, particularly caustic reactions have come from the opponents of perestroika, people with short memories and a deficit of conscience. And although most of my critics surely understand that I am not equating the United States with the Soviet Union in its final years, I would like to explain my position.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
McClatchy blog: Planet Washington
A couple of weeks ago, just ahead of Dick Cheney's speech on national security, The New York Times ran a story saying that 14 percent of released Guantanamo detainees had returned to the fight. Interestingly, Cheney quoted the same statistic in his speech, which for some of us recalled the time when the Times published bogus "revelations" about Saddam Hussein's nuclear program, just in time for Cheney to quote the story on Meet the Press that very morning.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:03:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Its own public editor is weighing in in a way which is not very flattering for the NYT

But the article on which he based that statement was seriously flawed and greatly overplayed. It demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically. The lapse is especially unfortunate at The Times, given its history in covering the run-up to the Iraq war.

The article seemed to adopt the Pentagon's contention that freed prisoners had "returned" to terrorism, ignoring independent reporting by The Times and others that some of them may not have been involved in terrorism before but were radicalized at Guantánamo. It failed to distinguish between former prisoners suspected of new acts of terrorism -- more than half the cases -- and those supposedly confirmed to have rejoined jihad against the West. Had only confirmed cases been considered, one in seven would have changed to one in 20.

Most of the caveats about the report were deep in the article, where they could hardly offset the impact of the headline, the first paragraph and the prominent position on Page 1.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 02:03:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yea, but the person who originally wrote that misleading article using specially selected (provided) quotes has achieved their objective of framing Guantanamo a success in the public mind. All corrections are now seen as a debate on the extent of that "success", thus is history written.

The NYT has a history of being conduits for republican dis-information. Any subsequent correction intended to "balance" the damage simply ends up compounding it (by design).

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 08:13:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
AFP via Google: At least 31 killed in Peru Amazon clashes
At least 31 people have been killed in a 24-hour orgy of violence in northern Peru where police clashed with Amazon Indians over land rights in the rainforest, government officials said.

According to Prime Minister Yehude Simon, 22 police officers and nine civilians were killed Friday and Saturday after police forcibly re-opened a regional highway that thousands of Amazon Indian protesters had been blocking for days.

The clashes mark the bloodiest unrest in Peru since the Shining Path, a violent Maoist rebel group, terrorized the country in the 1980s and 1990s in its battle against the government.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buitler
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 06:09:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Environment, Energy, Agriculture, Food 

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:22:13 PM EST
BBC NEWS | Business | Floating wind turbine launched

The world's first floating wind turbine is to be towed out to sea this weekend.

Statoil's Alexandra Beck Gjorv told the BBC the technology, the Hywind, to be put off Norway's coast - "should help move offshore wind farms out of sight".

And it could lead to offshore wind farms eventually being located many miles offshore, away from areas where they cause disruption, Ms Gjorv added.

This would benefit military radar operations, the shipping industry, fisheries, bird life and tourism.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:42:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Independent: Nine more police killed in Amazon protests

President Alan Garcia labored yesterday to contain Peru's worst political violence in years, as nine more police officers were killed in a bloody standoff with Amazon Indians fighting his efforts to exploit oil, gas and other resources on their native lands.

The new deaths brought to 22 the number of police killed -- seven with spears -- since security forces moved early Friday to break up a roadblock manned by 5,000 protesters.

Protest leaders said at least 30 Indians, including three children, died in the clashes. Authorities said they could confirm only nine civilian deaths, but cabinet chief Yehude Simon told reporters that 155 people had been injured, about a third of them with bullet wounds.

by Sassafras on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:19:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Train can be worse for climate than plane

A new study compares the "full life-cycle" emissions generated by 11 different modes of transportation in the US. Unlike previous studies on transport emissions, this one looks beyond what is emitted by different types of car, train, bus or plane while their engines are running and includes emissions from building and maintaining the vehicles and their infrastructure, as well as generating the fuel to run them.

Including these additional sources of pollution more than doubles the greenhouse gas emissions of train travel. The emissions generated by car travel increase by nearly one third when manufacturing and infrastructure are taken into account. In comparison to cars on roads and trains on tracks, air travel requires little infrastructure. As a result, full life-cycle emissions are between 10 and 20 per cent higher than "tailpipe" emissions.


Crisscrossing the US with a rail network, however, creates a different problem. More than half of the life-cycle emissions from rail come not from the engines' exhausts, but infrastructure development, such as station building and track laying, and providing power to stations, lit parking lots and escalators

Any government considering expanding its rail network should take into account the emissions it will generate in doing so, Chester says. Setting up a public transportation system that only a small proportion of the population uses could generate more emissions than it cuts, he adds - especially if trains and buses are not well connected.

Nothing surprising, but the journalistic slant makes it sound like trains are not really worth it.

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

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 02:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Arpad Pusztai and the Risks of Genetic Engineering
Why is genetic engineering a risky technology?

Gene insertion is a major problem. You cannot direct where the splicing of the genetic construct will happen. It is well known that when you insert a genetic construct into the DNA network of a plant, you create changes in that network. As a result, you will get changes in the functionality of the plant's own genes. They may become more active or silent. The effects will be unpredictable and uncontrollable. It can sometimes cause irreparable damage to the genome. This is insertional mutagenesis.

The biotechnology industry simply overrides this concern. They say we don't have to worry about it, and if you raise your voice, you are called a Luddite.

Fundamentally the science of genetic engineering is crap. One gene expressing one protein is the basis of genetic engineering, but the Human Genome Project discovered 23,000 genes, and there are 200,000 proteins in every cell. With this discovery, genetic engineering should have disappeared into the dustbin, but the biotechnology industry is so strong. Genetic engineering is a product driven technology. If you have enough money to throw at it, you can do many things. But the industry won't waste money on safety assessment.

What are some of the studies you are aware of showing negative health impacts of GM foods?

In addition to the organ ultrastructural studies showing up significant changes, the most important studies are ones that showed alterations in the immune system. The Australian study (showing that GM peas caused immune damage in mice), the recent Italian study (showing immune disturbances in mice fed GM corn), and the reproduction studies of Irina Ermakova and more recently the Austrian study (showing reduced fertility in mice fed GM corn).

Although the significance of these studies is questioned by the biotech industry and regulatory agencies, in scientific terms the writing is on the wall for the present genetic modification technique.

h/t feral scholar

'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 Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 07:28:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Society, Culture, History, Information 

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:22:38 PM EST
Ost in translation - Libération/ Presseurop

In "Translate" his latest essay, Belgian philosopher and jurist François Ost, sings the praises of multilingualism, the one alternative to the hegemony of global English.

Misunderstanding - let's see now: Most of the time, we consider it a blight, an insidious worm that spoils the fruit of communication. On closer scrutiny, however, it turns out to be an opportunity, just as a mistake is an opportunity for learning in that it makes us cross-examine ourselves, correct ourselves and progress. If everything we said were instantaneously grasped, if we got one another's message "loud and clear" every time, we would only need to talk once, and there would be no need to have a(nother) word with one another.

The same goes for languages. There are roughly 6,000 of them around. Some are neighbours, sisters, cousins, others complete strangers, light-years away. So we are inclined to think that if there were only one single clear-cut, perfect language in which things were reflected exactly as in a verbal mirror, everyone could understand everyone else effortlessly, and we would elude the catastrophe of Babel: atomisation and the inconsolable misfortune of being condemned to the treachery of translation. Well, no. This lone language, this scrap of the dream of the Ursprache or "original language" - "the very one in which God and Adam conversed in Paradise" - would be a deadly bore. It would nip every conversation in the bud and put quite a damper on the "potentialities of meaning".

So long live Babel! Long live the sin of presumption that tempted men into building a tower as high as the sky, in punishment for which God "scattered them abroad upon the face of all the earth" and "confounded the language of all the earth" - that very curse is a blessing in disguise.

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:26:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
allAfrica.com: Africa: Study Criticises Laptops for Children Scheme

The "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) scheme, which has sent over a million US$100 laptops to children in the developing world, has been criticised by researchers who found that, unless they are introduced with care, they become little more than distracting toys in the classroom.

The study, conducted in Ethiopia, revealed that students wanted more content on the laptops and teachers were not adequately trained on how to make use of them.

But Matt Keller, OLPC's director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, rejects the criticisms. He says that when children take the laptops home they extend the school day. "When a child uses a laptop, he constructs and engages with it in a way that is far more dynamic and interactive than anything that he does at school."
by Sassafras on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Analysis of the PISA data found that computer usage correlates negatively with pupil's achievements.

Unsurprisingly, the official analysis yielded the opposite result (hint: confounding). So this cannot be true.

by Humbug (mailklammeraffeschultedivisstrackepunktde) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 03:03:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]

by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:23:25 PM EST
Grandpa Silvio `is impotent' - Times Online
The woman once rumoured to be the Italian leader's mistress has turned against him, saying he has no real power

WHEN Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, broadcast a statement on pension reform in 2003 the announcer who introduced him on television caught his eye.

He sent Virginia Sanjust di Teulada a huge bunch of roses and gardenias, invited her to lunch at his office and then presented her with a diamond bracelet. Over the months that followed, they met often and he showered her with diamonds and cash.

Speaking for the first time last week, Sanjust, 32, described the devastating consequences of her "platonic love" for Berlusconi, 72, and the scandal it created. She said he had been consumed by the power his £4 billion fortune bestowed and should give up the relationships with young women which have ensured that his private life is high on the political agenda as Italians vote in European and local elections this weekend.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:31:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Silvio Berlusconi villa adds to scandal with `party girls, gifts and dancers' - Times Online

With terracotta villas heaving with hibiscus and yachts moored on an emerald-streaked sea, Sardinia shares all the exclusivity of Monaco or Nice but without the vulgarity. If the surrounding marinas are a masterclass in discretion then Villa Certosa is reputed to be an exercise in extravagance. Doubters need only consider the artificial volcano and the construction of Mr Berlusconi's own amphitheatre.

Among regular guests is Vladimir Putin, who travelled to Sardinia for talks with Mr Berlusconi in April last year, only two weeks before he stood down as President.

Mr Berlusconi told reporters after the meeting that he had entertained the Russian leader with a troupe of dancing girls from Rome known as "Il Bagaglino". He said he was repaying a debt after Mr Putin entertained him with a performance by Russian girls of the Dance of the Veils during a visit to St Petersburg the previous year.

[Murdoch Alert]
by Fran on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 01:33:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
According to il manifesto in an on-line service there are some unpublished photos that show Berlusconi in compromising positions. Manifesto has also published a photo taken by Zappadu- a sort of rhetorical device that bolsters their assertion.

The photo shows two soldiers together immediately sequencing a photo published by El Pais. Reminds me of Berlusconi's quip that all Italian women should have a soldier to look over them- sorry, after them.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 08:41:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Sun Jun 7th, 2009 at 03:00:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Imagine if they had chosen a good song!
by paving on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 04:27:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Jun 8th, 2009 at 02:07:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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