Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is still on a hospital bed but the questions of his Human Rights and the US access to immigrants are weighed against ongoing foreign-sourced potential terrorism. HOW MUCH HUMAN RIGHTS DENIAL IS NEEDED TO INCREASE SECURITY – AND WHEN? Now Dzhokar is a US citizen and was granted full rights on 9/11/2013.
The surviving suspect in last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, “will not be treated as an enemy combatant” – but rather will be prosecuted “through our civilian system of justice,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said today. “Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions,” he said.
“The suspect made an initial appearance in the hospital room in front of a federal magistrate judge,” Circuit Executive Gary Wente tells CNN. The complaint is under seal, Wente said. This initial appearance does not constitute an arraignment.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged in federal court with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.
The statutory charges authorize a penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
A moment of silence will be observed at 2:50 p.m. ET today, exactly a week after the twin explosions near the marathon’s finish line that killed three and injured more than 170 others.
Boston bombings suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev conveyed to investigators that no international terrorist groups were behind the attacks, a U.S. government source told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev indicated his older brother, Tamerlan, was the driving force behind the attacks and wanted to defend Islam from attack, the source said.
The 19-year-old was “alert, mentally competent and lucid,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler found during a brief initial court appearance in Tsarnaev’s hospital room. During the hearing, he communicated mostly by nodding his head.
Glenn Greenwald | What Rights Should Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Get?
How Much Civil Liberty Should We Give Up?
Immigration and Fear.
Bleak news from the UN Headquarters in New York – still no-confidence from the Staff regarding the Administration of The UN Secretary General and at the Security Council some of the Principals find it convenient to let France handle Mali outside the system.
After Staff No Confidence in Ban, Graisse Can’t Get a Meeting, Gettu in Wings
By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, April 4 — Fifty days after the UN Staff Union voted “no confidence” in Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Ban’s outgoing chief of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management Jean-Jacques Graisse can’t even get a meeting with his staff.
On March 28, Graisse wrote to Staff Union leaders as well as Ban officials Susana Malcorra, Catherine Pollard and Franz Baumann, asking for an “emergency” meeting on April 3. He said it concerned the “force majeure” event of Hurricane Sandy, which allowed the UN to move on plans to kill off publishing jobs.
On April 2, Graisse’s office asked, “May we propose to meet for an emergency DGACM staff-management consultation on Friday, 5th April, from 10 to 12 in the morning, in room S-1517, to discuss the current temporary situation resulting from the impact of storm Sandy with regards to the Publishing Section staff? Our invitation to President of the Staff Union to participate in the meeting if she finds it acceptable and useful remains open.”
After some back and forth, he was told that some in the Union, due to the no confidence vote of January 24, would decline to meet with him. And this turned out to be true:
As stated previously we intend to abide by the vote of no confidence taken by the EGM of the staff. It will be up to the staff to mandate us to meet with the management.
Just to remind all of our fellow DGACM we initiated a dialogue with Mr. Graisse when he first came subsequent to that meeting and the subsequent meeting that included Mr. Baumann, we went back and forth on the issue of the meeting record being falsified and our position being misrepresented. Despite repeated attempts to have this corrected by them and their refusal, this matter is now before MEU. The illegal actions by Mr. Baumann to restructure the Publishing Section without mandate and the pretext of a vague plan in an Annex of a budget proposal was the subject of tribunal orders of Suspension of Action and Interim Relief. To remind you, the Tribunal in Order No. 77 (NY/2013) of 27 March 2013 “order[ed] the Respondent to suspend the implementation of the decision to conduct a recruitment exercise via Inspira, or by any other means whatsoever, for 19 new posts in the Publishing Section, DGACM, for a period of 60 days from the date of this Order or pending a final determination of the substantive merits of the application, if sooner, or until such further Order as may be deemed appropriate by the Tribunal”.
It is our position that DGACM has continually acted without regard to any mandates, rules, or staff rights. Let us not waste anymore time meeting with a management in which the staff has no confidence and continue to show bad faith to us. In calling for the meeting, Mr. Graisse stated that “[t]he urgency is dictated by the fact that a number of PS staff currently have no meaningful work assignments – a situation unacceptable to them as well to the management and Member States.” This is not a cause for staff-management consultation, but an indictment of the incompetency and failure of the management of DGACM.
The DGACM management must show that it is sincere in establishing proper relations or willing to mend their ways and work to rebuilding trust and the confidence of the staff. Regrettably, I don’t see this happening with the DGACM management of Mr. Graisse, Mr. Baumann, Mr. Olafsson, Ms. Chiulli, Mr. Nanadoe and Mr. Shpiniov.
And there you have it. But will it be different with Graisse replaced by Gettu? There’s talk of businesses in Addis. Meanwhile Ban himself has been in San Marino, Andorra and Monaco.
Ban USG for Peacekeeping Herve Ladsous openly refuses to answer Press questions about spreading cholera and rapes by the UN’s partners.
Ban’s Department of Public Information raided the Press’ office, while the president of the UNCA that has morphed to “UN’s Censorship Alliance” - Pam Falk of CBS took photos. Now DPI won’t even give the names of those allowed by it to enter. So it goes at the UN, writes Matthew Lee.
For the sake of our European Friends – There are two Europes Now – the Triple A North and the South that was kept alive by the image of a Common Market for the North. Oh Well – the Voters in the North seem to rebel now and call for the South to grow up.
The following is a presentation of facts that cannot be ignored anymore. Deserves close reading by those in the North that thought you can bumble your way through without creating a real union capable of calling out “it is all for one and not just one for all!” The EU is not just the fulfilling of the German dream of takeover of Europe by peaceful means. Cyprus dreaming of being the Mediterranean base of Russia? What else? Austria a bridge to the East? Yes, but only after twinning up with Finland.
Everyone learned a lesson from the “bail-in” of the Cypriot banks: Russian account holders who’d laundered and stored their money on the sunny island; bank bondholders who’d thought they’d always get bailed out; Cypriot politicians whose names showed up on lists of loans that had been extended by the Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank but were then forgiven and written off. Even brand-new Finance Minister Michael Sarris who got axed because he’d been chairman of Laiki when this was going on. His lesson: when a cesspool of corruption blows up, no one is safe. And German politicians learned a lesson too: that it worked!
“With the Cyprus aid package, it was proven that countries like Germany, the Netherlands, and Finland, if they stick together, are able to push for a strict stability course,” Hans Michelbach told the Handelsblatt. The chairman of the finance committee in the German Parliament and member of the CSU, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partner, called for deeper collaboration of the triple-A countries in the Eurozone “to strengthen the confidence of citizens and investors in the common currency.”
There are still five in that euro triple-A club: Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Finland, and Luxembourg. “It would be good if we could also convince Luxembourg to participate more strongly in this stability collaboration,” he said. It would be in the best interest of Luxembourg as major financial center, he added. A reference to Luxembourg’s precarious status, as Cyprus had learned, of being a tiny country with banks so large that it can’t bail them out by itself.
To protect the euro, the alliance of the triple-A countries must be united firmly against large euro countries like Italy and France, he said. “Strong signals of stability would be of great importance for the Eurozone,” particularly now, given the “unclear situation” in Italy, renewed doubts about Greece, and the failure of the French government in its stability policies.
Exactly what French President François Hollande needs: the euro triple-A club breathing down his neck. He’s already in trouble at home. To reverse the slide, he got on state-owned France 2 TV last Thursday to speak to the French people so that they could see how his sincerity, wisdom, and economic policies would stop the country from sinking ever deeper into a quagmire.
And a quagmire it is: double-digit unemployment, a Purchasing Managers Index just above Greece’s, new vehicle sales that plunged almost 15% so far this year, a budget deficit that refuses to be brought under control…. He has tweaked some policy measures here and there. And he dug up a new version of the 75% income-tax bracket that had been squashed by the Constitutional Court. But Jérôme Cahuzac, the Budget Minister who’d tried to get the first version through the system, went up in flames over allegations of tax fraud and “tax fraud laundering.”
Now the people have had it. After the TV appearance, his approval rating, ten months into his term, plummeted another 6 points to 31%, a low that scandal-plagued Nicolas Sarkozy took four years to reach. And only 27% approved of his economic policies. “The French simply don’t want austerity,” lamented an unnamed government insider.
France was suffering the consequences of the “socialist experiments” of its government and was becoming less and less competitive, explained Michelbach. He emphasized that France would remain an important partner of Germany. He wasn’t kidding: France buys 10% of Germany’s exports and is crucial to the German economy. But if France didn’t change course, he said, that could become a “serious problem” for the Eurozone.
As opposed to the mere hiccups of Cyprus or Greece. More banks and more countries will require bailoutsSlovenia, Spain, Italy, and Malta are on the list. And no one wants to see France on that list. Even Italy is too large to get bailed out by other countriesthough it’s rich enough to bail itself out, à la Cyprus [ A "Politically Explosive" Secret: Italians Are Over Twice As Wealthy As Germans].
But in Germany, a revolt against these save-the-euro bailouts has been brewing for a while. With elections in September, it’s taking on volume and voices, and the structure of a political party, the Alternative for Germany, not unpalatable radicals but the educated bourgeoisie, and they want to stop the bailouts and dump the euro.
The government is feeling the heat. No one can afford to lose votes. Michelbach’s triple-A club, a line of demarcation in the Eurozone, is one of the reactions. Merkel might benefit from it in the elections. The other four countries might find if appealing, though it will be of dubious appeal in the rest of the Eurozone. But if efforts fail to fix the Eurozone’s problemsand the Eurozone lumbering that waya tightly knit triple-A club could weather the storm together, more stable and more unified than the Eurozone ever was. And Michelbach had just floated a version of that idea.
Every country in the Eurozone has its own collection of big fat lies that politicians and Eurocrats have served up in order to make the euro and the subsequent bailouts or austerity measures less unappetizing. Here are some from the German point of view…. Ten Big Fat Lies To Keep The Euro Dream Alive
Wolf Richter wrote also – “White House Hypocrisy And Trade Sanctions Against China.” - Practically every car sold in the US contains Chinese-made components. But suddenly, in the middle of a heated presidential campaign, the Obama administration decided to do something about it.
Wolf Richter is a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience.
In www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/03/w… he explains “Having worked a bit on international deals, and for companies operating in foreign markets, cross border transactions have an even lower success rate than domestic ones. The big reason is the one mentioned here, which is marked cultural incompatibility between the seller and buyer. Here the Chinese did less badly than they could have (they could have tried forcing Chinese practices on the German operation, which would have destroyed the value of the asset). But the logic of the transaction was unclear. Was it technology transfer? Consolidation? It appears both might have been goals, and neither happened very much.
But I find it intriguing that as lousy as the Japanese were at doing deals (they found it hard to understand that the contract was the deal, and were too inclined to overpay), they were good at managing workers in manufacturing operations (service businesses were another kettle of fish, there they tended to drive Americans crazy). This is a skill the Chinese will have to master, since they desperately need to re-invest their surpluses, and they are trying to acquire more real-economy assets.” FASCINATING.
His insights in Wall Street machinations are also very good.
Chasing Islamists in the Mountains of Mali, or is it the Dunes? What goes on in Sahelistan – Is this a new Islamistan? Is it a fight for resources? A World of Multi-Partnerships? Will there be an AZAWAD?
Back at the end of January 2013 we posted – based on an article in “Der Spiegel” – that reached us via the UN Wire – that there was in the making an Islamistan, much more dangerous to the West then the AfPak (Afghanistan & Pakistan) region. This will be a Sahelistan ranging from Mauritania to Somalia, right there as a second southern complete layer to the Mediterranean shore Arab States that stretch from Morocco to Egypt. We call this the SAHELISTAN. Its front line is in Mali, Niger, and Chad.
This layer of Islamism is a combination of conservative Islam used as mortar to bind together locally inspired aspirations to free themselves of the Arab century old imposed rulers and like in the Maghreb States and Libya and Egypt, is supported by the religious leaders out of pure opportunism.
Our old posting is:
Now, in Vienna, I realize further the influence of this newly evolving threat and the reality that Europe is happy to let France, the former Colonial power in that region, shoulder the problem by itself. Further, it is France that running its National energy network on nuclear power, is totally depended on the Uranium they get from those countries, while other Members of the EU have no such dependence.
Further, as we noted last month, at the time of the Vienna Conference of the “Alliance of Civilizations” – as shown by the regional division among the Workshops in that meeting, the Central European States have sort of distanced themselves from the Mediterranean States by showing their economic interest as an extension from Central Europe to Central Asia – that is the Black Sea – Caspian Sea and beyond to the other smaller Muslim States that were part of the former Soviet Union. This leaves the Southern EU States to worry about the Muslim MENA region (Middle East – North Africa) and Turkey – if it has to be.
We also suggested a third tier – the Northern tier – and that is the line that connects the Scandinavian countries – Germany – Poland – with Russia.
But that is not where Vienna left this part of the world.
In March I participated further at two wide scope events:
(1) March 11, 2013, the Austrian Institute for International Politics (OIIP) where Editor Walter Haemmerle of the Wiener Zeitung, was the moderator between three Members of OIIP – all Professors at the University but coming from different areas of interest – Prof. Heinz Gaertner – a political Scientist, Prof. Jan Pospisil for the Arab Space – in particular North Africa, and Prof. Cengiz Guenay, for the Near East/ Middle East Space.
The topic was USA – Near East – Mali – in context of Changes of International Applications of Power.
(2) March 21, 2013, the Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) - www.VIDC.org – using the space at the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialog – dealt with a more limited topic – and therefore could go down to quite some depth – “Mali: Perspectives for the Political Come-Back.”
The two Malians were – Ismaeel Sory Maiega, Director of the study Center of Languages and African Cultures, and the European Representative of the Tuareg-organized Insurgency MNLA – Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad – National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, Mr. Moussa Assarid.
Ms. Biloa is also the President “Club Millennium” in Paris – an African Think Tank and training place for leadership.
From the OIIP event:
The issue is the US – it is retrenching from the Reagan – G.W. Bush (the son) days of overextended global involvements – so issues like the insurgency in Mali and other Islamization aspects of North Africa, are to be from now on pure European problems. Even the Middle East will have to take care of itself – the most the US will do is to express encouragement for others to act. Professor Gaertner studied the US elections and his view of the Obama II Administration is very similar to what we wrote on our website. The US is readjusting to the Trans-Pacific Partnership – with China its main focus, so much of what goes on in the Muslim Space will have to be filled in by others. Europeans will have to look across the Mediterranean for their own sake.
Dr. Jan Pospisil did his PhD thesis on US-German military cooperation and then looked at East Africa and Sri-Lanka. Like Prof. Gaertner he sees in Syria the biggest problem for the topic of human rights and both think that this is an area that Austria will pay attention as well. With this background it becomes interesting to note that the Austrian participation in Mali is with 9 people.
Dr. Cengiz Guenay wrote his PhD thesis on “Islam as a political factor in Turkey” and found Libya, Egypt, and now Syria as his main fields of interest and he is called in quite often to explain the situation to the media.
The two main points I marked myself from this discussion were:
A. that Turkey is now a TRADING STATE and will do whatever Mr. Erdogan finds opportune for the literal moment.
B. The World – Instead of Multi-polarity – now it will be MULTI-PARTNERSHIPS.
Then at the VIDC/Bruno Kreisky Forum event we got to know Mr. Assarid a full blooded Tuareg, dressed to prove it, who speaks about the Azawad State they want to carve out from the Northern half of Mali – the five towns – Timbuktu, Lere, Hombori, Gao, and Kidal. His bio says he is a writer, journalist and comedian – living in Paris since 1999. He has appeared on TV in several series as actor. He was saying that the Tuaregs have a National movement that is secular. They are not part of an Islamic uprising and their problem is rather that the other side – the present government in Bamako – that took over from an elected government by military coup – is the one that may help the North Africa Al-Qaeda – not the Tuaregs.
Listening to him, and to his opponent, Professor. Maiega, who is an intellectual – head of a Bamako Institute to promote indigenous languages and African Civilizations, it seems that in effect both of them are more interested in traditional African culture then in Islam, and in effect it is France’s interest in holding on to its previous Colony that is the most problematic aspect of this entanglement. Is it all because of the Uranium, coal, and other natural resources found in Mali? Will this move on to Niger and Chad? What would happen if Mali is allowed to split amicably into two States? Could this be worse then seeing it unravel in fighting that allows other groups to mix the boiling pot?
The French say they want to bring down their fighting troops from 4,000 to 1,000 by the end of April, and have by that time trained the Mali government troops, and the West African troops, that offered to help. I say – Do not hold your breath – I say.
The problem with the desert people maybe much more complicated then what was presented. There is money to be made from those natural resources, and from kidnapping people for ransom. The desert is big and people rather unemployed – so the few can muster the rest, and bamboozle with religion cooked up with social, ethnic, tribal arguments to boot – this works in a world that thinks very little of terrorism, as an accepted tool for those that feel downtroden, and the passage to the world here-after as a move to step up an imagined personalized ladder.
Recent History as reported today – April 1, 2013: The fighting reflected the difficulty of securing Mali after a French intervention in January that pushed the rebels out of their northern strongholds.
“Things are quiet this morning. The markets are open, traffic is on the streets, and people are out of their houses,” Timbuktu resident Garba Maiga said by telephone.
Malian military sources said soldiers were sweeping parts of the town to ensure there were no remaining rebel fighters.
At least one Malian soldier was killed in the clashes, along with more than 20 insurgents, according to a government statement on Sunday night. Residents said at least five civilians were killed in the crossfire.
An army spokesman said that groups of rebels had entered the town after setting off a suicide car bomb at a checkpoint, diverting the military’s attention.
Paris is keen to reduce its current 4,000-strong troop presence to 1,000 by the end of the year as it hands over its mission to a regional African force.
By coincidence – the following arrived in our Inbox and I find this relevant as it stresses US-Senegal relations. Senegal is a Muslim State.
04/01/2013 03:58 PM EDT
Remarks at Luncheon in Honor of Four African Democratic Partners.
William J. Burns
Martin Van Buren Dining Room
March 29, 2013
Good afternoon. It is truly an honor to be here today with all of you. I want to thank Assistant Secretary Carson for hosting this luncheon. As you know, despite our best efforts to change his mind, Johnnie is leaving the State Department after a nearly four decades of exemplary public service. We are all deeply indebted to Johnnie for his leadership and stewardship of the U.S.-Africa relationship.
I would like to welcome President Banda of Malawi, Prime Minister Neves of Cape Verde, Foreign Minister Ndiaye of Senegal, and Foreign Minister Kamara of Sierra Leone. It is a pleasure to host you here at the Department of State.
Like Johnnie, I am an Africa optimist. I am an optimist because the tide of wars and civil strife is receding. I am an optimist because the continent continues to make steady progress in political reform — more than half of the countries in Africa have embraced democratic, multiparty rule and elections and term limits are now widely accepted norms. And I am an optimist because Africa’s growth rate will soon surpass Asia’s and seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are African.
The credit for this transformation belongs to leaders like you and courageous citizens across the continent. Looking back over the past two decades, the United States is proud of its modest contribution and steady support.
President Clinton worked with Congress to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which helped create hundreds of thousands of jobs in the region. President George W. Bush created the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, programs that saved millions of lives and brought hundreds of thousands of Africans out of poverty. Over the last four years, President Obama has built on this foundation by forming partnerships based on mutual respect and responsibility with governments, entrepreneurs, youth, women, and the private sector to strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth, promote opportunity and development, and advance peace and security.
Each of you illustrates the potential of these partnerships.
President Banda – in one year, you led Malawi out of a deep abyss, moving swiftly to stabilize the economy and elevate human rights. And as you did, the United States was pleased to restore its partnership with your government, including lifting the suspension of our $350 million MCC Compact. We look forward to continuing to work together further to strengthen Malawi democracy, address hunger and improve food security.
Prime Minister Neves – under your leadership, Cape Verde reached middle-income country status, joined the WTO, attracted significant foreign investment, and solidified its social safety net. We value our cooperation on maritime security and in countering narcotrafficking and are pleased to launch a second five-year MCC compact to accelerate economic growth.
Senegal is one of the United States’ strongest partners and a leading democracy in Africa. We applaud the Senegalese government’s commitment to improve governance, regional security, and bilateral cooperation. We deeply appreciate President Sall’s efforts for peace in the Casamance and his leadership on peacekeeping and regional security.
Last year, Sierra Leone held fair, free, and credible elections. We thank President Koroma and his government for their commitment to strengthening Sierra Leone’s democratic institutions. Predictably, the economy responded to your efforts, expanding by 30% in 2012. Let me also note our deep appreciation for your government’s troop contribution to the Somalia peacekeeping force.
There is no doubt that we face many challenges in the coming years – from the Horn to the Great Lakes, and the Sahel. This is why our partnership has never been more important. Fortunately, it has never been stronger.
Thank you very much.
According to the Scottish explorer and scientist Robert Brown, Azawad is an Arabic corruption of the Berber word Azawagh, referring to a dry river basin that covers western Niger, northeastern Mali, and southern Algeria. The name translates to “land of transhumance“.
On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared the independence of Azawad from Mali. In this Azawad Declaration of Independence, the name Independent State of Azawad was used (French: État indépendant de l’Azawad, Arabic: Dawlat Azaw?d al-Mustaqillah).
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine – an Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda – announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state; according to the media the new long name of Azawad was used in this pact. But this new name is not clear – sources list few variants of it: the Islamic Republic of Azawad (French: République islamique de l’Azawad), the Islamic State of Azawad (French: État islamique de l’Azawad), the Republic of Azawad. Azawad authorities did not officially confirm any change of name.
The MNLA has unveiled the list of 28 members of the Transitional Council of the State of Azawad (Conseil de Transition de l’Etat de l’Azawad, CTEA) serving as a provisional government with President Bilal Ag Acherif to manage the new State of Azawad.
The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim.
Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali.
On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad; it asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.
All of this points at a very confusing situation that in effect backs what we heard at the meeting of March 21, 2013 here in Vienna.
Above map suggests that the presence of Tuaregs which were nomads, is not limited to the north of Mali alone, but they are found in neighboring States as well. The history of the region involved wars that extended to Algeria and to larger Morocco. The area was part of empires that existed in Timbuktu and Gao.
Under French rule
After European powers formalized the scramble for Africa in the Berlin Conference, the French assumed control of the land between the 14th meridian and Miltou, South-West Chad, bounded in the south by a line running from Say, Niger to Baroua. Although the Azawad region was French in name, the principle of effectivity required France to hold power in those areas assigned, e.g. by signing agreements with local chiefs, setting up a government, and making use of the area economically, before the claim would be definitive. On 15 December 1893, Timbuktu, by then long past its prime, was annexed by a small group of French soldiers, led by Lieutenant Gaston Boiteux. The region became part of French Sudan (Soudan Français), a colony of France. The colony was reorganised and the name changed several times during the French colonial period. In 1899 the French Sudan was subdivided and the Azawad became part of Upper Senegal and Middle Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Moyen Niger). In 1902 it was renamed as Senegambia and Niger (Sénégambie et Niger), and in 1904 this was changed again to Upper Senegal and Niger (Haut-Sénégal et Niger). This name was used until 1920 when it became French Sudan again.
French Sudan became the autonomous state of Mali within the French Community in 1958, and Mali became independent from France in 1960. Four major Tuareg rebellions took place against Malian rule: the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962–64), the rebellion of 1990–1995, the rebellion of 2007–2009, and a 2012 rebellion. This alone should tell the world that the situation is not stable and that it can be adjusted only if autonomy is granted the Tuareg region.
In the early twenty-first century, the region became notorious for banditry and drug smuggling. The area has been reported to contain great potential mineral wealth, including petroleum and uranium.
On 17 January 2012, the MNLA announced the start of an insurrection in Azawad against the government of Mali, declaring that it “will continue so long as Bamako does not recognise this territory as a separate entity”.On 24 January, the MNLA won control of the town of Aguelhok, killing around 160 Malian soldiers and capturing dozens of heavy weapons and military vehicles. In March 2012, the MNLA and Ansar Dine took control of the regional capitals of Kidal and Gao along with their military bases. On 1 April, Timbuktu was captured. After the seizure of Timbuktu on 1 April, the MNLA gained effective control of most of the territory they claim for an independent Azawad. In a statement released on the occasion, the MNLA invited all Azawadis abroad to return home and join in constructing institutions in the new state.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared Azawad an independent state on 6 April 2012 and pledged to draft a constitution establishing it as a democracy. Their statement acknowledged the United Nations charter and said the new state would uphold its principles.
In an interview with France 24, an MNLA spokesman declared the independence of Azawad:
In the same interview, Assarid promised that Azawad would respect the colonial frontiers that separate Azawad from its neighbours; he insisted that Azawad’s declaration of independence had international legality.
No foreign entity recognised Azawad. The MNLA’s declaration was immediately rejected by the African Union, who declared it “null and no value whatsoever”. The French Foreign Ministry said it would not recognise the unilateral partition of Mali, but it called for negotiations between the two entities to address “the demands of the northern Tuareg population [which] are old and for too long had not received adequate and necessary responses”. The United States also rejected the declaration of independence.
The MNLA is estimated to have up to 3,000 soldiers. ECOWAS declared Azawad “null and void”, and said that Mali is “one and [an] indivisible entity”. ECOWAS has said that it would use force, if necessary, to put down the rebellion. The French government indicated it could provide logistical support.
On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact to merge to form an Islamist state. Later reports indicated the MNLA withdrew from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao and Timbuktu on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of Gao, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of Timbuktu and Kidal, the three biggest cities of northern Mali. Ansar Dine continued its offensive against MNLA positions and overran all remaining MNLA held towns by 12 July with the fall of Ansogo.
In December 2012, the MNLA agreed on Mali’s national unity and territorial integrity in talks with both the central government and Ansar Dine.
Most are Muslims, of the Sunni or Sufi orientations. Most popular in the Tuareg movement and northern Mali as a whole is the Maliki branch of Sunnism, in which traditional opinions and analogical reasoning by later Muslim scholars are often used instead of a strict reliance on ?adith (coming directly from the Mohammed’s life and utterances) as a basis for legal judgment.
Ansar Dine follows the Salafi branch of Sunni Islam, which rejects the existence of Islamic holy men (other than Mohammed) and their teachings. They strongly object to praying around the graves of Malikite ‘holymen’, and burned down an ancient Sufi shrine in Timbuktu, which had been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The people living in the central and northern Sahelian and Sahelo-Saharan areas of Mali are the country’s poorest, according to an International Fund for Agricultural Development report. Most are pastoralists and farmers practicing subsistence agriculture on dry land with poor and increasingly degraded soils. The northern part of Mali suffers from a critical shortage of food and lack of health care. Starvation has prompted about 200,000 inhabitants to leave the region.
Refugees in the 92,000-person refugee camp at Mbera, Mauritania, describe the Islamists as “intent on imposing an Islam of lash and gun on Malian Muslims.” The Islamists in Timbuktu have destroyed about a half-dozen historic above-ground tombs of revered holy men, proclaiming the tombs contrary to Shariah. One refugee in the camp spoke of encountering Afghans, Pakistanis and Nigerians among the invading forces.
Slow Money is about Slow Food – a growing movement of people who believe that we can reduce both hunger and obesity while improving the quality of food, the life of farmers, the impact of agriculture on the environment and health, and so on. The problem is that in real life it is the big corporate establishment that runs the show – here it is small entrepreneurs that want to edge in. A US National Gathering will be held in Boulder, Colorado, April 29-30, 2013.
THIS COULD BE ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY. SustainabiliTank.info editor}
After April 15th, late registration, if tickets are still available, will be $995 for Professionals, $850 for Angel Investors, and $495 for general public.
Farmers and Students: A limited number of half-price scholarship registrations are available. If you are a full-time working farmer or full-time student, click here to get the form.
For more information on the
The Media finally catches up to it – Cyprus – Will Russia get now a piece as it did years ago in Syria? This might be “plan D” that lets the potentially gas rich mini-State float away from the EURO and eventually the EU. Could an Obama Foray help by reconciling Turkey and Cyprus now that Greece was weakened by its own crisis?
Russian PM lectures Barroso on Cyprus.
Medvedev: ‘The euro crisis has strengthened ideas that Europe is in decline.’
BRUSSELS - Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev humbled European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso in public remarks on Thursday (21 March) over the EU’s handling of Cyprus.
Speaking alongside Barroso at a conference in Moscow, he called the EU’s original Cypriot bailout idea “to put it mildly, surprising … absurd … preposterous.”
“The situation is unpredictable and inconsistent. It [the bailout model] has been reviewed several times. I browsed the Internet this morning and I saw another Plan B, or a Plan C or whatever,” he noted.
He upbraided EU institutions for failing to give Moscow due notice of its decision.
“The system of early warning did not work very well … that means we need to work on it,” he said.
He also quoted unnamed Russian “eurosceptics” as saying: “The euro crisis has strengthened ideas that Europe is in decline in the 21st century … that the European project has turned out to be too cumbersome.”
Earlier the same say, he told Russian newswire Interfax that he is thinking of reducing Russia’s holding of euro-denominated currency reserves.
In a sign of broader Russian upset, Leonid Grigoriev, an academic and a former Russian deputy finance minister, told a separate news conference that Russian money is no longer safe anywhere in the EU.
“The Cyprus situation has created new uncertainty in the banking sector. People have started thinking whether the same can happen elsewhere, in Spain, Portugal, Ireland?” he said.
The EU’s Plan A for Cyprus was to lend it €10 billion, but to impose a 7-to-10 percent levy on all Cypriot savers, including Russian expats, who alone stood to lose €2 billion.
It has now been scrapped.
It is unclear what new model might be found.
But the Cypriot finance minister, Michael Sarris, also in Moscow on Thursday, said he is in talks to give Russia shares in Cypriot “banks, natural gas [reserves]” in return for Russian bailout money.
For his part, Barroso told Medvedev that the EU could not have warned Russia even if it wanted to.
“Regarding the conclusions of the last Eurogroup [euro finance ministers, who drew up Plan A], Russia was not informed because the governments of Europe were not informed – let’s be completely open and honest about that issue. There was not a pre-decision before the Eurogroup meeting. The Eurogroup meeting concluded, I think, in the very early hours of Saturday and the decision was the result of a compromise,” he said.
He added: “Don’t believe in this idea of the decline of Europe … The European Union is stronger than it is today fashionable to admit.”
Leaked documents on internal EU talks seen by the Reuters news agency give substance to Russia’s criticism, however.
The notes record remarks by finance officials from euro-using countries during a panicky conference call about Cyprus held on Wednesday.
According to Reuters, a French official said Cyprus’ decision not to take part in the phone-debate is “a big problem … We have never seen this.”
A German official said Cyprus might quit the euro and there is a need to “ring-fence” other countries from contagion.
A European Central Bank official said there is a “very difficult situation” because savers might pull money from the island if banks re-open next week.
Meanwhile, Thomas Wieser, an Austrian-origin EU official who chaired the phone-meeting, described the situation as “foggy.” He added: “The economy is going to tank in Cyprus no matter what.”
To the above we add that Turkey, its holding onto North Cyprus, and its interest in the gas fields that stretch from Cyprus to Israel and Lebanon, having first development seen by Israel, are part of the larger scope of the Cyprus potential move away from the EU. But, In effect, these other aspects might make the EU stiffen up in a bailing out effort conditioned only on reorganizing some of the Cypriot Banks – letting Russian oligarchs foot part of the bill – without selling to Russia port holdings in the Mediterranean. Seeing a Syria solution that drives out Russia from its port facilities there, may be part of the American interest in the region as well. In short – Cyprus is not Iceland – this because it is geographically located in a very complicated region of the Outer EU. Is it so that an Obama trip could help by forcing a Cyprus-Turkey reconciliation first?
We just found out that The New York Times is catching up:
The University of Salento (Lecce-Italy) announces the second edition of
White Smoke to be seen in Jerusalem so President Obama finds a government in place – though his people will still wonder who is the real Foreign Minister and Peace Negotiator. The situation is different then the one now in Italy’s Rome, that may do well also without an elected government.
March 16, 2013
To the Victor, the Spoils.
IN THE days following the recent Israeli elections, Ya’ir Lapid, the major winner, let it be known that he wanted to be the next Foreign Minister.
No wonder. It’s the hell of a job. You can’t lose, because the Foreign Minister is responsible for nothing. Serious foreign fiascos are always laid at the door of the Prime Minister, who determines foreign policy anyway. The Foreign Minister travels around the world, stays in luxury hotels with gourmet cuisine, has his picture taken in the company of royalty and presidents, appears almost daily on TV. Sheer paradise.
For someone who declares publicly that he wants to become Prime Minister soon, perhaps in a year and a half, this post is very advantageous. People see you among the world’s great. You look “prime ministerial”.
Moreover, no experience is needed. For Lapid, who entered politics less than a year ago, this is ideal. He has all a Foreign Minister needs: good looks and a photogenic quality. After all, he made his career on TV.
So why did he not become Foreign Minister? Why has he let himself be pushed into the Finance Ministry – a far more strenuous job, which can make or break a politician?
Simply because the Foreign Ministry has a big sign on its door: Occupied.
THE LAST Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, was, probably, the least suitable person for the job in the whole country. He is no Apollo. He has an air of brutality, shifty eyes and spare vocabulary. He is unpopular everywhere in the world except Russia and its satellites. He has been avoided throughout by most of his international colleagues. Many of them consider him an outright fascist.
But Netanyahu is afraid of Lieberman. Without Lieberman’s parliamentary storm troopers, Likud has only 20 seats – just one more than Lapid. And within the joint party, Lieberman may well replace Netanyahu in the not too distant future.
Lieberman has been forced out of the Foreign Office by the law that forbids an indicted person to serve in the government. For many years now, a dark judicial cloud has been hanging over his head. Investigations followed suspicions of huge bribes. In the end, the Attorney General decided to content himself with an indictment for fraud and breach of trust: a minor diplomat turned over to Lieberman a secret police dossier concerning his investigation and was awarded an ambassadorship.
Netanyahu’s fear of Lieberman induced him to promise that the Foreign Minister’s post would remain empty until the final judgment in Lieberman’s case. If acquitted, his lofty position will be waiting for him.
This may be a unique arrangement. After barring Lapid’s ambition to succeed him, Lieberman declared this week triumphantly: “Everyone knows that the Foreign Office belongs to the Israel Beitenu party!”
THAT IS an interesting statement. It may be worthwhile pondering its implications.
How can any government office “belong” to a party?
In feudal times, the King awarded his nobles hereditary fiefs. Each nobleman was a minor king in his domain, in theory owing allegiance to the sovereign but in practice often almost independent. Are modern ministries such fiefs “belonging” to the party chiefs?
This is a question of principle. Ministers are supposed to serve the country and its citizens. In theory, the best man or woman suited for the job should be appointed. Party affiliation, of course, does play a role. The Prime Minister must construct a working coalition. But the uppermost consideration, even in a multi-party democratic republic, should be the suitability of the candidate for the particular office.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Though no elected Prime Minister should go to the length of Ehud Barak, who displayed an almost sadistic delight in placing each of his colleagues in the ministry he was most unsuitable for. Shlomo Ben-Ami, a gentle history professor, was put into the Ministry of Police (a.k.a. Interior Security), where he was responsible for an incident in which several Arab citizens were shot. Yossi Beilin, a genius bubbling with original political ideas, was sent to the Ministry of Justice. And so on.
I remember meeting several of the new ministers at a diplomatic reception soon after. They were all deeply embittered and their comments were of course unprintable.
But that was not the point. The point was that by appointing ministers quite unsuitable to the tasks entrusted to them, Barak did great damage to the interests of the state. You don’t entrust your body to a surgeon who is really a lawyer, nor do you entrust your money to a banker who is really a biologist.
YET THE idea of political entitlement was hovering over the whole process of forming the cabinet. The awarding of the ministries more closely resembles a dispute among thieves over the spoils than a responsible process of manning or womanning the ministries which will be responsible for the security and well-being of the nation.
The quarrel that held up the formation of the new government for several crucial days was over the Ministry of Education. Lapid wanted it for his No. 2, an orthodox (though moderate) rabbi. The incumbent, Gideon Sa’ar, desperately clung to it, organizing petitions in his favor among teachers, mayors and what not.
This could have been a legitimate fight if it had been about questions of education. For example, Sa’ar, a fanatical Likud man, has sent the pupils to religious and nationalistic sites in Greater Eretz Israel, to imbue them with proper patriotic fervor. He is also more intent on his pupils winning international capability tests than on education as such.
But nobody spoke about these subjects. It was a simple fight over entitlement. In medieval times, it might have been fought out with lances in a tournament. In these civilized days, both sides use political blackmail. Lapid won.
I AM not a great admirer of Tzipi Livni and her air of a spoilt brat. But I am happy about her appointment to the Ministry of Justice.
Her last two predecessors were intent on destroying the Supreme Court and putting an end to “judicial activism”. (This seems to be a problem in many countries nowadays. Governments want to abolish the court’s power to annul anti-democratic laws.) Tzipi can be relied on to buttress the Supreme Court, seen by many as “the last bastion of Israeli democracy”.
Much more problematical is the appointment of Moshe Ya’alon as Minister of Defense. He inherited the job because there is just nobody around who could be appointed instead. Israelis take their defense seriously, and you cannot appoint, say, a gynecologist to this job.
“Bogy”, as everybody calls him, is a former Chief of Staff of the Army, and a very undistinguished one. Indeed, when he finished the standard three years on the job, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon refused to grant him the almost automatic fourth year. Bogy was bitter and complained that he always had to wear high boots, because of the many snakes in the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff. He may need them again now.
His many detractors call him a “bock” – German and Yiddish for a goat, symbolizing a lack of intelligence. He is an extreme militarist, who sees all problems through the sights of a gun. He can be sure of the allegiance of Israel’s vast army of ex-generals (or “degenerals”’ as I call them).
THE MOST problematical appointment of all is the choice of Uri Ariel for the crucial post of Minister of Housing.
Uri Ariel is the arch-settler. He was the founder of a settlement, a leader of the settlers’ organization, the Ministry of Defense official responsible for the settlements. He was also a director of the Keren Kayemet – Jewish National Fund – a major arm of the settlement enterprise. He entered the Knesset when Rehavam Ze’evi, the leader of the extreme-extreme Right, was assassinated by a Palestinian hit squad.
Turning this Ministry over to such a person means that most of its resources will go to a frantic expansion of the settlements, each of which is a nail in the coffin of peace. Yet Lapid supported this appointment with all his new-found political clout, as part of his “brotherhood” bond with Naftali Bennett, who is now the godfather of the settler movement.
Bennet’s party also gained the all-important Knesset finance committee, which is needed to funnel the funds to the settlements. It means that the settlers have gained complete control of the state.
Lapid’s big election victory may yet be revealed as the biggest disaster for Israel.
The brotherhood pact between Lapid and Bennett made it possible for them to blackmail poor Netanyahu and get (almost) everything they longed for. Except the Foreign Ministry.
How will Lapid turn out as Minister of Finance? Difficult to say. Since he is totally innocent of any economic knowledge or experience, he will have to depend on the Prime Minister above and the ministry bureaucracy below. Treasury officials are a tough lot, with a thoroughly neo-liberal outlook. Lapid himself also adheres to this creed, which is called by many Israelis “swinish capitalism” – a term invented by Shimon Peres.
ONE of Lapid’s main election promises was to put an end to the Old Politics, held responsible for all the ills and ugliness of our political life until now. Instead, he said, there will be the New Politics, an age of shining honesty and transparency, embodied by selfless and patriotic leaders, such as the members of his new party.
Not for nothing did he call his party There Is A Future.
Well, the Future has arrived, and it looks suspiciously like the Past. Indeed, the New Politics look very much like the Old Politics.
Very, very old. Even the ancient Romans are supposed to have said “To the victor, the spoils!” But then, Ya’ir Lapid doesn’t know Latin.
Others, like Ari Shavit of Haaretz, look at the Obama visit, with expressed worry – something like - The President who holds Israel’s fate in the palm of his hand: Israel has recently lost quite a bit of its ability to chart its own strategic future, and this will make Obama’s upcoming trip different than previous ones by U.S. presidents.
Above is potentially much more serious then if Ms. Merkel would pay a visit to Rome as in our second clip. There it is only about restructure and money – in Israel it is about restructure and Near East neighborhood policy.
New York Times Editorial – March 15, 2013
Italy, in Search of a Government.
Published: March 14, 2013
Italy’s newly elected Parliament convenes on Friday with no clear governing majority. Only a government with a strong popular mandate can push through the kind of radical changes Italy really needs: sweeping labor market and tax reforms, tough anticorruption laws, electoral reform and a new fiscal bargain with euro-zone partners that replaces austerity with growth. All or most of that will now have to wait until new elections, probably later this year, can produce more definitive results.
The vote produced a four-way split among two parties that endorse the European-backed austerity policies that have plunged Italy into deep recession, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement and a bloc led by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
That four-way split means that no politically feasible coalition is mathematically possible, especially since the Five Star Movement’s founder, Beppe Grillo, has repeatedly declared that the movement will not support a government led by any of the other groupings. Even if Mr. Grillo does not reconsider that position, there is no need for Italians, their European partners or the bond markets to panic. Mario Monti will continue as the caretaker prime minister until Parliament can agree on a successor. Taxes will be collected, government bills paid and administrative decisions taken. One ratings agency, Fitch, last week downgraded Italian bonds one notch but still considers them investment grade. Bond auctions this week went tolerably well, and Rome has now successfully raised a significant chunk of the money it will need to see it through this year. Democracy’s ways can be frustratingly slow, especially when radical changes are on the agenda and long established parties fail to rise to the occasion. Yet democracy is the European Union’s founding and defining principle. Italy’s partners, though understandably frustrated, need to be patient and supportive. And the European Central Bank must be prepared to deter speculators by stepping in if necessary as a lender of last resort.
Those, like Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who pressured Mr. Monti’s government to tighten the screws of austerity on Italy’s growth-starved economy share some responsibility for his disappointing electoral performance. And they now share some responsibility to stand by Italy as it seeks a democratic way out of the resulting parliamentary deadlock.
Related: A Jester No More, Italy’s Gadfly of Politics Reflects a Movement (March 4, 2013)
This is serious – a professional clown is a good man trying to make a living. A clown impersonator is something else. While Bepe Grillo is fighting for the cause of change in Italy and everywhere else, it is Mr. Berlusconi who used the facade of government and wealth in order to create a court of clowns to his kingdom and rule. True Conservatives reject his behavior but corralled to save him because he was in their service.
March 4th, 2013 the Karl Renner Institute of the Socialist Party of Austria had a reassessment of the Italian elections with the participation of two Journalists from Italy – Tonia Mastrobuoni from La Stampa in Turino, and Franz Koessler who was for many years the foreign policy commentator at the Austrian “Falter” and is now a freelance in Rome.
I learned that Monti who was seen by the European banking institutions as the man who will save them and Italy, and was seen as having the baking of over 50% of the Italians – just came in as a poor fourth with 10%. It is the 25% that Grillo’s movement got .and the fact that the other two parties that have less then 30% each – that make it impossible to form a government that is supported by a clear majority.
The popular thinking is that new elections will favor Mr. Grillo and put him in the position to dictate the rules for a coalition government.
Conventional thinking believes that if he has not put forward a real plan, and is not ready to join another party, this is a sign that his group will eventually break up. But why? His Grillini want to see change, and not being politicians that live by having a political job, they may actually relish the idea of having brought about change and be very calculated in their support of any government.
I suggested that the original individuals that started out like them, could actually be the example for the Grilini – and the warning being that eventually politicians from the right got hold of their movement and turned the Tea Party that started out as “Taxes we had enough” ended up backing all sort of ideas that had nothing to do with their original rebellion.
On the other hand, if the Grillini manage to avoid the fate of the Tea Party, they may become the toast of all those in the EU that would want to change the rullling strata in most of the EU Member States.
The New York Times Editorial
Italy Chooses None of the Above
First Published: February 27, 2013
Italy’s voters surprised and frightened governments and financial markets across Europe with their repudiation of austerity and much of the Italian political establishment.
Related: Inconclusive Vote in Italy Points to Fragmenting of Political System (February 27, 2013)
Europe’s fears of an ungovernable Italy and renewed euro-zone crisis may prove justified. With no party holding a majority in the new Parliament, there is little chance for renegotiating the economic straitjacket demanded by European lenders or enacting needed reforms.
For decades, the political establishment, regardless of party, has failed to deal with Italy’s well-known problems — excessive bureaucracy, official corruption, organized crime, unequal and regressive taxes and anemic economic growth. The past 15 months of growth-crushing austerity policies under Prime Minister Mario Monti have mainly added to the pain. Italy’s borrowing costs declined (at least until the election returns came in).
A protest vote driven by public anger is not so surprising. The big losers were centrist supporters of Mr. Monti, who came in a dismal fourth, and the center-left Democratic Party, led by Pier Luigi Bersani, which won only a slim plurality in the lower house and ran a disappointing second in the regionally apportioned Senate. These two blocs were expected to form a coalition government with policies not very different from Mr. Monti’s. That would have pleased Europe, but is now impossible.
The winners were the anti-establishment Five Star Movement, founded just three years ago by the comedian Beppe Grillo, and the People of Liberty led by the disgraced former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Mr. Berlusconi’s slate won the largest number of Senate seats and the second largest contingent in the lower house. Mr. Berlusconi, who bears much responsibility for Italy’s economic and political dysfunction, brought his party back from near oblivion by shamelessly restyling himself as an anti-establishment, anti-austerity populist. He even promised to refund the homeownership tax, offering to dip into his personal fortune to do so.
As the top vote-getter, the Democratic Party gets the first chance to form a new government. Recognizing how tough that will be, Mr. Bersani has begun setting forth a limited legislative program that he hopes can attract support from beyond his own ranks. Mr. Grillo declared Wednesday that his supporters would not form an alliance with Mr. Bersani, or Mr. Berlusconi, who gets to try next if Mr. Bersani fails. But he did leave open the option of backing specific reform measures proposed by other parties. That is not a prescription for stable government and could force another election later this year. But it is probably the best hope for enacting at least some of the political reforms and anti-corruption laws Italy desperately needs and so many fed-up Italian voters desperately want.
A Kurt Bayer comment on European Banking that leads to re-birth of Populism, that could also be viewed in context of the US and Israel. It is the bankers that give us now clowns, but please do not forget, they can bring to life also failed painters and assorted demagogues.
March 3, 2013
The public media and European mainstream parties’ politicians are unisono lamenting the rise of populism as manifested by the strong showing of Beppe Grillo in Italy’s parliamentary election last weekend. They decry, as they did earlier in the case of Greece, when the “populist” Syriza party nearly won the election, the irresponsibility, the negativism, the “against-it-all” attitude of these parties’ leaders. Let us add to these election results the street demonstrations and battles in Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Bulgaria, in Slovenia – all these before the background of people jumping to death from windows of their to-be-repossessed apartments, of soup kitchens, of soaring unemployment rates (especially, and even more tragically, of the young), and of the horrifying increase in poverty rates in many of these and other countries.
It does seem, that in spite of these politicians’ lamentoes, that European citizens are no longer accepting the crisis resolution policies imposed on them by politicians – at the bidding of financial markets. Yes, Mario Monti, the unelected and now defeated prime minister, managed to calm “market fears”, yes, Mario Draghi, the ECB president, managed to do the same – and more – by last fall promising to “do everything necessary” to enable European states’ return to the financial markets, yes, some of the Southern states (plus Ireland) were able during the past months to place bond auctions at “sustainable” yields (i.e. below the benchmark of 6%). But the concomitant “aid programs” by the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, the dreaded “troika” are what the restive populations are no longer willing to swallow. Since governments took over bank debt, the citizens have been called upon to foot the bill, by having their taxes increased, government expenditures, especially social expenditures, cut and losing their jobs as a result of the persistent recession which these programs (and the similar, if less stringent “debt brake” conditions imposed on all EU countries. There is already talk about a “lost decade” for Europe.
With all this austerity (which is portrayed as without alternative) it is completely unclear where future growth should come from even after this decade. The mainstream recipe that balanced budgets (and their corresponding structural reforms) guarantee growth has been proven false, not only in theory, but also in empirical practice. If the second largest economic block in the world (with about 18 trillion $ in GDP, about one fourth of the world economy) reduces public sector demand in addition to falling demand in the private sector, this affects the whole world. This is different from the frequently cited more recent cases, where one individual country managed to export its way out of recession, when all other countries were growing and thus increasing their demand.
In this situation, the EU parliament has achieved a spectacular success, by agreeing (also with EU Finance Ministers) to limit bankers’ bonus payments to 100% of base salary (in exceptional cases to 200%). This is part of a hard-fought package setting new rules for European banks’ equity and liquidity requirements. There are widespread “populism” cries by especially English bankers, but also their colleagues around Europe that this would drive out banking from Europe, that this is a Continental coup to transfer banking business from London to Paris or Frankfurt (??), that this is “unfair”. The more sanguine bankers say (see eg. Financial Times March 2, 2013) that this just means that their base salary will have to be doubled as a consequence. Tory MPs are fuming and using this as an additional argument that the UK should leave the EU as soon as possible. Of course, they do not mention the fact that it was their leader, David Cameron, who pulled the Tories out of the European Peoples’ Party group, which – in the form of the Austrian Othmar Karas – was leading the negotiations of the European Parliament with the Finance Ministers. They also forget to mention that banking lobbies (led by the English) have delayed and watered down the other parts of the Banking package to be concluded.
The Greek and Italian elections, the street protests, the events in many other European countries should lead to a realization by the EU policy makers, both in the Central Bank, in the Commission and in the Council, that it is not just “clowns” (@ Peer Steinbruck, the Social Democratic candidate for the German premiership) who say “no more” to this oppressive economic policy recipe, but it is large parts of the European populations who have not only lost confidence that these recipes will work, but actively are against them – because they see that as in the Great Depression of the late 1920s – they lead to impoverishment and political disaster. Politicians should listen more closely to their populations, and less to the financial sector lobbyists, who have caused this crisis and refuse to play their part in shouldering their part of the burden. It was the lobbyists’ close connection to the politicians who made banking debts into government debt, it was their whisperings which had told politicians fairy tales about the financial markets being the most efficient markets in the world, thus self-regulation and “light-touch” regulation was all that was needed.
What are the alternatives?
The primary policy objective should not be to “return countries to financial markets’ access”, but to have indebted states return to a sustainable economic and social policy path which improves the welfare of their populations. To this end, government debt financing should be taken away from financial markets and turned over to a publicly accountable public institutions (the ECB or the ESM with a banking licence).
As far as bank debt is concerned, a European plan must be developed with a medium-term view of how the European Financial sector should look like in 10-20 years. This would counter-act the present “re-nationalization” trends where every country attempts to save its banks (frequently at the expense of others) at high costs to the taxpayers. Some banks will need to be closed, others restructured, and effective regulation set up. It is clear that (some) debts will need to be repaid, but much of bank debt should be paid by bank owners and their bondholders, not by taxpayers. For highly indebted bank sectors, a European bank resolution fund could take over some of the debt.
It is true that a number of “problem countries” in the EU have pursued wrong policies in the past, e.g. waste of public (EU and national) funds, neglect of innovation and R&D policies, high military expenditures, neglect of industrial policies, neglect of modern education systems, neglect of building up sustainable energy systems (both on the supply and demand side), and many more. Each country needs to develop a positive vision of where it wants to stand in 10 years’ time, and then select the appropriate instruments, and convince its EU partners of its way.
At a European level, a new more comprehensive economic policy umbrella must be opened. The nearly exclusive attention to budget consolidation was geared to placating the financial markets – who also are getting cold feet seeing what “their” policies do to growth (see the most recent downgrade of the UK). It must throw off the yoke of financial market dictate and turn itself to strengthening the European model, with a view to balance social, economic and environmental requirements for the future.
European civil society is growing together. Public institutions, like the labor movement, are not. In the face of the crisis, labor unions are re-nationalizing, attempting to save jobs for their own members at the expense of their foreign colleagues. They should learn from the business lobby, which has been much more successful in convincing European and national policy makers of their own interests.
Were the two most important Islamist leaders of the Sahara killed? What was the part of France and Japan in the fight to exterminate the rebels that became active when the Algerian military coup tried to stop Islamists from taking over the government by the elective process.
What does the following mean when viewing what we got to call the Arab Spring and the dichotomy between twigs of democracy hope and trunks of solid Middle Ages religious zeal?
Al-Qaida loses key leader in Africa
Mastermind of Algeria attack ‘killed in Mali.’
AP, Kyodo, The Japan Times on-line, March 4, 2o13
N’DJAMENA – Chad’s military chief announced late Saturday that his troops deployed in northern Mali had killed Moktar Belmoktar, the terrorist who orchestrated the attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria that left 36 foreigners dead.
Local officials in Kidal, the northern town that is being used as the base for the military operation, cast doubt on the assertion, saying Chadian officials are attempting to score a PR victory to make up for the significant losses they have suffered in recent days.
Belmoktar’s profile soared after the mid-January attack and mass hostage-taking on a huge Algerian gas plant, during which 10 Japanese employees of engineering firm JGC Corp. were killed. His purported death comes a day after Chad’s president said his troops had killed Abou Zeid, the other main al-Qaida commander operating in northern Mali.
If both deaths are confirmed, it would mean that the international intervention in Mali had succeeded in decapitating two of the pillars of al-Qaida in the Sahara.
“Chad’s armed forces in Mali have completely destroyed a base used by jihadists and narcotraffickers in the Adrar and Ifoghas mountains” of northern Mali, Chief of Staff Gen. Zakaria Ngobongue said. “The provisional toll is as follows: Several terrorists killed, including Moktar Belmoktar.”
The French military moved into Mali on Jan. 11 to push back militants linked to Belmoktar and Abou Zeid and other extremist groups who had imposed harsh Islamic rule in the north of the vast country and who were seen as an international terrorist threat.
France is trying to rally other African troops to help in the military campaign, since Mali’s military is weak and poor. Chadian troops have offered the most robust reinforcement.
In Paris, French military spokesman Col. Thierry Burkhard said he had “no information” on the possibility that Belmoktar was dead. The Foreign Ministry refused to confirm the report.
Belmoktar, an Algerian, is believed to be in his 40s, and like his intermittent partner, Abou Zeid, he began on the path to terrorism after Algeria’s secular government voided the 1991 election won by an Islamic party. Both men joined the Armed Islamic Group, or GIA, and later its offshoot, the GSPC, a group that carried out suicide bombings on Algerian government targets.
Around 2003, both men crossed into Mali, where they began a lucrative kidnapping business, snatching European tourists, aid workers, government employees and even diplomats and holding them for ransom.
The Algerian terrorist cell amassed a significant war chest, and joined the al-Qaida fold in 2006, renaming itself al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Belmoktar claims he trained in Afghanistan in the 1990s, including in one of Osama bin Laden’s camps. It was there that he reportedly lost an eye, earning him the nickname “Laaouar,” Arabic for “one-eyed.”
Until last December, Belmoktar and Abou Zeid headed separate brigades under the flag of al-Qaida’s chapter in the Sahara. But after reports of infighting between the two, Belmoktar peeled off, announcing the creation of his own terrorist unit, still loyal to the al-Qaida ideology but separate from al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
Monday February 11, 2013 about 100 Imams will Commemorate the Holocaust at Drancy near Paris, from where tens of thousands of Jews were transported to extermination camps. This comes about after 19 Muslim leaders visited Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, and Bulgaria announces that it was Iran backed Hezbolah that committed a terrorist act within its borders.
100 imams to commemorate Holocaust in France.
Following visit to Yad Vashem, Muslim leaders to hold memorial in Drancy, where Jews were held before being transported to extermination camps
February 5, 2013, 3:00 am
JTA — Some 100 imams will commemorate the Holocaust at a memorial monument near Paris.
Monday’s event is planned for Drancy, a suburb of the French capital where tens of thousands of Jews were confined in 1942 before being transported to extermination camps during the German Nazi occupation, according to a report in the French daily Le Figaro. The paper called the event unprecedented.
Hassen Chalghoumi, the imam of Drancy and a veteran activist for dialogue between Muslims and Jews in France and against anti-Semitism, will host the imams.
Manuel Valls, France’s interior minister, also is scheduled to attend the event, which Le Figaro reported is the initiative of Chalghoumi and the French Jewish novelist Marek Halter.
In explaining the goal of the event, Halter recalled a landmark visit by 19 French Muslim leaders, many of them imams, to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum.
“This had a huge impact in Israel and the Arab World,” Halter told Le Figaro. “The objective is to re-create this at Drancy.”
Since the second intifada of 2000, France’s Jewish population of approximately 550,000 has experienced an increase in anti-Semitic violence, mostly by Muslim extremists. Last March, Mohammed Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian Islamist terrorist, killed four Jews at a Jewish day school in Toulouse.
“We are in a period of crisis, and tensions take the form of violence,” Halter said. “We need to soothe the tensions. It’s a time bomb.”
Australian, Hezbollah suspected in Burgas bus attack.
Bulgaria to present report Tuesday on probe into bombing, blaming Lebanese terror group and Iran for deaths of five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver.
The coffins of the five victims of the Burgas bombing arrive at Ben Gurion airport (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO/Flash90)
Bulgaria will reportedly blame Iran and Hezbollah on Tuesday for a bombing that claimed the lives of five Israelis and a Bulgarian over the summer. An Australian is also suspected in the bus attack.
Sofia has been mum thus far on placing blame for the July 18 attack on a bus at the Burgas airport, though Israel publicly pointed its finger at Hezbollah and its patron Iran immediately after the attack.
The interior minister of Bulgaria is expected to brief top officials on the investigation into the bombing thus far and announce the findings of the probe, which has yet to produce any arrests, later Tuesday.
Two Western officials told the Associated Press an Australian is a suspect in the bus attack.
The officials are familiar with the investigation and spoke Tuesday only on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the news media.
The Wall Street Journal, citing US and European officials briefed on the report, said Lebanese Shi’ite terror group Hezbollah would take the brunt of the blame, along with Iran, which will be accused of ordering the attack.
Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in the bus bombing at the airport outside the popular Black Sea resort town of Burgas, and another 30 people were injured.
The anticipated report may push the European Union to designate Hezbollah as a terror organization — something Israel and the United States have urged. European heavyweights Germany and France have not designated Hezbollah as a terror group.
Naming Hezbollah a terror organization could have far-reaching political ramifications that officials fear would disturb Lebanon’s fragile peace and cause confrontations between the EU and Syria and Lebanon, the Wall Street Journal reported. The EU would also need to reevaluate its relatively open-door policy for Hezbollah’s members and funds via the continent.
The US and Israel accused Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards of masterminding a string of terror attacks aimed at Israeli and American nationals in India, Thailand, and Georgia over the past two years. Iran and Hezbollah denied any involvement in those attacks — which were speculated to be retaliations for what Tehran claimed was Israel’s assassinations of leading Iranian nuclear scientists.
Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov was set to announce the results of the interim progress report of the attack Tuesday after a high-level security meeting between the prime minister, top cabinet members and military officials. It was not yet clear if the report would reveal which individuals were behind the terror attack. The White House was also expected to issue a statement after the release of the report.
Last month, the lead investigator in the case was dismissed after she told a Bulgarian newspaper that all three suspects were foreigners, with no local accomplices. The investigator, Stanelia Karadzhova, told Bulgaria’s 24 Chasa daily that one of the suspects had been identified and that an arrest warrant had been issued.
Karadzhova said new evidence suggested the bombing was not intended to be a suicide attack, as previously believed. Karadzhova said the bomber either pushed the detonator by mistake, or that somebody triggered the explosives remotely.
This image taken from security video provided by the Bulgarian Interior Ministry on Thursday, July 19, 2012, purports to show the unidentified bomber, center, with long hair and wearing a baseball cap, at Burgas Airport on July 18, 2012. (photo credit: Bulgarian Interior Ministry/AP)
In December, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said both he and US President Barack Obama knew who the bombers were, but more solid evidence was needed to build a case.
In January, Bulgarian police said they identified one of a trio of terrorists involved in the bombing, but that they were still searching for the suspect and did not release his name.
The suspect acted with the bomber, known under the alias Jacque Felipe Martin, as well as another accomplice, known under the alias Ralph William Rico.
The real identities of Martin and Rico had not yet been discovered, according to Bulgaria’s Sofia news agency. Investigators also suspect there may have been a fourth or fifth accomplice.
Bulgarian police have maintained all those involved were foreigners, but have not publicly said placed blame on anyone.
In November, an Interpol official said he was worried by the lack of progress in the case. Ronald Noble told Bulgarian TV the lack of progress was “abnormal.”
Dimitar Bechev, head of the Sofia office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told the New York Times that it seemed as if Sofia had delayed naming names to avoid upsetting the EU’s relations with Hezbollah.
“If you factor in the suspicion that there are political implications beyond Bulgaria’s borders, it’s completely understandable that they’ve been playing for time,” he said.
‘Darker Sides’: The Vast Islamist Sanctuary of ‘Sahelistan.’
By Paul Hyacinthe Mben, Jan Puhl and Thilo Thielke
This article originally appeared in German in issue 5/2013 (January 28, 2013) of DER SPIEGEL and reached us via UNWire.
There is an old church in the Niger River town of Diabaly. It was built in the days when Mali was still a colony known as French Sudan. The stone cross on the gable of the church had never bothered anyone since the French left 50 years ago and Mali became independent, even though some 90 percent of Malians are Muslim.
Now, what is left of the cross lies scattered on the ground. For the Islamists who overran Diabaly two weeks ago, bringing down the stone symbol was worth a bazooka round. They also smashed the altar and toppled wooden statuettes of the Virgin Mary and Jesus.
But their reign of terror in Diabaly lasted only a few days — until the French returned. Acting on orders of French President François Hollande, French troops fired on the Islamists’ pickup trucks from the air, striking them one at a time with apparent surgical precision. According to local residents, not a single civilian died in the airstrikes.
By Tuesday morning, the last of the extremist fighters had disappeared into the bush, fleeing on foot in small groups, likely headed north.
The church has been declared off-limits, for fear that it may have been booby-trapped by the Islamists. But the colonel in charge of the French troops in the area, a muscular man with close-cropped hair, says proudly: “Diabaly is safe again.”
France’s advance northward continued through the weekend, with the military announcing they had seized control of both Gao and, on Monday morning, Timbuktu. Just as they had in Diabaly, the Islamists melted away in front of the advancing force. But they will not disappear entirely.
Larger than All of Europe
Northern Mali is just one part of the vast hinterland in which the Islamists can hide. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius refers to the rocky and sandy desert, spanning 7,500 kilometers (about 4,700 miles) from Senegal in the west to Somalia in the east, as “Sahelistan.” The Sahel zone is larger than all of Europe and so impassable that no power in the world can fully control it. The French have deployed all of 2,400 troops to the region, the Germans have contributed two transport planes.
Sahelistan is the new front in the global fight against violent Islamists. Should other countries — Germany or Britain, for example — join the French with ground troops, it is quite possible that the West will become just as entrenched there as it has in the other front against global terror: Afghanistan.
The Sahel zone is a lawless region. It begins in the southern part of the Maghreb region of North Africa, where the power of the Arab countries begins to fade, and where the already weak sub-Saharan countries like Mali, Niger and Chad were never able to gain a foothold. It is a no-man’s land honeycombed with smugglers’ roads and drug routes, an El Dorado for the lawless and fanatics.
The war has become increasingly brutal. Although an Islamist faction from Kidal in northern Mali announced on Wednesday that it was willing to negotiate, there was also news of atrocities committed by the Malian army, which reportedly killed at least 30 people as it advanced northward. Eyewitnesses say that people were shot to death at the bus terminal in the central Malian town of Sévaré. An army lieutenant made no secret of his hatred for the insurgents, saying: “They were Islamists. We’re killing them. If we don’t they will kill us.”
After the Arab spring and the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, many hoped that terrorism could finally be drawing to a close. But even former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi once predicted that chaos and holy war would erupt if he were toppled. “Bin Laden’s people would take over the country,” Gadhafi said.
Now it is becoming apparent that his prophecy applies to even larger swathes of the desert. The crisis in northern Mali and the ensuing bloodbath at the natural gas plant in Algeria are only two indications. In northern Niger, Islamists are targeting white foreigners, hoping to kidnap them and extort ransom money. In northern Nigeria, fighters with the Islamist sect Boko Haram attacked yet another town last week. They shot and killed 18 people, including a number of hunters who had been selling game there, and then disappeared again. Muslims consider the flesh of bush animals to be impure.
‘One of the Darker Sides’
On Sept. 11 of last year, Islamists murdered US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three embassy employees in the Libyan city of Benghazi. Last Thursday, Germany, Great Britain and the Netherlands withdrew their citizens from Libya, fearing new attacks.
In Sudan’s embattled Darfur region, militias hired by the Islamist junta were harassing the local population until recently. And in Somalia, Kenyan and Ugandan soldiers are trying to drive back the fundamentalist Al-Shabaab militants.
Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group referred to it as “one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” in a recent conversation with the New York Times. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged al-Qaida and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
Islamism in the Sahel zone is backward and modern at the same time, ideologically rigid and perversely pragmatic. In Timbuktu, fanatics are cutting off the hands and heads of criminals, and yet the Islamists have become wealthy by taking over the cocaine and weapons business, as well as human trafficking operations.
Sahelistan’s new masters are forging alliances with local insurgents and internationally operating jihadists. In Mali, they took over the unrecognized state of Azawad, formed after a Tuareg rebellion in April 2012 — a relatively easy task, after many Tuareg switched sides and joined the ranks of the Islamists. Ansar Dine, the largest Islamist group with its roughly 1,500 fighters, consists largely of Tuareg tribesmen.
After Islamists had captured the Malian city of Gao in June 2012, journalist Malick Aliou Maïga observed delegations of bearded men going to see the new rulers almost daily. “They were supporters from Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Qatar. They were bringing money.”
Cynical Political Opportunist
Al-Qaida and its splinter groups in Sahelistan are no longer under the command of a charismatic leader like Osama bin Laden. Instead, they have many commanders, including ruthless fighters like Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who is held responsible for the attack at the In Amenas natural gas plant, the largest terrorist incident since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. In Mali, there is Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, a cynical political opportunist.
These people pose an enormous threat in West Africa. Neighboring countries like Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have only recently emerged from civil wars and could plunge back into chaos at any time. It stands to reason that members of the West African economic community ECOWAS were the first to join France by deploying troops to Mali, beginning with a contingent of 1,750 soldiers.
General Carter Ham, commander of the US Army’s Africa Command, told the Telegraph that the “growing linkage, network collaboration, organization and synchronization” among the various terrorist groups in the region is what “poses the greatest threat to regional stability and ultimately to Europe.”
Only one border separates Mali’s extremists from the Mediterranean, the 1,376-kilometer border between Mali and Algeria. President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 75, still controls Algeria with an iron fist. Nevertheless, Algeria is the birthplace of Salafism in the Maghreb region, the radical Muslim school of thought that many extremist groups, including Al-Qaida, invoke today.
In the late 1980s, the regime permitted the first Islamist party in the region, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). When the FIS seemed headed for victory in the 1991 elections, there was a military coup. The FIS then went underground and fought a brutal war of terror against Algiers that claimed up to 200,000 lives.
The combatants who became radicalized at the time include Abdelmalek Droukdel, born in northern Algeria in 1970. As an adolescent, Droukdel joined the mujahedin and fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. Upon his return, Droukdel and others formed the “Salafist Group for Call and Combat,” which is now called “Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM). The group has long since moved beyond its original goal of overthrowing the government in Algiers. Instead, its leaders dream of establishing a caliphate across all of Sahelistan.
Not Particularly Successful
Droukdel’s fiercest adversary is the Algerian intelligence chief, Mohammed Mediène, trained by the KGB in the former Soviet Union. He has headed the fight against the Islamists for years and takes an unrelenting approach that categorically excludes negotiating with terrorists.
Mediène is a difficult partner for the West. He was likely the one responsible for ordering the Algerian army to storm the natural gas plant in the desert in the week before last. Algerian special forces opened fire on the terrorists, despite the risk to the lives of hundreds of hostages. The assault ended in the deaths of about 40 foreign hostages.
In the other countries of the Sahel zone, however, regular military forces tend to be on the losing end against Islamist insurgents. A year ago, the Ansar Dine extremists overran the Malian army within only a few weeks. The troops in the region are all as weak and corrupt as the countries that deploy them. They are poorly equipped and the soldiers suffer from poor morale, partly because the men must often wait months for their pay.
The US is seeking to arm the countries in the region to combat the threat from the desert with a secret US government program called “Creek Sand.” Washington has stationed small aircraft in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, and at various other strategically important locations in the region. The Pilatus PC-12 aircraft are unarmed but filled with state-of-the-art surveillance technology. The information they gather as they fly over the desert is meant to help local military leaders in the hunt for terrorists, but the program has not been particularly successful thus far.
Whether brutal military action, such as that which took place in Algeria, will deter Islamists is also disputed. The countries of Sahelistan are among the poorest in the world, and the region is regularly plagued by famine. “A young person from there has no chance of leading a good life,” says deposed Malian President Amadou Touré.
‘You Don’t Even Recognize Them’
The terrorists, on the other hand, are comparatively well off, offering young men a monthly salary of about €90 ($121). Each recruit also receives a Kalashnikov, daily meals and a modicum of power over the rest of the population.
Shortly after recruitment, the new fighters are sent to training camps called Katibas, many of them in northern Mali and along the eastern border with Mauritania. In addition to receiving training with machine guns and hand grenades, the recruits also study the Koran. “You don’t even recognize them when they come back from there,” says a Tuareg tribesman in Bamako.
Experts say that the Islamist fighters in Mali are generally better equipped and better fed than government soldiers. They have rocket-propelled grenades, SA-7 rockets and other modern weaponry. Their main weapons are the poor man’s tanks known as “technicals” — pickup trucks with heavy machine guns mounted on the bed, and bags of ammunition hanging off the sides for the fighters on foot.
After the collapse of the Libyan regime, most of the weapons and ammunition were stolen from Gadhafi’s weapons stores, mostly by the dictator’s former Tuareg mercenaries. Fresh supplies of ordnance aren’t a problem either, now that Africa’s Islamists are hoarding many millions of dollars.
A little over three years ago, Malian police officers made a strange discovery in northern Mali: a Boeing 727, parked in the middle of the desert, without seats but apparently equipped for carrying cargo. It was found that the plane was registered in Guinea-Bissau and had taken off from Venezuela.
The find confirmed the authorities’ fears that South American cocaine cartels are sending large quantities of drugs to West Africa, sometimes using aircraft. Gangs that cooperate with the Islamists then take the drugs to the Mediterranean region. The business is said to have generated billions in profits.
‘Throats Are Slit Like Chickens’
Kidnappings are the Islamists’ second financing mainstay. “Many Western countries pay enormous sums to jihadists,” scoffs Omar Ould Hamaha, an Islamist commander who feels so safe in the western Sahara that he can sometimes even be reached by phone. Experts estimate that AQIM has raked in €100 million in ransom money in recent years.
About half of the kidnappings have ended violently. Boko Haram terrorists murdered a German engineer in northern Nigeria a year ago, and French engineers are often targeted. France depends on Niger for uranium and the state-owned nuclear conglomerate Areva is mining there on a large scale. It’s impossible to completely protect Areva’s employees. Two years ago, kidnappers even ventured into the dusty Nigerien capital Niamey, where they kidnapped two Frenchmen from a restaurant.
For the victims, being kidnapped usually marks the beginning of an ordeal lasting months or even years. To shake off pursuers, the Islamists constantly move their hostages across hundreds of kilometers of desert, either in the beds of their pickup trucks or in marches that can last weeks. Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler titled his book about his time in the hands of extremists “A Season in Hell.”Fowler was released in April 2009, after 130 days in captivity. Ottawa denies having paid ransom money. The Frenchmen kidnapped in Niamey, however, died when a French special forces unit tried to liberate them. “At the slightest sign of an attack, the prisoners throats are slit like chickens,” says Islamist leader Hamaha.
At least seven European hostages are currently waiting somewhere in the desert to be rescued — at least that’s what security forces hope. Islamists have threatened to kill them all, as revenge for the air strikes France has now launched in Mali.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
We have read of the death of 23 foreigners and many more Algerians in the fight between Algeria’s secular generals and the Islamist take-over of gas fields in this OPEC-member Nation. Had the industrialized countries made themselves independent of the slavery to the petroleum use in their economies – this would not have happened and, who-knows, perhaps there would not have been an Al-Qaeda either. But, nevertheless, considering the world we live in, and the dependence on oil and gas imported from the Islamic countries that benefits only the ruling few of those countries, all we can afford to do now is applaud the resolute handling of the resultant marauders.
We thus applaud the unilateral decisiveness of the Algerians, the decision of France to bomb in Mali and to lead the West Africans and hopefully some of the Maghreb Arabs as well, while we applaud as well the retreat of the West from Iraq and Afghanistan. This because the West did it all wrong in the above two countries, while Algeria and France did it right this time. With Al-Qaeda you do not negotiate – but you also should not go into a country just because of its oil. Had the US just overthrown Saddam and left the Iraqis handle their own affairs without staying in the country, that would have been fine – but the US went there for the oil, and forgot Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan while thinking only of potential pipelines for Central Asian oil. This created only more Al-Qaeda and Al-Qaeda clones.
And some of the West’s hadwringing as reported from Bamako, Mali:
Although the Algerian government declared an end to the militants’ siege, the authorities believed that a handful of jihadists were most likely hiding somewhere in the sprawling complex and said that troops were hunting for them.
The details of the desert standoff and the final battle for the plant remained murky on Saturday night — as did information about which hostages died and how — with even the White House suggesting that it was unclear what had happened. In a brief statement released early Saturday night the president said his administration would “remain in close touch with the government of Algeria to gain a fuller understanding of what took place.”
The British defense minister, Philip Hammond, called the loss of life “appalling and unacceptable” after reports that up to seven hostages were killed in the final hours of the hostage crisis, and he said that the leaders of the attack would be tracked down. The Algerian government said that 32 militants had been killed since Wednesday, although it cautioned that its casualty counts were provisional.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, who appeared with Mr. Hammond at a news conference in London, said he did not yet have reliable information about the fate of the Americans at the facility, although a senior Algerian official said two had been found “safe and sound.”
What little information trickled out was as harrowing as what had come in the days before, when some hostages who had managed to escape told of workers being forced to wear explosives. They also said that there were several summary executions and that some workers had died in the military’s initial rescue attempt.
On Saturday, Algerian officials reported that some bodies found by troops who rushed into the industrial complex were charred beyond recognition, making it difficult to distinguish between the captors and the captured. Two were assumed to be workers because they were handcuffed.
The Algerian government has been relatively silent since the start of the crisis, releasing few details. The Algerian government faced withering international criticism for rushing ahead with its first assault on the militants on Thursday even as governments whose citizens were trapped inside the plant pleaded for more time, fearing that rescue attempts might lead to workers dying. The Algerians responded by saying they had a better understanding of how to handle militants after fighting Islamist insurgents for years.
On Saturday, it was unclear who killed the last hostages. Initial reports from Algerian state news media said that seven workers had been executed during the army’s raid, but the senior government official and another high-level official, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, later said the number killed and the cause were unknown. The early reports also said 11 militants were killed, but later information suggested that some may have blown themselves up.
Whatever the goal, the message of the militant takeover of the gas complex, in a country that has perhaps the world’s toughest record for dealing with terrorists, seemed clear, at least to Algerian officials: the Islamist ministate in northern Mali, now under assault by French and Malian forces, has given a new boost to transnational terrorism. The brigade of some 32 Islamists that took the plant was multinational, Algerian officials said — with only three Algerians in the group.
“We have indications that they originated from northern Mali,” one of the senior officials said. “They want to establish a terrorist state.”
A Mali-based Algerian jihadist with ties to Al Qaeda, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility through spokesmen — and is blamed by the Algerians — for masterminding the raid.
The militants who attacked the plant said it was in retaliation for the French troops sweeping into Mali this month to stop an advance of Islamist rebels south toward the capital, although they later said they had been planning an attack in Algeria for some time. The group that attacked the plant, thought to be based in Gao, Mali, was previously little known and had splintered last year from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
The gas plant is operated by Sonatrach, Norway’s Statoil and BP of Britain.
BUT MUCH BETTER REPORTING FROM ISRAEL - Ynet.com
Algerian assault ends crisis, 23 hostages dead
Special forces storm natural gas complex in final assault that ends crisis; 23 hostages, 32 kidnappers killed
News Analysis – The New York Times
The French Way of War
Loic Venance/Agence France-Presse — GettyImages
Soldiers from the French Foreign Legion rehearsing in July for the Bastille Day parade down the Champs-Élysées.
Published on The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
Related - Africa Must Take Lead in Mali, France Says (January 20, 2013)
IN 1966, the French president, Charles de Gaulle, war hero and general nuisance in Allied eyes, wrote President Lyndon B. Johnson to announce that France was pulling out of full membership in NATO and would expel NATO headquarters from France.
“France is determined to regain on her whole territory the full exercise of her sovereignty, at present diminished by the permanent presence of allied military elements or by the use which is made of her airspace; to cease her participation in the integrated commands; and no longer to place her forces at the disposal of NATO,” de Gaulle wrote.
After the humiliating capitulation to the Nazis, a tremendous shock to a prideful and martial France, it was not especially surprising that de Gaulle should seek to restore France to a place at the top table of nations, capable of defending its own interests with its own means at its own pace and pleasure.
Even today, as French troops intervene in Mali, the French take pride in their military capacity and in their independence of action. French forces still march every year down the Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day, a military celebration unparalleled in the West. France has nuclear weapons and is the only country, other than the United States, with a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. And even as Paris has slowly reconciled itself to full NATO membership, France has maintained its ability to send troops and equipment quickly to large parts of the globe, and it should soon overtake an austerity-minded Britain as the world’s fourth largest military spender, after the United States, China and Russia.
“The French, who are so gloomy and pessimistic about the situation in the country and the economy, have at least one reason to be proud of what their country can achieve,” Jean-David Levitte, the diplomatic adviser to former President Nicolas Sarkozy and the former ambassador to both the United States and the United Nations, told me. “We still have a foreign policy, a capacity to act beyond our borders, a capacity to make a difference.”
France cannot do everything on its own, Mr. Levitte freely acknowledges. “But if you don’t have the military means to act, you don’t have a foreign policy,” he said.
The French are willing to intervene militarily, but on the basis of new conditions, which differ, French officials argue, from the old colonial habits and traditions known as “Françafrique.”
In Mali, as they did in 2011 in Libya and in Ivory Coast, the French have intervened on the basis of a direct request for help from a legitimate government, the support of regional African groupings like the African Union and a resolution from the United Nations Security Council.
Even in Mali, France means to act multilaterally, even if it is leading from the front, as it did in Libya, in the name of saving an ally and helping the Sahel region combat the spread of radical Islamists, some of them foreign jihadists, strongly connected to terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
So far, the decisive intervention by the French president, François Hollande, has been popular. A survey published on Wednesday by BVA for Le Parisien found that 75 percent of the French supported Mr. Hollande’s decision to take rapid military action against Islamist rebels in Mali, despite the risks, compared with 66 percent support for intervention in Libya last year and 55 percent for Afghanistan in 2001. An earlier poll on Monday for IFOP found that 63 percent backed Mr. Hollande’s decision.
More striking, perhaps, the consensus among the political elite has been unanimously supportive, says Bruno Tertrais, a defense analyst at the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris. “The French people are ready to support a military operation as long as the objectives are clear and seem legitimate,” he told me. While stopping the Islamist advance on Bamako, Mali’s capital, is such a goal, he went on to say, “if it were a matter of an operation to reconquer the north of Mali, the perception would have been different.”
The French have an all-volunteer military, which distances the population further from the cost of war and makes soldiers “less visible to the populace at large,” notes Sébastien Jakubowski, a sociologist at the University of Lille who studies the army. It has also made the army more popular, with an approval rating of between 80 and 90 percent, he says.
But in another change from the past, the French expect that a decision to use the military will be based on clear moral criteria, Mr. Jakubowski said. And the French take some pride in playing a leading role from a moral foundation, even if French national interests are also at play, pushing other allies to act.
Mr. Jakubowski cited an interview in Le Figaro on Jan. 3 with the American neoconservative historian Robert Kagan, whose study of American and European attitudes toward the use of force, comparing America to Mars and Europe to Venus, was much caricatured but highly influential.
In the interview, and later to me, Mr. Kagan praised the French for their willingness to use force in the pursuit of legitimate goals, even if they may not always have sufficient means to accomplish them. “Nobody asks France to be at the forefront of military interventions, but the willingness of the French to take the initiative is positive,” he said. “I have a new philosophy: If the French are ready to go, we should go.”
But the French also understand that their military limitations are real, and they are far better off acting with others, even if not always with Washington. Paris has been a constant prod to other European countries, and to the European Union itself, to develop better military capacities.
“We think it is absolutely necessary for other European countries to do what we do,” Mr. Levitte said. “Otherwise there will be a kind of strategic irrelevance of Europe as a whole.” It should be obvious, he said, that the United States has other priorities and is concentrating on Asia, and need not act everywhere. “So if we are both independent and true allies of the United States we should be in a position to act when need be.”
Steven Erlanger is the Paris bureau chief of The New York Times.
Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring.
Published, The New York Times on-line: January 19, 2013
WASHINGTON — As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”
Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi in 2009. His warnings before his 2011 ouster and death sounded melodramatic, but proved prescient as the area has become easier for jihadists to operate in.
In recent days, that unhinged prophecy has acquired a grim new currency. In Mali, French paratroopers arrived this month to battle an advancing force of jihadi fighters who already control an area twice the size of Germany. In Algeria, a one-eyed Islamist bandit organized the brazen takeover of an international gas facility, taking hostages that included more than 40 Americans and Europeans.
Coming just four months after an American ambassador was killed by jihadists in Libya, those assaults have contributed to a sense that North Africa — long a dormant backwater for Al Qaeda — is turning into another zone of dangerous instability, much like Syria, site of an increasingly bloody civil war. The mayhem in this vast desert region has many roots, but it is also a sobering reminder that the euphoric toppling of dictators in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt has come at a price.
“It’s one of the darker sides of the Arab uprisings,” said Robert Malley, the Middle East and North Africa director at the International Crisis Group. “Their peaceful nature may have damaged Al Qaeda and its allies ideologically, but logistically, in terms of the new porousness of borders, the expansion of ungoverned areas, the proliferation of weapons, the disorganization of police and security services in all these countries — it’s been a real boon to jihadists.”
The crisis in Mali is not likely to end soon, with the militants ensconcing themselves among local people and digging fortifications. It could also test the fragile new governments of Libya and its neighbors, in a region where any Western military intervention arouses bitter colonial memories and provides a rallying cry for Islamists.
And it comes as world powers struggle with civil war in Syria, where another Arab autocrat is warning about the furies that could be unleashed if he falls.
Even as Obama administration officials vowed to hunt down the hostage-takers in Algeria, they faced the added challenge of a dauntingly complex jihadist landscape across North Africa that belies the easy label of “Al Qaeda,” with multiple factions operating among overlapping ethnic groups, clans and criminal networks.
Efforts to identify and punish those responsible for the attack in Benghazi, Libya, where Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed in September, have bogged down amid similar confusion. The independent review panel investigating the Benghazi attack faulted American spy agencies as failing to understand the region’s “many militias, which are constantly dissolving, splitting apart and reforming.”
Although there have been hints of cross-border alliances among the militants, such links appear to be fleeting. And their targets are often those of opportunity, as they appear to have been in Benghazi and at the gas facility in Algeria.
In the longer term, the Obama administration and many analysts are divided about what kind of threat the explosion of Islamist militancy across North Africa poses to the United States. Some have called for a more active American role, noting that the hostage-taking in Algeria demonstrates how hard it can be to avoid entanglement.
Others warn against too muscular a response. “It puts a transnational framework on top of what is fundamentally a set of local concerns, and we risk making ourselves more of an enemy than we would otherwise be,” said Paul R. Pillar of Georgetown University, a former C.I.A. analyst.
In a sense, both the hostage crisis in Algeria and the battle raging in Mali are consequences of the fall of Colonel Qaddafi in 2011. Like other strongmen in the region, Colonel Qaddafi had mostly kept in check his country’s various ethnic and tribal factions, either by brutally suppressing them or by co-opting them to fight for his government. He acted as a lid, keeping volatile elements repressed. Once that lid was removed, and the borders that had been enforced by powerful governments became more porous, there was greater freedom for various groups — whether rebels, jihadists or criminals — to join up and make common cause.
In Mali, for instance, there are the Tuaregs, a nomadic people ethnically distinct both from Arabs, who make up the nations to the north, and the Africans who inhabit southern Mali and control the national government. They fought for Colonel Qaddafi in Libya, then streamed back across the border after his fall, banding together with Islamist groups to form a far more formidable fighting force. They brought with them heavy weapons and a new determination to overthrow the Malian government, which they had battled off and on for decades in a largely secular struggle for greater autonomy.
Even the Algeria gas field attack — which took place near the Libyan border, and may have involved Libyan fighters — reflects the chaos that has prevailed in Libya for the past two years.
Yet Colonel Qaddafi’s fall was only the tipping point, some analysts say, in a region where chaos has been on the rise for years, and men who fight under the banner of jihad have built up enormous reserves of cash through smuggling and other criminal activities. If the rhetoric of the Islamic militants now fighting across North Africa is about holy war, the reality is often closer to a battle among competing gangsters in a region where government authority has long been paper-thin.
Among those figures, two names stand out: Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the warlord who led the attack on the Algerian gas field, and Abdelhamid Abu Zeid, a leader of Al Qaeda’s North African branch.
“The driving force behind jihadism in the Sahara region is the competition between Abu Zeid and Belmokhtar,” said Jean-Pierre Filiu, a Middle East analyst at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris.
Mr. Belmokhtar has generated millions of dollars for the Qaeda group through the kidnapping of Westerners and the smuggling of tobacco, which earned him one of his nicknames, “Mr. Marlboro.” But Mr. Belmokhtar bridles under authority, and last year his rival forced him out of the organization, Mr. Filiu said.
“Belmokhtar has now retaliated by organizing the Algeria gas field attack, and it is a kind of masterstroke — he has proved his ability,” Mr. Filiu said.
Both men are from Algeria, a breeding ground of Islamic extremism. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as the regional branch is known, originated with Algerian Islamists who fought against their government during the bloody civil conflict of the 1990s in that country.
Algeria’s authoritarian government is now seen as a crucial intermediary by France and other Western countries in dealing with Islamist militants in North Africa. But the Algerians have shown reluctance to become too involved in a broad military campaign that could be very risky for them. International action against the Islamist takeover in northern Mali could push the militants back into southern Algeria, where they started. That would undo years of bloody struggle by Algeria’s military forces, which largely succeeded in pushing the jihadists outside their borders.
The Algerians also have little patience with what they see as Western naïveté about the Arab spring, analysts say.
“Their attitude was, ‘Please don’t intervene in Libya or you will create another Iraq on our border,’ ” said Geoff D. Porter, an Algeria expert and founder of North Africa Risk Consulting, which advises investors in the region. “And then, ‘Please don’t intervene in Mali or you will create a mess on our other border.’ But they were dismissed as nervous Nellies, and now Algeria says to the West: ‘Goddamn it, we told you so.’ ”
Although French military forces are now fighting alongside the Malian Army, plans to retake the lawless zone of northern Mali have for the past year largely focused on training an African fighting force, and trying to peel off some of the more amenable elements among the insurgents with negotiations.
Some in Mali and the West had invested hopes in Iyad Ag Ghali, a Tuareg who leads Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, one of the main Islamist groups. Mr. Ghali, who is said to be opportunistic, was an ideological link between the hard-line Islamists of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the more secular nationalist Tuareg group, known as the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
But so far negotiations have led nowhere, leaving the Malian authorities and their Western interlocutors with little to fall back on besides armed force.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting from Cairo, and Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
French and American development aid policies.
Policy Specialist on global economic governance issues at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and assistant professor of international affairs at The New School University.
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Consulate General of France
934 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10021
(btw. 74th and 75th Streets)
The United States and France are among the biggest development aid donors. However none have reached the UN development aid goal for 2015 and according to the organization more should be given worldwide to reduce poverty. Structural problems are also often underlined to question the efficiency of development aid. However, our development aid policies greatly contribute to fighting poverty in the world and improve education and health systems in developing countries. They also increasingly focus on environmental issues. In light of these contributions and difficulties, our speakers will compare French and American development aid policies and draw similarities and differences between them.
Thierry SORET is a Policy Specialist on global economic governance issues at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in New York. He is a member of the UN coordination team on G20 issues, and represents the UNDP in the G20 Development Working Group. Prior to joining UNDP in 2007, Thierry Soret was the Executive Director of the European Think Tank “Confrontations-Europe”. Previously, he was a Policy Advisor on international relations and globalization issues to Mr. Francois Hollande, leader of the French socialist party. He has written academic research articles and the essay Crise dans la gouvernance économique mondiale, in 2010. He was admitted at the National School of Administration (ENA), Paris. He holds a Master Degree in Political Science and International Relations from ‘Sciences Po’ Paris, and a B.A. in Philosophy from the Paris XII University.
Terra LAWSON-REMER is a fellow for civil society, markets, and democracy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), where she is directing the CFR-sponsored study on the political economy of transitions. She is also assistant professor of international affairs at The New School University in New York City and serves as chair of the university’s advisory committee on investor responsibility. Previously, she was senior adviser for international affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Dr. Lawson-Remer’s research addresses opportunity and exclusion in the global economy, including economic development and poverty, natural resources, global economic governance, property rights, emerging economies, fragile states, inclusive growth, and rule of law. She has written numerous academic research articles on these issues, and worked and conducted field studies in Latin America, North and East Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific. She previously held positions at the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research, Latham & Watkins LLP, Amnesty International USA, the Ethical Globalization Initiative, and the New York Civil Liberties Union, and consulted for the World Bank. Long a committed civic leader, Dr. Lawson-Remer also previously worked as an organizer, action coordinator, and strategist for a variety of grassroots environmental and social justice organizations.
Conferences@934 is a series of monthly conferences organized by the Consulate general of France that brings together two leading experts, one French and one American, who share their analyses on international issues.
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We saw the movie version of Les Miserables – a first realistic filming that makes the actors responsible for the product that is delivered to the audience. This novelty in movie-making ought to get the prizes for Best Movie in all the 2013 contests. After the movie we went to restaurant where I had slices of raw tuna and it resulted in digestive problems. So please forgive me for the sarcasm in my notes reading about the games being played right now in Washington.
Inspector Javert, the watchdog of the Miserables, did just his job in making sure the poor do not steal in order to survive – this like some Members of Congress that are there to make sure the highest income 1% does not pay taxes and the poor do not cheat in order to survive.
I watched David Gregory’s interview on NBC of President Obama, and the following evaluation by the Gregory team. It turns out that 85% of The House of Representatives comes from “Jerrimandered” Districts where those sent off to Washington feel that home base is a choir of approval. Too bad for seeding new ideas with such folks.
The papers explain today the “NON-CLIFF” -
“If Congress is unable to act before the new year, Washington will effectively usher in a series of automatic tax increases and a program of drastic spending cuts that economists say could pitch the country back into recession.
The president and lawmakers put those spending cuts in place this year as draconian incentives that would force them to confront the nation’s growing debt. Now, lawmakers are trying to keep them from happening, though it seemed most likely on Saturday that the cuts, known as sequestration, would be left for the next Congress, to be sworn in this week.
“We just can’t afford a politically self-inflicted wound to our economy,” Mr. Obama said Saturday in his weekly address. “The housing market is healing, but that could stall if folks are seeing smaller paychecks. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008, but already families and businesses are starting to hold back because of the dysfunction they see in Washington.”” (The Sunday New York Times)
The chief sticking point among lawmakers and the president continued to be how to set tax rates for the next decade and beyond. With the Bush-era tax cuts expiring, Mr. Obama and Democrats have said they want tax rates to rise on income over $250,000 a year, while Republicans want a higher threshold, perhaps at $400,000.
Democrats and Republicans are also divided on the tax on inherited estates, which currently hits inheritances over $5 million at 35 percent. On Jan. 1, it is scheduled to rise to 55 percent beginning with inheritances exceeding $1 million.
The political drama in Washington over the weekend was given greater urgency by the fear that the economic gains of the past two years could be lost if no deal is reached.
Some of the consequences of Congressional inaction would be felt almost at once on Tuesday, in employee paychecks, doctors’ offices and financial markets. Analysts said the effect would be cumulative, building over time.
An early barometer would probably be the financial markets, where skittish investors, as they have during previous Congressional cliffhangers, could send the stock market lower on fears of another prolonged period of economic distress.
Regardless of whether a deal is reached — every working American’s taxes will go up because neither party is fighting to extend a Social Security payroll tax cut that has been in place for two years. January paychecks would shrink as employers start withholding more for taxes.
Many families would also suffer if Congress failed to extend emergency jobless benefits, meaning that 2.1 million Americans would abruptly stop receiving expected payments.
“There’s going to be a hit to people who don’t have much capacity to absorb a hit,” said Christine L. Owens of the National Employment Law Project. “A lot of families are going to be in a bad place, not being able to pay their rent, or their mortgage, or their bills.”
Again, the lowest-income families are expected to be hit the hardest. “Those early filers, 95 percent of them are expecting a healthy refund early in the year,” said Mark Steber, the chief tax officer of Jackson Hewitt.
Come mid-January, some Medicare patients also might struggle to find doctors to treat them. Without Congressional action, doctors would face two cuts to reimbursement rates: a 26.5 percent reduction in Medicare payment rates from a 1997 law, and a further 2 percent cut adopted to reduce the deficit last year.
By late February or early March, lawmakers would face another economic showdown over raising the nation’s borrowing limit again to avoid a cash-management crisis and a government shutdown. Republicans have already said they intend to use the Congressional authority to increase the so-called debt ceiling to extract cuts from entitlement programs — a threat Mr. Obama has said he will resist.
Around the same time, the government and its workers would begin feeling the cuts to defense and domestic spending.
Without a compromise, the Pentagon and its civilian contractors would face steep reductions in virtually every program. Military officials said those spending reductions — $500 billion over 10 years — would eventually force the canceling or shrinking of projects and large-scale layoffs of military and civilian personnel.
Hundreds of other federal programs would see cuts, beginning in late January. These include reductions of about 8 percent in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children; the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; and rental housing assistance.
Economists said the spending cuts and tax increases by themselves would smother the recovery. Analysts fear that the economic disruption and political flailing could spook financial markets, amplifying the pain.
With above depiction of the legislative active inaction the President’s going to Congress with the economy on his back is like Jean Valjean venturing into the brown waters of Paris and Javert’s jumping into the Seine rolled into one. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.
The Misery-Progress timing and possible other outcomes:
January 3, 2013 is the happy date of the start of a new Congress – the one that expires with 2012 was the least productive in American history.
Actually, throwing this outgoing Congress over the Cliff is a good idea even though this threatens regressive changes in social laws as demanded by the 1% of society. Going into the brown waters because of them was one approach – going up on a high stool to reach a higher level civilization is another approach.
This latter approach is in tandem with the President’s position on the David Gregory show. This amouted to holding the position to the end of 2012 and come back with clear text of law to the Senate right there in January 2013 – demanding the reinstatement of tax cuts to the Middle Class for those earning less then $250,000/annum. If the Republicans agree – fine – if they filibuster it is clear to see even for the blind – what they are after – so brake the filibuster.
No hurry, this will call for restructure of some minds of the Republican part of the Senate, as precondition to change of minds in the House. Whatever – this must lead to a revolution in US politics as the President says – an economy you build out from the Middle Class rather then from the political funders of the 1%.
Les Miserables? Yes – it needed a director like Tom Hooper to jolt us so we see the two different jump-into the-waters towards the end of that movie. The crescendo is being upped right now in Washington and if successful Obama will be remembered as the man who eliminated the mentality of Javert in favor of a more human approach. The two candle-sticks given to Valjean in a Christian gesture by the priest, were also the symbols of the Jewish God of high revenge that turned bad into champion of good.
Oscar Niemeyer, best known for Brasilia, died at 105 – the UN moved into its Headquarter building in New York, signed off by him, 60 years ago. We also found that Niemeyer had suggested to save space and build 30-40 stories buildings for cities in the Israeli Negev.
Oscar Niemeyer – the architect who signed off the UN Headquarter building that is now in the process of its first renovation – died in Rio de Janeiro December 5, 2012 at 10 days short of 105 years of age.
He gave Brasílian Architecture Its Flair – tall buildings and curves. Earlier this year, Niemeyer supervised the renovation of the iconic Sambadrome, the “temple of Samba” which he designed 30 years ago, and where the raucous parades of Rio’s Carnival are held each year. He also had worked on building Brasilia – the capital of Brazil while standing up for the communist party of Brazil.
Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho - known as Oscar Niemeyer – lived in his beloved Rio de Janeiro (December 15, 1907 – December 5, 2012) was one of six children of a typographer and his wife. His father owned a graphic arts business, and a grandfather was a judge on the country’s supreme court. A precocious talent, Mr. Niemeyer was trained at the National School of Fine Arts, where he soon drew the attention of its dean, Lucio Costa. Costa was at the center of a small group of architects working to bring the message of Modernist architecture to Brazil.
The timing was ideal. Costa was then designing the Ministry of Education and Health’s headquarters in Rio, and he invited Mr. Niemeyer to join his firm as a draftsman. In 1936, the ministry hired the Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier to contribute ideas for the design. Le Corbusier was already a legend in architecture, and the building would become the first major public project by a Modernist architect in Latin America.
Mr. Niemeyer, one of several draftsmen assigned to the project, absorbed Le Corbusier’s vision of a modern world shaped by the myth of the machine, and drew on the master’s belief in an architecture of abstract forms enlivened by a sensitive use of light and air.
But Mr. Niemeyer was also a self-confident apprentice with a vision of his own; under Costa’s supervision, he made significant changes to Le Corbusier’s scheme. The columns supporting the building’s main office block were more than doubled in height, giving the structure a more slender profile. An auditorium that Le Corbusier had envisioned as a separate structure was tucked under the office block, creating a more compact urban composition.
Shielded from the sun behind rows of elegant baffles, the building had a clean, stripped-down style that made it a sparkling example of classical Modernism while heralding Brazil’s emergence as a vibrant center of experimentation.
Mr. Niemeyer’s name soon became synonymous with the new Brazilian architecture. In 1939, he collaborated with Costa on the Brazilian Pavilion for the New York World’s Fair. Three years later, he completed his first house, a simple modern box resting on slender columns on a mountainside overlooking the magnificent Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon. In these and other early projects, Mr. Niemeyer was beginning to develop a distinctive architecture of flowing lines, structural lightness and an open relationship to natural surroundings.
At the same time, he was becoming politically outspoken. Reared in a quiet upper-middle-class Rio neighborhood by his maternal grandparents, Mr. Niemeyer joined the Communist Party.
When the Brazilian government released hundreds of political prisoners, including Communists, as a gesture of good will in the 1940s, Mr. Niemeyer turned over the first floor of his Rio office to the party for use as a headquarters. To him, architecture’s social impact had its limits. “Architecture will always express the technical and social progress of the country in which it is carried out,” he once said. “If we wish to give it the human content that it lacks, we must participate in the political struggle.”
Yet the project that established him as a major architectural force was essentially a playground for the nouveaux riches in a wealthy suburb on the outskirts of Belo Horizonte, an industrial city. Commissioned in 1940 by a local mayor, Juscelino Kubitschek, who later, as president of Brazil, would hire Mr. Niemeyer to design Brasília’s major buildings, the project included a casino, a yacht club, a dance hall and a church arrayed around an artificial lake.
The casino was particularly striking. A concrete-and-glass shell, it was conceived as part of an architectural promenade that fused the complex with the natural landscape. The dance hall was distinguished by its free-form canopy made of cast concrete, its contours meant to suggest the flowing movements of the samba.
That project never functioned as planned. The casino was transformed into an art museum soon after gambling was outlawed by the Brazilian government in 1946. And the Roman Catholic authorities were offended by the church’s unusual curved concrete form and refused to consecrate it until 1959.
The complex’s bold, sweeping lines and snaking walkways, gently echoing the surrounding hills, suggested a subliminal hedonism that was at odds with the public’s image of mainstream Modernism as determinedly functional and emotionally cool. The design also heralded Mr. Niemeyer’s war against the straight line, whose rigidity he saw as a kind of authoritarian constraint.
THE UN BUILDING IN NEW YORK
Mr. Niemeyer’s international status was confirmed by the Brazil Builds exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1943, a show that also introduced his work to an American audience. Four years later, he joined Le Corbusier again, this time as an equal, when the two were selected to take part in designing the United Nations complex in Manhattan.
Supervised by Wallace K. Harrison, the United Nations design was a collaboration that also included international luminaries like the Soviet architect Nikolai D. Bassov and Max Abramovitz of New York. The final design was a compromise of sorts between Mr. Niemeyer’s concepts and those of his aging idol Le Corbusier and its final signature was by Oscar Niemeyer.
Set amid gardens and plazas, the slim, glass-clad Secretariat tower and the sculptural concrete General Assembly building remain testaments to the belief in rationalism as a means to resolve international disputes and disparities.
The United Nations Headquarters complex was constructed in New York City in 1949–1950 beside the East River, on 17 acres (69,000 m2) of land purchased from the foremost New York real estate developer of the time, William Zeckendorf. Nelson Rockefeller arranged this purchase, after an initial offer to locate it on the Rockefeller family estate of Kykuit was rejected as being too isolated from Manhattan. The US$8.5 million purchase was then funded by his father, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who donated it to the city. The lead architect for the building was the real estate firm of Wallace Harrison, the personal architectural adviser for the Rockefeller family.
The – History of the Le Corbusier – Niemeyer cooperation: Right after his arrival in New York, Niemeyer met Corbusier on his demands. He requested Niemeyer not to submit a scheme, but rather to collaborate with him on a project, on the basis that he could ‘create a commotion’. It was Wallace Harrison who tried to convince Niemeyer to move on his own.
50 designs were evaluated by the team, and Niemeyer’s project 32 was finally chosen. As opposed to Corbusier’s project 23, which consisted of one building containing both the Assembly Hall and the councils in the centre of the site (as it was hierarchically the most important building), Niemeyer’s plan split the councils from the Assembly Hall, locating the first alongside the river, and the second on the right side of the secretariat. This would not split the site, but on the contrary, would create a large civic square. George Dudley latter stated:
It literally took our breath away to see the simple plane of the site kept open from First Avenue to the River, only three structures on it, standing free, a fourth lying low behind them along the river’s edge. …He [Niemeyer] also said, ‘beauty will come from the buildings being in the right space!’. The comparison between Le Corbusier’s heavy block and Niemeyer’s startling, elegantly articulated composition seem to me to be in everyone’s mind…
Latter on the day, Corbusier came once again to Niemeyer, and asked him to reposition the Assembly Hall back to the centre of the site. Such modification would destroy Niemeyer’s plans for a large civic square. However, he finally decided to accept the modification:
I felt he [Corbusier] would like to do his project, and he was the master. I do not regret my decision.
Together, they submitted the scheme 23–32, which was built and is what can be seen today.
In his designs for Brasília, the capital city built in the vast undeveloped lands of the Brazil’s central region, Mr. Niemeyer got the opportunity to create his own poetic vision of the future on a monumental scale.
The city’s cross-shaped master plan, with repetitive rows of housing set around a formal administrative center, was designed by Costa, Mr. Niemeyer’s old mentor. But it was Mr. Niemeyer who gave Brasília its sculptural identity.
Slide Show – A Legendary Modernist
The speed with which the city was created, between 1956 and 1960, reinforced its image as a utopian dream that had sprouted magically out of a primitive landscape. Its crisp, abstract forms seemed to sum up the aspirations of much of the developing world: the belief that modern architecture and the faith in technological progress that it embodied could help create a more egalitarian society.
Arranged along a vast, grassy esplanade, Mr. Niemeyer’s buildings acquire a certain grandeur in their isolation. The most spectacular is the Metropolitan Cathedral, a circular, crownlike structure that splays open at the top to let light spill into the main sanctuary.
Yet much of Brasília’s beauty lay in an architectural balancing act. The simple twin towers of its secretariat, for example, play off the geometric bowl-like forms of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies. The entire complex suggests a world in perfect harmony, even if the politicians and bureaucrats who work there are not. The languorous sensuality of Mr. Niemeyer’s designs are underscored in early sketches for Brasília. They often depict naked young women sunbathing on a vast empty plaza as his buildings recede in the background. It’s an image of romantic alienation that has more in common with the films of Michelangelo Antonioni than with the utopian aspirations of early Modernism.
“For me,” Mr. Niemeyer said years later, “beauty is valued more than anything — the beauty that is manifest in a curved line or in an act of creativity.”
Brasília was considered his greatest triumph, but he had little time to glory in it. In 1964, after a coup put the country in the hands of a military dictatorship, he was repeatedly questioned by the military police about his Communist associations. Although he was never imprisoned, commissions dried up.
YEARS OF INTELLECTUAL EXILE
With the generals in charge of Brazil and the anti-communism rampant in the US, he could work by proxy or limit himself to communism in Western Europe. He was chosen to design a business center on Claughton Island near Miami. But the United States, still in the grip of the cold war, denied him a visa. (Around the same time, he also designed a house in Santa Monica, Calif., one he never saw.)
Unable to find work in Brazil, Mr. Niemeyer fled to Europe, where he received commissions to design the Communist Party headquarters in Paris, completed in 1980, and the House of Culture in Le Havre, France (1982), with its low conical dome and a spectacular concrete ramp corkscrewing into the earth.
Modernism was by then falling out of favor with the architectural establishment. Brasília soon became a symbol of Modernism’s failure to deliver on its utopian promises. The vast empty plazas seemed to sum up the social alienation of modern society; surrounded by slums, the monumental government buildings of its center exemplified Brazil’s deeply rooted social inequalities.
Mr. Niemeyer addressed the criticism in a profile by the critic Michael Kimmelman in The New York Times Magazine in 2005. “You may not like Brasília,” he told Mr. Kimmelman, “but you can’t say you have seen anything like it — you maybe saw something better, but not the same. I prefer Rio, even with the robberies. What can you do?” He added: “But people who live in Brasília, to my surprise, don’t want to leave it. Brasília works. There are problems. But it works. And from my perspective, the ultimate task of the architect is to dream. Otherwise nothing happens.”
In 1965 Niemeyer traveled to France for an exhibition in the Louvre museum.In 1966, at 59, he moved to Paris – he travelled to the city of Tripoli, Lebanon, to design the International Permanent Exhibition Centre. Despite completing construction, the start of the civil war in Lebanon prevented it from achieving its utility.
He opened an office on the Champs-Élysées, and had customers in diverse countries, especially in Algeria where he designed the University of Science and Technology-Houari Boumediene. In Paris he created the headquarters of the French Communist Party, Place du Colonel Fabien, and in Italy that of the Mondadori publishing company.
The Brazilian dictatorship lasted until 1985. Under João Figueiredo‘s rule it softened and gradually turned into a democracy. At this time Niemeyer decided to return to his country. During that decade he made the Memorial Juscelino Kubitschek (1980), the Pantheon (Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom, 1985) and the Latin America Memorial (1987) (dubbed by The Independent of London to be “…an incoherent and vulgar construction”). The memorial sculpture represents the wounded hand of Jesus, whose wound bleeds in the shape of Central and South America.
In 1988, at 81, Niemeyer was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in architecture. From 1992 to 1996, Niemeyer was the president of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). As a lifelong activist, Niemeyer was chosen as a powerful public figure that could be linked to the party at a time when it appeared to be in its death throes after the demise of the USSR. Although not active as a political leader, his image helped the party to survive through its crisis, after the 1992 split and to remain as a political force in the national scene, which eventually led to its reconstruction. He was replaced by Zuleide Faria de Mello in 1996.
OSCAR NIEMEYER AND ISRAEL – A NATURAL LOVE STORY.
In 1964 – thus before he settled in Paris – Niemeyer spent six months in Israel where he was brought by developer Yekutiel Federman and as per HAARETZ of today - www.haaretz.com/print-edition/bus… – he left behind at least two executed projects – the Kikar Hamedina – the large round-about in what was then North-Tel Aviv, and and the Haifa University, but the most interesting proposal was the planned city that was never built.
Niemeyer, who as a declared communist, was excited about the socialist settlements in Israel, and described the Negev city of his planning, undoubtedly with a certain amount of naivete, as “a new type of metropolitan kibbutz that grew, became broader and more up-to-date, without losing its human values – enthusiasm, solidarity and idealism.”
Niemeyer’s work in Israel is the subject of historical research conducted by the architect Zvi Elhayani for his master’s degree in architecture at the Technion. Among the central issues in the study, which Elhayani concluded last year, is an analysis of Niemeyer’s critical assessment of planning concepts in Israel. In Niemeyer’s proposal for the Negev city, Elhayani sees a clear expression of this critical outlook. According to the study, Niemeyer already identified the low and sparse construction in new cities, and multitude of small communities, as a mistake that Israel would pay for in the future with a loss of open spaces.
During his stay in Israel, which is described in detail in Elhayani’s study, Niemeyer toured the newly constructed cities in the Negev: Yeruham, Dimona, Kiryat Gat, Eilat and the new neighborhoods of Be’er Sheva. According to Elhayani, Niemeyer was impressed by the desert vistas and construction boom, but expressed his disappointment “from the spatial spread and wastefulness that characterized the new cities, and he began to formulate a completely different urban concept.”
The sketches for the new Negev city, as presented in Elhayani’s study, show that the city was planned as a compact and crowded community, where the residents could take a short walk of no more than 500 meters to get from their homes to their jobs, schools and places of entertainment. Covered and shaded walkways were planned along the roadways, with pedestrian traffic separated from vehicular traffic. Niemeyer declared that he was seeking “to create optimal conditions for people to communicate and appropriate environments for work, culture and recreation, with the help of technological advances.”
From the outset, Niemeyer was aware of the radical nature of his concept of the Negev city and the controversy it would stir in Israel. Still, he hoped that his plan would not be summarily rejected, “but rather would be stored for a time on the shelf and reexamined after a number of years … then I’m sure that the reasons we cite today will be accepted and it will be proven that this city is the inevitable result of progress, of technology and of the life force itself.”
Niemeyer’s plan envisioned a new city somewhere in the heart of the Negev, but no specific site was selected. A model of the plan, as presented at the time, was photographed on the Tel Aviv beach opposite the Dan Hotel, where Niemeyer stayed. Like most of his work in Israel, the Negev city was never built. Elhayani believes that its construction was unfeasible at the time for technological, cultural, social and economic reasons, and that even today it can only serve as an idea for critical review.
Nonetheless, Elhayani writes, the issues Niemeyer raised nearly 40 years ago are at the center of the debate on national planning in Israel today. The question of whether the Negev missed out on – or was saved from – Niemeyer’s ideas remains open.
The proposal by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in the 1960s to build a Negev city with 40 skyscrapers of 30 to 40 stories for tens of thousands of residents is the complete opposite of the settlement project for the Halutza dunes. While Nitzanit, Shlomit and other Halutza communities are planned to be built close to the ground, with low density and spread over a relatively large area per number of residents, Niemeyer’s utopian city was to be vertical, tall, crowded and succinct.
Kikar Hamedina, Tel Aviv
HIS REPUTATION RESTORED AND LIFE EXTENDED TO ITS FULLEST
Mr. Niemeyer is survived by his wife, Vera Lúcia Cabreira, whom he married in 2006; four grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and six great-great-grandchildren, according to the newspaper O Globo. A daughter, Anna Maria, died this year at age 82, and his first wife, Annita Baldo, died in 2004, after 76 years of marriage.
Mr. Niemeyer lived long enough to see his international reputation recover and flourish.
After his return to Brazil in the early 1980s, his office was soon overflowing with new commissions.
At 89, his Museum of Contemporary Art in Niterói, near Rio, which opened in 1996, was celebrated for its bold saucer-shaped form. The building is cantilevered out from sheer rock hovered on a cliffside overlooking Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio de Janeiro.
A decade later, on his 99th birthday, he celebrated the opening of his National Museum and National Library along the Monumental Axis in Brasília, near his cathedral.
In his last years he e designed at least two more buildings in Brasilia, the Memorial dos Povos Indigenas (“Memorial for the Indigenous People”) and the Catedral Militar, Igreja de N.S. da Paz.
A growing number of people had begun to re-examine the legacy of postwar Modernism and appreciate his purist vision as a throwback to a more optimistic time.
In celebrating both the formal elements and social aims of architecture, his work became a symbolic reminder that the body and the mind, the sensual and the rational, are not necessarily in opposition. Yet he also saw sensuality and the brightness of dreams against a darker backdrop. “Humanity needs dreams to be able to survive the miseries of daily existence,” he once said, “even if only for an instant.”
MASTER BUILDER Mr. Niemeyer was among the last of Modernist true believers. More Photos »
A recent photo of Niemeyer looking out from a window in his office in Rio.
“Brazil lost today one of its geniuses,” Dilma Rousseff, Brazil’s president, said in a statement issued Wednesday night.
Allied with the far left for most of his life, he suffered career setbacks during the rule of Brazil’s right-wing military dictatorships of the 1960s and ’70s, and he was barred from working in the United States during much of the cold war. As Modernism later came under attack for its sometimes dogmatic approach to history, his works were marginalized.
Still, Mr. Niemeyer never stopped working; he churned out major new projects through his 80s and 90s. And as the cold-war divide and architecture’s old ideological battles faded from memory in recent years, a younger generation began embracing his work, intrigued by the consistency of his vision and his ability to achieve voluptuous effects on a heroic scale.
Niemeyer was a close friend of Fidel Castro, who often visited his apartment and studio whilst in Brazil. Castro was once quoted as saying “Niemeyer and I are the last communists on this planet.” Niemeyer was also regularly visited by Hugo Chavez. Niemeyer was an atheist throughout his life, basing his beliefs both on the “injustices of this world” and on cosmological principles: “It’s a fantastic Universe which humiliates us, and we can’t make any use of it. But we are amazed by the power of the human mind … in the end, that’s it—you are born, you die, that’s it!”. Such views never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which span from small Catholic chapels, through to huge Orthodox churches and large mosques. He also catered to the spiritual beliefs of the public who facilitated his religious buildings. In the Cathedral of Brasília, he intended for the large glass windows “To connect the people to the sky, where their Lord’s paradise is.”
21st century and death
In 2003, at the age 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect, who has never previously built in the UK, to design this temporary structure. He was still involved in diverse projects at the age of 100, mainly sculptures and readjustments of previous works.
On Niemeyer’s 100th birthday, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship. Grateful for the Prince of Asturias Award of Arts received in 1989, he collaborated on the 25th anniversary of these awards with the donation to Asturias of the design of a cultural centre. The Óscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre (also known in Spain as Centro Niemeyer), is located in Avilés and was inaugurated in 2011.
In January 2010, the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer Ravello was officially opened in Ravello, Italy, on the Amalfi Coast. The Auditorium’s concept design, drawings, model, sketches and text were made by Niemeyer in 2000 and completed under the guidance of his friend, Italian sociologist Domenico de Masi. The project was delayed for several years due to objections arising from its design, siting and clear difference from the local architecture; since its inauguration the project has experienced problems and, after one year was still closed.
After reaching the age of 100, Niemeyer spent several periods of time in hospital. In 2009, after a four-week period of hospitalisation for the treatment of gallstones and an intestinal tumour, he was quoted as saying that hospitalization is a “very lonely thing; I needed to keep busy, keep in touch with friends, maintain my rhythm of life.”
Niemeyer died of cardiorespiratory arrest on December 5, 2012 at the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro, ten days before his 105th birthday. He had been hospitalised with a respiratory infection prior to his death. The BBC‘s obituary of Niemeyer noted that he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”, also acclaiming him as “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”.
The Nobel Prize for Peace awarded by Norway – not an EU member – goes to the EU, and this prompts some Heads of States to stay away. The UK (David Cameron) and Czech (Vaclav Klaus) will be among six European Heads of State that will not participate – Sweden has a scheduling conflict.
Six EU leaders to skip Nobel gala
30.11.12 @ 09:51
BRUSSELS – Six EU leaders, including the UK, are to skip the Nobel gala next month, as criticism of the award multiplies.
Nobel Institute director Geir Lundestad told EUobserver on Friday (30 November) that 18 EU leaders will come to watch the Union’s top three officials – Herman Van Rompuy, Jose Manuel Barroso and Martin Schulz – collect the peace prize in Oslo on 10 December.
He declined to list them. But he indicated that they include the “big” countries – France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain.
He said six others – including the Czech republic, Sweden and the UK – have confirmed they are not going, while the rest are still making up their mind.
The British and Czech decisions come from two eurosceptic VIPs – David Cameron and Vaclav Klaus – and are likely to fuel talk on whether Cameron thinks the UK is on its way out of the bloc.
Sweden’s Frederik Reinfeldt cannot go because he is busy in a parallel Nobel event in Stockholm the same day.
Lundestad declined to speculate on whether Cameron and Klaus’ decision amounts to a boycott. “It’s up to them to explain why they are not coming,” he said.
But he did criticise four cabinet ministers from Norway’s eurosceptic Centre Party for also deciding to stay away.
“They put the emphasis on Norway and whether Norway should be a member of the EU or not. The committee dos not address that question. It recognises the EU’s contribution to a more peaceful Europe through six decades. It has nothing to do with Norway,” he noted.
The Nobel decision back in October prompted debate on whether the EU deserves the prize.
Some of the arguments were repeated this week.
For his part, the Austrian leader of the centre-left S&D group in the EU parliament, Hannes Swoboda, said in a debate in Brussels: “The EU was a vision for peace, after WWII. And the EU brought peace.”
But a joint letter by the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches said: “The economic and humanitarian tragedy today in Greece challenges the EU as a peace builder for the next generation.”
Meanwhile, the recent Gaza crisis – which claimed 168 Palestinian lives and five Israeli ones – prompted a fresh rebuke.
A joint letter by 52 former peace prize laureates, artists, academics and diplomats on Wednesday said the EU should be disqualified for its ties to Israel.
“The role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel’s military complex through its research programmes,” they wrote.
Former Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Perez Esquivel also wrote a letter attacking the EU as a party in conflicts around the world.
“The EU is clearly not ‘the champion of peace’ that Alfred Nobel had in mind when he wrote his will … The Norwegian Nobel committee has redefined and remodelled the prize in a manner that is not consistent with the law,” they said.
They called for the committee to withhold the prize money of €930,000, even though the EU has promised to give it to charities for child victims of war.
For his part, Lundestad said the Tutu letter was organised by Fredrik Heffermehl, a Norwegian jurist who has “protested for many, many years against every decision of the Nobel committee.”
He added: “The prize money has never been withheld.”