Thursday, January 31, 2013
|ITS THIS BIG …|
Posted By David Martosko and Charles C. Johnson On 1:30 AM 01/31/2013 @ 1:30 AM In DC Exclusives - Freelance,DC
In a little-noticed email published online Wednesday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a young Dominican woman wrote nine months ago that she slept with 59-year-old New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez at a series of sex parties organized by Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime Menendez campaign donor.
“That senator also likes the youngest and newest girls,” the woman wrote on April 21, 2002, according to an English translation provided to The Daily Caller by a native Spanish speaker.
“In interviews, the two women said they met Menendez around Easter at Casa de Campo, an expensive 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic. They claimed Menendez agreed to pay them $500 for sex acts, but in the end they each received only $100.” [TYPICAL POLITICIAN … SCREW YOU FOR NO GOOD REASON!] The good news is that Menendez gets to leave the piranha tank called the Senate … the bad news is if proven guilty Menendez could face the wall and bend-over for for 30 years
“In the beginning he seemed so serious, because he never spoke to anyone, but he is just like the others and has just about the same tastes as the doctor, very refined. I think they were taking us more often to get us checked [medically] because of him.”
TheDC is not disclosing the woman’s name because she may have been a minor when her alleged sexual encounters with Menendez occurred. Four different Spanish speakers who reviewed TheDC’s translation of her letter all said her Spanish writing indicated someone who was very young and unsophisticated.
CREW chose to publish her name, despite her concerns for her safety. (RELATED: Emails show FBI investigating Sen. Bob Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes)
“I do not want to have problems with those people,” she wrote, adding that she believed “I can trust you, that you will help us, and that nothing bad will happen to the other young girls, to me, or to my family.”
“The thing that worries me the most is that if they know that I spoke with someone they will find me,” she added.
The young woman wrote that she was recruited as an escort from an adult escort service called the Doll Palace, and that the code word “chocolate” would summon her and other girls to Melgen’s sex parties. She offered specific recollections of Melgen’s preferred pimp, the homes where she slept with his house guests for money, and the phone number her calls would come from.
Her account of the sex parties Menendez allegedly attended in the Dominican Republic is the most detailed to surface since TheDC first began reporting on the story in November.
She told her story to a tipster who forwarded the email to CREW; it was not included with the cache of documents he published online on Jan. 24. TheDC was first to report on that dossier about Sen. Menendez, which included an interview transcript in which a different women claimed she was 16 when she began sleeping with him.
That young prostitute said she had sex with Menendez “three times at least” in 2009. “The first one in February, and then in May and June. I recall his visit in June so well because that month was my 17th birthday.”
The woman whose email CREW released on Wednesday also recalled a sexual encounter with Menendez near her birthday, but said hers was in a different month.
“The first time I saw him was more than three years ago at the beginning of March, because it was around my birthday,” she wrote.
Melgen, she added, had Menendez as a house guest for sex parties regularly.
“His good friend [Menendez] is very important in the United States,” she wrote. “I met him in those house activities and just by looking at him one knows that he is very important and has money. I didn’t know he was a United States Senator; that was something that Peter [Williams] told me. … I know that the Senator comes from Miami with the doctor, but I do not know where he lives.”
In her email, the woman wrote that she became disenchanted with the initial glamour of partying with a wealthy doctor and his friend the U.S. senator.
“During some yacht outings it was when I realized I needed to get out of there,” she wrote, “because these people are so important and they do whatever they want with the world. … Look, there are many things I prefer not to remember and it is hard for me to talk about them too. I got into this world to find the money, but many things have happened.”
“There is a lot of hypocrisy. They are all very political and all, but I saw them doing things with those young girls and saying things so many times that they cannot trick me into believing that they are good, trusting people.”
She added that her sister is still caught up in the Dominican Republic’s prostitution scene.
“I also don’t want anything to happen to the girls who don’t know yet how this world they were born in works,” she wrote. “I want you to help me take them away, especially because I have a sister who is still in it.”
On Wednesday CREW released a collection of email correspondence related to the Menendez case that it collected in 2012. The group also released a letter it sent to the Department of Justice and the FBI on July 17, 2012, asking for a formal investigation.
In May 2012, CREW also referred the investigation to ABC News investigative producer Rhonda Schwartz. Despite being the first news outlet to learn of the allegations against Senator Menendez, the network has yet to air a story about the scandal. (RELATED: Major media outlets mum on Menendez FBI raid)
The FBI raided Melgen’s flagship clinic Tuesday night, hauling away evidence in what an FBI source told TheDC is an investigation tied directly to Menendez’s alleged illicit sexual activity with minors in the Dominican Republic. (RELATED: Woman at Melgen’s home says “these things happen all the time”)
A complete translation of the email follows, along with a copy of the original in Spanish.
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The original email (English translation):
I went to both of the doctor’s houses when they took us. The bigger one is the one I went to the most, that is in La Romana. They would let me and the other girls know with [the word] “chocolate.” The telephone they used was 809-***-****. The gifts they gave us were very expensive and the pimp is a bodyguard, the tallest one with the green eyes, who paid the girls. The pimp sometimes used to take us to see a medic for some checkups, because they are in charge of all of our health. He told me once that he lived in Bayaguana. I have a good impression of R*****, the chauffer that said I remind him of his daughter. He is very good to me. The first time I met him was when I worked at the Doll Palace.
The house where they always take us is in La Romana. I have been in the room with the doctor and other male friends of his, the one at the end of the hallway past the patio that has the fountain. At other times I have been in the great room with the crystal windows, but the place I liked to be the most — and so do all of us — is on the terrace and in the pool, which is close to the golf club.
The doctor does not like to share the lovers that he likes. For two years he liked me, but after he brought in R******* it wasn’t the same because he preferred another one. He never shared Y******, but he was very upset because she went to bed with one of his friends and he did not like that at all. His good friend is very important in the United States. I met him in those house activities and just by looking at him one knows that he is very important and has money. I didn’t know he was a United States Senator; that was something that Peter [Williams] told me. That Senator also likes the youngest and newest girls. In the beginning he seemed so serious, because he never spoke to anyone, but he is just like the others and has just about the same tastes as the doctor, very refined. I think they were taking us more often to get us checked because of him. The first time I saw him was more than three years ago, at the beginning of March because it was close to my birthday. There was another important man also there.
I remember another occasion a few months later when I also saw him. That time they called us to visit, but then they did not want to let us in. At the entrance the guards asked for identification, even though they never do it because the doctor’s people are always looking for girls. But that time I don’t know what happened. I don’t think he was in the house because he was out with his friend the American Senator; there was a scandal and they told us many disgusting things, it even came out in a radio show called Z101. It wasn’t until a few hours later that it was like nothing had happened, and I saw that important American, that Senator, with the doctor.
His friend is nice to us, but also has his preferences. I know that he likes to go “to let loose in the countryside” so no one will bother him. That is what one of them told me, but the pimp always tells us that these activities are very private and we can’t comment on them to anyone so that we can keep going and earn our money.
I know that the Senator comes from Miami with the doctor, but I do not know where he lives. During some yacht outings it was when I realized I needed to get out of there, because these people are so important and they do whatever they want with the world. There was V*******, who goes to many of the doctor’s functions and makes up things with the young girls, and then forces them to do the same things with the doctor’s friend. And he really liked it and wanted to take her to another place, but I don’t know where. They threatened those girls and told them to not talk, and that they couldn’t leave.
Look, there are many things I prefer not to remember and it is hard for me to talk about them too. I got into this world to find the money, but many things have happened. There is a lot of hypocrisy. They are all very political and all, but I saw them doing things with those young girls and saying things so many times that they cannot trick me into believing that they are good, trusting people.
I do not want to have problems with those people, but Peter told me that I can trust you, that you will help us, and that nothing bad will happen to the other young girls, to me, or to my family.
He said that you are interested in the American friend, that American friend of the doctor, and that I will not have anything to do with it; the thing that worries me the most is that if they know that I spoke with someone they will find me and I also don’t want anything to happen to the girls who don’t know yet how this world they were born in works. I want you to help me take them away, especially because I have a sister who is still in it.
Write to me when you can.
Posted by . , at 2:37 PM
CLINTON BLAMES BUSH FOR LACK OF FUNDS TO SECURE BENGHAZI
|WELL … WHAT DID YOU REALLY EXPECT!|
In an “exit” interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton continued the theme that, during the Bush administration, requests for monies from Congress to secure embassies and consulates were rejected.
Well, as to the first question, you know, the accountability review board made a set of recommendations. We are embracing and implementing all of them, and making sure that we apply them.
Now, it's not all a question of money. I am the first to say that. You know, you have to have the right people and the right job, making the right decisions. But money is a factor. And ever since the Bush administration, our requests for security monies from Congress have not been met. So you've had to make priority decisions. And it's been difficult.
So I am determined to leave the State Department safer and stronger when I walk out the door. And I know that John Kerry will just pick up the ball and run with it.In October, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security Charlene Lamb testified that the size of the attack, and not the money, was the central issue. When asked, at that hearing, whether there was any budget consideration that led her not to increase the security force, Lamb responded, “No,” and added, “This was an unprecedented attack in size.”
In response to yet another question about budgetary issues, Lamb replied, “Sir, if it’s a volatile situation, we will move assets to cover that.”
However, during her testimony last week, Clinton said that the Accountability Review Board (ARB) found that budget issues played a role in the failure to secure the consulate.
“That’s why you have an independent group like an ARB; that’s why it was created to look at everything,” Clinton said.
Republican lawmakers, however, said that suggestions that the consulate in Benghazi was not secured because of finances were politically-based. They observed that the State Department has spent millions on lower-priority projects that could have been spent on security.
Posted by . , at 1:40 AM
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
|TWO BULL DOGS AND THE …|
|WEINER KING'S …|
FBI raids Florida eye clinic of donor linked to Sen. Bob Menendez’s prostitution scandal
FBI agents have raided the West Palm Beach, Fla. eye clinic owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen, the wealthy donor to New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez who allegedly procured prostitutes for him — some of them as young as 16 — during trips to the Dominican Republic.
The Miami Herald reported that federal agents lined up vans outside the Melgen Eye Center late Tuesday night to haul away evidence in the case.
A woman answering the phone at Melgen’s home in West Palm Beach would not give her name but said, “Dr. Melgen is asleep.” Asked if he was aware his clinic was being raided by federal law enforcement, she replied, “Oh yes, well, these things happen all the time. They’ve got to do their job.” She declined to comment on Melgen’s relationship with Sen. Menendez.
Melgen, 58, is believed to have flown Menendez in his private jet to the Dominican Republic on several occasions for alcohol-fueled sex parties featuring prostitutes. (RELATED: Emails show FBI investigating Sen. Bob Menendez for sleeping with underage Dominican prostitutes)
According to the Miami Herald, records obtained from the Palm Beach County recorder show Melgen also “has an outstanding IRS lien of $11.1 million for taxes owed from 2006 to 2009.”
It’s unknown whether the FBI is investigating his tax delinquency, his association with Sen. Menendez, or both. A spokesman for the FBI in Miami, Fla. would only say that the Bureau was “conducting law enforcement activity in the general vicinity of 2521 Metrocentre Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL” — the address of Melgen’s flagship clinic.
Menendez is slated to take over as chairman of the powerful Senate foreign affairs committee when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry becomes secretary of state. The full Senate confirmed Kerry’s nomination on Tuesday.
But it’s unclear whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will hand the committee’s gavel to Menendez without a full investigation into his conduct. Committee chairmen with jurisdiction over international matters typically have high-level security clearances. Menendez’s could be jeopardized if the allegations against him are proven true.
The Daily Caller first reported in November that two prostitutes had accused Menendez of paying them for sex during Easter weekend 2012 at a posh Dominican resort. Prostitution is legal in that country but viewed unfavorably by U.S. voters.
The women appeared in videotaped interviews with the help of a translator. Each said she was promised $500 to sleep with the New Jersey lawmaker, but was ultimately paid only $100. (RELATED VIDEO: Women say Sen. Bob Menendez paid them for sex in the Dominican Republic)
Additional confirmation came from a Dominican government official who told TheDC that Menendez frequents “sex, hookers and drinking” parties in the Caribbean nation.
On Jan. 25 TheDC followed up that reporting with new allegations contained in documents that a tipster placed online. Those files, published on a makeshift WordPress blog, have attracted nearly 20,000 online readers in the United States.
Among other claims, the documents indicated that the FBI was actively investigating the matter, and that some of the prostitutes Menendez slept with were younger than 18.
The PROTECT Act of 2003 made it a federal crime to pay for sex with anyone that young, regardless of the age of consent in the country where the illicit transaction occurs.
TheDC’s most recent reporting also raised the question of whether Menendez broke Senate Ethics committee rules by accepting free travel from Melgen without seeking the committee’s approval or disclosing the value of the perks.
On Monday afternoon, Menendez refused to address the substance of the allegations against him, telling TheDC only that he was “not going to respond to the fallacious allegations of your story.”
One day later, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a swing at The Daily Caller for its reporting, telling assembled journalists Tuesday that “I always consider the source” of allegations, “and all anyone here has to look at is the source where this comes from. It’s — it’s a source that has brought up a lot of non-issues.” (RELATED VIDEO: Harry Reid attacks The Daily Caller over prostitutes’ allegations against Menendez)
|HARRY REID SPEAKS|
Posted by . , at 8:11 PM
Emanuel Chokes Up Discussing Teen’s Murder: ‘She Is What Is Best In Our City’
CHICAGO (CBS) — An emotional Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the 15-year-old girl who was shot and killed in Kenwood, a week after performing with her school band at President Obama’s inaugural, was “what is best in our city,” and the gunman who killed her was a “punk.”
Emanuel’s voice cracked as he said he spoke to Hadiya Pendleton’s mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton.
Hadiya was with a group of 10 to 12 teenagers under a canopy in Vivian Gordon Harsh Park on the 4500 block of South Oakenwald Avenue around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, when someone jumped a fence, ran up to them, and opened fire. Hadiya died less than an hour later. A boy was also wounded in the shooting.
“Nothing pains you more than calling a fellow parent, trying to comfort them,” Emanuel said.
Just days before, Hadiya performed with her high school band at President Barack Obama’s inauguration.
“She is what is best in our city. A child going to school, who takes a final exam, who had just been to the inaugural,” Emanuel said. “You look at her, you look at how she talked about her future. She took her final exams. She had dreams. And this gang-banger, this punk took that away from Cleopatra. They took it away from Hadiya. And in my view, they took it away from the city of Chicago.”
|FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE … AND WELL … GUNS WITH PENCILS AND PAPER … WE NEED MORE LAWS ON THE BOOKS|
“It’s not just a policing issue,” Emanuel said. The Kenwood neighborhood park is near King College Prep High School — where Hadiya was an honor student, volleyball player, and majorette.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, at a hearing on gun violence on Wednesday, said Hadiya’s death came “just a matter of days after the happiest day of her life,” when she performed at Obama’s second inaugural.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said “the president’s and first lady’s thoughts and prayers are with the family of Hadiya Pendleton.”
Durbin said Chicago is “awash in guns.” He said the number of guns confiscated in Chicago is six times that of New York City.
“We have guns everywhere and some believe the solution is more guns. I disagree.”
A witness said the teens scattered and ran out of the park in a panic after the shots were fired. Hadiya and a boy who also was shot collapsed about a block away, in front of one of the upscale condo row houses that line Oakenwald.
Hadiya was struck once in the back, and died at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital less than an hour later.
The teenage boy who was shot was struck in the leg. He also was being treated at Comer Children’s Hospital.
Police said Hadiya had no gang affiliation and likely wasn’t the intended target. Several of the teens with her at the time, however, were believed to be gang members.
Posted by . , at 6:25 PM
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
The Most Ridiculous Law of 2013 (So Far): It Is Now a Crime to Unlock Your Smartphone
When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense? The answer is that we never really decided.
This is now the law of the land:
BY DECREE OF THE LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS
IT SHALL HENCEFORCE BE ORDERED THAT AMERICANS SHALL NOT UNLOCK THEIR OWN SMARTPHONES.
PENALTY: In some situations, first time offenders may be fined up to $500,000, imprisoned for five years, or both. For repeat offenders, the maximum penalty increases to a fine of $1,000,000, imprisonment for up to ten years, or both.*
That's right, starting this weekend it is illegal to unlock new phones to make them available on other carriers.
I have deep sympathy for any individual who happens to get jail time for this offense. I am sure that other offenders would not take kindly to smartphone un-lockers.
|I DON'T NEED NO STINK'IN SMARTPHONE …|
But seriously: It's embarrassing and unacceptable that we are at the mercy of prosecutorial and judicial discretion** to avoid the implementation of draconian laws that could implicate average Americans in a crime subject to up to a $500,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
If people see this and respond, well no one is really going to get those types of penalties, my response is: Why is that acceptable? While people's worst fears may be a bit unfounded, why do we accept a system where we allow such discretionary authority? If you or your child were arrested for this, would it comfort you to know that the prosecutor and judge could technically throw the book at you? Would you relax assuming that they probably wouldn't make an example out of you or your kid? When as a society did we learn to accept the federal government having such Orwellian power? And is this the same country that used jury nullification against laws that it found to be unjust as an additional check upon excessive government power? [The only silver lining is that realistically it's more likely that violators would be subject to civil liability under Section 1203 of the DMCA, instead of the fine and jail penalties, but this is still unacceptable (but anyone who accepts payments to help others unlock their phones would clearly be subject to the fine of up to $500,000 and up to five years in jail).]
WHO REALLY OWNS YOUR PHONE?
When did we decide that we wanted a law that could make unlocking your smartphone a criminal offense?
The answer is that we never really decided. Instead, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 to outlaw technologies that bypass copyright protections. This sounds like a great idea, but in practice it has terrible, and widely acknowledged, negative consequences that affect consumers and new innovation. The DMCA leaves it up to the Librarian of Congress (LOC) to issue exemptions from the law, exceptions that were recognized to be necessary given the broad language of the statute that swept a number of ordinary acts and technologies as potential DMCA circumvention violations.
Every three years groups like the American Foundation for the Blind have to lobby Congress to protect an exception for the blind allowing for books to be read aloud. Can you imagine a more ridiculous regulation than one that requires a lobby group for the blind to come to Capitol Hill every three years to explain that the blind still can't read books on their own and therefore need this exception?
Until recently it was illegal to jailbreak your own iPhone, and after Saturday it will be illegal to unlock a new smartphone, thereby allowing it to switch carriers. This is a result of the exception to the DMCA lapsing -- not as a result of a mistake but of an intentional choice by the Librarian of Congress that this was no longer fair use and acceptable. The Electronic Frontier Foundation among other groups has detailed the many failings of the DMCA Triennial Rulemaking process which in this case led to this exception lapsing.
Conservatives should be leading the discussion on fixing this problem. Conservatives are understandably skeptical of agencies and unelected bureaucrats wielding a large amount of power to regulate, and are proponents of solutions like the REINS Act (which has over 121 co-sponsors). However, if Congress truly wants to rein in the power of unelected bureaucrats, then they must first write laws in a narrow manner and avoid the need for intervention by the Librarian of Congress to avoid draconian consequences like making iPhone jail breakers and smartphone un-lockers criminals, or taking away readable books for the blind.
If conservatives are concerned of unelected bureaucrats deciding upon regulations which could have financial consequences for businesses, then they should be more worried about unelected bureaucrats deciding upon what is or isn't a felony punishable by large fines and jail time for our citizens. And really, why should unelected bureaucrats be choosing what technological choices you can make with your smartphone? These laws serve to protect the interests of a few companies and create and maintain barriers to entry.
But there is another matter of critical importance: Laws that can place people in jail should be passed by Congress, not by the decree of the Librarian of Congress. We have no way to hold the Librarian of Congress accountable for crazy laws. There are still plenty of crazy laws passed by elected officials, but at least we can then vote them out of office.
There are numerous other problems with the DMCA. As I explained in an essay for Cato Unbound:
"The DMCA bars developing, selling, providing, or even linking to technologies that play legal DVDs purchased in a different region, or to convert a DVD you own to a playable file on your computer. Because no licensed DVD playing software is currently available for the Linux operating system, if a Linux user wishes to play a DVD that they have legally bought, they cannot legally play it on their own computer.
In order to regulate this anti-circumvention market, the DCMA authorizes injunctions that seem to fly in the face of First Amendment jurisprudence on prior restraint. The DMCA also makes companies liable for copyright infringement if it doesn't remove content upon notification that someone believes the content infringes their copyright - this creates a very strong business interest in immediately taking down anything that anyone claims is infringing to not be liable. Christina Mulligan's essay for Copyright Unbalanced details how in mid-July 2012 a Mitt Romney campaign ad hosted on Youtube was forcibly removed from the site, and in 2008 Youtube blocked several John McCain ads for more than 10 days. As Mulligan details, the ads were legitimate under "fair use." Allowing individual people to veto political speech that they do not like stifles free expression and political dialogue and even if a rare occurrence under the DMCA should not be taken likely. There are also other examples of abuse, Mulligan details that one group had all Justin Bieber songs removed from Youtube as a prank."
And if you thought this was bad, provisions of the DMCA relating to anti-circumvention are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Treaty - and the United States is the party asking for it as part of the negotiations. Placing it in the treaty will enact our dysfunctional system on an international level in countries that don't want it, and it will "re-codify" the DMCA in an international treaty making it significantly more difficult to revise as necessary. Copyright laws are domestic laws and they need to be flexible enough to adjust accordingly to not inhibit new innovation.
I for one am pro-choice with regard to my smartphone. Ask your elected representative if they are as well.
*Specifically this refers to Section 1204 of Public Law 105-304, which provides that "any person who violates section 1201 or 1201 willfully and for purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain. . .[shall be subject to the listed penalties]." However, given copyright laws broad interpretation by the courts, it could be argued that merely unlocking your own smartphone takes a device of one value and converts it into a device of double that value (the resale market for unlocked phones is significantly higher) and therefore unlocking is inherently providing a commercial advantage or a private financial gain - even if the gain hasn't been realized. In other words, unlocking doubles or triples the resale value of your own device and replaces the need to procure the unlocked device from the carrier at steep costs, which may be by definition a private financial gain. Alternatively, one can argue that a customer buying a cheaper version of a product, the locked version vs. the unlocked version, and then unlocking it themselves in violation of the DMCA, is denying the provider of revenue which also qualifies. There are several cases that have established similar precedents where stealing coaxial cable for personal use has been held to be for "purposes of commercial advantage or private financial gain." (See Cablevision Sys. New York City Corp. v. Lokshin, 980 F. Supp. 107, 109 (E.D.N.Y. 1997)); (Cablevision Sys. Dev. Co. v. Cherrywood Pizza, 133 Misc. 2d 879, 881, 508 N.Y.S.2d 382, 383 (Sup. Ct. 1986)).
**The Ninth Circuit recently explained in United States v. Nosal, 676 F.3d 854 (9th Cir. 2012) that under a "broad interpretation of the [Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) you could be prosecuted for personal use of work computers]." The court explained that under this approach "While it's unlikely that you'll be prosecuted for watching Reason.TV on your work computer, you could be [emphasis in original]. Employers wanting to rid themselves of troublesome employees. . . could threaten to report them to the FBI unless the quit. Ubiquitous, seldom-prosecuted crimes invite arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement." The Court rejected this interpretation which would have made regular activity by average citizens as a potential felony and ruled that running afoul of a corporate computer use restriction does not violate the CFAA. It's possible that here a court would use judicial discretion to narrowly interpret the DMCA and reject the broad definitions that are typically advanced by the government.
Posted by . , at 9:18 PM
Egypt's protests reveal deficit of trust in Muslim Brotherhood
Five days of protests in Egypt, with dozens of people killed and entire cities in turmoil, have revealed a whopping deficit of public trust in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic group that dominates the leadership of this young democracy of the Arab Spring.
In cities like Port Said, the protesters have displayed an open defiance ofPresident Mohamed Morsi’s orders on a curfew and state of emergency. Egypt’s Army chief warns of the state collapsing. And indeed, many Egyptians now talk of splitting up the Arab world’s most populous state.
The triggers for this upheaval were the second anniversary of the fall of Hosni Mubarak and a court sentencing 21 people for the deaths of 74 people after a soccer match last year. But below the surface of this dissent lies a deeper struggle. It is one trying to define the source of legitimacy for Egypt’s new leaders, or the kind of sentiment that cements trust between a government and its people.
As it has slowly risen to power in the past two years, the Muslim Brotherhood has broken many promises about the role it would play in representative government. Its flip-flops and power grabs in forming a new regime have only added to a worry among democracy advocates that Mr. Morsi would define his authority from Islam, or sharia law, rather than from constitutional rights and secular pluralism. [this pattern of flip-flop, breaking promises, hiding true values, etc. occurs with all grabs of power, the form of government is irrelevant]
Even within the Brotherhood, a decades-long debate on reconciling Islam as a revealed religion with liberal democracy has yet to be settled, resulting in splits and high-level defections. A younger generation in the group wants to rely on persuasion to gain support while an old guard sticks to al-sama’ wa’l-ta’a, or “hearing and obeying.”
Now an Islamic movement founded by an Egyptian schoolteacher in 1928 faces the kind of protests that brought down a secular dictator. Protesters even chant the same word used in 2011: “Leave.”
|HEARING AND OBEYING … AL-SAMA' WA'L-TA'A|
Many Egyptians, or at least those in major cities, appear to be worried that their country might follow the path of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, in which Islamic leaders cite holy writ for secular authority more than they do public polls or election results.
The current protests show Egyptians trust democracy itself but they want more checks and balances on the power of elected leaders. Distrust is built into any democracy as a way to prevent the abuse of power by a few even if the system itself requires public trust.
“Trust is a kind of shorthand for a whole range of expectations and emotions about the content of our public life,” writes British philosopher Marek Kohn in a 2008 book, “Trust: Self-Interest and the Common Good.”
As in personal relations, trust in government requires a great deal of openness and equality. Those traits are not well practiced within the Brotherhood’s strict hierarchy. It will need to adjust quickly if it wants to win back the support of Egyptians.
Posted by . , at 9:04 PM
Shale gas boom now visible from space
Oil companies at the heart of the US shale oil boom are burning off enough gas to power all the homes in Chicago and Washington combined in a practice causing growing concern about the waste of resources and damage to the environment.
The volume of unwanted gas being flared off in North Dakota, the state leading the shale revolution transforming the outlook for US energy, rose about 50 per cent last year. The surge at the state’s Bakken formation is being replicated in other shale regions with the Texas state regulator issuing 1,963 permits to flare in 2012, more than six times the number of 306 in 2010.
The rapid increase has made the US one of the world’s worst countries for gas flaring. The volume of gas flared in the US has tripled in just five years, according to World Bank estimates and is now fifth highest in the world, behind Russia, Nigeria, Iran and Iraq.
The flaring is a result, in large part, of the low price of natural gas in North America, which can make it uneconomic to build pipelines and tanks to handle the gas released by oil production. Flaring is often the safest way to dispose of it.
The lights of the flares burning in the Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford shale fields can clearly be seen in night-time satellite photography.
Flaring has been attracting attention from investors and environmental campaigners because of the waste of gas and its consequences for greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollution and disturbance to nearby communities.
Flaring in North Dakota increases by about 20 per cent the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the state’s oil production, refining and transport, compared with the US average, according to Financial Times analysis of official data.
Investors managing a total of $500bn last year wrote to oil companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron, Statoil and US independents urging them to do more to cut their flaring. They warned that “excessive flaring, because of its impact on air quality and climate change, poses significant risks for the companies involved.”
Since then, flaring in the US and concerns over it have only increased.
Mercy Investment Services, which manages the investments of the Sisters of Mercy order of nuns, filed a shareholder resolution this month calling on Continental Resources, the leading oil producer in the Bakken, to adopt clear goals for cutting or eliminating flaring.
Continental said it already flared proportionately less gas than the industry average, was making progress on more reductions and agreed to report on its progress in 2013.
The North Dakota legislature is considering a bill to encourage flaring reduction through tax breaks. The state is also pushing producers to use gas to power drilling rigs.
Posted by . , at 10:56 AM
Sunday, January 27, 2013
France's richest man moves to Belgium and takes multi-billion pound fortune with him 'to avoid new socialist super-tax'
- Bernard Arnault, head of luxury goods group LVMH, insists that he moved the cash and assets for ‘family inheritance reasons’
- It is thought he wants to avoid a 75 per cent top rate on income being introduced by President Francois Hollande
- Mr. Arnault would be an idoit allowing himself to being financially raped by President Francois Hollande
The richest man in France has officially transferred his multi-billion pound fortune out of his homeland to Belgium.
Bernard Arnault, head of luxury goods group LVMH, insists he has moved his assets for ‘family inheritance reasons’.
But others are convinced that the 63-year-old has joined other tycoons and celebrities in wanting to avoid taxes – including a 75 per cent top rate on income – introduced by Socialist President Francois Hollande.
Mr Arnault applied for a Belgian passport soon after the Socialists won elections last year.
Mr Arnault, who owns numerous homes around the world including one in London, applied for a Belgian passport soon after Mr Hollande’s Socialists won presidential and parliamentary elections last year.
Critics immediately attacked him for leaving the country that is associated with all the brands which made his fortune - including Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Guerlain, Moet & Chandon champagne and Hennessy cognac.
Nicolas Demorand, the editor of national newspaper Liberation, attacked him for ‘forgetting the country which has made him King’, adding : ‘Bernard Arnault is running the risk of fuelling suspicion about him, harming the image of his brands and weakening the employees who give them life.’
Mr Arnault has transferred his 31 per cent stake in Groupe Arnault, the family holding that controls LVMH, to Pilinvest, a Belgian firm that he specifically set up for the purpose.
The stake is worth around 5.5 billion pounds, and Mr Arnault insists he wants to keep it in the hands of his five children after he dies.
He has established a structure destined to prevent any of them selling their shares in the event of his death.
|THE LITTLE PEOPLE ALWAYS GET THE GOVERNMENT THEY DESERVE … AND THE WEALTHY HAVE THE OPTION TO VOTE WITH THEIR FEET.|
A source close to him said the structure was lawful in Belgium, but would not be so in France.
‘He has got two obsessions - controlling his group and ensuring that it survives him,’ said the source.
The Belgian Office of Foreigners has suggested it might block Mr Arnault’s request for a passport, but the final decision will be taken by the Brussels parliament.
Belgium has a much more lenient tax regime than France – raising an inheritance tax of three per cent, compared to11 per cent in France. Unlike France, there is no wealth tax in Belgium either.
Mr Arnault is also likely to be concerned by Mr Hollande’s plan to bring capital gains tax in line with income tax – effectively raising it from 19 per cent to 45 per cent, and possibly to 75 per cent if the Socialist President goes through with his threat to make that the top income tax rate for earnings over €1 million a year.
Earlier this year, Hollywood star Gerard Depardieu became another high-profile Frenchman moving his assets abroad.
The Green Card and Cyrano de Bergerac card obtained a Russian passport, bought a house in Belgium, and put his multi-million pounds Paris town house on the market.
Posted by . , at 8:05 PM