Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)

Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)
French National Assembly head Edouard Herriot and British Foreign minister Ernest Bevin surrounded by Italian, Luxembourg and other delegates at the first meeting of Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg, August 1949 (AFP Photo)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat retrains his fingers

RNW, 30 December 2011, by Jannie Schipper   

(Photo: Ali Ferzat)

"Once my fingers have healed, I'll go back," says the renowned Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat. In a physical attack in August his hands were severely injured, making it temporarily impossible to draw cartoons. Earlier this month Mr Ferzat won the European Sakharov Prize for freedom of speech.

Born in 1951, Ferzat Ali has been working for thirty years as a cartoonist in Syria. He has won several prizes for his work, including the Dutch Prince Claus Award in 2003. Until early 2011 his cartoons used symbols to represent the powerful. But since April, he has drawn recognizable caricatures of the president and other leaders.

"Times have changed," says Mr Ferzat by telephone from Kuwait. "Before, people had time at home to think about the symbols that we used. Since the people have taken to the streets, we should be more direct."

Wall of fear

''Fear dominated the people, including me, "continues Mr Ferzat. However, a year ago he decided, 'to break the wall of fear.' "I was the first person who had drawn caricatures of the president, security officers and ministers since 1963."

That courage nearly cost him his life on 25 August 2011. Mr Ferzat left his office as usual and got into his car. On his way home, a car with tinted windows blocked the road. He knew that type of car was used by the security services. The men kidnapped and assaulted him, aiming specifically at his face and hands. According to Mr Ferzat they had batons with them "like the police use."

Eventually he was thrown out of a moving car on the way to the airport, about fifty miles from his home in Damascus. "Nobody stopped to pick me up because I looked so gruesome and bloody." When a truckload of workers stopped with a flat tyre, he was able to get back into town. At the moment Ali Ferzat is still recovering in Kuwait.

Old friends

Mr Ferzat and Bashar al-Assad are old friends. The cartoonist has worked for various state media and knows the president personally. "Before Bashar al-Assad came to power, he had discussions with intellectuals and artists. We could propose solutions to the problems we encountered."

When Bashar took over the reins from his deceased father Hafez al-Assad in 2000, according to Mr Ferzat he talked about freedom and modernization. Encouraged by the president, the cartoonist started the independent magazine Al-Domari (the lamp igniter), which is considered as the first independent magazine since the Baath Party came to power.

Censorship

But the fun was soon over. "The same president who had encouraged me to tackle the economic mafia in the country, was absent when they declared war on me." When the regime realised after a few months that Al-Domari was not afraid of publishing sharp criticism, the censorship got worse.

"Sometimes we published white pages instead of the censored articles," says Mr Ferzat. With some irony, he adds: "The white copies sold better than the printed ones." The distribution was taken over by the regime, "so that they had the freedom not to publish the magazine." After two years Al-Domari came to an end.

Mr Ferzat is convinced that the insurgents in Syria will win. "The response of repression and security that the regime has chosen, has failed. Now, people face the deadly weapons with bare chests."

Return to Syria

Mr Ferzat is busy retraining his fingers. Once he has recovered, the cartoonist will return to Syria. That's not a choice, he says. "I don't own a supermarket that I can freely open and close. Drawing cartoons is my only profession. The art is a gift from God, and I must continue to bring my message."

This article is a co-production with PRI's The World.


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Friday, December 30, 2011

Doomed teen Ben Breedlove shares life after death experiences on YouTube

Rawstory, by Agence France-Presse, Friday, December 30, 2011 

Ben Breedlove
CHICAGO — A week before Ben Breedlove died of a heart attack, the Texas teenager posted a remarkable video describing the peace and bright lights he’d found the other times his heart stopped. 

Breedlove, 18, tells his story with simple note cards and the occasional smile, sitting close to the camera and stepping back just once to show the scar from when a pacemaker was implanted to help his troubled heart.

It is a remarkably hopeful video, though Breedlove also describes the fear he lived with after being born with a serious heart condition and disappointment that he could not play sports and “be the same as everyone else.” 

“The first time I cheated death was when I was 4,” one of the cards said.

Breedlove had a seizure and as nurses rushed him down a hospital hallway, he told his mother of the bright light overhead.

She said she couldn’t see anything, but he felt his fear and worries washed away and couldn’t help smiling.

“I can’t even describe the peace, how peaceful it was,” he wrote. “I will NEVER forget that feeling or that day.”

Breedlove nearly died again a few months ago when his heart stopped during a routine surgery to remove his tonsils.

“It was a miracle that they brought me back,” he wrote. “I was scared to die but am SO glad I didn’t.”

Breedlove’s heart stopped again on December 6. He was at his Austin high school and sat down on a bench after feeling like he was going to faint.

He passed out and when he woke up, he couldn’t talk or move. He could only watch and listen as paramedics put shock pads on his chest.

He heard them say that his heart had stopped and that he had no pulse, which he explains by the fact that “when people’s bodies ‘die’ the brain still works for a short time.”

“I really thought to myself, this is it, I’m dying,” he wrote.

“The next thing that happened I’m not sure if it was a dream or vision. But while I was still unconscious I was in this white room. No walls, it just went on and on…”

He found himself standing with his favorite rapper, Kid Cudi, and they were both dressed in really nice suits.

“Why he was the only one there with me, I’m still trying to figure out,” Breedlove wrote.

“I had that same feeling, I couldn’t stop smiling. I then looked at myself in the mirror and I was proud of MYSELF. Of my entire life, everything I have done. IT WAS THE BEST feeling.”

Kid Cudi put his hand on his shoulder and then Breedlove’s favorite song came on, the part where Cudi raps “when will this fantasy end… when will the heaven begin?”

Cudi told him “Go now” and Breedlove woke up.

After viewing the video, the rapper said he broke down in tears watching it.

“This has really touched my heart in a way I cant describe, this is why I do what I do. Why I write my life, and why I love you all so much,” Kid Cudi wrote on his blog.

“I know Ben is at Peace, and I hope he gets a chance to sit and talk with my Dad.”

Breedlove ended his video with four final cards: “I didn’t want to leave that place. I wish I NEVER woke up. Do you believe in angels or God? I Do.”

Breedlove died at Christmas and his family said in his death notice that it was a gift from God.

“We know the Lord used the amazing life of our precious son to reach a weary world on Christmas night, just as He did over 2000 years ago with his own Son,” they wrote, and urged people to find the video that Breedlove posted on YouTube on December 18.








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"Perceptions of God" – June 6, 2010 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Quantum TeachingThe Fear of God, Near-death Experience, God Becomes Mythology, Worship, Mastery, Intelligent Design, Benevolent Creator,Global Unity.... etc.(Text version)

“… When a Human almost dies, they get close to the veil, very close. They are ever so close to the creator's energy and just barely touched by it. When their heart was stopping and their breathing was almost gone, before they were brought back to life with science, they got to touch the hand of God for just an instant. What they saw was magnificent! The energy before them was filled with love and light, filled with family, filled with beauty. There was no strife there. There was no punishment there or even the hint of it. And when they came back from that experience, listen to what they told you. It changed their lives, didn't it? Listen to each one talk about it, for they continued to say, "There is nothing to fear and death is something you experience as a normal transition." Blessed is the Human Being who experiences both death and birth and has the wisdom to report, "Oh, it's uncomfortable, but I'll get through it, because I've done it before." The person who has experienced a near-death experience is no longer afraid to die! What does that tell you? They have seen what is there and they embrace it! …”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Deutsche Telekom in $95 million bribery settlement

Reuters, by Jonathan Stempel, Thu Dec 29, 2011

(Reuters) - German phone company Deutsche Telekom AG and a Hungarian unit will pay more than $95 million to settle U.S. criminal and civil probes into the bribery of government officials in Macedonia and Montenegro.

The settlements resolve Department of Justice and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that Deutsche Telekom and its 60 percent-owned Magyar Telekom unit violated the federal Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

U.S. investigators said former Magyar executives arranged in 2005 and 2006 for the payment of 12.2 million euros ($15.8 million) to intermediaries, expecting some of it to be funneled to the government officials in exchange for benefits to help it run or expand its business.

The SEC filed separate civil charges against three former Magyar executives: Chief Executive Elek Straub, director of central strategic organization Andras Balogh, and director of business development and acquisitions Tamas Morvai.

"Magyar Telekom's senior executives used sham contracts to funnel millions of dollars in corrupt payments to foreign officials who could help them keep competitors out and win business," Kara Novaco Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC enforcement division's unit handling FCPA cases, said in a statement.

Thursday's settlements include $64 million of criminal penalties assessed by the Justice Department and a $31.2 million civil penalty imposed by the SEC.

The Justice Department also agreed not to prosecute both companies if they comply with the law over the next two years. Both companies also agreed to improve compliance programs.

Deutsche Telekom will pay $4.36 million of the criminal penalty. Magyar will pay the remaining $59.6 million, plus more than $31.2 million in disgorgement and interest to the SEC.

THREE EXECUTIVES CHARGED BY SEC

Magyar said it previously set aside the full $90.8 million (21.75 billion forints) it owes in the settlements, and has taken several steps to improve its practices.

Deutsche Telekom also confirmed the settlements. The executives plan to challenge the SEC's charges.

Straub "adamantly denies having engaged in any wrongdoing," according to his lawyer Carl Rauh, a partner at Hogan Lovells.

William Sullivan, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman representing Balogh, said: "No one has ever uncovered evidence of bribery of any government officials for the simple reason that none ever occurred."

Michael Koenig, a partner at Greenberg Traurig representing Morvai, said: "There is a vast difference between allegations and actual evidence. Simply because the SEC says it does not make it so."

SHAM CONTRACTS ALLEGED

Investigators said Magyar used sham consulting and marketing contracts to pay 4.88 million euros ($6.31 million) in 2005 and 2006 to an intermediary.

Magyar expected some of the money to go to Macedonian officials who would provide regulatory benefits and keep a rival out of their market, the investigators said.

Meanwhile, in Montenegro another 7.35 million euros ($9.51 million) was paid in 2005 to consultants under four sham contracts, under a plan to help Magyar buy state-owned phone company Telekom Crne Gore AD on favorable terms, the SEC said.

Magyar entered a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, and Deutsche Telekom a nonprosecution agreement for maintaining inaccurate books and records.

The Justice Department filed formal charging documents in court only against Magyar.

Deutsche Telekom was charged because it had filed financial statements with U.S. regulators that improperly reflected the payments. The company and Magyar also had American depository receipts that traded at the time of the payments.

Last week, AT&T Inc ended its $39 billion bid to buy T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom.

The Justice Department filed its case with the U.S. district court in Alexandria, Virginia, while the SEC filed with the U.S. district court in Manhattan.

The cases are U.S. v. Magyar Telekom Plc, U.S. District Court; Eastern District of Virginia, No. 11-cr-00597; SEC v. Magyar Telekom Plc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-09646; and SEC v. Straub et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-09645.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington, D.C., Marton Dunai in Budapest, and Peter Maushagen and Maria Sheahan in Frankfurt; Editing by Dave Zimmerman, Matthew Lewis and Steve Orlofsky)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Stasi files row as Britain refuses to return documents to Germany

The files, obtained by the CIA after the fall of the Berlin Wall, name Britons who spied for East Germany in cold war

Guardian.co.ukHelen Pidd in Berlin, Wednesday 28 December 2011

The archive of Stasi files, held in Berlin, is open to the public and
academics to study the history of the secretive missions. Photograph:
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Britain has been accused of "sheltering communists" after refusing to hand over a cache of Stasi files revealing the names of British spies who worked for the East German secret intelligence agency during the cold war.

The cache belongs to a set of mysterious microfilm images, known as the Rosenholz (Rosewood) records, that contain 280,000 files giving basic information on employees of the foreign intelligence arm of the former GDR.

The records were obtained by the CIA in murky circumstances shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. American agents analysed the data before distributing relevant portions to countries in which the Stasi were active.

A swath of files relating to Stasi activity in the UK were given to MI5 by the Americans in the 1990s. Now Germany wants the files back, to add to its extensive archives on the GDR's ministry for state security, commonly known as the Stasi.

If the files are returned to Germany, they will be made available, unredacted, to scholars and historians. That means that British Stasi sympathisers and spies could be outed for the first time.

Today, Germany only has those sections of the Rosenholz discs pertaining to activity in former West Germany – though the governments of Norway, Denmark and Sweden recently indicated they were ready to hand over the Rosenholz files they were given by the CIA more than 10 years ago.

Since the return to Berlin of the West German portion of the Rosenholz files in 2003, a number of public figures have been outed as Stasi collaborators, most recently a priest who allegedly spied on Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI .

"We need access to these British files in order to understand the cold war, which was a war fought by secret intelligence operatives all over the world," said Helmut Müller-Enbergs, one of the world's leading scholars on the Stasi.

With fellow academics, he is demanding that Britain return the Rosenholz files to the Stasi archives in Berlin. "Given that the Brits have long been considered world class in intelligence gathering, it is especially important for us to understand how the Stasi was able to operate in the UK."

"The UK is not a country known for sheltering communists, so why then will they not reveal to us who in Great Britain was working for a communist regime?" said Müller-Enbergs, a researcher at the Stasi archives in Berlin (BStU) and visiting professor at Gotland University, Sweden.

Roland Jahn, the federal commissioner for the Stasi archive, said: "These records could offer an important complement to those Stasi files we already have, and thus make an important contribution to the reappraisal of the role of East German state security in Europe."

The Stasi archives already encompass 69 miles (111km) of files, including 39m index cards, 1.4m photos and 34,000 video and audio recordings. But the Rosenholz files are key because of the systematic and deliberate destruction of most of the records relating to a Stasi division known as the Hauptverwaltung A (HVA), which was responsible for running an extensive network of spies in the west.

When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, a high level committee agreed (with the blessing of the West German chancellor Helmut Kohl) that the HVA archives should be destroyed – a decision described by Die Zeit recently as one of the worst mistakes made during reunification.

The microfilmed files obtained by the CIA – in what the Americans described as a "clandestine operation" which may have included a pay-off to a rogue KGB agent – are the key because they contain copies of the card indexes of the HVA, listing the real names of all the agents, informers and targets of the Stasi's foreign operations.

Put together with files already in the BStU's possession, they allow scholars to build up a picture of who the spies were, who they were spying on and how the Stasi carried out missions abroad.

Herbert Ziehm, deputy head of the disclosure/information division of the BStU, said it would be "lovely" for Britain to return their portion of the Rosenholz files. "Then we would be able to see exactly who was spying for the Stasi in Britain – from other sources we already know what information they were delivering, but this would enable us to work out who they were," he said.

Ziehm was part of the negotiating team which persuaded the US to hand over the Rosenholz discs to Germany's Stasi archives in 2003.

Even just getting those Rosenholz files pertaining to east and west was a drawn-out process, he said: "The negotiations took a number of years. "The Americans were reluctant to co-operate for some time.One CIA agent put it like this: when you get some loot from a mission, you don't share it." Ziehm believes the CIA obtained the files in 1992 "at the very latest".

Ziehm said the files are important in puzzling how the Stasi operated abroad. "We already had three-quarters of the information – Rosenholz gives us the opportunity to gain the missing quarter," he said.

Thomas Wegener Friis, an associate professor at the Centre for Cold War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark, said the return of the files was about transparency rather than naming and shaming.

"It's not just a question of outing people – though we should not be shy to name those who worked for the Stasi abroad," he said. "More important is being able to understand how intelligence agencies worked on an operational level during the Cold War. It will allow us to learn lessons for the future."Asked by the Guardian why Britain refused to hand over the Rosenholz files, the Foreign Office, which handles press requests for MI5 and MI6, said: "We don't comment on intelligence matters."

No Briton has ever been prosecuted in the UK for spying for East Germany, according to Anthony Glees, professor of politics at the University of Buckingham and director of its Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies.


Bosnia parties agree new central government

BBC News, 28 December 2011

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The crisis had threatened to hold up Bosnia's
entry into international organisations
Muslim, Croat and Serb political leaders in Bosnia have agreed on the formation of a central government, ending 14 months of political crisis.

Bosnia has not had a government since elections in October 2010.

The agreement will allow Bosnia to press ahead with membership talks with the European Union and Nato, and to get access to frozen international funds.

Bosnia remains a deeply divided country after the war there in the mid-1990s, in which around 100,000 people died.

The Dayton Accords which ended the war created two semi-autonomous entities: the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

'Spirit of compromise'

As part of the deal, the parties also agreed to pass a budget, averting the possibility that state institutions could grind to a halt next year.

The EU was "encouraged to see that the spirit of compromise has prevailed after months of political deadlock", according to its special envoy to Bosnia, Peter Sorensen.

Under the deal, the prime minister will be a Bosnian Croat and the foreign minister a Bosnian Muslim.

"Nobody really got what he wanted, but it's good that this has come to an end," Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told AP.

The EU had insisted Bosnia pass laws on holding a census and distributing state aid to qualify as a candidate for membership.

With a new central government, the Bosnian authorities say that could now happen as early as next month.

Russia scolds United States for human rights abuse

Reuters, MOSCOW,  Wed Dec 28, 2011

A demonstrator protests against
Guantanamo  Bay prison during a Stop
the War rally in Trafalgar Square, 
central London October 8, 2011.
 (Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor)
(Reuters) - Russia sought to undermine the authority of the United States as a global judge of human rights on Wednesday with Moscow's first report to detail allegations of torture, phone tapping and abuse by the U.S. government.

Criticizing the United States for double standards, Russia said President Barack Obama had failed to shut the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and accused the White House of sheltering officials and CIA operatives from prosecution.

The Foreign Ministry's report "On the situation with human rights in a host of world states," follows China's example in highlighting U.S. failings in an attempt to counter U.S. State Department criticism of domestic human rights abuses.

"The situation in the United States is far from the ideals proclaimed by Washington," Russia's foreign ministry said in a 63-page report posted on its www.mid.ru Web site. "The main unresolved problem is the odious prison in Guantanamo Bay."

"The White House and the Justice Department shelter from prosecution CIA operatives and highly placed officials who are responsible for mass and flagrant breaches of human rights," it said.

Every year since 1976, the U.S. Department of State has published a detailed report on the state of human rights in the world, often with scathing analyses of abuses in China and Russia.

Washington scolded Russia for "governmental and societal human rights problems and abuses during the year" in its report published in April.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton angered Prime Minister Vladimir Putin this month by suggesting that Russia's parliamentary elections were neither free nor fair.

Russia's counter-report is unlikely to harm ties with its former Cold War foe, though Obama's attempt to forge more friendly ties with the Kremlin has cooled since Vladimir Putin said in September he planned to run in the March presidential election.

"These kinds of human rights reports can be a useful mechanism," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"We certainly don't regard it as interference in our internal affairs when foreign governments, individuals or organizations comment on or criticize U.S. human rights practices."

Russia also criticized European Union countries for the treatment of religious minorities and Britain in particular for breaching human rights in the wake of August's riots.

The report focused on the United States and European countries, mentioning China only once and then in passing.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Quinn; Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by MatthewJones)

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EU proposals erode internet freedoms

RNW, 27 December 2011, by Willemien Groot

 (Cartoon movement)
              
While Europeans were busily preparing for the festive season, Brussels quietly published a document that will have far-reaching consequences for everyone's ability to see what they want on the internet.

The plans contained in the CleanIt Project are supposed to create a clean internet without any terrorists or extremists. The new blueprint for the internet is a dangerous development.

The CleanItProject is a European public-private partnership that fights "the illegal use of the internet by terrorists and extremists" from the perspective of counter-terrorism. Because governments, entrepreneurs and businesses cannot agree on measures to 'keep the internet clean, tidy and safe', Cleanit's proposals are an attempt to impose an agreement on cleaning up the internet. Concerned parties can simply implement the proposals on a voluntary basis. The proposals are not anchored in legislation but are a framework of general principles and best practices.

European point of view

It is difficult to find political and cultural nuances in the proposals. CleanIt contains the well-known list of 'threats to a clean and safe internet'. The threats stem from a limited European idea of reality. Internet crime, discrimination, illegal software, child porn and terrorism are all trotted out and displayed as threats that ordinary, decent folk need to be protected against in their everyday internet use.

Political threats come from every level of society: extreme-left, extreme-right, animal rights extremists, environmental extremists, racists and religious fanatics. Governments have already prohibited the dissemination of violent images, propaganda material and training handbooks for terrorist activities.

It is an uncomfortable truth; the democratisation of the internet has led to a gradual erosion of liberties. Very few people want violent images or child pornography on the net but banning such content is not a solution, it will only go underground.

Murky waters

The think tank behind the proposals, which is partially funded by EU money, maintains that existing national laws prohibiting illegal use of the Internet by extremists and terrorists are more than adequate to counter the threats posed by 'dangerous individuals or organisations'. However, one can debate the veracity of that statement: should the WikiLeaks cables be considered subversive and a threat to national security? Should the Ku Klux Klan be allowed to have a website? Is an instructional video uploaded by a Dutch animal rights activist a call to violence? The answers all lie in the eye of the beholder.

Western governments praised the Arab Spring - the uprisings across much of the Arab world that were driven by social media - but at the same time they demanded strict controls over the selfsame social media in order to block 'unwanted' content. The Egyptian authorities agreed wholeheartedly and simply cut all internet links during the first demonstrations on Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Vigilant

The CleanIt document predicts a far from happy future; it's not easy to create a clean world wide web. Everybody has to be vigilant; not only governments and companies but also internet providers, human rights organisations, churches, social and cultural organisations... the list goes on and on.

Ordinary people can also join the vigilantes: according to CleanIt: “individual users can help by warning providers and police about internet use by terrorists and extremists.” Welcome to North Korea.

The proposals have to be viewed alongside the increasing calls for prohibiting people from using the internet anonymously. Chinese authorities in several cities already force people using Weibo - the Chinese version of twitter - to register under their own name. Google+ doesn't allow pseudonyms and Facebook is doing its level best to get rid of people using pseudonyms as well.

Terrorist or freedom fighter?

CleanIt emphasises that the proposals are not anchored in law and only serve as guidelines. But as time goes on, these sorts of guidelines can sometimes assume the authority of actual legislation.

If the European Union decides that extremist views do not belong on the internet; will then be all right for China, Indonesia and Syria to come to a similar decision? Every country will be able to ban what it decides are extremist views. Indonesia can quietly continue working on its own internal code of conduct that every internet user will be forced to adhere to.

The guidelines are not only poorly thought out, they also gnaw away at the unregulated and uncontrolled access that makes the internet such a glorious, free place that users love and want to preserve. Everyone who believes that it is possible to bend the chaotic internet into a neat and tidy, well-mannered place, falls into the same trap.

It is impossible to promote internet access as a human right, which is high on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s agenda, and at the same time try and restrict and regulate it. The best policy is no policy.

Spain royal family reveals finances

BBC News, 28 December 2011

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The royal family were under no obligation to
reveal their official income, the palace says
Spain's royal family have published their finances for the first time.

King Juan Carlos is paid 292,752 euros (£243,560) annually by the state, the royal accounts reveal.

The king pays 40% tax on his income. He gets 140,519 euros as salary and the rest is for expenses.

Crown Prince Felipe gets 146,376 euros. Queen Sofia and the three princesses get 375,000 euros between them. The total budget for the royal family was 8.4m euros in 2011.

The Spanish royal household has a staff of about 500, and just over 4m euros out of the 8.4m total was spent on them.

The Spanish news website ABC said the family did not disclose how much was spent on clothes, hair styling or other personal items.

The release of royal budget figures on Wednesday was in the spirit of transparency and modern times, the palace said.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Shimon Peres urges Israelis to rally against extremism

BBC News, 27 December 2011

Related Stories 

Many of those at the protest were teenage girls
Israel's president has urged Israelis to rally against ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremism in what he called a fight for the "soul of the nation".

Shimon Peres was speaking as activists gathered to protest in the town of Beit Shemesh against the way some ultra-Orthodox Jews treat women.

There have been two days of clashes in the town after a girl said she had been harassed on her way to school.

Some ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh are seeking to segregate men and women.

Mr Peres said today was a "test for the nation", not just the police.

"The entire nation must be recruited in order to save the majority from the hands of a small minority," Mr Peres said.

He said the demonstration was a defence of the "character" of the state of Israel "against a minority which breaks our national solidarity".

'Afraid to go to school' 

Ultra-Orthodox Jews clashed with
police  in the Israeli town of Beit
Shemesh, near Jerusalem
Anger spilled over after an eight-year-old American girl, Naama Margolese, said she was afraid to walk to school in the town because ultra-Orthodox men shouted at her.

"When I walk to school in the morning, I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared... that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting," she said in a subsequent interview with The Associated Press on Monday.

In his statement, Mr Peres said: "No person has the right to threaten a girl, a woman or any person in any way. They are not the lords of this land."

Dozens, many holding placards, have gathered outside the Orot girls' school, attended by the eight-year-old.

Women have reported similar incidents in the town of 100,000, some 18 miles (30km) south-west of Jerusalem.

Sarit Ramon described the situation in the town, where religiously observant immigrants live alongside Israelis embracing a more modern lifestyle, as having been "catastrophic for years".

"When I told that I was spat at a year and a half ago, people raised an eyebrow, and that was about it," she told Reuters.

Microcosm

Ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel 

- Ultra-orthodox Jews account for just
under 10% of Israel's population

- Rapidly growing community due to a 
high birth rate - meaning this proportion
is set to double within next 20 years

- Beit Shemesh, which lies about 30 km
(18 miles)to the west of Jerusalem, is a
city of about 100,000;Ultra-orthodox Jews
account for about half of the population 
Alisa Coleman told the BBC that she had
been called a prostitute when dressed in
a short-sleeved T-shirt and a skirt.
Though underlining that this behaviour was carried out by only a tiny proportion of the community, she said what was happening in Beit Shemesh was "a microcosm of what's happening in the whole country".

On Monday, one police officer was slightly hurt and a number of Orthodox Jews were detained after a group of some 300 ultra-Orthodox residents pelted police with stones and eggs in an incident reportedly triggered after police tried to remove a sign ordering segregation.

A television crew attempting to film in the town were surrounded and harassed - the second alleged attack on journalists in as many days.

On Sunday, a crew from Channel 2 news, which originally aired Naama Margolese's story, were attacked as they were filming, say reports, with rocks allegedly thrown at their van.

After Monday's clashes, unnamed ultra-Orthodox activists from Beit Shemesh issued a statement condemning the violence, but also accusing the media of initiating "deliberate provocations in order to make the peaceful, quiet and tolerant residents, who live their lives according to their beliefs, look bad".

Such clashes have become more frequent in Israel in recent years as the authorities have challenged efforts by ultra-Orthodox Jews to segregate women in public places.

The BBC's Jon Donnison, in Jerusalem, says the events have highlighted what is a growing religious divide in Israel.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews make up 10% of the population in Israel. The community has a high birth rate and is growing rapidly.



The ultra-Orthodox make up 10 percent of Israel’s population of 7.5 million,but are increasing rapidly amid a growing backlash to the privileges and subsidies long granted to the ultra-religious.
(Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)