The Brexit referendum stoked historic levels of volatility in financial markets, but only a week after the vote most major stock indexes around the world had already recovered all losses. Observers wondered whether the global economy had avoided a systemic-level crisis. This week, however, we got a reminder of what happens when severe dislocations take place in distorted environments. On Wednesday and Thursday, seven of the U.K.'s largest real estate funds froze around $35 billion in combined assets as investors sought to stampede out of British real estate investments. Several managers also simultaneously marked down the value of those funds, hoping to discourage further withdrawals. One fund run by Aberdeen Fund Managers Ltd. suspended redemptions for 24 hours while making a dilution adjustment that reduced its value by 17%, giving panicked investors time and cause to reconsider. Another fund run by Legal & General Group Plc adjusted its value down by 10%. The first three funds to halt redemptions- M&G Investments, Aviva Investors, Standard Life Investments - were forced to do so despite having liquid cash-equivalent positions of 7.7%, 9.3% and 13.1%, respectively. London-based research firm Green Street Advisors last week revealed it sees London office prices falling 20% within three years following the affirmative Brexit vote. Investors, naturally, didn't like the sound of that. Frenzied selling early last week erased more than 3 billion pounds of market value from the FTSE 350 Real Estate Investment Trust Index, with the U.K.'s largest REIT, Land Securities Group Plc, at one point falling nearly 10%. Prices recovered somewhat Thursday and Friday, but investors still appear to have an itchy trigger finger. If the redemption halts and value adjustments aren't enough to prevent further withdrawals, the situation could require forced sales of commercial properties in the U.K. Already more than 650 million pounds worth of proposed real estate deals in London have collapsed in the wake of Brexit, most notably the proposed 465 million pound acquisition of a landmark office block by Germany's Union Investment from U.S. property developer Hines. Another German real estate investor, KanAm, pulled out of its 190 million pound purchase of 1 Wood Street, the London headquarters of the law firm Eversheds. One of the most concerning twists in the saga is the revelation that while many U.K. property funds maintain strong liquidity buffers (which were reinforced leading up to the Brexit referendum), those buffers are often held in shares of other REITs. M&G, for example, owns more than 2 million shares in Aviva's suspended fund, while Standard Life holds about 2.4 million shares in M&G's fund. The decision to hold liquidity buffers in the only-moderate safety of REIT shares is part of a larger distortion of risk taking that has resulted from unprecedented monetary policy following the 2008 financial crisis. With safe-haven bond yields around the world at historic lows, both retail and institutional investors have sought the fantastical combination of liquidity and yield offered by assets like REITs and utilities. The desperate search for income has pushed investors down the risk spectrum, potentially creating bubbles in dividend and distribution yielding instruments. U.K. property funds also suffer from a liquidity mismatch, offering daily liquidity on an underlying foundation of illiquid assets such as commercial real estate, which can take months to sell. Together these factors create the potential for a domino effect within the already fragile European banking system, made worse by the incestuous relationships within the U.K. property market. During the 2008 financial crisis, a similar wave of redemption halts served as a canary in the coal mine for global markets. Janus Capital's Bill Gross, in an interview with Bloomberg TV, didn't shy away from the comparison: "It's reminiscent of Bear Stearns' subprime funds before the Lehman debacle. The system doesn't allow liquidity to flow into the proper places. If these property funds are just one indication, perhaps there will be others to follow. I think it's something to worry about." Having learned lessons from 2008, the financial sector has less leverage and policy makers are more acutely aware of their crucial role in providing liquidity during the worst of the storm. This week's episode, though, highlights the precarious position of global markets. Seven years of experimental monetary policy has reflated asset prices in the absence of corresponding improvement in economic fundamentals. These events may not be the spark to set the global economy aflame once again, but they're a reminder that we've built the recovery on a bed of kindling. Brexit Currency Fallout While British stocks bounced back post-Brexit, the pound this week traded to fresh multi-decade lows versus the dollar. The shellacking has gotten so severe the sterling overtook the Argentine peso as the worst performing currency against the dollar in 2016. Argentina, if you don't remember, triggered a massive peso devaluation late last year when President Mauricio Macri removed its peg from the dollar. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank think the pound plunge is just getting started. Goldman and Citi see the GBP/USD weakening to 1.2000, while Deutsche Bank sees the exchange rate falling even further to 1.1500 (GBP/USD closed Friday at 1.2952). The sharp decline is an acceleration of the British pound's 100-year debasement, which, as currencies tend to do, reflects a decline in the kingdom's global influence. The inverse relationship between the pound and British stocks, however, is not an anomalous divergence. With companies in Great Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 index deriving nearly 70% of their revenues from outside the U.K., the sterling's depreciation actually serves to boost equity valuations. But that doesn't mean the pound's plight is a net positive as investors continue to pull back from investment in the kingdom in light of uncertainty over its trade and employment relationship with the E.U. and other global powers. A major impetus for further devaluation of the pound is policy intervention from the Bank of England (BOE), which looks set to cut rate in hopes of limiting the economic fallout from the Brexit. BOE governor Mark Carney has stepped up admirably (amid the U.K. Treasury's silence) in the wake of the referendum result. He took the unusual step of explicitly signaling intent to pump more stimulus into the British economy, boosting risk assets and weighing further on the pound. However, Carney's helping hand wasn't enough to prevent U.K. consumer confidence from plunging the most in 21 years. U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne finally found his voice more than three days after the vote, saying he wants to cut the kingdom's corporate tax rate from its current level of 20% to below 15% in order to signal that Britain is still "open for business." The real losers in the sterling's pounding are emerging market currencies, which in aggregate have lost around 10% of value versus the dollar so far this year. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes the dollar is 10-20% stronger than it should be based on current economic conditions. Devalued currencies can benefit economies by making exports more attractive, but that dynamic becomes much less powerful when global aggregate demand for goods is low. In addition, as currencies depreciate, debt-ridden emerging markets see the effective cost of interest payments increase. As the largest borrower of dollar-denominated debt, China's private sector is the most exposed to this phenomenon. On cue, Chinese trade minister Gao Hucheng this week lamented the "grim" global economy at a two-day G20 trade summit in Shanghai, calling for the international community to "inject impetus for recovery and growth." Translation: Janet Yellen, don't even think about raising rates anytime soon. The Brexit has only exacerbated risk aversion resulting from the global financial crisis. In a low growth world, investors are willing to pay a high price for income and the perception of safety. They also want the returns associated with illiquid investments while maintaining the ostensible protection of liquidity. The Brexit has only made anxious investors even more skittish, but don't tell them to be calm and patient - that really grinds their gears. Get Ready For "Quitaly" or "Italeave" Speculation While all the attention has been focused on the U.K., a more urgent crisis is beginning to rear its ugly head in Europe: the undercapitalization of Italian banks. Within the Italian banking system, 17% of loans are non-performing. By comparison, at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, the percentage of sour loans in the U.S. banking system was 5%. If Italy was the only European country facing a banking crisis, the E.U. would have the tools to help them through it. But given the precarious capital position of banks in even the bloc's most stable countries (see: Germany -> Deutsche Bank), plus the uncertainty surrounding the entire union post-Brexit, the E.U. is not in the best position to cope with the current crunch. The benchmark European financial sector index is already down 30% this year, more than half of those losses coming in the last two weeks. E.U. policymakers are considering the creation of a system-wide non-performing debt market, but the Brexit has caused bad loans to pile up more rapidly in the meantime. And with the further erosion of confidence comes the possibility of bank runs. Think Greece, but on a much larger scale. In response to the 2008 financial crisis, global economic officials kicked the can down the road in hopes improved economic output would paper over cracks created by many years of irresponsible lending. That hasn't happened, and Brexit has only accelerated the inevitable reckoning. Blockbuster Jobs Report Giving investors a respite from the doom and gloom was Friday's stellar U.S. employment situation report. After seeing non-farm payrolls increase by just 11,000 in May, the U.S. economy created 287,000 jobs in June (versus consensus estimates of 180,000). It was the strongest jobs number relative to expectations since December 2009 and the largest month-to-month jump in job creation ever (owing in part to the Verizon workers strike, which began in May and ended in June, eliminating and subsequently returning around 35,000 jobs to the labor force). The wild swing reinforces the fact it's important to focus on employment trends rather than individual data points. Averaging the May and June totals, the U.S. economy created 149,000 per month, closer to the 2016 average of 175,000. While representing a downshift from the 200,000-per-month average from the last six years, the figure is hardly a harbinger of recession. Digging further into the report, the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.9% thanks to an increase in labor force participation. The U-6 unemployment rate, which counts discouraged and reluctant part-time workers, fell from from 9.7% to 9.6%, its lowest reading since April 2008. Slow wage growth has tempered enthusiasm over strong employment gains over the last six years, but in June wages grew 2.6% year-over-year, the largest increase since the financial crisis. The tightening job market is leading to larger pay increases for workers switching jobs, just one indicator that has economists seeing stronger wage growth just around the corner. Had the U.K. voted to remain in the E.U., such a strong report would have likely caused stocks to sell-off in anticipation of Federal Reserve tightening. But with post-Brexit turmoil in global markets eliminating basically any expectation of a Fed rate hike in 2016, a blockbuster report was the goldilocks scenario for risk assets this time around. The S&P 500 responded in kind, rallying sharply Friday to close the week just below all-time highs. Even U.S. Treasuries participated in the rally as investors flocked toward the safe-haven of an insulated American economy. Yield on the the U.S. 10-year note finished the week at an all-time low of 1.3579%. Meanwhile, Japan's 20-year bond yield entered negative territory for the first time. It all goes to show there is no such thing as impossible in markets anymore. The stock market is so far ignoring a flattening yield curve, typically one of the most reliable indicators of a looming economic slowdown. Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank believe a recession is on the horizon, but in our analysis, the rapid decline in U.S. Treasury yields says more about the pitiful prospects for rest of the developed world than it does about the U.S. economy. E.U. Cities Court London Jobs French politicians have finally rallied around a common cause, and we're not talking about the national football team's run to the finals of Euro 2016. Seeing an opening from the Brexit, a bi-partisan coalition of government and corporate officials have joined forces in a bid to woo finance jobs from London. And they're not alone. The German government is erecting billboards in London promoting Berlin as a destination for entrepreneurship. Dublin is finalizing an advertising assault on London business executives. Milan thinks European banking regulators would look good in Dolce & Gabbana. JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley gave London a half-hearted vote of confidence on Thursday after a meeting with the U.K. Treasury. The banks, along with Citigroup, signed a statement letter saying they would try to maintain support for the city's financial sector, but there was no firm commitment on keeping jobs in the British capitol. There's a big difference between a promise ring and a wedding band, and Jamie Dimon seems to be pinning his hopes on the U.K. having second thoughts about its divorce from the E.U. -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.
U.K. stocks were higher after the close on Wednesday, as gains in the Construction&Materials, Food&Drug Retailers and Tobacco sectors led shares higher. At the close in London, the FTSE 100 added 0.32%. The best performers of the session on the FTSE 100 were CRH (LONDON:CRH), which rose 3.40% or 61.00 points to trade at 1853.00 at the close. Meanwhile, WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC (LONDON:MRW) added 3.25% or 5.60 points to end at 178.10 and TUI AG (LONDON:TUIT) was up 2.32% or 27.00 points to 1192.00 in late trade. The worst performers of the session were British Land Co Plc (LONDON:BLND), which fell 2.70% or 23.00 points to trade at 829.00 at the close. International Airlines Group (LONDON:ICAG) declined 2.07% or 11.50 points to end at 543.50 and Land Securities Group Plc (LONDON:LAND) was down 1.70% or 22.00 points to 1272.00. Rising stocks outnumbered declining ones on the London Stock Exchange by 1578 to 1054 and 447 ended unchanged. Gold for August delivery was down 0.39% or 4.60 to $1189.80 a troy ounce. Elsewhere in commodities trading, Crude oil for delivery in July fell 1.88% or 1.15 to hit $60.11 a barrel, while the July Brent oil contract fell 2.07% or 1.35 to trade at $64.14 a barrel. GBP/USD was up 0.02% to 1.5349, while EUR/GBP rose 1.09% to 0.7346. The US Dollar Index was down 0.72% at 95.30.
U.K. stocks were higher after the close on Tuesday, as gains in the Real Estate Investment Trusts REITs, Automobiles&Parts and Real Estate sectors led shares higher. At the close in London, the FTSE 100 added 0.38%. The best performers of the session on the FTSE 100 were Coca Cola HBC AG (LONDON:CCH), which rose 4.30% or 61.0 points to trade at 1480.0 at the close. Meanwhile, Land Securities Group Plc (LONDON:LAND) added 3.97% or 52.00 points to end at 1363.00 and Intu Properties Plc (LONDON:INTUP) was up 3.12% or 10.70 points to 354.10 in late trade. The worst performers of the session were Bhp Billiton (LONDON:BLT), which fell 3.93% or 57.50 points to trade at 1405.50 at the close. Fresnillo Plc (LONDON:FRES) declined 3.53% or 28.00 points to end at 764.50 and Vodafone Group PLC (LONDON:VOD) was down 3.20% or 7.50 points to 226.60. Rising stocks outnumbered declining ones on the London Stock Exchange by 1788 to 843 and 417 ended unchanged. Shares in Coca Cola HBC AG (LONDON:CCH) rose to 52-week highs; gaining 4.30% or 61.0 to 1480.0. Shares in Land Securities Group Plc (LONDON:LAND) rose to all time highs; up 3.97% or 52.00 to 1363.00. Gold for June delivery was down 1.65% or 20.20 to $1207.40 a troy ounce. Elsewhere in commodities trading, Crude oil for delivery in July fell 3.02% or 1.82 to hit $58.42 a barrel, while the July Brent oil contract fell 2.81% or 1.86 to trade at $64.41 a barrel. GBP/USD was down 0.88% to 1.5516, while EUR/GBP fell 0.59% to 0.7185. The US Dollar Index was up 1.19% at 95.34.
Великобритания/США: Land Securities продаст свою долю в офисном здании на Таймс-сквер компании Black
Крупнейший по рыночной капитализации трастовый фонд недвижимости в Великобритании Land Securities Group заключил соглашение о продаже своей 95%-ной доли в офисном здании на Таймс-сквер в Лондоне. Стоит отметить, что сумма данной сделки составит 268,4 млн фунтов стерлингов (400,5 млн), а покупателем выступит американская частная инвестиционная компания Blackstone Group.
Великобритания/США: Land Securities продаст свою долю в офисном здании на Таймс-сквер компании Black
Крупнейший по рыночной капитализации трастовый фонд недвижимости в Великобритании Land Securities Group заключил соглашение о продаже своей 95%-ной доли в офисном здании на Таймс-сквер в Лондоне. Стоит отметить, что сумма данной сделки составит 268,4 млн фунтов стерлингов (400,5 млн), а покупателем выступит американская частная инвестиционная компания Blackstone Group.
Обзор Форекс: Евро торгуется смешанно Этим утром евро демонстрирует разнонаправленную динамику относительно своих главных соперников. В ходе сегодняшней предстоящей торговой сессии в поле зрения трейдеров будут данные по инфляции потребительских цен из Германии, которые помогут оценить последние инфляционные тренды в крупнейшей экономике Европы. Кроме того, информация по инфляции потребительских цен в Великобритании также вызовет умеренный интерес в преддверии выхода квартального отчёта по инфляции. Тем временем, в США привлекут к себе внимание выступления некоторых из политических лидеров. Так, в 6 часов утра по GMT евро потерял 0,2 процента и 0,1 процента против американского доллара и британского фунта, торгуясь по цене 1,3387 доллара и 0,8379 фунта соответственно. Австралийский доллар опустился на 0,3 процента в сравнении с долларом США после того, как октябрьские данные констатировали ухудшение настроения в деловых кругах Австралии. Европа: Рынок откроется в «плюсе» Открытие германского фондового индекса DAX и французского CAC ожидается на 18-19 пунктов и 3 пункта выше соответственно. Индекс Британской фондовой биржи FTSE100 откроется повышением на 9 пунктов. Публикация индекса потребительских цен Германии, Италии и Португалии; индекса оптовых цен Германии; индекса потребительских цен, индекса цен производителей, индекса розничных цен, индекса ведущих экономических индикаторов от Совета национальной промышленной конференции (экономическая исследовательская организация) и индекса цен на жильё от ONS Великобритании запланирована на сегодня. Henkel AG & Company KGaA (HEN3), Deutsche Post AG (DPW), Infineon Technologies AG (IFX), Lanxess AG (LXS), Bilfinger SE (GBF), Acciona SA (ANA), Vodafone Group (VOD), Land Securities Group (LAND), Babcock International Group (BAB), Talktalk Telecom Group (TALK), BTG (BTG) и Oxford Instruments (OXIG) объявят о своих результатах сегодня. Член Европейской комиссии Хоакин Альмуния (Joaquin Almunia) заявил о проведении проверки относительно того, имело ли место снижение скорости интернет-соединения компаниями Deutsche Telekom AG (DTE), Orange SA (ORA) и Telefonica SA (TEF) в целях нанесения ущерба конкурентам, которым требуется большой объём данных. Caixabank SA (CABK) планирует выпустить облигации стоимостью около 620,0 миллионов евро, которые по истечении срока могут быть обменены на акции Repsol SA (REP) или наличные средства, или разом и то и другое. UniCredit SpA (UCG) опубликовала данные о снижении чистой прибыли за третий квартал на 39,0 процентов, между тем, как показатели превысили консенсус-прогноз рынка. Главный исполнительный директор кенийского подразделения Diageo (DGE) Чарльз Айлэнд (Charles Island) сообщил, что в настоящее время компания рассматривает расширение своих операций в Южном Судане и других странах Восточной Африки с целью извлечь выгоду из ускорения экономического роста в регионе. По информации «Reuters», Barclays (BARC) заключила контракт на поставку сырой нефти на немецкий перерабатывающий завод швейцарской Klesch Group в рамках расширения сырьевого бизнеса банка. Азия: Торги в основном в «зелёном» Этим утром азиатские рынки большей частью торгуются на положительной территории. В Японии KDDI Corporation (9433) пошли вверх после того, как компания спрогнозировала увеличение среднего дохода на одного пользователя. Dentsu Corporation (4324) прибавили в цене ввиду того, что компания пересмотрела прогноз чистой прибыли на полный год в сторону повышения. Акции финансового сектора Mizuho Financial Group (8411) и Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (8306) зарегистрировали повышение. Taiyo Yuden (6976), напротив, отступили в силу понижения годового прогноза чистой прибыли. В 6 часов утра по GMT индекс Токийской фондовой биржи Nikkei 225 торгуется на 2,1 процента выше на отметке 14565,5 пункта. В Китае Kweichow Moutai (600519) подорожали на сообщениях компании о планах по покупке недвижимости в Париже приблизительно за 8,8 миллиона евро в целях развития бизнеса в Европе. В Южной Корее Hyundai Motor (005380) прибавили в цене. Компания объявила об отставке её президента по научно-исследовательским разработкам Квон Мун Сика (Kwon Moon-sik) и двух других руководителей, ссылаясь на проблемы в обеспечении качества работы. KCC Corporation (002380), напротив, сократились в результате пессимистичных данных по прибыли за третий квартал. В Гонконге SJM Holdings (880) упали вслед за понижениями брокера после опубликования более низкой, чем ожидалось, операционной прибыли за третий квартал. Фондовые рынки США: Фьючерсы торгуются выше В 6 часов утра по GMT фьючерсы на S&P 500 торгуются на 1,5 пункта выше. Публикация индекса национальной деловой активности от Федеральной резервной системы Чикаго, индикатора оптимизма в сфере малого предпринимательства от Исследовательского фонда Национальной федерации независимого бизнеса (NFIB) и индекса розничных продаж от Johnson Redbook планируется на сегодня. DISH Network (DISH), Argonaut Gold (AR), NRG Energy (NRG) и D. R. Horton (DHI) объявят о своих результатах сегодня. В понедельник в рамках продлённой торговой сессии News Corporation (NWSA) отступили на 1,6 процента вслед за неудовлетворительными данными первого квартала. Более низкие, чем ожидалось, итоги по прибыли привели Rackspace Hosting (RAX) к падению на 7,8 процента. Hologic (HOLX) подешевели на 8,3 процента в силу отставания дохода за четвёртый квартал от рыночного консенсуса, а также слабого прогноза дохода и прибыли на первый квартал и полный год. Fuel Tech (FTEK) «взлетели» на 19,0 процентов благодаря оптимистичным показателям третьего квартала. Во время вчерашней регулярной торговой сессии американский фондовый индекс S&P 500 прибавил 0,1 процента. Amazon.com (AMZN) подорожали на 1,2 процента после того, как компания и Почтовая служба США пришли к соглашению о создании объединения для осуществления новой услуги воскресных доставок. Transocean (RIG) подскочили на 3,6 процента вследствие достижения компанией соглашения с активным инвестором Карлом Иканом (Carl Icahn) в целях поддержать выплату дивидендов в размере трёх долларов за акцию и сократить расходы. Best Buy (BBY) продвинулись вперёд на 4,5 процента в связи с повышением брокером рейтинга с «Neutral» до «Buy». Google (GOOG) уменьшились на 0,5 процента из-за исключения брокером акций компании из списка «Best Idea». Denbury Resources (DNR) снизились на 5,9 процента вслед за указанием компании на то, что она отказалась от общего партнёрства с ограниченной ответственностью, которое, вероятно, было призвано помочь компании значительно увеличить капитал для финансирования выкупа акций и выплаты дивидендов. FirstEnergy (FE) сократились на 5,7 процента на новостях о планах компании потратить дополнительные 2,8 миллиарда долларов на восстановление высоковольтной системы электропередачи. Сводка последних новостей Fitch подтвердило кредитный рейтинг Кипра Рейтинговое агенство Fitch Ratings подтвердило долгосрочный рейтинг дефолта эмитента Кипра в иностранной и национальной валютах на уровне «B-» и «CCC» соответственно, ссылаясь на «хорошие» результаты от первоначальной реализации программы внешней поддержки ЕС-МВФ. Тем не менее прогноз по долгосрочному рейтингу дефолта эмитента в иностранной валюте – «негативный» ввиду того, что понижательные риски увеличивают вероятность снижения эффективности многолетней программы. Цены на жильё в Великобритании продолжают повышаться Октябрьский баланс цен на жильё от Королевского института сертифицированных оценщиков в Великобритании подскочил к одиннадцатимесячному максимуму – 57,0 пунктов с учётом сезонной корректировки по сравнению с пересмотренными сентябрьскими 53,0 пунктами. Японский индекс активности в секторе услуг рухнул С учётом корректировки на сезонность на ежемесячной основе индекс активности в секторе услуг Японии неожиданно упал на 0,2 процента в сентябре, тогда как августовское пересмотренное в сторону понижения повышение составило 0,6 процента. Денежный агрегат в Японии набирает оброты На годовой основе японский денежный агрегат M2+CD в октябре поднялся до 4,1 процента, что оказалось больше рыночных оценок; в предшествущем месяце рост равнялся 3,9 процента. Тем временем годовой денежный агрегат M3 вырос на 3,3 процента в октябре по сравнению с сентябрьским увеличением в 3,1 процента. Уверенность в деловых кругах Австралии падает Австралийский индекс уверенности в деловых кругах от Национального банка Австралии в октябре опустился до 5,0 пунктов; в предыдущем месяце его значение составляло 12,0 пунктов. Темпы продаж жилья в Новой Зеландии замедляются На ежегодной основе октябрьский объём продаж жилья от Резервного банка Новой Зеландии увеличился на 2,1 процента, тогда как в прошлом месяце он показывал рост на 19,0 процентов. Материал предоставлен Saxo Bank http://ru.saxobank.com
Британские строительные компании начинают осваивать бывший квартал Красных фонарей, включающий в себя районы Викториа и Кингс Кросс. Так, компания Blackstone Group купила землю вблизи площади Святого Джеймса, в то время как Land Securities Group инвестирует 2 млрд фунтов стерлингов ($3,2) в строительство элитных домов в районе Викториа. Стоит отметить, что близлежащий район Мейфэр и площадь Святого Джеймса славятся самыми высокими ценами на недвижимость во всем мире.
CIT Group keeps the deals moving as it awaits a phone call on a buyout, acting as lead financier on a $100M secured senior credit facility for AWCC Holdings - a subsidiary of American Wind Capital - to acquire a portfolio of land leases and lease royalties from solar projects across the country.Press release. Post your comment!
The Constitution-free Zone Joe Wright Activist Post Newly disclosed documents address the case of computer programmer David House who had several electronic devices seized by border control following his involvement with Bradley Manning. The documents were released after a long ongoing court battle that House initiated against the U.S. government with help from the American Civil Liberties Union. The documents reveal a troubling amount of surveillance and planning to ensure that House's personal effects and information would be seized without judicial approval and without being charged with any criminal activity. In a classic case of guilt by association, David House wound up on a government watch list after befriending Manning and later starting the Bradley Manning Support Network following Manning's arrest. His file noted that the government was on the lookout for a second batch of classified documents Manning had reportedly shared with the group WikiLeaks but hadn't made public yet. Border agents were told that House was "wanted for questioning" regarding the "leak of classified material." They were given explicit instructions: If House attempted to cross the U.S. border, "secure digital media," and "ID all companions." Very few people are aware that in a country supposedly protected by a Constitution enumerating liberties such as freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, there exists a 100-mile-wide ring around the entire nation that the ACLU has called a "Constitution-free Zone." It is here that government has tried hardest to test the limits of its authority. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; This zone lies within the realm of border protection and permits otherwise unconstitutional actions such as inland checkpoints, drones, license plate tracking, biometric data collection, and DNA collection, all without a warrant. DHS has sought to add digital searches and confiscation to the list, which is where the ACLU began its original battle. What makes this Constitution-free zone additionally troubling is that the nation's largest cities lie within it, making 2/3 of the population susceptible to whatever the government wishes to do. However, for now, digital seizures have been utilized primarily in direct border entries. Americans have long come to accept that when encountering a foreign border in their travels, it is OK for agents to physically and electronically examine one's baggage and other personal effects; we have been well trained that we are all guilty until proven innocent by the State until permitted to proceed. As ArsTechnica previously reported, if a laptop or other digital device is part of your personal effects, DHS has attempted to assert that not only should the device be superficially examined, but any files on that device could also be examined. This not only crushes the 4th Amendment, but potentially the First as well: Some also contend that searching laptops without reasonable suspicion violates the First Amendment. The Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Office at the DHS, which is theoretically in charge of 'promoting respect for civil rights and civil liberties in policy creation and implementation' within the organization, disagrees. 'Some critics argue that a heightened level of suspicion should be required before officers search laptop computers in order to avoid chilling First Amendment rights,' writes Tamara Kessler, the report's author. 'However, we conclude that the laptop border searches allowed under the ICE and CBP Directives do not violate travelers' First Amendment rights.' (Source) Full clarification of "reasonable suspicion" hasn't been forthcoming. The office that cares so much about your civil liberties and privacy has offered only an executive summary so far, but the full report is off limits. That rubs the ACLU the wrong way. 'Given the report's troubling conclusion that its agents are entitled to the sweeping power to examine Americans' private papers, it is important that the agency make the full and complete report available,' Crump told us. 'The public has a strong interest in understanding the arguments and evidence that supports the report's conclusion, not just in knowing the ultimate results.' David House's ongoing battle has now forced the government to reveal some of their methods, as well as the tenuous assertion of what constitutes reasonable suspicion. Once flagged as a possible risk to national security for possibly carrying classified documents, House was entered into the TECS system. The U.S. government and INTERPOL can add information about a range of suspected activities that can trigger a red flag while traveling and returning to the United States. According to the documents that were released, House mysteriously wound up in the TECS system at precisely the same time he was visiting Manning in prison and organizing his advocacy platform. Investigators laid in wait for months for House to leave the country and return, presumably because they would have had to go through proper legal channels to seize his property otherwise. As he was returning from Mexico, he was detained, had his electronic devices seized, and was never charged or told whether or not his property would be returned. This is eerily similar to what recently happened in England to Glenn Greenwald's partner David Miranda. In House's case, all of his files were copied, as well as all keystrokes made on his laptop. His items may never have been returned, but after 7 weeks House contacted immigration and customs to request his items and did receive them the very next day. It's worth noting that a federal appeals court has officially disagreed by a vote of 8-3 with the vague assertions of the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Their ruling makes clear that there should be reasonable suspicion; a ruling by the full 9th Circuit that overturned a previous ruling by a three judge panel: Customs and Border Protection officers cannot confiscate or download every laptop or electronic device brought into the U.S., ruling that people have an expectation their data are private and that the government must have “reasonable suspicion” before it starts to do any intensive snooping. In a broad ruling, the court also said merely putting password protection on information is not enough to trigger the government’s “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a more intrusive search — but can be taken into account along with other factors. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges said it was a “watershed case” that gets at what kinds of limits the government must observe when it comes to technology and privacy. (Source) The 9th Circuit U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at least has stated that they will not permit the government to examine and confiscate the files of Americans presumed to be innocent. Reasonable suspicion must be established. However, the Washington Times also notes that "reasonable suspicion" is a lower standard than "probable cause" which would require a search warrant before data can be examined and retained. Nevertheless, the court has ruled "that password-protected files are exactly what the Constitution’s framers had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment protecting Americans’ 'papers' from unreasonable searches." Nevertheless, DHS continues to offer up hot-button topics like national security, drug trafficking and child porn as the catch-all to help their end-run around the Constitution, as well as employ the no-man's land of the 100-mile wide border. For those who might be in favor of a loose interpretation, it is important to keep in mind that when a complete set of one's digital files are seized, it is not only the "suspect" that is open to scrutiny; it is everyone who ever has communicated with that individual. This creates a troubling dragnet that violates anyone in its path, as House concludes: House . . . said his primary concern was ensuring that a document containing the names of Manning Support Network donors didn't wind up in a permanent government file. The court order required the destruction of all his files, which House said satisfied him. As we have learned time and again: this government will continue reaching in the most invasive manner possible; it is up to each of us to force transparency and ensure that our Constitution is preserved across the entire country with consistent standards, not only where the government authorizes our freedom. Source, Associated Press: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_BORDER_COMPUTER_SEARCHES?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2013-09-10-05-30-23 Read the full documents of House vs. Napolitano Here: https://www.aclu.org/HouseDocuments Read more from Joe Wright Here
Anthony Freda ArtStephen Lendman Activist Post All wars are based on lies. Truth is the ally of peace. It's the enemy of war. History repeats with disturbing regularity. It's doing so writ large now. It bears eerie resemblance to events preceding Bush's Iraq war. Pretexts are needed to sell wars. When none exist they're invented. Lies substitute for truth. So-called intelligence is cooked to fit policy. Ahead of Bush's Iraq war, Colin Powell knew Saddam had no WMDs. He lied claiming otherwise. He faked evidence to justify the unjustifiable. He claimed "facts and Iraq's behavior show that Saddam Hussein and his regime are concealing their efforts to produce more weapons of mass destruction." (E)very statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are the facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. The gravity of this moment is matched by the gravity of the threat that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction pose to the world.No threat whatever existed. Powell lied claiming otherwise. John Kerry replicated his infamous moment. He did so four times. He's making the rounds abroad selling war. He's doing it based on lies. Lying is official US policy. Kerry lied blaming Assad for the August 21 suburban Damascus chemical weapons attack. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; "We can tell you beyond any reasonable doubt that our evidence proves the Assad regime prepared for this attack, issued instructions to prepare for this attack, warned its own forces to use gas masks," he said. We have physical evidence of where the rockets came from and when. Not one rocket landed in regime-controlled territory. Not one. All of them landed in opposition-controlled or contested territory.No evidence whatever exists. Kerry lied. Ghouta civilians were killed while they slept. Insurgents were responsible. Rockets were launched from territory they held. Credible evidence proves it. A previous article said the following: On August 29, Mint Press News headlined "Exclusive: Syrians in Ghouta Claim Saudi-Supplied Rebels Behind Chemical Attack," saying: Rebels and local residents in Ghouta accuse Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan of providing chemical weapons to an al-Qaida linked rebel group.Abu Abdel-Moneim lives in Ghouta. He's the father of an insurgent fighter. "My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry," he said. Some were "tube-like" in structure. Others were like a "huge gas bottle." They were stored in tunnels. Mint Press reported: Doctors who treated the chemical weapons attack victims cautioned interviewers to be careful about asking questions regarding who, exactly, was responsible for the deadly assault. More than a dozen rebels interviewed reported that their salaries came from the Saudi government.Prince Bandar bin Sultan's directly involved. He's Washington's point man against Syria. He's advancing the kingdom's top goal - destroying Assad, Iran's government and Hezbollah. Doing it involves arming and funding some of the most extremist elements. They're cutthroat killers. They're committing outrageous atrocities. They brag about them. Media scoundrels give them short shrift. Most often their crimes go unreported. Assad's wrongfully blamed repeatedly. He had nothing to do with attacking Ghouta. So-called intelligence claiming otherwise is fake. It's cooked. It's manufactured out of whole cloth. It's pretext for lawless aggression. US and UK intelligence officials admitted they're unsure who's responsible for attacking Ghouta. What motive could Assad have to kill Syrian civilians? Why would he do it while UN inspectors were investigating evidence of chemical weapons use? Why would he launch an attack close to where they were working? Why would he shoot himself in the foot? Kerry's "undeniable" proof doesn't exist. It's fake to fit policy. On September 8, London's Guardian headlined "Assad did not order Syria chemical weapons attack, says German press." Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper cited "high-level national security sources" saying Assad didn't order Ghouta's chemical weapons attack. Bild said German naval reconnaissance close to Syria's coast intercepted radio communications. It absolved Assad of responsibility. No evidence links him to it. Germany's foreign intelligence agency (BND) couldn't be reached for comment. Assad told CBS News: "There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people." Correspondent Charlie Rose interviewed him. On CBS News Face the Nation, he said: (H)e denied that he had anything to do with the attack. He denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack. He suggested, as he has before, that perhaps the rebels had something to do with it. The most important thing as he basically says is that there has no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people. There is no evidence of that."(I)f the evidence (exists), then they should show (it) and make their case," he said. (H)e was calm. He knew the situation he was in. In fact, Damascus seemed relatively calm, the places that I was today. But there's a clear sense they are closely watching what is happening in Washington. I think the reason they did this interview today - we've been trying for a long time, but did it today because they're watching what happens in Washington."White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough appeared on five Sunday talk shows. He was selling war. He repeated the official lie. He equivocated, saying: Proof links Assad to attacking Ghouta. It's based on a "common sense test" rather than "irrefutable, beyond a reasonable doubt evidence." We've seen the video proof of the outcome of those attacks. All of that leads to a quite strong common-sense test irrespective of the intelligence that suggests that the regime carried this out. Now do we have a picture or do we have irrefutable beyond-a-reasonable-doubt evidence? This is not a court of law and intelligence does not work that way. "Nobody is rebutting the intelligence. Nobody doubts" it, he claimed. Attacking Assad creates "an opportunity to be bold with the Iranians," he added. Fact check Syria is prelude to attacking Iran. It bears repeating. The road to Tehran runs through Damascus. Iran is Washington's prime target. It's Israel's main regional rival. At issue is toppling Assad, isolating Iran, then pursuing regime change belligerently. It's longstanding US policy. McDonough practically admitted it. He cited fake evidence against Assad. He lied claiming "nobody doubts it." Overwhelming domestic and world opinion rejects it. Hundreds, perhaps a majority, on Capitol Hill do. On August 30, Infowars headlined "Bombshell: Kerry Caught Using Fake Photos to Fuel Syrian War," saying: He "referenced a photograph used by the BBC illustrating a child jumping over hundreds of dead bodies covered in white shrouds." "We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood," he said. The photo was fake. It's unrelated to Syria. It was taken in Iraq. It was in 2003. It was recycled. It's used against Assad. Kerry did so to justify war. It bears repeating. All wars are based on lies. Truth defeats the purpose of waging them. McDonough followed John Kerry's lead. He repeated Big Lies on five Sunday talk shows. Expect lots more ahead of Obama's 9/11 anniversary nationally televised address. He's selling war. He's going all out to do it. So are other administration officials. They're conducting a PR blitz. National Security Advisor Susan Rice will address a hawkish Washington think tank. Obama's "hitting the airwaves," said AP. "Top administration officials are heading to Capitol Hill for more classified briefings." Scores of AIPAC lobbyists are doing the same thing. Kerry's in Europe selling war. He appeared with UK Foreign Minister William Hague in London, saying: We know (Assad's) regime gave orders to prepare for a chemical attack. We know they deployed forces. (We know) where the rockets came from and where they landed and it was no accident that they all came from regime-controlled territory and all landed" in opposition-held territory. So the evidence is powerful and the question for all of us is what are we going to do about it. Turn our backs? Have a moment of silence?Fact check Credible evidence proved rockets were fired from insurgent held territory. Defenseless civilians were attacked. Doing so was a classic false flag. Assad's wrongfully blamed for Western-enlisted death squad crimes. They admitted responsibility for Ghouta's incident. Claiming it was accidental doesn't wash. It was well-planned and executed. If Kerry had verifiable proof otherwise, he'd reveal it. He can't. None exists. Lies substitute. So-called classified Capitol Hill briefings repeat them. Many, perhaps most, senators and congressmen aren't buying them. Some outspokenly said so. Heavy pressure's being applied to sway them. Obama wants congressional authorization for war. He'll wage it whether or not he gets it. Without it his plans may be delayed. They won't be deterred. Perhaps another major false flag is planned. Toppling Assad is policy. Obama wants him dead. He wants Syrian sovereignty destroyed. He wants pro-Western vassal governance replacing it. He wants Iran isolated. He wants Shah era harshness restored. Longstanding war plans are readied to be implemented. Obama intends destroying the Islamic Republic. Doing so may ignite conflict globally. It doesn't matter. US imperial priorities come first. Sacrificing humanity is a small price to pay. Washington policymakers think this way. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity." http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html Visit his blog site at http://www.sjlendman.blogspot.com. Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network. It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening. http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour
UN reports Afghanistan produced 1,400 tonnes of commercial cannabis resin in 2012, worth around $65mThe amount of Afghan farmland planted with cannabis fell by nearly a fifth last year after one province launched a fierce eradication campaign, but a bumper crop meant that actual production rose compared with 2011, according to the UN.Officials in southern Uruzgan province, which borders Kandahar and Helmand, largely stamped out farming of the drug because of worries it was financing the Taliban. In 2011 there were over 1,000 hectares of the crop there, but last year under 100 hectares were sown."According to reports from the field, the reduction was caused by a strictly enforced ban by provincial authorities, which was imposed because cannabis fields seemed to have been used by insurgent groups as hiding places," the UN Cannabis Survey Report said.Planting in most other areas remained largely steady, with just over half of commercial production concentrated in the south of the country. The report does not include "kitchen garden" plots of the drug grown for personal use, but these produce relatively small amounts.Overall Afghanistan produced 1,400 tonnes of commercial cannabis resin in 2012, worth around $65 million, the report estimated. A slightly smaller crop in 2011, when prices were higher, brought in nearly $100 million.Cannabis production in Afghanistan is dwarfed by opium farming, which last year took up more than 10 times as much farmland and produced a crop worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Afghanistan produces around 90% of the world's opium supply.However many poppy farmers in the south plant a spring opium crop and, when it has been harvested, turn to cannabis for the summer. "It seems that cannabis and opium are more complementary crops... than substitutes for each other," the report said.Government efforts to stamp out poppy farming may even push up production of cannabis, the report warned. Last year the UN said Afghanistan's importance as a source of resin for world markets might be growing as more farmers switched to the crop."With increasing pressure on poppy cultivation through eradication and other measures, the possibility of the commercial production of cannabis gradually playing a much bigger role in the illicit economy of Afghanistan is not beyond the realms of imagination," the report said.Cannabis resin can be much more lucrative than opium for individual farmers. It brings in over $1,500 in extra earnings per hectare, requires less weeding and is comparatively easy to harvest. However the plants need irrigation at a time when streams fed by snow melt are drying up and a long summer growing season can stop subsistence farmers planting vital food crops on the land.The regional representative for the UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC), Jean-Luc Lemahieu, said that farmers balance "family needs, food security, access to markets...[and] risk" when deciding what to plant each year, and explained that no one is simply "an opium farmer" "a cannabis farmer" or a "wheat farmer".AfghanistanUnited NationsCannabisDrugsAgricultureEmma Graham-Harrison theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
China says it will not tolerate 'any provocative acts of escalation' in dispute over uninhabited islands in East China SeaChina and Japan have exchanged fiery diplomatic rhetoric about a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, with a Japanese government spokesperson suggesting the country may station workers on the islands, after an unidentified drone nearly entered Japanese airspace.A territorial dispute over the uninhabited islands, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkakus by Japan, has strained political and economic ties since last year, when the Japanese government purchased three of the islands from a private owner. This Wednesday will mark the one-year anniversary of the purchase.On Monday Japan scrambled an unspecified number of fighter jets after an unmanned aerial vehicle flew within 130 miles of the islands. The drone, which did not bear a national flag, circled the islands before flying north-west towards China, according to Japan's defence ministry. It did not enter Japanese airspace."Japan will enforce increased security to protect our land, sea, and airspace around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea," Japan's chief cabinet secretary and top government spokesperson, Yoshihide Suga, told reporters on Tuesday, according to Kyodo News International. He said stationing government workers on the islands was an option.China's foreign ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, responded to Suga's remarks at a regular news briefing on Tuesday. "The Chinese government has an unshakeable resolve and determination to protect the country's territorial sovereignty and will not tolerate any provocative acts of escalation over China's sovereignty," he said. "If the Japanese side recklessly makes provocative moves it will have to accept the consequences."China blames Japan for never properly atoning for atrocities committed during the 1930s and 40s, when Japanese forces occupied huge swaths of territory along the country's east coast.Over the past year, China has sent numerous air and sea vehicles near the disputed islands to conduct what it calls routine patrols. On Tuesday morning the Chinese coastguard sent a seven-ship fleet near the islands, in what the state newswire Xinhua called the country's "59th Diaoyu Islands patrol".On Monday two Chinese navy frigates passed through Japanese waters near Okinawa. On Sunday two Chinese H-6 bombers skirted Japanese airspace on a flight from the mainland to the Pacific Ocean.China's maritime watchdog has announced plans to build 11 drone bases along the country's east coast to conduct maritime surveillance missions. Last autumn a senior People's Liberation Army colonel told state media that the drones would be used to monitor the islands."Around the Diaoyu Islands, the Japanese authority is able to identify vessels approaching the area very quickly, and this is exactly what we lack," Senior Colonel Du Wenlong told the state-run broadcaster China Radio International.JapanSenkaku IslandsChinaAsia PacificJonathan Kaiman theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
The Tide Has Changed Robert Bonomo Activist Post Since 9/11 the state’s power has grown exponentially and its ability to wage war and infiltrate a digitized populace has reached epic proportions, but the pendulum has reached its apogee. The Obama Administration has made a terrible miscalculation regarding the public’s reaction to its proposed military intervention in Syria and it appears the President will not be able to garner the votes needed in Congress to pass the resolution in support of his plan to attack Assad. As Private Manning sits in a prison cell and Edward Snowden lives in exile, AIPAC is working tirelessly to lobby Congress to pass the war resolution, but the public’s heart is with Snowden and Manning, not Netanyahu. If Obama and AIPAC lose this vote their grand plan to confront Iran’s nuclear aspirations will crumble. If Americans reject a military intervention in order to punish Assad for his supposed use of WMDs, how will they ever support taking on the Iranian regime for just having them? This is not the same America that re-elected George Bush in 2004. Kerry’s Case Secretary of State John Kerry made a forceful argument in favor of intervention: In an increasingly complicated world of sectarian and religious extremist violence, what we choose to do -- or not do -- matters in real ways to our own security. Some cite the risk of doing things. We need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing. It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60; Many Americans would have rallied to this call for war in the early years of this century, but not now. They know that President Obama has killed hundreds of innocent civilians with drones, some of them even Americans. They know that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed under false pretenses. Not only were innocents killed and money wasted, but strategically Iraq has moved under the influence of supposed arch enemy Iran, while the Taliban are simply waiting for the NATO troops to leave before making their final assault on the puppet government installed in Afghanistan. What was also conspicuous in Mr. Kerry’s speech was what he didn't mention. Are the Saudis, the Qataris, and the CIA also ‘thugs’ for financing, training and facilitating a civil war that has killed over a hundred thousand people? And why are the Saudis and Qataris doing this and why don’t we stop them? Apparently Mr. Kerry believes there is something ‘sectarian and religious’ about bringing natural gas from Qatar to Europe through a proposed pipeline through Syria. Since almost 25% of Europe’s natural gas comes from Russia’s Gazprom, the Russian angle becomes clear. But if Americans aren't buying the WMD story, it’s even more unlikely they would support a war to reduce Gazprom’s market share in Europe. The Danger Democracy is a messy business; and if we had one, we would be reminded of it constantly. However, we live in a plutocracy where public opinion is created through corporate media. The fabricated message being sent is that Muslims are the enemy and Israel is our closest ally. Israel, however, does have a real problem with its Muslim neighbors - especially Syria, Iran, Lebanon and the Palestinian state it occupies. In a democracy there would be a stormy debate as to whether Israel’s security has any bearing on America's well being, and it would be openly argued for America to jettison the ‘special relationship’ with Israel. This debate never occurs in America because its corporate media has a strong pro-Israel bias and questioning the 'special relationship' with Israel is taboo. Both those in and outside the US Government who strongly believe that America must stand by the Jewish state are being faced with the reality that the moment for action has passed and the pendulum is beginning a long journey back toward isolationism and cynicism regarding the state security apparatus. Syria is their last chance and it is quickly slipping through their fingers. If there is no attack on Syria, the chances of attacking Iran will quickly fade to zero. If one believes that there is a grand strategy then we have reached a critical and dangerous moment. If Obama backs down and doesn't attack, he will lose enough international credibility to make him a de facto foreign policy lame duck just as the Iranians cross the nuclear threshold. This is unacceptable to those bent on protecting Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East. It seems highly unlikely that this group of people will allow President Putin to become the new voice of reason in the region. The absurdity of Assad committing this gassing, Putin’s argument, is now also being supported by intelligence as reported in a Huff Post article which quoted a report that seems to contradict the Obama Administration's claim that Assad was the perpetrator of the gas attack. It would be catastrophic to the US standing in the world if it were proved that this was a false flag attack by the rebels in Syria, and more importantly it would make it almost impossible to make a case for the ultimate target, Iran. No Exit It’s difficult to fathom that those who brought us the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, the NSA surveillance apparatus, The Department of Homeland Security and the drone war will simply take their bows and fade away. Their only options at this point are either to force the issue in Syria and quickly escalate it through their time-honored method of rallying the home front with images of horrors committed on innocents, or throw up their hands and accept defeat. God help the innocent. Read more from Robert Bonomo at his blog, Cactus Land, which continues to explore the ideas of his novel, Cactus Land available at Amazon.
Rafael Viñoly predicted building might reflect sun but joins developers in blaming 'current elevation of the sun in the sky'The architect of the Walkie Talkie building in London has admitted that he predicted it might reflect hot sun rays to the street below but "didn't realise it was going to be so hot".Visiting London this week, Rafael Viñoly said the original design of the building had featured horizontal sun louvres on its south-facing facade , but these are believed to have been removed during cost-cutting as the project developed."We made a lot of mistakes with this building," admitted Viñoly, "and we will take care of it."The 37-storey building at 20 Fenchurch Street in London's financial district has a distinctive shape – widening as it reaches the top – which led to its being nicknamed the Walkie Talkie.But it was this week renamed the Walkie Scorchie when it was found that the concave shape of the building was channelling the sun's rays into a concentrated beam onto Eastcheap, capable of singeing carpets, blistering paintwork and even melting parts of a car's bodywork. One cafe in the focus of the building's glare even managed to toast a baguette and fry an egg outside their shop."I knew this was going to happen," said Viñoly, speaking to the Guardian on Friday. "But there was a lack of tools or software that could be used to analyse the problem accurately.""When it was spotted on a second design iteration, we judged the temperature was going to be about 36 degrees," he said. "But it's turned out to be more like 72 degrees. They are calling it the 'death ray', because if you go there you might die. It is phenomenal, this thing."A two-storey scaffolding structure covered in netting has now been erected in the street to absorb the concentrated rays, while three parking spaces have been suspended. The developers, Land Securities and Canary Wharf group, say they are "continuing to evaluate longer-term solutions."The architect has a track record of creating buildings that burn. His Vdara hotel in Las Vegas, with a similarly concave form, focused sunlight onto the pool terrace in 2010, hot enough to melt loungers and singe guests' hair. The glass has since been covered in non-reflective film."That was a completely different problem," said Viñoly, insisting he was following a masterplan that specified arc-shaped towers. "We pointed out that would be an issue too, but who cares if you fry somebody in Las Vegas, right?"Environmentalists have commented that such "death ray" buildings could actually be harnessed as a useful power source, saying the magnifying effect demonstrates the principles of solar power tower technology. Used in Spain and parts of the US, these power plants employ a radial field of parabolic mirrors to channel sun rays towards a central focal point at the top of a tower, where the heat is stored and converted to power. Viñoly says he designed a similar building for a site in China with a bowl-like facade, specifically shaped to focus sunlight on to an obelisk energy receptor – but it remains unbuilt.In London, he said the issue was the result of the nature of the development process in the UK, in which the architect is often sidelined."One problem that happens in this town, is the super-abundance of consultancies and sub-consultancies that dilute the responsibility of the designer," he said, "to the point that you just don't know where you are any more."The developers have blamed the problem on "the current elevation of the sun in the sky," a position Viñoly seems inclined to share."When I first came to London years ago, it wasn't like this," he said. "Now you have all these sunny days. So you should blame this thing on global warming too, right?"ArchitectureConstruction industryThe sunWeatherSolar powerLondonOliver Wainwrighttheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes
Aboard Air Force One En Route St. Petersburg, Russia 11:50 A.M. CEST MR. CARNEY: Welcome aboard Air Force One as we make our way from Stockholm, Sweden to St. Petersburg, Russia, where the President will be attending the G20 Summit. The President very much enjoyed his visit to Sweden, his dinner last night with the Nordic Council and his meeting this morning with the King and Queen. And he’s looking forward to the G20. I have no other announcements. Joining me today is Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor, who can walk you through the President’s day -- continuance of his day, rather. And we can take any questions you might have. Ben. MR. RHODES: Just quickly, when we get to St. Petersburg, the President’s first meeting will be a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Abe of Japan. I expect that they’ll discuss the situation in Syria, alliance issues, the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the ongoing TPP negotiations, as well as general Asia Pacific regional issues. After that, the President goes into the G20 sessions. The first working session is on global growth in the global economy. Then there is a dinner for the leaders -- a working dinner. And then there is a cultural program. I anticipate the President will have additional interactions with leaders on the margins of the meeting, but the meeting today with Prime Minister Abe is the one scheduled bilateral meeting. Q Is the President going to be trying to rally support from these leaders for a strike in Syria on the sidelines of the summit? MR. RHODES: Well, the subject of the G20 is the global economy, so the sessions will focus on economic issues. I think that the past practice at these summits is you do end up having discussions on the margins of the meeting about other global security issues. We would not anticipate every member of the G20 agreeing about the way forward in Syria, particularly given the Russian position over many, many months now in terms of resisting efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable. The President will, however, have a chance to speak with allies of the United States and key partners to explain our current thinking on Syria. And I think we'll continue to work with those countries to see what type of political and diplomatic support they may express for our efforts to hold the Syrian regime accountable. I think there was a good statement out of the Nordic Council last night about the need for a strong international response to the use of chemical weapons. And I think, similarly, the President will talk to allies and partners about their ability to express support for the notion that an international norm that the international community has spent many, many years reinforcing must be upheld in Syria. And I think we've found common views on that position among some of our key allies and we'll continue to discuss that with them here. I'd also just note that tomorrow the President will have a meeting with President Hollande of France, a bilateral meeting. And of course, France has been a stalwart ally in the notion that there needs to be a response, and has also indicated their potential interest in participating in an effort to hold the Syrian regime accountable. Q Do you anticipate a pull-aside with President Putin? MR. RHODES: We have nothing formally scheduled with President Putin in terms of a bilateral meeting. However, it’s always the case at these summits that leaders end up sitting next to each other; they end up having side conversations. So I certainly anticipate the President will have interactions with President Putin even as we don't have a formal meeting scheduled. And we'll keep you updated on those conversations. Q Is he seeking financial support for any activity in Syria, based on his conversations, Ben? MR. RHODES: The type of action we're contemplating, again, I think does not come with significant requirements of international participation, even as we welcome those countries that do want to express support for holding the Syrian regime accountable. However, there is significant needs within Syria in terms of humanitarian assistance. There is a current U.N. call for additional humanitarian aid into Syria. The United States has already provided -- allocated over a billion dollars in that regard, and many other countries who are at the G20 have been contributors of humanitarian assistance. I think we’ll continue to call on nations to meet the humanitarian needs in Syria, which are considerable and which are exacerbated by chemical weapons attacks, which cause not just enormous humanitarian suffering, loss of life, but also increase the displacement of peoples who are leaving those areas that have been subjected to chemical attacks. In addition to the humanitarian support, a number of the countries that are -- including some of the G20 -- are providing assistance to the opposition, along with us. Turkey, for instance; the French have expressed their interest in increased support for the opposition; Saudi Arabia, who will be at the summit, are among some of the countries that are supporting the opposition. So I think the President will continue to discuss with those countries how we can work on a multilateral basis to provide support for the opposition. And then, finally, even as we deal with the issue of chemical weapons, and even as we have expressed our belief that there needs to be a military response to the use of chemical weapons, we still believe that the long-term resolution of the Syrian civil war is going to depend on a political process and the Geneva process is still the best way forward in that regard. And that would have to involve many countries, including Russia, investing their efforts in a political process that brings an end to the civil war and we believe must bring an end to Assad leading Syria as the President. Q And when President Putin says he just hasn’t seen the absolute proof of chemical weapons uses in Syria, what do you say to that? MR. RHODES: We could not be more confident in the evidence that we put forward. Again, just to reiterate, that includes the fact that there’s an overwhelming amount of open-source material that demonstrates a chemical attack took place. We have physiological evidence in terms of sarin samples that tested positive from blood and hair. We have intelligence that shows regime officials preparing to use chemical weapons in the areas that rockets were launched. We saw and detected the launch of rockets from regime-held areas into 11 different sites that were opposition-controlled or contested areas. We saw an explosion of social media; reports from hospitals of people coming immediately after those rockets landed -- or shortly after those rockets landed with symptoms of a chemical attack. And then we’ve declassified intelligence of regime officials and those who were familiar with the attack acknowledging that it took place, expressing concern that the U.N. inspectors would find evidence of chemical attacks, and then bombarding those opposition neighborhoods for days after. We further assessed that the opposition doesn’t have the capacity to carry the attack that took place. And we’ve noticed in recent days France and Germany express their belief that the Assad regime was responsible for this as well. So there’s just a preponderance of evidence and common sense that leads one to believe that not only did a chemical attack take place, but the Assad regime is responsible. We’ll continue to discuss with the Russians what our evidentiary basis is and what -- our degree of confidence in the fact that the Assad regime carried this out. But, again, what we do not want to see is some ongoing debate about whether or not a chemical weapons attack took place that everybody saw with their own eyes on August 21st. And similarly, we don’t want to entertain implausible theories that are simply not likely that somehow the opposition undertook an attack that it doesn’t have the capacity to carry out. Q You mentioned Geneva. Is Geneva actually still on the table? Because it was supposed to have happened in July, and that came and went, and there hasn’t really been much discussion about it since then. MR. RHODES: There is not a meeting scheduled. However, Geneva continues to provide the framework that we believe is necessary for a political resolution, which is, at the end of the day, there’s not a military solution that will bring an end to Syria’s civil war. There has to be a political process that brings the regime and the opposition to the table with the backing of the international community. Q Is there an active discussion with the Russians about getting that up and running again? MR. RHODES: There’s been an ongoing discussion with the Russians about getting that up and running. There was a meeting that got postponed in recent weeks that would have focused on this Geneva process. In the current environment with the focus on chemical weapons, we postponed that meeting. Again, our focus right now is how on how do we respond to this chemical attack. But we’re also cognizant of the fact that even as we increase our support for the opposition and even as we aim to deter Assad’s use of chemical weapons and degrade his capabilities, we have to remain invested in some form of political process to brings the Syrian civil war to an end, and we believe brings Assad’s leadership of Syria to an end. Q Did the President hear anything in Putin’s interview that indicated any change of posture? And what will he say to Putin on these pull-asides when he sees him? MR. RHODES: Well, President Putin expressed the fact that he’s been able to work with President Obama as interlocutor on some issues, even as we’ve had differences. That’s essentially the same view we have. The U.S.-Russian relationship is very broad. Even with the differences we’ve had -- sharp differences on Syria -- there’s continued cooperation on nuclear security issues, on transit in Afghanistan, on counterterrorism, and on global economic issues. So we will continue to address areas where we can work with the Russians. Syria is an area where, even as we’ve had sharp differences, we believe Russia in the long term can be a part of a political process to bring the Assad regime to the table. What we are highly skeptical of is the notion that Russia will take a different view at the Security Council -- because for two years what we’ve seen is several Russia vetoes of Security Council resolutions that aimed to express disapproval or hold the Assad regime accountable. So thus far, we have not seen any evidence that Russia is taking a different approach towards the Syrian issue at the U.N. Security Council. Were they to do so, of course it’s our preference always to work through the U.N. Security Council on these issues, but we haven’t seen any change in the Russian position at the U.N. and are skeptical that given the current environment and given their relationship with Assad, we’re skeptical that that change is forthcoming. Q Ben, another subject -- Brazil, the spying charges. How is the President going to react or deal with the President of Brazil when he presumably sees her at some point? MR. RHODES: Well, we understand how important this is to the Brazilians. We understand their strength of feeling on the issue. What we’re doing in this case, as we’ve done in other cases since the NSA revelations came to light, is take a comprehensive look at what exactly the allegations are, what exactly the facts are in terms of the NSA’s activities. And we will work with the Brazilians so that they have a better understanding of what we do and don’t do, and so that we have an understanding of their concerns. So it’s an important discussion, and the President I think will be able to see President Rousseff on the margins of the G20, I’m sure, and to discuss these issues. And we’re also going to continue to work it in other diplomatic and intelligence channels. We think the U.S.-Brazil relationship is a very important, emerging relationship not just in the Americas, but in the world. So we’ll aim to take steps to work these issues through on a bilateral basis. Q The Foreign Minister said he wanted an apology. MR. RHODES: Well, I think -- what we’re focused on is making sure the Brazilians understand exactly what the nature of our intelligence effort is. We carry out intelligence like just about every other country around the world. If there are concerns that we can address consistent with our national security requirements, we will aim to do so through our bilateral relationship. Q Tell us what the status is of U.S. military aid to Egypt and that review process. MR. RHODES: That’s still ongoing. The President has not made any new decisions with respect to military assistance to Egypt beyond the items that we have announced have been suspended in terms of delivery -- the military exercise, Bright Star, F-16 deliveries. So there are ongoing discussions about that issue, and we have no additional announcements to make right now. Q Has the President been making any calls to lawmakers regarding the Syria resolutions while he’s been on the trip? MR. RHODES: We can check that. I don’t have any read-out for you. I know he is watching it closely. We felt that yesterday’s Senate vote in the Foreign Relations Committee was another important step forward in terms of seeing bipartisan support for an authorization to use military force through the Foreign Relations Committee. So we were grateful for the leadership of Senators Menendez and Corker, and the bipartisan group of senators who supported that resolution. We’re continuing to work with leaders in the Senate and the House. We noted a number of other expressions of support yesterday, including from Carl Levin, who is obviously an important figure as the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And so we’ll continue to work it, but we’ll let you know if he has any calls. Q How is it going in the House? MR. RHODES: I think in the House -- the Senate is further along in terms of having a resolution out of a committee. In the House, what we have is expressions of support from the two leaders of the Republican Party, Speaker Boehner and Leader Cantor, and the Democratic Party Leader Pelosi and Steny Hoyer. And we’re just going to continue to reach as many House members as we can to make the case for why this is in America’s national interest, and urge them to move expeditiously through a debate and discussion of a resolution and a vote. The President will continue to make his case to Congress and to the American people in that process. And we had testimony yesterday from Secretary Hagel, Secretary Kerry in the House, and we’ll continue to consult with them going forward. Q Is the President going to make an Oval Office address, as Secretary Kerry suggested, or some other high-profile speech on Syria? MR. RHODES: We don’t have a particular speech planned at this point, but we certainly do think that the President will be out there making the case to Congress and the American people. He’ll have multiple opportunities to do so. Yesterday and today and tomorrow, he’ll be able to make that case on the world stage and I think it’s important for the world to hear the view of the United States on this issue, particularly because our view is rooted in an international norm that has the support of the international community that we believe must be enforced. But we’ll let you know as we make decisions about his communications back home. Q Why is it important for the President to meet with representatives of civil society in Russia? And how much care and thought went into the selection of these representatives of civil society? MR. RHODES: Well, I think the United States supports civil society around the world. And in countries that we visit, we often go out of our way to express our support for civil society. In Russia, in particular, we’ve seen negative trends in terms of the freedom of action for civil society in recent years, so it’s important for the President I think to demonstrate that the United States and many in the international community believe strongly that a vibrant civil society is a significant asset for all countries. Saint Petersburg has also been a longstanding location where there’s been a lot of civil society activity. I’d also note in particular that we wanted to include representatives of the LGBT community in Russia. Given our serious concerns with some of the recent laws that have been passed and restrictions on activity for gays and lesbians within Russia, we felt it was important to ensure that we were including their voices in a discussion with the President. Q Putin said that Kerry was lying when he characterized the Syrian opposition as increasingly moderate. Does the White House have any response? And then, secondly, will the President be offering any assurances to countries expressing concern about the nature of the opposition in Syria? MR. RHODES: Well, we’ve been very forthcoming about our assessment of the opposition. We believe that the broad majority of those Syrians who oppose Bashar al-Assad want a better future, want their rights respected, want a government that is responsive to their aspirations. The opposition that we work with, that we provide assistance to both in terms of the political support, economic support, and military support we believe are more moderate elements who will work for that type of future in Syria, and we have carefully designed our assistance programs to ensure that it’s focused on strengthening a moderate opposition. We’ve also been very clear that there are extremist elements in the opposition. In fact, we’ve designated al-Nusra as a terrorist entity within the Syrian opposition. So we’ve always been very clear that there is a segment of the opposition that are extremists, but that there’s a broader majority who are moderate. And frankly, the more we’re engaged and the more we’re able to provide assistance and work with other countries who are providing assistance, the more we’re able to reinforce the more moderate elements of the opposition. So our policy is aimed at isolating those more extremist elements and empowering those more moderate elements. And I think Secretary Kerry had it exactly right when he characterized the extremist elements of the opposition as a minority and, frankly, identified a broader majority of Syrians who simply want a better and more peaceful future. Q Any response to Putin’s characterization of Kerry as a liar? MR. RHODES: Well, we certainly would side with Secretary Kerry in that back-and-forth. We think Secretary Kerry was certainly telling the truth. And he reflects longstanding U.S. policy in terms of saying there’s an element of the opposition that we believe is extremist and we’re not going to work with in al-Nusra, but there’s a broader majority that we believe we can empower in terms of strengthening a more moderate force. We’ve also said, by the way, to President Putin for some time now that the fact that he has concerns about the opposition is all the more reason to invest in a political process that can bring the conflict to a conclusion, but that in that process, there’s no way to envision Bashar al-Assad staying in power. A leader who gassed to death well over a thousand citizens and killed many, many more is simply not going to be able to regain legitimacy. So those who were concerned about ongoing violence leading to extremists taking root in Syria should invest efforts in finding that type of political solution. Q Thanks, Ben. MR. RHODES: Thanks. MR. CARNEY: Thank you all very much. END 12:10 P.M. CEST
In the next general election, 168 marginal seats could be decided by non-white voters. After the Hispanic vote swung the US election for Barack Obama in 2012, the UK's three major parties know how crucial minority votes will be. But are they doing enough to win them?Simon Woolley recalls his first viewing of the research that could alter the course of the 2015 general election. "I couldn't believe it," he says. "I told them to go away and check it again, and then again. No one expected this."It was a depth charge into the waters of contemporary politics, and it resulted from a simple exercise by Woolley's organisation Operation Black Vote (OBV). It took the information from the census and its up-to–the-moment picture of where Britain's minorities live – a snapshot measuring the steady but pronounced migration of non-indigenous voters from towns to suburbs and even into rural areas of Britain. It then compared that with the parliamentary boundaries, paying particular attention to those seats designated as marginals, and pinpointed those seats where the slender parliamentary majority is outweighed by a resident minority population now available to vote. What it revealed was that 168 marginal seats are susceptible to the voting whims of a minority electorate.It's a window of opportunity in what will undoubtedly be a tight election, says Woolley; a chance to finally force the mainstream parties to pay attention to concerns that might be collectively held by black and Asian voters. The parties thought the same. "Within 48 hours, I had in my diary meetings with senior officials from all three of them."High time, says Woolley, for each to explain what they would do about pressing subjects such as equalities legislation, immigration and stop and search. "The stars are aligned for us, but they won't be for long," he predicts. "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Who knows if there will be so many marginals again, or if minorities will be so well placed to impact upon them."So will brown skins vote en masse? Not at all, says Woolley. "We are not homogenous, but there are issues that affect us all. Inequality is one; it's a big one, whether it is a middle manager hitting the glass ceiling or a young person who has never had a job and isn't likely to get one. We need to galvanise people and we need to hold some feet to the fire. And we've got about 18 months to do it."It's a window in which to turn a paper opportunity into an actual one, and the drive began in earnest this week with the arrival from the US of that veteran galvaniser of the minority vote, the Rev Jesse Jackson. An odd couple perhaps, he and the British campaigner take that aspiration to mass meetings in London and Birmingham, Woolley with his research and Jackson with the experience he has gained through the voter-registration activities of his grassroots campaigning organisation, the Rainbow PUSH coalition. "There are parallels with the UK and the US regarding racial disparities and inequalities in unemployment, education, criminal justice at the hands of the police and courts," says Jackson. "Here we are, 50 years after the march on Washington for jobs and justice and just months after the supreme court struck a major blow to the Voting Rights Act. My visit to the UK is to celebrate, but also to prepare for action." Success is a million voters registered for 2015.The research, which took two researchers six months and was validated by Prof Anthony Heath, an expert in minorities and politics at Oxford University, may have been uniformly seized upon but effects different parties in different ways. For all of them it is an opportunity, but for some a threat.It gives Labour a chance to re-emphasise its historical supremacy over the minority vote. It has 15 minority MPs and attracted the lion's share of support in 2010. According to the Runnymede Trust, 68% of ethnic minorities voted Labour, compared with 31% of white Britons.The party will not relinquish that hegemony in a hurry. And yet, speak privately and you find that all is far from tranquil internally. Black and ethnic minority activists have rarely been so despondent, complaining that the party's efforts to reach out specifically to minority communities and to secure more minority MPs have dissipated.A particular bugbear is the fact that it has fully embraced the notion of all-female shortlists, but struggles still with the notion of minority-only shortlists. Concern is heightened because the all-women shortlists – while increasing on paper the prospects for some minority activists – don't appear to be helping minority women to a significant degree. Of 63 contests prior to the 2010 election featuring all-women shortlists, only a smattering of minority women prevailed, such as Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham, Lisa Nandy in Wigan and Valerie Vaz in Walsall. These highly prized openings routinely attract the attention of well-placed activists with benefactors, networks and a telling history in the party; a headstart. This, the aggrieved will tell you, is Labour's catch- 22: why do many minorities fail to gain a foothold in the party? Because they do not already have a sufficiently secure foothold in the party.Even high-fliers struggle. Kamaljeet Jandu, the widely known national officer for equality at the GMB union and well regarded chair of Black and Ethnic Minority Labour, recently sought a place on the party's list for MEP selection in London. He came sixth."We were shocked. We thought that if he can't break through, what chance for the rest of us," one senior Black Labour activist tells me. "The will to change this has to come from the top. But that is just not happening. We can find people and train people but there are so many institutional barriers in the party. So much is still based on class – it is anything but a meritocracy. There are behind-the-scenes networks that we just can't permeate. Thirty years ago, Diane Abbott and Bernie Grant and Paul Boateng came through and that seemed to be the start of something revolutionary. But if anything, since then we've gone backwards. It seems to me that people are embarrassed to even talk about race."Does all this matter for Labour? Yes, but not perhaps to a heart-stopping degree because the party's hold over minority votes seems decisive in the short term. Class and force of habit trumps racial self-interest. And rare is the disgruntled black wouldbe parliamentarian who would defect. But that won't always be the situation, warns one hopeful Labour candidate. "As time passes, people become more likely to consider other options. We can't be so complacent."The MP Diane Abbott also warns against complacency. "The black and minority ethnic vote has been very loyal to Labour for a long while, but younger people are more disaffected. Labour needs to be wary of taking the BME vote for granted. The old certainties no longer apply. The party needs a concrete strategy for moving towards more BME MPs and councillors. We just can't leave it to chance."There is some appreciation of what might be required. For all the squalls of her career, in 2010 – in Hackney and Stoke Newington – where more than half of the electorate comes from an ethnic minority – she doubled her majority, taking 55% of the vote on an increased turnout. There are subjects an MP might address that chime with everyone, she says, but also concerns particular to minorities in her constituency. A current example is the rise in air-passenger duty on flights from Britain to the Caribbean. But the keys are credibility and tone. "It is about how you treat BME communities, how you talk about them and how you talk about issues that concern them, such as immigration."These are all issues for a Conservative party that certainly can't feel safe against the backdrop of the OBV research. Traditionally it has survived and thrived as the party of white middle England, but increasingly strategists are factoring in the demographic shift in UK towns and cities. According to the BBC's Great British Class Survey, one-fifth of the ethnic minority population can now consider itself middle class. Many could and should present as credible recruitment targets for the Tories.The party has 11 minority MPs now and operates from a position of weakness, confronted by conflicting imperatives and the knowledge that in 2010 it secured just 16% of the minority vote. What to do to secure a majority, or simply stave off a return to the opposition benches? Should it chase minority support and perhaps secure some of those lifeblood marginals identified by OBV, or tack right and solidify its traditional core vote by heading off the threat from Ukip? There is scant chance that it can do both. And in Lynton Crosby, the party's controversial Australian strategist, they are led by someone who presents as master of the narrow "core vote" campaign. Hence, say observers, the government's summer concentration on immigration.This matters between now and 2015, but it matters even more beyond. And it sets up potential conflict with the long-term thoughts of Tory strategists such as Lord Ashcroft and senior figures such as co-chairman Lord Feldman, who observe the wreckage of a US Republican party that is estranged from the growing Hispanic population of 53 million in the US and thus condemned to bit-part status. Mitt Romney projected his party's antipathy to Hispanic immigration and paid the price come election day, attracting just 27% of the Hispanic vote. A suicidal act of positioning, singled out by Romney himself as a compelling reason for his defeat.Conservative disdain for Britain's minorities may have been sustainable in the glory years – think Margaret Thatcher's reference to those of an "alien culture" and Lord Tebbit's insulting cricket test. But forward-thinking Tories now recognise that approach as being so last century. They go armed with internal and detailed research undertaken by Ashcroft, who now veers towards the evangelical on the subject of the Tories claiming their share of the minority vote.Even before the OBV bombshell, the party was trying things. There was a fresh push by figures such as Indian-born vice-chair Alok Sharma to raise the profile of the party in minority communities and challenge the perception that the party is racist. A new campaign pack gave Tory parliamentary candidates advice on how to operate in minority areas. And it has been keen to find even more black and Asian MPs, now there is no A-list of centrally endorsed candidates with which such an outcome can be engineered. The A-list caused David Cameron a good deal of difficulty prior to the 2010 election. Instead, party officials are taking a closer interest in how selections are conducted, trying to ensure minority hopefuls get a fair shake. But even that is perilous. Voicing the aspiration for greater diversity in the party is one thing, engineering it is quite another. It smacks of "identity politics". For all the possibilities, Tory activists deplore identity politics."It's all a huge challenge for us, although I'm not sure any political party has got it right yet," explains one senior Tory MP. "We have a few more minority MPs and that's a good thing – although I do sometimes wish that some of them would be a bit more secure about their ethnicity. They just ape public school manners and so don't have the impact one would like."He sees his party as being on a learning curve, forced to grapple with new complexities. "A lot of it is down to income levels. You take the Ismaili Muslims – a lot of them are professional and have done well for themselves and we can have one kind of conversation with them. But with Pakistani Muslims, Bangladeshi Muslims and Somali Muslims, that's something different altogether. It is very complicated."And, he says, it's changing. "We are looking at the third and fourth generation now. It's no use looking to the old man at the mosque to deliver the vote. He can say what he likes, but the younger ones just go away and organise themselves on Facebook. They're one step ahead. The old thinking just isn't effective."What could be decisive, he says, is shoe leather: door-to-door politics. "A lot of minorities have never seen a Conservative. All they know about us is what they have been told by Labour and the Liberals. We could counteract that. We've been trying. But when certain colleagues use certain kinds of language and send immigration vans on to the streets, that certainly doesn't help."At the sharp end of that Tory dilemma sits Mohammed Amin. One of the groups that the Tories most struggle to attract is Muslims and he is deputy chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum. A tough sell. But he says it shouldn't be. "If you look at the values of a typical Muslim citizen and what they regard as important – family, hard work, being thrifty and education – these are things reflected in Conservative policy. But if a politician says, 'Our values are the same, you should vote Conservative', that sounds too patronising. I am recommending that we just talk about our values."He's also recommending that Conservative candidates and activists be prudent with their language. "We, like Labour and the Lib Dems, favour a two-state solution. If a candidate goes around saying 'I am a Zionist', Muslims say that means you are in favour of settlers grabbing as much Palestinian land as possible. We should be honest and consistent but use language that is appropriate."And no dabbling in identity politics, says Amin. It doesn't work anyway. "George Galloway fought a brilliant campaign in Bradford. He ignored the community leaders and had a campaign led by Muslim women who persuaded people who had never voted before to vote. We have to do things our way. There should be nothing we say to a Muslim audience that we would not say to a wider audience."And the racism millstone? "You've got to fess up. Institutional memory is a big issue. People remember the party of Enoch Powell. We say: 'We're not racist now. We have a few racists still but the party has changed.' You can't change the past but you can change the future."So is there the opportunity for the Lib Dems to present as a party that has never been hostile and hasn't grown complacent? Perhaps. But it too has a bugbear – the absence of a narrative it can sell on the doorstep. It has a smattering of minority councillors and earlier this year – having convened a task force – sought to find distinctive policy positions on minority education and employment. But still it lacks a distinctive philosophy that might draw in a minority vote. Worse still, in coalition, it is tainted by the anti-immigration reputation of the Conservatives.It's a problem for Nick Clegg. In 2009, he said that if his party – all white in the Commons – failed to improve that position by 2015 he would seriously consider all-black shortlists. Since then he has gone quiet on the subject and who can say whether he will be willing, or able, to make such changes after 2015. In the meantime, the prize for his party in this regard seems modest – holding on to its 57 MPs, maybe advancing just a little.Lester Holloway, a Sutton Lib Dem councillor and anti-racism activist is the secretary of Ethnic Minority Lib Dems. He also led the OBV research, so he knows the specifics. "We have got everything to gain and everything to lose, but we need to broaden our appeal to minorities if we are to have a realistic chance of winning target seats from the Conservatives and holding on to about half of the seats that we have now," he says. Can they do that? "One of the reasons I am here is that I believe in the central philosophies of the party in terms of equality and social justice and that these are key qualities that can appeal to minorities."But it's an uphill climb, he says. They are "playing catchup" with a Clegg-inspired leadership programme to unearth and develop minority MPs. And they may soon erase the embarrassing truth of an all-white corps of MPs in parliament. Two seats, potentially winnable, will be fought by minority Lib Dem candidates: Layla Moran in Oxford and Abingdon and Maajid Nawaz – a founder of the counter-extremism thinktank Quillam – in Hampstead and Kilburn.There is a strategy, Holloway says, and he presents it as a hopeful one. But what is also needed is a leap of faith. The party, he says, has to unequivocally commit, banishing all concerns that to pursue a minority vote might conflict with the tenets of liberalism. It has no choice in this regard. "Things won't improve by themselves."None of the major parties is as prepared as it might be, and that's a boon for the industrious Woolley as he prepares to make his demands, aided and guided by Jackson. But can they communicate the possibilities to those who need to hear them? Can they sign up enough new voters to make the effort credible? Can they establish whether enough common points of interest unite enough minorities for them to collectively dictate a view to the politicians? Can they cajole them from the breakfast table to the ballot box? There is no point identifying votes if the people don't vote. "I'll be here, there and everywhere, saying: 'Look, we have never had this sort of leverage. This is more potential power and influence than we have ever had in our entire political history.' The question is whether and how we use it."General election 2015Immigration and asylumEqualityLabourConservativesLiberal DemocratsJesse JacksonCommunitiesHugh Muirtheguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
Submitted by Tomas Salamanca of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada, With US President Obama now seeking authorization from Congress to attack Syria, the already spirited debate surrounding the advisability of such military action is bound to get even more lively in the coming days. To make sense of all the argumentation and rhetoric, I am once again going to apply an old method of reasoning about controversial questions most famously used by St. Thomas Aquinas, itself a a more formalized version of the Socratic method of seeking truth about a given topic by scrutinizing the authoritative opinions about that topic. What I hope this approach will do is make it all the more evident that we have no business intervening in Syria. Should an Attack be Launched Against Syria? Objection 1: It seems that it should because there is compelling evidence that the Bashir al-Assad government authorized the use of chemical weapons to kill 1,429 people in an assault that took place on August 21 in the suburbs of Damascus. Not only are chemical weapons a uniquely heinous instrument of war, insofar as they bring about a horrible death, they are also capable of killing large numbers of individuals with a single strike. Chemical weapons thus fall under the category of weapons of mass destruction whose possession and use it is the interest of all peace-loving nations to deter. Objection 2: The August 21 deployment of chemical weapons is part and parcel of a systematic campaign by Syria’s government to destroy opponents of its despotic rule. As happened in that attack, innocent civilians and children have been casualties of the regime’s savage response to the Arab Spring protests that initially spread to Syria in the spring of 2011. For these reasons, the chemical strike represents a signal instance of the Syrian regime’s crimes against humanity. All nations have a responsibility to protect individuals from being victimized by humanitarian crimes, no matter where in the world these happen to take place. Bashir al-Assad, along with all of his enablers in the Syrian government, must be held accountable for ordering these atrocities. Objection 3: Led by the United States, the Western world has continually asserted its unwillingness to tolerate not just the use of weapons of mass destruction, but also menacing efforts to develop and stockpile such weapons. If Syria is allowed to use chemical weapons with impunity, then the credibility of that threat will be undermined. Iran and North Korea will be emboldened in their quest to build a nuclear arsenal. On the contrary, military force should only be used to protect citizens from foreign attack. I answer that the state’s foreign policy ought to be primarily guided by the national interest — and by that I narrowly mean the preservation of the life, bodily integrity, liberty, and property of each of the individuals who reside within the state’s territorial boundaries. Even if definitive proof should eventually arise that Bashir al-Assad authorized the chemical attack, that is part of a civil war in which he is engaged amongst supporters of his government and various groups aiming to depose him. No matter who ultimately emerges victorious in this conflict, those living thousands of miles away will not in any tangible way have their personal safety and possessions affected. The inviolability of Canada’s borders does not stand or fall on whether the Syrian National Council gains power or Al-Assad’s Ba’athist party regime keeps it. At best, events in Syria might impact the price of oil, but influencing that is hardly a rationale for military action, especially as there are so many alternative sources of energy that can be secured more peacefully. To some, this will seem a terribly selfish and hardhearted approach to foreign policy. No self-respecting nation, they say, can stand by as a foreign government slaughters its own people. But anyone even vaguely familiar with history knows that states commit such crimes on a shockingly regular basis. Were we to always intervene every time a government somewhere in the world violated its citizens’ most basic rights, we would quickly stretch our resources. Not only that, it would stretch the sympathetic capacities of human nature. It is a psychological fact that we tend to be more concerned about individuals and events spatially close to us than those far away. A little girl who goes missing in our neighbourhood emotionally impacts us more than a thousands deaths in another continent. Distant occurrences only affect us when they are unusually striking and vivid, and even then only for a relatively short time. This firmly ingrained mindset is hardly the foundation upon which to sustain the long-term commitment often necessary to truly better conditions in distant lands. Reply to Objection 1: As the Cold War proved, a nation can successfully deter another from attacking it with weapons of mass destruction by threatening to respond with a similar counter-attack. It must simply be able to show that it can sustain a first strike with enough remaining forces to launch a retaliatory assault. Attacking Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons does nothing to demonstrate this second strike capacity. The U.S. and its allies will still be able to strike back against anyone that deploys weapons of mass destruction against them whether or not action is taken against Syria. From a national security point of view at least, deterrence is not an issue. Reply to Objection 2: States have no global responsibility to protect. This is a merely fashionable doctrine with no basis in any sound theory of government. The best way to think about this is to view the state as an agency to which the people have agreed to cede some of their liberties in return for certain goods and services. Now one could definitely envision people agreeing to give up some of their freedom in exchange for the protection of their persons and property. But one can hardly imagine more than a small minority of individuals signing up with an agency that obligated them to potentially risk their lives, and those of their loved ones, for the sake of every single individual on the planet. Reply to Objection 3: Government officials ought not, in the first place, be issuing threats to other countries for things that do not implicate the national interest, strictly construed.
Крупнейший инвестиционный траст недвижимости Великобритании Land Securities Group сообщил о росте годовой прибыли благодаря сдаче пустых помещений в аренду. Так, чистая прибыль компании составила533 млн фунтов стерлингов ($811 млн) или 68,1 пенса на одну акцию по сравнению с 522,9 млн фунтов или 67,4 пенса на бумагу годом ранее. Выручка за рассматриваемый период выросла с 671,5 млн фунтов стерлингов годом ранее до 736,6 млн фунтов.