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Smith International
25 апреля 2016, 20:42

США предоставят Украине $4 млн на таможню

США в рамках двухлетней программы финансирования консалтинговых услуг для реформирования украинской таможни предоставят $4 млн для привлечения международных советников, которые помогут внедрить в Украине сервис высокого мирового качества, сообщил министр финансов Александр Данилюк.

26 января 2016, 13:47

Минфин внесет тендерную документацию в Кабмин на управителя ряда таможен через неделю

Министр финансов Украина Наталия Яресько подтверждает планы передачи ряда таможен на западной границе страны в управление специализированным иностранным компаниям и сообщает о подготовке тендерной документации для их отбора.

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18 мая 2014, 16:07

Don't Silence Graduation Speakers

Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune "Oh, that my enemy would write a book," goes the old wish, coined by someone who knew there is no better way to expose fools than through their own words. It's an idea that deserves consideration from the college students and faculty unhappy with their schools' choice in commencement speakers.The usual response to such invitations is to demand that they be revoked. This year, critics cowed Brandeis into yanking its offer to anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Outrage at Rutgers prompted former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to withdraw, and when howls when up at Smith, International...

18 января 2014, 23:33

Civilians Killed In Suicide Attack On Restaurant In Afghanistan Capital

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A Taliban attack against a popular Kabul restaurant killed 21 people, officials said Saturday, in the deadliest attack against foreign civilians since the war began nearly 13 years ago. The dead from Friday's assault against La Taverna du Liban included 13 foreigners and eight Afghans, all civilians, in an attack that could mark a pivot point for international organizations operating in Kabul. It came as security has been deteriorating and apprehension has been growing among Afghans over the future security of their country as U.S.-led foreign forces prepare for a final withdrawal at the end of the year. Those killed included two U.S. citizens working for the American University of Afghanistan, a victim identified by the United Nations as a Somali-American, two Britons — development specialist Dharmender Singh Phangura and close protection officer Simon Chase — two Canadians, two Lebanese, a Danish police officer, a Russian, a Malaysian and a Pakistani. Phangura, who along with the Malaysian worked as an adviser for Adam Smith International, was to run as a Labour Party candidate in upcoming elections for the European Parliament. Also among the dead were the International Monetary Fund's Lebanese representative, Wabel Abdallah, and Vadim Nazarov, a Russian who was the chief political affairs officer at the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan. Nazarov was one of the U.N's most experienced officials, fluent in the country's languages and with experience dating back to the 1980s. He was one of three U.N. victims. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in reprisal for an Afghan military operation earlier in the week against insurgents in eastern Parwan province, which the insurgents claimed killed many civilians. The Taliban frequently provide exaggerated casualty figures. "The target of the attack was a restaurant frequented by high-ranking foreigners," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement. He said the attack targeted a place "where the invaders used to dine with booze and liquor in the plenty." He described the "revenge attack" as having delivered a "heavy admonitory blow to the enemy which they shall never forget." The deaths have shaken Kabul's tight-knit expatriate community, which frequented a handful of restaurants such as Taverna that were considered relative safe in Kabul's often insecure streets. The deadliest previous attack against foreign civilians was in Sept. 8, 2012, when nine civilian employees of a private aviation company were killed in a suicide attack happened near Kabul airport. They included eight South Africans and a Kyrgyz. Such attacks in the past have prompted a mass exodus of foreign staff from the country, and the insecurity has been compounded by the refusal of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to sign a security deal with the United States that would keep about 10,000 troops here for up to 10 more years. Although a national assembly of elders endorsed the deal last year, Karzai is deferring its signature until after the April 5 presidential elections — which the United States has said may not give it enough time to plan and could lead to a pull out of all troops. An indication of the testiness in relations was apparent in Karzai's condemnation of the attack, which came almost a day after it took place. In what was essentially a political statement, Karzai said the U.S. was not doing enough to deal with terrorism in Afghanistan and said its policies so far had not been successful. "If NATO forces and in the lead the United States of America want to cooperate and be united with Afghan people, they must target terrorism," he said without fully elaborating on what America should be doing. He added that America had followed a "policy which has caused many scarifies in Afghanistan and was not successful in the past decade." The attack also was condemned by the U.N. Security Council, NATO and the European Union. The restaurant, like most places frequented by foreign diplomats, aid workers, journalists and businessmen in the war-weary country, has no signs indicating its location and is heavily secured. It sits on a small side street just off a bumpy semi-paved road in a house with low ceilings and an enclosed patio but has no windows. Bags of dirt are piled up around it to act as blast walls and guests must go through a series of steel airlocks, where they are searched, before entering. The surrounding area is full of police and security guards to protect against insurgent attacks, which have increased in recent months around the country. "The restaurant was known to be one of the more secure in the area and has therefore been given a green-light by many expatriate and official organizations," said Michael Smith, the president of the American University of Afghanistan. ___ Associated Press writers Rahim Faiez in Kabul, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Cassandra Vinograd in London contributed to this report. ___ Follow Patrick Quinn on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PatrickAQuinn.

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18 сентября 2013, 21:12

Another 250 Million Rounds Of Ammunition For An Agency On A Bullet Diet

James Smith Activist Post In the middle of December 2012, the Customs and Border Protection Agency presented a pre-solicitation for 50,000,000 rounds of .40 S&W caliber ammunition, ostensibly for training. The contract would provide a total of 250,000,000 rounds over the life of the 5-year contract. The contract was to be issued on 20 January 2013. CPB, an agency within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has included the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency with this solicitation. Today, CPB and ICE announced via the solicitation process that they will be awarding the contract on or about October 7, 2013. Added to the original solicitation was this sentence: Resulting award will be used for training/qualifications only, not for duty use, and will be used as a direct substitution in lieu of procuring like quantities of duty ammunition.From their individual websites: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Created in 2003 through a merger of the investigative and interior enforcement elements of the U.S. Customs Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, ICE now has more than 20,000 employees in offices in all 50 states and 47 foreign countries. CBP is one of the Department of Homeland Security’s largest and most complex components, with a priority mission of keeping terrorists and their weapons out of the U.S. It also has a responsibility for securing the border and facilitating lawful international trade and travel while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws and regulations, including immigration and drug laws. google_ad_client = "pub-1897954795849722"; /* 468x60, created 6/30/10 */ google_ad_slot = "8230781418"; google_ad_width = 468; google_ad_height = 60;  ICE and CPB both have approximately 21,000 employees. This number is not solely agents, but administrative staff who would never be allowed to train with a firearm. However, if every employee was allowed to train with a firearm, using this one solicitation alone, each employee would have the opportunity to fire 1,190 rounds a year. This sort of ammunition purchase is what led to the US House of Representatives to stop DHS from entering into new contracts. There have been no news reports of this limitation being removed from DHS. We will keep you updated on this matter as information comes available. Read more about government munitions purchases here: Can’t buy groceries? DHS goes on another munitions spree with your money. Homeland Security Allocates Nearly One Billion Dollars For Explosives Storage Magazines Bureau Of Indian Affairs Look To Quell Indian Uprising By Purchasing Over A Half Million Dollars In New Military Grade Hardware EXCLUSIVE: Documents Prove That Homeland Security Is Being Armed By US Military This article first appeared at Prepper Podcast Radio Network.  James is a father of four and grandfather to four. He and his wife of almost 30 years have been prepping since 2003. They live in a small town, with neighbors as close as 10 feet away and have raised chickens for 2 years covertly on less than 1/5 of an acre. He is a former corrections officer, insurance fraud investigator, and he served in the Navy for 6 years. He currently works for a corporation dealing with the disabled population and their benefits. He is the host of The Covert Prepper show and the Prepper Podcast Radio Network News, both heard on Blogtalk Radio. 

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18 сентября 2013, 18:02

The 10 Best Websites For Your Career - 2013

Today we’re releasing our second-annual list of the best websites for your career. Last year our list of 75 sites stirred plenty of comments, emails and tweets. This August we put out another call for nominations and got a flood of 2,000 responses. My colleague Jacquelyn Smith did the heavy lifting, considering all the new suggestions, reviewing last year’s list, and then expanding our total to 100. Our goal with the master list is not a ranking but rather a roster that we think can be useful to all sorts of people at varying stages of their careers—would-be interns, job seekers, business owners, established professionals, even retirees. Click here for the full list and short descriptions about each site.

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12 сентября 2013, 22:45

Author of bedroom tax report defends findings after government's attack

UN investigator says she has never faced such a hostile reaction in a country as she did for her bedroom tax reportA United Nations special investigator has said that she had never faced such a hostile reaction from a country after her preliminary findings on the coalition's bedroom tax policy prompted a vicious response from the rightwing media and Conservative politicians.The UN's special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, a Brazilian academic, was dubbed a "Brazil nut" and "a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx" in some of Wednesday's newspapers after she had called for the bedroom tax to be abolished.Responding to the criticism in titles such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express, Rolnik told the Guardian: "My nationality is of no relevance to my role as a special rapporteur." She added: "What should matter is how to address the housing issues in the UK in a way that respects the rights of people living in the UK."The row about the state of British housing began after the Guardian reported Rolnik's call on the UK government to retreat on welfare reform on Wednesday, following a 14-day fact finding mission around the UK. She said she had heard "shocking" accounts of how the policy was affecting vulnerable people in the UK.Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps said he had written a formal complaint to the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon demanding an investigation and claiming Rolnik had not met relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy. He demanded that she withdraw her report.Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, said Rolnik had undermined the impartiality of the UN, adding it was "staggering" she had come to her conclusions without access to official information – while Tory MP Stewart Jackson said Rolnik was a "loopy Brazilian leftie with no evidence masquerading as a serious UN official".Rolnik said it was the most hostile response she had ever faced from a national government. "It was the first time a government has been so aggressive," she told Inside Housing. "When I was in the US I had a constructive conversation with them, accepting some things and arguing with others. They did not react like this."The rapporteur was a minister in the centre-left Workers party in the last decade, but denied Tory accusations of political bias. "I didn't come here to investigate the bedroom tax, I came here as a normal country mission, to assess the situation. I came across the bedroom tax when I was here, but I am an independent investigator."She also dismissed the claim that she had failed to meet the relevant ministers and officials before giving her preliminary findings. "I have met officials from many departments, and the details of these meetings are all listed within my report."It is understood that as well as meetings with Eric Pickles, secretary of state at the department of communities and local government, and undersecretary Don Foster, she also met several other officials including the head of housing policy at the department for work and pensions.On Wednesday an expert in international human rights, Professor Aoife Nolan from the University of Nottingham, criticised the government for its "hysterical" response to Rolnik's report. She contradicted Shapps's letter saying Rolnik had not been invited by the UK government."This is set out in the code of conduct for such appointment-holders," Nolan said. "Indeed, so open was the UK to the possibility of a visit from UN experts like Rolnik that in March 2001 it issued a standing invitation to all such UN appointment-holders."Rolnik did not simply 'come over'. She didn't fail to meet with government ministers … furthermore, complaints about [her] failure to meet face-to-face with the ministers responsible for welfare and housing – and hence an alleged lack of balance in her statement – seem somewhat ironic and misplaced, given that it was the government who did not act on her pre-visit request for those meetings."A Conservative party spokesman said: "We stand firmly by Grant Shapps's letter and look forward to an early response."Bedroom taxWelfareHousingHousing benefitBenefitsUnited NationsConservativesLiberal-Conservative coalitionLiberal DemocratsGrant ShappsIain Duncan SmithMatthew Taylor 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     

12 сентября 2013, 18:47

South Africa secrecy law surprise as Zuma rejects controversial bill

Campaigners celebrate after president sends protection of state information bill back to parliamentCampaigners in South Africa were celebrating on Thursday after President Jacob Zuma rejected controversial secrecy laws that threatened journalists and whistleblowers with long prison terms.In a surprise move, Zuma refused to sign the protection of state information bill because it did not pass "constitutional muster" and knocked it back to parliament for revision. It had been widely assumed that the president's approval was a mere formality.The proposed "secrecy bill" puts those in possession of classified information at risk of jail sentences of up to 25 years. Activists have compared it to apartheid-era crackdowns and warned of a "chilling effect" on investigative journalism and those seeking to expose government corruption. Retired archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela's foundation have spoken out against the proposed legislation.But it is also widely conceded that, after heated national debate, the current bill is a significant improvement on legislation first drawn up five years ago. The president's unexpected decision to send it back means that it is now likely to be watered down further still."I have given consideration to the bill in its entirety and the various opinions and commentaries regarding the constitutionality and tagging of the bill," Zuma told the parliamentary press gallery association on Thursday. "After consideration of the bill and having applied my mind thereto, I am of the view that the bill as it stands does not pass constitutional muster."He added: "The constitution requires that the president must assent to and sign the bill referred to him or her by the national assembly. However, in terms of section 79(1) of the constitution, if the president has reservations about the constitutionality of the bill, he or she may refer it back to the national assembly for reconsideration."In this regard, I have referred the bill to the national assembly for reconsideration insofar as sections of the bill, in particular sections 42 and 45, lack meaning and coherence, consequently are irrational and accordingly are unconstitutional."In April, the bill was passed in parliament's national assembly with 189 votes in favour, 74 against and one abstention. It is intended to repeal an old apartheid law, the protection of information act of 1982, which is not in line with the democratic constitution.But it faced opposition from rival political parties, editors, lawyers and civil society groups as well as international organisations. They argued that the bill is unconstitutional because it lacks a clause to protect those who publish information that they deem to be in the public interest.Despite being accused of ramming the legislation through, Zuma's party, the African National Congress, said it "welcomes" his ruling. The office of its chief whip said: "We appreciate the president's views on the bill. Indeed, parliament must ensure that an appropriate process is instituted to ensure that amendments are accordingly effected. It is important that the laws parliament pass are of highest quality and are not in conflict with the constitution."We are confident that the amendments would further strengthen the bill and its objectives of protecting citizen's information and enhancing national security through protection of sensitive government information."Zuma's intervention was welcomed by Mandela's long-time friend and lawyer George Bizos, who said: "I said before they passed it there will be a long queue of lawyers at the constitutional court, so he must have received good advice. I'm very pleased. It would have been a threat to freedom of expression."Murray Hunter of the civil society group the Right2Know campaign told the eNews Channel Africa: "I think we are definitely celebrating. This is an important day. While it's not over, this is a sign that as citizens working together, mobilising, we certainly are able to bring change."Zuma sent the bill back to the drawing board despite reportedly speaking out against the media earlier this week. Addressing a group of journalism students, he was quoted as saying: "Who do you think in reality you serve when reporting: the interest of the public that you claim, as the media you stand for, or the interest of the owners and managers of the paper?"Zuma reportedly said the South African media claimed to act as society's watchdog, but "they were never elected. I've argued with them that they were never elected, we were elected and we can claim that we represent the people. They do say they represent the people. [But] does the population or public determine what is reported? They don't."South AfricaAfricaJacob ZumaDavid Smith 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     

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11 сентября 2013, 23:35

Presidential Nominations Sent to the Senate

NOMINATIONS SENT TO THE SENATE: Larry Edward André, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Elizabeth Frawley Bagley, of the District of Columbia, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. John P. Carlin, of New York, to be an Assistant Attorney General, vice Lisa O. Monaco, resigned. Beth F. Cobert, of California, to be Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management and Budget, vice Jeffrey D. Zients, resigned. Bradley Crowell, of Nevada, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs), vice Jeffrey A. Lane. Richard G. Frank, of Massachusetts, to be an Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, vice Sherry Glied, resigned. Anthony Luzzatto Gardner, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the European Union, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Sloan D. Gibson, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, vice W. Scott Gould. Heather Anne Higginbottom, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, vice Thomas R. Nides, resigned. Paul Nathan Jaenichen, Sr., of Kentucky, to be Administrator of the Maritime Administration, vice David T. Matsuda, resigned. Esther Puakela Kia'aina, of Hawaii, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior, vice Anthony Marion Babauta. Helen Meagher La Lime, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Angola. Michael Anderson Lawson, of California, for the rank of Ambassador during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America on the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization. Barbara Lee, of California, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Michael D. Lumpkin, of California, to be an Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice Michael A. Sheehan. Mark Meadows, of North Carolina, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Luis G. Moreno, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Jamaica. Jamie Michael Morin, of Michigan, to be Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Department of Defense, vice Christine H. Fox, resigned. Jo Ann Rooney, of Massachusetts, to be Under Secretary of the Navy, vice Robert O. Work, resigned. James H. Shelton III, of the District of Columbia, to be Deputy Secretary of Education, vice Anthony W. Miller, resigned. Christopher Smith, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Fossil Energy), vice Charles DeWitt McConnell, resigned. Theodore Strickland, of Ohio, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Puneet Talwar, of the District of Columbia, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (Political-Military Affairs), vice Andrew J. Shapiro. George James Tsunis, of New York, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Norway. Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer, of Illinois, to be Chief Financial Officer, Environmental Protection Agency, vice Barbara J. Bennett, resigned. David Weil, of Massachusetts, to be Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division, Department of Labor, vice Paul DeCamp. Roy K. J. Williams, of Ohio, to be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, vice John R. Fernandez, resigned. Daniel W. Yohannes, of Colorado, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, with the rank of Ambassador. Stephen N. Zack, of Florida, to be an Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-eighth Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

11 сентября 2013, 23:06

Grants Shapps accuses United Nations housing rapporteur of political bias

Conservative party chairman's letter to UN lambasts Raquel Rolnik for her recommendation that bedroom tax should be axedA government minister has made a formal complaint to the UN, accusing the its special rapporteur on housing of political bias and calling for her to withdraw her report on UK housing conditions, in which she calls on the government to suspend its bedroom tax.In a letter to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, the Conservative party chairman and minister without portfolio Grant Shapps demanded an investigation into the actions of the UN's rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik, complaining that she had not met the relevant ministers or officials to discuss the policy.Rolnik said there were no grounds for a complaint, and that she had received the full cooperation of the UK government throughout her visit. She gave details of meetings on welfare reform she had with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as meetings with two DCLG ministers.She was puzzled by the formal letter of complaint, remarking: "Maybe the comments came from someone who is not well informed about UN human rights mechanisms and is not informed about his own government."Shapps's unusual intervention was the culmination of a furious response from the government to Rolnik's preliminary report on housing conditions in Britain, in which she detailed her concerns at the impact of welfare reform on "the most vulnerable" in UK society. She called for the bedroom tax (whereby council tenants are lose benefit for under-occupying homes deemed too large for their needs) to be suspended pending a full re-evaluation of its "impact on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals".In a letter on Conservative party-headed paper, addressed to Ban, Shapps said the UK's legal system had already ruled that the policy ending the spare room subsidy was lawful."I am therefore extremely surprised and disappointed to learn that the UN has directly contradicted the decisions of our courts", he wrote, suggesting "the UN withdrew Rolnik's claims on the bedroom tax pending a full investigation."In broadcast interviews Shapps described the report as "an absolute disgrace", said that Rolnik had not been invited by the government, and had not researched her subject adequately. He questioned "how it is that a woman from Brazil has come over, a country that has 50 million in inadequate housing" to report on housing conditions in Britain.Rolnik had not sought to meet work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, or officials responsible for the policy on the spare room subsidy, he claimed.Rolnik responded that she had requested meetings with DWP ministers, but said her agenda had been organised by the UK government, which had organised meetings both with Eric Pickles, communities secretary, and Don Foster, DCLG the under secretary. "The whole mission was organised by the government. It was not only that I was invited but also the UK government was completely involved in the organisation. More than half of the meetings here, [were] meetings with government officials. They also facilitated me to meet with local councils," she said, adding that the DWP had also sent her information and had been helpful in responding to her questions.Shapps demanded to know the process leading to the commissioning of the report and said her use of the term "bedroom tax", (rather than the government's policy description – "ending the spare room subsidy") revealed political bias. She later apologised for using the shorthand, saying: "Since I arrived here everybody was saying that … I didn't have any agenda before coming here."Her trip had been organised according to strict UN protocol, as had fact-finding missions to the US, Spain, Rwanda, and Indonesia, she said. "What we have done here is exactly the same thing that we have done in 11 countries. All special rapporteurs do exactly the same thing. This was a very good mission, [with] very good relations with the UK government, so there is nothing to complain about."In her preliminary report, Rolnik broadened her attack on the bedroom tax first revealed by the Guardian, to other concerns, including the effect of benefit caps and fears that decentralisation of planning laws in Northern Ireland might lead to "increased sectarianism and discrimination". She warned that housing benefit caps would make moving to the private rented sector increasingly difficult for those on low incomes, and complained that homes were now allowed to stand empty in London and elsewhere because they had been sold to international buyers as financial assets.The system for helping the poor in Britain had been weakened by "a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged home-ownership over other forms of tenure", said Rolnik.She cited the government's "help to buy" scheme and failure to replace homes removed from social housing by two decades of tenants' right to buy their council homes. "It is possible to stimulate the economy and construction industry if you provide more social housing and affordable housing," Rolnik said, adding that such a recommendation would be made in her final report.She also warned over increasing stigma being shown toward Gypsies, Travellers and Roma struggling to find accommodation. She had concerns too about provision for refugees and asylum seekers. Rolnik did say Britain had set an example in the way it had renovated old social housing estates and praised its mixed communities and lack of segregation.The housing charity Shelter welcomed Rolnik's initial findings: "Shelter sees in its services each day how the bedroom tax is a deeply damaging policy. With the shortage of social homes of the right size in the right places, we know that it will be very difficult for many families to downsize, and none more so than the disabled and others with special needs. This is something the government's own Impact Assessment notes, but they have yet to make sure many vulnerable families are properly protected."Bedroom taxHousing benefitBenefitsHousingCommunitiesBan Ki-moonGrant ShappsWelfareUnited NationsHuman rightsJames MeikleAmelia Gentleman 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     

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11 сентября 2013, 22:46

Iain Duncan Smith accused of misleading MPs over cost of IT failures

Officials say up to £161m could be written off on universal credit IT system – four times what minister saidIain Duncan Smith has been accused of misleading parliament after it emerged that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) could write off up to £161m spent on an IT system for ambitious welfare changes – more than four times what the minister said would be wasted.The welfare minister also faces further embarrassing disclosures from PwC accountants who found that the universal credit system, which will allow the government to roll six welfare payments into one, has had little ministerial oversight. In one instance, a civil servant's personal assistant was allowed to sign off contracts, they found.The disclosures emerged at a public accounts committee meeting on Wednesday when officials from the department were closely questioned by MPs.Mike Driver, the finance director general of the department, confirmed that the costs could be as much as £161m, while Norma Wood, the head of the Major Projects Authority, agreed that the system would have to write off at least £140m.Margaret Hodge, the committee's chair, said she had been sent an official PwC report into the project which highlighted concerns that there was a lack of ministerial accountability. Of 25 contracts costing at least £25,000 reviewed by accountants, only 11 appeared to have been signed off by ministers, she said.The PwC report also found that a personal assistant to a senior civil servant had been allowed to authorise purchase orders, in contravention of strict procurement rules.Hodge told the DWP's permanent secretary, Robert Devereux, that a National Audit Office report released last week was "damning" but an internal study she had been sent recently by PwC was even worse. "I think it's one of the worst I have seen in my time here … as I read it felt like it was an out-of-control project," she said.Hodge accused the DWP of "sitting on" the PwC assessment for six months, and claimed it was a "damning indictment … PwC basically damns your control system."Labour on Wednesday night called for Duncan Smith to return to parliament to explain why he told MPs last week that his department expected to write off £34m.Liam Byrne, Duncan Smith's shadow minister, said: "Parliament's watchdog has blown apart yet another cover-up by Iain Duncan Smith who it seems has tried to hide a write-off of over £100m on his disaster-hit universal credit project."We're now told there was no ministerial accountability and financial control was so weak that secretaries were signing huge purchase orders. Mr Duncan Smith must now publish the damning report by his auditors PwC. We must get to the truth ministers are trying to hide."Duncan Smith last week blamed civil servants for the IT failures that threatened to derail the scheme, telling the Commons: "When I arrived I expected professionalism to be able to do this."Devereux, the permanent secretary of his department, told the committee the programme had been poor value for money but he thought it could still be delivered by 2017, the government's deadline.Universal credit merges six benefits, with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment. It requires different payments to landlords and more online claims, and merges in-work and out-of-work benefits, requiring new definitions of benefit conditions for those in work. It also requires close co-operation between the DWP systems and tax officials at HMRC.In the business case for the project, the DWP estimated substantial savings – a net benefit of £38bn by 2023.From 2023, the estimated annual benefit was planned to be £7bn. It was initially planned that the project would be introduced nationally by October this year, but pilot projects were delayed and are now going ahead in four areas.The NAO found the IT system could not identify potentially fraudulent claims, meaning manual checks were needed. Civil servants were also accused of having weak control of the programme and were unable to assess the value of the systems it spent over £300m to develop, the watchdog added.A DWP spokesperson said: "The IT for universal credit is up and running well in the early rollout of the new benefit. It is to be expected that IT requirements evolve on a long-term programme of reform, but Howard Shiplee [the director general of universal credit] has been clear that he envisages using a substantial amount of the current IT for the national rollout."Iain Duncan SmithBenefitsWelfareCivil serviceRajeev Syal 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 

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11 сентября 2013, 19:48

Sometimes, "Not My Problem" Is the Right Answer, by Art Carden

Last week, I linked to the LearnLiberty "Why are YOU a Libertarian?" Tumblr. Twitter user @EricPaulDennis posted the following: @Econlib @artcarden @LearnLiberty Because its easier to say, 'not my problem,' than to consider solutions. (?)— Eric Paul Dennis (@EricPaulDennis) September 7, 2013 However, "Not My Problem" is probably the right response more often than we want to believe. The tradition of what Peter J. Boettke calls "Mainline Economics" connecting scholars like (for example) Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and James Buchanan, emphasizes the fact that we rarely have enough knowledge about what Hayek called "the particular circumstances of time and place" to interfere advantageously in others' affairs. Too often, the impulse to action clouds our better judgment, and we make an even bigger mess of things. In his summary of the "Austrian School of Economics" Boettke points out some of the key insights of the "mainline" paradigm. These insights have been applied fruitfully to questions of international political economy, war, reconstruction, and humanitarian adventures by Boettke's student Christopher J. Coyne in his books After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy and Doing Bad By Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails. Here's an EconTalk Podcast with Coyne on the first book. Here's Coyne on C-SPAN discussing the second. (13 COMMENTS)

09 сентября 2013, 21:26

US consulate attack in Benghazi: a challenge to official version of events

A year after the first US ambassador in 33 years was killed on duty, Chris Stephen, one of the first western reporters on the scene in Benghazi, pieces together what really happened from witness accounts, official reports, and the ruins of the compoundThe attack on the US consulate in Benghazi was striking for a number of reasons: the date, 11 September, the toll – four diplomats killed, including an ambassador – and the knock-on effects on the careers of senior American politicians.But what is perhaps most striking is the inconsistencies: the US version of events compared with those of witnesses and the facts on the ground. The two do not tally. And so, a year later, there remain pressing questions about what happened that night – and what the Americans say happened.6:43amEvent Staff at the US special mission in Benghazi woke on 11 September to the sight of a Libyan policeman, deployed to guard them, filming the compound from a neighbouring rooftop. When challenged, he vanished. Later, an unmarked car made lazy circles around the compound, a walled redoubt rented in the southern suburbs of the Libyan city.US version The state department says there were no warning of impending attack, a spokesman insisting there was "nothing unusual during the day at all".Conflicting evidence Two days earlier, the ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, had received a veiled warning. According to one of his cables, one of his diplomats had a meeting with two Islamist militia leaders in which they complained that the US was supporting a secular leader, Mahmoud Jibril, in a vote for prime minister due on 12 September. If Jibril won, they warned, they would "no longer guarantee security". The consulate was already relying on one of the militias, the February 17th Martyrs Brigade, for armed protection.In the words of a subsequent report by the US Senate's homeland security committee, warning lights were "flashing red". As the day went on, news came in of attacks by radicals on the US embassy in Cairo, a response to a film, the Innocence of Muslims, released in America which mocked Muhammad. The CIA sent a cable to its foreign stations warning of possible copycat incidents.The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks also preyed on the minds of compound staff in Benghazi. In a letter found in the ruins by the Guardian, Stevens wrote: "For security reasons, we'll need to be careful about limiting moves off compound and scheduling as many meetings as possible in the villa."At least one man inside the compound was anxious. Sean Smith, a 34-year-old information management officer accompanying the ambassador on the visit, emailed a friend: "Assuming we don't die tonight. We saw one of our 'police' that guard the compound taking pictures." Hours later, he was dead.9:30pmEvents Diners at the Venezia, an upmarket restaurant across the street from the mission, watch as a dozen armed militiamen gathered in the dusk by the compound's rear gate. The compound comprises four buildings spaced among gardens and surrounded by a breezeblock wall.One of the militia jeeps bore the black banner of a local Islamist militia, Ansar al-Sharia. The militiamen made no attempt to hide. Men sipping coffee on the pavement outside a nearby cafe saw two pickup trucks packed with militiamen bearing the same banner heading for the mission. Neighbours saw militia 4X4s blocking streets leading to the compound. All were surprised there was no reaction from the compound."There were eight to twelve guys, just hanging around, by the gate," one diner said. "They had guns, they were just waiting. There was one Ansar Al Sharia flag. About ten minutes later there were these booms from over the other side (of the compound). The gate came open and this guy put his head out and they shouted at him, get back inside."US version The state department insists the compound had been well fortified in the spring. The walls had been raised to 3.6 metres (12ft) and topped with barbed wire and concertina barbed wire. The villa had been prepared as a redoubt in the event the walls were breached. It was surrounded by sandbagged emplacements and fitted with grilles on the windows and bulletproof steel doors. Security cameras covered the site.Conflicting evidence Most of the wall running around the compound had not been heightened beyond around 8ft. The rear wall also had no wire. Two days after the attack the landlord showed the Guardian where attackers had scrambled over. "It was easy for them," he said. Whether cameras were mounted outside the compound is unclear. But failure to see what diners at the Venezia could see in the 10 minutes before the attack would have catastrophic consequences.9.42pmEvents The diners heard muffled explosions from the far side of the compound. The militiamen outside readied their weapons. Then the metal gate swung open and an unarmed Libyan guard put his head out. One of the militiamen ordered him back inside. The guard pulled the door closed. After a few moments, the militiamen opened fire. "At that moment everyone ran to the back of the restaurant," said one diner.The first thing occupants of the compound knew about the forces massing against them was the sound of shouting and detonations at the front entrance. Gunmen got in by walking up to a small cabin by the front gate, jamming a gun in the face of an unarmed Libyan guard and demanding he open up.On the monitor at the communications hub known as the tactical operations centre (TOC), an agent from diplomatic security service (DSS), the state department's security force, saw the front gate open, armed men streaming through, and Libyan guards running for their lives. He activated the alarm.US version The state department insists security was more than adequate that night, because five DSS agents were in place, more than the recommended three, supported by five unarmed Libyan guards and three armed militiamen from the February 17 brigade.Conflicting evidence In the preceding months Stevens had cabled three times (7 June, 9 July, and 15 August) asking for more protection or that plans to draw down security be halted, according to the House oversight report. Those months had seen escalating attacks against foreign targets in the city. Commonwealth war graves had been smashed, the Tunisian consulate stormed, a Sudanese diplomat attacked, a UN convoy bombed and the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross rocketed. After two bodyguards of British ambassador Dominic Asquith were wounded in a rocket attack on the UK consulate, London closed its mission down. The US mission had been struck twice by home made bombs thrown at the outside wall.But even as attacks in Benghazi escalated, Washington decreased security, in line with its official position that Libya, post revolution, was normalising. Three quick-reaction DSS units, named situation security teams, deployed in Tripoli, were withdrawn in the summer, despite objections from their chief, Colonel Andrew Wood. He later told CBS that losing those units was like "being asked to play the piano with two fingers".On 15 August, the day after Wood was withdrawn, Stevens cabled Washington to say that security in Benghazi was left dangerously exposed. He worried that February 17 was becoming unreliable: a dispute over payment by the embassy meant the brigade's militiamen no longer guarded convoys outside the compound. In addition, the police officers supposed to guard the mission were often late. "Many hours pass when we have no police support at all", he wrote.The Pentagon's regional headquarters, Africa Command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, offered to send soldiers to fill the gap, but Stevens declined, according to an official review of the incident (pdf). The result was that on the night of 11 September dozens of attackers were surging through the main gates, ranged against a force of five DSS agents.There are questions over the readiness of this small security detail. Four of the agents were with Stevens as the attack happened, while the fifth was in the TOC. In the event the outside wall was breached, the procedure was to take position at the sandbagged emplacements. But three of the four agents with Stevens had left their rifles, helmets and body armour in the accommodation block, according to the official review by the accountability review board, ordered by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton. Standard procedure for the US army in hostile deployment is for weapons to be carried at all times, even on trips to the bathroom. Why the DSS agents did not have a similar rule is unclear.They sprinted across the compound to the accommodation block to get their weapons while the remaining agent, who had his rifle, hustled Stevens and Smith inside. By the time the other three had their weapons, attackers were around the villa blocking their path. They retreated, locking themselves into safe rooms in the barracks and TOC, along with the agent already there. With only one DSS agent at the villa, the plan for all-round defence was no longer possible.9.50pmEvents Inside the villa, Stevens sent a frantic message to Gregory Hicks, America's deputy ambassador in Tripoli, telling him: "We're under attack," according to Hicks's testimony to a House of Representatives committee. The chief of Benghazi's supreme security committee, Libya's gendarmerie, Fawzi Yunis Gaddafi, no relation to the former dictator, was phoned by frantic diplomats. "I spoke to the Americans, they were saying 'please help us'," he told the Guardian.Inside the compound, the attackers set fire to the guard house near the gate and others rushed to the villa. A rocket-propelled grenade slammed into the lintel above the front doors, jarring them open, and gunmen rushed inside. The lone DSS agent led Stevens and Smith into a final place of refuge, the "safe haven", and locked the gate. Gunmen, unable to penetrate the refuge, dragged furniture outside and threw it into the pool. Others wrecked the villa interior, poured fuel on the floor and set it alight.US version The safe haven was a walled-off section of the villa constructed with sturdy doors to provide a final refuge in the event the villa was stormed.Conflicting evidence The safe haven, constructed in the spring, had a serious flaw. The door to the haven was not solid metal, but a gate of thick steel bars, secured by two locks. Its obvious disadvantage was that it offered no protection against smoke should the villa be set on fire.10:15pmEvents In minutes the villa was blazing fiercely, filling the safe haven with smoke. The DSS agent led Stevens and Smith to an escape hatch in the wall. He tumbled out to the patio outside, only to find the diplomats had not followed. He returned to hunt for them, but was forced back by the smoke. Finally, gasping for breath, he clambered up a ladder to the roof where he phoned his DSS comrades.The other DSS agents, meanwhile, were locked in the two safe rooms built in the TOC and barracks. The attackers entered the buildings, ransacked each and set them on fire, but did not penetrate the safe rooms.On the roof of the villa, the agent, his voice hoarse from smoke inhalation, phoned his comrades and told them the situation. The four agents broke out of their safe rooms and met him. Nearby was a white armoured 4X4 which the attackers had not wrecked. The location of the attackers was not clear. The agents were able to get into the vehicle, start the engine and drive the short distance across the compound to the blazing villa. Here, they too went into the safe haven to look for the diplomats, but were driven back by the smoke.US version State department accounts say the agents were under prolonged fire throughout their ordeal, with battle raging in the compound grounds. "There is considerable firing going on outside," one spokesman briefed journalists. "There are tracer bullets. There is smoke … there are explosions. I can't tell you that they were RPGs, but I think they were RPGs. So there's a lot of action going on."Conflicting evidence The testimony of heavy fighting is hard to reconcile with the lack of bullet holes in the buildings. The villa's sandy walls are still blackened by the smoke from the fire, but there are few bullet marks here or on the other buildings, nor are there spent casings visible, at least on the paths and asphalt. The front gate has no sign of damage except two bullet holes. The only sign of heavy firing is at the rear gate, with holes from 23 rounds fired into the compound and six fired out. This gunfight is not mentioned in accounts made public. From the time of the attack to the time they were summoned, four of the five DSS agents were in hiding.10.25pmEvents A six-strong force of Americans with 40 friendly militiamen fought their way through to the compound from a second US base a mile away. At 10.50pm the message "firing has stopped" was sent to Washington.At the villa, they met the five DSS agents, suffering from smoke inhalation, and got into the safe haven through the escape hatch. They found the body of Smith and dragged it out. Stevens was still missing. The compound was now clear of attackers and the reinforcements took charge, ordering the five DSS agents to leave. Outside the compound their 4X4 was ambushed, bullets slamming into the bodywork and shredding two tyres, but they made it to the second compound. The new force spent 15 minutes hunting for Stevens before deciding they were too few of them in the event of a new attack. At 11pm they abandoned the site with Stevens still inside the villa.US version The most authoritative of half a dozen investigations initiated in Washington is the accountability review board report, mandated by law. According to the report, compiled by senior intelligence and state department officials, the relief force are "US personnel" and their base an "annexe" to the mission. Charlene Lamb, the state department official responsible for embassy security, testified that the reinforcements were a "quick-reaction team stationed nearby". The Senate's homeland security report described the second base as a place "used by another agency of the United States government". America's UN ambassador, Susan Rice, said the second base was "its annexe".Conflicting evidence The second base was not an annexe, but a CIA facility, according to Frank Wolf, a US congressman who represents the district that contains CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.. It operated independently from the consulate, and its staff of between 22 and 26 agents dwarfed that of the consulate, and its normal complement of two diplomats.It was these agents who formed the force that battled into the compound and took charge. Yet the term "CIA" did not appear once in the otherwise minutely detailed unclassified version of the accountability review board report.The apparent desire to shield the CIA from scrutiny in Washington reached farcical proportions last November when Lamb testified to the House of Representatives' oversight committee.She produced a blow-up photograph of the CIA facility, but before she could explain what it was, panel member Jason Chaffetz, a Republican congressman from Utah, called for it to be removed. The committee chair, Darrell Issa, another Republican, was at first incredulous: "These are people from the state department … I assume they wouldn't come here unless it's cleared."Chaffetz stuck to his guns: "Mr Chairman, I was told specifically while I was in Libya I could not and should not talk ever about what you are showing here today."Lamb's team confirmed the photograph was not classified and was available on Google Earth. After a short discussion, Issa ordered it removed: "We're not going to point out details of what may still in fact be a facility of the United States government."In fact, by the time Issa spoke, the compound in Benghazi was no longer a US facility. The two landlords who owned it showed the site to the Guardian two days after the attack, pointing to the Libyan families they were already moving into the accommodation vacated by the Americans. Signs of the US tenants were still visible: blood covered one wall, a whiteboard by the gate bore the instruction "Take out your trash" and the American's equipment in black packs was stacked on a wall awaiting collection. And the place had never been secret, at least not from Benghazi residents. The landlords insisted neighbours in the tree-lined residential street knew Americans lived there and that their vehicles were a familiar sight.The bigger question, so far unanswered, is what the CIA was doing in Benghazi. Neither the accountancy review board, the state department nor half a dozen congressional committees investigating the death of Stevens have made any public comment on the role of the CIA; nor have congressional committees tasked with performing the role of scrutinising the government on behalf of the electorate.00.00 12 SeptemberEvents Shortly after the CIA and DSS units arrived at the CIA base, it came under rocket attack. The occupants braced themselves for an assault. Meanwhile, seven embassy and CIA staff in Tripoli chartered a plane and flew to Benghazi, to be met by February 17 militia who escorted them across town to the CIA base. They arrived at 5am. Minutes later, it came under mortar attack. The first bomb fell beyond the walls, but the attackers then "walked" the shells into the compound. Two shells exploded on the roof, killing two CIA security contractors, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. A third man was wounded.At dawn, reinforcements from February 17 and the Libyan police arrived at the base. They escorted the Americans to the airport for evacuation to Tripoli.US version Evidence given to the accountability review board described an assault against the base with heavy small arms fire.Conflicting evidence The lack of bullet marks on the walls of the facility does not square with reports that it was assaulted. Rockets were fired at one wall, and mortar bombs struck the roof, suggesting the firing was opportunistic and from a distance, rather than an attempt to overrun the CIA compound.00.15Events When the CIA team abandoned the consulate, crowds of local men and boys gathered at the edge of the fighting moved inside. The fires had died down and they gingerly explored, finding the unsecured window into the safe room. Inside they found Stevens, lying in shirtsleeves on the floor. A video, timed at quarter-past midnight, shows them carrying the ambassador outside on to the patio. When he shows signs of life there are cries of Allahu Akbar – God is Great – and bystanders discuss getting him to hospital.US version Washington maintains that every possible effort was made to locate Stevens in the hours after the attack.Conflicting evidence Bystanders put Stevens into a private car. A wounded Libyan guard who left his bloody handprint by the front gate was located and put into a second car. The two cars raced to the city's main casualty hospital, Benghazi Medical Centre. Its director, Dr Fathi al-Jerami, said staff were astonished when the two casualties arrived at the emergency ramp, with the Libyan guard insisting his companion was the ambassador. Medics could not imagine the ambassador would be left unguarded, nor that, if he was missing, no official would try to contact the hospital. He was rushed inside and doctors fought for 90 minutes to revive him before declaring him dead.Still with no communication from US officials, a hospital official found a mobile phone in Stevens pocket and began punching out dialled numbers. One of these was the phone of an agent now in the CIA base, but the official's English was too rudimentary.Only in the morning, with US officials being evacuated to the airport, did Americans go to the hospital, to be given Stevens' body. Pictures of the dead ambassador uploaded by Libyans spread across the internet.16 SeptemberEvents On the Sunday following the attack, Susan Rice, America's ambassador to the UN, gave interviews to TV networks ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News to offer an explanation for the attacks on Benghazi.US version Rice said she believed the attack was the result of a protest against the Innocence of Muslims film which had escalated: "The currently available information suggests that the demonstrations in Benghazi were spontaneously inspired by the protests at the US embassy in Cairo and evolved into a direct assault against the US diplomatic post in Benghazi and subsequently its annexe," she said. "There are indications that extremists participated in the violent demonstrations."Conflicting evidence Within hours, her claim was being disputed in Libya. Mohammed Magaraif, Speaker of the Libyan Congress, was visiting Benghazi to meet survivors and blamed elements of Ansar al-Sharia's militia for the attack. His comments matched those of witnesses.In America many were surprised Rice was chosen to make a statement about the death of the first US ambassador to be killed since 1979. More properly, the announcement belonged to Hillary Clinton, or possibly the president himself. There was speculation that Rice, the president's foreign policy adviser during his 2008 election campaign, was being given a high profile in readiness for her to step into Clinton's shoes if Obama won a second term in the November election.Evidence from the US survivors, debriefed on American soil, confirmed the Libyan version of events. There was no protest. Unlike much of the Muslim world, Libya saw no protests against the release of Innocence of Muslims. Ten days after the consulate was stormed, thousands of Benghazi residents, some carrying American flags and placards mourning Stevens, stormed the base of Sharia, setting it ablaze.Arguments broke out over who gave Rice the information leading her to declare the attack the result of a protest. It morphed into fierce arguments over Obama's competence in the runup to the election. After his re-election, Obama named Rice as secretary of state. Republicans in Congress blocked the nomination, saying they no longer trusted Rice as a result of her Benghazi remarks.2012-presentEvents The FBI opened an inquiry into the Benghazi killings in September. In August 2013 the justice department announced an undisclosed number of indictments against unnamed suspects. Leaks from the Obama administration named Sharia's commander, Ahmed Abu Khattala, as among the suspects. Khattala gave media interviews in Benghazi saying he was at the scene of the attack, but insisting he had come to offer help.Two Tunisian suspects were arrested in Turkey, and an Egyptian was shot dead in an arrest operation by Cairo police. Libya announced it had made several arrests, but no one was brought to trial. The father of one of those arrested told the Guardian those held were charged, like his son, with looting.US version On 9 August 2013, Obama said the investigation into the attacks remained "top priority". He added: "We're going to stay on it until we get them." Issa promised that he and his House committee would continue its scrutiny until it got to the truth: "It is our job to work tirelessly in partnership with citizens watchdogs to deliver the facts to the American people."Conflicting evidence It took four weeks for the FBI to travel to the Benghazi consulate site. By that time the area had been combed over by journalists and the curious, contaminating the evidence. Even after the FBI visit, it was possible for the Guardian to recover classified documents scattered there. In Tripoli, diplomats contrasted the slowness of the FBI with French forensic specialists who were on the ground the day after France's embassy in Tripoli was bombed in April.Congressional committees continue to grind through the evidence and excise all mention of the CIA.One year after the killings, no suspects have appeared in court, either in Libya or in the US. Until that happens, and until the gap between claims made in the US and reality on the ground is explained, the American public will remain in the dark about the events of 11 September 2012 in Benghazi.LibyaObama administrationUS foreign policyMiddle East and North AfricaAfricaUnited StatesUS politicsSusan RiceArab and Middle East unrestChris Stephen theguardian.com © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. 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08 сентября 2013, 21:59

Worst of Greece's recession is nearly over, says prime minister

Antonis Samaras says economy is regaining its competitiveness and is on track to return to pre-crisis levelsGreece's prime minister Antonis Samaras has insisted the worst is almost over for his country and reassured Greeks that the debt-stricken nation's longest recession would soon be consigned to the dustbin of history.Boosted by figures showing the economy contracting by 3.8% in the second quarter – its smallest decline since the outbreak of Athens's worst financial crisis in modern times – the leader said the country's dependency on foreign lenders was also nearing an end."Greece is turning a page … all the international organisations agree that next year, 2014, will be the year of recovery for the Greek economy," he told industry and business leaders attending the annual Thessaloniki trade fair. "Last year most abroad were predicting that Greece would exit the euro. Now they are predicting the exact opposite. That Greece will exit the recession and stay in the euro," he said promising that the progress would hail the end of unpopular austerity.The fair is traditionally used by Greek prime ministers to outline their economic policies. Using the keynote speech to list the achievements of his 14-month government, Samaras said Athens had not only made the biggest fiscal adjustment "in world history", but emerged with an economy that in regaining its competitiveness was on track to return to pre-crisis levels. Much of the rebound is due to an unexpectedly good tourism season. If Greece kept up the progress – the condition of rescue funds worth €240bn from its "troika" of creditors at the EU, ECB and IMF – Samaras said the country would also succeed in shaving its debt mountain, at €320bn the biggest in the eurozone."After the end of the year, we will achieve a new lightening of the debt burden," he insisted reminding international lenders they had "committed to" making Greece's debt load sustainable if Athens posted a primary surplus [before interest payments on debt] by the end of 2013."A primary surplus will mean that the country can stand on its feet [and] will be the first decisive step towards exiting the policies of the memorandums," he said referring to the two loan agreements Athens has signed up to since the start of the crisis. By returning to capital markets and breaking free of creditors, Athens could use the surplus to "lighten the injustices" of Greeks on low pensions and public sector employees hit by cuts.With German elections looming, Greece is under immense pressure to continue paring back the bloated public sector – the root of the country's financial woes.But the government also faces the herculean task of keeping the social peace at a time when most Greeks, struggling with draconian cuts and tax increases, are bracing for their hardest winter yet. Driving home a message of hope is central to the campaign.In Thessaloniki over the weekend it was quite clear that many disagreed with that message just as they do in Athens and other parts of the nation. Police estimated that around 50,000 took to the streets to decry the record levels of unemployment and poverty associated exclusively with almost four years of austerity driven recession.The radical left main opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, accused Samaras of lambasting Greeks with "a primary surplus of deceit."There is mounting speculation that Greece, whose economy had shrunk by nearly 25% since 2010, is heading for a third bailout in what EU mandarins hope will finally be the end of the eurozone crisis. The IMF has indicated that the country will face a €11bn funding gap when the country's current rescue program ends next July.On Sunday, the German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble repeated that Berlin was "always ready" to help as long as Athens fulfilled its side of the deal. But Germany, which has provided the bulk of Greece's bailouts to date, rejected the notion that Athens would receive any kind of debt relief – a move that would cost German tax payers up to €30bn .Greece was forgiven €145bn in debt by private creditors last year. "It would upset investors and creditors," Schäuble wrote in the German magazine Focus. "A second haircut is not the right step for Greece … and whoever discusses it, puts everything in danger."GreeceEuropeEurozone crisisEuropean UnionEuropean monetary unionEuropean banksFinancial crisisEuroEconomicsHelena Smith 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

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06 сентября 2013, 23:33

UK's lowest-paid employees to be classed as 'not working enough'

One million people could be pushed to earn more – or have their benefits cut, says Department for Work and PensionsOne million of Britain's lowest paid employees will be classed as "not working enough" and could find themselves pushed with the threat of sanctions to find more income under radical changes to benefits, the Department for Work and Pensions has said.DWP internal documents seen by the Guardian reveal that people earning between £330 and around £950 a month – just under the rate of the national minimum wage for a 35-hour week – could be mandated to attend jobcentre meetings where their working habits will be examined as part of the universal credit programme.Some of those deemed to be "not working enough" could also be instructed to take on extra training – and if they fail to complete tasks they could be stripped of their UC benefits in a move which departmental insiders conceded is controversial.The DWP said that their overall plans for those in low-paid work were not yet definite and recognised that supporting working families to increase their income was a complex area into which the state hadn't previously intervened. But the department estimates there are one million people in this lower-paid bracket.Not all of those will be forced into jobcentres, with individuals with caring responsibilities or other constraints preventing them taking on full-time work highly likely to be excluded.The DWP said: "There isn't any real clear, definite plan as to how this [part] would work."However the department did confirm that docking social security payments for those who are categorised as "not working enough" formed part of their plans.The shadow work and pensions minister, Liam Byrne, said that the policy was attempting to push people into work that wasn't there. "What this out-of-touch government fails to realise is that there simply aren't that many extra shifts to go around. Millions are locked out of work and millions more are desperate to increase their hours."The senior ministers involved in heading up welfare reform have spoken about how their flagship reform would completely change the culture of benefits.Speaking in parliament during answers to urgent questions on Thursday, Iain Duncan Smith said: "Universal credit isn't just about IT, it is massively about cultural change, to get people back to work and to ensure those who do go to work, particularly the poorest, benefit the most."Documents seen by the Guardian show how millions of people currently in receipt of some sort of benefit will be categorised into seven classes including, "too sick to work", "too committed to work", a category including lone parents, and those deemed to be "not working enough".UC aims to merges six different benefits with the claimant receiving a single monthly household payment, although earlier this week the National Audit Office warned that the underlying IT project had been beset by "weak management ineffective control and poor governance" and that £34m of the £303m spent on technology had already been written off.Sources say that new JSA claims will be "shut down" by July 2015 while the tax credits system – created by Gordon Brown as Labour chancellor – will end for new claims by November that year. Meanwhile income support for lone parents will be terminated by October 2015. These benefits and others are planned to be folded into to one single universal payment.One recent policy document sets out the rationale for placing conditions on those who are in work: "Moving to universal credit will not only remove systemic barriers to employment, it will also remove the distinction between in and out of work, meaning that even one hour of work would profit the claimant … the decision for the claimant will therefore be simplified – do they want the additional income from employment, or not?"Reflecting the biggest change to social security since 1945, language now being employed at the DWP includes describing the "claimant journey" where getting into work "is just the first step".The TUC's general secretary, Frances O'Grady said the DWP's policy would be forcing people from secure and into insecure work: "This unfair move could force people on low-paid jobs to trade relatively secure employment for work of a much more precarious nature, simply to justify a few weeks work on a slightly higher rate of pay."It shows how out of touch the government is with the problems facing low-income families – who already have more than enough on their plates struggling to make ends meet. They will be living in constant fear of being punished at a time when there are simply not enough decent jobs to go round."The DWP said: "This is obviously a complex area where the state has not previously intervened and supported people to increase their earnings. That is why we are working on pilots to get this help right and to determine the most effective support for in-work universal credit claimants."Too many people in low-income work have no support to help them earn more and eventually move to independence."• This article was amended on 7 September. It originally said that people earning between £330 and around £1,050 a month would be affected. This has been corrected.WelfareBenefitsWork & careersPensionsIain Duncan SmithShiv Maliktheguardian.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

05 сентября 2013, 22:59

British soldiers trusted their Afghan killer, inquest hears

Afghan policemen allowed into base had no known link to insurgency and was seen joking with troops at checkpointTwo British soldiers were gunned down by a "trusted" Afghan policeman moments after he was seen laughing and joking with troops at a checkpoint, an inquest has heard.The man was allowed to keep his weapon because he was considered such a supporter of the coalition but without warning he turned his AK-47 on Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18.A colleague of the victims, Ryan Ward, 20, who shot the policeman dead, was found hanged at his home in the UK the day after Thursby's funeral.Ruling that Thursby and Wroe had been unlawfully killed, the Oxfordshire assistant coroner Alison Thompson said there was no known link between the policeman and the insurgency.She said: "It is often difficult if not impossible to establish motivation in this sort of case, making it especially hard for families to come to terms with the death. I am sorry that I am not going to be in a position today to provide a reason for this appalling attack as I have heard no evidence as to why it took place."The coroner stressed that the man had been seen as trusted and was well-known, adding: "What happened was entirely unpredictable."The inquest in Oxford heard that the policeman, known as Gul Agha, had been visiting the checkpoint in Helmand last September, a time of a spate of attacks by members of the Afghan security forces on coalition troops.He was familiar to the men there and was believed to have suffered a foot injury in the 1980s fighting against the Soviet invaders.A platoon commander, Lieutenant Callum Cameron, said: "He was very well-known. He was very pro-Isaf [the International Security Assistance Force]. He was a real champion of the partnership."No one had challenged him or felt threatened, and he had been allowed into the base with his weapon slung over his back.Before the attack, the man had asked for medical help for his foot but was told – as he had been on previous occasions – that Isaf staff could not help him.As he sat at a table with the soldiers, members of the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, he opened fire. Wroe was hit four times and Thursby five times.The inquest heard that Afghan security forces were required to make their weapons "safe" when entering the checkpoint, but did not have to unload or hand them in. It was not known whether the man had made his safe.Major James Glossop, from the operational training and advisory group, which looks at what lessons can be learned, said there was a spike of "insider attacks" in Afghanistan at around the time of the killings, and it was impossible to be "100%-proof" from them.Asked about the rules concerning weapons inside checkpoints, he said it was difficult to adopt a blanket approach. "You build a relationship, you build that trust and that is extremely important as part of that transition process," he said.Speaking after the inquest, Wroe's father, Michael, said he did not want to blame anyone. "We would like to thank the soldiers for talking today and explaining to us what happened," he said. "We hope that lessons can be learned from this."The inquest was attended by the parents of Ward, who shot the gunman dead but was found hanged at his home in Cumbria last October. Earlier this year the coroner Ian Smith ruled following a hearing in Kendal, Cumbria, that Ward died as a consequence of his own actions.MilitaryBritish ArmyAfghanistanSteven Morristheguardian.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

05 сентября 2013, 22:38

Kenyan MPs vote to quit international criminal court

Court says trials of Kenyan president and deputy president for crimes against humanity will go ahead regardlessKenyan MPs voted on Thursday to become the first country to pull out of the international criminal court (ICC), sending a defiant message to The Hague just months before their president is due to stand trial.Citing the fact that the United States and other major powers were not members, the majority leader of Kenya's parliament proposed a motion for Kenya to "suspend any links, co-operation and assistance" to the court. The measure passed comfortably.The ICC has charged Kenya's president, Uhuru Kenyatta, and the deputy president, William Ruto, with crimes against humanity, which both deny.Ruto's trial is due to start in The Hague next week and the ICC said the cases would continue even if Kenya pulled out of the court which was established in 2002 to deal with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.A parliamentary bill for Kenya's withdrawal is expected to be introduced in the next 30 days but the final decision will rest with the government, headed by Kenyatta and Ruto.Opponents warned that withdrawal would isolate Kenya and deal a fresh blow to the already strained credibility of the ICC.Adan Duale, the majority leader from Kenyatta's Jubilee coalition, told an emergency session of parliament that US presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush both argued against becoming a party to the ICC to protect US citizens and soldiers from potential politically-motivated prosecutions."I am setting the stage to redeem the image of the republic of Kenya," Duale said. "Let us protect our citizens. Let us defend the sovereignty of the nation of Kenya."MPs from the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy, led by former prime minister Raila Odinga, walked out of the debate, calling the motion capricious and ill-considered. Minority leader Francis Nyenze said: "We'll be seen as a pariah state; we'll be seen as people who are reactionary and who want to have their way."Kenyatta and Ruto's charges related to the alleged orchestration of post-election violence in 2007-08 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,100 people.Kenyatta, who was elected president earlier this year, faces trial in November in the biggest test yet for the ICC. Both leaders have said they will co-operate with the court.The parliamentary decision was criticised as a snub to victims of the violence. Ndungi Githuku, a political activist in the capital, Nairobi, said: "It's a sad day. They are thinking about two individuals and the cases will still go on whether we pull out or not. But it means, in future, people cannot be prosecuted by the ICC."The messages it's sending is that impunity is being continued: 'We are ready to do evil and human rights violations and no one is going to keep us in check.' The victims of violence in 2007-08 are the losers."The ICC has been criticised as anti-African after prosecuting only Africans during its 11 years in existence. But Githuku added: "In parliament, they kept hammering that the ICC is colonialism coming back through the back door. I really don't think so. The ICC is there to keep everyone in check."Njonjo Mue, a spokesman for the Kenyan section of the International Centre for Transitional Justice, said: "We think it is quite disappointing in terms of the search for justice for victims of post-election violence. Having signed the Rome statute and seen the role the ICC played in a peaceful election this year, it's a very negative message."The ICC still enjoys broad support among the general public so it's a bad situation. There has been no attempt to find out what the victims of post-election violence think of these cases."The Kenyan parliament voted to withdraw from the ICC on a previous occasion but the executive branch took no action. The Rome statute that created the ICC says a "state party" may withdraw with written notification to the UN's secretary-general and the decision takes effect one year later."There is still the possibility that the executive could reject the vote," Mue said. "The focus is squarely on the president right now and he has pledged to co-operate with the ICC."Kenyatta and Ruto, bitter opponents in the 2007 election, joined forces in March this year and won with 50.03% of the vote. Many felt the ICC charges helped rather than hindered their campaign, allowing them to exploit anti-western sentiment.The US had said a Kenyatta win would have "consequences" and, when president Barack Obama undertook on a tour of Africa in June and July, he did not visit his ancestral home.Many in Africa remain suspicious of the ICC, although it has been ratified by 34 Africa countries. In May, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn accused it of racist bias and "hunting Africans". At Kenyatta's inauguration in April, Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, said of the court: "They are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like."KenyaAfricaInternational criminal courtInternational criminal justiceDavid Smiththeguardian.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

05 сентября 2013, 21:52

British soldiers were killed by 'trusted' Afghan policeman, inquest hears

Officer turned AK47 on Sergeant Gareth Thursby and Private Thomas Wroe without warning in HelmandTwo British soldiers were gunned down by a "trusted" Afghan policeman moments after he was seen laughing and joking with troops at a checkpoint, an inquest has heard.The man was allowed to keep his weapon because he was considered such a supporter of the coalition but without warning turned his AK-47 on Sergeant Gareth Thursby, 29, and Private Thomas Wroe, 18.A colleague of the two victims, Ryan Ward, 20, who shot the policeman dead, was found hanged at his home in the UK the day after Thursby's funeral.Ruling that Thursby and Wroe had been unlawfully killed, the Oxfordshire assistant coroner Alison Thompson said there was no known link between the policeman and the insurgency.She said: "It is often difficult if not impossible to establish motivation in this sort of case, making it especially hard for families to come to terms with the death. I am sorry that I am not going to be in a position today to provide a reason for this appalling attack as I have heard no evidence as to why it took place." The coroner stressed that the man had been seen as "trusted" and was "well-known", adding: "What happened was entirely unpredictable."The inquest in Oxford heard that the policeman, known as Gul Agha, had been visiting the checkpoint in Helmand in September last year, a time of a spate of attacks by members of the Afghan security forces on coalition troops.He was familiar to the men there and was believed to have suffered a foot injury in the 1980s fighting against the Soviet invaders.A platoon commander, Lieutenant Callum Cameron, said: "He was very well-known. He was very pro-Isaf [the International Security Assistance Force]. He was a real champion of the partnership."Nobody had challenged him or felt threatened and he had been allowed into the base with his weapon slung over his back.Before the attack, the man had asked for medical help for his foot but was told – as he had been on previous occasions – that Isaf staff could not help him.As he sat at a table with the soldiers, members of the 3rd Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, he opened fire. Wroe was hit four times and Thursby five times.The inquest heard that Afghan security forces were required to make their weapons "safe" when entering the checkpoint, but did not have to unload or hand them in. It was not known whether the man had made his safe.Major James Glossop, from the operational training and advisory group, which looks at what lessons can be learned, said there was a spike of "insider attacks" in Afghanistan at around the time of the killings, and it was impossible to be "100%-proof" from them.Asked about the rules concerning weapons inside checkpoints, he said it was difficult to adopt a "blanket approach". "You build a relationship, you build that trust and that is extremely important as part of that transition process," he said.Speaking outside the inquest, Wroe's father, Michael, said he did not want to blame anyone. "We would like to thank the soldiers for talking today and explaining to us what happened," he said. "We hope that lessons can be learned from this."The inquest was attended by the parents of Ward, who shot the gunman dead but was found hanged at his home in Cumbria in October last year, the month after his colleagues were killed. Earlier this year the coroner Ian Smith ruled following a hearing in Kendal, Cumbria, that Ward died as a consequence of his own actions.MilitaryBritish ArmyAfghanistanSteven Morristheguardian.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

03 сентября 2013, 22:59

Guest Post: America's Energy Boom And The Rising U.S. Dollar

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog, The energy boom directly reduces the number of U.S. dollars being supplied to the global economy, and that pushes the value of the dollar higher. The petrodollar regime--that oil is bought and sold globally in U.S. dollars--is easy to understand. It boils down to these two principles: 1. Petroleum is the lifeblood of the global economy. 2. Any nation that can print its own currency and trade the conjured money for oil has an extraordinary advantage over nations that cannot trade freshly created money for oil. This is why many analysts trace much of America's foreign policy back to defending the petrodollar regime. In the normal course of things, anyone printing money in quantity would soon find the conjured currency bought fewer and fewer barrels of oil as the surplus of conjured currency floating around the world greatly exceeded the supply of oil. Currency can be conjured out of thin air, but oil is increasingly costly to find, extract and process. America's energy boom is creating consequences for the value of the dollar. As I have explained here a number of times, this goes back to Triffin's Paradox, which states that when one nation's fiat currency is used as the world's reserve currency, the needs of the global trading community are different from the needs of domestic policy makers. What Will Benefit from Global Recession? The U.S. Dollar (October 9, 2012) Understanding the "Exorbitant Privilege" of the U.S. Dollar (November 19, 2012) Prior to 1971, the dollar was backed by gold, which acted as a supra-national anchor to the dollar's reserve status. The gold standard inhibited both massive trade deficits and money creation, so it was jettisoned.   The Triffin paradox is a theory that when a national currency also serves as an international reserve currency, there could be conflicts of interest between short-term domestic and long-term international economic objectives. This dilemma was first identified by Belgian-American economist Robert Triffin in the 1960s, who pointed out that the country whose currency foreign nations wish to hold (the global reserve currency) must be willing to supply the world with an extra supply of its currency to fulfill world demand for this 'reserve' currency (foreign exchange reserves) and thus cause a trade deficit. (emphasis added) The use of a national currency (i.e. the U.S. dollar) as global reserve currency leads to a tension between national monetary policy and global monetary policy. This is reflected in fundamental imbalances in the balance of payments, specifically the current account: some goals require an overall flow of dollars out of the United States, while others require an overall flow of dollars in to the United States. Net currency inflows and outflows cannot both happen at once. In other words, the U.S. must "export" U.S. dollars by running a trade deficit to supply the world with dollars to hold as reserves and to use to pay debt denominated in dollars. If the trade deficit shrinks, fewer dollars are available for reserves and to service debt denominated in dollars. Basic supply and demand will push the dollar higher relative to other currencies and eventually, other assets. One reason why the trade deficit is shrinking is the U.S. is supplying more of its own energy. Every unit of petroleum extracted in the U.S. means a unit does not have to be imported from oil exporting nations. The energy boom directly reduces the number of dollars being supplied to the global economy. This creates a relative scarcity of dollars, which pushes the value of the dollar higher: Is it coincidence that the dollar's uptrend aligns with the rise of U.S. energy production? It's not coincidence, it's causation. Oil prices have broken out of a technical wedge: As global oil prices push higher, more previously marginal petroleum reserves in the U.S. and Canada become profitable, further boosting production. The more energy produced in the U.S., the smaller the trade deficit and the fewer dollars provided to the global economy. As the dollar strengthens, the U.S. will pay less for imported energy and earn more for exported energy. This decline in energy costs will ripple through the real economy, offsetting any decline in exports. A strengthening dollar lowers the cost basis of all goods and services originating in the U.S. A strengthening dollar also benefits trading nations, as the increasing value of their dollar reserves enlarges the base for their own credit. This is the irony of China's dumping of its dollar reserves: China only amassed such massive dollar reserves because it was running equally massive trade surpluses with the U.S. As the trade surplus shrinks, so too must China's dollar reserves contract. Many observers confuse the dollars created by the Federal Reserve with the dollars available to trading nations for reserves and dollar-denominated debt. If the Fed creates $1 trillion which then lays fallow in the U.S. financial system, those dollars are not exported into the global economy via trade deficits. Add all this up and it's clear America's energy boom will push the dollar higher as the trade deficit shrinks and those needing dollars on the global market will have to pay more for to get the dollars they need for reserves and payment of dollar-denominated debts.     

03 сентября 2013, 19:18

Unilever apologises for 'homophobic' Flora advert in South Africa

Margarine commercial appeared to suggest finding out your child is gay is like being shot through the heartUnilever, the multinational food company, has been forced to apologise for an advert for Flora margarine in South Africa that implied learning your child is homosexual is as traumatic as being shot through the heart.The commercial, made by an agency in Johannesburg, features a bullet with the words: "Uhh dad I'm gay," hurtling towards a heart made of china. It has the tagline: "You need a strong heart today," near the Flora logo and against a pink background.Unilever, which owns Flora, was accused of homophobia. Eusebius McKaiser, an openly gay author and radio host, tweeted: "Apparently #flora hates me. Why?" He added: "Need a strong heart? Stay away from #flora. Bad like Russian Vodka!"The company hastily withdrew the ad and distanced itself from it. "This advert was prepared by an external agency in South Africa and was not approved by anyone at Unilever," it said."The advert is offensive and unacceptable and we have put an immediate stop to it. Unilever is proud of the support that our brands have given to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people, including our recent campaign for Ben & Jerry's on equal marriage."Last month Ben & Jerry's, a Unilever-owned ice-cream brand, came out in support of gay marriage in Australia, renaming its Cookie Dough flavour "I Dough, I Dough".The Flora commercial was designed by the Johannesburg branch of international advertising firm Lowe and Partners, which said it was "very sorry". Sarah Dexter, its managing director, said: "I would like to unreservedly apologise for this campaign and the unintended offence it has regrettably caused. We have requested the immediate removal of this work from all media."Lowe and Partners's Cape Town unit was hit by controversy in July for an advert for Cape Town Fish Market that featured a white actor wearing "blackface".Stonewall, a gay rights group based in the UK, condemned the Flora ad as "offensive and inappropriate" and welcomed its withdrawal. "Perhaps Flora should have a chat with their Unilever colleagues, Ben & Jerry's, about how best to produce gay friendly advertising fit for the 21st century," it said.In 2006 South Africa became the fifth country in the world, and the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples. But homophobia is widespread with numerous lesbians subjected to so-called "corrective rape".Flora has long promoted its margarine as helping consumers maintain a healthy heart. A second ad shows a glass heart about to be hit with a bullet, featuring the words "Kama Sutra page 48".South AfricaAfricaUnileverGay rightsSexualityAdvertisingDavid Smiththeguardian.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