Thursday, August 23, 2012

Peter Wilkinson and Atika Shubert , CNN
August 23, 2012

(CNN) -- Zara married for love, against her family's wishes, more than a decade ago in the Middle East. Shortly after the marriage, she and her husband, along with their two children, moved to Britain for work. There, she says, her husband began to drink, heavily. He became violent, holding a knife to her throat, she says.

"He started raping me, which affected me mentally, lots of stress and the relationship between me and my sons. I couldn't speak out because I learned that to speak out against your husband to anyone outside, it is big shame."

"So, I was struggling between eastern culture with what I learned and western culture where I should live freedom, equality, justice. I found it difficult."

She still finds it difficult. Zara is not her real name. She spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity, saying she fears for her life.

During her marriage, she says, the violence continued. She showed CNN police reports she eventually filed, but she decided not to pursue a case, and her husband was never charged. Roughly eight years into the marriage, she ran away and met another man. She decided to ask for a divorce.

"I told him I want a divorce. I don't want to cheat on you. The relationship is broken. I said, all I want is relationship with my sons."

She says her husband initially agreed but insisted they both go back to their home in the Middle East, to explain to their families.

"He gathered all his family in his house. And I was shocked to see 60 or 70 people at his house. His mother called me by very bad names. She called me a prostitute in front of my sons.

"I remember when my mother-in-law looked at my face and held my sons in her hands, big hands. She told me: 'My son is a doctor. You should hold your head up. Who are you to cheat on my son? Who are you?'

"After that, she told me: 'I will look after them, you don't deserve to be a mother. And my sons were looking at me.'"

Then, Zara says, her husband issued a death sentence, calling her father in the neighboring town, demanding she be killed for dishonoring her family -- an "honor" murder.

"He told my father, if you are a man, clean your shame. If you are a man, kill your daughter."

Her sister warned her not to return home, she says. But she called her father to hear his voice one last time.

"He told me: 'I miss you, I want to see you.' He didn't tell me what he heard from my husband [about ordering her death]. Because he knows I would run away. I was scared. He said 'come, I want to protect you.'"

Zara was ready to flee her home in the Middle East. But she decided to see her father one last time, even though she knew it might have been a trap. A part of her, she says, almost wished for death.

"I felt rubbish. Just rubbish! I wanted to die. I wanted to disappear because I didn't want my father, or my brother, or my cousin to kill me. My son will carry my shame.

"My father told my mother: 'The problem, I know, she didn't cheat on her husband. The problem is she brought us shame, shame that cannot even be cleaned by blood. I know she's innocent. But we can't clean this shame."

Faced with this impossible choice, Zara says her father realized he had no alternative.

"My father sent me away because he knew that I would be killed by my uncles or my cousins. There is no other option. He doesn't want to get rid of me. But he wants to get rid of shame ... that I brought my family because of my stupidity, to be honest with my husband that I love another man. That's my crime."

So Zara's father banished her from their home in the Middle East and sent her back to Britain. Meanwhile, Zara's husband filed for divorce in the Sharia court of the couple's hometown in the Middle East.

This meant she was separated from her children, she says, without her knowledge or consent.

Much of Zara's story is hard to verify with her former husband. CNN has seen court documents and her applications for asylum, but Zara's case workers with a British women's aid agency say we cannot ask her husband for a response, for fear it may trigger a violent reaction.

Zara has not returned to the Middle East since leaving five years ago. When she left, her sister wrote to her imploring her never to return. "It will be your grave," she wrote.

Zara has now gained residency in Britain and has chosen to leave Islam, a decision that has cut her off from her children, who are now teenagers.

When she last spoke to them, she says they told her they wanted no more contact with her. "They don't want to hear my voice. It was very painful to hear that. I felt like I got divorced twice: From a husband and my sons. I'm not angry with them. I don't know. But I'm tired. I'm tired of culture and religion. I'm very tired to be a woman. I'm very tired to be a mother."

She is defiant when asked if she believes she will see her sons again. "I gave birth to my sons and I am a mother. I will not give up my right as a mother. I will fight until the end. They will be proud of me and I will be proud of them. I am sure about this."

Zara says she does not hate her husband or her own relatives, even though she still fears they may kill her for bringing shame on the family. She sees them all as victims -- like her -- of a brutal, unrelenting tradition, one that leading Muslim thinkers insist has no place in Islam.

One that has no place in Islam, or in the world.  Yet, it is Islam where we find this barbaric behavior.  The perpetrators may not be acting in accordance with the Koran, but they are all Muslim and they all believe they are doing the will of their belief.

In fact, honor killings predated Islam, but seem to proliferate under a system that relegates women to a second-class human being.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Egypt wants money from the world

In one word, the answer should be:   NO.

Here is the answer - if you want OUR money (whoever the OUR may be) YOU MUST accept the conditions.  You don't get to go to the bank and dictate TERMS to them (however much we wish we could).

Protect visitors, encourage tourism, stop with religious attacks on the paganism of the pyramids, ensure visitors are not slaughtered on the steps of Hatshepsuts tomb.  If you do this, people will want to visit.  Otherwise, enjoy your sandbox, because that is all you have.


August 22, 2012

CAIRO — The Egyptian government on Wednesday requested a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, in the country’s latest attempt to secure financing for an economy badly damaged by political upheaval since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s prime minister, Hesham Qandil, said that he hoped to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund by December.

This year, Egypt requested a smaller loan but said at the time that the amount could increase because of the country’s falling revenues from tourism and increasingly scarce foreign investment.

Speaking at a news conference with the monetary fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, Mr. Qandil said that Ms. Lagarde’s visit sent a message to the world that Egypt was “stabilizing.”

The loan has been a contentious issue in Egypt, where there is much popular resentment against conditions required by Western lenders.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful political party, had previously voiced reservations about accepting the I.M.F. loan.

But the country’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, a former Brotherhood leader, has seemingly put aside those reservations as he grapples with Egypt’s deepening financial crisis.

While the terms of a possible agreement are still being discussed, Mr. Qandil said that the interest rate on the loan, to be disbursed in several parts, would be 1.1 percent.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have lent the Egyptian government at least $3 billion.

Ms. Lagarde said that I.M.F. officials would travel to Egypt next month to discuss the loan further.
"Egypt faces considerable challenges, including the need to restart growth, and reduce budget and balance of payments deficits," she said in a statement.



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

White House: Control the News, Ask the Questions

by Keith Koffler on August 21, 2012, 11:20 am

The White House is doing something with its local TV interviews that it could not easily get away with in encounters with the White House press corps, which President Obama has been studiously ignoring: choosing the topic about which President Obama and the reporter will talk.

In interviews with three local TV stations Monday, two from states critical to Obama’s reelection effort, Obama held forth on the possibility of “sequestration” if he and Congress fail to reach a budget deal, allowing him to make his favorite political point that Republicans are willing to cause grievous harm to the economy and jobs in order to protect the rich from tax increases.

Obama Monday threw the White House press corps a bone by suddenly appearing in the briefing room for 22 minutes and taking questions from a total of four reporters. It was his first press conference at the White House – albeit in miniature – since March, and only his second of the year. Obama before Monday had taken exactly one substantive question from White House reporters since June.

But the three other interviews Obama also held Monday pointed to the advantage he gets by focusing on local press, with whom he has been speaking more regularly.

Under sequestration, if a budget deal is not reached by the end of the year, harsh automatic spending cuts will occur. Each of the network reporters were from cities with major military facilities that could be unduly impacted if sequestration occurs.

Two of the reporters were from Norfolk, Virginia and Jacksonville, Florida, both presidential battleground states. The third was from San Diego.

The reporters mostly made no effort to hide the arrangement. “The president invited me to talk about sequestration,” NBC 7 San Diego’s reporter told her audience. In the interview, she set Obama up with a perfectly pitched softball the president couldn’t have been more eager to take a swing at:

“What do you want individual San Diegans to know about sequestration?” she asked.

Donna Deegan of FCN Jacksonville initially seemed to apologize for not broaching the appointed subject right away.

“Mr. President, I know we were asked to talk about sequestration today,” she said, but then added she wanted to talk about something else first. Finally, she got to it:

“Let’s talk a little bit about sequestration, because I know that’s why you invited us here,” she said.

Obama used an interview with WVEC Norfolk to specifically bash Republicans.

“The only thing that’s standing in the way of us getting this done right now is the unwillingess on the part of some members of Congress, and folks in in the Republican Party, to give up on some tax breaks for people like me who don’t need them,” he said.

The reporters were able to ask about other topics. But with their face time with the president limited to under ten minutes, and Obama well rehearsed to discuss at length his favored topic, there was little room for much else to come up.


Pakistan: Religion and Law

New York Times
B.K. Bangash/Associated Press
Published: August 20, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The arrest and imprisonment of a Christian girl accused of violating Pakistan’s blasphemy laws stoked a public furor on Monday, renewing international scrutiny of growing intolerance toward minorities in the country.

The police jailed the girl, Rimsha Masih, and her mother on Friday after hundreds of Muslim protesters surrounded the police station here where they were being held, demanding that Ms. Masih face charges under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. A local cleric had said Ms. Masih had burned pages of the Noorani Qaida, a religious textbook used to teach the Koran to children.

By Monday night, as Pakistani Muslims celebrated the feast of Id al-Fitr, Ms. Masih and her mother were being held in Adiala jail, a grim facility in nearby Rawalpindi, awaiting their fate. Meanwhile, a number of the girl’s Christian neighbors had fled their homes, fearing for their lives, human rights workers said.

Senior government and police officials agreed with Christian leaders that the accusations against Ms. Masih were baseless and predicted that the case would ultimately be dropped.

Still, the case has already grabbed global headlines and inspired a hail of Twitter posts, even though several details are in dispute.

Christian, and some Muslim, neighbors said Ms. Masih was 11 years old and had Down syndrome. Senior police officers dismissed those claims; one described her as 16 and “100 percent mentally fit.”

Whatever the truth, experts said Ms. Masih’s plight highlighted a wider problem. “This case exemplifies the absurdity and tragedy of the blasphemy law, which is an instrument of abuse against the most vulnerable in society,” said Ali Dayan Hasan of Human Rights Watch.

While non-Muslims have long been vulnerable to persecution in Pakistan, the state’s ability to protect them is diminishing. Last week, gunmen executed 25 Shiites after taking them off a bus near Mansehra, in northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. On Saturday, Hindu leaders in Sindh called on the government to protect their community from forced conversions by Muslim extremists.

But it is the emotionally charged blasphemy issue that has most polarized society. Ever since the governor of Punjab Province, Salmaan Taseer, was gunned down by his own bodyguard in January 2011 for his support of blasphemy reforms, the space for public debate has narrowed in Pakistan.

Violent mobs led by clerics have framed the argument, as appears to have happened in Ms. Masih’s case.

Neighbors said the girl’s family were sweepers — work shunned by Muslims but common among poor Christians — and lived in a slum area in Islamabad.

Malik Amjad, landlord of the family’s rented house, said the controversy started early last week after his nephew saw Ms. Masih holding a burned copy of the Noorani Qaida. The nephew informed a local cleric, Khalid Jadoon, Mr. Amjad said.

Desecration of Muslim holy texts is illegal in Pakistan and punishable by death. But Mr. Amjad said the incident bothered few local residents initially and caught fire only at the instigation of the cleric and two conservative shopkeepers.

“He tried to shame people by saying, ‘What good are your prayers if the Koran is being burnt?’ ” Mr. Amjad said.

Mr. Amjad said he handed the girl over to the police for her own protection and criticized the cleric’s role. “He exaggerated the incident and provoked people,” he said.

It was not clear how, or even if, Ms. Masih had come across the burned religious book. One neighbor, Malik Shahid, said it might have simply become accidentally swept up in a trash pile she was collecting.

The Pakistani police often are forced to register blasphemy cases against their wishes, human rights campaigners say, either to save the accused blasphemer or their own officers from attack.

In July, a large crowd, prompted by inflammatory statements from local mosques, swarmed a police station in Bahawalpur district in southern Punjab, searching for a blasphemy suspect who was being interrogated by police. The mob seized the man, beat him to death and burned his body outside the station.

A similar mob attack occurred in June in Karachi, Pakistan’s most populous city, although in that case the police beat back the protesters.

The turmoil comes just days after Pakistanis marked the country’s 65th independence anniversary amid muted ceremonies and considerable soul-searching across the political spectrum.

“Desecrating graves, arresting 11 year old with Down syndrome, targeting of Shias — the list goes on. This is not what r religion is about,” Shireen Mazari, a staunch nationalist commentator, said on Twitter.

The adviser to the prime minister on national harmony, Dr. Paul Bhatti, said he hoped to defuse Ms. Masih’s situation through talks with moderate Muslim leaders. Dr. Bhatti is the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, a minister for minorities who was gunned down outside his Islamabad home in early 2011, weeks after Mr. Taseer’s death.

Even if Ms. Masih avoids blasphemy charges, her family is unlikely to ever return home. Although nobody has been executed under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, even suspected blasphemers are in danger for the rest of their lives.

Several have been killed by vigilantes; others have been forced to flee Pakistan.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

There was NO Arab Spring: The Obama Legacy

And it isn't ONLY in Egypt.  The Hamas in Gaza have stated they will resume using crucifixion as an execution method.  And who knows how many others.

starts crucifixions

Opponents of Egypt's Muslim president executed 'naked on trees'

Published: 1 day ago

The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi.

Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

Raymond Ibrahim, a fellow with the Middle East Forum and the Investigative Project on Terrorism, said the crucifixions are the product of who the Middle Eastern media call “partisans.”

“Arabic media call them ‘supporters,’ ‘followers’ and ‘partisans’ of the Muslim Brotherhood,” Ibraham said.

Ibrahim also says the victims can be anyone, including Egyptian Christians.

“It’s anyone who is resisting the new government,” Ibrahim said. “In this particular case, the people attacked and crucified were secular protesters upset because of Morsi’s hostile campaign against the media, especially of Tawfik Okasha, who was constantly exposing him on his station, until Morsi shut him down.”

Ibrahim said extra brutality is reserved for Christians, but the crucifixions are because of Islamic doctrine and are required by the Quran. The time and other details about the crucifixions were not readily available.

Center for Security Policy Senior Fellow Clare Lopez cited chapter and verse from the Quran to explain that crucifixions are not simply normal for Islam, they’re demanded.

“Crucifixion is a hadd punishment, stipulated in the Quran, Sura 5:33, and therefore an obligatory part of Shariah,” Lopez said. “It’s been a traditional punishment within Islam since the beginning, even though it’s not exclusively Islamic. The Romans used it too.

“So, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood haven’t the option to not include crucifixion within their legal code. It’s obligatory to comply with Shariah. And yes, it’s for shock value also to be sure,” Lopez said.

Lopez includes a warning for Egypt’s Christians and compares the coming treatment of the Christians to the Jews in Germany.

“The Copts must get out of Egypt as soon as possible – for the many millions who will not be able to get out, I expect things will continue to deteriorate – just as they did for Germany’s and Europe’s Jews from the 1930s onward,” Lopez said.

“The warnings were there long before the ghettos and round-ups and one-way train trips to the concentration camps began in the 1940s,” she said.

Author Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs, an analyst of the Middle East and Islam, fully agrees and also cites the Quran.

“The Christians are in serious trouble, because the Quran in Sura 9:29 commands Muslims to wage war against them and subjugate them, and they’re also identified with the hated West and the U.S.,” Geller said.

Geller also turned to Sura 5:33.

Islamic hardliners

“These are Islamic hardliners who do everything by the Quran. The Quran says, ‘Indeed, the penalty for those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and strive upon earth [to cause] corruption is none but that they be killed or crucified or that their hands and feet be cut off from opposite sides or that they be exiled from the land,” Geller said.

International Christian Concern’s Middle East analyst Aidan Clay believes there is a relationship between the recent attacks on the regime’s enemies, a recent Sinai military skirmish and Morsi’s moves against the ranking generals.

The “Sinai skirmish” involved suspected Hamas guerrillas trying to cross into Gaza from Egypt. The Israeli Defense Force and intelligence learned of the attempted crossing in advance and stopped the incursion. Sixteen Egyptian border guards were killed in the attempted Rafah border crossing incident.

“It’s hard to believe that President Morsi could have dismissed Field Marshall Mohammed Tantawi without the help of lower-ranking military officers. The military’s sense of prestige, which millions of Egyptians still take great pride in, took a battering following the militant attack in Sinai that killed 16 soldiers,” Clay said.

“The military should have been prepared for the attack. Israel was. And the blame has largely been placed on Tantawi for his negligence and for embarrassing the military establishment,” he said.

Lopez agrees that Israel’s preparedness is a slap against the Egyptian army.

“That border skirmish that resulted in deaths of Egyptian border guards was known ahead of time by Israeli intelligence, which warned their Egyptian military counterparts,” Lopez said.

She notes that Israeli intelligence avoided contact with the Muslim Brotherhood in the incident because the attacks were a Hamas plot.

Lopez added that even after notification, the Egyptian army didn’t act.

“The Egyptian military did nothing, even as Israel expected. Thus the attack was carried out, Israel was totally prepared and responded and the result was Egyptian military deaths,” Lopez said.

Responding to ‘crisis’

She added that Morsi wasted no time in responding to the “crisis.”

“Morsi jumped on the incident as the perfect reason to purge the top ranks of the Egyptian military, install his own MB-sympathizers in positions across the top, chief of staff and intel chief,” she said. “Some call it an internal coup d’etat – and I agree. It put Morsi in sole control of the legislative branch (there is no parliament right now) and in control of the political power in Egypt. The new defense minister is a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer. Things are moving very fast.”

Clay said there are mixed feelings among the military top brass in Egypt. He said some still support Tantawi; some have called for change.

“While many senior military officers maintained their support for Tantawi, his reputation took a dive among many younger officers who saw the need for a replacement. It wasn’t just the attack in Sinai that led to this, but the military’s reputation has been on the decline since a few months following the country’s uprising early last year,” Clay said.

“For some, the Sinai attack was the final straw and Morsi may have viewed it as an opportune time to remove Tantawi and other high-ranking officers from key positions,” Clay said.

He noted that Morsi, not the military, took the lead in responding to the Sinai attacks.

“In doing so, while also forcing Tantawi out of his cabinet, Morsi has set a precedent that it is he who decides who runs the army,” Clay said.

“While the generals will still advise Morsi, he can decide whether or not to listen to them. It’s apparent that Morsi is quickly becoming Egypt’s sole leader which means control of the country will be in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said.

However, Geller believes Morsi had a second motive for his action.

Reign of terror

“I suspect that Morsi’s action was timed in part to forestall any further military action against the jihadis,” Geller said, adding that the results will make Egypt’s government more monolithic than it already was.

“Morsi is instituting a reign of terror to consolidate his power,” Geller said.

American Enterprise Institute Middle East analyst Michael Rubin agreed: Morsi is after the power.

“Morsi certainly wants absolute control. The Egyptian army have never been saints, but Morsi will broker no checks to his power as the Muslim Brotherhood writes a constitution and imposes its dream of an Islamic state on Egypt,” Rubin said.

Lopez says this all means that Morsi is shedding his “moderate” veneer.

“The point I would make is that Morsi is not bothering to play ‘moderate’ anymore. He’s moving very aggressively to consolidate power for the Muslim Brotherhood,” Lopez said.

She added that Morsi is now free to act without any concern for public opinion.

“He doesn’t seem to care who thinks what anymore. He knows he’s got the USG and president in his corner no matter what he does. He doesn’t have to pretend, no need for ‘plausible deniability.’ He also knows he’s got the majority of the Egyptian people behind him,” Lopez said.

Rubin believes, however, that Morsi will still try to play the “moderate” to continue to gain U.S. support.

Playing the moderate?

“Morsi is going to play the moderate and the mediator for the world media, all the while complaining that he can’t take more forceful action against the extremists because the radical fringe won’t allow him to do more,” Rubin said.

“It’s nonsense, of course, but still an explanation that will satisfy American diplomats, safe behind the walls of their compound,” Rubin said.

Lopez added to Rubin’s explanation, but points to the White House as the main cheerleader for Morsi and the Brotherhood.

“This is exactly what many of us expected him to do (consolidate power) and I think the White House knew, too, and not only expected but wanted Morsi and the Brotherhood to take over Egypt,” Lopez said.

“As far as I know, the White House invitation for Morsi in September still stands – nor have I heard the slightest hint of criticism from any top U.S. government leadership figure about Morsi’s coup. He knows he’s on solid ground with this administration,” Lopez said.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The End of the Euro (please, hury it up, I have been waiting for a LONG time)

08/13/2012 13.08.2012

By Martin Hesse
Der Spiegel

Banks, companies and investors are preparing themselves for a collapse of the euro. Cross-border bank lending is falling, asset managers are shunning Europe and money is flowing into German real estate and bonds. The euro remains stable against the dollar because America has debt problems too. But unlike the euro, the dollar's structure isn't in doubt.

Otmar Issing is looks a bit tired. The former chief economist at the European Central Bank (ECB) is sitting on a barstool in a room adjoining the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. He resembles a father whose troubled teenager has fallen in with the wrong crowd. Issing is just about to explain again all the things that have gone wrong with the euro, and why the current, as yet unsuccessful efforts to save the European common currency are cause for grave concern.

He begins with an anecdote. "Dear Otmar, congratulations on an impossible job." That's what the late Nobel Prize-winning American economist Milton Friedman wrote to him when Issing became a member of the ECB Executive Board. Right from the start, Friedman didn't believe that the new currency would survive. Issing at the time saw the euro as an "experiment" that was nevertheless worth fighting for.

Fourteen years later, Issing is still fighting long after he's gone into retirement. But just next door on the stock exchange floor, and in other financial centers around the world, apparently a great many people believe that Friedman's prophecy will soon be fulfilled.

Banks, investors and companies are bracing themselves for the possibility that the euro will break up -- and are thus increasing the likelihood that precisely this will happen.

There is increasing anxiety, particularly because politicians have not managed to solve the problems. Despite all their efforts, the situation in Greece appears hopeless. Spain is in trouble and, to make matters worse, Germany's Constitutional Court will decide in September whether the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) is even compatible with the German constitution.

There's a growing sense of resentment in both lending and borrowing countries -- and in the nations that could soon join their ranks. German politicians such as Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) are openly calling for Greece to be thrown out of the euro zone. Meanwhile the the leader of Germany's opposition center-left Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel, is urging the euro countries to share liability for the debts.

On the financial markets, the political wrangling over the right way to resolve the crisis has accomplished primarily one thing: it has fueled fears of a collapse of the euro.

Cross-Border Bank Lending Down

Banks are particularly worried. "Banks and companies are starting to finance their operations locally," says Thomas Mayer who until recently was the chief economist at Deutsche Bank, which, along with other financial institutions, has been reducing its risks in crisis-ridden countries for months now. The flow of money across borders has dried up because the banks are afraid of suffering losses.

According to the ECB, cross-border lending among euro-zone banks is steadily declining, especially since the summer of 2011. In June, these interbank transactions reached their lowest level since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2007.

In addition to scaling back their loans to companies and financial institutions in other European countries, banks are even severing connections to their own subsidiaries abroad. Germany's Commerzbank and Deutsche Bank apparently prefer to see their branches in Spain and Italy tap into ECB funds, rather than finance them themselves. At the same time, these banks are parking excess capital reserves at the central bank. They are preparing themselves for the eventuality that southern European countries will reintroduce their national currencies and drastically devalue them.

"Even the watchdogs don't like to see banks take cross-border risks, although in an absurd way this runs contrary to the concept of the monetary union," says Mayer.

Since the height of the financial crisis in 2008, the EU Commission has been pressuring European banks to reduce their business, primarily abroad, in a bid to strengthen their capital base. Furthermore, the watchdogs have introduced strict limitations on the flow of money within financial institutions. Regulators require that banks in each country independently finance themselves. For instance, Germany's Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (BaFin) insists that HypoVereinsbank keeps its money in Germany. When the parent bank, Unicredit in Milan, asks for an excessive amount of money to be transferred from the German subsidiary to Italy, BaFin intervenes.

Breaking Points

Unicredit is an ideal example of how banks are turning back the clocks in Europe: The bank, which always prided itself as a truly pan-European institution, now grants many liberties to its regional subsidiaries, while benefiting less from the actual advantages of a European bank. High-ranking bank managers admit that, if push came to shove, this would make it possible to quickly sell off individual parts of the financial group.

In effect, the bankers are sketching predetermined breaking points on the European map. "Since private capital is no longer flowing, the central bankers are stepping into the breach," explains Mayer. The economist goes on to explain that the risk of a breakup has been transferred to taxpayers. "Over the long term, the monetary union can't be maintained without private investors," he argues, "because it would only be artificially kept alive."

The fear of a collapse is not limited to banks. Early last week, Shell startled the markets. "There's been a shift in our willingness to take credit risk in Europe," said CFO Simon Henry.

He said that the oil giant, which has cash reserves of over $17 billion (€13.8 billion), would rather invest this money in US government bonds or deposit it on US bank accounts than risk it in Europe. "Many companies are now taking the route that US money market funds already took a year ago: They are no longer so willing to park their reserves in European banks," says Uwe Burkert, head of credit analysis at the Landesbank Baden-Württemberg, a publicly-owned regional bank based in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg.

And the anonymous mass of investors, ranging from German small investors to insurance companies and American hedge funds, is looking for ways to protect themselves from the collapse of the currency -- or even to benefit from it. This is reflected in the flows of capital between southern and northern Europe, rapidly rising real estate prices in Germany and zero interest rates for German sovereign bonds.

'Euro Experiment is Increasingly Viewed as a Failure'

One person who has long expected the euro to break up is Philipp Vorndran, 50, chief strategist at Flossbach von Storch, a company that deals in asset management. Vorndran's signature mustache may be somewhat out of step with the times, but his views aren't. "On the financial markets, the euro experiment is increasingly viewed as a failure," says the investment strategist, who once studied under euro architect Issing and now shares his skepticism. For the past three years, Vorndran has been preparing his clients for major changes in the composition of the monetary union.

They are now primarily investing their money in tangible assets such as real estate. The stock market rally of the past weeks can also be explained by this flight of capital into real assets. After a long decline in the number of private investors, the German Equities Institute (DAI) has registered a significant rise in the number of shareholders in Germany.

Particularly large amounts of money have recently flowed into German sovereign bonds, although with short maturity periods they now generate no interest whatsoever. "The low interest rates for German government bonds reflect the fear that the euro will break apart," says interest-rate expert Burkert. Investors are searching for a safe haven. "At the same time, they are speculating that these bonds would gain value if the euro were actually to break apart."

The most radical option to protect oneself against a collapse of the euro is to completely withdraw from the monetary zone. The current trend doesn't yet amount to a large-scale capital flight from the euro zone. In May, (the ECB does not publish more current figures) more direct investments and securities investments actually flowed into Europe than out again. Nonetheless, this fell far short of balancing out the capital outflows during the troubled winter quarters, which amounted to over €140 billion.

The exchange rate of the euro only partially reflects the concerns that investors harbor about the currency. So far, the losses have remained within limits. But the explanation for this doesn't provide much consolation: The main alternative, the US dollar, appears relatively unappealing for major investors from Asia and other regions. "Everyone is looking for the lesser of two evils," says a Frankfurt investment banker, as he laconically sums up the situation. Yet there's growing skepticism about the euro, not least because, in contrast to America and Asia, Europe is headed for a recession. Mayer, the former economist at Deutsche Bank, says that he expects the exchange rates to soon fall below 1.20 dollars.

"We notice that it's becoming increasingly difficult to sell Asians and Americans on investments in Europe," says asset manager Vorndran, although the US, Japan and the UK have massive debt problems and "are all lying in the same hospital ward," as he puts it. "But it's still better to invest in a weak currency than in one whose structure is jeopardized."

Hedge Fund Gurus Give Euro Thumbs Down

Indeed, investors are increasingly speculating directly against the euro. The amount of open financial betting against the common currency -- known as short positioning -- has rapidly risen over the past 12 months. When ECB President Mario Draghi said three weeks ago that there was no point in wagering against the euro, anti-euro warriors grew a bit more anxious.

One of these warriors is John Paulson. The hedge fund manager once made billions by betting on a collapse of the American real estate market. Not surprisingly, the financial world sat up and took notice when Paulson, who is now widely despised in America as a crisis profiteer, announced in the spring that he would bet on a collapse of the euro.

Paulson is not the only one. Investor legend George Soros, who no longer personally manages his Quantum Funds, said in an interview in April that -- if he were still active -- he would bet against the euro if Europe's politicians failed to adopt a new course. The investor war against the common currency is particularly delicate because it's additionally fueled by major investors from the euro zone. German insurers and managers of large family fortunes have reportedly invested with Paulson and other hedge funds. "They're sawing at the limb that they're sitting on," says an insider.

So far, the wager by the hedge funds has not paid off, and Paulson recently suffered major losses.

But the deciding match still has to be played.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dual Allegiance? Waving a Flag

This says a lot.  About the specific case and the larger issue.

By Ruben Navarrette Jr. , CNN Contributor
updated 7:31 AM EDT, Fri August 10, 2012

Editor's note: Ruben Navarrette is a CNN contributor and a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow him on Twitter: @rubennavarrette.

San Diego (CNN) -- Every few years, I reassess how I feel about Mexican-Americans who wave Mexican flags. Much of it has to do with who is doing the waving and under what circumstances.

In 2006, I wrote a column saying it was a bad idea for immigration reform advocates to wave Mexican flags as they marched through U.S. cities such as Phoenix, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles. It's illogical to show your allegiance to one country while demanding accommodation from another.

But in 2007, I penned another column after attending a Luis Miguel concert in Las Vegas where fans of the Mexican singer unfurled Mexican flags. Nothing wrong with that, I concluded.

It's all about context. There is a big difference between a political protest and a concert.

Now, thanks to U.S. Olympic medalist Leo Manzano, and what I consider to be the misguided and ill-mannered way he chose to celebrate his silver medal in the 1500-meters final, I get the chance to think through the subject of flag-waving once again.

After Manzano finished his race and secured his medal, he did what athletes typically do at the Olympics. He held up his country's flag -- the Stars and Stripes.

The 27-year-old was born in Mexico, but the United States is his country now. His father migrated here illegally from the city of Dolores Hidalgo. Manzano was brought here when he was 4. Like most immigrants, they came in search of greater opportunity. And they found it -- for themselves, and their children.

That little boy eventually became a U.S. citizen. And then, after a lot of hard work and thousands of hours of training, he got the chance to represent his country and compete in the Olympics. And, to put the cherry on the sundae, he actually wins a silver medal. The last time an American won a medal of any kind in the 1500 meters was 44 years ago.

You can't help but be proud of Manzano and the country that allowed him the opportunity to fulfill his potential.

So why did Manzano carry two flags with him on his victory lap? As the world looked on, he held up both the U.S. flag and the Mexican flag. Not a good look. And not a good idea.

Manzano posted messages on Twitter throughout the competition -- in Spanish and English. After his victory, he tweeted, "Silver medal, still felt like I won! Representing two countries USA and Mexico!"

That's funny. I only saw one set of letters on his jersey: USA.

Later, he said to the media that he was honored to represent the United States and Mexico.

I realize that, for many of my fellow Mexican-Americans, the image of Manzano waving two flags is no big thing. And for many Americans who are Mexican-born, it's actually a great thing. Both camps might even find the gesture charming -- albeit, for different reasons.

Most Mexican-Americans I know would need a whole team of therapists to sort out their views on culture, national identity, ethnic pride and their relationship with Mother Mexico. They're the orphans of the Southwest -- too Mexican for the Americans, too American for the Mexicans. Their positive reaction to the photo has less to do with Manzano than with their own sense of displacement.

Many Mexicans who came to the United States -- particularly those who came as professionals or became professionals once they got here -- look to Mexico with a mixture of affection and guilt. They romanticize what they left behind and find it easier to love the country from hundreds or thousands of miles away. They may live in the United States, but many of them still consider themselves children of Mexico -- the kind who run away from home.

For both groups, the fact that Manzano, who holds dual citizenship, made a decision to show off the flags of both countries was a kind of signal to the people of Mexico that this accomplished young man hadn't forgotten where he came from. For some, that concept warms the heart.

But the image didn't warm my heart. It upset my stomach.

Understand, I've been called a Mexican separatist, a racist who hates anyone who isn't Mexican or Mexican-American, someone who is obsessed with his ethnicity. In fact, I can't remember the last time someone accused me of not being proud of being Mexican or Mexican-American. And in the past 20 years, I've written hundreds of thousands of words in defense of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans.

That said, the photo bothered me.

Some people will insist that this is Manzano's choice to make, that it was his sweat and sacrifice that got him to London, and this was his victory to celebrate however he saw fit. Those people are wrong. They're focused on the individual. But the last thing the Olympics is about is the individual.

It's about being part of a team -- the U.S. Olympic team. It's about national pride, not ego. Manzano wasn't there to compete for himself but to represent his country. All he had to do was decide which country that was. He chose not to choose.

What am I missing? Where were the Italian-American athletes waving the Italian flag, or the Irish-Americans waving the Irish flag? I didn't see that.

I remember that, in 1992, Mexican-American boxer Oscar De La Hoya held up both the U.S. and Mexican flags after winning a gold medal in Barcelona. But that was largely symbolic since De La Hoya was born in the United States. He wasn't an immigrant caught between two countries.

Leo, con todo respeto (with all due respect), you should be proud of your accomplishment. You deserve it. But when you're an Olympic athlete, you don't get to have your cake and eat it, too. Sooner or later, you have to choose which country you're going to represent. And you did. You made that choice, when you put on the jersey for Team USA.

It wasn't unlike the choice your parents made when they chose the United States over Mexico a quarter century ago. They voted with their feet. It would be nice if you haven't left your heart behind.

This country took you in during your hour of need. Now in your moment of glory, which country deserves your respect -- the one that offered nothing to your parents and forced them to leave or the one that took you all in and gave you the opportunity to live out your dreams?

The answer should be obvious.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Islam: Always on the Peaceful Path

The difference between this guy and the killer in Colorado or at the Sikh temple is ... they did not kill for their religion.

They did not plan on murdering Americans because they were Americans.

They killed because they are killers and whatever other issues twisted in their warped brains. 

There is a difference.

This guy is not an anomaly if you check the last 12 years.  It is not every day common, but it occured in Iraq and Afghanistan - more than a handful of times, all for the same purpose.

Associated Press
August 10, 2012

WACO, Texas (AP) -- Naser Jason Abdo sat alone in court with his hands shackled and a white cloth secured over his mouth and neck. The soldier who went AWOL and plotted to kill other troops outside a Texas Army post remained defiant Friday as he was sentenced to life in prison, not asking for mercy and vowing to never end what he considers his holy war.
"I will continue until the day the dead are called to account for their deeds," Abdo said in a low, gravelly voice through the cloth mask.
A federal judge sentenced Abdo, 22, to two life terms plus additional time. The federal prison system offers no chance of parole. He was convicted of planning what he claimed would have been a massive attack on a Texas restaurant filled with troops from Fort Hood.
In court, Abdo referred to Maj. Nidal Hasan - the Army psychiatrist soon to be tried in a deadly shooting rampage at that Army post - as "my brother." He said he lived in Hasan's shadow despite "efforts to outdo him."
Abdo became a Muslim at age 17.
Outside court, prosecutor Mark Frazier said Abdo had come close to carrying out the attack. U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman compared the plot to recent mass shootings at a movie theatre near Denver and a Sikh temple in suburban Milwaukee.
"In the wake of the tragic events in Colorado and Wisconsin, this is yet another reminder that there are those among us who would use or plan to use violence to advance their twisted agenda," Pitman said.
Arguing for a life sentence, Frazier had said Abdo still presented a threat. Abdo's mouth was covered in court, Frazier said, because he had earlier spat his own blood at agents believing he was infected with HIV. That belief turned out to be wrong.
"He felt it was his duty to take lives, even after incarceration," Frazier told the court.
Abdo was AWOL from Fort Campbell, Ky., when he was arrested with bomb-making materials last summer at a Fort Hood-area motel. A federal jury convicted him in May on six charges, including attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. Abdo also was found guilty of attempted murder of U.S. officers or employees and four counts of possessing a weapon in furtherance of a federal crime of violence.
Representing himself, Abdo told the court how his effort to become a conscientious objector led him to Fort Hood.
He grew up in Garland, Texas, and enlisted in the military in 2009 thinking the service would not conflict with his religious beliefs. But as his unit neared deployment, the private first class applied for conscientious objector status, writing in a letter that accompanied his application that he wasn't sure "whether going to war was the right thing to do Islamically."
Abdo's unit was deployed to Afghanistan without him. He said he would refuse to go even if it resulted in a military charge against him.
But his conscientious objector status was put on hold after he was charged with possessing child pornography in May 2011. Abdo told the court he felt the pornography accusation was made only because he had tried to leave the Army.
"I just can't imagine a worse stigma being placed on a person," he said of that charge.
A month later, after his efforts to reach out to the media had failed, Abdo said he decided he "was going to go on jihad." Then, over the Fourth of July weekend, Abdo went AWOL.
In a police interview, Abdo said he wanted to carry out the attack because he didn't "appreciate what (his) unit did in Afghanistan." His plan, he told authorities, was to place a bomb in a busy restaurant filled with soldiers, wait outside and shoot anyone who survived - and become a martyr after police killed him.
According to testimony, Abdo told an investigator he didn't plan an attack inside Fort Hood because he didn't believe he would be able to get past security at the gates.
Abdo said Friday he would not ask U.S. District Judge Walter Smith for a lighter sentence. Most of the prison time he received was mandatory under the charges for which he was convicted.
"I do not ask the court to give me mercy, for Allah is the one that gives me mercy," he said.
Hasan faces the death penalty if convicted in the Fort Hood shootings. His court-martial is slated for later this month.


Make Mine Freedom - 1948

American Form of Government

Who's on First? Certainly isn't the Euro.