Researchers have found a way of permanently deleting painful memories, which they say could lead to drugs for post-traumatic stress disorder.
A team at John Hopkins University in the U.S removed a protein from the region of the brain responsible for recalling fear in tests on mice.
The mice were then unable to recall fear associated with a loud sound.
The method is similar to that imagined in the film Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, where Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet decide to erase each other from their memories after a difficult break-up.
The scientists, whose report appears in Science Express, said it had important implications for patients whose lives were blighted by fear.
Lead researcher, Dr Richard L Huganir, said: ‘When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life.
‘Our finding describing these molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in that process raises the possibility of manipulating those mechanisms with drugs to enhance behavioural therapy for such conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder.’
Behavioural therapy has been shown to ease the depth of the emotional response to traumatic memories, but not in completely removing the memory itself, making relapse common.
Dr Huganir and post-doctoral fellow Roger Clem focused on the nerve circuits in the amygdala, the part of the brain known to underly so-called fear conditioning in people and animals.
Using sound to cue fear in mice, they observed that certain cells in the amygdala conducted more current after the mouse was exposed to a loud, sudden tone.
They found temporary increases in the amount of particular proteins – the calcium-permeable AMPARs – within a few hours of fear conditioning that peaked at 24 hours and disappeared 48 hours later.
These particular proteins are uniquely unstable and can be removed from nerve cells.
Dr Huganir said: ‘The idea was to remove these proteins and weaken the connections in the brain created by the trauma, thereby erasing the memory itself.’
In further experiments, they found that removal of these proteins depended on the chemical modification of the GluA1 protein.
Mice lacking this chemical modification of GluA1 recovered fear memories induced by loud tones, whereas litter mates did not recover the same fear memories.
Dr Huganir suggests that drugs designed to control and enhance the removal of calcium-permeable AMPARs may be used to improve memory erasure.
Dr Huganir said: ‘This may sound like science fiction, the ability to selectively erase memories.
‘But this may one day be applicable for the treatment of debilitating fearful memories in people, such as post-traumatic stress syndrome associated with war, rape or other traumatic events.’
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Drilling of the Leviathan 1 exploratory well began today, at a cost of $150 million. The Israeli partners in the Leviathan licenses – Delek Group Ltd. (TASE: DLEKG) subsidiaries Avner Oil and Gas LP (TASE: AVNR.L) and Delek Drilling LP (TASE: DEDR.L), as well as Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP (TASE:RATI.L) – announced that Noble Energy Inc. (NYSE: NBL) had informed them that the Sedco Express platform had begun drilling. The drilling is due to take five months.
The deep water well in the Rachel license, 135 kilometers west of Haifa, will be drilled to a depth of 7,200 meters, including 1,634 meters of water. The well will seek to locate the gas bearing structure, which the 3D seismic study conducted for Noble Energy indicated the presence of 453 billion cubic meters of natural gas with a geologic chance of success of 50%.
When the well reaches the target structure in about two months, the partners will decide whether to carry out production tests. After these are completed, the Sedco Express will carry out development drilling at the Tamar site, also owned by Noble Energy and Delek Group, together with Isramco Ltd. (Nasdaq: ISRL; TASE: ISRA.L) and Dor Gas Exploration Ltd.
Noble Energy owns 39.66% of the Leviathan licenses, Delek Drilling and Avner Oil each own 22.67%, and Ratio owns 15%.
A second platform, North America Pride, is due to arrive at Leviathan in January 2011 to drill to the deeper structures, where current information estimates the presence of three billion barrels of oil at a depth of 5,800 meters, with a geologic probability of 17%, and the presence of 1.2 billion barrels of oil at a depth of 7,200 meters, with a geologic chance of success of 8%.
Avner Oil’s share price rose 1.8% to NIS 2.71, Delek Drilling’s share price rose 1.9% to NIS 16.40, and Ratio’s share price rose 4.6% to NIS 0.456, on the day’s second largest turnover of NIS 105 million.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – http://www.globes-online.com
During the Nuremberg Trials, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, famously stated[i]: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
BY ADAM HUDSON, PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 2010
During the Nuremberg Trials, the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, famously stated[i]: “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” America has a long history of war and its accumulated evils. It began as thirteen small colonies that sat along the Atlantic coast. In over a century, the United States expanded all the way to the Pacific Ocean – from sea to shining sea. The process was not pretty. It involved the genocide of the native Americans and the enslavement of millions of black Africans whose free labor was needed to fuel the American capitalist economy. At the dawn of the twentieth century, the United States began to colonize other lands, such as Hawaii, the Philippines and Cuba. Since then, it has occupied and intervened with military force in all regions of the globe[ii], such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. This is not to mention the democratically-elected leaders America overthrew in places like Chile and Iran. The United States currently occupies two countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – and has a network of over 700 military bases globally[iii]. As such, the United States is a de facto empire[iv].
One key element of American imperial history is its use of torture, which can be traced back to America’s treatment of African slaves. Such an analysis of torture, especially in the post-9/11 era, is very uncommon in mainstream political discourse. As such, before I proceed, it is important to dispel the current myths about torture propagated in the mainstream media.
As is well known, the United States has tortured hundreds of detainees suspected of being involved in terrorism. It is hard not to notice when the former Vice President brags about personally authorizing the use of torture on national television[v]. These acts included water-boarding, physical beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, and, in some cases, murder[vi].
The primary justification is that torture is a necessary tool to extract information from people who might know about impending threats of terrorism. Politicians (both Republican and Democrat), intellectuals, pundits and other leaders argue that America faces a new kind of threat. America is up against extremist, religious fanatics who hate the United States and wish to kill innocent Americans. Current domestic and international laws and law enforcement tactics are not sufficient to subdue this threat. As Alberto Gonzalez said to former President George W. Bush, the Geneva Conventions are “obsolete” in this new war against terrorism.[vii]
As a result, the United States must be willing to torture terrorist suspects in order to extract vital information that could prevent the next terrorist attack. This apocalyptic mindset has impacted the current American psyche and post-9/11 American foreign policy. Since the war is against a nebulous enemy, the war against terrorism is essentially a permanent war.
Despite the compelling arguments used to justify torture, adopting an objective view of the facts rips them asunder. First, there is little to no evidence to prove that torture is a useful interrogation technique. In fact, the evidence that does exist proves the opposite – that torture is ineffective because the suspect will say anything, whether it’s true or not, in order to make the torture stop. Ali Soufan, an intelligence official who interrogated Guantanamo terror suspect Abu Zubaydah, stated[viii] that conventional interrogation techniques compelled Zubaydah to provide actionable intelligence. It was only after Zubaydah was waterboarded several times that he could not provide useful intelligence.
Second, most of the people detained, usually indefinitely, in places like Guantanamo Bay and CIA-owned black sites are not diehard terrorists. The vast majority of them are innocent. Even President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and other high government officials may have been aware of this[ix]. Lawrence Wilkerson, a top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said that Cheney “had absolutely no concern that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees were innocent…If hundreds of innocent individuals had to suffer in order to detain a handful of hardcore terrorists, so be it.” The apocalyptic mindset of the broader War on Terror justified this tragedy.
Third, torture and cruel or inhumane treatment is a violation of U.S. domestic law and international law. The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment and the Torture Act prohibits the use of torture[x]. There are several international treaties that prohibit the use of torture. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions[xi], the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[xii], the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture explicitly prohibit torture and cruel or inhuman treatment[xiii]. The Convention Against Torture even states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Sending a person to a country where it is known they will be tortured – a practice known as extraordinary rendition – is also illegal under international law. However, the current Obama administration continues this practice. Torturing an individual violates that person’s fundamental human rights and their inherent dignity as a human being. Not only is torture illegal, it is also immoral and one of the many accumulated evils of war.
Given the transparency of official justifications for torture, one question remains. Why does the United States continue to torture people, even though it is ineffective, illegal and immoral? Torture has historically been used by governments for four main reasons.[xiv] One reason is to extract a confession and establish guilt. Torture is commonly used in countries where the presumption of innocence does not exist in the legal system. The second reason is for power. Powerful rulers would torture people in order to instill fear in their citizenry and remind them of who has authority. The third reason is to curb political dissent. While all three of these reasons may be applicable to the United States, the fourth reason gets to the heart of why America tortures. The fourth historical reason for utilizing torture is to subjugate a group of people considered to be sub-human.
An apt comparison to the American use of torture would be the French use of torture during the Algerian War of Independence.[xv] The French colonization of Algeria was based on the racist ideology of the French civilizing mission. In the eyes of the French colonial power, their culture was superior and more advanced than the cultures of racially-inferior “others”, in this case, the Algerians. The French saw it was their duty to “civilize” people who they viewed as primitive through colonialism. As such, the French annexed Algeria and established colonial settlements on Algerian land. When Algerian nationalists engaged in guerrilla warfare to oust the French, France felt it was up against a new kind of enemy – Maoist-inspired guerrillas. In order to defeat this enemy, the French believed it was necessary to engage in exceptional and unconventional means of warfare. This included denial of prisoner-of-war protections for captured combatants, trials in military tribunals, torture and execution. The French counter-insurgency strategy is very similar to American foreign policy post-9/11. It was motivated, in large part, by a belief in Algerian sub-humanity; in other words, racism.
Racism is not just an individual problem of prejudice or hate. It is an ideology used to justify systems of hegemony and oppression. It creates a binary between the Self and the Other. The Self is ascribed all positive aspects of humanity, such as rationality, intelligence, high culture, and credit for creating the benefits of modern civilization. The Other is ascribed all negative aspects of humanity, such as irrationality, primitivity, criminality, and barbarity. By categorizing certain groups as inferior “others”, hegemonic powers rob those people of their humanity, thus, making it easier to commit acts of brutality against them for imperial interests.
Racism, under the banner of “manifest destiny”, was used to justify the genocide committed against the Native Americans that made room for American territorial expansion. Racism was used to justify the enslavement of millions of black Africans whose free labor was exploited to work on plantations and build the American economy.
Despite the advancements made during the civil rights movement, racism still exists in many areas of American life, such as the disproportionate number of African-Americans and Latinos in prison, de facto housing segregation, inequality in the education system, and police brutality committed against people of color. Some of the most recent cases of police brutality were the deaths of 22-year-old Oscar Grant in Oakland[xvi] and 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in Detroit[xvii] – both of whom were African-American.
America’s wars against Afghanistan and Iraq serve to maintain American global hegemony and access to key resources such as oil. The racist dehumanization of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians is committed to justify America’s wars and acts of torture primarily against people from countries whose populations are predominantly Muslim and black and brown-skinned, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. It is not difficult to witness the manifestations of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in American society. It exists within the media and underlies the sophistry of politicians and leading intellectuals. Muslims, Arabs and South Asians are always suspected of being terrorists, similar to how black and Latino people are suspected of being drug-dealers, gang members and criminals. Racism is the fundamental ideological motivation behind America’s wars and use of torture.
The key task now is to end America’s use of torture and, more broadly, eliminate racism and imperialism; a daunting task but a necessary one, nevertheless. First, it is important for everyone, of all races, to see and treat every other person as a human being. Despite our cultural differences, we are part of one human family. Second, it is crucial that we hold our political leaders accountable for authorizing acts of torture and starting wars. At Stanford, we can start by pressuring our government to hold current Professor and former National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and other government officials, accountable for authorizing torture and engaging in aggressive wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. Third, it is vital that we work to build institutions that foster peace instead of war and sustain humanity rather than destroy it. To build a better future for humanity is by no means an easy task. But a million-mile journey begins with one step. Let’s make that first step.
Millions of America’s unemployed job-seekers will be cut off from existing federal jobless benefits starting November 30 unless Congress takes urgent action to renew and extend those benefit programs through 2011. These benefits have helped keep more than 9 million jobless workers and their families going this year alone, while they look for work in a tough economy. More than 5 million Americans who have been struggling to find jobs for six months or more currently rely on these federal unemployment benefits. Combined with state benefits, the expanded federal unemployment programs kept an estimated 3.3 million Americans out of poverty in 2009.
Renewing the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) and Extended Benefits (EB) programs is critical to helping jobless workers support their families while they continue their job searches as the holidays approach. And economists agree that unemployment benefits are critical to supporting local jobs in our communities as they strive to recover from the worst downturn since the 1930s.
Sign the Petition to Congress!
Extend the Federal Unemployment Insurance Programs
Tell Congress to take urgent action to renew these critical unemployment benefits programs now. Just fill out the form below and click “Submit Form” to sign this petition:
To Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate:
Your action is urgently needed to renew the federal unemployment insurance programs before they expire November 30. These benefits have a significant, positive impact, not only helping millions of job-seekers in a tough economy, but also providing support for communities striving to achieve a sustained economic recovery.
When Congress reconvenes after the elections, its first priority must be to renew and continue the full federal unemployment benefits program. As the holidays approach, don’t turn your backs on America’s unemployed workers and their families!
ORIENTAL REVIEW on Political Trust and Human Deception
So far the most tangible outcome of notorious ‘Reset’ of the US-Russian relations (or perezagruzka, another Russian word of the global outreach) announced by foreign ministers last year was the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START III). As a reminder it limits the number of deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 which is down nearly two-thirds from the original START treaty as well as 30% lower than the deployed strategic warhead limit of the 2002 Moscow Treaty. The text was inked by the presidents in April and now is waiting for approval by both parliaments. In Russia the ruling party United Russia enjoys a constitutional majority in the Russian State Duma and thus the ratification in Moscow is guaranteed once happens on the Capitol Hill. So the ball is certainly on the US side. However, as the Congressional elections this week are expected to shift the balance in the Senate to Republican’s favor, the perspective of successful ratification is notably fading out. The conservative skepticism about this particular Treaty and overall Reset with Russia is increasing although lacks any fresh argumentation or reasonable basis.
If we look through the recent memo on the matter by a prominent American analyst or an earlierFact Sheet by the same think tank, there is a standard set of accusations and suspicions towards Russian Bear that can be easily challenged by any insightful reader.
First, Russia is blamed for ‘repeatedly violating the 1991 START all the way to its expiration in December 2009’. The supporting argument is the ‘testing of intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple individually targeted re-entry vehicles’. Obviously this thesis refers to the new RS-24 (Yars) ballistic missile tested in Russia in May 2007 to replace outdated Topol-M rocket. It is true that the secret R&D on RS-24 was initiated well before the expiration of the START I (although RS-24 was put in service only after the term of the treaty expired in December last year). But what triggered that decision? Was it motivated by ‘rising imperial ambitions’ of Russia and ‘aspiration for restoring its past influence’? Did it secure a critical one-side advantage for Moscow in nuclear parity with the USA? Hardly. For Russians it was just the only way to level the misbalanced parity after the United States unilaterally left Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002 and for 7 years were pressuring Eastern Europeans to approve the US anti-missile shield installations against non-existent ‘Iranian nuclear threat’. It is only logical that the system of ‘nuclear’ treaties between Russia and USA should be considered as a single whole providing a fine balance of security and vulnerability for both parties. Once defense on one side is increased for another party there is no choice but augment offensive capability. By the way, the START I Treaty was negotiated in 1991 with ABM Treaty 1972 in force and it would not be concluded without ABM restrictions.
At the same time the United States cannot be considered as a saint lamb either in following START I provisions. During the last years the Russian inspectors have detected 12 serious violations on the US nuclear facilities to say nothing about well-known circumventions like stockpiling of dismantled warheads instead of their physical liquidation as Russians do. Maybe the United States needs a return Nunn-Lugar Program – Russian edition? That would be an affordable venture taking current Russian budgetary conditions. There are also several technical, but never confirmed assumptions, e.g. on the quantity of warheads on the US Minuteman 3 missiles capable to carrythree, but counted as one for Treaty purpose. No Russian inspector has ever been allowed an access under the cover of Minuteman 3 missile to check it. Russian Defense Ministry prefers keeping the reports on inspections confidential and holds negotiations with the US officials in private at the Joint Commission on Inspections and Compliance meetings in Geneva. Maybe it’s time for the Russians to abandon this saving-face-of-the-partner practice and start issuing public reports on detected violations like Americans do?
To complete the picture it would not be redundant to recall that well before the formal withdrawal from the ABM Treaty the United States had clearly violated the latter when the anti-ballistic radarGlobus II was activated in Norway in 2001.
Anyway, seeking other’s nuclear skeletons might be an exciting exercise for professional Bear-chasers. A clinical mistrust might be a well-paid job when the interests of enormous military complex are involved. The party of war-mongers is chattering again only two years after the tactical withdrawal from the White House.
START III was envisaged as a first serious step towards Nuclear-Free World. Now the decision apparently depends on lame-duck session of the US Senate. Obviously the matrix of the US-Russian relations is much more complex and reaching far beyond securing strategic nuclear balance. The train of mutual mistrust and misunderstanding burdens the way forward. But somebody should make this step. Why not we?
ORIENTAL REVIEW will continue analyzing the key obstacles to the mutually beneficial and trustful relations between Russia and the US in response to Heritage leaflet. We will share the outlook of the Russian civil society on Western threat, Iranian problem, Al-Qaeda, Gas Weapon and – certainly – ‘authoritarian Kremlin regime’.
There is too much similarities between Pakistani and Indian right wing media, both are inciting hatred and violence among the country’s citizens and especially against those having unpopular views and thoughts. Indian media was present around Arundhati Roy’s house with live coverage facilities before the mob attacked her home. She raised some very pertinent questions about the nature and role of media, she asks is a writer with unpopular views more dangerous than a suspect in a bomb blast? Or is it a question of ideological alignment? is media accessory to the crime? and while the Government is showing a degree of maturity, are sections of the media and the infrastructure of democracy being rented out to those who believe in mob justice?
Concentration of media ownership is threatening the purpose of the free press. Greed for profits the sole motive of Indianand Pakistani press barons; corporate manipulation, greed, and irresponsible misconduct, media monopoly and cartelization, the mark of elite ownership and control over information, these trends and contours are extremely detrimental to our civilization, democracy and freedoms-and world wide corporate owned right wing media is acting as the leaders of a lynch mob in scapegoating whole classes of people in a manner that paves the way to subjecting those people to “Final Solutions”.
After BJP activists attacked writer Arundhati Roy’s house over her Kashmir remark, Roy slammed media over its role in covering any incident and asked whether media has become an accessory to crime.
“What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media become accessory to the crime?” asked Roy as she claimed that three news channel vans were stationed outside her house even before the protest began on Oct 31.
SOMETHING FOR THE MEDIA TO THINK ABOUT
A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning (Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on Kashmir, and threatened to teach me a lesson.
The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live. TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP’s Mahila Morcha (Women’s wing).
After they left, the police advised us to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.
What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media which positions itself at the ‘scene’ in advance have a guarantee that the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime?
This question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me.
In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings?
The Government has indicated that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for Kashmir. So the task of punishing me for my views seems to have been taken on by right wing storm troopers.
The Bajrang Dal and the RSS have openly announced that they are going to “fix” me with all the means at their disposal including filing cases against me all over the country. The whole country has seen what they are capable of doing, the extent to which they are capable of going.
So, while the Government is showing a degree of maturity, are sections of the media and the infrastructure of democracy being rented out to those who believe in mob justice?
I can understand that the BJP’s Mahila Morcha is using me to distract attention from the senior RSS activist Indresh Kumar who has recently been named in the CBI charge-sheet for the bomb blast in Ajmer Sharif in which several people were killed and many injured.
But why are sections of the mainstream media doing the same?
Is a writer with unpopular views more dangerous than a suspect in a bomb blast? Or is it a question of ideological alignment?
The media tycoon is worth £1.3bn but he has little time for his fellow Russian oligarchs
- Mark Tran and Luke Harding
In an interview with the Guardian last year, he described them as a bunch of greedy, uncultured, semi-literate oiks. They knew nothing of early Italian painting, he complained snidely. “They don’t read books. They don’t go to exhibitions. They think the only way to impress anyone is to buy a yacht,” he added.
Lebedev, by contrast, doesn’t own a yacht and lives comparatively modestly and was relaxed about his heavy losses in the financial crash. “It doesn’t make a difference to my life,” he said.
Worth £1.3bn, the 50-year-old former KGB spy established himself as a British mini media mogul when he bought the Independent and the Independent on Sunday in March for the nominal sum of £1, to go with the London Evening Standard, which he took free.
Lebedev has described himself as a hands-off proprietor: “I never interfere.” His UK newspaper empire is overseen by his son, Evgeny, senior executive director of the Standard and chairman of the Independent‘s new parent company, Independent Print Limited.
Lebedev built up his fortune through banking. He also had a stake in the Russian airline Aeroflot, which he sold earlier this year. He has followed a path well trodden by other other Russian oligarchs in buying British assets such as Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelse FC, and Alisher Usmanov, the metals baron who owns 24% of Arsenal.
But he likes to think of himself as different from his fellow Russian billionaires. Lebedev, who worked at the Russian embassy in London until 1992, under the KGB cover of economics attache, describes himself as a capitalist-idealist and he seems to put his money where his mouth is. He has used his large fortune to improve the lot of ordinary Russians and can talk enthusiastically about such unfashionable themes as flat-pack housing and potatoes.
His position inside Russia‘s elite is an ambiguous one. He lives in Rublyovka, Moscow’s exclusive dacha-colony and home to celebrities and politicians. But while he is clearly a member of Russia’s establishment, Lebedev has used his wealth to fashion a career as an independent political actor, an increasingly impossible task in Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian, vertically run Russia.
Last year Lebedev celebrated his 49th birthday in the down-at-heel offices of Novaya Gazeta, the liberal Moscow newspaper he part owns with Mikhail Gorbachev. (The party was styled an anti-crisis event: guests were even invited to bring a bottle.) The paper is one of the last media outlets critical of the Kremlin. Its special correspondent Anna Politkovskaya was gunned down in 2006; few doubt her political enemies arranged her execution.
The twice-weekly paper continues to report on themes the Kremlin-controlled media prefer to ignore – corruption; human rights abuses in Chechnya and the neighbouring republics of Ingushetia and Dagestan and the sinister activities of the FSB, Russia’s post-KGB spy agency. Lebedev has offered $1m for information leading to the arrest of Politkovskaya’s killer. So far, investigators have, apparently, failed to find her assassin or the person who ordered her death.
According to journalists on Novaya Gazeta, Lebedev is a tycoon-intellectual with a social conscience. “Most Russian oligarchs seem to settle into, ‘We can do nothing.’ They spend their days in Courchevel, drinking wine, eating caviar and watching girls dance on the table,” said Yulia Latynina, a Novaya Gazeta columnist. She went on: “Lebedev is trying to do something so the country will be better. But he knows that if he does anything to offend people in power there will be punishment.”
Lebedev’s philanthropic interests also extend to Britain, where he is friends with Geordie Greig, editor of Tatler, and other members of the British establishment. He and Evgeny run the Raisa Gorbachev Foundation, named after Gorbachev’s wife who died of leukaemia in 1999. Lebedev has built a 12-storey cancer hospital in St Petersburg where sick children can be treated free of charge. He is currently trying to build another.
The foundation has held a series of ultra-glamorous fundraisers. The first was at Althorp House, Earl Spencer’s family pile; the last two have been at Hampton Court, where Elton John performed in 2007. Guests have included Madonna, Hugh Grant and JK Rowling.
The oligarch’s fondness for London is well known. The son of Moscow intelligentsia parents, Lebedev studied for a PhD in economics, before joining the KGB’s elite foreign intelligence directorate. His time as a spy in London appears to have been a happy one; for his birthday, Novaya Gazeta mocked up a special edition, featuring a spoof letter from Lebedev’s MI6 “contact”, who suggested putting a plaque on the Kensington, west London, house where Lebedev lived with other Soviet spies, signing off: “God save the Queen!”
At home, Lebedev’s political career has largely been a failure. There’s been a long-standing feud with Moscow’s veteran mayor Yuri Luzhkov, whom he accuses of destroying the capital’s architectural heritage. In 2003, he ran against Luzhkov and lost. He was a member of Russia’s Duma until 2007. In 2008, Lebedev and Gorbachev announced their intention to launch a new social democrat party. The project appears to have flopped, largely because political activity in Russia is now impossible without Kremlin approval, but also because of the electorate’s apathy.
Lebedev’s fortune is based on his ownership of the National Reserve Bank, one of Russia’s leading private banks. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Lebedev returned from London and went into business and became “the spy who came in for the gold”. But Lebedev’s multifarious interests go well beyond money. He is also a patron of the arts and a big fan of Chekhov. Lebedev is at home at Knightsbridge parties but clearly prefers the company of playwrights, novelists and fellow intellectuals. He appears to have survived the global crisis better than many of his peers, some of whom are now down to their last $100m.
Keeping up with millions of miles of onshore oil and gas pipelines is a daunting task, one that seems to be overwhelming U.S. officials, Reuters reports.
The 2.5 million miles of onshore U.S. pipelines are in desperate need of safety upgrades, critics say. In 2009, the nation posted a six-year high of 47 serious incidents, those in which someone is killed or injured. This year, since May, there have been three major onshore oil spills, and a gas line explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people.
The problems most often emerge on older pipelines — a big problem for the U.S., where many pipelines were built in the 1960s and putting pipelines out of service is quite rare. The San Bruno explosion, for example, occurred on a pipeline that was 54 years old.
Following BP’s Gulf of Mexico spill, Reuters noted, oil companies face a torrent of new offshore rules, but some advocates say making pipelines on land safer is just as urgent.
Some politicians have introduced legislation to remedy the problems. One bill in Congress would increase the number of federal safety inspectors by 30 percent, while also raising the maximum fine for violating safety standards from $1 million to $2.5 million.
States take the lead in regulating many smaller pipelines, though many are no better staffed for inspections than the federal government.
“Every day we delay strong pipeline safety reforms is one we put ourselves at risk,” said Rick Kessler of Pipeline Safety Trust, a group that advocates more rigorous safety rules.
Pipeline accidents also impose a significant economic cost. Oil spiked by almost $4 per barrel following a massive spill in Romeoville, Ill., in September and, during an eight-day shutdown of the 41 year-old line, Chicago gasoline prices rose 25 cents a gallon.
[Well, Pakistan, isn’t this what you have been waiting for? Stand-up, speak-up in support of this brave Indian woman and her party. Then be prepared to admit LeT involvement in the Mumbai attacks. All of you have to make an effort to overcome the obstacles that Western support for Pakistani and Hindutva terrorism has erected between you, because it has been built on the foundation of your own hostilities. SEE: David Colemann Headley Is A CIA-FBI Agent]
Congress on Tuesday went full blast in attacking the RSS and its sister organisations, accusing them of being involved in terrorism and held that the Allahabad High Court verdict does not condone the demolition of Babri Masjid but skirted the raging issue of housing scam in Mumbai.
The day-long session of AICC, to ratify re-election of Sonia Gandhi as party president, saw over 1,000 delegates authorising her to nominate members to the Congress Working Committee, the highest policy-making body of the party.
In her inaugural speech, Ms. Gandhi said Congress and the governments led by her party will “forcefully” resist attempts by anyone to abuse religion for political gains.
Talking about the September 30 Allahabad High Court verdict on Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suit, she said it in “no way condones” the demolition of the disputed structure on December 6,1992.
The demolition was a “shameful, criminal act” and “all those responsible must be brought to justice,” she said.
True character of RSS
Taking the attack a notch further, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee piloted an AICC statement that said “recent revelations through detailed investigations have exposed the true character of RSS and its sister organisations.
“The investigations indicate the involvement of its members in terrorist activities.”
Justifying the inclusion of references to the RSS, Mr. Mukherjee said, “RSS organisation is to be exposed. Their links with the terrorist activities which have been recently highlighted through the revelations are to be brought in.”
PM lauds Sonia
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hailed the role of Ms. Sonia Gandhi as the “longest serving” party president for the last 12 years and her efforts in bringing the party to power at the Centre for a second continuous term.
He expressed confidence that under her leadership the party would continue to be in power for a long time.
No scam reference
In all the speeches, there was no reference to the raging scam relating to Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Society in which the Congress leaders of Maharashtra are facing allegations of irregularities. Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has already offered his resignation.
There was also no reference to the Commonwealth Games scams.
The AICC statement said investigations “indicate the involvement” of RSS members in terrorist activities.
“Communal and terrorist elements, whichever source they may originate from, that aim at destroying our national fabric will be fought at any cost,” it said.
Ms. Gandhi spoke on a number of other issues like Jammu and Kashmir, terrorism, price rise, Naxalism and women’s reservation and party’s preparations for the next round of Assembly elections.
She noted that a “new situation” had emerged in Jammu and Kashmir and appealed to all the dissatisfied sections to trust the government and give peace a chance so that the future of next generations could be built.
“I speak for all of us when I express my anguish at the loss of young lives in Kashmir. I share their grief. Their loss is national loss. The whole generation has seen nothing but violence and conflict,” she said.
She said the priority should be on development of the state. “There has to be a meaningful political dialogue with all parties and all regions,” she said.
On terrorism, she said the “threat is for real and we will never relax our vigil against terrorism“.
The Congress president said it was “crystal clear” as to who was behind the attacks on November 26, 2008 in Mumbai, apparently referring to Pakistan.
Touching upon the issue of Naxalism, she said while firm police action is necessary, there was a need for greater emphasis on socio-economic development.
On inflation, she said food prices have come down but there was a “need to bring these down further”.
She said states were as much responsible for this as the Centre.
She also said the Congress was committed to bring the Women’s Reservation Bill in Lok Sabha soon.
|Former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov speaks during an anti-corruption protest in downtown in Moscow, on Oct. 9. AP/Dmitry Lovetsky|
Indeed in recent years there’s been a decided return to political authoritanism, something which has been lubricated by high petroleumprices which allowed then President and now Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to support a big-spending government.
Addressing a round-table gathering at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, Kasyanov, who served in the Ministry of Finance for almost a decade before becoming Finance Minister, stated categorically, “the oil price can ruin a budget.” He cited massive State spending on the one hand but a stop of political reforms on the other. He cautioned, “If the oil price falls, Russia faces big, big problems.”
Interestingly Kasyanov asserted, “There’s been no investment in oil or gas and there has been a decrease in production of gas….at the same time the government has a dependence on oil prices.” Currently the state-run Gazprommonopoly is the world’s largest natural gas exporter.
The political and economic stagnation continues apace. Even after Vladimir Putin moved over (probably temporarily) for Dmitri Medvedev to become president, the “population which supported Medvedev two years ago is now completely disappointed.”
Addressing the Reset process which the Obama Administration agreed to with the Kremlin, the former prime minister conceded, he’s positive on issues of “non-proliferation and Afghanistan.” Yet, he calls upon friends of Russia “who believe the Russian population deserves to live in a normal democratic country” to have a relationship “based on values,” by offering moral support to the Russian people.
He stressed Putin and his entourage “would like to be viewed as respectable.” Putin feels “everything in the world is purchasable”. Yet many friends abroad “have been indifferent to his rule.”
The Russian government “does not allow us to participate in elections,” Kasyanov stated. As leader of the People’s Democratic Union (PDU) since 2006, he added that there’s “no independent press,” and while the internet is important, only about ten million people use it for information. Opposition groups have been barred from elections; they hope to unite to contest Parliamentary voting in 2011.
Mikhail Kasyanov who was Prime Minister between 2000 and 2004 calls for the West to stress a principle of values in dealing with Russia.
“Why should Russia be treated differently? Not “special treatment” in not implementation international obligations.” He called on Russia’s true friends to be “less pragmatic.”
Kasyanov’s center-right party platform is “We need separation of powers, less state (intervention) in markets, and to encourage entrepreneurialism”
Speaking of the business sector he admonished a “silent contract with the regime to freedom to make money” . In the wider context of foreign trade and investment in Russia, Kasyanov warned the West, “Closing your eyes to violations of rights you will not gain the results you expect.”
In Russia, the power of the State and the security apparatus has trampled on what fragile democratic seedlings which may have existed in the 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union..
But beyond creeping political authoritarianism, police and business corruption are spiraling too across Russia. According to the Transparency International, a global watchdog group monitoring business bribery, Russia is the world’s most corrupt large economy. (In my opinion quite a feat given some of the other contenders). Today Russia is ranked 154th among 178 contenders. Because of deteriorating socio/economic conditions, many Russians are leaving home not just for the USA but even to the Czech Republic.
When this writer asked whether wider governmental contact with Russia beyond the administration and specifically by the U.S. Congress and private institutions would be beneficial, Kasyanov remarked candidly that, in its contacts with Russia in the past the “U.S. has used very effective ‘soft power’. But again, Congress “should not close its eyes to violations,” in everyday life.
John J. Metzler is a U.N. correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He writes weekly for WorldTribune.com.
By The Associated Press (CP)
BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kygryzstan has finally released the official results of Oct. 10 parliamentary elections, confirming victory for a nationalist party loyal to the deposed president.
Preliminary results handed victory to Ata-Zhurt, whose leader was a minister under former President Kurmbanbek Bakiyev. Bakiyev was overthrown in a bloody revolt earlier this year and a referendum approved the creation of a parliamentary republic in the Central Asian country, which hosts a U.S. air base vital to the Afghan war effort.
Monday’s official results were released three weeks late because officials had to investigate fraud allegations.
Ata-Zhurt will form a coalition government with one of the four other parties that passed the 5 per cent barrier to enter the legislature.
Copyright © 2010 The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.
1. Achieve national reconciliation and stability in Kyrgyzstan
The most urgent and immediate task is to make every effort to promote stability in the southern region and support the emerging trend of reconciliation between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, to establish a dialogue between different social groups. However, it should, with the participation of international organizations, most thorough way to investigate the causes and consequences of the tragic events and bring the perpetrators to justice. We believe it is necessary to give a political assessment of the tragedy. None of the involved in this tragedy – not a government official or an ordinary person – should not escape responsibility. Because of the fact that the Osh and Uzgen events of 1990 was not political assessment, the tragedy was repeated, but in a much larger and horrific scale.
Should develop a comprehensive state program of rehabilitation of the Southern Region and national reconciliation.
In the same context, our party insisted on an independent investigation into the causes and consequences of the events of 6-7 April 2010. Then, killing dozens and wounding hundreds of people suffered great material damage. No one can deny that these events are most directly affected by ethnic clashes in the south. And they should give an objective political and legal assessment. Everyone must answer for his own.
Us all Kyrgyzstanis must draw lessons from these tragedies and prevent the recurrence of such in the future!
2. Improvement of the political system
Held on June 27, 2010 referendum approved a new version of the Constitution of the Kyrgyz Republic. It is certainly a positive innovation, especially in the field of human rights and freedoms and citizens’ well-spelled out the powers of the parliamentary opposition.
However, made constitutional changes met with in society is far from unique. Not all were in agreement on many of its provisions. And even after the referendum, the debate continues. In our opinion, such was possible due to the fact that people are literally forced upon version of the Constitution, not the past of wide public approval. It is uniquely dominant position of one political group in power there, and do not take into account the views of different sectors of society, suggested that political structure, typical of developed Western states, and ignored the historical experience of nation-building, traditions and mentality of the Kyrgyz people and all the Kyrgyz people.
It is our firm conviction that a new constitution should unite our multicultural nation, not divide it, not someone else’s political model of an artificial implant in our lives. Nothing good comes from it will not. Thus, according to the authors of the Constitution, the republic is established parliamentary government, the only form of power, able to Kyrgyzstan from the crisis in the path of democracy. But is this true? After all, today a model of a democratic state is considered to be the United States. And there is the presidency! Or take the modern Russia. Originally a centralized presidential power, and then transition to a presidential-parliamentary government took her from severe depression on the road to sustainable development. And such examples are few.
In addition, one must understand that for a parliamentary republic prerequisites are a high level of democracy, a developed party system and high political culture of the population. These conditions have not yet.
Proceeding from these basic facilities, our party Ata-Jurt calls for the establishment of Kyrgyzstan strong state power, based on a clear division of powers between the branches, the decentralization of state power in the vertical, ie granting greater autonomy to local authorities, the full development of local self-government and the exclusion of any possibility of monopolizing power. And no matter how that power will be called. And it is important that it was effective. Strong power in our understanding, it is not authoritarianism and dictatorship, but such a power that can prevent what happened in the south of our country, to ensure law and order and public peace, favorable conditions for business and life, and, necessarily, election and is replaced on a constitutional basis, and controlled by the people.
Efficient power is possible only in conditions of a multiparty system, free political competition. Therefore, we believe that parties should be provided with equal opportunities, there should be no benefits for certain political organizations. At the legislative level should be set criteria that are set to counter the creation of parties, “ephemeral” or based on clan-based regional, ethnic lines. After all, currently registered in the country about 150 parties, and there is no real multi-party. For Kyrgyzstan, it is optimal functioning of several major political parties.
For all the years of sovereignty and was not carried out judicial reform. This sphere is the most corrupt and dysfunctional branch of government. And the judicial system, especially local courts, fully earned and regardless, it is necessary to introduce the formation of the judiciary, with the participation of civil society. In this case, dramatically reduce corruption and improve the quality of the courts. Current system of courts does not relieve them from the negative.
Consider it expedient to restore the Constitutional Court. It was impossible to eliminate it just because the institution of justice has become a tool in the hands of the former head of state. Conversely, when the country really is on the path of unconditional rule of law, an independent body to monitor compliance with the Constitution is a must, in the form of higher judicial instance, rather than the structure of the Supreme Court.
There is a need of introducing the institution of jurors who will not only significantly improve the objectivity of the decisions taken by the courts, but will become a real mechanism for civil society participation in the administration of justice.
Finally, it should be territorially administrative and management reform: government downsizing, the elimination of duplicative functions and management structures, a sharp decrease in the cost of raising them.
Local government is the most important institution of self-organization of the population, and it will work in full force only when the will have a real financial and material resources. To this end, we consider it important part of the taxes and other payments at the legislative level, leave for local government.
Effective channel of influence on state power and expressions of public opinion are consolidated civil society organizations, particularly in the field of human rights. Their Kyrgyzstan lot and they make a lot of useful information. However, their activity needs public support and attention. Here we must consider the system of measures to enable state and civil sectors to interact effectively: partial public financing, implementation of joint projects, their involvement in peer review activities of state bodies and regulations, etc.
We emphasize: our vision for improving the political system in Kyrgyzstan is not to say that our party will seek to implement all available means. No! We will strictly act within the Constitution, legitimate methods. We are confident that the political practice confirms we were right.
3. Construction of an efficient economy
The fact that our country has not established an effective economy, it is well known. According to this index Kyrgyzstan is among the states with small and vulnerable economies. Although the entire period of independence has repeatedly developed various programs for economic recovery. And the need is only one strategy, which should be based on the following clear and simple principles:
– As easy as possible for conducting business: nothing and no one should hinder entrepreneurship and private business;
– To optimize the tax and customs policy, so that they stimulate the production of material;
– Remove all barriers to investment, especially foreign ones. To contribute fully to investors;
– Hold tight fiscal policy and reduce the costs of the state apparatus, to cease to get involved in external borrowing;
– Focus on the promotion of products Kyrgyz producers on foreign markets;
– There must be some kind of priority sectors or industries of the economy, all businesses should have equal opportunities. The granting of preferences for individual enterprises creates fertile ground for abuse of government officials. Huge budgets were at one time directed to agriculture, processing industry, tourism, but the effect of this, neither the government nor the society received. Only in a free and equal competition, many areas of the real economy will become competitive and profitable. Particular attention should be paid to the development of domestic industry.
– To strengthen the banking system to banks to increase funding for the local economy and becomes a reliable and stable financial institutions;
– To pursue sound monetary policy aimed at maintaining price stability and inflation;
– To create a community atmosphere of anti-corruption and ruthless struggle against it;
– In the sphere of labor migration, our country must deliver to the international labor market is not cheap and unskilled labor, and skilled personnel. A clear policy in this area will lead to capital inflows to Kyrgyzstan, will stimulate production and reduce unemployment.
– To further strengthen the development of the microfinance market infrastructure, the growth of micro-credit associations at the level of rural communities, particularly in remote and mountainous regions.
These are the basic contours of building an efficient economy. But its implementation requires one condition – the strong political will of those in power. As noted above, different strategies are developed a lot, but lacked one thing – desire and unwavering desire to achieve practical implementation of these programs. This will and determination of our party is!
4. Achieving prosperity and welfare of every family
This problem is directly related to the creation of an efficient economy. If we manage to solve the above problems, we have a chance:
– To achieve the GDP per capita in 2015 in the range 1200 – $ 1500;
– Dramatically reduce poverty and unemployment;
– Raise the wages of public sector employees (teachers, doctors, cultural workers, government employees) 2-2,5 times;
– Bring the size of pensions and benefits to the minimum consumer budget;
– Significantly reduce the disparities in the development of different regions of the country;
– To provide full energy independence for the republic and the translation of all the living population’s needs for electricity and local natural resources.
It is quite clear that to achieve these objectives will require enormous financial resources. Own Kyrgyzstan can cover about 30 percent of needs. According to various estimates a shortfall of approximately 6,5-7 billion. In this case we need to aggressively and competently work with international donors, a policy regime of fiscal austerity, fully promote business and attract investment in Kyrgyzstan. Other ways we have not.
5. Human development
and the multiplication of cultural and spiritual heritage
Despite progress in this area during the Soviet period, the last two decades for various reasons, considerably reduced the quality of education in general cultural level of the population have deteriorated all the key indicators of health, social protection of vulnerable categories of citizens. Solve all these problems in the short term will not succeed. Looking for decisive steps in key areas. First: focus on the preschool, school and vocational education. Here it is necessary to achieve universal coverage of children’s schooling, to expand the network of vocational schools. Second: raising salaries to teachers of schools, providing them with free housing, land, etc. Third: the teachers and school and vocational education to enter into the registry of civil servants.
Same goes for health workers. Should provide training for doctors on the state order on a grant basis, with the direction to work in needy areas of the country.
In the cultural sphere should pay special attention to the state library, archives, theaters, a museum complex and cultural houses. For many years, without any movement is a great spiritual wealth – an epic of our nation: the different versions of the epic “Manas”, small epics, the works of the great figures of literature, art and culture, many of whom are in poor condition. And without them lifting the preservation of cultural heritage and upbringing of the younger generation is impossible. Of course, state funding for these purposes will be missed. But finding mechanisms for public-private partnership, involving international organizations and donors, commercial, cultural institutions – can be, and they are in the world. Only need to show determination and perseverance.
Mainly as a beacon in the field of human development must be human lifespan, which is necessary to raise the level to 70. That’s when Kyrgyzstan would be among the countries with good quality of life.
6. Ensuring national security
All domestic and foreign policy of Kyrgyzstan should be subordinated to ensure its national security. Recent developments in the south of the country have shown that our republic has become an object to destabilize not only domestically but also in the whole region.
It is in Central Asia formed a complex of problems that are global in nature (the war in Afghanistan, drug trafficking, religious extremism, competition for resources, international crime, etc.). Therefore, the national security of the country gets arhiaktualnoe value. Unfortunately, all previous years, the Kyrgyz authorities have not paid it enough attention. The result was that we had no effective army, operational law enforcement agencies and special services, an effective system of rapid response in emergency situations, mobile diplomatic mechanisms connecting international organizations to prevent and resolve political and ethnic conflicts. That is why it is necessary to give priority to direct government efforts at reforming and strengthening the combat capability of the armed forces, increasing the mobility of law enforcement bodies of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the effectiveness of special services and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is these public institutions are at the forefront of national security interests of our country.
Kyrgyzstan should maximize the potential of the UN and its institutions, SCO, CIS, CSTO, OSCE, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the conduct in these and other international organizations, its clear political line and not be on the Rights of the younger brother or a formal summit participants and a variety of forums.
In the international arena, Kyrgyzstan should undertake a multi-vector foreign policy, thereby strengthening its strategic partnership with Russia, forging closer ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Kyrgyzstan should continue to maintain and strengthen friendly relations with Turkey, China, USA, European Union and the Islamic world.