Julian Assange’s Arrest, ‘A Priority’ – Attorney General Jeff Sessions

The recent presidential elections in Ecuador held a personal significance for this author for two reasons.

First, as a native of that small, beautiful South American country, I remain interested in its social, political and economic progress and future — so much of it dependent on the newly elected president.

Second, as an American, indignant at the damage that one man — holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London — has inflicted upon our national security and democracy, I was rooting for a particular candidate to emerge victorious from the run-off presidential elections there.

On the first issue, Ecuador’s social, economic and democratic future, I wanted conservative, pro-business Guillermo Lasso to defeat leftist leaning Lenín Moreno, who — if elected — would certainly continue the corrupt, undemocratic, “iron-fisted rule” of the outgoing leftist president, Rafael Correa, a vocal critic of the United States.

On the second issue (WikiLeaks Julian Assange’s continued refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy), Moreno’s victory would mean Ecuador continuing to provide asylum in its London Embassy — perhaps with some conditions — to a man facing extradition to Sweden to fight allegations of sexual assault and also wanted by the U.S. on suspicion of espionage for his organization’s disclosure of massive amounts of classified information.

In a previous column:

Assange leaked hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and released thousands of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections, possibly influencing the outcome of that election.

Most recently, Assange’s WikiLeaks claimed it had obtained CIA “hacking tools” and threatened to provide technology companies access to them.

On the other hand, Lasso’s election would certainly result in Assange’s eviction from the embassy. “Ecuador has no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information…I will take on the responsibility of inviting [Señor] Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government,” Lasso promised.

Alas, although most of the exit polls had shown Lasso winning the elections, Ecuador’s National Electoral Council (NEC) determined that Lenín Moreno was the winner by a small margin shortly after the April 2 elections.

Lasso and his supporters challenged the outcome and demanded a recount. However, a recent recount of the disputed votes “ratified the results,” according to the NEC, and, having exhausted all avenues for challenging the elections results, Assange’s continued protector is expected to assume Ecuador’s presidency on May 24.

Of course, Assange celebrated the results of Ecuador’s elections.

However, the celebration may be short-lived as the U.S. Justice Department under the same man who, during our own presidential elections, declared how much he loved WikiLeaks, has announced that the arrest of Mr. Assange is now a “priority” for U.S. prosecutors.

At a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said:

We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks and some of them are quite serious. So yes, it is a priority. We’ve already begun to step up our efforts and whenever a case can be made, we will seek to put some people in jail.

Additionally, CNN reports:

The US view of WikiLeaks and Assange began to change after investigators found what they believe was proof that WikiLeaks played an active role in helping Edward Snowden, a former NSA analyst, disclose a massive cache of classified documents.

::

Last week in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, CIA Director Mike Pompeo went further than any US government official in describing a role by WikiLeaks that went beyond First Amendment activity.

He said WikiLeaks “directed Chelsea Manning to intercept specific secret information, and it overwhelmingly focuses on the United States.”

“It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: A non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia,” Pompeo said.

US intelligence agencies have also determined that Russian intelligence used WikiLeaks to publish emails aimed at undermining the campaign of Hillary Clinton, as part of a broader operation to meddle in the US 2016 presidential election. Hackers working for Russian intelligence agencies stole thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee and officials in the Clinton campaign and used intermediaries to pass along the documents to WikiLeaks, according to a public assessment by US intelligence agencies.

However, “Still, the move could be viewed as political, since Assange is untouchable as long as he remains in the Ecuadorian embassy, and Ecuador has not changed its stance on Assange’s extradition,” CNN cautiously adds.

(Update) Today’s Ecuador Elections May Decide if Julian Assange Finally Gets to Go ‘Home’

UPDATE:

Although most of the exit polls were showing conservative candidate Guillermo Lasso winning in Ecuador’s presidential elections, Ecuador’s National Electoral Council has released preliminary figures giving his opponent, Lenín Moreno, 51.1% of the votes cast, and Lasso 48.9%, with 96.22% of the votes counted.

Lasso is challenging the results and it is reported that, on Monday, he filed “a case alleging electoral fraud with the Organization of American States (OAS)” asking as a minimum for a recount.

One person who is celebrating the results — for the time being — is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Read why, below.

Original Post:

My native country of Ecuador is holding run-off presidential elections today.

Back in February, leftist leaning Lenin Moreno, former deputy to the outgoing, left-wing President Rafael Correa (and Correa’s hand-picked successor), did not receive the super majority needed to defeat his conservative opponent, Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business former banker, in an eight-way first round.

Thus today, in the run-off election between Moreno and Lasso, the voters in Ecuador get a second chance to make their votes count.

The people of Ecuador have the greatest stake in the outcome of the elections. There is great concern about the economy which has entered into a recession, weakened by Ecuador’s reliance on oil exports as prices have fallen and there are also concerns over corruption, censorship, civil liberties, “Correa’s iron-fisted rule.”

France 24 calls it a race that “is also a barometer of the political climate in Latin America, where more than a decade of leftist dominance has been waning.”

But there is one person, holed up in Ecuador’s embassy in London for the past five years, who must be watching the elections very closely and very nervously, for the outcome may decide whether he finally gets to go “home” (wherever that turns out to be) to face justice and possible imprisonment.

We are talking about the 45-year-old Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who is facing extradition to Sweden to fight allegations of sexual assault, but who is also very much wanted by the U.S. on suspicion of espionage for his organization’s disclosure of massive amounts of classified information.

Assange leaked hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 and released thousands of hacked emails from presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party during the 2016 elections, possibly influencing the outcome of that election.

Most recently, Assange’s WikiLeaks claimed it had obtained CIA “hacking tools” and threatened to provide technology companies access to them.

Assange has enjoyed refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy at the pleasure of President Rafael Correa, a vocal critic of the United States.

Presidential candidate Moreno has said that he would let Assange remain in the embassy, albeit with conditions: “We will always be alert and ask Mr. Assange to show respect in his declarations regarding our brotherly and friendly countries…”

On the other hand, the conservative Lasso has promised that, if elected, he will l evict Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy: “Ecuador has no business spending a single cent protecting someone who definitely leaked confidential information…I will take on the responsibility of inviting [Señor] Assange to leave the Ecuadorean embassy at the latest 30 days after the start of our government,” Lasso has said.

Should Lasso win the run-off elections and should he keep his promise, there do not seem to be “be further possible options open to Assange through the UN, after the UK and Sweden categorically rejected a finding by a UN working group that the Australian’s time in the embassy, where he first sought asylum in July 2012, amounted to ‘arbitrary detention,’” according to the Guardian

The Guardian quotes a Foreign Office spokesman saying, “Mr. Assange is not, and never has been, a victim of arbitrary detention…He entered the Ecuadorian embassy of his own volition and is free to leave whenever he wishes,” and the Guardian adds:

British authorities are equally adamant that, should Assange leave the embassy under any circumstances, he will be immediately arrested and sent to Sweden, which has been seeking to extradite him over an allegation of rape dating from 2010, which Assange denies.

From a possible Swedish “home,” it is a short eight-hour flight to New York, where a trial for espionage and other offenses and a “second home” await Mr. Assange.

The election is expected to be close.

Stay tuned.

Lead image, credit: Notimundo,Ecuador

What Really Happened in Sweden Friday Night (Updated)

Update:

After having falsely suggested that Sweden had witnessed a terror attack on Friday night — and received worldwide ridicule and condemnation — Trump offered the lame excuse that he was referring to a Fox News report on immigration and crime in Sweden.

The report “on Fox News’s ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight’ featured documentary filmmaker Ami Horowitz, who links an influx of refugees into Sweden to rising crime rates,” says The Hill and adds:

However, Reuters reported crime rates in Sweden have fallen since 2005 even with the addition of hundreds of thousands of refugees.

Subsequently, the Swedish Embassy in Washington, D.C. “offered to teach President Trump’s administration about the country’s immigration policies,” with a tweet offering to inform the US administration about Swedish immigration and integration policies.” (Below – Courtesy The Hill via Screengrab)

Original Post:

During the most recent rally in his never-ending campaign and speaking without the filter of the fake news, Trump surprised the world — in particular the Swedes — by revealing that Sweden (a country that has a long history of taking in refugees) had been the target of some horrific event the night before.

“We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany. You look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?” Trump said in a shrill, alarming voice.

Watch the video above, courtesy the Washington Post.

The Swedish people were flabbergasted and so were the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Embassy in Washington.

The Washington Post:

A spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press on Sunday that authorities were not aware of any “terror-linked major incidents” that occurred Friday night in Sweden. According to the spokeswoman, the Swedish Embassy in Washington has asked the State Department to clarify Trump’s remarks.

The New York Times:

Swedes reacted with confusion, anger and ridicule on Sunday to a vague remark by President Trump that suggested that something terrible had occurred in their country.

:

Nothing particularly nefarious happened in Sweden on Friday — or Saturday, for that matter — and Swedes were left baffled.

“Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking? Questions abound,” Carl Bildt, a former prime minister and foreign minister, wrote on Twitter.

The Swedish “AftonBladet” found it necessary to tell Trump, in English, what happened in Sweden on Friday night:

• 3:24 PM (local time): A man set himself on fire at Sergels torg, a plaza in central Stockholm. He was taken to the hospital with severe burns. There is so far no information on his motives but the intelligence service is not part of the investigation.

• 6:42 PM: The famous singer Owe Thörnqvist had some technical problems during rehearsal for the singing competition ”Melodifestivalen”. (However, the 87 year old singer still managed to secure the victory the very next day.)

• 8:23 PM: A man died in hospital, after an accident in the workplace earlier that day in the city of Borås.

• 8:46 PM: Due to harsh weather in the northern parts of Sweden the road E10 was closed between Katterjåkk and Riksgränsen. Due to strong winds and snow in the region the Met office also issued an avalanche warning.

• 12:17 AM: Police officers initiated a chase for a fleeing Peugeot through central parts of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The pursuit ended in police officers ramming the suspect at Engelbrektsgatan. The driver is now accused of driving under the influence, traffic violation and car theft.

Unless Trump was referring to the 3:24 PM (Sweden time) incident which happened Friday afternoon in Sweden — 9:24 AM Friday morning EST — this has to be classified as just another bit of hysteric fake news by the perpetual campaigner-in-chief.

Please view below a previous response by Sweden to Trump.

Sweden tries to curb buy-and-throw-away culture through tax breaks

If you wear your jeans a lot, eventually they’ll start to get a hole. What do you do? You throw them away and buy a new pair, of course. Everybody knows that. Sweden’s Minister of Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs Per Bolund says we need to change that mindset. “Part of that is making it more… [Read more…]

World of Trumps: What bombastic Donald Trump-style demagogues would look like in your country

It’s official; as per a count on Thursday, Donald Trump has officially claimed enough delegates to clinch the GOP nomination. For the millions of non-Americans gazing in stunned silence at the sudden rise of Donald Trump, it may be comforting to think that their own countries are immune to such a figure. But while wall-building protectionists… [Read more…]

Global Reaction to Newtown Massacre Continues (China, Sweden, Guatemala and Brazil)

Continuing with our global coverage of the reaction to Newtown, we have four fresh translations on the subject from China’s 022 China, Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet, Guatemala’s Prensa Libre, and Brazil’s Estadao.

On the same day Alan Lanza went on a rampage with an assault rifle in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six adults, half a world away, in China’s Henan Province, a deranged man entered an elementary school and attacked children with a knife, injuring 22. In an article headlined From Chenping to Newtown: ‘Don’t Let Children Go to School in Fear from China’s state-controlled 022 China, columnist Li Guohui argues that at every level, “friends, relatives, communities and societies’ have failed to properly care for the mentally ill,” which he suggests is the root cause of such attacks:

On November 14, dozens of innocent children experienced a murderous tragedy – an unforgivable and heinous crime!. Whether or not the assailant in China, Min Ying-jun, suffered some kind of neurotic episode, why would he go to an elementary school to attack children with a knife? What was Adam Lanza’s motive for killing his mother – and why after killing her, did he take four types of firearms to her elementary school and do such violence?

Looking around the globe, the number of mental patients with personality disorders has gradually risen, and their friends, relatives, communities and societies have failed at every level to provide the proper care and concern. If a “fuse” is unexpectedly lit, a “bomb” will explode. At that moment, these apparently meek lambs may turn into mighty butchers. Therefore, in order to create a more harmonious social environment, there must be stepped-up intervention with mentally ill people. Earlier mechanisms for prevention are a matter of great urgency.

Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet published an editorial headlined In Wake of Newtown, Swedes Must Reconsider School Openness, warning readers that similar shootings could well happen there, and that despite the value Swedes put on openness, keeping the nation’s children safe is an even higher value:

“It is past time to for America to tighten gun controls, as research shows that more weapons lead to more murders. … Of course, Swedes do not decide on American legislation, and neither do the Swedish people elect U.S. presidents. Yet there are reasons for Swedes to turn the spotlight on our home turf. … In Sweden, an open and accessible society are highly valued, and that includes our schools. Should we reconsider this assessment? … The answer may be a painful one.”

For Guatemala’s Prensa Libre, in an article headlined Cowboys and U.S. Gun Culture: Reaffirming Heroism and War, columnist Carolina Vasquez Araya, while acknowledging the nobility and historic roots of the right to bear arms in the U.S., writes that in both the U.S. and Guatemala, no agreement on the proper regulation of firearms will be possible until ‘people come first, and every human life is protected as demanded by ethics and the Constitution.’

While the U.S. arms industry is an important source of income for the country, the protection of the lives of its citizens is a fundamental obligation and should prevail. … The regulatory framework in the U.S. allows any citizen to own guns, with the exception of convicts and the mentally ill. It is a way of culturally reaffirming the concept of heroism, personified by cowboys and soldiers in their use of high-powered weapons – in which warmongering is almost an expression of the highest patriotism.

And for Brazil’s Estadao, columnist Lucia Guimaraes is fed up with the ‘post-massacre ritual’ now recurring after Friday’s shooting in Connecticut. In a column headlined Obama Must Follow Victoria Soto: Only Action, Not Tears, Saves Lives, Guimaraes writes that hypocritical American leaders should take their cue from a person who actually did something to save children’s lives: Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, killed protecting her first graders on Friday:

Today, the post-massacre ritual is repeating itself: politicians speak of God and family, and lower flags to half-staff. Platitudes are regurgitated during countless interviews. Psychologists and sociologists are invited to examine the assassin’s profile – almost always a lone White man. … But no one has the courage of Victoria Soto, the teacher who died protecting her students. The same politicians who want to protect children from gay marriage are opposed to prohibiting private ownership of automatic weapons.

READ MORE GLOBAL REACTION TO THE NEWTOWN TRAGEDY, AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Fury in Spain Boils Over at Mitt Romney’s Debate Remark (Spanish Newspaper Roundup)

Ten words uttered within the context of an American presidential debate are not to be taken lightly. In the case of Mitt Romney’s comment about Spain, spoken during his first debate with President Obama, the ripple effects are being felt and expressed by every media outlet in the country, and touch on political, economic and cultural issues.

In an article headlined A President Romney Will Come to Regret Damaging Remark about Our Nation, El Pais columnist Antonio Cano writes that by disparaging Spain at the crest of its worst modern crisis, Romney has not only damaged Spain’s reputation among global investors, he has likely poisoned any future relations he may need to have with the country as president of the United States.

“If he wins this election and becomes president of the United States, how will he manage his relationship with Spain, a member of NATO, a territory with strategically-important American military bases, and a first-rate ally of the United States? If Romney is made president, the phrase ‘I don’t want to go down the path to Spain,’ delivered at the worst moment in Spain’s recent history, will haunt him whenever he needs to come in contact with our country.”

In an article headlined Romney Lies About Government Expenditures in U.S. and Spain, El Mundo columnist Pablo Pardo cites IMF statistics to demonstrate not only that under presidents Clinton and Bush, the percentage of GDP used for U.S. government expenditures almost mirrored Spain’s, but that under President Obama, America is cutting such spending faster than Spain is.

“The United States has always spent between one and three percentage points less than Spain on the state, and that hasn’t changed … under Obama, the U.S. is cutting government spending at a faster rate than Spain, and according to the IMF, this year the margin will again be less than it was in Bush’s last budget. … In fact, the cost of financing U.S. government debt has fallen since Standard and Poor’s downgraded America’s debt rating.”

In a news item headlined After Romney Comment, Spain Asserts it has ‘Little to Envy’ in Regard to the American People, El Semanal quotes the nation’s deputy prime minister, Monsyer Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría, as saying in part:

“This is a country too big not to be better understood by some. But don’t you worry, we will try to explain it to them. … I think we have very little to envy when it comes to other peoples, and that includes the Americans. … And by the way, we are also very proud of our welfare state.

And finally, in an article headlined Mitt Romney and Spain: Is Ours a Failing Brand?, El Pais columnist Antonio Estella wonders aloud about why Romney would cite Spain as a nation in which government takes up too much of the nation’s output when there are other nations, like Sweden, Britain or Norway, where government takes up even more:

“Romney could have used other examples, but he didn’t; he gave the example of Spain, and everyone seemed to understand the subliminal message behind his comment. … That Spain should be put forward as the implicit example of what a world power should not be, and that everyone understands what this elliptical reference means, should make us think … a lot.”

READ MORE GLOBAL VIEWS OF THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Mitt Romney and Spain: Is Ours a Failing Brand? (El Pais, Spain)

In the presidential debate on Wednesday, it looks like Mitt Romney struck a nerve when he cited Spain as an example that America shouldn’t follow. For Spain’s El Pais, columnist Antonio Estella wonders aloud about why Romney would cite Spain as a nation in which government takes up too much of the nation’s output. Pointing out that there are other countries, like Sweden, Britain or Norway, where government takes up even more, Estella suggests that Spain is developing a bad reputation that must be combated.

For El Pais, Antonio Estella writes in part:

Why cite Spain? Clearly, the reasons are much more profound than mere statistics, if one takes into account that there are countries in which public spending is higher, like Sweden (53.1 percent of GDP), Norway (46 percent of GDP), and even the Britain (51 percent of GDP).

 

So Romney could have said: “Obama is leading us into a situation like Sweden’s, which spends even more than we do on government,” or “Obama is leading us into a situation like the U.K.’s, which spends …” If he had done so, would his audience have found the reference off target? U.S. debates are won and lost on such details, and I can imagine the headlines the next day: Romney Doesn’t Know Where Sweden is or Romney, in Blunder, Offers Sweden as Example of How Not to Be, or, to be even more cynical, Romney Confuses Sweden with Spain.

 

Obviously, Romney could have used other examples, but he didn’t; he gave the example of Spain, and everyone seemed to understand the subliminal message behind his comment, i.e.: not what he was saying literally, but what he was referring to without saying so directly.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SPANISH, OR READ MORE GLOBAL VIEWS OF THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Why you should read beyond the headline before claiming victory

I’ve seen several conservative bloggers link to this report’s findings that the U.S. has slipped to seventh on the global competitiveness rankings:

The United States has slipped further down a global ranking of the world’s most competitive economies, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) survey released on Wednesday.

The world’s largest economy, which was placed 5th last year, fell two positions to the 7th spot – marking its fourth year of decline

But while at face value this seems like a good headline for the GOP, take a look at the six countries ahead of us and take a poll of your fellow conservatives to see how many of them would want to embrace the left-of-center policies in their governments. I’m sure they’ll love the individual mandates in countries like Sweden and Switzerland. Every single one of these countries have universal health care systems that are far to the left of the current GOP and rank higher on the World Health Organization’s index for quality of care. These are the kinds of programs Republicans have been decrying as “big government.” It’s strange how not having your health care tied to your employer allows you to be nimble and take more risks in entrepreneurship, isn’t it? Just think what will happen in 2014 when pre-existing conditions are eliminated and Americans who currently want to start their own businesses but can’t leave their jobs because of employee health insurance suddenly have the freedom to do so.

Also about 70% of the Swedish labor force is unionized, which goes against conservative talking points that unions decrease competitiveness.

Bottom line: If Republicans want to link to this report to criticize Obama, then they need to actually examine the governments that beat out the U.S. Otherwise it’s just shallow political opportunism.

Follow Simon on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Email him at simon.bloggasm@gmail.com

A Global Glimpse at the Diplomatic Standoff Over Julian Assange (Sweden, Ecuador, Britain and Australia News Providers)

With Washington sticking to its story that it isn’t interested in Assange ‘at this time’, and the Australians remaining somewhat coy about why they haven’t done more to protect his constitutional rights as an Australian, the governments of Britain, Ecuador and Sweden are expressing a good deal of exasperation about the case – for differing reasons.

From Ecuador, in an editorial headlined Ecuador’s Embassy – and All Embassies – are Off Limits to British Police, the Ecuador newspaper Hoy not only rips British officials for suggesting that Ecuador’s Embassy could be entered by British police, it expresses the hope that the Rafeal Correa Administration will honor “the human rights and freedom of speech” that it is is invoking with respect to asylum matters, and “will without restriction just as assiduously respect them in this country.”

For Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter, in an editorial headlined Sweden’s Image Smeared by Missteps and Accusations of Assange Defenders, the newspaper ridicules the popular global narrative that downplays the sex charges against him as a ploy to hand him over to an execution-happy America as just as absurd as the notion that Rafael Correa wants to defend free speech and a free press.

From Britain and Australia, there is plenty of debate about the case – particularly over the past 24 hours in regard to the wisdom of threats by British authorities to storm the Ecuador Embassy. We have plugged all the reaction from Britain and Australia into a Bitly Bundle, and will continue to add to it as events warrant.

READ MORE AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Political Refugee Assange Deserves His Freedom – and Our Nation’s Thanks (La Jornada, Mexico)

Do the world’s lesser powers owe a debt of gratitude to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange? According to this editorial from Mexico’s La Jornada, all nations that ‘benefited’ from the work of Mr. Assange and his organization must stand united behind Ecuador, and urge Quito to approve his request for protection from the ‘politically bankrupt’ world powers.

The La Jornada Editorial says in part:

It is deplorable, but indicative of the contemporary world disorder, that Swedish legal officials have been suborned to invent allegations of sex crimes in the context of what has been exposed as a Washington revenge and damage control operation, as well as an attempt to suppress transparency, freedom of expression and the release of information carried out by the Australian and his organization.

It is to be hoped that Quito is able to face down the outside pressure that it is undoubtedly being subjected to and honor Assange’s record of dignity, personal sovereignty, respect for human rights, and his willingness to help correct the current world order, and respond favorably to the WikiLeaks founder’s request.

Ecuador will require the solidarity of honorable governments and societies like ours, which benefitted from the work of Assange and his team, and have obtained by way of their “leaks,” an invaluable tool for public scrutiny and social control of the authorities and world powers, and which have been strengthened in terms of transparency, freedom of expression and the right to information, which are essential elements for the development of democracy and civilization.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SPANISH AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Offering Assange Asylum May Have Negative Consequences for Ecuador (Hoy, Ecuador)

What are the dangers for Ecuador of offering political asylum to a man wanted for crimes in some of the Western world’s leading nations? This editorial from Ecuador’s Hoy warns the government in Quito not to be too hasty about letting its ideological leanings get the best of it.

The Hoy editorial says in part:

A few months ago, the government decided to use cables from WikiLeaks for its own benefit and with a very clear purpose: to further discredit the independent press and the journalists who work in it. In this way, he built closer ties with Julian Assange, who later had President Correa as one of the guests in his Internet program.

Assange’s request for asylum is now being analyzed. Considering the consequences that either option could cause this country, a decision must be discussed with responsibility and maturity. For the moment, the international reaction seems unfavorable to the request by the Australian, who is being investigated in Sweden for an ordinary crime rather than a question of a political nature: sexual assault.

The government has a sensitive issue in it hands. It should not only act out of its well-known ideological position, because the results could be counterproductive for Ecuador.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SPANISH AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

After September 11, We ‘Lost What We Wanted to Defend’ (Sydsvenskan, Sweden)

What have we sacrificed in the process of pursuing the ‘War on Terror’? Continuing with our global coverage of the 9-11 anniversary, in this moving article from Sweden’s Sydsvenskan, columnist Heidi Avellan writes that no matter how hard it may be, hatred must be met with love, and our principles mustn’t be sacrificed in the pursuit of vengeance.

For Sweden’s Sydsvenskan, Heidi Avellan writes in part:

It doesn’t take much empathy to understand that those who lost someone they love can never forgive the perpetrators.

It seems obvious that those who never saw their sons or daughters return after the Utöya massacre will never forgive Anders Behring Breivik.

But those of us in the rest of the society must meet hate with a love of a particular kind.

The consequences of the September 11 attacks have touched us all. Personal integrity, openness and human rights are endangered and the world has become the poorer for it.

The superpower has been weakened: The U.S. has been transformed from the largest creditor in the world to its largest borrower – and the center of economic power has shifted toward non-democratic China.

When people disappear; when secret airplanes transport people who are haphazardly accused of terrorism; when interrogation methods must be called torture; when 779 people are imprisoned in Guantanamo beyond the ordinary principles of law; when Osama bin Laden is killed rather than forced to stand trial, then the moral advantage of the Western democracies is diminished.

Then we have lost what we wanted to defend.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SWEDISH, OR SEE THE REST OF OUR GLOBAL COVERAGE AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

U.S. Must Choose Practical Patriotism Over Party Tactics (Upsala Nya Tidning, Sweden)

Have U.S. lawmakers lost the plot over the last few weeks? This editorial from Sweden’s Upsala Nya Tidning offers members of the U.S. Congress some practical advice about what to do about the U.S. debt ceiling, and some comparative politics just to remind them that America isn’t the only developed country struggling with debt and social safety net reform.

The Upsala Nya Tidning editorial says in part:

Now it’s really becoming embarrassing. We’ve been following the circus for a long time and now the whole U.S. economy is at risk with Democrats and Republicans continuing to argue. The debt ceiling must be raised by August 2 at the latest so that the country can afford to pay for pensions and interest on loans.

As a politician, making enemies among one’s own party members and voters or even risk one’s political career is obviously difficult. We hope that the drama in this serious, acute situation makes it easier for the parties to justify internal compromise.

There are times that the national interest must be held higher than party politics and electioneering. It is about practical patriotism, which is often praised in the United States.

We see several examples in the world around us in which both governments and the voters lack a sense of responsibility. For leaders, it’s about daring to take wise decisions – even if there is a cost. As voters, it’s more important that we keep ourselves well informed about the economic realities facing the country. In the end, it is our responsibility to neither reward economic frivolity nor punish politicians that dare to take tough decisions on behalf of the public good.

READ ON IN ENGLISH OR SWEDISH AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Lessons From Sweden : Economics and Culture

Imagine a country that has weathered the global recession (5.5 percent growth last year v 2.8 in the U.S), where unemployment is dropping (7 percent v 9 percent in the U.S.) and where gross debt is manageable (45 percent of the economy v 100 percent in the U.S.).

That country is Sweden, the pinko-socialist country that many U.S. conservatives love to hate.

One reason Sweden is in a better position today: in 2007, the U.S. had a budget deficit equivalent to 3 percent of the economy. Sweden had a budget surplus equal to 3.6 percent of its economy.

Why was Sweden in a better place than the U.S. and many of its neighbors? First, Sweden was hit hard in the 1990s — a collapse of its commercial real estate and banking sectors. The political response:

The nation set a goal of averaging a 1 percent budget surplus over time and held to it — which left the government with lots of flexibility to engage in deficit spending when the economy went south.

Second, Sweden doesn’t do war. (But its compulsory military service transitioned to voluntary in July 2010.)

Third, Sweden is a small country (9 million people) with relatively homogeneous (87 percent Lutheran) values.

The first point reflects fundamental Keynsian public policy practice: develop surplus in good years to prepare yourself for the bad ones. (In my lifetime, we in the U.S. have deficit spent in both lean and fat years — with the exception of the Clinton years.)

The second point is related to the first: the Bush tax cuts, had they not been implemented, would have paid for the direct expenses of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (as well as other government spending – see chart of U.S. revenue and outlays).

The final point, however, may be more crucial — it is related to scale and direction. It is easier for a culture to move together with shared values and it is easier to have shared values with a population of 9 million than with a population of 300 million.

Have we — the U.S. — grown to a point of serious diseconomies of scale?

WikiLeaks: A War, But What Kind of War?: Liberation, France

It seems as though the operations of WikiLeaks have set almost every source of power on the attack against a new enemy. But according to Liberation columnist Daniel Schneiderman, despite the focus on Julian Assange, pinpointing precisely what or who the enemy is – and how to stop it – is proving exceedingly difficult.

For Liberation, after outlining the importance of making sure that the sexual assault charges against Julian Assange are genuine rather than politically motivated, Daniel Schneiderman writes in part:

If this isn’t a war, it certainly looks like one. But what kind of war? This isn’t a war setting world powers against one another. Putin, who came vocally to Assange’s defense when the latter was imprisoned, will no doubt react differently when the site publishes Russian memos, which is bound to happen one day.

Neither is it a war between opposing economic interests. WikLeaks isn’t earning anything: it’s not a for-profit enterprise. At most, newspapers that have participated in its campaign may hope for some increase in circulation, but they simply climbed on the bandwagon – and money isn’t their primary motivation.

This a war that sets nation states – all nation states – and multinationals – all multinationals – against a new opponent, for which there is, as yet, scarcely a name. Global citizens’ opinion? The borderless republic of net-surfers? An ideal (transparency)? A technology (the Internet)? However hard one looks, it is difficult to find a precedent. In the battle raging right now, the smoke still swirls around the infantry.

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

An ‘Assange’ On Both Your Houses!: Novaya Gazeta, Russia

Those who have criticized WikiLeaks and its founder for targeting U.S. misdeeds and not Russia’s or China’s are about to get their wish. And in terms of Russian politics, this is sure to be a Battle Royal.

That’s because Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, a newspaper partly owned by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, has just entered into a partnership with WikiLeaks. And according to this article from the newspaper by columnist Roman Anin, an acquaintance of Julian Assange, in the near future, Russian citizens will find out many new things about ‘corruption at the highest political strata’ of their country. Anin explains why Novaya Gazeta has made this decision, and what kind of man Julian Assange really is. It is a long and interesting piece, well worth reading in its entirety.

For Novaya Gazeta, Roman Anin writes in small part:

As of today, Novaya Gazeta is an official partner of WikiLeaks.

Recently, there have been so many conspiracy theories and delirious conspiratorial accusations around the site and its founder, Julian Assange, that we probably should explain how we arrived at the idea of a partnership.

I once met Assange: we drank vodka in a circle of mutual friends in a small apartment in Stockholm. To help you understand: Assange, who today is being called everything from an undercover operative of the U.S. State Department to Agent Smith of the movie Matrix come to life, looked like a typical nerd from the mathematics department of some university. He wore a long awkward sweater, jeans someone gave him as a gift and socks that didn’t match. It was hard to believe when, a few months later, he surpassed bin Laden on the Pentagon’s list of leading enemies and senior American politicians began seriously discussions on the need to simply eliminate the man.

Assange is perhaps the world’s greatest hacker. At least among those interested in politics rather than stealing money from bank accounts, he has no equal. Even in a circle of acquaintances and with a shot of vodka, he spoke in a whisper, fearing that someone might overhear: He had a meeting planned late at night with someone, which he arranged as he repeatedly changed cell phones and SIM cards.

Assange’s goal is very simple and impossibly naïve: to make the world as transparent as possible and minimize the possibility of any government making decisions without the knowledge of the people. In regard to such a goal, one could laugh – but Assange believes in it with the conviction of a child.

WikiLeaks’ chief critics talk about one thing: Assange’s mission is incompatible with the interests of national security. It’s easy to test this theory: over the past decade, this has been perhaps the most effective tool of governments to justify their actions and regulate society. In the name of national security, gubernatorial elections can be cancelled [Russia]; in the name of saving the nation, another contingent of troops can be sent to die in a godforsaken land, and even businessmen can be put behind bars, named an enemy of the people and a threat to national security. [a reference to former Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, among others].

It’s startling, given how successfully this theory has worked before, how is has begun to malfunction when applied to the phenomenon of WikiLeaks. This site has many enemies in the highest political circles among the generals, and within the bureaucracy. But it has a far larger number of supporters among the common people. There is a very simple explanation for this: the soldier who has lost his legs in Afghanistan receives a long explanation about how he has spilled his blood in the name of national security; but suddenly Assange comes along, who has shown that behind all of the eloquent words about national security, hide the interests of a handful of privileged officials sleeping with prostitutes and greedy politicians who have get a percentage from every meter of gas pipeline.

Merry Christmas to one and all!

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

WikiLeaks: We’re All Hackers Now – Folha, Brazil

According to columnist Sergio Malbergier of Brazil’s Folha newspaper, the controversy over WikiLeaks’ release of classified U.S. diplomatic cables will be remembered not for its ‘rich collection of truisms and gossip,’ but for announcing a global cyberwar. And all of us are its foot soldiers.

For Folha, Sergio Malbergier writes in part:

This is a war that’s anything but virtual, and is fought between people, companies, organizations, countries or any combination of these actors.

The sites of individuals and organizations that have in some way helped attack WikiLeaks and put Assange in prison now suffer furious cyber attacks from hackers who claim to be WikiLeaks supporters. And hackers can range from lonely Internet knights to militants armed with super computers.

Furthermore, we’re all hackers. Think about your ability to access, store and disseminate data about third parties. It’s immense. And it continues to grow. The real world is increasingly converging with the digital.

Our total dependence on the Internet shows how the global network is the most important phenomenon in the world today. There is nothing more powerful than connecting all people in the world at once and forever.

For good or ill, we have barely begun to feel the effects of this new “big bang.”

WikiLeaks is just a foretaste of what is to come. Prepare yourself – if you can.

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Xenophobia is Again in Fashion Around the World: Folha, Brazil

The disturbing turmoil in the United States over Muslims and immigrants is not at all an isolated case. Columnist Clovis Rossi of Brazil’s Folha newspaper writes that even nations considered the most tolerant in the world are experiencing right-wing upsurges that bode ill for the virtues of tolerance and coexistence.

For Brazil’s Folha, Clovis Rossi writes in part:

for the first time in that country’s history, the extreme right, the Swedish Democrats, overcame the minimum electoral barrier (4 percent of the vote) to gain access to Parliament. They received 5.7 percent and will occupy 20 seats in a Parliament of 157.

Sweden, a paradigm of coexistence and tolerance, would be the last country to open the doors of its Parliament to a xenophobic and anti-immigrant movement. In fact, they would be the second to last, if The Netherlands, the previous such paradigm, had not succumbed and given the Liberty Party of Geert Wilders the third-strongest political role in the country, moving in the June elections from 9 to 24 chairs in Parliament (not to mention breaking one of the oldest records of tolerance that was one of the nicest characteristics of the Dutch). … To give you a, let us say, more universal idea of who Wilders is, last week he was the guest of honor of the Tea Party march, the ultraconservative movement in America.

Extreme right-wing parties are now part of the Italian government and occupy seats in the Danish, Hungarian, Austrian and Bulgarian Parliaments, not to mention the possibility that Wilders’ Liberty Party could end up participating in the Dutch government (negotiations for forming that government are creeping along). And that is to say nothing of the anti-Roma actions of France’s Nicolas Sarkozy government.

One gets the clear impression that the flood of immigrants seeking European (or American) paradise will no longer be tolerated. As long as they were needed to fill jobs that the locals rejected because of low salaries or poor conditions, they were accepted. Now their numbers haunt the citizenry. Looking at the Swedish case alone, 14 percent of their 9.3 million inhabitants are foreign. To that you can add 6 percent who, though born in Sweden, are children of foreigners.

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

Let’s Hope Iraq Has Taught Us Something: Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

Continuing with our tour of what the rest of the world thinks of President Obama’s declaration of an end to U.S. combat operations in Iraq, this editorial from Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter has one very succinct message for the United States and any nation with similar intentions: learn the limits of military power.

The Dagens Nyheter editorial says in part:

… the achievements are meager. Few neighboring countries are likely to view Iraq as a role model. Saddam Hussein wasn’t hiding any weapons of mass destruction and there were no international terrorists in Iraq. On the other hand, the war led to a wave of bloody terror in Iraq that is still going on.

At the other end of the spectrum are the enormous costs. The U.S. has spent almost a trillion dollars in Iraq. But the money hardly counts in light of such human suffering.

For better or worse, what has been done cannot be undone. But we can at least try to learn from past mistakes. And in the case of Iraq, it is above all about distinguishing what can and cannot be achieved by military means.

When there are so many overlapping reasons for a decision rather than a single good one, people should be suspicious. This is an insight worth keeping in mind now, when operations in Afghanistan are justified by a smorgasbord of reasons: the fight against terrorism, building democracy, the liberation of women, regional security, etc.

READ ON AT WORLDMEETS.US, your most trusted translator and aggregator of foreign news and views about our nation.

The Case of Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr is the last Westerner being held at Guantanamo Bay. His story is a bit convoluted. He was born in Toronto. But his father — who was no model citizen — decreed that his son should travel to Afghanistan and be indoctrinated by the Taliban.

When the United States invaded that country after September 11th, Khadr was fighting alongside his tutors. During a firefight with American soldiers, he is alleged to have thrown a hand grenade at an American Green Beret and killed him. Khadr himself was wounded in the battle. The details are a bit sketchy. Initially, the officer in charge of the American forces wrote that the insurgent who had thrown the grenade had been killed. Later, he rewrote his report, claiming that Khadr was responsible for the soldier’s death. Khadr was fifteen when he was taken to Guantanamo. He is now twenty-three.

During that time all other prisoners from Western nations — Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Britain — have been repatriated and faced courts in their own countries. Both the Bush and the Obama administrations have asked Stephen Harper’s government to bring Khadr home. The government has repeatedly said it will not take him back.

During his imprisonment, Khadr was interrogated by agents from CSIS — the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service — Canada’s version of the CIA. Their methods included sleep deprivation. He was also interrogated by American agents, one of whom has testified that he told Khadr there were incidents of Afghan boys being raped by “four big black guys” to extract confessions from them.

In January, 2010, Khadr’s case was argued before the Supreme Court of Canada. The court ruled that Khadr’s rights — which are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — had been violated. It did not recommend a specific remedy. But it did tell the government that it had to rectify the situation. The government’s response was to send a diplomatic note to Washington, requesting that Canadian collected evidence not be used in Khadr’s prosecution. It said nothing about the evidence collected and the methods used by his American interrogators.

Frustrated by the government’s tepid response, Khadr’s lawyers brought suit in a lower Canadian court, which ruled earlier this month that the government had a week to draw up a list of remedies to rectify the violation of Khadr’s constitutional rights. In the meantime, Khadr went before a military tribunal and announced that he had fired his military defence attorney — something the judge would not allow. He also revealed that he had been offered a plea bargain — a thirty year sentence, including five of the years spent at Guantanamo, and twenty five years to be spent in a Canadian prison. He had rejected the deal, he said, because, “I have been used too many times when I was a child, and that’s why I’m here — taking the blame for things I didn’t have a choice in doing, but was forced to do by elders.”

The Harper government is appealing the latest court ruling. It has no intention of bringing Khadr home. It would much rather let the American justice system deal with him. It argues that the government’s right to set foreign policy trumps the Charter of Rights and Freedoms — a surprising shift for a political party which claims that government intrudes tyrannically on individual liberties, and which insists that the courts have been negligent when it comes to delivering swift and sure justice. The truth is that Mr. Harper and his colleagues believe that Canada’s laws are to be obeyed when it is convenient to do so.

They are shrewd folks.

But they are entirely devoid of courage.

Owen Gray grew up in Montreal, where he received a B. A. from Concordia University. After crossing the border and completing a Master’s degree at the University of North Carolina, he returned to Canada, married, raised a family and taught high school for 32 years. Now retired, he lives — with his wife and youngest son — on the northern shores of Lake Ontario. This is cross posted from his blog Northern Reflections.

Tiger Woods: Fallen Star for a Public Age – de Volkskrant, The Netherlands

Taking a break from earth-shaking issues like climate change, war and the never-ending difficulties in the Middle East, columnist Nazmiye Oral of de Volkskrant of The Netherlands writes that the troubles of Tiger Woods are a metaphor for life in the modern world – a period in history in which everyone seems to want to live life in public – as long as no blemishes appear on the perfect portrait painted by themselves.

For de Volkskrant, Nazmiye Oral writes in part:

“The reason for this type of openness is only partly based the masturbatory reassurance that modern humans need to avert feeling lonely and convince themselves that they matter. The public sharing of feelings and lives is something we all crave – the need to see how life unfolds. How do others live it? How do they fall down and get back up? How do they manage? How do they keep up the faith and keep on going?”

“It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that the life of Tiger Woods, the once pristine, highest-paid golfer in the world, has been completely trashed in a period of two weeks. … All the juicy details are on hand: the adultery, the indiscreet money-grubbing mistresses, a humiliated and angry wife, voicemail messages, text messages, nude photos, a sex tape, lucrative advertisement deals being withdrawn, a canceled tournament, etc. Woods, a blazian half African-American, half-Asian, was rather colorless before the leaking of his escapades.”

“Today, Tiger Woods isn’t a brand but a person – more naked than naked. He stands to lose lucrative deals, he’s the laughingstock of the sporting world, is in Sweden with his Swedish wife spending his millions and remaining quiet, only to return in a number of years, i.e.: to be purified.”

[Read more…]

The Norwegians ‘Got Carried Away’ with Obama: Dagens Nyheter, Sweden

So what do the Swedes – the custodians of every other Nobel Prize – think of the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s decision to award the Peace Prize to President Barack Obama?

This editorial from Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter says in part:

“That the Norwegians got carried away with euphoria over Obama’s election is understandable, but that doesn’t make their decision any more justifiable. By rewarding Obama with a Nobel Prize, the Norwegian committee has managed to raise already unrealistic expectations of the U.S. president. With that they have done a disservice both to Obama as well as the Nobel Peace Prize.”

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Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize: A Word From Norway

Nobel Medal Large

We have seen reactions from just about everywhere in the world on the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to president Obama.

How about from Norway where its Parliament appoints the Nobel Committee that selects the Laureate for the Peace Prize?

Yesterday, the Norwegian newspaper Dagsavisen presented a Norwegian view.

In “A Bold Peace Prize,” translated at Watching America (watchingamewrica.com), the author, Ivar A. Iversen, says that “Obama’s peace prize could be difficult to defend in the coming months.”

While stating that there are certainly arguments for the award, and recognizing it as “symbolic” and “forward-looking,” the author also worries about how the award will be seen when Obama makes certain decisions that “may not look so good in relation to the will of Nobel.”

Iversen lists several such concerns and concludes:

The Nobel Peace Prize can give Obama’s work more momentum. But one cannot deny that it will be more of a problem when facing domestic opposition and opinion.

This is without a doubt a very bold award. It could prove to be forward-looking. But it could also be difficult to defend in the months ahead.

An interesting view from Norway.

Note: The Nobel Peace Prize is the only Nobel Prize not presented in Stockholm, Sweden.

Lawyer for Scientology Attacks Position of France: Le Figaro, France

The ongoing battle in the streets of Iran isn’t the only political-religious clash going on.

For Scientologists, perhaps the most pressing current conflict has been taking place in a Paris court. Seven French members of the group, the organization itself and its bookstore have been charged with organized group fraud and illegal use of pharmaceuticals. Scientology frames the case as a thinly-veiled attack on organized religion.

According to this news account by Angelique Negroni of France’s Le Figaro, Scientology’s lead attorney – one of France’s best – ‘threw every argument he had’ into his closing statement last week.

For Le Figaro, Negroni writes in part:

“The defense’s closing speech was Scientology’s last chance and lawyer Maisonneuve threw every argument he had to try and convince the court. After prosecution’s closing argument on Monday, which would amount to a death penalty for Scientology in France since it demands the dissolution of its two flagship strictures – the star of the Paris Bar did everything he could to defend the organization. It was a perilous mission, as the indictment which accused Scientology of nothing less that carrying out a monumental organized group fraud was still clear in people’s minds.

“But Patrick Maisonneuve, who was the organization’s champion in 1996 during a major trial in Lyon, knows what he’s doing. In fact, he is such an expert he offered an international dimension. A mini-world tour of cleverly chosen destinations which permitted him to show the extent to which France is taking an isolated stance on the issue. He reminded everyone that Scientology is registered as a religion in the United States, Portugal, Quebec and, as of 2008, in Spain.

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Lawyer for Scientology France Rails Against Injustice: Le Monde of France

Continuing with our coverage of the just-concluded trial against Scientology in France, this news item from Le Monde is in part made up of quotes from Scientology’s lead attorney, Patrick Maisonneuve, who sees the case as a cop-out on the part of prosecutors. While the charges against Scientology are for organized group fraud and the illegal use of pharmaceuticals, Maisonneuve says the real defendent in the case is religion writ large – and prosecutors simply lack the nerve to go after such a formidable opponent.

Apparently shocked at the turn the case has taken, Maisonneuve is quoted by Le Monde reporter Yves Bordenave as saying in part:

“Such a harsh indictment for people who haven’t enriched themselves with even a cent of a euro! … If the authorities believe that Scientology is a danger to public order, well, these authorities should take up their responsibilities! Let them say it. … Because this is about arbitrating the issue of religion. … We are being asked to dissolve. But I ask you to dissolve prejudices, preconceived notions and attacks on freedom of expression.”

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