Thursday, 30 January 2014

Obama State of Union Address 2014: செயல்தந்திர வழி குறித்த விளக்க உரை.

Full Text of President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Full Text of President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address


Here is the transcript of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, as provided by the White House:

U.S. Capitol

9:15 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

Today in America, a teacher spent extra time with a student who needed it, and did her part to lift America’s graduation rate to its highest level in more than three decades.  An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup, and did her part to add to the more than 8 million new jobs our businesses have created
over the past four years.  (Applause.)  An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world, and did his part to help America wean itself off foreign oil.

A farmer prepared for the spring after the strongest five-year stretch of farm exports in our history.  A rural doctor gave a young child the first prescription to treat asthma that his mother could afford.  (Applause.)  A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired, but dreaming big dreams for his son.  And in
tight-knit communities all across America, fathers and mothers will tuck in their kids, put an arm around their spouse, remember fallen comrades, and give thanks for being home from a war that, after 12 long years, is finally coming to an end.  (Applause.)

Tonight, this chamber speaks with one voice to the people we represent:  It is you, our citizens, who make the state of our union strong.  (Applause.)

And here are the results of your efforts:  The lowest unemployment rate in over five years.  (Applause.)  A rebounding housing market.  (Applause.)  A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s.  (Applause.)  More oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world — the first time
that’s happened in nearly 20 years.  (Applause.)  Our deficits — cut by more than half.  (Applause.) And for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world’s number one place to invest; America is.  (Applause.)

That’s why I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America.  After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.

The question for everyone in this chamber, running through every decision we make this year, is whether we are going to help or hinder this progress.  For several years now, this town has been consumed by a rancorous argument over the proper size of the federal government.  It’s an important debate — one that
dates back to our very founding.  But when that debate prevents us from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy — when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people.  (Applause.)

Now, as President, I’m committed to making Washington work better, and rebuilding the trust of the people who sent us here. And I believe most of you are, too.  Last month, thanks to the work of Democrats and Republicans, Congress finally produced a budget that undoes some of last year’s severe cuts to priorities
like education.  Nobody got everything they wanted, and we can still do more to invest in this country’s future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way, but the budget compromise should leave us freer to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.  (Applause.)

In the coming months, let’s see where else we can make progress together.  Let’s make this a year of action.  That’s what most Americans want:  for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  What I believe unites the people of this nation — regardless of race or region or party,
young or old, rich or poor — is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America.  (Applause.)

Let’s face it:  That belief has suffered some serious blows. Over more than three decades, even before the Great Recession hit, massive shifts in technology and global competition had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.

Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.  But average wages have barely budged.  Inequality has deepened.  Upward mobility has stalled.  The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many
Americans are working more than ever just to get by, let alone to get ahead.  And too many still aren’t working at all.

So our job is to reverse these trends.  It won’t happen right away, and we won’t agree on everything.  But what I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.  Some require congressional action, and I
am eager to work with all of you.  But America does not stand still — and neither will I.  (Applause.)  So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.  (Applause.)

As usual, our First Lady sets a good example.  (Applause.)  Michelle’s Let’s Move partnership with schools, businesses, local leaders has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in 30 years.  (Applause.)  And that’s an achievement that will improve lives and reduce health care costs for decades
to come.  The Joining Forces alliance that Michelle and Jill Biden launched has already encouraged employers to hire or train nearly 400,000 veterans and military spouses.  (Applause.)

Taking a page from that playbook, the White House just organized a College Opportunity Summit, where already, 150 universities, businesses, nonprofits have made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education — and to help every hardworking kid go to college and succeed when they
get to campus.  (Applause.)  And across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors, and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.

The point is there are millions of Americans outside of Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward.  They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.

That’s what drew our forebears here.  It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker.  (Applause.)  How the son of a barkeep is Speaker of the House.  (Applause.)  How the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

Opportunity is who we are.  And the defining project of our generation must be to restore that promise.  We know where to start:  The best measure of opportunity is access to a good job. With the economy picking up speed, companies say they intend to hire more people this year.  And over half of big manufacturers
say they’re thinking of insourcing jobs from abroad.  (Applause.)

So let’s make that decision easier for more companies.  Both Democrats and Republicans have argued that our tax code is riddled with wasteful, complicated loopholes that punish businesses investing here and reward companies that keep profits abroad.  Let’s flip that equation.  Let’s work together to close those loopholes, end those incentives to ship jobs overseas, and lower tax rates for businesses that create jobs right here at home.  (Applause.)

Moreover, we can take the money we save from this transition to tax reform to create jobs rebuilding our roads, upgrading our ports, unclogging our commutes — because in today’s global economy, first-class jobs gravitate to first-class infrastructure.  We’ll need Congress to protect more than 3 million jobs by finishing transportation and waterways bills this summer.  (Applause.)  That can happen.  But I’ll act on my own to slash bureaucracy and streamline the permitting process for key projects, so we can get more construction workers on the job as fast as possible.  (Applause.)

We also have the chance, right now, to beat other countries in the race for the next wave of high-tech manufacturing jobs.  My administration has launched two hubs for high-tech manufacturing in Raleigh, North Carolina and Youngstown, Ohio, where we’ve connected businesses to research universities that can help

America lead the world in advanced technologies.  Tonight, I’m announcing we’ll launch six more this year.  Bipartisan bills in both houses could double the number of these hubs and the jobs they create.  So get those bills to my desk; put more Americans back to work.  (Applause.)

Let’s do more to help the entrepreneurs and small business owners who create most new jobs in America.  Over the past five years, my administration has made more loans to small business owners than any other.  And when 98 percent of our exporters are small businesses, new trade partnerships with Europe and
the Asia Pacific will help them create more jobs.  We need to work together on tools like bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority to protect our workers, protect our environment, and open new markets to new goods stamped “Made in the USA.”  (Applause.)

Listen, China and Europe aren’t standing on the sidelines, and neither should we.  We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow.  This is an edge America cannot surrender.  Federally funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and
smartphones.  And that’s why Congress should undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research so we can unleash the next great American discovery.  (Applause.)

There are entire industries to be built based on vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material that’s stronger than steel.  And let’s pass a patent reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly and needless litigation.  (Applause.)

Now, one of the biggest factors in bringing more jobs back is our commitment to American energy.  The all-of-the-above energy strategy I announced a few years ago is working, and today, America is closer to energy independence than we have been in decades.  (Applause.)

One of the reasons why is natural gas — if extracted safely, it’s the bridge fuel that can power our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.  Businesses plan to invest almost $100 billion in new factories that use natural gas.  I’ll cut red tape to help states get those factories built and put folks
to work, and this Congress can help by putting people to work building fueling stations that shift more cars and trucks from foreign oil to American natural gas.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, my administration will keep working with the industry to sustain production and jobs growth while strengthening protection of our air, our water, our communities. And while we’re at it, I’ll use my authority to protect more of our pristine federal lands for future generations.  (Applause.)

 It’s not just oil and natural gas production that’s booming; we’re becoming a global leader in solar, too.  Every four minutes, another American home or business goes solar, every panel pounded into place by a worker whose job cannot be outsourced.  Let’s continue that progress with a smarter tax policy that stops
giving $4 billion a year to fossil fuel industries that don’t need it, so we can invest more in fuels of the future that do.  (Applause.)

And even as we’ve increased energy production, we’ve partnered with businesses, builders, and local communities to reduce the energy we consume.  When we rescued our automakers, for example, we worked with them to set higher fuel efficiency standards for our cars.  In the coming months, I’ll build on that
success by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump.

And taken together, our energy policy is creating jobs and leading to a cleaner, safer planet.  Over the past eight years, the United States has reduced our total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth.  (Applause.)  But we have to act with more urgency — because a changing climate is already harming
Western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods.  That’s why I directed my administration to work with states, utilities, and others to set new standards on the amount of carbon pollution our power plants are allowed to dump into the air.  (Applause.)

The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled.  Climate change is a fact.  (Applause.)  And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new
sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.  (Applause.)

Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted.  And I know that members of both parties in the House want to do
the same.  Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades.  And for good reason:  When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for
businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody.  So let’s get immigration reform done this year.  (Applause.)  Let’s get it done.  It’s time.  (Applause.)

The ideas I’ve outlined so far can speed up growth and create more jobs.  But in this rapidly changing economy, we have to make sure that every American has the skills to fill those jobs.  The good news is we know how to do it.

Two years ago, as the auto industry came roaring back, Andra Rush opened up a manufacturing firm in Detroit.  She knew that Ford needed parts for the best-selling truck in America, and she knew how to make those parts.  She just needed the workforce.  So she dialed up what we call an American Jobs Center,
places where folks can walk in to get the help or training they need to find a new job or a better job.  She was flooded with new workers.  And today, Detroit Manufacturing Systems has more than 700 employees. And what Andra and her employees experienced is how it should be for every employer and every job

So tonight, I’ve asked Vice President Biden to lead an across-the-board reform of America’s training programs to make sure they have one mission:  Train Americans with the skills employers need, and match them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.  (Applause.)

That means more on-the-job training and more apprenticeships that set a young worker on an upward trajectory for life.  It means connecting companies to community colleges that can help design training to fill their specific needs.  And if Congress wants to help, you can concentrate funding on proven programs that
connect more ready-to-work Americans with ready-to-be-filled jobs.

I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy.  But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.  (Applause.)

Let me tell you why.  Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys.  She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager, put herself through college.  She’d never collected unemployment benefits, but she’d been paying taxes.  In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home.  A week
later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved.  Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter, the kind I get every day.  “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote.  “I’m not dependent on the government.  Our country depends on people like us who build
careers, contribute to society, care about our neighbors.  I’m confident that in time I will find a job, I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love.  Please give us this chance.”

Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance.  (Applause.)  Give them that chance.  (Applause.)  Give them the chance.  They need our help right now.  But more important, this country needs them in the game.  That’s why I’ve been asking CEOs to give more long-term unemployed workers
a fair shot at new jobs, a new chance to support their families.  And in fact, this week, many will come to the White House to make that commitment real.

Tonight, I ask every business leader in America to join us and to do the same –- because we are stronger when America fields a full team.  (Applause.)

Of course, it’s not enough to train today’s workforce.  We also have to prepare tomorrow’s workforce, by guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education.  (Applause.)

Estiven Rodriguez couldn’t speak a word of English when he moved to New York City at age nine.  But last month, thanks to the support of great teachers and an innovative tutoring program, he led a march of his classmates through a crowd of cheering parents and neighbors from their high school to the post office,
where they mailed off their college applications.  And this son of a factory worker just found out he’s going to college this fall.  (Applause.)

Five years ago, we set out to change the odds for all our kids.  We worked with lenders to reform student loans, and today, more young people are earning college degrees than ever before.  Race to the Top, with the help of governors from both parties, has helped states raise expectations and performance.

Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C. are making big strides in preparing students with the skills for the new economy –- problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, math.

Some of this change is hard.  It requires everything from more challenging curriculums and more demanding parents to better support for teachers and new ways to measure how well our kids think, not how well they can fill in a bubble on a test.  But it is worth it and it is working.  The problem is we’re still not reaching
enough kids, and we’re not reaching them in time.  And that has to change.

Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.  (Applause.)  Last year, I asked this Congress to help states make high-quality pre-K available to every 4-year-old.  And as a parent as well as a President, I repeat that request tonight.  But in the meantime, 30
states have raised pre-k funding on their own.  They know we can’t wait.  So just as we worked with states to reform our schools, this year we’ll invest in new partnerships with states and communities across the country in a Race to the Top for our youngest children.  And as Congress decides what it’s going to do, I’m
going to pull together a coalition of elected officials, business leaders, and philanthropists willing to help more kids access the high-quality pre-K that they need.  (Applause.)  It is right for America.  We need to get this done.  (Applause.)

Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years.  Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we’ve got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit.  (Applause.)

We’re working to redesign high schools and partner them with colleges and employers that offer the real-world education and hands-on training that can lead directly to a job and career.  We’re shaking up our system of higher education to give parents more information and colleges more incentives to offer better
value, so that no middle-class kid is priced out of a college education.

We’re offering millions the opportunity to cap their monthly student loan payments to 10 percent of their income, and I want to work with Congress to see how we can help even more Americans who feel trapped by student loan debt.  (Applause.)  And I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and
corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.

The bottom line is Michelle and I want every child to have the same chance this country gave us.  But we know our opportunity agenda won’t be complete — and too many young people entering the workforce today will see the American Dream as an empty promise — unless we also do more to make sure our
economy honors the dignity of work, and hard work pays off for every single American.

Today, women make up about half our workforce, but they still make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment.  Women deserve equal pay for equal work.  (Applause.)  She deserves to have a baby without sacrificing her job.  A mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent without running into hardship.  (Applause.)  And you know what, a father does, too.  It is time to do away with workplace policies that belong in a “Mad Men” episode.  (Laughter and applause.)  This year, let’s all come together — Congress, the White House, businesses from Wall Street to Main Street — to give every woman the opportunity she deserves.  (Applause.)  Because I believe when women succeed, America succeeds.  (Applause.)

Now, women hold a majority of lower-wage jobs, but they’re not the only ones stifled by stagnant wages.  Americans understand that some people will earn more money than others, and we don’t resent those who, by virtue of their efforts, achieve incredible success.  That’s what America is all about.  But Americans
overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full-time should ever have to raise a family in poverty.  (Applause.)

In the year since I asked this Congress to raise the minimum wage, five states have passed laws to raise theirs.  Many businesses have done it on their own.  Nick Chute is here today with his boss, John Soranno.  John’s an owner of Punch Pizza in Minneapolis, and Nick helps make the dough.  (Laughter.)  Only now

he makes more of it.  (Laughter.)  John just gave his employees a raise, to 10 bucks an hour — and that’s a decision that has eased their financial stress and boosted their morale.

Tonight, I ask more of America’s business leaders to follow John’s lead:  Do what you can to raise your employees’ wages.  (Applause.)  It’s good for the economy.  It’s good for America.  (Applause.)  To every mayor, governor, state legislator in America, I say you don’t have to wait for Congress to act — Americans
will support you if you take this on.

And as a chief executive, I intend to lead by example.  Profitable corporations like Costco see higher wages as the smart way to boost productivity and reduce turnover.  We should too.  In the coming weeks, I will issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally funded employees a fair
wage of at least $10.10 an hour — because if you cook our troops’ meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.  (Applause.)

Of course, to reach millions more, Congress does need to get on board.  Today, the federal minimum wage is worth about 20 percent less than it was when Ronald Reagan first stood here.  And Tom Harkin and George Miller have a bill to fix that by lifting the minimum wage to $10.10.  It’s easy to remember, $10.10.

This will help families.  It will give businesses customers with more money to spend.  It does not involve any new bureaucratic program.  So join the rest of the country.  Say yes. Give America a raise.  (Applause.)  Give them a raise.  (Applause.)

There are other steps we can take to help families make ends meet, and few are more effective at reducing inequality and helping families pull themselves up through hard work than the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Right now, it helps about half of all parents at some point.  Think about that — it helps about half of all

parents in America at some point in their lives.  But I agree with Republicans like Senator Rubio that it doesn’t do enough for single workers who don’t have kids.  So let’s work together to strengthen the credit, reward work, help more Americans get ahead.

Let’s do more to help Americans save for retirement.  Today, most workers don’t have a pension.  A Social Security check often isn’t enough on its own.  And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn’t help folks who don’t have 401(k)s.  That’s why, tomorrow, I will direct the Treasury to
create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings:  MyRA.

It’s a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.  MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in.  And if this Congress wants to help, work with me to fix an upside-down tax code that gives big tax breaks to help the wealthy save, but does little or nothing for middle-class
Americans.  Offer every American access to an automatic IRA on the job, so they can save at work just like everyone in this chamber can.

And since the most important investment many families make is their home, send me legislation that protects taxpayers from footing the bill for a housing crisis ever again, and keeps the dream of homeownership alive for future generations.  (Applause.)

One last point on financial security:  For decades, few things exposed hardworking families to economic hardship more than a broken health care system.  And in case you haven’t heard, we’re in the process of fixing that.  (Applause.)  A preexisting condition used to mean that someone like Amanda Shelley, a
physician’s assistant and single mom from Arizona, couldn’t get health insurance.  But on January 1st, she got covered.  (Applause.)  On January 3rd, she felt a sharp pain.  On January 6th, she had emergency surgery.  Just one week earlier, Amanda said, that surgery would have meant bankruptcy.

That’s what health insurance reform is all about -– the peace of mind that if misfortune strikes, you don’t have to lose everything.  Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans.  (Applause.)  More than 9 million Americans have

signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. (Applause.)  Nine million.

And here’s another number: zero.  Because of this law, no American — none — zero — can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, or back pain, or cancer.  (Applause.)  No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman.  (Applause.)  And we did all this
while adding years to Medicare’s finances, keeping Medicare premiums flat, and lowering prescription costs for millions of seniors.

Now, I do not expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law.  (Laughter.)  But I know that the American people are not interested in refighting old battles.  So, again, if you have specific plans to cut costs, cover more people, increase choice — tell America what you’d do differently.  Let’s see if the
numbers add up.  But let’s not have another 40-something votes to repeal a law that’s already helping millions of Americans like Amanda.  (Applause.)

The first 40 were plenty.  We all owe it to the American people to say what we’re for, not just what we’re against.  And if you want to know the real impact this law is having, just talk to Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky, who’s here tonight.  Now Kentucky is not the most liberal part of the country.  (Laughter.) That’s not where I got my highest vote totals.  (Laughter.)  But he’s like a man possessed when it comes to covering his commonwealth’s families.  They are our neighbors and our friends, he said.  “They’re people we shop and go to church with, farmers out on the tractor, grocery clerks.  They’re people who go to work every morning praying they don’t get sick.  No one deserves to live that way.”

Steve is right.  That’s why, tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31st.  (Applause.)  Help them get covered.  (Applause.)  Moms, get on your kids to sign up.  Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application.  It will give her some peace
of mind –- plus, she’ll appreciate hearing from you.  (Laughter.)

After all, that’s the spirit that has always moved this nation forward.  It’s the spirit of citizenship –- the recognition that through hard work and responsibility, we can pursue our individual dreams but still come together as one American family to make sure the next generation can pursue its dreams as well.

Citizenship means standing up for everyone’s right to vote. (Applause.)  Last year, part of the Voting Rights Act was weakened, but conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats are working together to strengthen it.  And the bipartisan commission I appointed, chaired by my campaign lawyer and Governor Romney’s campaign lawyer, came together and have offered reforms so that no one has to wait more than a half hour to vote.  Let’s support these efforts.  (Applause.)  It should be the power of our vote, not the size of our bank accounts that drives our democracy.  (Applause.)

Citizenship means standing up for the lives that gun violence steals from us each day.  I’ve seen the courage of parents, students, pastors, police officers all over this country who say “we are not afraid.”  And I intend to keep trying, with or without Congress, to help stop more tragedies from visiting innocent Americans
in our movie theaters, in our shopping malls, or schools like Sandy Hook.  (Applause.)

Citizenship demands a sense of common purpose; participation in the hard work of self-government; an obligation to serve our communities.  And I know this chamber agrees that few Americans give more to their country than our diplomats and the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  (Applause.)

Tonight, because of the extraordinary troops and civilians who risk and lay down their lives to keep us free, the United States is more secure.  When I took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Today, all our troops are out of Iraq.  More than 60,000 of our troops have already come

home from Afghanistan.  With Afghan forces now in the lead for their own security, our troops have moved to a support role.  Together with our allies, we will complete our mission there by the end of this year, and America’s longest war will finally be over.  (Applause.)

After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future.  If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions:  training and assisting Afghan forces, and

counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda.  For while our relationship with Afghanistan will change, one thing will not:  our resolve that terrorists do not launch attacks against our country.  (Applause.)

The fact is that danger remains.  While we put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world.  In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable those networks. In Syria,
we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks.  Here at home, we’ll keep strengthening our defenses, and combat new threats like cyberattacks.  And as we reform our defense budget, we will have to keep faith with our men and women in uniform, and invest in the capabilities they need to succeed in future missions.  (Applause.)

We have to remain vigilant.  But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our outstanding military alone.  As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office.  But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it is truly necessary, nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts. We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us — large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.

So even as we actively and aggressively pursue terrorist networks -– through more targeted efforts and by building the capacity of our foreign partners — America must move off a permanent war footing.  (Applause.)  That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones — for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.

That’s why, working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs, because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.  (Applause.)

And with the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay — (applause) — because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military actions, but by remaining true to our constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.  (Applause.)

You see, in a world of complex threats, our security, our leadership depends on all elements of our power, including strong and principled diplomacy.  American diplomacy has rallied more than 50 countries to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands, and allowed us to reduce our own reliance on
Cold War stockpiles.  American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated.  (Applause.)

And we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve — a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.  As we speak, American diplomacy is supporting the Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in the difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to
achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel — a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.  (Applause.)

And it is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolled back parts of that program for the very first time in a decade.  As we gather here tonight, Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium.  It’s not installing advanced

centrifuges.  Unprecedented inspections help the world verify every day that Iran is not building a bomb.  And with our allies and partners, we’re engaged in negotiations to see if we can peacefully achieve a goal we all share: preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)

These negotiations will be difficult.  They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threatens our allies.  And we’re clear about the mistrust between our nations, mistrust that cannot be wished away.  But these negotiations don’t rely on trust.  Any long-term
deal we agree to must be based on verifiable action that convinces us and the international community that Iran is not building a nuclear bomb.  If John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan could negotiate with the Soviet Union, then surely a strong and confident America can negotiate with less powerful adversaries today.

The sanctions that we put in place helped make this opportunity possible.  But let me be clear:  If this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it.  (Applause.)  For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.  (Applause.)  If Iran’s

leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.  But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance — and we’ll know soon enough — then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of

nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.

And, finally, let’s remember that our leadership is defined not just by our defense against threats, but by the enormous opportunities to do good and promote understanding around the globe –- to forge greater cooperation, to expand new markets, to free people from fear and want.  And no one is better positioned to
take advantage of those opportunities than America.

Our alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known.  From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy.  In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and to have a say in
their country’s future.  Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.  In the Americas, we’re building new ties of commerce, but we’re also expanding cultural and educational exchanges among young people.  And we will continue to
focus on the Asia Pacific, where we support our allies, shape a future of greater security and prosperity, and extend a hand to those devastated by disaster –- as we did in the Philippines, when our Marines and civilians rushed to aid those battered by a typhoon, and who were greeted with words like, “We will never
forget your kindness” and “God bless America.”

We do these things because they help promote our long-term security, and we do them because we believe in the inherent dignity and equality of every human being, regardless of race or religion, creed or sexual orientation.  And next week, the world will see one expression of that commitment -– when Team USA
marches the red, white, and blue into the Olympic Stadium, and brings home the gold.  (Applause.)


THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans, no other country in the world does what we do.  On every issue, the world turns to us, not simply because of the size of our economy or our military might, but because of the ideals we stand for and the burdens we bear to advance them.  No one knows this better than those who serve in uniform.

As this time of war draws to a close, a new generation of heroes returns to civilian life.  We’ll keep slashing that backlog so our veterans receive the benefits they’ve earned, and our wounded warriors receive the health care -– including the mental health care –- that they need.  (Applause.)  We’ll keep working to help
all our veterans translate their skills and leadership into jobs here at home.  And we will all continue to join forces to honor and support our remarkable military families.

Let me tell you about one of those families I’ve come to know.  I first met Cory Remsburg, a proud Army Ranger, at Omaha Beach on the 65th anniversary of D-Day.  Along with some of his fellow Rangers, he walked me through the program and the ceremony.  He was a strong, impressive young man, had an easy
manner, he was sharp as a tack.  And we joked around and took pictures, and I told him to stay in touch.

A few months later, on his tenth deployment, Cory was nearly killed by a massive roadside bomb in Afghanistan.  His comrades found him in a canal, face down, underwater, shrapnel in his brain.  For months, he lay in a coma.  And the next time I met him, in the hospital, he couldn’t speak, could barely move.  Over
the years, he’s endured dozens of surgeries and procedures, hours of grueling rehab every day.

Even now, Cory is still blind in one eye, still struggles on his left side.  But slowly, steadily, with the support of caregivers like his dad, Craig, and the community around him, Cory has grown stronger.  And, day by day, he’s learned to speak again and stand again and walk again.  And he’s working toward the day when
he can serve his country again.  “My recovery has not been easy,” he says.  “Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.”

Cory is here tonight.  And like the Army he loves, like the America he serves, Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg never gives up, and he does not quit.  (Applause.)

My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy.  Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.  Sometimes we stumble, we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.  But for more than 200 years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress -– to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.  The America we want for our kids — a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us — none of it is easy.  But if we work together — if we summon what is best in us, the way Cory summoned what is best in him, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast toward tomorrow — I know it is within our reach.  Believe it.

God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

 END                10:20 P.M. EST

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Ukraine PM resigns amid unrest, parliament revokes anti-protest laws

Ukraine PM resigns amid unrest, parliament revokes anti-protest laws
KIEV Tue Jan 28, 2014 10:40am EST

(Reuters) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned on Tuesday while deputies loyal to President Viktor Yanukovich, acting to calm violent street protests, back-tracked and overturned anti-protest laws they rammed through parliament 12 days ago.

The first concrete concessions by Yanukovich since the crisis erupted two months ago brought cries of 'Hurrah!' from several thousand demonstrators on Kiev's Independence Square, focal point of the protests.

But opposition leaders said they would continue to harness street power to wring even more gains from Yanukovich.

"We have to change not only the government, but the rules of the game as well," declared boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko. "We are sure the struggle will continue," he said.

The 66-year-old Azarov tendered his resignation as parliament met for an emergency session to work out a deal that would satisfy the opposition and end street protests in the capital Kiev and in other cities in which six people have been killed.

Yanukovich quickly accepted his resignation and that of his cabinet. Azarov's spokesman said first deputy prime minister, Serhiy Arbuzov, a former central bank chief, would step in as acting prime minister while other ministers would stay on in an acting role until a new cabinet had been formed.

Azarov, a loyal lieutenant of Yanukovich since the latter was elected to power in February 2010, said he was stepping down "with the aim of creating extra means for finding a social-political compromise, for the sake of a peaceful settlement of the conflict."

But in reality he has been publicly humiliated by Yanukovich's offer at the weekend to give his job to former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, another opposition leader, in an effort to stem the rising protests against his rule.

The opposition has been calling consistently for the resignation of the Azarov government since the crisis started.

But opposition leaders have shied away from the offer of top government posts by Yanukovich, seeing it as a trap intended to compromise them in front of their supporters on the streets.

Yatsenyuk, one of a "troika" of opposition leaders, formally turned down the offer of the top government job on Monday night.

The steward of the heavily-indebted economy through hard times and recession, Azarov backed the decision in November to walk away from a free trade agreement with the European Union - the move which sparked the mass street protests.

And it was Azarov who took the heat in parliament, defending the need for closer economic ties with Russia in a stormy debate with the opposition.


Parliament went into emergency session on Tuesday with ministers loyal to Yanukovich saying they would press for a state of emergency to be declared if the opposition leaders did not rein in protesters and end occupation of municipal and government buildings across the country.

But then Yanukovich loyalists - clearly under pressure from the president and his aides to make a U-turn - voted to repeal anti-protest legislation they had rammed through on January 16.

It was these laws - banning virtually all form of public protest - which sparked a violent turn on the street leading to open clashes between radical activists and police in which six people were killed.

Opposition leaders sought to keep up the pressure on Yanukovich, with Yatsenyuk calling on him to swiftly sign the repeal of the laws into force.

Klitschko said opposition lawmakers would now press for an amnesty for activists detained by police in the unrest and a return to the 2004 constitution which would greatly reduce the present powers of the president.

"These decisions which parliament has adopted are good but it's only a little progress. We won't leave here until the system and the Constitution has been changed," said Ivan, 45, from Lviv region who was at one of the people's barricades leading down to Independence Square.

"We have been fighting for two months and we do not want to stop now half way along the road. The time for talk is over. Everything is serious now," said Serhiy from Vinnytsya region in central Ukraine.


Talk of a state of emergency being declared in the former Soviet republic of 46 million made the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, hastily bring forward a visit Ukraine and was due to arrive in Kiev on Tuesday.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovich on Monday to urge the government not to declare a state of emergency and to work with the opposition to bring a peaceful end to unrest.

"(Biden) underscored that the U.S. condemns the use of violence by any side, and warned that declaring a State of Emergency or enacting other harsh security measures would further inflame the situation and close the space for a peaceful resolution," the White House said.

Though the protest movement began because of Yanukovich's U-turn on policy towards Europe, it has since turned into a mass demonstration, punctuated by clashes with police, against perceived misrule and corruption under Yanukovich's leadership.

Several hundred people camp round-the-clock on Kiev's Independence Square and along an adjoining thoroughfare, while more radical protesters confront police lines at Dynamo football stadium some distance away.

(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets and Jack Stubbs; editing by Anna Willard)

Monday, 27 January 2014

IRA victims could sue Tony Blair over alleged Libyan Semtex deal

IRA victims could sue Tony Blair over alleged Libyan Semtex deal

Updated on the 27 January 2014 10:04
Published 27/01/2014 09:48

Tony Blair could be sued by IRA victims over allegations he helped Colonel Gaddafi avoid paying compensation for Libyan-backed atrocities.

Lawyers acting for around 200 people claim the former prime minister and government officials “connived” with the Libyan leader to block payments which would have compensated UK victims for Semtex-inflicted injuries.

During the Troubles, Col Gaddafi supplied a significant amount of weapons and Semtex explosive to the IRA.

The dictator, who was deposed and killed by anti-government rebels in 2011, settled a $1.5 billion claim with US victims of Libyan-sponsored terrorism, but the new regime in the north African state has so far failed to give any compensation to victims from the UK. The lawyers have claimed Mr Blair assisted Gaddafi in

killing off the UK victims’ class action for damages in a “scandalous and perverse” move.

In an email obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, former UK ambassador to Libya Sir Vincent Fean appears to suggest a deal between Blair and Gaddafi that secured the US payouts, while ending hopes of a resolution in the UK.

The email suggests the former PM helped to broker an agreement between Col Gaddafi and the then US President George W Bush.

The lawyers are also demanding to know whether Sir Vincent “misled” MPs and peers over government involvement in the case.

Jason McCue of McCue & Partners, which is representing around 200 British victims of IRA Semtex attacks, said the disclosure could form the basis for legal action in the UK.

“It’s bad enough being a victim of Semtex bombs supplied by Libya for the Provisional IRA campaign. [But] it’s sheer horror then to be informed that the British government and Tony Blair may have connived with Gaddafi to ensure the few brave British victims that justly sued and stood up to the dictator received no

compensation from the Libyans,” he said.

The email in question was written by Sir Vincent to Mr Blair’s aides in June 2008 – two days before a meeting between the former prime minister and Col Gaddafi in Libya.

The note described how Mr Blair had approached President Bush on Gaddafi’s behalf following an American court ruling that the proceeds of Libyan business deals could be seized to compensate victims of a Libyan terrorist attack.

Sir Vincent wrote: “On USA/Libya, TB should explain what he said to President Bush ... to keep his promise to Col Q [Gaddafi] to intervene after the President allowed US courts to attach Libyan assets.”

However, a spokeswoman for Mr Blair said there was no evidence to suggest the former prime minister had intervened in the compensation case.

“This persistent attempt, backed by no evidence whatever, to suggest that Tony Blair ‘interfered’ with the terms of compensation is malicious and wrong,” she said.

“He has never had anything to do with it and he has never discussed any such terms with President Bush.

“The email you reference merely expresses government policy of the time which was to re-engage with the Libyans after they gave up their WMD programme and chose to cooperate rather than sponsor terrorism.”

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The government believes compensation claims are best pursued directly with the Libyan government through private campaigns.

“The claim that government officials took any deliberate action that denied other UK victims compensation in the 2008 settlement is wrong.”

Enniskillen poppy day bomb survivor Stephen Gault has called the failure of the UK government to secure compensation from Libya a “betrayal”.

Mr Gault, whose father Samuel was one of 12 people who died as a result of the 1987 atrocity, described it as one of the “world’s worst Libyan-sponsored Semtex IRA atrocities”.

He said: “Innocent victims and survivors of terrorism are quite appalled at the treatment which they are receiving by their own government. Dozens of people were murdered here and hundreds of others injured, physically and psychologically, as a consequence of the apparatus of terrorism being provided by the
Libyan regime.

“It is an absolute betrayal of my father’s memory, and the memory of hundreds of others, that the UK government is not prepared to act as our defenders in our quest to secure compensation.”

More skilled specialists migrate to Germany

Wednesday, 15. January 2014
More skilled specialists migrate to Germany

Since 2009 the number of skilled specialists and other highly qualified foreigners migrating to Germany has increased steadily, according to the 2012 Migration Report, which gives a comprehensive overview of inward and outward migration. The Cabinet has now adopted the report.

Germany is an attractive destination for migrants: from 2011 to 2012 immigration figures rose from 960,000 to 1.08 million. Over the same period about 712,000 people emigrated from Germany, resulting in net migration of around 370,000 people.

Four out of every five immigrants came from other European countries, 64 per cent of them from EU member states. Another 14 per cent came from non-EU European states, 12 per cent from Asia, 3 per cent from Africa and 6 per cent from America, Australia or Oceania.

An attractive destination for skilled specialists and students

Almost 37,000 individuals came to Germany in 2012 to work. Since 2009 the number of skilled specialists and other highly qualified individuals emigrating to Germany from ‘third countries’ has increased steady, topping 27,000 in 2012. The term ‘citizens of third countries’ embraces nationals of countries that are neither members of the European Union nor the European Economic Area nor Switzerland. Most of them came from India, Croatia, the USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina and China.

For students too Germany is a popular destination: 80,000 foreign students began their degree courses at German universities in 2012. This is the highest number ever recorded of foreign students beginning their courses of study in Germany.

Eleventh Migration Report
In 2000 the German Bundestag called on the German government to produce an annual migration report. The report offers a comprehensive round-up of trends in the year under review regarding inward and outward migration. The up-to-date figures can be taken as the basis for migration-policy decisions.
The 2012 Migration Report is the eleventh of its sort. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees compiled the report, and the Federal Minister of the Interior presented it to the Cabinet.

Harper says Ukraine leaning to Soviet past

Harper says Ukraine leaning to Soviet past, condemns continuing violence
by The Canadian Press on Monday, January 27, 2014

OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper says he’s concerned Ukraine is backsliding towards its communist past under the Soviet Union.

The prime minister offered that assessment in the House of Commons in response to a question.

Harper is responding to the escalating crisis that has seen anti-government demonstrators deepening their protest by occupying four large buildings in downtown Kyiv.

Clashes between demonstrators and police have killed three protesters.

The protests began in late November when the government abandoned an agreement to strengthen economic co-operation with the European Union, in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Canada has repeatedly called on Ukraine to embrace co-operation with the democratic EU, instead of moving to align with Russia.

'Millions of French workers' close to burnout

'Millions of French workers' close to burnout

The French are known for the 35-hour week, a guaranteed five weeks of vacation and as keepers of the sacred notion of a proper lunch break. Yet more than 3 million of the working population is on the brink of burning out, a new study revealed. And what about expats?

Published: 27 Jan 2014 18:13 CET

The French may have a reputation for working as much as they play, but that stereotype is countered by a growing body of evidence that suggests they are slogging away too far too hard.

About 3.2 million French workers, who put an excessive and even compulsive effort into their jobs, are on the verge of burning out, a new study says.

The study from Technologia, a French firm that looks at way to reduce risks to workers, found that farmers, at 23.5 percent, were most prone to excessive work, followed closely at 19.6 percent of business owners and managers.

The all-consuming nature of people’s jobs has left them feeling exhausted, emotionally empty and sometimes physically in pain, Technologia found.

“France’s appearance from the outside can be a bit simplified,” Technologia's head Jean-Claude Delgenes told The Local on Monday. “There is a lot of overtime. Most workers don’t adhere strictly to the 35-hour work week.”

Instead, they are staying late, doing more and working remotely because the economic crisis has them in fear of losing their jobs, he says. France is battling a 16-year high unemployment rate that is hovering above 10.5 percent. At the same time email and smart phones allow people to work anytime, anyplace.

“We have a poor self-control when it comes to new technology,” Delgenes said. “Work spills over onto people’s private lives. It used to be the difference between work and social life was clearly distinct."

'I have received one call from an expat'

At the same time the subject of burnout is somewhat taboo in France, where workers put in fewer hours than their European neighbours, but are highly productive. While the average French worker did 41.2 hours of work in 2011, German employees spent 41.9 hours in the clock and the Brits pulled 42.8 hours.

There is some, at least anecdotal evidence, that expats in France are feeling less consumed by their work or have found a way to cope with it. Perhaps the fact many expats have come from countries that traditionally put in more hours than the French has had some bearing.

One listener for SOS Help, a help line for expats in France, says he has received one call about work-related problems out of some 8,000 calls in the many years he has listened to callers' concerns.

“We usually talk to people dealing with loneliness and isolation,” said Andrew, one of the organizations listeners, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We see people who are dealing with the deep seated issues that were exacerbated by their coming to France.”

The impact of burnout also seems to disproportionately affect women. Two in 10 French women and one in 10 French men felt their work left them emotionally drained. Single mothers and fathers were also much more likely, at 28 percent ,as opposed to 12 percent of single people without kids, to feel their work had left them sapped.

'It needs to be worse than losing a hand'

France’s growing troubles with burnout are also tied to restrictions on getting the state to cover the costs of treatment or time off work. Presently a person would have to show he or she has had their abilities reduced by 25 percent in order to have burnout officially recognised.

To put that into perspective a person who loses a hand on the job is considered to have lost 20 percent of their working capacity.

“So you’d have to be pretty beat up,” Delgenes said. “It needs to be worse than losing a hand.”

And presently the system is set so that workers are responsible for most of the costs of their own treatment in the case of work-related burnout. However, if the burnout were reclassified so that it's similar to other work-related injures, as Technologia is advocating, employers would be handed the majority of the cost.

This study reinforces the revelations that followed from a string of suicides at France Telecom in 2008-2009, which sparked a national soul-searching about the modern work culture in France and its impact on health. From 2008-2011 more than 60 workers killed themselves, with some leaving notes that blamed work stress.

The rate of suicides among the company’s 102,000 France-based workers was 15.3 percent per year, slightly higher than the rate for the general population of 14.7 percent. Technologia was among the bodies that looked at the company culture, which French labour authorities ultimately found to be “conducive to generating suffering at work.”

Joshua Melvin (

The Right Wing's Role in Ukrainian Protests

The Right Wing's Role in Ukrainian Protests

'Prepared to Die': The Right Wing's Role in Ukrainian Protests

Getty Images: The Right Wing's Role in Ukranian Protests
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich appears bent on crushing the protest movement but the opposition won't go quietly. A right-wing nationalist party is seeking to benefit from the growing violence and has begun warning of a civil war.

Dressed in jeans and a down jacket, the parliamentarian who wants to overthrow Ukraine's president by any means necessary is standing in Kiev's Maidan Nezalezhnosti, or Independence Square, where a struggle for power has played out over the last two months. "What can our cobblestones, Molotov cocktails and burning tires do against water cannons, bullets and armored cars?" asks Igor Myroshnychenko. "Many people here are prepared to die."


Under his jacket Myroshnychenko wears a traditional embroidered Ukrainian shirt. He is among the leaders of the right-wing nationalist Svoboda (Freedom) Party, which has formed a coalition with former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko's Udar Party, along with jailed former leader Yulia Tymoshenko's Fatherland Party, against President Viktor Yanukovich.
Myroshnychenko tried a few days ago to prevent the passage of an amendment that limits the right to demonstrate. Soon after the president signed it, Myroshnychenko and three other Svoboda MPs marched into the printing plant where the government newspaper was being completed. New laws only take effect once they have been published. Part of the print run had already been sent off in trucks but protestors burned the remainder on Maidan Square.

Government opponents have been erecting increasing numbers of barriers in the center of Kiev in recent days, and the country is on the brink of a "partisan war," Myroshnychenko says. "A lot of blood will flow, including the blood of innocent people. I have no hope that Yanukovich will meet even a single one of our demands."

Death Toll Mounting

Last week, three people lost their lives in the protests, with and one of them showing injuries consistent with torture. Hundreds of demonstrators have been injured.

By European standards, the course taken by the president last week made no sense. Viktor Yanukovich has done nothing to solve the conflict for two months. And then he poured oil into the flames by whipping through a package of laws hostile to democracy.

But not even a man with political horizons as limited as Yanukovich can have wanted what is now happening in Ukraine. The stage has now been set for civil war, and the hatred between pro-Europeans and friends of Russia has turned bloody. Yanukovich supporters regard the demonstrators as "extremists and terrorists;" even Prime Minister Nikolai Mykola Azarov used those words on television as if they were self-evident. Arsen Klintshayev, a government party parliamentarian in Lugansk, says it was "totally right" that the first demonstrators have now been killed. They had turned against the country's leadership and one should "take a much harder line against the protesters."

Igor Myroshnychenko, meanwhile, regards the Yanukovich supporters as "fascists and bandits" who want to turn democratic Kiev into a "mafia-like Donetsk." Donetsk is a mining center in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine. In the 1990s, the city saw bloody power struggles between rival businessmen. Yanukovich, convicted of theft and causing bodily harm, comes from there and represents the interests of Donetsk-based oligarchs.

The scope for talks between the two sides is eroding and the country is growing increasingly divided. Ukrainians who have thus far stayed out of the protests are starting to join the activists. Last Thursday, people stormed city halls and regional parliament buildings not just in western bastions of resistance like Lviv and Ivano-Frankivsk but also in Cherkasy and Poltava in the east. They forced governors to sign their resignations and blocked public offices. Over the weekend, the protests spread further still, while in Kiev, demonstrators temporarily took control of the Justice Ministry.

Weak Opposition

Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine's first president, said that the current government is making matters worse, referring to the scandalous passage of the demonstration laws which weren't discussed in parliamentary committee. The vote took place by hand signs in a turbulent parliamentary session and the head of the parliament signed the laws immediately, in contravention of rules.

The amendments are in line with Russian laws but the punishments are even stiffer. In Russia, "organizers of mass unrest" face four to 10 years in jail, compared with 10 to 15 in Ukraine.

Former Ukrainian Justice Minister Sergey Golovaty says the events of recent days were stage-managed by Moscow, not by Kiev. Ukraine's political regime, he says, is to be "aligned with that of Russia and Belarus." The regime needs a pseudo-judicial basis for repression. That is why Yanukovich is steering towards a violent outcome of the crisis, Golovaty believes.

That assessment is consistent with the dismissal of the moderates from Yanukovich's team, including the head of the presidential office, Sergey Levochkin who had favored entering into a dialogue with the opposition. He was replaced by a Donetsk-based supporter of Yanukovich who is reported to have ordered the first violent clearance of Maidan Square in November.

Yanukovich's unwillingness to compromise also has to do with the weakness of the opposition. The protests of pro-European Ukrainians, which began eight weeks ago, took Klitschko and the heads of the allied opposition parties by surprise. Last week, they were once again overtaken by events when militants took the initiative on Kiev's Maidan Square out of frustration that the three opposition leaders were unable to get what they demanded of the country's leadership.

Svoboda member Myroshnychenko is likewise not a fan of Klitschko. His development as a politician is moving "rather slowly," he says sarcastically. "I don't think that he can take over leadership of the opposition, much less leadership of the aggressive Maidan." What he doesn't say is that his own party is also a problem for the opposition alliance. Svoboda has joined the revolt, but it rejects certain human and minority rights.

With 10 percent support, Svoboda is the fourth-strongest group in parliament. Klitschko and the Tymoshenko party need its backing. Plus, the party is a key player in the protests. But Klitschko plays down Svoboda's right-wing stance. "We have different ideologies, but two things connect us," Klitschko says. "We are fighting against those in power today and we want European values for our country."

Flirting with the Right Wing

The Svoboda party also has excellent ties to Europe, but they are different from the ones that Klischko might prefer. It is allied with France's right-wing Front National and with the Italian neo-fascist group Fiamma Tricolore. But when it comes to the oppression of homosexuality, representative Myroshnychenko is very close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, even if he does all he can to counter Moscow's influence in his country.

"The EU is the only possibility for us to defend ourselves against Russian pressure," he says. He and his party see the alliance with Klitschko as being purely tactical. Klitschko, after all, would like to limit the powers of the president while Svoboda dreams of a country with a strong leader.

Myroshnychenko was press spokesman for the Ukrainian national football team in the lead up to the 2008 European Championships, but he isn't exactly cosmopolitan. He would even like to see foreign professional football players deported because they "change Ukraine's ethnic map."

There have been other, similar incidents. In a 2012 debate over the Ukrainian-born American actress Mila Kunis, he said that she wasn't Ukrainian, rather she was a "Jewess." Indeed, anti-Semitism is part of the extremist party's platform; until 2004, they called themselves the Social-National Party of Ukraine in an intentional reference to Adolf Hitler's National Socialist party. Just last summer, a prominent leader of party youth was distributing texts from Nazi propaganda head Joseph Goebbels translated into Ukrainian.
Without the nationalists' tight organization, the revolt on Maidan Square would long since have collapsed. But Svoboda also embodies the greatest danger to the protest movement. The party's foot soldiers, with their muddled, right wing doctrine, aren't likely to hold back for much longer.

And that might be what the president is waiting for.


The underground economy in Norway is second largest in Western Europe

The underground economy in Norway is second largest in Western Europe

Norway is the worst country in Western Europe after Belgium when it comes to underground crime.

The underground economy in Norway comprises NOK 420 billion, or 14 percent of the gross GDP, according to a recent report by ATKearney on behalf of the credit card company Visa.

This number makes Norway one of the worst countries in Western Europe when it comes to underground economy.

The Norwegian Association of Lawyers is concerned about the development.

"We cannot know what the actual numbers are for the underground economy. That's the nature of it. The money is hidden," says the President of the association, Curt A.Lier.

Most likely the number is between a previous estimate of NOK 150 billion, and the NOK 420 billion estimated in the latest report, he explains. However, if the latest report is correct, the underground economy will be the size of the oil fund within the next ten years.

The Norwegian Association of Lawyers has developed a report about the fight against financial crime. An internal working group with people from the police and government agencies such as Customs, tax authorities and NAV (the Norwegian Welfare Administration) have participated. The report points out the growth of mafia-like networks in Norway, as well as several methods used to launder money.

The report underlines the importance of confiscating gains from criminal activity.

"The deeper the money can infiltrate into the legal economy, the harder it will be to track its source," the report concludes.


Sunday, 26 January 2014

85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population: OXFAM

Rigged rules mean economic growth increasingly “winner takes all” for rich elites all over world “Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. ” Winnie Byanyima

Executive Director, Oxfam International
Published: 20 January 2014

Wealth of half the world’s population now the same as that of tiny elite

Wealthy elites have co-opted political power to rig the rules of the economic game, undermining democracy and creating a world where the 85 richest people own the wealth of half of the world’s population, worldwide development organization Oxfam warns in a report published today.  

Working For the Few, published ahead of this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, details the pernicious impact that widening inequality is having in both developed and developing countries, helping the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of
everyone else.

The report says that there is a growing global public awareness of this power-grab. Polls done for Oxfam in six countries (Brazil, India, South Africa, Spain, the UK and US) show that most people questioned in all those countries believe that laws are skewed in favor of the rich.Social stability and security are at risk: urgent action needed

Inequality has shot up the global agenda in recent years: US President Obama has made it a key priority for 2014. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the next 12-18 months. WEF’s Global Outlook report, published in November,
warned inequality is undermining social stability and ‘threatening security on a global scale.’

Oxfam wants governments to take urgent action to reverse the trend. It is asking those attending the WEF to make six-point personal pledge to tackle the problem.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam Executive Director who will attend the Davos meetings, said: “It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world’s population own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all sit comfortably in a single train carriage.  

Facing inequality is key

“We cannot hope to win the fight against poverty without tackling inequality. Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table.

“In developed and developing countries alike, we are increasingly living in a world where the lowest tax rates, the best health and education and the opportunity to influence are being given not just to the rich but also to their children.

“Without a concerted effort to tackle inequality, the cascade of privilege and of disadvantage will continue down the generations. We will soon live in a world where equality of opportunity is just a dream. In too many countries economic growth already amounts to little more than a ‘winner takes all’ windfall for the richest.”

Wealth and power

Policies successfully imposed by the rich in recent decades include financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates on high incomes and investments and cuts or underinvestment in public services for the majority. Since the late 1970s, tax rates for the richest have

fallen in 29 of the 30 countries for which data are available, meaning that in many places the rich not only get more money but also pay less tax on it.

A recent US study presented compelling statistical evidence that the interests of the wealthy are overwhelmingly represented by the US Government compared with those of the middle classes. The preferences of the poorest had no impact on the votes of elected officials.

This capture of opportunities by the rich at the expense of the poor and middle classes has helped create a situation where seven out of every ten people in the world live in countries where inequality has increased since the 1980s and one per cent of the world’s families now own 46% of its wealth ($110 trillion).

The report says:

Globally, the richest individuals and companies hide trillions of dollars away from the tax man in a web of tax havens around the world. It is estimated that $21 trillion is held unrecorded and off-shore;

In the US, years of financial deregulation directly correlates to the increase in the income share of the top one per cent which is now at its highest level since the eve of the Great Depression;

In India, the number of billionaires increased tenfold in the past decade, aided by a highly regressive tax structure and the wealthy exploiting their government connections, while spending on the poorest remains remarkably low;

In Europe, austerity has been imposed on the poor and middle classes under huge pressure from financial markets whose wealthy investors have benefited from state bailouts of financial institutions;

In Africa, global corporations – particularly those in extractive industries - exploit their influence to avoid taxes and royalties, reducing the resources available to governments to fight poverty.
Oxfam is calling on those gathered at WEF to pledge to:

Support progressive taxation and not to dodge their own taxes;

Refrain from using their wealth to seek political favors that undermine the democratic will of their fellow citizens;

Make public all the investments in companies and trusts for which they are the ultimate beneficial owners;

Challenge governments to use tax revenue to provide universal healthcare, education and social protection for citizens;

Demand a living wage in all companies they own or control;

Challenge other members of the economic elite to join them in these pledges.
Oxfam is calling on governments to tackle inequality by cracking down on financial secrecy and tax dodging, including through the G20; investing in universal education and healthcare; and agreeing a global goal to end extreme inequality in every country as part of the post 2015 negotiations.

ஐரோப்பாவில் கந்துவட்டி: The world of illegal lending!

Crime: The world of illegal lending: fear, violence and 60 victims under witness protection:
 Borrowers estimated to be paying over pounds 700m a year,
 One man paid pounds 90,000 for 17 years after pounds 250 loan.
January 25, 2014
James Meikle

Sixty victims of loan sharks are in witness protection, according to the country's leading official tasked with breaking the cycle of fear, intimidation and violence trapping families who have borrowed money from illegal lenders. Tony Quigley , head of the Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in England , revealed that, across Britain , borrowers were paying at least pounds 700m a year to predatory extortionists.

The figure is equivalent to a third of the legal short-term payday loan market, which the Office of Fair Trading last year estimated to be worth pounds 2.2bn. Quigley, whose national enforcement team has powers of arrest and prosecution, said there was an increasing awareness of the help now available to bullied and traumatised victims. He said the true scale of the misery exerted by criminals who might have otherwise gone undetected for years was emerging now that more victims were coming forward. He said currently 60 cases had been given witness protection.

Only the most extreme cases are considered for this. The pounds 700m figure was a conservative estimate for the illegal loans market, he added. "It really is hideous what some of the loan sharks do to a community. It is just exploitation and profiteering of the worst kind. We believe we have stopped 25 suicides, from what victims have told us." Quigley admitted the scale of lending and payment were difficult to quantify. "It is criminality. We know it is constant, "We know the impact it has, not just on those [borrowing], but it is all on the ghost economy, when no tax and no insurance are paid and it's all cash." In many cases, there is no record of the transaction between a loan shark and a debtor. Lenders often punish borrowers, especially those who miss payments, with arbitrary increases on the amount owed.

Loan sharks often appear warm and friendly until repayments stop, and they are often heard about through friends, said Quigley. Some take passports, driving licences, even bank cards with a PIN to draw directly from borrowers' accounts.

While there was no "specific DNA" to the criminals, they all lent money at extortionate rates. Quigley said that while it was difficult to tell whether the illegal lending market was growing because of austerity, the readiness of victims to come forward, combined with better co-operation between authorities, were paying dividends. He based his pounds 700m figure on research from 2010 by the consultancy Policis for the Department for Business , Innovation and Skills. It estimated there were 310,000 borrowers of illegal loans in the UK . An average of pounds 350 a time was borrowed, and pounds 700 paid back over 14 weeks at what lenders call "double bubble", Quigley said.

Most people borrowed a number of times. "We are not only taking out small-time lenders who have a bad effect, but Mr Bigs as well. Once you remove a loan shark, the debt everyone owes is wiped out. That in itself boosts the local economy," he said. Those borrowing from loan sharks generally pay the lender first because they are frightened. "That has an impact on everything else. You see rent arrears increasing, properties becoming empty, people doing moonlight flits, petty crime going up.

"If you are handing over all the money to the loan shark and he is only giving you a little bit of money to live on and you have children to feed and the bills to pay, how do you make ends meet?" In some cases, sharks "rented out" money, leaving their victims perpetually in debt and never paying off the capital sum. Quigley said that since debts were unenforceable in law, the only way lenders could ensure they were paid was through "fear, intimidation and acts of violence".

Threats to borrowers' partners and children often proved the tipping point for people calling the authorities, Quigley said. In one case, a man who had taken out a loan for pounds 250 paid back pounds 90,000 over 17 years before contacting Quigley's team. The lender was jailed for eight months at Ipswich crown court.

The IMLTs in England , Scotland and Wales have brought more than 300 prosecutions since pilot schemes began in Birmingham and Glasgow in 2004 following decades of poor enforcement. Their work has helped about 23,000 victims of loan sharks and led to more than pounds 42m worth of illegal debts being written off. Last year, there were 100 arrests and 50 prosecutions, with the accused sometimes also facing charges such as benefit fraud, money-laundering, wounding, assault, blackmail and kidnapping. Investigations are not confined to cities. They have included rural areas such as Cumbria , Devon and Cornwall .

In England , nearly all local authorities have now delegated their powers in this area to Birmingham city council, which hosts Quigley's team. A 60-strong staff include investigators, lawyers and victim support officers, who are funded through the National Trading Standards Board .

All the teams run anonymous phonelines to encourage borrowers to report their persecutors. Quigley's gets 50-60 a month. Half the assets seized go to the Treasury and a third of the rest is used to cover court costs. But much of the remainder helps fund local community projects advertising the Stop Loan Sharks campaign and financial incentives for people to save and borrow from legal sources.

Taxi and hire-car drivers are among those who have proved vulnerable to illegal lenders because of the costs of starting up. "We are trying to change the next generation. I am not naive, but if we can stop one person using a loan shark, it will have been worth it because of the misery it brings with it," said Quigley.

Sometimes the team cannot find sufficient evidence to prosecute; at other times it is not in the public interest, he said. "We may decide not to take a case because we would leave potential witnesses open to retribution, because only one person came forward. It is safety in numbers. We have to consider a whole host of risks and precautions." It is sometimes enough just to disrupt an illegal operation, he said. "We have had cases without victims where the evidence is so significant that we felt we could prove beyond all reasonable doubt what [illegal lenders] were doing."

For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel

Source: Guardian (UK)

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Britain's oversight of US bases ‘in urgent need of revision’

Exclusive: Peers call for proper scrutiny of American military bases in UK used for drone strikes and mass spying

Britain's oversight of US bases ‘in urgent need of revision’
CAHAL MILMO   Saturday 25 January 2014

Scrutiny of American military bases in Britain could be increased dramatically for the first time in more than 60 years under cross-party proposals provoked by evidence that the installations are being used for drone strikes and mass spying activities.

Draft proposals tabled by peers from all three major parties demand that the Government overhaul the “outdated” rules under which the Pentagon’s network of UK outposts operate following claims of British complicity in US drone missions in the Middle East and eavesdropping on European allies.

The Independent revealed last year that RAF Croughton, the US Air Force base and CIA relay station in Northamptonshire, was used to funnel back to Washington data from the network of diplomatic spy posts implicated in the monitoring of the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The same base has a secure data link to a US counter-terrorism facility in Djibouti used for drone strikes in Yemen while questions remain about the use of other US bases in Britain, in particular the National Security Agency eavesdropping facility at RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire.

 The revelations have fuelled concern in Parliament that British oversight of the bases, which operate under the 1951 Status of Forces Agreement, is outmoded and in urgent need of drastic revision because the legislation was drawn up long before technology such as drones or mass surveillance.

Three senior peers from the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats - along with a crossbencher - have tabled amendments to defence legislation currently going through the House of Lords demanding that the Government considers the introduction of measures including a new “scrutiny group” for each US base to ensure all activities carried out comply with British law.

Under current arrangements, each US base is nominally under the command of a British officer but critics say meaningful oversight is impossible.

The proposed scrutiny panels would include a “member holding high judicial office” and an independent scrutineer “with expertise in the particular technology used and services carried out by the visiting forces”.

Lord Hodgson, the Conservative peer backing the proposals, told The Independent: “These amendments are designed to enable light to be shone on an area causing increasing public concern.

“They will enable proper scrutiny in Parliament so that ministers responsible can decide whether steps should be taken to review laws and agreements which, in the light of innovative uses of modern technology, appear increasingly outdated.”

The amendments, which will be debated next month, would need to be adopted by the Government to become law but the peers and senior MPs said they underline a growing disquiet within Parliament that current oversight is inadequate.

The proposals also place a duty on the Interception of Communications Commissioner, who is responsible for reviewing the eavesdropping activities of Britain’s spying agencies, to produce an annual report on whether US bases are operating within the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which lays out the limits
for public bodies to carry out surveillance and investigation. The Government admitted last year that there is no requirement to monitor US compliance with RIPA at bases including RAF Menwith Hill.

LibDem peer Baroness Miller added: “The Government cannot claim that the American bases in the UK are accountable to anyone but the Pentagon under current legislation. It is time we made what happens to UK citizens on UK soil the responsibility of the UK Government.”

The Ministry of Defence, which The Independent revealed last month is drastically tightening security around RAF Croughton using military byelaws, has denied that US bases in Britain have a role in the Pentagon’s controversial drone campaign, which it emerged this week has led to 2,400 deaths in places such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen in the last five years. Campaigners claim that in Pakistan alone at least 461 civilians have been killed by the remotely-piloted aircraft; though a British study this week revealed that the civilian death toll for 2013 had fallen to four.

While the era has passed in which American bases in Britain once housed nuclear weapons in case the Cold War turned hot, Washington’s “unsinkable aircraft carrier” remains a vital hub in clandestine operations, including the Anglo-American  industrial-scale projects to eavesdrop on electronic communications
exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Documents disclosed by Mr Snowden show that RAF Croughton is used as a relay station for the Special Collection Service, the network of embassy-based listening stations used to spy in locations including Berlin. The base also has a direct link to GCHQ’s Cheltenham headquarters which has been operating for
more than 20 years.

RAF Croughton also hit the headlines last year when it emerged that British Telecom won a contract to supply a secure fibre-optic link from the base to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti used to co-ordinate drone strikes over Yemen. The £14m contract raised suspicions that it could be used to relay instructions for drone attacks. The MoD insisted that USAF staff in Britain “neither fly nor control” any remotely piloted aircraft.

Kat Craig, legal director of campaigning group Reprieve, said:   “It is a scandal that there is so little oversight by the British Government of potentially criminal activities taking place on our own soil. Moves to ensure the current unquestioning support is brought out of the shadows are therefore very welcome.”

Labour MP Tom Watson, who had campaigned on the issue of drones, said: "The amendments would overhaul scrutiny of US bases in the UK. It is astonishing that use of UK bases is regulated by an agreement made in1951. These proposals would enable proper review of interception and communications activities
carried out from our country."

An MoD spokesperson said: “We will consider these amendments and will respond to them as part of the Lords consideration of the Defence Reform Bill in February.”

The Independent.