Unease among Socialists over Gypsy stance

EL PAÍS (F. G. / A. D. / À. P.)

The ruling Socialists are disconcerted at their leader’s lack of criticism with regard to France’s controversial move to deport Romanian gypsies. While Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defended Nicolas Sarkozy in Brussels, the Socialist Group in Europe put forward a motion in Congress stating that “collective expulsions are contrary to European community law, European values and European principles.”

Last week, Spanish Socialists in the European Parliament voted against the deportations, and the Socialists’ website still carries a note stating that the actions of the French government are “a collective and objective expulsion based on ethnic premises, which is against European construction and the principle of citizenship.”

The note also demands a political position with regard to the French government and adds: “The Union cannot allow populist actions by governments that wish to seek scapegoats.”

The issue, meanwhile, is turning into an unexpected windfall for the opposition Popular Party (PP). On Friday, the head of the Catalan PP, Alicia Sánchez Camacho, took French Eurodeputy Maria Thérèse Sánchez-Schmid on a guided tour of Badalona, so the latter could see with her own eyes whether the Spanish town had the same conflicts with Romanian gypsies as she claims French cities do.

“The situation is comparable. There are the same problems of coexistence and insecurity as in my country,” said Sánchez- Schmid after the two-hour tour, in which several local residents spoke of their negative experiences with the Roma community.

“Nobody wants to kick them out,” she said. “It is not ideal. But if they won’t integrate,we need to find a solution.”

Funeral Blues

W.H. Auden (1907-1973)

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

The Louvre pierces the secret sands of Saudi

LE FIGARO – By Eric Bietry-Rivierre (English Translation)

An exhibition rich in archaeological treasures shows that the development of caravan routes do not begin with Mohammed.

There were concerns that this exhibition is a thank you from the Louvre to its generous patrons Saudis. But the Roads of Arabia is more than just a glorification of Islamic monarchy. The three hundred pieces selected – stelae, sculptures, pottery, silverware and precious jewels – had mostly never left the eastern peninsula. Together, well presented including maps, films and panoramic photographs of beautiful scenery offered by a desert four times as large as France, they have the force of a revelation: that of a bright and prosperous past, almost unexpected in our latitudes.

The pre-Islamic period, in particular, is rich. Surprise: the Saudi authorities have played fair by allowing the development of anthropomorphic sculptures. It was not won because in the Gulf official history begins with Islam in the seventh century AD. Above all, Muhammad put an end to polytheism by destroying the idols and the Muslims unanimously reject any figurative image of God.

We discover a whole series of civilizations, the first of which is active from the fourth millennium BC. The finest of his figures and also the most enigmatic – nicknamed “the suffering” because of its expression – has been found in the North, and has never even been shown in public in Saudi Arabia.

Newer, three giants in red sandstone, topped with Egyptian, wearing a loincloth and sandals, were uncovered after an earthquake and subsequent excavations in the ancient city of Dedan, not far from the oasis of al-Ula (North). Like all other visible remains in 1500 m² of hall Napoleon, the Louvre has restored. One of these giants has been identified as a king belonging to a dynasty in power between the fourth and third centuries BC. AD

Best-known, successor to the mysterious Nabatean Lihyanites. Neighbor al-Ula, the necropolis of Hegra is a hotbed of ancient cave architecture, a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2008. A little sister of Petra in Jordan in a way. It is from that Hegra including two splendid jars visible to the Louvre and a marquee in Corinthian simplified. Documents which show the close ties maintained in the desert with the Nabatean traders incorporated into the Roman Empire under Trajan.

On site, the excavations continue to complete the story that binds, from the first millennium BC. J.-C, the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia with India, the Horn of Africa and Egypt by the caravan cities. They are partly financed by Total, a company that has also contributed to the achievement of this exhibition to the tune of 200,000 euros.

An impressive series of headstones

The second part of the exhibition shows the continuity and intensification of trade during the Muslim era. The difference is that the axes ranging from oasis to oasis, pilgrims mingle now to the merchants. An impressive series of gravestones, came to Mecca, to understanding the evolution of styles and decorative calligraphic between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. Not far, various elements of embellishment saints – Locks shrine, incense burners, candlesticks – show the myriad ways in which faith can invest in art.

Until the monumental gate of the Kaaba offered by the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (1623-1640). Silver hammered gold, patterned on Multifoil vegetal decoration. It was she who protected him for three centuries the black stone embedded, remnant, it is said, the shelter offered by God to Adam to protect the Flood … The course ends with an evocation of the birth of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932.

Statement from Admiral Allen on the Successful Completion of the Relief Well

“After months of extensive operations planning and execution under the direction and authority of the U.S. government science and engineering teams, BP has successfully completed the relief well by intersecting and cementing the well nearly 18,000 feet below the surface.  With this development, which has been confirmed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, we can finally announce that the Macondo 252 well is effectively dead.

Additional regulatory steps will be undertaken but we can now state, definitively, that the Macondo well poses no continuing threat to the Gulf of Mexico.  From the beginning, this response has been driven by the best science and engineering available.  We insisted that BP develop robust redundancy measures to ensure that each step was part of a deliberate plan, driven by science, minimizing risk to ensure we did not inflict additional harm in our efforts to kill the well.

I commend the response personnel, both from the government and private sectors, for seeing this vital procedure through to the end.  And although the well is now dead, we remain committed to continue aggressive efforts to clean up any additional oil we may see going forward.”

UPDATE:  Obama goes to church to hear a Muslim speaker!

Anita Hill, 2 other lesbians in committed relationships welcomed as ELCA pastors

Star Tribune – By JEFF STRICKLER,

In a ceremony that started with a public mea culpa and ended with a prolonged standing ovation, three lesbian ministers were officially embraced Saturday by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The three were the Rev. Anita Hill, pastor of St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church in St. Paul, and two Minneapolis chaplains: the Rev. Phyllis Zillhart at Fairview Home Care and Hospice and the Rev. Ruth Frost at the Hospice of the Twin Cities.

Although they never had been officially recognized by the ELCA, the three of them have a combined 60 years of service as Lutheran pastors.

“This is both a historic and an insignificant day,” the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the ELCA’s St. Paul synod, said shortly before he and the Rev. Craig Johnson, the Minneapolis bishop, jointly oversaw the ceremony.

It was historic because it “opens doors to new possibilities,” Rogness said. But it was insignificant in that “next week, next month and next year, they will be doing the same thing they did last week, last month and last year: pastoring to people.”

Officially called a Rite of Reception, the ceremony began with an unusual litany of confession in which it was the church rather than the congregation admitting to wrongful behavior.

“We have fallen short in honoring all people of God and being an instrument for that grace,” the statement said. “We have disciplined, censured and expelled when we should have listened, learned and included.”

…Other than the applause that greeted the official blessing of the pastors, the biggest reaction came at the start of the sermon. The Rev. Barbara Lundblad, who teaches preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, began by saying that she was going to ignore the guidelines that she insists her students follow.

Then she added with a wry smile: “I think there are people here today who realize that sometimes rules have to be broken.”

Stalin’s Spanish prisoners

New book tells of the trainee Republican pilots left stranded in the Soviet Union at the end of the Civil War. Imprisoned in gulags, some did not return for many years


”I, Hermógenes Rodríguez, am addressing you with regard to the following matter: I was sent by the government of the Spanish Republic to the Soviet Union in 1938 to take part in a pilot’s course that I was unable to complete. I asked for my immediate repatriation, which has been denied to this day. Since 1941 I find myself inside a concentration camp out of the mere fact of being

Hermógenes Rodríguez was one of 180 Republican aviators undergoing training in the USSR when the Civil War ended and left them stranded. The letter was addressed to G. M. Malenkov, who succeeded Stalin at the helm of the Soviet government, and was written in May 1953, two months after the latter’s death. This and other letters are included in Los últimos aviadores de la República (or, The Republic’s last aviators), a new book written by Carmen Calvo Jung and published by the Defense Ministry and the Aena Foundation.

Carmen Calvo is the daughter of one of those aviators, José Calvo, who left Spain with the thought of returning soon to go to war, but took 15 years to get back. During that time, he was shuttled to various prisons and forced labor camps, becoming one more victim of the Gulag Archipelago, the network of Soviet internment camps where anybody could end up for any reason. That is where the Spanish members of the Blue Division, which had gone north to fight the Red Army, ended up. Their confinement fits into the logic of war, which divides the world into friends and enemies. But what were the pilots of the Spanish Republic doing there as well?

Carmen Calvo took time off from her job in Berlin, where she worked as an architect in the restoration and conservation of landmark buildings, to find the answer to a question that had always eluded her father while he was alive. Neither the documents she received after his death, nor the history books helped clear up the mystery. So Calvo spent 10 years exploring 24 archives and institutions in Spain, Switzerland, France, Germany, The Netherlands and Russia, following the trail of those aviators who were trapped in the USSR and unable to return to Spain or go into exile in a third country, as they wanted.

Her family connection to one of the pilots opened the doors to the personal files of the other heroes of this story. Almost no one wanted to talk, but nearly all of them put their memories down on paper. José Romero Carreira, for instance, described the harsh conditions at the Kok-Usek camp, where the mortality rate was upwards of 60 percent: “The minimal food rations we were given had sunk us all into a state of starvation. […] Every shred of social varnish had disappeared. The titled individuals, the refined spirits, the aristocrats had descended to the level of primitive men. The most refined spirits of Vienna lived side by side with the rough, illiterate cart drivers and shepherds from Romania. Children had to defend their food rations from their own parents. It was the kind of tragic situation that man can fall into when circumstances unleash the forces of his subconscious.”

Of the 25 pilots who were interned until 1948, Romero was one of the few who was put on trial and convicted. The reason? His participation in a hunger strike by the Blue Division inmates to demand better conditions in 1952. His second “crime” was to set up a school to teach the Division members to read and write. “The Republicans always held their head high. Their great lesson is that every person has to care for the others,” says Carmen Calvo, who is considering making a documentary about the children of those Spanish prisoners of Stalin. So why were they kept there in the first place? “Because they didn’t want the world to know that there were Republicans who felt uncomfortable in paradise.”

Final Haditha Case in Limbo

Puckett & Faraj Blog

This week, a military judge is considering the defense motion to dismiss the charges for denial of Wuterich’s right to detailed defense counsel. The ruling is expected next week. The final Haditha trial of the last Marine from the original 8 charged was scheduled to begin on September 13, 2010.

The defense team for SSgt Wuterich submitted a motion on August 25th based on the recent U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals ruling on the murder conviction of Marine Sgt Hutchins (see U.S. v Hutchins III, Docket # 200800393, 4/22/10). The court overturned the Hutchins conviction and released him from prison based on the government’s violation of his statutory right to military counsel. The government is appealing that ruling to the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

SSgt Wuterich’s originally detailed military defense attorneys, Major Haytham Faraj and LtCol Colby Vokey, were both retired from the Marine Corps without first following proper military court procedures to be released from the Wuterich case. The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals stated that detained defense military attorneys can be released from a case by a military judge only for good cause, but that separation from active duty or retirement of the military attorney alone does not constitute good cause.

In a surprise move, the defense team for Wuterich requested and obtained over the prosecution’s objection, the main prosecutor’s administrative paperwork in which he requested to remain on active duty to complete the Wuterich case. The documentation showed decisions by senior military officers to keep the prosecution team together for this important case including refusing to move attorneys from Camp Pendleton until the case is complete. Even Marine Corps manpower regulations were violated to keep the prosecution team in place while the two military defense counsel requests to stay on active duty were denied.

The Wuterich trial process is nearing the end of its fourth year and is currently scheduled to resume on November 2, 2010. The trial is expected to last three weeks, and ironically will celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Haditha incident in the middle of the trial.