Saturday, August 6, 2016

Trump Tied With Clinton in 'Cooked' Pro-Hillary Poll Despite Media Assault

A combination photo shows Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump (L) and Democratic US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton (R)

© REUTERS/ Scott Audette (L), Javier Galeano (R)
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The Republican nominee polled within the margin of error in the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll despite a feud with the family of a slain soldier and the media fabrication that Donald Trump is a secret Russian agent.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s post-convention bounce has evaporated with her lead over rival Donald Trump faltering to less than 3 percentage points, a statistical tie, in the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll down from nearly eight points on Monday. The online poll, conducted from July 31-Aug. 4 consisted of 1,154 likely voters with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
The poor performance for Clinton in the latest survey comes as Reuters polling has been blasted in recent days by experienced political operatives who claimed that the firm tampered with and "cooked" their own tracking poll to manufacture a sudden surge for Hillary Clinton by removing the option of "neither" forcing voters to select between one of the two flawed candidates.
This is believed to create a bias because many of the respondents who would have said neither ultimately will likely not show up to vote in November. Democratic political pollster Pat Caddell called the change part of a "jihad" by the mainstream media against the off-color Republican nominee.
“They made a switch, as much as nine points, in their results from the beginning of last week, the 25th and 26th,” said Caddell at the time. "This is a crisis of democracy, what the press is now doing."
Whether or not the poll results are "cooked" to present Hillary in a more favorable light, the move seems to be backfiring with the results of the pro-Clinton poll showing that the media’s bid to coronate the candidate not named Trump as anything but certain.
The results of the latest survey are somewhat surprising given that Donald Trump has been repeatedly lambasted over the last week after a Clinton campaign conspiracy theory that the Republican nominee is in league with the Russians turned into a full-blown media obsession with even a former CIA chief saying on Friday calling Donald Trump an agent of Vladimir Putin.
Trump has also failed to navigate criticism lodged against his candidacy by the family of deceased war hero Humayun Khan who saved several hundred lives when he stepped in front of a Jihadist vehicle preventing them from breaching a military base. Trump called the attacks by the soldier’s father, Khizr Khan a "vicious attack" and kept the media narrative spinning against him when he questioned whether the soldier’s mother was prohibited from speaking under Islamic law.
Anne Hidalgo
© AP Photo/ Lionel Bonaventure, Pool
The candidate also alienated Republican Party leaders in the past week refusing on Monday to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan saying "I’m just not there yet" quoting back the Congressman’s words about Trump several months earlier in an act of spite. He also said that he was uncomfortable endorsing US Senator John McCain saying that his record on veteran’s issues has been abysmal. These actions against his party’s establishment seem to have played favorably with the electorate, however.
Trump may have successfully played both developed his anti-establishment brand by his mockery of Paul Ryan and criticism of John McCain earlier this week while maintaining support from Party leaders open by relenting and offering a half-hearted endorsement

Friday, August 5, 2016

George Tenet: Ο Ελληνας αρχιπράκτορας της CIA έγινε «μυστικός» τραπεζίτης

Νέα καριέρα για τον πρώην διευθυντή της μυστικής υπηρεσίας των ΗΠΑ

Ο πρώην διευθυντής της αμερικανικής μυστικής υπηρεσίας δουλεύει στην πιο «μυστική» τράπεζα του κόσμου – Η νέα του καριέρα στην Allen & Co, το αόρατο πλην πανίσχυρο χρηματοπιστωτικό ίδρυμα της 5ης Λεωφόρου στο Μανχάταν, που δεν έχει ούτε εταιρική ιστοσελίδα.
Ο Τζορτζ Τένετ δεν θα περάσει σίγουρα στην ιστορία της CIA ως ένας από τους καλύτερους διευθυντές της κεντρικής υπηρεσίας πληροφοριών των ΗΠΑ. Για πολλούς όμως πράκτορες που υπηρέτησαν υπό τις διαταγές του ήταν ένας διευθυντής που κατάφερε να αναγεννήσει τη CIA, να την εκσυγχρονίσει και να αναβαθμίσει τα τμήματά της.
Seal_of_the_Central_Intelligence_Agency.svgΩστόσο, η αποτυχία των πρακτόρων της να προλάβουν και να αποτρέψουν τις επιθέσεις της 11ης Σεπτεμβρίου είναι αυτό που θα τον στοιχειώνει για πάντα, σύμφωνα με πρώην αξιωματούχους και άριστους γνώστες του σκοτεινού κόσμου των μυστικών υπηρεσιών. Μόνο που αυτά δεν φαίνεται να απασχολούν πλέον τον ομογενή με καταγωγή από την Χειμάρρα της Βορείου Ηπείρου, ο οποίος ακολουθεί μια εντελώς διαφορετική πορεία, αυτή του τραπεζίτη. Μια πορεία όμως που χαρακτηρίζεται από μυστικοπάθεια, αφού η επενδυτική τράπεζα Allen & Co είναι ίσως το πιο «μυστικό» χρηματοπιστωτικό ίδρυμα του κόσμου.
Δεν διαθέτει εταιρική ιστοσελίδα, δεν προβαίνει σε ανακοινώσεις ή στην έκδοση δελτίων Τύπου για τις δραστηριότητές της, ενώ η φήμη της ως του πιο «απόρρητου» και απρόσιτου επικοινωνιακά χρηματοπιστωτικού ιδρύματος στον κόσμο έχει γεννήσει ακόμη και αστικούς μύθους.
Κοινωνικός μεν, απολύτως εχέμυθος δε
Οπως ήταν αναμενόμενο, η έλευση του πρώην διευθυντή της CIA Τζορτζ Τένετ στη θέση του διευθύνοντος συμβούλου παρέμεινε επτασφράγιστο μυστικό για τουλάχιστον δύο χρόνια από τη στιγμή, καθώς τοποθετήθηκε σε αυτή τη θέση. Για πολλούς ήταν ο κατάλληλος άνθρωπος στην κατάλληλη θέση ειδικά από τη στιγμή που λόγω της θητείας του σε μία από τις πλέον νευραλγικές θέσεις των μυστικών υπηρεσιών των ΗΠΑ ήξερε πολύ καλά να κάνει ένα πράγμα: να κρατάει το στόμα του κλειστό, όπως και οι υπόλοιποι 135 υπάλληλοι της συγκεκριμένης τράπεζας, η οποία διαθέτει στο πορτφόλιο των πελατών της εταιρείες-κολοσσούς και δισεκατομμυριούχους των μίντια και της βιομηχανίας.
Πολλοί απ’ αυτούς είχαν γνωρίσει τον πρώην πανίσχυρο διευθυντή της CIA, τον μοναδικό μαζί με τον Αλεν Ντάλες με τόσο μακρόχρονη θητεία σε αυτή τη θέση, ο οποίος εκτός υπηρεσίας ήταν άλλος άνθρωπος και σαφώς πιο κοινωνικός. Οταν εγκατέλειψε τη CIA, στην ατζέντα του είχε κρατήσει επαφές με δυνατά ονόματα, ανάμεσά τους και δύο πλανητάρχες, οι οποίοι τον εκτιμούσαν παρά τα λάθη στα οποία υπέπεσε. Ολα αυτά διερευνήθηκαν ενδελεχώς από τον Χέρμπερτ Αλεν τζούνιορ, τον ισχυρό άνδρα αυτής της boutique investment bank, ο οποίος τον προσέλαβε αρχικά ως μέλος του διοικητικού συμβουλίου. Σύμφωνα με πληροφορίες, ο ομογενής από τη Χειμάρρα υπέγραψε συμβόλαιο εχεμύθειας το οποίο τον δεσμεύει να μην αποκαλύψει ποτέ οτιδήποτε έχει να κάνει με το αντικείμενο εργασίας του στη συγκεκριμένη τράπεζα, η οποία ειδικεύεται στις υψηλού επιπέδου διασυνδέσεις μεταξύ επενδυτών, top στελεχών της βιομηχανίας των ΜΜΕ και ισχυρών broker.
Ινκόγκνιτο και διακριτικός 
Σχεδόν καθημερινά, ο Τένετ περνάει την είσοδο των γραφείων της Allen & Co στο νούμερο 711 της 5ης Λεωφόρου στο Μανχάταν συνήθως μόνος του, αφού οι εποχές που είχε προσωπική ασφάλεια ως διευθυντής της CIA έχουν παρέλθει. Το πρόγραμμά του περιλαμβάνει πληθώρα ραντεβού εντός και εκτός γραφείων, επαγγελματικά δείπνα και ταξίδια εκτός Νέας Υόρκης, οπότε η παρουσία του κρίνεται απαραίτητη. Παρόλο που του ζητήθηκε πολλές φορές να δώσει μια συνέντευξη για τη καινούρια του ζωή, αρνήθηκε ευγενικά μεν αλλά κατηγορηματικά, έχοντας εισπράξει αρκετή πικρία από τον τρόπο που τον αντιμετώπισαν τα ΜΜΕ των ΗΠΑ μετά την αποχώρησή του από την ενεργό δράση.
Ο τέως Πρόεδρος Μπους βραβεύει τον αρχηγό της CIA, Γεώργιο Τένετ
Μίλησε μόνο τρεις ή τέσσερις φορές όταν έβγαλε το αυτοβιογραφικό βιβλίο του «At the center of the storm: My years in the CIA», για το οποίο δέχτηκε σκληρή κριτική. Διέψευδε, τότε, κατηγορηματικά ότι η Κεντρική Υπηρεσία Πληροφοριών της χώρας βασάνισε με διάφορες μεθόδους (εικονικό πνιγμό, ηλεκτροσόκ) Αραβες υπόπτους για τρομοκρατία σε μυστικές φυλακές ανά τον κόσμο. Ηταν η εποχή των περίφημων πτήσεων με τα αεροσκάφη της CIA, που μετέφεραν κρατούμενους σε διάφορες μυστικές τοποθεσίες στην Ευρώπη, προτού σταλούν στο στρατόπεδο X-Ray στο Γκουαντάναμο της Κούβας.
Δυστυχώς για τον ίδιο η επιβεβαίωση για όλα τα παραπάνω ήρθε στις 9 Δεκεμβρίου του 2014, όταν η επιτροπή της Γερουσίας που ερευνούσε τις καταγγελίες για τις απαγωγές, την κράτηση και τις μεθόδους ανάκρισης υπόπτων για τρομοκρατία από τη CIA έδωσε στη δημοσιότητα την έκθεσή της.
Οκτώβριος 2000: Μαζί με την τότε ΥΠΕΞ των ΗΠΑ Μαντλίν Ολμπράιτ στην κρίσιμη συνάντηση με τον Παλαιστίνιο ηγέτη Γιάσερ Αραφάτ, στο σπίτι του Αμερικανού πρέσβη στο Παρίσι.
Μάρτιος 2003: Στο Οβάλ Γραφείο με τον πλανητάρχη και τον αιμοδιψή αντιπρόεδρο της κυβέρνησης Ντικ Τσέινι.
Μια έκθεση που επιβεβαίωνε όλα όσα αρνούνταν κατηγορηματικά ο Ελληνας πρώην διευθυντής της πανίσχυρης μυστικής υπηρεσίας, που αρνήθηκε κατηγορηματικά να κάνει οποιοδήποτε σχόλιο. Επέλεξε να αποστείλει στα ΜΜΕ μια γραπτή δήλωση στην οποία έλεγε πόσο λυπόταν για τη δημοσιοποίηση της έκθεσης, «η οποία προκαλεί ζημιά στην εθνική ασφάλεια των ΗΠΑ, αλλά και στους άντρες και τις γυναίκες της CIA». Υπεραμύνθηκε των χειρισμών του, είπε ότι το πρόγραμμα κατευθυνόταν από τον πρόεδρο Μπους, ότι όλοι όσοι έπρεπε να γνωρίζουν γνώριζαν και μετά από όλα αυτά επέστρεψε στη συνήθη καθημερινότητά του και τις νέες επαγγελματικές του ευθύνες στην πιο μικρή αλλά και πιο «μυστική» τράπεζα της Αμερικής.
Αλεν, όπως λέμε Μπίλντερμπεργκ 
Κάθε καλοκαίρι, συνήθως στις αρχές Ιουλίου, το μικρό ειδυλλιακό θέρετρο του Σαν Βάλεϊ στο Αϊνταχο γίνεται για λίγες μέρες το επίκεντρο του επιχειρηματικού κόσμου των ΗΠΑ. Μεγιστάνες του Τύπου, πανίσχυροι επιχειρηματίες και CEOs σε εταιρείες-κολοσσούς, σχεδόν όλοι τους δισεκατομμυριούχοι δίνουν ηχηρό «παρών» στο ετήσιο συνέδριο της Allen & CO.
Μιας τράπεζας που επικοινωνιακά τουλάχιστον λειτουργεί όπως η περίφημη λέσχη Μπίλντερμπεργκ, σε ό,τι έχει να κάνει με τις επενδυτικές της κινήσεις εδώ και δεκαετίες.
Ιδρύθηκε το 1922 από τον Τσαρλς Ρόμπερτ Αλεν τον νεότερο, δίπλα στον οποίο τάχθηκαν σύντομα και τα άλλα δύο αδέρφια του, Χέρμπερτ και Χάρολντ. Από την πρώτη στιγμή η μυστικοπάθεια γύρω από τις δραστηριότητές της και η απόλυτη εχεμύθεια απέναντι στους πελάτες της δημιούργησε τον μύθο που τη συνοδεύει μέχρι σήμερα. Ανθρωποι του χώρου τη χαρακτηρίζουν ως μια boutique investment bank η οποία ειδικεύεται σε επενδυτικές κινήσεις στον χώρο των ΜΜΕ και του Entertainment στις ΗΠΑ. Οταν το 1973 αγόρασε ένα ποσοστό της κινηματογραφικής εταιρείας Columbia, αρκετοί απόρησαν με τη κίνηση αυτή. Εννέα χρόνια αργότερα, όταν η εταιρεία αγοράστηκε από την Coca-Cola, η Allen & Co αποκόμισε ένα πολύ μεγάλο κέρδος -το ποσό δεν έγινε ποτέ γνωστό-, ενώ ο ιδιοκτήτης της Χέρμπερτ Αλεν τζούνιορ κέρδισε μια θέση στο συμβούλιο της εταιρείας που διακινεί το πιο δημοφιλές αναψυκτικό στον κόσμο. Εκτοτε συνεργάστηκε στενά και ήταν παρούσα σε deals δισεκατομμυρίων δολαρίων, ενώ στο πελατολόγιό της φιγουράρουν η Google, το Facebook και ο μιντιακός κολοσσός News Corporation. Κανένα από τα deals -συγχωνεύσεις, εξαγορές εταιρειών- που πραγματοποιεί δεν δημοσιοποιείται στον Τύπο. Αξίζει ιδιαιτέρως να σημειωθεί ότι η τράπεζα δεν διαθέτει καν εταιρικό site και ότι φυσικά τα δελτία Τύπου είναι έννοια άγνωστη για τα στελέχη της. Στη δημοσιότητα έρχεται μόνο μία φορά τον χρόνο, όταν λαμβάνει χώρα το ετήσιο συνέδριό της στο Σαν Βάλεϊ. Είναι η εποχή που δεκάδες lear jets προσγειώνονται στο αεροδρόμιο του μικρού θερέτρου και η μοναδική φορά που οι φωτογράφοι έχουν την ευκαιρία να φωτογραφίσουν τους πανίσχυρους δισεκατομμυριούχους πελάτες της. Ανάμεσά τους συγκαταλέγονται ο πολύς Μουχτάρ Κεντ, CEO της Coca-Cola, o Αυστραλός μεγιστάνας του Τύπου Ρούπερτ Μέρντοκ, ο Μάικλ Μπλούμπεργκ, ο Μαρκ Ζάκερμπεργκ του Facebook, ο εκ των κορυφαίων κινηματογραφικών παραγωγών του Χόλιγουντ Μπράιαν Γκρέι­ζερ και ο Τζον Γουίλιαμ Χένρι, ιδιοκτήτης της Boston Globe και της Λίβερπουλ.
Οπως χαρακτηριστικά σχολιάζουν οικονομικοί συντάκτες, πρόκειται ίσως για την απόλυτη ίσως συνάθροιση τόσο ισχυρών ονομάτων του επιχειρείν από μια μικρή τράπεζα με πελατολόγιο που θα ζήλευε ακόμη και η Goldman Sachs.

Albania, the justice reform

Flickr - Clyde Robinson

The justice reform, approved on July 21st, amends as many as 45 articles of the Albanian Constitution. Citizens, however, still know little about it

04/08/2016 -  Tsai Mali
Late on July 21st, after 18 months of negotiations, accusations, and counter-accusations between the majority and the opposition, the Albanian Parliament passed the law to reform the judicial system with 140 votes in favour and none against. This first concrete result in strengthening the rule of law and progress in the country's European path was reached by mutual agreement and applauded from all sides. However, in a country where the adoption of legislation does not always correspond to its implementation, the political consensus around a decision does not always correspond to a real desire to undermine the status quo.

Changes in the Constitution

The recently adopted bill, drafted by an ad hoc commission that was established in November 2014 and gathered until a few minutes before the final approval, intervenes in depth on the Albanian Constitution, changing as many as 45 articles.
Before delving into the intricacies of the amendments, it may be useful to briefly recall the previous constitutional reforms in the young Albanian democracy. After a failed referendum in 1994, when 53% of voters rejected a Constitution project by President Sali Berisha, Albanians voted "yes" to the constitutional text proposed in October 1998 by the Socialists of Fatos Nano. Since then, all changes in the Constitution have been adopted by the Parliament, with no referendum.
In 2007, a political stalemate imposed the revision of the electoral law and the composition of the Central Election Commission, the main electoral management body, which made space for two other members from smaller parties.
More substantial amendments were made in 2008, decided in early-morning talks between then Premier Sali Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama, in spite of criticism by most independent experts and the hunger strike going on inside the Parliament by Ilir Meta (leader of the Socialist Movement for Integration, today President of Parliament). Those changes paved the way for an electoral law that favoured the two main parties and undermined the role of the President in favour of the Prime Minister.
At the time, Rama was preparing for the first political elections as secretary of the Socialist Party – relying on the success at the administrative elections, he planned to lead the country in a few months. But the centre-right coalition gathered a few more votes and Berisha was able to compose a fragile parliamentary majority thanks to the four seats of Meta's party, relegating Rama to four years more in the opposition. Four years later, in 2013, mindful of the number one lesson of Albanian politics (no government without Meta!), Rama invited Meta to join the centre-left coalition and finally got the leadership of the country.
In 2012, constitutional amendments limited the immunity of deputies, prosecutors, and judges. The law was passed at the end of October, just in view of the "progress report" of the European Commission, with the customary international enthusiasm for this bipartisan result. To date, however, it is difficult to determine when such measures have allowed or facilitated investigations or convictions of state officials.
In general, in recent years, political parties have always managed to reach an agreement and collect the 2/3 of the parliamentary votes needed to amend the Constitution. These changes have not, however, helped mitigate the climate of daily conflict that characterises Albanian politics, nor to produce organic, efficient laws.

What changes in the judicial system

This reform and the new Constitution aim to redefine especially the judiciary and the prosecution system, stop the rampant corruption in the field of justice, and break the bonds of judges and prosecutors with politics and crime. Changes to the appointment mechanisms for officials have virtually monopolised the debate between the majority and the opposition – the agreement on this delicate point has been reached through a complicated, almost inscrutable, mechanism.
The main changes include the establishment of the Supreme Judicial Council and the Supreme Prosecution Council, two structures located at the apex of justice and prosecution systems to ensure their efficiency and independence. A court and a special prosecutor for the fight against corruption and organised crime, the main weakness of the Albanian state, will also be established.
Much debate has been raised by the so-called "vetting" process, the verification of the credentials of those who apply for the posts envisaged by the new judicial system. All judges, prosecutors, and senior officials will be subjected to a detailed examination of credentials – resumè, professionalism, patrimony, and possible links with crime – by two other new institutions, the Independent Commission of Qualifications and the Board of Appeals. Both will be supported by the Monitoring International Operation, a EU-managed commission with experts in the justice system of member countries, with at least 15 years of experience.
What proved divisive a few days before the vote was precisely the role of the latter. Initially designed to ensure impartiality (certainly not a foregone conclusion in a climate of absolute mistrust between majority and opposition), the Operation was also meant to be tasked with assessing the credentials of the Independent Commissioners of Qualifications, to ensure the absolute integrity of those who would evaluate their colleagues. But the opposition saw this as a violation of the sovereignty of the country, thus denying the necessary votes for approval. With an intervention in extremis, the EU suggested that the Operation may have only a monitoring and advisory role, its opinion not binding. The formula proved attractive and the reform was passed.

Difficult negotiations and international actors at the forefront

As with any legislative reform process in the country, Albanian politics has been torn, unable to or disinterested in finding a common solution. The agreement was facilitated by the international actors, with the US and the European Union at the forefront. The whole process was followed at every stage by assistance missions EURALIUS (Brussels) and Opdat (Washington), the European Parliament, the Council of Europe through the Venice Commission, and the diplomatic missions in Tirana.
The US and EU ambassadors in Tirana personally followed the work of the committees, held countless meetings with the leaders of the respective parties, made proposals, and suggested concrete solutions to any dispute, leaving aside any diplomatic practice. A few days before the vote, US Ambassador Donald Lu said that the reform was being intentionally obstructed by "corrupt judges and prosecutors, politicians, and criminals", threatening "serious consequences" for Albanian deputies. A text message sent on the day of the vote summoned the opposition lawmakers to appear the next day at the US Embassy in Tirana to take vision of the consequences the American state would adopt towards them in case of voting against the reform.
During the difficult negotiations, the centre-right opposition repeatedly abandoned and boycotted the works of the ad hoc committee, chaired by the majority, to the point that negotiations, especially in the final phases, turned into private, informal, extra-parliamentary tables, in a very non-transparent process, in which no details and arguments emerged, but only allegations and threats or, alternatively, a sterile press conference rhetoric. Even the final proposal on which the parties reached an agreement was put on the table by the EU a few hours before the vote, asking MPs to vote constitutional changes that normally should have been discussed and explained to legislators and the public.

Towards the opening of negotiations with the EU?

In June 2014, the European Council gave the green light to grant Albania the status of candidate country for accession to the European Union. To continue in the path of integration, Brussels encouraged Albania to step up efforts for the reforms (with emphasis on the rule of law and the fight against organised crime), urging a constructive dialogue between majority and opposition and emphasising a systematic approach the reforms – the well-known mechanism of "track record", intended to monitor the implementation of legislative measures.
In the aftermath of the vote last July 21st, in congratulating the country for approval, the international community insisted on the process of implementation. "It is important that the reform is implemented immediately, so that Albanian people are served by a judicial system based on European standards", stressed EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn.
The formal approval of the amendments is indeed only the first step towards effective reform of the Albanian justice system, notoriously inefficient and corrupt. The reform process requires the drafting of approximately 40 new laws related to the judicial system, of which only seven are ready and awaiting approval. With the closing of the parliamentary session for the first semester, many laws and amendments will slip to September, unlike the delicate drafting process, which will continue and will require time and good will.

Before the law

The numerous appeals for the approval of a judicial reform, by Albanian and international politicians, often assumed that citizens wanted it. Polls commissioned by the United States revealed that 91% of the Albanians was in favour of judicial reform. In the last week before the closure, several demonstrations urged a vote in favour of the reform – however, none of the people questioned by journalists from TV Klan on the actual content of the new constitutional text could answer. The draft law is undoubtedly difficult to interpret for the public, both for the technical nature of the provisions and the lack of transparency that accompanied the process.
In the short story "Before the Law", Franz Kafka tells the anecdote of a farmer who looks at the door of the law, open but guarded by a watchman, that denies access. After years spent waiting in vain, the guardian confessed the man, now aged and dying, that the door was only there for him and that he was going to close it. In the parable, the truth, the right of access to the law, are denied by an incomprehensible ban. It is the law that validates the lie, that exists to exclude, to keep out the citizens. A door open and still insurmountable – a law that just exists, inscrutable, without prescribing anything.
On July 21st, Albania virtually adopted a new Constitution and is now preparing to change much of the state's legislative bulk. Albanian citizens have so far watched the umpteenth reckless struggle between majority and opposition to snare the right to appoint officials and recorded the triumphal declarations and smug smiles of all the country's leaders at the end of vote.
The absolute unanimity achieved in Parliament is not just consensus and has little to do with democracy. These are the figures of a regime, the result of international pressures and signs of a political class that ignores the will of the people and responds only to intimidation, while the Albanian citizens remain outside the door of the law, awaiting justice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Patriarch Kirill’s congratulations to Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania on the anniversary of his enthronement

Source: DECR
admin | 03 August 2016
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia congratulated His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania on the anniversary of his enthronement. Below is the full text of the message:
Patriarch Kirill’s congratulations to Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania on the anniversary of his enthronement
Archbishop Anastasios
Your Beatitude,
Beloved in the Lord Brother and Concelebrant:
I cordially congratulate you on another anniversary of your enthronement.
May Christ the Savior Who has installed you at the helm of the church boat preserve you in good health and peace and may He multiply the days and years of your life.
I prayerfully wish Your Beatitude physical strength, many blessings from God and His generous help in your further service at the high and important post of Primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church.
With brotherly love in the Lord,

Albania’s Long Road to Reform

08/03/2016 04:02 am ET | Updated 13 hours ago
After 18 months of debate and delay, advocates for reform in Albania released a collective cheer in late July when parliament approved constitutional amendments that pave the way for meaningful changes to the judiciary. The government and opposition, long at each other’s throats, seemingly cast their differences aside for the good of the state.
On paper, the amendments and legal changes they allow are steps in the right direction for a country where criminals, politicians and criminal-politicians have long influenced the courts. The proposed vetting of judges and prosecutors and reviewing of their finances should help shield the judiciary from corruption and organized crime.
In practice, however, the impact of the reform remains in question because, rather than having grown from within, foreign governments unabashedly imposed the changes from abroad. International experts helped craft the package and the U.S. and European Union shepherded it through approval. The vetting will include reviews by an international committee.
The EU made passage of the package a requirement for Albania to begin accession talks with Brussels. The outspoken US ambassador threatened “grave and long-term” consequences for political leaders who blocked the reform.
Parliament’s unanimous vote for the amendments reveals the power of Western capitals and not the enlightened solidarity of Albania’s political leaders. Despite overwhelming popular support for reform, the political elite will largely suffer from, and therefore resist, changes that challenge nepotism, cronyism and back-room deals.
The international focus on institutions over individuals offered a welcome change for post-Communist Albania; the US and EU learned that bolstering one or another political force contributes to Albania’s unhealthy tradition of the all-powerful state. But the arm-twisting means that sustained attention to corruption is needed for the reform to have teeth.
That means holding Prime Minister Edi Rama’s feet to the fire, challenging him to make anti-corruption more than a mantra. This is especially important after the US and EU forcefully challenged last-minute efforts by the opposition to block the reform.
2016-08-03-1470210200-4109191-Photo29.jpg Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama © Reuters
Rama has repeatedly argued that the system in Albania, and not the people, is to blame. The laws of that system are slowly changing so will he push Albanians to also change? Amending laws is easier than ensuring their enforcement. Vetting and financial reviews alone won’t alter a political culture infused with the nectar of opportunistic rule.
The internationally-mandated constitutional amendments, hopefully followed by new laws, set the stage for positive change. But they also show how far Albania has to go.
Fred Abrahams is the author of Modern Albania: From Dictatorship to Democracy (NYU Press, 2015)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Riyadh, Qatar and Turkey 'Responsible for Downing Russian Helicopter in Syria'

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A Russian Mi-8 helicopter was shot down in northwestern Syria on Monday killing all five Russian servicemen on board. In an interview with Sputnik, Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos, Editor of Politics First Magazine, put the blame on an alliance of terrorist groups called the Army of Conquest and its suppliers.

“I have no doubt about that. They have in their possession advanced weapons. We are talking about tanks, other armored vehicles, antitank weapons and antiaircraft missiles. The question is who has supplied them with these antiaircraft missiles?” he continued, adding that they could have apparently been supplied by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.”
“Therefore, they are responsible for the downing of Russia’s Mi-8 helicopter, which was on a humanitarian mission in Syria, and for the death of all five Russian servicemen on board,” Marcus Papadopoulos continued.
Dr. Papadopoulos said that the Army of Conquest formed at the beginning of 2015 and after its formation it scored a major  battlefield victory when it captured Idlib city in the north of Syria and the rest of the province.
“Its political and financial backers are Saudi Arabia and Turkey and even though Ankara may now be reconsidering its policy of supporting Islamist terrorist groups, Turkey is the major supporter of the Army of Conquest responsible for numerous atrocities in Aleppo with their artillery bombardment of civilians,” he noted.
When asked that whether the downing of the Russian helicopter and the death of its crew will lead to the Army of Conquest losing its foreign sponsors or becoming officially recognized as a terrorist group, Dr. Papadopoulos said that “there is little chance of that happening because the Americans are supporting numerous other Islamist terrorist groups in Syria."
He said that when in 2013 Daesh started to make its move in Syria there was no condemnation from the American government. It was only toward the end of that year when Daesh reemerged in Iraq and started posing a direct threat to the Western-backed Iraqi government that the Americans finally acted. Prior to that, they were only too happy to see Daesh advancing in Syria, capturing Syrian territories and committing atrocities.
"So there is no chance of the US listing the Army of Contest as a terrorist group,” Dr. Papadopoulos noted.
The downing of the Russian helicopter came shortly after Daesh posted a video where it called for waging a jihad against Russia.
When asked whether these two things could be connected somehow, Dr. Papadopoulos said that after Russia launched its antiterrorist campaign in Syria that actually turned the table in that conflict, it is now seen by Daesh, al-Nusra Front, the Army of  Conquest and others as one of their main enemies. Answering a question about the terrorists disseminating video accounts of their atrocities, Dr. Panadopoulos said that such photos and videos must be banned and that there should be censorship.
“I don’t really care what people in the West say about censorship being not in line with Western values of democracy and freedom of expression. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, that pictures of atrocities, beheadings, of bodies being dragged behind trucks should be prohibited on social media.”
“This would deprive the terrorists of a very important channel of recruitment. We have to fight them on the battlefield and we should also beat them on social media by banning their pages on Facebook and preventing them from uploading their appalling photos and videos,” Dr. Marcus Papadopoulos emphasized.
The downing of the Mi-8 has become the deadliest episode for the Russian military since it started bombing terrorist-held territories in Syria in September 2015.

West's Recognition of Kosovo 'Thanks to Albania's Washington Lobbyists'

A Kosovo Albanian man sells flags in Pristina on February 16, 2011 in preparation for the third anniversary of Kosovo's declaration of independence

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The Kosovo region owes recognition of its 2008 "declaration of independence" to Albania's long-practised skill at lobbying US politicians, Nenad Vasic, researcher at the Belgrade-based Institute for International Politics and Economics, told Sputnik Serbia.

Albanian and Kosovan politicians have successfully pursued their policy objectives thanks to close links to US lobbyists, Nenad Vasic, researcher at the Belgrade-based Institute for International Politics and Economics told Sputnik Serbia. On Tuesday Politico reported that in 2012, current Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama was involved in a scheme to pay $80,000 to the Obama Victory Fund prior to that year's US presidential election. In return for the donation, Rama was allowed to attend an Obama fundraiser in San Francisco.
In Albanian parliamentary elections in June 2013 Rama used a photo taken with Obama at the fundraiser with to suggest the US President supported his election.
Vasic told Sputnik that the episode is demonstrative of Albanian politicians' successful habit of US lobbying to achieve their aims, and that Kosovan Albanian politicians also use the corrupt system to their advantage.
"It is important to note that it was in 1999 that Kosovan representatives first openly employed a US lobbying firm. Today, they have a contract for representation that has been renewed three times, and it is in force until 2017," Vasic said.
The researcher said that the connections between US lobbyists and Albanian politics can be traced back to the late 19th century, but the engagement deepened in the late 1980s, when a delegation of top US politicians made a visit to the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo.
Among the delegation was former US Senator and1996 Republican Presidential candidate Bob Dole. Vasic says that in the 1990's Dole was one of the main figures in the pro-Albania lobby, and brought Albania's policy objectives to the attention of President Bill Clinton.
"That's when the issue of human rights for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo officially began to be the agenda in the US Congress. Later it was internationalized via different media and lobbying campaigns and resulted in Albanians constantly enhancing their international position and authority, and in particular the authority of the main pro-Albanian figures – Dole, DioGuardi and Lanatosh, who were later joined by Joe Biden and Elliott Engel," Vasic says.
"Thanks to them, the US Congress passed a lot of resolutions against the former Yugoslavia. Lobbyists are very important in Washington, especially those who are from an ethnic community campaigning for nationalist issues, or even secessionist movements, which were exploited in the 1990s and later when Kosovan Albanians announced Kosovan independence."
Kosovo's assembly unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February 2008, a decision which was criticized by many in the international community. Serbia has vowed never to recognize Kosovan independence, and Russia and China also support Serbia's continued sovereignty over the region.
The other three members of the UN Security Council, the US, UK and France, responded to the declaration by recognizing Kosovan independence. Last year Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama laid bare Tirana's long-term foreign policy objectives, when he claimed that Kosovo would one day be part of Albania.
"The unification of the Albanians of Albania and Kosovo… is inevitable and unquestionable," Rama said in an interview on Kosovo television in April.
Belgrade responded by calling on Albania to "stop banging the war drums" in the region, and "devote itself fully to respecting its international and good-neighborly obligations."
"I ask Albanian leaders to stop inciting instability in the region," said Serbian Prime Minister Alexander Vucic, adding that Albania and Kosovo would "never unite." 
A Daesh training camp in northern Iraq
© AP Photo/ Militant website via AP
Nenad Vasic told Sputnik that the Albanian government is not the only one of Serbia's neighbors to use the US lobbying system to its advantage. He says that since the 1990s, Serbia has remained the only ex-Yugoslav country not to employ a US-based PR firm to lobby on its behalf. According to Vasic, US public relations firm Ruder Finn has been employed by the Croatian and Bosnian governments to influence political and media analysis of events in the Balkans, with the Croatian government apparently paying the company more than $100,000 per month to push its agenda in Washington.
Vasic cited an analysis by German researchers of 157 contracts agreed by 40 US public relations firms to represent parties to conflicts in the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 2002. According to the study, 90 percent of the contracts were commissioned by opponents to the survival of the Yugoslav state.

Trend for foreign names causes stir in Albania

Children at a primary school in Albania (Image: World Bank Photo Collection under a CC licence)
Research highlighting the huge popularity of foreign names in Albania has caused outrage among experts, who claim that the trend represents a threat to national identity.
The recent study shows that none of the 20 most popular names given to Albanian newborn children in 2014 were Albanian.
Of the 35,760 births registered in Albania during 2014, statistics shows that the girls name Amelia was the most popular name, being chosen 363 times. Other foreign girls names that made it to the top 20 included Ajla, Melisa, Klea, Sara, Kejsi, Noemi, Alesia and Leandra. Among boys names, Noel came top of the list, with Joel taking second place.
This development has caused concern among sociology experts. According to Dr Edmond Dragoti, a sociology professor at the University of Tirana, the trend is the result of the banning of foreign names under the former communist regime.
“All the frustration about not being able to name their children as they wished exploded after the 1990s, when Albania opened up. The unlimited and uncontrolled new freedom quickly surpassed the need for a national identity,” said Dr Dragoti in an interview with Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
He also linked the craze with mass migration of Albanians abroad, and the related perceived need for integration with the new local community in which the migrants find themselves.
“Foreign names are given to children [...] to raise the family status and make the process of integration smoother,” he stated.
“This phenomenon is dangerous for our identity and culture and harms our roots,” said Agron Tufa, a writer and literature professor at the University of Tirana.
Source: Balkan Insight