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Daily Archives: 07/27/2010

Lourdes Grotto at Notre Dame catches fire

South Bend, Ind., Jul 27, 2010 / 10:43 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The University of Notre Dame released a statement on July 26 saying that the campus’s Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes caught fire on Monday evening.

The university’s fire department quickly extinguished the flames when they broke out early in the evening, Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown told the South Bend Tribune. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire is still under investigation, Brown said.

Notre Dame’s July 26 statement added that the “interior of the Grotto has been closed while officials determine if it is safe to enter. Visitors may still pray at the perimeter of the shrine.”

Candles are often lit in the grotto by those visiting to pray and have posed a hazard in the past with the grotto catching fire in 1985 due to the large number of lit votive candles.

Built in 1896, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes  is one-seventh the size of the shrine in France where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette numerous times in 1858.

Militants hijack Russian helicopter in Sudan – Russian Foreign Ministry

Russia's  peacekeeping contingent in Sudan. Archive
Russia’s peacekeeping contingent in Sudan. Archive

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / RIA NOVOSTI)  Militants in the Sudanese Darfur region on Monday hijacked a Russian helicopter with four Russian crew members and five Sudanese passengers on board, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“According to the information we have, there are no casualties,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that the helicopter was not damaged.

The ministry is taking all necessary steps to obtain the release of the Russian citizens involved and to clarify the situation.

The helicopter belongs to Russian UTair Aviation company and was working in Sudan on a UN contract. When it was hijacked, the helicopter was on a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur.

The civil war that broke out in the western region of Darfur in early 2003 has claimed the lives of more than 300,000, according to United Nations estimates, and forced 2.7 million people from their homes. The Sudanese side puts the number of dead at 10,000.

Several Sudanese rebel groups have recently signed peace accords with the government in Khartoum but a key rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Army, has so far rejected negotiations with Khartoum and fought fierce clashes with the Sudanese army in March.

Russia has been maintaining a peacekeeping contingent in the war-torn country since April 2006 as part of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

David Cameron: Israeli blockade has turned Gaza strip into a ‘prison camp’

David Cameron in Ankara, Turkey

David Cameron defended his remarks at a press conference with Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photograph: Pool/REUTERS

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / GUARDIAN.CO.UK)   David Cameron used a visit to Turkey to make his strongest intervention yet in the intractable Middle East conflict today when he likened the experience of Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza strip to that of a “prison camp”.

Although he has made similar remarks before, his decision to repeat them on a world stage in Turkey, whose relations with Israel have deteriorated sharply since it mounted a deadly assault on the Gaza flotilla, gave them much greater diplomatic significance.

Cameron’s comments, in a speech to business leaders in Ankara, prompted the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to issue another strong condemnation of how Israel dealt with the flotilla.

Erdogan likened the behaviour of Israeli commandos, who shot dead nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists, to Somali pirates.

Cameron’s criticism of Tel Aviv came when he called for Israel to relax its restrictions on Gaza. “The situation in Gaza has to change,” he said. “Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza cannot and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.”

He strongly condemned Israel after the assault on the Gaza flotilla. “The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable,” he said. “I have told prime minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. “Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change.”

Cameron defended his remarks at a press conference with Erdogan. “My description of Gaza is something I said in the House of Commons several weeks ago. Perhaps this is final proof that if you want to keep something completely secret you should announce it in the House of Commons.”

Hansard, the House of Commons’ official record, shows Cameron said on 28 June: “Everybody knows that we are not going to sort out the problem of the Middle East peace process while there is, effectively, a giant open prison in Gaza.”

His choice of the words “prison camp” instead of “open prison” is likely to be seized upon. But a Downing Street source later tried to play down Cameron’s comments. “This is not an elevation of the rhetoric. This is equivalent language. The prime minister remains concerned.”

Cameron said Britain remained opposed to the blockade of Gaza. “The fact is we have long supported lifting the blockade of Gaza, we have long supported proper humanitarian access. Even though some progress has been made we are still in the situation where it is very difficult to get in, it is very difficult to get out. So I think the description is warranted.”

At the press conference, Erdogan heaped further criticism on Israel over its treatment of the flotilla. “What we saw happening was taking place in international waters and this attack in international waters, as such, can only be termed as piracy. There is no other way to describe it.

“The pirates are there in Somalia and we take our measures. When a similar situation occurs here … political leaders, who are there to establish a fair life for everyone – they should not remain silent.”

After Cameron made his remarks, Ron Prosor, the Israeli ambassador to London, blamed the Palestinians’ situation on Hamas, the Islamist regime that controls the Gaza strip. “The people of Gaza are the prisoners of the terrorist organisation Hamas. The situation in Gaza is the direct result of Hamas’ rule and priorities.

“We know that the prime minister would also share our grave concerns about our own prisoner in the Gaza strip, Gilad Shalit, who has been held hostage there for over four years, without receiving a single Red Cross visit.”

Ephraim Sneh, the former Israeli deputy minister of defence, said: “Cameron is right – Gaza is a prison camp, but those who control the prison are Hamas. I’m totally against the double standards of a nation which fights the Taliban but is showing its solidarity with their brothers, Hamas.

“It’s very regrettable that the British PM doesn’t understand that. It reflects a lack of understanding and is a very bad sign. Cameron doesn’t understand that 1.5m people live in Gaza under the repressive regime of Hamas – and yet he blames Israel.”

Also during his speech, Cameron challenged France and Germany over their opposition to Turkish membership of the EU.

In a passionate defence of Turkey, the prime minister accused Paris and Berlin of double standards for expecting Ankara to guard Europe’s borders as a Nato member while closing the door to EU membership.

“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a Nato ally … I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.”

His tough language reflects Britain’s frustration that Ankara’s EU membership negotiations have stalled since they were formally opened in 2005. Turkey’s involvement in the Cyprus dispute and its refusal to open its ports to Greek Cypriot goods are holding up the talks.

Cameron also said Turkey should use its links with Iran to persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear weapons programme.

Turkey is to abide by new UN sanctions, agreed last month, which are focused on individuals and companies linked to Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes. But it will not implement wider US and EU restrictions on banks, and wants to deepen trade links with Iran.

The prime minister said Turkey’s special place, as a bridge between east and west, gave it a key role with Iran. “It’s Turkey that can help us stop Iran from getting the bomb,” he said.

Iran reached an agreement in May with Turkey and Brazil to export 1,200kg of low-enriched uranium in return for fuel rods for a civilian reactor. The prime minister said he hoped this understanding could help “see Iran move in the right direction”.

But he cast doubt over Iran’s intentions when he said: “Even if Iran were to complete the deal proposed in their recent agreement with Turkey and Brazil, it would still retain around 50% of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium.”

The prime minister is on a four-day visit to Turkey and India. Cameron laid a wreath at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the father of modern secular Turkey, before delivering his address. This afternoon he will fly to India.

PM David Cameron’s speech in Turkey

PM and Prime Minister Erdoğan by The Prime Minister's Office./

Prime Minister David Cameron arrived in Turkey on 26 July and held talks and dinner at the Prime Minister’s residence.

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / NUMBER 10 UK)  I’ve come to Ankara today to establish a new partnership between Britain and Turkey. I think this is a vital strategic relationship for our country.

As Prime Minister I first visited our two largest European Union partners, then Afghanistan and North America.

Now I come to Turkey.

People ask me why Turkey and why so soon. I’ll tell you why. Because Turkey is vital for our economy. Vital for our security. And vital for our politics and diplomacy.

Let me explain.

First – our economy.

Over 400 years ago England’s first official diplomatic representative arrived in Istanbul. William Harborne came bearing gifts from Queen Elizabeth. As a nation we sought the opportunity for our merchants to trade. More than 400 years on – I follow him to Turkey at least in part for the same reason.

I ask myself this: Which European country grew at 11 per cent at the start of this year? Which country will be Europe’s second largest economy by 2050? Which country in Europe has more young people than any of the 27 countries in the EU? Which country in Europe is our number one TV manufacturer – and second only to China in the world in construction and contracting?

Tabii ki Türkiye. (‘of course – it’s Turkey’)

Everyone’s talking about the BRIC’s – the fast-growing emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Turkey is Europe’s BRIC. And yet we in Britain export more to Ireland than we export to Brazil, Russia, India, China and Turkey all combined.

No disrespect to our partners in Ireland, but we have to change that. And that’s the first reason I’m here today. And it’s why I’ve chosen to come to TOBB, right in the heart of the Turkish business community.

The second reason for coming to Turkey is security.

Turkey is a great NATO ally. And Turkey shares our determination to fight terrorism in all its forms – whether from Al Qaeda or the PKK. But perhaps more significant still is the fact that Turkey’s unique position at the meeting point of East and West gives it an unrivalled influence in helping us get to grips with some of the greatest threats to our collective security.

I ask myself this: Which country’s commitment to the international effort in Afghanistan sends a message to the world that this fight is not against Muslims – but against terrorism? Which Muslim majority country has a long-established relationship with Israel while at the same time championing the rights of the Palestinian people? Which European country could have the greatest chance of persuading Iran to change course on its nuclear policy?

Tabii ki Türkiye [of course – it’s Turkey].

Whether in Afghanistan or the Middle East, Turkey has a credibility that others in the West just can’t hope to have. So I’ve come here to make the case for Turkey to use this credibility, to go further in enhancing our security and working for peace across our world.

The third reason I’m here is political.

I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.

Do you know who said this: “Here is a country which is not European…its history, its geography, its economy, its agriculture and the character of its people – admirable people though they are – all point in a different direction…This is a country which…cannot, despite what it claims and perhaps even believes, be a full member.”

It might sound like some Europeans describing Turkey. But it was actually General de Gaulle describing the UK before vetoing our EU accession. We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change.

When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a NATO ally and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies it makes me angry that your progress towards EU Membership can be frustrated in the way it has been. My view is clear. I believe it’s just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.

So I will remain your strongest possible advocate for EU Membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy. This is something I feel very passionately about.

Together, I want us to pave the road from Ankara to Brussels. To make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU and to seize the huge advances I believe we can make in our trade and our security there are three groups whose views we need to take on directly.

First, the protectionists. They see the rise of a country like Turkey as an economic threat we must defend against – not an opportunity to further our prosperity.

Second, the polarised. They see the history of the world through the prism of a clash of civilisations. They think Turkey has to choose between East and West and that choosing both is just not an option.

Third, the prejudiced. Those who wilfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies, or cultures.

All these arguments are just plain wrong.

And as a new Government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them.

So let me take on each of them in turn.

First, the protectionists.

Every generation has to make the argument for free trade all over again. And we’re no different. As we build our economic relationships, there are some who fear the growth of a country like Turkey who want to retreat and cut themselves off from the rest of the world. They just don’t get it. They seem to think that trade is some sort of zero sum game. They talk about it quite literally as if one country’s success is another country’s failure. That if our exports grow then someone else’s will shrink. That somehow if we import low cost goods from Turkey we’re failing. As if all the benefits of Turkey’s exports go to Turkey alone. When actually we benefit too from choice, competition, and low prices in our shops. The whole point about trade is that everyone can benefit from it.

So let me tell you what we’re going to do to beat the protectionists. We’re going to work harder than ever before to break down those barriers to trade that still exist to cut the global red tape, like by streamlining customs bureaucracy and to work towards completing the trade round that could add $170 billion dollars to the world economy. And we’re going to do everything we can to re-open Britain for business.

Two hundred years on from William Harborne, the first resident Turkish Ambassador arrived in London. One of his team wrote the first Turkish account of Britain. He said quite simply, British weather is disagreeable.

Well I’m not sure much has changed on that front. And I certainly can’t change the weather. But I can do a lot to change the climate for trade and investment in Britain. That’s why we’re cutting corporation tax to 24 per cent, the lowest in the G7. We’re creating the most competitive corporate tax regime in the G20. We’re cutting the time it takes to set up a business.

We’re welcoming new business to Britain. And we are delighted that so many Turkish people are visiting, studying, and doing business so successfully in the UK. And we’re encouraging British business to be more ambitious in developing new markets – as Turkish business has done. Vodafone, Tesco and HSBC are just three of the big British investments already in Turkey. I want to see many, many more.

Today the value of our trade is over $9 billion a year. I want us to double this over the next five years. We can not let the protectionists win. The truth is that trade is the biggest wealth creator we’ve ever known. And it’s the biggest stimulus we can give our economies right now.

Second, let me turn to the next group of objectors, the polarised.

They see the history of our world as a clash of civilisations as a choice between East and West. They just don’t get the fact that Turkey can be a great unifier. Because instead of choosing between East and West, Turkey has chosen both. And it’s this opportunity to unite East and West that gives Turkey such an important role with countries in the region in helping to deliver improved security for us all.

That matters most to us in Afghanistan. Turkey provides a vital transport hub for equipment heading to Afghanistan for the fight against the Taleban. But it also has a unique influence in promoting the regional, political and economic co-operation that is so crucial to Afghanistan’s stability and security. For international forces to leave we need to know that the Afghans can take control of their own security. That means the development of the Afghan National Security Forces is vital. And I welcome Turkey’s plans to do even more military and police training.

Just as Turkey is playing a pivotal role in Afghanistan, it can also do so in the Middle East. Turkey’s relationships in the region, both with Israel and with the Arab world, are of incalculable value. No other country has the same potential to build understanding between Israel and the Arab world. I know that Gaza has led to real strains in Turkey’s relationship with Israel. But Turkey is a friend of Israel. And I urge Turkey, and Israel, not to give up on that friendship.

Let me be clear. The Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable. And I have told PM Netanyahu, we will expect the Israeli inquiry to be swift, transparent and rigorous. Let me also be clear that the situation in Gaza has to change. Humanitarian goods and people must flow in both directions. Gaza can not and must not be allowed to remain a prison camp.

But as, hopefully, we move in the coming weeks to direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians so it’s Turkey that can make the case for peace and Turkey that can help to press the parties to come together, and point the way to a just and viable solution.

And just as we look to Turkey to play this role in the Middle East – so it’s Turkey that can help us stop Iran from getting the bomb. Let’s be frank about this. Iran is enriching uranium to 20 per cent with no industrial logic for what they are doing other than producing a bomb. If Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful why won’t Iran allow the IAEA to inspect? Why does Iran continue to seek to acquire military components? And why does Iran continue to threaten Israel with annihilation?

Even if Iran were to complete the deal proposed in their recent agreement with Turkey and Brazil, it would still retain around fifty percent of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. So we need Turkey’s help now in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community.

We hope that the meeting held in Istanbul between the Turkish, Brazilian and Iranian Foreign Ministers will see Iran move in the right direction.

Just as the new sanctions the EU announced yesterday are designed to persuade Iran to give the international community confidence that its nuclear programme really is peaceful, as Iran claims.

I also encourage Turkey to maintain its efforts to achieve the ambition of zero problems with all its neighbours, including Iraq. And I welcome the important work Turkey has done in recent months to improve regional co-operation in the Western Balkans. Again it’s your unique relationships and influence in the region which can play such a vital role in helping to bring about progress and reconciliation.

But all of this hinges on people breaking away from the polarised view of a false choice between East and West. With Turkey it’s not East or West it’s East and West together. And we very much welcome that combination.

Third, let me turn to the prejudiced – those who don’t differentiate between real Islam and the extremist version.

They don’t understand the values that Islam shares with other religions like Christianity and Judaism that these are all inherently peaceful religions. Nor do they understand that Turkey is a peaceful country, with a long history of religious tolerance.

I will always argue that the values of real Islam are not incompatible with the values of Europe. That Europe is defined not by religion, but by values. The EU is a secular organisation. And Europe welcomes people of all faiths, or none.

Likewise Turkey is a secular and democratic state. This is all the more reason to make Turkey feel welcome in Europe.

I know Turkey has already made significant reforms in just the last few years. The bans on teaching and broadcasting of Kurdish – scrapped. A new State Kurdish television station – up and running. Death penalty – scrapped. Penal code – reformed. Democratic institutions – strengthened.

These are significant changes. And they should be recognised.

In encouraging you to go further. I’m not asking you to be a different country, to abandon your values, your traditions or your culture. We want you to be Turkey – because it’s as Turkey that you can play the unique role I have described in building greater security and greater prosperity for all our citizens.

But we want you to push forwards aggressively with the EU reforms you’re making. We want you to take the necessary measures to open the Competition chapter, as the next step in the accession process. Because just as countries draw great strength from the openness of their societies, so Europe will draw fresh vigour and purpose from a Turkey that embraces human rights and democracy.

And we want you to continue to work towards a solution in Cyprus, despite our disappointment that a huge effort six years ago was unsuccessful. We’ll support you in every way we can as you do this. Of course we won’t always agree on everything but our common objective is to convince the doubters – whether protectionist, polarised or prejudiced – that the case for Turkish membership of the EU is indisputable. Just as I already believe it is.

So this is how I see it.

The protectionists are wrong. All the countries that increase their trade with Turkey will be winners. The losers will be those that don’t.

The polarised are wrong. Turkey doesn’t have to choose between East and West.It’s precisely because it’s chosen both that it has such an opportunity to enhance security for us all.

The Prejudiced are wrong. The problem is not Islam – but the wrong assumptions the prejudiced make about Islam.

And a European Union without Turkey is not stronger but weaker, not more secure but less, not richer but poorer.

The Strategic Partnership that I am signing today with Prime Minister Erdogan sets out our ambitions for a modern partnership between Britain and Turkey. Central to it is the conviction that Turkey deserves its place at the top table of European politics. And that is what I will fight for.

To the doubters – I just ask this:

More than any other, which European country’s growth could drive growth for us all?

More than any other, which European country’s influence over security in the Middle East could help tackle the causes of terrorism and bring greater security for us all?

More than any other, which country’s accession to the EU could make a stronger EU with greater global influence for us all?

And the answer I give is simply this:

Tabii ki Türkiye [of course – it’s Turkey].

Çok Tesekkür ederim [Thank you very much]. (*)

Photostream : Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron in Ankara

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron reviews a guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara July 27, 2010. Cameron promised on Tuesday to fight for Turkey to join the European Union and dismissed opponents of Turkish membership as protectionist or prejudiced. (Getty Images)

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan shake hands during a welcoming ceremony in Ankara July 27, 2010. Cameron promised on Tuesday to fight for Turkey to join the European Union and dismissed opponents of Turkish membership as protectionist or prejudiced. (Getty Images)

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Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the secular Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on July 27, 2010. He pledged to remain Turkey’s ‘strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.’  (Getty Images)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the secular Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara July 27, 2010. Cameron will promise on Tuesday to fight for Turkey to join the European Union and will dismiss opponents of Turkish membership as protectionist or prejudiced. (Getty Images)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the secular Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on July 27, 2010. He pledged to remain Turkey’s ‘strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.’  (Getty Images)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron leaves a wreath-laying ceremony at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the secular Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara July 27, 2010. Cameron will promise on Tuesday to fight for Turkey to join the European Union and will dismiss opponents of Turkish membership as protectionist or prejudiced. (Getty Images)

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron(C) leaves a wreath-laying ceremony at Anitkabir, mausoleum of the founder of the secular Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in Ankara on July 27, 2010. He pledged to remain Turkey’s ‘strongest possible advocate for EU membership and for greater influence at the top table of European diplomacy.’ (Getty Images)

UK’s Cameron in India on mission to woo old ally

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July 27, 2010

LONDON (KATAKAMI / CHINA POST ) — Seeking to win a key ally outside Washington and a booming business partner to spur Britain’s fragile economic recovery, David Cameron heads to India on Tuesday to lead his country’s most brazen charm offensive in decades.

The prime minister is taking a 90-strong delegation for three days of summits and schmoozing, aimed at revitalizing relations between New Delhi and its former colonial ruler.

Five government ministers, about 50 leaders of some of Britain’s largest companies, Olympic gold medalists and a host of academics will join Cameron in a rare — and hardly subtle — attempt at political courtship.

Britain’s new government has placed India at the heart of its strategy on foreign relations, seeking increased trade with emerging economies to fuel British growth, and new political alliances to preserve London’s clout on the world stage.

“This delegation is unprecedented in its scale and ambition,” said Jo Johnson, a Conservative Party lawmaker who previously lived in New Dehli and is joining the trip. “The government has made a very clear statement of intent, that India is rising to the top of Britain’s diplomatic priorities.”

In his first legislative program, Cameron signaled Britain’s plan to woo its neglected partner, pledging to craft a “new special relationship” with India. The phrasing is important: In Britain, the term “special relationship” has long referred to the close ties between London and Washington.

During visits to Bangalore and New Dehli, Cameron will hold talks with leading legislators, seal a round of trade deals and clink glasses with dozens of potential investors. Treasury chief George Osborne will take British executives to Mumbai for face-to-face talks with their Indian counterparts, aimed at kick-starting sluggish trade.

Britain was the 5th largest exporter to India in 2005, but has since fallen to 18th. Exports to India dropped from 4.12 billion pounds (US$6.4 billion) in 2008 to 2.9 billion (US$4.5 billion) in 2009.

“There is a belief that we haven’t benefited as much from India’s growth as we should have,” said Johnson.

After a decade of foreign policy dominated by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cameron’s government pledged to rebuild relations left “to wither or stagnate,” as London focused on military missions rather than trade.

“From now on we will not neglect the wider world,” Foreign Secretary William Hague, who will also travel to India, said in a major speech last month, criticizing former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s regime.

Cameron will arrive in India from Turkey, another emerging nation identified is a key future ally and potential trading partner.

His Conservative Party and the smaller Liberal Democrats formed a coalition to oust Brown’s Labour Party following an inconclusive national election in May.

They found links with India had been dented after a 2009 visit by then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who offended his hosts by linking the Kashmir dispute to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Miliband’s informal style also bristled with senior Indian officials.

India’s opposition BJP said at the time “there has been no bigger disaster than David Miliband’s visit” in relations with an ally.

Cameron’s schedule has an eye on repairing the damage.

Aside from lengthy talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he’ll hold meetings with Indian President Pratibha Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari, external affairs minister S.M. Krishna and lay a wreath in honor of Mohandas Gandhi.

Lalit Mansingh, a former diplomat and India’s ex-High Commissioner to Britain acknowledged Cameron’s team has work to do.

When Tony Blair took office in 1997 there were hopes “there would be new dynamism in the relationship, but unfortunately in the last few years it has remained somewhat stagnant,” Mansingh said.

Mansingh said Cameron’s visit, which comes a week after his first trip to the White House, marks a “promising new beginning.”

“He’s coming with a large trade delegation and I think half of his Cabinet, so it does send a good signal, a strong signal that Britain wants a special relationship with India and I think we should all look forward to that,” he said.

Still, Cameron has some thorny issues to address.

He’ll need to explain the impact of Britain’s planned immigration cap, which will cut the number of people from outside Europe who are able to live and work in the U.K. from next April. India’s commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma has already warned the quota will likely hit Indian doctors, nurses and engineers seeking employment in the U.K.

British ministers must also discuss a review of aid spending which is likely to see the U.K. cut the 300 million pounds (US$464 million) it offers India each year, despite an overall rise in the development budget.

And then there’s the competition: Some experts wonder whether Cameron will find his overtures to India overshadowed by larger rivals like the U.S. and Japan, who are equally aggressive suitors.

“There are a whole number of countries who recognize that India is a fast growing economy and is going to be an important ally — not just the U.K.,” said Gareth Price, a member of a British government trade organization’s Asia task force and an analyst at London’s Chatham House think tank.

“On the Indian side, there’s surprise and a sense of wait and see what all this means,” he said. “What is a special relationship — and what is the U.K. bringing to the table?”  (*)

President Obama’s Remarks on 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the White House in Washington July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

South Lawn

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WHITE HOUSE GOV) Thank you.  Good evening, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, we have a gorgeous day to celebrate an extraordinary event in the life of this nation.  Welcome, all of you, to our White House.  And thank you, Robert, for the wonderful introduction.  It is a pleasure and honor to be with all of you on the 20th anniversary of one of the most comprehensive civil rights bills in the history of this country — the Americans with Disabilities Act.  (Applause.)

I see so many champions of this law here today.  I wish I had time to acknowledge each and every one of you.  I want to thank all of you.  But I also want to thank our Cabinet Secretaries and the members of my administration here today who are working to advance the goals of the ADA so that it is not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law, that’s being applied all across this country.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the members of Congress in attendance who fought to make ADA possible and to keep improving it throughout the years.  (Applause.)  I want to acknowledge Dick Thornburgh, who worked hard to make this happen as Attorney General under President George H.W. Bush.  (Applause.)

And by the way, I had a chance to speak to President Bush before I came out here, and he sends heartfelt regards to all of you.  And it’s — he’s extraordinarily proud of the law that was passed.  He was very humble about his own role, but I think it’s worth acknowledging the great work that he did.  (Applause.)

We also remember those we’ve lost who helped make this law possible — like our old friend, Ted Kennedy.  (Applause.)  And I see Patrick here.  And Justin Dart, Jr., a man folks call the father of the ADA — whose wife Yoshiko, is here.  (Applause.)  Yoshiko, so nice to see you.  (Applause.)

I also notice that Elizabeth Dole is here, and I had a chance to speak to Bob Dole, as well, and thank him for the extraordinary role that he played in advancing this legislation.  (Applause.)

Let me also say that Congressman Jim Langevin wanted to be here today, but he’s currently presiding over the House chamber — the first time in our history somebody using a wheelchair has done so.  (Applause.)

Today, as we commemorate what the ADA accomplished, we celebrate who the ADA was all about.  It was about the young girl in Washington State who just wanted to see a movie at her hometown theater, but was turned away because she had cerebral palsy; or the young man in Indiana who showed up at a worksite, able to do the work, excited for the opportunity, but was turned away and called a cripple because of a minor disability he had already trained himself to work with; or the student in California who was eager and able to attend the college of his dreams, and refused to let the iron grip of polio keep him from the classroom — each of whom became integral to this cause.

And it was about all of you.  You understand these stories because you or someone you loved lived them.  And that sparked a movement.  It began when Americans no longer saw their own disabilities as a barrier to their success, and set out to tear down the physical and social barriers that were.  It grew when you realized you weren’t alone.  It became a massive wave of bottom-up change that swept across the country as you refused to accept the world as it was.  And when you were told, no, don’t try, you can’the — you responded with that age-old American creed:  Yes, we can.  (Applause.)

US President Barack Obama arrives for an event commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington on July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)
AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can!

Sit-ins in San Francisco.  Demonstrations in Denver.  Protests in Washington, D.C., at Gallaudet, and before Congress.  People marched, and organized, and testified.  And laws changed, and minds changed, and progress was won.  (Applause.)

Now, that’s not to say it was easy.  You didn’t always have folks in Washington to fight on your behalf.  And when you did, they weren’t as powerful, as well-connected, as well-funded as the lobbyists who lined up to kill any attempt at change.  And at first, you might have thought, what does anyone in Washington know or care about my battle?  But what you knew from your own experience is that disability touches us all.  If one in six Americans has a disability, then odds are the rest of us love somebody with a disability.

I was telling a story to a group that was in the Oval Office before I came out here about Michelle’s father who had MS.  By the time I met him, he had to use two canes just to walk.  He was stricken with MS when he was 30 years old, but he never missed a day of work; had to wake up an hour early to get dressed —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  So what.

THE PRESIDENT:  — to get to the job, but that was his attitude — so what.  He could do it.  Didn’t miss a dance recital.  Did not miss a ball game of his son.  Everybody has got a story like that somewhere in their family.

And that’s how you rallied an unlikely assortment of leaders in Congress and in the White House to the cause.  Congressmen like Steny Hoyer, who knew his wife Judy’s battle with epilepsy; and Tony Coehlo, who waged his own; and Jim Sensenbrenner, whose wife, Cheryl, is a tremendous leader and advocate for the community.  And they’re both here today.  (Applause.)

U.S. President Barack Obama waves after signing an executive order to increase federal employment of individuals with disabilities, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, at the White House in Washington July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

Senators like Tom Harkin, who’s here today, and who signed — (applause) — who signed part of a speech on the ADA so his deaf brother, Frank, would understand.  And Ted Kennedy, whose sister had a severe intellectual disability and whose son lost a leg to cancer.  And Bob Dole, who was wounded serving heroically in World War II.  Senior officials in the White House, and even the President himself.

They understood this injustice from the depths of their own experience.  They also understood that by allowing this injustice to stand, we were depriving of our nation — we were depriving our nation and our economy of the full talents and contributions of tens of millions of Americans with disabilities.

That is how the ADA came to be, when, to his enduring credit, President George H.W. Bush signed it into law, on this lawn, on this day, 20 years ago.  That’s how you changed America.  (Applause.)

Equal access — to the classroom, the workplace, and the transportation required to get there.  Equal opportunity — to live full and independent lives the way we choose.  Not dependence — but independence.  That’s what the ADA was all about.  (Applause.)

But while it was a historic milestone in the journey to equality, it wasn’t the end.  There was, and is, more to do.  And that’s why today I’m announcing one of the most important updates to the ADA since its original enactment in 1991.

Today, the Department of Justice is publishing two new rules protecting disability-based discrimination — or prohibiting disability-based discrimination by more than 80,000 state and local government entities, and 7 million private businesses.  (Applause.)  And beginning 18 months from now, all new buildings must be constructed in a way that’s compliant with the new 2010 standards for the design of doors and windows and elevators and bathrooms — (applause) — buildings like stores and restaurants and schools and stadiums and hospitals and hotels and theaters.  (Applause.)

My predecessor’s administration proposed these rules six years ago.  And in those six years, they’ve been improved upon with more than 4,000 comments from the public.  We’ve heard from all sides.  And that’s allowed us to do this in a way that makes sense economically and allows appropriate flexibility while ensuring Americans with disabilities full participation in our society.

And for the very first time, these rules will cover recreational facilities like amusement parks and marinas and gyms and golf facilities and swimming pools — (applause) — and municipal facilities like courtrooms and prisons.  (Applause.)  From now on, businesses must follow practices that allow individuals with disabilities an equal chance to purchase tickets for accessible seating at sporting events and concerts.  (Applause.)

And our work goes on.  Even as we speak, Attorney General Eric Holder is preparing new rules to ensure accessibility of websites.  (Applause.)

US President Barack Obama greets guests after speaking at an event commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on the South Lawn at the White House in Washington on July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)
AUDIENCE:  Yes, we can.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we can.

We’re also placing a new focus on hiring Americans with disabilities across the federal government.  (Applause.)  Today, only 5 percent of the federal workforce is made up of Americans with disabilities — far below the proportion of Americans with disabilities in the general population.  In a few moments, I’ll sign an executive order that will establish the federal government as a model employer of individuals with disabilities.  (Applause.)  So we’re going to boost recruitment, we’re going to boost training, we’re going to boost retention.  We’ll better train hiring managers.  Each agency will have a senior official who’s accountable for achieving the goals we’ve set.  And I expect regular reports.  And we’re going to post our progress online so that you can hold us accountable, too.  (Applause.)

And these new steps build on the progress my administration has already made.

To see it that no one who signs up to fight for our country is ever excluded from its promise, we’ve made major investments in improving the care and treatment for our wounded warriors.  (Applause.)  To ensure full access to participation in our democracy and our economy, we’re working to make all government websites accessible to persons with disabilities.  (Applause.)

We’re expanding broadband Internet access to Americans who are deaf and hard of hearing.  We’ve followed through with a promise I made to create three new disability offices at the State Department and Department of Transportation and at FEMA.

And to promote equal rights across the globe, the United States of America joined 140 other nations in signing the U.N.  Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities — the first new human rights convention of the 21st century.  (Applause.)

America was the first nation on Earth to comprehensively declare equality for its citizens with disabilities.  We should join the rest of the world to declare it again — and when I submit our ratification package to Congress, I expect passage to be swift.  (Applause.)

And to advance the right to live independently, I launched the Year of Community Living, on the 10th anniversary of the Olmstead decision — a decision that declared the involuntary institutional isolation of people with disabilities unlawful discrimination under the ADA.  (Applause.)

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Photo : President Barack Obama signs “I Love You” as he greets audience members after speaking at an event marking the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilites Act on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

So HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan have worked together to improve access to affordable housing and community supports and independent living arrangements for people with disabilities.  And we continued a program that successfully helps people with disabilities transition to the community of their choice.  (Applause.)  And I’m proud of the work that the Department of Justice is doing to enforce Olmstead across the country.

And we’ve finally broken down one discriminatory barrier that the ADA left in place.  Because for too long, our health care system denied coverage to tens of millions of Americans with preexisting conditions — including Americans with disabilities.  It was time to change that.  And we did.  Yes, we did.  (Applause.)

So the Affordable Care Act I signed into law four months ago will give every American more control over their health care -– and it will do more to give Americans with disabilities control over their own lives than any legislation since the ADA.  I know many of you know the frustration of fighting with an insurance company.  That’s why this law finally shifts the balance of power from them to you and to other consumers.  (Applause.)

No more denying coverage to children based on a preexisting condition or disability.  No more lifetime limits on coverage.  No more dropping your coverage when you get sick and need it the most because your insurance company found an unintentional error in your paperwork.  (Applause.)  And because Americans with disabilities are living longer and more independently, this law will establish better long-term care choices for Americans with disabilities as a consequence of the CLASS Act, an idea Ted Kennedy championed for years.  (Applause.)

Equal access.  Equal opportunity.  The freedom to make our lives what we will.  These aren’t principles that belong to any one group or any one political party.  They are common principles.  They are American principles.  No matter who we are — young, old, rich, poor, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled or not — these are the principles we cherish as citizens of the United States of America.  (Applause.)

They were guaranteed to us in our founding documents.  One of the signers of those documents was a man named Stephen Hopkins.  He was a patriot, a scholar, a nine-time governor of Rhode Island.  It’s also said he had a form of palsy.  And on July 4, 1776, as he grasped his pen to sign his name to the Declaration of Independence, he said, “My hand trembles.  But my heart does not.”  My hand trembles.  But my heart does not.

Life, liberty,  the pursuit of happiness.  Words that began our never-ending journey to form a more perfect union.  To look out for one another.  To advance opportunity and prosperity for all of our people.  To constantly expand the meaning of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  To move America forward.  That’s what we did with the ADA.  That is what we do today.  And that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow — together.

So, thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Let me sign this order.  (Applause.) (*)

Khmer Rouge Jailer Gets 19 Years for 16,000 Killings

AP

July 26: Khmer Rouge jailer Kaing Guek Eav, who ran a top secret detention center for the worst “enemies” of the state, looks on during his sentencing at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / FOX NEWS)  PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A war crimes tribunal sentenced the Khmer Rouge’s chief jailer on Monday to a prison term that will see him serve less than half a day for every person killed at the notorious torture center he commanded.

Survivors expressed anger and disbelief that a key player in the genocide that wiped out a quarter of Cambodia’s population could one day walk free — despite being convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“I can’t accept this,” sobbed Saodi Ouch, 46, shaking so hard she could hardly talk. “My family died … my older sister, my older brother. I’m the only one left.”

Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, was the first major Khmer Rouge figure to face trial more than three decades after the “killing fields” regime tried to turn the country into a vast agrarian society — leading to the deaths of 1.7 million people.

As commander of the top secret Tuol Sleng prison — code-named S-21 — the 67-year-old Duch admitted to overseeing the torture and deaths of as many as 16,000 people.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but will spend only 19 in jail — 11 years were shaved off for time served and another five for illegal detention in a military prison.

“It is just unacceptable to have a man who killed thousands of people serving just 19 years,” said Theary Seng, a human rights lawyer, who lost both her parents to the Khmer Rouge and has been working with other victims to find justice.

“It comes down to serving 11½ hours per life that he took,” she said, adding that if prosecutors could get only such a lenient sentence in a case where the defendant admitted his guilt, they could expect even less in the upcoming trial of four senior Khmer Rouge figures.

The U.N.-backed tribunal is scheduled to try the group’s top ideologist, 84-year-old Nuon Chea, its former head of state, Khieu Samphan, 79, and two other top leaders, both in their 80s, early next year. Unlike Duch, they have denied any guilt.

Several other major figures have died, including the Khmer Rouge leader, Pol Pot, in 1998.

Judges said that in handing down their verdict Monday, they took into consideration the historical context of the atrocities: The 1975-79 regime was the product of the Cold War times.

They also recognized that Duch — unlike any of the others in detention — was not in the Khmer Rouge’s inner circle, had cooperated with the court and shown expressions of remorse, however “limited.”

But they flatly rejected claims he was acting on orders from the top or that he was a “cog in the machine” who could not get out.

“In carrying out his functions, he showed a high degree of efficiency and zeal,” the judges wrote. “He worked tirelessly to ensure that S-21 ran as efficiently as possible and did so out of unquestioning loyalty to his superiors.”

They said he signed off on all executions and was often present when interrogators used torture to extract confessions, including pulling out prisoners’ toenails, administering electric shocks, and waterboarding. Sometimes he even took part.

Duch (pronounced DOIK) revealed little emotion throughout the 77-day trial.

As the court handed down its sentence in a packed courtroom Monday, he stood rigidly and looked into the distance, his eyes occasionally shifting from side to side without making any contact.

“He tricked everybody,” said Chum Mey, 79, one of just a few people sent to Tuol Sleng prison who survived. The key witness wiped his eyes. “See … my tears drop down again. I feel like I was victim during the Khmer Rouge, and now I’m a victim once again.”

The U.S., however, praised the verdict, calling it historic. “We applaud the commitment of the national and international judges for their comprehensive and independent work to uphold international standards of justice and due process in this case,” said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley in Washington.

Like many key players in the Khmer Rouge, Duch was an academic before he became a revolutionary. The former math teacher joined Pol Pot’s movement in 1967, three years before the U.S. started carpet-bombing Cambodia to try to wipe out Northern Vietnamese troops and Viet Cong inside the border. By 1976, he was the trusted head of its ultimate killing machine, S-21.

After a Vietnamese invasion forced the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979, Duch fled, leaving behind thousands of documents and negatives at Tuol Sleng, once a secondary school.

He disappeared for almost two decades, living under various aliases in northwestern Cambodia, where he had converted to Christianity. His chance discovery by a British journalist in 1999 led to his arrest.

Duch has several times asked for forgiveness, even offering at one point to face a public stoning. But his surprise request on the final day of the trial to be acquitted and freed left many wondering if his contrition was sincere.

Though the tribunal — more than 10 years and $100 million in the making — has been credited with helping the traumatized nation speak out publicly for the first time about atrocities committed three decades ago, it has been criticized as well.

The government insisted Cambodians be on the panel of judges, opening the door for possible interference by current leaders — including the prime minister — who were once low-level members of the Khmer Rouge. It also sought to limit the number of suspects being tried — rather, some say, than implicate its own ranks.

The second trial, or “Case Two,” is more complicated legally and politically. None of the four defendants has shown any sign they may break ranks or speak openly, and some experts said Duch’s relatively light sentence could be an incentive for him to testify.

“I hope the Duch verdict will encourage him to participate as a useful witness in the second case,” said John Ciorciari of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

“At this stage, there is little sign that the Case No. 2 defendants will break ranks, speak openly and express contrition. They are considerably older than Duch and may have less to gain from a modest sentence given their shorter life expectancies,” he said.

More than 1,000 villagers showed up for Monday’s verdict, some traveling more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) by bus.

Also present was New Zealander Rob Hamill, the brother of one of a handful of Westerners killed by the Khmer Rouge. Kerry Hamill, then 28, was sailing across Asia when his yacht was captured in Cambodian waters in 1978. He was taken to Tuol Sleng and killed.

Another brother committed suicide months later, and their mother died seven years ago.

“All I can say is my family, who are no longer here to see justice, would not want to see this man set free, even if it’s in 19 years’ time,” said Hamill, 46, struggling to contain his emotion. “It’s reality, but I’m not happy. … He should not be a free man.”

Pope Benedict XVI : “We’re not alone in prayer”

(KATAKAMI / CNA, July 26, 2010) CASTEL GANDOLFO – During the Holy Father’s Angelus he addressed the faithful about the terrible accident in Duisburg, Germany. The accident left 19 people dead, and many others wounded. He stated his prayers and thoughts are with the victims, and their families.

Benedict XVI went onto say we are not alone when we pray the Lord’s prayer. We are never alone, said the Holy Father. We are not alone, because the Church is praying with us. Christ hears your prayers, and always listens to your thoughts and concerns. For Christ is Lord, and God is the Father, claimed Benedict XVI.

The Lord’s prayer is a prayer of peace, and love. We pray it not alone, but with the entire Church. One Our Father sums up the global mission of the Catholic Church.  (*)

David Cameron ‘anger’ at slow pace of Turkish EU negotiations

Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron, left, and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pose for cameras before their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, July 26, 2010. Cameron is in Turkey for a two-day visit. (Getty Images)

July 27, 2010

(KATAKAMI / BBC) David Cameron is to argue strongly for Turkey’s membership of the European Union on Tuesday, saying he is “angry” at the slow pace of negotiations.

On his first visit to Turkey as prime minister, Mr Cameron will say he will “fight” for Turkey’s bid to join the EU and to become a “great European power”.

He is expected to compare hostility in some parts of the EU to this to the way in which UK entry was once regarded.

After concluding his visit to Turkey, Mr Cameron will travel on to India.

He will be joined by a host of British business leaders as he seeks to boost trade links with one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Mr Cameron – who arrived in Ankara on Monday – is expected to agree a new strategic partnership with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during his visit.

‘Frustrating progress’

In a speech on Tuesday, Mr Cameron will say he wants to “pave the road” for Turkey to join the EU and criticise those who want to delay the process.

A European Union without Turkey at its heart is “not stronger but weaker….not more secure but less…not richer but poorer,” he is expected to say.

“I’m here to make the case for Turkey’s membership of the EU. And to fight for it.”

Referring to former French leader General de Gaulle’s efforts to block British membership of the EU in the 1960s, he is expected to make an apparent swipe at some other EU countries’ attitude to Turkey.

“We know what it’s like to be shut out of the club. But we also know that these things can change.

“When I think about what Turkey has done to defend Europe as a Nato ally, and what Turkey is doing today in Afghanistan alongside our European allies, it makes me angry that your progress towards EU membership can be frustrated in the way it has been….

“My view is clear. I believe it is just wrong to say Turkey can guard the camp but not be allowed to sit inside the tent.”

Turkey opened accession negotiations with the EU in 2005 but is considered very unlikely to join in the next ten years, partly due to opposition from countries such as France.

Turkey’s refusal to recognise EU member Cyprus, growing support for pro-Islamic parties on the mainland and the treatment of the Kurdish minority in the country all remain potential stumbling blocks.

Since 2005, only 11 out of 35 “negotiating chapters” relating to accession talks have been opened for discussion and only one has been “provisionally closed”.

Regional role

Describing himself as the “strongest possible advocate” for greater Turkish influence in Europe, Mr Cameron will say that those who oppose EU membership are driven by either protectionism, narrow nationalism or prejudice.

“Those who wilfully misunderstand Islam. They see no difference between real Islam and the distorted version of the extremists. They think the problem is Islam itself. And they think the values of Islam can just never be compatible with the values of other religions, societies or cultures.”

“All of these arguments are just plain wrong. And as a new government in Britain, I want us to be at the forefront of an international effort to defeat them.”

While praising Turkey’s secular and democratic traditions, Mr Cameron is likely to stress that Turkey must continue to push forward “aggressively” with economic and political reforms to maintain momentum towards EU membership.

Stressing the vital role Turkey plays in the region, he will say it has a “unique influence” in helping to build a stable Afghanistan through political and economic co-operation and fostering understanding between Israel and the Arab world.

He will also deliver a firm message to Iran, further sanctions against whom Turkey opposes, saying there is no other “logic” to Tehran’s uranium enrichment programme other than to produce a bomb.

“So we need Turkey’s help now in making it clear to Iran just how serious we are about engaging fully with the international community,” he will say.  (*)

A state decoration award ceremony took place at the Kremlin

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (L) decorates Russian sculptor and President of the Russian Academy of Arts Zurab Tsereteli with the Order for Services to the Fatherland, first grade, during an award ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin, July 26, 2010. (Photo :  Photo: The Presidential Press and Information Office )

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / KREMLIN.RU)  Dmitry Medvedev awarded decorations and honorary title conferment documents to 47 Russians from different walks of life including science, culture, the arts, medicine, sport, and various trades.

Dmitry Medvedev awarded the Order for Services to the Fatherland I degree to former President of Bashkortostan Murtaza Rakhimov and President of the Russian Academy of the Arts Zurab Tsereteli.

Director of the Global Climate and Ecology Institute Yury Izrael received the Order for Services to the Fatherland II degree.

The Order for Services to the Fatherland III degree was awarded to film director Vladimir Menshov, Artistic Director of Satirikon Theatre Konstantin Raikin, and Rector of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations [MGIMO] Anatoly Torkunov among others.

Among those awarded the Order for Services to the Fatherland IV degree were stage and film actress Rimma Markova, Rector of the Bauman Moscow State Technical University Igor Fyodorov, and Director of the State Russian Museum Vladimir Gusev.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (L) shakes hands with theatre director Konstantin Raikin at the Kremlin in Moscow on July 26, 2010 after decorating him with the order Service to the Fatherland, 3rd degree. (Photo :  Photo: The Presidential Press and Information Office )

Test pilot Vasily Sevastyanov and Yury Tulchinsky, captain of the tanker Moscow University, which was attacked by pirates in the Indian Ocean, were awarded the Order of Courage.

Those decorated with the Order of Honour included singer Tamara Gverdtsiteli and President of the Russian National Swimming Federation Vladimir Salnikov.

Recipients of the Order of Friendship included Honorary President of the CSKA Hockey Club Viktor Tikhonov.

Mr Medvedev also presented documents conferring honorary titles. Musician Dmitry Malikov was awarded the title People’s Artist of Russia, and violinist Dmitry Kogan was awarded the title Merited Artist of Russia.

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Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev (L) listens to Russian actress Rimma Markova after decorating her with the order Service to the Fatherland, 4th degree, during an award ceremony in Moscow’s Kremlin on July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

Speech at state decoration award ceremony

PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV:

Dear friends,

It gives me sincere pleasure to welcome you to the Kremlin and congratulate you on receiving these high state decorations. It is no overstatement to say that each of you has your own unique story of success and personal achievement, and each of you is an example to countless others who seek to fulfil their potential and look to you with love and admiration.

I would like to say a few words about the recipients of the decorations being presented today. I want to start by naming Murtaza Rakhimov, who for many years worked with dedication and great professionalism as President of the Republic of Bashkortostan. Today he is being decorated with one of our country’s highest decorations, our highest, in fact – the Order for Services to the Fatherland I degree.

Change always brings with it new opportunities. Russia is changing today. We have set the goal of comprehensive national modernisation. Our country’s future lies in modern technology and a ‘smart’ economy. It is clear that the success of our transformations will depend in great part on our scientific achievements, and so it is no coincidence that those decorated today include talented scientists of world renown.

The Order for Services to the Fatherland II degree is awarded today to Director of the Global Climate and Ecology Institute Yury Izrael. His fundamental works have laid the foundation for a number of new directions in science. Also decorated today is Vasily Glukhikh, member of Russia’s Academy of Sciences and scientific director of the St Petersburg Scientific Research Institute of Electrophysical Apparatus. He has played a direct part in developing unique new energy installations using thermonuclear synthesis.

Science and education are always forward looking in nature. The universities in which Anatoly Torkunov and Igor Fyodorov work have developed longstanding traditions of scientific innovation, and today MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations] and the Bauman Moscow State Technical University are successfully introducing innovative teaching methods and actively combining education and research activities.

This year is Year of the Teacher in Russia, and so it gives me special pleasure to recognize the work of a teacher with more than 40 years’ experience in the job – Anna Razhbadinova. She has established a municipal education centre in Makhachkala [Daghestan], offering children not just the opportunities they need for success in their studies, but also for their harmonious development.

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At a state decoration award ceremony   (Photo :  Photo: The Presidential Press and Information Office )

There are many sportspeople here today, and some of them have made a great contribution to developing mass physical culture and training professional athletes. I am sure that many young sportspeople and everyone who loves sport will look to the example of four-times Olympic champion and President of Russia’s National Swimming Federation Vladimir Salnikov. I am sure too that the methods developed by our well known trainers Viktor Tikhonov and Dmitry Mediashvili will help to produce new achievements.

It gives me pleasure to welcome Yury Tulchinsky, captain of the tanker Moscow University. He acted decisively and professionally when his ship came under the attack of armed pirates, and it was many ways thanks to his steadfast and competent action in this emergency situation that the crew was able to hold on until the anti-submarine ship Marshal Shaposhnikov came to their rescue. Mr Tulchinsky receives the Order of Courage.

Russia has always had an abundance of talent, and never a state decoration award ceremony goes by without us recognising the achievements of members of our arts community, without us paying tribute to those who have become genuine idols for several generations. This applies in full measure to wonderful actress Rimma Markova, film director Vladimir Menshov, Artistic Director of Satirikon Theatre Konstantin Raikin, and many others. Each work or performance we see from them is a real event.

It also gives me great pleasure to congratulate singer Tamara Gverdtsiteli, sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, and Anna Kereselidze-Perekrest, director of a Moscow school which includes a Georgian ethnic and cultural component in its curriculum. The high decorations they receive today are not just recognition of their talents, but also of their great personal contribution to developing inter-cultural dialogue and strengthening the fraternal ties between the Russian and Georgian peoples.

These ties go back through the centuries. By the way, we will soon mark the anniversary on August 4 – July 24 according to the old calendar – of the signing of the 1783 Treaty of Georgievsk, which laid the foundations for lasting friendship between our two peoples. No politicians can ever sour or tarnish this friendship, because it has genuinely stood the test of time and comes from the hearts of Russians and Georgians.

I have named only a few names, but those being decorated today include people from all walks of life, people who all share in common great talent, astounding ability to work hard, and love of their work and country. This is the secret of your success and I am sure that it is also the guarantee of our country’s prosperous future.

Once again, I congratulate you all. Let’s begin the award ceremony.  (*)

President Obama on Citizens United: “Imagine the Power This Will Give Special Interests Over Politicians”

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U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks on the Senate campaign finance reform vote in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

July 26, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WHITE HOUSE GOV)  With a Senate vote tomorrow on legislation to undo some of the damage from the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the President laid out the stakes in no uncertain terms:

A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections. It is damaging to our democracy. It is precisely what led a Republican President named Theodore Roosevelt to tackle this issue a century ago.

As the President discussed in his State of the Union address months ago, this decision essentially opened the floodgates for the influence of huge corporations, including foreign-owned corporations, on our elections.  Speaking in the Rose Garden, the President explained what this new limitless flow of undisclosed money will mean:

They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads –- and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who’s actually paying for the ads.  Instead, a group can hide behind a name like “Citizens for a Better Future,” even if a more accurate name would be “Companies for Weaker Oversight.”  These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections.

Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians.  Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don’t vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign.  And all too often, no one will actually know who’s really behind those ads.

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U.S. President Barack Obama leaves the Oval Office to make a statement about campaign finance reform legislation in the Rose Garden at the White House July 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Senate is set to vote July 27, on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill written in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United campaign finance ruling earlier this year. (Getty Images)

Once again, with a solution at hand, Republican leadership in the Senate stands in the way, hoping to deny an up-or-down vote:

So the House has already passed a bipartisan bill that would change all this before the next election.  The DISCLOSE Act would simply require corporate political advertisers to reveal who’s funding their activities.  So when special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and claim responsibility for it -– like a company’s CEO or the organization’s biggest contributor.  And foreign-controlled corporations and entities would be restricted from spending money to influence American elections — just as they were in the past.

Pounding his hand on his pedestal, the President emphasized again that simple bringing transparency to this kind of spending is about as common-sense as you can get:

And you’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections would not be a partisan issue.  But of course, this is Washington in 2010.  And the Republican leadership in the Senate is once again using every tactic and every maneuver they can to prevent the DISCLOSE Act from even coming up for an up or down vote.  Just like they did with unemployment insurance for Americans who’d lost their jobs in this recession.  Just like they’re doing by blocking tax credits and lending assistance for small business owners.  On issue after issue, we are trying to move America forward, and they keep on trying to take us back.

At a time of such challenge for America, we can’t afford these political games.  Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising.  The American people’s voices should be heard. (*)

President Obama’s Remarks on the DISCLOSE Act

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(White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 7/26/10)

July 25, 2010

(KATAKAMI / WHITE HOUSE.GOV)   Good afternoon, everybody.  Tomorrow there’s going to be a very important vote in the Senate about how much influence special interests should have over our democracy.  Because of the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this year in the Citizens United case, big corporations –- even foreign-controlled ones –- are now allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on American elections.  They can buy millions of dollars worth of TV ads –- and worst of all, they don’t even have to reveal who’s actually paying for the ads.  Instead, a group can hide behind a name like “Citizens for a Better Future,” even if a more accurate name would be “Companies for Weaker Oversight.”  These shadow groups are already forming and building war chests of tens of millions of dollars to influence the fall elections.

Now, imagine the power this will give special interests over politicians.  Corporate lobbyists will be able to tell members of Congress if they don’t vote the right way, they will face an onslaught of negative ads in their next campaign.  And all too often, no one will actually know who’s really behind those ads.

So the House has already passed a bipartisan bill that would change all this before the next election.  The DISCLOSE Act would simply require corporate political advertisers to reveal who’s funding their activities.  So when special interests take to the airwaves, whoever is running and funding the ad would have to appear in the advertisement and claim responsibility for it -– like a company’s CEO or the organization’s biggest contributor.  And foreign-controlled corporations and entities would be restricted from spending money to influence American elections — just as they were in the past.

Now, you’d think that making these reforms would be a matter of common sense, particularly since they primarily involve just making sure that folks who are financing these ads are disclosed so that the American people can make up their own minds.  Nobody is saying you can’t run the ads — just make sure that people know who in fact is behind financing these ads.  And you’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections would not be a partisan issue.  But of course, this is Washington in 2010.  And the Republican leadership in the Senate is once again using every tactic and every maneuver they can to prevent the DISCLOSE Act from even coming up for an up or down vote.  Just like they did with unemployment insurance for Americans who’d lost their jobs in this recession.  Just like they’re doing by blocking tax credits and lending assistance for small business owners.  On issue after issue, we are trying to move America forward, and they keep on trying to take us back.

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U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about campaign finance reform legislation currently in the Senate in the Rose Garden at the White House July 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Senate is set to vote Tuesday on the DISCLOSE Act, a bill written in response to the Supreme Court’s landmark Citizens United campaign finance ruling earlier this year. (Getty Images)

At a time of such challenge for America, we can’t afford these political games.  Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn’t be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret, special interest advertising.  The American people’s voices should be heard.

A vote to oppose these reforms is nothing less than a vote to allow corporate and special interest takeovers of our elections.  It is damaging to our democracy.  It is precisely what led a Republican President named Theodore Roosevelt to tackle this issue a century ago.

Back then, President Roosevelt warned of the dangers of limitless corporate spending in our political system.  He actually called it “one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.”  And he proposed strict limits on corporate influence in elections not because he was opposed to them expressing their views in the halls of democracy, but he didn’t want everybody else being drowned out.

He said, “Every special interest is entitled to justice, but no one is entitled” — “not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, or a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office,” because he understood those weren’t individual voters — these are amalgams of special interests.  They have the right to hire their lobbyists.  They have the right to put forward their view.  They even have the right to advertise.  But the least we should be able to do is know who they are.

So on Tuesday we face the sort of challenge that Teddy Roosevelt talked about over a century ago.  We’ve got a similar opportunity to prevent special interests from gaining even more clout in Washington.  This should not be a Democratic issue or a Republican issue.  This is an issue that goes to whether or not we’re going to have a government that works for ordinary Americans; a government of, by and for the people.

That’s why these reforms are so important, and that’s why I urge the Senate to pass the DISCLOSE Act.

Thank you.

Photostream : Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan meets Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron

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Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meet in Ankara July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

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Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meet in Ankara July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)

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Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron (L) meet in Ankara July 26, 2010. (Getty Images)