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O'Connor warns of attacks on constitutional freedom

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann provides remarkable quotes from an underreported speech by Sandra Day O'Connor, who was nominated to the Supreme Court Justice by President Reagan and retired recently:
It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. [...] Attacks on the judiciary by some Republican leaders pose a direct threat to our constitutional freedoms.  I am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning.  We must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies.
Those last remarks appear to refer specifically to the former House minority leader, Tom DeLay, Olbermann opines:
O‘Connor did not mention his name, but quoted his attacks on judges at meetings last year of Justice Sunday, the conservative Christian group to which DeLay vented after the Terri Schiavo rulings.
While the blogging world reacted swiftly to the remark, "why didn't the U.S. press react more strongly to her comments?", asks Slate, an online journal of the Washington Post/Newsweek group.  Slate then goes on not only to answer this question but also to give some background information as well as former expressions of concern about judicial independence by the former judge famous for swing votes at the Supreme Court.
Criticism of O'Connor from Blogs for Terri, Conservative Outpost and Brad DeLong.
In support: BrandNewBag and Shining Light.

Update: AP reports about alleged death threats against O'Connor and Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg and Ann Coulter's "joke" about poising Justice Stevens. Hat tip: Moderate Voice.

Chicago Tribune: "Germany says 9/11 hijackers called Syria, Saudi Arabia"

John Crewdson, senior correspondent of the respectable Chicago Tribune, claims to have obtained a "classified report from the office of German Chancellor Angela Merkel":
According to the report, 206 international telephone calls were known to have been made by the leaders of the hijacking plot after they arrived in the United States -- including 29 to Germany, 32 to Saudi Arabia and 66 to Syria. The calls to Germany are not especially surprising because the plot's organizers, Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, who moved to Florida to learn to fly passenger jets, had been university students in the northern German city of Hamburg when they were recruited by Al Qaeda. More than four years later, however, the hijackers' connections to Saudi Arabia and Syria are far from fully explained. (...) The German report submitted last week notes that in the days after Sept. 11, Syria and its intelligence service offered their cooperation to the U.S. and West European nations, "comprehensively and without any reservation."
The Chicago Tribune published this article on March 8th, but the story was not picked up since then in either the German or the US media to the best of my and Marc's knowledge, who first recommend the article on his American Future. John Crewdson emailed me that he does not know why this is the case either.
Although 15 of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, this fact seems to be not that much known in the US public and there have not been significant negative consequences for this non-democratic, oppressive, illiberal country, which ranked fourth (after Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela) as a source of total U.S. oil imports in 2005. The conservative media and some members of the Bush administration have not been very critical of Saudi Arabia, while spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated speculations on Iraq. Consequently the PIPA opinion poll concluded in 2004:
A large majority of Bush supporters believes that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda and that clear evidence of this support has been found. A large majority believes that most experts also have this view, and a substantial majority believe that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Large majorities of Kerry supporters believe the opposite on all these points.
Related: The US-Saudi relationship: Oil supply at the expense of US security and moral values.

The Chicago Tribune puts the phone calls to Syria in the context of Germany's alleged involvement in CIA renditions:
The report's disclosure that senior officials in the government of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder traveled to Syria to participate in the questioning of Zammar is likely to raise further questions within the parliament over Germany's involvement in the CIA's forced relocation of terrorist suspects to countries like Syria, where many say they have been tortured.

Carnival of German-American Relations on March 25, 2006

We have received more than twenty great submissions for the carnival of US-German relations, but nevertheless decided to extend the deadline to March 22nd and invite more German bloggers to participate. For more information and links to all twenty submissions, please visit our Carnival Submissions Blog.
A big thank you to everybody who has submitted a blog post and to the many supporters, who display the carnival logo on their blog. The carnival will be co-hosted by Statler & Waldorf in German as well as American Future and Atlantic Review in English on March 25th.

Deutsche Blogger, Ihr seid herzlich eingeladen, auch deutschsprachige Blogbeiträge einzureichen!

EU plans to increase joint defense spending and to secure elections in Congo

The EU observer reports that the "EU defence ministers have given the green light to create a common defence research and technology (R&T) fund, aimed at narrowing the gap between the US and Europe in high-tech military equipment." They asked the European Defence Agency to prepare detailed proposals for their meeting in May on a joint programme of investment in R&T, and funding arrangements to support it. The European Defence Agency (EDA) has been created in 2004 to
help EU Member States develop their defence capabilities for crisis-management operations under the European Security and Defence Policy. The Agency will achieve its goals by encouraging EU governments to spend defence budgets on meeting tomorrow’s challenges, not yesterday’s threats; and by helping them to identify common needs and promoting collaboration to provide common solutions.
The EDA is headed by EU foreign policy chief and Fulbright alumnus Javier Solana, who said about the defense ministers' meeting:
Everybody accepts that Europe has to raise its game on defence as a whole and on pursuing the new technologies which will give us the capabilities we need in the future and strengthen our industries and research institutions. (...) Today’s discussions have helped to establish a framework for identifying the most important objectives and the right funding mechanisms to ensure that we spend more, spend more together and spend more effectively in this crucial area.
Most observers are sceptical concerning EU deliberations to secure the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo in June. There is strong pressure on Germany to lead this EU peacekeeping mission.  Many German experts question the wisdom of such a mission and Germany's capabilities to commit sufficient troops.
UPI's Chief European Correspondent analyses the EU discussions concerning a Congo mission:
The European Union is anxious to become a major player on the world stage. Haunted by it failure to stop bloodletting in the Balkans in the 1990s and taunts that it is an "economic giant but a political and military pygmy" -- in former NATO chief George Robertson's memorable phrase -- it has started to project power more muscularly in recent years. But the inability of EU defense ministers to rustle together enough troops to monitor elections in the Congo Tuesday shows how far the bloc has to go to convert its lofty goals into reality. (...) Expressing solidarity with Africa and unqualified backing for the United Nations in international forums is one thing. Asking European governments to risk their soldiers' lives to back these ideals appears to be another.

Economic Outlook of the United States and the European Union

The latest OECD survey on Economic Policy Reforms has been very critical of Germany and other EU countries and concluded:
Over the past two decades, living standards in a number of OECD countries, notably Japan and some Continental European economies, have fallen further behind the best performers. The social costs associated with this failure to converge are plain to see, and will only worsen with demographic ageing.
Washington Post Columnist Fareed Zakaria discusses this survey and writes about the "decline and fall of Europe":
It's often noted that the European Union has a combined gross domestic product that is approximately the same as that of the United States. But the E.U. has 170 million more people. Its per capita GDP is 25 percent lower than that of the United States, and, most important, that gap has been widening for 15 years. If present trends continue, the chief economist at the OECD argues, in 20 years the average U.S. citizen will be twice as rich as the average Frenchman or German. (...) Two Swedish researchers, Fredrik Bergstrom and Robert Gidehag, note in a monograph published last year that "40 percent of Swedish households would rank as low-income households in the U.S." In many European countries, the percentage would be even greater.
This OECD survey was received with gloating by the bulls of Wall Street and the U.S. commentariat, writes Martin Hutchinson, a former international merchant banker with an MBA from the same school as President Bush. Writing for The Globalist, Hutchinson describes the European economies as "sluggish, but not uncompetitive" and considers the European economic model as "stronger than it appears -- and the U.S. model weaker."
The standard U.S. conservative criticism of the European model notes the high level of unionization, higher social security contributions (for public sector pensions and healthcare), shorter working week, longer vacations and lower entrepreneurship. U.S. conservatives conclude that Europe is hopelessly uncompetitive against the emerging Asian economies -- and doomed to become more so as European social security systems slip ever further into deficit.
There's just one problem. It is the United States, not Europe, that persistently runs balance of payments deficits with the rest of the world. And it is the United States, not Europe, whose public finances appear to be slipping ever further out of control.
Besides:
Europe's model does not today involve markedly higher public ownership of the corporate sector than in the United States. Privatization in Europe has greatly reduced public ownership in the power and telecom sectors. In fact, some assets -- such as airports -- are publicly owned in the United States, but privately owned in some European countries.
Hutchinson criticizes the European economies and provides policy recomendations, but he also puts the OECD report in perspective. Living standards have indeed declined, "but the past two decades have also seen the liberation of Eastern Europe."
Does Britain combine the best of European and U.S. policies?
With a huge real estate bubble, a heavy trade deficit, resurging inflation and public spending that has shot up to European levels, rising by 5% of GDP in only a few years, Britain has the worst of both worlds.
Read his entire piece in The Globalist, a daily "online feature service that covers the biggest story of our lifetime -- globalization."

Fulbright Alumni working for good causes

The Atlantic Review started a directory of Fulbrighters working for good causes like peace and mutual understanding, poverty eradication, public health, disaster relief, environmental protection, human rights, fighting discriminations:
Medge Owen, M.D., established the NGO Kybele to promote safe childbirth and neonatal resuscitation worldwide through medical education partnerships. We present her reports about Kybele's work in Turkey, in Croatia and in Ghana.
Steffen Schmuck-Soldan promotes saving energy and money at the same time.
Ann Jordan and Beatriz Fernandez Carrillo work against trafficking in persons.
David Furman brought art to an impoverished community in Peru.
Dariusz Jemielniak supports continuing education for English teachers in Poland.
José Alberto Ramirez promotes alternative dispute resolution in Venezuela.
The Oregon Alumni started a Native Speakers Program at a German highschool.
Stephan Münch volunteers his free time for the better integration of people with intellectual disabilities.
And Rolf Brinkmann is committed to various forms of sustainable development.
Introductions to all these projects in the directory of
Fulbrighters working for good causes.