Elections 2014: Labour woe continues with initial European results Sinn Féin candidate Lynn Boylan tops the poll in Dublin

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Kathy Sheridan reports from the European elections count centre for the Midlands North West constituency in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Sun, May 25, 2014, 23:46 First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 07:07

Sinn Féin is continuing its strong performance at the polls this weekend with the party’s Dublin candidate Lynn Boylan comfortably topping the poll in the European elections after two counts. Ms Boylan is just shy of the quota so she has not yet been elected - but it is a certainty she will take the first seat. Speaking a short time ago, she said the vote showed the electorate is looking to send a candidate to Europe that would not be part of a “cosy consensus”.

Voting finished around Europe at 10pm, so initial results from the Irish constituencies can now be announced. Counting in the South and Midlands North West constituencies were slow however and have concluded for the night without the results of the first count. They will resume tomorrow at 9am.

After two counts in Dublin, Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes is in second place and looks likely to take a seat. The third seat will be a battle between the Green Party’s Eamon Ryan and Fianna Fáil’s Mary Fitzpatrick with just a couple of hundred votes separating them.

There is also an outside chance of Socialist Party candidate Paul Murphy being in contention for the last seat if his party colleague Brid Smith - who has just been eliminated - transfers heavily to him. It has been a torrid election for the Government and tallies in the other constituencies suggest any respite for the Coalition parties after the Local election meltdown is likely to be confined to Fine Gael.

The Labour Party in particular is reeling from the sharp drop in its vote in the Local elections with one backbencher calling for the resignation of the entire Labour frontbench with the exception of Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin. Early tallies in the other European constituency indicate the European elections will also be difficult for Labour.
In the South Brian Crowley of Fianna Fáil is expected to top the poll comfortably. Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada and Fine Gael’s Sean Kelly are expected to win two of the other seats. Fine Gael’s Deirdre Clune and Simon Harris are competing for the last seat.

In Midlands North West, Independent candidate Luke Ming Flanagan looks a strong favourite to win a seat alongside Fine Gael’s Mairéad McGuinness. Some four candidates will be in contention for the final two seats. Meanwhile, in the local elections, the Government parties are still suffering major losses with some 798 out of the 949 seats filled. Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Independents, and Others are all capitalising on the seats being lost by Fine Gael and Labour.


Elections 2014: Labour woe continues with initial European results Sinn Féin candidate Lynn Boylan tops the poll in Dublin

Sun, May 25, 2014, 23:46 First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 07:07

Fianna Fáil seems certain to become the largest political party in the State at local level with 222 seats as it stands. Independents/Others have 203 seats, Fine Gael are on 187, while Sinn Féin and the Labour Party have 141 and 45 respectively. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the elections marked “a milestone in the renewal of the party”. The party’s justice spokesman Niall Collins said he expected Fianna Fáil to be the largest party by the time all the votes are counted.

“We are gaining right across the country and particularly in Dublin,” he said. “This election will be the platform for us into the next General Election and is an opportunity to identify our Dáil candidates.” Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald meanwhile said it had “become clear people are seeking a political alternative - a voice that champions their interest and needs fearlessly - and in increasing numbers people see Sinn Féin as that vehicle”. She said it would be “utterly pointless” to enter Government for the sake of power. “We’re committed to social change and equality,” she said. “That’s not just rhetoric for us - that’s who we are.”

With the Labour Party’s percentage of first preference votes still polling in the single digits, Taoiseach Enda Kenny defended the record of Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and said “it was Tánaiste Gilmore who led the charge for the restoration of the integrity of Ireland abroad”. Mr Gilmore has himself insisted he will remain in charge. He said the people had “sent a very clear message to the Government and indeed the Labour Party” but said there was “no question” over his leadership.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton said Mr Gilmore still had her “confidence”. Asked if she might lead a heave against him however, she said she was “not going to call anything like that until we get the results in”. Labour backbenchers have also been making it known they are alarmed at the steep drop in support for the party. Deputy Michael McNamara has called for the resignation of the entire Labour Party frontbench with the exception of Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin. “Our frontbench has failed the party - our backbench cannot fail it now,” he said. Counting in the two byelections finished yesterday, and Socialist Party candidate Ruth Coppinger won the seat in Dublin West while Fine Gael’s Gabrielle McFadden claimed the seat in Longford-Westmeath. Turnout nationally stood at 50.8 per cent.



Stakes are high for Drumm as trial hears of his lawyer's 'goof'
Much depends on whether the judge believes paperwork errors were made by mistake, writes Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Published 25/05/2014 | 02:30

Former Anglo Irish Bank chief David Drumm arrives at the US Bankruptcy Courthouse in Boston. (Photo by Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Irish Independent)

HE was told bankruptcy would mean "getting naked in public", and that's just what happened to former Anglo boss David Drumm in a Boston court last week.

Personal as well as financial details are all fair game for the Federal Bankruptcy court. Last week, the court heard how the fallout from the banking crisis had left the Drumms' marriage "bruised" and their children upset, how his wife Lorraine was "freaked out" as the crisis struck and how the former Anglo CEO himself was near "hysterical" after learning there was a problem with his bankruptcy papers.

On the financial side, reporters and lawyers – who make up the bulk of observers in court – heard how cash was taken out of a US business started in 2009 by Drumm with a controversial loan from his wife to pay private school fees and buy a Range Rover, which was quickly replaced with another high-end four-wheel drive.

The glare must be especially galling for Drumm, who blamed media attention as one reason the family left Ireland for America in 2009 and claimed the family's $2m home in the Boston suburb of Wellesley was bought using a legal trust so that the couple's own names didn't turn up in title searches in an attempt to keep the press from finding them, at least temporarily. That was after a "visitation" from reporters to their previous address, he said.

Last week in Boston, Drumm's unchanging routine has been to pull up outside the court house in the city's historic financial district in a sleek black Jeep Grand Cherokee with darkened windows, accompanied by his wife Lorraine and members of his legal team.

There is no parking outside the building. Drumm, smartly dressed in a suit and tie, each day hopped out of the driver's seat and grabbed his papers from the boot, unfailingly exchanging a deep kiss with his wife as she
steps out of the back seat into the front of the jeep.

As his wife pulled back into the traffic, the former Anglo Irish Bank chief faced the waiting media and moved into the lobby of the courthouse, where he joined the short queue waiting to be checked through metal detectors by security, and into the grand marble lobby.

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The former Anglo Irish Bank chief was cross-examined for more than 10 hours over the course of last Wednesday and Thursday about more than a dozen cash and property transactions involving himself and his wife in the two years before he filed for bankruptcy.

The cash transfers range from €372,561 to just €1,000 and began in September 2008 at the height of the banking crisis – within weeks of the night of the now notorious bank guarantee.The transfers are under scrutiny because they happened within two years of David Drumm filing for bankruptcy in Boston. Under US rules any transactions in the run-up to the filing can be subject to a so-called 'claw back' in favour of out-of-pocket creditors.

That cash moved from David Drumm's own bank accounts, or joint accounts held with his wife, to financial new accounts created solely in her name. Before that and from the time she married, Lorraine Drumm had not had her own bank account. It's not the cash and property transfers themselves that are at issue, the real scrutiny is on how David Drumm failed to declare them to trustee Kathleen Dwyer immediately after he filed for his Chapter 7 bankruptcy .

The transfers, and details of some real estate deals involving the couple – who have bought and sold a number of multi-million dollars properties since moving to the US – were missing from Question 10 of David Drumm's Statement of Financial Affairs, a filing known in court as SOFA 10, that had to be submitted as part of his bankruptcy application in October 2010. In court, softly spoken attorney Kathleen Dwyer described how information about his finances had to be "drawn out" of Drumm after he filed for bankruptcy and how it took months for papers that should have been provided immediately after the filing to reach her office.

It was as she reviewed those papers – including bank statements going back two years – the she became aware of cash transfers to Lorraine Drumm from the couple's joint accounts and his own sole accounts in the period before the bankruptcy. As trustee, Ms Dwyer, along with the former Anglo Irish Bank as his main creditor, want to block Drumm's bankruptcy discharge, claiming the failure to declare the transfers, and other errors and omissions in David Drumm's paperwork, add up to fraud. John Hutchinson, IBRC's tough-talking lawyer in the case, told the court that by filling in and signing the official papers without the transfer details that Drumm had "sworn false oaths", with potential civil and criminal consequences. In court, Drumm held up his hands to the error, but says it was an innocent mistake and he was acting under advice from his adviser Heather Zelevinsky at law firm Looney & Grossman when he left out the transfers.

The same details were all available in other papers he submitted to Kathleen Dwyer, and to the bank around the same time. The paperwork was amended to reflect 14 transfers instead of the original two in May 2011, he said. His former lawyer, Stewart Grossman, backed that up on Friday when he took the witness stand. His firm did "goof" when it was preparing the bankruptcy papers for David Drumm, he said, meaning it was the lawyers who were behind the mistake.

That was based on a misunderstanding by his colleague Heather Zelevinsky, Mr Grossman said. She is due to testify herself when the case resumes on Tuesday. Lorraine Drumm is also due to take the stand.

In the gracious art deco courtroom on the 12th floor at the David W McCormack Post Office and Court House in Boston, no detail is too small to be thrown into the mix. On Friday the court was shown a list of house contents prepared during the bankruptcy for trustee Kathleen Dwyer that included pillows and bedcovers, lamps on nightstands, solid wood side tables and oriental rugs.

Local attorney Kathleen Dwyer was appointed as Mr Drumm's bankruptcy trustee – a job similar to that of a liquidator back in Ireland. As trustee, it was her job to find and liquidate Mr Drumm's assets, and she told the court how she walked through a house owned by the Drumms in the plush suburb of Chatham, Cape Cod, describing the interiors as "professionally done" and "typical" of the area.

The Drumms' $2m family home at Wellesley which she also walked through was "large" and portions of it had been recently been refurbished, she said. As bankruptcy trustee her job was to collect and liquidate his assets to pay off creditors, she told the court. Details about where and how the couple have been living since they came to the US are fair game for all sides. Stewart Grossman told the court that in his view the Drumms' furniture was expensive, but actually worth little.

For David Drumm, the stakes are sky high. If Judge Frank Bailey can be convinced that errors in his original paper work were an innocent misunderstanding, the former bank boss has the prospect of walking away from debts of more than €10m, the largest share of which at €8.5m is owed to his former employer – the ex Anglo Irish Bank – for a loan he originally used to buy shares in the now bust bank.

But if the judge rules against him, David Drumm remains on the hook for millions of euro of debt – and the prospect of a US criminal prosecution. The case continues.

Sunday Independent - See more at: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/stakes-are-high-for-drumm-as-trial-hears-of-his-lawyers-goof-30302189.html#sthash.44KTAhGl.dpuf



Pope invites Israeli president and Palestinian leader to Vatican

Pope made offer in off-script remarks at the end of a mass in Bethehem

Paddy Agnew, in Jerusalem

Sun, May 25, 2014, 14:58

First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 14:57

On the second day of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Pope Francis has produced the first real surprise of his trip by inviting both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the Vatican to pray with him.

The Pope made his offer in off-script remarks at the end of a mass he celebrated in Manger Square, Bethlehem today, inviting both leaders to join him “in heartfelt prayer”, adding: “I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer. Building peace is difficult but living without peace is a constant torment. The men and women of these lands and of the entire world, all of them ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace...”

Whilst many different media sources have already confirmed that President Peres has accepted the invitation, the response of President Abbas is not yet clear. However Vatican observers point out that such an invitation would not have been extended publicly without the Vatican first sounding out and then receiving a positive response from both the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

If this unprecedented three way prayer session is to take place, it may have to be very shortly because President Peres’ term of office concludes midway through next month. There must also be the very real expectation that these joint prayers represent a very “political” moment when the two leaders will resume talks, giving a badly-needed boost to the currently stalled peace negotiations.

The Pope’s invitation to the two Presidents came on a day when he made a fervent appeal for an end to conflict in the Middle East, underlining that call by making a symbolic stop to say a prayer at the Israeli-built Dividing Wall between Bethlehem and Israel.







Large-scale integration of wavelength-addressable all-optical memories on a photonic crystal chip

Eiichi Kuramochi, Kengo Nozaki, Akihiko Shinya, Koji Takeda, Tomonari Sato, Shinji Matsuo, Hideaki Taniyama, Hisashi Sumikura & Masaya Notomi



Corresponding authors

Nature Photonics 8, 474–481 (2014) doi:10.1038/nphoton.2014.93

Received 08 Novem
ber 2013

Accepted 02 April 2014

Published online 25 May 2014

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Abstract Abstract• References• Author information• Supplementary information

Photonic integration has lon
g been pursued, but remains immature compared with electronics. Nanophotonics is expected to change this situation. However, despite the recent success of nanophotonic devices, there has been no demonstration of large-scale integration.

Here, we describe the large-sc
ale and dense integration of optical memories in a photonic crystal chip.

To achieve this, we introduce a wavelength-addressable serial integration scheme using a simple cavity-optimization rule.
We fully exploit the wavelength-d
ivision-multiplexing capability, which is the most important advantage of photonics over electronics, and achieve an extremely large wavelength-channel density.

This is the first demonstration of the large-scale photonic integration of nanophotonic devices coupled to waveguides in a single chip, and also the first dense wavelength-division-multiplexing nanophotonic devices other than filters. This work paves the way for optical random-access memories
and for a large-scale wavelength-division-multiplexing photonic network-on-chip.


Nature Neuroscience | Article

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Mechanical coupling maintains the fidelity of NMDA receptor–mediated currents

Rashek Kazi, Jian Dai, Cameron Sweeney, Huan-Xi
ang Zhou & Lonnie P Wollmuth

Affiliations Contributions Corresponding author

Nature Neuroscience 17, 914–922 (2014) doi:10.1038/nn.

Received 10 January 2014 Accepted 23 April 2014 Published online 25 May 2014

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ints Rights & permissions Article metrics

Abstract Abstract• Accession codes• References• Author information• Supplementary information

The fidelity of integration of pre- and postsynaptic activity by NMDA receptors (NMDARs) requires a match between agonist binding and ion channel opening.

To address how agonist binding is transduced into pore opening in NMDARs, we manipulated the coupling between the ligand-binding domain (LBD) and the ion channel by inserting residues in a linker between them.

We found that a single residue insertion markedly attenuated the ability of NMDARs to convert a glutamate transient into a functional response. This was largely a result of a decreased likelihood of the channel opening and remaining open.

Computational and thermodynamic analyses suggest that insertions prevent the agonist-bound LBD from effectively pulling on pore lining elements, thereby destabilizing pore opening.

Furthermore, this pulling energy was more prominent in the GluN2 subunit. We conclude that an efficient NMD AR-mediated synaptic response relies on a mechanical coupling between the LBD and the ion channel.

Analysis of orthologous groups reveals archease and DDX1 as tRNA splicing factors

Johannes Popow, Jennifer Jurkin, Alexander Schleiffer & Javier Martinez

Affiliations Contributions Corresponding author

Nature 511, 104–10
7 (03 July 2014) doi:10.1038/nature13284

Received 20 December 2013 Accepted 27 March 2014 Published online 25 May 2014

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RNA ligases have essential roles in many cellular processes in eukaryotes, archaea and bacteria, including in RNA repair1, 2 and stress-induced splicing of messenger RNA3.

In archaea and eukaryotes, RNA ligases also have a role in transfer RNA splicing to generate functional tRNAs required for protein synthesis4, 5, 6, 7.

We recently identified the human tRNA splicing ligase, a multimeric protein complex with RTCB (also known as HSPC117, C22orf28, FAAP and D10Wsu52e) as the essential subunit8. The functions of the additional complex components ASW (also known as C2orf49), CGI-99 (also known as C14orf166), FAM98B and the DEAD-box helicase DD
X1 in the context of RNA ligation have remained unclear.

Taking advantage of clusters of eukaryotic orthologous groups, here we find that archease (ARCH; also known as ZBTB8OS), a protein of unknown function, is required for full activity of the human tRNA ligase complex and, in cooperation with DDX1, facilitates the formation of an RTCB–guanylate intermediate central to mammalian RNA ligation.

Our findings define a role for DDX1 in the context of the human tRNA ligase complex and suggest that the widespread co-occurrence of archease and RtcB proteins implies evolutionary conservation of their functional interplay.

Nature Climate Change

Adverse weather conditions for European wheat production will become more frequent with climate change

Miroslav Trnka,

Reimund P. Rötter,

Margarita Ruiz-Ramos,

Kurt Christian Kersebaum,

Jørgen E. Olesen,

Zdeněk Žalud

& Mikhail A. Semenov

Affiliations Contributions Corresponding author

4, 637–643 (2014) doi:

Received 08 Nove
mber 2013 Accepted 08 April 2014 Published online 25 May 2014

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Abstract Abstract• Introduction• Impact on phenology and potential productivity• Probability of individual adverse event occurrence•
Probability of multiple adverse event occurrence• Effect of crop timing and soil conditions• Consequences for potential adaptation strategies• Discussion and conclusions• Methods• References• Acknowledgements• Author information• Supplementary information

Europe is th
e largest producer of wheat, the second most wi
dely grown cereal crop after rice. The increased occurrence and magnitude of adverse and extreme agroclimatic events are considered a major threat for whe
at production.

We present an analysis that accounts for a range of adv
erse weather events that might significantly affect wheat yield in Europe. For this purpose we analysed changes in the frequency of the occurrence of 1
1 adverse weather events.

Using climate scenarios based on the most recent ensemble of climate models and greenhouse gases emission estimates,
we assessed the probability of sing
le and multiple adverse events occurring within one season.

We showed that the occurrence of adverse conditions for 14 sites representing the main European wheat-growing areas might substantially increase by 2060 compared to the present (1981–2010).
This is likely to result in more frequent crop failure across Europe.

This study provides essential information for developing adaptation strategies.



By Mark John and Leila Abboud – Published 25 May 2014 09:18 PM

MARINE Le Pen's far-right National Front stunned France's political elite on today as exit polls put it on track to win European Parliament elections there, with Francois Hollande's Socialists well behind in third place. Also in this section
'Chocolate King' Poroshenko claims victory in Ukraine presidential poll Billionaire chocolate tycoon Poroshenko wins Ukraine's presidential election outright in first round Nationwide manhunt for suspect in Belgium shooting spree

If the FN score is confirmed, it will be the first time the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party has won a nationwide election in its four-decade history. It could secure as many as 25 seats in the new European Parliament, up from the three it won in 2009.

"The people have spoken loud and clear," a triumphant Le Pen told cheering supporters at party headquarters in a northwest suburb of Paris.

"They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalisation and take back the reins of their destiny," she said.

TV exit polls all gave the FN around 25 percent of the vote, a few points higher than expected in pre-vote surveys.

The mainstream UMP conservative opposition was put on 21 percent. Hollande's Socialists stood at between 14 and 14.5 percent - well down from the 16.5 percent they won last time in 2009 and close to a record low score achieved in 1994.

The FN, which Le Pen has sought to rid of its racist reputation since she took the reins from her father in 2011, campaigned on a platform of tighter borders, hostility to the euro currency and rejection of a planned EU-US trade pact.

"It's an earthquake," said Manuel Valls, brought in by Hollande barely two months ago as new prime minister after the Socialists suffered a similar rout in local elections.

"We are in a crisis of confidence ... Europe has disappointed - that's a fact," Valls said. He urged the 28-member club to give more priority to social justice and pledged his government would pursue efforts to kickstart the euro zone's second-largest economy, which saw zero growth in the first quarter.


As expected in the event of an FN victory, Le Pen called for the dissolution of France's national assembly, insisting it was no longer representative of the French people's will. The FN holds only two of 577 seats in the national parliament.

Ruling Socialists quickly dismissed such a move which, given Hollande's record unpopularity, would almost certainly mean that his allies would lose their current majority in parliament.

If confirmed by preliminary official results due later on Sunday, the score would also be a slap for the conservative UMP, whose chairman Jean-Francois Cope is expected to face challenges for the leadership of the party.

"It's a big disappointment for us, but mostly an expression of anger from the French people," Cope said.

Survey group Ifop said the abstention rate was 59 percent slightly lower than the record high many pollsters had expected.

The FN has carved out a niche for itself in French politics, largely among disaffected working class voters who believe the mainstream elite does not understand their concerns about crime, immigration and joblessness.

In March it won control of a record 11 town halls across France - a tiny minority of France's thousands of municipalities but still a slap in the face for the mainstream left and right which have always ruled France.

Le Pen told Reuters in the run-up to the vote that a major priority for the FN and other Eurosceptic parties across Europe would be to form a political caucus in the European Parliament and aim to block a planned transatlantic trade pact.

Pollster Ifop estimated the FN would secure between 22 and 25 seats in the EU assembly



The eurozone is starting to recover. Now the new phase of its crisis begins

A toxic combination of slow growth, deflation, weak banks and political unrest in the east still haunts the continent • Share 56 • • • • inShare14 • Email • The Observer, Sunday 25 May 2014 • Jump to comments (8)

Brace yourself for the next phase in the eurozone crisis, due to come around any time soon. That might seem an odd thing to say.
After all, Portugal has just emerged from its bailout programme;
Greece has dipped its toe into the bond market;
while Ireland's ex-port-slanted economy is growing at a fair lick. Crisis over, you could say.

But hang on a minute. All is not well in Europe, as the votes for fringe and extremist parties in Sunday's European parliament elections will testify.
There are five good rea-sons why the crisis could flare up again at any time.

Problem one is that growth remains painfully weak. Across the 18-nation single currency zone as a whole, activity increased by just 0.2% in the first three months of 2014.
That was disappointing in view of the unusually mild winter, and would have been even worse had it not been for the strong 0.8% expansion in Germany.

Problem two is that weak growth is no longer confined to the euro's fringe.
Italy's per-formance has been woeful ever since the creation of the euro a decade and a half ago, and the 01% contraction in the first three months of 2014 was the 10th decline in the last 11 quarters.
The Netherlands posted an even bigger decline of 1.4%, but the biggest problem of all is France, which has failed to deliver two consecutive quarters of growth during François Hollande's presidency.

This matters not just because of its impact on France, where one in eight of the working population is jobless, but because of the gap emerging between the eurozone's two big-gest economies.

Over the past 50 years, the smooth running of Europe has relied on the Paris-Berlin axis, but strong growth in Germany and weak growth in France complicates matters. Hol-lande clearly wants the European Central Bank to pull out all the stops to boost growth; Angela Merkel will favour a more cautious approach.

The third problem is deflation and its impact on heavily indebted eurozone countries. The cost of living is rising by less than 1% a year across the eurozone, but the average masks the fact that certain countries, such as Greece and Spain, are already experiencing falling prices.

What that means is that the real value of those countries' considerable debts are increas-ing. At some point, financial markets are going to cotton on to the fact that weak growth plus deflation equals unsustainable debt-to-GDP ratios, and bond yields will start to rise once more.

The fourth problem is Europe's zombie banks, which have been kept alive thanks to support from the European Central Bank but have proved unable, or unwilling, to pro-vide the credit to businesses and households that would push the eurozone's nascent recovery on to the next level.
Without a functioning banking system, the risks of a re-lapse are high.

Finally, there's the threat posed by the trouble on Europe's eastern borders. The tension between Ukraine and Russia will almost certainly result in both countries suffering re-cessions this year.
So far, the impact on neighbouring countries, such as Poland, has been limited by the solid performance of Germany. But Sunday's presidential election in Ukraine, together with signs that Germany is coming off the boil, could feed through into weaker business and consumer confidence.

Mario Draghi is doubtless aware of all these threats. He knows the crisis could re-erupt at any time. So do the financial markets.n Lidegaard That's why it is put up or shut up for the ECB when it meets early next month.

Draghi has been an absolute master at manipulating markets simply by talking to them. Now he needs to cut rates, announce a plan to boost credit in those countries where its flow is most impaired and signal that he is prepared to announce a fully fledged quanti-tative easing programme should the deflationary threat not abate.


Chinese defence ministry calls on Japan to stop all reconnaissance activity after jet inci-dent over disputed territory

• Share 68 • • • • inShare1 • Email • Associated Press in Beijing • • theguardian.com, Sunday 25 May 2014 16.10 BST

Chinese and Japanese officials have traded accusations after Chinese fighter jets came within a few dozen metres from Japanese military aircraft that had entered Beijing's air defence zone over the East China Sea. China's defense ministry claimed that a Japanese surveillance plane and one other en-tered the zone on Saturday during a joint military drill with the Chinese and Russian navies.

A ministry statement condemned the move and demanded that Japan "stop all recon-naissance and interference activities, or Japan would be solely responsible for all conse-quences".

The Japanese defense minister, Itsunori Onodera, responded by calling the Chinese ac-tions "outrageous". He said the two Chinese jets were armed with missiles and twice came within 30 metres (100ft) of the Japanese planes.

"I believe those were dangerous acts that could have led to unanticipated accidents," Onodera said on Sunday. "An ordinary flight above open sea should never experience a close encounter like that. Apparently, these were proximate flights (by China) that were out of line."

The two countries have clashed frequently over conflicting claims in the East China Sea, with China declaring its air defence zone over a swath of the sea last year. The US, Japan and South Korea do not recognise the Chinese zone and have flown aircraft through the area without notifying Chinese forces.

Far-right takes victory in Danish Euro-pean elections

Danish People's party won nearly 27% of the vote and has doubled its number of MEPs

• Share 2083 • • • 1 • inShare1 • Email • Lars Eriksen in Copenhagen

• The Guardian, Sunday 25 May 2014 23.47 BST • Jump to comments (44)

The far-right Danish People's party (DPP) triumphed in the European elections, winning Denmark's biggest share of the vote as EU-sceptic parties from across the Nordic coun-tries gained further ground in the European parliament. The DPP, which had campaigned to reclaim border controls and curb benefits to other EU citizens living in Denmark, won nearly 27% of the vote and doubled its number of MEPs from two to four.

Denmark's centre-right opposition party Venstre, its leader dogged by an expenses scandal in recent weeks, was one of the big losers, dropping one of its seats and heading for its worst EU election result in 25 years. "I see it as a clear indication that the Danes want the EU back on track," said Morten Messerschmidt, the DPP's leading candidate. "Around Europe we are some democratic, civilised but EU critical parties – such as the Danish People's Party, such as the British Conservatives and others – who now try to steer back EU to what it is all about, to find a solution to trade, environment and energy challenges we have across borders, but not an EU that's going to interfere in everything."

In Sweden, the governing Moderate party suffered a disastrous night and was overtaken by the Greens, now Sweden's second-biggest party in the European parliament. The populist far-right Sweden Democrats gained their first seat, as did the Feminist Initiative whose MEP will be the first member of the European parliament to be represented by a feminist party.

"The Feminist Initiative party is a real sensation," wrote political commentator Ewa Stenberg from the the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. "The party has shot up like a rocket in public opinion since the beginning of the year. They have been carried both by a fem-inist wave and an anti-racist one."

The leader of the Moderates, Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, said it had been hard being a governing party. "It has been an evening where the voters haven't rewarded parties which believe in European co-operation," Reinfeldt told Swedish TV. Finland's anti-immigration Finns party – previously known as the True Finns – increased its number of MEPs to two, but its share of the vote (13%) didn't match its success in the last national election when it won 19%. The prime minister's conservative National Coalition remained Finland's largest party in Europe with 22.6% and kept its three seats.

Merkel’s CDU wins European election in Germany

Seven of the country’s 96 seats projected to go to new eurosceptic party

Senior SPD figures including Martin Schulz (centre), a candidate to be the next president of the Euroeoan Commission, celebrate the celebrate the projectted EU election results in Berlin on Sunday. Photograph: Kay Nietfeld/EPA Derek Scally • Topics: • News • World • Europe • European Elections • Angela Merkel • Martin Schulz • Mr Juncker • Sigmar Gabriel • Cdu •

Sun, May 25, 2014, 21:34

First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 21:34

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) won Germany’s European elections yesterday but was on course to lose seven of the country’s 96 seats in the next EU parliament to a new eurosceptic party.

Exit polls gave the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) around seven per cent of the vote and seven seats in the new parliament, where it has vowed to work with Britain’s Conservative Party and shun Ukip and France’s National Front. But poll analysis gave no sign of a German eurosceptic surge yesterday: though up two percentage points on its first election outing last September, the euro critical AfD’s result showed no significant gain in absolute support.

Dr Merkel’s CDU remained steady while its worst-ever euro showing – down almost 2 per cent in exit polls to about 36 per cent – fell to a weak showing by its Bavarian CSU ally. The Social Democratic Party (SPD) rebounded to almost 28 per cent and a forecast 28 seats.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel attributed his party’s strong result — up almost seven
per cent — to the Socialist camp’s Spitzenkandidat or lead candidate for the post of European Commission president, Martin Schulz. In a clear warning to Dr Merkel, Mr Gabriel said: “In our view, no one else but a lead candidate can be proposed in parliament, that is a question of political credibility.”

A beaming Mr Schulz, who got a thunderous welcome at SPD headquarters yesterday evening in Berlin, “ruled out completely” that MEPs would back a compromise candidate for the presidency, rather th
an him or Mr Juncker.

The CDU insisted that ex-Luxembourg prime minister Juncker was still their man, amid speculation that Dr Merkel may dump him this week in Brussels. Mr Juncker told German television he had a “good feeling” that he would be the next European Commission president.

This morning CDU leader Angela Merkel will face questions from senior party figures her strategy to simply ignore the AfD in the euro campaign. Initial analysis suggest the CDU lost the most votes of all parties, almost half a million, to the new eurosceptic party. “It’s spring
time in Germany, ” said Prof Bernd Lucke, the AfD leader and likely new MEP. “The AfD blossomed at this election while others are on their knees.”

The liberal Free Democratic Party lost nine seats to poll just three per cent; the Green and Left Parties were relatively steady at 11 and 8 p
er cent respectively. The end of Germany’s three per cent EU election hurdle, ruled illegal by its highest court, fragmented the result with new German MEPs likely from ecological, animal rights and even the neo-Nazi NPD party. “The rise of smaller parties means that Germany’s collective clout in the parliament will abate,” said political scientist Prof Dr Karl-Rudolf Korte



Independent Scotland would need to apply for EU, says Danish minister

Copenhagen criteria must be met if country passes referendum, says Lidegaard

Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard: “quite strict rules” on EU membership.
Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Mark Hennessy Topics: News World UK Martin Lidegaard European Union Scotland Sun, May 25, 2014, 18:51 First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 18:51

Scotland will have to reapply for membership for membership of the European Union if it votes for independence in September’s referendum, Danish foreign minister Martin Lidegaard has said.

Saying that there are “quite strict rules”, Mr Lidegaard said Scotland would have to pass the so-called Copenhagen criteria on its own merits before it could be considered for membership of the union by existing member states. The Copenhagen rules required candidates to show the existence of stable political institutions, a functioning legal system and market economy along with the ability to take on the obligations of membership, including political, economic and monetary union.

Mr Lidegaard is correct that Scotland would formally have to pass such tests as a new candidate, rather than as a member state trying to renegotiate its membership under Article 49 of the European Union treaties, as the Scottish National Party has argued, even if Scotland would have no difficulty passing the tests.


Barack Obama makes surprise visit to Afghanistan

President is expected to announce shortly how many troops the US is keeping in the country

President Barack Obama shakes hands with troops after delivering remarks at Bagram Air Base in Kabul today. Photograph: Reuters

• Topics: • News • World • Middle East • Abdul Karim Khurram • Barack Obama • Hamid Karzai • James Cunningham

Sun, May 25, 2014, 20:27

First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 20:23

President Barack Obama, on a visit to Afghanistan, said this evening his administration would likely announce soon how many troops it will keep in the country, as it winds down its presence after nearly 13 years of war. Speaking at a briefing by military commanders at Bagram Air Base, Mr Obama said one reason for his trip was to discuss the US footprint for the rest of this year - when the bulk of troops are scheduled to be withdrawn - and afterward.

“We’ll probably be announcing some decisions fairly shortly,” said Mr Obama, who flew into the main US base in Afghanistan for a brief, surprise visit.

• Karzai’s secret Taliban talks put strain on US relations

• Relief after largely peaceful Afghanistan poll

• US military aims to slim down for peacetime footing

The trip on Memorial Day weekend, his fourth visit to Afghanistan, comes as Obama is buffeted by criticism at home that his handling of foreign policy has been too passive in dealing with crises from Syria to Ukraine and Russia. He is to respond to the criticism in a speech on Wednesday at the US Military Academy at West Point.

Mr Obama also delivered remarks to troops at Bagram, getting hollers from the crowd as he told them: “I’m here on a single mission and that is to thank you for your extraordinary service.” He was also set to visit wounded soldiers. His trip was bound to be seen by some critics as an attempt to redeem himself in the eyes of military veterans who are alarmed at allegations that government-run medical facilities in the United States have not provided timely care for veterans.

At Bagram, Mr Obama was briefed by army general Joseph Dunford, who heads US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, and US Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham. Mr Obama had no plans to visit the Afghan capital Kabul or meet president Hamid Karzai and other government officials during a trip expected to last only a few hours. This allows him to avoid getting immersed in the country’s presidential election campaign to choose a successor to Mr Karzai, who has long been out of favor in Washington.

In an indication of the frayed relations between the Obama administration and the Karzai government, the Afghan president rejected an invitation extended through the US embassy to meet Mr Obama at Bagram, Abdul Karim Khurram, Karzai’s chief of staff said.

“President Karzai said he would warmly welcome him if he comes to the palace but in no way he would go Bagram to meet him,” Mr Khurram said.

Mr Karzai has irked Obama by refusing to sign a bilateral security agreement that Washington wants before it will agree to leave a contingent of US troops behind in Afghanistan for training Afghan forces and counter-terrorism operations, after the formal US troop drawdown.

In turn, Mr Karzai has long expressed anger at civilian deaths in Afghanistan. He told the Washington Post in an interview in March that the war in Afghanistan was not fought with his country’s interests in mind. In a statement issued before Mr Obama’s arrival in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai criticized the US phone surveillance program, saying it violates his country’s sovereignty.


‘Chocolate king’ Poroshenko ‘wins Ukraine presidency’

Exit polls show confectionary magnate with absolute majority in presidential election

Ukrainian businessman Petro Poroshenko talks to journalists. Exit polls suggest he has won the presidential election. Photograph: EPA

• Topics: • News • World • Europe • Petro Poroshenko • Viktor Yanukovich • Vladimir Putin • Yulia Tymoshenko •

Sun, May 25, 2014, 18:35

First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 18:32

Confectionary magnate Petro Poroshenko appears to have won Ukraine’s presidential election today w
ith an absolute majority, exit polls showed, averting the need for a runoff vote next month that he had said could destabilise the country. Two polls gave Mr Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman with long experience in government, 55.9 to 57.3 per cent, well ahead of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in second place with just over 12 per cent.

If confirmed by results today, there will be no need for a runoff vote on June 15th. • Ukraine presidential election faces disruption in East • Italian journalist and Russian colleague killed in Ukraine • Armed clashes in east as Ukraine counts down to election

Ukrainians, weary of six months of political turmoil, hope their new president will be able to pull their country of 45 million people back from the brink of bankruptcy, dismemberment and civil war.

But, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing Mr Poroshenko, armed pro-Russian separatists barred people from voting in much of Ukraine’s Donbass industrial heartland today, turning the main city of Donetsk into a ghost town. Mr Poroshenko (48) has promised closer economic and political ti
es with the West in defiance of Russian president Vladimir Putin, but he will also have to try to mend shattered relations with Ukraine’s giant northern neighbour,
which provides most of its natural gas and is the major market for its exports.

Today’s election marked the culmination of a revolution that erupted last November, forced a pro-Russian president to flee in February and spiralled into an existential crisis when Moscow responded by declaring its right to invade Ukraine. The pro-Moscow separatists have proclaimed independent “people’s republics” in the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and blocked voting there as that would imply they were still part of Ukraine.

Nor was any vote held in Crimea, which Russia annexed in March after the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovich. Ukrainian officials hailed a high voter turnout in much of the sprawling country but said only about 20 per cent of polling stations in the two restive eastern regions had functioned.

Mr Putin, who branded eastern Ukraine “New Russia” last month, has made more accommodating noises of late, saying yesterday he would respect the voters’ will.

He has announced the pullback of tens of thousands of Russian troops massed on the border. But the absence of more than 15 per cent of the potential electorate from the election could give Moscow an excuse to raise doubts about the victor’s legitimacy and continue applying pressure on the new president in Kiev. Mr Poroshenko is hardly a new face in Ukrainian politics, having served in a cabinet under Mr Yanukovich and also under a previous government led by Mr Yanukovich’s opponents.

This breadth of experience has given him a reputation as a pragmatist capable of bridging Ukraine’s divide between supporters and foes of Moscow.

He nevertheless was a strong backer of the street protests that toppled Mr Yanukovich and is thus ac

ceptable to many in the “Maidan” movement of pro-European protesters who have kept their tented camp in the capital to keep pressure on the new leaders.

Since Mr Yanukovich fled in February after more than 100 people were killed, Moscow has refused to recognise the interim leaders in Kiev, describing them as a fascist junta who threaten the safety of millions of Russian speakers. Ukrainians hope the vote can help because Moscow could not so quickly dismiss an elected leader with a solid mandate. The United States and European Union also view the election as a decisive step towards ending their worst confrontation with Moscow since the Cold War.

Their response to Russian interference in Ukraine so far has been limited to freezing the assets of a few dozen Russian individuals and small firms.

But they have threatened to take far more serious measures, even targeting whole sectors of Russian industry, if Moscow interferes with the vote. Some Ukrainians in the east who tried to vote complained about being denied their democratic right.

“What kind of polls are these? Things are bad,” said pensioner Grigory Nikitayich (72) in Donetsk. Even Ukrainian soldiers sent to assert the government’s authority in the east said they had no place to vote.

Car bomb kills at least 10 in central Syria

By Associated Press

Published: 12:22 GMT, 25 May 2014 | Updated: 12:22 GMT, 25 May 2014
• • • • • •
BEIRUT (AP) — A car bomb struck a pro-government neighborhood in the central Syrian city of Homs on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, setting cars on fire and sending thick plumes of black smoke into the sky, activists and a government official said.

The blast in the Zahra district, which is predominantly inhabited by Alawites and Christians, sent tremors through Homs, where rebels and the government have struck two cease-fire deals this month that have restored at least a semblance of peace to the shattered city. The provin-cial governor, Talal Barazzi, said the attack targeted such reconciliation efforts in Homs. An official in the Homs governor's office said 10 people were killed in the explosion Sunday and more than 40 were wounded. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.

The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights activist group, Rami Abdurrahman, put the death toll at 12. He also said more than 40 were wounded.

Differing death tolls are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks in Syria. Syrian state television blamed the bombing on "terrorists," the term it uses to describe those fighting to oust President Bashar Assad. The sta-tion broadcast footage that showed cars on fire and people trying to push other vehicles away from the blast site.
Associated Press writer Albert Aji contributed to this report from Da-mascus, Syria.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2638728/Car-bomb-kills-10-central-Syria.html#ixzz3ABh9MEtb



Anti-bailout Syriza carries the day in Greece

Tsipras calls for early national elections as Golden Dawn rises to third position in European vote

A voter hugs leader of leftist main opposition Syriza party and candidate for the European Commission presidency Alexis Tsipras in Athens. Photograph: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters

Damian Mac Con Uladh • Topics: • News • World • European Elections • Alexis Tsipras • Antonis Samaras • European Parliament • Europe • Greece

Sun, May 25, 2014, 23:34

First published: Sun, May 25, 2014, 23:34

Greece’s leftwing opposition Syriza party clinched first place in the country’s European Parliament elections, a vote which it framed as a referendum on austerity but which also witnessed the rise of a neo-Nazi party to third position nationwide. With almost a third of the votes counted last night, the anti-bailout Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipras, was on 26.5 per cent, putting it three points ahead of prime minister Antonis Samaras’s New Democracy party, which had likewise hoped that the elections would deliver a clear endorsement of the government’s economic performance.

Calling for early national elections, Mr Tsipras said his party’s performance had “destroyed every pretext” of the government’s legitimacy “even if Mr Samaras pretends to not understand it”. “Tomorrow all of Europe will be talking about Syriza. Already the peoples of Europe are celebrating the defeat of the memorandums in the country chosen as a guinea pig by the European leadership,” he said.

No question However, the government said there was no question of early elections. Commenting on the results, Mr Samaras said that while he accepted the Greek people had sent a message to his government, they had rejected Syriza’s call for the coalition to be overturned.

He insisted that his party was the guarantor of the country’s stability and for its successful exit from the crisis and the bailout memorandums with its lenders. “Fortunately for Greece and despite its huge problems, the government withstood the extreme attacks against it. Those who tried to make a referendum out of the European elections have failed. They did not succeed in creating the instability, uncertainty or lack of authority they sought,” he said.

Although it had been performing miserably in opinion polls ahead of the election, socialist Pasok, the junior partner in Mr Samaras’ coalition, was in fourth place, on just over 8 per cent, giving the government parties a combined lead over Syriza. In third place on almost 10 percent was neo-Nazi Golden Dawn, whose leader and a third of its MPs are being held on remand on charges of running a criminal organisation.

China is not a threat, but a challenge

The way forward for the west lies in greater engagement and much less hubris

Share 36 inShare17 Email Observer editorial Observer editorial The Observer, Sunday 25 May 2014 Jump to comments (282)

china-xi-jinping-and-david-cameron China's president Xi Jinping with David Cameron in December. Photograph: Xinhua/REUTERS

Recent actions and statements by the Communist party leadership in Beijing have again raised the question: should we fear China?
China's dramatic rise as a global economic powerhouse has been extensively charted,
if not universally accepted.
But on a range of other fronts, China now appears in the process of challenging, and rejecting, not only American and western geopolitical leadership but also the legal, institutional and security framework of the post-war international order upon which that leadership was founded.
A recent paper published by Chen Jimin of the Communist party's central committee school, entitled The Crisis of Confidence in US Hegemony, reflected a widely held assumption evident in much Chinese thinking: that the US is in irreversible retreat, and growing weaker as China grows stronger. The issue, as seen in some Beijing quarters, is not how to manage China's rise but how to manage, and profit from, America's decline. The outcome of this seismic and hazardous transition may ultimately determine who runs the 21st century.

China's apparently growing opposition, or at least its deepening disregard, for the old world order came into sharper focus at the UN last week.
Beijing joined Russia in vetoing a security council draft resolution calling for the crisis in Syria, including allegations of war crimes committed by both sides, to be referred to the International Criminal Court. In blocking the draft, China and Russia went against the 13 other members of the security council and the express wishes of 65 member states.
Disturbing, yes. Hard to justify, certainly. Yet this sort of contrarian behaviour is increasingly the norm.
China has frequently obstructed, or failed to support, other proposed UN actions on Syria and international crises ranging from Sudan and North Korea to Libya and Zimbabwe.

 Beijing caused real dismay in western diplomatic circles in March when it refused to join in condemning Russia's annexation of Crimea.
China's policy is not merely reflexive. It is proactively engaged in shaping alternative international power structures and realities that better serve its interests.

President Xi Jinping last week proposed a new Asian security organisation that would include Russia, Turkey and Iran, but exclude the US. What he failed to mention were the negative implications for collective security of China's recent oil-drilling incursion into Vietnam's offshore exclusive economic zone, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea; its seizure of Philippines' territory in the South China sea and refusal to partake in a UN-run arbitration procedure;

its restated claims to Indonesian and Malaysian waters; its ongoing confrontation with Japan, following its unilateral declaration of an air exclusion zone over contested islands in the East China sea.

In many of these disputes, China has bypassed the main regional organisation – the 10-country Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean), demanding instead that its weaker neighbours deal with it on a bilateral basis.

 It is in contrast pursuing an expanded role for alternative international groupings which it can easily dominate.
China's alleged state-sponsored cyber theft aimed at US and western businesses, its expropriation of other people's patents and intellectual property, its authoritarian, one-party domestic political model, its disregard for western ideas of human rights, free speech and open media reporting, its abusive treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang (scene of yet another bomb attack last week) and, for example, its ongoing failure to address its appalling environmental record may all be cited as additional reasons why China is developing in ways that are fundamentally inimical to western values, beliefs and interests.

On this analysis, China is no partner and no friend. It is a rival and potentially, a future menace to the way the west – meaning the old world order – would like the 21st-century world to be organised.
This, at least, is how hardliners, particularly in the US, like to frame the argument.

Yet the argument is wrong on two counts. First, it lacks both self-knowledge and humility. When the true extent of the Syrian catastrophe is closely observed, when the ruinous impact of western interventionism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya is held to the light, when the UN's abject failure to halt the tragedies of Rwanda, Bosnia and Congo is recalled, who is to say the new century does not need a revamped institutional framework?
When the enormous gap between rich and poor nations, between north and south, between developed and developing world is examined, who will claim the western powers, so long in the driving seat, have earned the right to continuing predominance? When China's drive and energy is set against the old order's self-serving complacency and hypocrisy, who most deserves the chance to do things differently? The US, after all, is no paragon when it comes to UN resolutions.

Second, those who would condemn or confront China misunderstand the nature of the problem they face.
China remains a developing country with enormous, unfulfilled human needs, a potentially explosive democratic deficit, a large post-2008 debt, a slowing economy, a chronic dependence on imported raw materials, a gaping urban-rural, rich-poor divide and a worsening threat from violent ethnic minority unrest.
Some of China's recent foreign policy actions, especially towards close neighbours, have been self-defeating in part because the military and the security apparatus have too much autonomous power.
A course correction is required. President Xi has been centralising authority around himself and may try to make one. But he faces opposition from the old guard, including former presidents, especially in his campaign to root out endemic official corruption. Xi has warned that, unless checked, the spread of corruption will "doom the party and the state". In this many-fronted struggle it is not certain he or the party will prevail.

China, in other words, is no unstoppable, all-threatening juggernaut, nor is it an inevitable heir to solo superpower status. It is a country like any other, albeit bigger, with complicated problems and challenges, an emerging power but not necessarily a malignant one.
China need not be feared; reassurance lies in much greater engagement, and much less western hubris. For the old world powers, the necessary trick is to persuade China to play by the rules, whatever the new rules turn out to be.

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