News, opinion, sports and culture E-mail:

Today's Headlines for:
Sunday, April 08, 2007

State awards, Energy needs, Dmitri Kaldun, PACE, CSTO, Russia/Iran Cartel, Ukrainian vote, Polish Cons, Opinion and the Being Had fundraiser

  • From the Top...
  • #193

    President: state awards are public recognition of labour achievements

    From: Belta
    State Secretary of the Union State Pavel Borodin has been awarded the Order of Friendship of Peoples
    On Friday, April 6th the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko confered state awards on representatives of various branches of the national economy, education professionals and cultural workers.

    In recognition of great contribution to all-round development of cooperation between Belarus and Russia, strengthening of the Belarusian-Russian friendship, the State Secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State, Pavel Borodin, has been awarded an Order of Friendship of the Peoples. The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has conferred this high state award on him today.

    The head of state has voiced gratitude to Pavel Borodin for consolidating Belarusian-Russian relations.

    Diligent highly productive labour at every work place, in every organisation is the main resource of the country, a reliable foundation of the society, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said today while conferring state awards.

    “Workers of Atlant, the Gomel-based Elektroapparatura, Vitebsk and Borisov meat-packing factories, Minskvodstroi, republican unitary enterprise Belgeodezia have good reputation in the country,” the head of state said.

    The list of people who have received medals “For Labour Achievements” includes heads of companies, industrial and construction workers, transport, medical, education specialists, professionals in culture and arts, activists of public movements. “I think you have something to be proud of. Your success and great prestige in the respective spheres of work provides ample evidence of this," the president said.

    State awards are expression of deep respect for professionalism, active civil stand, public recognition of labour and creative achievements of people, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, said April 6 while conferring state awards on the best representatives of various branches of the national economy, public movements, professionals in culture and arts, the presidential press-service told BelTA.

    Diligent highly productive labour at every work place, in every organisation is the main resource of the country, a reliable foundation of the society, the president said.

    Belarusian science should become a powerful intellectual generator which would bring the national economy to a new technological level, he added. A lot has been done in the country to help Belarusian science, which now faces challenging tasks, preserve its leading positions. The president has highly praised the contribution of Belarusian scientists and education specialists in promoting the image of Belarus.

    Medals “For Labour Achievements” and Francysk Skaryna and letters of official thanks of the president of Belarus have been conferred on the best scientists and education professionals for their contribution to the development of the education system in Belarus.

    Putting to good use their energy, organisational skills and showing sincere care for people, enthusiastic and talented managers contribute to prosperity of the young sovereign state of Belarus, the president said. he has thanked the representatives of all branches of national economy for their contribution to the process of dynamic development of the country and for strengthening of socio-political stability in Belarus.

    The head of state has highlighted creative labour of cultural figures and emphasised the importance of work of the Voluntary Society for Cooperation with the Army , Air Force and Navy (DOSAAF).

    In a related story, BelTA tells us that Russia is prepared to continue the formation of the Belarus-Russia Union State, Pavel Borodin, the State Secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State, told BelTA today. Earlier in the day the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, conferred an Order of Friendship of the Peoples on him.

    “I think both Russia and Belarus are prepared for this. The two presidents will meet in the near future, discuss the urgent issues. After this there will be a session of the Supreme State Council, which will focus on the issues concerning the holding of a referendum, adoption of the Constitution Act and election of a Union State parliament,” he said.

    Policy is a condensed form of economy. And economy requires appropriate legal framework. “We need a Union State parliament which would decide upon such issues as border, customs, means of payment, lending, pricing, military-technical policy, flow of people and capital,” he added.

    All major decisions concerning the Union State development will be taken this year, state secretary of the Union State Pavel Borodin told media in Minsk today.

    He said, this year a meeting of the presidents of Belarus and Russia will be held. Among other issues the meeting will table Union State development. “I hope this year a session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State will take place to discuss the referendum, the adoption of the Constitution Act, elections of the Union parliament”, added Pavel Borodin.

    He underlined, the presidents of the two countries are intent on continuing the future construction of the Union State. The intention is confirmed by the significant growth of the Union State budget, which “has increased from RUR500 million to almost RUR5 billion over the last six years”, noted the official.

    Belarus set to diversify oil supplies to ensure energy security

    From: RIA Novosti
    Belarus is seeking to diversify its oil supplies to ensure energy security, but will not use it as leverage against Russia, the country's president said Wednesday.

    Earlier this year, the neighbors were embroiled in an energy dispute after Russia doubled the natural gas price to $100 per 1,000 cubic meters and Minsk responded by introducing a transit levy of $45 per metric ton for Russian crude pumped to Europe via Belarus.

    Russia then briefly halted supplies to Europe, accusing Belarus of tapping its oil transits.

    "We must be ready to take oil and bring it to Belarus even if we have to pay more in emergency situations," Alexander Lukashenko said. "We will never bow [to pressure], and the Russians are not stupid to force us to import somebody else's oil."

    "Russia is running even bigger risks of being barred from the oil derivatives market in the middle of Europe and losing the opportunity to refine oil at our facilities," said the Belarusian president.

    Lukashenko said that in order to ensure future energy security, Belarus is now actively exploring possibilities for energy cooperation with other oil-exporting nations, such as Azerbaijan, Iran and Venezuela.

    "This process is underway, and the Russians have realized that we are able to substitute their [oil] supplies, although we are still eager to work with Russia and will not use the diversification of oil supplies as leverage," the president said.

    He said the announcement of the plans to jointly develop oil fields in Venezuela was far from being a pure PR move, because despite possible difficulties in transportation Belarus could sell extracted oil on Latin American markets and use the revenues to buy oil from nearby oil-exporters, including Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Iran.

    "We can exchange [extracted] oil there [in Latin America] for money, bring cash to Belarus and buy oil cheaper somewhere else," Lukashenko said.

    He also said the Belarusian government has been involved in talks with the United Arab Emirates on the construction of a large oil refinery in Belarus.

    Cargo transit via Belarus doubles over 5 years

    From: NLIPRB
    The number of cargo trucks transiting Belarus has doubled since 2002, head of the road and transportation department of the ministry of transport and communications of Belarus Sergei Kuchinsky told a briefing on April 4 in Minsk.

    According to him, in 2002 a total of 299,000 trucks passed through Belarus, in 2006 the figure grew to 598,000. “The annual increase was 23-24%,” Sergei Kuchinsky added.

    According to the customs statistics, 7.8 million tons of cargo was transited via Belarus in 2006 by road. “The total transit bypassing Belarus via Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine made up less than 4 million tons, including cargo transported from ports of the Baltic and Black Seas. This means that our roads bear the load twice as high as the roads of our neighbors,” Sergei Kuchinsky said.

    The share of cargo transited by road stood at 5% of the total transportations in Belarus in 2006, including transportation by railroad and pipelines. The revenues from cargo transit accounted for 45%.

    President of Bashkortostan favours expansion of cooperation with Belarus

    the Republic of Bashkortostan
    The president of the Republic of Bashkortostan of the Russian Federation, Murtaza Rakhimov, favours the expansion of cooperation with Belarus. “The potential for the intensification of mutually beneficial cooperation, especially in economy, has not been exhausted yet,” he said while meeting with Oleg Isayev, the new head of the Ufa office of the embassy of Belarus in Russia.

    The officials have discussed issues concerning the development of trade, scientific and cultural ties between Belarus and Bashkortostan, the press-service of the president of Bashkortostan told BelTA. Mr Rakhimov has congratulated the Belarusian diplomat on his new appointment and wished him fruitful work.

    The Ufa office of the embassy of Belarus in Russia has been operational since 2001. In 2006, Belarus and Bashkortostan reported mutual trade to the tune of nearly $100 million. Belarus exports motor vehicles and consumer goods to Bashkortostan and imports petrochemical goods, mineral products, rubber goods, production equipment, ferrous metals and goods made of them.

    Belarus: Dmitry Koldun participates in an online conference by BTRC

    From: Oiko Times
    TVR.BY REPORTS: To ask Dmitry Koldun questions about his creative activity, religion, family and “Eurovision”. Today Belarusian participant of “Eurovision-2007” took part in an on-line conference held at Belteleradiocompany’s website. Veronika Perepelkina: Over 300 questions were asked during the conference. Virtual talk about music, religion, love, magic and hobbies. It turned out that just Hollywood starts Dmitry Koldun would like to work also over own fashion line. (Dmitry Koldun, Belarusian participant of “Eurovision-2007”)

    However the upcoming “Eurovision” was the main theme of the conversation. (Dmitry Koldun, Belarusian participant of “Eurovision-2007”) Successful promo tour, quality music video and popular “Work Your Magic” song - Belarusian team are getting ready well. (Dmitry Koldun, Belarusian participant of “Eurovision-2007”) Over one hour of the conference Dmitry Koldun manage to talk to many parts of the world. People wished him luck and success. Fans asked him to perform in their town and even schools.

    PACE to discuss Belarus democratization at its April session

    From: RIA Novosti
    An April session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will focus among other issues on democratic processes in Belarus, a spokesman for the council of Europe said Friday.

    The spokesman said that leaders from the Belarusian political opposition, Alexander Milinkevich and Anatoly Lebedko, were invited to take part in the session scheduled for April 16-20.

    Many international public human rights groups and politicians have repeatedly expressed their concerns over democratic processes in Belarus claiming that individual human rights were being infringed under the rule of the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko.

    Lukashenko was officially reelected for a third term last March. Western nations, including the United States, called the elections fraudulent and introduced sanctions against the country and travel bans on some Belarusian officials, urging Lukashenko to release political prisoners and improve his human rights record.

    The opposition led by presidential candidate Milinkevich protested the results of the elections in central Minsk, trying to repeat the "orange and rose revolutions" of Ukraine and Georgia. The rally was soon dispelled and Milinkevich was briefly arrested.

    The charismatic 52-year-old president, who has support in his homeland for maintaining relative stability in comparison with some other former Soviet republics, responded last month to a recent opposition rally by saying the opposition had no chance of gaining control over the country.

    About 4,000 opposition supporters gathered in Minsk, the capital, last month to mark the formation of the Belarusian People's Republic in 1918, which lasted a few months until the Soviets entered the country.

    "We will not give them the country, and we will hit back at those who have the nerve to roll back current developments," said Lukashenko.

    CSTO secretary general Nikolai Bordiuzha to go to Belarus on working visit

    From: NLIPRB
    Nikolai Bordiuzha
    The secretary general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Nikolai Bordiuzha, will pay a working visit to Belarus on April 9-11.

    Nikolai Bordiuzha is scheduled to meet with state secretary of the Security Council of Belarus, ministers of foreign affairs, defence, emergency situations, the chairman of the Sate Security Committee (KGB) and to have meetings in the Belarusian parliament, the foreign ministry told BelTA.

    The issues on the agenda of the visit are the preparations for regular sessions of the CSTO bodies, the implementation of the June 2006 declaration on further improvement and enhancing the efficiency of the CSTO, foreign political interaction of the member states.

    Nikolai Bordiuzha is expected to make a speech on the CSTO issues before students and the faculty of Belarusian State University and cadets of the Military Academy.

    Lithuanian Railways want to become Belarus’ main partner in shipment of goods to Baltic ports

    From: NLIPRB
    Klaipeda, Lithuania
    On April 5, the general director of the Lithuanian Railway, Stasis Dailidka, and the chief of the Belarusian Railways, Vladimir Zherelo, signed a protocol agreement on increasing the volume of shipments by the Lithuanian railways to/from Belarus, says a press release of the press service of the Lithuanian Railways.

    In 2006, the flow of shipments between Lithuania and Belarus grew by 9% over 2005, that from Belarus by 12.3%. Lithuania has been taking measures to feed the trend.

    The Lithuanian Railways intend to become the main partner of Belarus in shipping Belarusian goods to the Klaipeda, Kaliningrad and other Baltic seaports, reads the press release.

    The Lithuanian and Belarusian railways rest big hopes on the cooperation in joint shipment of transit goods from Kazakhstan to the Baltic ports.

    Belarus to find those responsible for diesel oil leak from Unezha-Ventspils pipeline

    From: Regnum
    Belarusian emergency ministry is taking actions to minimize consequences of an accident on Unezha-Ventspils oil pipeline and find those responsible for the accident, first deputy emergency minister Valentin Karpitsky announced at a news conference today, a REGNUM correspondent reports.

    According to the official, technical examination of the pipeline is being conducted now and its final results are not known yet, but one can surely say that there has been no unsanctioned cutting-in into the pipeline. Karpitsky also noted that the Nature and Environment Protection Ministry is determining the sum of economic damage caused by the environmental accident. “Those responsible for the accident will be paying the damage caused to Belarus and Latvia,” the official said. “The pipeline has its administrator, who will face the claims for compensations.”

    Earlier, about 100 tons of diesel oil leaked from the pipeline in Belarus because of an accident on March 26. Most of the leaked oil got to the Ulla River in 14 km from the place where it flows into Daugava River. On March 26, Lithuanian State Fire Service sent about 80 kg of sorbent to Latvia to liquidate consequences of the accident.

    House of Representatives urged to request Constitutional Court to examine Lukashenka's edict governing sole entrepreneurs

    From: Naveny
    The Perspektyva small business association has petitioned the House of Representatives to request the Constitutional Court to look at the constitutionality of Alyaksandr Lukashenka's Edict No. 760.

    The edict, which will ban sole entrepreneurs from hiring workers other than three family members after January 1, 2008, has sparked a fierce backlash from the small business owners who fear that the measure will force them to shut up shop.

    As Perspektyva leader Anatol Shumchanka told BelaPAN, the organization has decided to push for the examination of the edict by the Constitutional Court after its Chairman Ryhor Vasilevich said in mid-March that the court was ready to consider the issue.

    "You have lawmakers to apply to. They should raise the issue at a session of the House of Representatives and the House of Representatives should file a request with us. We many times offered our opinion about the compliance of various bills with the constitution at the request of the House of Representatives," Mr. Vasilevich said at a news conference on March 14.

    In its petition to the House of Representatives, Perspektyva says that the edict violates individuals' right to work declared by the constitution.

    The group refers to business regulations in Western countries, including in Germany, Sweden, the United States, Canada and Denmark, which it says do not restrict the number of workers that a sole entrepreneur can hire.

    "We appeal to the legislature as lawmakers are also customers of sole entrepreneurs. They should give an ear to the voice of entrepreneurs and help them solve the artificially created problems," Mr. Shumchanka said.

    The activist stressed that the organization would appeal to other government institutions, including the Supreme Court, if the lower chamber ignored its request.

  • Around the region...

    Japanese Govt wary over Iran-Russia plan for natural gas cartel

    From: Daily Yo,iuri
    As the world's largest importer of natural gas, Japan is keeping a cautious eye on moves by major natural gas-producing countries to create a cartel similar to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

    The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) is expected to discuss a plan to launch such a body during a meeting of countries concerned that kicks off in Doha on Monday.

    Russia and Iran, the two largest natural gas producers, have taken the lead in establishing the cartel that, if realized, would account for more than 60 percent of the world's natural gas production.

    The proposed cartel is aimed at strengthening cooperation among natural gas producing countries amid a worldwide rise in demand, and increasing their influence in determining supply and prices.

    In January, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told visiting Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov in Tehran that the two countries should take the initiative in establishing a cooperative similar to OPEC, a suggestion Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly showed a keen interest in.

    Observers suggest the cartel would allow Russia to enhance its international standing as a key energy supplier while countering the growing perception in Europe that Russia is a threat to security. Iran, for its part, hopes to be able to better resist U.S. pressure.

    The backing of the two leading gas producers is considered key to bringing the plan to fruition and the proposal has been given a further boost through an endorsement by Algeria, the world's eighth-largest gas producer. Qatar, the third-largest producer, also agreed in February to discuss the plan at the GECF.

    However, Indonesia and Australia, both major gas exporters to Japan, have not indicated any interest in the plan.

    Details of the plan are not yet clear, but analysts believe that an agreement will result in closer coordination among gas producing countries based on the GECF, which was established in 2003 to facilitate information exchange among gas-producing countries.

    The proposed cartel has been viewed with some concern by the Japanese government as it could affect gas supplies to Japan and keep the price high, thereby undermining the country's energy security.

    The move is particularly troubling for the government as natural gas has been promoted here for use in thermal power plants because it is less damaging to the environment than oil, and prices tend to be more stable. Utility gas also is being switched to natural gas.

    With the use of natural gas expected to rise, Japan will start importing liquefied natural gas from Russia's Sakhalin-2 field in 2008, and has pressed Russia to export natural gas from its Sakhalin-1 field, from which China has concluded a provisional contract to begin imports.

    On learning of the drive to establish a cartel, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry sent a ranking official to Qatar in February to convey the government's concerns about the plan.

    Some analysts also are worried the proposal will encourage resource-led nationalism and adversely affect negotiations on prices and the acquisition of concession rights.

    Akira Ishii, chief economist at the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation, said: "OPEC was a weak organization when it was established in 1960, but it showed its muscle in the 1970s. If the gas cartel was established it would, in the long run, become a destabilizing factor on the world's energy industry."

    However, despite the apparent progress over the creation of a cartel, many believe a final, effective deal will be difficult to conclude.

    One reason is that natural gas transactions are conducted mainly as bilateral, long-term contracts. This is different to oil, which is traded on the market, and makes it more difficult to control production and prices through a cartel.

    Moreover, natural gas producing countries are scattered across the globe, unlike OPEC member countries that are clustered in the Middle East, thus hampering a more coordinated approach. In addition, gas-producing countries have more diverse strategic interests, and some are less interested in forming a cartel out of concern over possible opposition from Japan, Europe and the United States.

    This view is reflected in a report by the Russian news agency Novosti, which said members of the Russian parliament shared the view that an alliance of gas-producing countries would benefit Russia, but were concerned it could also be seen as an outright challenge to the West.

    Ukrainian President, Premier Fail to Break Stalemate

    From: Bloomburg
    Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and his rival for power, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, failed to break a stalemate as thousands of the premier's supporters thronged Kiev's main square urging an end to the standoff.

    The nation's two most powerful politicians met today as Ukraine began Easter festivities. The meeting ended shortly before 5 p.m. Kiev time and achieved no results, Olena Trusova, a Ukrainian presidential spokeswoman, said by telephone.

    A political crisis has torn Ukraine for months between followers of the president, who came to power after the peaceful Orange Revolution in 2004 vowing to lead the country to European Union and NATO entry, and the premier, who seeks closer ties with Russia. Yushchenko dissolved parliament on April 2 and called elections for May 27, saying Yanukovych was trying to oust him.

    ``The main theme of the meeting was an exit from the political crisis,'' according to a statement on the presidential Web site that provided few details.

    Ukrainian lawmakers had earlier urged calm to mark the Easter holiday, as the months-long tension between the president and parliament, where Yanukovych's coalition has a majority, intensified.

    In Moscow, the State Duma lower house of parliament passed a motion supporting the Ukrainian assembly and condemning Yushchenko.

    `Dangerous Signal'

    ``Deputies consider that the decree signed by President Yushchenko on the immediate dissolution of the Supreme Council runs counter to the constitution of Ukraine, and the presidential power of Ukraine sends an extremely dangerous signal to political forces on exceeding the law,'' said a statement posted on the Duma's Web site today.

    Yanukovych has asked Ukraine's Constitutional Court to rule on whether the dissolution of parliament is legal. Yushchenko's office said yesterday the decree was valid while the court's decision was pending, and Yushchenko insisted early elections will go ahead.

    Yanukovych countered by calling for international mediation to resolve the crisis, asking Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer to intervene.

    Bribery Claims

    Neither Yushchenko nor Yanukovych made public comments today, as Ukrainians began to celebrate Easter.

    Yulia Timoshenko, Yushchenko's first prime minister after the Orange Revolution, accused Yanukovych on March 19 of bribing lawmakers, offering them $3 million to $7 million to leave the parliamentary opposition and join his coalition. Yanukovych denied the accusation.

    Thousands of pro-Yanukovych supporters gathered once again in Independence Square, the heart of Kiev, waving the blue and yellow national flag of Ukraine, the blue flag of Yanukovych's Party of the Regions, and the red banner of the Communist Party.

    As earlier in the week, there was no sign of the orange flag of Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party.

    Politicians opposed to Yanukovych have asked their supporters to stay at home, avoiding the risk of violence on the street, and the atmosphere in central Kiev was calm and peaceful today.

    To mark Good Friday, Independence Square was treated to religious music and hymns, in contrast to the political rhetoric coming all week from the large temporary stage in the square's center.


    From: Sunday Mail
    CHANCERS preying on big-hearted Scots could face a fraud trial.

    Charity regulators have sent a report on Scottish Help For The World to the Crown Office.

    It follows a Sunday Mail investigation which revealed that items collected in Scotland were being sold for as much as Ј50,000 a week in Poland.

    The Ј2.5million-a-year operation is fronted by the wealthy Sramke brothers, Mateus, 19, and Jaeck, 17, who live outside Gdansk and could now be the subject of arrest warrants.

    Our probe revealed leaflets featuring the Sramkes' claim that they are helping a Polishbased charity contained fake charity numbers.

    Dozens of Eastern European workers have been collecting goods for the Dewajtis organisation from homes across Scotland, operating from a base in Glasgow. But instead of giving the goods they collect to desperate families, at least two container loads are being shipped out every week and sold through the Sramkes' second-hand clothing business.

    Ayrshire MP Brian Donohoe said: "I'm incandescent with rage that this gang have been allowed to operate in Scotland for almost a year with virtually no action from the authorities.

    "Scotland has been a magnet for far too long for charity scams and the authorities must do everything in their power to ensure that does not continue."

    A letter to Donohoe from Thomas Thornburn, the senior investigations officer at the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, said: "The use of a fictitious reference number may be fraud." The Sramke family, who refuse to speak to the Mail, have been ordered by the OSCR to stop posing as a charity.

    A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: "This is a despicable scam, which takes advantage of people's generosity and damages the name of the Polish people."

  • Opinion...

    Belarus: the shackles of sovereignty

    From: Charter '97
    The domestic and foreign policies of the Belarusian president, emanating from the imperative of state independence, work alike to justify and sustain his authoritarian rule. The foreign relations of Belarus demonstrate with clarity how the currency of independence can trade well in the radically different contexts to the country`s east and west.

    When western governments tried to hurdle Lukashenko`s accumulation of power by supporting human rights and freedoms, and pressing his regime for the obedience of democratic rules and procedures, Lukashenko presented this pro-democratic effort as a threat to Belarusian sovereignty: he proclaimed the European Union policymakers the "heirs of Nazi occupiers", and branded the recommendations of the United States`s Belarus Democracy Act "conditions of surrender".

    At the same time, to Belarus`s east Lukashenko mere promise of eventual reunification of the brotherly Slavic nations was enough to guarantee a continuation of Russia`s policy of supplying cheap energy resources and giving favourable treatment to Belarusian produce. In 2002, the Russian leadership tried to claim the bill when President Putin offered the choice of state merger or termination of preferences, but Lukashenko was swift to rebuff the demand as a Russian attempt to annex Belarus.

    This response again went down well with the population during the gas cut-off in February 2004, and by January 2007 a desperate Russian leadership risked its international reputation and relations with five European countries simply to make the Belarusian government accept economically reasonable and justifiable energy price hikes.

    The Belarusian leadership immediately ran crying to Europe, asking it to protect Belarusian independence and offering to be its "humble pupil". Lukashenko even revoked the 1992 treaty between the US, Britain, Russia and Belarus guaranteeing the country`s independence following nuclear disarmament. While the US stayed unmoved, insisting on the "rotten nature" of the Belarusian regime, Europe apparently swallowed the bait. The president of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe, Renй van der Linden, visited Minsk on 18-19 January 2007 to start a dialogue without Lukashenko having lifted a finger to fulfil Europe`s conditions of engagement in terms of improving the democratic climate in the country.

    The lesson seems clear: a promise of sharing sovereignty can win miraculous prizes from interested foreign partners, whereas the claim to protect it places limits on any actual attempts to harvest the desired yield.

    The Belarusian opposition, which knows what a deft political manipulator Lukashenko is - though wary too of offending its European allies - has welcomed Europe`s move while cautioning that this is Lukashenko`s last chance to implement political and economic reforms. It seems, however, that the opposition did not believe in the possibility of Lukashenko`s proving to be flexible even as they spoke about it. After all, Lukashenko`s opponents need do no more that draw on the reality of their everyday lives to demonstrate how the rhetoric of independence can be skilfully used to stifle dialogue and debate, essential features of a democratic society.

    The Belarusian president does not engage with their ideas; instead, he uses ad hominem rhetoric to point to the opposition as national traitors, working on behalf of foreign forces to "sell and partition" Belarus. The most vivid of many examples is the state-produced feature film Anastasia Slutskaia (2003); in one scene, a traitor opens the gate of a besieged city to the enemy because he is angry with the ruler who (as the director Yuri Elkhov says) "had done away with the council and took all decision-making into his own hands".

    These traitor`s words could be borrowed directly from the Belarusian dissidents` description of Alexander Lukashenko, in a way that makes a parallel between opposition to the ruler and surrender to a foreign enemy. The president, who has audaciously pushed Belarusian state ideology into his people`s everyday lives - and making the kitchen the only acceptable place for debate - is here given aesthetic support for his political intransigence.

    The concept of independence thus serves as an essential means of thwarting dissent and disregarding international obligations and rules in the interest of supporting Belarus`s authoritarian regime. Indeed, Lukashenko`s presentation of any assault on his authority as simultaneously a jeopardising of Belarusian sovereignty has never yet failed to boost his popular support for and give him the upper hand in any crisis.

    The Belarus bullying-stick

    The fact that the most prominent incidence of a retreat of independence rhetoric in Belarus occurred during the energy-price conflict with Russia makes clear that the questioning of Belarusian independence does not mean arguing for its unification with Russia. After all, Russia itself has little to offer in terms of freedom and liberal development.

    Yet there are examples in the post-communist zone of countries which have made independence secondary to liberty and thereby managed to achieve democracy. These are the countries that aspired to and won membership of the European Union. Societies in the most successful of the European Union`s new (2004) members - such as Lithuania, Poland or Slovenia - have survived the perils of transition by embracing the existing European values and mode of life and social organisation as part of their national culture. By becoming members of the EU, they surrendered some of their independence, and secured their liberal development in exchange.

    A search for a uniquely independent way out of communism, at the same time, became characteristic of authoritarian post-communist regimes in central Asia and Belarus, and is currently gaining salience in Russia. National independence provides such an important pillar for authoritarian leaders because as a grand idea it is bigger than even the strongest of personalities. It is much easier to dislike and criticise a leader than to oppose an idea of national freedom he successfully seeks to embody. Authoritarians root themselves as founding fathers of a nation, enjoy security and support throughout their lives, and then their "cause" is picked up by one of the administration coterie once they pass. Turkmenistan is the freshest evidence to make the point.

    The 20th century is remembered as the age of national sovereignty. At its end, 203 nations achieved statehood, and only a handful of claimants remain. But contrary to expectations, the struggle for independence has not yet moved onto the history pages. Instead, the concept of national independence is receiving a second lease of life from authoritarian politicians seeking unlimited powers within already existing nation-states.

    Eastern Europe may be a victim of its own success

    From: Times Leader
    A man walks in front of the Microsoft Support Center in Bucharest, Romania
    When the communists were ousted across Eastern Europe, the capitalists moved in. For foreign companies from McDonald’s to Microsoft, it was an exciting new frontier — a cheap place to make things, with 70 million potential consumers to buy them.

    Now, 18 years after the East embraced economic freedom, come the first tentative signs that an unprecedented boom may be on the verge of going bust.

    Although big business is still expanding briskly across the region, wages, real estate and taxes are rising fast. Put simply, for companies looking to outsource manufacturing or services, the newest corner of the European Union just isn’t the bargain it used to be.

    Experts say the shift is subtle — in some places barely perceptible — but warn that the rapidly prospering nations of Central and Eastern Europe soon could become victims of their own success by pricing themselves out of the market.

    “It has happened before — Mexico, Singapore, Thailand — and will continue to happen as long as there are ’lower cost’ places with the human and political potential to be developed,” said Charlie Barnhart, a senior consultant for Alameda, Calif.-based Technology Forecasters.

    Barnhart thinks there could be a noticeable “sustained softening” of foreign outsourcing to the East in as early as two or three years.

    It’s happening already. Among companies that recently scaled back or pulled out:

    • Delphi Corp., a Troy, Mich.-based auto parts supplier which filed for bankruptcy in 2005, shifted some manufacturing from the Czech Republic, where workers earned about $6 an hour, to Ukraine, where the going rate is closer to $1.60.

    • Lauma, a lingerie maker based in Latvia, is giving that country the slip. Last year, it started transferring production to Belarus and Ukraine. Now it plans to outsource all new business to the two ex-Soviet republics because it can’t hire enough Latvians to staff its sewing houses.

    • Lidl, a discount grocery chain headquartered in Germany, last year sold 50 parcels of land in Estonia and Latvia, where it had planned to open stores, after executives realized the cost of doing business in the Baltics was much higher than they anticipated.

    Guntis Strazds, who heads the Latvian Association of Textile and Clothing Industries, says a shortage of workers and high labor costs will prompt textile companies to outsource up to 40 percent of their production to cheaper countries “in the near future.”

    “We’re already giving orders to Russia and Belarus, and we’re in the process of making contacts in Ukraine,” he said.

    In Hungary, an American company that refused to be identified showed The Associated Press an internal chart it uses to decide where to open new factories. Russia and Ukraine were ranked far cheaper than Poland, Hungary and Romania.

    To be sure, there’s no mass exodus of Western companies from those countries. In fact, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. predicts outsourcing activity in the region to triple by the end of 2008, creating more than 130,000 jobs.

    The region’s chief advantages, according to McKinsey: Wages comparable to those in India, a skilled, innovative and multilingual labor force, a low-risk profile based on political and economic stability, and a cultural proximity to Western Europe that poses fewer challenges and headaches than places like Southeast Asia.

    Smaller mid-size cities are worth exploring because they’re cheaper than capitals, yet often have large universities that produce a steady flow of skilled graduates, McKinsey says.

    An example is the northwestern Romanian city of Cluj, where Nokia announced last week it plans to open a cell phone plant and tech center. Nokia will invest $80 million in the project, which the government says eventually will create 15,000 jobs.

    Romania’s IT sector grew by 35 percent in 2006 to more than $1.6 billion. Valerica Dragomir, executive director of the Association of Software and Information Services Industries, a trade group, says the opportunities are luring back bright young specialists who left “because they didn’t see a horizon for developing their careers and didn’t see a better life here.”

    Yet experts say a shift is inevitable.

    In Poland, wages for the first time are expected to grow faster than productivity this year, said Magdalena Iga of Warsaw’s Center for Social and Economic Research. That’s significant because high productivity has been credited for maintaining Poland as a good deal for foreign investors.

    As countries develop, salaries, taxes and other social costs go up. Technology Forecasters’ Barnhart says a location starts losing its allure as an outsourcing venue when wages rise to within 70-75 percent of U.S. salaries, and when local raw materials are no longer at least 8-10 percent cheaper than in a fully developed country.

    That gives an edge to countries such as India and China, which have kept compensation down to 3 percent of the U.S. level. By contrast, wages in some sectors in Romania already are 50 percent of U.S. levels and rising by 20 percent a year.

    Czechs are the top wage-earners in Central Europe. Last year, their average monthly salary rose by 6.5 percent to the equivalent of $963, the government’s statistics office said.

    Although Czechs won’t earn as much as Germans until 2037 at the earliest, their prosperity “is catching up with that of an average Western European citizen,” analyst Marketa Sichtarova concedes.

    Yet high wages won’t stop South Korean carmaker Hyundai from breaking ground in May on a new $1.3 billion assembly plant in the eastern Czech city of Nosovice. Or Samsung Electronics from moving ahead in talks with officials in neighboring Slovakia on plans to build a new factory to make flat-screen TVs.

    Likewise, companies such as Microsoft, which has operated in Eastern Europe since 1992 and now employs more than 1,000 people in 19 subsidiaries, are in no hurry to walk away from that kind of investment.

    Underscoring his commitment to Romania, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates visited Bucharest in February to inaugurate a technical support center that will employ up to 600 software specialists.

    “The snowball of outsourcing is big,” said Cosmin Mares, spokesman for Romanian software company Softwin. “And it cannot be instantaneously stopped.”

  • From the blogs...

    From: TOL
    One year ago any unusual sticker, badge, or T-shirt featuring «For Freedom» (”За Свабоду”) design was extremely popular among Belarusians who happened to be in Washington, DC. Anyone who was lucky to get such a rare item was literally under attack by friends, who went to great lengths to get their hands on the precious and symbolic thing. Fortunately, a large number of companies in the U.S. provide the service of producing badges/T-shirts with any design in a matter of days. Now one can easily find online stores, offering products with «For Freedom» design. Just pay and get it.

    I personally was happy to see such interest in our «brand» overseas, but I was wondering, what do the creators of the «For Freedom» campaign think about businessmen earning money by selling white-red-white merchandise. For commentary I turned to one of creators and organisers of the «For Freedom» campaign.

    «Of course, it is quite unexpected to see our emblem on apparel sold in a random online store. But I think, that it is great. I hope, that it is the result of a free market effect – Demand creates Supply. Therefore, if someone is selling such things, then people buy it, people need it. By the way, I would like to order something myself. For example, some underwear, or a shirt.»

    I also liked some items, especially women’s clothes. During our campaigns only large unisex clothes are produced, though some underwear or say a sexy T-shirt ?ould add a nice touch to political campaigning. Irresistible!

    Annals of the Neo-Soviet Crackdown on Protest

    From: Publius Pundit
    Gary Kasparov
    As Publius Pundit has previously reported, the political coalition known as "The Other Russia" led by former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov and chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov has held three major public demonstrations in Russia in the last six months: One in Moscow, one in St. Petersburg and one in Nizhny Novgorod. Each time, the response of the Russian authorities has been to deny permission for a public gathering and then attack the demonstration with riot police when it occurs. A fourth march is planned, this time in Moscow and St. Petersburg simultaneously, for the middle of this month. The Kremlin is in the midst of a three-sided attack on these demonstrators before they even set foot to pavement.

    First, the Moscow Timesreports that a Moscow court has now upheld the denial of permission to march for the Moscow protest last December. Moscow authorities told the court that an offer of an alternative venue had been made; Other Russia called that a "lie."

    Another report in the Moscow Times indicates that the Kremlin is now escalating its level of oppression in Moscow in anticipation of the second demonstration. According to the paper:

      The Moscow City Duma passed a bill Wednesday giving City Hall the power to ban a demonstration because it is near a monument or historical building and requiring political parties to prove they are legally registered every time they want to rally. Almost every opposition demonstration is in some way connected with well-known monuments, and in the city center, where opposition rallies are held, almost every building is a historical monument, Yabloko Deputy Yevgeny Bunimovich said after Wednesday's session. The bill also limits the number of participants in any outdoor gathering to two per square meter and specifies that attendees at indoor gatherings must not outnumber available chairs at the venue.
      The Kremlin has already banned the second Moscow protest and is apparently setting the stage for a total lockdown followed by extreme actions against those who dare to speak out. Finally, in the third prong of the attack, it has issued a permit for 15,000 pro-Kremlin members of the "Young Guard" youth cult to march on the same day, inviting confrontation.

    Meanwhile, as Moscow devotes its energies to cracking down on dissent, its residents suffer untold hardships. For instance, the MT reports that "Moscow placed 201 out of the 215 cities surveyed in terms of health and sanitation according to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, a U.S.-based company that advises global companies on how to structure remuneration packages for their expatriate employees."

  • Sport...

    National Olympic Committee announces fundraising campaign to finance rehabilitation of freestyle aerial jumper Dzmitry Rak

    Belarus' National Olympic Committee on April 6 announced a fundraising campaign to finance the rehabilitation of Dzmitry Rak, a Belarusian freestyle aerialist who suffered a severe injury in December 2006.

    On its Web site, the Committee posted the bank accounts to which donations can be transferred.

    The 30-year-old Rak was in a coma for more than a month after suffering a head injury on a landing at a competition in China on December 10.

    The athlete reportedly lost consciousness a few minutes after he hit his head against his knees.

    On February 1, he was flown to Belarus in an Israeli medical plane and placed in the neurological unit of Minsk's number five hospital.

    In mid-March, he was said to be making a recovery. He reportedly began to speak and attempt to stand up. On April 4, he was transferred to the Aksakawshchyna National Clinical Hospital near Minsk for further treatment and rehabilitation.

    "The National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Sports and Tourism closely follow the condition of Dzmitry," NOC spokesman Pyotr Rabukhin told BelaPAN. "The rehabilitation process costs a lot of money. He may have to undergo a course of treatment abroad. In Russia, for example, one day of such a course costs some 400 dollars. That's why donations will become a good help."

  • Endnote...


    It's about saying NO! to police corruption, to under-the-table politics, to the suppression of human rights, suppression of freedom of speech, suppression of freedom of thought and suppression of freedom from assault by people who have been entrusted by the public with the responsibility to protect our communities.
    What's it all about?

    It's about raising enough money to win the case once and for all.

    I am not speaking here about simple, everyday, pay the bills, put food on the table money; I am speaking here of the need to raise a real war chest! I am talking about building up a real fund to fight the real fight I have wanted to undertake for almost five years now: I am speaking of victory, I am speaking of setting the record straight and I am speaking of finally being able to put the whole BEINGHAD situation to rest once and for all.

    For three years I have been pushing these keys in support of defending my case, supporting the book and trying to keep at least a modicum of pressure on the Polish Judicial system not to do to others what they did to me. I could on about what their slander and theft of a year of my life (there is also a good argument that says five), my name and credibility has done to me and to my people but you all know the story already, it's all here; all of it. And it has been such a travesty. It was all wrong. It was not the bad guys who did this. I wasn't robbed by the criminals; I was robbed by the good guys; the cops and the so-called Polish Justice System.

    Folks, they have to pay.

    So the next six week or so, and this is going to basically be the time leading up to May 15th, which will be the fifth anniversary of the day Zaremba started all of this with his lies, I need to raise as much money as I can.

    Where is the money going to?

    1. It's at first going towards setting up a legal fund to fight the civil case.

    2. Said civil case needs to be made public and this requires advertising.

    3. People need to be involved which means their needs need to be covered. And in addition, people who have already been involved need to be paid back.

    My goal is to try and raise $25,000. Let's consider it a bounty. I have given myself a year to do it, but maybe I can get this done in the next six weeks. Why not? Who is to say that this is not possible?

    So as a starter, for every donation of $100 or more, I will happily send an autographed first edition of the book BEING HAD. (Please allow a little time for delivery.) Or, if the book is not to your liking, I am sure we can find a suitable gift in appreciation for the generosity.

    Donations can be made via the pay pal buttons on any of the Being Had pages. For further information, please contact me at:

    (Note: I am also taking in advertising on all of the pages and investment opportunities are available as well.)

    So please my friends and readers, now is the time to really do something about this. Now is the time, once and for all, to put this thing away. By supporting the beinghad webspot you are saying NO! to police corruption, to under-the-table politics, to the suppression of human rights, suppression of freedom of speech, suppression of freedom of thought and suppression of freedom from assault by people who have been entrusted by the public with the responsibility to protect our communities. Folks, it needs to be done. This thing has to happen and it has to happen now.

    Please give generously: This is righteous war which must be won!

    Adam Goodman
    April 4, 2007