November 30, 2012 - The Constantine Report    
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

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March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading
March 5th 2020 12

Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

The key to more success is to have a lot of pillows. Always remember in the jungle there’s a lot of they in there, after you will make it to paradise. Egg whites, turkey sausage, wheat toast, water.

Continue reading

Mitt Romney & the Rise of Monsanto Biotech

This is a modified py-6 that occupies the entire horizontal space of its parent.

Mitt Romney, Monsanto Man

By Wayne Barrett
The Investigative Fund, September 13, 2012

In his Bain years, the GOP nominee helped fashion Monsanto into a biotech giant.

Though Mitt Romney has been campaigning for president since 2006, it’s alarming how little is known about critical chapters of his business biography. Nothing spells that out more clearly than his ties to Monsanto — the current target of a mid-September Occupy nationwide action — whose dark history features scandals involving PCBs, Agent Orange, bovine growth hormone, NutraSweet, IUD, genetically modified (GM) seed and herbicides, reaching back to the 1970s and ’80s. That’s when Monsanto was the largest consulting client of Romney’s employer, Bain & Company, and when Romney helped move Monsanto from chemical colossus to genetic giant, trading one set of environmental controversies for another.

This history matters not just because of the light it sheds on Romney’s self-ballyhooed business experience but because of the litany of Monsanto corporate objectives that clash with planetary concerns. …

The romance between Romney and Monsanto began back in 1977, when the recently minted Harvard Law and Business School graduate joined Bain, the Boston-based consulting firm launched in 1973, the same year Monsanto became one of its first clients. One of Bain’s founding partners, Ralph Willard, described to the Boston Globe in 2007 how “Romney learned the technical aspects of the chemical business so thoroughly that he sounded as if he had gone to engineering school instead of business school,” and that Monsanto executives soon began “bypassing” him to go directly to Romney.

John W. Hanley, the Monsanto CEO at the time, has said how “impressed” he was with the 30-year-old Mitt. Hanley became so close to Romney that he and Romney’s boss Bill Bain devised the idea of creating Bain Capital as a way of keeping Romney in the fold. Unless Mitt was allowed to run this spin-off venture firm, Hanley and Bain feared, he would leave. Hanley even contributed $1 million to Romney’s first investment pool at Bain Capital. Monsanto’s Hanley is in fact the only business executive outside of the Bain founding family to so shape Romney’s career — jumpstarting the two companies, Bain & Company and Bain Capital, that account for all but two years of Romney’s much-ballyhooed business experience. Bain and Romney whispered in Monsanto’s ear until 1985, when Hanley’s successor Richard Mahoney says he “fired” them and when Romney moved on to Bain Capital.

A year before Romney began to work with Monsanto, Congress passed a 1976 bill banning PCBs, a liquid chemical monopoly of Monsanto’s, exposing the company to an onslaught of litigation throughout the Bain years. Monsanto was also besieged by charges that its decade of Vietnam War defoliation with Agent Orange dioxins — branded by a Yale environmentalist “the largest chemical warfare operation” in human history — had contaminated as many as 10 million Vietnamese and American people, leading to a $180 million settlement covering the claims of 52,000 troops in 1984.

Dr. Earl Beaver, who was Monsanto’s waste director during the Bain period, says that Bain was certainly “aware” of the “PCB and dioxin scandals” because they created “a negative public perception that was costing the company money.” So Bain recommended focusing “on the businesses that didn’t have those perceptions,” Beaver recalls, starting with “life science products that were biologically based,” including genetically engineered crops, as well as Roundup, the hugely profitable weed-killer. “These were the products that Bain gave their go-ahead to,” Beaver contends, noting that Romney was a key player, “reviewing the data collected by other people and developing alternatives,” talking mostly to “the higher muckety-mucks.”

But Beaver, who left Monsanto and eventually became chair of the Institute for Sustainability in New York, said that the Monsanto/Bain teams “did not put an adequate emphasis on esoteric or societal factors” because they were “focused on this quarter or that quarter or next year’s financials.” People who have a long-term horizon, Beaver concluded, “consider different factors than what’s going to be reported in the stock section of the newspaper.”

The first Monsanto biotech product, bovine growth hormone, became another headache for the firm, crippling cows, alarming parents concerned about the health effect on kids, meeting with rejection among developed countries outside the United States and sparking bans by American retailers from Starbucks to Walmart. Monsanto announced it invented the hormone in 1981, midway through the Bain period, but didn’t get FDA clearance for it until 1993. By 2008, the company got out of the business altogether, ostensibly selling it for far less than it invested in the technology.

Now the king of GM corn, soybean, alfalfa and other seeds, engineered to resist Roundup and increase yield, Monsanto is awash in global disputes, having lost two recent, at least $2 billion, court decisions in Brazil, for example, where 5 million soy farmers sued them. The Brazilian farmers’ issue is also a source of frustration for US farmers — the contracts farmers are forced to sign pledging not to save seeds for future harvests, a common farm custom that resale-fixated Monsanto has hired a seed police army to stop.

While Monsanto can trot out its own and FDA findings to support its seed safety claims, there are independent studies linking its corn to organ damage, obesity, diabetes and allergies. The company’s profits plunged in 2010 as evidence mounted that GM seeds, 90 percent of which originate with Monsanto, weren’t boosting yields as promised. Consumer resistance has already forced Monsanto to retreat from the GM potato, tomato, wheat, rice, flax seed and bio-pharmaceutical crops. Peru recently banned GM products for ten years and Hungary destroyed all its Monsanto cornfields, joining ninety countries that aggressively monitor and restrict, or ban, GM imports, according to the Center for Food Safety.

The Union of Concerned Scientists criticized the absence of independent and long-term research findings on GM safety, charging that we are placing “a huge wager” on this little-examined technology. Monsanto’s onetime communications director shrugged his shoulders to this kind of concern, telling the New York Times: “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of biotech food. Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” In fact, Monsanto pressured the Reagan administration, starting during the Bain years, to develop a friendly regulatory framework it could exploit as a seal of approval.

The critical shift to “life sciences” started in 1979, when Monsanto installed a University of California biologist, Howard Schneiderman, as its research director and began investing hundreds of millions a year in biotech hormones and seeds. Monsanto’s website reports that by 1981 — when Bain was intimately involved in determining the company’s strategic direction — biotech was “firmly established as Monsanto’s strategic research focus.”

Roundup Ready seeds, of course, are inextricably tied to the success and safety of Roundup itself. But “super-weeds” are developing a Roundup tolerance, requiring more and more spraying to work, which is harmful ecologically and financially damaging for farmers. Introduced in the Bain years with Bain boosting, Roundup’s supposedly “biodegradable” and “nontoxic” claims have led to false advertising findings in France and by the Attorney General of New York. Studies are also now beginning to link Roundup to cancer and birth defects, the first indication that it may be going the way of Lasso, another Monsanto herbicide endorsed by Bain that was forced from the market because of health hazards.

During the presidential primaries this past March, Romney named an eleven-member Agricultural Advisory Committeethat was packed with Monsanto connections, including its principal Washington lobbyist Randy Russell, whose firm has represented Monsanto since its founding in the 1980s and has been paid $2.4 million in lobbying fees since 1998.

Among those also appointed to the panel were another Russell client and Monsanto partner in the marketing of GM alfalfa, Land O’ Lakes CEO Chris Policinski; and Chuck Conner, whose National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) is closely linked to Land O’ Lakes. Conner and Policinski, an NCFC director, publicly supported Monsanto’s 2010 attempts to win USDA approval for its alfalfa. Other members of the initial Romney council were Tom Nassif, whose Western Growers Association receives annual grants from Monsanto, and A.G. Kawamura, the former California agriculture secretary who championed Monsanto’s alfalfa despite a federal court ruling in the state against it.

Romney has also cultivated close relations with three Republicans who hail from Monsanto’s home state of Missouri — Senator Roy Blunt, former governor Matt Bluntand former senator Jim Talent. In 2011, Romney picked Roy Blunt to be his campaign’s point man in the Senate and named Talent to his four-member economic policy team. Matt Blunt, son of the senator, became a senior adviser at Solamere Capital, the investment firm headed by one of Romney’s sons. (Roy Blunt’s wife Abigail, a Romney bundler, is the in-house lobbyist for Kraft Foods, also represented by Russell and a sometimes ally of Monsanto’s on key food issues.) Monsanto, its spinoff Solutia, and Russell’s firm have long been top donors to the three, contributing a combined $246,170 to them over the years (Monsanto executives are modest donors to Romney but give nothing to Obama).

Katie Smith, a Talent aide for four years who was director of Missouri’s agriculture department under Governor Matt Blunt until 2008, was also named to Romney’s council. Smith is now director of public affairs for Osborn & Barr, a Missouri-based public relations firm created by Monsanto executives whose founding client was Monsanto. Matt Blunt was such a champion of Monsanto’s GM products that its CEO presented him with the annual leadership award of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, a Monsanto-backed group. Talent is the co-chair of a Washington lobbying and strategic advice firm whose clients include Land O’ Lakes and was once a partner in a Missouri lobbying firm that represents Monsanto now.

Nebraska senator Mike Johanns, a beneficiary of $9,500 in Monsanto-related contributions, was selected by Romney to co-chair the advisory group. Johanns was George Bush’s agriculture secretary in between his six years as Nebraska governor and three years in the Senate. In 2002–03, he headed two associations of governors, one of which included Romney, and went abroad to push GM foods and assail European Union efforts to require labeling of them. While Johanns ran USDA in 2005, it approved Monsanto’s alfalfa without obtaining the minimal environmental impact statement required under Reagan’s regulatory framework, a decision overturned by the federal courts. Johanns’s agency did the same for Monsanto’s sugar beets.

Johanns and Blunt joined all but one Republican in the Senate, and many Democrats, in defeating Bernie Sanders’s bill amendment this year to require GM labeling — disclosure that’s favored by more than 90 percent of polled Americans, the food safety arm of the United Nations and sixty-one countries. Monsanto has so far spent $4.2 million to defeat a labeling referendum on the ballot in California this November, more than any other opponent, and several of the organizations connected to members of Romney’s advisory council have also opposed the referendum. President Obama supports a labeling requirement, though he’s done nothing to make it happen, while Romney’s campaign declined to respond to The Nation’s questions about his position on labeling or the California referendum.

Romney won’t answer our questions, or anyone else’s, about where he stands on the two pending farm bills — the Senate version backed by Obama that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support (including Johanns and Blunt), or the House bill that made it through the agriculture committee with two Republican amendments dubbed “Monsanto riders.” Having lost the alfalfa and other GM lawsuits, Monsanto spent more on lobbyists, including Russell, than any other non-tobacco agribusiness and convinced House Republicans to add these riders, which would virtually immunize its products from regulation, allowing farmers to plant crops even if a court has ordered an environmental review and short-circuiting the reviews, as Johanns tried to do.

Congressmen Jack Kingston and Frank Lucas, each of whom sponsored a Monsanto rider, were listed in August as national co-chairs of a new general election committee called the Farmers and Ranchers for Romney coalition, which also includes all eleven members of the March group and Roy Blunt. Johanns, Conner and Nassif are among the six National Chairs of the group, as is Romney’s recent Iowa tour guide Bill Northey, the elected agriculture secretary whose biggest donors include Monsanto ($12,000). In a hotly contested 2010 race, Republican Northey was backed by Democratic lobbyist Jerry Crawford, whose firm made almost $1 million as Monsanto’s top Iowa-based lobbyist.

The Romney coalition also includes John Block, Russell’s mentor who appointed him deputy secretary when Block was Reagan’s agriculture secretary in the ’80s and now hosts a national radio show that’s sponsored by Monsanto and features denunciations of Monsanto opponents as “environmental wackos.” The president of the United Fresh Produce Association and the past president of the National Pork Producers Council — two other Russell clients and Monsanto allies — are also part of the Romney group. And the list includes the past head of the American Soybean Association, which backed Monsanto’s riders to the farm bill; and Steve Troxler, North Carolina’s agriculture commissioner, who collected $3,000 in Monsanto contributions, grows GM soybeans (probably Monsanto’s) on his own farm, and sponsored a bill to stop counties from banning GM foods.

Another coalition member, Jay Vroom, heads a Monsanto-funded, aggressively pro-GM trade association of pesticide makers called CropLife America, a large donor to Kingston and Lucas. The two top directors of CropLife’s regional partner in St. Louis e-mailed associates that they “shuddered” when they learned that Michelle Obama was planting an organic garden on the White House lawn, writing her a letter suggesting that she was impugning chemical agriculture. Monsanto itself has been coy about Obama, especially after he appointed its longtime ally former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack as agriculture secretary. Unlike his USDA predecessor Johanns, Vilsack put Monsanto’s alfalfa through a court-mandated EIS process, but then deregulated it entirely. Close to Monsanto lobbyist Crawford, Vilsack has also partially deregulated sugar beets.

As deliberately vague as Romney is, he’s moved publicly in Monsanto’s direction on the company’s genetically engineered ethanol and farm subsidies, appears aligned with it on labeling, and his spokesman Shawn McCoy said this month that the candidate was “concerned by the effect that the Obama administration’s crushing onslaught of regulations is having on agriculture,” a suggestion that he might favor the regulatory relief in the Kingston/Lucas riders.

Frank Reining, the Monsanto executive who was designated by Hanley in 1973 to interface with Bill Bain and his partners, says Bain’s “relationship with Monsanto” began “before Bain even existed,” noting that it was among the firm’s first and biggest clients. Patrick Graham, a Bain founder, agrees that Monsanto was an “early client,” soon delivering millions in annual fees. According to Reining and eleven other former Monsanto and Bain executives interviewed for this article, Bain took a companywide approach to its restructuring of Monsanto, focusing over the succeeding years on one product after another — “confirming,” as Reining put it, the corporate consensus to get out of polyester, plastics and synthetic fibers.

Just as job reductions would later become a common, controversial result of Bain Capital investment, Monsanto went from a peak of 64,000 employees in 1979 to 20,000 today, a consequence in part of the $4 billion of businesses that Bain, Hanley and others decided to dump. While the press office at Monsanto refused to answer most of our questions, one current official said that Bain “worked in divestitures, acquisitions, streamlining, layoffs and cost reductions.”

Earle Harbison, who ran five divisions of Monsanto during the Bain years and eventually became its president, says:

“Romney was part of the team that came in to study the whole company, and they worked day and night. They were down in the factories, the sales offices, accounting systems, the whole works.” Harbison says he and Romney “had at least a dozen meetings,” and that the Bainies were “armed with a bunch of flip charts.”

Arthur Fitzgerald, another former top executive, says: “Romney was involved in several individual projects. I remember Romney only because he was one of the leaders and stuck out as someone who was particularly curious.” Hanley’s successor Mahoney said Bain “did some good work” but that he dumped them because “the consultants were getting in my hair.” Asked about Romney, the press-shy Mahoney would only say: “One presidential person made calls on occasion as did many Bain executives.”

Graham, who claims credit for recruiting Romney to Bain, described him as “an important guy in delivering the work” at Monsanto, saying he “cut his teeth” at the company. Graham also laid out how he and the Bain team worked with Monsanto: “We worked on the seed business, the herbicide business, some of the basic chemical businesses. We’re kind of the right-hand man. We present to the board of directors. We’re friends and partners. We understood it down to its roots.” Bain’s brass, recalled Graham, would meet “Hanley and his five top people every time we went to St. Louis,” which he said was as often as “two to three times a week.”

Dan Quinn, another former partner recruited at Bain by Romney in 1983, called Monsanto a “prized” client that Bain “thought of as one of their biggest successes.” Romney, says Quinn, was “a key framer ” of the continuing conversation with Monsanto, especially “on the marketing side,” where he was “in charge of several of those teams,” just a notch below the Bain founders in the chain of command.

The most important contribution Bain made to Monsanto, Graham contends, was concluding that “the biggest opportunity” was to bring “an entirely new value product,” namely biotech and herbicides, “to the whole farming industry in America, soybeans and stuff.” Graham exalts in what Bain did — saying it “completely changed the economics of farming in America” and made Monsanto “the biggest agricultural business in the world.” He concedes that the GM seeds, herbicides and other products were “Hanley’s vision,” adding “we did the analysis to make him comfortable that it was right and how to do it.”

John Qualls, who worked closely with Bain in Monsanto’s office of economic forecasting, credits the consulting firm with looking “at the whole schmear,” but adds they were particularly focused on getting “the cash cow” product lines, mostly chemicals, to “funnel” their profits into “the wildcats, the comers,” like biotech. “The major thing that I think Bain contributed to was the division of Monsanto into two major units and spinning them off,” says Qualls, though he acknowledges that the actual spinoff didn’t occur until 1997, when Monsanto created a freestanding company called Solutia, run by ex–Monsanto brass and selling Monsanto’s remaining chemical commodities. “It was a natural evolution” of Bain’s strategy, he said, with “Bain picking the stars” early on, including biotech and Roundup, that wound up staying with Monsanto, while Solutia was left with “the superfund cleanup stuff and the environmental disasters.” (Solutia, which filed for bankruptcy in 2003, was recently acquired by Eastman Chemical.)

Combined with Graham’s analysis, this would make Bain, and consequently Romney, the doctors whose surgery eons ago is responsible for the Monsanto we know today, a financial giant whose biotechnology products are enormously controversial all over the world.

When The Nation questioned Monsanto spokeswoman Kelli Powers about the role played by Bain and Romney at the company, she said that “Monsanto is a different company than the one” of the Bain period. That’s partially because of the Solutia spinoff and partially because the “Old Monsanto” briefly went through two acquisitions around 2000, only to recreate itself in 2002. But the “New Monsanto” has many of the same product lines, facilities and executives as the old one, and much of the same problems. Geneva-based Covalence ranked the company dead last of 581 multinationals in its 2010 reputation and ethics index, which is distributed by Reuters and Bloomberg. Powers said a search of its archives found “no reference to Bain anywhere.”

Research assistance was provided by Danielle Bernstein, Loretta Chin, Alina Mogilyanskaya, Joseph O’Sullivan, Nadia Prupis, Stephanie Rogan and Elizabeth Terry.

This article was reported in collaboration with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, where Barrett is a reporting fellow.

Why donate? (Isn’t it obvious? …)

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NTD Television, November 29, 2012

Activists demonstrated in Westminster on Thursday, outside the conference center where the Leveson report into media ethics is to be later released. They’re calling upon parliament to back reform legislation, to stop any one person or organization from having too much ownership of British media.

Wearing a giant papier-mache head of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, one activist burnt the Leveson report on a fire. Other activists held captive another dressed as Prime Minister David Cameron, to illustrate what they call the all-too-powerful grip of Murdoch’s News Corp over the British government.

The activists say giving one entity this much control over the information the public receives is a threat to democracy.

[Meredith Alexander, Campaigns Director, Avaaz]: “David Cameron today has a once in a generation opportunity to end the Murdoch mafia. We’ve seen how Murdoch has used the power of owning a third of our press to corrupt our institutions and undermine democracy. With the Leveson report, he finally has the opportunities to have real reform, and we need to ensure that reform includes limits to ownership to make sure that no one ever owns more than a fifth of our media again.”

The Leveson Inquiry was set up in the wake of the phone hacking scandal, which led to the closure of the Murdoch-owned News of the World newspaper.

Cameron is under pressure from both the newspapers to protect a free press and the phone hacking victims and their supporters to regulate the press by law. He is under no legal obligation to follow whatever Leveson recommends.


AP, Nov 22, 2012

Sarkozy went before a judge on Thursday, Nov.22, 2012 to respond to suspicions he illegally accepted donations from France’s richest woman to fund his 2007 election campaign. The judge in Bordeaux could decide whether the 57-year-old conservative, a polarizing figure who often faced criticism for cozy ties to the rich, will be charged with taking advantage of the 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt. Sarkozy has consistently denied all allegations.(AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS (AP) — He faces the possibility of charges on allegations he took advantage of an aging heiress to get envelopes stuffed with illegal cash for his presidential campaign. His party is mired in an internal feud. And still France’s conservatives see Nicolas Sarkozy as their best hope to return to power.

It’s a sign of how polarizing the former president is for the French: Many were suspicious of his close ties to the wealthy and threw him out of office; supporters see him as the only person able to save the country’s economy and wish he’d return. On Thursday, the former president was named a key — and potentially indictable — witness after 12 hours before a judge to answer questions about whether he accepted illegal campaign donations from the 90-year-old L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt.

Bettencourt’s former accountant told police she handed over €150,000 ($192,000) in cash she was told would be passed on to Sarkozy’s campaign treasurer. In July, a magistrate ordered the seizure of Sarkozy’s diaries, including his calendars.

The sum, although it pales in comparison to U.S. campaign funding amounts, shocked many French citizens because spending on political campaigns is tightly limited here. Individual campaign contributions to candidates are limited to €4,600 ($5,930), and no candidate can spend more than €22 million ($28 million) on an entire presidential campaign.

By comparison, an estimated total of $4 billion (€3 billion) was spent on campaigning for this year’s U.S. presidential elections, and in the final months of the campaign each candidate was pulling in upward of $100 million (€77 million).

The investigation that has ensnared Sarkozy centers on the finances of Bettencourt, Europe’s richest woman and the focus of a long-running family feud over her fortune. Bettencourt, who was reported to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, has since been placed under legal protection.

Sarkozy’s election loss in May cost him his immunity from prosecution. By July, his offices had been raided. The Bordeaux prosecutor, Claude Lapland, told the Sipa news agency after Thursday’s hearing that Sarkozy was given the status of what in France is known as an “assisting witness,” with the possibility of facing charges later on allegations of abusing someone in an impaired state, swindling and abuse of confidence.

“Given the extremely strict rules and controls, illegal financing is completely impossible,” said Claude Gueant, who was Sarkozy’s campaign director at the time, chief of staff and later his interior minister.

Sarkozy entered the Bordeaux courthouse Thursday without notice after a decoy vehicle lured away the cameras hoping to catch him on the way in, according to the Sipa news agency. He and his lawyer met privately with investigating judges, who handed Sarkozy the special witness status.

They stopped short of filing preliminary charges, as some had expected, and his lawyer Thierry Herzog called the decision a “victory” for the former president. The status is somewhere between a simple witness and a formal suspect.

Herzog tried to tamp down interest in the case, saying on RTL radio Thursday night that the affair “no longer exists.”

Sarkozy ally Patrick Balkany, a legislator and mayor, said on BFM television that he spoke to the ex-president after the hearing and “he was content.”

Bettencourt’s money was contested long before Sarkozy entered the picture. Her daughter accused a celebrity photographer of abusing her mother’s alleged mental frailty – and bilking the elder heiress out of €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in cash and artworks. The elder Bettencourt’s ex-butler leaked details of household conversations, including one in which the mother seems confused about whether or not she gave an island in the Seychelles to the photographer as a gift.

The island has since been sold off to a wildlife preservation organization. The photographer and an asset manager for Bettencourt face criminal charges of taking advantage of the L’Oreal heiress. And Bettencourt herself has been placed under legal protection of her relatives, including the daughter who first brought the case to light.

As the scandal grew, the French economy stalled, and French voters tossed Sarkozy and his conservative UMP party into the political wilderness. And now the internal vote to replace the ex-president as party leader has descended into bitter allegations of questionable vote counts, leaving the party in chaos.

A poll released Thursday showed that a majority among the conservative UMP party think Sarkozy would be the best presidential candidate for the 2017 elections — nearly double the percentages of those who backed the two men now wrestling for power.

The person mediating the party dispute is Alain Juppe, a former prime minister who was convicted in 2004 in an illegal party financing scheme and has since bounced back as a power broker in the conservative party.

Former President Jacques Chirac, another conservative caught in that same scandal, is the only French leader since World War II-era Nazi collaborator Marshal Philippe Petain to be charged or convicted of a crime.

Photo: Romani (“Gypsy”) children at Auschwitz subject to various terminal medical experiments.

What Have We Learned Since the “Forgotten Holocaust”?

By Victor Grossman (Excerpt)

Monthly Review, November 3, 2012

… Near Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate a memorial was finally unveiled to mark the murder of approximately 500,000 Roma people (often called Gypsies) in Nazi death camps.  The decision to erect it was made in 1992, the year a pogrom in the East German city of Rostock was unleashed when Roma refugees were forced to camp outdoors in public gardens, angering (almost certainly intentionally) the local neighborhood.  It took twenty years to overcome controversies and problems concerning the simple monument, by Israeli architect Dani Karavan, a circular water pool about 12 meters wide (c. 40 feet) with a low triangular stele in the center, to be lowered and raised daily, bearing a single fresh flower.  Nearby are the names of the death camps, a chronicle of events, and a poem, “Auschwitz,” by the Italian Roma musician Santino Spinelli.  Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke movingly, followed by a survivor of the annihilation of so many of the Roma population who spoke of the “forgotten holocaust” and of his regret that society had learned “almost nothing” since then, in view of continuing discrimination from France to the Balkans.

That was on October 24th.  On October 25th Merkel’s Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, demanded that entrance visa and asylum rules for people from Serbia and Macedonia be sharply tightened, that decisions on approving or rejecting applications be speeded up, and that skimpy cost-of-living allowances for those waiting should be reduced.  He avoided the word — but it is common knowledge that 90 percent of these would-be immigrants are Roma people, whose living conditions in much of southeastern Europe have become intolerable.

… Aside from big and little breakdowns in the elevated train system, by now almost normal, the giant new headquarters for the Federal Intelligence Bureau (BND), at the site of a main stadium in former GDR times, was also hit by delays caused by mismanagement; the price tag, originally set at 720 million euros, has already reached 912 million.  This bad-luck espionage center, less a sister of the CIA than its daughter, was set up in 1956 by a top Nazi espionage general, Reinhard Gehlen, after absolving his service with the American cloak-and-dagger chiefs.  He immediately staffed his organization near Munich (where it remains until the Berlin building problems are overcome) with all his old SS, Gestapo, and other war criminal buddies.  The more anti-Communist they were the better their chances of a good job — until a scandal in the 1960s forced him to fire 71 of the very bloodiest.  By now those men have died off, a small consolation to judge from the present lot.  And no one here seems overly worried about delays in this particular moving day.

Neo-Nazis march in Berlin on May 1, 2010

This BND agency also has a German sister, the Constitutional Protection Bureau — rather like the CIA and FBI siblings in the USA.  But the sister also directed its main attention to obstreperous leftists or, more recently, other sinister elements who don’t even speak German properly.  Thus it somehow overlooked a widespread neo-Nazi underground network which killed people (mostly immigrants) and set off bombs for over ten years without being detected, even though rightwing groups and the neo-Nazi “National Democratic Party” are filled, even staffed, with highly-paid secret government agents.  Lengthy investigations of what has obviously been collusion were rendered more difficult because this government agency shredded thousands of relevant documents when the facts first started to bubble up out of the morass.  The investigations are still in progress. …

Victor Grossman, American journalist and author, is a resident of East Berlin for many years. He is the author of Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003).