An Evening with Gay Talese 2008

Here’s a video with Gay Talese, the ’eminence grise’ of American journalism in a television program at the University of California last year.

HT to Yohan for reminding us it was Gay Talese’s birthday on Saturday.


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More hilarity from a powerless European Ombudsman

By Raymond Frenken

BRUSSELS – The European Commission on Thursday had declined to answer questions from the European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros on allegations of fraud in the commission’s political studies program. The allegations target a program known as EIDHR, which stands for “European instrument for Democracy and Human Rights”.

“I am not in a position to force the Commission to answer by a certain date,” the ombudsman today in a letter to Professor David Lempert, a copy of which was made available to EUX.TV.

Lempert took the case to the ombudsman two years ago after he uncovered the fraud while reviewing spending for the political studies program as a conctracted specialist. The irregularities were not made part of the official report on the EIDHR program.

Letter Ombudsman to David Lempert

Lempert, who has been pushing fruitlessly to get the Commission to investigate the fraud, had asked the ombudsman to look into this case two years ago. The Ombudsman so far has been unable to extract an answer from the Commission and therefore has proven totally unable to investigate the case.

Lempert is not the first one to accuse the Ombudsman of being part of a conspiracy with the Commission. It’s the role of the ombudsman to investigate complaints about maladministration in the EU institutions. Dutch MEP Paul van Buitenen is among those whose calls for probes into irregularities with EU funds have not been investigated after a complaint to the Ombudsman.

“I cannot accept these accusations,” said the Ombudman in his letter to David Lempert. “Your complaint is handled in an objective and impartial way.”

According to a evaluation report on the EIDHR project, 2.1 million euro in EU funds has been given to this project since 2002, mostly to political studies institutes in countries like Bosnia, Georgia, Kosovo, Moldova, Russia and Macedonia.

Lempert is cited in the evaluation report as a contributor but says that the irregularities he uncovered are not included in the report, and that the commission is attempting to keep this fraud under the hat.

“The Ombudsman claims that his inaction for almost two years is exactly what he is supposed to do,” Lempert writes in an email. “He says he is doing a perfect job, which means that his inaction and the game playing with the EC is part of his job.”

So why is this story important? Not because of the amount involved in the EIDHR program, which is relatively insignificant.

It’s important because it highlights a ‘modus operandi’ at the EU institutions in Brussels in which irregularities are not properly investigated, even when the facts are on the table. This situation needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. The current system discourages whistle-blowers from raising the alarm. That’s just what the EC staffers in the Berlaymont want. So, let’s support David Lempert, and not ignore this case. We’ll be among those who keep you posted.

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Libertas claims it’s victim of EU smear campaign

Regrettably, it’s no news anymore when fresh reports surface that prove again how non-institutional democratic initiatives in the European Union are stiffled by those in power in the corridors of the European institutions.

Intimidation? Smear campaign? Corruption? Dishonesty?

Many journalists in Brussels simply do not seem to bother anymore.

Today, Libertas, the new pan-European political party created by Irish ‘No-to-the-Lisbon-Treaty’-campaigner and businessman Declan Ganley, has begun to experience the full brunt of those defending vested interests in Brussels.

Libertas on Monday was given the official status of European political party, which entitles it to an immediate amount of about 200,000 euro in funding from a 10-mln euro budget in the European parliament. The biggest European party, the European People’s Party, gets more than 3 million euro out of this budget. To qualify, any party has to hand in signatures from at least seven different EU nationalities of members of the European parliament, or a national or regional parliament in the EU. Libertas did so a few months ago.

But surprise, surprise…. Less than 24 hours after the official status was granted, the parliament announced it had frozen the funds because first one, and now two, of the signatories said they did not sign. It’s the second time that Declan Ganley’s initiative is being badmouthed by people in the European parliament.

Igor Grazin signature

Igor Grazin of Estonia has signed, according to these photographs, back in October.

And as if Grazin’s withdrawal is not enough, Bulgarian MP Mintcho Hristov Kuminev late on Monday claimed not to have signed Libertas’s application to become a European political party. “This is untrue,” Libertas said in a press release headlined “More intimidation of Libertas signatories.”

“It might be a coincidence or it might be a concerted effort to intimidate or otherwise influence those who expressly support the advancement of democracy,” says Libertas. “We deplore the corrupt,dishonest and anti-democratic forces that are pushing them to renounce their support.”

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zEUs 1: Monthly magazine on European Affairs

The first edition, finally. Five more to follow in the coming months.

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NMBS leaves travellers in the cold at dark border station

EUX.TV journalist Raymond Frenken asks the conductor on a Belgian train to explain why this train from Brussels does not finish its journey to Maastricht.

Travelling from Brussels back to Maastricht, the conductor tells passengers the train will make its final stop in Vise, and will not go to Maastricht. But he fails to explain why.

About a dozen passengers are left stranded. Taxidrivers at Vise station refuse to take people to Maastricht, several people cross the track and try fruitlessly to hitchhike in the dark on the nearby A2/E25 motorway.

The Walloon conductor of the train fails to give a proper explanation and blows up in anger when asked by passengers to explain why the train does not continue.

He blames it on the Dutch railways. Strangely enough, the delays of this train were caused in Brussels and were caught up while travelling on the high-speed track between Brussels and Liege. Still, the NMBS decided to let the train not make the border crossing.

This is not a one-time incident but it apparently happens several times a day. So when you travel by train between Maastricht and Brussels, be warned!

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Turkish PM Erdogan leaves the World Economic Forum session

and Israeli newspapers are reporting that some Turkish shops are keeping their doors closed for Jews.

Is history repeating itself?

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Javier Solana visits Shimon Peres, President of Israel

In Jerursalem, EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana visits Shimon Peres, President of Israel.

This video package was edited in the car using a MacBook Pro laptop, Final Cut Pro, and a Sony PMW-EX1 digital tapeless HD camera. It was uplinked to Brussels via JCS in Jerusalem.

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