- The Washington Times - Monday, July 6, 2009


Facebook posting endangers spy chief

LONDON | The wife of the new head of Britain’s spy agency posted pictures of her husband, family and friends on Internet networking site Facebook, prompting alarm among security experts and calls for an inquiry.

John Sawers was appointed last month to take over as head of the Secret Intelligence Service in November. The agency, popularly known as MI6, has emerged from the shadows in recent years, but its employees are still bound by strict secrecy rules.

In what the Mail on Sunday called an “extraordinary lapse,” the new spy chief’s wife, Shelley Sawers, posted family pictures and details of where they live and take their holidays and who their friends and relatives are.

The details were swiftly removed once authorities were alerted by the newspaper.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband denied there had been any security breach.

“It’s not a state secret that he wears Speedo swimming trunks. For goodness’ sake, let’s grow up!” Mr. Miliband told the BBC.

Others were aghast.

“It is a most distressing and unfortunate security lapse that will take a great deal of money to put right,” said Anthony Glees, director of Buckingham University Center for Security and Intelligence Studies. He said the Sawers family would almost certainly need to be re-housed, and the children may require extra protection.

Edward Davy, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, called for a government inquiry and question whether Mr. Sawers was up to the job of running Britain’s oversees spying operations.


Song fest lifts spirits in slump

TALLINN | More than 20,000 choir singers gathered Sunday to fill the air with positive vibes as Estonians took their minds off a crippling recession in a mass celebration of folk songs.

Estonia’s economy is expected to shrink by about 15 percent this year - neighboring Latvia is the only European Union country with a worse outlook.

“When you sing, you forget your everyday problems,” said Saale Kreen, 21, one of the choir singers.

The Song and Dance Celebration — a four-day event held every five years — traces back to 1869 and the southern town of Tartu, which boasts one of Europe’s oldest universities. Over time, the event was transformed into a symbol of Estonia’s fight for independence — against czarist Russia in the 19th century and the Soviet Union, which occupied the Baltic region during World War II.

The independence movement of the late 1980s was even dubbed the Singing Revolution as hundreds of thousands of Estonians gathered at the festival to protest Soviet rule.

“We have turned ourselves into a nation through singing. We have freed ourselves through singing,” said Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves during his festival speech Saturday, donning a traditional folk costume.

A recent survey showed that choir singing is the most popular cultural activity among Estonians, with 41,000 practicing it regularly in 1,400 choirs nationwide.


Center-right party heads for victory

SOFIA | Bulgaria’s opposition center-right GERB party was set to win most seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election on promises to clean up corruption and heal an economy hurt by the global crisis, exit polls showed.

Led by former bodyguard and now Sofia Mayor Boiko Borisov, GERB received 115-117 seats in the 240-strong chamber compared with 39-42 seats for the ruling Socialists, exit polls by Sova Harris and Alpha Research showed.

Bulgarians say they are angry with the current government for failing to end a climate of impunity for politicians and crime bosses that has turned the Balkan country into the black sheep of the European Union.

Last year, the ex-communist nation of 7.6 million, which joined the EU in 2007 and is the bloc’s poorest member, lost access to more than half a billion euros ($700 million) in EU aid as punishment for graft.

A new government must move fast to avoid new EU sanctions on aid, badly needed to fund Bulgaria’s cash-strapped economy and to draw investors, many of whom fled this year.


Orthodox rivals conduct joint prayers

ISTANBUL | The spiritual leaders of the Orthodox Christian churches in Istanbul and Russia led Sunday prayers together in a show of unity after years of jostling for influence.

Istanbul Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I said the two churches must overcome differences, though he stressed his church’s status as “first among equals” with the historic role of coordinating among the various Orthodox branches, of which Russia’s is the largest.

“From time to time, clouds have temporarily overshadowed ties between the brethren churches,” Bartholomew said after the service, addressing newly elected Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill. “These … must immediately be sent to their places in the pages of history.”

The two churches have been wrangling for influence over Estonia and Ukraine, with the Moscow Patriarchate struggling to maintain control over all 95 million of the Orthodox believers it claims, out of the world’s 250 million Orthodox.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople, today’s Istanbul, in 1453. The Istanbul Patriarchate directly controls several churches including the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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