May 15, 2013
Israel Hints at New Strikes, Warning Syria Not to Hit Back
By MARK LANDLER
WASHINGTON — In a clear warning to Syria to stop the transfer of advanced weapons to Islamic militants in the region, a senior Israeli official signaled on Wednesday that Israel was considering additional military strikes to prevent that from happening and that the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, would face crippling consequences if he retaliated.
“Israel is determined to continue to prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah,” the Israeli official said. “The transfer of such weapons to Hezbollah will destabilize and endanger the entire region.”
“If Syrian President Assad reacts by attacking Israel, or tries to strike Israel through his terrorist proxies,” the official said, “he will risk forfeiting his regime, for Israel will retaliate.”
The Israeli official, who had been briefed by high-level officials on Israel’s assessment of the situation in Syria, declined to be identified, citing the need to protect internal Israeli government deliberations. He contacted The New York Times on Wednesday.
The precise motives for Israel’s warning were uncertain: Israel could be seeking to restrain Syria’s behavior to avoid taking further military action, or alerting other countries to another military strike. That would increase the tension in an already fraught situation in Syria, where a civil war has been raging for more than two years.
There could be a secondary audience for the warning, analysts said, in Hezbollah and its primary supporter, Iran. Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon, has said in recent days it could use weapons supplied by Iran to retaliate for recent Israeli strikes on Syria.
Nearly two weeks ago, Israeli warplanes carried out two strikes in Syria, the first hitting bases of Syria’s elite Republican Guard and storehouses of long-range missiles, in addition to a military research center that American officials have called the country’s main chemical weapons site.
A more limited strike on May 3 at Damascus International Airport was also meant to destroy weapons being sent from Iran to Hezbollah. The Israeli government did not confirm either of the attacks, which followed another earlier this year.
The Syrian government publicly condemned Israel for the assaults, saying it “opened the door to all possibilities.” The Syrian deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, declared, “We will respond immediately and harshly to any additional attack by Israel.”
Mr. Assad and Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, have each said in recent days that the Israeli-Syrian border, which has been relatively quiet despite the more than two years of civil war inside Syria, could become a “resistance front,” in response to Israeli attacks.
On Wednesday, mortar shells, fired from across the Syrian border, landed in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The shells landed on Mount Hermon, a popular tourist site, and were the latest in a series of what Israel has generally considered errant fire from internal Syrian fighting.
Israel did not fire back, as it had on several previous occasions, but it closed Mount Hermon to the public for several hours during a Jewish holiday on which hiking in the Golan is popular.
In his comments, the Israeli official said that “Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly.”
“Israel,” he said, “will continue its policy of interdicting attempts to strengthen Hezbollah, but will not intercede in the Syrian civil war as long as Assad desists from direct or indirect attacks against Israel.”
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, declined to discuss the meaning of the Israeli official’s statement. “We’re not going to comment on the story,” he said.
American and Israeli political analysts agree that Israel has little motive to intervene in Syria’s civil war, but that it is deeply concerned about the transfer of advanced weapons, as well as the danger that Mr. Assad’s stockpiles of chemical weapons could be used against it.
Amos Yadlin, Israel’s former military intelligence chief who now directs the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said that the timing of the warning could have been linked to intelligence Israel had received about something it wanted to prevent.
That, he said, could be a Syrian intention to react, albeit belatedly, to the recent airstrikes on its soil, an imminent shipment of weapons to Hezbollah, or signs of action by Syrian proxies in the Golan Heights.
Mr. Yadlin said that, aside from Mr. Assad, Russia could be another intended recipient for the Israeli official’s message. Two of the weapons systems that Israel has identified as game-changing “red line weapons” — SA-17 antiaircraft weapons and Yakhont shore-to-sea missiles — were supplied by the Russians, he added. The convoy that Israeli warplanes struck in January was carrying SA-17 antiaircraft weapons.
A Western diplomatic official who works in the region said that after the recent airstrikes, Israel had sent a similar message to Mr. Assad through back channels — probably Russia — saying it was not attacking his government but would do so if he retaliated. Perhaps, this official said, Jerusalem now wanted to broadcast the message publicly because the real audience is Iran and Hezbollah, whose leaders have been among the loudest threatening responses.
“It’s probably doubling down on the message to make sure it’s known to him and the others,” he said, also on the condition he not be named because of the delicacy of the situation. “Maybe some of the others who are calling on him to respond but also have an interest in him surviving would hear it better from this channel than other channels. Maybe it’s more directed at Iran and Hezbollah than it is at Syria.”
As for whether the timing of the statement indicated an imminent strike, this official said, “I wouldn’t think they would telegraph a punch like that so publicly.”
Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: May 15, 2013
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of Hassan Nasrallah.
on: May 16, 2013, 07:07 AM
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on: May 16, 2013, 07:05 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
May 15, 2013
Delivering KFC by Tunnel, Not Too Fast but Satisfying
By FARES AKRAM
GAZA CITY — The French fries arrive soggy, the chicken having long since lost its crunch. A 12-piece bucket goes for about $27 here — more than twice the $11.50 it costs just across the border in Egypt.
And for fast-food delivery, it is anything but fast: it took more than four hours for the KFC meals to arrive here on a recent afternoon from the franchise where they were cooked in El Arish, Egypt, a journey that involved two taxis, an international border, a smuggling tunnel and a young entrepreneur coordinating it all from a small shop here called Yamama — Arabic for pigeon.
“It’s our right to enjoy that taste the other people all over the world enjoy,” said the entrepreneur, Khalil Efrangi, 31, who started Yamama a few years ago with a fleet of motorbikes ferrying food from Gaza restaurants, the first such delivery service here.
There are no name-brand fast-food franchises on this 140-square-mile coastal strip of 1.7 million Palestinians, where the entry and exit of goods and people remain restricted and the unemployment rate is about 32 percent. Passage into Egypt through the Rafah crossing is limited to about 800 people a day, with men 16 to 40 years old requiring special clearance. Traveling through the Erez crossing into Israel requires a permit and is generally allowed only for medical patients, businessmen and employees of international organizations.
Palestinians generally refer to Gaza as being under siege or blockade by Israel, and isolation from the world is among the most common complaints of people here. That can create an intense longing for what those outside Gaza see as mundane, or ordinary.
“The irregular circumstances in Gaza generate an irregular way of thinking,” explained Fadel Abu Heen, a professor of psychology at Al Aqsa University in Gaza City. “They think of anything that is just behind the border, exactly as the prisoner is thinking of anything beyond the bars.”
Professor Abu Heen noted that when Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, breached the border with Egypt in 2008, during the height of the Israeli siege, thousands of Gazans flooded into El Arish and bought not just medicine and food staples but cigarettes, candy and things they did not need — just to show they had managed to bring something back from outside. Breaking the blockade, then and now, is seen as part of resisting the Israeli enemy, giving a sense of empowerment and control to people here, even if it comes in the form of fried chicken.
Even as Israel has relaxed restrictions on imports over the past few years, hundreds of illegal tunnels have flourished in Rafah. Weapons and people are smuggled underground, but so are luxury cars, construction materials and consumer goods like iPads and iPhones. And now: KFC.
Formerly called Kentucky Fried Chicken, a KFC franchise opened in El Arish, just over Gaza’s southern border, in 2011, and in the West Bank city of Ramallah last year. That, along with ubiquitous television advertisements for KFC and other fast-food favorites, has given Gazans a hankering for Colonel Sanders’s secret recipe.
So after Mr. Efrangi brought some KFC back from El Arish for friends last month, he was flooded with requests. A new business was born.
“I accepted this challenge to prove that Gazans can be resilient despite the restrictions,” Mr. Efrangi said.
In the past few weeks, Mr. Efrangi has coordinated four deliveries totaling about 100 meals, making about $6 per meal in profit. He promotes the service on Yamama’s Facebook page, and whenever there is a critical mass of orders — usually 30 — he starts a complicated process of telephone calls, wire transfers and coordination with the Hamas government to get the chicken from there to here.
The other day, after Mr. Efrangi called in 15 orders and wired the payment to the restaurant in El Arish, an Egyptian taxi driver picked up the food. On the other side of the border, meanwhile, Ramzi al-Nabih, a Palestinian cabdriver, arrived at the Hamas checkpoint in Rafah, where the guards recognized him as “the Kentucky guy.”
From the checkpoint, Mr. Nabih, 26, called his Egyptian counterpart and told him which of the scores of tunnels the Hamas official had cleared for the food delivery. He first waited near the shaft of the tunnel, but after a while he was lowered on a lift about 30 feet underground and walked halfway down the 650-foot path to meet two Egyptian boys who were pushing the boxes and buckets of food, wrapped in plastic, on a cart.
Mr. Nabih gave the boys about $16.50, and argued with them for a few minutes over a tip. A half-hour later, the food was loaded into the trunk and on the back seat of his Hyundai taxi, bound for Gaza City.
Back at Yamama, Mr. Efrangi sorted the meals for his motorcyclists to deliver to customers’ doorsteps. He said he limited the menu to chicken pieces, fries, coleslaw and apple pie because other items could be too complicated.
“Some clients would need a sandwich without mayonnaise, or a more spicy one, or a sandwich with or without sauce,” he said. “That’s why we do not bring everything, to avoid delivering the wrong order.”
Ibrahim el-Ajla, 29, who works for Gaza’s water utility and was among those enjoying KFC here the other day, acknowledged that the food was better hot and fresh in the restaurant, but he said he would be likely to order again. “I tried it in America and in Egypt, and I miss the taste,” he said. “Despite the blockade, KFC made it to my home.”
Mr. Efrangi may not have the fast-food market to himself much longer. A Gaza businessman who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Abu Ali, to avoid tipping off his competitors, said he applied for a franchise from KFC’s Middle East dealer, Americana Group, two months ago. Adeeb al-Bakri, who owns four KFC and Pizza Hut franchises in the West Bank, said he had been authorized to open a restaurant in Gaza and was working out the details.
“We need to get approval to bring chicken from Gaza farms with the KFC standards, we need to make sure that frying machines would be allowed in, we need the KFC experts to be able to head for Gaza for regular monthly checkups,” Mr. Bakri said. “I do not have a magic stick to open in Gaza quickly.”
Mr. Bakri was unaware of Mr. Efrangi’s delivery service, and when told the details, he frowned at the four-hour odyssey from oven to table.
“We dump it after half an hour,” he said.
on: May 16, 2013, 07:03 AM
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May 15, 2013
Nigeria’s President Gives Military More Power in Struggle Against Militants
By ADAM NOSSITER
DAKAR, Senegal — Struggling to contain a smoldering Islamist insurgency, the president of Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has ordered in more troops and granted the military more powers to arrest, more authority to seize “any building or structure” and more leeway in “any area of terrorist operation.”
Troops have already begun deploying in the wake of a speech by the president, Goodluck Jonathan, on Tuesday night declaring a state of emergency in parts of the country’s north, following weeks of violence in which hundreds were killed, including civilians, police officers and some soldiers.
Yet few in Nigeria appeared to be cheering Mr. Jonathan’s heightened resolve.
Almost four years into an uprising that has cost nearly 4,000 lives, an amplified version of the anti-Islamist strategy already in place — a heavy military crackdown in northern Nigeria — struck many politicians, analysts and residents as a worrying prelude to more of one of this undeclared war’s trademarks: large-scale civilian deaths at the hands of the country’s security forces.
The Islamist militants are often difficult to detect, but the civilians they hide among are not. And as critics of the government’s heavy-handed approach point out, it is the civilians who often pay the freight in the military’s tough crackdown.
Mr. Jonathan enjoined local civilian officials to “cooperate maximally” with Nigeria’s security forces, and declared a state of emergency in the hard-hit states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. But the emergency already exists, in the view of many in the north, who questioned how Mr. Jonathan’s latest initiative would yield a decisive change in the fight against the shadowy Islamist insurgency there.
“The fact is that this declaration has been done before in some local governments, and nothing has changed,” said Badamosi Ayuba, a member of the National Assembly who represents part of Kano, the north’s biggest city.
“By this new declaration, it is just like giving license to the soldiers to go and humiliate the citizens and to carry out human rights abuses,” Mr. Ayuba said.
Others warned that this crackdown, like predecessors conducted by the Nigerian Army’s Joint Task Force, or J.T.F., could drive more recruits into the arms of the main insurgent group, Boko Haram.
“We have warned time and again that the first step for the J.T.F. was to win the hearts and minds of the people, so that the people understand their mission,” said Kalli al-Gazali of the Northern Elders Forum, an activist group of moderate notables in Nigeria’s north.
“Since the occupation of Borno and Yobe, nobody knows what their rules of engagement are, which is why the insurgency continues unabated,” Mr. Gazali added. “They have never distinguished between the innocent and the guilty.”
Spokesmen for the military in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, did not respond to calls for comment. Residents have observed troops arriving for several days at an air base in Borno’s principal city, Maiduguri, the birthplace of the insurgency, and headed north, apparently toward border areas near Chad and Cameroon where Boko Haram is said to have encampments.
Mr. Jonathan’s speech appears to have been prompted in part by a Boko Haram raid in Borno State last week that the military said killed 55 people, including 22 police officers. The military said dozens of Islamist fighters swept into the town of Bama during the raid, breaking into a prison, where they freed 105 people, and attacking a police station.
But the military has been implicated in recent deaths as well. In mid-April, as many as 200 civilians were killed in the lakeside town of Baga after a brief clash between the military and insurgents. Residents and officials described soldiers dousing thatched-roofed homes with gasoline, setting them on fire and shooting residents as they tried to flee.
Mr. Jonathan, in his speech, depicted his country’s struggle with the militants in stark terms, saying that parts of Borno State had been “taken over” by them, that they wanted to “progressively overwhelm the rest of the country” and that they had “hoisted strange flags suggesting the exercise of alternative sovereignty.”
Some in Maiduguri call that an exaggerated view of the sway held by Boko Haram.
These critics of the government said that local officials had indeed fled from a number of villages in the northern part of the state, fearful of assassination by the militants, who have relentlessly targeted symbols of Abuja’s authority. But the departure of the local officials had not led to Boko Haram’s moving in to fill the administrative vacuum and run towns or villages themselves, the critics said.
“There is nothing like their taking over and administering local structures of government,” said Mr. Al-Gazali, who is from Maiduguri. “There is nothing like the insurgents taking over and operating government” following the departures of what he called “the key functionaries” from some nine local governments in Borno.
One of the country’s leading research groups, the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja, noted that a previous emergency declaration, in December 2011, had been ineffectual, merely cutting off money to the 15 districts affected by it.
“Emergency rule did not lead to an improvement of the security situation in the said local governments,” the center’s director, Jibrin Ibrahim, said in a statement.
Ini Ekott contributed reporting from Abuja, Nigeria, and Hamza Idris from Maiduguri, Nigeria.
Nigerian police liberate second ‘baby factory’ in a week
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 15:45 EDT
Nigerian police on Wednesday said they had found six pregnant teenage girls in a raid on a house and arrested three people suspected of planning to sell their babies.
It was the second so-called baby-factory uncovered in a week in the west African nation.
“We acted on intelligence information and raided the house in Enugu (city) where we met six girls, under 17 and all pregnant, and freed them,” police spokesman Ebere Amaraizu in southeastern Enugu state told AFP.
He said two men and a woman believed to be operating a child trafficking ring were arrested during the raid on Monday and were cooperating with police.
Amaraizu said the girls had been “lured into the house with a promise of some money after” delivering a child.
“Investigation will unravel the details. We have to know how they came about the pregnancy and where they came from,” he said.
Monday’s raid came five days after police in nearby Imo State freed 17 pregnant girls and 11 small children from a home in the town of Umuaka.
The girls, aged between 14 and 17, told police that they had been impregnated by a 23-year-old man who is currently in custody. The owner of the building is on the run.
Nigerian police have uncovered a series of alleged baby factories in recent years, notably in the southeastern part of the country, but the intended buyers of the children have not been established.
Human trafficking, including the selling of children, is the third most common crime in Nigeria behind fraud and drug trafficking, the United Nations cultural organisation (UNESCO) has said.
In May of 2011 in southeastern Abia state, police freed 32 pregnant girls who said they had been offered to sell their babies for between 25,000 and 30,000 naira ($191), depending on the sex of the baby.
Another 17 pregnant girls were discovered in southern Anambra state in October 2011 under similar circumstances.
on: May 16, 2013, 07:01 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
May 15, 2013
Christians Uneasy in Morsi's Egypt
By STEPHEN GLAIN
CAIRO — Wasfi Amin Wassef used to buy and sell jewelry from his shop in Cairo’s vast Khan al-Khalili bazaar. Now he mostly buys it.
Well into a third year of economic malaise following the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, many ordinary Egyptians are selling their most cherished possessions, including heirloom jewelry, to raise cash for a ticket that will let them start a new life abroad. Official figures or estimates are not publicly available, but anecdotal evidence suggests emigration is rising.
“The number of people who sell us their gold since the revolution has increased three times,” Mr. Wassef said during an interview this month.
Some are Muslims but most are Christians, said Mr. Wassef, a member of Egypt’s ancient Coptic Orthodox Christian minority.
Since the ouster of Mr. Mubarak in February 2011, a growing number of Copts, including some of the most successful businessmen, have left Egypt or are preparing to do so, fearing persecution by an Islamist-controlled government as much as the stagnant economy that is smothering their industries.
Among the most prominent are the heads of the Sawiris family, who for several months have been running their enormous business empire from abroad.
“Every week I learn of 10 people who are leaving or who have already left,” Mr. Wassef said. “They know that what happened to the Sawiris’ can happen to them tomorrow.”
Coptic Christians, who account for an estimated 15 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, predate the Muslim conquest by six centuries and represent the last tile in a former mosaic of Egyptian religions, sects and ethnicities.
Economically, Coptic business leaders have punched above their weight, dominating agriculture in the preindustrial age and in modern-era trade, finance and accounting. They have blended well into Egypt’s millennia-long tapestry of demographic change, which helps explain their resiliency. As Munir Fakhry Abdelnour, a prominent Copt who has worked in business, finance and politics, put it: “There is no Coptic quarter in Egypt.”
Like other Arab leaders, Mr. Mubarak made a point of protecting minority groups to nurture loyal constituencies and patronage systems that he could leverage against his Islamist rivals. Though secular tension sometimes turned violent during his 30 years in power, it was generally contained by the state security apparatus.
Since the election a year ago of a government dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, however, attacks on Copts and their institutions have multiplied. In October 2011, for example, following the burning of a Coptic church in Upper Egypt, security forces clashed with Christian protesters: 28 people, mostly Copts, were killed. Last month, Muslim extremists laid siege to Egypt’s main Coptic Cathedral in Khusus, a small town north of Cairo. The assault, which according to witnesses and video footage the police did little to prevent, followed a funeral for five men who died days earlier in clashes with militants.
Critics blame President Mohamed Morsi and his government for failing to quell the violence. In an editorial last month, the state-owned Al-Ahram Weekly called the killings at Khosous “a symptom of irresponsibility in high places, of indifference that can lead the state to the verge of collapse,” while the Copts’ spiritual leader, Pope Tawadros II, accused Mr. Morsi of “delinquency” and “misjudgments.”
Mr. Morsi, a longstanding member of the Muslim Brotherhood who resigned from the group before taking office, issued a statement of regret following the attacks that struck many observers as perfunctory. Last week, he pointedly sent a low-level functionary as his representative to the Easter Mass led by the pope.
Mingled with the threat of physical violence is the fear among Coptic business leaders that they are being singled out for punitive enforcement of the tax code.
Orascom Construction Industries, the flagship in the Sawiris family business group and the largest publicly traded Egyptian company, is alleged by the finance minister to have failed to pay taxes on profit realized from its 2007 sale of a cement unit to the French cement maker Lafarge. The charge confounded analysts; Egypt has no capital gains tax, they point out, and O.C.I. took the cement company public two months before its sale precisely to benefit from tax incentives aimed at encouraging companies to list their shares.
Still, in April, O.C.I. announced that it would pay 7 billion Egyptian pounds, or $1 billion, to Cairo’s tax authority and prosecutors promptly lifted a travel ban on the company’s chairman, Nassef Sawiris, and his father, Onsi. O.C.I., meanwhile, is pursuing plans announced in January for a share swap with its Dutch unit, OCI NV, which would effectively shift trading in the company’s stock to Amsterdam.
The telecommunications tycoon Naguib Sawiris, the eldest and most outspoken of the Sawiris brothers, has all but liquidated his assets in Egypt. In October 2010, he signed a $6.5 billion deal that merged Orascom Telecom into the Amsterdam-based telecommunications company VimpelCom, which was controlled by the Russian investment firm Alfa Group. Hany Genena, the head of research at Pharos Capital, an Egyptian investment bank, said Mr. Sawiris was now selling most of his holdings in Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding, which was created as part of the merger with VimpelCom.
Cash rich, analysts say, he is in the United States seeking investment opportunities in the country’s emerging shale gas industry. Mr. Sawiris declined requests for an interview for this article.
To be sure, Coptic business leaders are not the only ones seemingly targeted by what they see as the selective interpretation of tax laws. Investors and businessmen regardless of faith complain of drift and inconsistency at the policy-planning level. Companies that were privatized during the twilight of the Mubarak years are now being considered for renationalization. A new tax law published in December has since been withdrawn. Plans to curb costly and wasteful subsidy systems have been postponed or watered down.
“Everything is being done on a whim,” Mr. Genena said. “We wonder how we can keep operating like this.”
But the burden of uncertainty rests heaviest on Coptic business leaders and investors who by numerous accounts are voting with their feet.
Rafik Beshay, the procurement director at a Coptic-owned steel mill, says he is having difficulty finding Christians to fill job openings created by the departures as he tries to maintain parity among Christian and Muslim employees. The Caucasus state of Georgia is offering citizenship papers to any Egyptian Copt prepared to directly invest $20,000 there, according to Mr. Wassef, the jeweler, while the U.S. government has made it easier for Copts fleeing religious persecution to settle in America, according to Rasha Samir, the head of publications at the investment bank EFG-Hermes in Cairo.
Requests for U.S. visas, she said, which ordinarily take months to process, are now finalized in just two weeks.
Steve Blando, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security which handles asylum requests, denied that there was a policy to fast-track the process for Egyptian Copts.
“The U.S. asylum system does not make decisions to grant asylum to individuals of a particular nationality,” Mr. Blando said. Each claim “is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis, and the applicant must meet each element of the asylum standard in order to establish eligibility for asylum.”
Still, in the U.S. fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, according to data from the department, the United States had thus far granted 1,417 requests for asylum from Egypt, compared with 1,867 for the whole of 2012 and 837 in 2011.
At 1,867, last year’s figure was nearly six times what it was in the year before Mr. Mubarak was overthrown.
on: May 16, 2013, 06:59 AM
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Mali offered more than €3bn in aid – with strings attached
EU-led conference agrees aid lifeline, but Europeans insist Mali must fulfil pledges to carry out democratic and social reforms
Timothy Spence and Frédéric Simon for EurActiv, part of the Guardian development network
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 May 2013 12.24 BST
An EU-led donor conference agreed on Wednesday to provide €3.25bn (£2.7bn) to fund a sweeping development plan for Mali, but European donors made clear that the interim government must live up to its promises to implement democratic and social reforms in exchange for the international lifeline.
Four months after an EU-backed French force halted an advance by militants in the country's north, the EU hosted the donor conference to help finance the Malian government's plan to improve health, education, the economy and food security. It also pledged to rebuild its impoverished northern region where skirmishes between foreign-backed government troops and militants continue.
The European commission and the 27 member states have pledged to provide €1.35bn for Mali next year, one-third of the international commitment. The pledges included €50,000 from Greece and €18m from Spain, two troubled eurozone countries that have themselves turned to Brussels for financial aid.
European leaders made clear at the Brussels meeting that the aid comes as part of broader efforts to stabilise a west African region that has endured repeated food crises, political instability and armed conflicts. A portion of the EU donations will be used for UN humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and assistance to carry out elections, scheduled for 28 July – one of the key conditions of the aid.
The French president, François Hollande, welcomed the financial commitments but said it was up to leaders in the former French colony to follow through with its commitments. "We need transparency and good governance," Hollande said.
Earlier, the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, emphasised the regional dimension of the conflict, saying that "through Mali, it is the future of the subregion and beyond which is at play". But he warned that the aid provided by the international community comes with strings attached.
Fabius said particular attention would be paid to the traceability of aid and the follow-up of projects, with conditions on disbursement of funds linked to transparency, governance, democracy and the fight against corruption. The war in Mali "is being won", Fabius said but, "now we must win the peace".
Aid in stages
EU representatives repeatedly said aid must be tied to the Malian authorities' adherence to the political stabilisation roadmap (pdf, French) they presented to donors, and free elections due in July. Dirk Niebel, the German development minister, said his country would provide at least €100m in aid over the next two years. But it will be released in stages if Mali "continues to implement its roadmap … and if the transition process goes well", Niebel said.
EU development aid commissioner Andris Piebalgs said the stabilisation roadmap for Mali was the cornerstone of the international community's commitment to the country and had to be followed resolutely. He insisted that beyond Mali, "the EU's commitment is regional" and extends to the wider Sahel area.
"We are investing considerable means", he said, referring to the European commission's €524m commitment. An extra €200m is also available under the EU's strategy for the security and development of Sahel (pdf, French), the commission said. Foreign aid is expected to lead to the creation of 20,000 local jobs in the next two years in areas such as water, sanitation, justice and education, Piebalgs said.
Big boost for poor nation
The aid pledged by 108 countries and organisations is a major boost for Mali, coming a year after a brief military coup and flare-up of violence led the EU and other donors to freeze aid and ultimately back the French military operation.
Mali's foreign minister, Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, promised "effective management" of the aid. "We need money," he pleaded, adding: "Money is the sinews of war."
He said stabilising his nation would help the region, referring to the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which has pledged support for a forthcoming UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. "We believe that a stable Mali is a stable Ecowas [and] a little more stable Sahel."
But the nation of 16 million faces high hurdles, including continued fighting, pressure from Islamist groups and drug traders, and refugee and food crises. Mali must also tackle its reputation for corruption and mismanagement of aid. The Business Anti-Corruption portal, an EU-funded project, reports that bribery and graft are widespread.
In 2010, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria halted funding to Mali amid allegations of fraud and mismanagement. The Global Fund has since resumed aid, and in November announced €110m in new funding.
Human rights concerns
Europe and its global partners were under pressure ahead of the conference to ensure that the Malian government address reports of extrajudicial executions, torture and reprisals carried out by government forces. Mali has been torn for decades by divisions between its northern Islamic and Arab communities and the African south. Attacks by northern insurgents, backed by regional Islamic groups, surged in early 2012, leading the military to temporarily seize control of the government.
UN rights officials and advocacy groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have accused insurgents and Islamic militants of pillaging and rape, while government forces have been linked to reprisals and torture. Amnesty International has accused government forces in the north of carrying out executions and Islamic rebels of recruiting child soldiers.
Justine Greening, Britain's international development secretary, pledged support to Mali and the wider Sahel through a three-year, €150m aid package. She said:
Britain's support has been a lifeline to many over the past year, but it makes sense to work out how to prevent future shortages and help the region to become more stable. It is also firmly in the UK's national interest. The international community needs to work together to provide the long-term approach the region needs to avoid falling back into crisis.
Eloise Todd, Brussels director of development campaign group ONE:
Today's conference was a welcome initiative from the EU and France. The European commission's pledge of €524m, nearly half of the overall EU pledge, will make an important contribution to Mali's recovery. But the big picture is that aid budgets are shrinking across much of Europe, and the EU itself is looking to freeze aid spending over the next seven years. It's becoming a zero-sum game that could mean less money to respond to other crises. EU countries need to reverse aid cuts, prioritise the world's poorest, like those in Mali, and make sure aid is targeted at the programmes that have the biggest impact on development, namely health, agriculture and education.
European commission president José Manuel Barroso:
It is crucial that Mali's social and economic development and the consolidation of a stable state built on solid democratic foundations go hand in hand with efforts to stabilise the country. Today marks an important step forward in the social, economic and democratic renewal of Mali. By securing the pledged aid required by the country to achieve its development priorities, the international community has sent a strong signal that, collectively, we can feel proud of. This show of solidarity is crucial for all Malians and the country as a whole, the future of which concerns not only the entire Sahel region but international stability. The EU is proud to be at the forefront of these efforts.
Discussion / Evolutionary Astrology Q&A / Re: Pluto in Cap, the climate, ecology and environment topic
on: May 16, 2013, 06:56 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
Chinese protest at planned chemical plant over pollution fears
Social media shows hundreds gathering in southern city of Kunming as officials deny refinery will produce carcinogen PX
Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 16 May 2013 08.00 BST
Thousands of protesters have gathered in the southern Chinese city of Kunming for the second time this month to voice concerns over the environmental impact of a planned chemical plant, according to uncorroborated posts on Twitter and Chinese social networking sites.
The protesters gathered in front of the provincial government headquarters at the intersection of Zhengyi Road and Renmin Road at about 10am, according to the posts. The demonstration has drawn a large police presence and began with one arrest, but has remained largely peaceful.
Kunming's first environmental protest this month was held, without arrests, on 4 May after China National Petroleum Corporation announced plans to build the chemical plant in Anning, 17 miles (28km) south-west of the city centre.
Every year the refinery would produce 500,000 tons of paraxylene (PX), a carcinogenic chemical used in production of polyester, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper.
Thursday's demonstrators donned face masks displaying anti-PX messages, shouted "roll out, protest!" and sang the national anthem in unison, according to Twitter reports.
Photos posted online show a thick line of police pressed tightly against rows of protesters, many of them documenting the standoff with smartphones and digital cameras.
"Protest activities only happen on the precondition that the government doesn't offer opportunities for information transparency, dialogue and negotiation," said an influential Kunming-based blogger who uses the name Bianmin, or "frontier person", in an email interview before Thursday's protest.
"If the government clings to its position, the public's resistance will only increase."
According to pictures posted on the popular Chinese microblogging website Sina Weibo, protesters held banners reading: "Save Kunming! Help us! We love Kunming, oppose pollution" and in English, "Save the water for the life!" The pictures have since been deleted, and searches for Kunming PX have been blocked.
Many university students in Kunming have been blocked from leaving their campuses, according to reports online. On Saturday the municipal government sent text messages to Kunming residents claiming that the project "will not produce PX".
Many Kunming residents appear unconvinced. "If the refinery is [as] clean and safe they claim it to be, why does the government not dare to publish the environmental review report," a demonstrator told the South China Morning Post.
A similar protest earlier this month in Chengdu, the capital of adjacent Sichuan province, was suppressed by police.
Environmental protests have become more common in recent years, as many Chinese people become increasingly exasperated by the government's growth-first development strategy and lack of transparency.
A Shanghai battery manufacturer announced on Wednesday that it would cancel plans for a new plant after hundreds of people staged three protests to voice concerns about its possible environmental impact.
In August 2011 a protest in the north-eastern city Dalian led local authorities to announce that they were would relocate a polluting PX plant. The following summer, the coastal city Qidong scrapped a pipeline plan after about a thousand protesters stormed government offices and overturned cars.
on: May 16, 2013, 06:52 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
New Zealand Supreme Court to hear Kim Dotcom appeal
By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, May 16, 2013 7:29 EDT
New Zealand’s Supreme Court on Thursday granted Kim Dotcom leave to appeal a ruling that US authorities do not have to disclose all of the evidence they have against the Megaupload founder.
The Court of Appeal in March had overturned a decision ordering US prosecutors to hand over the evidence to Dotcom’s legal team as they seek to extradite him to face online piracy charges.
The appeal court ruled that a summary of the case would suffice.
Dotcom’s lawyers have sought to reinstate the original decision, arguing they could not effectively fight the extradition battle without full disclosure of the evidence against their client.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear Dotcom’s legal challenge at a date yet to be set. “Leave to appeal is granted,” it said in a two-paragraph ruling.
Lawyers representing the United States had argued in the appeal court that the evidence could involve billions of emails and that full disclosure would likely delay Dotcom’s extradition hearing, scheduled for August.
The US Justice Department and FBI want Dotcom to face charges of racketeering, fraud, money-laundering and copyright theft in a US court, which could see him jailed for up to 20 years if convicted.
Dotcom is free on bail. He denies US allegations the Megaupload sites netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated copies of movies, TV shows and other content.
The German national, who was arrested in an armed police raid on his Auckland mansion in January last year, launched a successor to Megaupload called Mega in January this year.
on: May 16, 2013, 06:50 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
China lays claim to Okinawa as territory dispute with Japan escalates
China questions Japan's sovereignty over Ryukyu islands, heightening tension over existing Senkakus islands dispute
Justin McCurry in Tokyo
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 May 2013 15.28 BST
China is attempting to open a new front in its territorial dispute with Japan by questioning Tokyo's sovereignty over the island of Okinawa, home to 25,000 US troops.
The two countries are already pushing rival claims to the Senkakus, a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea that are controlled by Tokyo. The dispute over the islands, known as the Diaoyu in China, has hit bilateral trade and sent diplomatic relations to their lowest point for decades.
Beijing began its attempt to broaden the territorial dispute earlier this month when the communist party newspaper, the People's Daily, ran an article in which two Chinese academics challenged Japan's sovereignty over the Ryukyu chain of islands, which includes Okinawa.
Luo Yuan, a two-star general in the People's Liberation Army, raised the territorial stakes again this week, saying the Ryukyus had started paying tribute to China in 1372, half a millennium before they were seized by Japan.
"Let's for now not discuss whether [the Ryukyus] belong to China, they were certainly China's tributary state," Luo said in an interview with China News Service. "I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan," he added, in comments translated by the South China Morning Post.
The potential for more diplomatic clashes over territory comes amid fresh criticism of Japan's attitude towards its wartime conduct in China and the Korean peninsula.
Beijing reacted angrily after the outspoken nationalist mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, said this week that Japan's forced recruitment of Asian women to work in military brothels before and during the second world war had been necessary to maintain discipline among soldiers.
"We are appalled and indignant about the Japanese politician's comments boldly challenging humanity and historical justice," Hong Lei, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, told reporters.
"The way they treat the past will determine the way Japan walks toward the future. On what choice Japan will make, its Asian neighbours and the international community will wait and see."
On Wednesday Hashimoto attempted to clarify his remarks, saying he had not sought to justify the use of so-called comfort women, but was questioning why Japan had been singled out for criticism given that other countries had, he said, operated similar schemes.
Okinawa, an island of more than 1 million people, hosts more than half the 47,000 US troops stationed in Japan.
Washington and Tokyo have agreed to reduce Washington's military footprint on Okinawa, but the island is seen as key to the US's ability to respond quickly to maritime provocations by the increasingly robust Chinese navy, as well as a crisis on the Korean peninsula.
In their People's Daily article, Li Guoqiang and Zhang Haipeng, prominent academics at the government-run Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Japan's annexation of the Ryukyu kingdom in 1879 amounted to an invasion, and that the sovereignty issue remained open to question.
They pointed out that the kingdom had previously been a Chinese vassal state, adding that the ruling Qing dynasty had been too weak to resist Japan's advance.
"Hanging in the balance of history, the unresolved problem of the Ryukyus has finally arrived at the time for reconsideration," they wrote.
In a later article for the paper's sister publication, the Global Times, Li said: "Not only is Japan obliterating the truth about the Ryukyu issue, but it is doubling its aggressiveness and making provocations over the Diaoyu issue. Therefore it is necessary to revisit the Ryukyu issue."
China's foreign ministry dismissed Japanese protests over the article.
Hua Chunying, a ministry spokeswoman, told reporters that China "does not accept Japan's representations or protests". She said the article reflected renewed interest in the islands in the light of Japan's provocative actions over the Senkakus.
Japan's government effectively nationalised three of the disputed islets after buying them from their private owners last year, sparking violent protests across China and forcing the temporary closure of Japanese businesses in the country.
Okinawa, scene of one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific war, was controlled by the US until it was returned to Japan on 15 May 1972.
The continued presence of US troops and military hardware is a constant source of tension with the civilian population, who complain about crimes by soldiers, noise pollution and the potential for accidents involving aircraft.
Analysts said China was mistaken if it believed that provoking Japan over Okinawa would add momentum to its claims to the Senkaku islands. "If China's goal is to hold talks with Japan over the Senkakus, articles like these are counterproductive," M Taylor Fravel, a Chinese foreign policy expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told Associated Press.
"As a result, Japan has an even stronger incentive now to stand firm with China and not hold talks."
on: May 16, 2013, 06:48 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
May 15, 2013
U.S. Envoy Talks With Chinese About North Korea
By BREE FENG
BEIJING — The State Department’s senior envoy on North Korea said Wednesday that he had discussed “all aspects of the North Korea issue” with Chinese officials, including sanctions on the North, during a one-day visit to Beijing.
“I think this is all a work in progress,” the diplomat, Glyn B. Davies, said at a briefing for reporters in Beijing. “The Chinese have said to us that they will faithfully implement U.N. Security Council sanctions and are doing so. And, as I’ve said before, we take them at their word."
Mr. Davies arrived in Beijing on Wednesday morning after holding talks with South Korean officials in Seoul. He will depart for Tokyo on Thursday for the final leg of his visit to the region.
His trip to China appeared to be part of an effort by the United States to work closely with Beijing to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s third nuclear test in February.
China is North Korea’s most important economic supporter, providing essential food and energy supplies that keep the North Korean government afloat. China voted for Security Council sanctions after the nuclear test, and the United States has been watching to see how carefully Beijing is enforcing them.
Mr. Davies met on Wednesday with Chinese officials, including China’s special representative on Korean affairs, Wu Dawei, who visited Washington several weeks ago. He also met with Zhang Yesui, China’s executive vice foreign minister and a former ambassador to the United States, and Liu Jieyi, vice minister of the international department of the Chinese Central Committee.
Mr. Davies played down the idea that a decision by the Bank of China to halt transfers to North Korea’s Foreign Trade Bank last week was a strong diplomatic signal by Beijing.
“I think it’s a significant step that has been taken by the bank,” Mr. Davies said. “I don’t believe this was at the direction necessarily of the Chinese government. I think this was a decision made by the bankers at the Bank of China.”
On Tuesday, one of Japan’s most experienced diplomats on North Korea, Isao Iijima, visited Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. North Korean state television broadcast images of Mr. Iijima’s arrival in the country. The Japanese government refused to confirm Mr. Iijima’s visit.
Mr. Davies said he discussed the visit with a senior Japanese official on Wednesday but declined to comment “given the deficit of information.”
on: May 16, 2013, 06:44 AM
|Started by Steve - Last post by Rad|
India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
May 16, 2013, 4:38 am
Delhi Gang Rape Suspect in ‘Critical Condition,’ Lawyer Says
By BETWA SHARMA
NEW DELHI — A defendant in the Delhi gang rape case has been assaulted by other inmates inside Tihar Jail in New Delhi and was being slowly poisoned by the jail authorities, his lawyer said before a local court earlier this week.
Vinay Sharma, 20, was admitted to Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital on May 4, two days after the assault, said Mr. Sharma’s lawyer, A.P. Singh. On Tuesday he was moved to the Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan hospital, a more sophisticated facility in the national capital.
“He is in a critical condition,” Mr. Singh told India Ink on Thursday. “He has had blood vomiting and chest pains.”
Champa Devi, Mr. Sharma’s mother, who visited him in the hospital last week, said her son had complained of chest pain.
Hospital staff declined to comment on Mr. Sharma’s condition.
Mr. Sharma and three other men who are accused of gang raping a 23-year-old student on Dec. 16 are being held in Tihar Jail as their trial continues. A fifth defendant, a minor, is being held in a juvenile home.
Another adult defendant, Ram Singh, was found hanging in his cell inside Tihar Jail on March 11. The jail authorities said it was a suicide, but Mr. Singh’s family members insist that other inmates, with the consent of the prison guards, killed him.
The Delhi government has ordered a judicial inquiry into Mr. Singh’s death.
Vimla Mehra, director general of Tihar Jail, said Mr. Sharma’s allegations of being beaten and poisoned in jail are false. “This is all wrong reporting,” she told India Ink.
But Mr. Singh wants his client transferred out of Tihar Jail. “I have moved an application before the judge,” he said. “This should be done immediately so that he doesn’t risk Ram Singh’s fate.”
The Delhi police commissioner Neeraj Kumar has previously said that a verdict is expected by the end of May, but Mr. Singh said that the trial is not likely to conclude until the first week of July.
“End of May — no chance,” he said. “So Vinay should be kept in a safe place until the trial lasts.”
Mrs. Champa, Mr. Sharma’s mother, also expressed concern about her son’s safety inside the jail.
“They say that he is being monitored all the time on camera. But I don’t buy this,” she said. “He could easily have been beaten up where he couldn’t be seen by a camera.”
India Ink - Notes on the World's Largest Democracy
March 10, 2013, 11:49 pm
Suspect in India Gang Rape Found Dead in Jail
By NIHARIKA MANDHANA and HEATHER TIMMONS
NEW DELHI — One of the men accused in the Delhi gang rape case was found dead in his jail cell on Monday morning, a jail official said.
Ram Singh, who drove the bus in which the fatal rape took place on Dec. 16, appeared to have hanged himself from a metal grille with a rope made from his clothes, a spokesman for Tihar Jail, Sunil Gupta, said in an interview.
Mr. Singh was one of five men and one teenager, including his brother Mukesh, charged with rape and murder in the death of a 23-year old physiotherapy student. The case sparked widespread protests in India and a push to increase safety for women.
Mr. Singh was the first of the accused to provide details of the attack to the police. His confession helped them track the four other men and the juvenile who have been arrested in the case.
Mr. Singh shared a jail cell with other inmates, Mr. Gupta said, and it was unclear how he may have hanged himself without attracting their attention.
“I suspect there is foul play,” said V.K. Anand, the lawyer representing Mr. Singh in the case. “There were no circumstances for committing suicide. His mental state was stable, the trial was going well, he was meeting with his family. I can’t understand why he would commit suicide.”
“This is a high-profile prisoner, and he was under special protection,” Mr. Anand added. “He was never left alone. How could this happen?”
Mr. Gupta said an inquiry had begun.