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« Reply #12990 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:13 AM »

Nuclear Chief Says Iran Needs 30,000 New Centrifuges for Fuel

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 18:03

Iran will need 30,000 of its new generation centrifuges to meet domestic fuel demands, far more than the current number, its nuclear chief said Sunday.

Ali Akbar Salehi's comments came just days after the latest round of international talks in Vienna aimed at securing a long-term deal over Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The capability and number of centrifuges at Tehran's disposal has been a key concern among countries which suspect the Islamic republic's eventual goal is to build an atomic bomb.

Iran currently has nearly 19,000 centrifuges, including 10,000 of the so-called first generation being used to enrich uranium.

The country insists its nuclear activities are solely for civilian purposes.

"If we want to use the Natanz enrichment facility to produce the annual fuel of Bushehr nuclear power plant, we need to build 30,000 new centrifuges," Salehi was quoted by the Fars news agency as saying.

Under an interim agreement reached last year that expires on July 20, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear program in return for limited sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.

Under the deal, Iran cannot increase its number of centrifuges, but in February it announced it was developing new ones that are 15 times more powerful than those currently used.

Any final deal with the West may involve Iran slashing its number of centrifuges, changing the design of a new reactor at Arak and giving U.N. inspectors more oversight.

The Bushehr plant, which produces 1,000 megawatts of electricity, came into service in 2011 after several delays blamed on technical problems. Tehran took control of the plant from Russia last year.

In October, Salehi said Iran had built a fuel production line for its sole nuclear power plant which would go on stream within three months.

However, he did not specify a date after which Iran could use locally produced fuel instead of that provided by Russia.

Iran has said it wants to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity from nuclear power, which would require building 20 reactors.


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« Reply #12991 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:15 AM »

Series of Bombings Kills More Than 20 Across Iraq

By DURAID ADNAN
APRIL 13, 2014
IHT
   
BAGHDAD — Militants with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria gained control of the main road that links Baghdad with the northern provinces for a short time on Sunday, while a series of explosions around Iraq left up to 25 dead, according to security forces.

In the deadliest blast of the day, a car bomb was detonated as a joint patrol for the police and army passed through Mosul in the north, killing 10 and wounding 12 others, the security forces said.

Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a powerful jihadist group once affiliated with Al Qaeda, kidnapped five people, including an oil executive, who were traveling on the road in Salahuddin Province that links the north to the capital.

All of the attacks came less than a week after the 11th anniversary of the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, an event that many Iraqis regard as the fall of the capital, and just two weeks before the first parliamentary elections since the United States withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. The vote is scheduled for the end of the month.

In Kirkuk in the north, a suicide bomber blew up himself near a security checkpoint, killing eight people, according to security sources. And in Salahuddin Province, gunmen attacked the home of a Sunni tribal fighter, killing three members of his family, and four police officers were killed when a car bomb exploded near their checkpoint.


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« Reply #12992 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:16 AM »

Pakistan Says Talks with Taliban in Comprehensive Phase

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 20:42

Pakistan on Sunday announced its talks with the Taliban militants to reach an accord will enter a "comprehensive" phase in days, with both sides set to put forward formal agendas, after weeks of negotiations.

The announcement came from the country's Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan days after the infighting between the Taliban groups killed more than 60 people and a ceasefire deadline by the militants expired Saturday.

Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which announced a ceasefire last month and then extended it for six more days on April 6, has not announced any further extension, but there have been no attacks on the ground since.

"Formal comprehensive talks will start from the next meeting which will hopefully take place within the next couple of days," Khan told reporters in Islamabad.

"You will get to know the main agenda both from the government side and the other side in the next meeting. The next meeting will come up with the comprehensive agenda from both the sides," he said.

He said that the government is in the process of releasing more than 30 noncombatant Taliban prisoners in a bid to take the dialogue process forward.

"We will release up to 13 more prisoners. After their release, the number of total freed noncombatant prisoners will go up to more than 30," Khan said.

The government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) through intermediaries in February to try to end the Islamists' bloody seven-year insurgency.

The umbrella militant group had demanded the release of what they called "non-combatant" prisoners and the establishment of a "peace zone" where security forces would not be present.

In March the Taliban handed over a list of 300 people including women, children, and old men, seeking their release.

Last week, the government handed over 19 tribesmen based in South Waziristan, calling them "non-combatant Taliban prisoners."

Khan also suggested that the talks should be held in Peshawar, capital of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which has been heavily hit by attacks from the TTP, but the militants are yet to announce their willingness for this.

The earlier meetings for direct talks with TTP leaders have taken place at undisclosed locations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan where the Taliban militants have their hold.

Khan said that the government has also taken up the issue of the release of a senior academic -- Professor Mohammad Ajmal -- as well the sons of slain former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and other abductees in return for its concessions to TTP demands.

He, however, did not make any predictions about the possible outcome of the talks.

"If we are moving along the process of peace through the dialogue, the whole process will continue, and God forbid if it fails, I don't have to announce it. You will all know," he added.

The peace talks were a key campaign pledge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year.

Pakistan has been in the grip of a homegrown Taliban insurgency since 2007, with more than 6,800 people killed in bomb and gun attacks according to an Agence France Presse tally.

A bomb attack at a market in Islamabad on Wednesday killed 24 people, though the TTP denied responsibility.


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« Reply #12993 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:18 AM »

India's Opposition Rules Out Major Change to Nuke Policy

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 09:33

The head of India's opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), tipped to win ongoing national elections, has ruled out any change in the country's "no-first-use" nuclear weapons policy.

The BJP sparked speculation about an end to the doctrine last week when its manifesto said that the party would "revise and update" India's policy.

"The no-first-use policy for nuclear weapons was a well thought out stand... We don't intend to reverse it," BJP President Rajnath Singh told the Hindustan Times newspaper in an interview published Monday.

The policy was adopted after a series of nuclear tests in 1998 during the last BJP-led coalition government which led to international condemnation and an embargo being placed on the country by Western powers.

The policy was intended to gain India greater acceptability as a nuclear power, despite it not being a signatory of the 1970 UN Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which aims to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

The BJP is predicted to clinch power under elections which began on April 7 and end with results on May 16.

Any BJP government under hardline prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, a proud nationalist promising strong leadership, is expected to have a more muscular foreign policy.

Any change in nuclear policy would be of most significance to India's rivals Pakistan and China.

Neither reacted to news of the possible review and analysts have pointed out that the "no-first-use" policy is a mere promise that could be ignored by New Delhi in a conflict situation.

China was the first country to adopt the "no-first-use" nuclear policy in 1964, but nuclear-rival Pakistan, with whom India has fought three wars, does not have a similar position.


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« Reply #12994 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:19 AM »

Malaysia Opposition Slams 'Bid to Extend Anwar Sentence'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 09:20

Malaysia's opposition on Monday denounced what it called a government bid to increase the prison term of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a controversial sodomy case.

Anwar, 66, was sentenced to five years' jail last month after a court overturned a 2012 acquittal on sodomy charges that he says are a false smear by Malaysia's authoritarian regime aimed at disqualifying him from politics.

Anwar is free pending an appeal to the Federal Court, Malaysia's highest.

But his lawyer Karpal Singh told AFP he received new court documents indicating prosecutors will push to increase the sentence by an unspecified level.

"As Anwar is too old for whipping, they must feel five years is too light," said Karpal.

Malaysia's regime has long been accused of using the courts to harass the opposition, and the March 7 judgement sparked outrage in Malaysia.

The US State Department said it "raised a number of concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the court."

The charges allege Anwar sodomised a male former aide. The appeals court said the lower court that acquitted Anwar had misjudged evidence.

In a statement Monday, N. Surendran, a vice president of Anwar's People's Justice Party, called the case "a frontal assault" on democracy, denouncing the bid for a increased sentence as "selective, vicious and politically motivated".

Attorney-General Gani Patail abruptly hung up without commenting when reached by phone.

The ethnic Malay-controlled government that had dominated multi-cultural Malaysia since independence in 1957 has come under unprecedented pressure from a rising, multi-racial opposition led by Anwar.

The opposition shocked the government by winning the popular vote in elections last year for the first time. It failed to win a parliamentary majority due to what critics call decades of gerrymandering by the ruling regime.

Sodomy is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Anwar faces jail, loss of his parliament seat, and disqualification from elections for another five years after his release, placing his career in serious jeopardy.

Anwar was being groomed to take over the government in the 1990s but was toppled in a rift with his then-boss, premier Mahathir Mohamad, and thrown in jail for six years on corruption and sodomy charges he calls bogus.


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« Reply #12995 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:20 AM »

Taiwan Hails First U.S. Cabinet-Level Visit for 14 Years

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 14:36

Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou on Monday met Gina McCarthy, the first U.S. cabinet-level official to visit the island in 14 years, and hailed her trip as important for ties with Washington.

"This is the first time since 2000 for a cabinet-level official to visit Taiwan from the United States. It is of great significance for bilateral ties," Ma said while meeting McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The United States switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1979.

It remains the leading arms supplier to the island, but has been cautious in holding official contacts with it.

China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory awaiting reunification -- by force if necessary -- following their split in 1949 at the end of a civil war.

Taipei-Washington ties were at their worst when President Chen Shui-bian of the China-skeptic Democratic Progressive Party was in power for the eight years to 2008.

But relations have been on an upswing since Ma of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power that year.

Ma has referred to the former government as "troublemakers" and has repeatedly assured Washington of "no surprises" in his diplomacy, which is focused on securing a diplomatic truce with Beijing.

"I've striven to restore mutual trust since 2008, and this visit manifests our years-long efforts," Ma said, according to a statement by the presidential office.

But both Taipei and Washington have kept Mc Carthy's visit low-profile.

China had a muted reaction when Rajiv Shah, the head of the US Agency for International Development, visited Taiwan in 2011. However Shah technically does not have cabinet status.

McCarthy visited an elementary school outside Taipei featuring a low-carbon classroom and a garden with an ecological area, and gave a speech at National Taiwan University on environmental cooperation between Taiwan and the United States.


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« Reply #12996 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:22 AM »


China cancels human rights dialogue with Britain

Beijing accuses UK of using rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs and axes dialogue that resumed after diplomatic freeze over Dalai Lama

Tania Branigan in Beijing
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 12.13 BST   
   
China has cancelled this week's bilateral human rights dialogue with Britain, which David Cameron highlighted as one of the "important achievements" of his high profile trip to Beijing last year.

Beijing accused the UK of making irresponsible comments and using human rights issues to interfere in its internal affairs.

The British prime minister had cited the resumption of the dialogue this spring as one of the successes of his December visit, which followed a diplomatic freeze due to his meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the Guardian: "We are disappointed that the Chinese government this week unilaterally postponed the dialogue, which was due to take place on 16 April. It is not for us to say why it was postponed.

"We are now in discussion to agree new dates for the dialogue. We consider the dialogue to be an important part of our bilateral relationship with China. It was agreed at the last UK-China summit in December 2013 by the prime minister and Premier Li [Keqiang]."

China's foreign ministry said in a statement: "The principle of equality and mutual respect is the essential basis for China and the UK to carry out dialogue and communication on human rights. The UK should stop making irresponsible comments and using human rights issues to interfere in China's internal affairs, to create the conditions for the human rights dialogue between China and the UK in the next round."

The Foreign Office describes the dialogue as one of the main pillars of the UK's engagement with China over human rights.

The Tibet Society said in a blogpost that it understood China did not agree with the agenda put forward by the UK and was angered by the UK's role at the recent UN Human Rights Council meeting about China's human rights record.

The UK is thought to have become involved in disputes between China and NGOs at the sessions. Chinese diplomats attempted to block a call by NGOs for a minute's silence in memory of the Chinese rights activist Cao Shunli, who died in custody on 14 March.

Cao was stopped en route to Geneva to participate in a human rights training programme in September, and formally arrested a month later for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".

China's foreign ministry has described the criticism as "mistaken", adding that the 52-year-old's rights had been ensured and that she received "conscientious and proactive treatment".

In 2010, China indefinitely postponed the dialogue shortly after the UK criticised it over the execution of British citizen Akmal Shaikh, who had smuggled drugs but was believed to have serious mental health problems. However, it is thought that other issues may have been involved in the decision.

China has also repeatedly suspended its bilateral dialogue with the United States.

Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "China is responding to a critique of its shortcomings on human rights by cutting back further on human rights engagement. I don't think that indicates that China is genuinely committed to the outcomes of this dialogue … China is trying to intimidate its international partners by walking away from the table."

Last year, submitting evidence to the foreign affairs select committee on the role of human rights in UK policy towards China, Human Rights Watch noted: "While supportive of the principle of dialogue, Human Rights Watch is concerned that the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue appears to have delivered very little tangible improvement … What is there to show for all of those hours of discussion?

"We are also concerned that the existence of the dialogue allows ministers to say that human rights issues are being dealt with there, as opposed to being raised in meetings between foreign ministers or heads of state."

Supporters of bilateral dialogues say the system allows countries to raise specific cases of concern with Chinese officials and to address issues in more detail. But critics warn that it can mean the sidelining of rights issues, which are then kept out of high level meetings.

Beijing criticises 'gesticulating' US

China's foreign ministry told the United States on Monday to stop "gesticulating" in its criticism of China's treatment of dissidents, after Washington urged Beijing to release a prominent activist.

The US last week said it was "deeply disappointed" at a Beijing court's decision to uphold a four-year jail sentence for anti-corruption and children's education rights campaigner Xu Zhiyong. The European Union also expressed concern.

Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Xu was a Chinese citizen who broke the law and was being punished because of it.

"We urge the United States to stop its gesticulating at China on such individual cases, and stop using so-called human rights as an excuse to interfere in China's internal affairs," she told a daily news briefing.

China and the US routinely clash over human rights, adding to a list of issues on which they do not see eye to eye, including trade, the value of China's currency and China's various maritime territorial disputes.

Washington regularly expresses concern about individual Chinese human rights cases and its diplomats often show up outside court houses where trials are taking place, though they are generally not allowed in. Reuters


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« Reply #12997 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:23 AM »

North Korea Vows Seoul Will Pay 'Dear Price' for Insults

by Naharnet Newsdesk
14 April 2014, 07:01

North Korea on Monday warned South Korea it would pay a "dear price" for recent criticisms of Pyongyang's nuclear program and political system, saying they violated a no-slander agreement.

The warning from the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) came days after Pyongyang blasted South Korean President Park Geun-Hye's proposals for Korean reunification as the "daydreams of a psychopath".

Park was again the focus of the North's anger, with the CPRK denouncing comments she made during a recent tour of Europe.

"Our servicemen and people ... will never tolerate the enemy forces' attempts to insult our system and will make sure they pay a dear price for their madcap comments," the committee said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

During her tour, Park had warned that Pyongyang's nuclear material could end up in terrorist hands and warned of a possible Chernobyl-style disaster at the North's main nuclear complex.

The CPRK also took issue with Park's "viciously slanderous remarks" regarding political repression and human rights abuses in North Korea.

"This shows Park is the true kingpin and major culprit of slanderous insult," it said.

Under an agreement reached during rare, high-level talks in February, the two Koreas had resolved -- at Pyongyang's insistence -- to cease trading verbal insults.

The "no-slander" clause was always going to prove problematic, with North Korea insisting it should extend to the South Korean media as well as private groups and individuals.

Pyongyang saw Park's comments in Berlin and elsewhere as violating the agreement, and in recent weeks has directed increasingly personal attacks on the president, describing her at one point as "a peasant woman babbling to herself".

Monday's CPRK statement also criticized Park's defense, unification and foreign affairs ministers, as well as the "human scum" who testified before a U.N.-appointed panel investigating rights abuses in the North.

"Inter-Korean relations collapsed due to the ugly fantasies and vicious smear campaigns of the South's authorities ... and wicked conservative media," the CPRK said.

"We will never tolerate the mean smear campaigns by the South and will respond resolutely," it said.

The statement also included the first flat denial that North Korea was linked to three crashed drones found in the South.

Seoul's defense ministry said last week it was convinced the North was behind the three camera-equipped drones recovered in different parts of the country.

"The enemy forces are further stepping up their slander and smear campaigns by fabricating the ridiculous drone incident," the CPRK said.


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« Reply #12998 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:24 AM »

At Least 60 Killed by Suspected Islamists in Nigeria

by Naharnet Newsdesk
13 April 2014, 22:51

Suspected Boko Haram Islamists on Sunday killed at least 60 people in Nigeria's troubled northeastern Borno state close to the border with Cameroon, a local official said.

"The attackers, who are no doubt Boko Haram insurgents, attacked Amchaka and nearby villages this morning, hurling IEDs (improvised explosive devices) into homes and setting them on fire," Baba Shehu Gulumba, Bama local government administrator, told Agence France Presse.

"They then went on a shooting spree, opening fire on confused residents as they tried to flee, killing 60 people and injuring several others," Gulumba said from Maiduguri, the state capital.

The attackers stormed Amchaka and neighboring villages in Bama district using trucks, motorcycles and two armored vehicles, shooting residents and torching homes, he said.

Other local sources also confirmed the attack but did not give a death toll.

The assailants vandalized boreholes, the only water source for the villagers, Gulumba added.

The attacks have prompted a mass exodus of people from villages in the area.

Following a spate of brutal attacks on schools and universities, around 400 students in the state had boycotted university entrance exams on Saturday, officials said.
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« Reply #12999 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:27 AM »


Nigerian bus station hit by deadly explosion

Many are feared dead after blast in outskirts of capital, Abuja, as hundreds of commuters travelled to work

Associated Press in Abuja
theguardian.com, Monday 14 April 2014 10.32 BST   

An explosion blasted through a busy commuter bus station in the outskirts of Nigeria's capital, Abuja, on Monday, as hundreds of people were on their way to work.

Police have said at least 71 people were killed and 124 wounded in the blast. Reporters saw rescue workers and police gathering body parts.

The blast ripped a hole 1.2 metres (4ft) deep in the ground of Nyanya motor park, about 10 miles from the city centre, and destroyed more than 30 vehicles, causing secondary explosions as their fuel tanks ignited and burned.

There was no official comment or immediate claim of responsibility for the explosion, though bus stations are a favoured target of Nigeria's Islamist militants.

Extremists have been threatening to attack the capital, which is in the middle of the country and hundreds of miles from their traditional base in the north-east, where they have killed nearly 1,500 people this year.

The Boko Haram terrorist network last attacked the capital in 2011, when it claimed a suicide bombing by two explosive-laden cars that drove into the lobby of the United Nations building in Abuja. The attack killed at least 21 people and wounded 60.

The militants are blamed for attacks in north-east Nigeria that have killed more than 50 people in the past five days, including eight teachers living at a boarding school that had been closed because of frequent attacks on schools in which hundreds of students have died.

Boko Haram, which means "western education is forbidden", has been attacking schools, villages, market places and military barracks and checkpoints this year in increasingly frequent and deadly attacks. Its mission is to create an Islamic state in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation of some 170 million people divided almost equally between Muslims living mainly in the north and Christians in the south.

The military has claimed it has the extremists on the run with near-daily air bombardments and ground assaults on hideouts in forests and mountain caves along the border with Cameroon.


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« Reply #13000 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:28 AM »


Gaddafi sons' war crimes trial begins in Libya amid security fears

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and brother Saadi face accusations of masterminding campaign of murder and torture during civil war

Chris Stephen in Tripoli
theguardian.com, Sunday 13 April 2014 10.55 BST   
 
The war crimes trial of two sons of Libya's former dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, begins amid tight security in Tripoli on Monday, in a case causing sensation at home and controversy among rights groups.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and his younger brother, Saadi, are accused of orchestrating a campaign of murder, torture and bombardment of civilians during Libya's eight-month civil war in 2011.

Appearing with them are Gaddafi's former spy chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, two former prime ministers and 34 senior officials: much of the dictatorship's surviving elite.

The trial is going ahead despite much of the country being gripped by violence and the blockading of oil production by rebel militias. Libya's interim prime minister Abdullah al-Thinni resigned on Sunday saying he had faced threats and could not continue, just weeks after he was appointed to the post.

The prime minister said he resigned because of a cowardly attack on his family that had made his position untenable, underlining the chaos of Libya and its domination by militias. It is unclear how congress, opposed by regions in the east and west of the country, can find enough MPs to elect a new prime minister, with only 76 of 200 attending and elections unlikely before August.

Security fears mean that the Gadaffi trial has moved to the capital's maximum security al-Hadba prison, which has been ringed with armoured cars, barbed wire and machine-gun nests.

In a sign of the power of the militias, units holding Saif al-Islam in the mountain town of Zintan have refused to hand him over to the authorities. Instead, he will stand trial over a video link.

The defendants are accused of masterminding a chain of massacres in the early days of Libya's revolution, and of later rounding up, torturing and killing hundreds of opponents. The two brothers are also accused of plundering state coffers to fund extravagant playboy lifestyles abroad.

Until the revolution, Saif al-Islam enjoyed the high life, being entertained at Buckingham Palace and enjoying links with Prince Andrew and Tony Blair.

Saadi, 40, is best known for his failed attempts to become a professional footballer, being signed by three Italian Serie-A clubs in quick succession, but managing just two appearances in three years. Prosecutors say he was responsible for troops firing into the crowd during a Libyan cup final in 1996.

Investigators have released few details of the case, but documents filed by Libya with the international criminal court show an extensive charge sheet, more than 200 witnesses and 40,000 pages of evidence.

Central to the case are telephone intercepts allegedly recording the accused ordering war crimes, and a video that judges in The Hague say is genuine, showing Senussi ordering his followers "to be ready to destroy these filthy groups altogether".

But rights groups say violence against judges and lawyers, which have seen the rule of law suspended across much of the country, leave a question mark over the trial. "Militias and criminals have harassed, intimidated, threatened and in some cases assassinated judges, prosecutors, witnesses," said Hanan Salah, of Human Rights Watch.

Concern about due process was heightened this month with the release of a video made by prison guards, apparently without a lawyer present, showing Saadi supposedly confessing to his crimes.

The trial is also controversial because the international criminal court, which has charged Saif al-Islam and Senussi, has yet to agree to Libyan requests to try both at home.

Judges at The Hague ruled that Saif al-Islam must be sent to the ICC, and his lawyers are appealing against a decision that Libya is fit to try Senussi, 64. His ICC legal team, led by Ben Emmerson QC, say Libya refused them permission to visit their client.

"How can you have a fair trial if they don't let the lawyers visit Senussi or even speak to him by phone?" said Amal Alamuddin, one of the ICC defence team.

Libya insists the trial will be fair and transparent. "I can assure you that the trial will be according to the correct legal procedures," said Ahmed Lamin, a government spokesman.

And Libyans themselves are eager to see the trial of their former tormentors. "This case is going to be an example, not just for the old guys on trial, but for the new guys in power," said a Tripoli photographer Magdi el-Nakua. "The message for the new guys is that any abuses, no matter how you see yourselves, you will be made to account for them."


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« Reply #13001 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:31 AM »

Discontent Swells as President of Algeria Seeks a Fourth Term

By AMIR JALAL ZERDOUMI and CARLOTTA GALL
APRIL 13, 2014

ALGIERS — With a presidential election on Thursday, most Algerians see a fourth term for the incumbent, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, as a foregone conclusion.

Mr. Bouteflika has already been in power 15 years. In the last election in 2009, he was returned to office with an improbable 90 percent of the vote. So tightly controlled is this North African country that, virtually alone in the region, it passed on the Arab Spring.

Yet even as the re-election of Mr. Bouteflika, 77, appears inevitable, his insistence on running again, despite his apparent frail health, has increased popular exasperation, revealed unusual signs of division within the ruling elite and provoked an unlikely show of solidarity among opposition parties, both secular and Islamic, which have united in a call to boycott the election.

Exceptionally, a nascent urban middle-class youth movement, Barakat! (“Enough!” in Arabic), styled along the lines of the protests organized through social media during the Arab Spring, has begun campaigning against another term for Mr. Bouteflika. In recent weeks, it broke a taboo by holding small political protests here on the streets of the capital.

Elsewhere, a violent protest forced the former prime minister, Abdelmalek Sellal, to cancel a rally in support of the president on April 5 in Bejaia, 150 miles east of here, when hundreds of demonstrators blocked streets and threw stones. Part of the cultural center where Mr. Sellal was to speak was burned and police officers and journalists were wounded in hours of clashes, the local media reported.

The signs of discontent tell of the frustration that has surrounded Mr. Bouteflika’s run in a country with about 30 percent unemployment, and where many chafe for change even as many more, perhaps, fear the instability that change might bring. The result has been a kind of political inertia embodied in Mr. Bouteflika and a public apathy about the campaign that may well translate into the low turnout that the opposition desires.

Supporters of the president emphasize his critical role in leading Algeria out of a devastating civil war in the 1990s, which killed 100,000 and began after the military stepped in to nullify elections won by Islamists. Algeria’s leadership has since seen the messy and violent aftermath of the Arab Spring as vindication for the course it took.

In an interview, Ahmed Ouyahia, a three-time former prime minister and current chief of staff who is helping run the president’s campaign, credited Mr. Bouteflika with restoring peace and security after a decade of violence. “This is a priceless achievement,” he said.

“Algerians need a personality who can unite them, especially in this climate of terror instilled by some of the candidates,” he added. “Bouteflika is the most appropriate choice to gather the Algerian people in a national consensus. A large majority of the nation backs him.”

Since spending three months in a Paris hospital last summer, Mr. Bouteflika has been absent largely from public life. His only public outing during the campaign was on April 3 when he appeared on national television during a visit to Algiers by Secretary of State John Kerry.

With a puffy face and glazed eyes, Mr. Bouteflika held on to his chair as he stood to greet Mr. Kerry. When he swapped pleasantries with his visitor, his speech was slurred and inaudible.

While it was far from a reassuring sight for Algerians, the president was “perfectly fit to rule,” Mr. Ouyahia insisted. “He is certainly not comfortable standing up,” he said, “but he doesn’t suffer from any other handicap, whether manual or mental.”

While the president remains cloistered in his palace, he has left the campaigning to Mr. Sellal. The president’s only effort to address his people directly was in a letter distributed by the state news agency, saying he was heeding the “call of the people, civil society, political parties, the unions and mass organizations” to run for re-election, and claiming that “my current health challenges do not seem to disqualify me in your eyes.”

Yet given Mr. Bouteflika’s medical problems, and his already long stretch in power, even before he announced his intention to run again, public sniping broke out between the small circle around the president and the country’s intelligence service, betraying hints of divisions within the normally close and discrete branches of the government.

Unusual for a country where the military rarely speaks out, the media reported a number of retired, high-ranking Army officers criticizing Mr. Bouteflika for running again. Equally rare, some in the privately owned news media declared their “neutrality” in the campaign, rather than endorsing the president, as they had always done.

Conversations with people on the streets of capital revealed signs of division and disaffection as well. Nabila Belatrous, a 47-year-old homemaker from the eastern town of Sétif, voiced support for the president. “You have to know that all women in my hometown will vote for Bouteflika,” she said. ‘’We just like him. He is good to the Algerian woman. Men in Sétif don’t like him, but women do.”

Her 19-year-old daughter, Manel, a student, contradicted her. “She always says that and it irritates my dad,” she said. “I do not know anybody from my generation who is planning to vote. My generation is not concerned, if only because the outcome is so obvious.”

Anticipation of a low turnout has helped unify government opponents.

Idir Tazerout, a journalist from the daily newspaper L’Expression who co-founded the Barakat! movement, said Algerians were fed up with the corrupt and stultifying hold of the ruling party. “Bouteflika’s decision to run for a fourth term was a sort of final straw,” he said. “Algeria is turning into an unsaid monarchy, with all the power in the hands of one family.”

Disgust with the current government was enough to push the Islamic and secular opposition together for the first time.

“The fourth term is the most hideous and repulsive aspect of the state of political collapse of the country,” said Abderrazak Makri, the leader of the Movement for the Society of Peace, the most influential Islamic party. “In a state of law, the fourth term would have been unthinkable, if only because of Bouteflika’s extremely poor health condition.”

Mohsen Belabbes, leader of the secular Rally for Culture and Democracy party, said a boycott was the only option. “This election needs to be discredited in order to avoid offering any kind of legitimacy to the next presidential term,” he said in an interview. The government had already shown its intent to manipulate the outcome, he added.

“They refused our demand for credible international observers, they insist on the election being managed by the ministry of interior instead of an independent commission, and they have denied us access to the voters’ database,” Mr. Belabbes said. “What kind of presidential election can we expect from such a regime?”

Mr. Ouyahia, the chief of staff and de facto No. 2 government official, called the opposition’s claims “a distortion of truth,” saying the electoral database was made public during parliamentary elections, in which they participated.

“They advocate democracy,” he said. “Then they should respect this electoral process and let the people choose.”


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« Reply #13002 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:34 AM »


Morocco women march to demand gender equality

AFP
04/14/2014

Rabat (AFP) - A group of around 800 Moroccans, mostly women, staged a march in the capital Rabat on Sunday demanding that a constitutional guarantee of gender equality be applied in the kingdom.

The march from the city centre to parliament was led by the Civil Coalition for the Application of Article 19, which is reportedly made up of some 500 NGOs, and was joined by civil society organisations, lawmakers, rights groups and lawyers.

Participants carried banners demanding a "comprehensive review of all discriminatory laws", "women's safety in public places", and "equality as a right, not a privilege".

Article 19 of Morocco's 2011 constitution guarantees that "men and women enjoy on an equal footing civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and freedoms".

However it has yet to be applied by the country's Islamist-led government.

The protestors accused the government of "stalling the application" of Article 19.

Fawzia El-Asouli, coordinator of the coalition, said that the government was also "stalling in the application of laws that protect women from violence and discrimination".

The group also called for a petition to urge the prime minister to apply laws protecting women's rights.

The coalition citing figures of the State Planning Commission says 62 percent of women in Morocco aged between 18 and 64 have been the victims of violence.

Last year, rights campaigners in the kingdom obtained the amendment of Article 475 of the penal code, which had allowed a rapist to avoid criminal charges by marrying his victim.


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« Reply #13003 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:37 AM »

Israel minister warns John Kerry over ‘surrender’ to Iran

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, April 14, 2014 7:59 EDT

Israel’s intelligence minister Monday slammed as unacceptable comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry on negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme which he said indicated a “surrender” to Tehran.

“The things Kerry said in the Congress are worrying, they are surprising and they are unacceptable,” Yuval Steinitz, who is also strategic affairs minister, told public radio.

“We watch the negotiations with concern. We are not opposed to a diplomatic solution but we are against a solution which is entirely a surrender to Iran and which leaves it a threshold nuclear state,” Steinitz said.

In remarks to US lawmakers last week Kerry warned that the Islamic republic was two months away from breakout capability to produce enough nuclear material for a bomb should they resume their mothballed enrichment process.

Responding to reports that international negotiations with Iran should focus on extending the time it would take for Iran to produce nuclear weapons to between six and 12 months Kerry said the ultimate goal was assurance that Iran never build an atomic bomb but slowing the process would be an improvement on the current situation.

“I think it is fair to say, I think it is public knowledge today, that we are operating with a time period for a so-called breakout of about two months,” Kerry said.

“So six months to 12 months is — I’m not saying that’s what we’d settle for — but even that is significantly more,” he added.

Steinitz insisted that Israel would not allow such a scenario.

“We will not be able to adopt and accept any agreement which leaves Iran months or a year from a nuclear weapon,” he insisted.

Israel, like the United States, has refused to rule out military action to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear arms.

Under an interim agreement reached last year that expires on July 20, Iran froze key parts of its nuclear programme in return for limited sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.

Talks on a permanent agreement are under way between Iran and UN Security Council permanent members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, along with Germany.

After a session in Vienna last week the powers’ chief negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the next round from May 13 would see negotiations “move to the next phase”.

The West and Israel have long suspected Iran of using its nuclear energy programme as a cover for developing atomic weapons, a charge denied by the Islamic republic.

Israel is widely believed to be the only nuclear-armed state in the region, though it has never officially confirmed or denied having such an arsenal.


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« Reply #13004 on: Apr 14, 2014, 06:46 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Republicans Plan Weird and Extreme Voter Suppression Tricks for 2014

By: Adalia Woodbury
PoliticusUSA
Sunday, April, 13th, 2014, 10:35 am   

President Obama also addressed the Republican Party’s marketing ploys to justify laws that everyone knows are intended to suppress the vote.

While recognizing that we need reasonable rules to ensure the integrity of our elections, President Obama said he is against requiring ID that millions of Americans don’t have.

On the question of voter fraud, President Obama used something Republicans don’t believe in – evidence based data.

    One recent study found only 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation in 12 years. Another analysis found that out of 197 million votes cast for federal elections from 2002 to 2005 only 40 voters out of 197 million were indicted for fraud…. Now for those of you who are math majors… the percentage is 0.00002 percent.

Occasionally, Republicans are forced to walk back a vote suppression policy.  For example, Ohio Republicans backed down following a public outcry when they tried to financially penalize the state’s largest county for sending out absentee ballots.

Still, there is no tactic too extreme or too low for the Republican Party to try if they can get away with it. These extend beyond the already unacceptable restrictions on voter and registration ID, shorter voting hours, eliminated weekend voting, reduced or eliminated early voting, reduced or eliminated absentee voting, and eliminated same day registration.

Right Wing media likes to publish stories of reports showing rampant voter fraud. The only problem is the numbers don’t show voter fraud at all.

Last week North Carolina’s Board of Elections released a report which concluded that 35,570 North Carolinians who voted in 2012 had names and birthdates that matched voters in other states. The board also said it found 765 voters whose names, birthdates and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers matched people in other states.

Naturally, the right wing pounced on the report as “proof” that 35,570 people voted twice.

It’s surprising how many real and living people in America share a name and a birthdate, as shown in Michael P. McDonald and Justin Levitt’s study, Seeing Double Voting: An extension of the Birthday Problem.

On the specific case of this report, Levitt told election lawyers in an email:

    I would be very interested indeed in how many of the 35K alleged double voters are the results of mistakes or mistaken assumptions  …. I’m going to bet on the vast majority evaporating upon closer scrutiny.

The lesser number of 765 voters had the additional data point of the last four digits in their social security number matching someone in another state is disconcerting and merits further investigation. However, without further investigation, one cannot automatically assume these are cases of double voting.

Part of this can be explained by clerical errors.  Clerks may mistype the spelling of someone’s name, or mistype their birth data.  Experts say this happens frequently.

People move from one state to another, but can show as registered to vote in two states.  Here is how that happens.  States submit data on voters to a centralized voter cross checking database, such as the one designed by Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.

States submit data on registered voter. A voter moves and registers to vote in their new state.  However, the state they moved from hasn’t flushed the voter’s record yet. Apparently it takes several election cycles for that to happen.  The fact that data isn’t up to date would explain how false positives can occur.  It also explains how inflated numbers can happen.

It does not produce evidence of voter fraud.  As the Institute of Southern Studies reported, Kobach’s office admitted it “couldn’t provide any evidence of a single instance in which the Interstate Crosscheck’s data had led to an actual legal charge of voter fraud.”

There’s the suppression by voter purge tactic, for which Rick Scott is especially famous. Just the number of voters Scott erroneously purged as felons  in 2012 exceed the total number of actual fraud cases in both of the studies President Obama cited.  This doesn’t include the number of people wrongfully purged as non-citizens. It also excludes a number of people that Scott tried to purge after the legal deadline.

Moreover, purging eligible voters is not limited to Florida.

Kansas is investigating what led to an erroneous purge of 4,838 from Cherokee County voter rolls in 2011.  According to Cherokee County Clerk, Rodney Edmonson, people were wrongly purged because they hadn’t voted in two consecutive or state elections, which is not a cause for purging under Kansas law.  The problem doesn’t end there.  Under Kansas law, when a name is selected for removal from the rolls, a confirmation must be mailed to the home in question to verify if the person has moved.  If there isn’t a response to the mailing, that is when a person can be purged from the rolls. However, the confirmation mailing was not sent to most, if not all, of the people wrongfully identified to be purged.

Voter gestapo organizations like the Voter Integrity Project (financed by NC’s Koch friend, Art Pope) are trying to purge voters with pre-election challenges.

In Buncome County, The voter Integrity project tried to get 182 people purged last month. The Board of elections rejected 86 of those challenges.

The 95 remaining challenges  were considered during a 20 minute meeting last week.  According to Asheville-Buncombe League of Women Voters, 85 of the people named during that meeting are registered at a homeless shelter.  If they were homeless, they probably didn’t know about the meeting which would explain why they didn’t appear at it.

Some states have given election gestapo groups like True the Vote and the Voter Integrity Project additional powers on Election Day.

In North Carolina, Art Pope’s election gestapo, the Voter Integrity Project, now has the power to challenge any voter in any district.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, gave the Koch Brother funded True the Vote and other “poll observers” the new power of standing as close as 3 feet from voters  while they are registering to vote and as they are processed by election officials.  This is a form of intimidation because it means these “observers” will be standing in close physical proximity as they are being processed.  Also, voter rolls are public information, but under this new rule, “poll observers” can match a face to a specific name and address.

Local officials are using a variety of tactics guaranteed to create even longer lines.

In one Florida county, half the voting locations  were eliminated. It comes as no surprise that occurred in a district comprised mainly of minority voters.  If the same number of people are voting, but there are dramatically fewer locations at which to vote, wait times will increase substantially.  It also means people will have to travel further to vote, discouraging more voters.

As if that wasn’t enough, some poll places in Dade Country, Florida won’t allow  voters to use restrooms.  This may not sound like a bit deal – unless voters must also wait in line for several hours in order to vote.

Having access to restrooms is something many of us might not realize is a human right.  In California, some activists  are fighting a policy of closing public restrooms several hours a day on the basis that it violates the human rights of homeless people who really have no other acceptable option.  Interestingly, this is roughly the same duration for which certain voters in Miami Dade would be denied access to a restroom.

For some voters, this restriction amounts to a physical bar that will be impossible to overcome in the name of exercising their right to vote.

*****************

Republicans Coming Up With More Legislation to Anger President Obama

By: Dennis S
PoliticusUSA
Sunday, April, 13th, 2014, 9:12 pm      

PoliticusUSA is clearly a progressive website. Oh, an occasional right-winger will offer a snarky and generally ill-informed comment, but for the most part the Jason Easley-founded site leans left. It’s really too bad there are far fewer righty than lefty visitors. Progressives, liberals, Democrats, call them what you will, are mostly aware of the off-putting, counterproductive, politicized, even dangerous bills that come skulking out of the Republican-dominated 113th House of Representatives. Bills intended to be nothing more than red meat for their voracious hoards of fed, Obama, ACA, minority and LGBT haters. But when the truth of the legislation is spelled out on the taffeta of honesty and objectivity, there could be just enough emerging thoughtful Republicans willing to become thoughtful Democrats for the sake of their country and loved ones.

Currently, there are 233 decidedly thoughtLESS house Republicans, whose destructive votes reflect an incredibly narrow political aspect directed away from at least 95% of the population as the billionaire Koch Klub, giant corporations and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) literally define the votes of your elected representatives. A majority of the time, the aforementioned and their net-stocking lobbyists actually write the special interest legislation serving only a tiny, percentage of privileged Americans. House Democrats number 199 with 3 vacancies.

I took a look at the most recent house votes tracked by ‘Roll Call’ in my Sunday paper. Not surprisingly, my state of South Carolina’s House Congressional delegation voted as one. This bunch would save a lot of time and travel expenses by just sending one House member and one Senator to Congressional sessions. There’s almost never any disagreement over their ridiculous votes, the legislation is hardly ever read by the members beyond a cursory staff summary and maybe the first few pages of a bill, so why bother traversing the 500 miles when you could be home shaking your fist with your gaggle of Tea Party lemmings, at the federal government? This same ghastly gov that pays your $174,000 salary, plus benefits and retirement (eligible after 5 years), COLA increases, franking and other dandy perks like permission to make 15% of your congressional salary in outside ventures, a perk that I truly believe is mightily abused by most members.

Here’s the latest legislative cretinism evolving out of our local Republican puppets. Colleague Easley had a nice piece on the president’s reaction to the Republican rejection of equal pay for women. Here are some more particulars. Democrats, trying a little duress in their desperate attempt to get the Republicans to recognize women as valued and equal partners with men in the workplace, tried yet again to see to it that Jane Doe was paid exactly what John Doe was paid for the same work. To put the squeeze on the right, Democrats introduced a motion that would delay enactment of HR 1872, a favored Republican accounting shell game that would threaten funding levels of student loans among other negatives.

Equal pay is long overdue. As Easley pointed out, according to Census Bureau 2011 stats, women are paid 77% of what men earn for the same labors. Let’s carry this a little further. In real money terms in comparing median wages, that’s a dollar differential of over $10,000 a year. You can actually be expected to work 48 years before hanging ‘em up. Lucky John will see his bank account balloon by about a half-million bucks over his equally (and probably more so) hard working colleague, Jane. And some women still vote Republican? Final vote; 179 for equal pay and 217 against. Appalachian Trail (by way of Argentina) horndog, Mark Sanford, predictably rejected the proposal. For a liar and unfaithful husband, what level of respect would you expect? Speaking of lies, Joe Wilson of “you lie” fame, cast an eager no, along with Issa Committee bully, Trey Gowdy, whose patronizing inquisition of Kathleen Sebelius hastened her departure as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Who wants to be badgered by an egomaniacal sexist? More witless anti-woman votes came from Republicans Duncan, Mulvaney and a guy named Tom Rice. Relative newcomer Rice earned his bones by being one of a plethora of simpletons to introduce a bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

There was one pro-woman vote in the state’s delegation; Democrat, James Clyburn.

Another utterly distasteful Republican bill creates “Republican Rules to measure spending.” This heartless piece of junk would make it even easier than it already is for Congress to cut discretionary spending. Sanford, Wilson, Gowdy, Mulvaney and Rice thought it was a great idea. The lone Democrat, Clyburn, voted no. A Democratic motion tried to preserve funding for such programs as student loans, nursing-home safety, educating disabled children, aviation, food safety, veteran’s benefits and local police. In other words, guarantee that no cuts would take place in these programs. Republicans voted the motion down, 191-221. Not even close. Clyburn was the yes vote from SC; the usual suspects, the no votes.

By now, most of you are familiar with the assorted budget plans put up for consideration in the house. Let’s review. The Ryan joke (isn’t it aways?) wants to cut back on Pell Grants, turn Medicaid and food stamps into state-run block-grant programs so when the money is gone – oops! And think of the abuse of red states transferring funds willy nilly all over their budgets. Partially privatizing Medicare is also on the wish list, the hits just keep on coming. Some Republican representatives, thinking with their campaign hats on, voted the budget down, making the final tally pretty close at 219 in favor, 205 against. South Carolina right-wing representatives are so far gone that actually putting thought into a vote never occurs to Sanford and sons. They were unanimous in their approval.

The Democrats and the Black Caucus had the most realistic and humane budgets. Their budgets included increased spending on education, transportation and scientific research among other reasonable programs. To prove that the progressive’s brain throttle was wide open, there was not a mention of funding creationism and intelligent design. Fully funding ACA and bolstering the safety net programs were on the table of the Black Caucus and, yikes, I spied a passage on raising marginal income-tax rates on millionaires. Surprise, surprise, the Republicans and a few of their DINO allies voted this one down 116-300. Ahhh, to be black in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There you have it. Just the latest in the thousands of Republican examples in the form of voting fact, not Fox opinion, of just where Republicans stand in their non-existent service to humanity. Unless there’s war-profiteering in the killing of mostly innocent foreign populations and huge campaign contributions to be had, it will always be thus for the far right radicals.


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