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« Reply #14700 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:09 AM »

3 Killed in a Facebook Blasphemy Rampage in Pakistan

By WAQAR GILLANI
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

LAHORE, Pakistan — A woman and two of her young granddaughters were burned to death Sunday night in the eastern city of Gujranwala after a member of their Ahmadi minority sect was accused of posting a blasphemous picture to Facebook, the police said.

The mob of roughly 1,000 people began rampaging through an Ahmadi neighborhood after being alerted to the photograph, setting houses on fire and injuring at least eight other people, according to the police.

Ahmadis belong to a reform sect rooted in Islam, but under Pakistani law they are forbidden to identify themselves as Muslim. They come under frequent attack, and have often been targeted under Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws.

The blasphemy accusation was brought against Aqib Saleem, an 18-year-old Ahmadi man who was alleged to have uploaded a picture of the Kaaba, the sacred shrine in Mecca toward which Muslims turn when they pray, with a seminude white woman sitting on top.

Officials said that a Muslim friend of Mr. Saleem’s, Saddam Hussein, 18, noticed the Facebook post and alerted others in the neighborhood. Soon, a crowd of about 400, including some Muslim clerics, reached a nearby police station and urged the police to register a blasphemy case. Meanwhile, the larger mob began rampaging around Ahmadi houses in the Arfat neighborhood of Gujranwala, an industrial city in Punjab Province.

Ahmadi community leaders accuse the police of looking the other way while the violent mob ransacked property, obstructed a fire brigade truck and threw stones at ambulances on their way to the scene. At least eight houses were set on fire.

As the flames spread, Bushra Bibi, 55, and two of her granddaughters, a 7-year-old and her 8-month-old sister, were trapped in their house and died of smoke inhalation, officials said. Another Ahmadi woman, who was seven months pregnant, had a miscarriage.

A police official said cases were registered against 400 attackers. “They looted everything and did not even leave windows behind,” a police official said.

“They are killing innocent people over fabricated issues,” said Salimuddin, a local Ahmadi spokesman. He claimed that the accused teenager’s Facebook password had been stolen, and that someone offensively edited the picture of the holy Muslim site.

Attacks against religious minorities have become a norm in Pakistan, where Islamic extremist groups have been operating more openly than ever and have been able to harass and kill minorities with near-total impunity.

Four years ago, at least 86 Ahmadis were killed in coordinated attacks in Lahore when armed gunmen belonging to banned Islamist groups assaulted Ahmadi places of worship.

Rights activists and Ahmadi community members strongly condemned the latest attacks.

“The people who were killed were not even indirectly accused of blasphemy charges. Their only fault was that they were Ahmadis,” said Zohra Yusuf, chairwoman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “Torching women and children in their house simply because of their faith represents brutalization and barbarianism stooping to new levels.”


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« Reply #14701 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:10 AM »


Kandahar suicide attack kills cousin of Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai

Death of Hashmat Karzai, a close ally of the outgoing Afghan president, threatens to pitch country into worsening instability

Agence France-Presse in Kandahar
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 09.20 BST   

A cousin and close ally of the outgoing Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been killed in a suicide attack in the volatile southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday, officials said, raising tensions during a struggle over the contested election result.

Hashmat Karzai was a campaign manager in Kandahar for Ashraf Ghani, one of the two presidential candidates involved in a bitter dispute over fraud that threatens to pitch the country into worsening instability.

Hashmat Karzai, who famously owned a pet lion, was killed by a man with explosives hidden inside his turban when visitors arrived to celebrate Eid, the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"A suicide bomber disguised as a guest came to Hashmat Karzai's house to greet him," Dawa Khan Minapal, the Kandahar provincial governor's spokesman, told AFP.

"After he hugged Hashmat, he blew up his explosives and killed him."

Ghani and opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah are at loggerheads over the 14 June second-round election, which has been mired in allegations of massive fraud.

Ghani won the vote according to preliminary results, but an audit of the ballots is under way after Abdullah refused to accept defeat due to fraud claims.

With the audit triggering another outbreak of complaints from both sides, many fear the country could be at risk of a revival of the ethnic violence seen during the 1992-96 civil war.

Hashmat Karzai first worked in this year's presidential election campaign for Qayyum Karzai, the president's brother, and later moved to support Ghani when Qayyum withdrew from the race.


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« Reply #14702 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:15 AM »

China Says Zhou Yongkang, Former Security Chief, Is Under Investigation

By CHRIS BUCKLEY
JULY 29, 2014
IHT

HONG KONG — In President Xi Jinping’s most audacious move yet to impose his authority by targeting elite corruption, the Communist Party on Tuesday announced an investigation of Zhou Yongkang, the retired former head of domestic security who accumulated vast power while his family accumulated vast wealth.

Mr. Zhou, who retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in late 2012, is the most senior party figure ever to face a formal graft inquiry. Until now, no standing or retired member of the Standing Committee has faced a formal investigation by the party’s anticorruption agency.

The party leadership has “decided to establish an investigation of Zhou Yongkang for grave violations of discipline,” Xinhua, the state-run news agency, reported Tuesday, citing a decision by the party’s anticorruption agency. The terse announcement gave no details of the charges against Mr. Zhou.

Until now, the detention and investigation of Mr. Zhou has been secretive and unconfirmed by the government, although known among party insiders and reported abroad.

Charges against Mr. Zhou could well center on the fortunes made by members of his family, often in sectors once under his sway. An investigation by The New York Times showed that Mr. Zhou’s son, a sister-in-law and his son’s mother-in-law held assets worth some $1 billion, much of it in the oil and gas sector that was Mr. Zhou’s political fiefdom, where he could shape decisions and promotions. That estimate was based on publicly available records and a limited assessment of their companies’ value and did not include real estate or overseas assets, which are more difficult to identify and assess.

Mr. Zhou, 71, retired from the party leadership in November 2012, at the same congress that appointed Mr. Xi the top leader, but he remained a potentially dangerous adversary, with ties to more senior retired figures.

Graft investigations have already shaken his bases of influence in Sichuan Province in the southwest; in the nation’s biggest oil and gas conglomerate, the China National Petroleum Corporation; and in the country’s police and civilian intelligence services. Mr. Zhou passed through all these areas during his career, and used his influence to install protégés.

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

Microsoft faces monopoly investigation in China

US software company becomes latest foreign firm to go under Beijing's scrutiny following government ban on Windows 8

Agence France-Presse in Shanghai
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 09.00 BST   

A Chinese investigation into Microsoft is probably targeting its "monopoly" of the country's operating systems market, state media have said, after the US software company became the latest foreign firm to go under Beijing's scrutiny.

Microsoft confirmed in a statement late on Monday that it was under investigation in China, without disclosing details.

"We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect, and we will address any concerns the government may have," it said.

The inquiry comes after China in May banned the use of Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system on all new government computers, amid reports alleging security concerns.

The same month, the US indicted five members of a Chinese military unit for allegedly hacking American companies for trade secrets.

Officials of China's state administration for industry and commerce (Saic) have visited Microsoft offices in Beijing, commercial hub Shanghai, southern metropolis Guangzhou and south-west Chengdu city, state media said.

"Microsoft's operating system software occupies a 95% share of the market in China, forming a de facto monopoly," the National Business Daily said on Tuesday.

An employee of Microsoft China linked the visits to the company's monopoly in China's operating system market, the China Business News said, without naming the individual. It quoted another industry source tying the case to Microsoft's practice of bundling its products together for sale.

Saic officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment by AFP.

Microsoft has previously faced anti-trust investigations in other markets for tying its Windows system to other products.

The US company was fined $731m (£430m) by the European commission in March last year for failing to offer users' browser choices beyond its own Internet Explorer.

Since last year, China has launched a sweeping investigation into alleged wrongdoings by foreign companies in several sectors, including the pharmaceutical and milk powder industries.


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« Reply #14703 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:27 AM »

Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces as world pleads for truce

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, July 28, 2014 14:50 EDT

Exchanges of fire killed eight Palestinian children in a Gaza refugee camp and four people in Israel on Monday, shattering hopes for an end to three weeks of devastating violence.

The missile that slammed into a public playground in the seafront Shati UN refugee camp also killed at least two other people and wounded another 46, many of them also children, the emergency services said.

Soon after, a security source said five Gaza militants were killed in a shootout with troops in southern Israel. Hamas’s armed wing claimed it killed 10 Israeli soldiers in a raid in the same area, and denied it lost any men.

The latest bloodshed pushed the Palestinian death toll from violence in and around the coastal enclave to more than 1,050.

Palestinian medical sources blamed the refugee camp killings on the Israeli military, with witnesses saying the missiles had been fired from a fighter jet.

“An F-16 fired five rockets at a street in Shati camp where children were playing, killing some of them and injuring many more,” one told AFP.

Inside Shifa hospital, an AFP correspondent saw the bodies of at least seven children from the blast at the camp, with more bodies being brought in on bloodied stretchers.

They were unloaded and taken directly to the mortuary.

The Israeli military categorically denied any attack, and said Hamas had aimed the rockets at Israel but that they misfired and hit the camp.

It also blamed an early attack inside the compound of Gaza’s biggest hospital on militant rocket fire that fell short of Israel and struck in the Palestinian territory.

In Israel, at least four people were killed when a mortar round fired from Gaza hit an administrative building in the Eshkol regional council, media reports said, in what was the biggest civilian loss of life inside the Jewish state since the start of the violence.

The latest deaths came after a brief lull in the fighting in Gaza for the beginning of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, torpedoing hopes of a ceasefire despite intense international pressure for an end to the conflict.

- Abbas mission to Cairo -

Following increasingly urgent calls by the UN and the US for an “immediate ceasefire,” a senior source in the West Bank said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was heading to Cairo with Hamas representatives for fresh talks on ending the violence in Gaza.

“Abbas is forming a Palestinian delegation including Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives to meet Egyptian leaders and discuss a halt to Israel’s aggression against Gaza,” the source told AFP, without saying when the talks would take place.

“The aim is to examine with Egyptian leaders how to meet Palestinian demands and put an end to the aggression,” he said.

Earlier US President Barack Obama phoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand an “immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire”, in a call echoed hours later by the UN Security Council.

As diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodletting which has claimed over a thousand lives, both sides appeared to have settled into an undeclared ceasefire arrangement with the skies over Gaza mostly quiet.

Military spokesman General Moti Almoz described the calm as “an unlimited lull” but warned that the army was ready to resume its activity at any time.

The army said two rockets had struck Israel since midnight (2100 GMT) while in Gaza, an AFP correspondent confirmed there had been no overnight air strikes, although sporadic raids resumed in the afternoon with a four-year-old boy and another person killed by tank shelling near the northern town of Jabaliya.

Another three succumbed to their wounds overnight.

- ‘Eid of martyrs’ -

There was little mood for celebration in Gaza City as the three-day festival of Eid al-Fitr that ends the holy fasting month of Ramadan got under way.

Several hundred people arrived for early-morning prayers at the Al-Omari mosque, bowing and solemnly whispering their worship. But instead of going to feast with relatives, most went straight home while others went to pay their respects to the dead.

Among them was Ahed Shamali whose 16-year-old son who was killed by a tank shell several days ago.

“He was just a kid,” he said, standing by the grave. “This is the Eid of the martyrs.”

Obama’s demand for an “immediate, unconditional” ceasefire has strained US-Israeli ties and put Netanyahu in a tight spot with hardliners in his government, commentators say.

And US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday international efforts to agree a Gaza ceasefire must lead to the disarmament of Hamas.

It came after the UN Security Council appealed for both sides to accept an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire” to permit the urgent delivery of aid, in a non-binding statement which elicited disappointment from the Palestinian envoy.

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

Israel says Gaza campaign will continue 'until mission is accomplished'

House of Ismail Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, hit by missile after suggestions of a major escalation of military action in Gaza

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.48 BST   

Link to video: Israel vows to continue to act with force as nine children are killed in Gaza

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jul/28/israel-vows-to-act-with-force-netanyahu-nine-children-killed-gaza-video

The war in Gaza erupted afresh on Monday as Israel warned of a protracted military campaign to destroy cross-border tunnels and disarm Hamas and other militant groups.

"We need to be prepared for a long operation until our mission is accomplished," Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a televised press conference, rejecting mounting international calls for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

Just after midnight , reports from Gaza described flares lighting up the sky amid intense shelling, with drones flying overhead. Gaza's interior ministry announced that the house of a Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was hit by a missile. No immediate casualties were reported.

Netanyahu – who described the conflict as a "just war" – spoke after a series of dramatic events following a lull in fighting on Sunday and early Monday. Eight children playing in a park in a Gaza refugee camp were killed, the main public hospital was struck, four Israeli soldiers were killed in a mortar attack and militants from Gaza infiltrated Israel through a tunnel.

Israel Defence Forces warned residents of neighbourhoods in northern Gaza – including Shujai'iya, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the three-week war – to evacuate immediately, suggesting a major escalation of military action was imminent.

Benny Gantz, Israel's military chief of staff, and defence minister Moshe Ya'alon also said the operation would continue as long as necessary. "Gaza residents should distance themselves from areas in which Hamas is acting because we will get there and it will be painful," Gantz said.

The renewed bloodshed added urgency to international calls for a ceasefire. Earlier on Monday the UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council's call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both sides end the fighting "in the name of humanity".

The statements from the three men directing the military offensive on Gaza will gratify hawkish cabinet ministers and media commentators who have been stridently urging an expansion of the operation to try to deal a decisive blow to Hamas.

But Israel's decision to press ahead with the operation risks alienating its key ally, the US, after Barack Obama told Netanyahu of his concern over civilian casualties.

Eight children and two adults were killed, and dozens more injured, at the seafront Shati refugee camp on Monday. At the same time the Shifa hospital in Gaza City was hit. The incidents followed the end of a 24-hour unilateral ceasefire declared by Hamas to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Israel categorically denied its forces were responsible for the strike on the hospital or the camp, saying rockets launched by militants had misfired. But medical staff and other witnesses insisted missiles were fired at the hospital from an F-16 jet. Israel has previously accused Hamas militants of hiding in the hospital premises."We have not fired on the hospital or on Shati refugee camp," Major Arye Shalicar told AFP. "We know that Hamas was firing from both areas and the missiles struck these places."

In southern Israel a Palestinian mortar strike from Gaza killed four soldiers, the IDF said. A fifth soldier was killed in southern Gaza, bringing total military casualties to 48. A number of others were wounded in the attack. It was not confirmed whether the victims were military personnel or civilians.

At least one militant among a group which infiltrated Israel through a tunnel was killed as the men emerged near a community close to the border. Hamas said 10 Israeli soldiers had lost their lives but there was no confirmation from Israel.Warning sirens were reported in northern Israel, including the city of Haifa, suggesting Hamas could be deploying long-range missiles in its arsenal.

Earlier, following the end of the ceasefire at 2pm, there was renewed rocket fire from Gaza. The IDF warned that it would respond to rocket fire with further air strikes. "The IDF is free to attack after any fire if there is any," Brig Gen Motti Almoz told Israel Radio.

In New York Ban accused Netanyahu and Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mishal of being morally wrong for allowing civilians to be killed.

He urged both sides to demonstrate political will and compassionate leadership to end the bloodshed.

Gaza was in a "critical condition" after three weeks of military offensive, which raised serious questions about proportionality, he told reporters.

The UN and Obama had also called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The calls followed a series of unilateral ceasefire announcements by both sides, each of which was rejected by the other amid mutual blame and recrimination.

A presidential statement issued by the UN security council just after midnight in New York on Sunday, called on the parties to the conflict "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond" and "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative".

It noted "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties" and called for Israel and Hamas to respect international law.

Obama told Netanyahu of his concern at the rising number of civilian deaths and urged an immediate, unconditional ceasefire. He stressed the importance of "ensuring Israel's security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority".

However, in his television address on Monday night, Netanyahu vowed: "We will not end this operation without neutralising the tunnels whose sole purpose is killing our citizens."

According to the UN, more than 20 hospitals and medical centres have been hit by Israeli shelling and about 1,060 people – mostly civilians – killed, with 6,000 injured. The Israeli death toll exceeded 50.

In Egypt, former president Mohamed Morsi who was overthrown in a military coup a year ago praised the "resistance" in Gaza.

"Our compass is set on supporting Palestine against the usurping occupier and we are with any resistance against any occupier," Morsi said in a message posted on his official Facebook page. "A full salute to those who resist and to the revolutionaries."

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed under the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

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

Gaza pounded by Israel after Netanyahu promises prolonged battle

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem and agencies
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 10.35 BST   

Israel increased its attacks on Gaza on Monday night

Gaza endured a night of relentless bombardment that brought some of the heaviest pounding since the start of the conflict three weeks ago, in the hours after the Israeli political and military leadership warned of a protracted offensive.

Palestinian officials say more than 110 people have been killed in Gaza in the past 24 hours.

Israeli forces targeted key strategic targets, including the home of the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and a building housing Hamas-controlled broadcast outlets.

Haniyeh's home was hit by a missile shortly before dawn, causing damage but no injuries. Eleven people were killed in a strike on a house in Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City.

Shells hit fuel tanks at Gaza's only power plant, causing a massive explosion and black smoke to billow into the air. The plant's capacity - already down to about three hours' electricity supply a day - is likely to be further reduced.

Hamas said al-Aqsa TV and al-Aqsa Radio were also targeted. The television station continued to broadcast but the radio station went silent.

The Israel Defence Forces struck 150 targets in total during the course of the night. Sirens warning of rocket fire sounded across southern Israel.

The IDF said overnight that five soldiers had died in a gun battle on Monday with militants who crossed into Israel via a tunnel near the community of Nahal Oz, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

The incident raised to 10 the number of military fatalities for the day, bringing the total to 53. Four others were killed in a mortar attack and another died in clashes in the south of Gaza.
A building within the Gaza port on fire after Israeli bombardment. A building within the Gaza port on fire after Israeli bombardment. Photograph: Loulou D'aki/AFP/Getty Images

Hamas's armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, claimed it had killed 19 Israeli soldiers on Monday and a total of 110 during the military campaign.

Speaking at a televised press conference on Monday evening, the Israeli prime minister warned that the operation would step up, in remarks that flouted international pressure for a ceasefire. "We need to be prepared for a protracted campaign. We will continue to act with force and discretion until our mission is accomplished," said Binyamin Netanyahu.

The IDF continued to categorically deny that its forces were responsible for hits on Shati refugee camp and the Shifa hospital on Monday. At least eight children were killed at Shati while playing in a park.
Gaza conflict timeline

The military released an aerial photograph that it said showed rockets fired by militants had fallen short. In a statement it said red lines drawn over the photograph indicated “the paths of the four terrorist rockets, as detected by IDF radars and sensors, that were launched in the attacks that resulted in one hitting the Al-Shifa hospital and one hitting the Shati refugee camp. Of the other two rockets, one landed at sea and the other was intercepted on its way to the city of Ashkelon.”

Witnesses in Gaza said missiles had been fired from Israeli F-16 jets. A spokesman for the interior ministry in Gaza, Iyad al-Buzm, said explosives experts from the Gaza police had examined "the targeted places and the remnants of shells there" as well as the wounds on the bodies, determining them to be from an Israeli strike.

The Palestinian death toll stood at around 1,100, mostly civilians. Two Israeli civilians and a Thai agricultural worker have been killed in rocket fire in the past three weeks.

The renewed bloodshed followed growing international calls for a ceasefire. On Monday the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council’s earlier call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both Israel and Hamas end the fighting “in the name of humanity”.
Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City early Tuesday Israeli forces' flares light up the night sky of Gaza City early Tuesday. Photograph: Khalil Hamra/AP

The US president, Barack Obama, told Netanyahu by phone on Sunday of his concern at civilian casualties. He also pressed for an immediate ceasefire.

Meanwhile there were fresh clashes in East Jerusalem between Palestinian protesters against the war in Gaza and Israeli security forces.

Monday evening's statements from the three men directing the Israeli military offensive on Gaza – Netanyahu, defence minister Moshe Ya'alon and military chief of staff Benny Gantz – will gratify hawkish cabinet ministers and media commentators who have been stridently urging an expansion of the operation in order to deal a decisive blow to Hamas.

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

Deadly blasts in Israel and Gaza threaten fragile truce

Missiles strike refugee camp and hospital compound, as four Israelis die in mortar attack near Gaza border

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 17.47 BST   

The war in Gaza threatened to erupt again on Monday following a lull in fighting after several children and adults were killed when missiles struck a refugee camp and the compound of Gaza's biggest public hospital, and four Israelis died in a mortar attack near the Gaza border.

The renewed bloodshed added urgency to international calls for a ceasefire. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated the security council's call for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire, demanding that both Israel and Hamas end the fighting "in the name of humanity".

The Israel Defence Forces later warned residents of neighbourhoods in northern Gaza – including Sujiai'iya, the scene of some of the most intense fighting in the three-week war – to evacuate immediately, suggesting an escalation of military action was imminent.

Ten people were reportedly killed at the beachfront Shati refugee camp shortly after the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the scene of countless horrors in the past three weeks, was struck on Monday afternoon.

The incidents followed the end of a 24-hour unilateral ceasefire declared by Hamas to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Israel swiftly denied that its forces were responsible for the strike on the hospital, saying rockets launched by militants had misfired, contradicting reports from medical staff and other witnesses. Israel has previously accused Hamas militants of hiding in the hospital premises.

In southern Israel, a Palestinian mortar strike from Gaza killed four people, Israeli medical officials said. A number of others had been wounded in the attack, they said. It was not confirmed whether the victims were military or civilian.

Following the end of the Hamas-declared 24-hour ceasefire at 2pm, there was renewed rocket fire from Gaza. Warning sirens sounded across southern Israel, and the Israeli authorities reported several rockets landing on open ground.

The Israel Defence Forces warned that it would respond to rocket fire with further air strikes. "The IDF is free to attack after any fire," Israel's chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, told Israel Radio.

In New York, Ban accused the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mishal of being "morally wrong" for allowing civilians to be killed in the conflict. He urged both sides to demonstrate "political will" and "compassionate leadership" to end the bloodshed.

Gaza was in a "critical condition" following three weeks of military offensive which raised "serious questions about proportionality", he told reporters.

According to the United Nations, more than 20 hospitals and medical centres have been hit by Israeli shelling since the start of the conflict, three weeks ago on Tuesday. The World Health Organisation said it was "appalled by the continuing trend for healthcare facilities, staff and vehicles to come under direct fire in Gaza since the escalation of violence".

The UN and US president Barack Obama called for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire. The calls followed a series of unilateral ceasefire announcements by both sides, each of which was rejected by the other amid mutual blame and recrimination.

A statement issued by the UN security council just after midnight in New York, called on the parties to the conflict "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond" and "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative".

It noted "grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties" and called for Israel and Hamas to respect international law.

Obama told Netanyahu of his concern at the rising number of civilian deaths and urged an immediate, unconditional ceasefire.

Saying the US backed a ceasefire plan tabled two weeks ago by Egypt, Obama stressed the importance of "ensuring Israel's security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza's humanitarian crisis and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza's long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority".

But amid a confusing sequence of temporary ceasefires, there was little sign of a longer-term deal to end the military confrontation. The US secretary of state, John Kerry, returned to Washington at the weekend after his efforts to forge a ceasefire agreement between the two sides failed.

Kerry said the work to continue an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire would continue.

"Our discussions over there succeeded in putting a 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire in place," he said, adding that there were "regrettably" misunderstandings, between both sides, about the terms of the short pause in fighting.

Kerry said the immediate humanitarian break in conflict was an essential precursor to a more permanent cessation in hostilities.

"We believe that the momentum generated by a humanitarian ceasefire is the best way to be able to begin to negotiate and find out if you can put in place a sustainable ceasefire – one that addresses all of the concerns."

He said that while the underlying causes of the conflict "obviously [would] not all be resolved" in the context of a sustainable ceasefire, it was essential to begin the process.

Kerry said any process to resolve the crisis in a lasting way "must lead to the disarmament of Hamas".

Mishal told PBS that Israel must end its occupation. "We are not fanatics. We are not fundamentalists. We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers," he said.

In Egypt, former president Mohamed Morsi, who was overthrown in a military coup a year ago, praised the "resistance" in Gaza.

"Our compass is set on supporting Palestine against the usurping occupier and we are with any resistance against any occupier," he said in a message posted on his official Facebook page. "A full salute to those who resist and to the revolutionaries."

Hamas is an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which has been outlawed under the regime of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

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

Baby born by emergency caesarean after mother dies in Gaza shelling

Doctors save newborn after woman who was eight months pregnant was buried by rubble at her home in Deir al-Balah

Agence France-Presse in Gaza   
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 19.33 BST   

When the doctors gently pulled the tiny newborn from the womb in an emergency caesarean, her mother had already been dead for an hour.

Shayma al-Sheikh Qanan, 23, was eight months pregnant when an Israeli tank shell hit her home in the central Gaza strip town of Deir al-Balah, reducing it to rubble. She was left in a critical condition. Her husband, a local radio journalist, was also badly wounded.

"Her body was brought in after an Israeli shelling at 3am on Friday," said Fadi al-Kharti, a doctor at Deir al-Balah hospital. "We tried to revive her but she had died on the way."

Before paramedics managed to dig her out, she had been stuck under the rubble of her home for an hour. "Then we noticed movement in her stomach, and estimated she was about 36 weeks pregnant," he says. Doctors performed an immediate caesarean and saved the baby, who was named after her late mother.

For 43-year-old Mirfat Qanan, it was a tragedy to lose her daughter, but there was joy at becoming a grandmother.

"God has protected this child for me. My daughter Shayma is dead, but I now have a new daughter," she said. "She'll call me 'mummy' just like her mother did."

The newborn was being looked after in the intensive care unit in another hospital in Khan Yunis to ensure her survival. Now four days old, she was breathing through an oxygen mask in the hospital's maternity ward.

Abdel Karim al-Bawab, head doctor at the ward, said staff were keeping a close eye on the baby to monitor her condition. "Her vital signs are stable, but she must stay here in this state for at least three more weeks," he said.

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

Life under fire in Gaza: the diary of a Palestinian

What's it like for families struggling to survive in Gaza? A Palestinian author describes the overcrowding and shortages, the horror of seeing familiar places reduced to rubble – and the constant fear of death

Atef Abu Saif
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.15 BST   

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Yesterday evening, my sister-in-law, Huda, her son and three daughters had to move to the place where we are staying, in Jabalia Camp. They usually live to the south of Gaza City, in an area called Tal al Hawa, its southernmost tip. For the past five days, tanks have bombarded the area. In one of these attacks, large chunks of debris from a house nearby flew in through the windows; half of another house inside Huda’s house.

My sister-in-law says they are used to this kind of thing. In the 2008-9 war, half the house collapsed when a rocket made a direct hit, entering horizontally through the lounge window. Her husband, Hatim, has refused to come with her to Jabalia this time, however. Nobody remains on their street but him. Over the past couple of years, he has developed a passion for keeping birds. He has converted one room in his house into an aviary, in which he raises around 50 different kinds of birds, including hummingbirds, pigeons and sparrows. He prefers to stay and take care of his birds – who else will look after them?

Now there are 14 of us living in my father-in-law’s house. The house consists of just two rooms. This morning, there is a long queue for the bathroom. Once inside, you hear nothing but the calls of those queuing, encouraging you to finish as fast as you can.

Over the past week, most houses have started to face water shortages. My father spends most of his day watching the level in his water tank, obsessively. The other day he had to carry water in bottles from the neighbours’ tank. He himself is hosting two extra families inside his little house – that of my sister with her 12 family members, and that of his uncle with his five family members – as well as the family of my brother, Ibrahim.

Queues are everywhere now. A few days ago, we were living a normal life – waking at 8am, washing our faces, brushing our teeth, having breakfast, starting our days and whatever our daily routines entailed. Now we have to abandon those routines and live according to each and every moment.

Life is getting complicated. You wish that you were simpler and could accept things more easily. My little girl, Jaffa, who is 19 months old, was utterly terrified in the first week of the war. We couldn’t bring ourselves to explain what the sounds of the explosions were, but she could easily understand the fear written on our faces when we heard each one. After a week, we started to tell her that these were the sounds of a door being closed quickly by Naem, her older brother. Jaffa accepted this and started to adapt to the situation. She even played with the idea. When hearing each explosion, she now shouts, “The dooooooor!”, and then calls out to Naem to stop slamming it. In Jaffa’s logic, someone is slamming a door to keep us all imprisoned in this situation. Each door slam is a door slammed shut on the opportunity for peace. Each cry from Jaffa to her brother Naem to stop shutting the door is fruitless.

Thursday 24 July

The worst thing is when you realise that you no longer understand what is going on. Throughout the night, the tanks, drones, F16 fighter jets and warships haven’t let up for a minute. The explosions are constant, always sounding as if they’re just next door. Sometimes you’re convinced that they’re in your very room, that you’ve finally been hit. Then you realise, it’s another miss. My mobile has a flat battery, so I’m unable to listen to the news. Instead, I lie in the dark and guess what’s going on, make up my own analysis.

In time, you start to distinguish between the different types of attack. By far the easiest distinction you learn to make is between an air attack, a tank attack, and an attack from the sea. The shells coming in from the sea are the largest in size, and the boom they make much deeper than anything else you hear. It’s an all-engulfing, all-encompassing sound: you feel as if the ground itself is being swallowed up. Tank rockets, by comparison, give off a much hollower sound. Their explosions leave more of an echo in the air, but you don’t feel it so much from beneath. A rocket dropped from an F16 produces an unmistakable, brilliant white light, as well as a long reverberation. A bomb from an F16 makes the whole street dance a little, sway for a good 30 seconds or so. You feel you might have to jump out of the window any minute, to escape the collapse. Different from all these, though, is the rocket you get from a drone. This rocket seems to have more personality – it projects a sharp yellow light up in to the sky. A few seconds before a drone strike, this bright light spreads over the sky, as if the rocket is telling us: it’s dinner time, time to feast.

These are just impressions, of course. But when you sit each night in your living room waiting for death to not knock at your door, or send you a text message, telling you, “Death’s coming in one minute’s time,” when you are unable to answer the one question your kids need an answer to (“When is it going to end, Dad?”), when you struggle to summon the strength you need each day, just to get through that day … in these situations, which are, of course, all the same situation, what else can you do, but form “impressions”.

War teaches you how to adapt to its logic, but it doesn’t share its biggest secret, of course: how to survive it. For instance, whenever there’s a war on, you have to leave your windows half-open, so the pressure from the blasts doesn’t blow them out. To be even safer, you should cover every pane with adhesive tape, so that when it does break, the shards don’t fly indoors, or fall on people in the street below. It goes without saying you should never sleep anywhere near a window. The best place to sleep, people say, is near the stairs, preferably under them. The shell that fell two nights ago landed 150 metres away, smack in the middle of the Jabalia cemetery. The dead do not fight wars, but on this occasion they were forced to participate in the suffering of the living. The next morning dirty, grey bones lay scattered about the broken gravestones.

Friday 25 July

I only realise it’s a Friday when the prayers from the mosque start up. In a war, days no longer matter. Everything is tied to its rhythm, its discourse, its sounds and silences.

This morning I decide to go into Gaza City to see the centre. A young man is driving a horse and cart carrying mattresses and pillows, which presumably he plucked from the ruins of his house, in the direction of some shelter, in one of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools, I imagine. The man calls out to another on the street: “What day of Ramadan is it?” “The 27th,” comes his reply. This means that Eid is just three or four days from today. Normally, by this point, we would already be preparing for the celebrations. Every corner of the city would be strung with lights; shops would be open day and night, heaving with all the latest must-haves – mostly beautiful clothes that we ought to be wearing for Eid. Eid has its own smell and taste, you can’t mistake it.

But not this year. Now, everything is closed. All I can see is debris, collapsed buildings, huge ugly gaps where buildings used to be, ruins. Rubble is the only permanent image I have when I close my eyes.

Women, babies, old men, young boys and girls – all start to move slowly down in Unknown Soldier’s Square. They’re beginning to wake up; a few are still stretched out, asleep on the pieces of cardboard or material they’ve brought with them – few are lucky enough to have mattresses – and which they’ve spread out over the square’s gardens to spend the night on. This was the safest they could do in terms of refuge: the open air. The UNRWA schools, acting as refugee camps across Gaza, have been full for more than a week. The horrors these people have seen, the death they’ve been forced to taste back home, has been enough to make them drop everything and spend the night exposed like this: either in the Unknown Soldier’s gardens, or on the triangular-shaped patch of grass in the middle of Omar al Mokhtar Street, opposite the Palestinian Legislative Council. These gardens normally represent glamorous parts of the city; they are surrounded by expensive shops, the best restaurants. Now the gardens have become just another refugee camp. As I walk through them, I see that the fountains, at least, are providing a distraction for some of the boys now camped among them – they’re making the most of the cold water, stripping off and reclaiming the fountains as swimming pools, determined to make a little paradise of their own in this hell.

Suddenly an F16 breaks the sound barrier above us, rattling the square with its sonic boom. All necks crane as we scan the sky for a glimpse of where the rocket might land. A few seconds later we hear it: the F16 has taken its meal somewhere in Al Rimal neighbourhood. Like everyone else in the street, I run to the safest possible place: the centre of the street. On such occasions, you learn to keep away from any buildings still intact. I run along the centre of the street, along with everyone else, towards the ruins of the Al Isra Tower, which was hit a week ago and in which many families died. This was one of first tall buildings to be built in Gaza after the peace accords of 1994. Architecturally, it was quite impressive. Now it’s just a hill of rubble; no reason for a rocket to strike here. Back in Jabalia, my wife Hanna is fighting with the children over whether they should be allowed to go outside. They want to see the street and breathe the outside air. Even when they try to stand at the window, to look out over at the refugee-filled school across the street, Hanna snatches them back. My boy, Mostafa, wants to go my father’s house, to play with his cousins there. “No is no,” Hanna insists. They look at me pleadingly. I suggest that I take them with me this evening. What Hanna does not know, and I keep a secret from her, is that when I take the kids to my father’s place, which is just four minutes’ walk, the kids spend most of their time in the internet cafes next door, playing computer games.

Every day I quarrel with Hanna about this. In the end, I take the kids for a few hours before bringing them back. Every minute of our walk there we are at risk. Every step we take is another risk. As I hurry towards my father’s place, holding their hands, I pray the unthinkable doesn’t happen.

Saturday 26 July

It has now been 40 hours with no electricity. The water was also cut off yesterday. Electricity is a constant issue in Gaza. Since the Strip’s only power station was bombed in 2008, Gazans have had at best 12 hours of electricity a day. These 12 hours could be during the day, or while you are fast asleep; it’s impossible to predict. Complaining about it gets you nowhere. For three weeks we’ve barely had two or three hours a day. And right now, we would be happy with just one.

These blackouts affect every part of your life. Your day revolves around that precious moment the power comes back on. You have to make the most of every last second of it. First, you charge every piece of equipment that has a battery: your mobile, laptop, torches, radio, etc. Second, you try not to use any equipment while it’s being charged – to make the most of that charge. Next you have to make some hard decisions about which phone calls to take, which emails or messages to reply to. Even when you make a call, you have to stop yourself from straying into any “normal” areas of conversation – they’re a waste of power.

On Friday night, my friend Hisham, who works at Beit Hanoun Hospital, phoned to say that they had been bombed. Shells struck the x-ray room and the operating theatre. People, patients, doctors, and nurses were all terrified. Hisham’s three-minute description of the chaos was concluded with the insistence that some kind of intervention from the Red Cross or the UN must come. Hundreds of families were camping out in the gardens of the hospital, having nowhere else to go. I phoned Palestine TV and told them that people were trapped in Beit Hanoun Hospital and that they should make a plea to the Red Cross and UN. I was at my friend Husain’s place at the time with another friend, Abu Aseel, smoking nargila in the darkness. It was nearly midnight on the Friday, so I headed off towards my place.

There were several UNRWA schools-turned-refugee camps on my way home. I visited the second of them, where my friend Ali Kamal, who works as a teacher there, is part of the team taking care of the displaced people. In the administration room, Kamal was wearing a UN bulletproof vest. We sat outside, in front of the school, and he told me that the school is hosting some 2,450 persons, equating to 430 families. They serve each family one proper meal a day, plus a few biscuits. As we talked, I stared at the queue of people on one side, waiting to receive blankets from a window, and at another queue on the other, waiting to receive food. Kamal works a 24-hour shift, then goes home for 24 hours, before returning.

One of the school’s refugees, from the Ghabin family, went out yesterday afternoon to see his house and check on his animals in the field behind it. He was shot by a tank. His family and relatives organised a funeral for him inside the school. Sad faces, bitter eyes, terrible silences all under this metal ceiling – one that used to hang over a sports room where boys played, now a place for tributes and condolences.

Before I left, at around 2am on Saturday morning, news spread through the school that there would be a 12-hour humanitarian truce starting at 8am. You always greet talk of truces and ceasefires with a degree of scepticism. But in the school, everyone responded to it optimistically, planning their return to their homes and farms.

In the morning, the first question I ask when I open my eyes is: is there a truce? Hanna nods. This time she doesn’t mind if the children go to my father’s place, to play in the internet cafe. She is happy that finally, for 12 hours at least, they can move about. She is happy for herself, too. For the past hour she has been trying to decide where to go. I decide to go and see the damage in Shujaia, with my friends Aed and Salem.

Looking at the rubble where his house once stood, a man says: “This is not a war. This is the beginning of doomsday.” So much of this neighbourhood has been destroyed that, further down the street, another man cannot actually work out which bit of it had been his. The whole street is just rubble: stone, metal, bricks, piles of sand. Large strips of tarmac twist out of the sand suggesting where the street might have been. But there is no real definition to the street, no limits or boundaries between any of the houses either.

People’s homes now merge and weave together all over Gaza, like threads in a woollen scarf, knitted together by an old woman. Different colours, different materials, different styles. One of the men picking through the chaos, starts to scream: “This is 60 years of my family’s savings!” This is what I see as I drive with Aed and Saleem towards Shujai’iya. Baghdad Street – one of Shujai’iya’s main streets, running from the entrance to the quarter through towards the start of Gaza City to the east – is the main site of destruction. Baghdad Street, ironically enough, looks not unlike the scenes left behind by the American and British armies after the 2003 war.

A dozen or so cows have been killed near a farm on the edge of the neighbourhood. Even cows have failed to escape this war. Each one lies on its side; its tongue lolling out of its mouth, its belly starting to inflate with decay. One cow seems to be be split cleanly in half. We’re delighted, eventually, to see that one cow is still alive. It’s standing in a small square of rubble – presumably the remains of what was its barn – and we approach it carefully. It keeps its face close to the one remaining part of a wall; it looks pale and appears to have a leg wound. As we get near it limps away, clearly in pain, but too scared to let us help it.

Old women sit helplessly in the debris of their homes. A few kids can be seen searching for toys. Ambulances and medical teams work through the day to find people still alive under these ruins. Today, some 151 corpses have been found in this rubble. Some of them have started to decay already. You can smell the dead bodies on every corner of Shujai’iya. One of the corpses found was of a women: she had been carrying both her children, one in each arm, when the tank shell hit her home. It seems she was simply trying to protect them. She held them tight to her chest, and despite the weight of the masonry she never let go. What they found under all that concrete was like a still life, apparently, a photograph, a perfect composition. Abu Noor, my neighbour, was busy with his family helping to look through the rubble of a building in which six members of a family were killed. A child’s corpse was still missing. Everyone was desperate to find trace of the body. Abu Noor finally touched flesh. Something that to him felt like the body of the child. He screamed out, calling everyone around him to help him lift the stones. He managed to get a firm hold on a limb and dragged it slowly to the surface. It was a leg of a man. Whose leg? Nobody knows.

The truce is meant to be for 12 hours, running 8am until 8pm. We remain in Shujai’iya until 4pm, moving from one street to the next, trying to process the damage, and help as much as we can in the removal of debris. A man calls us over to the side of the street, as we start to drive east, warning that there are tanks just a few hundred yards away. He says if they see the car we’ll be a target. We have to turn back.

In Beit Hanoun and Khoza’a the scenes are no better. The tanks start shooting at people again at 5pm, three hours before the truce in Beit Hanoun was supposed to end. In Khoza’a, people are not allowed to visit the debris of their homes. Everyone looks at his watch to see how much time there is left.

Despite everything – the killing, the destruction, the missing people, the displaced people, the tears, the wounds, the suffering – for these 12 hours of truce, I see Gaza as it used to be. People in their thousands on the street, buying food, moving from one place to another; the shops open, kids playing in the streets. It is a city that has poured itself out into a few moments of peace. Now the truce is coming to an end. The tank mortars have started to roar again, filling the air with their terror.

Atef Abu Saif is a Palestinian author who lives in Gaza.


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« Last Edit: Jul 29, 2014, 06:53 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #14704 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:32 AM »


West African countries announce new measures to stop Ebola spread

Nigeria quarantines hospital and Liberia shuts borders but lack of resources and understanding fuels deadly outbreak

Monica Mark   
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 19.41 BST   
   
Authorities across west Africa have announced a series of measures aimed at stopping the spread of the Ebola virus, which reached a fourth country last week with a death in Lagos, Africa's most populous city.

Nigeria closed and quarantined the hospital where a man died on Friday in the country's first recorded case of the deadly and highly contagious pathogen.

The closure of the clinic in one of the city's most densely populated districts came as police were called in to guard Sierra Leone's main Ebola treatment centre, while Liberia shut almost all its borders and banned public gatherings. Attempts to halt the seven month-crisis, which has spiralled into the world's biggest and most widespread outbreak of Ebola, have been hampered by a lack of resources and poor understanding in a region which has never experienced an epidemic.

Ebola has killed 672 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since it was first diagnosed in February. The pathogen is passed through contact with bodily fluids of infected patients or eating infected meat, and has no known cure, although chances of survival improve dramatically with early detection and treatment.

"We have shut the hospital to enable us to properly quarantine the environment. Some of the hospital staff who were in close contact with the victim have been isolated," Lagos state health commissioner Jide Idris said during a press conference on Monday.

Authorities set up an isolation ward and began tracing those who had been in contact with Patrick Sawyer, a 40-year-old civil servant whose flight from his home in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, stopped over in Togo and Ghana. Some 60 contacts had been traced, including 44 health workers and 15 airport officials. Not all of the flight's passengers had been contacted as the airline had yet to provide a manifest, state officials said.

Derek Gatherer, a virologist at the University of Lancaster, said anyone on the plane near the infected man could be in "pretty serious danger".

"It depends on how much damage this traveller has already done," he said.

But he said Nigeria was richer than the other countries in the region, so could more easily mobilise resources to tackle an outbreak. "Nigerians have deep pockets and they can do as much as any western country could do if they have the motivation and organisation to get it done."

Liberian and Nigerian airports and seaports began screening international arrivals for Ebola symptoms, which can take up to 21 days to appear. Arik Air, a major carrier for the region, has suspended flights between Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone, as travel peaks this week during the Muslim holiday of Eid.

Sawyer is believed to have contacted the virus from his sister, who died of Ebola earlier this month. But his travelling despite not feeling well has angered many.

"One of our compatriots met his untimely death and put to risk others across borders because of indiscipline and disrespect for the advice which had been given by health workers," Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said during the country's independence day celebrations on Saturday.

She announced stringent new measures after two American volunteer doctors tested positive for Ebola, and the lead medical doctor at the country's largest hospital died. Samuel Brisbane had treated himself at home in an attempt not to infect other health workers, many of whom have been ostracised by their communities.

In Sierra Leone, where 454 have died, angry crowds gathered outside Kenema hospital in the country's remote east, where dozens are receiving treatment for the virus, and threatened to burn it down and remove the patients.

The 1,000-strong crowd marched to the hospital after a former nurse told traders in a nearby fish market that "Ebola was unreal and a gimmick aimed at carrying out cannibalistic rituals", assistant inspector general Alfred Karrow-Kamara told Reuters.

Residents said police fired teargas to disperse the crowds and that a nine-year-old boy was shot in the leg by a police bullet.

Many communities have been left bewildered and angered by the deaths, and a belief that health workers living among the community are spreading the disease.

"It's not just superstition, it's just a scary situation for people there. Some of the reporting around it, that there is no treatment and that people bleed to death, may also discourage people from coming to hospital," said a researcher who spent time in Sierra Leone.

Others still live in denial. "I was one person that was saying the government was just playing tricks and want more money but now the way I see this thing killing people, I believe it," said Tenneh Fahnbulleh, a resident in Monrovia. The mother of three said her husband remained unconvinced even after a woman had died on their street in the past week.

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

Ebola outbreak in Africa: the key questions

There is no cure and little treatment for the deadly virus, which has killed at least 660 people in several African countries

Sarah Boseley, health editor
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 15.18 BST   

What is Ebola?

Ebola virus disease, which used to be called Ebola haemorrhagic fever, was named after the river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where one of the first two villages to report cases in 1976 was located. The other was in Sudan. Ebola is a severe viral illness with a sudden onset that comes from direct contact with infected living or dead rainforest animals, including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, fruit bats, forest antelope and porcupines. It kills up to 90% of those who are infected.

How is it transmitted?

The virus is passed from one human to another, carried in blood and bodily fluids and secretions, but also beds, sheets, clothes or other surfaces that a sick person has touched. Burial ceremonies that involve touching the body are also a risk. The virus enters the body through broken skin or mucous membrane.

The group at highest risk are health workers, caring for those with Ebola. They have to wear full protective clothing, including facemasks and goggles, and should change their gloves between one patient and the next.

What are the symptoms?

The early signs are sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain, headache and a sore throat. Vomiting and diarrhoea follow, raising the chances that the sick man or woman will infect somebody else. The kidney and liver are affected and there can be both internal and external bleeding, which is why it was originally called Ebola haemorrhagic fever. Patients are infectious once the symptoms show, which is two to 21 days after they have contracted the virus.

What is the treatment?

There is very little treatment. Patients will need intensive supportive care, with intravenous fluids or oral rehydration salts. They must be kept in isolation and their nurses and visitors must wear full protective suits. If people are to be nursed at home, their carers need instructions and equipment to safeguard themselves. There are no drugs to treat the disease or vaccine to prevent it, although research on a vaccine is under way.

Why is there no cure?

It has proved very hard to find drugs to treat viral diseases from animals, from influenza to HIV. Although the death rate is high, outbreaks of ebola are infrequent and have so far been contained each time. As with many of the so-called neglected tropical diseases, there is not a potentially lucrative market for drug companies, so they will be reluctant to invest in research and development.
If outbreaks can be contained and brought to a halt with good infection control, why do they return?

They can be contained in human populations but the viral reservoir still exists in animals. There will always be a risk that hunters will kill infected animals or that people will pick up those that have died of the infection in the forest and the virus will be reintroduced to the human population.
Will closing borders help?

Containment is key to the strategy against ebola. Quarantine has been used in some outbreaks for the relatives of people who become sick. Because people are not infectious until they become obviously ill, it should in theory be possible to focus efforts on the community where the outbreak began. In the past, that has usually been villages in close proximity to rainforests.

Confirmation of a case in a city such as Lagos is a real concern, but transmission must involve direct contact with a sick individual, so is more likely in a family setting or a hospital. The biggest worry is probably that somebody showing symptoms will be taken to hospital where nursing staff are unprotected, because the disease is not recognised, sparking an outbreak that spreads to their families in turn.

Closing borders may not help keep the disease out because borders are permeable in much of Africa. The World Health Organisation says closures may hinder travel and trade without detecting cases.
Is the rest of the world threatened by ebola?

Clearly somebody infected with the virus could theoretically get on a plane and spark an outbreak – probably in a hospital – anywhere in the world. However, as with the Mers virus, which arrived in London via a patient who was taken to St Thomas' hospital, infection control measures are so stringent in more affluent countries that it is probable the virus would be very rapidly contained.


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« Reply #14705 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:36 AM »

Boko Haram Targets Political Figures in String of Attacks

By ADAM NOSSITER
JULY 28, 2014
IHT

ABUJA, Nigeria — A long holiday weekend of kidnapping and suicide bombing, spilling over into Monday, highlighted an apparent shift by the violent Islamists of Boko Haram, with the group now targeting prominent political figures in two countries.

On Sunday, dozens of presumed Boko Haram members burst into the home of a key member of Cameroon’s government just across the border from Nigeria, kidnapping his wife and killing an unknown number. On the same day, and then again on Monday, female suicide bombers struck in Kano, northern Nigeria’s most important city, killing at least three and injuring others.

But it was Sunday’s kidnapping of the wife of Amadou Ali, Cameroon’s vice prime minister and one of the country’s most visible political figures, that represented an especially notable new trend in the terrorist group’s tactics.

It followed an attempt last week in Kaduna, Nigeria, on the life of the country’s most prominent opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari. The attack continued to reverberate in the Nigerian news media throughout the long weekend marking the end of Ramadan, with commentators highlighting the potential chaos that Mr. Buhari’s death would have provoked.

The same apparent motivation, destabilizing neighboring Cameroon’s political foundations, was evident in the attack on Mr. Ali’s home in the northern village of Kolofata, which he was visiting for the weekend.

Mr. Ali has for years been a pillar of the government of Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, one of Africa’s longest-serving and most autocratic leaders. He was the mastermind of Mr. Biya’s long-running prosecution campaign against members of his own government, ostensibly to root out corruption, called Opération Épervier, or Operation Sparrowhawk, which has seen many high-ranking officials sent to jail. Analysts of Cameroon’s politics have said Mr. Biya’s principal motivation has been to maintain an unchallenged grip on power.

The French magazine Jeune Afrique called Mr. Ali “the one who held the sword of Damocles above the heads of his government colleagues,” and the man who “provoked sleeplessness in the political-administrative elite.”

About 250 heavily armed men attacked Mr. Ali’s home in Kolofata on Sunday, according to authorities in Cameroon. Mr. Ali, a former defense and justice minister, was out when the attackers came, Cameroon’s communications minister, Issa Tchiroma said, so they took his wife instead.

The militants also attacked the home of the town’s mayor, kidnapping him and six members of his family. At least 15 people, including bystanders and household members, were killed at the two homes, according to the Cameroonian news media.

Boko Haram, the radical group that abducted more than 200 girls from a Nigerian village in April, has steadily increased the frequency and brutality of its attacks since its formation in 2002.

In 2009, the group attacked a mosque and a police station, killing about 55 people. The next day, Nigerian security forces retaliated with a brutal crackdown. The group went underground, re-emerging with sporadic attacks in the second half of 2010.

Boko Haram greatly expanded its operations between 2011 and 2012, but scaled back in 2013 after Goodluck Jonathan, Nigeria’s president, targeted the group in the three states where it is primarily based.

Though the government operation may have limited the group’s reach, Boko Haram has increased the frequency and intensity of its attacks in the states of Borno and Yobe, and caused large casualties in the capital, Abuja.

The bloody tactics that Nigerians have become used to were evident in the Cameroon attack, the third in that country since Friday.

“They carried out a massacre,” Mr. Tchiroma said. He added that, “They looted, they killed,” and, “You can’t imagine the spectacle.”

The attack in Kolofata followed the sentencing in a Cameroonian military court on Friday of over a dozen men accused of being Boko Haram militants. The group has in the past sought to exchange kidnap victims for militants.

Across the border in Kano, Boko Haram’s campaign of bombing continued Sunday and Monday, with at least 11 killed, including five at a Catholic church where an attacker hurled an explosive as worshipers left. Meanwhile, the group deployed a new tactic — female suicide bombers — in attacks across the sprawling city that killed at least three, besides the bombers.

In the attacks on Monday, female bombers set off explosives at a gas station and outside a trading center, according to the Nigerian police. In the first attack, the one resulting in the three deaths, women were lining up to buy kerosene for cooking when the bomber struck.

The emir of Kano, the city’s traditional ruler, canceled end-of-Ramadan celebrations in response to the attacks.


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« Reply #14706 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:40 AM »


Qatar World Cup: migrants wait a year to be paid for building offices

Workers who fitted out lavish offices used by tournament organisers say they are trapped after collapse of contractor

Robert Booth, and Pete Pattisson in Doha
The Guardian, Monday 28 July 2014 14.22 BST      

Exclusive Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar's 2022 football World Cup organisers have told the Guardian they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings.

Officials in Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have been using offices on the 38th and 39th floors of Doha's landmark al-Bidda skyscraper – known as the Tower of Football – which were fitted out by men from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India who say they have not been paid for up to 13 months' work.

The project, a Guardian investigation shows, was directly commissioned by the Qatar government and the workers' plight is set to raise fresh doubts over the autocratic emirate's commitment to labour rights as construction starts this year on five new stadiums for the World Cup.

The offices, which cost £2.5m to fit, feature expensive etched glass, handmade Italian furniture, and even a heated executive toilet, project sources said. Yet some of the workers have not been paid, despite complaining to the Qatari authorities months ago and being owed wages as modest as £6 a day.

By the end of this year, several hundred thousand extra migrant workers from some of the world's poorest countries are scheduled to have travelled to Qatar to build World Cup facilities and infrastructure. The acceleration in the building programme comes amid international concern over a rising death toll among migrant workers and the use of forced labour.

"We don't know how much they are spending on the World Cup, but we just need our salary," said one worker who had lost a year's pay on the project. "We were working, but not getting the salary. The government, the company: just provide the money."

The migrants are squeezed seven to a room, sleeping on thin, dirty mattresses on the floor and on bunk beds, in breach of Qatar's own labour standards. They live in constant fear of imprisonment because they have been left without paperwork after the contractor on the project, Lee Trading and Contracting, collapsed. They say they are now being exploited on wages as low as 50p an hour.

Their case was raised with Qatar's prime minister by Amnesty International last November, but the workers have said 13 of them remain stranded in Qatar. Despite having done nothing wrong, five have even been arrested and imprisoned by Qatari police because they did not have ID papers. Legal claims lodged against the former employer at the labour court in November have proved fruitless. They are so poor they can no longer afford the taxi to court to pursue their cases, they say.

A 35-year-old Nepalese worker and father of three who ssaid he too had lost a year's pay: "If I had money to buy a ticket, I would go home."

Qatar's World Cup organising committee confirmed that it had been granted use of temporary offices on the floors fitted out by the unpaid workers. It said it was "heavily dismayed to learn of the behaviour of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers". The committee stressed it did not commission the firm. "We strongly disapprove and will continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases," it said.

Jim Murphy, the shadow international development secretary, said the revelation added to the pressure on the World Cup organising committeeafter . "They work out of this building, but so far they can't even deliver justice for the men who toiled at their own HQ," he said.

Sharan Burrow, secretary general of the International Trade Union Confederation, said the workers' treatment was criminal. "It is an appalling abuse of fundamental rights, yet there is no concern from the Qatar government unless they are found out," she said. "In any other country you could prosecute this behaviour."

Contracts show the project was commissioned by Katara Projects, a Qatar government organisation under the auspices of the office of the then heir apparent, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is now the emir. He also heads the supreme committee, the World Cup organising body. The committee is spending at least £4bn building new stadiums for the tournament, which has become mired in allegations of bribery, while there is disbelief at the prospect of playing the tournament in Qatar's 50C summer heat.

Katara said it terminated its agreement with Lee Trading when it discovered the mistreatment of workers and non-payment of wages, and made efforts to repatriate those affected or find them new jobs. It said several workers had been compensated after court settlements. "If there are employees who were not repatriated, did not find employment or did not receive compensation, we would be happy to engage in any effort with the ministry of labour and ministry of interior to rectify the situation," a spokesman said.

The problems at the Tower of Football workers are not isolated, despite Qatar's pledges to monitor salary payments and abolish the kafala sponsorship system, which stops migrant workers changing job or leaving Qatar without their employer's consent. In 2012 and 2013, 70 labourers from India, Nepal and Sri Lanka died from falls or strikes by objects, 144 died in traffic accidents and 56 killed themselves, the government's own figures show. Dozens more young migrant workers die mysteriously in their sleep from suspected heart attacks every summer.

The Guardian discovered more projects where salaries had not been paid. They included a desert camp of 65 workers who had not been paid for several months, were sleeping eight to a room, and were living with dirty drinking water, filthy, unplumbed toilets and no showers.

Another group said they were being paid only sporadically, that there was sometimes no water in their housing and no electricity to power air conditioning.

This month, the Qatar Foundation, a state body, published a report examining trafficking, debt bondage and forced labour among migrant workers. It identified practices that contravene International Labour Organisation conventions on forced labour and UN anti-trafficking protocols, "widespread" non-payment of wages and bribery and extortion among recruitment agents and employers.

From January to May this year 87 Nepalese workers died in Qatar, a death rate two-and-a-half times higher than that of British ex, pats, new figures from the Nepal government reveal.

"We know there is much more to do," said Abdullah al-Khulaifi, Qatar's minister of labour and social affairs in a statement detailing progress on labour law reforms. "But we are making definite progress and are determined to build momentum."

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Qatar World Cup: Fifa vice-president demands payment of migrant workers

UK representative 'very concerned' despite assurances from organising committee that workers' rights would be safeguarded

Robert Booth   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 11.31 BST   

A Fifa vice-president has demanded Qatar ensure immediate payment for a group of migrant workers who fitted out offices being used by its 2022 World Cup organising committee after the Guardian revealed some have gone unpaid for up to 13 months.

Jim Boyce, Britain's representative on Fifa's 24-person executive committee, said he was very concerned about the situation after repeated assurances from the Qatar organising committee that working conditions for World Cup workers would be safeguarded.

"If the supreme committee is now using offices built by these people they should immediately take steps with the Qatar government to make sure they are properly paid for the work they have done," said Boyce.

"If they are serious and accept there has been a problem and they are going to ensure that labour rights are maintained on any work done in conjunction with the World Cup, then the supreme committee has to ensure this is carried out."

The revelation that more than a dozen men who fitted out lavish offices in Qatar's football HQ have not been paid for up to 13 months came just days after Fifa's president, Sepp Blatter, and its secretary general, Jérôme Valcke, met Qatar's emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, to discuss World Cup preparations and "the ongoing reforms of labour rights to ensure the welfare of migrant workers".

The workers from Sri Lanka, India and Nepal worked on a £2.5m fit-out of the 38th and 39th floor of the Al Bidda tower in Doha, which houses Qatar's supreme committee for delivery and legacy for the 2022 World Cup. The contractor, Lee Trading, was commissioned directly by the Qatar government but failed to pay the workers, some of whom did not receive even modest salaries of £6 a day for more than a year. They are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings while the World Cup organising committee occupies the offices.

The supreme committee confirmed it had been granted use of temporary offices on the floors fitted out by the unpaid workers, but categorically rejected any direct connection with the contracting firm Lee Trading. However, the contract documents seen by the Guardian show the Qatar state body that commissioned the works, Katara Projects, was linked to the office of al-Thani, then heir-apparent and now the emir of Qatar, who recently made himself chairman of the World Cup organising committee board.

"The supreme committee does take very seriously the matter of worker welfare in Qatar," it said in a statement. "We were heavily dismayed to learn of the behaviour of Lee Trading with regard to the timely payment of its workers. We will continue to press for a speedy and fair conclusion to all cases."

In April, Jim Murphy, the shadow secretary of state for international development, met Hassan al-Thawadi, the chief executive of Qatar's World Cup organising committee, to discuss the "kafala" labour sponsorship systems that prevent workers changing jobs or leaving the country without permission from their employer.

"When I travelled to Doha I met the Qatar 2022 organisers on the 37th floor of the Al Bidda tower," Murphy said. "They made promises about workers and the reform of the kafala system. The news that the Bidda tower workers themselves haven't been paid makes those promises sound pretty empty."

Amnesty International came across the workers last year, before the Guardian established they had worked on offices used by the World Cup organisers. Last November, the human rights campaign group raised their plight in person with Qatar's prime minister, interior minister and labour minister. It wrote to the ministry of labour asking for the men to be paid, allowed to leave the country or find new jobs.

Nicholas McGeehan, Human Rights Watch's Qatar researcher, said: "If Qatar had announced some meaningful reforms they would be able to defend themselves against these depressing revelations, because reforms need time to take effect in a sector beset by abuse and exploitation.

"Qatar's inertia on labour reform should concern Fifa and their sponsors just as much as allegations of corruption in the bidding process."


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« Reply #14707 on: Jul 29, 2014, 06:44 AM »


Libya's exodus of diplomats is a sign of how desperate things have become

Warring tribes have deadlocked parliament and closed Tripoli's international airport, raising fears it could become a failed state

Ian Black, Middle East editor
theguardian.com, Monday 28 July 2014 18.22 BST   

Evacuating diplomats is never a good sign of the health of a country; and so it is with Libya, where fierce fighting between rival miltias has closed the international airport, paralysed life in Benghazi and now triggered a foreign exodus. A massive fire raging at a fuel storage depot near Tripoli symbolises a situation that now looks dangerously out of control.

Nearly three years since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi by Nato-backed rebels, the North African country is at another low point. Shoring up the embattled central government to allow it to see off a multitude of competing independent armed groups remains a mammoth task. Parliament has been deadlocked by infighting since the elections in late June.

Thousands of former rebels who fought Gaddafi in 2011 are now employed by the state, but the national army remains weak and ineffective. "The problem is that there is no centralised security system as a consequence of the civil war," argues George Joffe, a consultant. "There seems to be no way in which the government can actually bring the various militias under its control and thereby establish effective security."

The fighting is part of a wider ideological and power struggle between Libyan Islamists and their opponents that is familiar from elsewhere in the Arab world – especially neighbouring Egypt – but it is also about local and regional interests.

In the current chaos the relative stability of the repressive Gaddafi era is certainly now missed by some Libyans, but many hold him responsible for the paralysing fragmentation of the country's political life in his 42 years in power.

Efforts to promote political dialogue by the US, UK and EU, which backed the 2011 uprising and Nato's intervention, and welcomed his demise in the name of democracy, have achieved precious little. Experts argue that there has been too much focus on counter-terrorism – the emphasis of the renegade "dignity" campaigner, General Khalifa Heftar – and not enough on political inclusivity, as the route to national reconciliation.

"Libya's political leadership have never resolved the differences that were there at the end of the revolution," said a diplomat who is still in Tripoli. "That's what has precipitated this polarisation. The people we talk to have no control over the kids on the frontline. There is a culture of impunity. There's no law and order."

It is hard to overstate the impact on foreign investors and general international confidence of the galling fact that the government does not even control the capital's airport, which has been left a partial ruin by the fighting of the last fortnight. The larger danger is that Libya will become a failed state, risking consequences - weapons proliferation, terrorism, refugee flows - that will directly affect its Arab and African neighbours as well as increasingly worried Europeans.

Foreigners care about Libya partly because of its oil, but given the competition between tribal, ethnic and militia groups, for that to flow smoothly the country's fundamental political issues have to be tackled. "It is nearly impossible to make concessions to one group without angering its competitors," the Stratfor consultancy noted recently, "and nearly all of the rival groups are able to control and take critical infrastructure – including airports, pumping stations, oil refineries and export terminals – offline."

Diplomats who are evacuated can be sent back, though the US is likely to be especially cautious about security given the location of its embassy on the dangerous Tripoli airport road and the killing of its ambassador, Chris Steven, in Benghazi in 2012. Britain's ambassador, Michael Aron, who stayed behind with a skeleton staff, sent pointed Eid greetings to all Muslims, but especially to all Libyans, "hoping that this will be a year of reconciliation".


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« Reply #14708 on: Jul 29, 2014, 07:09 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Potential whistleblowers less willing to contact the press thanks to NSA spying: report

By Reuters
Monday, July 28, 2014 10:46 EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. surveillance programs are making it more difficult for government officials to speak to the press anonymously, two rights groups said on Monday.

Large-scale surveillance, on top of the Obama administration’s crackdown on national security leaks, threatens the freedom of the press and the right to legal counsel, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union said in a joint report.

The National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, which include the collection of telephone “metadata,” have heightened government officials’ concerns about dealing with the media, as “any interaction – any email, any phone call – risks leaving a digital trace that could subsequently be used against them,” the report said.

The groups interviewed more than 90 journalists, lawyers, and current or former senior U.S. government officials for the report.

“Journalists told us that officials are substantially less willing to be in contact with the press, even with regard to unclassified matters or personal opinions, than they were even a few years ago,” the report said.

The Obama administration has been more aggressive than recent predecessors about silencing leakers, and has charged eight people under the Espionage Act on suspicion of leaking information. In the wake of disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the administration has stepped up efforts to detect “insider threats” from government employees who might want to leak information.

Many current U.S. surveillance programs go well beyond what is necessary to ensure national security, the report said.

“The U.S. holds itself out as a model of freedom and democracy, but its own surveillance programs are threatening the values it claims to represent,” report author Alex Sinha said in a statement.

The report called on President Barack Obama and Congress to reform U.S. surveillance policies, as well as reduce secrecy and provide greater protection for whistleblowers.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill in May to end the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone data. It is now under consideration in the Senate.

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Kansas Is Going Bankrupt And Republicans Are Lying About the Tax Cutting Reason Why

By: Rmuse
PoliticusUSA
Monday, July, 28th, 2014, 10:50 am      

In the field of psychiatry, pathological lying, compulsive lying, or pseudologia fantastica is a behavior of habitual lying that is defined as “falsification entirely disproportionate to any discernible end in view, may be extensive and very complicated, and may manifest over a period of years or even a lifetime.” In some cases the individual may be be unaware that they are relating fantasies, but when they repeat the same lie as fact for thirty years despite empirical data disproving their assertion, it is safe to say they know they are lying.

Republicans and conservative economists continue claiming cutting taxes for the rich is key to full employment, wealth for the masses, government flush with money, and a robust economy. In fact, Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback and the Republican legislature were so confident that slashing safety nets, cutting education, and spending a budget surplus on tax cuts for the rich would produce an economic bonanza, they gave the wealthy well over a billion dollars in unfunded tax cuts that has the state’s economy starved of revenue. However, despite Republican warnings the state will be bankrupt in two years, more than 100 Kansas Republicans swearing to help replace Brownback with a Democrat for governor, and a credit agency downgrading Kansas credit, a noted conservative economist lied to support Brownback’s tax cuts as a job creating bonanza. Kansas is lagging behind the rest of the nation in creating jobs besides facing a revenue shortfall of massive proportions.

The Heritage Foundation’s senior economist, Stephen Moore, wrote a pro-Brownback op-ed attacking Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman because like every economist not in the employ of the Heritage Foundation and Fox News, Krugman does not support Republicans’ failed trickle-down scam. Moore was caught red-handed deliberately using incorrect statistics to convince readers that Brownback’s tax cuts create jobs. Moore lied and claimed states that do not give huge tax cuts to the rich are “getting clobbered by tax-cutting states” in the number of jobs created. The editorial board of The Kansas City Star caught Moore’s lies and published annotated corrections to his false assertions specifically stating that “the author misstated job growth rates for four states and the time covered.” In other words; Moore was lying to convince Kansas residents that Brownback’s “ruinous” and “dramatic tax-cutting failure” warrants giving him another four years to completely eviscerate the Kansas economy.

In another instance of conservatives projecting their malfeasance on Democrats, Moore accused “liberals” like Krugman of “cherry-picking a few events” to argue that major tax cuts like Brownback’s are failing miserably. Not only did Moore deliberately “cherry pick bad data to support his claims,” he cherry-picked a time frame when the entire nation was suffering from the Great Recession due, in part, to Bush-Republicans’ major tax cuts for the rich. One might think Moore is unaware he was lying about the benefits of continuing to give tax cuts to the rich, but after thirty years of trickle-down’s abject failure, he knew he was lying like he has done for years.

For example, Moore has consistently criticized the idea of raising the minimum wage he claims will result in a “big increase in unemployment.” Obviously Moore, a “noted conservative economist,” saw the recent statistics that the states he claimed lag “major tax-cutting Republican states” that raised their minimum wage, and taxes, are leading the nation in job creation as well a overall economic growth. One of the states Moore specifically cited, California, is experiencing the nation’s best job creation increase according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in spite of increasing the minimum wage and taxes on the rich. Moore also spent years claiming the Affordable Care Act would kill millions of American jobs, and yet the unemployment rate is falling and there has been 52 straight months of private sector job growth while millions of Americans have healthcare for the first time in their lives.

Stephen Moore, like the Heritage Foundation he represents, is not just a pathological liar, he is guilty of pseudologia fantastica. It is unlikely Kansas residents believe such fantastic lies about the raging success of Brownback’s tax cutting-spree because they see the devastation of the trickle down scam first hand. Certainly, a group of one-hundred-and-four current and former Kansas legislators understand that Brownback’s billion-plus dollar tax cuts for the rich are decimating Kansas.

The group, Republicans for Kansas Values, endorsed Brownback’s Democratic challenger and released a statement saying, “All of us standing here today know Kansas can do better. We can have better schools and a stronger economy. The values that unite us as Kansans are much bigger than the partisanship and experiment of Sam Brownback. Through hard work and cooperation, we can restore Kansas together.” The 104 Republicans cited Brownback’s failed trickle down tax plan, severe cuts to schools, and fiscally irresponsible budgeting as reasons for their historic decision and praised Paul Davis (D) for being a moderate with common sense leadership and “focus on proven solutions” such as “reinstating taxes and spending at their previous levels;” precisely what Stephen Moore lied and said is a recipe for disaster.

Obviously, there is no lie too fantastic, including citing false statistics, Republicans and their Heritage Foundation economists are willing to parrot ad nausem to perpetuate their thirty year failed economic theory that giving more tax cuts to the rich is the key to economic wonderland. Moore has always been a condescending liar and for the second time he has been caught lying. In February, CNN’s Carol Costello destroyed Moore’s conservative economic lies disparaging any consideration of raising the minimum wage, and correctly noted “that raising it would increase incomes and decrease poverty.”

One would think that of all the states Moore would choose to unleash a rash of lies about the benefits of giving major tax cuts to the rich, he would have picked anyplace except Kansas. But Republicans, and so-called “noted” conservative economists, are such pathological liars that they likely actually believe Kansas residents are unaware their state is drowning in debt, suffered a credit downgrade, lags the entire nation in job creation, and cannot afford $100,000 to keep a children’s homeless shelter open; all due to what Stephen Moore says is the reason Kansas is “clobbering states” that are succeeding because they did not give tax cuts to the rich.

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USA Today Publishes John Boehner Editorial Then Trashes His Lawsuit Against Obama

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Monday, July, 28th, 2014, 1:40 pm   

USA Today published an editorial by House Speaker John Boehner defending his lawsuit against President Obama, while at the same time their own editorial board published an editorial blasting the lawsuit.

Boehner wrote, “Congress makes the laws; the president executes them. That is the system the Founders gave us. This is not about executive orders. Every president issues executive orders. Most of them, though, do so within the law. This is also not about me vs. President Obama. This is about future Congresses and future presidents. There is a conflict between the executive branch and the legislative branch of our government. It is the judiciary branch’s role to help resolve it. I believe this path is the right one to defend our institution and preserve the Constitution, while continuing to focus on the American people’s top priority — helping our private sector create more American jobs.”

The editorial board at USA Today put out a nearly simultaneous editorial that took Boehner to task for the lawsuit.

The editorial board wrote:

    It’s possible to view this as a high-minded dispute over where the Constitution draws the lines of authority between Congress and the president. Republicans cite scores of examples of what they say is executive overreach, such as Obama’s decision not to deport children brought here illegally by their parents.

    But the lawsuit focuses solely on a small part of Obamacare, one that Republicans themselves would love to see delayed forever. A fair-minded look at the suit’s merits suggests it’s really more of a political grudge match, one in which the GOP is seeking an outcome it hasn’t been able to achieve at the polls or through the legislative process.

    For one thing, Obama’s temporary delay to part of the health law doesn’t seem much different from President George W. Bush’s action in 2006 to extend the deadline and waive penalties for certain seniors who hadn’t signed up in time for the new Medicare prescription drug program. Both presidents appeared to be making reasonable, short-term accommodations to reality, and courts have traditionally given the executive branch broad discretion in implementing complex new laws.

It’s not good when the editorial board of the newspaper that published Boehner’s defense of his lawsuit felt compelled to write their own editorial condemning his tactics. Outside of conservative circles, Boehner is not finding a warm reception anywhere for his lawsuit. The lawsuit isn’t fooling anybody. It has always been a path towards drumming up support for impeaching the president. Boehner’s frivolous abuse of the court system is also intended to make Obamacare the front and center issue during the midterm elections.

The lawsuit does look like an attempt by a sore loser at petty political retribution. Republicans lost at the ballot box. They’ve lost in court of public opinion, because people like what the ACA does. All that they have left is a desperate run to the courts in the hopes that partisan activist judges will bail them out.

As a political strategy, the lawsuit has backfired. Democrats are fired up over Boehner’s clumsy tactics. As a fundraising gambit, the lawsuit has been a disaster. Democrats continue to raise millions of dollars off of a tactic that was supposed to help Republicans gain seats in the fall.

Boehner has shot the Republican Party in both feet with his lawsuit, and it has gotten to the point where no credible publication wants to be tainted with the embarrassment surrounding his attempt to sue the president.

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Mitch McConnell’s Big Spending Isn’t Working As He Is Tied With Alison Lundergan Grimes

By: Jason Easley
PoliticusUSA
Monday, July, 28th, 2014, 9:36 pm   

Mitch McConnell has already spent $30 million to try to keep his Senate seat, but a new Bluegrass Poll found that he remained tied with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

The Bluegrass poll revealed that McConnell has a two point lead over Grimes 47%-45%, but that is well within the poll’s 4.1% margin of error. This means that the race remains tied. McConnell led with men 49%-43%, and Grimes led with women 47%-46%. McConnell had a five point advantage with younger voters 49%-44%. Grimes led with voters age 35-49 (44%-42%) and age 50-64 (50%-45%). As expected, Sen. McConnell led with voters age 65+ (54%-40). McConnell led with white voters 48%-44%, and Grimes led with African-American voters 64%-27%. Among voters who have made up their minds, McConnell led 51%-48%, and with those who might still change their minds McConnell had a 42%-37% advantage. Grimes had big leads with Democrats (74%-20%) and Independents (50%-33%), but McConnell gets almost all the Republican support 82%-13%.

The Grimes campaign expressed happiness with the poll results, “Our grassroots campaign remains in a strong position as yet another poll shows us tied or within the margin of error. Mitch McConnell and his Washington cronies have spent $30 million on a tie, and we remain well-positioned to use our multi-million dollar war chest to hold McConnell accountable for his 30-year Washington record through Election Day.”

The poll contains plenty of encouraging signs for Lundergan Grimes, but it also shows the built in difficulty of running against a 30 year Republican incumbent in a red state. McConnell has a lot of built in advantages, and his spending of tens of millions of dollars already is the likely reason why he is as close as he is. McConnell is going to keep spending from now until Election Day, so it is essential from Grimes to expand her campaign as much as possible to keep her supporters energized.

A potential problem for Grimes is that McConnell gets more Democratic support (20%) than she gets Republican support (13%), but those numbers may shift as the general election campaign heats up. Democrats are still in an excellent position to send Mitch McConnell into retirement, but with less than 100 days until Election Day, Alison Lundergan Grimes has a great chance to pick up a Senate seat for Democrats.

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Satanist Temple Demands 'Hobby Lobby' Style Religious Exemptions From Restrictions To Abortions

By John Amato July 28, 2014 3:24 pm -
CrooksAndLiars

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, that allows for-profit companies to claim a religious exemption to contraception mandate has now spurred on a Satanist organization to challenge the court's ruling based on their religious freedom.

Oh, this is rich. The Satanist Temple group is demanding that their religious rights be upheld just like the Hobby Lobby corporation's were in the Supreme Court decision that gave credence to the myth that the Plan B pill causes abortions and that corporations not only are people, but they also have religious beliefs that can make them exempt from federal laws.

Think Progress:

    The Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision, which allowed some for-profit companies to claim a religious exemption to Obamacare’s contraception mandate, has sparked a heated debate over the definition of religious liberty and its role in modern society. At this point, even a Satantic cult has decided to weigh in.

    The Satanic Temple — a faith community that describes itself as facilitating “the communication and mobilization of politically aware Satanists, secularists, and advocates for individual liberty” — has launched a new campaign seeking a religious exemption to certain anti-abortion laws that attempt to dissuade women from ending a pregnancy. The group says they have deeply held beliefs about bodily autonomy and scientific accuracy, and those beliefs are violated by state-level “informed consent” laws that rely on misleading information about abortion risks.

    Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, the Satanists point out, it strengthens their own quest to opt out of laws related to women’s health care that go against their religious liberty. “Because of the respect the Court has given to religious beliefs, and the fact that our our beliefs are based on best available knowledge, we expect that our belief in the illegitimacy of state­ mandated ‘informational’ material is enough to exempt us, and those who hold our beliefs, from having to receive them,” a spokesperson for the organization said in a statement.

You would think that medical accuracy would matter to everybody when it concerns health care, but apparently it does not. It's time to go on the offensive from now on and if it be Satanists that lead that charge then so be it.


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« Reply #14709 on: Jul 29, 2014, 10:12 AM »

Senior US military officers weigh risks of aiding Ukraine in fight against pro-Russian forces

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:52 EDT

Senior American military officers are discussing the possibility of providing Ukraine with more precise intelligence that would allow it to target missiles held by pro-Russian forces, US officials said Monday.

But no decision is imminent and some officials are concerned such a move could backfire by escalating the conflict between Ukraine and the rebels backed by Moscow.

“That’s part of the discussions,” said one defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, referring to the possible enhanced intelligence sharing.

“It’s all part of looking at how we can help the Ukrainians,” the official told AFP. But he added there were risks in providing Ukrainian forces with information that could help them strike at pro-Russian fighters in the country’s east.

The New York Times first reported that the Pentagon and spy agencies were looking at sharing more precise, real-time intelligence with Kiev to enable its military to go after surface-to-air missiles blamed for taking out several of its aircraft.

The White House has yet to hold a debate on the issue among high-level officials, the paper reported over the weekend.

A second Pentagon official downplayed the likelihood of the move and underlined the dangers involved.

“There’s not enough military equipment that Washington could provide to counter Russian influence,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“There’s a risk that the more weapons we provide to the Ukrainians, the more Russians escalate and step up their role,” the official said.

For the moment, President Barack Obama’s administration has provided only limited intelligence to Ukraine and has avoiding supplying weapons to Kiev.

Instead, Washington has favored diplomacy, urging European allies to impose tougher sanctions on Moscow in hopes of forcing President Vladimir Putin to back off of his assertive stance on Ukraine.

Washington has accused Russia of expanding its military support for the separatists in recent weeks with deliveries of heavy weapons and last week alleged Russian units were firing artillery across the border at Ukrainian forces.

The Pentagon said Monday there has been no let-up in Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine, including arms deliveries and training of separatists at a major staging area outside of Rostov.

“I can tell you that last week we saw a column of over 100 Russian vehicles moving into Ukraine,” spokesman Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

The column was unusually large and reinforced US concerns about Russia’s actions in and around Ukraine, he said.

Pro-Russian separatists are suspected by the West of using SA-11 missiles to shoot down a Malaysian airliner on July 17, in an allegedly inadvertent strike by rebels who have targeted Ukrainian military aircraft.
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« Reply #14710 on: Jul 30, 2014, 06:11 AM »

Coordinated Sanctions Aim at Russia’s Ability to Tap Its Oil Reserves

By PETER BAKER, ALAN COWELL and JAMES KANTER
JULY 29, 2014

WASHINGTON — The United States and Europe kicked off a joint effort on Tuesday intended to curb Russia’s long-term ability to develop new oil resources, taking aim at the Kremlin’s premier source of wealth and power in retaliation for its intervention in Ukraine.

In announcing coordinated sanctions, American and European leaders went beyond previous moves against banking and defense industries in an effort to curtail Russia’s access to Western technology as it seeks to tap new Arctic, deep sea and shale oil reserves. The goal was not to inhibit current oil production but to cloud Russia’s energy future.

The new strategy took direct aim at the economic foundation of Russia, which holds the largest combined oil and gas reserves in the world.

“The biggest edge that Western energy companies still have is their technological edge — that’s why these sanctions have the potential to have significant impact,” said Michael A. Levi, an energy expert at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Chinese companies can’t step in and provide shale technology where U.S. companies are blocked. They can provide capital; they can provide people. They can’t fill in on the technology front.”

The technology cutoff could be important because Russia is only now at the early stages of developing new Arctic, deep sea and shale resources. Most of its current production comes from depleted Siberian deposits that will eventually run out. And several Western oil companies have been working with Russia to expand their resources.

ExxonMobil has a joint venture with Rosneft, the state-owned oil giant, to develop Arctic oil, and is scheduled to start drilling in the Kara Sea within weeks. BP, which owns 19.75 percent of Rosneft, just signed a joint venture with the Russian firm in May to search for shale oil in the Volga-Urals region.

Even though BP announced higher quarterly profits on Tuesday, its stock was hammered by the sanctions news, falling 3 percent. BP warned investors bluntly that further sanctions “could adversely impact our business and strategic objectives in Russia.”

Dan Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said the new energy measures underscored how much ties had deteriorated. “A year ago, Western collaboration with Russia’s energy sector was one of the bright spots in what had become a dour relationship,” he said. “No longer.”

The carefully orchestrated actions on both sides of the Atlantic were intended to demonstrate solidarity in the face of what American and European officials say has been a stark escalation by Russia in the insurgency in eastern Ukraine. Until now, European leaders had resisted the broader sorts of actions they agreed to on Tuesday, and their decision to pursue them reflected increasing alarm that Russia was not only helping separatists in Ukraine but directly involving itself in the fighting.

They are “meant as a strong warning,” Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said in a statement on Tuesday that was joined by José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission. “Destabilizing Ukraine, or any other Eastern European neighboring state, will bring heavy costs,” the statement said.

President Obama said Russia’s economy would continue to suffer until it reversed course. “Today is a reminder that the United States means what it says, and we will rally the international community in standing up for the rights and freedom of people around the world,” he told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House.

Mr. Obama said the fact that Europe was now joining the United States in broader measures meant the moves would “have an even bigger bite,” but in response to reporters’ questions, he said it was “not a new Cold War” between the two countries. He also made clear he was not considering providing arms to Ukraine’s government, as some Republicans have suggested, as it tries to put down the pro-Russian insurgency.

“They are better armed than the separatists,” he said. “The issue is, ‘How do we prevent bloodshed in eastern Ukraine?’ We’re trying to avoid that. And the main tool that we have to influence Russian behavior at this point is the impact that it’s having on its economy.”

The American and European actions were intended to largely, though not precisely, match each other. The United States cut off three more Russian banks, including the giant VTB Bank, from medium- and long-term capital markets and barred Americans from doing business with the United Shipbuilding Corporation, a large state-owned firm created by Mr. Putin. The Obama administration also formally suspended export credit and development finance to Russia.

The European Union adopted similar restrictions on capital markets and applied them to Russian state-owned banks. It imposed an embargo on new arms sales to Russia and limited sales of equipment with both civilian and military uses to Russian military buyers. Europe also approved new sanctions against at least three close malignant tumor Pig Putin associates, but did not identify them publicly.

European governments moved ahead despite concerns that Europe would pay an economic price for confronting the Kremlin more aggressively. While their actions went far beyond any previously taken against Russia over the Ukraine crisis, they were tailored to minimize their own costs. The arms embargo, for instance, applies only to future sales, not to the much-debated delivery by France of Mistral-class helicopter carriers that resemble bigger aircraft carriers. And the energy technology restrictions do not apply to Russian natural gas, on which Europe relies heavily.

The new sanctions could take effect as soon as Friday, though the necessary legal formalities would most likely to take longer to complete, officials said.

On Twitter, the president of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, praised the decision “on a wide range of sanctions on Russia.” But she expressed unease that France would be able to maintain its naval deal with Moscow. “Unfortunately, nothing to stop the deal of Mistral yet,” she wrote. Lithuania is one of five European Union states that are close to or border Russia.

Mr. Van Rompuy departed from the usual cautious language of Europe’s declarations by condemning Russia for actions that “cannot be accepted in 21st-century Europe,” including “illegal annexation of territory” — a reference to Crimea — “and deliberate destabilization of a neighboring sovereign country.” He also cited the “anger and frustration” over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over rebel-held territory on July 17 and “the delays in providing international access to the site of the air crash, the tampering with the remains of the plane, and the disrespectful handling of the deceased.”

Although European commerce with Russia will probably decline because of the sanctions, where the measures are expected to more severely affect Russia are the restrictions on the ability of Russian banks to raise money in Europe and the United States. “These sanctions can have quite a substantial chilling effect on the Russian economy,” said Adam Slater, a senior economist at Oxford Economics in London. “That is probably a quite effective way to put pressure on Russia.”

Still, it could take time for the effects to be felt by ordinary Russians, and some analysts expected the Kremlin to shrug them off, at least publicly.

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As Sanctions Pile Up, Russians’ Alarm Grows Over Malignant Tumor Pig Putin's Tactics

By NEIL MacFARQUHAR
IHT
JULY 29, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia, facing the toughest round of Western sanctions imposed since the Ukraine crisis erupted, has adopted a nonchalant public stance, with malignant tumor Pig Putin emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and a new poll released Tuesday indicating a “What, me worry?” attitude among the bulk of the population.

But beneath that calm facade, there is growing alarm in Russia that the festering turmoil in Ukraine and the new round of far more punitive sanctions — announced Tuesday by both European nations and the United States — will have an impact on Russia’s relations with the West for years to come and damage the economy to the extent that ordinary Russians feel it.

Until now, malignant tumor Pig Putin's tactics seemed to be working. Russia was feeding the separatist insurgency in Ukraine without leaving distinct fingerprints — able to press Kiev to come to terms while avoiding a rupture with Europe that would alienate Russia’s business elite. But that strategy is beginning to crumble, battered under successive shock waves generated by the crisis.

More frequent and prominent critics are saying that malignant tumor Pig Putin and the hard-line leaders in the Kremlin overreached by suggesting that Russia, far more dependent than the old Soviet Union on international trade and financial markets, could thrive without the West.

“They were not anticipating the West to make radical moves, costly moves,” said Nikolai Petrov, an independent political analyst. “What is happening is different from what they wanted and what they expected.”

He and others pointed to the downing of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 over embattled southeastern Ukraine on July 17 as upsetting the balancing act that malignant tumor Pig Putin had managed to pull off to maintain support from the public, hard-line nationalists, the security services, the oligarchs and the more liberal business community.

“Until this catastrophe, malignant tumor Pig Putin's calculations were pretty good in terms of being able to win any tactical battle,” Mr. Petrov said.

The Kremlin had been counting on its ability to maintain just enough instability in Ukraine to keep the country dependent on Russian good will, while making Europe and the United States cautious about intervening too assertively there.

Right after this weekend, when the likelihood of more serious European sanctions materialized, malignant tumor Pig Putin met with advisers to say that Russia needed to become self-reliant. He was referring to arms production previously done in Ukraine, but the sentiment echoed in other fields.

“No matter what the difficulties we may encounter, and to be honest, I do not really see any big difficulties so far,” he said, according to a transcript on the Kremlin website, “I think that they will ultimately work to our advantage because they will give us the needed incentive to develop our production capability in areas where we had not done so yet.”

Domestically, grumbling over the creeping isolationism has grown louder. Roughly 50 percent of the economy is state-run, and the loyalty of those who direct such companies to malignant tumor Pig Putin remains absolute. But the rest are changing.

“It is still a very polite version: ‘Maybe something is going wrong,' ” said Sergei Petrov, an opposition member of Parliament and the founder of Rolf, one of the biggest car importers in Russia. “They would never say it to you, a foreigner, but I hear more and more critics.”

A former finance minister and a close malignant tumor Pig Putin ally, Alexei Kudrin, voiced rare public criticism of Kremlin policy in an interview last week with the state-run news agency ITAR-TASS.

Mr. Kudrin said he was worried that the Ukraine crisis would drive Russia into a “historic confrontation” that would retard the country’s development across the board.

The business community was dismayed by the amount of anti-Western comments on television and radio, he said, indicating a “fundamental” shift that made the West Russia’s adversary again.

“Things are different in business,” he said. “Businessmen want to work, to invest, build factories and develop trade.”

Some analysts saw that interview as a sign that malignant tumor Pig Putin was looking for a way out, preparing to abandon the Ukraine separatists publicly. They linked it to a similar sentiment in a column in the newspaper Kommersant on Tuesday, by a journalist close to the president, suggesting that he had allowed the black boxes from the Malaysian airliner to be sent to the West because he did not fully trust the information he got from his advisers.

But there has been no direct indication from malignant tumor Pig Putin that he wants to change tacks.

Officially, Russia tried to play down the airplane disaster, which killed all 298 people on board, although some news outlets raised questions from the start. The front page of the government-owned Russkaya Gazeta the day after the crash put the report on the bottom half — the top story was that Russians were eating less bread and potatoes.

The general sense here was that the West was again piling on Russia without evidence — that it was a political issue.

“In my opinion, we face a critical situation today,” Lev Gudkov, the director of the Levada Center, an independent polling organization, told a weekend seminar audience. “But our society does not realize it against a backdrop of patriotic and chauvinistic euphoria.”

That euphoria was rooted in the relatively bloodless, seemingly costless annexation of Crimea in March. The public expected that the rest of the crisis in Ukraine would be resolved with similar ease.

“The situation began changing dramatically after the crash of the Boeing,” Mr. Gudkov said. “According to our research, reaction inside the country was quite weak, but the Western European public has drastically changed its attitude towards Russia.”

Indeed, poll results released Tuesday by the Levada Center showed the Russian public barely concerned about sanctions. More than 60 percent of respondents thought they would have little or no impact on them. Malignant tumor Pig Putin remains hugely popular.

The official attitude was also calm. “We can’t ignore it,” the foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, said at a news conference on Monday when asked about the expected sanctions. “But to fall into hysterics and respond to a blow with a blow is not worthy of a major country.”

Mr. Lavrov also expressed disappointment that the Ukraine crisis was damaging relations between Russia and the West, but said repeatedly that it was the fault of Western capitals because they had encouraged Kiev to fight rather than negotiate.

“No one is pleased with the deterioration of relations between the partners,” he said. “We are trying to influence the situation in Ukraine to move it from the military confrontation to political negotiations.”

But others were less sanguine as the sanctions piled up.

Beyond sanctions, an arbitration court in The Hague ruled Monday that Russia should pay former Yukos shareholders $50 billion for breaking up the oil and gas company decade ago. The ruling added an element of uncertainty to dealing with Gazprom and Rosneft, the two state-controlled giants of the Russian energy economy that absorbed Yukos holdings.

Economic issues are likely to broaden the split between the more liberal economists and the conservative members of the security services, analysts said. Malignant tumor Pig Putin makes all the crucial decisions, however, and no one is likely to challenge him directly.

“There is a split, but the antiwar party lacks the instruments to forcemalignant tumor Pig Putin into practical action,” said Vladimir Milov, a former deputy energy minister turned opposition politician.

Kremlin officials seeking to break with the West believe that whatever financing they lose there, they can regain from China or India, Mr. Milov said, without realizing that neither banking system is geared to provide the billions in long-term credit that Russian companies routinely got from Western banks.

Indeed, at a recent dinner party, a Kremlin confidant said that the future would be all about “Russian might and Chinese wealth.” Did the West not worry, he mused aloud, that China would be the big winner?

Over all, Mr. Milov said, the outlook seems bleak.

“We are sliding into something which is clearly becoming a long-term standoff, and malignant tumor Pig Putin looks committed and not ready to give up,” he said. “It is a bad sign that everything is becoming a long-term problem.”

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Russia takes defiant stance in face of tough EU and US sanctions

Russian officials say focus will shift to domestic market production, but analysts say defence and oil industries will suffer

Alec Luhn in Moscow
theguardian.com, Wednesday 30 July 2014 10.59 BST   

As the US and the European Union adopted tougher economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in eastern Ukraine and downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, Russian officials struck a defiant note, promising that Russia would localise production and emerge stronger than before. But analysts in sectors that could be affected by the sanctions – finance, defence and energy – predicted that they would suffer in isolation from the west.

The EU reached a deal on Tuesday evening to cut off Russian state-owned banks from European capital markets and was quickly joined by the US, which denied the state-owned banks VTB Bank OAO, Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank access to the US economy.

In addition, the EU banned any trade in arms or "related material" with Russia, and the US prohibited transactions with Russia's United Shipbuilding Corp, which it classified as a defence company.

Both the EU and the US will also ban technology exports to Russia for deep-water, Arctic or shale oil drilling. The sanctions imposed by the EU, which does far more trade with Russia than the US, will be reviewed in three months.

Shares in VTB, Russia's second-largest bank, dropped by 3% at the start of trading on Wednesday but later regained most of that. The Russian stock market on the whole grew, with the MICEX and RTS indices rising by about 2%.

The Bank of Moscow said in a statement it was focused on its domestic market, and its business "wouldn't suffer at all from the imposed sanctions". Russia's central bank promised to prop up banks hit by sanctions. "If necessary, appropriate measures will be taken to support these organisations in order to protect the interests of their customers, depositors and creditors," it said in a statement.

But the measures are likely to raise the cost of credit in Russia and likely take their toll on the economy. Andrei Klepach, the deputy chairman of the state-owned bank VEB, said on Russian television on Tuesday that sanctions could halt economic growth or even lead to a recession in the country. Previously, Russia has forecast a 1% growth in gross domestic product this year – although the IMF this month downgraded its forecast to 0.2%, citing capital flight and falling investment amid western economic pressure.

Reacting to the sanctions on Wednesday, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's deputy prime minister, who is in charge of Russia's defence and space industries, wrote on Twitter: "Obama's decision to impose sanctions against the United Shipbuilding Corporation is a clear sign that Russian military shipbuilding is becoming a problem for Russia's enemies." Alexei Pushkov, chairman of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, tweeted: "Obama won't go into history as a peacemaker – everyone has already forgotten about his Nobel peace prize – but as the US president who started a new cold war."

Sergei Lavrov, Russia's foreign minister, said on Monday about the expected sanctions that Russia for now would not "fall into hysterics" or take retaliatory measures. "I assure you, we will overcome any difficulties that may arise in certain areas of the economy, and maybe we will become more independent and more confident in our own strength," Lavrov said.

But despite Lavrov's statement, a group of ruling party lawmakers said on Tuesday they would introduce legislation to ban auditing and consulting companies from "aggressor countries", including the big four auditing firms Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. In addition, Russia's consumer watchdog, which has been known to wield import bans for political purposes, placed a ban on some fruits and vegetables from EU member Poland.

Vladimir Tikhomirov, chief economist at Otkritie Bank, said that such measures against "aggressor countries" is not likely to pass because it would have little impact on western economies but would be disastrous for traded Russian companies, which are all audited by international firms. Instead, Russia could adopt asymmetric measures to ban foreign companies or cut off its export, Tikhomirov said.

In response to sanctions, Russian state-owned banks will probably try to sell more debt on the domestic and Asian markets, but will nonetheless have to increase the cost at which they lend money, Tikhomirov added.

For now, Russian banks are not taking steps to ward off the effects of sanctions, because they expect the situation to be short-lived.

"It will be a burden on Russia's central bank and sovereign fund," he said. "The issue for Russian banks and the market in general is not catastrophic, but macroeconomic pressure will increase, as will growth of inflation and of cost of credit."

State-owned banks Sberbank and VTB declined to comment for this story.

In one example of the import substitution sought by the Kremlin, Russia's president, malignant tumor Pig Putin, snorted at a meeting with representatives of Russia's military-industrial complex on Monday night that the country would replace imported components for its arms production, and the impending "technological difficulties" would in the end be beneficial for the country.

"Our task is to insure ourselves against the risk of our foreign partners not fulfilling contracts, and this includes political risks," malignant tumor Pig Putin snorted. "We need to provide for the reliable and on-time delivery of vital parts and components and carefully keep track of their quality."

The remarks appeared directed toward the effects of the expected western sanctions, as well as the end of cooperation with Ukraine, which has been a major manufacturing base for arms components, especially engines for aircraft and ships. In addition, Russia has a large arms trade with France, having ordered not only two Mistral warships from the country but also licensing to produce thermal imagery devices and electronics for its Su-30 fighter jet. Although the Mistral warship contract will go through, new trade in arms components with Europe will be halted. In light of sanctions Russia will likely turn towards the Asian market to supply such components, Igor Korotchenko, editor of the National Defence journal, told the newspaper Izvestia.

But independent defence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said that despite Putin's optimism, replacing many of the foreign-sourced components was a "sheer impossibility". He said 90% of defence-industry electronics were produced in the west, arguing that even intercontinental ballistic missiles are not fully Russian-made.

"Self-dependence and doing everything on your own soil, that didn't work even in medieval times, and right now practically all Russian weapons systems use foreign components or materials," he said.

The restrictions placed by the EU on the oil industry are also likely to be painful but not crippling. BP, which owns nearly 20% of Russia's state-owned oil major Rosneft and has been cooperating with it to explore Arctic deposits, said further sanctions "could have a material adverse impact on our relationship with and investment in Rosneft, our business and strategic objectives in Russia, and our financial position and results of operations".

A drilling rig that ExxonMobil and Rosneft will operate as part of its exploration project in the Arctic Ocean left port in Norway two days after MH17 was downed. But further Arctic exploration projects will be put into doubt.

Ildar Davletshin, an oil analyst at Renaissance Capital, said western technologies to drill in the Arctic would not be needed until conventional reserves begin to dry up by 2020, he added.

In response to sanctions, Rosneft is will probably seek to divest from non-core assets and decrease its participation in projects in Venezuela and other countries, he said.

"It's a very connected industry, high-technology components could be produced in Russia or China but it will take time to re-orient," he said.

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MH17: Abbott says Australia is unlikely to follow tougher US and EU sanctions

Prime minister says his priority is recovering bodies from the crash site as the US and EU increase sanctions against Russia

Daniel Hurst in Canberra
theguardian.com, Wednesday 30 July 2014 03.44 BST   

Australia is unlikely to follow the US and European Union in pursuing new sanctions against Russia as its focus remains on recovering the bodies of victims of the downed flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.

Tony Abbott played down the prospect of rapidly strengthening Australia’s existing sanctions. The prime minister emphasised his priority was the 38 Australian citizens and residents who were among 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 brought down, apparently by a missile attack, on 17 July.

A multinational team, including Australian federal police (AFP), Dutch police and personnel from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, has been seeking to enter the site but the fighting between Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces has made it too dangerous.

Abbott said the situation on the ground was “very fluid” and the team wanted to try again to access the site on Wednesday. The prime minister said authorities owed it to the victims and their loved ones “to make every reasonable effort”.

“If it doesn’t happen today, we’ll try again tomorrow,” he said on Wednesday. “If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, we’ll try again the next day. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”

On Tuesday, Barack Obama announced new US sanctions targeted at the Russian economy including weapons, energy and finance. The US president said the measures were in response to “Russia’s unwillingness to recognise that Ukraine can chart its own path.”

The EU also announced a series of measures against Moscow to restrict Russian state-owned banks from accessing European capital markets, arguing they were a signal that “illegal annexation of territory and deliberate destabilisation” of a neighbouring sovereign country could not be accepted in 21st-century Europe.

Abbott said he was aware of the new sanctions but they were “a matter for the Europeans and others”.

“We already have some sanctions on Russia,” he said. “I’m not saying that we might not at some point in the future move further, but at the moment our focus is not on sanctions; our focus is on bringing home our dead as quickly as we humanly can.”

Abbott’s comments were consistent with his recent remark that Australia was not interested in engaging in “the politics of eastern Europe”.

In the immediate aftermath of the plane coming down Abbott made forthright criticisms of Russia, but since the passage of a UN security council resolution he has sought to emphasise the humanitarian nature of the mission to recover the bodies and secure evidence.

“We are just focused on getting onto the site as quickly as we can,” Abbott said. “We want to get in, we want to get cracking and we want to get out.”

Foreign minister Julie Bishop said the multinational team was carefully considering the risks of any potential mission to the site of the downed aircraft.

“We are assessing the situation in terms of risks day by day, hour by hour, and we will not take any unacceptable risks given that we have unarmed police as part of our humanitarian mission,” Bishop said.

Abbott has previously said the inability to access the site was frustrating and called for all parties to “be as good as their word”.

In an interview with radio 2UE on Tuesday, Abbott said the separatists, the Ukrainian government and Russia had “all said they want the fighting to stop, at least insofar as is necessary for the site to be secured, the bodies to be recovered, the investigation to be assisted and justice to be done”.

The AFP deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin also warned that ongoing fighting in the area might jeopardise the collection of potential evidence. Colvin said on Monday that Australians must prepare for the possibility that not all remains would ultimately be recovered.

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 SPIEGEL ONLINE
07/30/2014 10:33 AM

Europe's Ground Zero: Fairy Tales and Fabrications in Eastern Ukraine

By Christian Neef in Grabovo, Ukraine

There's an eerie silence at the MH 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, even as a civil war and propaganda battles rage around it. Few here seem concerned that the investigation into the tragedy could influence future ties with Europe.

Alexander Hug isn't really supposed to be here. He hasn't seen his wife and three children, aged four, three and nine months, for weeks and his family came to Kiev for a short visit. Instead of Kiev, though, Hug now finds himself on a road some 650 kilometers (400 miles) away from the capital -- in eastern Ukraine, among fields of wheat and sunflowers. The next village, about a kilometer away, is called Grabovo.

It's the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, fell out of the sky, likely after having been struck by an anti-aircraft missile.

"I experienced the Balkan wars and the Middle East, but what happened here was very extreme," the 42-year-old says, with typical Swiss understatement. But then he loses his composure after all. "This is an unbelievable tragedy of immense scope," he says. "An airplane crashes over a war zone, totally innocent vacationers fall from the sky, and then access to the disaster site is hindered."

Hug is the deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitoring mission in Ukraine. He has been monitoring activities at Europe's easternmost edge for months now -- in the "People's Republics" of Donetsk and Luhansk that have been proclaimed by pro-Russian separatists. The expectation of the OSCE's 57 member states is that Hug will provide an objective look at what is happening in the region.

Hug first arrived at the scene of the crash 24 hours after the Boeing 777 went down at 4:20 p.m. on July 17. Since then, he has driven the 60 kilometer stretch between Donetsk and Grabovo on a daily basis. On this particular day, he is accompanying three Malaysia Airlines experts, the first who dared travel to the crisis area. They were only allowed access to the site with the permission of the rebels.

The visit took place last Tuesday, five days after the aircraft had been shot down. The rebels claimed that the remains of all 298 of the dead had been recovered, but the stench of death among the wreckage told a different story. Hug says he has seen "body parts all over the place."

Evidence for the depth of the tragedy that occurred here is everywhere. There is a Bali travel guide still lying there, as is the children's toy that was shown on television. There's also a folder with the floor plans for a new home -- a dream that had nearly been attained by a young Dutch family that perished in the crash.

Investigation Will Determine Future Relations

Grabovo is Europe's Ground Zero -- a crime that must be resolved, because the findings are likely to determine how Europe deals with a Russian that is supporting self-proclaimed separatists in eastern Ukraine, both paying and equipping them. Europe has already indicated that it is losing patience with Moscow, and on Tuesday imposed the toughest round of sanctions yet.

Here, though, nobody seems overly concerned about the implications of the crime, with the exception of Hug, a tall man of 6'4" wearing a blue-checkered shirt, a bullet-proof vest and a white OSCE armband as he directs the gaggle of journalists who have descended on the site. The other exceptions are the trio of Malaysian experts who can be seen roaming the fields with backpacks and cameras.

As had been the case for days, apart from Hug and the Malaysians, the crash site was devoid of any guards or teams of investigators and was open to anyone, including plunderers. The rebels have even taken away aircraft parts and presented them like trophies at checkpoints located kilometers away.

The world outside of eastern Ukraine may be shaken by this disaster -- indeed, the UN Security Council showed rare unanimity when it demanded that an international investigation be conducted. But none of that is tangible on the ground here. So far, little has been done to clarify what happened. Instead there has been a lot of finger-pointing. What is clear is that the death of 298 people has opened a new round in the battle over Ukraine, with each side now feeling its position has been validated.

One gets a sense for this about 10 kilometers away from Grabovo, where parts of the fuselage and luggage bins lie. Village residents have placed signs along the road reading, "Stop the genocide in Donbass," or "Rescue our children from the Ukrainian army!"

Rhetorical Polemics

You can also get a sense for it on a road near Grabovo, where a woman wearing a summer dress and high heels suddenly appears holding shell fragments in her hand. Speaking to the gathered journalists, who represent publications from all over the world, she says she comes from Shakhtarsk and claims her hometown had just been shelled with such projectiles by the Ukrainian army. That, she says, should be investigated, adding that it was much more important. How she managed to get to us from Shakhtarsk, located over 20 kilometers away, and why she appeared just at that moment remains unexplained.

Then a rebel "press officer" wearing an exotic uniform comes down the street and talks about the West's crimes. "The usual rhetorical polemics," Hug notes.

On the same day, the Security Council of Russia held a meeting in Moscow to address the crash of Flight MH 17. Yet again,  malignant tumor Pig Putin repeated his allegation that "neo-fascist, fundamentalist forces had used arms to seize power in Kiev." He went on to describe the separatists as a "part of the population" that disagrees with the developments in Ukraine.

Russians Call the Shots

The disgruntled segment of the Ukrainian population that  malignant tumor Pig Putin refers to is represented near Grabovo by the woman in the summer dress and the 10 heavily armed men of the "People's Republic," who, while claiming to be protecting OSCE staff, are more likely present to keep watch over them. The armed men are wearing brand new camouflage uniforms with patches that read "Sevastopol, City of Heroes," and "The Crimean Spring." One, a young man with a headband and long hair holding a Kalashnikov in his hands and carrying a pistol in his waist belt, tells a Russian television team that he's also from Moscow. When asked where, he says he's from the city's Cheryomushki district. When asked what he does there, he responds by saying he sings in the church choir -- and he has the voice and looks to back it up. He means it seriously. But then he adds, "I'm here voluntarily."

He's just as Ukrainian as Alexander Borodai, the self-proclaimed prime minister of the "People's Republic of Donetsk" who also hails from Moscow. When Borodai handed MH 17's flight recorder over to the Malaysia Airlines experts, they referred to him as "your excellency," just to play it safe. For some time now, it has been leaders from Moscow and not local forces who have been calling the shots in the separatist republic. It's a subject that neither Putin nor the Russian media have shown much interest in addressing. Instead, the public defamation of Ukraine by Russia has reached new heights in the wake of the MH 17 crash.

That too is palpable in Grabovo. A correspondent for Russia's Channel One does a stand-up report from the edge of the wreckage area for the evening news. In it, he claims that the government in Kiev has done everything it could to prevent international experts from getting to the crash scene. Then a Russian news agency issues a report claiming that the Malaysian aviation experts and their OSCE escorts came under fire by Ukrainian fighter jets on their way to the crash site.

Disinformation

The reports are just as untrue as the majority of what Russian television stations broadcast from the separatist republics each day. There is, for example, the report that air traffic controllers, located 270 kilometers away in Dnipropetrovsk, a city under the control of a governor friendly to Kiev, instructed Flight MH 17 to change its path in order to make it easier for Ukrainian fighter jets to shoot it down. European air traffic safety regulators have long since refuted reports of a course change and have stated that the aircraft followed its originally planned route. Few residing between Moscow and Donetsk are interested in hearing that, however. People even believe the most absurd reporting on the disaster, like stories claiming that MH 17 had been carrying corpses when it took off from Amsterdam. It's a fairy tale that is repeated incessantly on countless Russian news broadcasts.

The separatists and Moscow alike have indignantly denied that a Buk surface-to-air missile shot MH 17 down. They have also vehemently denied that rebels could even have been in possession of the air defense system. They claim that evidence in the form of photos and recordings of conversations have been fabricated by the Ukrainians and the Americans.

But on Wednesday, Alexander Khodakovsky, a rebel leader in Donetsk and commander of the notorious Vostok battalion, told Reuters that rebels did in fact possess the Buk missile system and that it could have come from Russia. Khodakovsky later retracted his statements, but the recording of the interview shows that it is in fact precisely what he said.

OSCE official Hug has almost daily dealings with the rebels. Twice since April, he has had to intervene to secure the freedom of Western hostages held by them.

He says he only continues to speak with Borodai or his deputy, adding that they generally do what they say, "at least to a certain degree." He notes that "we've known for some time now that there is quarreling among the rebels and that there are differences between the political level and their armed forces." He describes it as a "thicket of alliances," with many acting on their own.

War Continues Unabated

In exactly this moment, heavy shelling begins around 20 kilometers away from Grabovo in Snizhne, the town from which it is believed the rebels fired the missile that brought down Flight MH 17. The impact of the rockets in Snizhne is visible from as far away as the crash site. Despite the tragedy, the war continues unabated here.

Just a few days later, rebels in the area again shoot down two planes, Ukrainian Air Force SU-25 fighter jets. In recent weeks, they have shot down 14 aircraft. Evidence is overwhelming that the Malaysian Airlines Boeing was among them.

The developments have led to political radicalization in Ukraine as well. Last week, President Petro Poroshenko ordered a partial mobilization for the third time, saying he needed 60,000 soldiers for deployment in eastern Ukraine. At the same time, he also got the opportunity for new elections after the parties backing him quit the government coalition. It is now likely that the final remaining members of parliament from the party of Poroshenko's deposed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, will be voted out of office. In addition, the Communist Party, which remains strong in the separatist areas, is expected to be banned.

A 'Russian Lockerbie'

Behind the scenes in the Kremlin, away from the official television propaganda, uncertainty is beginning to spread.  malignant tumor Pig Putin himself has seemed agitated and nervous in his latest television appearances.

Voices claiming that Russia's intervention in eastern Ukraine has turned into a disaster are growing louder, as are those who consider the shooting down of MH 17 to be a turning point. Moscow-based journalist and columnist Yulia Latynina described the events as a "Russian Lockerbie." And the editor-in-chief of the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta is even predicting  malignant tumor Pig Putin's descent to the status of political "pariah" because he armed rebels in eastern Ukraine.

A program on radio broadcaster Echo of Moscow, which is at least half-way independent, came to the conclusion last week that the situation had blindsided Putin. Political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky said in the program that the president had come across as being quite optimistic prior to the shooting down of MH 17. The separatists had encircled the Ukrainian army south of Donetsk and  malignant tumor Pig Putin believed he was on the verge of being able to force the West to negotiate over Ukraine's fate. That, Belkovski believes, was the goal of  malignant tumor Pig Putin's interference in Ukraine all along. But the shooting down of the aircraft has altered the situation and Moscow's support for the rebels wound up costing the lives of 298 innocent people. "This has made clear once and for all that  malignant tumor Pig Putin can no longer disentangle himself from the separatists."

Alexander Hug is still at the site of the downed plane, with the wreckage in sight. He says he doesn't want to comment on any of this. "The OSCE has no political agenda," he says, "and that's what makes it possible for us to be in the combat area of the rebels." He says his most important mission is making sure that the world finally has access to the crash site in Grabovo.

In the meantime, supporters of the separatists continue living in their own world. On the way back to Donetsk, which was being shelled by the Ukrainian army at the time, a young man could hardly hide his excitement. He was very certain, he said, that malignant tumor Pig Putin's troops, "would invade" this week. "Finally."

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

Belarus to host Ukraine crisis talks

President Petro Poroshenko wants discussions with Russia and OSCE to focus on securing access to MH17 crash site

Reuters
theguardian.com, Wednesday 30 July 2014 10.46 BST   

Belarus is to host talks between Ukraine, Russia and OSCE representatives on the crisis in eastern Ukraine, President Alexander Lukashenko's office has said.

It did not say when the meetings would take place but the Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, asked Lukashenko to host the talks on Thursday, and to focus on securing access to the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down in east Ukraine this month.

Fierce fighting has prevented officials from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) reaching the crash site for several days.

There was no indication pro-Russian separatists fighting Ukraine's army would attend the talks, although Lukashenko's office said "all interested sides" were invited.

The talks were expected to involve Russia's ambassador to Kiev, Mikhail Zurabov, and former Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma, who have met several times since the crisis began but have failed to secure a breakthrough.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine prevented OSCE representatives from reaching the crash site on Tuesday for the third successive day.

"Decisions are being made on a political level on ensuring safety on the site," Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE in Ukraine said on Wednesday. "Today, as far as we know, we won't be going there."

An OSCE convoy had earlier on Wednesday been stopped by rebels about six miles outside the city of Donetsk because of fighting further along the route, but OSCE officials later denied the team had been trying to reach the crash site.

Poroshenko wants the talks in Minsk to also discuss the release of hostages Kiev claims are being held by the rebels in east Ukraine, the Ukrainian president said in a statement on Facebook.

He appears to have turned to Belarus for help because the former Soviet republic is a Moscow ally but also has a solid relationship with Ukraine.

The regional authorities in Donetsk, one of the regions worst hit by the fighting, said on Wednesday morning that 19 people had been killed in the past 24 hours.

Kiev's military offensive has forced the rebels out of some areas they held, apart from their strongholds in and around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and fighting has intensified since the airliner was brought down on 17 July killing all 298 people on board.

The west believes the separatists probably shot the plane down by mistake and has accused Russia of arming them. Moscow denies this.


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« Reply #14711 on: Jul 30, 2014, 06:42 AM »

Moscow may walk out of nuclear treaty after US accusations of breach

Russia said to be on point of leaving 1987 treaty, after Obama administration said it violated the accord with tests of R-500

Alec Luhn in Moscow and Julian Borger   
The Guardian, Tuesday 29 July 2014 12.38 BST      

Russia may be on the point of walking out of a major cold war era arms-control treaty, Russian analysts have said, after President Obama accused Moscow of violating the accord by testing a cruise missile.

There has been evidence at least since 2011 of Russian missile tests in violation of the 1987 intermediate range nuclear forces (INF) treaty, which banned US or Russian ground-launched cruise missiles with a 500 to 5,500-mile (805 to 8,851km) range. But the Obama administration has been hesitant until now of accusing Moscow of a violation in the hope that it could persuade Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, to stop the tests or at least not deploy the weapon in question, known as the Iskander, or R-500.

Washington has also been reticent because of the technical differences in definition of what constitutes the range of a missile under the INF treaty. That ambiguity now seems to have dropped away. According to Pavel Felgenhauer, a defence analyst and columnist for the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, Russia has indeed broken the treaty by testing the R-500 which has a range of more than 1,000km.

"Of course, this is in gross violation of the 1987 treaty, but Russian officials including malignant tumor Pig Putin have said this treaty is unfair and not suitable for Russia," Felgenhauer said. "The United States doesn't have [medium-range missiles] but other countries do have them, such as China, Pakistan and Israel, so they say this is unfair and wrong."

Russian press reports have suggested the missile may even be in deployment, with state news agency RIA Novosti reporting in June that the "Russian army currently uses its Iskander-M and Iskander-K variants." Felgenhauer said he doesn't believe the missile has been deployed, although he said it's entirely possible that Russia will leave the treaty amid tensions with the US.

"The present situation of a new cold war in Europe – and not even cold, at least not in Ukraine right now – it's a situation in which Russia can abrogate the 1987 treaty, and the possibilities are rather high," Felgenhauer said.

Russian officials have previously criticised the 1987 treaty, including former defence minister Sergei Ivanov. In 2013, Ivanov, then presidential chief of staff, said of the treaty: "We are fulfilling it, but it can't last forever."

According to Kremlin-linked analyst Sergei Markov, Russia has a far greater need for medium-range cruise missiles than the |US, because military rivals including China are located near its borders and because Moscow lacks the Americans' long-range bombing capabilities.

"Russia would be happy to leave this agreement, and I think Russia is using the Ukraine crisis to leave the agreement," Markov said.

As for Russia's complaints about US aegis missiles, Felgenhauer said they reflect the genuine belief among Kremlin top brass that the US missile defence has a secret attack capability and poses a threat to Russia.

"This was a normal Soviet practice that missile interceptors had the in-built capability to be used as an attack missile," Felgenhauer said.


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« Reply #14712 on: Jul 30, 2014, 06:44 AM »


Belgium calls for clear labelling of goods from Israeli settlements

Economics ministry asks retailers to distinguish between goods produced by Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank

Reuters in Brussels
theguardian.com, Tuesday 29 July 2014 12.39 BST   

Belgium has advised retailers to label clearly the origin of products made in Israeli settlements that are in occupied Palestinian territories.

The non-binding recommendation has nothing to do with the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, the economics ministry said, noting that Britain and Denmark already had similar labelling guidelines in place.

"It's a non-binding advice to state on labels that products originating from occupied territories come from there," a spokeswoman said. "We don't see this as a sanction against Israel, but EU rules stipulate that consumers have to be informed of the origins of products."

The ministry planned to send a letter to retail federations on Tuesday recommending the use of such labels. Neither Belgium's national retail federation, Comeos, nor the Israeli embassy in Brussels would comment before the letter was issued.

Israel has been critical of any move to label produce from Jewish settlements clearly or distinguish them from goods produced by Palestinians, arguing that the distinction is part of a larger effort to impose a Palestinian state on Israel.

The labels Belgium has in mind would mainly apply to fruit and vegetables grown in the West Bank's Jordan valley, but they could also include products such as sparkling water made by SodaStream and cosmetics by Ahava, both of which have production facilities in the West Bank.

Settlement goods are often labelled either "produce of the West Bank", implying it could be Palestinian produce, or "produce of Israel", suggesting it could have originated on the Israeli side of the 1967 green line.

Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory are not considered part of the state of Israel under international law.


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« Reply #14713 on: Jul 30, 2014, 06:46 AM »

Senior Guerrilla Leaders Tied to Acts of Persecution After Civil War

By DAN BILEFSKY and SOMINI SENGUPTA
JULY 29, 2014
IHT

PARIS — A special European Union prosecutor said Tuesday that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army engaged in a campaign of persecution against ethnic Serbs after the 1998-99 Kosovo war, and said evidence suggested that the armed group had targeted a number of individuals after the war to harvest and sell their organs.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on Feb. 17, 2008, almost a decade after NATO bombs helped eject the former Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic from Kosovo, ending a brutal civil war against the ethnic Albanian majority. But regional reconciliation has been hampered by accusations that senior members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, known by its initials K.L.A., have not been held fully accountable for suspected war crimes.

A European Union task force was set up in September 2011 under the leadership of Clint Williamson, an American diplomat who served as the war crimes envoy in the administrations of George W. Bush and President Obama. The task force was created after a Council of Europe report accused Kosovo’s prime minister, Hashim Thaci, the former commander of the K.L.A. of having led a “mafialike” group that smuggled human organs, weapons and heroin during and after the war. Mr. Thaci has strenuously rejected those accusations and the Kosovo government at the time called them “despicable.”

While refusing to describe whether Kosovo’s current political leadership was potentially implicated in war crimes, Mr. Williamson said at a news conference on Tuesday in Brussels that the suspects included “individuals at the most senior levels of the K.L.A.”

He said senior officials of the guerrilla group had intentionally targeted minority populations with acts of persecution that included “unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites.”

Mr. Williamson added that the practice of removing organs for transplant had occurred on a limited scale and that evidence suggested that a “handful” of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs. But he said there was currently insufficient evidence to prosecute anyone for the crimes, adding that the investigation had been tainted by witness intimidation in Kosovo.

"If even one person was subjected to such practice that is a terrible tragedy,” he said, referring to the accusations of organ trafficking. “The fact that it occurred on a small scale does not lessen the savagery of the crime.”

He said the persecution resulted in the ethnic cleansing of minority Serb and Roma communities from parts of the country. It also targeted ethnic Albanians who were political enemies of K.L.A. leaders, he said.

Mr. Williamson’s statements are a blow to Kosovo, a poor country that has been struggling to find international legitimacy since it declared independence with the support of the United States and a majority of European Union countries. His conclusions will most likely be welcomed by Serbia, which has long argued that international justice has unfairly focused on Serbs suspected of war crimes at the expense of those who targeted Serbs during the war and its aftermath.

On Tuesday, the Kosovo government said it was determined to cooperate with the investigation. Petrit Selimi, the deputy foreign minister, said Mr. Williamson’s statements offered no new elements. “Kosovo’s war for liberty was a just cause supported by the free world, while individuals who may have allegedly engaged in unlawful behavior under the umbrella of a guerrilla army must face justice,” he said in an emailed statement.

The possible indictment of K.L.A. leaders comes more than a decade after the alleged war crimes occurred. There is no statute of limitations for war crimes under international law, a fact that has fueled several efforts to document crimes in Syria’s continuing war, including seven successive reports by a United Nations commission of inquiry.

Mr. Williamson said a special tribunal was expected to be established early next year, with the goal of trying alleged war crimes committed in the immediate aftermath of the Kosovo war. Crimes committed during the war have been tried in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where Mr. Williamson was once a prosecutor.

The new court is likely to face challenges. Past investigations of reports of organ trafficking in Kosovo have been undermined by witnesses’ fears of testifying in a small country where clan ties run deep and former members of the K.L.A. are still feted as heroes.

Former leaders of the K.L.A. occupy high posts in the government, and the extent to which they will cooperate with investigations remains unclear.


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« Reply #14714 on: Jul 30, 2014, 06:50 AM »

Don't Laugh Loudly, Turkish Deputy PM Tells Women

by Naharnet Newsdesk
29 July 2014, 17:49

One of the most senior members of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government sparked an outcry on Tuesday after declaring that women should not laugh loudly in public.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, one of the co-founders of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), made the comment while lamenting the moral decline of modern society.

"A man should be moral but women should be moral as well, they should know what is decent and what is not decent," Arinc said in a speech on Monday in the western Bursa region for the Bayram holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

"She should not laugh loudly in front of all the world and should preserve her decency at all times," he added.

Turkish women took to social media in droves to denounce Arinc's comments, posting pictures of themselves deliriously laughing under the hashtags #kahkaha (#laughter) and #direnkahkaha (#resistlaughter) which have now gone viral.

The ruling AKP is accused by critics of seeking to erode Turkey's strict separation of religion and state -- the basis of the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Arinc went on to denounce a moral degradation that left society awash with drugs and prostitution, and lashed out at popular Turkish soap operas for encouraging lax lifestyles, in comments quoted throughout the Turkish media and online.

He pointed to the use of bonzai, a synthetic drug which has become a craze in some parts of low income Turkish society and is now a serious social problem.

"We have to rediscover the Koran. We have gone backwards, morally," said Arinc. "We have become a very different society."

Arinc also said a man should be strongly "tied to his wife and love his children" while a woman should "protect her husband's honor".

He denounced the excessive use of cars, saying that if even the "river Nile was filled with petrol", there wouldn't be enough to go around.

Arinc also slammed the excessive use of mobile phones in Turkish society, with women "spending hours on the phone to swap recipes".

Imitating a Turkish woman on her mobile, he said, "'Is there nothing else going on? What happened to Ayse's daughter? When's the wedding?'"

"People should say these things face to face," he added.

His comments provoked a storm among AKP critics, with political tensions riding high as Erdogan prepares to stand in presidential elections on August 10.

Erdogan's main rival in the polls, the mild-mannered former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, himself took to Twitter to poke fun at Arinc.

"We need to hear the happy laughter of women," he wrote.

Anti-Erdogan bloggers responded with even greater anger.

"Stop giving us moral lessons and instead count all the money that you have stolen," wrote one Twitter user, bturkmen, referring to corruption allegations against Erdogan and his circle that surfaced last year.

A pious Muslim who does not drink and whose wife wears the Muslim headscarf, Erdogan has always denied seeking to erode Turkey's secular principles.

Anger at the government's attitudes towards secular Turks erupted into deadly protests that shook Erdogan last year sparked by plans to redevelop a park in Istanbul.


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