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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1077059 times)
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« Reply #14760 on: Aug 01, 2014, 06:50 AM »

Sudanese Christian Woman Spared Execution in U.S.

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 12:59

A Sudanese Christian woman -- sentenced to death for renouncing Islam but acquitted after international pressure on Khartoum -- has arrived in the United States with her family.

Meriam Ibrahim Tehya Ishag flew first into the east coast city of Philadelphia Thursday, where she was welcomed by the mayor as a "world freedom fighter," media reports said.

The mayor presented her with a model of the Liberty Bell, a symbol of U.S. independence, the reports said.

The 26-year-old, her two infant children and her U.S. citizen husband Daniel Wani later continued on to New Hampshire, where Wani has family, and was greeted by cheering supporters with balloons and U.S. flags, the reports added.

After leaving Sudan, the family had spent eight days in Rome, where Ishag met Pope Francis, visited the Colosseum, shopped and "learned how to live again," she said.

The White House last week said it was delighted at Ishag's release and looked forward to welcoming her to the United States.

A global outcry erupted in May after Ishag was sentenced under sharia law to hang for apostasy.

Days after her conviction, she gave birth to her daughter in prison.

Ishag's conviction was overturned in June, but she was immediately rearrested while trying to leave Sudan using what prosecutors claimed were forged documents.

Two days later, Ishag was released from prison and she and her family took refuge in the U.S. embassy because of mounting death threats.

Ishag was born to a Muslim father who abandoned the family, and was raised by her Ethiopian Orthodox Christian mother. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Khartoum says Ishaq joined the Catholic church shortly before she married in 2011.

She was convicted under Islamic sharia law that has been in force in Sudan since 1983, and that says Muslim conversion to another faith is punishable by death.

The court had also sentenced her to 100 lashings because under sharia law it considered her union with her non-Muslim husband to be adultery.

Ishag's case raised questions of religious freedom in mostly-Muslim Sudan and sparked vocal protests from Western governments and human rights groups.

The case has re-focused attention on a country which has slipped from the international spotlight but where war continues with millions of people in need of humanitarian aid.

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« Reply #14761 on: Aug 01, 2014, 06:56 AM »

Amazon tribe makes first contact with outside world

Indigenous people crossed from Peru into Brazil looking for help to combat illegal loggers and drug
traffickers, researchers say

Agence France-Presse, Friday 1 August 2014 07.53 BST   
Footage released by Brazil’s National Indian Foundation shows isolated indigenous people coming forward for outside assistance after fleeing attacks in Peru

Isolated native people likely to be fleeing attacks in Peru have turned up in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest where they made contact with the outside world, according to a video released by the country’s indigenous authority.

Brazilian experts have said the tribespeople probably crossed the border as they had come under pressure from illegal logging and drug trafficking at home.

The tribe, part of the Pano linguistic group, made contact with the Ashaninka native people of northern Brazil in late June.

The meeting was documented in a video that was released by Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (Funai). In one scene an Ashaninka Indian in shorts gives bananas to two naked tribespeople armed with bows and arrows on the banks of the Envira river in the Brazilian state of Acre on the border with Peru.

Funai said its own team’s encounter was filmed on the second day of contact on 30 June.
Two members of a previously uncontacted tribe stand on the bank of the Envira river. Two members of a previously uncontacted tribe stand on the bank of the Envira river. Photograph: Reuters

Jaminawa Jose Correia, an Ashaninka who spoke with the tribespeople, said they had come in search of weapons and allies.

“They described being attacked by non-native people and many died after coming down with the flu and diphtheria,” he said.

Funai said the group returned to the forest but came back three weeks ago because they had contracted the flu. A government medical team was sent to treat seven of them.

Rights group Survival International said the episode was extremely worrying, considering that influenza epidemics have wiped out entire tribes in the past.

The Brazilian Amazon has the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world at 77, Funai estimates.

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« Reply #14762 on: Aug 01, 2014, 06:59 AM »

Argentina's government blames 'conspiracy' for defaulting on debt

Second default in 13 years pushes peso down more than 4% against the dollar, with fallout likely to drive inflation higher

Angela Monaghan and Uki Goni   
The Guardian, Thursday 31 July 2014 19.51 BST   
Argentina's government was in a defiant mood on Thursday after defaulting on its debt for the second time in 13 years.

Economy minister Axel Kicillof, speaking after 11th hour talks with bondholders in New York failed to avert a default, played down the impact it would have on the country's citizens. "We're not going to sign an agreement that jeopardises the future of all Argentinians," he told a press conference in New York. "Argentinians can remain calm because tomorrow will just be another day and the world will keep on spinning."

Markets appeared to disagree, with Argentina's Merval share index falling almost 7% on Thursday and the peso down more than 4% against the dollar. Analysts said a fall in Argentina's currency would cause further pain in the country, pushing up the price of imports and driving inflation higher.

Steen Jakobsen, chief economist at Saxo Bank, said the fallout would be difficult for a country where inflation is already 12% on official measures and 40% unofficially. "At a minimum we'll see a loss of GDP of at least 1% if not 2%," he said.

Argentina was already locked out of international capital markets following its earlier default in late 2001, and Neil Shearing, chief emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said the latest default would be viewed as a local issue: "Confirmation that Argentina has officially fallen into default is likely to rattle local markets and has the potential to do significant damage to the domestic economy. But we suspect that contagion to other emerging markets is likely to be limited."

Argentina has been locked in a decade-long dispute with hold-out investors that the government has described as "vulture funds" – a group of US hedge funds led by billionaire Paul Singer's NML Capital, an affiliate of Elliott Management. The vast majority of Argentina's bondholders agreed to debt restructuring deals in 2005 and 2010 following its 2001 default, wiping off more than 70% of the value of their investment but securing regular interest payments. But the holdout investors refused the restructuring and are demanding repayment in full.

An instalment of $539m (£319m) was due on the country's restructured bonds on 30 June, which Argentina wanted to pay. The move was blocked, however, by a US judge, Thomas Griesa, who ruled Argentina could not pay the restructured bonds back unless it also paid more than $1.5bn to the holdout investors. Argentina has insisted it cannot afford to do both. A 30-day grace period expired on Wednesday at midnight New York time, meaning Argentina technically defaulted on the restructured bonds.

Economists at the Washington-based Centre for Economic and Policy Research called on the US Congress to intervene, warning in a letter that Griesa's decision to uphold the holdout investors claim could cause "unnecessary economic damage to the international financial system, as well as to US economic interests".

In Argentina, the government said the country was the victim of a conspiracy of international financial agents.

"To say we are in default is absurd trickery," said cabinet chief minister Jorge Capitanich. "If the judge is clearly an agent of the vulture funds, if the mediator is an agent of the vulture funds, if the judicial system is infiltrated by the vulture funds, then what kind of justice are you talking to me about?"

Capitanich blamed the US government for failing to intervene against the "obscene profits" awarded to hedge funds by the New York court. "Here there is a responsibility of the United States to generate the conditions for unrestricted respect for the sovereignty of nations. This is Argentina's position, a rational position," Capitanich said.

Later, after returning from New York, Kicillof said he is willing to hold further talks with holdout investors whose claim for bond payments forced the South American country into default.

It was unclear how the situation would be resolved, but Griesa said he would hold a hearing on the case on Friday.

There was also speculation that JP Morgan is considering the possibility of buying the holdout bonds. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment.

News that the late-stage talks had failed was broken by Daniel Pollack, a US court-appointed mediator in the tense negotiations. "Unfortunately, no agreement was reached and the Republic of Argentina will imminently be in default," he said. "The full consequences of default are not predictable, but they certainly are not positive."

Stressing the severity of the situation, he added in a statement: "Default is not a mere "technical" condition, but rather a real and painful event that will hurt real people: these include all ordinary Argentine citizens, the exchange bondholders (who will not receive their interest) and the holdouts (who will not receive payment of the judgments they obtained in court)."

Opposition leaders in Argentina scoffed at the government's attempt to deny the country had entered into default. "It doesn't matter what we say, the world understands we have fallen into default," said Rogelio Frigerio of the PRO conservative party and head of the Buenos Aires city bank Banco Ciudad.

In the conservative daily La Nación, columinst Joaquín Morales Solá questioned the wisdom of president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's tactic of denial. "The government's attitude is unexplainable," the columnist wrote.

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« Reply #14763 on: Aug 01, 2014, 07:04 AM »

World Trade Organisation has reached its make or break moment

Failure to ratify first agreement in 20 years could be fatal if countries move to cut their own bilateral and regional deals


Obituaries for the World Trade Organisation have been prepared many times over the past decade but proved premature. This time they may be needed.

Make no mistake, the failure of the WTO's members to ratify a deal designed to streamline customs' procedures by preventing needless delays and corruption at borders is a massive setback to the multilateral trading system. It paves the way for countries to cut their own bilateral or regional deals. For the WTO, it threatens to be fatal.

Here's the situation. It is now more than 20 years since the last global trade deal was done and dusted. A new round of talks began with an ambitious agenda in Doha in 2001 but went nowhere fast. The issues – including services, manufacturing and agriculture – were too complex and contentious; big developing countries were no longer prepared to be pushed around by Brussels and Washington.

Eventually, under a new director general, a deal was finally agreed in Bali last December. Rather than see the talks collapse completely, the WTO's 160 members put the hard bits of the Doha agenda to one side and decided to pick the low hanging fruit instead. This was the seemingly uncontroversial commitment to reform customs' rules, with a pledge of money to help poor countries.

There was one other part of the Bali agreement. India secured an agreement allowing it to stockpile more food than is allowed under WTO rules. This was due to come into force in 2017, after the trade facilitation deal.

All that was needed to clinch the first – albeit modest – multilateral trade deal since 1994 was for the Bali accord to be ratified by WTO members before a 31 July 2014 deadline. Wrongly, it was assumed this would be a rubber-stamping exercise. India's new nationalist government said it would not ratify the agreement unless action on the food deal – seen as important in feeding the country's rural poor – speeded up and was backed by three other countries – Cuba, Bolivia and Venezuela.

Trade diplomats in Geneva have now gone on their annual summer holiday. That will give them time to work out what to do next. It is possible that India will soften its line given that New Delhi has been one of the most vociferous opponents of bilateral and regional deals, on the grounds that they make it easier for rich countries to call the shots.

An alternative would be for the remaining WTO members to go ahead without India in a coalition of the willing. This, though, would harden the belief in some capitals that multilateral deals are simply too hard to negotiate and not worth all the trouble. It would make Brussels and Washington even keener on their Trans-Atlantic trade and investment partnership (TTIP).

So, this really is make or break time. The WTO's members have to decide whether there is a future in global trade talks. If they decide there isn't the WTO is in effect finished.


World Trade Organisation deal on global customs falls through

Last-ditch attempt to salvage agreement scuppered after members clash over India's subsidy demands

Angela Monaghan, Friday 1 August 2014 12.19 BST      

Eleventh-hour attempts to salvage a World Trade Organisation deal on simplifying global customs have collapsed, leaving the future of the Geneva-based institution in doubt.

Talks to cut red tape on international borders broke down following India's refusal to back a deal unless it included concessions allowing developing countries freedom to subsidise and stockpile food.

An agreement on the deal had been reached in Bali in December, with a deadline of midnight on Thursday to ratify it. But the deal was scuppered after the WTO's 160 members failed to agree over India's demands.

Admitting defeat, Roberto Azevêdo, the WTO's director general, said that despite intense negotiations, disagreement between members had not been resolved.

"We have not been able to find a solution that would allow us to bridge that gap. We tried everything we could. But it has not proved possible," he said.

"The fact we do not have a conclusion means that we are entering a new phase in our work – a phase which strikes me as being full of uncertainties."

Speaking about the future of the organisation, Azevêdo said: "What this means for the WTO will be in the hands of the members. I think we should take the time to reflect and come back in September."

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« Reply #14764 on: Aug 01, 2014, 07:21 AM »

In the USA...United Surveillance America

Microsoft ordered to produce overseas customer email addresses by US judge

Microsoft and others had challenged a criminal search warrant for the emails, in case that drew concern from privacy groups

Reuters in New York, Thursday 31 July 2014 22.10 BST      

Microsoft Corp must turn over a customer’s emails stored in a data center in Ireland to the US government, a US judge ruled on Thursday in a case that has drawn concern from privacy groups and major technology companies.

Microsoft and other US companies had challenged a criminal search warrant for the emails, arguing federal prosecutors cannot seize customer information held in foreign countries.

But following a two-hour court hearing in New York, US District Judge Loretta Preska said the warrant lawfully required the company to hand over any data it controlled, regardless of where it was stored.

“It is a question of control, not a question of the location of that information,” Preska said.

The judge said she would temporarily suspend her order from taking effect to allow Microsoft to appeal to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case appears to be the first in which a corporation has challenged a US search warrant seeking data held abroad.

It comes amid a debate over privacy and technology that erupted last year when former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the government’s efforts to collect huge amounts of consumer data around the world.

AT&T Inc, Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and Verizon Communications Inc all submitted court briefs in support of Microsoft, along with the privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The companies are worried they could lose billions of dollars in revenue to foreign competitors if customers fear their data is subject to seizure by US investigators anywhere in the world.

In a statement, Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, said the company would appeal.

“The only issue that was certain this morning was that the district court’s decision would not represent the final step in this process,” he said.

Thursday’s ruling concerned a warrant New York prosecutors served on Microsoft for an individual’s emails stored in Dublin, Ireland. A magistrate judge in April ruled the warrant was valid.

It is unclear what type of investigation led to the warrant, which remains under seal.

US companies say they have been hurt by fears about government intrusion: companies such as Cisco, Qualcomm Inc , International Business Machines Corp, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Co reported declines in China sales since the Snowden leaks.

European telecom carriers such as Orange and Deutsche Telekom started pitching local data storage soon afterward, and companies from start-up Silent Circle to software giant SAP SE have also sought to capitalize.

In August last year, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation estimated the Snowden revelations could cost the American cloud computing industry $22bn to $35bn over the next three years.

US judges are grappling with privacy concerns over personal data. The US supreme court in June ruled that police officers almost always need a warrant to search an arrested suspect’s cellphone, noting the enormous wealth of data on mobile devices.

Several magistrate judges across the country also have been divided on whether prosecutors can use search warrants to seize emails from providers.

Craig Newman, a lawyer who follows privacy legal issues and attended Thursday’s hearing, said the issue was far from settled.

“One thing we can say is that traditional notions of search and seizure and fourth amendment law don’t fit comfortably in the digital world,” said Newman, who is not involved in the case.

Joshua Rosenkranz, a lawyer for Microsoft, said in court that the law does not permit warrants to be executed overseas and called the request a bid for “extraordinary power.”

But Serrin Turner, a prosecutor from the office of Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara, said the warrant did not involve a search in Ireland but simply required Microsoft to provide documents it controls.

“It makes no sense for Congress to make the government go on a wild-goose chase ... when the provider is sitting here in this country and can access the data at the touch of a button,” he said.

And Preska pointed out that US banks have long been required to provide records in response to subpoenas, even when stored overseas.

Rosenkranz raised the specter of foreign governments turning the tables and seeking US-based data via warrants issued in their own countries, which he said would be an “astounding” violation of our sovereignty.

Preska acknowledged that such a scenario was “pretty scary” but said she could not consider the potential actions of other governments when interpreting the law.


Supreme Court asked to review Obamacare subsidy case

By Reuters
Friday, August 1, 2014 7:09 EDT

The petition requests the U.S. high court decide the issue after two lower U.S. court rulings created uncertainties last week regarding the legitimacy of subsidies for individuals enrolled on federally run exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, which is coordinating and funding the cases, filed the petition, according to the not-for-profit’s website. (

The twin appeals court rulings, handed down by three-judge panels in Washington, D.C., and Richmond, Virginia, fell in line with partisan disagreements over healthcare reform. Two judges appointed by Republican presidents decided against the administration in the District of Columbia and three judges appointed by Democrats ruled in favor in Virginia.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in a 2-1 decision that the language in the Affordable Care Act dealing with subsidies shows they should only be provided to consumers who purchase benefits on exchanges run by individual states.

However, plaintiffs in the D.C. Circuit case, known as Halbig v. Burwell, claimed that Congress did not intend to provide subsidies through federally operated marketplaces.

While the Supreme Court has broad discretion over which cases to take, a split among lower courts can be a big factor in its deciding whether to hear an appeal.

The Supreme Court upheld the Obamacare law on constitutional grounds in 2012 but allowed states to opt out of a major provision involving Medicaid coverage.

Analysts estimate that as many as 5 million people could be affected if subsidies disappear from the federal marketplace, which serves 36 states through the website


Senate Republicans block $2.7 billion bill addressing Central American refugee kids

By Reuters
Thursday, July 31, 2014 20:45 EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate legislation giving President Barack Obama $2.7 billion to deal with tens of thousands of Central American migrant children amassing at the southwestern U.S. border was blocked on Thursday by Republican opposition.

By a vote of 50-44, 10 short of the 60 needed, the bill failed to clear a procedural hurdle. Republicans objected to the cost of the measure and complained that it would not be effective in discouraging rising illegal migration of children from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Earlier on Thursday, the House of Representatives failed to pass a $659 million funding bill that the White House had threatened to veto. House Republican leaders are trying to figure out a way to bring a border-security bill back to the chamber for passage.


Private companies to profit as US shelters immigrant children

By Reuters
Friday, August 1, 2014 7:20 EDT
By Mica Rosenberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – For a handful of U.S. companies that have exclusive or longstanding contracts with federal agencies dealing with illegal immigrants, the recent wave of children crossing the southern border with Mexico is a business opportunity.

Private prison companies Geo Group and competitor Corrections Corporation of America, for example, stand to gain if Congress approves any emergency funding for family detention facilities. The two companies have thousands of unoccupied beds in their prisons and jails that potentially could be modified to house immigrant families.

In the past six years, Geo Group was awarded nearly $880 million from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to government contracting data compiled by In July, ICE, the agency responsible for immigration detention, modified its contract with Geo Group to convert the company’s adult detention center in Karnes County, Texas to house families.

The biggest potential windfall would come if Congress approves a White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency spending to address the crisis. But such a large package seems unlikely to make it through a deeply divided Congress and a resolution looks difficult before lawmakers’ leave for their summer recess.

The Obama administration has been scrambling to house tens of thousands of children mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala who have flooded into the United States in recent months, hoping to escape gang violence, poverty and domestic abuse. Some are traveling with their families and others are crossing the border alone.

An ICE spokesman declined to break out the cost of the Karnes facility. Geo Group declined to comment and CCA did not respond to requests for comment.


The Geo Group could also benefit if lawmakers opt for programs that promote alternatives to detention like electronic monitoring systems used to track immigrants awaiting deportation.

The company’s Colorado subsidiary Bi Incorporated is ICE’s sole provider of ankle bracelets for immigrants who have been caught for violating immigration laws but released while their cases are being processed. Bi has earned more than $211 million from ICE since 2008 by providing GPS tracking devices and case managers for the immigrants, according to the same government contracting data.

A Senate bill proposed by Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake would mandate the monitors for juveniles 15 to 18 years old while their immigration hearings are pending. ICE does not currently use ankle bracelets for juveniles, the agency said. The bill does not specify a supplier.

ICE uses the New Mexico-based CSI Aviation to provide charter flights for deportations. The company has won more than $657 million in contracts from ICE since 2008, SmartProcure data shows. CSI referred all questions about its contracts to ICE. ICE said the company is the sole contractor for ICE Air, which conducts deportation flights.

President Barack Obama has vowed to swiftly return the children and other illegal migrants from Central America to their home countries. That could mean an increase in the number of ICE charter flights in the coming months.

The federal government has also been buying tickets on American Airlines for commercial flights to shuttle unaccompanied kids and immigrant families to detention facilities or shelters around the United States.

American Airlines spokesman Matt Miller declined to say how much the government has spent on these flights or how many tickets they have purchased. He said American did not have formal contracts and that the tickets were being purchased on an as-needed basis.


Contracts to provide services and emergency supplies for children arriving without their family members are handled mostly by the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, which is legally responsible for kids that cross the border alone.

The agency – tasked with sheltering unaccompanied children and then placing them quickly into homes of relatives or family friends – says it spends between $250 and $1,000 on each unaccompanied child per day. More than 57,000 have arrived since October, according to the U.S. Border Patrol, and the government estimates that number could rise to 90,000 by the end of September.

HHS has turned to General Dynamics Information Technology, or GDIT, a unit of the defense contracting giant General Dynamics, to supply case-management services for kids being released from temporary shelters, a Reuters review of government contracts found. The job entails reviewing children’s cases to identify if they have special needs and to ensure the kids are being transferred to safe homes.

Since 2010, GDIT has won around $13 million in contracts to help the Office of Refugee Resettlement, part of HHS, coordinate the placement of unaccompanied minors, according to the contracting data.

The company recently put out a flurry of online job advertisements seeking bilingual social workers to handle immigrant children’s cases in Arizona, Texas, California, Florida, Georgia and New York.

A GDIT spokesman said the company “offers expertise in various areas, including … social work specializing in protective services and human rights.” He declined to elaborate.

Some government contracts have gone to businesses that provide emergency clothing and supplies for the youth shelters and for translation services used in asylum hearings and immigration courts.

Lionsbridge Technologies, a translation company from Waltham, Massachusetts, has seen government need for its services “heighten over the past 60 to 90 days” as courts scramble to wade through the flood of immigration cases, said Eric Munz a vice president at Lionsbridge.

The company provides over-the-phone and in-person interpreters, including for obscure indigenous languages spoken in small Mexican and Central American communities.

And then there are companies like Products Unlimited, a small outfit in Justin, Texas that depends wholly on government work. The contracting data shows it was awarded about $40,000 worth of contracts so far this year to provide diapers and pull-ups for babies and toddlers at an immigrant processing center in Houston and a federally-run family detention center in Artesia, New Mexico.


Hypocrite Boehner Demands Obama Act Alone On Border Crisis While Suing Him For Executive Action

By: Jason Easley
Thursday, July, 31st, 2014, 3:46 pm   

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) was forced to cancel the vote on his border legislation after he didn’t have enough votes to pass it. Boehner then issued a press release demanding that Obama act alone to secure the border.

Roll Call reported, “We don’t think we have the votes,” said Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, one of the architects of the bill. But she said the whip count was “very close” with about 214 supporters, including Democrats. “There are people who just don’t want to do anything,” she said. “They don’t want to spend the money.”

After being forced to pull their own bill, House Republican leaders issued a statement that was full of the sort of crazy-making that the nation has come to expect from the GOP.

The statement told the president that the House is useless, so the president needs to act alone on the border crisis, “This situation shows the intense concern within our conference – and among the American people – about the need to ensure the security of our borders and the president’s refusal to faithfully execute our laws. There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action, to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries. For the past month, the House has been engaged in intensive efforts to pass legislation that would compel the president to do his job and ensure it can be done as quickly and compassionately as possible. Through an inclusive process, a border bill was built by listening to members and the American people that has the support not just of a majority of the majority in the House, but most of the House Republican Conference. We will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country.”

So, it is not okay for Obama to take executive action unless the House is paralyzed by Republican infighting? Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans can’t have it both ways. They can’t claim that President Obama is a tyrant, and then tell him to act without them.

On an issue as important as the humanitarian crisis on the border, the House of Representatives must weigh in. Boehner has to realize that his own inability do the most basic part of his job is not going to help his lawsuit.

Laughably, the neutered House Republican leadership is demanding that President Obama stop the flow of children over the border by just telling them to stop coming. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), who is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said, “It’s stopping the inflow. He can do that just by his word, to announce that the policies he’s had in the past are rescinded and he’s not going to let these people in. Be more forceful; I don’t think it’s a matter of money, it’s a matter of sending the message out there.”

Rogers also said that Obama should use his power responsibly to stop the crisis. Thus confirming that Republicans only think that President Obama is a tyrant when he is doing something that they disagree with.

The next time someone in the media laments that both sides do it, and Washington is broken, remember this moment. Both sides don’t do it, and Washington isn’t broken. The Republican Party has broken Washington because their constant infighting has made it impossible for the House Republicans to accomplish anything.

It isn’t President Obama’s fault that John Boehner has let the lunatics run the asylum.


Democratic Congressman Says That GOP Senator Ted Cruz Is Essentially Speaker Of The House

By: Justin Baragona
Thursday, July, 31st, 2014, 6:09 pm

On Thursday afternoon, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) appeared on MSNBC’s NOW with Alex Wagner to discuss the recent decision by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) to pull the Republicans’ own border crisis bill from the floor. Boehner had to pull the bill during the vote on Thursday as it was clear that it was not going to reach 218 votes and pass. The night before, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) had held a meeting with the most right-wing members of the House Republican Caucus and convinced them to go against the bill as, in his opinion, it wasn’t conservative enough.

Cruz, by doing this, made Boehner look like a complete idiot on Thursday. Currently, Boehner is trying to appease Tea Party Republicans in the House by pushing a bogus lawsuit against President Obama. With the lawsuit getting approval from the House on Wednesday, Boehner publicly chastised the President Thursday morning before voting took place on the House floor. The Speaker told reporters that since POTUS wasn’t going to do anything, it was up to Congress to act. Of course, due to Cruz’s interference, Boehner wasn’t even able to get a totally watered-down spending bill that would have barely addressed any real needs at the border. Even with some moderate Democrats expressing support for the bill, Boehner was forced to tuck tail and run.

All of this was not lost on Democrats. Van Hollen told Wagner that “we’ve seen this movie before.” He pointed to last October and the federal government shutdown. Van Hollen stated that at that time, Boehner said he did not want to shut down the government, but Cruz stepped in and “essentially became Speaker of the House” and took over leadership of the House GOP. We are now seeing a repeat of that moment, where Boehner has been rendered impotent by Cruz’s sway with the extreme wing of the House Republican Caucus. Due to Cruz’s interference, and just hours after Boehner insulted President Obama and said Congress would take care of the border crisis, the Speaker had to call on the President to act alone and solve the crisis with whatever executive orders he can pass.


GOP Self Destructs As Boehner Won’t Let Republicans Leave Until They Pass Border Bill

By: Jason Easley
Thursday, July, 31st, 2014, 4:55 pm      


The Republican Party is again self destructing in front of the entire country as John Boehner is refusing to let House Republicans go on vacation until after they pass the border bill.

The Hill reported:

House Republicans plan to delay their August recess to stay in Washington until they have enough votes to pass a bill responding to the border crisis.

But just as it appeared the conference would leave town for the five-week recess having done nothing to respond to the crisis, Republicans held a closed-door conference meeting and emerged stating they would extend their workweek to try to get something done.

“We’ll stay until we vote,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said after the meeting.

It is a shame that grown men and women have to be threatened to do the job that the taxpayers are paying them to do. All of the recent chaos was started by Sen. Ted Cruz, who met with a group of House Republicans and encouraged them to oppose the border bill. House Republican leaders were forced to pull their meager bill dealing with the border crisis after it was clear that they did not have enough votes for passage.

After trying to blame Obama for their inability to pass legislation, Speaker Boehner and the House Republican leadership moved on to Plan B, which is to not let House Republicans go on vacation until he gets his way. The border bill has turned into yet another Republican caused train wreck.

The Republican Party is not fit to govern. They keep proving this point by failing to complete even the most basic tasks associated with legislating. Lawsuits against the president can’t conceal the fact that this is the worst Congress in modern history.


Nancy Pelosi Rips The Mask Off Boehner’s Fraud: The Lawsuit Is Really About Impeachment

By: Jason Easley
Thursday, July, 31st, 2014, 9:20 am   

Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party aren’t going to let John Boehner fool the American people. At a press conference, Pelosi ripped the mask off of Boehner’s lawsuit fraud.

At a press conference after the lawsuit vote, Rep. Pelosi said:

    The other question and other point that I will make is about standing. This House of Representative does not have standing to sue the President. And because of the actions that they are taking – misusing the public’s time and resources – because of budgets that they have presented to the Congress of the United States, the Republicans in Congress do not have standing to talk to the American people about solving their problems. They do not have standing to say: ‘We want to create jobs here at home,’ when in their decision they are giving tax breaks to companies to send jobs overseas. They do not have standing to say: ‘Let’s build the infrastructure of America. Let’s have Build America Bonds,’ because they prefer to use those resources to give tax breaks to special interests – tax loopholes for special interests.

    So when we don’t have the money to have this suit – they don’t have the money to do better things for the American people. We shouldn’t be spending money on this. They don’t have the standing to do what’s right for the American people, and they certainly don’t have standing to sue the President of the United States. As I said on the floor today: This isn’t about this lawsuit. You don’t sue somebody unless you want to prove that they are wrong. This is about the road to impeachment. And if it is not, the Speaker can say one simple sentence: Impeachment is off the table. That’s what I had to say in 2007. That’s what Speaker Boehner should be saying now.

Democratic Leader Pelosi was correct. This lawsuit is setting the stage for Republicans to impeach the president if they win majority control of the Senate. The idea that the House Republicans will stop at the lawsuit is laughable. This is a House Republican caucus that shutdown the government over Obamacare. This group of Republicans caused our debt to be downgraded and has taken the nation to the brink of economic crisis on numerous occasions.

These House Republicans don’t do moderation. Speaker Boehner has repeatedly demonstrated that he can’t control his own Republicans. His statements on any issue are worthless. Boehner had to go back on a “grand bargain” with President Obama because his members rebelled. John Boehner isn’t running the House. A group of Southern far right Republicans are driving the lower legislative body. This same group of Republicans took turns coming to the House floor yesterday to call President Obama a tyrant.

The lawsuit is a mask for what the House Republicans who are running the show really want. They want impeachment, and they aren’t going to be satisfied with a silly lawsuit that they are destined to lose.


Evangelical Churches Are Blatantly Violating The Law By Electioneering From The Pulpit

By: Rmuse
Thursday, July, 31st, 2014, 11:38 am

It is beyond refute that criminals, from petty shoplifters to vicious mass murderers, adhere to the principle that they do not have to obey laws or rules. Like American corporations, the fossil fuel industry, and Wall Street institutions, they think they are immune to and above the law; likely because of their wealth and influence over Republicans in Congress. That mindset of supremacy over the laws of the land, and really, special entitlement to disregard laws, for whatever reason, still makes violators criminals. One thing those who believe they are above the law share with common criminals is crying foul and claim they are victims of persecution when they are held to the same standards as every other American; this is particularly true of the religious right.

Americans should prepare themselves for an outcry of biblical proportions from the religious right in the near future after the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) won a lawsuit and a settlement with the Internal Revenue Service. The lawsuit demanded that the IRS start cracking down on churches and religious groups who blatantly violate the rules of their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by “electioneering from the pulpit.” The IRS agreed to start doing its due diligence and enforcing the law against mainly Christian evangelical churches that “have been blatantly and deliberately flaunting electioneering restrictions” with impunity because they believe they are above, and immune from, the nation’s laws; because they are evangelical Christians.

At the rate evangelicals blatantly violate the law, one might think there are myriad scriptural admonitions to Christians to openly disobey laws imposed by governments of man, but they would be patently wrong. According to the Christian bible in Romans 13:1-2, Christians are commanded to “Be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

The bible goes farther in verses 5-6 where Christians are warned that “It is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of (god’s) wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes.” Well, god in all his wisdom could not possibly have known that in America, churches and the clergy class are so special they do not pay taxes, but they are not special enough in the eyes of the law to be free of paying taxes if they campaign from the pulpit. Now, the IRS will finally begin enforcing that small requirement to be free of taxation and the Alliance Defending Freedom is outraged that a court ordered the IRS to force evangelical churches to do precisely as god commanded; “be in subjection to the governing authorities.”

In the FFRF’s lawsuit against the IRS, besides citing a number of specific complaints against churches violating the IRS rules, it informed the court it had filed 27 complaints with the IRS that were never even investigated. The lawsuit asked the court to force IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman “to authorize a high-ranking official within the IRS to approve and initiate enforcement of the restrictions of 501(c)(3) against churches and religious organizations, including the electioneering restrictions, as required by law.” The IRS received a similar court order in 2009, but naturally deferred to the Christian prerogative and supremacy over the law and failed to comply with the court order. The new court-approved settlement means the IRS adopted new procedures to follow through and begin investigations into church and religious non-profit groups in general that are violating the law.

The Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious tax-exempt non-profit that sponsors and organizes “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” where thousands of evangelical preachers actively campaign for Republicans from the pulpit, videotape the violations, and send them to the IRS daring them to take action was incensed at the court’s decision. After wildly celebrating the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision, the evangelicals predictably lashed out at the court settlement as a violation of their religious supremacy over the government and American people. The Christian legal group claims their legal agreement with the IRS is unconstitutional because churches have always been above American law. ADF senior legal counsel Erick Stanley said, “For almost the first 200 years of America’s history, pastors frequently spoke out with great boldness about the great moral and social issues of the day and about the candidates running for office. Yet today, the voice of the Church has been silenced by the Johnson Amendment – an unjust and unconstitutional law. Pastors should decide what they preach from the pulpit, not the IRS. It’s outrageous for pastors and churches to be threatened or punished by the government for applying Biblical teachings to all areas of life.” It is a typical criminal mindset that regards having to abide by the law as being “threatened or punished;” especially evangelicals claiming persecution for not being allowed to run roughshod over the people and established law.

First, the Johnson Amendment did not happen “today;” it became a legal government statute in 1954 because a preponderance of churches were violating the Founding Fathers’ Constitutional separation of church and state. Second, “the church” is not being silenced, it is being required to abide by the conditions of its 501(c)(3) status to get free welfare from American taxpayers according to the government god commanded Christians to be in subjection to out of “conscience” and to avoid god’s “wrath.” Third, if evangelical “pastors” were applying “biblical teachings to all areas of life,” they would be preaching to their congregants to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” like god commanded, and lead by example by abiding by their agreement to continue receiving welfare from taxpayers. Taxpayers, by the way, that are in subjection to the governing authorities and abide by IRS rules that takes their money and pays for services evangelical churches use for free.

There is a very simple solution to put a screeching halt to these ADF-inspired evangelicals violating the law and god’s commandment in Romans 13:1-2, and save American taxpayers more than $82.5 billion annually not include a rash of unknown subsidies because churches are not required to keep financial records. It is damn high time to strip tax exemption from every church in America, let evangelical pastors preach according to Republican dictates, start paying their fair share instead of leeching off law-abiding taxpayers, and save them from facing god’s wrath for opposing “governing authorities.”

The reason evangelicals “assume” they are above the law and have supremacy over the governing authorities, women’s bodies, and gays is because they do not pay property taxes on their land or buildings. Do not pay sales taxes when they make purchases, do not pay capital gains taxes when they sell property at a profit, and when they spend less than they take in, do not pay corporate income taxes. Further, priests, ministers, rabbis, and their underlings get unfair “parsonage exemptions” that let them deduct mortgage payments, rent, and other living expenses when they do their income taxes; they also are the only group allowed to opt out of Social Security taxes. Religion is a very profitable business and it is time churches start paying their fair share like every other American; except their American corporate partners-in-crime.

Republicans condemn Americans who receive taxpayer-funded assistance as moochers, lazy, and entitled, even when they pay in to Social Security, Medicare, and sales and gas tax, but they never complain about their reliable evangelical campaigners’ draining billions upon billions from the rest of Americans. It is because of the preferential treatment, and free taxpayer dollars, that the religious right feels entitled, with Republican and Supreme Court support, to flaunt their criminal disregard for the law and force their religion down the rest of the population’s throats.

Most Americans are sick to death of entitled evangelicals leeching Americans’ tax dollars and imposing their dictates on the public. The Freedom From Religion Foundation finally got a court to force the IRS to hold evangelicals accountable for violating a sixty-year-old law the god of the bible says will “bring condemnation upon themselves.” God may condemn them in that bizarre concept of Judgment Day, but until then, a court ordered the IRS to investigate and condemn them to lose their 501(c)(3) status for “electioneering from the pulpit.” For Americans sick and tired of paying evangelicals for violating the law, it is about time. Thank dog for the FFRF.

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« Reply #14765 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:01 AM »

MH17 investigators reach crash site two weeks after plane brought down

Convoy arrives in east Ukraine, with officials cordoning off zone as they search for bodies still believed to be missing

Shaun Walker in Kiev
The Guardian, Friday 1 August 2014 19.51 BST   

A large team of international investigators reached the crash site of Malaysian Airlines MH17 for the first time on Friday, more than two weeks after the plane was brought down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

A column of 101 people, including 21 observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), 51 Dutch and 21 Australian police and investigators arrived at the site in more than a dozen vehicles and began trawling the fields around the crash site for human remains, debris and evidence.

The first successful site visit by the full international team came despite an ambush overnight on Thursday in which pro-Russian separatist forces attacked a Ukrainian military convoy and killed at least 10 soldiers. Another 13 were missing after the attack, said Ukrainian officials.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott said he agreed sending police in was a risky move given the continued violence but said it was a necessary evil to help recover the bodies and possessions at the site.

"Let's not forget 298 innocent people have been murdered, 38 Australians have been murdered," he said. "We owe it to our dead to bring them back, we owe it to their families to bring them back."

Australia's foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said in Kiev that a large team would get the work done quicker: "We have judged that it is safe for a much larger team to go on to the crash site and really start working in earnest."

More than 200 bodies of those who died were moved from the site by special train last week and taken to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kharkiv, from where they were flown to Eindhoven.

But Australian officials believe there could still be up to 80 bodies at the site. The impact of the crash scattered debris over a huge area, and so far there has been no systematic search away from several key locations. There have also been allegations that rebel fighters have tampered with evidence and locals may have looted the site.

On Thursday, senior representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the OSCE met in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, to come to an agreement on allowing the mission safe passage. An advance team had to turn back four times after encountering shelling and fighting at the site and en route.

Artillery fire was audible at the site on Friday as the investigators arrived. Ukrainian deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman said in Kiev that Ukrainian forces were not carrying out any military operations within 12 miles of the site, but rebels in east Ukraine had attempted to carry out "provocations" to stop the experts reaching the site, including starting a fire on part of the route.

The sunflower fields and villages of the area are also still littered with the debris of personal belongings from those who died – everything from clothes and holiday reading to private letters and photographs.

Groysman said once all the personal effects had been collected, they would be loaded on to a train and taken to Kharkiv before being flown to the Netherlands.

Investigators have now cordoned off the area for the first time and divided the crash zone into grids for systematic searches. Australian police commander Brian McDonald told agencies on the scene that police dogs would also be used in the search.

Both sides have accused the other of hindering the work of the international investigators, and both have offered mixed messages. One separatist official said earlier this week that they would no longer work with the OSCE – a statement later denied as false information. The Ukrainians have on occasion suggested they need to win back control of the crash site before a full investigation can take place, and the rebels accuse Kiev of putting off international investigators from travelling to the area.

Ukraine and most western capitals believe the plane was brought down by a Buk surface-to-air missile system fired by pro-Russian rebels who thought they were targeting a Ukrainian military jet.

Despite multiple sightings of the Buk system in the area on the day of the crash, and private admissions by top rebels of involvement, the east Ukraine separatists deny using a missile to down the plane and blame Ukrainians for the atrocity.

Russia's defence ministry on Friday released a statement claiming that Ukrainian evidence over Russia transferring military hardware – including the Buk system – to the rebels had been "deliberately falsified" by the SBU, the security service of Ukraine. "Instead of presenting hastily doctored evidence to the international community, the SBU could do with better control over all the mercenary groups in the areas around Donetsk and Luhansk," said the statement.


Malignant tumor Pig Putin and Obama Agree Standoff in No One's Interest

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 20:51

Russian President malignant tumor Pig Putin and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama agreed during a phone call on Friday the current standoff in Ukraine was not in the interest of their countries, the Kremlin said.

"The presidents agreed that the current situation is not in the interests of either country," said a Kremlin statement.

Meanwhile in his first comments on sanctions after the U.S. and EU earlier this week slapped the toughest punitive measures on Russia since the Cold War, malignant tumor Pig Putin characterized them as "counterproductive, causing serious damage to bilateral cooperation and international stability overall."

However, the Kremlin said the two presidents agreed on the urgent need for an "immediate and stable halt to fighting in southeast Ukraine and the start of a political process."

They also agreed that tripartite contact group talks bringing together Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) which is monitoring the situation in Ukraine should continue.

Tripartite talks held on Thursday and Friday in the Belarusian capital Minsk reached agreement on freeing 20 prisoners from each side, according to Ukraine's representative cited by Russian news agencies.

Russia's annexation of Crimea and a pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine that Washington accuses Moscow of supporting has led to the severest crisis in relations between Russia and the West in decades.

Meanwhile, the White House said Obama called malignant tumor Pig Putin on Friday to express his "deep concerns about Russia's increased support for the separatists in Ukraine."

Obama also repeated his concern about Moscow's alleged breach of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, under which the U.S. and Russia agreed not to develop medium-range cruise missiles.

"The president reinforced his preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine, and the two leaders agreed to keep open their channels of communication," a White House statement said.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby meanwhile said Russia was continuing to reinforce its military presence along the border with Ukraine.

"It continues to be north of 10,000, the numbers, but it fluctuates," Kirby told reporters, adding that troops were "close to the border, within 50 kilometers of the border -- closer than what we saw back in the spring."


Ukraine President Promises Early Parliament Elections

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 21:57

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Friday pledged the strife-torn nation would have a new parliament in place in the next few months, confirming that he intends to call long-awaited legislative polls.

"In autumn there will be a new parliament that will start on reforms," Poroshenko said in a televised interview.

A new vote has been widely expected since the dissolution of the ruling majority coalition in parliament last week paved the way for Poroshenko later this month to call fresh polls.

There has been a loud clamor to bring forward the elections -- originally scheduled for 2017 -- ever since the ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych in February following months of bloody protests.

Poroshenko -- who was himself elected in May -- has described the vote as a crucial step in overhauling Ukraine's discredited political class.

The vote however comes at a perilous time for Ukraine as government forces wage a brutal war against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.

The country's top military brass has pledged a quick end to a military offensive that has cost over 1,100 lives since mid-April, but they face a mammoth task in subduing the well-armed insurgent fighters.

Top political leaders have agreed to shorten the pre-election campaign to 45 days but nonetheless the prospect of a fresh vote is expected to spark a period of bitter squabbling among Ukraine's fractious political rivals.


A Test for Ukraine in a City Retaken From Rebels

AUG. 1, 2014

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — When Denis Bigunov, a civil servant, recently returned to work after a long break, he found three prisoner’s hoods wrapped in masking tape stashed in his office at City Hall, sinister mementos left behind by the pro-Russian rebels who controlled this eastern Ukrainian city for nearly three months.

He donated the hoods to the local history museum “to remind people what really happened” here after masked gunmen seized control on April 12 and, cheered on initially by many residents, began a brutal drive to create a new order rooted in fanatical loyalty to Russia.

With the city now back in government hands and the Ukrainian military advancing steadily against other nearby settlements that had fallen earlier this year to the pro-Russian cause, Slovyansk has become a test of whether the central government in Kiev can both win on the battlefield and win back the loyalties of its rebellious east.

“We can’t just liberate these places by force of arms but need to change people’s thinking,” said Anton Gerashenko, an Interior Ministry official from Kiev who visited Slovyansk last week. He came to preside over the exhumation of corpses from a mass grave that he said had been left behind by the rebels before they fled south on July 5 to the city of Donetsk, which is still held by separatists.

After a day of digging, workers equipped with a bulldozer and shovels unearthed 14 decomposing bodies, each wrapped in a flimsy white shroud.

As it struggles to secure the consent, if not yet the trust, of Slovyansk’s largely ethnic Russian population, Ukraine has found that its best weapon has been provided by the rebels themselves — a legacy of violent thuggery and chaos that alienated just about everyone.

“It was a horror, a total horror,” said Arkady Glushenko, the chief surgeon at the Lenin Hospital, the city’s biggest. “Nobody wants a repeat of that.”

Another powerful tool in the hands of the Ukrainian authorities is the fear many residents have of retribution for their collaboration with the toppled pro-Russian leadership.

The new authorities, promising anonymity, have set up a hotline for residents to inform on rebel collaborators, and they have printed fliers warning that a new law mandates up to 15 years in jail for separatism. “Of course people are afraid,” Dr. Glushenko said. “They are frightened of being punished.”

Although a firm believer that Ukraine must stay united, and proud of his two sons in the Ukrainian military, the surgeon warned that vengeance against collaborators must be kept in check. He said he had stayed in Slovyansk throughout the period of separatist control and had often treated wounded rebels, not because he wanted to but because he had to. “You don’t argue with a Kalashnikov,” he said.

When the rebels first seized Slovyansk in April, they hoisted Russian flags, arrested the elected mayor, hunted down traitors and proclaimed the city a “great symbol of the struggle for human dignity.” Thousands of residents thronged a large square in front of City Hall to welcome the pro-Russian putsch, chanting “Russia, Russia” and posing for photographs with gunmen they hailed as their saviors from the fascists who had seized power in Kiev with the February ouster of President Victor F. Yanukovych, a Russian-speaker from Donetsk.

After pro-Russian gunmen fled as the Ukrainian military advanced, many of the same people rushed into the same square to greet Ukrainian military trucks as soldiers handed out free food. Virtually nobody now admits to having supported the separatists.

“They are happy to welcome whoever gives them food,” said Konstantin Batozsky, an aide to the Kiev-appointed governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Slovyansk.

The Ukrainian authorities have restored electricity, water, salaries to municipal workers and pension payments to the older Ukrainians, who now make up around half the city’s shrunken population of roughly 80,000, around two-thirds the number who lived here before the rebels took control.

They have also flooded the city with troops, some of them poorly trained irregulars, and strengthened the local police force — its loyalty somewhat suspect — with officers from western regions of Ukraine where anti-Russian sentiment is strong.

Ukraine has been helped in an odd way by Russia, whose tightly controlled news media has issued a series of hair-raising stories alleging Ukrainian atrocities that have made locals only more wary of bucking the new authorities. LifeNews, a Russian television channel, broadcast a report titled “Witch Hunting,” saying that Slovyansk was being turned into a huge prison camp like Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States detains terrorists. Channel One, in a particularly gruesome piece of propaganda, reported that Ukrainian troops had crucified a 3-year-old boy in front of his mother in the central square.

Even locals who detest the Ukrainian government in Kiev, the capital, dismiss the crucifixion story as a grotesque lie. Until the Russian TV report, nobody here had ever heard of any such incident.

True or not, Russian propaganda has helped halt open resistance to the new Ukrainian order. Residents who actively supported the rebels have nearly all fled.

Fighting intensified around the wreckage site of Malaysia Flight 17, the latest update to the current visual survey of the continuing dispute, with maps and satellite imagery showing rebel and military movement.

“You would have to be an idiot to stay here,” Lybova Nazarayeva, the director of an orphanage that suffered heavy damage when Ukrainian forces began shelling a rebel base next door, said of the pro-Russian residents. “You would only get killed or arrested. They all left for Donetsk.”

Loudspeakers atop City Hall, used by the rebels to play Soviet-era martial music, now blast Ukrainian state radio. Big posters have gone up across the city proclaiming that “Slovyansk is Ukraine.”

But long-closed Soviet-era factories that once dominated the local economy are still rotting away and many other businesses have shut, their premises scarred by shrapnel and bullets. There is no mood of joyous celebration at what Ukrainian officials trumpet as the city’s “liberation.”

Anger and animosity bubbles just below the calm surface. In each workplace, everyone knows who did what during rebel rule, creating poisonous currents of suspicion.

Nikolai Mishkin, a technician at a communal heating plant here, said his boss had worked zealously with the rebels, even inviting them to store their armor in the plant’s courtyard and climb its brick chimney to scout Ukrainian military positions. “He was very aggressive in his enthusiasm,” Mr. Mishkin said, adding that he had not seen his boss since Ukraine’s forces arrived.

Local residents who suffered under rebel rule complain that Ukrainian authorities have not done enough to punish residents who sided with the separatists. A group of local pro-Ukrainian activists gathered outside City Hall last week to demand a thorough purge of all officials who collaborated with the rebels.

The only prominent figure who is known to have been arrested so far by the Ukrainians is Nelly Schtepa, the former mayor, who initially supported the pro-Russian gunmen but then spent nearly three months locked up by the rebels in City Hall. She is now being held by Ukrainian authorities in Kharkiv, the largest city in eastern Ukraine, awaiting trial on charges of separatism.

Interviewed last week by monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Ms. Schtepa admitted making statements that supported the rebel cause but said she had been forced to do so by her rebel captors, who she said had beaten and tortured her. A rebel-designated “people’s mayor” who replaced her is missing and is widely believed to have escaped to Donetsk.

The organization for security said the Kharkiv detention center where Ms. Schtepa was being held now was clean and well-kept, unlike the filthy City Hall cellar where she and many other prisoners had been held. Rebels also used that basement for target practice, leaving the floor littered with spent cartridges.

The new police chief of Slovyansk, Igor Ribalchenko, said investigators had started collecting information about residents suspected of actively supporting the rebels but added that the widespread collaboration of ordinary people would not be punished.

“Most people were simply afraid because there were armed terrorists walking around” and they had no choice but to obey, he said. He said that eight police officers who had openly sided with the rebels had fled. An Interior Ministry commission is investigating the rest of the 300-member force. The police chief added that he saw no need for a sweeping purge of the force, despite the fact that its officers put up no resistance when rebels seized the city and then helped them solidify their power.

This cautious stand has infuriated people like Victor Butko, the owner of a printing business and editor of a small local newspaper shut by the rebels. Grabbed by pro-Russian gunmen before the arrival of Ukrainian troops, he was held for days in a fetid cellar beneath the local headquarters of the state security service.

Passing three police officers guarding the mass grave left by the rebels last week, Mr. Butko cursed them for not resisting the separatists, shouting: “You are to blame for all this. You all did nothing. You should have picked up your guns and shot them.”

The officers looked at their feet nervously.

As some residents who fled during the rebel occupation trickle back home, a semblance of normal life slowly returns. But, Mr. Butko predicted it would take a generation before Slovyansk shook off its flirtation with Russian nationalism. “The biggest problem here is not economics or anything physical,” he said. “It is moral. The problem here is in people’s heads.”

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« Reply #14766 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:05 AM »

David Cameron: west needs stronger military presence on Russia's borders

PM's letter to Nato calls to review its relationship with Russia and reassure allies in eastern Europe in wake of Ukraine crisis

Rowena Mason, political correspondent, Saturday 2 August 2014 00.41 BST   

Western allies need a stronger military presence in eastern Europe on the border of Russia to respond quickly to any new threats, David Cameron will say on Saturday.

The prime minister will make the comments in a letter to Nato in the wake of Russia's role in arming Ukrainian rebels suspected of shooting down the MH17 airliner and deteriorating relations with President malignant tumor Pig Putin. He will also call for a review of Nato's relationship with Russia, saying Putin now views the organisations as an adversary and not a partner.

In a show of military strength, the UK said it would send 1,300 troops and 350 armoured vehicles to take part in a Nato exercise in Poland in October to help reassure eastern European countries that they have western allies.

However, earlier this week, the House of Commons defence committee warned Nato is ill-prepared to confront new threats posed by Russia, and members of the western military alliance may not have the collective political will to take concerted action to deter an attack.

The US and EU have already imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia this week that are the most severe since the end of the cold war. On Wednesday, G7 leaders said they were prepared to "further intensify the costs" to Russia if it does not change its policy of supporting separatists in the Ukraine.

With six weeks to go before the Nato summit in Wales, the prime minister wrote to leaders from the alliance's member states and the secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, warning that security threats across the globe are multiplying.

"In 2014, the world is more unpredictable than ever and we meet at another pivotal moment in the history of the alliance," he will say.

"In Afghanistan, our combat mission is coming to an end. To the east, Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal annexation of Crimea and aggressive destabilisation of Ukraine. To the south, an arc of instability spreads from north Africa and the Sahel, to Syria, Iraq and the wider Middle East."

Cameron's letter comes in advance of his visit to the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (Shape) in Belgium on Monday.

"Six months into the Russia-Ukraine crisis we must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those allies who fear for their own country's security and to deter any Russian aggression," he writes.

He lists specific actions he would like to see: a new exercise schedule adapted to the new security environment; the necessary infrastructure; pre-positioning of equipment and supplies; and an enhanced Nato response force.

"This should be part of a broader action plan that enables us to respond more quickly to any threat against any member of the Alliance, including when we have little warning," he writes.

"We must also review our long-term relationship with Russia. While Nato has only ever sought to be a partner to Russia, not a threat, it is clear that Russia views Nato as an adversary. We must accept that the cooperation of recent years is not currently possible because of Russia's own illegal actions in Nato's neighbourhood and revisit the principles that guide our relationship with Russia."

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« Reply #14767 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:12 AM »

Armenians asked to write Wikipedia entries to promote culture

A TV campaign fronted by government ministers, musicians and journalists is asking Armenians to write at least one entry each to ‘enrich’ the online encyclopaedia

Enjoli Liston, Friday 1 August 2014 13.33 BST   
There’s more to Armenia than cognac, carpets and its most famous daughter, Kim Kardashian.

To remind the world of this, Armenians across the globe are being asked to write at least one Wikipedia article each to try and promote the country’s language and culture.

A national campaign entitled One Armenian, One Article, is being fronted by government ministers, musicians and journalists, and encourages Armenians to each write at least one entry for the online encyclopaedia to “enrich it” with more information on the country, and the things that matter most to its people.

In a video being broadcast on Armenian television, Defence Minister Seyran Ohanyan says he has contributed an article about the country’s military, and encourages all citizens to take part, whether they have specialist knowledge or not.

“One Armenian, one article - I will definitely do that and believe you will too,” Armen Ashotyan, the country’s education minister, says in an online clip.

The campaign began with a YouTube video, but is now being promoted to worldwide audiences on Armenian satellite TV channels , according to the BBC. Armenia’s population numbers around three million, but more than eight million Armenians live outside the country, across the world.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Misak Ohanian of the London-based Centre for Armenian Information and Advice (CAIA) said. “If it can help increase the profile of Armenian language and culture then I say why not.”

The Armenian language Wikipedia launched in 2003, but didn’t start developing in earnest until a few years later. As of 2013, it had around 90,000 articles, according to its entry on the English-language version of the online encyclopaedia.

However, it may be difficult for Armenians living abroad to take part in the scheme to boost this number, because many are no longer able to read or write in either the eastern dialect (most commonly used in Armenia) or the western dialect, which is recognised by Unesco as an endangered language.

Ohanian estimates that of the 20,000 Armenians living in London, around 40% can speak either language, and only 10% can read and write in them.

“Armenians are a diaspora nation,” said Lucine Shahbazian, 30, who is involved in health outreach and advice programmes for Armenians in the capital. “We are great at assimilating with our host nations – which is a good thing – but it also means that stuff like language tends to get a bit lost.”

Shahbazian, who was born in the UK, says she would write an article if she could, but that her Armenian isn’t good enough.

“The reasons why Armenians are so spread out around the world are often traumatic; my grandparents came here to escape the [Armenian] genocide,” she told the Guardian. “So I think it’s important to help people connect, and something like [the Wikipedia entries] are useful to boost identity and culture.”


Five Killed in Fresh Clash between Azeris, Ethnic Armenians

by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 August 2014, 07:13

Azerbaijan said Saturday it has lost four troops in new clashes with arch-foe Armenia near the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region, part of a dramatic spike in tensions in a long-simmering conflict.

The defence ministry in Baku said "Armenia's reconnaissance and sabotage groups had once again tried to attack Azeri positions at the line of contact" near the majority Armenian region of Nagorny Karabakh.

Azeri troops repelled the overnight attack, forcing Armenian soldiers to retreat, the defence ministry said.

"As a result of the clash, four Azeri troops died," the ministry said in a statement.

Nagorny Karabakh for its part said it had lost a soldier, a 25-year-old ethnic Armenian, and accused Azerbaijan of attempting "sabotage and reconnaissance activities".

The defence ministry of the disputed region said three Azeri troops had been killed and seven others received injuries.

The latest clashes came after Azerbaijan said on Friday it had lost eight soldiers in three days of skirmishes with Armenian troops on the border and near the disputed region.

The two ex-Soviet nations have for years been locked in a protracted conflict over Nagorny Karabakh with occasional skirmishes along the front.

But the latest clashes represent a surge in tensions, with one prominent Azeri military expert saying Baku has not suffered such losses in a single bout of hostilities since 1994.

International mediators, who have for years sought to help the two countries reach a breakthrough, expressed concern over the violence on Friday, with the United States renewing a plea for the presidents from both countries to meet for talks.

"Retaliation and further violence will only make it more difficult to bring about a peaceful settlement," deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement.

Armenian-backed separatists seized Nagorny Karabakh from Azerbaijan in a 1990s war that killed 30,000 people.

Despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have yet to sign a peace deal.

Energy-rich Azerbaijan has threatened to take back the disputed region by force if negotiations do not yield results, while Russia's ally Armenia has vowed to retaliate against any military action.

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« Reply #14768 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:18 AM »

Anti-Semitism Rises in Europe Amid Israel-Gaza Conflict

AUG. 1, 2014

BERLIN — Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is generating a broader backlash against Jews, as threats, hate speech and even violent attacks proliferate in several countries.

Most surprising perhaps, a wave of incidents has washed over Germany, where atonement for the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes is a bedrock of the modern society. A commitment to the right of Israel to exist is ironclad. Plaques and memorials across the country exhort, “Never Again.” Children are taught starting in elementary school that their country’s Nazi history must never be repeated. Even so, academics say the recent episodes may reflect a rising climate of anti-Semitism that they had observed before the strife over Gaza.

This week, the police in the western city of Wuppertal detained two young men on suspicion of throwing firebombs at the city’s new synagogue; the attack early Tuesday caused no injuries. In Frankfurt on Thursday, the police said, a beer bottle was thrown through a window at the home of a prominent critic of anti-Semitism. She heard an anti-Jewish slur after going to the balcony to confront her assailant, The Frankfurter Rundschau reported. An anonymous caller to a rabbi threatened last week to kill 30 Frankfurt Jews if the caller’s family in Gaza was harmed, the police said.

The string of incidents comes after Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned anti-Semitic chants from pro-Palestinian demonstrators and President Joachim Gauck called on Germans to “raise their voices if there is a new anti-Semitism being strutted on the street.”

But even as the police have clamped down on demonstrators, banning slogans that target Jews instead of Israeli policies, a spike in violence has spread fear among Jews, not only in Germany but also in other European countries.

More Jews have begun leaving France in recent months, following anti-Semitism that has spilled onto the streets since the start of the Gaza conflict almost a month ago. While most of the pro-Palestinian demonstrations have been peaceful, a small number of violent protesters, many of them young Arab men, has targeted Jewish businesses and synagogues.

French authorities have strongly condemned the violence and, citing public-safety concerns, have refused to authorize a small number of pro-Palestinian demonstrations. Others have spoken of a need to counter anti-Semitism among certain segments of the country’s Muslim youth.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke last week of a “new,” “normalized” anti-Semitism. “It blends the Palestinian cause, jihadism, the detestation of Israel and the hatred of France and its values,” he told the National Assembly.

Even in historically tolerant Italy, anti-Semitic smears have appeared on the streets of Rome. Jewish shop windows in several neighborhoods were defaced this week with swastikas and tags reading “Torch the synagogues” and “Jews your end is near.” Police suspect that right-wing extremists, possibly along with pro-Palestinian activists, carried out the acts.

Riccardo Di Segni, the chief rabbi of Rome, said he believed that the threats were linked to tensions in the Middle East. “There is cyclically a common thread running between the dramatic tensions in the Middle East and the increase of anti-Semitic episodes,” he said.

In Austria, a preseason soccer match between the Israeli team Maccabi Haifa and Germany’s Paderborn was moved to a more secure location last weekend after a group of youths bearing Palestinian and Turkish flags stormed the field and attacked players during a previous match.

Prominent newspapers, politicians and popular stars in Austria and Germany have responded to the anti-Jewish outburst with a campaign called “Raise Your Voice,” in support of their countries’ Jewish communities. But Samuel Salzborn, a professor of political science at Göttingen University, does not believe that the effort has shifted public opinion.

“The official line of the German government is happily, clearly against anti-Semitism, but that is resulting in far too little,” Mr. Salzborn said. “There is a startling indifference in the German public to the current display of anti-Semitism.”

To many of the more than 100,000 Jews in Germany, the outburst of anti-Semitism since the conflict flared in Gaza has a troubling undertone and has stirred especially painful memories. The Central Council of Jews in Germany has received hundreds of calls from members asking whether they should pack their suitcases and leave the country.

“I have not heard that for many years,” said Dieter Graumann, the council president. “When calls for Jews to be gassed, burned and murdered are bawled on the streets of Germany, that no longer has anything to do with Israel’s politics and Gaza. It is the most abhorrent form of anti-Semitism.”

Academics who study anti-Semitism say the acceptance of disparaging remarks about Jews has become increasingly common in the educated middle class over the past two decades. Especially on social media, where hashtags such as #HitlerWasRight have appeared, there has been a significant jump in slurs against Jews.

Monika Schwarz-Friesel, a cognitive scientist at Technical University, has spent 10 years tracking anti-Semitic comments from educated Germans in letters to editors, in Internet chat rooms and on social media. She said such comments in public forums had served as kindling for the most recent outbreak.

“Violence always starts in the mind,” Ms. Schwarz-Friesel said. “Attacks like that on the synagogue in Wuppertal are not just pulled out of thin air.”

Carola Melchert-Arlt, an elementary school principal in Berlin and mother of three, said she felt afraid for the first time in her decades of living in Germany. She said her mother had asked her to stop wearing a Star of David, a family heirloom from her grandmother’s bat mitzvah, around her neck.

Friends have taken down their mezuzas, Ms. Melchert-Arlt said, and she no longer stifles a smile when a fellow Jew wonders if they are really welcome in Germany.

“We have all always felt the latent anti-Semitism here,” Ms. Melchert-Arlt said. “But what we have experienced in recent weeks and days, not only in Germany but across Europe, is a prevailing mood of outward anti-Jewish sentiment in the streets.”

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« Reply #14769 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:20 AM »

Attempts to Resume Afghan Vote Audit Stall over Disagreement

by Naharnet Newsdesk
02 August 2014, 12:24

Attempts to resume the audit of Afghanistan's presidential election stalled Saturday as candidate Abdullah Abdullah disagreed over the criteria to address alleged fraud in the June run-off election.

Abdullah and rival Ashraf Ghani agreed to the inspection of all 8.1 million ballots cast in the June 14 poll in a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, but the recount has since faced several suspensions as the candidates sparred over how to disqualify ballots.

The audit had been expected to resume on Saturday after the U.N. and the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said both candidates had agreed to a U.N.-backed proposal that included criteria for invalidating fraudulent ballots.

Abdullah's observers however did not show up at the election commission in Kabul, with his spokesman saying they were still negotiating with the U.N.

"The IEC has adopted the U.N. proposal but we still have our observations," Abdullah's spokesman Mujib Rahman Rahimi told Agence France Presse.

"What happens today is not a boycott, it is not an attempt to disrupt the process, the issue is on how to maximize the criteria for invalidation," he said.

The U.N. expected the audit to restart on Sunday after the IEC agreed to another 24-hour delay.

"The audit process will resume tomorrow and Inshallah (God willing) we are not thinking of any more delay," IEC chairman Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani said, adding the postponement was to allow Abdullah to finalize the audit agreement with the U.N.

Preliminary results from the June 14 run-off showed former finance minister Ghani well ahead of Abdullah, with the latter claiming "industrial-scale" fraud had denied him victory.

The bitter impasse over the vote to succeed President Hamid Karzai had raised fears of a return to the ethnic violence of the 1990s.

In a bid to pull the country back from the brink of crisis, Kerry flew into Kabul early last month and persuaded the two opponents to agree to the audit.

The process has since fallen behind its initial three week schedule as the rival campaign teams fought over disputed ballot papers.

The timetable for the new president to be inaugurated on August 2 has

been abandoned and no new date has been set.

The political wrangling also comes during a Taliban spring offensive that has seen an escalation in fighting and brazen attacks targeting Kabul as well as the volatile south and east of the country, with U.S.-led foreign forces due to leave at the end of this year.

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« Reply #14770 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:25 AM »

In India, Kerry Seeks Compromise With Prime Minister

AUG. 1, 2014

NEW DELHI — In the first meeting between a senior Obama administration official and India’s new prime minister, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Narendra Modi on Friday to drop his opposition to an international trade treaty and pursue a compromise on food subsidies.

The purpose of Mr. Kerry’s visit was to strengthen ties with India and set the stage for Mr. Modi’s meetings with President Obama in September, when Mr. Modi is expected to attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York and then travel to Washington.

But even as the two sides signaled their desire for improved ties, India’s posture on the trade agreement cast a shadow.

The United States is seeking to expand economic relations and to cooperate more closely on security and environmental issues. Mr. Obama has written a letter to Mr. Modi expressing his desire to strengthen relations.

Ties between the world’s two largest democracies have suffered in recent months after an Indian diplomat was arrested and strip-searched in New York City in December on charges that she underpaid her maid and lied on a visa application. Complicating the meeting with Mr. Modi was earlier criticism by the State Department of his human rights record as chief minister of the state of Gujarat. The department denied him a visa in 2005.

Mr. Kerry, who was accompanied by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker and other senior American officials, began his meeting on Friday morning by applauding Mr. Modi’s “vision” for economic reform and development of green technology.

Promoting the role that American companies might play in advancing Mr. Modi’s agenda, Mr. Kerry underscored that the two countries needed to agree on concrete steps that might be taken during the prime minister’s Washington visit.

Mr. Modi was receptive and thanked Mr. Kerry for coming to India even as he tried to negotiate a cease-fire for the conflict in Gaza. Mr. Modi said he was interested in building trust. The meeting was described by a senior State Department official, who attended the meeting but asked not to be identified in accordance with the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters.

But even as the United States is trying to foster improved ties, it is frustrated with India’s opposition to a global trade accord that has been under discussion for months.

India has refused to withdraw its opposition to the pact unless it includes parallel measures that allow the government to subsidize and stockpile grains, a measure that Indian officials insist is necessary to protect its poor in case an unusually strong or weak rainy season hurts agricultural production.

Mr. Modi’s opposition surprised American officials and many analysts in India in part because many in Mr. Modi’s party are deeply critical of a food security law passed by the last government as well as food storage efforts that Mr. Modi’s government now insists on protecting. India’s opposition to the accord also worried American officials planning for negotiations next year in Paris on a global climate pact, since they are hoping India will drop its longtime opposition to future limits on its use of coal.

In his meeting, Mr. Kerry asserted that the threatened trade pact could benefit emerging nations and that India should want to be part of the agreement.

Mr. Kerry told Mr. Modi that India’s opposition to the accord was not in keeping with the prime minister’s vision, the State Department official said. Mr. Kerry suggested that Mr. Modi set a quick timetable for developing a compromise.

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« Reply #14771 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:26 AM »

Sri Lanka Apologizes to Indian PM over Caricature

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 20:56

Sri Lanka extended an "unqualified apology" to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday over an article and uncomplimentary illustration of the leader and a regional Tamil politician published on a government website.

The Sri Lankan defense ministry said it had taken down the offending caricature of Modi and the chief minister of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, Jayalalithaa Jayaram, following complaints to Colombo.

It also removed an accompanying article entitled: "How meaningful are Jayalalithaa's love letters to Narendra Modi?".

The article and illustration implied that Modi was being easily controlled by Jayalalithaa.

The Tamil minister has been increasing pressure on New Delhi to demand an international probe into allegations that Sri Lankan troops, largely Sinhalese, killed at least 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians in the final stages of the civil war in 2009.

"We extend an unqualified apology to the Hon Prime Minister of India and Hon Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu," the defense ministry website said.

It added that the article had been published "without appropriate authorization."

A formal protest had been lodged with Colombo prompting Sri Lankan authorities to make the unprecedented move of apologizing to neighboring India.

Ties between the two south Asian neighbors have been strained due to fishermen from both countries poaching in each others' waters as well as Sri Lanka's treatment of its minority Tamils who share close cultural ties with Tamil Nadu.

Sri Lankan authorities are holding 50 Indian fishermen, arrested on Monday for entering the island's territorial waters in seven trawlers.

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« Reply #14772 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:28 AM »

Nine Terror Suspects Killed in China's Xinjiang

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 20:15

Police in China's Xinjiang region shot dead nine suspected terrorists on Friday and captured one, state media said, days after one of the deadliest attacks to hit the restive area in recent months.

According to China's official Xinhua news agency, the suspects killed in Friday's showdown in Xinjiang's Hotan prefecture had been identified by police on Sunday "during the investigation of a terrorist group."

Local residents aided in tracking the suspects down, and on Friday they were discovered in a cornfield in Karakax County, the report said.

Police shot dead the nine suspects and captured one of them after chasing the group to an abandoned house, where they "resisted arrest by throwing explosives into the crowd," according to Xinhua.

There were no police or civilian casualties, the report added.

The incident comes four days after a violent attack in Shache county that left dozens killed and injured.

More than 20 ethnic Uighurs were shot dead by armed authorities while 10 were injured, according to Dilxat Raxit, a spokesman for the exile World Uyghur Congress.

A total of 13 Chinese security personnel were killed and injured and about 67 people were arrested, Raxit said.

In other violence, Jume Tahir, the government-appointed head of the largest mosque in China, was murdered on Wednesday after leading morning prayers.

Tahir was killed in the city of Kashgar by "three thugs influenced by religious extremist ideology," according to the Xinjiang government web portal Tianshan.

Information in Xinjiang is often difficult to verify independently and authorities and campaign groups often give competing versions of events, particularly when they involve clashes with police.

The region of Xinjiang in China's far west is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur minority, and Beijing has blamed a series of recent terror attacks on violent separatists from the vast, resource-rich area.

Such attacks have grown in scale and sophistication over the last year and have spread outside the restive region.

Among the most shocking was a May market attack in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi in which 39 people were killed, and a deadly rampage by knife-wielding assailants at a train station at Kunming in China's southwest in March, which left 29 dead.

The violence has also included a fiery vehicle crash at Tiananmen Square, Beijing's symbolic heart, in October.

Rights groups accuse China's government of cultural and religious repression they say fuels unrest in Xinjiang, which borders Central Asia.

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« Reply #14773 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:31 AM »

North Korea’s Antipathy for the U.S. Is Seen at a New High

AUG. 1, 2014

North Korea’s reclusive government signaled new anger toward the United States on Friday, equating it to a “mentally retarded patient” over an annual military exercise with South Korea, and offering hints that two American tourists arrested in North Korea four months ago would soon be put on trial and face long imprisonments.

In a rare, nearly hourlong news conference at the United Nations, the North’s deputy permanent representative, Ri Tong-il, recited a litany of grievances with the United States and South Korea, accusing them of conspiring for regime change in the North, repeatedly ignoring the North’s entreaties for diminished tensions and moving ahead with the war games, known as the Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercises, scheduled to begin Aug. 18. The annual drills are intended to test readiness to repel a North Korean invasion of South Korea.

While North Korea has always made such accusations ahead of the drills, Mr. Ri coupled them this year with the announcement that he had requested an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting for the purpose of condemning them as a threat to peace and security. Mr. Ri said he had received no response to the request, sent July 21, to the 15-member Council, which includes the United States as a permanent member and South Korea as a rotating member.

“If the Security Council turns away from this emergency meeting, it will only expose itself as a U.N. body which has lost its principles, impartiality and responsibility,” Mr. Ri said. Security Council diplomats later confirmed that the North Korean letter had been received but no further action had been taken. “There are no plans for a meeting at this stage,” one said privately.

Mr. Ri rejected suggestions that North Korea’s own nuclear and long-range missile activities, for which it has been sanctioned by the United Nations, were provocative. “No country in the world has been living like the D.P.R.K., under serious threats to its existence, sovereignty, survival,” he said, using the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the North’s official name. “That’s why the D.P.R.K. went with the option to go with a nuclear deterrent, to protect our people.”

He accused the United States of using its military power to deliberately subvert any dialogue between North and South Korea — which is also a standard North Korean assertion. But in a variant of that theme, he said the American behavior “is reminding us of the historical lasting symptom of a mentally retarded patient.” Asked later to explain the analogy, Mr. Ri said, “The U.S. has been doing it for over six decades on our doorstep.”

His critique came as more news dribbled out of North Korea over the two detained American tourists, Matthew Todd Miller, 24, and Jeffrey Edward Fowle, 56, suggesting that they are likely to be put on trial soon for unspecified hostile acts. A television news crew for The Associated Press, the first Western news agency with a bureau in the North’s capital, Pyongyang, was permitted by the North Korean authorities to briefly visit with the two under the condition that the location not be disclosed. It was unclear from The A.P.’s account whether the two were interviewed together or separately, or whether they had been coerced. But both were quoted as saying they needed help from the American government and feared they would be incarcerated for long periods.

“The horizon for me is pretty dark,” Mr. Fowle was quoted as saying. Mr. Miller was quoted as saying, “I expect soon I will be going to trial for my crime and be sent to prison.” North Korea has not explained the nature of the accusations against them.

On Thursday, a pro-North Korea newspaper in Japan published an interview with Kenneth Bae, an American missionary who has been incarcerated in North Korea for nearly two years, in which he said that his health was failing and that he had lost faith in the American government’s efforts to win his release.


North Korea Turns to U.N. over U.S.-SKorea War Games

by Naharnet Newsdesk
01 August 2014, 21:35

North Korea is asking the U.N Security Council to hold an urgent session to discuss upcoming U.S.-South Korean joint military exercises that Pyongyang described on Friday as a threat to peace.

Deputy representative Ri Tong Il told reporters that the top world body had not responded to the request contained in a July 21 letter, and vowed North Korea will keep up missile launches in response to the planned war games.

"They are disregarding us. We cannot accept this," Ri told reporters.

"If the U.N. Security Council turns away from this request for an emergency meeting, it will only expose itself as a U.N. body that has lost its principles, lost impartiality and lost its mandate of peace and security."

The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise, aimed at testing combat readiness for a North Korean invasion, is scheduled to begin August 18.

Although largely played out on computers, it involves tens of thousands of South Korean and U.S. troops.

North Korea's U.N. envoy said his country would keep up rocket and artillery launches, which he described as "more than justifiable" to counter the threat posed by the joint exercises.

"Ongoing tactical rocket launches of all different types of artillery fire are being conducted by the DPRK," said Ri.

"It is quite natural, more than justifiable, because this is in response to the grave situation created by the large-scale joint military exercises," he said. "The war danger is being increased."

On Wednesday, North Korea fired four short-range projectiles into the sea, in the latest of a series of missile, rocket and artillery tests that the U.N. Security Council has condemned as illegal.

"All these kinds of rocket launches are giving great strength and encouragement to the Korean people's army and the people so that they can make steadfast progress in nation-building," said Ri.

North Korea has always protested against the staging of joint military drills in the South, but usually to little avail.

South Korea's defense ministry rejected the complaint and said the Ulchi exercise would go ahead as planned.

"North Korea's military threats and rhetoric are going too far these days," ministry spokesman Wee Yong-Sub said.

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« Reply #14774 on: Aug 02, 2014, 04:38 AM »

Abbott government faces barrage of criticism over 'secret' Nauru transfer

Tamil asylum seeker lawyers say the move was a surprise, while Labor and the Greens say the group should not go to Nauru

Oliver Laughland and agencies, Saturday 2 August 2014 08.15 BST   

The federal government faces mounting criticism for its handling of a group of Tamil asylum seekers, now in detention at Nauru.

It is the latest stop for the 157 people, including some 50 children, who are the subject of a high court case and have been on a “wretched rollercoaster” ride, Labor’s immigration spokesman, Richard Marles, said.

Held at sea for three weeks on board a customs vessel, the asylum seekers were transferred last Sunday to Western Australia’s Curtin detention centre.

But the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, said the group refused to speak with Indian officials, in a move he described as disappointing. He said the group was flown to Nauru overnight Friday.

One of the planes arrived at around noon on Saturday. Eyewitness sources told Guardian Australia that many of the Tamil men had rips in their shirts after they were forcibly put on the plane.”

“They were traumatised,” said a Nauru source.

Contractors are understood to have expressed concerns that there is not enough space to house them all on Nauru.

It is understood that the asylum seekers will be processed in the OPC1 camp – which does not hold families. It is likely they will then be moved to the family camp.

“This is Morrison’s merry-go-round,” Marles said on Saturday. The group should have been taken straight to Christmas Island but instead the government spruiked an agreement struck with India, he said.

Under the deal Indian consular officials would interview the asylum seekers at Curtin with the intention of taking back its residents.

But Morrison said when they refused to speak with officials the deal was off.

The refusal to talk to officials “coincidentally” came after asylum seekers met with their lawyers.

“Not only have the passengers been duped by people smugglers, they have also been let down by those who are supposed to be looking after their best interests,” Morrison said, indicating they had “squandered” the chance of a positive outcome.

But lawyer acting for the Tamils, George Newhouse, denied he or his colleagues had advised the group not to meet with the Indian officials and knew nothing of the Friday night transfer to Nauru until he was alerted by media.

“We have not had a proper opportunity to inform our clients of their rights and their options because of the secrecy surrounding them,” Newhouse said

The group will undergo processing at Nauru, a facility which has come under scrutiny from the Human Rights Commission and which Australian Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said was unsuitable for children.

“They are being used as political pawns in a desperate game for the minister to look tough,” Hanson-Young said in Adelaide.

A number of asylum seekers detained in the family camp on Nauru have begun peaceful protests over conditions at the centre. Nauru sources said on Saturday that three Somali women had self-harmed on Friday night as part of the protests.

Amnesty International Australia condemned the transfer to Nauru and said the move violated the United Nations Refugee Convention by refusing to provide the opportunity to claim asylum and seek protection.

The Human Rights Law Centre described the three overnight flights ferrying the Tamils to Nauru as secretive.

“It highlights the government’s deception, secrecy and willingness to undermine the rule of law in Australia,” a centre spokesman said.

But Morrison and the prime minister, Tony Abbott, insisted the government’s move was safe and in line with Australia’s legal obligations.

Abbott hit out at refugee advocacy groups, some members of the Labor party and the Greens.

“I’m sure they’re not doing it deliberately but unwittingly they are giving aid and comfort to the people smugglers ... to a trade in death,” he said. The kindest humanitarian thing to do is to work to stop the boats, Abbott added.

If successful in their bid for asylum, members of the Tamil group will be settled at Nauru and if unsuccessful, they will be taken to Sri Lanka.


Christmas Island detainees stripped of basic medication, inquiry told 

Oliver Laughland, Thursday 31 July 2014 10.06 BST   

Dr Peter Young gives evidence.

The immigration department has attempted to cover up alarming rates of children’s mental health problems in detention, an Australian human rights commission inquiry has heard.

Former and current detention centre workers gave evidence to the inquiry into children in detention that conditions were substandard, unsafe and inappropriate.

Doctors who worked on Christmas Island recounted shocking details of medical neglect, including stripping asylum seekers of basic medication when they arrived, as documented in a letter of concern written by 15 doctors working on Christmas Island and reported by Guardian Australia.

Former workers in detention centres on Nauru also gave harrowing accounts of the conditions for children, including the case of sexual assault on a teenage boy, first reported by Guardian Australia in June.

A former departmental official described the purpose of immigration detention as “to remove hope” for asylum seekers.

The inquiry heard that the immigration minister, Scott Morrison, has agreed to appear before the panel, making the prospect of another public hearing likely.

Mental health statistics covered up, says senior doctor in immigration detention:

Dr Peter Young, the former medical director for mental health for IHMS – the private healthcare provider in immigration detention – was compelled to attend the hearing in Sydney, where he said data presented to the department within the past two weeks had received a “negative” response and that the department “asked us to withdraw the figures from our report”.

His evidence drew gasps from the gallery as a projected image of the statistics showed that 15% of children in detention on the mainland and on Christmas Island were scored three-four on the HoNOSCA (Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for Child and Adolescent mental health) for symptoms of emotional distress – Young said a score of two was “clinically significant”.

Young said statistics compiled by IHMS showed a third of people held in detention had mental health problems, and it was “clearly established” that such problems were caused by prolonged time in detention.

The inquiry has published statistics showing that between January 2013 and March 2014 there were 128 incidents of self-harm involving children in Australia, constituting of 62% actual self-harm within the detention centres where children are held.

Young told the commission he was aware of self-harm incidents involving asylum seeker children, including poison attempts. He told the inquiry that there was no full-time child psychiatrist on Christmas Island or on Nauru, but that staff rotated the role.

Later three representatives from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection – department secretary Martin Bowles, deputy secretary Mark Cormack and assistant secretary Katie Constantinou – told the inquiry they were unaware of the request to withdraw the figures.

Bowles said if any department staff had acted “inappropriately” he would “deal with that”.

The department conceded on a number of occasions that prolonged detention had adverse affects on asylum seekers’ mental health. Asked about the rate of self-harm, Cormack said the department was “not contesting” research that found prolonged detention produced a “whole range” of effects.
Immigration department overriding officials and delays in treatment:

Young said the immigration department often overrode medical advice for the treatment of asylum seekers in detention, which he described as “troubling”.

This experience was backed by two former Christmas Island doctors, John-Paul Sanggaran and Grant Ferguson, both of whom signed the Christmas Island letter of concern.

Sanggaran and Ferguson relayed a number of details documented in the letter, including issues with medical diagnosis on the island, shocking facilities and the inability to transfer patients needing urgent treatment.

An epileptic girl had her medication stripped on arrival at Christmas Island – as is standard practice – and doctors could provide only one of two necessary pieces of medication.

“She started having seizures,” Ferguson said. “She was left on that one medication. We eventually got supply of that medication she arrived with, but they only ordered a month’s worth, so in a few weeks’ time they ran out and she was back to one [medication] again, and this whole time she was having seizures.”

He said the girl was eventually transferred off the island after repeated requests by medical staff.

Sanggaran reiterated his criticism that IHMS had not adequately responded to criticisms articulated in the letter.

Ferguson described conditions on Christmas Island as a “disaster zone”.

Elizabeth Elliot, a paediatrician who accompanied the human rights commision on a three-day visit to Christmas Island earlier in the month, said she observed children unable to get treatment for conditions including an undescended testicle, abscesses and skin problems.

She said many children were suffering serious mental health issues. One girl had withdrawn to her room, stopped eating and told Elliot “it would be better to be dead than living here”.

“Almost every child we spoke to, that could articulate their feelings, expressed distress,” Elliot said.

Elliot confirmed that unaccompanied minors had recently been transferred from Manus island – highlighting, as Guardian Australia revealed, that children were on Manus during the violent unrest that left one asylum seeker dead in February.

Elliot said 15 women had been placed on self-harm or suicide watch on Christmas Island and rejected claims by Tony Abbott that those who self harmed were attempting to hold the government over a “moral barrel”.

“Take a step back – what woman would self-harm unless they were absolutely desperate?” Elliot said.

Bowles rejected claims about the conditions on Christmas Island and said the characterisation presented was “quite disturbing”.

Asked how many children and infants were among the 157 Tamil asylum seekers now held at Curtin detention centre he said the department was still addressing the “biodata”. The response drew derisive laughs from the gallery.

Bowles was asked if detention conditions were designed to “break people”. Visibly frustrated, he said: “I’m actually quite offended by these statements.” He suggested they prevented detention centre staff doing their jobs properly.

Shocking conditions for children on Nauru:

Kirsty Diallo, a former social worker employed by Save the Children on Nauru, recounted numerous examples of the poor state of care for children.

She told the inquiry children had begged her for shoes with no holes in, for books and for clean clothes. Diallo said one mother had become so desperate for clothes for her daughter that she stitched a dress from a mosquito net for her.

Diallo also documented cases of abuse, including the sexual assault of a teenage boy by a detention centre cleaner on Nauru. She said she had observed teenage asylum seeker girls in the centre engaging in “flirtatious behaviour with adult guards”, of guards stroking girls’ hair and of guards holding a three-year-old on their lap. She said an asylum seeker child had been threatened by a detention centre staff member with a cricket bat.

“You can’t do trauma recovery work when children remain unsafe,” Diallo said. Nauru was “completely inappropriate for children”.

Ai-Lene Chan, a doctor who practised on Nauru, said she encountered shortages of anti-depressants and antibiotics, meaning asylum seekers’ medications were often “abruptly stopped”.

She spoke of one child, a teenage boy who had a “complete loss of hope”.

“He had no appetite or will to live. He lost over 10kg of weight, about a quarter of his body weight,” Chan said.

Chan said the doctor employed in the Royal Nauru Hospital as an antenatal specialist did not hold the correct qualification and was trained in PNG. He eventually lost his job.

“I believe that Nauru is absolutely not a safe environment for children to be detained. I believe the detention environment creates the overwhelming majority of physical and psychological ailments,” Chan said.

She knew of unaccompanied minors and teenagers on Nauru who had been placed on suicide and self-harm watch.

A former immigration department official, Greg Lake, who worked as the centre manager on Nauru until the middle of 2013, said the purpose of detention, as he understood it, was to “construct an environment where people are used as examples … to remove hope”.

Lake, who also served as the director of offshore processing and transfers when the centres on Manus and Nauru were reopened by Julia Gillard in 2012, said he was instructed by the government to pick “children who looked the youngest” to be on the first flight to Manus. This, Lake said, reflected the government’s desire to send a strong message to people smugglers.

Outside the hearing:

At a break in proceedings, the human rights commission president, Gillian Triggs, said: “The inhumanity, the cruelty of these processes is very apparent and when it’s repeated without any conditions attached by all of these medical experts, as Australians we have to ask: have we gone too far?

“The minister [Morrison] has a responsibility to be much more transparent about what is happening.

“We’re trying to get facts right when frankly it would be much simpler for the minister to provide the Australian public with this information in the first instance.”

Abbott told reporters in Hobart no one wanted children to be held in detention, but the best thing the government could do was stop the people-smuggling business.

“What could be more horrific than the idea of children perishing at sea because their parents have fallen for the false promises of the people smugglers?” the prime minister said.


Only half of all requests and complaints by Nauru asylum seekers resolved

Nauru detention centre workers say they are not surprised by leaked data showing that basic requests, such as those for clothing or sanitary products, are not being met

Oliver Laughland and Nick Evershed, Friday 1 August 2014 21.14 BST      

Only half of all complaints and requests made by asylum seekers on Nauru – some as basic as requests for clean clothing and sanitation products – were resolved by detention centre staff, a leaked database obtained by Guardian Australia has revealed.

The database shows all 3,064 requests and complaints made between November 2013 and 2 January 2014 and shows the number of successful requests for basic items, which mostly consists of requests for clothing, is approximately 12%.

Analysis of the log of requests and complaints shows a very low completion rate of 50.4%. It’s possible this is because the requests either weren’t completed, or were completed but weren’t recorded as such.

The largest number of requests were for “stores items”, mostly for clothing. Only 50% of these requests were marked “completed”, with analysis by Guardian Australia showing that only 12% of cases resulted in asylum seekers being given the basic items they requested. Categorising the outcome of the request showed 80% were “in progress” in that the request had been passed on to someone else, and 7.6% were refused.

However, the low completion rate also extends to more serious request categories, such as “complaint on transferee” (62.9% requests uncompleted from a total of 35), complaint on service provider (48.4% uncompleted from a total of 62) and medical (35.23% uncompleted from a total of 88).

Complaint on transferee includes incidents of verbal abuse and noise complaints. Complaint on service provider includes complaints of “rats and mosquitoes”, complaints about detention centre staff, and more innocuous complaints like clothes going missing after the laundry is done. The medical category includes requests to see the doctor or dentist, and for medicine to be provided.

Complaints about accommodation include details of conditions in some parts of the centre, such as leaking tents, unhygienic toilets, and disintegrating walls.

Multiple complaints involved insects and vermin such as spiders, scorpions, rats, fleas and mosquitos in accommodation areas. On three occasions detainees requested mosquito nets but were told they were unavailable.

Translation services also appear to be lacking, as only 33.3% of requests in the ‘to be translated’ category were listed as fulfilled.

There were 28 requests in the “food/diet” category, which included a number of requests for birthday cakes for a family member. One of these requests was fulfilled, and the others either denied or passed on and listed as uncompleted.

The revelations follow shocking evidence given by former Nauru detention case manager Kirsty Diallo, who spoke at the third public hearing of the national inquiry into children in immigration detention.

Diallo said that children on Nauru had begged her for books and shoes with no holes in. She gave one example of a mother so desperate for clothing for her daughter that she stitched a dress for her made from a mosquito net.

Guardian Australia has also spoken to a current Nauru worker who said they were “not surprised” by the statistic that only 12% of requests for basic items were met, although they said that in the past two weeks detention centre managers Transfield had gone around the camp and attempted to resupply asylum seekers with more basic provisions.

“We’d put in a request,” said the contractor, “but it was a very convoluted process to get it done. It would just go round and round in circles.”

The contractor gave the example of an asylum seeker girl who was forced to hold her sandals together with cable ties after the rubber on them broke.

“The cable ties cut into her feet,” the contractor said.

Greens immigration spokeswoman senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the leaked statistics were “unsurprising”.

“The fact that such a large volume of requests and complaints are being ignored by the service providers is, unfortunately, unsurprising,” Hanson-Young said.

“When I was on the island in December, the conditions that people were being forced to live in were appalling.

“The Nauru camp is in the centre of a disused phosphate mine, the children have only hot, white gravel to play in and the facilities available are beyond basic. The conditions are unfit for adults and the fact that children are being forced to live there is deeply troubling.”

The immigration minister Scott Morrison did not respond to a request for comment.

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