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« Reply #9210 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:44 AM »


The Lede - The New York Times News Blog
October 8, 2013, 6:54 pm

Iran’s Foreign Minister Discusses Twitter, Netanyahu and Kerry on State Television

By ROBERT MACKEY

While restrictions on the use of social networks by Iranians remain in place, the country’s new foreign minister openly discussed the “Happy Rosh Hashanah” message he posted on his official Twitter account last month on state television Saturday.

As if to underscore that a segment of Iran’s new leadership is determined to make aggressive use of social networks in public diplomacy, video of the foreign minister’s remarks, with English subtitles, was uploaded to YouTube and promoted on Twitter in a retweet by @HassanRouhani, an account apparently run by the new president’s aides in his name.

In the two-minute interview excerpt, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif described Iran’s 40,000 Jews as a respected minority, but also took aim at Israelis for “playing the victim.” He also cited approvingly recent criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s belligerent tone on Iran from Roger Cohen, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist.

Near the end of the clip, Mr. Zarif smiled as he described what he called an illustration of how Mr. Netanyahu’s anti-Iranian rhetoric had left him “isolated” at the United Nations General Assembly. Unlike in previous years, Mr. Zarif said, “No one would have accompanied the Israeli delegation if it had walked out of the room” during the address by Iran’s president. “This is why the Israelis didn’t enter the hall in the first place. They did so because they didn’t want to leave in protest alone.”

In a second clip uploaded to the same YouTube channel, Mr. Zarif explained that he writes in English on Twitter because “Persian is a language of poetry. English is a more precise language. You can thus do something with 140 characters. It’s very difficult to say something in Persian with only 140 characters.” He added that he enjoyed the direct interaction with people on Twitter. “I get energy from people, from their kindness,” he said.

Mr. Zarif’s best-known exchange on the social network to date came last month, when he engaged in a conversation about Holocaust denial with Representative Nancy Pelosi’s daughter Christine, whose husband is Jewish.

In another subtitled excerpt from the interview, also posted on a YouTube channel associated with Iran’s foreign ministry and promoted through the president’s Twitter account, Mr. Zarif was asked about his private meeting in New York with Secretary of State John Kerry. He said they had a frank discussion about the “mutual feeling of distrust” that would have to be overcome in any negotiation. “I mean, there was a conversation that for as long as 34 years our two countries have not trusted each other. And this distrust still persists,” Mr. Zarif said.

Pressed as to whether he got the sense that his American counterpart was serious about wanting to negotiate a solution to the impasse over Iran’s nuclear program, Mr. Zarif replied, “My take from Mr. Kerry’s remarks, both in the private meeting and in public meetings, was that at least he would like that this situation in regards to the nuclear case and maybe some other issues will improve and go toward a resolution acceptable by the Islamic Republic.”

Speaking to his interviewer, but perhaps also to the Iranian people, Mr. Zarif added:

    The U.S. government is not monolithic, just like U.S. society. From this perspective, it’s very similar to Iranian society, which is a multivoice society too. Even inside the establishment, there may be different viewpoints towards issues. We are not a society in which a decision should be implemented linearly. The same is true about them.

    And I feel that inside the U.S. government there are probably figures or tendencies opposing the views of Mr. Kerry and those of Mr. Obama. And we could see part of the impact of this in the remarks made by Mr. Obama after meeting with Netanyahu.

Mr. Zarif followed those remarks with another reference to comments posted on his Twitter account — namely, his criticism of President Obama for hawkish comments he made about Iran while sitting with Mr. Netanyahu, just days after the American president’s historic telephone conversation with Mr. Rouhani.

    President Obama needs consistency to promote mutual confidence. Flip flop destroys trust and undermines US credibility.

    — Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 1 Oct 13

    Pres.Obama’s presumption that Iran is negotiating because of his illegal threats and sanctions is disrespectful of a nation,macho and wrong.

    — Javad Zarif (@JZarif) 1 Oct 13

While Mr. Zarif uses his English-language Twitter account to reach out to the West, his Facebook updates, written in Persian, are clearly directed at a domestic audience. As my colleague Thomas Erdbrink reports from Tehran, on Tuesday Mr. Zarif used Facebook to lash out at the hardline newspaper Kayhan for printing what he called private comments about engagement with the United States and distorting their meaning by taking them out of context.

    Iran’s FM Zarif writes on FB he will never attend closed door meetings in parliament again, after hardline paper “misquotes” from meeting.

    — Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink) 8 Oct 13

According to a translation from the American Enterprise Institute’s Iran Tracker, an article in Kayhan contended that Mr. Zarif said during a meeting on Sunday with members of Iran’s Parliament, “Rouhani’s conversation with Obama and my lengthy meeting with John Kerry were improper.” Given his frank account of that meeting on state television the previous day, the self-criticism in Kayhan’s front-page report was strange, to say the least.

The editorial line of Kayhan, whose director is personally appointed by Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is usually taken to be a reflection of the leader’s views. In this case, the Iranian-American researcher Reza H. Akbari suggested, the report undermining Mr. Zarif’s United Nations diplomacy could be read as a sign of just the kind of divided opinion in the upper reaches of Iran’s government the foreign minister hinted at in his interview.

    Zarif criticizes #Iran’s hardline Keyhan newspaper on Facebook. He Implicitly condemns them for being more conservative than the SL

    — Reza H. Akbari (@rezahakbari) 8 Oct 13

In his Facebook update, Mr. Zarif explained that he suffered a severe muscle spasm brought on by stress after seeing his words misquoted on the front page of Kayhan, requiring a visit to the hospital. As Bahman Kalbasi of BBC Persian reported, the foreign minister blamed conservative lawmakers for leaking and distorting his remarks and said he would speak to them only in public from now on as a result.
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« Reply #9211 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:45 AM »

‘I don’t deserve Nobel yet,’ says Pakistani activist Yousafzai Malala

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 6:56 EDT

Malala Yousafzai, the teenage activist nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, says she has not done enough to deserve the award, as her old school closed Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of her shooting by the Taliban.

The 16-year-old was shot in the head by the Pakistani Taliban on October 9 last year for speaking out against them. She has gone on to become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school.

Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, she has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and on Friday will learn if she has won the Nobel Peace prize.

But in an interview with Pakistani radio station City89 FM, Malala spoke of her desire to do more to promote education, saying she felt she had not yet earned the Nobel accolade.

“There are many people who deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I think that I still need to work a lot. In my opinion I have not done that much to win the Nobel Peace Prize,” she said.

In Swat valley, in deeply conservative northwest Pakistan where women are often expected to stay at home to cook and rear children, officials say only around half of girls go to school — though this is up from 34 percent in 2011.

Malala was taken to Britain for treatment in the wake of the attack and now goes to school in the central city of Birmingham.

On the first anniversary of the shooting that came within a whisker of ending her life, her old school in Mingora, the main town of Swat, was closed to mark the occasion.

“All sections of our school have been closed today to express solidarity with Malala on the anniversary of attack on her. The school will reopen as usual tomorrow,” a teacher in Khushhal Public School told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Malala first rose to prominence with a blog for the BBC Urdu service chronicling the difficulties of life under the rule of the Taliban, who controlled Swat from 2007 until they were kicked out by the army in 2009.

Though their brutal rule has ended, pockets of militancy remain, with schools regularly being destroyed by insurgents. Fear of the men of violence means there will be no public event to mark the anniversary.

“We did not organise any function in Swat on the anniversary of attack on Malala because people fear they can also be attacked like her,” district education officer Dilshad Bibi told AFP.

“Many girls are scared that they can be attacked if they are attached with Malala.”

While Malala has enjoyed acclamation around the world, in Pakistan the response to her rise to stardom has been more sceptical, with some accusing her of acting as a puppet of the West.

But with her message of hope and determination she has managed to inspire some of the youngsters in her home area.

“The incident of attack on her one year ago is unforgettable. Education is our life and Malala raised her voice for it, so we like her very much,” said 12-year-old Humera Khan.

“I also aim to fight for education when I grow up.”


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« Reply #9212 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:47 AM »

October 8, 2013

Karzai Lashes Out at the U.S. for Its Role and Focus in Afghanistan

By MATTHEW ROSENBERG
IHT

KABUL, Afghanistan — With the United States weighing a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of next year, President Hamid Karzai offered a stinging critique of the American-led campaign here, saying that coalition forces had inflicted needless suffering on Afghans.

“They could leave,” he said in an interview with the BBC.

The focus of the war, Mr. Karzai said, should have been insurgent training camps and havens across the border in Pakistan, not “in Afghan villages, causing harm to Afghan people.”

Mr. Karzai has lashed out at the United States and its allies before. But his latest comments, broadcast Monday evening in London and posted online in the early hours of Tuesday in Kabul, came at a crucial juncture. The NATO coalition’s mission concludes at the end of 2014, and negotiations to keep American forces in Afghanistan beyond that point are stalled, according to Afghan and American officials.

Officials on both sides of the talks say they have reached the limits of their willingness to compromise, a sentiment echoed by Mr. Karzai in the BBC interview.

“If the agreement doesn’t suit us, then, of course, they can leave,” he said. “The agreement has to suit Afghanistan’s interests and purposes. If it doesn’t suit us and if it doesn’t suit them, then naturally we will go separate ways.”

It would be logistically impossible for European powers to stay on in Afghanistan if no deal was struck with the United States. American and European officials have also said that billions of dollars in aid on which Afghanistan depends — the country’s own revenue covers only about 20 percent of its budget — will be in jeopardy if all foreign military forces depart.

Two sticking points remain.

The first is Mr. Karzai’s insistence that the United States guarantee Afghanistan’s security as it would if the country were a NATO ally. That could compel the United States to send troops on raids into Pakistan, an ally of Washington and a nuclear-armed power.

The second is Mr. Karzai’s refusal to allow American forces to continue hunting for operatives of Al Qaeda here. The Afghan leader wants the United States to hand over its intelligence and let Afghan forces conduct the operations.

American officials have balked at both proposals. They have said they will cut off talks if substantial progress is not made in the coming weeks and begin preparing for what is known as the zero option: a complete withdrawal.

Only months ago, American generals were speaking openly of plans to keep some troops — mostly likely fewer than 10,000 — in Afghanistan to train Afghan forces and hunt for Qaeda forces.

But President Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday, struck a far more equivocal note, saying the United States would consider keeping troops in Afghanistan only if it got the deal it wanted.

“If we can’t, we will continue to make sure that all the gains we’ve made in going after Al Qaeda we accomplish, even if we don’t have any U.S. military on Afghan soil,” Mr. Obama said.

American officials say the threat to cut off talks is not a bluff, though Afghan officials have so far said that they see it that way. Many in the Afghan government have said that they believe keeping forces in Afghanistan is a strategic necessity for the United States, and that therefore it must be willing to compromise.

Mr. Karzai, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he would call a loya jirga — a traditional gathering of tribal elders and other important people — to discuss the security agreement with the United States. He said the loya jirga would take place at the end of the month, which would likely push past the Obama administration’s deadline for concluding talks.

Mr. Karzai, who has just six months left in office until a successor is elected, said in the BBC interview that the United States and its allies had failed to deliver what they promised to Afghanistan.

“I am not happy to say that there is partial security,” he said. “That’s not what we are seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear-cut war against terrorism.”

Mr. Karzai, however, acknowledged that his government was “weak and ineffective” and had not been able to tackle the rampant corruption within its ranks. But he said the blame for that, too, ultimately fell on the United States and its allies, which had spent blindly to buy Afghan loyalties.

“The big corruption, the hundreds of millions of dollars of corruption, it was not Afghan. Now everybody knows that. It was foreign,” Mr. Karzai said.

“The contracts, the subcontracts, the blind contracts given to people, money thrown around to buy loyalties, money thrown around to buy submissiveness of Afghan government officials, to policies and designs that the Afghans would not agree to. That was the major part of corruption,” Mr. Karzai said, apparently referring to the C.I.A.’s financing a slush fund for his office with monthly deliveries of cash.

Mr. Karzai also said that his government was actively engaged in talks with the Taliban, though it was not clear if he was speaking about the informal contacts between the government and Taliban leaders that have existed throughout the war or more formal negotiations, which both Afghan and American officials have said are moribund.

Yet even if a peace deal is struck with the Taliban, the rights of women will be protected, Mr. Karzai insisted.

“The return of the Taliban will not undermine progress,” he said.

“I have no doubt that there will be more Afghan young girls and women studying and getting higher education and better job opportunities,” he said. “Even if the Taliban come, that will not end, that will not slow down.”


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« Reply #9213 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:51 AM »


Bangladesh garment factory fire in Gazipur kills workers

At least 10 people die in blaze near Dhaka just months after more than 1,100 people died in the Rana Plaza factory collapse

Associated Press in Dhaka
theguardian.com, Tuesday 8 October 2013 19.36 BST   

A fire on Tuesday at a garment factory outside Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, has killed at least 10 people.

Fire official Zafar Ahmed said 10 bodies were found inside the four-storey building housing the Aswad garment factory in Gazipur.

Journalist Iqbal Ahmed said the fire occurred when the factory was closed for the day, but some employees were inside working overtime.

Farhaduzzaman, another fire official, said the blaze spread to two nearby buildings that also housed garment factories in the same group, but that firefighters had doused the flames in two of the buildings and were seeking to bring the blaze under control in the third building. He could not immediately say whether any people were still trapped inside.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known.

Harsh and often unsafe working conditions in Bangladesh's garment industry drew global attention after the collapse of the eight-storey Rana Plaza factory building in April killed more than 1,100 people. The industry has experienced numerous fires, including one last November that killed 112 workers.

Bangladesh earns $20bn (£12.4bn) a year from garment exports, mainly to the United States and Europe. The sector employs about 4 million workers, mostly women.

Authorities in Bangladesh and global clothing companies have pledged to improve safety standards.


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« Reply #9214 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:53 AM »

Prominent monk who co-founded the West’s first Tibetan monastery Akong Tulku Rinpoche among three killed in China

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 6:44 EDT

A prominent monk who fled Tibet in 1959 and co-founded the West’s first Tibetan monastery has been killed in China along with two other people, police said, with his brother saying he was “assassinated”.

Akong Tulku Rinpoche was the co-founder of Samye Ling in the rolling hills of southern Scotland, the first and largest Tibetan Buddhist centre in Europe.

In a statement posted on the monastery’s website, his younger brother Lama Yeshe Rinpoche said the abbot, his nephew and another monk had been “assassinated” in Chengdu in southwest China.

Akong’s body had been brought to hospital and a post-mortem would be carried out, his brother said.

Police in Chengdu confirmed that Akong, his nephew and a third man they described as their driver had been killed on Tuesday, but said the deaths resulted from a financial quarrel.

Three Tibetan men visited a house where the trio were staying and stabbed them to death in an argument over money, police said in a statement on their verified social media account.

A police spokesman told AFP Wednesday the three suspects were in custody.

Akong, who was in his early 70s, had taken British nationality and the Foreign Office in London confirmed in a statement the death of a Briton in Chengdu on October 8.

Akong and the other co-founder of the Samye Ling monastery, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, fled Tibet around the time of a failed uprising in 1959, when the Dalai Lama also went into exile.

The institution in Scotland has become known as a pilgrimage site for artists and musicians as well as Buddhist monks during its more than four-decade history.

Despite fleeing China, Akong had maintained a relationship with the authorities in Beijing, meeting government officials who were visiting Britain.

Rights groups say China represses Tibetan religious freedom and culture, but Beijing says it has brought massive investment to the relatively undeveloped region.

Around 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in protest at Chinese rule since 2009, and according to overseas campaign groups around 60 people were injured on Sunday when police opened fire on a group of protesters.

A county public security official denied any incident to AFP.


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« Reply #9215 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:55 AM »


Bo Xilai can appeal against life sentence, rules Chinese court

Disgraced politician given right to appeal against life sentence after being found guilty of corruption and abuse of power
 
Reuters in Beijing
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 10.47 BST   

The ousted politician Bo Xilai will be allowed to appeal against a life sentence handed out last month for crimes of corruption and abuse of power, a court in eastern China has ruled.

Bo had been a rising star in China's leadership circles having cultivated a loyal following through his charisma and populist quasi-Maoist policies, especially among those left out in the cold by China's anything-for-growth economic policies.

But his promising career was cut short last year by a murder scandal in which his wife, Gu Kailai, was convicted of poisoning their family friend Neil Heywood, a British businessman.

In a brief statement posted on its website, the high court in the province of Shandong, where Bo was first tried, said it had allowed him to appeal. It gave no further details, nor did it say when the appeal would be heard.

While Bo has the right to appeal, his sentence is unlikely to be overturned as the courts are controlled by the ruling Communist party, which long ago pronounced him guilty.

The appeal should technically be heard within two months.


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« Reply #9216 on: Oct 09, 2013, 06:59 AM »


Andhra Pradesh blackout enters sixth day as talks with striking workers fail

Electricity plants across south-east Indian state remain shut as state employees protest over creation of state of Telangana

Associated Press in Hyderabad
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 11.04 BST   

Millions of people in south-east India face widespread power blackouts for the sixth consecutive day after talks failed between the government and striking electricity workers.

Workers have shut down power plants across Andhra Pradesh to protest against a decision to divide the state into two, creating the new state of Telangana. They are among thousands of people in Andhra Pradesh who have gone on strike, saying the new state will divide Telugu-speaking people, lead to cuts in the state budget and create problems with water resources.

N Kiran Reddy, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, held two rounds of talks with the leaders of the utility employees' association, but the workers would not call off their strike. Another round of talks was scheduled for later on Wednesday.

The workers are asking for the federal government to withdraw last week's cabinet decision to carve out the state of Telangana, with 10 districts, out of Andhra Pradesh's 23 districts.

More than 600,000 state government employees opposed to the division and demanding a united Andhra Pradesh have been agitating for nearly two months.

Last week's decision to go ahead with the creation of Telangana as India's 29th state has led to further turmoil with workers shutting down several state-run and private power plants in the state. Most parts of the state went without power for hours on Wednesday while scores of freight and passenger trains were cancelled. Hospitals and drinking water utilities in the state were operating with generators., while mobile phone services, gas stations and other businesses were also affected.

Power supplies to the adjoining states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala were also hit, raising fears that the southern electricity grid could collapse owing to shortages in Andhra Pradesh.

The demand for a separate state of Telangana has erupted sporadically since the 1950s, with hunger strikes and violent protests claiming 1,000 lives over the past decade. Several protesters have self-immolated to press for the creation of the state.

Telangana supporters say their drought-prone northern area is underdeveloped and its residents feel discriminated against in the allocation of state funds, water and jobs. Achieving statehood will allow the future state, with 35 million people, to get the resources it needs to develop, they say.

Those opposed to the creation of Telangana state say Andhra Pradesh would lose the city of Hyderabad, India's sixth largest and a major IT hub. Although the two states will share Hyderabad as their capital for the next 10 years, the city is located geographically in Telangana.

Meanwhile, the town of Vijayanagaram remained under curfew for a third day on Wednesday after opponents of the new state set homes and businesses on fire. Paramilitary troops patrolled the town when the curfew was lifted for two hours to let people stock up on food and medicines.


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« Reply #9217 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:02 AM »


Australians retain title as world's richest, according to wealth report

Australia ranks highest for median wealth and second only to Swiss for average wealth, which now sits at $426,844

Australian Associated Press
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 05.58 BST   

Australians are the richest people in the world, by one measure at least.

As the number of Australian millionaires rose by 38,000 to 1.123 million people, the median wealth of adult Australians stands at $233,504 (US$219,505) – the highest level in the world, according to the Credit Suisse 2013 Global Wealth Report, released on Wednesday.

Median wealth is the midpoint between richest and poorest.

By the measure of average wealth, Australians fall back to second with $426,844 (US$402,578) per person, ranking behind the Swiss who were the world's richest on $543,992 (US$513,000).

Credit Suisse Australia’s chief investment strategist, David McDonald, said the nation's household wealth per adult grew by 2.6% in the past year. That was slower than the global average of 4.6%, but Australia still had the best distribution of wealth among developed nations.

"Although we are up there at a high level of wealth per adult we've also got a better spread than a lot of the other developed countries including, obviously, the Swiss, but also places like the US," McDonald said.

The number of Australian millionaires increased by 38,000 to 1.123 million people, with the calculation including the value of real estate owned outright.

Australians were shown to have a much higher level of wealth held in property and non-financial assets – 58.5% compared to the world average of 45% and just 38% in the US.

The US remains the millionaire capital of the world, with 13.2 million people topping the seven-figure mark and nearly 46,000 people in the $US50m-plus category. Australia has 2,059 people in the richest category, 2.1% of the global total.

While Australia has maintained its place at the top in median terms for three years running, Credit Suisse reported that North America has regained its title as the wealthiest region in the world.

Rising house prices and stock markets fuelled a 12% rise in North American wealth to $US78.9tn from mid-2012 to mid-2013, putting the region ahead of the Asia Pacific and Europe for the first time since before the global financial crisis.

Credit Suisse global head of research for private banking, Giles Keating, said Japan's economic slump had dragged down the Asia-Pacific region.

"The fourth annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report shows an $US11tn rise in (global) wealth to $US241tn, with the US as the clear winner, overtaking Europe, while Asia-Pacific fell back due to sharp depreciation of the yen," Keating said.


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« Reply #9218 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:05 AM »

US to cut military and economic aid to Egypt

Obama administration set to suspend military and economic assistance to Egyptian government in protest at Morsi ousting

Associated Press
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 13.50 BST   

The Obama administration is poised to slash hundreds of millions of dollars in military and economic assistance to Egypt, US officials have said. An announcement is expected this week.

The US has been considering such a move since the Egyptian military removed the country's first democratically elected leader in June. It would be a dramatic shift for the Obama administration, which has declined to label President Mohamed Morsi's ousting a coup and has argued it is in US national security interests to keep aid flowing.

The decision is likely to have profound implications for relations between the US and Egypt after decades of close ties that have served as a bulwark of security and stability in the Middle East.

The US officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk publicly before the administration's official announcement.

President Obama's top national security aides recommended the aid cutoff in late August – a policy shift Obama had been expected to announce last month. But the announcement got sidetracked by the debate over whether to launch military strikes against Syria.

The US provides Egypt with $1.5bn (£940m) a year in aid, $1.3bn of which is military assistance; the rest is economic. Some of the aid goes to the government and some to other groups but it is only the money that goes to the government that would be suspended.

Officials told the Associated Press in September that the recommendation calls for a significant amount of aid to be withheld but this payment could be restored once a democratically elected government is returned. The exact sum to be suspended is the president's decision to make.

On Tuesday, the National Security Council spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, denied reports that the US was halting all military assistance to Egypt. "We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at (the United Nations general assembly), that assistance relationship will continue," she said.

In his speech at the UN last month, Obama said the US would continue to offer to support to Egypt in areas such as education. But he said the US had held up the delivery of certain military aid and added that future support "will depend upon Egypt's progress in pursuing a democratic path".

Any suspension of assistance to Egypt would follow months of internal deliberation over how to respond to Morsi's ousting, with the White House struggling to formulate a coherent policy.

The administration determined it was not in the US national interest to determine whether a coup had taken place, as such a designation would have required it to suspend all but humanitarian assistance to Egypt. It did delay the delivery of some fighter planes, but as Egypt's military began a heavy-handed crackdown on Morsi supporters – despite UUS appeals for restraint – the president's advisers started to consider more robust action. Obama then cancelled a joint military exercise and announced a fresh review of assistance.

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

Murder trial of Egypt’s Morsi to start November 4

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 6:35 EDT

The trial of Egypt’s deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on charges of inciting the murder of protesters will start on November 4, the official MENA news agency reported Wednesday.

Morsi will stand trial with 14 other defendants over the killings of protesters outside his presidential palace in December 2012, almost seven months before his ouster in a military coup.

At least seven people were killed in the clashes on December 5 between the Islamist’s loyalists and his opponents after he passed a temporary decree placing his decisions beyond judicial review.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood claimed that most of those killed were Islamists. The clashes broke out after Brotherhood supporters dispersed a sit-in outside the palace by Morsi’s secular leaning opponents.

Morsi’s co-defendants will include several of his aides and Brotherhood leaders.

The military has detained Morsi in a secret location since his overthrow on July 3. The other defendants have been jailed since then or are on the run.

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

Muslim Brotherhood supporters defy Egypt's government with Cairo protest

Hundreds rally against army's overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi despite bloody clashes two days earlier

Reuters
theguardian.com, Tuesday 8 October 2013 18.04 BST   

Hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters chanted "Down with the military government" outside Cairo University on Tuesday, defying Egypt's army-backed authorities despite deadly clashes with security forces two days earlier.

Supporters of the deposed president Mohamed Morsi had urged university students to protest against the army after the violence on Sunday, one of Egypt's bloodiest days since the military ousted the Islamist leader on 3 July.

The death toll from Sunday's unrest rose to 57, state media said, with 391 people wounded.

The Muslim Brotherhood has accused the army of staging a coup and working with security forces to eliminate the group through violence and arrests, allegations the military denies.

"We are here standing against the coup," said Enas Madkour, a 19-year-old fine arts student at the march near Cairo University, where security forces had parked two tanks and blocked the main road with barbed wire.

"I'm against Morsi but I'm not for people killing others and I'm not for the military government we have now," said Madkour, who wore a headscarf, as most Muslim women do in Egypt.

Security forces detained 35 people in the area, security sources said.

Small-scale protests also occurred at Helwan University in southern Cairo. At Zagazig University, north-east of Cairo, pro-Brotherhood students clashed with residents and Brotherhood opponents with fists, sticks and stones, security sources said, and eight people were wounded.

Authorities have cracked down on the Brotherhood in recent weeks. Security forces killed hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters in Cairo in August and then arrested many Brotherhood leaders.

Along with political turmoil, a surge in militant attacks has hammered tourism, a main foreign currency earner.

Hours after gunmen killed a police officer and wounded another in Port Said on Tuesday, the interior ministry said Egypt may install security cameras at tourist sites to deter militants from targeting visitors.

"There's a security plan in place in tourist areas that will maintain stability in these areas," said an interior ministry spokesman, Hany Abdel Latif. "We expected all these problems because we are in a war against terrorism."


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« Reply #9219 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:15 AM »


Guatemala's campaign against child malnutrition shows hunger for change

With recognition from development experts and potential EU funding, Guatemala's zero-hunger strategy looks set to take root

Mark Tran, Guatemala City
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 07.00 BST   
       
It is a big day for the small picturesque village of Pamumus in the mountains outside of Guatemala City. The vice-president, Roxana Baldetti, is coming to visit.

Villagers from all around, mostly the indigenous Kaqchikel people, have turned up in their finest outfits. Blue-and-white bunting adorns the small square filled with white plastic chairs; outside the school, boys play a marimba – a form of xylophone – and a tortuga instrument made from tortoise shells. Women wearing colourful beaded jackets sell corn on the cob and trinkets, while small children wave blue balloons.

The lush maize-covered slopes around Pamumus – which means "heavy drizzle" in the Kaqchikel language – and views of distant volcanoes give an impression of agricultural abundance. But appearances are deceptive in a region hard hit by Guatemala's 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

The department of Chimaltenango, which includes Pamumus, has a chronic child undernourishment rate of 61.2%. According to the World Bank, Guatemala has the third-highest rate of chronic malnutrition, or stunted growth, (54%), and, says the EU, the country loses more than $300m (£186m) in GDP every year to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Reducing malnutrition is a priority for the government. When President Otto Pérez Molina appeared at the UN general assembly in New York last month, he spoke about his government's efforts to reduce hunger.

The centrepiece of Guatemala's struggle against undernourishment is its zero-hunger plan that aims to reduce chronic malnutrition in under-fives by 10% by 2016. At the UN, Pérez, a former military man, said Guatemala's efforts were progressing as it had cut infant mortality from undernourishment by 50%.

The government has won recognition from international development experts. Guatemala came first last year in the Hanci global hunger index that ranked 44 countries on their hunger and nutrition commitment. The zero-hunger plan was one of the reasons, along with substantial investment in health and having a separate nutrition budget line to make its spending accountable to all, for Guatemala's top ranking.

In Pamumus, Linda Johana has not heard of the zero-hunger plan, but says there have been fewer deaths from child malnutrition in recent years, probably because of a more diverse diet. "We are eating lettuce, tomatoes and corn," she says. "The school feeding programme gives children better snacks: radishes, potatoes, cucumber and fruit."

As for the plentiful field of maize, with stalks climbing to three metres, she says much of the land is owned by those lower down the mountain. "They own lots of land and sell the maize to others," she says, alluding to this politically sensitive subject and a key factor behind the civil war.

Guatemala has one of the world's highest rates of land concentration, where 3% of private landowners occupy 65% of the arable land, producing coffee, sugar cane and bananas for export. Small farms (fewer than four hectares) occupy only 11% of agricultural land.

Although things are getting better in Paramus, life remains hard, especially when illness strikes. Paula, who would rather not give her full name, describes how expensive it is to keep four children in school. Things became particularly difficult when one of them fell ill and they had to go to hospital in Guatemala City, some 22 miles away.

"Life's got harder because the children are at school, which takes a lot of money, and two years ago we had to travel to the city because the doctors here did not know what the problem was," she says. The family eats beans and tortilla all week, except for Tuesday, when Paula buys eggs or a chicken from the local market.

Arnulfo Alvarez, the only doctor in the area, confirms how hard life is in the village. Sixty-seven of the 112 under-fives in Pamumus suffer from chronic malnutrition. Villagers live in remote locations and a lack of money means they live mostly on corn and beans, a diet low in protein. Children receive cereal and food supplements – iron, zinc and folic acid – and mothers are being encouraged to breastfeed their babies for the first 12 months.

The excitement in the village builds as Baldetti arrives by helicopter. She makes a beeline for the cutest children before working the crowd. At one point she asks: "Does your husband beat you? Because if he does, I want you to let me know."

She has flown to Pamumus mainly to show her appreciation to the European Union for providing aid to Guatemala. Andris Piebalgs, EU development commissioner, is visiting the village as part of a Latin American tour.

Last week, the EU announced it would provide up to €775m (£653m) for bilateral assistance to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras between 2014-20, subject to approval by the European council of government leaders and the European parliament. Guatemala is expected to get €186m, which will be channelled through the government.

"What you can achieve for €20-25m per year in aid here can be very dramatic," says Piebalgs. "We can really do something here, be a game-changer in areas like nutrition."

The question, as ever, is whether the aid will get through to those who need it most. EU officials believe the Pérez government means what it says on hunger and malnutrition. "This government wants to look good and that is already something," a senior official says.

Mark Tran travelled to Guatemala with the European commission


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« Reply #9220 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:17 AM »

 SPIEGEL ONLINE
10/08/2013 03:19 PM

'Worse Than Gangs': Rio Police Criticized for Favela Crackdowns

By Jens Glüsing in Rio de Janeiro

A new security campaign is helping authorities win back control of Rio de Janeiro's favelas ahead of next year's World Cup. Special police units are driving drug gangs out of the slums -- but often only to replace them with their own thuggish rule.

The operation was peaceful, as had been previously promised. It took just 50 minutes on Sunday for police and soldiers to occupy the Lins favela complex in northern Rio de Janeiro, a collection of 12 slums with an estimated population of 15,000. At the high point of one of the slums, they hoisted the Brazilian flag as an announcement to all that the state had recaptured the site.

The complex had previously been ruled by a heavily armed gang of drug traffickers, as is the case in most of Rio's more than 300 favelas. The gangsters fled after the police announced that a Police Pacification Unit (UPP) would be set up in the favela complex.

UPPs stand at the center of the strategy of Rio governor Sérgio Cabral Filho. First the police set up permanent stations in the favelas -- they previously would only enter the slums during raids and then pull out again. These raids usually ended in shootouts, and innocent people often die. There are now 34 UPPs in Rio controlling more than 100 favelas with hundreds of thousands of residents.

Such measures aim to make the city safer as it gears up to host the World Cup next year and the 2016 Olympic Games. The man responsible for implementing the strategy is Security Secretary José Mariano Beltrame, a level-headed, respected former police commissioner from the country's south. He has ordered that favela occupations be announced in advance to avoid bloodbaths. This has usually resulted in the traffickers evacuating the favela before the UPP arrives.

Rio' s Finest

The only operation to result in heavy violence was the occupation two years ago of the Complexo do Alemão, one of the largest favela complexes in Rio, ending in several days of gun battles. Rio's largest criminal organization, the Comando Vermelho, had set up its headquarters in the massive slum quarter. They terrorized the city with attacks on busses and police stations, resulting in more than a dozen deaths.

Since the introduction of the UPPs, the murder rate has fallen drastically. The real estate market in the favelas is booming, especially in the slums of the South Zone that have become popular as a destination for tourists and locals. Enterprising residents rent out their verandas and roofs for parties and photo shoots.

But how long will the peace hold? Among many favela residents, Rio's police force has a worse reputation than the criminal drug gangs. They are seen as thugs and murderers -- and often rightly so, as Security Secretary Beltrame freely admits.

Ten police officers, including the head of the UPP, are allegedly responsible for torturing and murdering Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer who lived in Rio's largest favela, Rocinha. At least 20 other favela residents are said to have been tortured by police. This resulted in an investigation by the state prosecutor, which came to a close last week. De Souza was apprehended by the police on July 14 and ordered to the UPP station. According to prosecutors, officers believed that Souza was working as a henchman for the drug mafia. They wanted information from him on the whereabouts of the gangsters and their weapons cache.

The UPP officers claim they sent Souza home after the interrogation because he wasn't able to provide any information. But they overlooked the fact that a 24-hour surveillance camera was filming the only entrance to the station. The footage shows Souza entering the station, but he doesn't come out again. An investigation by a special unit came to the conclusion that he was tortured with electroshocks in the presence of the UPP district commander and eventually murdered. His body is still missing. He was most likely taken from the favela in the trunk of a police vehicle.

Police Violence Run Rampant

The crime casts a shadow on the government's entire pacification strategy. "Where is Amarildo?" citizens have asked angrily on Facebook. Nearly every day, demonstrators have marched in front of the governor's palace demanding an explanation.

The wrongdoing is hardly unprecedented: Torture is routine in many police stations. Police, fire fighters and ex-military personnel have formed militias that drive traffickers out of many favelas and establish their own reigns of terror.

This has prompted the government to mostly recruit young policemen directly out of training to staff the UPPs. By boosting their salary if they work in a UPP, the government also hopes to make them less susceptible to bribery. But reports of attacks by UPP officers are piling up. Several UPP commanders have been removed due to their involvement in corruption scandals. At the same time, the drug mafia has repeatedly tried to retake UPP-occupied favelas. There have been shootings, especially in the Complexo do Alemão. And gangsters who have fled such favelas have taken refuge in other slums on the city outskirts, leading to an increase in suburban violence.

At the same time, the police are cracking down more brutally on demonstrators. Practically every week there is a street battle in Rio between protesters and police, who respond with tear gas and seemingly excessive violence, even against bystanders. "The police were less violent under the military dictatorship than they are under Governor Cabral," says Francisco Carlos Teixeira da Silva, a historian at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Security experts have been calling for years for a comprehensive reform of the police -- above all, for the security forces to be sufficiently demilitarized. Up to now, the regular state police have been organized by the military, and an esprit de corps rules their ranks, as it does within the armed forces. Many crimes committed by the police remain unpunished.

In Rocinha, Security Secretary Beltrame is beginning to take action on the scandal surrounding torture and murder by the police force. He replaced the commander of the UPP with Priscilla de Oliveira Azevedo, who successfully led the first UPP in the city. Now she faces a double challenge: Azevedo must not only keep the drug dealers at bay; she must also compel her macho colleagues to behave in a civilized manner.


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« Reply #9221 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:21 AM »


Mexican police seize 18 kidnap suspects in Acapulco – most are fellow officers

Anonymous tip leads to seizure of gang of federal officers thought to be involved with seven murders and four kidnappings

Reuters in Mexico City
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 09.24 BST

Mexican authorities have detained a gang of 18 suspected kidnappers in the Pacific resort of Acapulco, the majority of whom were members of the federal police.

The Mexican government's national security spokesman, Eduardo Sánchez, said 13 of the men, aged between 22 and 32, were members of the federal police force. The gang is thought to be involved in seven murders and four kidnappings.

The suspects were seized on the outskirts of Acapulco by fellow officers after an anonymous tip, Sánchez said in a press conference.

Acapulco, a tourist resort in the western state of Guerrero, has been hit by a wave of violence in recent years and is one of Mexico's most violent cities, with 77 homicides per 100,000 people.

The federal police force has suffered several severe blows to its reputation in recent years. In June last year, three officers died during a shootout between federal police and corrupt officers at Mexico City's airport. Months later, 14 officers were charged with attempted murder for opening fire on a car carrying two CIA agents outside Mexico City.

About 80,000 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico since 2007, when former president Felipe Calderón sent in the army to tame the warring cartels.

President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December, has vowed to break with the policies of his predecessor and end the bloodletting by targeting kidnapping and extortion. But crime has remained high since he took office and critics have called into question how different Peña Nieto's policies are from Calderón's.

Guerrero is one of the most dangerous states in the country, and with 86 reported kidnappings it had more cases in the first eight months of this year than in the whole of both 2012 and 2011, according to federal data.

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

Chillwave band Delorean 'virtually kidnapped' in Mexico

Spanish group were contacted by alleged members of the Zetas gang via mobile and told they could be shot at any time

Sean Michaels   
theguardian.com, Wednesday 9 October 2013 11.19 BST   
   
Members of the chillwave band Delorean were reportedly "virtually kidnapped" as their tour passed through Mexico City this weekend. While the Basque indie group are all now safely en route to a tour date in the US, thugs allegedly demanded 20m pesos (£940,000) in ransom money during the ordeal, which ended on Monday.

According to El País, Delorean had arrived in Mexico City to perform at last week's Mutek festival. They were contacted by alleged members of the Zetas gang, who threatened to kill the musicians if they did not obey very particular orders. Delorean agreed to change hotels, give up their mobile phones and buy new ones as per the gangsters' instructions.

The "kidnappers" did not use guns or physical violence during the affair. They communicated with the band by phone, warning them that they were being watched and could be shot at any time. Meanwhile, they ordered the band members to make phonecalls to relatives, telling their families that they had been kidnapped and demanding a ransom of 5m pesos per person.

After hearing from family members, Spanish federal police travelled from Madrid to Oiartzun to coordinate a response, El Pais reported, and working with Mexican authorities, eventually located the band. "Initially we feared that the kidnapping was much more complicated and difficult," a spokesman told the newspaper. Luckily, it appears that Delorean were not actually being held by a group of gunmen – they just believed they were.

While Delorean cancelled a 7 October gig in San Francisco, they will reportedly resume their tour tonight in Seattle. Two other Spanish acts, John Talabot and Pional, have since announced they are calling off a Mexican tour. "We are happy that our friends Delorean are OK," Talabot wrote (via Consequence of Sound), "[but] we are cancelling our tour in Mexico for security reasons."

Founded in 2000, Delorean recently released their fourth album, Apar.


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« Reply #9222 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:23 AM »

Cuban merchants defy ban on sale of imported clothes

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 20:05 EDT

Privately-owned small retailers in communist Cuba are defying a government order to stop selling imported clothing or face stiff fines.

Imported clothing is in high demand in Cuba because foreign apparel is cheaper and of higher quality than threads sold in state-run stores.

“We have been here for three years selling without a problem and abiding by the law, and now they say that this is over?” asked Nadia Martinez, 32. “We are not going to close our business.”

Martinez has a government license to work as a seamstress, but in practice runs a modestly successful business selling imported clothes on Galiano Street, one of Havana’s busiest commercial avenues.

The clothes are not imported by the government, but rather brought in by Cubans traveling to places like Ecuador, Mexico, Spain and the United States.

Until now, the government had seemed to look the other way as she stretched the scope of her legal employment. But it now appears it may regulate away her economic success story.

In 2010 President Raul Castro expanded the list of government-approved self-employment occupations as part of a very gradual reform of its Soviet-style economy.

Castro announced that over the following years he would also be slashing the country’s five-million strong bureaucracy — this on an island with a population of about 11 million — as a cost-cutting measure.

Today more than 430,000 Cubans work for themselves or in small businesses. Authorized job categories include restaurant owners, barbers, electricians, plumbers, mechanics and other skilled trades.

Privately owned beauty salons and family-owned restaurants known as “paladares” proliferated, often operating from the back of people’s houses.

The government, however, remains the country’s largest employer, and central planners still try to control the cash-strapped economy.

Deputy Labor Minister Marta Elena Feito recently announced that the government would fine businesses and people found selling imported apparel or re-selling clothing that originated in state-run stores.

Authorities have long tolerated the clothing vendors, and even though Feito said the measures would be enforced “immediately,” no vendor has been forced to shut down.

“We’re waiting for them to come explain the unexplainable to us, because closing us down cannot be a solution,” said Ledibeth Sanchez, 29, another Galiano Street vendor.

A few blocks away Carlos Medina, 44, works at the “Fashion Passions” boutique on Dragones Street. The well-stocked store sells jeans, blouses, T-shirts and imported dresses.

“Everything was going very well and suddenly they change it all,” said Medina. He said vendors and store employees are fretting about being potentially being forced to shutter.

“Nobody has notified us, but if they give us the order to close, we’ll close,” he said in a resigned tone.

Omara Cambas, 46, a former Communist Youth national leader, opened the “Catwalk Workshop” clothing boutique in the Havana neighborhood of El Vedado just three months ago.

“This measure would affect us a lot — the fact is, I’d be without work,” said Cambas.

A key reason so many people have joined the ranks of self-employed — aside from state job cuts — is that state salaries average around $20 a month. Though people may not have to pay for housing here, that is not enough for most to put food on the table for their families or buy clothing.

Castro, 82, took over from his ailing older brother Fidel in 2006 and has chosen not to dramatically open up Cuba’s economic or political system. Fidel Castro led the nation through five decades of Cold War strains with the neighboring United States.

Raul Castro has sought to liberalize Cuba’s socialist economy a bit and encourage more private entrepreneurship, but at the same time maintain a key role for the Cuban state through joint ventures.

Since 1962, Cuba has been under a full US trade embargo. But US goods routinely move through third countries or are resold by people traveling into Cuba.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #9223 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:25 AM »

30,000 year old Brazilian artifacts throw wrench in theory humans first arrived in Americas 12,000 years ago

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, October 9, 2013 7:16 EDT

It’s no secret humans have been having sex for millennia — but recently discovered cave art suggests they were doing it in the Americas much earlier than many archeologists believed.

A new exhibit in Brazil showcases artifacts dating as far back as 30,000 years ago — throwing a wrench in the commonly held theory humans first crossed to the Americas from Asia a mere 12,000 years ago.

The 100 items on display in Brasilia, including cave paintings and ceramic art, depict animals, ceremonies, hunting expeditions — and even scenes from the sex lives of this ancient group of early Americans.

The artifacts come from the Serra da Capivara national park in Brazil’s northeastern Piaui state, on the border of the Amazon and Atlantic Forests, which attracted the hunter-gatherer civilization that left behind this hoard of local art.

Since the 1970s, Franco-Brazilian archaeologist Niede Guidon has headed a mission to carry out large-scale excavation of Piaui’s interior.

“It’s difficult to think there exists a site anywhere with a higher concentration of cave art,” the 80-year-old Guidon told AFP.

Many paths led to Americas

Other traces of the civilization include charcoal remains of structured fires, explained Guidon, who hails from Sao Paulo.

“To date, these are the oldest traces” of human existence in the Americas, she emphasized.

The widely held theory has suggested human beings only reached the Americas some 12,000 years ago from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait to reach Alaska.

Some archeologists contend flaked pebbles at the Brazilian sites are not evidence of a crude, human-made fire hearth made some 40 millennia ago, but are rather geofacts — a natural stone formation, not a man-made one.

But Guidon said she believes the Serra dwellers may have come originally from Africa, and she said the cave art provides compelling evidence of early human activity.

The paintings are estimated to date back some 29,000 years, she said, noting: “When it began in Europe and Africa, it did here too.”

Other sites, including Valsequillo in Mexico and Monte Verde in Chile, also indicate the presence of communities tens of thousands of years ago.

These sites have led archeologists to speculate that peoples traveled various routes to reach the Americas and at different stages, archeologist Gisele Daltrini Felice told AFP.

In search of tourists

UNESCO conferred World Heritage status on the Serra da Capivara in 1991, but tourists remain thin on the ground, which frustrates Guidon.

“After putting in a great amount of effort (to promote the site) we are up to 20,000 visitors a year,” the archeologist said.

But “World Heritage sites get millions, and we are prepared to receive millions,” she added.

The interior of the Piaui region is marked by widespread poverty, which has much to gain from tourism, Guidon stressed.

But resources are lacking to promote the attractions in a remote corner of the giant nation, she said. The nearest city is the modest town of Sao Raimundo Nonato, which has spent years trying to have an airport built.

The EU is promoting both the new exhibit as well as a swath of conferences on the area under the auspices of UNESCO, Brazil’s Institute of Parks and the country’s Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage.

“The idea is to promote cultural, historic and nature-based tourism in order to aid the development of areas adjoining Brazil’s major parks — and especially the Serra da Capivara, which has the most modern infrastructure,” with 172 sites to visit, said Jerome Poussielgue, European Union cooperation and development officer for Brazil.

And the foundation behind research into the park is backing development projects — including a ceramics factory that reproduces images of the cave art, a program aimed at giving local women work experience.

“We would like to help in the development of a region where women suffer hugely from violence,” says Guidon.

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

Brazil’s new oil find will begin yielding output in 2018

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 19:45 EDT

Output from a new oil find off northeastern Brazil will likely begin in 2018, the head of state-run energy giant Petrobras said in remarks published Tuesday.

The online edition of the daily O Estado de Sao Paulo quoted Graca Foster as saying that one of the deposits in the Sergipe-Alagoas basin “should go into operation in 2018.”

Foster insisted the deposits, located some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the coast, were “exceptional” but gave no details on the their size or on the production potential.

“We are not disclosing figures because we can’t,” she said.

When Petrobras first reported the discovery of large deposits off the state of Sergipe late last month, Brazilian media estimated the reserves could hold a billion barrels of crude.

The new deposits, being close to the coast, would be cheaper to develop than the much bigger, pre-salt deepwater reserves discovered in 2007 off southeastern Brazil.

Those pre-salt reserves, buried beneath several kilometers of ocean, bedrock and salt beds, could hold more than 100 billion barrels of high-quality recoverable crude and could turn Brazil into one of the world’s top exporters, according to authorities.

Brazil hopes to boost its oil production from around two million barrels a day currently to nearly five million by 2020, largely due to the pre-salt reserves.

Foster was also quoted as saying by Estado that Petrobras will invest $50 billion this year.

“We invested $45 billion in 2012 and this year we are allocating close to $50 billion,” she noted.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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« Reply #9224 on: Oct 09, 2013, 07:28 AM »

Archaeologists in Bolivia find 1,500-year-old treasures

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, October 8, 2013 21:29 EDT

Gold and silver pieces as well as bones and pottery from 1,500 years ago were discovered in Lake Titicaca by underwater archaeologists, a researcher said Tuesday.

“We found 2,000 objects and fragments,” Christophe Delaere, the Belgian co-director of the Huinaimarca Project that unearthed the items, said at a ceremony in La Paz.

President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s minister of culture and diplomats from Belgium were also in attendance.

The expedition began two months ago on the Bolivian side of the lake, which is shared with Peru. Underwater explorations turned up objects from different eras, both Inca era and pre-Inca (1438-1533).

The project unearthed 31 gold fragments, mainly around the Isla del Sol, where legend holds that mythical founders of the Incan empire emerged from the lake’s waters.

Underwater excavations were carried out in other parts of the lake where objects from different dates were found.

“There are ceramics and urns from more than 500 to 800 years ago,” Delaere said.

Elsewhere, 1,500-year-old objects such as stone vessels, incense containers and figures of animals like pumas were found.

Tales about the lake containing underwater citadels and wealth supposedly stashed by indigenous Quechua and Aymara people from Spanish conquistadores have existed for centuries in Bolivia.

In the late 1960s French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau conducted several expeditions in Lake Titicaca, finding signs of a civilization.

Morales stressed that Bolivia, South America’s poorest nation, is keen to recover its national patrimony on display in countries in Europe and the United States.

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

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