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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Slutwalk London: 'Yes means yes and no means no'

Men in hard hats paused from digging up Piccadilly to watch in stunned silence as the provocative procession marched past.
They would not have dared to wolf whistle as women in stockings, bras and basques passed, clutching banners with statements like "cleavage is not consent".
The women were among the up to 5,000 people organisers say took part in the UK's latest Slutwalk in London on Saturday.
The protest movement was sparked by a Canadian policeman who advised students to "avoid dressing like sluts" to avoid being victimised.

Kill Bill: The sabotage of US finance reform

Powerful lobbies and partisan divisions cripple US political system - meaning it's business as usual for the financiers.

Some years back Thomas Frank nailed it in his book, The Wrecking Crew.
It was subtitled "How Conservatives Rule" and showed how narrow self-interest and well practiced cynicism in the service of partisan warfare has crippled our political system, resulting in a deep paralysis - despite the threat of a collapse.

I call it sabotage, a tactic that goes way back and involves deliberate effort to insure that reforms are effectively undermined.

Bahrain opposition rally draws thousands

Opposition calls for further reform at first protest in months after martial law-style restrictions were lifted.
More than 10,000 demonstrators have joined Bahrain's first public rally in months as the Gulf nation's main Shia political party shows its resolve after fierce crackdowns on protests for greater political rights.

Security forces stayed back from the crowds on Saturday in a mostly Shia area northwest of the capital Manama. Police helicopters passed overhead. There were no reports of clashes.

"With our blood and soul, we sacrifice for Bahrain," the crowds chanted.

Yemeni forces in deadly clash with fighters

Trouble in southern Zinjibar province, while president is said to be "recovering" in Saudi Arabia.
Yemen said its army killed 21 al-Qaeda members on Saturday in a southern province where the main city has been seized by Islamist fighters amid the chaos of the country's ongoing political crisis.

Nine Yemeni soldiers were also killed in the fighting in Abyan province, whose capital Zinjibar fell to the fighters last month, triggering fighting that sent many of its population fleeing.

The Middle East six months later: From self-immolation to transformation

The Middle East and North Africa face an uncertain future six months into the anti-autocratic revolt sweeping the region, but one thing is clear: it will never be the same again.

While the future shape of the region is uncertain, some outcomes of the revolt are starting to crystallize. Decades of autocratic rule are on the defensive and its demise is no longer if, but when. Already, revolts in Egypt and Tunisia succeeded in ousting the two countries’ autocratic leaders even if the kind of political system and society that will emerge remains a matter of debate.

Police say twin bomb blasts kill 34 in Northwest Pakistan

Twin bomb blasts minutes apart ripped through a crowded supermarket killing at least 34 people and injuring more than 80 in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar late Saturday.

The explosions took place in the Khyber Super Market, which is surrounded by residential flats for students, shops, a fruit juices kiosk and a hotel.

Fighting erupts in Libyan city of Zlitan as cracks appear among NATO allies

Heavy fighting between troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and rebels broke out in a city just 160 kilometers (99 miles) east of Tripoli, potentially opening the coastal road to the capital, just as cracks appeared among NATO allies.

Colonel Qaddafi’s forces also shelled for the first time the world heritage-listed city of Gadamis, some 600 kilometers (373 miles) southwest of the capital on the Tunisia and Algerian border, opening a new front in the five-month long civil war.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Footage from Libyan state TV showing the results of the NATO bombing of the Libyan Anti-Corruption Agency. French President Sarkozy stood to benefit politically from the destruction of Libyan investigation files on the looting of the Libyan Sovereign Wealth Fund by Goldman Sachs.
The NATO attack on Libya’s Anti-Corruption Agency on May 17 was extremely convenient for some Westrern politicians who could gave faced criminal probes had the Libyan agency completed its investigation of fraud and corruption by Libyan officials, including several ministers and other Libyan government officials who defected to the rebel side.

Return of Singur land by promulgating Ordinance unconstitutional.

West Bengal governor withholds consent to singur land ordinance

 Kolkata, June 10, 2011: Barely 24 hours after giving his consent to the land ordinance
allowing the state government to take back the Singur Nano factory
plot from the Tatas, West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan has withdrawn
his approval on Friday afternoon.

The letter stating his decision, as dramatic as the announcement of
the ordinance itself by chief  minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday
evening, landed on chief secretary Samar Ghosh's table between 3:30
and 4pm on Friday.

Raj Bhavan sources confirmed the delivery of the letter.
Bureaucrats in Writers' Buildings told the decision was indicated
by the Governor to the chief secretary Samar Ghosh when he was
summoned to Raj Bhavan at 1 pm on Friday.

Immediately after it arrived, the chief secretary passed on the letter
to the chief minister.  Though Mamata Banerjee did not mention the
change of mind of Raj Bhavan, she subtly signaled a change of mind of
her own at noon.

Senior bureaucrats could not recall any similar incident where any
Governor had to withhold his consent to an ordinance after according
it in the first place.

Perhaps to conceal the government's embarrassment, chief minister
Mamata Banerjee announced that  the date of the Assembly being
convened is bring brought forward to June 13, instead of June 24.

"We are not using the ordinance now. We have brought forward the date
of which  the  House  would meet. The amendment Bill is ready. It
would be the only issue that would be discussed that day," announced
Mamata Banerjee on Friday evening, about three hours after the
Governor's letter arrived.

"This  move  will  save us time as the ordinance would have to be
passed in the Assembly within  six months," argued Mamata. She made no
reference to the Governor's decision though.

Right from Friday morning controversy began circulating in different
sections of the bureaucracy  and politicians as to whether there was
any pressing urgency for an ordinance when the House would convene
only two weeks later.

Senior Parliamentarian and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee
and former West Bengal  Assembly speaker H A Halim told the media that  the
ordinance was invalid.

Writers' Building  sources indicated the Governor was not amused
primarily on two counts. First,  the chief secretary was not consulted
before the ordinance file was sent to Raj Bhavan. Second, the file
allegedly claimed that the proposal was approved by the cabinet, while
in reality, what the cabinet meeting on May 20 approved was the
decision to return 400 acres of land from the 997.11-acre plot to the
'unwilling' farmers.

"The decision to return the land and the ordinance to tweak the law
are not the same," said a bureaucrat familiar with the development.

It was learnt that a team led by industry minister Partha Chatterjee
took the proposal to Raj Bhavan on Thursday evening.

With  Trinamool  Congress-Congress  alliance having 227 MLA in the
294-seat Assembly, passing an  amendment to the Land Acquisition Act
will be a cakewalk, but Friday's development won't leave a happy taste
in the tongue of the three week-old government.

 The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s much publicized declaration that she would return 400 acres of Singur land to unwilling landowners by promulgating an Ordinance is far from truth. She cannot return the land knowing fully well that an Ordinance cannot be promulgated when Assembly is in session.
Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Misra pointed out that the Assembly was not prorogued and unless a Bill was adopted in the House the government could not take a vital decision on return of acquired land to original owners. Any move to return the land to so-called unwilling  owners by promulgating an Ordinance is unconstitutional, said former Speaker of the State Assembly Hasim Abdul Halim.   


Syria warns against UN criticism of crackdown

Foreign minister justifies measures to quell protests, saying resolution against crackdown will embolden "terrorists"

Syria has warned the United Nations that a European draft resolution condemning Syria for its deadly crackdown on anti-government protesters would only embolden "extremists and terrorists".
"It is important that the Security Council should not intervene in the internal affairs of Syria, which is a founding member of the United Nations," Syrian foreign minister Walid al-Moualem told the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon in a letter obtained by Reuters news agency on Friday.

'Historic' Colombian victims' compensation law signed

Colombia has passed a controversial law which aims to compensate an estimated four million victims of the country's long-running armed conflict.
The Victims' Law, described by President Juan Manuel Santos as "historic", allows damages to be paid to relatives of those killed.
It also seeks to restore millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners.
Analysts say implementing the law is a huge challenge that may take a decade.
Marxist rebels continue their 47-year struggle to overthrow the government, while drug cartels ship hundreds of tonnes of cocaine out of the country, using the billions of dollars of earnings to undermine the state.
Violent response fears

Syria…Have the false witnesses returned?

By Tariq Alhomayed

The Syrian media is fighting a fierce battle against all other media, of all types and nationalities. This comes amidst the backdrop of the popular uprising in Syria. This battle becomes clear simply by monitoring some of the Syrian media outlets, or the phenomenon of "analysts" that we are witnessing today.

Somalia’s interior minister killed in suicide attack at his home in Mogadishu

Somali Interior Minister Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan was killed Friday in a suicide attack at his home, apparently carried out by a woman, senior security officials told AFP.

“The minister died in hospital,” Adan Mohammed said. “The information we have so far indicates that a young woman, the minister's niece, carried out the attack.”

Qaddafi forces kill 20 rebels in Misrata bombardment as NATO denies helicopter shot down

Muammar Qaddafi’s forces killed at least 20 rebels and civilians when they bombarded Libya’s western Misrata region Friday, the rebels said as intense NATO-led strikes sent up plumes of smoke in Tripoli.

The latest flare-up in fighting came as US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned the Western alliance’s air war on the Libyan strongman’s forces could be in peril due to military shortcomings.

Sudan: SPLA accuses Khartoum of bombing Unity State

Sudan's military has bombed a village in an oil-rich southern region, southern officials say, as tensions increase ahead of the south's independence next month.
Three people were killed in the raid on Unity State, in a move to take control of the region's oil fields, the south's military spokesman said.
Some 140,000 people have fled recent fighting near the border, the UN says.
Sudan's north-south conflict left some 1.5 million dead over two decades.
The war ended with a 2005 peace deal, under which the mainly Christian and animist south held a referendum in January on whether to secede from the largely Arabic-speaking, Muslim north.

Sex scandal, pregnancy tests U.S. lawmaker's wife

Ms. Abedin still works for Hillary Clinton and is travelling overseas with the U.S. secretary of state as the scandal involving her husband, Anthony Weiner, continues to dominate U.S. news.
Huma Abedin helped then—first lady Hillary Clinton weather the storm surrounding President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern. Today, Ms. Abedin is in the centre of a storm herself, with the disclosure of her congressman—husband’s online sex antics.
Ms. Abedin still works for Hillary Clinton and is travelling overseas with the U.S. secretary of state as the scandal involving her husband, Anthony Weiner, continues to dominate U.S. news.
While she has tried to stay out of the spotlight, the latest disclosure puts her in the public eye- She is pregnant.
It was the latest twist in a series of eye—popping revelations surrounding Mr. Weiner, a Democrat from New York, and the sex scandal that could force the onetime rising political star to resign from Congress. A spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday that he had sent explicit photographs to women, as an X—rated photo Mr. Weiner purportedly took of himself made its way around several online gossip sites.

Sudan’s Bashir says army clearing oil-rich South Kordofan of rebels

Sudan’s President Omar Al Bashir said on Thursday the army was clearing South Kordofan of rebels, as clashes in the flashpoint border state continued between government troops and members of the former southern rebel army.

“The situation in South Kordofan is under the control of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) which are now clearing the state of the remaining rebels,” Mr. Bashir was quoted as saying by the official SUNA news agency at a cabinet meeting.


Israeli police stormed the venerated Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on Friday, firing teargas at Palestinians who had assembled there.

Story is developing.

(Dina Al-Shibeeb, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English


Reuters Dubai
Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia, which said this month it was backing a proposal to raise crude output, will boost its production in July to 10 million barrels per day (bpd), al-Hayat newspaper reported on Friday.

“Saudi Arabia will produce in July 10 million bpd to meet global market demand which is expected to rise, compared to 8.8 million bpd in May,” al-Hayat said, citing officials in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and others in the oil industry.

Outgoing US Defense Secretary Gates blasts NATO, questions future of alliance

Defense Secretary Robert Gates of the United States says America’s military alliance with Europe, which has been the cornerstone of US security policy for six decades, faces a “dim, if not dismal” future.

In a blunt valedictory address Friday in Brussels, Mr. Gates questioned NATO’s viability, saying its members’ penny-pinching and lack of political will could hasten the end of US support. NATO was formed in 1949 as a US-led bulwark against Soviet aggression, but in the post-Cold War era it has struggled to find a purpose.

Russian colonel who killed Chechen girl is shot dead

A Russian colonel who was jailed for murdering a Chechen teenager has been shot dead in central Moscow.
Yuri Budanov was killed on Friday by unidentified people on Komsomolsky Prospekt, a busy avenue in the capital, an investigator said.
In 2003 a court upheld his 10-year jail sentence for strangling an 18-year-old girl in war-torn Chechnya in 2000.
But he was released early from jail in January 2009 - a move that angered human rights activists.

German tests link bean sprouts to deadly E. coli

New data released in Germany strongly suggests that locally produced bean sprouts were, as suspected, the source of the deadly E. coli outbreak.
"It's the bean sprouts," said Reinhard Burger, head of Germany's centre for disease control.
"People who ate sprouts were nine times more likely to have bloody diarrhoea than those who did not," he added.
Officials initially blamed the E. coli, which has killed 29 people, on imported cucumbers, then bean sprouts.
Mr Burger warned the outbreak was not over.

From Ram to Ramdev

Editorial--The Hindu


For much of the past year, the Bharatiya Janata Party gave the appearance of being in deep slumber — this even as the world all but crashed around the scam and scandal-hit United Progressive Alliance. With the principal Opposition party seemingly unable or unwilling to take on its chief adversary, the vacuum was being filled by a host of non-political actors. However, last week saw the BJP hit the political tarmac in a burst of iridescent energy. With Baba Ramdev's Ramlila maidan protest blowing up in the face of the Manmohan Singh government, Sushma Swaraj jived to celebratory music on the lawns of the Rajghat. Simultaneously, BJP spokespersons hauled the Congress over the coals and yesteryear's poster woman Uma Bharti returned with the mandate to re-ignite Uttar Pradesh. It is anybody's guess, however, if all of this adds up to a refurbished, battle-ready BJP. Indeed, there is a desperation evident in the way it has latched on to the yoga guru, hoping no doubt that when the time comes, Baba Ramdev will walk into the sunset, bequeathing his vast constituency of supporters to the BJP.
This is a serious miscalculation because what Baba Ramdev has done is to seize the oppositional space that, as matters stand in Parliament, rightfully belongs to the BJP. It was Lal Krishna Advani who first made a case for the repatriation of overseas black money. Yet in an unbeatable irony, the BJP allowed the issue to be hijacked by Ramdev. The party's national executive meeting in Lucknow did not throw up a single fresh or innovative idea; instead the party showcased Atal Bihari Vajpayee and recycled many of the old shibboleths. Surely, the BJP does not expect Ms Bharti to wrest U.P. by rabble-rousing on Ayodhya, an issue that no longer resonates with voters, young or old. Consider the BJP's electoral performance. It won only a total of five seats in the recent Assembly elections. It has had only one good showing in the two years since the UPA returned to power — in Bihar. But then, the party owed its phenomenal success there more to the political stock and charisma of Nitish Kumar than to any achievement of its own. The BJP has currently only three dependable allies — the Shiv Sena, the Shiromani Akali Dal, and the Janata Dal (United). The immediate challenge before the party is to expand its own base while striving to bring on board estranged alliance partners. None of this will be possible if it hitches its wagons to Baba Ramdev, who admittedly touched a chord when he spoke on black money. Yet he also thought nothing of inviting the infamous Sadhvi Rithambara to share the stage with him. The BJP has one of two options: either it reinvents itself to meet the aspirations of the new generation or it speaks in a bygone idiom and plods a lonely path.

Under the cover of democracy

US and its allies assist will be using neoliberal economic policies to make sure new Arab governments stay in line.

For decades during the Cold War, the rhetoric of US and Western European imperial power was one of promoting democracy around the world. Indeed, as the Soviet model became attractive to many countries in Asia and Africa (not to mention Latin America) ridding themselves of the yoke of West European colonialism, the US system of apartheid, known as Jim Crow Laws or racial segregation, was less than a shining example for people who just liberated themselves from European racial supremacy that was used to justify colonial rule. As is well known, it is this that prompted the United States to begin the road to end its apartheid system, signaled by the famous legal case of "Brown vs the Board of Education" in 1954, which set the stage to desegregate schools in the American South.

Peru's president-elect Humala eyes stronger US ties

Peruvian President-elect Ollanta Humala says he wants to strengthen ties with Peru's South American neighbours and the US - a "strategic partner".
Mr Humala also said he would work to maintain Peru's strong economic growth.
Peru would follow its own model, he said, rejecting suggestions that he would be a copy of his former ally, Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
The leftist former army officer defeated right-wing candidate Keiko Fujimori in Sunday's second round vote.
His victory, by three percentage points, prompted an immediate fall on the Lima stock exchange but shares subsequently rallied.
Peru's economy "has been growing for more than eight years at a rate of 7% to 8%, which shows that in real terms the economy is solid and that the Monday (downturn) was market speculation", Mr Humala told the French news agency AFP.
In a series of interviews with foreign media, Mr Humala insisted he would work to protect Peru's economic performance.

Syrian army 'moves on Jisr al-Shughour'

The Syrian army has begun operations to "restore security" to the town of Jisr al-Shughour and the surrounding area, state TV says.
Earlier in the week, the Syrian government said 120 security personnel were killed in the north-western town.
The announcement, and the positioning of troops in the area, has prompted a flow of refugees to nearby Turkey.
The government has blamed the deaths on armed groups, but there are reports of a mutiny among security forces.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Artists share their memories, grieve he had to die in exile

“It is a shame on our nation and our political leaders that they could not stand up to the communal forces who tried to defame him and his art and allowed him to be forced into exile"
Even as the nation’s art fraternity unites to share their memories and pay tribute to the grand old man of Indian art, many are expressing grief and anger that not enough was done to bring M.F. Husain back to his homeland before he died.
Veteran artist Anjolie Ela Menon, one of Husain’s closest associates for almost 50 years, is depressed. She had met him just a few days ago in London. “Having made myself believe the news somehow, I am just feeling relieved that he wasn’t critically igll and that he was at the peak of his career and creativity. What more can a great artist ask for, at this age?” she said.
“The media is making too much of his exile controversy,” she felt. “See, ironically, the ‘secular’ India that couldn’t protect him here, is the same India that he was making 100 paintings on [that is, his 100 years of Indian Civilization] and that too in a foreign land! And the same Husain who was thrown out of his own country for supposedly hurtin
the religious feeling of certain sections, was at the peak of making 100 works on the Ramayana too! Look at his stature and humility. You can’t insult such an artist in his own country.”
Husain has left several memories with 86-year old Satish Gujral too. “I met him in 1956 after coming back from Mexico,” he recalls in a frail voice. “Since he knew my penchant for Urdu and because of my hearing impairment, he would communicate with me in Urdu couplets from several poets. That brought us close to each other.” Though being “completely on two different tracks artistically” Husain the artist didn’t influence his works, Husain the dear friend did.
Mr. Gujral is pained to hear the old controversies cropping up again. “Husain has made the greatest contribution to the modern Indian art. No one artist in India has popularized Hindu mythology through his works as much as Husain did. He never insulted it.”
Lover of good food
A foodie himself, painter Jatin Das too has fond memories of Husain and his love for good food. He fondly recalls having a great time at Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. “I know him for 52 years. Though he was elder to me, we were great pals. Delhi’s Jungpura earlier used to be a hub for some 100 artists. I, Husain, V S Gaitonde, Ram Kumar… we all used to go to Nizamuddin Aulia shrine and enjoy kababs, prathas and qorma.”
Mr. Das, who has been at the helm of protest against a section of RSS “goons” who ransacked a Husain show at SAHMAT a couple of years ago, says, “It’s high time we brought his body back and performed the last rites with national honour and shame the goons.”
Veteran abstract artist Gopi Ganjwani couldn’t control his tears as he reminisced about Husain. “He was like ‘free air’, never at one place,” he says. “One afternoon, he was having lunch at Triveni Kala Sangam, Delhi. And in the evening he was supposed to attend an exhibition there. But till late evening he didn’t reach. The late Biren De, who arrived late, then told us that he had already reached Mumbai and perhaps he forgot to come there. For him, traveling was such a small affair.”
Aspiring artists like Ravi Gossain who has dedicated an entire series to Husain, sent his pictures to him in London. “Husain saab called me from there just a months ago and said, “You are doing a good job” and laughed heartily thanking me for the same. For me, that was a historic laugh preserved in my memory. I wonder how he could find time to call me and remember me. It was very humbling,” he says.
The world of films is deeply depressed too. Musician A.R. Rahman, who was rushing to the United States found time to say that he has been an admirer of Husain’s works and persona. “We are going to miss his wisdom and free spirit. He will live through his interpretation of life’s colour that he depicted in his art.”
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt is rather vehement and “guilty”. He feels even the film fraternity to whom he gave two “wonderful films like Gaja Gamini and Meenaxi — A tale of two cities”, didn’t do enough for him.
“With folded hands and bent knees, I seek his forgiveness that I myself, despite being so active, didn’t do much for him. He lived in Mumbai and loved it so much. From painting Bollywood posters to becoming an international icon, Husain was undone by the so-called secular government that let him go to an alien land to breathe his last. If this government wants to retain its secular identity, it must bring him back,” he asserts.
Amrita Rao, on whom Husain was about to make a film, is “shocked”. “He once met me in Mumbai and told me very fondly, “You have quintessential Indian beauty. I would like to make a woman-oriented film with you’. I was on the seventh heaven. His works in Dubai and London kept him occupied and now it will never happen.”
Veteran Bengali actor Soumitro Chatterjee, the blue-eyed boy of Satyajit Ray, recalls having interacted with Husain twice. “It is sad that I met him when Satyajit Ray expired. To honour him, we met in Kolkata where Husain ji was supposed to paint some works based on Ray’s films and I was supposed to speak on his film ‘Charulata’. A very active Husain was very quiet that day but very quick with his brush.”
Dancer Sonal Mansingh today regrets that when Husain wanted to paint her house, she said no. “I didn't know at that time what I was going to miss. But he made some sketches of me in just 2-3 minutes in the early 1980s in Pune."
Photographer and artist Ram Rahman writes, “I never believed Husain could die. At his 95th birthday last September in Doha, he took me to see ‘Dabanng’. He always treated me like a son. It is a shame on our nation and our political leaders that they could not stand up to the communal forces who tried to defame him and his art and allowed him to be forced into exile.”
An era has ended. And all agree that there will never be another Husain. 
The Hindu

Saleh out of intensive care, US ups its covert war against Qaeda in Yemen

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh is out of intensive care after “successful” surgery in Riyadh, where he is being treated for bomb blast wounds, the official Saba news agency said.

The new agency reported that celebratory gunfire and fireworks erupted during Wednesday night as President Saleh’s supporters took to the streets in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a “feting the success of the surgery... and his transfer from intensive care to a royal suite” in a military hospital in the Saudi capital.

Amid power vacuum in Yemen, the US has intensified its covert war against Al Qaeda linked militants in the south of the country, The New York Times reported, citing US officials.


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has become the latest battlefield in the escalating cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the 12-member cartel’s two largest producers.

The cold war, a fallout of mass anti-government protests sweeping the Middle East and Africa, already has stock markets heading south and could send oil prices soaring to $150 a barrel in the coming months, and fuel inflation in consumer nations.

World powers plan for ‘post-Qaddafi’ in Abu Dhabi as rebels are promised cash

Major powers met Thursday to map out what Washington calls an inevitable “post-Qaddafi Libya” as hundreds of millions of dollars poured into an international fund to aid rebels.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, meanwhile, urged Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to step down, “the sooner the better,” as he became the first head of state to visit the rebels’ bastion of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States and counterparts from NATO and other countries participating in air strikes against Mr. Qaddafi’s forces held their third round of Libya talks in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

Brazil court rejects Italy bid for Battisti extradition

Former Italian militant Cesare Battisti has been released from prison in Brazil, after the Supreme rejected Italy's extradition bid.
Italy had appealed against a decision by Brazilian ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to deny extradition.
But the Supreme Court ruled that his decision did comply with a bilateral treaty.
Battisti, 56, had been convicted of four murders, charges he has always denied.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anti-corruption mood in the country: N. Ram

“This sentiment is on top of everybody's mind and has to be channelised properly”
There is an anti-corruption mood in the country, which has to be channelised properly. This sentiment is on top of everybody's mind as despite so many scams breaking out, very little has been done in investigating them, according to N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu.
“We are still in the process of building a nation we can be proud of. Why did it take so long to investigate the 2G irregularities? Especially, the Prime Minister has to answer as despite his personal integrity, he has presided over the most corrupt government independent India has seen.”

A weakness born of bad intent

The UPA government's unwillingness to act against the abuse of political and corporate power has created a vacuum which others are rushing to fill.
Like millions of others across India, I have spent the past week repelled by the spectacle of a weak government entering into improbable contortions over the naive and somewhat bizarre demands of Baba Ramdev. And when the “toughness” followed in the early hours of Sunday, it came in a typically cowardly fashion — with police action in the dead of the night against unarmed supporters who did not pose an immediate or even potential threat to law and order in Delhi. Kapil Sibal, the government's chief negotiator, said permission to assemble at the Ram Lila grounds had been granted for yoga exercises and not politics. But people in India have the right to assemble peacefully and to put forward political demands if they so wish. If tomorrow, the organisers of a classical music concert in Nehru Park put up a banner demanding a strong Lokpal Bill, will it be OK for the police to wade in?

An exercise in undercounting the poor

The impending BPL Census exercise will not help the poor; on the contrary, it will further deny them a fair share in national resources.
The BPL, or Below Poverty Line, Census 2011 for the rural areas will start in select States this month. In a country such as India with vast numbers of the poor, counting the poor often becomes an exercise in undercounting and dividing them, to suit the wholly inhuman policy of targeted provision of what should be universal rights. But since this is an intrinsic part of the present neoliberal framework, it is necessary to look at the actual design of the census. After the earlier questionnaires that were used to identify the poor faced widespread criticism, the government had promised a change. But except for the removal of a few absolutely objectionable questions that were in the 2002 questionnaire, the 2011 questionnaire remains problematic. The 2002 questionnaire included questions on the number of meals one ate each day and the number of saris owned: you got into the BPL category only if you ate a meal once a day, or owned one sari. These questions have now been removed.

UN Security Council weighs Syria resolution

Council members consider draft resolution condemning violence in Syria, as new video emerges of bloody crackdown.
A European resolution demanding Syria end its violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters could be put to a vote in the coming days at the United Nations despite the threat of a Russian veto, the British UN envoy said.
The UN Security Council debated a draft resolution on Wednesday condemning Syria's actions.
The draft was submitted by France and Britain during a council meeting at which the 15-nation body was briefed by a senior UN official on the unrest in Syria.

Deadly militant attack on Pakistan security checkpoint

Eight Pakistani soldiers and 12 insurgents have been killed in fighting in north-western Pakistan, local officials say.
They say militants - armed with rockets and heavy weapons - attacked a security checkpoint in the volatile Waziristan region early on Thursday.
Security forces then responded by opening fire and killing 12 rebels.
Details of the attack are still sketchy, but one report said Taliban militants were involved in the assault.

Ray Moseley: And what happens when Colonel Qaddafi goes?

In the last two weeks, expert opinion in Britain has dismissed talk of a stalemate in Libya and become focused instead on what follows the inevitable fall of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi’s regime.

Two questions are paramount: safeguarding the people in Tripoli, the Libyan capital and colonel’s stronghold, as power slips away from him, and mapping out a course for a post-Qaddafi government and civil society.


The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) left its oil output target unchanged Wednesday, a decision that sent crude prices shooting higher on global markets and exposed deep divisions in the cartel amid calls for a hike in quotas.

Traders had speculated that OPEC would boost production to help cool high oil prices and in turn revive flagging economic growth.

The Acquisition of Reality----A Moroccan man carries an Egyptian flag in one hand, and an image of Che Guevara in the other

The revolutionary events in Tunisia and Egypt introduced a swath of ideas and surfaced unprecedented political potential. Moroccan citizens discovered their own role in the Arab world after February 20 by means of protesting and rallying against their monarchy.

To Moroccans and to many other Arabs this was something quite foreign; and at that level and volume, it was something completely new and surprising. The protests in major Moroccan cities such as Casablanca, Marrakech, and Rabat demonstrate a new sense of solidarity as citizens find themselves now reaching out beyond family to community involvement. Neighbors are re-connecting with old neighbors by marching together; strangers are finding common ground; and average citizens are realizing their true potentials in the real world.

The great land grab: India's war on farmers

Land is a powerful commodity that should be used for the betterment of humanity through farming and ecolog.
"The Earth upon which the sea, and the rivers and waters, upon which food and the tribes of man have arisen, upon which this breathing, moving life exists, shall afford us precedence in drinking."
- Prithvi Sukta, Atharva Veda
Land is life. It is the basis of livelihoods for peasants and indigenous people across the Third World and is also becoming the most vital asset in the global economy. As the resource demands of globalisation increase, land has emerged as a key site of conflict. In India, 65 per cent of people are dependent on land. At the same time a global economy, driven by speculative finance and limitless consumerism, wants the land for mining and for industry, for towns, highways, and biofuel plantations. The speculative economy of global finance is hundreds of times larger than the value of real goods and services produced in the world.

With Humala's win, Peru turns to the left

With a former army officer winning the presidency, Peru joins Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela in tilting to the left. 
Add Peru to the list of Latin American countries that have turned left. On Sunday, Peruvians voted in a second-round run-off ballot and elected Ollanta Humala, a 48-year old former army officer, president. This is Humala’s second try for the office. In 2006, he came close to winning, but WikiLeaks cables reveal that Peru's establishment politicians put aside their differences and beat a path to the US embassy, asking for help smearing Humala as a Peruvian Hugo Chávez.

China aircraft carrier confirmed by general

The head of China's General Staff of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) has confirmed that China's first aircraft carrier is under construction.
Gen Chen Bingde refused to say when the carrier - a remodelled vessel from Ukraine, the Varyag - would be ready.
A member of his staff said the carrier would pose no threat to other nations.
The carrier, which is being built in the north-east port of Dalian, has been one of China's worst-kept secrets, analysts say.
Gen Chen made his comments to the Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily newspaper.
Symbol of power The PLA - the largest army in the world - is hugely secretive about its defence programme.

Pact signed for new body in Darjeeling hill areas

The West Bengal government and the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) on Tuesday signed an “official-level agreement,” paving the way for the setting up of a new elected body in the Darjeeling hill areas. After the signing of the accord, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee claimed that the political impasse in the hill areas was on its way to being ended and that the “matter [was] settled.”
But the GJM said that part of the consensus was that the new set-up would be formed “without diluting” its main agenda for a Gorkhaland state, though the demand had been set aside for now.

Anna Hazare sets Aug 15 deadline for Lokpal Bill

Civil rights activist Anna Hazare and his supporters today began a day-long hunger strike at Rajghat to protest the police crackdown on Baba Ramdev’s supporters during their agitation against corruption here on Saturday night.
After paying floral tributes at Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi, the Gandhian leader reached the protest site at around 10.20 am to a thunderous applause from around a thousand supporters who assembled there amid a large police presence.
Mr. Hazare chanted “Vande Mataram”, “Bharat Mata ki Jai” and “Inqilab Zindabad”, prompting the crowd to echo him. Civil society activists like Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Swami Agnivesh and Arvind Kejriwal joined the protest.
Mr. Kejriwal said that except Justice Santosh Hegde, all civil society members of the Lokpal Bill drafting panel will join the fast, which has been organised to protest the midnight crackdown on Ramdev’s supporters that injured over 60 people.
With Delhi Police refusing permission for the day-long hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, Mr. Hazare had decided to shift the venue to Rajghat to avoid a confrontation.
Ms. Bedi told the gathering that this is the “second war of independence against corruption, extortion and bribery.”

NATO unleashes blistering airstrikes in Libya

The strikes, which hit on Tuesday afternoon, continued overnight. Early Wednesday, some 10 explosions shook the Libyan capital. It was not immediately clear what was hit.
Muammar Qadhafi stood defiant in the face of the heaviest and most punishing NATO airstrikes yet - at least 40 thunderous daylight attacks that sent plumes of smoke billowing above the Libyan leader’s central Tripoli compound.
The strikes, which hit on Tuesday afternoon, continued overnight. Early Wednesday, some 10 explosions shook the Libyan capital. It was not immediately clear what was hit.
Late Tuesday afternoon, Libyan state television broadcast an audio address from Col. Qadhafi, who denounced NATO and the rebels challenging his rule. He vowed never to surrender.
“We will not kneel!” he shouted.
Alliance officials warned for days that they were increasing the scope and intensity of their air campaign to oust Col. Qadhafi after more than 40 years in power. NATO is backing the rebel insurgency, which has seized swaths of eastern Libya and pockets in the regime’s stronghold in the west since it began in February, inspired by uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world.

Gaza reopens border with Egypt

Egypt’s new military rulers permanently opened the Rafah terminal late last week, ending a four—year blockade of Gaza imposed by ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in cooperation with Israel.
A Palestinian official says the Gaza Strip’s militant rulers have reopened the territory’s chief gateway to the world after reaching an agreement with neighbouring Egypt.

India going through ‘transparency revolution’: Antony

Against the backdrop of agitations demanding more openness and accountability in Government functioning, Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Wednesday said the country is going through a “transparency revolution” which can’t be stopped “midway“.
“Country is passing through a new era revolution -- the transparency revolution. The walls of secrecy are crumbling in every field gradually including politics, business, administration and judiciary. Once the trend has started, you can’t stop it midway,” he said.
The Defence Minister was talking to reporters after inaugurating a new conference hall of the Press Club of India.
Civil Society members such as Anna Hazare have been demanding greater checks and balances on the functioning on the government by having institutions such as the Lokpal and are holding agitations on the issue.
Mr. Antony said the transition was facing “problems” as “India is not ready as Indian politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, armed forces and all those who are holding key position are not ready for this transition that is why there are problems in this transition.”

No gains in Western Sahara talks as Morocco pushes for wider representation

As the latest round of informal talks on the Western Sahara conflict came to an end on Tuesday with no breakthrough on reconciliation efforts, Morocco pushed for widening the representation of the Sahrawi people beyond the rebel Polisario Front.

“There must be legal representatives of the people living in the territory to give a real picture of the situation and of Morocco so that the picture doesn’t remain that the Polisario represents the so-called Sahrawis,” said Foreign Minister Taib Fassi Fihri of Morocco.

Saleh severely burnt in attack, raising doubts about his return to Yemen

President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen suffered injuries far more extensive than previously known in an attack on his presidential palace last week, with burns over 40 percent of his body, Yemeni officials and Western diplomats said Tuesday.

It was initially reported that Mr. Saleh, who is in the Armed Forces Hospital in Riyadh, had suffered burns on his face, neck and arms when a blast struck at the palace mosque during prayers.

Clinton heads to Abu Dhabi for talks on Libya as NATO jets batter Tripoli

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of the United States headed Wednesday for Abu Dhabi to consult with countries backing military action in Libya and looking at more ways to help the Libyan opposition, as a wave of NATO air strikes battered Tripoli.

The talks in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital on Thursday come after President Barack Obama said NATO’s mission in Libya was forging “inexorable” advances that meant it was only a matter of time before defiant Muammar Qaddafi’s departure, according to Agence-France Presse.

Security Council to discuss Syria resolution as scores flee to Turkey

The United Nations Security Council is set to discuss a draft resolution on Syria, Al Arabiya reported on Wednesday, as scores of Syrian refugees fleeing repression arrived in Turkey where they were looked after by police.

France, Britain, Germany and Portugal have circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution that would condemn Syria for its killing and torture of peaceful protesters and demand an immediate end to the violence. But veto-wielding Russia has voiced opposition.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Violence in Baghdad and central Iraq leaves 21 killed, including five US troops

Violence in Iraq left 21 people killed on Monday, including five American soldiers. It is the deadliest day for US troops there in more than two years, with just months to go before all US forces must withdraw from Iraq completely

The US military did not give details on how the soldiers died, but an Iraqi interior ministry official and an Iraqi police officer said five rockets struck the sprawling American Camp Victory base on Baghdad’s outskirts.

Golan death toll: 23 killed by Israel. Injured: 350. More violence?

Syria said 23 people were killed in Sunday’s protest near the Golan Heights, when Israeli troops fired at Palestinian demonstrators who marched to the frontier fence, whereas Israel dismissed the toll as “exaggerated” and put the number of killed at ten.

Israeli troops were bracing for more border violence Monday after a day of deadly clashes with hundreds of Palestinians and their supporters who tried to surge from Syria into the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights, The Associated Press reported.

Tribal fighters take over major city in Yemen, eyewitnesses say

(CNN) -- Tribal fighters took control of a top Yemeni city on Tuesday, a setback for an embattled government whose injured president is confined to a hospital in Saudi Arabia.
More than 400 tribal gunmen took over Taiz in southwest Yemen, eyewitnesses there said.
The gunmen had been clashing with Yemeni security forces near the city's Republican Palace and eyewitnesses said they are now in control of the city. The palace is not far from the city's Freedom Square -- a focal point of anti-government protests.

No intention to quit Lokpal panel, say civil society members

A day after boycotting the meeting of the Lokpal Bill drafting committee, Anna Hazare-led team on Tuesday made it clear that they had no intention to quit the joint panel and hit out at Union Minister Kapil Sibal for attacking them.
Activist Arvind Kejriwal said civil society members will attend the next meeting and contended that if they leave the ten-member committee, it will have “no credibility” as it will only remain a government panel with five ministers.
“Kapil Sibal has said that whether we come or not, they will go ahead (with the drafting of the Lokpal Bill). Why did that question arise? We had written to (Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee that we will not be attending today’s (June 6) meeting”.
“We also said that Anna Hazare will not be available on June 10 and so that the meeting on that date be postponed. So it makes it clear that we are going to attend meetings. We are not going to leave the committee just like that,” he said.

Libya's foreign minister visits China

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a one—sentence statement on Tuesday that Libyan Foreign Minister Abdul—Ati al—Obeidi would be visiting China from Tuesday to Thursday.
China says Libya’s foreign minister is visiting Beijing this week. The trip comes after China announced last week it had reached out to the rebel forces challenging Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi.

Denied permission at Jantar Mantar, Hazare to fast at Rajghat

With the Delhi Police refusing permission for a day-long hunger strike at Jantar Mantar tomorrow, civil rights activist Anna Hazare today decided to shift the venue to Rajghat to avoid confrontation.
The announcement was made by his associates Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Bhushan and Kiran Bedi, while contending the denial of permission to hold peaceful protest was against the basic Constitutional rights of citizens.
Mr. Hazare and others will launch the day-long hunger strike to protest the crackdown against Baba Ramdev’s congregation against corruption at Ramlila Maidan on Saturday night.
The Hazare-led protest will be held in the vicinity of Rajghat from 10 am tomorrow and will be accompanied by fast, an all-religion prayer meeting and a debate on Lokpal Bill.
“The Delhi Police Commissioner (B. K. Gupta) has told us that there is no permission to sit (on fast) there (Jantar Mantar) and directed us not to sit there,” Mr. Bhushan said about the venue which falls in New Delhi district where Section 144 has been imposed to prohibit gathering of more than four persons at one place.

EU health chief flays Germany over E. coli

EU farm ministers are convening in an emergency meeting in Luxembourg later on Tuesday amid demands from farmers that they be paid back for the losses caused by the E. coli outbreak in Europe that has killed 22 and sickened more than 2,330.
The European Union health chief on Tuesday warned Germany against premature - and inaccurate - conclusions on the source of contaminated food that have spread fear all over Europe and cost farmers in exports.

France, others ready to risk veto on Damascus as 120 Syrian troops killed in battles

France and other western powers are ready to risk a veto by Russia at the United Nations over a draft resolution to condemn political violence in Syria, France’s top diplomat said late Monday, as Syrian forces fought gunmen in battles that left more than 120 members of the security forces dead.

Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France, on a visit to Washington, said of the 15-member UN Security Council: “We think that it will be possible to get eleven votes in favor of the resolution and we’ll see what the Russians will do.”

US presses Saleh to hand over power in Yemen as British military assets deployed nearby

The White House called late Monday for an “immediate transition” of power in Yemen, where the United States fears Al Qaeda could exploit political turmoil and strengthen its presence, as Britain confirmed the deployment of military assets near the embattled nation.

After four months of deadly unrest, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year-old regime was teetering even before the president was wounded in an attack on his palace and flown late Saturday to neighboring Saudi Arabia for treatment.

NATO steps up air strikes on Tripoli as opposition fighters seize Libyan town

Loud explosions shook Tripoli early on Tuesday morning in what appeared to be stepped up NATO air strikes on the Libyan capital, and opposition forces seized a town in the west, driving out Muammar Qaddafi’s forces.

Explosions were heard in Tripoli on Monday night and into Tuesday morning—the latest in several rounds of bombings in the last two days, a Reuters witness said.