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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Economy--CAG looking into performance of EPFO’s fund manager

Government auditor CAG is looking into the performance of the fund managers appointed by the EPFO to manage its huge corpus of Rs 3.5 lakh crore as part of the 5-year ‘performance audit’ of the retirement fund body.
CAG, according to sources, is also looking into the performance of the fund managers appointed by the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) in managing the corpus.
The Performance Audit Report for 2005-10 is likely to be finalised by June-end and would be sent to the Labour Ministry for comments before being tabled in Parliament, sources said.
“The report is likely to be tabled in the monsoon session,” said a source.

Current affairs India- Fuel price hike to push inflation into double-digit: PMEAC

Describing the government’s decision to raise prices of diesel, cooking gas and kerosene as inevitable, the Prime Minister’s economic advisor today said that it would push inflation into the double-digit zone.
“Due to the hike, inflation could be close to 10 per cent by July,” Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C. Rangarajan said.
However, he added, the inflation numbers would subside after the initial surge. “I do expect that after initial correction, inflation will come down to 6.5 per cent by March 2012,” Dr. Rangarajan said.
The decision to raise fuel prices, he said, was inevitable in view of the rising crude prices in the global market and its impact on the fiscal deficit. “Since correction was needed in order to contain fiscal deficit, the move is welcome.”
On June 24, the government hiked the price of diesel by Rs 3 a litre, kerosene — Rs 2 a litre and cooking gas by a steep Rs 50 a cylinder. This followed the hike of over Rs 5 per litre on petrol announced by oil marketing companies in mid-May.
The overall inflation was 9.06 per cent in May, up from 8.66 per cent in April. The Reserve Bank had recently said that it expects inflationary pressure to remain high, at an average of 9 per cent till September on account of high global commodity prices.

Cong spend in Bengal poll highest--CPM lowest

NEW DELHI: The recent assembly election in West Bengal saw the CPM having the lowest average poll expense followed by Trinamool Congress. The average spending by the Congress candidates was the highest at 64.7%.

Smita Bakshi of Trinamool. a candidate from Jorasanko constitutency, made the highest expenditure of Rs 15.65 lakh against the Election Commission's limit of Rs 16 lakh. Even the lowest expenditure was by Trinamool's Namita Saha from Magrahat Purba constituency. Hamidul Rahaman, an independent candidate from Chopra constituency, spent Rs 15.21 lakh, the highest by an independent in the state..

Treasury urges British banks to take big losses to help Greece avoid meltdown

Effort to persuade banks to take hit comes despite David Cameron's assurance that UK taxpayers will not foot the bill
Britain's banks will be urged by the Treasury to take multimillion pound losses as part of Europe-wide plans to prevent a catastrophic meltdown of the Greek financial system.
Despite the assurance of David Cameron that the UK taxpayer will not pay towards the latest EU bailout of Greece, Treasury officials are working behind the scenes to persuade British banks holding Greek bonds to take a "haircut" now as the best way to avert a potential global crisis. Britain's banks hold about £2.5bn of Greek bonds.

Threatened, isolated, under siege: the UK's working class today

Only a quarter of the population identify themselves with a once-proud group that now feels marginalised, according to an exclusive survey
The working class is fast disappearing in Britain, according to new research into public attitudes revealed today. Only a quarter of the population now identifying themselves as working class, and pride in their social position is turning to bitterness as manual workers feel themselves squeezed between benefit claimants, immigrants and the expanding middle class.
In the second phase of the most comprehensive study of class in Britain, published exclusively today by The Independent on Sunday, the research company BritainThinks investigated the social attitudes of the declining working class. The survey paints an alarming picture of a group that feels disenfranchised, isolated and threatened on all sides.

Syria send more troops to Turkey and Lebanon borders

Syria's military has moved into a village near the border with Turkey and a town near the boundary with Lebanon, activists say.
Hundreds of Syrians, some with gunshot wounds, have fled into Lebanon, according to reports.
At least four civilians were reportedly killed by security forces during house-to-house raids and at funerals held for those killed in Friday's rallies.
Dissidents plan a conference on Monday to discuss how to resolve the crisis.
Protests against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have gone on for more than three months. Activists say more than 1,300 demonstrators have been killed by security forces and government supporters.
The Damascus government says it is tackling armed groups.

Sports---Saina in Indonesia Open finals

Defending champion Saina Nehwal inched closer to a third successive Indonesian Open Super Series badminton title after advancing to the finals with a three-game triumph over Chinese Taipei’s Shao Chieh Cheng here today.
The fourth-seeded Indian won 21-14 14-21 21-17 in a 45-minute battle against giant-killer Cheng, who had created quite a flutter by upstaging top seed Shixian Wang and seventh seed Xin Liu earlier in the tournament.
The opening game was fought on even keel before Saina reeled off seven successive points to nose ahead.
The 21-year-old Indian lost the momentum in the second game as Cheng drew level with more net winners than Saina’s.
The third game was a closer affair but Cheng did not have a reply to Saina’s 11 smash winners, which sealed the game and the match for her. 

Libya--NATO denies civilian deaths

NATO came under verbal fire again on Saturday from the Muammar Qadhafi's regime, which accused it of killing 15 more people in strikes on civilian sites in the eastern city of Brega, a claim promptly denied by the alliance.
Meanwhile, three powerful explosions struck the eastern Tripoli suburb of Tajura, where a number of military installations are located, and columns of smoke could be seen from the centre of the capital, AFP correspondents said.
It was not immediately known if the blasts were the result of an attack by NATO, which has repeatedly targeted the area in the past.
And in a likely propaganda coup against Mr. Qadhafi in football-mad Libya, 17 of the country's top players, including national goalkeeper Juma Gtat, have defected to rebels battling to oust him, the BBC reported.
The latest war of words comes a day after lawmakers dealt a symbolic rebuke to President Barack Obama over U.S. participation in the NATO-led U.N.-mandated campaign against Mr. Qadhafi, as the Libyan leader reportedly mulled leaving his capital.
The House of Representatives voted 295-123 to reject a resolution that would have given congressional authorisation to Mr. Obama's decision to use military force against Mr. Qadhafi.
The House later beat back an effort to cut funding for direct U.S. strikes on Mr. Qadhafi's forces. It voted 238-180 to defeat a resolution that would have denied money to drone attacks and bombings while backing U.S. operations in support of NATO-led efforts there for one year. 

Hezbollah leader calls US embassy in Beirut ‘den of spies’ as group members confess to working for CIA

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the group had captured three spies among its members, two of whom were recruited by the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The US embassy in Beirut immediately dismissed the accusations as “empty,” saying Mr. Nasrallah seemed to be “addressing internal problems within Hezbollah.”

In the first such acknowledgement of infiltration since the Iranian-backed Shiite group’s founding in the 1980s, Mr. Nasrallah refused to give the identities of two party members he said were working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

But he said a third case was also under investigation, and slammed the American embassy in Beirut as a “den of spies.”

If Libya threatens to become a no-win for NATO, for China and Russia it’s a win-win

US Admiral Samuel Locklear, NATO’s joint operations chief in Naples, is not a man who minces his words when defining his mission in Libya.

It is a definition that confirms China and Russia’s worst fears and has strengthened their determination to thwart any US or European attempt to embark on a repeat performance in Syria or anywhere else in the Middle East and North Africa.
It also raises questions about the effectiveness of military force and whether foreign intervention is the right response to brutal crackdowns by autocratic leaders on demonstrators demanding greater political reform and economic opportunity and it calls into question the future of NATO itself.

Afghanistan: Attack on Logar hospital kills 15

At least 15 people have been killed in a car bomb attack at a hospital in Afghanistan's Logar province, local officials say.
Dozens more were hurt in the blast, some critically. Most of the casualties were civilians.
Militants often target Afghan state employees as well as foreign forces.
Officials blamed the Taliban, but a Taliban spokesman said it did not attack public places, adding the blast was caused by "someone with an agenda".
Provincial official Din Mohammad Darwaish said the death toll could well increase as there were people buried under rubble.

Opposition protests fuel price hike, demands rollback

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties on Saturday staged nationwide demonstrations against the hike in the prices of diesel, kerosene and cooking gas, with leaders demanding a rollback.

"Instead of listening to the complaints of the common man, the government is showing a no-mercy attitude by raising the prices of essential commodities," said the BJP's VK Malhotra, leader of opposition in the Delhi state assembly.

Car bomb kills three security personnel in south Yemen

The government quickly said it suspected al—Qaeda as behind the bombing on day in Aden’s free—trade zone, which went off after anti—government demonstrators in the city and across the nation again held large weekend rallies in their four—month campaign to oust Yemen’s autocratic leader of nearly 33 years.
A car bomb believed to have been set off by a suicide attacker killed three Yemeni security personnel in the southern city of Aden, the government said, as residents grew fearful of a possible attempt by Islamic militants to seize control of the strategic port city.

Left parties slam government for fuel price hike

Slamming the government for the fuel price hike, the Left parties demanded its immediate rollback and asked their units to organise protest actions all over the country.
Attacking the government for “striking another blow” to the ‘aam admi’, they said the hikes come at a time “when the people are suffering from all round price rise and the inflation rate has crossed nine per cent”.
Asking all their units to immediately conduct hartals, demonstrations and other protest actions, the CPI(M), CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc said it was “another cruel blow” to the common people as the increase in diesel price would raise the transportation cost and affect farmers, while those in kerosene and LPG cylinders would burden the poor.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Red Cross ship reunites Libyan families

Hundreds stranded for months in Tripoli, plus captured rebels, return to Benghazi aboard Red Cross-chartered ship.

More than 300 people, including 66 captured rebel fighters released by the Libyan government, have arrived in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi by boat from Tripoli, the country's capital.
The Ionis vessel, chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), docked in the eastern port city amid chaotic scenes on Friday afternoon after a 22-hour journey.

Peru halts mine project after protesters shot

Government cancels Canadian-owned silver mine in southern highlands after four killed in demonstration against project.

The government of Peru has halted a Canadian-owned silver mine project in the southern highlands after at least four people were killed when police fired on protesters opposing the project.
At least 24 other people were injured on Friday when security forces opened fire on demonstrators who tried to seize control of an airport near the city of Juliaca in Puno state.

Get set for higher inflation

NEW DELHI: The government just increased the headache for households, itself and the Reserve Bank of India by increasing fuel prices as inflation is set to cross the double digit mark.

The increase in diesel prices alone is expected to add 30 basis points (100 basis points equal one percentage point) to inflation and is going to have a cascading effect on prices of almost all commodities – from fruits and vegetables to industrial products – as transportation costs would go up due to the hike of Rs 3 a litre.

House of Representatives votes against US Libya role

The US House has refused to give President Barack Obama authority to continue US participation in the Nato-led operation in Libya, but rejected a bid to cut off money for the conflict.
The US role in the Nato mission has drawn criticism from many in Congress in recent weeks.
Opponents say the three-month-old operation requires Congress's approval.
But the Republican-led vote against approving the conflict is largely a symbolic political move, analysts say.
"The president has operated in what we now know is called the zone of twilight as to whether or not he even needs our approval," Republican Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said. "So what are we left with?"
Mr Obama says he does not need additional congressional approval, as US forces are simply supporting Nato.
His allies in Congress urged members of the House to vote for the resolution authorising the conflict.


The two votes contradict each other but their message is the same: members of Congress are angry with Mr Obama for failing to consult with them before getting involved in Libya.
First, the House voted overwhelmingly against a resolutin authorising American military action with time limits.
It was a symbolic vote, but it was nevertheless an embarrassment for the Obama administration - especially because 70 of those voting no were Democrats.
Then came the vote to cut funding for some aspects of the military mission. That too was rejected overwhelmingly - lawmakers are wary of looking like they don't support American troops.
But some of the 89 Republicans who voted no also thought the resolution wasn't tough enough. They wanted to cut all funding and end US participation in the Libya operation.
"A sudden withdrawal of American support for the mission would strengthen Gaddafi's hand and increase his confidence that he can wait out the rebellion against his rule," Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland said on the House floor.
"It would put civilian lives at risk... I urge my colleagues: protect our valuable alliances and the principles of human rights that they safeguard."
War Powers resolution Under the terms of the authorisation resolution, the US would have been allowed to conduct "limited" operations for one year in Libya.
The introduction of ground troops would have been banned.
Analysts suggest Democrats angry at Mr Obama's continued commitment of resources to the Libya campaign could refuse to vote against the resolution, delivering another rebuke to the president.
Later on Friday, Democrats and 89 Republicans beat back an effort to cut off funding for drone attacks and airstrikes against Libya, but which would have allowed US forces to continue supporting the Nato mission.
The vote on the funding measure was 180 in favour to 238 opposed.
The disagreement between Congress and the White House stems from a Vietnam War-era law, the War Powers resolution, intended to constrain the president's ability to wage military conflict with congressional approval.
Under the US constitution only Congress can declare war, and the 1973 War Powers resolution requires that, without such a declaration, a president who sends US military forces into conflict must get authorisation from Congress if the hostilities last longer than 90 days.
Last week, Mr Obama informed Congress that administration lawyers deemed the Libya conflict did not require additional congressional approval, arguing US forces were merely playing a supporting role in the Nato campaign.
That role, the White House says, does not match the definition of "hostilities" as described in the War Powers resolution.

Lokpal-Don't succumb to civil society's pressure tactics, CWC tells Centre

The Congress Working Committee (CWC), which met here on Friday evening to discuss the controversial Lokpal Bill, was unanimous in its view that the government should not allow itself to be held to ransom by a handful of civil society activists.
Simultaneously, it was clarified that the draft of the government representatives on the joint Lokpal Bill drafting committee was just that – it was not yet the official government draft that would emerge only after the government took a final view after the all-party meeting slated for July 3.
Issue of booklet
On the specifics of the Bill, CWC sources said a few members concurring with the view of the government representatives on the joint drafting committee said there was no need to include the Prime Minister in the Bill as he, along with all citizens, was covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act and the law of the land. There were, these sources added, no voices to the contrary.

US sanctions on Iran companies may affect Russian companies

Reuters Moscow
The sanctions imposed by the United States on a major Iranian port operator and the country’s national airline may affect Russian companies and “raise serious questions,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

“Such actions, based on an extra-territorial use of US law, potentially create a situation when Russian business structures cooperating with these companies could be affected,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

US backs Philippines over China tensions

Washington pledges new hardware for Philippine navy as Manila vows to "stand up to aggression" in South China Sea.

The United States has said it is ready to provide new hardware to the Philippine military as Manila vowed to "stand up to any aggressive action" amid rising tensions at sea with China.
Foreign secretary Albert del Rosario, visiting Washington, said the Philippines hoped to lease equipment to upgrade its aged fleet and called for the countries to revamp their relationship.

Syrian forces open fire on protesters

At least five people reported killed in protests following Friday prayers in Homs and al-Kasweh, a Damascus suburb.

Security forces opened fire as thousands of anti-government protesters took to Syria's streets in a weekly ritual of defiance and demands for Syrian President Bashar Assad's ousting.
Activists said at least five people were killed and some 15 injured in demonstrations following Friday prayers.
Some of the fatalities occurred in al-Kasweh, a suburb of the capital, Damascus, and in the central city of Homs, according to Omar Idilbi of the Local Co-ordination Committees which track the Syrian protests.

‘Opening emergency oil stocks, but no emergency: Ever try to push a string?’ By Paul J. Sullivan

According to many press reports the oil markets were shocked by a surprise release of oil stocks from the US strategic petroleum reserves and the strategic reserves from Japan, Germany, and France, Spain, Italy, and other IEA members.

First off, it is not possible for the purported 60 million barrels (one half coming out of the US) to just flow out easily each day into the markets for the next month. It takes a while to get the oil moving in the pipelines. Then it has to be processed. After that it is transported to where it might be needed. This process could take about two weeks in the US from the reserves stocks in Louisiana to the gas station in New Jersey, for example.

Explosions rock three Myanmar cities

Reports indicate two people wounded after blasts in Mandalay, Naypyidaw and Pyin Oo Lwin.
Near simultaneous bomb explosions in three Myanmar cities have wounded at least two people, the government and residents say.
The first explosion destroyed a car and shattered windows near the main Zaygyo market in the central city of Mandalay shortly before noon on Friday, a government official said.

EU expands santions against Syria

European Union leaders add three members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard to list of people whose assets are frozen.
The European Union has extended its sanctions against Syria to include the names of three commanders of Iran's Revolutionary Guard accused of supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on dissent.
The list, published in the EU's Official Journal on Friday, also includes a Syrian property firm, an investment fund and two other enterprises accused of funding Assad's government.

Hazare seeks parallel Govt without accountability: Sibal

Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal on Friday said Gandhian leader Anna Hazare was seeking to create a ’parallel government’ through a Jan Lokpal bill without accountability, flouting the basic structure of the Constitution.
“Anna asks for prosecution powers without accountability for the Lokpal, which means he wants a parallel government. Did our framers of the Constitution ever think of such a situation arising now?” Mr. Sibal told a press conference here.
Mr. Sibal said Anna wanted the Lokpal to have the power to tap anyone's communications without permission, which again meant an authority unto itself. “It flouts the Indian Telegraph Authority. Is it a military institution? Are we out to make a police state?”
“The government is accountable to Parliament and any MP can ask for explanation on Jan Lokpal bill. Any one can move the Supreme Court. These are the constitutional issues before the nation,” Mr. Sibal said apparently referring to the civil society’s demand for inclusion of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Judiciary into its ambit.

Poonia recommended for Khel Ratna award

Discus thrower Krishna Poonia, who won a historic gold in the Commonwealth Games last year, has been recommended for Rajiv Khel Ratna, the country’s highest sports award.
Poonia, who became the first Indian woman to win an individual gold in track and field events in the Commonwealth Games in October last year, has been recommended by Athletics Federation of India to the government.
“Krishna’s name has been recommended for Rajiv Khel Ratna by AFI to the Sports Ministry. She is the first Indian woman in athletics to win an individual gold in the Commonwealth Games. So we are hoping that she wins the award,” Krishna’s husband Virender told PTI from Patiala.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Noted Egyptian diplomat Nabil Fahmy warns against new Western military adventures in Middle East

One of Egypt’s most distinguished former diplomats warned Thursday against further Western military interventions in the Middle East, saying that would only raise questions in the Arab world “about your intentions.”

Nabil Fahmy, a former ambassador at large and now dean of public affairs at the American University of Cairo, noted that many people in the Arab world are prone to accept conspiracy theories and would see hidden motivations in any intervention beyond the current one in Libya.

Many killed in triple blasts in south Baghdad

At least 23 people have died in three explosions in a busy district of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, officials say.
The blasts hit the Shurt al-Raba market in the south of the city, an interior ministry official told AFP news agency.
The area was crowded with shoppers and at least 82 people were wounded by the explosions, which occurred in quick succession.
Violence in Iraq has fallen sharply from its peak in 2006, but deadly attacks still occur on a daily basis.
An interior ministry official said explosives loaded into wooden carts were detonated in the market at 1845 (1545 GMT).

US warns Syria over troop movement at Turkey border

The US has expressed concern over reports that Syria is moving troops near the border with Turkey, and warned of a possible escalation of conflict.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the reported Syrian troops movements were "very worrisome".
She said it could increase the risk of a border clash with Turkey and worsen the plight of refugees.
Syrian tanks and snipers reportedly entered the village of Khirbet al-Jouz, forcing resident to flee to Turkey.
More than 1,300 people are said to have been killed since a crackdown on anti-government protests began in March.

Mamata’s fruitless interaction with investors --Analysis

It was a sort of get together with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee entertaining more than 200 industrialists at one of the posh clubs in south Kolkata on June 18. During the four- hour- long interaction session with top entrepreneurs over hi-tea  nothing transpired as the Chief Minister was not clear about her newly formed government’s industrial policy and the investors were not convinced of what assistance they would be provided with if they would choose West Bengal as their industrial destination.

Text of Speech: ‘America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home’

Courtesy The White House
The following is the prepared text of President Obama’s speech regarding the troop pullout in Afghanistan, as provided by the White House:

Good evening. Nearly 10 years ago, America suffered the worst attack on our shores since Pearl Harbor. This mass murder was planned by Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, and signaled a new threat to our security –- one in which the targets were no longer soldiers on a battlefield, but innocent men, women and children going about their daily lives.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Libya conflict: Gaddafi accuses Nato of murder

Nato said that close monitoring showed this bombed residence was a command centre, but the family who lived their said it was their home
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has accused Nato states of murder, two days after members of the family of a close aide were killed in an air strike.
In an audio message broadcast on state TV late on Wednesday, he described those who carried out the bombardment as "criminals" and "barbarians".
Nato has said it regrets any civilian deaths, but that the targeted residence was a "command and control centre".
Italy's foreign minister earlier called for an immediate halt to hostilities.

President Obama to pull all 33,000 US ‘surge’ troops by September 2012

President Barack Obama of the United States was set to unveil on Wednesday his plan to start bringing US troops home from Afghanistan, a decisive first step toward ending a decade-long war that is increasingly unpopular in the United States.

Mr. Obama will announce in a televised address at 8 p.m. EDT (midnight GMT) a plan to pull out 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year’s end, followed by 23,000 more by the end of next summer, a congressional aide told Reuters.

Lokpal: key proposals made by Hazare team missing from govt. draft

Powers to tap phones, issuance of letters rogatory and recommendations for changes in work practices to reduce scope for corruption are among the proposals made by the Anna Hazare team in their Jan Lokpal Bill which do not find a mention in the government draft.
The draft submitted to the joint committee on Lokpal Bill by the Hazare team also seeks power to the proposed ombudsman to acquire modern equipment necessary for proper investigation and inquire into the assets declaration statements filed by all MPs.

Syrian foreign minister promises democracy

Syria’s foreign minister vowed on Wednesday to present “an unprecedented example of democracy” in the country within three months, an extraordinary promise in a nation facing an uprising against an authoritarian system in place for decades.
Speaking during a televised news conference, Foreign Minister Walid Moallem’s comments were the latest attempt by the regime to blunt three months of widespread street protests against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic rule.

Bahrain sentences 10 Shiites to life in prison, stoking sectarian tensions

Manama Bahrain
Bahrain sentenced 10 Shiite prominent activists and opposition leaders to life in prison on Wednesday on charges of plotting a coup during protests that rocked the Sunni-ruled Gulf island kingdom earlier this year.

The sentencing could inflame already simmering tensions in the tiny Gulf Arab state, where small protests have erupted daily since emergency law was lifted on June 1 and may threaten a national dialogue planned to start next month.

UK premier David Cameron disputes military chiefs on Libya. By Ray Moseley

British Prime Minister David Cameron and his military chiefs are in open conflict over the sustainability of Britain’s bombing campaign against the Libyan regime of Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.

And the British government is failing to come clean with the public about the costs of the operation.

After a second military commander was reported on Tuesday to have expressed reservations about the campaign, Mr. Cameron showed his displeasure in a meeting with journalists.

China taking leaf out of Russia’s script for Libya with more activist policy

With significant interests in Libya that is racked by a civil war between NATO-backed rebels and forces loyal to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qaddafi, China like Russia is calling for a negotiated solution. The call bolstered by stepped up contacts with both sides constitutes a break with Chinese aloofness until now towards the deteriorating situation in the North African country.

China urges Libyan sides to negotiate peace

Yang Jiechi’s remarks to Mahmoud Jibril on Wednesday are China’s strongest endorsement yet of the council, dealing a further diplomatic setback to dictator Muammar Qadhafi.
China’s foreign minister has told Libya’s rebel leader that his Transitional National Council represents a growing segment of the Libyan public and is becoming a major political force in the country.

China warns U.S. to keep out of South China Sea dispute

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said on Wednesday that Washington risks getting drawn into a conflict over the competing claims should tensions in the region rise further.
China is urging the United States to stay out of territorial disputes in the South China Sea but says if it does get involved then it should ensure that other countries do not provoke conflicts.

Dispute over hijab in women’s soccer in Canada, as Muslim youth referee barred

A dispute between FIFA and Iranian and Jordanian women soccer players over the right to wear religious Muslim headdresses during matches is expanding as it spreads across the Atlantic.

A Canadian soccer referee, Sarah Benkirane, was barred this week by Quebec’s Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association because she wears a hijab, a religious headdress that covers a woman’s hair, neck and ears in accordance with conservative Muslim dress code.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Syria unrest: Clashes amid large Pro-Assad rallies

Clashes have broken out between supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and anti-government protesters in Homs, Hama and Deir al-Zour.
At least seven people were killed when security forces opened fire on anti-Assad demonstrators, activists said.
Large rallies in support of President Assad have been held across Syria, including Damascus, Deraa, Hama and Homs, state TV reported.
On Monday, Mr Assad addressed the country, calling for national dialogue.

North Sudan to block oil pipeline if south will not pay

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has threatened to shut pipelines carrying South Sudan's oil if a deal on oil is not reached before it secedes in July.
He said either the south could continue to hand over half of its oil revenue to the north, or it could pay for using the north's oil infrastructure.

Preparing for a multipolar world economy

By 2025, six emerging countries will have changed the economic landscape of the world forever.
At a time when the global economy is suffering from a crisis of confidence, structural imbalances and subdued growth prospects, looking ahead ten years to predict the course of development requires careful modelling and something beyond sagacity. What is needed is a multifaceted approach that combines a sense of history with careful analysis of current forces, such as the shift in the balance of global growth towards the emerging world.

Is Arab Spring wishful thinking?

The prospects of a meaningful Arab Spring do not look bright as of now.
The expectations and hopes engendered by the events in Tunisia and Egypt at the beginning of the second decade of this century for an Arab Spring sprouting in the Arab world have turned out to be based on wishful thinking rather than on a careful assessment of the specific characteristics of each Arab country as well as of the vested interests of some external powers which wish to see change in a particular direction.

Tatas to move High Court

Tata Motors Limited will move the Kolkata High Court on Wednesday against a notification issued by the West Bengal government regarding the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill, 2011.
The Bill was made into law on Monday after Governor M.K. Narayan gave it the nod.
The legislation provides for the State government taking over the land leased to Tata for its small car project and ancillary units at Singur.
The government pasted the notification at the main gate of the Singur site late on Tuesday afternoon. 
The Hindu

Notification on Singur Land Bill issued

A day after West Bengal Governor M.K. Narayanan gave his assent, the State government on Tuesday issued a notification to turn the Singur Land Rehabilitation and Development Bill into law. Industry Minister Partha Chatterjee said the notification would be followed by the framing of rules by a committee, which would determine the process to return an equivalent portion of land to the “unwilling” farmers of Singur. Their land was acquired by the earlier government for the now abandoned Tata Motors' small car project.

Libya's Zlitan rebels struggle to inch forward--losing hope?

I am crouching low behind a wall of earth on the Libyan frontline outside the town of Zlitan.
There is a gun battle to the north, and artillery rounds landing in the woods behind us.
One screams in low, and explodes in a nearby orchard.
It feels almost like trench warfare here.
Slow and deadlocked - a daily battle to inch a few metres forward.
"God is great," shout the men, almost instinctively, as they duck rather nonchalantly for cover.
Many of the fighters here are residents of Zlitan, who have been smuggled out of the town to join the rebel offensive that is being co-ordinated by the forces in control of nearby Misrata.

Greek government survives thin confidence vote

The Greek government has got what it needs, but the Greek people are not so happy with the result
The Greek government has won a critical vote of confidence in parliament as it struggles to win support for extra austerity measures and avoid a default.
Prime Minister George Papandreou's new cabinet was approved by 155 votes to 143, with two abstentions.
MPs will now be asked to approve 28bn euros (£25bn) of cuts, tax rises, fiscal reforms and privatisation plans.

Libya's civilian casualties have silenced Sarkozy's crusade

By Nabila Ramdani

It's now just over three months to the day since Nicolas Sarkozy invited the world's press into the Elysée palace to announce that his bombing onslaught on Libya had begun. United Nations security council resolution 1973 – which sanctioned the "protection of civilian lives" – had only just been passed, and western leaders including David Cameron and Hillary Clinton had congregated in Paris to refine the details of military action, but there was no stopping "Speedy Sarko".

Movement against Corruption

New Delhi, June 20: The Left parties – the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party – met in New Delhi on June 19, 2011.  They have issued the following statement:

The Left parties decided to conduct a countrywide movement against corruption and to demand immediate measures to curb corruption in all spheres of public life.  The Left parties’ platform against corruption includes:

i)                   Adoption of an effective Lokpal legislation
ii)                 There should be a National Judicial Commission to curb corruption in the high judiciary
iii)               Stringent action against the rampant corruption fostered by the big business-politician-bureaucratic nexus which has led to scandal such as the 2G spectrum case.
iv)               Implementation of electoral reforms including introduction of proportional representation system to check money power in elections
v)                 Steps to unearth black money and repatriation of  the illegal money stashed abroad.

Libya conflict: Nato loses drone helicopter

Nato has lost an unmanned helicopter drone involved in the Libyan campaign, a Nato spokesman has said.
Wing Cmdr Mike Bracken said Nato's command centre in Naples had lost contact with the aircraft at 0720 GMT.
The helicopter was carrying out reconnaissance over Libya "to monitor [leader Muammar] Gaddafi's forces threatening the civilian population", he said.
Wing Cmdr Bracken said no attack helicopters had been lost.
"We are looking into the reasons behind the incident," he added.
Earlier, Libyan state television said government forces had shot down an Apache helicopter in the western district of Zlitan.
Nato deployed UK and French Apache attack helicopters in Libya earlier this month during its UN-sponsored mission to protect civilians from forces loyal to Col Gaddafi.

A bill to settle a terrible debt

For decades, the victims of communal and targeted violence have been denied protections of law that the rest of us take for granted. It's time to end this injustice.
In a vibrant and mature democracy, there would be no need to have special laws to prosecute the powerful or protect the weak. If a crime takes place, the law would simply take its course. In a country like ours, however, life is not so simple. Terrible crimes can be committed involving the murder of hundreds and even thousands of people, or the loot of billions of rupees. But the law in India does not take its course. More often than not, it stands still.

Libya: NATO strike kills 19 civilians ----- stop it now

Officials say attack targeted key Gaddafi aide, a day after alliance admitted an air strike killed civilians in Tripoli.
The Libyan government says 19 civilians have been killed in a NATO air strike on the home of one of Muammar Gaddafi's top officials, a day after the Western military alliance admitted killing civilians in a separate attack.
Libyan officials took reporters to Surman, 70km west of Tripoli, to the site of what they said was a NATO air
strike on the home of Khouildi Hamidi.
The officials said the attack on the home of Hamidi, a member of Libya's 12-strong Revolutionary Command Council, led by Gaddafi, took place on Monday morning.

Monday, June 20, 2011

700 billion bailout package for debt-ridden Eurozone nations

The European Union on Tuesday agreed to spread a massive 700 billion Euros permanent financial safety net to bailout Eurozone nations facing liquidity crisis and thereby stave-off future sovereign debt crunch endangering their stability.

Lokpal bill panel to resolve differences at all-party meet

Reluctant to budge from their views, the government representatives and civil society members of the Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill decided on Monday to leave the differences to be resolved at the next stage of wider consultations with political parties.
The government has decided to call an all-party meeting in July to elicit their opinion on the draft Bill and the divergence of opinions before giving a final shape to the Bill and presenting it to the Cabinet. It was decided to skip the June 30 deadline for submission of the draft to the government. The government, however, stressed that the Bill would be placed in Parliament during the coming monsoon session.
At the eighth and penultimate round of talks, the members made it a point to stress the cordiality during the proceedings, unlike in the past, the fruitfulness of the talks and the progress made. They apparently wanted to part amicably on the concluding day of the meeting on Tuesday, whether or not they bridged the gap on the six contentious issues.
There will be no meetings after Tuesday, when both sides will exchange their drafts and submit their comments. Further exchange of views will be made through e-mails, and a common draft will be presented along with the divergence of opinions on various issues.

Car bomb kills at least 10 people in attack on governor's house in central Iraq: local official -- BREAKING NEWS


US investigators reportedly say Yemen’s Saleh hit by advanced US-made missile

An investigation team from the United States has reportedly found that an attack that wounded President Ali Abdullah Saleh and several senior members of his government while performing the Friday prayers in his Sana’a presidential compound earlier in June was carried out by an advanced US-made missile designed for special assassination operations, sources close to the probe told Al Arabiya.

“The missile is very advanced and still not widely used. Only the United States and Russia currently employ this weapon,” a source said.

Is the government serious about dealing with corruption?

The Lokpal is designed to be a comprehensive anti-corruption institution independent of the government, empowered to effectively investigate corruption of all public servants. But most of the critical elements in this vision have been rejected.
The latest draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on hydrocarbon production sharing contracts and the transfer of oilfields to Reliance is only the latest of the mega scams to surface in the country. The breadth and depth of corruption in India is clear from the country's plunging ranking in Transparency International's global corruption survey


A feisty President Bashar Al Assad of Syria said on Monday there could be no reform in Syria in the face of “sabotage and chaos,” as he addressed the nation in his first speech in two months.

Mr. Assad, whose brutal campaign against pro-democracy protesters has appalled much of the civilized world, said Syria was now at a “turning point” after “difficult days,” and promised it would emerge stronger in the face of the “plotting” against it.

Supreme Court dismisses bail pleas of Kanimozhi, Sharad Kumar

In a major setback to DMK MP Kanimozhi and Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed their bail pleas in the 2G spectrum case.
A special bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and B.S. Chauhan asked the two accused to wait till framing of charges before approaching the special CBI court for regular bail.
The apex court said the CBI court can thereafter decide their bail pleas uninfluenced by the earlier bail proceedings.
The apex court decision to reject the bail would mean that Ms. Kanimozhi and Mr. Kumar will continue to cool their heels in jail till the time the charges are framed.
The court dismissed the bail application after hearing the CBI and counsel for the accused for over one-and-a-half hour.
During the arguments, the CBI opposed Ms. Kanimozhi’s plea, saying the original documents regarding the illegal financial transaction of Rs 200 crore to DMK family-run Kalaignar TV is yet to be recovered and the accused might tamper with evidence if released on bail.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Greece: Eurozone ministers delay decision on vital loan

Eurozone finance ministers have postponed a final decision on a 12bn-euro (£10-bn) loan to Greece until it introduces further austerity measures.
The ministers said they expected to pay the latest tranche of a 110bn-euro EU and IMF aid package by mid-July.
But it will depend on the Greek parliament passing 28bn euros of new spending cuts and economic reforms.
The ministers also committed to put together a second bail-out to keep the country afloat over the coming years.

Pranab chairs strategic session on Lokpal Bill, crucial meeting today

On the eve of Monday's meeting with their civil society counterparts, the government representatives on the Lokpal Bill joint drafting committee met at the North Block to discuss their strategy.
The deliberations, chaired by Union Finance Minister and panel chairman Pranab Mukherjee, was attended by Ministers Kapil Sibal, Salman Khursheed and Veerappa Moily — all members of the committee. Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy also took part in the parleys. However, another member of the committee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, was not present as he was out of town.
A copy of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's curt response to social activist Anna Hazare's letter was released on Sunday by civil society activists. The letter, dated June 18, says Ms. Gandhi does not wish to add anything to what she had said to Mr. Hazare in her letter dated April 19.
In the latest letter, Ms. Gandhi says: “I received your letter dated June 9, 2011.

Morocco’s opposition youth group beaten in Rabat, protests in other cities

Activists of a Moroccan pro-democracy youth group were broken up in the capital Rabat on Sunday as they prepared to hold a protest march against a draft constitution unveiled by King Mohammad VI two days ago, two members of the group from Rabat said in a telephone interview with Al Arabiya.

‘No money left to fight Qaddafi,’ say Libya rebels. Why? The West isn’t paying up

Rebels waging a drawn-out war to oust Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi have run out of money, their oil chief said, and he accused the West of failing to keep its promises of urgent financial aid.

“We are running out of everything. It’s a complete failure. Either they (Western nations) don’t understand or they don’t care. Nothing has materialized yet. And I really mean nothing,” the official, Ali Tarhouni, said in an interview with Reuters.

Arrest killers of Left party leaders in seven days : Demands Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra

Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra demanded on Friday arrest within seven days of those who were involved in the murder of Left leaders and workers after the installation of the new Trinamool-Congress government in West Bengal.He was delivering his speech on Governor M K Narayanan’s address in the State Assembly. The Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was present in the Assembly when Mishra raised his demand.