Category Archives: Histories

Catalonia just declared independence from Spain

Thanks;Alexandra Ma

Published;Oct,27

Pro-independence supporters wave the Catalan flag in Barcelona.Yves Herman/Reuters

• Catalonia has declared independence from Spain.

• Meanwhile, Spain’s Senate is voting over whether to allow the government to activate Article 155 and take control of Catalonia.

• Mariano Rajoy, the country’s prime minister, wants to depose the Catalan president and hold new elections.

• Friday’s vote comes a day after Catalan President Carles Puigdemont refused to dissolve parliament.

• The power struggle came to a head after Catalonia voted to secede from Spain in October.

Catalonia has declared independence from Spain.

Lawmakers in the regional parliament in Barcelona voted to become a sovereign independent state against Spain’s wishes. Carme Forcadell, the president of the paraliament, also asked the EU to recognise Catalonia as a sovereign nation.

It came as Spain’s prime minister asked the Senate to approve Article 155, which would allow the government to take control over Catalonia.

The Spanish Senate gathered on Friday morning to vote on the emergency measures. It remains unclear which of Catalonia’s powers will be suspended if Article 155 is activated.

While the article’s language is vague, it allows the government to “take the necessary measures” if an autonomous region “seriously undermines the general interest of Spain.” Madrid can, in theory, take control of Catalonia’s police and finances, and replace its administration, Reuters reported.

The power struggle between Spain and Catalonia came to a head after 2.2 million Catalonians voted on October 1 to secede from Spain.

In a 33-minute speech on Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy asked that the Senate let him depose Catalan President Carles Puigdemont, replace the regional administration, and hold new parliamentary elections within six months.

Members of Rajoy’s People’s Party applaud after the prime minister’s speech.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty

The vote came a day after Puigdemont refused to dissolve the regional parliament, as Spain had requested, saying he had not received guarantees from Madrid that it will ditch plans to trigger Article 155.

But Rajoy piled the blame on Puigdemont, telling the Senate: “The fault is his, and only his. The 155 is not against Catalonia, but to prevent the abuse of Catalonia.”

If the Senate gives Rajoy the go-ahead, this would be the first time Spain invokes Article 155 in its constitution’s 39-year history. The constitution, which said the country was “indivisible” but respected territorial self-government, gave Catalonia the right to its own language and control over healthcare and education, according to Bloomberg.

Rajoy said: “It is the first time since 1978 that Article 155 is adopted because the situation is exceptional.” He also said the referendum was “the biggest mockery of democracy we have seen since the adoption of the Constitution.”

The Catalan parliament is still in session, and could declare independence on Friday, the New York Times reported.

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Thousands turn out to see lavish funeral of Thailand’s late king

Thanks;Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Panu Wongcha-um

Published;WED OCT 25, 2017 / 9:00 PM EDT

Mourners wait for the start of the funeral procession for Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej before the Royal Cremation Ceremony in front of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand, October 26, 2017.

REUTERS/JORGE SILVA

(Reuters) – Thousands of people turned out in Bangkok to watch the funeral procession of Thailand’s late King Bhumibol Adulyadej on Thursday, with buildings draped in yellow marigolds and mourners lining the streets on the eve of his cremation.

Mourners dressed in black slept overnight on thin plastic mats on pavements near the Grand Palace in the Thai capital in order to secure a good view of the procession, which was expected to begin at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT).

The king’s cremation will feature ancient rites and a series of processions winding from the Grand Palace in Bangkok’s historic quarter to the 50-metre (165-feet) high Royal Crematorium that has been erected in a square near the palace.

His body will be pulled from the Grand Palace to the cremation site on a golden chariot. A sum of $90 million has been set aside for the funeral, the likes of which has never been seen in Thailand, officials in preparations have said.

King Bhumibol, also known as King Rama IX, died last October aged 88 after ruling for seven decades. He played a pivotal role in maintaining stability during years of political upheaval and rapid development.

Piyamat Potsopho, 38, said she had been waiting for the king’s funeral procession since Wednesday night.

“I was very fortunate to have been born under the reign of King Rama IX,” she said.

Another Bangkok resident, Suchinda Samparp, 67, said: “It’s so hard to describe the dedication I’ve seen, how people have come out to help each other and how the late king has inspired this.”

Analysts say the king’s death has left a large vacuum in the Thai psyche.

Thailand has observed a year of mourning for King Bhumibol and radio and television stations have played songs dedicated to the monarch almost non-stop since his death.

The songs urge Thais to follow in “father’s footsteps”.

King Bhumibol is often referred to as “father” by Thais and is credited with reviving the popularity of the monarchy in Thailand.

Days of heavy rain failed to deter mourners, many of whom pitched tents in order to gain the best access to the funeral.

Many businesses around the Southeast Asian nation were shut, while Bangkok’s old quarter was draped in floral garlands made of marigolds early. Some government buildings placed potted yellow marigolds around portraits of the late king.

King Bhumibol was born on a Monday, a day which Thais associate with the colour yellow.

Thai Buddhists traditionally keep the bodies of their dead for seven days before a cremation. Funerals of Thai royals, however, have historically taken place months after death.

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Juarawee Kittisilpa; Writing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Editing by Paul Tait)

There are no Muslim or Christian terrorists: Dalai Lama

Thanks;IANS in India

Published;Oct,19

There are no Muslim or Christian terrorists because terrorists are no more religious once they embrace terror, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday.

“People cease to be Muslim, Christian or any group the moment they became terrorists,” the Dalai Lama said at a public reception here on the second day of a three-day visit to Manipur.

The Tibetan leader also said that he does not like the “America first” slogan of US President Donald Trump.

A strong votary of non-violence, the Nobel Prize winner said violence does not solve any problem.

“India, which has a tradition of 1,000 years of non-violence, could ensure world peace by reviving the ancient knowledge.”

According to him, almost all the problems people face today were “our own creation”.

He underlined the need to control emotions. Anger weakens people’s immune system and as such was bad for health, he warned.

“Out of seven billion people on earth, six billion are children of god while one billion are non-believers.”

Problems around the world can be solved through dialogue, said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since fleeing his homeland in 1959 and who is hated by the Chinese Communist regime.

India with her ancient knowledge and education could ensure world peace, he said. “China has also potentialities except for the Communist ideology.”

The spiritual leader said that the widening gap between the rich and poor was morally wrong. “This gap is visible in India and Manipur also.”

In his speech, the Dalai Lama recalled how he came to India as a refugee 58 years ago. India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetans.

China sparks human rights outcry by ramping up DNA testing in Muslim-dominated region

Thanks;Matthew Brown 

Published ; Wednesday 17 May 2017 07:34 
Police in Xinjiang purchase $8.7m of equipment to analyse genetic material from citizens, prompting fears of state security crackdown

Ethnic Uighurs sit near a statue of China’s late Chairman Mao Zedong in Kashgar, Xinjiang Thomas Peter/Reuters 

China appears to be laying the groundwork for the mass collection of DNA samples from residents of a restive, largely Muslim region that’s been under a security crackdown, rights observers and independent experts said Tuesday.

Police in western China’s Xinjiang region confirmed to The Associated Press that they are in the process of purchasing at least $8.7 million in equipment to analyse DNA samples.
Observers from Human Rights Watch said they’ve seen evidence of almost $3 million in additional purchases related to DNA testing. They warned such a collection programme could be used as a way for authorities to beef up their political control.
The move comes after Chinese authorities last year reportedly required Xinjiang residents to submit DNA samples, fingerprints and voice records to obtain passports or travel abroad.

Xinjiang borders several unstable Central Asian countries, including Afghanistan. It’s experienced numerous bombings and vehicle and knife attacks blamed on ethnic separatists from the native Uighur Islamic minority.

In one of the most recent attacks, eight people, including three assailants, were killed in a February knife attack in southern Xinjiang’s Pishan County, which borders Pakistan.

Chinese authorities seeking to counter religious extremism among the Uighurs have taken increasingly aggressive steps to quell the unrest. Those have included mandatory satellite tracking systems for vehicles in some areas, rewards for terror-related tips and prohibitions against women wearing veils and men growing beards.

The purchases of DNA testing equipment in Xinjiang were confirmed by an official at the regional Public Security Bureau. The official, who gave only her surname, Huang, said a supplier already had been found. In Xinjiang’s Sheche County, suppliers were being sought for voiceprint collection systems and 3-D portrait systems, according to a security official surnamed Yin, who declined to give further details.
If used at full capacity, the new equipment could be used to profile up to 10,000 DNA samples a day and several million a year, said Yves Moreau, a computational biologist specialising in genome analysis and DNA privacy at the University of Leuven in Belgium.
The scale of the purchases raises “a legitimate concern that Chinese authorities could be planning to DNA profile a large fraction, or even all” of the Uighur people in Xinjiang, Moreau said.

Brexit is killing the pound but it’s having a really productive side-effect on Britain’s economy

Thanks;Lianna 


Brexit is having a seriously positive impact on employment.

LONDON – The pound has cratered against the US dollar ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23 last year.

But while that has a negative effect on Brits’ purchasing power, it is actually having a seriously positive impact on another sector in Britain’s economy – employment.

That is according to Sam Bowman, the executive director of one of the world’s prominent think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, who spoke at a local Conservative party conference in East Croydon, which Business Insider attended on Saturday.
He was talking about how Brexit is expected to affect the UK economy over the short and long term and looked at both positive and negative impacts from Britain planning to leave the European Union.
“Probably many people in this room are like me – frustrated by the tone of the Brexit debate, even eight or nine months after the referendum,” said Bowman.

“It feels like the referendum debate has never ended. On one side we have around 10% some extremely die-hard leavers, who refuse to accept there could be any difficulty on leaving the European Union. And then there is 10% extremely die-hard remainers who refuse to admit there would be any benefits from leaving the European Union.
“In the middle, I think, is the rest of us – 80% who accept the result and want to make Brexit work but also want to acknowledge that it is not necessarily going to be an easy ride.”
He also talked about how Brexit has already had an impact on the UK economy. But it is not all bad. Bowman said he is a “short term pessimist but a long term optimist about Brexit.”
Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“I think employment is likely to be quite strong. It is unlikely that [Brexit] will cause any large scale unemployment. even in a very, very pessimistic outcome – the reason for that being the pound has absorbed most of the costs, meaning that we effectively have real term wage cuts and our purchasing power falls but people become more employable as a result. So there are good and bad [aspects] to the fall in the pound.”
The pound against the US dollar tanked in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum vote. While it has recently gained a little bit of ground to reach $1.28, it is still a far cry from the $1.50 last seen in June last year:

Markets Insider

UK flag glasses

Brexit is having a seriously positive impact on employment.Reuters

LONDON – The pound has cratered against the US dollar ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23 last year.

But while that has a negative effect on Brits’ purchasing power, it is actually having a seriously positive impact on another sector in Britain’s economy – employment.
That is according to Sam Bowman, the executive director of one of the world’s prominent think tanks, the Adam Smith Institute, who spoke at a local Conservative party conference in East Croydon, which Business Insider attended on Saturday.
He was talking about how Brexit is expected to affect the UK economy over the short and long term and looked at both positive and negative impacts from Britain planning to leave the European Union.
“Probably many people in this room are like me – frustrated by the tone of the Brexit debate, even eight or nine months after the referendum,” said Bowman.
“It feels like the referendum debate has never ended. On one side we have around 10% some extremely die-hard leavers, who refuse to accept there could be any difficulty on leaving the European Union. And then there is 10% extremely die-hard remainers who refuse to admit there would be any benefits from leaving the European Union.
“In the middle, I think, is the rest of us – 80% who accept the result and want to make Brexit work but also want to acknowledge that it is not necessarily going to be an easy ride.”

He also talked about how Brexit has already had an impact on the UK economy. But it is not all bad. Bowman said he is a “short term pessimist but a long term optimist about Brexit.”

Here is an excerpt from his speech:

“I think employment is likely to be quite strong. It is unlikely that [Brexit] will cause any large scale unemployment. even in a very, very pessimistic outcome – the reason for that being the pound has absorbed most of the costs, meaning that we effectively have real term wage cuts and our purchasing power falls but people become more employable as a result. So there are good and bad [aspects] to the fall in the pound.”

The pound against the US dollar tanked in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum vote. While it has recently gained a little bit of ground to reach $1.28, it is still a far cry from the $1.50 last seen in June last year:

sterlingUSD1

Markets Insider

Since the Brexit vote, various economists and financial institutions predicted that the UK’s unemployment rate will shoot up as a result of the vote to leave. Credit Suisse, for example, predicts an increase to 6.5% for the base rate, equivalent to roughly 500,000 jobs being lost. However, the last few months have seen the rate remain near its record low and Wednesday’s figures show the trend appears to be holding up.

Unemployment in the UK fell once again in March, according to the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics on Wednesday.

Headline unemployment fell was 4.7% in the month while employment remained unchanged at 74.6% in the month, equalling a record high set in both January and February, but not seen before that since records began in 1971.

However, wage growth is still poor.

CHILD REFUGEES ‘FORCED TO SELL THEIR BODIES’ TO ENTER EUROPE, RESEARCHERS WARN

THANKS:BY  

Published; 4/19/17 AT 7:29 AM

Smugglers are forcing unaccompanied child refugees to sell their bodies in exchange for money to aid their traveling through Europe, a new report from Harvard University has claimed.

There is a “growing epidemic of sexual exploitation and abuse of migrant children in Greece,” say the report’s co-authors, Dr Vasileia Digidiki and Professor Jacqueline Bhabha, at Harvard University’s center for health and human rights.

Informants in Greek migrant camps told Digidiki and Bhabha that men prey on unsuspecting child refugees, sexually abusing those without proper adult supervision. The actual number of children who have been abused is unknown as many do not report it, fearing reprisal.

A psychologist in one of the camps told the researchers: “[Many children] do not want to report [the incident], because they are afraid that the offender will take revenge on them. They also do not believe that the police can help them.”

Unable to afford exorbitant fees charged by smugglers to help them reach European nations where they can seek asylum, children who have fled conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are selling sex to fund their journeys.

child-refugees-lesbos (2)

Child refugees at the Moria migrant camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 20, 2016.REUTERS/GIORGOS MOUTAFIS

The report includes an interview with a child refugee who told a journalist: “I never thought I’d have to do something like this. When the money ran out I had to learn to do this. He said “it was the first time I did this, I had no experience.”

The average price of a sexual transaction between a child and a smuggler is 15 euros, the researchers say, adding that the majority of those forced into prostitution are Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan boys.

Offenders, primarily men aged 35 or older, target the children who are found in Athens’ Victoria Square and Pedion tou Areos, a park next to departure areas for buses traveling towards Greece’s northern border.

“There is a reason why these two places have been chosen. They have been key centers for the drug and sex trade for years now. The only difference is the age of people involved. Before you wouldn’t see children. Now you do,” one informant said.

Digidiki told The Guardian that the international community cannot ignore the situation of child refugees in Europe: “We can no longer sit idle while migrant children are abused and forced to sell their bodies in broad daylight and plain sight in the heart of Athens simply to survive.”

“It is our responsibility as human beings to face this emergency head on and take immediate action at every level to put an end to this most heinous violation of dignity and human rights,” she said.

 

 

HOW ISIS GROOMED IRAQI ORPHANS INTO BECOMING CHILD SOLDIERS

Thanks;REUTERS 

Published; 2/17/17 AT 10:41 AM


Boys from a Mosul orphanage were indoctrinated by the jihadists to become a network of informants and fighters.

http://europe.newsweek.com/isis-groomed-orphans-child-soldiers-557803

Turkey detains 400 Islamic State suspects in nationwide raids

When the boys first arrived at the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) training facility in eastern Mosul they would cry and ask about their parents, who went missing when the militants rampaged through northern Iraq in 2014.
But as the weeks passed they appeared to absorb the group’s ultra-hardline ideology, according to a worker at the former orphanage where they were housed.

The children, aged from three to 16 and mostly Shi’ite Muslims or minority Yazidis, began referring to their own families as apostates after they were schooled in Sunni Islam by the militant fighters, he said.
The boys were separated from the girls and infants, undergoing indoctrination and training to become “cubs of the caliphate—a network of child informers and fighters used by the jihadists to support their military operations.
The complex in Mosul’s Zuhur district, which had been home to local orphans until they were kicked out by ISIS, was one of several sites the jihadists used across the city.
It is now shuttered, its doors sealed with padlocks by Iraqi security forces.
ISIS withdrew before Iraqi forces launched a U.S.-backed offensive in October to retake the city, but during a Reuters visit last month there were still reminders of the group’s attempt to brainwash dozens of children.
A saying attributed to the Prophet Mohammed is painted in black on one wall, urging children to learn to swim, shoot and ride horses. Inside the building is a swimming pool, now dry and full of rubbish.
In another room sits a stack of textbooks ISIS had amended to fit its brutal ethos.
Arithmetic problems in a fourth grade maths book use imagery of warfare, while the cover bears a rifle made up of equations. History books focus exclusively on the early years of Islam and emphasize martial events.
Another textbook entitled “English for the Islamic State” includes ordinary words like apple and ant beside army, bomb and sniper. Martyr, spy and mortar also appear alongside zebra crossing, yawn, and X-box.
The word “woman” is depicted by a formless black figure wearing the full niqab covering. All faces in the books—even those of animals—are blurred, in keeping with an Islamic proscription against such images.
The orphanage worker, who was cowed into staying on after the militants took over in 2014, said girls who were brought to the center were often married off to the group’s commanders.
The man asked not to be named for fear of reprisals by ISIS, which still controls the entire western half of Mosul. He was shot in the leg during recent clashes.
He said the militants, mostly Iraqis, taught the Shi’ite children how to pray in the tradition of Sunni Islam and forced the Yazidis to convert.
They memorized the Koran, were taught to treat outsiders as infidels and conducted physical exercise in the yard, which has since grown over.
A pair of colorful plastic slides and swing sets now sit untouched amid shattered glass, casings from a grenade launcher and a suicide bomber’s charred remains—signs of the militants’ fierce resistance as they retreated late last year.
Reuters could not independently verify the orphanage worker’s comments. But local residents gave similar accounts, and ISIS has published numerous videos showing how it trains young fighters and even makes them execute prisoners.
New batches of children arrived at the Zuhur orphanage every few weeks from outside Mosul, including a few from neighboring Syria, while older boys were sent to the town of Tel Afar west of Mosul for intensive military training for duties including with ISIS’s courts or vice squad, residents said.
“After six months at the camps, some of the boys came back to spend a weekend with their younger brothers. They were wearing uniforms and carrying weapons,” the orphanage worker said, fingering black and yellow prayer beads.
One of the boys, Mohammed, was killed last summer during the battle in the city of Falluja, west of Baghdad, he said, recounting how the other children wept upon learning the news.
A few weeks before the Mosul offensive began, ISIS canceled lessons and sent the boys to guard an airfield near Tel Afar which pro-government forces later seized, he said.
“I told them, ‘If you see the army, drop your weapons and tell them you are orphans. Maybe they will spare your lives'”.

It’s time to shine a light on Putin’s American propaganda ARM

Thanks;ELENA POSTNIKOVA Publised; 1/16/17 AT 6:10 AM


Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of Russian broadcaster RT, with the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in the background in Moscow on October 17. Elena Postnikova writes that RT should be registered as an agent of the Russian government because, as FARA states, it acts under the “direction or control” of its foreign principal, and it engages in “political activities” in the interests of its foreign principal./MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS

Why isn’t Russia’s American TV channel RT registered as a foreign agent?

Kurt Eichenwald On MSNBC’s ‘AM Joy’ To Discuss Russia, Trump, And Vladimir Putin

This article first appeared on the Atlantic Council site.

Russia used RT, its TV channel, to influence the recent U.S. elections.

This was the finding of the recently declassified U.S. intelligence report. It concluded that Russia implemented a multifaceted campaign involving disclosures of data obtained through hacking, intrusions into state and local electoral boards and propaganda.
While the American elite is debating an appropriate response, they are ignoring an existing tool—the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA). As an immediate step to counter the Kremlin’s influence campaign, the U.S. government should enforce FARA against RT to alert the American people to Russia’s efforts and limit the country’s ability to disguise its “information warfare” as legitimate media activity.
This is not the first time a foreign country has directed “information warfare” against the United States. Similar tactics were also used by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

To address Nazi propaganda activities in the 1930s, Congress adopted FARA, which required persons advancing foreign interests to register as “agents of foreign principals,” who were required to disclose their activities and the nature of their employment. The act aimed to ensure the American people would not be misled into thinking they were receiving information from disinterested sources. During the Cold War, representatives of Soviet news outlets (TASS, Pravda, Izvestia and others) were registered agents. There is a lesson here.
Related: How Russia Wages Information Warfare in the U.S. 

 As a disclosure statute, FARA does not prohibit, edit or restrain an agent’s ability to distribute information. Rather, it compels disclosure of the origin and purpose of the information to help its audience develop an accurate understanding of the source. In doing so, it does not suppress freedom of speech; instead, it serves the First Amendment with supplemental information available to the public.

RT should be registered as an agent of the Russian government because, as FARA states, it acts under the “direction or control” of its foreign principal, and engages in “political activities” in the interest of its foreign principal.
RT engages in “political activities” since its reporting intends to influence the U.S. government and public in order to affect U.S. domestic and foreign policy. RT’s coverage of the recent elections and its impact on public discussion is just one such example.
RT denies that it is subject to the Kremlin’s “direction or control” because of its formation as an “ autonomous nonprofit organization,” TV-Novosti. But this assertion is misleading. Even if a media nonprofit could be considered independent in Russia, in the United States such legal formality has little weight if it doesn’t reflect the reality.
In truth, we know of “not very many” occurrences in Russia that take place without President Vladimir Putin’s knowledge—“certainly none that are politically sensitive in other countries,” according to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, when testifying before the Senate on foreign cyber threats.
Ofcom, the U.K. communications regulator, investigated complaints against RT and found nine episodes in the last two years when its reporting was in breach of broadcasting standards on impartiality. Each incident of bias coincided with the Kremlin’s policy goals in Ukraine, Turkey and Syria. No other media outlet was close to having as many violations in such a short period of time.
RT claims it does not qualify as a foreign agent under FARA because it operates in the U.S. through a commercial entity to whom RT “simply transfers funds.” What we know of as RT in the United States are two Washington, D.C.–registered entities—RTTV America, Inc., and RTTV Studios, LLC, both of which are owned and controlled by Russian-born businessman Alex Yazlovsky.
These entities are RT’s contractors, which produce video content, tape shows and provide crew services and studio facilities for RT, as well as transmit content to its audience. RT operates similarly in the U.K., where it contracts its services from a local “ supplier,” Russia Today TV Ltd. It’s hard to believe that RT’s U.S. contractors are fully independent from the client who pays for its custom-made products and services.
According to the law, FARA does not apply to foreign news organizations that engage in “bona fide news or journalistic activities.” Such media are usually not owned, directed, supervised, controlled, subsidized, or financed or have their policies determined by any foreign principal.
For example, the U.K.’s BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle are considered exempt from FARA because their governance structure protects their editorial policies and maintains their independence from government influence; there is no indication that they are “directed or controlled” by their governments. For this same reason, RT would have hard time proving that it qualifies for this exemption.
When former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul suggested last month that perhaps RT’s employees should be accredited as foreign agents rather than journalists, RT responded with personal attacks, threats of retaliation against American journalists, accusations of infringement on press freedom and complaints that the Russian media are treated unfairly. Their fierce response, however, is not a good reason to avoid FARA enforcement.
Registration would require RT to label its information as “distributed by an agent on behalf of the foreign principal.” Such disclosure would alert the public to the purpose of RT’s reporting. But it would have no effect on RT’s ability to continue working in the United States, conduct broadcasting from its Washington, D.C. studio, or otherwise operate as it had prior to registration.
In any case, RT journalists would continue to enjoy more press freedom in the United States than U.S. journalists in Russia.
Elena Postnikova is a JD candidate at Georgetown University Law Center.

The 6 most corrupt countries in the world

Thanks;Michelle Coffey
Published: Jan 31, 2016 7:35 a.m. ET

Six billion people live in countries where corruption is entrenched

The site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, earlier this year that left 33 people dead and injured more than 100.

No country is completely free of corruption, but some are cleaner than others.

Last year, corruption was rife in 68% of the world’s countries, including half of the Group of 20 nations, based on Transparency International’s Corruptions Perceptions Index. On the plus side, most countries’ scores improved from the previous year.
The Berlin-based organization’s gauge, which measures widespread corruption in the public sphere, factors in instances of abuses of power, secret dealings, bribery, child labor, human trafficking, environmental destruction and terrorism, among other factors.

Taking a longer perspective, Greece, Senegal and the U.K. showed the biggest improvements since 2012 while Brazil, which is engulfed by the Petrobras corruption scandal, Australia, Libya, Spain and Turkey saw their scores skid sharply.

The countries that landed at the bottom of the list are ones that continue to be rocked by open conflict and disastrous levels of poverty and inequality: Angola, South Sudan, Sudan and Afghanistan. North Korea and Somalia tied for the dubious honor of most corrupt country in the world. Other countries in the bottom 10 are Guinea-Bissau, Libya, Iraq and Venezuela.
Source: Transparency International

A girl sits in front of a tent in a makeshift camp for people displaced in Angola’s brutal 27-year civil war which ended one year ago.

Angola

Roughly 70% of the people living in Angola lives on $2 a day or less. It’s also considered the deadliest country for children, ranked No. 1 in terms of places where kids are most likely to die before turning 5. Bribery runs rampant, and despite legislation being passed in 2014 forbidding money laundering, the practice continues to prop up business activity.

A South Sudanese soldier.

South Sudan

As oil revenue declines, South Sudan’s economy has gotten crushed and corruption has spiked, according to a report by The Sentry, an organization co-founded by actor George Clooney. The report says the oil sector is greatly mismanaged, and the overall financial system is exploited by a small group of elites to gain power and profits. Fighting for control continues to erupt around key oil sites across the country.

Children flock with containers hoping to collect food at a village in Sudan.

Sudan
Decades of civil war have left Sudan with limited government and deteriorating infrastructure, opening the door to widespread corruption. Government authorities continue to be linked to corrupt practices such as embezzlement, cronyism and bribery.

The site of a suicide car bombing near the international airport in Kabul in December.

Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, millions of dollars intended for the war-torn country’s reconstruction have either been wasted or stolen. Conflict in the country continues to flare up as attacks from the Taliban have escalated this past year, undermining the government’s efforts to rein in systemic corruption.

http://pin.it/B7F8AAP

South Korean veterans burn placards of the North Korean flag and its leader, Kim Jong Un, during a protest in August.

North Korea

At the bottom of the list: North Korea, a totalitarian state that remains isolated from the rest of the world. Collecting dat a is nearly impossible in a country where virtually everything is controlled by the state. Dictator Kim Jong Un has even managed to ramp up the country’s combative rhetoric and behavior toward nearby countries and the U.S. since his father’s death in 2011, claiming earlier this year that the country had successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.

A body lies in the rubble next to damaged cars near the Jazeera Palace hotel following a suicide attack in Mogadishu.

Somalia

Somalia turns up at the bottom of the index again, tying North Korea for world’s most corrupt country. Violence and political instability have kept Somalia locked in state of fear and corruption. The country continues to rely on foreign aid, as the government has been unable to provide basic services or a judicial system.
Overall, Sub-Saharan Africa was hit hardest on the list, with 40 of the region’s 46 countries suffering from corruption.

How Barack Obama failed to stop Israeli settlements

Thanks;Geoffrey Aronson

As the Obama administration runs out of time and energy, an array of world leaders including Kim Jong-un, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin are celebrating their frustration of American designs.
But the unlikely source of the signature defeat of Obama’s policy agenda is no enemy, but rather a close ally and recipient of unprecedented American largesse – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The failure of the Obama “red line” on settlements during his first year in office set the model for future shortcomings elsewhere, notably in Syria.
His demand for an end to the building of settlements offered a preview of his later demands upon Assad.
In both cases, United States officials believed that the fulfilment of Obama’s demand would be easy, almost self-executing.
After all, was it not clear that the tide of history could not support settlement expansion or the continued tenure of a bloody dictator who had lost legitimacy?

Ill-considered aspirations
However, both Netanyahu and Assad were reading from a different script. When they refused to roll over for the US president, Obama blinked.
Indeed, on Palestine, ineffective, ritual American protests about the ills of settlement expansion have become an embarrassment.
So too with Assad. Obama’s famous observation on Assad may have inspired his many opponents to revolt, but it has long been clear that Obama’s call for Assad’s departure in August 2011 reflected merely Obama’s ill-considered aspiration rather than a solid American policy commitment.
By soundly defeating the US president’s demand for a freeze in settlement expansion, Netanyahu was the first but not the last leader to learn that when tested Obama could be bested – that when faced with an adversary more determined than Washington to win, he did not have the courage of his convictions; that even those on the right side of history could be defied by history’s outliers and survive.
When Obama assumed office he was faced with a number of foreign policy challenges. Of all these he placed a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians at the top of his agenda and, at its centre, a demand for a settlement freeze.

The lesson that Obama could not even move an ally and dependent state like Israel to submit to an American policy agenda on an issue deemed critical by the US president himself was not lost on America’s adversaries.

But Netanyahu had also drawn a line in the sand. “I will not keep Olmert’s commitments to withdraw and I won’t evacuate settlements,” he said “Those understandings are invalid and unimportant.”

At a March 2009 new conference, Obama pronounced “the status quo unsustainable”. Three months later, in Cairo he declared the US’ rejection of “the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements”.

In the same declarative voice that two years later said, “The time has come for President Assad to step aside,” Obama pronounced, “It is time for these settlements to stop.”

But it was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who offered the clearest and most sweeping definition of Obama’s settlement red line.

“[The President] wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not ‘natural growth’ exceptions. That is our position. That is what we have communicated very clearly.”

Feeding them tales

Obama declared the achievement of a two-state solution as a US national interest, identifying a complete, permanent settlement freeze by Israel as the best instrument for establishing the diplomatic foundation to achieve its objective.

Netanyahu was initially stunned by the demand, but he rebuffed it successfully without suffering any real consequence.

He defied the wishes of the US president ? “put [the Americans] through their paces” in the words of a Netanyahu aide ? and lived not only to tell the tale, but to prosper.

In an October 31, 2009, press conference with Clinton, Netanyahu affirmed that.

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“I said we would not build new settlements, not expropriate land for addition for the existing settlements and that we were prepared to adopt a policy of restraint on the existing settlements, but also one that would still enable normal life for the residents who are living there.”
Netanyahu’s commitment to even this problematic formulation, has not withstood even a casual comparison with the facts on the ground. Settlements continue to expand with impunity.
“Everyone thinks the Americans are idiots,” wrote one Israeli journalist at the time, “and that we can continue feeding them such tales forever. Later we get insulted when Obama looks at us funny and doesn’t believe Netanyahu.”
The White House and State Department tried to minimise the collapse of policy on settlements, but they were only fooling themselves.
Cascading of poor policy choices
Everyone was watching Obama’s performance on this issue. The impression left was not, as Washington tried to convince itself, a mere setback for well?intentioned if badly executed US efforts, relevant only to the Israel-Palestine arena.
A cascading series of poor policy choices lost the Obama administration the critical policy initiative on Palestine that it was never able to recoup.


For a new administration seeking to place its stamp on the international scene, the failure on settlements eroded its reputation as a strong?willed and capable leader determined not only to set policy objectives but also to achieve them against friend and foe alike.
Yossi Beilin, the former Israeli deputy foreign minister, was not alone in assessing the damage suffered by Obama. “He forgot that he is the US president, and that every action of his, even killing a fly, is scrutinised by billions of eyes and every word of his is weighed and has an effect. This way, at the end of a wasted year and without any bad intentions, his statements inflicted another blow on the chances of promoting something in our region.”
The lesson that Obama could not even move an ally and dependent state like Israel to submit to an American policy agenda on an issue deemed critical by the US president himself was not lost on America’s adversaries.
The shortcomings of the administration on the settlement freeze during its first year in power were not one-off errors.

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Rather they reflect systemic shortcomings in how the administration has defined, framed and executed policy on a number of critical issues, notably Syria.
Obama misunderstood how Israeli policymakers perceive the critical, central role of settlement in occupation policy, and he was unprepared to enforce his own demand for a complete freeze in the face of unexpected Israeli opposition.
The US freeze initiative led Palestinian Liberation Organisation leader Mahmoud Abbas to miscalculate Obama’s commitment to Washington’s own policy rhetoric on settlements and led Obama to miscalculate Abbas’ ability to pursue a policy regarding renewing serious negotiations.

A freeze on settlements was meant to signal US mastery over the process and build upon this success to launch final status negotiations.
Following its failure subsequent US efforts – notwithstanding a dogged effort by Secretary of State John Kerry – never got off the ground.
Today’s result: no freeze, no negotiations, an Israeli leadership more confident of its ability to defy Washington and prosper and a loss of American credibility everywhere.
Come inauguration day, Netanyahu and Assad will not be the only antagonists to outlast Obama’s Washington – an unfortunate legacy of an American president whose good intentions provided inadequate to the task.
Geoffrey Aronson writes about Middle Eastern affairs. He consults with a variety of public and private institutions dealing with regional political, security, and development issues.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Source: Al Jazeera