Category Archives: Histories

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.

Advertisements

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.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/israel-palestine-delusion-state-solution-160324132044351.html

“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.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/01/obama-palestine-policy-slogans-throwaway-phrases-160128062948815.html

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

How Panama Is Becoming The Next Luxury Hot Spot

Panama’s Cityscape (Credit: Panama Tourism Authority and Copa Airlines)Forbes-Panama-CityView-PanamaTourismAuthorityCopaAirlines

Panama’s Cityscape (Credit: Panama Tourism Authority and Copa Airlines)

THANKS;Jennifer Kester, Contributor

Panama may be best known for its canal, but the country isn’t merely a convenient passageway between east and west—it’s a destination made up of a unique mix of city, rainforest and beaches. One of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America, Panama is on the cusp of becoming a hot luxury travel spot.

April 2015 saw the unveiling of Soho Panama mall, a new luxury epicenter in downtown Panama City. Not only did it bring shops from the likes of Chanel, Versace, Burberry and macaron masters Ladurée, but the mall also will house The Ritz-Carlton, Panama when the 220-room hotel (with two swimming pools, a spa and four dining venues) opens in late 2016. The Ritz-Carlton company will follow up its Panama debut with a second hotel in the country; its Reserve boutique brand will open an outpost on Pearl Island, a pristine private island about 45 miles south of Panama City, in 2018.

The country also is making it easier to travel to and within Panama. It launched Central America’s first subway in 2014 and plans to add a second line that will connect Panama City to Tocumen International Airport in the future. Speaking of which, the airport is building a state-of-the-art second terminal to nearly double its capacity in 2017 (Tocumen is still in transition, but you can peruse several luxury shops, like Carolina Herrera and Valentino). Even the canal is seeing improvements—a $5.25 billion expansion, the largest canal project since it was constructed, will double its capacity when it wraps up in 2016. While many changes await for Panama, here’s why our Forbes Travel Guide editors think you should beat the crowds and go now.

Forbes-Panama-InterContinentalMiramarPanamaNightimeExterior-InterContinentalHotelsResorts.jpg

InterContinental Miramar (Credit: InterContinental Hotels and Resorts)

Where to Stay

Opened in 1997, InterContinental Miramar Panama is one of the city’s stalwart hotels. As part of an ongoing renovation, the cream marble lobby recently was refreshed and the modern, neutral rooms were upgraded with new flooring, beds and more. For the best views, book accommodations facing the water and gain access to the fifth-floor Club Lounge (which is slated for a makeover in 2016), where you can glimpse the city though big-picture windows at sunrise with breakfast and coffee and at sunset with appetizers and wine. The Bella Vista hotel sits along Cinta Costera, a 2.5-mile stretch lining Panama Bay where you can walk, jog or bike along a palm-framed path while taking in skyline panoramas. Follow the path south and you’ll hit the Mercado de Mariscos, or seafood market, where you can see fish mongers displaying local catch like corvina and locals popping by the no-frills outdoor booths for a helping of fresh ceviche.

If you’re looking to explore a less touristy part of the city, try Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama in Punta Pacifica, a tony residential neighborhood. The 70-story sailboat-shaped building stands out on the city skyline. But what’s more impressive are the views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the waterfront hotel’s chic guest rooms, the sexy deck where you can choose among five pools or simply sprawl out on a chaise lounge in front of an infinity pool that seems to drop off into the ocean, and the casino, whose 66th high-roller floor affords stunning vistas.

Forbes-Panama-RiesenRestaurantCuisine-JenniferKester.jpg

Our Panamanian obsession: Riesen’s vegetable root crisps topped with national cheese, dried cherry tomatoes and avocado (Credit: Jennifer Kester)

Where to Eat

As Panama modernizes, segments of the capital city remain charmingly stuck in the past. Casco Viejo (aka Casco Antiguo), the city’s historic district that was established after 1671, landed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for this reason. It recalls Puerto Rico’s Old San Juan with brick streets and colorful Spanish colonial buildings with upper-floor balconies running the length of the structures. Even buildings with peeling rosy paint or a chipped-away straw-colored façade bearing “Me encanta tu piel” (“I love your skin”) in cursive graffiti look romantic rather than rundown.

Casco is the spot to visit for cuisine. One of the hottest restaurants is Manolo Caracol, where chef Andrés Morataya leads the charge in using hyper-local ingredients by any means necessary. About 70 percent of the menu (such as rice and cacao) comes from the restaurant’s own farm. Lobster and octopus are sourced from free divers. A team drives through villages scouring for chicken to buy them piecemeal. Morataya then turns these fresh items to modern dishes (order the tasting menu for a feast). Of course, the selection varies depending on what seafood, produce and such he can secure that week. But expect to savor dishes like a flavorful seafood soup with achiote and coconut, silky bone marrow covered with caramelized onions, or crispy patacónes (fried plantain slices) topped with prawns.

Venture outside of Casco to the bawdier El Cangrejo neighborhood for a meal at Riesen. After winning the annual Panama Gastronomica competition, chef Hernan Correa Riesen used the prize money to convert part of his family home into a small restaurant. Don’t let the modest dining room fool you—Riesen’s creative cuisine deserves your attention anyway. The chef incorporates Panamanian ingredients and modernist techniques to craft dishes like the addictive housemade vegetable root crisps topped with dabs of national cheese (soft and creamy, it has the consistency of ricotta), dried cherry tomatoes and avocado slices. Entrées include a filling grilled octopus with peach palm and coconut, and a tender 48-hour braised beef tongue.

While Morataya and Riesen represent a new, younger generation of chefs in the city, you’ll still find traditional Panamanian favorites. At lunch, follow the locals to an oversized seafoam-green window on Avenue B that looks nondescript, save for a blackboard that says “Menu” with a few dishes listed underneath it. The namesake chef at La Cocina de Rosita serves to-go plates out of that window. For a mere $3.50, enjoy authentic dishes like guacho, a Panamanian version of risotto, or almojábanos, fried cornmeal with cheese that’s pure comfort food.

A visit to Panama wouldn’t be complete without a raspao, a snowcone made with condensed milk and fruit. You’ll run into vendors throughout Casco hawking raspao, but seek out the shiny silver cart of El Viejo Talentoso (typically parked in the Plaza de Francia). The raspao whiz puts on a show, scraping shards off of a large ice block. We opted for the coconut, so our refreshing treat came with coconut milk, condensed milk, a honey drizzle and a sprinkle of shredded coconut.

For something a bit stronger, head to the hip lobby of American Trade Hotel (Ace’s first foray into the high-end hotel market) for a mojito or seco, the country’s potent national liquor made of fermented sugar cane. Order seco like a Panamanian—with milk and on the rocks. American Trade also serves as a jazz hot spot; Wednesday to Thursday nights, it hosts Danilo’s Jazz Club with Grammy-winning jazz pianist-composer Danilo Pérez, featuring local and international musicians.

PMA-LA-VIEJA.jpg

Panama Viejo (Credit: Panama Tourism Authority and Copa Airlines)

What to See

To see the city’s origins, head to Panama Viejo, where you can wander through grassy grounds, exotic trees and the 16th-century ruins of the first European settlement on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. The cathedral is the best preserved among the stone remains. Climb up 72 feet in its bell tower for expansive views of Panama in all directions. It once served as a lookout post for pirates.

Discover another side to Panama at Gamboa Rainforest Resort, which is a half hour from Panama City. Skip the resort and go straight for the forest, which is relatively young due to deforestation from the building of the canal. An aerial tram will raise you 280 feet above the rainforest floor for prime photo ops of the lush flora, including trumpet trees, mountain figs and balsa trees, along with wildlife. With the help of our tram guide, we spotted baby sloths, a chestnut-mandibled toucan and a flurry of butterflies (Panama has more than 16,000 species) during the 20-minute ride. As you glide through the treetops, you may hear drumming in the distance—there’s an indigenous Embera village nearby that performs for visitors.

Upon landing, you’re left to make your way up a 10-story observation tower (it’s all inclines, no steps, which makes it a breeze to walk to the top) to take in more rainforest vistas, and then you can catch the open-air tram back in the other direction.

Gain a deeper understanding of the importance of Panama’s biodiversity at the Biomuseo, which opened in 2014. The building’s misshapen roof panels in saturated hues like yellow, blue and red are enough to draw you to the museum, renowned architect Frank Gehry’s only work in Latin America, as is the lovely park surrounding it along the water. But step inside to learn how there are more tree species in 2.5 acres of Panamanian forest than all of North America combined. And if being in the rainforest wasn’t enough for you, the “Panamarama” audiovisual exhibit puts you in an immersive space plastered with 10 screens that offer an extreme close-up of the unique local ecosystem. The south wing hosts traveling exhibitions, but the goal is to fill it with permanent exhibits, including two aquariums, one representing the Pacific Ocean and the other the Caribbean Sea. Like the rest of this up-and-coming country, the museum has big plans for the future.

Financial details of L.A.’s bid for 2024 Olympic Games revealed

Thanks;DAVID WHARTON contact the reporter

 

Financial details of L.A.’s bid for 2024 Olympic Games revealed Coliseum

The Coliseum is shown during the 1984 Olympics. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Eric Garcetti International Olympic Committee Los Angeles City Council U.S. Olympic Committee

With Los Angeles poised to become the American bidder for the 2024 Summer Olympics, new financial details about the city’s campaign were revealed Tuesday.
The official bid book created in Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office breaks down the estimated $4.1 billion in costs.
Organizers would spend an estimated $713 million preparing competition venues, the vast majority of which are already in existence but would need some work.

Several other major capital expenses would be shared with private partners, according to the proposal.

A developer would take the lead on an athlete’s village along the L.A. River, with organizers contributing $75 million. The media center would be constructed on the NBCUniversal Studio lot, with organizers paying $130 million of the total bill.
Those two venues could cost more than $1 billion combined.
The Coliseum would require a major renovation to host competition as well as the opening and closing ceremonies. The proposal states that USC officials plan to invest more than $500 million in the facility, which the university leases, beginning in 2017.

Organizers would chip in $300 million.

On the revenue side, the proposal estimates a $1.5-billion contribution from the International Olympic Committee, $1.4 billion in domestic sponsorships and $1.1 billion from ticket sales.
In all, Garcetti’s team expects to generate $4.8 billion in revenues. Subtracting a $400-million contingency fund against overruns and $150 million in insurance premiums, that would leave $161 million in surplus.

The mayor has said that, if Los Angeles is selected as the host in a 2017 vote, he would sign an IOC contract that would make the city financially responsible if unexpected costs exceed revenues.

The City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to give Garcetti authorization to make such a promise.

Los Angeles became the front-runner for the U.S. bid after Boston withdrew last month amid concerns over costs. The U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to make Los Angeles its official candidate near the end of August.