Category Archives: Mind & Concious

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.

Lawyer for man dragged from United flight isn’t laughing at viral New Yorker cover

Thanks;Mark DeCambre

Published: May 11, 2017 7:13 p.m. ET

David Dao’s attorney says New Yorker magazine illustration minimizes his clients pain, but acknowledges that it’s ‘very clever’


This New Yorker cover playing on FBI Director James Comey’s firing and David Dao’s removal from a United Airlines flight has gone viral.

The New Yorker published a teaser cover of its issue due out May 22, and so far the illustration — depicting Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a police office forcibly removing former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey down an airplane aisle — has gone viral, scoring rave reviews on social media.

But there is at least one person who isn’t laughing.
The cover art draws a clear parallel between Comey’s stunning firing by Trump earlier this week and Dr. David Dao, who garnered worldwide attention after scenes of him being dragged from a United Airlines flight — captured on cellphone cameras last month — drew swift rebuke from the public and compelled the airline carrier’s parent United Continental Holdings Inc. UAL, -1.51% to reach a settlement with Dao for an undisclosed sum.

Dao’s attorney, Thomas Demetrio, partner at Chicago law firm Corboy & Demetrio, told MarketWatch that the cover art, although “very clever” minimizes his client’s pain and suffering. Dao lost his teeth and suffered a concussion related to his removal from the United flight, according to his attorney.
“It minimizes the Dao event so that’s collateral damage of a magazine trying to make an editorial point. They must feel that Comey’s exit was Dao-ish when in fact it wasn’t,” Demetrio said. “It was a whole different deal.”
http://www.marketwatch.com/video/united-airlines-passenger-violently-removed-from-flight/27C7D045-7F11-4EDD-84EE-FB21316768A1.html

Demetrio said many people have been fired. “They were not injured, and therein lies the distinction.”

Comey’s firing late Tuesday shocked many, particularly since the FBI director was leading an investigation into whether Trump’s advisers colluded with Russia to win the U.S. presidency in November, which led to a big rally in the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, -0.11% and the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.22% and other global markets. That rally in markets over euphoria about Trump’s pro-business campaign promises has since tapered considerably as investors assess the effect Comey’s firing will have on the president’s ability to get new legislation put in place.

How to make money while you sleep

Thanks;Nancy Mann Jackson

Published: May 10, 2017 4:58 a.m. ET

Create passive income streams

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.

Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, top off your emergency fund or invest more, a little extra monthly income can get you there faster.

But there are only so many hours in a day — and maybe adding another side hustle to your busy schedule just isn’t possible. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow earn more without working additional hours or hitting up your boss for another raise? That’s what happens when you create passive income streams.
“Passive income’s great because it increases your cash flow and allows you to save [more],” says financial adviser Craig J. Ferrantino, president of Craig James Financial Services, LLC in N.Y. “The initial effort in some cases is minimal, and you have the ability to collect money on those efforts over a period of time.”

Of course, investing in the stock market can provide earnings over time through market returns and the magic of compounding. But there are also ways to create steady streams of passive income that pay out at regular intervals.

These efforts don’t come without risk. But with careful planning and consideration, you can lower the risks — and initial costs — and increase the potential benefits.

Here are six paths to passive income that may be worth pursuing.

1. High-dividend stocks

When you purchase stock in a company that pays dividends to its shareholders, you’ll start earning a percentage of the company’s profits automatically. For example, if a company pays an annualized dividend of 50 cents per share and you own 500 shares, you’ll get an extra $250 in your pocket — for doing nothing more than being a shareholder. (Most companies pay dividends on a quarterly basis, so you’d earn about 13 cents per share each quarter.)

Certain industries, like public utilities, financial services and oil, tend to pay higher dividends than others, so do your homework with resources like Yahoo! YHOO, +1.31% Finance’s stocks screener or by talking to an adviser.

“If you’re going after dividend income, the sweet spot is not the company that’s currently paying the highest yield, but the companies that are likely to generate growth in dividends in the coming months and years,” says Rob Brown, a Certified Financial Analyst and chief investment officer at United Capital. “Pay attention to what companies and industries are thriving now; they are most likely to raise the dividends they’re paying now in the future.”

You may also choose to reinvest your dividends, which allows you to buy more shares even without spending more money, so you can benefit more when the price rises.

One caveat: Remember that there are risks involved with investing in individual stocks—even ones with high-dividend yield—as the price of the stock can go up or down. You can lower your risk by investing in an index or other low-cost funds, which contains shares of many companies. One option is to look for dividend-paying ETFs, or exchange-traded funds, which are funds that trade like stocks. (Investing apps like Acorns and Betterment use such ETFs and reinvest dividends automatically.)  

2. Bonds

Purchasing bonds can be another good way to earn consistent passive income, though the amount you’ll receive depends on the fluctuating bond market. “Bondholders [usually] receive a check every six months for the interest earned in loaning the entity money, and, in turn, get their principal back at maturity,” Ferrantino explains.

There’s a wide variety of bonds to choose from, including U.S. Treasury bonds, municipal bonds and corporate bonds. Each has its own maturity date, minimum investment, interest rate and payout. For instance, Treasury notes mature in two to 10 years and pay interest semiannually at a fixed rate (currently about 1% to 2%, depending on term lengths, and it is exempt from state and local taxes), while corporate bonds pay taxable interest and can have maturities ranging from a few weeks to 100 years.

Before purchasing bonds, make sure you know what you’re getting into — and what you will get out of it.

Read: How to buy bonds

3. Rental properties

Acquiring and maintaining rental property can require a lot more investment and sweat equity than other types of passive income, both upfront and over the years (if the roof leaks or the boiler breaks down in a rental property, you’re on the hook for it). But rental properties can also provide lucrative, ongoing income for many years to come.

“Rental properties in a market you understand can be a fantastic passive investment,” says Jeffrey Zucker, a seasoned angel investor and property management entrepreneur in Chicago. “I look for large or fast-growing housing markets, where people are clamoring for affordable, nice places.”

Before purchasing a property, Zucker recommends comprehensive due diligence to ensure that you can cover your costs — which likely include insurance, taxes and maintenance — and turn a profit on top of that. You want to invest in a property that will draw continued interest from renters and increase in value.

He also recommends using an experienced property manager. “There are some great property management companies out there that can assist to make leasing out rental properties truly passive mailbox money,” Zucker says. “Having managed our own properties for a few years prior to partnering with a company, we learned the long hours and effort that go into maintaining properties and dealing with tenants — and how much better those who focus solely on this role are at the job.”

4. Rewards credit cards

This might seem like an odd addition — and this is not a strategy to pursue unless you are able to pay off your bill in full each month. However, if you can use credit responsibly and avoid racking up debt, rewards credit cards can provide easy income, thanks to perks like cash-back bonuses. For instance, use a cash-back card for all your household expenses — and pay it off at the end of the month — and you’ll earn money simply by making necessary purchases. (Ferrantino recommends a card like the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa, which gives you 5% cash back on gas purchases and another 3% for groceries and has a low annual fee. NerdWallet also has a ranking of the best cash-back cards, including several with no annual fee.)

“My rewards have paid for a variety of travel experiences, and I have friends that use their points to pay exclusively for a certain [budget] category, like gas or household bills. It’s nice for them to cross an expense off simply by doing all of their planned spending on the right card,” Zucker says. “Be careful though, as many of the best rewards cards have high interest rates for any carry-over debt.”

5. Peer-to-peer lending

Also known as “marketplace lending,” peer-to-peer lending is the practice of individuals lending money to others in place of a bank or other financial institution. In recent years, platforms like Prosper and Lending Club have made these crowdfunded loans more widely available to borrowers and opened the possibilities for investors.

“New, technology-driven intermediaries have been coming in and replacing banks to make small loans to businesses or individuals, and they offer many comparative advantages,” Brown says.

Remember, though, that while investing through a peer-to-peer marketplace can pay off—Prosper investors, for example, can earn about 5% to 9% annually—there are still risks involved and borrowers may default on their debts. One way to protect yourself, Brown says, is by requiring that borrowers’ credit quality is above a certain level, depending on your appetite for risk. You can also reduce risk by diversifying your investment across many different loans.

6. Renting unused space
The sharing economy is in full force, and if you have extra space in your home or spend a lot of time out of town, you can join in and earn some extra cash. Thousands of people are renting out their homes through Airbnb, and sites like Liquid Space and Breather offer opportunities to place your office or home up for rent during daytime hours. (Airbnb hosts renting a single room in a two-bedroom home cover, on average, a whopping 81% of their rent, according to one report.)

“Any unused space is an asset worth renting out if there is demand in your market,” Zucker says. “[Online marketplaces] offer consumers easy ways to make some extra money on rooms that would otherwise be doing nothing for them.”

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.

 

 

GROWING CONFLICT IN ASIA SPARKS MILITARY EXPANSION IN JAPAN

Thanks;CRISTINA SILVA 

Publised; 3/22/17 AT 5:07 PM

Growing Conflict
US Defence Secretary sees no need for US military action in South China Sea

Roughly $5 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea each year.

Japan unveiled its second helicopter carrier, the Kaga, Wednesday, sending a message of military strength to China amid growing conflict over the South China Sea and other strategic waterways in Asia. The new vessel is the latest sign of Japan’s ongoing military expansion as it seeks greater international influence. 
Roughly 500 people attended the unveiling ceremony at the Japan Marine United shipyard in Yokohama near Tokyo. The vessel was parked next to Japan’s other helicopter carrier, the Izumo, Japan wasn’t shy about its motivation. Vice Minister of Defense Takayuki Kobayashi said at the ceremony Tokyo was deeply concerned about China’s construction of islands and military bases in the South China Sea waterway, which is claimed by multiple Asian nations. 
“China is attempting to make changes in the South China Sea with bases, and through acts that exert pressure is altering the status quo, raising security concerns among the international community,” he said.
Roughly $5 trillion in global trade passes through the South China Sea each year. Both Japan and the U.S. have urged Beijing to honor open travel in the waterway. Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei also claim the South China Sea, which is known for its fishing and oil and gas deposits. Japan, meanwhile, is engaged in its own territorial dispute with China over the neighboring East China Sea.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has increasingly called for Japan to seek a bigger international role in global military conflicts in recent years and urged lawmakers to reconsider Japan’s pacifist constitution that forbids using force in international disputes. His remarks have alarmed China and many Japanese voters who enjoy the country’s post-World War II pacifism. 
“If Japan persists in taking wrong actions, and even considers military interventions that threaten China’s sovereignty and security… then China will inevitably take firm responsive measures,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press briefing last week.
Japan plans to send its Izumo helicopter carrier through Singapore, Indonesia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka starting in May before joint naval exercises with India and the U.S. in the Indian Ocean in July.
China’s and Japan’s economies are the world’s second- and third-largest.

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'”.

NINE HACKERS ARRESTED IN THAILAND OVER GOVERNMENT HACKING

Thanks;REUTERS 

Published; 12/26/16 AT 10:24 AM

Cyber attacks took down government websites following strict online surveillance legislation being passed.

Hackers Hijack ISIS Twitter Accounts, Post Gay Porn

https://d.europe.newsweek.com/en/full/59121/hackers-hijack-isis-twitter-accounts-post-gay-porn.jpg?w=400&h=225&l=50&t=50&q=30
Thai police have detained nine people suspected of hacking government websites to protest against amendments to a cyber security law that critics say strengthens the authorities’ oversight of the internet.

Parliament passed legislation this month amending a cyber crime law, which rights groups said would likely to lead to more extensive online monitoring by the state.
In response, hackers launched a wave of cyber attacks last week, shutting down dozens of government websites.

The government said the websites were only down temporarily and the attacks caused minimum disruption.
Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan told reporters nine people had been arrested in connection with the hacking.
One of those arrested has been charged with breaking the cyber crime law, police said.
“The rest remain in custody and are being processed in accordance with the law,” police spokesman Dejnarong Suthicharnbancha told Reuters.
Thailand’s military government has increased online censorship since it seized power in a 2014 coup, in particular to block perceived insults to the royal family.
Criticism of the monarch, the regent or the heir is a crime known by the French term lese majeste, which carries a jail sentence of up to 15 years.
Since the death of King Bhumibol Adulyadej on October 13 and the ascension of new King Maha Vajiralongkorn on December 1, authorities have shut down hundreds of websites carrying what they consider to be material critical of the monarchy.
The military government is also sensitive about criticism of the 2014 coup, and a new constitution subsequently drawn up.

The government has promised to hold an election in 2017. 

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

Mother Teresa declared a saint by Pope Francis

Thanks;Eric J. Lyman | Special for USA TODAY


Alessandra Tarantino, AP

A tapestry picturing Mother Teresa hangs from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

VATICAN CITY – Mother Teresa, the diminutive Albanian nun whose work to feed the hungry and comfort the dying in India became the foundation of a new religious order and earned her a Nobel Peace Prize, was named a saint on Sunday by Pope Francis.

Tens of thousands of Roman Catholic faithful gathered for the canonization ceremony under a cloudless sky and amid tight security. Francis declared Mother Teresa — now to be called Saint Teresa of Kolkata — someone who “taught us to contemplate and adore Jesus every day, and to recognize Him and serve Him as well as to recognize and serve our brothers in need.”

Francis, who has declared 2016 as a Jubilee Year of Mercy, said he shared Mother Teresa’s ideal of a church as a kind of “field hospital” for the souls of the world’s poorest and most desperate.

“She bowed down before those who were spent, left to die on the side of the road, seeing in them their God-given dignity,” Francis said. “She made her voice heard before the powers of this world, so that they might recognize their guilt for the crime of poverty they created.”

“It’s so beautiful,” said a crying Sister Anna Maria Mendez, 56, one of the nearly 5,000 members of the Missionaries of Charity religious order Mother Teresa founded in 1950. Mendez was in Saint Peter’s Square in a group of around a dozen fellow nuns, all dressed in the white saris with blue trim Mother Teresa made famous.

“I was moved by Mother Teresa’s works, and moved by this ceremony. It’s so wonderful to see her honored in this way,” she said.

Gregorio Borgia, AP

  Gregorio Borgia, AP

Pope Francis talks with a nun of the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity as he leaves at the end of the Canonization Mass of Mother Teresa in St. Peter’s Square, at the Vatican on Sunday.   

Carla O’Brien, a 66-year-old store manager from Trenton, N.J., traveled from a family vacation spot near Florence for the ceremony.

“Pope Francis, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa are the church figures I admire and love most and in some way all three are here today,” O’Brien said. “I am vacationing with family and some friends in Tuscany and when I read about this ceremony I left for the day so I could be here.”

There were no official estimates for the size of the crowd on hand, but the Vatican said 100,000 tickets were issued, and police said they were told to brace for as many as 200,000 faithful, including many in standing-room-only sections.

The crowd included 13 heads of state or government and dozens of cardinals, bishops, and other church leaders.

Hundreds of people in the crowds held up signs showing support for the nun born Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in the Ottoman Empire near the border between modern-day Albania and Macedonia before beginning her missionary work in India. “Always a saint in our hearts, now a saint for all the world,” one Italian-language sign read.

Flags from dozens of countries — including many from India and Albania — were on display, and when Francis declared the woman already known as “the saint of the gutters” an official saint, a roar of applause and cheers rattled across St. Peter’s Square. Many in the crowd cheered, “Santa Teresa! Santa Teresa!” in unison.

Hundreds of nuns from the Missionaries of Charity were on hand for the ceremony, with plans to feed 1,500 homeless people with pizza.

Monday will be the 19th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, making her canonization astonishingly rapid by church standards; only Pope John Paul II, canonized two years ago, just nine years after his death, was declared a saint faster in the modern era. It was John Paul who, just months after her 1997 death, launched Mother Teresa’s sainthood process by waiving the normal five-year waiting period before the beatification procedure can start. She was formally beatified in 2003.

A figure must be credited with two miracles to be considered for sainthood. In 2002, the Vatican ruled it was a miracle when an Indian woman was inexplicably cured of stomach tumors after praying to Mother Teresa. And in December, Francis declared the healing of a Brazilian man suffering from multiple brain tumors a second miracle, paving the way for Sunday’s ceremony. In a statement announcing the canonization, the Vatican called her a “metaphor for selfless devotion and holiness.”

But Mother Teresa was not without detractors. Doctors who visited her field hospitals said she perpetuated suffering by denying patients pain medication and working more to convert the suffering to Catholicism than to cure them. She also has been criticized for bowing down to scandal-ridden figures like jailed 1980s U.S. savings and loan mogul Charles Keating and Haitian dictator Baby Doc Duvalier.

A small group of Mother Teresa’s critics were on the edge of St. Peter’s Square handing out literature reading in part that the church “discredited itself” by honoring a “fraud” like Mother Teresa.

But Rome native Renzo Tarcone, a 22-year-old literature student who read one of the pamphlets, said he didn’t mind that they attended the event.

“I have a lot of admiration for Mother Teresa but I think everyone should be welcome here,” Tarcone said. “She taught us that good Christians should love everyone. Even those who may be critical.”