News and Comments 7 Feb 2012

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Syria crisis: Gulf Arab states expel Syrian ambassadors

Gulf Arab states say they are expelling Syrian ambassadors in their countries and recalling their envoys from Syria.

The Gulf Cooperation Council said Syria had rejected Arab attempts to solve the crisis and end 11 months of bloodshed.

The US closed its embassy in Syria on Monday, and several European countries have recalled their ambassadors.

The moves came as Syrian government forces continued their fierce assault on the restive city of Homs, and Russian officials visited Damascus.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called for a solution to the crisis based on Arab League initiatives, days after Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution on Syria.

After meeting Mr Lavrov, Syrian media quoted President Bashar al-Assad as saying he was willing to co-operate with “any efforts towards stability”.

Separately Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, denied reports that he had threatened Qatar’s prime minister during talks at the UN last week. Someone was trying to drive a wedge between Russia and the Arab world, he said.
The GCC said it would urge all other Arab states to adopt “decisive measures” when the Arab League meets next week. The UK, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy have also recalled their ambassadors

Ambassadors recalled from Syria

  • United States (embassy closed)
  • Europe

  • France
  • UK
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Netherlands
  • Belgium
  • Gulf Arab states

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Bahrain
  • Oman
  • Kuwait

via BBC

Prop. 8: Gay-marriage ban unconstitutional, court rules – latimes.com

Court strikes down gay marriage ban in LA County

A federal appeals court Tuesday struck down California’s ban on same-sex marriage, clearing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on gay marriage as early as next year.

The 2-1 decision by a panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that limited marriage to one man and one woman, violated the U.S. Constitution. The architects of Prop. 8 have vowed to appeal.

The ruling was narrow and likely to be limited to California.

via latimes.com.


Another President Quits – Mohamed Nasheed Steps Down after Maldives Protests

President Nasheed of the Maldives briefs repor...

Mohamed Nasheed

Rather sad that the former human rights and environmental activist didn’t last the course. He was replaced by his vice president after the police and army clashed in the streets of the island nation amid protests after Nasheed ordered the military to arrest Abdulla Mohamed, the chief judge of the Criminal Court. The judge had ordered the release of a government critic he said had been illegally detained.

The crisis came to a head today when hundreds of police demonstrated in the capital, Male, after officials ordered them to withdraw protection for government and opposition supporters protesting close to each other. The withdrawal resulted in a clash that injured at least three people.

Later, troops fired rubber bullets and clashed with the police. When Nasheed visited the police and urged them to end the protest, they refused and instead chanted for his resignation. Mohamed was released after Hassan took power.

Nasheed resigned on TV this morning, and Mohammed Waheed Hassan, who previously worked as a top UNICEF official, was sworn in as the new Maldivian president this afternoon. Soon after, the judge was released.


New Bruce Lee Film


‘I Am Bruce Lee’ tells the amazing story of one of the most iconic human beings ever to enter the public consciousness. Voted as one of the most important people of the 20th century in Time Magazine’s Time 100, as well as one of the Greatest Pop Culture Icons by People Magazine, Bruce Lee continues to be honoured and remembered for his enduring legacy.

In Hong Kong, teams visited the memorial statu...

Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend

~ Bruce Lee


Scotland Yard has recovered over 300,000,000 emails News of the World said were deleted

They doubled resources on the team and are analysing and are identifying hundreds, perhaps thousands, of possible victims going back over 30 years. Daily Record


Violence in northern Mali forces over 20,000 into exile

UNHCR report on Mali upheaval:

Malian Refugees in Mauritania

Malian Refugees in Mauritania

UNHCR has deployed emergency teams to countries surrounding Mali to help meet the needs of some 20,000 people who have been forced to flee fighting in northern Mali. Most of the displaced are in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

Fighting between rebel Tuareg groups and governmental forces in the Azawad region of northern Mali began in mid-January.

In the past three weeks, at least 10,000 people are reported to have crossed to Niger, 9,000 have found refuge in Mauritania and 3,000 in Burkina Faso.

Local communities along the border, affected by the food crisis themselves in the Sahel, are sharing their resources with the new arrivals. The authorities have also distributed food. Four additional UNHCR staff are already in Niger and more are on their way. We plan to send aid for 10,000 people from our stockpiles in the region.

Our office in Ouagadougou, in Burkina Faso also reported the arrival of some 3,000 Malian Tuaregs following attacks on their homes and businesses in the Malian capital Bamako and in the nearby town of Kati last week. Many of the new arrivals are staying with host families in Ouagadougou and Bobo Dioulasso, 320 kilometres south-west of the capital. Other new arrivals have been reported in the north west of the country, especially near Djibo, in Soum province. An inter-agency mission, including UNHCR, is scheduled to go there by the end of the week to assess the needs of the people.

Meanwhile in Mauritania UNHCR has sent several missions to the village of Fassala, in the region of Hodh el Chargi 3km from the border with Mali, where over 9,000 people have arrived since 25th January. The mainly ethnic Tuareg Malian refugees come from the region of Léré on the other side of the border. They told UNHCR that they fled fighting between Government forces and rebel Tuareg fighters, fearing retaliation by army troops.


Human Rights Watch Warns of Lead Poisoning Crisis in Nigeria

Thousands of children in northern Nigeria need immediate medical treatment and dozens of villages remain contaminated two years into the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history, Human Rights Watch said today while releasing a video on the issue. Four hundred children have died, according to official estimates, yet environmental cleanup efforts have not even begun in numerous affected villages.

Artisanal gold mines are found throughout Zamfara State in northwestern Nigeria, and high levels of lead in the earth and the use of rudimentary mining methods have resulted in an epidemic of lead poisoning among children, Human Rights Watch said. Research by Human Rights Watch in Zamfara in late 2011 found that children are exposed to this lead dust when they process ore in the mines, when their mine worker relatives return home covered with lead dust, and when the lead-filled ore is manually or mechanically crushed at home. Children can also be exposed to toxic lead in contaminated water and food. Healthcare workers in Zamfara State told Human Rights Watch that there have also been high rates of infertility and miscarriage among affected adults.


Politics, Religion, Media – an Unholy Trinity

You might enjoy reading this exclusive article in the Daily Beast about the head of the Washington Times and his roles as unofficial envoy to North Korea for former US President and war criminal at large, George W. Bush. I think it’s great when journalists research and publish this information. But I find myself asking constantly why no action ever ensues. It’s as though ‘publish and be damned’ turned into ‘print and be done’.


Behind The News: Yemen Times

Good, informative story from SourceFabric about the trials, tribulations and revival of Yemen Times, an essential and important source of news from this remarkable country, still dealing with the aftermath of former president’ Saleh’s barbaric regime.


News and Comments 6 Feb 2012

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Activists protest outside #Syria’s embassy in #Mauritania

A young female activists addresses the crowd, voicing their demands for an end to the killing in Syria and that Assad and his brutal regime should step down.

A cultural festival in Mauritania was marred by sandstorms

Aziz lack of fashion flair spoiled it for me. What a mess he looks in his robe

Emil Boc resigns after austerity protests, had no idea why Romania signed ACTA

Emil Boc said his government had not taken part in a popularity contest

Romania’s Prime Minister Emil Boc has stepped down to “defuse political and social tension” after a series of protests against austerity measures. Speaking after a cabinet meeting, he said he had given up the government’s mandate as “it is the moment for important political decisions”.
Although Romania’s economy grew last year, the government has been hit by three weeks of demonstrations.
Mr Boc has imposed a 25% cut in public sector wages and a freeze on pensions. Sales tax was also increased to 24%, in a country seen as Europe’s second poorest. Romania said it needed to implement the measures to qualify for the next instalment of a 20bn-euro ($25bn; £17bn) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Poland put ACTA ratification on hold, and Slovenia apparently regrets its signature, and Emil Boc admitted that he doesn’t understand why the country signed ACTA. It appears that opposing politicians are criticizing the government and promising that they will suspend enforcement under ACTA until there are actual public hearings held on the matter. It really is quite amazing that the folks in the entertainment industry, who thought they could ram this through are now discovering how much they’ve awakened internet users across the globe ever since they shot for the moon with SOPA. ACTA has been on the table for years, and only a few of us “copyright geeks” were paying attention to it. But SOPA really made it clear to huge populations of people just how the entertainment industry seeks to restrict the internet through copyright law… and they’re simply not going to take that any more.

BBC News & TechDirt

Iran arrests several on alleged links to BBC Farsi-language service

Iranian authorities have arrested several people over alleged links to the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Farsi-language service, Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency reported. The report said they produced content and reported to the BBC. It said they facilitated training and hiring of some Iranian journalists and arranged trips abroad for them. It quoted an unnamed official as saying they were active since 2009. It did not name them or say how many were arrested.

In London, the BBC said in a statement that the report “should be of deep concern to all those who believe in a free and independent media.” The British broadcaster said it has “no BBC Persian staff members or stringers working inside Iran.”

In October, Iran released two filmmakers who were in jail on similar charges. Tehran has accused the BBC of operating as a cover for British intelligence and of hosting Iranian dissidents. Last week the BBC accused Iran of intimidating staff members of its Persian service by slandering them and arresting relatives.

via AP in The Washington Post

Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike

The Federal government has sent troops and special forces to cope with the wave of criminal actions

The murder rate in Brazil’s northeastern state of Bahia has soared during a state police strike that on Saturday entered its fourth day. The state’s Public Safety Department says on its website that 51 people have been murdered in and near the capital city of Salvador since the strike began on Wednesday.

The government news service Agencia Brasil says that the murder rate has ballooned 117% increase over the same period last year.

Some 2,000 Brazilian army soldiers and a contingent of 650 elite federal police troops are patrolling the nation’s third-largest city while officials and strike leaders negotiate an end to the strike.

State officials have said that about 10,000 of the state’s 30,000 police are on strike. They are demanding better pay and bonuses.

The city of Salvador registered a total of 29 homicides over a 30-hour span, amid a crime wave caused by a police strike and despite the reinforcements provided by the federal government.

The city has been plunged in a wave of violent crime since late Tuesday, when the 30.000 members of the Bahia state police force went on strike demanding a 50% pay raise.

Though on Thursday a court declared the walkout “illegal” and ordered police to resume their work immediately, the strike continued until Saturday with spokespersons for the police union announcing that it would not be called off until their demands were met.

The Brazilian government after ordering 2.600 soldiers from Army barracks in Salvador sent to other cities of Bahia, announced it was preparing another 4,000 if the situation gets worse.

The troops went on patrol this Friday in the chief tourism centres of Salvador, a city set to welcome thousands of tourists to celebrate Carnival, one of the most spectacular, massively attended in all Brazil.

Brasilia said that Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo will travel to Salvador this weekend to personally appraise the situation and decide whether a greater military presence is needed.

Speaking Friday night on regional television, Bahia Gov. Jacques Wagner attributed the crime wave to groups with ties to the police on strike.

via Crime rate soars in Brazilian state of Bahia on fifth day of police strike — MercoPress.