FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Wednesday: April 2, 2014 

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Iran (14)

Thursday
Apr052012

The Dangers of Journalism (REPORT) 

(Video 25 years of Reporters Without Borders)

(HN, 4/5/12) - Yesterday's suicide bombing at the newly opened National Theater of Somalia is now believed to have killed four people, including the nation's Olympics chief and FIFA head among them; just as a ceremony began in celebration of the Somali National Television's one-year anniversary.

It was meant  to be a moment of lightness in the much darkness Somalia has experienced in 25-plus years of unrest, famine, and chaos.

It also - again - highlighted the dangerous situations global journalists contend with - even at an afternoon cultural event - to tell the story.

(PHOTO: Advocates in Sri Lanka/JNEWS) Journalism, on any stage, is never safe.

Various reports say that at least 10 journalists - four of them women - were seriously injured when the blast ripped through the  theater 5 minutes into a speech by the Somali Prime Minister, Abdiwelli Mohamed.

Witnesses said they believed the bomber had been a female who mingled with the crowd before detonating. The explosion killed 4 people.  The nation's Olympics chief and FIFA head among them.

The Al-Shabaab militant group has taken responsibility.

The hurt reporters are named as (SEE PHOTOS HERE):  Said Shire Warsame of Shabelle TV, Ahmed Ali Kahiye of Radio Kulmiye; Ayaan Abdi (female) of S24 TV/Somalie 24  and Hamdi Mohamed Hassan Hiis (female) of Somali Channel TV; Deeqa Mohamed (female) of the state-run Radio Mogadishu/ Radio Mogadiscio; Mohamed Noor and Mohamed Sharif of Radio Bar-kulan; Somali National Television staffers and Abdulkadir Mohamed Hassan, and freelance journalists Suleiman Sheikh Ismail and Mulki Hassan Haile (female) of Royal TV.

Reporters Without Borders in Paris said, “We condemn this despicable attack in the strongest possible terms and our thoughts are with the many victims,”

By all accounts, being `on assignment' can sometimes mean life or death for a journalist - and not always glamorous. 

DEATH AND IMPRISONMENT

In its annual "Attacks on the Press" report, the New York-based Committee  to Protect Journalists (CPJ) detailed intimidation and deaths to journalists. 

Imprisonments of reporters worldwide shot up more than 20% to its highest level since the mid-1990s in 2011, according to the annual survey - an increase driven largely by widespread jailings across the Middle East and North Africa;  finding, 179 writers, editors, and photojournalists behind bars on December 1.  More than 34 higher than in 2010.

Additionally Iran was the world’s worst jailer, with 42 journalists behind bars. Eritrea, China, Burma, Vietnam, Syria, and Turkey also ranked among the world’s worst.

Losing their lives in 2011 were 46 journalists who were killed in the line of work around the world - undertaking dangerous assignments such as covering street protests and civil strife which reached a record level last year (2 more than 2010) as political unrest swept the Arab world. 

Reporters Without Borders puts that number at 66; and a tally by Switzerland Press Emblem Campaign says the total is as high as 106.

Photographers and camera operators made up about 40% of the overall death toll and noted an increase in the deaths of Internet journalists - who rarely have appeared in the totals before - with nine killed last year.

(Video of the moment of blast in Somalia yesterday, captured - via The Guardian)

BY  GEOGRAPHY 

Country-by-country, in 2011, Pakistan had the most deaths with seven, while Libya and Iraq followed with five each, and Mexico had three.

So far in 2012, the most hazardous duty ranks are:  Syria- 7, Somalia-3, India-2, Nigeria-2, Thailand-1, Pakistan-1, Brazil-2, Bangladesh-2, Afghanistan-1, Philippines-1

By all accounts approximately 22 journalists have died this year alone.  

They are:

Ali Ahmed Abdi, Radio Galkayo, Puntlandi - 3/4/12 in Galkayo, Somalia

Rajesh Mishra, Media Raj - 3/4/12 in Rewa, India

Abukar Hassan Mohamoud, Somaliweyn Radio - 2/28/12 in Mogadishu, Somalia

Anas al-Tarsha, Freelance - 2/24/12 in Homs, Syria

Rémi Ochlik, Freelance - 2/22/12 in Homs, Syria

Marie Colvin, Sunday Times - 2/22/12 in Homs, Syria

Rami al-Sayed, Freelance - 2/21/12 in Homs, Syria

Mario Randolfo Lopes, Vassouras na Net - 2/9/12 in Barra do Piraí, Brazil

Mazhar Tayyara, Freelance - 2/4/12 in Homs, Syria

Hassan Osman Abdi, Shabelle Media Network - 1/28/12 in Mogadishu, Somalia

Enenche Akogwu, Channels TV - 1/20/12 in Kano, Nigeria

Mukarram Khan Aatif, Freelance - 1/17/12 in Shabqadar, Pakistan

Wisut "Ae" Tangwittayaporn, Inside Phuket - 1/12/12 in Phuket, Thailand

Gilles Jacquier, France 2  - 1/11/12 in Homs, Syria

Samid Khan Bahadarzai, Melma Radio - 2/21/12  in Orgun, Afghanistan

Chandrika Rai, Navbharat, The Hitavada - 2/18/12 in Umaria, India

Paulo Roberto Rodrigues, Jornal Da Praça, Mercosul - 2/12/12 in Ponta Porá, Brazil

Meherun Runi, ATN Bangla Television - 2/1112 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Golam Mustofa Sarowar, Maasranga Television - 2/11/12 in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Nansok Sallah, Highland FM - 1/18/12 in Jos, Nigeria

Christopher Guarin, Radyo Mo Nationwide/Tatak - 1/5/12 in General Santos City, Philippines

Shukri Abu al-Burghul, Al-Thawra/Radio Damascus - 1/3/12 in Damascus, Syria

-- HUMNEWS

Friday
Mar302012

BRICS 4th Meeting: `Non-West, Not Anti-West' (REPORT)  

(Video via IBTIMES)

Top emerging economies, coming under the banner of BRICS, on Thursday criticized the West for financial mismanagement, called for a "merit-based" selection of the next World Bank chief, rued the slow pace of reforms in the International Monetary Fund, declared that dialogue was the only way to a peaceful resolution in Syria and Iran, but failed to go beyond motherhood statements and give the bloc a meaningful push.

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries took baby steps towards facilitating intra-BRICS trade and investment in local currency, but failed to reach any agreement on a BRICS development bank. They signed an agreement to extend credits in local currencies under the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism.

However, the suggestion for a BRICS Development Bank was pushed to a later date, since there were major differences among the members.

Spreading themselves beyond economics, the BRICS members articulated an alternative political vision with regard to current international issues.

(PHOTO: BRICS summit handout of leader photo op; l to r, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff, Russia's Dmitry Medvedev, India's Manmohan Singh, China's Hu Jintao, South Africa's Jacob Zuma) "The views were more non-West, than anti-West", explained an official. While these were mainly broad-brush positions on current events, their importance lay in the fact that five emerging global leaders actually sat across the table to agree on these points.

In a statement at the end of the plenary session, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "The world is passing through uncertain times. The rapid recovery of the BRICS economies from the financial crisis highlighted their role as growth drivers of the global economy. Our cooperation is intended to explore meaningful partnerships for common development, address global challenges together and contribute to furthering world peace, stability and security."

In its Delhi Declaration, BRICS members opposed violence as a way of resolving political crises in other countries. "Global interests would best be served by dealing with the crisis through peaceful means that encourage broad national dialogues..." On Syria, BRICS supported the Arab League and special envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan.

On Iran, they observed, "We recognize Iran's right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue between the parties concerned, including between the IAEA and Iran and in accordance with the provisions of the relevant UN Security Council Resolutions."

The BRICS nations put their might behind Afghanistan, saying it needed "time, development assistance and cooperation, preferential access to world markets, foreign investment and a clear end-state strategy."  Israel was rapped on the knuckles for its settlement policy, but BRICS advocated direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The underlying theme was a repudiation of the western developed countries' approach, without actually getting into the details.

In an action plan, BRICS leaders agreed to meet before United Nations General Assembly meeting every September, much like the Non-Aligned Movement and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meetings; regular gatherings of finance ministers, central bank governors, trade ministers, national security advisers, etc.

(PHOTO: BRICS handout of finance ministers shaking hands in cooperation)But underneath the camaraderie and the determination to strike a different path, serious differences exist. On the economic front, it would be a tussle between India and China, while Russia is pushing the political agenda, particularly on Iran and Syria, where BRICS supported the Russian viewpoint. India and Brazil pushed through their joint pitch for reform of the UN Security Council, which China has not been enthusiastic about, although Russia supports it.

While the BRICS joint statement blamed the Eurozone crisis for the state of the global economy, Indian officials saw this as a way of deflecting criticism of China manipulating its own currency, which also leads to a lot of distortions.

The BRICS development bank too has been kicked down the road, because India still has many reservations. The PM, in fact, preferred to focus on improving the World Bank rather than creating a new institution, as China does.

"We must address the important issue of expanding the capital base of the World Bank and other multinational development banks to enable these institutions to perform their appropriate role in financing infrastructure development," the declaration read.

Indian finance officials see the BRICS Bank idea primarily as a way of legitimizing the use of Chinese currency overseas. Second, they feel that any BRICS bank would essentially be a Chinese bank, because none of the other countries have the financial depth to fuel such an institution. India wants the global financial architecture to change, but at a much slower pace. South Africa supports the Bank, but Brazil cannot, because it already funds the Latin American development bank.

On the election of the next chief of the World Bank, the five countries did not even attempt to find a consensus candidate that could have been an alternative to the Korean-American chosen by the US.

The G20 received a unanimous thumbs-up as a forum for global financial governance and agreed to coordinate positions at the body. Russian president Medvedev said, "We confirmed all agreements on our cooperation in updating the international currency and financial system. One of the goals here is to renovate the IMF. We analyzed the situation in the world economics and came to an agreement on a further coordination of actions within our organization, including preparation for the next G20 summit."

South African president Jacob Zuma made a spirited call for including the development concerns of sub-Saharan Africa in the BRICS development plans. "We feel that Africa is being treated with respect. There is no feeling that people are looking down on our continent."

--- This article first appeared in the Times of India

Related:          BRICS nations stepping up innovation to improve healthcare: Study

Related:          BRICS: Not bound by ‘unilateral’ sanctions on Iran

Related:          BRICS countries call for World Bank Presidency voting review

Related:          Protests outside Hu Jintao's hotel

Sunday
Mar252012

No Nukes? Or More Nukes? As the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Begins (REPORT)  

(PHOTO: Activists attend a rally opposing nuclear power in Seoul March 19, 2012/ChinaDaily)(HN, 3/25/2012) - World leaders including US President Barack Obama Monday will launch the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit a meeting on the threat from nuclear-armed terrorists, but the atomic ambitions of North Korea and Iran are set to feature heavily.

Leaders or senior officials from 53 nations will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, with Interpol, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union and the UN also taking part.

Participating countries, which also gathered at the 1st Washington Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 include:  South Korea, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, USA and Vietnam.

Though not at the summit, next -door, North Korea’s upcoming rocket launch has overshadowed the run-up to the two-day meeting in Seoul, which seeks agreement on locking down fissile material that could be used to build thousands of terrorist bombs.

The nuclear-armed North says its rocket will merely put a peaceful satellite into orbit. The United States and others believe next month’s launch will test a long-range missile which could one day deliver an atomic warhead.

Gary Samore, coordinator for arms control at the US National Security Council, warned that North Korea would face a “strong response” from Washington and its allies if it goes ahead with the launch. “We will be working with other countries, when President Obama is in Seoul, to try to discourage North Korea from going ahead with the proposed satellite launch,” he told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday.

Obama will hold talks on the launch plan and other issues with leaders of China, Russia and host South Korea during his visit.

The IAEA, while worried about nuclear proliferation by North Korea, also suspects that Iran is bent on making nuclear weapons. Iran says its uranium enrichment activities are peaceful.  Neither Iran nor North Korea are on the formal agenda in Seoul. (Source: Wikipedia)

   NPT Nuclear Weapon States (China, France, Russia, UK, US)
   Non-NPT Nuclear Weapon States (India, North Korea, Pakistan)
   Undeclared Nuclear Weapon States (Israel)
   States suspected of having nuclear weapon programs (Iran, Syria)
   NATO weapons sharing weapons recipients
   States formerly possessing nuclear weapons

 

But leaders of five nations involved in stalled nuclear negotiations with the North — the United States, South Korea, China, Russia and Japan — will all be present, offering an opportunity for consultations.

 Pyongyang sees the summit as a chance for Washington and Seoul to gang up on it. Any South Korean move to address the North’s nuclear program at the summit would be seen as a "declaration of war", it said.  

Seoul says the formal event is not about nations but “non-state actors” such as al-Qaeda, Nigeria's Boko-Haram terrorist group, and others groups which it fears could lay their hands on loose nukes as proliferation continues.

(via PressTV)

Obama in a 2009 speech described nuclear terrorism as “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”, and announced a drive to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide within four years, a process which led to the first nuclear security summit in Washington in April 2010.

Since then, according to a joint report by the Washington-based Arms Control Association (ACA) and the Partnership for Global Security (PGS), which campaign against nuclear proliferation, acknowledged major progress since then.

Former Soviet republic Kazakhstan secured over 13 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, while Chile eliminated its entire HEU stockpile, the report said.

The United States and Russia signed a protocol under which each will dispose of 34 tons of plutonium — enough for 17,000 nuclear weapons.

Russia ended plutonium production. Ukraine eliminated two-thirds of its HEU and was expected to dispose of the rest by the Seoul summit.

But experts say much more must be done to end an apocalyptic threat.

“The commitments on the books will not get the job done,” said Michelle Cann of PGS, the report co-author.  “To prevent nuclear terrorism in the years ahead, the global nuclear security system must grow and adapt to new threats,” she said.

“There is a danger that early successes of the summit process will lead to complacency.”

The ACA says there have been 16 confirmed cases of unauthorized possession of HEU or plutonium documented by the IAEA since 1993, mainly in the former Soviet Union.   Alexandra Toma of the Connect US Fund, which promotes nuclear non-proliferation, said a sophisticated extremist group could plausibly take advantage of such lapses.

“It takes only 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of highly enriched uranium to make a crude nuclear bomb” the size of a grapefruit, she told a Seoul forum Thursday.

The summit agenda has been expanded to cover the securing of radioactive material, freely available from hospitals and other sources, which Stanford University expert Siegfried Hecker told the forum Thursday would be the most likely nuclear threat as a “dirty bomb... a weapon of mass disruption” since radiation sources were everywhere.

The meeting will also discuss the link between nuclear security and nuclear safety after Japan’s March 2011 Fukushima disaster.   Experts say the accident showed terrorists could create the same conditions as a tsunami did, by damaging cooling systems and cutting off power.

 -- HUMNEWS. An abbreviated version of this article originally appeared in The Arab Times

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Tuesday
Mar202012

Iraq and the Limits of US Power (COMMENTARY) 

By Paul Mutter

Malaki and Obama 

 “Washington has lost a valuable opportunity to nurture and support a key counterweight to Iranian influence among Shiites in the Arab world,” lament Danielle Pletka and Gary Schmitt of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute in an op-ed for the Washington Post. They subsequently call on the Obama administration to bulk up its already grossly overloaded staff at the gigantic U.S. embassy in Baghdad. But in these few words, the two writers fleshed out a more fundamental concern for hawkish pundits in the Middle East: the fear of a “Shia Crescent” of Iranian-backed regimes in Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus linking the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Indeed, with Iran now able to meddle in Iraq in ways it never could have with Saddam Hussein in power, the country will be more able to contest US-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. The grim irony, notes Ted Galen Carpenter, is that by invading Iraq in 2003, “the United States has paid a terrible cost - some $850 billion and more than 4,400 dead American soldiers – to make Iran the most influential power in Iraq.” Few, if any, of the war’s architects and boosters will now concede this, even as they raise alarm over Iran’s influence in Iraq.

Looking East

But where today’s neoconservatives see an encroaching Iranian Islamist threat in the Middle East, an older guard has reached back to the not-so-distant Cold War past for parallels. Notably, many leading neoconservative lights hold out hope that Iraq can be turned into an Arabian version of postwar South Korea and Japan.

Prominent neoconservatives draw heavily on the memory of America’s seizure of Japanese hegemony in Asia after 1945. The United States worked steadfastly with postwar Japanese and South Korean governments to build the two countries up as buffers to Soviet and Chinese influence during the Cold War — efforts that were, by Washington’s standards at least, quite successful. Despite challenges from a resurgent China, the Pacific Ocean was (and still is) an American lake.

In a 2010 op-ed for the New York Times, leading Iraq war agitator Paul Wolfowitz invoked this history explicitly, treading breezily past US support for authoritarian South Korean regimes. “The United States stuck with South Korea even though the country was then ruled by a dictator and the prospects for its war-devastated economy looked dim,” he wrote. Wolfowitz noted that Iraq’s struggling democracy and central location were not unlike South Korea’s during the Cold War.

However unseemly, there is some truth to Wolfowitz’s recollection. It may be impossible to imagine a fifth column of South Korean agitators helping Pyongyang take over Seoul today, but during the Cold War this was a real concern for the United States. So Washington chose to prop up feudalistic landlords and former Japanese collaborators as Seoul’s ruling class, stiffening South Korea’s sinews against the appeal of the North Korean model with a glut of military and economic support. Today, Japan and South Korea remain firmly within the US fold.

Moreover, these alliances continue despite the brutal wars that spawned them. U.S.-led forces laid waste to the Korean peninsula with saturation bombing in the 1950s, but Washington could always count thereafter on “our men in Seoul.” Japan is an even more extreme case. After several years of firebombing and blockading the country, the United States annihilated two of the Japan’s cities with nuclear weapons. And yet Japan plays host to U.S. troops even today.

Those who fear that the United States “lost Iraq” because Barack Obama went through with the U.S. withdrawal schedule negotiated by President Bush are clearly thinking about longer-term issues of American hegemony (see Mitt Romney’s foreign policy white paper and list of advisors for good examples of this kind of thinking). It's simple logic, really: everything with Iraq keeps coming back to the dual-track policy of containment and rollback the United States has pursued against Iran. Iraq is a vital piece of this strategy; Juan Cole’s map of American bases around Iran is unimpeachable evidence of this.

American neoconservatives may hope that a U.S.-buttressed military-political establishment in Iraq could form a bulwark against a potential “Shia Crescent” led by Iran, just as South Korea and Japan helped stem the red tide spreading through East Asia during the Cold War. They may even have some reason to hope that Iraqis will overlook their resentment over the immensely destructive US war on the country.

Wishful Thinking

Just as in South Korea and Japan, there are Iraqis who see the United States as a partner — or at least as a cash cow that can be milked by exploiting US jitters about Iran. In contrast to most Iraqi politicians, who have been almost uniformly opposed to an ongoing US military presence in Iraq, there are Iraqi military officers who wanted to maintain ties with the US military because they doubted their own forces could keep the peace.

There are always people within a country's security establishment who can be made into agents of American influence. But in Iraq, the United States is confronting a much less homogeneous society than in South Korea or Japan, and it faces a much better equipped rival for hegemonic influence in Iran. As Washington’s influence in Baghdad recedes, Tehran’s hidden hands in Iraq are coming to the fore.

It’s not that Iran doesn’t have its own baggage to contend with in Iraq as it vies with the United States for influence—Iran wasn’t winning Iraqi hearts and minds, after all, when the two countries were busy destroying each other in the 1980s. But a key distinction for Iraqis between that war and the U.S. invasion was that the Iran-Iraq War was launched by their own Saddam Hussein, driving thousands of Iraqi Shia refugees into Iran by the end of the 1980s. By all appearances, America’s war on Iraq was purely voluntary and imposed on Iraqis from the outside. Moreover, Iran has from at least 1982 on been working to build up its own agents of influence in Iraq's security and religious establishments.

Most importantly, an Iraqi alignment with Iran is the result not only of two decades of Iranian intrigue, but also of two decades of US sanctions, war, and occupation. Especially since the US occupation, Iraqis have viewed Iranian machinations in Iraq—and even Iran’s quiet participation in Iraq’s horrific sectarian violence—as just another symptom of a plague brought by the US invasion. 

A Lack of Options

Suppose Obama came into office determined to overturn the withdrawal agreement and keep US troops in Iraq. What tools would he have to force Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to reverse himself in the face of an angry Iraqi public and threats by some Shia groups to take up their arms again if the U.S. military presence continued? What could Obama do to "reclaim the partnership with Maliki," as Danielle Pletka and Gary Schmitt ask?

The answer is surprisingly little, mainly because the US-Iraqi relationship was never a partnership to begin with. It was, from the start, an occupation. The US presence in Iraq – where it tried not just to police the country but at times even had Provincial Reconstruction Teams stand in for civil society – meant that Maliki had little agency of his own. Additionally, holdouts like the Sadrists, Sunni tribal militias, and the Badr Brigades had little reason to lay down their arms; it was fight or collaborate, and they chose to fight.

But ever since the United States enabled Maliki to build his own security forces, electoral bloc, and bureaucracy – and thus achieve an understanding with members of the “insurgency” – he has found other people he can depend on to bolster his rule. He doesn't need US forces to intimidate, capture, or kill people for him; his own people are quite capable of doing that.

Far from being run out of the country after detaining hundreds of former Ba’athist officials this winter, Maliki has apparently managed to use such heavy-handed actions to his advantage. As paper by the neoconservative Institute for the Study of War recently noted, “It is clear that Maliki has come out as the winner . . . He has made it more difficult for his Shia rivals to dissent while simultaneously confining his Sunni opponents in a position suitable for exerting pressure and exploiting divisions within their ranks.” For all of the rampant disunity and criminality of the Iraqi government, its leadership has been able to achieve ever-greater independence from its U.S. backers.  

Most importantly, Iraq has little reason to sully an important relationship with its Iranian neighbor just to please Washington. Moreover, it’s uneasy about having such a long border with a regime change target and has no wish to get involved with the nuclear question that so preoccupies Israel and the United States. “Iraqis," Adil Shamoo notes, "can tell the difference between mutually beneficial programs and those that create the impression that the U.S. is powerful and can do what it wants in Iraq."

Out of Cards

Even "our man in Iraq" Ahmed Chalabi – who swept back into the country by way of Langley, Virginia after a decade of agitating for U.S.-led regime change in exile – wanted the United States out of Iraq because he thought it would be political suicide to keep associating with the country that paid his organization $335,000 a month during the first year of the occupation.

If the United States could not secure gratitude from a man who spent over a decade working with the CIA to overthrow Saddam Hussein, then from whom in Iraq can it call in any favors? Short of sectarian violence reaching the level it did in 2005, gratitude is the only thing that would compel Iraqi officials to reverse course, let U.S. troops back in, and focus their foreign policy efforts on a dual-track policy of rollback and containment against Iran.

Unfortunately for neoconservatives, Iraq is no South Korea or Japan, and “gratitude” seems to be in short supply.

-- Paul Mutter is a fellow at Truthout.org, as well as a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, Mondoweiss, The Arabist, and Salon. He is currently on leave from NYU’s graduate program in journalism and international affairs.  This work by Institute for Policy Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Thursday
Feb232012

The Slide Towards War (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Conn Hallinan

Wars are fought because some people decide it is in their interests to fight them. World War I was not started over the Archduke Ferdinand’s assassination, nor was it triggered by the alliance system. An “incident” may set the stage for war, but no one keeps shooting unless they think it’s a good idea. The Great War started because the countries involved decided they would profit by it, delusional as that conclusion was.

It is useful to keep this idea in mind when trying to figure out whether the United States or Israel will go to war with Iran. In short, what are the interests of the protagonists, and are they important enough for those nations to take the fateful step into the chaos of battle?

Israel’s Political Problem

According to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Iran is building nuclear weapons that pose an “existential” threat to Israel. But virtually no one believes this, including the bulk of Tel Aviv’s military and intelligence communities. As former Israeli Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said recently, Iran “is not an existential” threat to Israel. There is no evidence that Iran is building a bomb, and all its facilities are currently under a 24-hour United Nations inspection regime.

So from a strictly security perspective, Israel has little reason to go to war with Iran. But Israel does have an interest in keeping the Middle East a fragmented place, driven by sectarian divisions and dominated by authoritarian governments and feudal monarchies. If there is one lesson Israel has learned from its former British overlords, it is “divide and conquer.” Among its closest allies were the former dictatorships in Egypt and Tunisia. It now finds itself on the same page as the reactionary monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, and Oman.

Iran is not a military threat to Israel, but it is a political problem: Tel Aviv sees Tehran’s fierce nationalism and independence from the West as a wildcard. Iran is also allied to Israel’s major regional enemy, Syria—with which Israel is still officially at war—as well as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and the Shiite-dominated government in Iraq.

In the Netanyahu government’s analysis, beating up on Iran would weaken Israel’s local enemies at little cost. Tel Aviv’s scenario features a shock-and-awe attack followed by a UN-mandated ceasefire, with a maximum of 500 Israeli casualties. The Iranians have little capacity to strike back, and if they did attack Israeli civilian centers or tried to close the Strait of Hormuz, it would bring in the Americans.

Of course, that rose-colored scenario is little more than wishful thinking. Iran is not likely to agree to a rapid ceasefire; it fought for eight long years against Iraq, and war has a habit of derailing the best-laid plans. A war between Israel and Iran would be long and bloody and might well spread to the entire region.

Iran’s leaders dispense a lot of bombast about punishing Israel if it attacks, but in the short run there is not a lot they could do, particularly given the red lines Washington has drawn. The Iranian air force is obsolete, and the Israelis have the technology to blank out most of Tehran’s radar and anti-aircraft sites. Iran could do little to stop Tel Aviv’s mixture of air attacks, submarine-fired cruise missiles, and Jericho ballistic missiles.

The United States and Its Allies

For all its talk about how “all options are on the table,” the Obama administration appears to be trying to avoid a war. But with the 2012 elections looming, could Washington remain on the sidelines? Polls indicate that Americans would not look with favor on a new Middle East war, but a united front of Republicans, neoconservatives, and the American Israeli Political Action Committee is pressing for a confrontation with Iran.

Israeli sources suggest that Netanyahu may calculate that an election-season Israeli attack might force the Obama administration to back a war and/or damage Obama’s re-election chances. It is no secret that there is no love lost between the two leaders.

But the United States also has a dog in this fight. American hostility to Iran dates back to Tehran’s seizure of its oil assets from Britain in 1951. The CIA helped overthrow the democratically elected Iranian government in 1953 and install the dictatorial Shah. The United States also backed Saddam Hussein’s war on Iran, has had a longstanding antagonistic relationship with Syria, and will not talk with Hezbollah or Hamas. Tel Aviv’s local enemies are Washington’s local enemies.

When the Gulf monarchs formed the GCC in 1981, its primary purpose was to oppose Iranian influence in the Middle East. Using religious division as a wedge, the GCC has encouraged Sunni fundamentalists to fight Shiites in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria, and largely blocked the spread of the “Arab Spring” to its own turf. When Shiites in Bahrain began protesting over a lack of democracy and low wages, the GCC invaded and crushed the demonstrations. The GCC does not see eye-to-eye with the United States and Israel on the Palestinians—although it is careful not to annoy Washington and Tel Aviv—but the GCC is on the same page as both capitals concerning Syria, Lebanon, and Iran.

The European Union (EU) has joined the sanctions, although France andGermany have explicitly rejected the use of force. Motivations in the EU range from France’s desire to reclaim its former influence in Lebanon to Europe’s need to keep its finger on the world’s energy jugular.

Setting the Stage for Tragedy

In brief, it isn’t all about oil and gas, but a whole lot of it is — and, as CounterPunch’s Alexander Cockburn points out, oil companies would like to see production cut and prices rise. Another war in the Persian Gulf would accomplish both.

Iran will be the victim here, but elements within the regime will take advantage of any war to consolidate their power. An attack would unify the country around what is now a rather unpopular government. It would allow the Revolutionary Guard to crush its opposition and give cover to the Ahmadinejad government’s drive to cut subsidies for transportation, housing, and food. A war would cement the power of the most reactionary elements of the current regime.

There are other actors in this drama—China, Russia, India, Turkey, and Pakistan for starters, none of whom supports a war—but whether they can influence events is an open question. In the end, Israel may just decide that its interests are best served by starting a war and that the United States will go along.

Or maybe this is all sound and fury signifying nothing?

Israel, the West, and the Gulf Cooperation Council share many of the same interests. Unfortunately, they also share the belief that force is an effective way to achieve one’s goals.

On such illusions are tragedies built.

Conn Hallinan is a columnist with Foreign Policy In Focus. His work can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries@wordpress.com

Originally published  by Institute for Policy Studies licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

Saturday
Feb042012

Teapots, Nukes and the IAEA (COMMENTARY) 

By Imran Garda 

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran would not yield to the pressure of sanctions imposed by the West. [AFP]

A few months ago I had an email exchange with the former Deputy Director General of The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Bruno Pellaud. 

I had intended to weave this interview with the Swiss physicist into a larger report, but that didn't materialise. With IAEA inspectors recently concluding a trip to Iran and western powers still seemingly convinced that Iran is developing a bomb (watching the Republican Presidential Debates in the US you'd be forgiven for thinking they already have a nuclear arsenal and war is imminent); and with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists plus fears that Iran may cut off the Straits of Hormuz in response to economic blockade - anxiety and tensions are escalating from multiple directions. This is why I felt this interview was too good to waste, because understanding some of the nuclear aspects of this standoff may be helpful, however overwhelmed they may be by the politics.

I began by highlighting to Mr Pellaud that, because the burden of proof was on the accusers and not the accused, Iran's accusers had reminded me of Bertrand Russell's teapot theory. Russell wrote: 

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense.

So why should Iran have to prove that it doesn't want a nuclear weapon? Why isn't it up to its accusers to prove their claim? And are we seeing a situation that could be resolved peacefully if there was the appetite for it from all parties, be it not for a global game of chicken, of poker-faces and hurt feelings? 

Here's an excerpt of the exchange:

IG: Is it actually possible for a nation to categorically prove that a nuclear programme is peaceful?

BP: Not in absolute terms. For sure, Bertrand Russell's teapot theory applies here also - on the impossibility of the accused party proving a negative, and the shifting of the burden of proof from the accuser to the accused.  Or of demonstrating the absence of a needle in a stack of hay.

Nonetheless, circumstantial evidence provided in full transparency will help the State to come pretty close to a solid proof. Firstly, through the absence of suspicious activities which do not belong by nature to a peaceful programme (e.g.  working on uranium in metallic form). Secondly, by being outright forthcoming, by offering more information and access than requested by inspectors. 

The accumulation of circumstantial evidence over the scope of activities, over the full extent of the country and over time put gradually the State in a position to prove the point categorically.

IG: What do you make of President Obama's claim that Iran is the only member of the NPT who has not been able to demonstrate that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes?

BP: Be it only for Russell’s teapot theory, this formulation is patently wrong. Some other countries haverecently been named rightly or wrongly in this connection: Myanmar and Venezuela in particular. Some countries have in the past engaged in non-peaceful activities – e.g. South Africa, Argentina and Brazil. Did those countries provide an iron-clad demonstration that they have renounced? I think so, but others may still believe differently - in the name of the “absolute truth” and of a more categorical proof.

President Obama should have said “that Iran is the only member of the NPT who denies to the IAEA the information and the access to facilities that would enable the IAEA to verify that its nuclear programme is exclusively for peaceful purposes”. Take note: “…the IAEA to verify”, not to ascertain, not to prove categorically. The obligation for the accused is to allow the accuser to do an appropriate verification job.

In Iran, the refusals to respond to IAEA’s requests and the systematic attempts to conceal information have marked the relationship with the IAEA since the early nineties. Accepted by the highest officials of the Islamic Republic in 2003, the obligation to provide early information to the IAEA about new facilities has been contested by Iran since 2007 with fallacious legal arguments (an obligation that has been accepted by all other States). Furthermore, Iran refuses to join the more than 100 countries that open the doors to any relevant facility that the IAEA may wish to inspect. Hiding activities and facilities goes counter to proving categorically that the programme is peaceful.

One example.  And one counter example. In late 1993, South Africa “demonstrated” that its nuclear programme had been dismantled by granting the IAEA full access to all corners of the former programme. Comparing that with a huge tree, the IAEA verified at random a large number of branched activities (not all) – walking up the trunk, the branches, the twigs and then to the leaves, with the complete help of all the South Africans met by inspectors. On this account, the IAEA Director General Hans Blix concluded - with a very high degree of confidence - that South Africa had fulfilled its commitment. In early 2003, Hans Blix concluded that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction left, after conducting a vast verification campaign during which the Iraqis tried systematically to deny access, to refuse information, to hide people and facilities, to lie about minor things and to mislead the inspectors - AS IF they had much to hide. Among other things, this behaviour led the Americans to believe wrongly that Hans Blix was wrong…

- Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 

Tuesday
Jan312012

Amidst diplomatic tensions, UK Royal Navy plans to send warship to Falklands (AKA the Malvinas)  

(PHOTO: Foreign UK Secretary William Hague & the UK Dauntless/TELEGRAPH) One of the UK Royal Navy’s most powerful new warships, the HMS Dauntless, is to be sent to patrol the South Atlantic including the Falkland Islands (AKA the Malvinas Islands) after the latest diplomatic tensions between Buenos Aires and London, the UK's Royal Navy Senior Press Officer confirmed to the BuenosAiresHerald.com.

The HMS Dauntless will be deployed on her maiden mission to the South Atlantic at the end of March, just days before the 30th anniversary of the Malvinas War. Sister ship HMS Daring has already been sent to the Gulf for her first mission amid heightened tensions with Iran over threats by Tehran to block a busy shipping lane.

However the British Ministry of Defence has said the deployment was long planned to replace frigate HMS Montrose and not a riposte to increased tensions over the sovereignty of the islands.

"The Royal Navy has had a continuous presence in the South Atlantic for many years. The deployment of HMS DAUNTLESS to the South Atlantic has been long planned, is entirely routine and replaces another ship on patrol," UK's Royal Navy Senior Press Office Simon Smith stressed.

Although the spokesman rejected suggestions the decision to send the ultra-modern destroyer to the region represented an escalation of the UK's position, the sending comes amid a diplomatic war of words over renewed Argentine claims of sovereignty, and with UK Prime Minister David Cameron accusing Argentina of "colonialism".

With crews of 180, the HMS Dauntless is part of the new 45s type vessels the Royal Navy is to deploy on international waters.

It was built with a futuristic design that makes it difficult to detect using radar. It is armed with high-tech Sea Viper anti-air missiles and can carry 60 troops.
 
They also have a large flight deck which can accommodate helicopters the size of a Chinook as well as take on board 700 people in the case of a civilian evacuation.

---This article originally appeared in the 1/31/12 edition of the Buenos Aires Herald.

Sunday
Jan152012

(UPDATED) International Films at Tonight's Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Golden Globe Awards

(PHOTO: Ricky Gervais, JUST JARED) Tonight in Hollywood, the 69th annual Golden Globe awards put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) will take place.  Hosted, as it has been for the past three years, British comedian Ricky Gervais will be back even though in his past appearances he has caused controversy by taking aim at Mel Gibson and Sir Paul McCartney in 2010; and again in 2011 when he openly questioned the sexuality of "some famous Scientologists" before revisiting the troubled past of actor Robert Downey Jr.

Gervais has tweeted about his Globes game plan in the days leading up to the show: "I keep having to write new jokes as I pick my victims, I mean targets, I mean presenters to introduce. Some great people have confirmed." He even told Twitter followers that he'll be drinking lager, ad-libbing and speaking his mind.

The HFPA origins stem from a group of journalists' desire “to efficiently and accurately cover all aspects of the world of entertainment”.  According to the group’s website, “today's organization has its roots in the early 1940s when Pearl Harbor had drawn America into World War II. Audiences, hungry for diversion, were seeking out films offering escape, inspiration and entertainment.  Amid the turmoil of war and the difficulties with communications, a handful of Los Angeles-based overseas journalists banded together to share contacts, information and material.”

   

(Ricky Gervais 2011 Golden Globe Opening Monologue, Courtesy Golden Globe Awards)

In 1943 the journalists, led by the correspondent for Britain's Daily Mail, formed the HFPA and conceived the motto “Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race.”  The group’s first special event was a luncheon in December 1947, at which a plaque was awarded to Harry M. Warner, president of Warner Bros., in recognition of his humanitarian work as the principal sponsor of the “Friendship Train,” which left Hollywood with food, clothing and medical supplies for the needy of Europe.

 

(THE FLOWER OF WAR, CHINA)

During its early years the HFPA established itself with the studios by innovations such as its World Favorites awards, which it came up with by polling more than 900 newspapers, magazines and radio stations around the world. The group also came up with the idea of "bon voyage" interview lunches with actors and actresses who were leaving to make films in countries represented by the members.

At first awards were only given for films, but in 1955 the Golden Globes began honoring achievements in television too. Today, the Golden Globes recognize achievements in 25 categories; 14 in motion pictures and 11 in television. Dick Clark Productions has produced the Golden Globes ceremony since 1983. 

 

(THE KID WITH A BIKE, BELGIUM)

Today the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association represent some 55 countries with a combined readership of more than 250 million. Their publications include leading newspapers and magazines in Europe, Asia, Australasia and Latin America, ranging from the Daily Telegraph in England to Le Figaro in France, L'Espresso in Italy and Vogue in Germany as well as the China Times and the pan-Arabic magazine Kul Al Osra.

However, despite the group’s international beginnings, only one of the twenty six categories for awards features `International Films”.  This year from China, Belgium, Iran, Spain and the United States.

The Flowers Of War (China) features Christian Bale and Ni Ni tells the story of a Westerner who finds refuge with a group of women in a church during Japan's rape of Nanking in 1937. Posing as a priest, he attempts to lead the women to safety.

 

(A SEPARATION, IRAN)

The Kid With A Bike (Belgium) directed by brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, starring Cécile de France and Thomas Doret.  Set in Seraing, it tells the story of an 11-year-old boy who turns to a woman after his father has abandoned him. The film was produced through companies in Belgium, France and Italy.

A Separation (Iran) tells the story of a married couple who are faced with a difficult decision, to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimers. The film stars Peyman Moadi, Leila Hatami and Sareh Bayat.

 

(THE SKIN I LIVE IN, SPAIN)

The Skin I Live In (Spain) features the story of a brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, who creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession. The film stars Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya and Jan Cornet.

And Angelina Jolie’s recently released film In The Land Of Blood And Honey (United States) which tells a story which took place during the Bosnian War, in which Danijel, a soldier fighting for the Serbs, re-encounters Ajla, a Bosnian who's now a captive in his camp he oversees. Their once promising connection has become ambiguous as their motives have changed.  Directed and written by Jolie the film stars Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic and Rade Serbedzija.

The 68th Golden Globes will be seen LIVE around the world on local broadcasters from Brazil to Botswana to Bahrain and beyond.

---HUMNEWS

Wednesday
Jan112012

THE HUM - WORLD HEADLINES - JANUARY 11, 2012

(PHOTO: Queen Beatrix, Prince Willem-Alexander; Princess Maxima of the Netherlands visit the Sheikh Al Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE, 8 January 2012. Patrick van Katwijk) Afghanistan 

A rare sign of hope in Afghanistan

Afghanistan signs oil contract with Chinese giant

Antigua & Barbuda 

Lovell Says No Early Elections

Argentina 

Little relief in sight for Argentina due to climate

American Samoa 

Hospital woes top American Samoa legislature agenda

Australia

Council struggles to lure more doctors-town's only doctor threatens to leave

Reports of doctors blaming Australian women's behaviour for rupturing breast implants

Bahrain 

Bahrain Court Cases Resume For Doctors, Anti-Government Protesters

(PHOTO: In Venezuela a jail riot leaves 5 people dead. EPA)Belarus

Belarus Erects New Online Barriers

Belarusian Activist, Journalist Jailed

Belgium

Belgium Satellite Services and Intersat Announce Strategic Tie-in to Expand into the Middle East and Africa (Press Release)

Belize

Wholesale vendors get their own market

Bolivia

More than 85% of Bolivia's bilateral debt is held by Venezuela

Indigenous People in Bolivia Resume March for Tipnis

Bosnia-Herzegovinia

Witness in Karadzic trial describes killing of 1,000 Muslims

(PHOTO: Islam and Christianity - Young Muslims, many from Somalia, walk the streets of Nairobi’s Eastleigh neighborhood near the meeting place of a Church of Christ. ERIK TRYGGESTAD)Botswana

'Loop' usage by women explodes - Ministry of Health

Brazil

Southern Brazil's Drought Dings Corn, Threatens Beans

Brunei Darussalam

Brunei Prince on official visit to Sinpagore 

Cameroon

Cameroonians returning to Nature’s packaging

Canada

Canada welcomes Cuban reforms on eve of tour by Harper's Latin America minister

Under 16 too young for snowmobiles, doctors say (Video)

China

China, US to Discuss Iran, Trade Imbalance

China's Wen to visit key Mideast energy powers, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates & Qatar this weekend

How the West is wholly missing China's geopolitical focus (Perspective)

Colombia

Bolivian crowned Colombia's new Coffee Queen

Congo (DRC)

(PHOTO: The three-part documentary “Fleeing Carthage” recounts the dramatic moments that led to the ouster of former Tunisian president Zine El Abedine Ben Ali. AL ARABIYA) Jillian Michaels: I’ve Been Matched with a Little Girl

Croatia

Croatia gets third biggest private hospital in Europe

Cuba

Fidel Castro’s Reflections: The Best President For The United States (Is a Quantum Computing Robot)

US satisfied with Cuban oil platform safety in Gulf of Mexico  

Ten years of Guantanamo - and no end in sight (Perspective)

Cyprus

Doctors in court for Legionnaires’ baby deaths

Dominican Republic

Haiti president prioritizes balance in Hispaniola 

Egypt

Egypt presents food and logistic assistance to Djibouti

El Salvador

Election Campaign Starts in El Salvador

UN investigator who revealed Iran's "Baha'i Question" memorandum dies aged 93

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea President Makes Visit To Zimbabwe

(PHOTO: Fidel Castro offers his idea of a US Presidential pick. GIZMODO) Estonia

Estonia Foreign Minister to Visit Tajikistan

Ethiopia

Diageo buys Ethiopian brewer Meta Abo for £146m

Falkland Islands

Malvinas recovery for Argentina must become a “Chilean cause”, says former minister

Fiji

Russia’s Lavrov expected in Fiji next month

Extra hours for doctors

Finland

Putting foreign doctors to work (Perspective)

Germany

Hospital doctors ready to strike for better pay

Grenada

Grenada "days away" from national strike

Grenada PM among attendees at Toronto man's funeral

Guatemala

Guatemalans' STD lawsuit invalid, U.S. argue

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau opposition reject interim president 

Haiti

President Declares January 12th 2012 National Holiday

India

(PHOTO: Polar Bear Clubs in Uzbekistan shut down. RFE) Sailors back home after 11 months in captivity

U.S. Shelves H-1B Visa Talks With India

Thailand PM to be India's chief guest at Republic day parade 

Three fake doctors arrested

Over 350 doctors attend medical meet

Kore wins at Chennai Open chess to join leaders

Indonesia

Doctors turn away bird flu victim

Third Man Dies From Bird Flu in Indonesia

(PHOTO: In Indonesia, Xia Aimei’ tells the story of a Chinese girl’s escape from sexual slavery in Jakarta. Falcon Pictures) Jakarta’s Dark Underbelly, Through Foreign Eyes (Film)

Iran

Iranian nuke scientist killed by magnetic bomb

163 Iranian nationals held in Thailand’s prisons

Iraq

Fallujah babies: Under a new kind of siege (Video)  

Ireland

Minister for Children travels to Vietnam for adoption talks

System of recruiting foreign doctors defended

Irish Minister in UAE business talks

Israel

Israel, Cyprus sign defense agreements - reports

Ivory Coast

France 24:  First-ever video proof documenting murder of suspected Gbagbo militants (Video)

Japan

First Korean member in Japan's Cabinet

Bulk of tsunami debris from Japan expected in 2013; multiple fields of wreckage reported in Pacific Ocean 

Kenya

Al Shabaab sold Doctors Without Borders hostages to pirates?

Fear and faith: As Kenya battles terrorists, church looks to take the Gospel to its increasingly Muslim neighborhood

(PHOTO: In Nairobi, he African Heritage House overlooking the great, still plain of Nairobi National Park, is both a trove of a continent’s aesthetic richness & a mausoleum of its extinct wonders. KUWAIT TIMES)Keeper of Africa’s lost art

Kosovo

Women in Politics, Women in Public Service: Kosovo has the youngest female President in the world

Kuwait

Kuwaiti Amir Receives Letter from Tunisian President

Kuwait’s students to solve world’s problems using Microsoft technology

Kyrgyzstan

Turkey first official trip abroad for Kyrgyz leader

Human right defender Azimzhan Askarov goes on termless hunger strike in Kyrgyzstan

Laos

Lao leader urges stronger relations with Vietnam

Laos upgrades golf course to economic zone  

Liberia

$24.9 Million IFAD Loan to Liberia to Revitalize Cocoa and Coffee Production Sectors

China Promises More Support for Educational Sector

(PHOTO: In Pakistan, Bill Gates offers to help with Microsoft prodigy's healthcare costs. MICROSOFT) Libya

Zambia reneges on Libya’s LAP Green Network deal

Madagascar

Madagascar: the challenge of child-friendly schools

Malawi

Malawi judicial strike shuts down courts

Shake-up at Reserve Bank of Malawi

Malaysia

Kazakhstan Keen On More Trade With Malaysia In Promising Sectors

Mexico

Guatemalan refugees cleared out of camp in Mexico, NGOs say

Mongolia

Mongolian music conquers the world 

Morocco

Maroc Telecom begins Morocco-Spain cable laying

Namibia

Namibia Lose Legal Battle to Oust Burkina Faso from Africa Cup of Nations

New Zealand

Machine turns doctors into surgeons

Doctors face tighter rules in bid for recertification

(PHOTO: Iconic photo taken June 8, 1972, shows Kim Phuc, running down a road near Trang Bang after a South Vietnamese Air Force napalm attack. Phuc will be at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara, California 1/19. Nick Ut/AP)Nicaragua

Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega begins new presidential term

Ahmadinejad travels to Nicaragua after defending Iran’s nuclear program in Venezuela

Nigeria

Finding Solution to Clashes Between Herdsmen and Farmers

Doctors take medicare to protest ground in Lagos

Pakistan

Dr. Jamal’s killing in Peshawar:  Provincial Doctors Association protest enters second of three day strike

Doctors trying their best to save Pakistani Microsoft child prodigy

Bill Gates offers to bear Aarifa’s medical expenses in US

Ready to rule Pakistan again: Pervez Musharraf (Video)  

Peru

Peru fire leaves hundreds homeless (Video)

Philippines

'It's not fun in Switzerland' (or why new Philippines DOT slogan works)

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico governor approves proposed referendum on cutting size of island legislature

(PHOTO: Rahul Puranic, Indian crew member of hijacked Italian oil tanker Savina Caylyn is greeted by his 4 yr-old daughter & wife on his arrival at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai on Tuesday. Vivek Bendre)Qatar

Royal Princess of Thailand tours Qatar Foundation

Russia

Venezuela: Country of Great social missions (Perspective)

Rwanda

“We Are At a Critical Moment in our Economy” says private sector

Samoa

Samoa and the question of Tokelau 

Saudi Arabia

Turkey: 6-year Ban Lifted On Exports Of Poultry Products To Saudi Arabia

Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone set to deregulate international telecom gateway

Rebranding Sierra Leone: The Nation’s Saving Grace

Somalia

TV journalist held without charge in Somaliland

South Africa

Giant Footprint of God Video

Suriname

Suriname President Mr Bouterse wrong choice for Caricom chairman (Perspective)

Swaziland

Lack of bandwidth causes problems for MTN 3G network

Over 34,000 Swazi men circumcised

HIV+patients in a dilemma

Woman accused of poisoning in-laws

Switzerland

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is in Geneva, Switzerland Today for a Fundraiser

Occupy the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (Perspective)

Syria

United States awaits new draft resolution on Syria from Russia at UN

(PHOTO: Syrian Art Exhibition showcasing art from the uprising opens at the British Museum) British Museum showcases Syrian artists’ take on art, politics and brutality

Observing the Observers (Perspective)

Taiwan

Nuclear power a key issue for Taiwan polls

Taiwan needs to step up electoral reforms: foreign observers

Young Taiwan Voters Concerned about Economy (Video)

Beijing takes Taiwan off watch list after food scare

Taiwan's investment environment 3rd in world: BERI

Snarky Tofu Rob Schneider Love’s Taiwan

Joseph Ambro

Tajikistan

Uzbekistan Cuts Gas Supplies to Tajikistan

Tajikistan Considers Iran as Strategic Partner

Tanzania

Rural telecom market holds the key to growth in Tanzania

48 Tanzanian Microfinance Institutions Adopt Code of Conduct

Regional Commissioner underlines Dar, Beijing bilateral ties

Iran, Tanzania sign cultural cooperation agreement

(PHOTO: Funny man US Comedian Rob Schneiders stumps for Taiwan. Joseph Ambro)Thailand

Thailand's 32 provinces declared cold disaster zones, say officials

Active year ahead for Thai bonds

Chinese brewers Tsingtao to open plant in Thailand

The Netherlands

Khat banned in the Netherlands

Togo

Fuel crisis in Togo?

Tobacco taxes up in Togo

Tokelau

Phishing economy: Why tiny Tokelau is 3rd largest country domain

Tonga

Tonga's king blocks arms amendment act

Tonga police seek three men over armed robbery

Apple CEO Tim Cook Made More Than Twitter Last Year and tied the GDP for Tonga

Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad and Tobago PM to visit Kolkata

Tunisia 

Another Tunisian dies of self-immolation in employment protest, 1 year after Ben Ali ouster after a fruit-seller's self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring 

Prime Minister's New Media Appointments Cause Controversy

Tunisia - FM meets German counterpart

Tunisia joins UN Democracy Fund

(PHOTO: Tunisian singer Amani Al Suwaisi who was attacked in Tunisia. Albawaba)Singer Amani Al Suwaisi assaulted in the streets of Tunisia

Al Arabiya’s ‘Fleeing Carthage’ recounts last hours of former Tunisian regime

Turks and Caicos

Turks and Caicos Government Appoints Five New Permanent Secretaries

Turkey

Turkey angry after Danish court leaves Kurd TV on air

Imprisoned journalists publish own newspaper

Turkey vows to thwart Syrian civil war

Turkey will continue to impose its 8-point sanctions against France – Turkish PM 

Tunisian FM Abdessalam to visit Turkey 

Turkmenistan

Incumbent President Vows To Make Turkmenistan 'Industrial Power'

Turkmen Schoolteacher Says Presidential Candidacy Rejected

Empty TV broadcast centre

Tuvalu

As Tuvalu Readies for King Tide Season, a Swell is an Unwelcome Harbinger

Uganda

Uganda: Police Shut Down Three More Broadcast Stations

Ugandan journalist committed to High Court for treason

Officials Meet On Food Insecurity

Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) To Strike over Interest Rates

Uganda is left with fewer than 5000 doctors and no strategic plan to retain them

Male Organ Size: Homosexuality, Economy and Uganda's Domestic Relations Bill (Perspective)

Ukraine

Ukraine mulling revision of tariffs for some goods with WTO

Ukraine angered by Russia’s Onishchenko remarks over quality of produce

Expert: UAH 40-50Billion needed for development of agricultural market in 2012

(PHOTO: Chinese brewers Tsingtao to open plant in Thailand. TSINGTAO) Ukraine continues healthcare reform

Ukraine to start commercial production of shale gas by 2015

Implementation of innovative technologies starts in Ukrainian schools

United Arab Emirates

Dubai announces solar park for clean energy

UAE clarifies citizenship rules for children of naturalized Emiratis

UAE second top performing economy in Arab world

Emirates in expansion mode

UAE banks may refinance rather than repay debt

Queen Beatrix, princess Maxima put on headscarf for mosque visit

UAE: Dutch Queen Tours Jebel Ali Port

Man arrested with 5kg of crystal meth in hotel room

Parents urged to use car seats for children

Start-up hopes to help UAE businesses lost in translation

Used computers from Emirates Post to be refurbished for underprivileged

Abu Dhabi blasts rumours it is to axe UAE horror film

(PHOTO: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at Abu Dhabi, UAE. Mohan Padmanabhan THE HINDU)Taj of the Abu Dhabi — It doesn’t get grander than this

United Kingdom

New 101 police number rolled out

UK To Grant Scotland Binding Independence Vote

Scottish supermarkets should be banned from selling alcohol, says top doctor

UK Recommends Two Drink-Free Days Per Week

Study: UK Nurses Lack Compassion, Skills

Intel exploring ways to help Stephen Hawking speak

British Embassy in Vietnam hoists Olympic flag

Most U.K consumers go online to buy holiday gifts

UK's Two Main Political Parties Back GMOs And The US Agenda

Migration IS killing off jobs: 160,000 Britons have missed out on employment because work was taken by foreigners (Perspective)

United States

Iranian-American death sentence confirmed: US

Fannie Mae CEO to resign

Middle TN doctors, researchers, activists pursue the end of AIDS

US Seriously Concerned Over Tibetan Self-Immolations

US probes alleged hacking by India spy unit

(PHOTO: British Ambassador Antony Stokes & Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports & Tourism Ho Anh Tuan at the flag hoisting ceremony in Vietnam. Vietnam Net) Hollywood's Tunisian Film Festival marks Arab Spring anniversary

University of Wyoming Offers Reduced Tuition to Tunisian Students

Social media and the US presidential race (VIDEO)

US firm KKR seeks to bond with Pacific Brands

A New Race of Mercy to Nome, This Time Without Sled Dogs

Uruguay

New Records Set by Heatwave in Uruguay

Uruguay Increases Minimum Wage Next Year

Uzbekistan

Uzbek Fun Police Shut Down Winter Swimming Club

Vanuatu

Vanuatu joins the World Trade Organization

Vanuatu sets up fish processing plant in joint venture with China

Vanuatu Government to establish new industrial zone

Concern over infant formula use in Vanuatu

(PHOTO: Transparency Vanuatu says payments based on aid funds should be made public. Phillip Capper]Spotlight on Vanuatu's ambassadors over aid deals

Vanuatu government profile

Vanuatu Roving Ambassadors Contract Leaked

Vanuatu women's soccer coaches learn the ropes

Vatican City

Vatican receives final report on US women religious lives 

Venezuela

Venezuela closes chapter on compensation to Exxon Mobil

5 dead in Venezuela jail riot

Vietnam

Vietnam prepares to better protect its S. China Sea claims

Vietnam police confiscate wild tiger carcass from Hanoi restaurant where it was being boiled

Vietnam women with massive tumors recover after surgeries 

Made in Vietnam wind towers face anti-dumping lawsuit

Vietnam's First Weapon Museum Opens To Public

Vietnam trial begins of teen accused of killing to play video games

Inside The Vietnam ETF (VNM) - Leveraged ETFs

City of Hanoi Selects Echelon and ElcomTek to Deploy Vietnam's First Smart City Street Light Control System

Vietnam Napalm Survivor Kim Phuc to Speak at Lobero Theatre, Santa Barbara, California

Western Sahara

US Congressional Action Spurs State Dept to Break Western Sahara Deadlock (Perspective)

Yemen

Yemen’s Government Approves Expanded Amnesty Deal for Saleh

Explosion stops output at small Yemen oil field

Yemen unearths Paleolithic sites

Institution Revolution Expanding in Yemen

Zambia

Zambia: Former Diplomat Calls on West to Engage Iran Through IAEA

State to open up airwaves for private investment

Cabinet to meet over Online publications

China buy vehicles for Zambia

U.S Calls for More Grant Applications

Africard arrives in Zambia #payments

MTN goes green in Zambia

Zimbabwe

India to offer Zimbabwe $100m credit

Zimbabwe teachers strike for more pay

(PHOTO: Infectious: More than 165 wild animals including 88 hippopotamuses have died amid an outbreak of anthrax in Zimbabwe. DAILY MAIL) Anthrax outbreak claims lives of more than 165 wild animals in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Utility Moves to Expand Pre-Paid Consumer Meter Program

Chinese have become unwelcome guests in Zimbabwe because of bad labour practices (Perspective)

WORLD:

Battle set for internet domain names

Meet the Heroic Women Who Sparked the Arab Spring 

UN Ratifies Zero Tolerance for Blue Helmets

Why Latin America Calls on Philosophers (Perspective)

At the Crossroads of Sustainability: A Conversation with Bill Ryerson

A Solar Solution for Africa’s Mobile Problem

SA assumes UN Security Council presidency; Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan and Togo start two-year terms on the council

(PHOTO: Meet the heroic women of the Arab Spring. PALESTINE NOTES)

Monday
Jan092012

'Iran Has The Technology To Develop Nuclear Devices' (INTERVIEW) 

(PHOTO: Rafael Grossi is Assistant Director General at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency. NPSGLOBAL.ORG) 

An interview with IAEA’s assistant director general, by the Buenos Aires Herald's reporter Carolina Barros as Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad facing new sanctions over his nation's suspect nuclear program, arrived in Venezuela on Sunday to meet with President Hugo Chavez.  The trip will be five-days aimed at shoring up ties in Latin America and will also take him to Nicaragua where he’ll attend the inauguration of re-elected President Daniel Ortega, and on to Ecuador and Cuba.

Rafael Grossi is an Argentine career diplomat, who has specialized in nuclear issues since the 1980s. “Borrowed” from the Argentine Foreign Ministry, Grossi is Assistant Director General at the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the nuclear agency reporting to the UN Security Council. He is also Chief of Cabinet for Yuyika Amano, IAEA’s Director General. Relaxed and self-assured, Grossi has deep knowledge of Iran’s nuclear development and facilities, which at the moment are in the spotlight for allegedly being expanded to nuclear weapons. While on a short visit to Buenos Aires, Grossi gave an exclusive interview to the Buenos Aires Herald and straightforwardly spoke about the current tensions generated by Iran in the Middle East and the Western world.

Q: How serious is the Iran situation?

Rafael Grossi: In the global context of nuclear weapons proliferation, Iran, when compared with Syria or North Korea, is the most urgent issue and of the most immediate concern. The fact that Tehran has an institutional relationship with the agency (IAEA), signed the Non-Proliferation Nuclear Treaty and stays within the international system in terms of non-proliferation rules is a very important issue. Independently, there are controversies in terms of the degree to which Iran complies with these norms.

Q: Iran insists that its nuclear programme does not have military designs. Is this true?

RG: In public statements, Iran has said and repeated that its nuclear programme is absolutely peaceful, and that it is willing to prove it is and keep its doors open to IAEA inspectors. This demonstrates the importance of our work, as we are the only international presence within Iran that is allowed to get inside nuclear installations. This must be kept and maintained, as a starting point. Beyond the inspections, Iran has not totally complied with the norms in terms of agreements regarding to safeguards, as well as the Additional Protocol, which it pledged to comply with but later decided not to. In other words, Iran has attempted to move forward in terms of transparency several times and later changed its mind.

Q: In November 2011, the IAEA released a strongly-worded document about Iran ’s nuclear development, which led to US sanctions and maybe later EU sanctions. Would this be an ultimatum for an Iran that could have already developed a nuclear weapon?

RG: In 2009, Western intelligence services revealed that uranium was being enriched in a facility in Qom to a greater degree than permitted. This led Iran to rapidly “recognize” the existence of these installations to the IAEA. The November 2011 document, on the other hand, is a list of possible military dimensions (PMD) in its programme. This has nothing to do with enrichment, heavy water, or what happens in known installations, where Iran is undergoing uranium enrichment activities that it should not be doing and which Security Council resolutions have called on the country to suspend (resolutions ignored by Iran until now). The problems revealed by the latest report focus on development and technology directly linked to nuclear weapons.

Q: Specifically, what sort of development is being discussed?

RG: Activities linked to the development of an explosive nuclear device. In the report we focus on the research and development of detonators, primers, the use of uranium in a metallic state, and the nuclear testing and technology. These are all aspects and activities that are solely linked to the development of nuclear weaponry devices.

Q:  Is there time to interrupt this process? Are there actually more than three bombs under development, as is suspected?

RG: We are not saying that Iran has one, two or three nuclear devices: we are saying that Iran has, at different stages of development, technology that is directly linked to the development of a nuclear device. With this report, we have proved to the international community that the issue is not the “possible military dimensions within the Iranian nuclear programme,” as the agency has said up to now. The November report reveals the “list” of what we have been discussing up to now. It is a portion of the information that we have regarding 12 technological lines. We want to clarify what the Iran situation is but, as an agency, we cannot speculate about the real situation.

Q:  Yourself and other IAEA directors are going to Iran at the end of the month. What are your expectations?

RG: Beyond grandiose statements, Iran has not shut down relations with the Agency. (After Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Minister, sent a document, Tehran accepted the continuation of dialogue.) On January 28, we will try to draft a road map to see how we tackle specific issues, including those related to the PMDs.

Q: If the Iranians scratch the PMDs off the list, will the IAEA withdraw from negotiations?

RG: We will continue to inspect the rest of the nuclear programmes. We will call the Board of Governors, who will take the issue to the Security Council. It would be very serious for Iran as, up until now, China and Russia have blocked sanctions on the grounds that Tehran is cooperating with the Agency. If the IAEA tells the world that “ Iran is not cooperating”, Russia and China will be left without justification for their support.

Q: Will Turkey become involved?

RG: Turkey failed in a 2010 attempt to mediate along with Brazil. Now the country is surely looking to ally with or protect Iran, in exchange for the latter’s renouncement of nuclear weapons. Turkey clearly is tired of the Europeans and has realized that it has a very important role in the region.

Q:  What do you think of Ahmadinejad’s Latin America tour and Iran ’s proposal to export nuclear “know-how” to Africa ? Is this but one more challenge?

RG: More than a challenge, this is an attempt by Iran to expand its support base among developing countries, which is currently almost non-existent. Internationally, Tehran has not achieved, despite its efforts, to transform its case into a “North-South” issue, in which the developed North throttles the technological advances of a “southern” country.

----This interview originally ran in today’s Buenos Aires Herald newspaper.

Tuesday
Dec272011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/27/11

Armenia 

Armenia faces Vietnam at Women's Chess Championship round 8

(PHOTO: Azerbaijan protesters outside the French embassy in Baku; upset with France's policy towards Turkey regarding Armenia, AZERBAIJAN NEWS)Azerbaijan 

Protest action outside French embassy in Baku

Brazil 

Brazil pips UK as sixth-largest economy: CEBR

Burundi 

Burundi government taken before an East African court over graft

Canada 

Canada the global housing leader

In Redford’s Alberta, tailpipe emissions a bigger concern than oil sands pollution

Falkland Islands 

Uruguay says there's no 'diplomatic cataclysm’ with UK over Malvinas (Falkland Islands) developments

France 

The rift between Turkey and France: Is it Armenians or Syrians? (Perspective)

Georgia 

(PHOTO: The new Georgia-Turkey border crossing. Jessica Marati)New Georgia border crossing provides a whimsical welcome

Guinea-Bissau 

Guinea-Bissau soldiers in pay protest

India 

First India-UAE legal lecture series held

UK funds aid rural jobs creation in India

Urdu newspaper editors to attend two-day meet

Indonesia

Electricity sparks new life into Indonesia's corals

‘Perang topat’ reflects Islam-Hindu tolerance in West Lombok

(PHOTO: Jobs in India, INDIA TODAY)Iran 

Iranian naval maneuvers to start (Photo)

Ukraine firm to invest $1 bn in Iranian oil fields

Iran says electricity exports up by 24%

Persian epic poet "Ferdowsi" int'l confab in Iran

Iraq

Bombings in Syria and Iraq raise spectre of Sunni-Shia war (Perspective)

Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast rocked by ethnic violence

Kenya 

Security and Humanitarian Situations in East Africa Remain Tense 

Strangers united by the fears they share

‘Your event is a real gem in a sea of mediocrity’: Safari Rally, 2011

Famine early warning system gives Africa a chance to prepare (Perspective) 

Myanmar

Japanese FM Assures Aung San Suu Kyi Burmese Icon of Full Support

North Korea 

Eldest son of North Korea's late leader in Beijing under Chinese protection: source 

Pakistan 

(PHOTO: Pakistan's Imran Khan, WIKICOMMONS) The Growing Clout Pakistani Sports-Star Turned Politician Imran Khan

Pakistan coal reserves to provide electricity more than 30 years (Perspective)  

Philippines

Asia Pacific passenger traffic sustains growth

How big is Manny Pacquiao’s charitable heart? (Perspective)

Russia

Diplomatic Spat with Qatar fraught with serious fall-out

Russia, Iran Discuss Regional Conflicts, Bilateral Ties 

Russia has 25,000 undersea radioactive waste sites

Launch of Russian Proton-M carrier rocket postponed

Why Russia No Longer Emulates the U.S. (Perspective)

Rwanda

Kagame honoured for empowering the youth 

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Prince Pledges Help for Death Row Migrant Worker 

Saudi to allow foreign airlines to fly domestic routes

United States and Saudi Arabia: Working together to keep our countries healthy (Perspective)  

(PHOTO: Indonesia, the ‘bullet’ women carry the topat before cakes are distributed to residents. The Jakarta Post)Singapore

More Singaporeans using smartphones to shop online 

Somalia

Somalia: Hero dies while removing mines

Taking Schools Back From Militants 

South Africa

Biogas technology benefits S Africa's poor (Video)

South Korea

Seoul School Fuels Coffee Industry

South Korea badly needs Vietnamese workers

Spain

Spain opens pavilion in Dubai's Global Village 

(PHOTO: Taiwan Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network of East Asia planning director & Penghu Symbiotic Algae Association chairperson Allen Chen yesterday calls on 3 presidential candidates to protect ocean resources. Taipei Times) Sri Lanka

Pakistan-Sri Lanka expand bilateral ties

Swaziland

Processing Plant Threatens Water in Capital

Switzerland

Switzerland to Invest in Tajikistan’s Water Supply System

Syria

‘Syria trying to reveal secrets behind abduction of Iranian engineers’ 

Taiwan

Oceans around Taiwan threatened by overfishing

EPA asks Kuokuang to protect dolphins

India’s $35 tablet computer, Aakash to be displayed in Taipei

Taiwan to work to establish mobile commerce foundation next year

Targeting emerging markets is right strategy: official

Underprivileged students to get sponsorship for exchange program

Tajikistan

(PHOTO: A Tajikistan wedding. IWPR.ORG)Multiple Marriages in Tajikistan

Tanzania

Public must fight human trafficking (Perspective)

Why Voice Against Abuse of Women and Children in Zanzibar Remains High (Perspective)

Thailand

Met warns of more violent seas in South

Thailand coastal residents evacuated due to high waves on 7th anniversary of tsunami

Long-term flood plan chief concern for investors

Energy imports hit record

(PHOTO: The eastern coast of Thailand will likely face 3 to 4 more rounds of high & violent waves over the next few months, according to the Meteorological Department.THE NATION)Christmas in Bangkok, Thailand (Perspective)

Tonga

Strong earthquake strikes off Tonga, no damage reported

New Christian video library in the Tongan language (Press release)

Trinidad and Tobago 

Curing our sick Trinidad and Tobago (Perspective)

Tunisia 

Tunisia: New Cabinet Members Take Office

Tunisian Bloggers Meet at Douz International Sahara Festival

Tunisia: "Revolution" over, economy battered, tourism down 40 percent

Welcome 2012: Ringing in the New Year in Tunisia

(PHOTO: Youcef Baaloudj, an Algerian blogger & writer presenting his book on the Tunisian Revolution. TUNISIALIVE) Turkey 

Turkey’s infamous Article 301 could change

Snowfall, storms hit eastern Turkey / PHOTO

Turkey's draft law allowing foreign nationals to own property will be put to vote in the first days of 2012

Turkey becoming major hub for contemporary art

Turkmenistan

CIS to Send Observers to Turkmenistan Presidential Elections

Uganda 

Government urged to toughen on gay proponents

Over 2,300 fake nurses work in hospitals, products of illegal nursing schools

Man held over acid attack on top city pastor

Vision Group launches Uganda at 50 project

(PHOTO: Turkey's Art Scene. The 12th İstanbul Biennial was held from Sept. 17 through Nov. 13 at Antrepo No 3 & 5. TODAY’S ZAMAN)Ukraine 

Ukraine's foreign policy to rest on national pragmatism principle, says president

Ukraine: Taking to the Web to Raise Funds and Awareness

It is important for Ukraine to get next tranche of IMF loan (Perspective)

Ukraine introduces new classification of passenger trains

Ukraine starts delivering sparkling wine to China

United Arab Emirates

UAE launches online registration for Emirates ID cards

Steep fines for spitting gum, throwing cigarette butts in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Award for Medical Sciences makes headway in research in diabetes

'Social networking sites equally popular in Emirates'

Civilian nuclear power drives an international safety culture

Emergency rooms see too many outpatients-report

The UAE Prepares to Host Two Major International ICT Events

Print media will flourish for at least another decade (Perspective)

Sharjah musical festival attracts huge crowds

Lindsay Lohan in Dubai for New Year's Eve Party on board the QE2

Christmas cheer for retailers across UAE

United Kingdom 

Church of England and National Trust concerned about plans to cut solar panel subsidies

Foster families are needed warns charity

UK's Boxing Day bargain hunt (Video)

International karate champion faces jail after sending 5,000 texts to schoolgirl, 13 

United States

Swine flu recently confirmed in five states, CDC reports

US households struggle for a warm winter (Video)

Uruguay 

UTE, Uruguay’s state power company presents plan for domestic solar generation

Vanuatu 

Vanuatu offers more for travellers

Vietnam 

Great potential for tropical fruit, vegetable export in Vietnam

Vietnam to allow free market pricing of power, fuel:  finance ministry 

Wuhan Kaidi Electric Power Got USD300mn Contract in Vietnam 

Jubilant Christmas celebrated in Vietnam

Yemen

IOM urges donors to assist Ethiopian migrants in Yemen

Zambia

Former Minister of Energy Kenneth Konga summoned by the Zambia police

Corruption setback to Foreign investment -Report

Munali mine, run by China’s Jinchuan Group, in talks with potential investors

UN buys beans from local farmers

31 accidents recorded on Xmas eve countrywide

David Livingstone memorial set for March 2013

Zambians toast Christmas Day

Zimbabwe

Anhui Farm Project of China Helps Zimbabwe's Agriculture

Rapaport Group of Israel Boycotts Zimbabwe’s Marange Diamonds

Detained Air Zimbabwe plane returns home

“Most youths have embraced Indigenisation” (Perspective)

Monday
Dec262011

THE HUM - HEADLINES FROM THE GEOGRAPHIC GAP - 12/26/11

Afghanistan

High Power consumption the main factor of electricity outage

Canada 

(PHOTO: The provincial government of British Columbia has created a task force team to handle the tonnes of debris from the Japanese tsunami floating in the Pacific Ocean that is expected to hit B.C. shores. US NAVY)B.C. launches task force to manage coming tsunami debris

China 

Asia to be largest corporate, investment banking market by 2015: McKinsey

Congo (DRC)

Capital markets: Burj Capital thrives against the tide

Cuba 

US 'Disappointed' Cuba Will Not Release American Prisoner

Egypt 

(PHOTO: Ismail Haniya, Gaza Strip PM. EPA)Palestinian PM in Cairo

Ethiopia

Egypt deports 93 Ethiopians using the country as a transit stop to reach Israel illegally

Haiti 

Haitian migrants found dead off Cuban coast

Iran 

Iranian diplomats review Islamic awakening in Arab states

Tehran, Tunis Able to Further Develop Relations Far from Sectarian Differences

Iran President underlines development of ties with Africa

Iraq 

Iraq blocks Jordanian trucks heading to Turkey over Syria concerns

Israel 

Israeli gas quests plagued by pirates

Libya 

We are pumping more than a million barrels of oil a day, says Libya

Nepal 

Nepal sets up diplomatic ties with Solomon Islands

Nigeria 

Africa’s Biggest Street Party Takes Centre Stage

Paraguay

Paraguay, stuck in siesta mode, awaits Lugo's exit

Somalia 

Somalia: Protesters march the streets to stop violence aimed at aid workers 

South Korea 

(PHOTO: RIA NOVOSTI)S.Korea: doctors charged over deal with pharmaceutical companies

Spain 

Spain: King Juan Carlos Says Fighting Joblessness Top Priority

Sri Lanka 

Sri Lankan female ex-rebels faces uncertain future

Sudan 

Sudan’s Ancient Civilization: Nubian Kingdoms and the Christian Era

Svalbard and Jan Mayen (Arctic Ocean)

Pack ice breaking up in Svalbard in the arctic north of Norway (PHOTO)

 

Swaziland

Marriage trouble for Mandla Mandela  

Sweden

The tallest revolving door in the world

Busy Christmas weekend for the Swedish police

Syria

Syria Faces a New, Long-Term Phase

Taiwan

Taiwanese banks will back plant restoration in Thailand

More sons in Taiwan get inheritances than daughters: report

Tajikistan

Wheat genetics in Tajikistan could help feed the world

Tanzania

Exposed: Dar lacks disaster response system

Thailand

High waves ravage S. Thailand, thousand affected, tourists marooned

Tonga

Tonga National Population Census 2011; Preliminary Count

Trinidad and Tobago

Business owners crying as shoppers watch their pockets

Tunisia

Tunisian women’s group ATFD wins Simone de Beauvoir award

Turkey

(PHOTO: Turkey's learning disabled students. SUNDAY'S ZAMAN)Learning disabilities often confused with mental retardation in Turkey

Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan to hold talks on laying international fiber-optic communication lines

Tuvalu

Anglicans tiding Tuvalu over

Uganda

Hopping mad: Uganda power cuts hit grasshopper harvest

Ukraine

Iran, Ukraine to sign oil contracts

Ukraine and Russia to hold next round of gas talks on Jan 15

Ukraine to produce 36 million tonnes of steel in 2012

United Arab Emirates

DHA: No local emergence of malaria

Most in UAE borrow to splurge, says expert

Dassanayake to embark on talent hunt

United Kingdom

Pen woman swallowed 25 years ago works

UK taxpayers face extra £250m bill for nuclear waste clean-up

The globalised underclass (Perspective)

United States

Hackers target United States security think tank

Child Homelessness on the Rise in the US 

Giant shrimp raises big concern as it invades the Gulf of Mexico

Uruguay

Uruguay to Adapt Agriculture to climate change conditions

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s courts launch fight against corruption

Vanuatu

Nursing School gets educational material from Rotary

Global Fund for Environment Projects Ends Year in Vanuatu

Venezuela

Chavez issues Christmas amnesty to 140 prisoners

Vietnam

(PHOTO: Thailand's `Bubble Woman'. THANH NIEN NEWS) Vietnam’s Bubble Woman to be treated in HCMC 

Vietnam still doesn’t have regulations to treat electronics waste

Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program in Vietnam, yielding positive results

More int’l brands shifting base to Vietnam from China

Yemen

Photos of Yemen’s Deepening Humanitarian Challenges

Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh heads to United States after government forces attack peaceful protesters

Zambia

Zambia’s poor still waiting for change after Sata’s 90 days

MTN Zambia launches solar green site

Women for Change launches ‘Zambia We Want Charter’

Zimbabwe

Reform efforts in Zimbabwe move slowly

Medical student wins Face of Zimbabwe pageant

Tuesday
Nov222011

'We back the people, not dictators' (BLOG/REPORT) 

By Teymoor Nabili in the Middle East 

On the day the White House announced yet another blow in its 30-year campaign against Iran, former State Department official and Middle East expert Martin Indyk was in Doha to argue that US policy in the region has undergone something of a transformation.

(On the same day, veteran CBS correspondent Bob Simon was visiting the Al Jazeera newsroom. “I’ve known Martin for 20 years “ he told me, adding with a wry smile “Ask him if he still uses the phrase “peace process.”  I did. He doesn’t.)

Indyk says he plays no real part in policymaking these days, or even advising anyone in the Obama administration, but the thesis he confidently expounded at the Brookings Doha HQ was that the entire calculation of US interests and values has been fundamentally recalibrated as a consequence of the uprisings across the Middle East.

An Obama administration was always likely to step away from President Bush’s focus on democracy promotion to a certain extent, he said, but it was the Arab awakening that really made the difference.

 “It’s very clear the US is on the side of the people now, and not the dictators.”

It was an interesting proposition, and one that was tested by members of the audience.

One mentioned Saudi Arabia. That, it seems, is an exception. The strategic interests are paramount in the case of Saudi, but the US is applying pressure for "values" reform behind the scenes.

What about Bahrain? Well, the problem there was that President Obama was so diverted by the events of Libya that he momentarily took his eye off Bahrain, and so he missed the narrow window of opportunity to make a difference.

And yes, perhaps the response to events in Tunisia was a little behind the curve; but certainly we can expect the new policy to be demonstrated soon with regards to Egypt, and President Obama will surely stand behind the latest uprising against the military coup leaders that are now once again killing people on the streets. America had been naive in thinking the military would be custodians of a transition to real democracy.

And the reason why the Israel/Palestine issue is now off the Obama agenda is because of the polls in Israel.

Bibi eats poll numbers for breakfast, Indyk said, and as soon as he realised that Obama was polling badly in Israel, he knew he could challenge the US president with impunity.

It was all interesting stuff, delivered in the moderate and calming tones of the seasoned diplomat; but I’m not sure the audience went home believing that there has indeed been a fundamental change in the way Washington conducts its relationship with the Middle East.

A short while before his presentation, I sat down with Indyk in the Al Jazeera studio to talk about how this new approach might translate into action now, in Syria, Egypt and Iran.

He told me he thinks military action in Syria is a strong possibility, with Turkey best   placed to intervene. Obama, he says, is in “constant contact” with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and that’s the best way the US can “exercise leadership” over Syria.

As for Iran, well, there’s no doubt in his mind that the IAEA report is a “smoking gun”. Obama’s done what he can, Iran has been utterly intransigent, and it was even Tehran that scuppered the Turkey/Brazil swap deal, not Washington.

Here’s the full thing.

Originally published by Al Jazeera under Creative Commons Licensing

Wednesday
Dec012010

The 7th Annual `ARTIVIST' Film Festival Begins Tonight in LA: Meaningful Media at its Best

(HN, December 1, 2010) -- Artivist means ARTIST+ACTIVIST = ARTIVISTS.  Founded in 2003 as a non-profit charitable organization by Diaky Diaz, Dr. Bettina Wolff, Psy.D., and Christopher Riedesel, the Artivist Film Festival is the only festival dedicated to raising awareness for International Human Rights, Children's Advocacy, Environmental Preservation, and Animal Advocacy through Film.  (SEE TRAILERS FROM MANY OF THE FILMS BELOW)

This is the 7th year, with events taking place in LA (beginning today through 12/4/10), NY (at Tribeca Cinemas from 12/9-12/12/11) and in Rio de Janeiro (March 2011); screening 45 films from around the globe including independent, narratives, documentaries, shorts, and experimental films. Artivist’s mission is to strengthen the voice of socially conscious artists - "Artivists" - while raising public awareness for social global causes.  The Festival has showcased 400+ films representing more than 60 countries around the world over the past 7 years and has reached millions of people with its film festivals in Hollywood, London, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Lisbon and the main annual event is held in Los Angeles every year.   And tickets to all of the screenings are FREE!

In recognition of the socially conscious platform it provides, Artivist has been endorsed by Claes Nobel of the Nobel Prize family; by Senator Barbara Boxer, by the United Nations Department of Public Information; and this year is being sponsored by Petrobras.

Films Premiered at the Artivist Film Festival have received international acclaim such as ACADEMY AWARD winner "Born Into Brothels", ACADEMY AWARD Nominees "Super-Size Me" and “God Sleeps in Rwanda”, “Fast Food Nation",  “Emmanuelle's Gift", “Zeitgeist”, "Trudell“, “Stolen Childhoods”, and more.

Artivist Founder-President, Diaky Diaz, states: "Raising awareness for the interdependence between Humanity, Animals, and the Environment is the true mission of Artivist. Filmmakers, celebrities and NGOs from around the world gather at the Artivist Awards to celebrate advocate artists that inspire positive actions in our global community.”

As they do each year, Artivist honors artists whose exemplary work in their community stands out as a shining example of one’s ability to change the world for the better. This year Artivist will honor Actor Peter Fonda with the Artivist Award for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Advocacy; Barbara Pyle will receive the award for Environmental Humanitarianism, and Avis Richards will receive the award for Community Advocates.

About the Honorees:

►        Peter Fonda:  With an acting career that spans over fifty years in theater and films, Peter Fonda is a celebrated artist, counter-culture icon and a noted member of family of celebrated actors including his father legendary thespian Henry Fonda, his sister actress and fitness icon Jane Fonda, and his daughter actress Bridget Fonda.  Over the years, Fonda has supported numerous motorcycle-related fund raising programs such as Easy Ride for Autism, and the Love Ride, which supports of people with muscular dystrophy. His current film Smitty emphasizes pet adoption and is part of the Adopt-A-Dog Month campaign; his environmental efforts to encourage alternative energy through supporting the film Fuel and his recent clean-up work in the Gulf of Mexico with the Gulf Coast Fund; as well as his work on human rights with Doctors Without Borders, and his work with Best Buddies whom he recently received the award for Legacy Leadership, make Fonda a perfect honoree for Artivist’s issues.

►        Barbara Pyle:  For 20 years Barbara Pyle served as Corporate VP of Environmental Policy at the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), setting the company's environmental broadcast agenda and branding TBS as the environmental network. As CNN’s Environment Editor, Barbara introduced and oversaw environmental coverage, including the original Earth Matters, which premiered on CNN in 1981 and she championed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Policies and initiatives company-wide; setting the standards for energy efficiency, recycling and carpooling with her department's award-winning Clean Air Commute program. With Ted Turner, Barbara created the animated action adventure series Captain Planet and the Planeteers, overseeing production of 113 episodes as Executive Producer. Broadcast in over 100 countries to popular and critical acclaim, this classic eco-toon has won dozens of awards and today still has a very dedicated international fan base. To reach the next generation of Planeteers, it is now streaming online at the Mother Nature Network (MNN).

►        Avis Gold Richards: is the Founder and CEO of Birds Nest Foundation™, a 501(c)3 non-profit  creative group that produces high-quality documentaries, short videos and  public service announcements (PSAs) for charitable organizations. She is an award-winning executive producer and director who has produced and directed over 50 films, multiple websites and events in support of NGO’s winning more than a dozen Stevie Awards, Telly Awards, Davey Awards, and Aurora Awards for producing non-profit films and videos on the issues of healthcare and education, serving inner-city youth, protecting against domestic violence, promoting human rights, and defending the environment. The goal of Birds Nest Foundation is to provide the media to educate and promote important causes and issues that enable non-profits and other foundations to communicate their messages through "moving pictures."   Avis is currently producing a public television series entitled "Lunch NYC" for NYC Media, part of the City of New York Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, after the successful launch of her short documentary, LUNCH, which was sponsored in part by Earth Day Network. The series exposes unhealthy foods being served in the public school system across the US and highlights the efforts of individuals actively seeking alternatives to promote nutrition and health.

Past Artivist Award recipients include: Olivia Wilde, Hank Azaria, Ted Danson, Alyssa Milano, Joaquin Phoenix, Matthew McConaughey, Mira Sorvino, James Cromwell, Ed Begley Jr, Tippi Hedren, Mike Farrell, Claes Nobel of the NOBEL Prize Family and noted producer Stephen Nemeth.

This year’s awards will take place December 4 at the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood at 8pm and will be hosted by Actors’ Boris Kodjoe and Vanessa Williams; featuring celebrity presenters and guests such as Nicole Ari Parker, Ryan Gosling and many more, followed by a vegan, organic reception.

FOR FREE TICKETS visit: http://artivistff-la.eventbrite.com/

*NOTE ALL OF THE FILM SCREENINGS IN LOS ANGELES AND NEW YORK ARE FREE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC

Schedule of film screenings & selected film trailers - Los Angeles Dec 1-4, 2010 

Location: Egyptian Theatre 6712 Hollywood BLVD. Los Angeles, CA 90028

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

8:00PM - "ReGeneration" / Director: Phillip Montgomery 

 

Artivist Opening Night Event Screening – Los Angeles Premiere

Synopsis:  Philip Montgomery’s feature documentary film ReGeneration takes an uncompromising look at the issues facing today’s youth and young adults, and the influences that perpetuate our culture’s apathetic approach to social and political causes. Focused on how today’s education, parenting, and media can shape us, the film follows three stories each with a unique perspective – from an inspired collective of musicians working outside the corporate system, to a twenty-something conservative family about to welcome the birth of their second child, and a group of five high-school students from the suburbs looking for their place in society.  Their stories are interspersed with the knowledge, wisdom, and personal reflections of some of the country’s leading scholars, social activists, and media personalities, including Andrew Bacevich, Noam Chomsky, Talib Kweli, and the late Howard Zinn, among others.

8:00PM - Journey from Zanskar / Director:  Frederick Marx

Synopsis:  Two Buddhist monks promise the Dalai Lama they'll do everything in their power to help save Tibetan culture from destruction. Working in one of the most remote and desolate places on Earth - Zanskar, in northwest India - the monks build a school in their 1,000 year old monastery combining the best of modern and traditional education. Not content to wait for completion, they take 17 of the poorest children from nearby villages and walk over the mountains to get them into schools and monasteries. This is the story of their incredible journey.

8:00PM - The Last of the Black Tents


Synopsis: Focusing on the Khampa Tibetan nomads whose ancestral lifestyle is threatened by China's forced modernization, 'The Last of the Black Tents' explores an eye-opening subject in one of the world's most remote regions. In this short documentary, the expedition team captures the lives of these nomadic people who live close to the source of the Mekong River in China's Qinghai province. Stewards of the land for millennia, their unique culture, lives and livelihoods face an uncertain future. The film is part of a series produced by Radio Free Asia Note: the expedition team's identities are protected to ensure they can return to these regions, which are in countries that prohibit outside journalists and documentarians to wander freely. The identities of subjects in the film are also concealed for their protection.

9:00PM - "Fish: A Boy in a Man's Prison" / Director: T.J. Parsell  


Synopsis:  A 17 year old boy is sent to an adult prison for robbing a Fotomat with a toy gun. He thinks he's going to a minimum security prison camp where they send non-violent, first-time offenders, but the prison psychologist in charge of inmate classification tells him that he's going inside the walls of a maximum security prison. Shot entirely in the Hampton's, (at the Sag Harbor historic jail) this film is an adaptation from the book, Fish: A Memoir of A Boy in a Man's Prison.

9:00PM - "Will” / Director:  Hannah Robbins


Synopsis: Meet William, a twenty-year-old broken soul who has been homelessness, and addicted to drugs and alcohol. Today he has found solace through a youth shelter.  Sol House is a transitional living program for homeless youths between the ages of 16 and 21.  It provides shelter, life skills, counseling, and social and mental health services.  Will is an experimental documentary showing the past, present and expected future of William, a victim of child abuse and neglect.   I hope to express his life through the use of archive footage, black and white photography and verite footage.  As a resident of Sol House, his life is starting to improve, but for how long, who can say?  I met William in October when he had been at Sol House only a few weeks.  Prior to this, he had been in jail and on the street, a common story of so many homeless youth. According to the National Coalition of Homelessness, the 'Causes of homelessness among youth fall into three inter-related categories: family problems, economic problems, and residential instability.'  William plans to finish high school and get a job.  Sol House offers hope and opportunity to young people such as William.   I believe this film will offer a realistic and representative portrait of the lives and experiences of millions of homeless youth in the United States. 1 in 6 children live below the poverty line in America.

9:00P - "Kids of the Majestic / Director:  Dylan Verrechia 


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: Every day, a sea of passengers floods the Majestic Railway Station of Bangalore City, India. Beneath the commotion of commuters, a group of orphans live beneath the station, collecting the trash that the passengers have left behind. 'Kids of the Majestic' is a documentary by filmmaker Dylan Verrechia and Dr. Suhas Radhakrishna that follows a group of such orphans: Rafik, a smiling young drug addict; Mental Manja, nicknamed 'mental' because he didn't speak until he was 10; Arun-Badur, the artist and the writer; Baba, who at 8 has travelled throughout India alone; and Joti, mother-to-be at 16, who was abused at 9. The filmmakers befriended these children who, uneasily and slowly, opened up to them,  sharing  their life stories as no one before has ever heard. This documentary upholds a strong moral content by not only depicting the reality and hardship of these children, but also the positive aspect of this social group that works within its community.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tainted Wolves / Director: Amitabh Avasthi 


Synopsis: Each year, nearly 70 percent of gray wolf pups in Minnesota die from a virus common in domestic dogs. Scientists believe that a series of rare mutations and increased air travel helped a feline virus jump from cats to dogs, and then to gray wolves. This short documentary explores the threat to gray wolf populations from canine parvovirus, the factors helping its spread, and the lessons we can draw from viruses -- HIV1, SARS Coronavirus, HINI swine flu -- that jump from one species to another.

6:30PM - “The Hybrid Union” / Director: Serguei Kouchnerov 


Synopsis: Somewhere in the imaginary land of cyberdesert, unaware of each other’s presence, two abstract characters, Plus and Minus, coexist. Plus struggles with a dependency on an obsolete source of energy while the light-powered system of Minus is threatened by an ominous dark cloud. The unexpected meeting between Plus and Minus leads to a competitive race until they are interrupted by the surprising appearance of another stranger. This new character, Smart, moves fast on demand and seems unaffected by an external circumstances. In order to challenge Smart, Plus and Minus are compelled to combine their unique individual capabilities. Will this hybrid union win the race against the newcomer?

6:30PM - H2Oil / Directors: Dale Hayward & Sylvia Trouve

Synopsis: The H2oil animated segments are 3 short films completed for the feature length documentary 'H2oil' which is about the Alberta tar sands & its war with water. These animations explain the tar sands process, it's relationship with water, and how NAFTA is involved. They were animated with a mixture of 2D and after effects, using illustrations and elaborate photo textures to emphasize the harsh reality of this catastrophic operation. It goes without saying that water -- its depletion, exploitation, privatization and contamination -- has become the most important issue to face humanity in this century. Water security will soon define­ the boundaries between people and countries. The war for oil is well underway across the globe. However, a struggle is increasingly being fought between water and oil, not only over them. Alberta's oil sands are at the tension center. The province is rushing towards large-scale oil extraction, which will have far reaching impacts on water, health, animals and the environment in the region.

6:30PM - Water On The Table / Director: Liz Marshall


Synopsis:  Water On The Table is a character-driven, social-issue documentary that explores Canada's relationship to its freshwater, arguably its most precious natural resource. The film asks the question: is water a commercial good like running shoes or Coca-Cola, or is water a human right like air? Water On The Table features Maude Barlow who is considered an 'international water-warrior' for her crusade to have water declared a human right.  'Water must be declared a public trust that belongs to the people, the ecosystem and the future and preserved for all time and practice in law.' The film intimately captures the public face of Maude Barlow as well as the unscripted woman behind the scenes. The camera shadows her life on the road in Canada and the United States over the course of a year as she leads an unrelenting schedule. From 2008 - 2009 Barlow served as the U.N. Senior Advisor on Water to Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, President of the 63rd Session of the United Nations. But more than a portrait of an activist, Water On The Table is a poetic-essay that presents several dramatic and artfully crafted debates. Barlow's opponents; policy and economic experts in Canada and the U.S., argue that water is no different than any other resource and that the best way to protect freshwater is to privatize it. It is proposed that Canada bulk-export its water to the United States in the face of an imminent water crisis.

7:00pm - “How Weed Won the West” / Director: Kevin Booth


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: While California is going bankrupt, one business is booming. 'How Weed Won the West' is the story of the growing medical cannabis / marijuana industry in the greater Los Angeles area, with over 700 dispensaries doling out the buds. As a treatment for conditions ranging from cancer and AIDS, to anxiety, ADHD, and insomnia, cannabis is quickly proving itself as a healthier natural alternative to many prescription drugs. Following the story of Organica, a collective owned by Jeff Joseph that was raided by the DEA in August of '09, the film shows that although some things have changed with Obama in office, the War on Drugs is nowhere near over. From Kevin Booth, the producer/director of Showtime's 'American Drug War', 'How Weed Won the West' puts California forward as an example to the rest of the country by documenting how legalizing marijuana can help save the economy.

8:30PM - "Shadows in the Forest" / Directors: Carly Pandza, Jacob Tyler, Matthew Prouty, Roxanna Amini

 

Synopsis: The indigenous communities of Cameroon are losing the very essence of their culture and are powerless to prevent it. These communities, commonly known as Pygmies, have lived in the forests of the Congo Basin for thousands of years and are now being removed from their land. Their own government does not acknowledge their existence and as their protests go unheard their land is destroyed and replaced by uninhabitable palm oil plantations. There are those who have come to aid the Pygmies in their plight, but they are desperately in need of funding and support.

8:30PM - "Africa's Lost Eden" / Director: James Byrne

Synopsis: It was once known as 'the place where Noah left his Ark' - 4,000 square kilometers of lush floodplains in central Mozambique, packed with wild animals.  But 15 years of civil war has taken a heavy toll- and many species have been almost completely wiped out. Journey with National Geographic to Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park and discover what is being done to bring this Africa oasis back to its former glory- including perhaps the most ambitious restoration effort ever attempted, with elephants, hippos and scores of zebra, wildebeest, impala and buffalo being relocated into the park.

9:30PM - "War Don Don" (War is Over) / Director - Rebecca Richman Cohen


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: "War Don Don" (War is Over) is a Rashomon-esque legal documentary, with global importance, a thought provoking film that engages the heart, mind and conscience. In Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the 'special court.' Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace. Directed by Rebecca Richman Cohen, "War Don Don" tells the story of a sensational trial with unprecedented access to prosecutors, defense attorneys, victims, and from behind bars, Sesay himself. In Krio, war don don means 'the war is over,' as today, thankfully, Sierra Leone is at peace. Can the trial of one man uncover the truth of a traumatic past?

10:00PM - Gorillas 98% Human / Director: Charles Annenberg Weingarten


Synopsis:  On a trip to Rwanda, NatGEO explorer had the opportunity to visit four families of wild mountain gorillas, a species with only 720 remaining members. Their guide is Craig Sholley, who has been intimately involved in the preservation of African wildlife for more than 30 years. The team's thrilling interaction with these peaceful creatures who share 98.6% of their genetic makeup with humans is a startling reminder of their own humanity.

10:00PM - Wild Horses in Winds of Change / Director: Mara La Grande 

Synopsis:  In a desperate run for their lives, America’s wild horses are being rounded up by helicopter from their free roaming lives on the range, with nearly forty thousand languishing in long term “warehousing”, the time for solutions is critical. As tensions escalate for their future, this film takes us on a journey into the vital importance of the wild horse to humanity while offering a thoughtful portrayal into their ability to adapt to an ever changing landscape, thus surviving the great odds of time and the human as conqueror. Unraveling outdated myths and prejudices, this documentary exposes the politics and mis-management that have led to the crisis.  In the midst of conflict, solutions are presented to help the wild horses and burros continue to thrive sustainably on the land simultaneously requiring all of us to develop resource conservation methods and an ability to work together for the common good.

10:00P - Albatrocity / Directors: J. Ollie Lucks, Iain Frengley, Edward Saltau

Synopsis:  'Albatrocity' was made on a very limited budget of only $2000 NZD. We spent this entire amount on a trip to film Southern Royal Albatross in their natural environment on Campbell Island, a remote New Zealand territory in the southern ocean. This trip not only allowed us to film the birds in their untouched yet fragile habitat, but it also helped us appreciate how at ease and graceful Albatross are in the violent storms of the southern ocean. Consequently, our film portrays these almost fantastical animals in a suitably creative way. We use Samuel Colleridge's atmospheric and metaphoric poem, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' as a modern day metaphor for the detrimental relationship between seabirds and commercial fishing.In an attempt to help the interview and informative sections of the film gel with the creative parts, we used innovative graphics and visual effects techniques. This is the first film that we've made and above all we wanted to challenge ourselves and the rules you are taught at film school. We hope that viewers find it both aesthetically pleasing and emotionally evocative. We are proud of the way 'Albatrocity' combines educational information about an environmental issue, whilst maintaining creative integrity.

Friday, December 3, 2010

10:00AM - Lunch / Director: Avis Richards


Synopsis: As nation-wide funding for school cafeterias rapidly decreases and high-calorie, low-nutrient meals have become order of the day, our nations children are being afflicted by a slew of diet-based diseases from high-blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes and obesity. In Lunch, a revealing documentary short, director Avis Richards investigates the causes and the consequences of growing up in a junk-food culture.

10:00AM - Climate Refugees /Director: Michael Nash


Synopsis:  The Human Face of Climate Change. There is a new phenomenon in the global arena called “Climate Refugees”. A climate refugee is a person displaced by climatically induced environmental disasters. Such disasters result from incremental and rapid ecological change, resulting in increased droughts, desertification, sea level rise, and the more frequent occurrence of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, cyclones, fires, mass flooding and tornadoes. All this is causing mass global migration and border conflicts. For the first time, the Pentagon now considers climate change a national security risk and the term climate wars is being talked about in war-room like environments in Washington D.C.

4:30PM - Last Chance / Director: Sami Nikki


Synopsis:  Last Chance is a timeless piece about the importance of hope in our current environment. Through a tale of evolving consciousness it shows the viewer a simple beacon of happier times. The story is told through a series of paintings, computer animation that is softer than other contemporary styles. Instead of aiming for a more realistic look, a subtler but more vivid style has been chosen.

4:30PM - Beating the Bomb / Directors: Wolfgang Matt, Meera Patel

Synopsis: 'Beating the Bomb' covers 50 years of the Peace movement in Britain against the historical and political backdrop of the atomic age. The narrative follows the now called 'nuclear deterrent', starting at the dawn of the nuclear age in WWII to present day.  Nuclear weapons shaped the power structures that rose out of the rubble of WWII and underpin them to this day.  It is widely argued that the pressing issues of the day, from poverty to climate change cannot be tackled without addressing the underlying economic system. Our film evidences the claim that the foundations of our economic system are 'straight power concepts'.  The most straightforward of these concepts being the bomb, both in its physical manifestation and also in the mindset it engenders and stems from. The film charts the efforts of individuals and organizations to rid Britain of its nuclear weapons system from past to present.  It also frames the nuclear weapons issue within the wider context of global justice. The film is a tribute to peace campaigners and accordingly features interviews with Tony Benn, Mark Thomas, Walter Wolfgang, Helen John and Vivienne Westwood, bringing into special focus the UK based Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). It is an attempt to mediate their spirit & commitment and to thus empower & inspire the viewer.

6:30PM - Arena / Director: Jota Aronack 

Synopsis: Jonash does not know what sunlight is. He has never seen a tree or the sky. He has never left his room. He does not need to. But that note makes him think, and the simple idea of having an option, becomes powerful. Arena, biography of a revolution.

6:30PM - Desert of Forbidden Art / Directors: Amanda Pope, Tchavdar Georgiev


Synopsis: How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags. Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist's works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions. Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner voice the diaries and letters of Savitsky and the artists. Intercut with recollections of the artists' children and rare archival footage, the film takes us on a dramatic journey of sacrifice for the sake of creative freedom. Described as 'one of the most remarkable collections of 20th century Russian art' and located in one of the world's poorest regions, today these paintings are worth millions, a lucrative target for Islamic fundamentalists, corrupt bureaucrats and art profiteers. The collection remains as endangered as when Savitsky first created it, posing the question whose responsibility is it to preserve this cultural treasure.

7:00PM - “Complexo – Universo Paralelo” / Director: Miro Patrocono


LA Premiere at the 7th Artivist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis: At the peak of tensions in Rio, Brazil, two Portuguese brothers ventured into the most feared slum and lived there during the largest police operation ever launched in that state. They experienced a life where most people awaken to the sound of gunfire and sleep accompanied by shots. The heads of the largest criminal faction in Rio speak intimately and plainly of the life in the world of trafficking. They are the power that exists after a decades-long absence of government power. But the film also offers a slice of life with inspirational characters - a mother shows how her faith in Jesus makes her believe all is possible; the president of the dwellers' association shows that despite the frightening expansion of the complex, the arrival of crime, drugs and guns, he is able to make life better for his favela neighbors; a rapper - MC Playboy - a funk artist who realized that his path was not trafficking, while he saw many of his friends murdered, he conquered his space within the community and fights to destroy prejudice and bring all of society together. The people in the favela live under constant tension in the midst of a power game where both everything and nothing is possible. Through action and word, each character adds a piece to a gigantic puzzle that reveals to us the daily life of the favela as a whole. Director Mirio Patroconio’s film asks and answers “How is it to survive in this reality?” 

8:30PM - Trees / Director: Randy Wakerlin

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “Trees” serves as a comic warning about the devastating effects of deforestation of our rainforests. As the story unfolds, we move through a lush deep green pastoral jungle inhabited with exotic creatures. “Welcome to the oxygen factory! We breathe in the old CO2 and breathe out the O2. I tell you, though, a lot more CO2 these days,” barks a tall, skinny character who calls himself the “green collar guy.” “Yeah, lotta CO2,” confirms his leafy companion, Donny. Suddenly, a chain saw starts up, followed by the sound of another tree crashing to the ground. “The rain! Tell them about the rain!” our fallen friend gasps. Green collar guy happily demonstrates what he calls “transpiration – how the trees water each other downwind with their “breath.” As the situation spirals downward it seems clear: our long-limbed neighbors are not the only ones fated for the endangered list.

8:30PM - The Krill is Gone / Director: Jeffrey Bost

Synopsis: Voiced by the incomparable Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob) with Jill Talley, “The Krill is Gone” brings comic awareness to the looming danger of man-made global warming on the fragile ecosystems deep within our oceans. As this ominous tale begins, our host – the Robin Leach-like Plankton Emiliania Huxleyi — introduces us to his undersea world just seconds before he is devoured by a ditzy Krill, who quickly sheds her shell in a successful maneuver to outwit a predator only to have trouble sprouting another. As the tour continues, we spot a celebrity tuna who looks and talks suspiciously like Al Gore, dodge a swarm of deadly jellyfish, and watch in horror when the dastardly source of the problem is finally revealed.

8:30PM - Deep Green / Director: Matt Briggs


Synopsis: Almost every time we use energy, we burn carbon. Every time we burn carbon, we heat up the atmosphere.  It's a dirty fact that Global Warming cannot be stopped as long as fossil fuels run our planet. We can fix this. Over three years in the making, 'Deep Green' is the first documentary devoted exclusively to showing us how. Accompanied by an international team of award-winning cinematographers, filmmaker Matt Briggs takes us on a compelling journey to nine countries, including China, to uncover the best people with the best ideas, strategies and cutting-edge technologies that can get the job done... if we start now.This inspiring feature presentation includes two electrifying animated shorts on the devastating effects of clear-cutting our rainforests and burning carbon for energy on the fragile ecosystems within our oceans.

9:30PM - Hempsters / Director: Michael Henning


Synopsis: HEMPSTERS: PLANT THE SEED follows seven activists as they fight to legalize industrial hemp in the United States, which is used in over 30 countries and is widely known to have numerous environmental benefits such as:  less reliance on oil, more efficient use of energy, forest conservation, soil redemption and landfill use reduction, just to name a few. Featured in the film are Woody Harrelson, Willie Nelson, Ralph Nader and Merle Haggard.  HEMPSTERS is a thought-provoking and compelling documentary that will not only encourage all of us to take action, but love us one step closer towards a more sustainable planet.

11:00PM - USS Din / Director: Vikram Gupta


Synopsis: Kabir and Ram were two kids who just wanted to play bat-and ball. One day, there was a big fight amongst the elders, which left the family divided into two. Kabir and Ram now found themselves on opposite sides trying to reach each other. The bat was smashed, the ball was broken, and the kids were locked up in their houses. And then one house got the news....the others had got a gun. So began a mad race of collecting weapons, that reached ridiculous extents. When fear drives people to surrounding themselves with guns, one day, One of those guns is bound to go off. USS Din is the story of what happens that day.

11:00PM - Call me Salma / Director: Sebastien Rist


Synopsis:  The premiere of "Call Me Salma", a documentary on a transgender teenager, was held on February 4 at the auditorium of University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB). ULAB and Bandhu Social Welfare Society organised the premiere.  Directed by Canadian filmmakers Sébastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Lévesque, the film is a story about "love and loss."  The film follows Salma, a 16-year-old transgender individual, who leaves her family and village, and moves into the hustle and bustle of city life in search of an identity, a new family and above all, a sense of acceptance.  Emotionally torn between her youth and her desire to be a woman, Salma decides to return to her village and face events that force her to question the preconceived notions of gender. The documentary is nearly 54-minute long.  ULAB Vice Chancellor Professor Rafiqul Islam formally inaugurated the premiere show. Anisul Islam Hero, director, Bandhu Social Welfare Society, also spoke on the occasion. The directors and Salma, protagonist of the film, were present and answered questions from the audience.  The filmmakers Sébastien and Aude have been in Dhaka for the past few months and followed the lives of local transgender communities as part of their research for the film. The film will be aired on a French TV channel later this year.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

12:00PM - How I Became an Elephant / Directors:  Synthian Sharp, Tim Gorski


Synopsis:  Watch as a 14 year-old girl from Los Angeles commits to the face-to-face rescue of a single female elephant living in a forced elephant breeding camp in Thailand. Tour the living conditions and tribulations of these captive giants as they’re “broken” to perform for humans… and stay with them in their final sanctuary until they accept their liberators into the herd, and finally see themselves, not as objects, but as elephants. 

12:00PM - “Play Again” / Director: Tonje Schel


LA Premiere at the 7th Artvist Film Festival - Los Angeles

Synopsis:  What are the consequences of a childhood removed from nature? One generation from now most people in the U.S. will have spent more time in the virtual world than in nature. New media technologies have improved our lives in countless ways. Information now appears with a click. Overseas friends are part of our daily lives. And even grandma loves Wii. But what are we missing when we are behind screens? And how does this impact our children's well being, our society and the very future of our planet? At a time when children play more behind screens than outside, PLAY AGAIN explores the changing balance between the virtual and natural worlds. Is our connection to nature disappearing down the digital rabbit hole? This documentary follows six teenagers who, like the 'average American child,' spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens. PLAY AGAIN unplugs these teens and takes them on their first wilderness adventure - no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality. Through the voices of children and leading experts including journalist Richard Louv, sociologist Juliet Schor, environmental writer Bill McKibben, neuroscientist Gary Small, educators Diane Levin and Nancy Carlsson-Paige, parks advocate Charles Jordan, psychiatrist Susan Linn, and Canadian scientist David Suzuki, PLAY AGAIN introduces new perspectives and encourages action for a sustainable future. The soundtrack includes music from well-known Icelandic band Sigur Ros and singer Kimya Dawson (JUNO soundtrack). Music Director is Andreas Hessen-Schei, of the Norwegian bands Jaga Jazzist and Shining.

2:00PM - “Maasai at the Crossroads” / Directors: Joe Dietsch, Kristin Jordan


Synopsis:  In MAASAI AT CROSSROADS, we chronicle the struggles of the Maasai tribe as they attempt to modernize while maintaining their traditional culture. Since the most direct route, of such a society towards modernization, is Education, the framework of the film is structured around the non-profit organization, Africa Schools of Kenya (ASK). A Speaker Program was conducted over March and April 2009. ASK is an educational curriculum that introduced experts in their area of expertise and their outside influences to the tribe - deeply influencing the worldview of the students, as will as the adults/elders. The external factors forcing the Maasai to modernize are the current drought and the encroaching influence of civilization. The questions asked are: What elements of any culture are important? / What should be preserved and what can be left behind? / Will the children return to the traditional Maasai way of life after being exposed to the modern world? If so, why? / What elements of the Maasai culture define them as a people? / How are the Maasai integrating modernization to aid themselves in becoming stewards of their land? / And why is this so important? 

2:00PM - The Story of Bottled Water / Director: Louis Fox


Synopsis:   The Story of Bottled Water employs the Story of Stuff style to tell the story of manufacturing demand, using the example of how you get Americans to buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. The film explores the bottled water industry's attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to 'take back the tap,' not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

2:00PM - My Pantanal /Director: Andrea Heydlauff

Synopsis:  ‘My Pantanal’ is a film about a boy named Aerenilso, who lives on a ranch in the Pantanal, the world’s largest and wildest wetland, in Brazil. Aerenilso shows us what it is like to be a Pantanero (a cowboy), riding his horse, doing his chores, and exploring this incredible landscape that is teeming with wildlife, including the jaguar. Sadly, jaguars have been hunted by people but Aerenilso’s ranch is different; he lives on a conservation ranch where the cowboys and biologists are working together to show that ranching and jaguars can coexist in this magical place.

2:00PM - Campesinos / Director: Adam Pajot Gendron

Synopsis:     Three children live and work in agricultural communities in Central America: Duli harvests macadamia nuts in the mountains of Guatemala, Jenier coffee on an Island in Nicaragua, and Paul Cacao in the jungles of Costa Rica. Despite the distance that separates them, they share a common bond: they each belong to a cooperative of which their family is a member, and through which they work to create sustainable choices and improve their quality of life. These three children do not know each other, but share the collective experience of growing up in a community that has sought improvement. Where many have tried, they have succeeded. Where many have let go, they have not given up, and now their courage and determination is reflected in these children, the mirrors of their community. Through their day to day experiences, these children share their story and make us a part of their concerns in the face of an uncertain future. What they do, above all, is allow us to put a face on the people who harvest so that we can eat.

4:00PM - Hove (The Wind) / Director: Alex Webb

Synopsis:   Two Armenian women's friendship is deeply affected by a chance encounter with the past and the powerful, unresolved legacy of the Armenian Genocide. Zara (played by Olympia Dukakis) is visited by her friend Nina (played by Shirleyann Kaladjian) at her Armenian cultural bookstore.  Zara is reading a mysterious book that has deeply disturbed her.  Nina finally rouses Zara from the book and asks Zara what it is that had her so absorbed.  Zara mysteriously dismisses the question. Nina reveals a personal tragedy over coffee with Zara.  Zara goes to her desk to retrieve a treasured family heirloom to comfort Nina.  When she returns Nina is now engrossed in the mysterious book. They argue over the implications and Nina leaves.  The mystery of the book and Nina's tragedy is revealed along with a surprise about Zara's past at the end of the story.

4:00PM - Mine: Story of a Sacred Mountain / Director: Survival International


Synopsis:  The Dongria Kondh are one of India’s most remote tribes. In a stunning real-life version of ‘Avatar’, the metals giant Vedanta Resources is intent on mining the tribe’s sacred Niyamgiri mountain for bauxite, the raw material for aluminum. But the Dongria Kondh don’t simply accept their fate, but decide to fight. ‘Mine’ has been watched over 600,000 times online, and in a truly David v Goliath victory for the Dongria Kondh, the Indian government blocked Vedanta’s mine in August 2010.

4:00PM - The Last Cut / Director: Damian Rafferty

 

Synopsis:   We hear from mothers who have suffered because of Female Genital Cutting, a former cutter, villagers, medical experts, campaigners and Kadija who leads her team into remote villages and sets up a mobile cinema in places where they don't even have electricity. Over the course of five visits, she attempts to convert the mothers of the village to collectively abandon a harmful but almost ubiquitous practice. Villagers are drawn in by the entertainment, stimulated by the educational films thrown into the mix and engaged in a community wide discussion held under the African night. The mix of stories and discussion is what the griots (conveyors of oral culture) have been doing in these parts for hundreds of years. It turns out this is still the right approach if you want to affect change. Ultimately, this is a film about hope for the children of Mali and how it comes down to African people using African ways (even if the money comes from outside) to update rather than destroy traditional culture.

4:00PM - Water / Director: Corrie Jones


Synopsis: Toby yearns for a life like any other eight-year-old kid. But his mentally disabled father is a constant reminder that life for Toby, will never be normal. WATER is a film about a young boy's struggle to accept his fears, his mentally disabled father and his possible future duty.

4:00PM - Rapping in Iran / Director: Hassan Khademi

Synopsis:   If there is any music style in the world to which the term 'underground' can be justifiably applied, it is rap in puritanical Iran. Since the beginning of the 1990s, practically every kind of pop music has been forbidden in the Islamic Republic, but the state security forces crack down particularly hard on rappers. Their outfits, modelled on Western idols, their lyrics about identity conflicts and sexual deprivation or the fact that young women sing about themselves and their problems are reason enough to keep raiding the few studios in town and closing down the websites of the most famous singers and bands. The only consequence is that every closed down site spawns four new ones, the studios that are closed in one place re-open somewhere else and become more attractive to the scene. 'Rapping in Tehran' is about young people's tough struggle against the rigid rules of a government of old men whose resistance in the long run will be in vain. For the music keeps spreading: via the Internet, through exiled rappers who broadcast their lyrics into the country from Dubai, via mobile phones or secret parties. In any case, the courage with which they insist on the right to lead their own lives is cause for admiration.

--- HUMNEWS' Staff