Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Syrian Air Force general assassinated in capital


 
Members of the terrorist Free Syrian Army (File Photo)

Source: Press TV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/10/30/269566/syrian-air-force-general-assassinated/

A Syrian Air Forces general has been assassinated in the capital, Damascus, as clashes between government forces and insurgents continue.

General Abdullah Mahmud al-Khalidi was shot dead on Monday evening in the northern Damascus neighborhood of Rukn al-Din, Syria's state television reported without providing further details.

Local media has blamed terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian government for the killing, adding that it was part of an insurgent campaign to target top figures and scientists.

Meanwhile, at least 25 insurgents were killed after members of two armed groups clashed in Aleppo suburb of Izaz on Tuesday over the distribution of goods they had stolen from locals.

There are also reports of clashes between government forces and foreign-backed insurgents in Hama, Dayr al-Zawr and Damascus suburbs. According to Syria's official news agency SANA, many insurgents were killed in Salah-Eddin and al-Khazan districts of Harasta in Damascus countryside.

Syrian troops also defused a number of explosive devices in Harasta.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the violence.

Greece has finished talks with its creditors


 
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (AFP Photo/Eric Feferberg)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/business/news/greece-troika-creditors-crisis-583/

Greece has finished marathon talks with the ‘Troika’ of creditors over its €31.5bln aid package, according to the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

“Today we finished talks on the austerity measures and the budget. We did everything possible,” the Prime Minister said on Tuesday. "Should the agreement be approved [by the Parliament], and the budget adopted, Greece will remain within the Eurozone and will go out of the crisis.”

Samaras added that Athens had achieved “significant improvement” in the deal on offer, and warned of “chaos” if the measures were rejected by MPs.

At the moment Greece is seeking to receive another €31.5bln tranche out of the second bailout package amounting €130bln. In return the country should save €13.5bln in two years, with the exact ways of reaching the target remaining vague. The so-called Troika of creditors that includes the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank may ask Greece to implement around 150 reforms within 2 years, Germany’s Spiegel said last week. This will include certain changes to minimum wage rules, as well as abolishing professional privileges.

The announcement from Samaras has caused immediate reaction from bloggers on the internet.Comments largely grin at the PM’s calling negotiations ‘successful,’ while in fact “the scale of the austerity that will be heaped on Greeks has increased by billions of euros since the measures were originally mapped out after Greece's second bailout back in March,” the Guardian blogger said.

Greece austerity package went from €11.5bln to €13.5B, €5.5bln of cuts in 2013 that turned into €9.5bln.

Labor reforms that had long remained an outstanding issue were agreed earlier on Sunday, with no detail revealed.

Spain’s economy contracts 0.3% in third quarter of 2012


 
People wait in line at a government employment office at Santa Eugenia's Madrid suburb on January 27, 2012.

Source: Press TV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/10/30/269528/spain-economy-shrinks-in-third-quarter/

Official data show Spain’s economy has shrunk by 0.3% in the third quarter of the year, 2012, as the country continues to grapple with economic woes.

According to new data released by Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE) on Tuesday, country’s gross domestic product contracted by 0.3% from July to September.

This comes as one in four workers is unemployed in the recession-hit country.

On Friday, the Spanish institute also issued a statement saying that the country’s unemployment rate climbed to 25.02 percent in the third quarter, up from the previous 24.63 percent.

INE also pointed out that a total of 5.78 million people were out of work in the July-September quarter, up 85,000 from the previous three months, while the number of Spanish households in which every member is unemployed rose to 1.74 million.

On October 11, Standard and Poor’s rating agency (S&P) downgraded the country’s credit rating by two notches with a "negative outlook" citing “mounting risks to Spain's public finances, due to rising economic and political pressures.

The Spanish government has been sharply criticized over the austerity measures that are hitting the middle and working classes the hardest.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s proposed 2013 draft budget is expected to slash the overall spending by 40 billion euros ($51.7 billion), freeze the salaries of public workers, and reduce spending for unemployment benefits.

Battered by the global financial downturn, Spain’s economy collapsed into recession in the second half of 2008, taking with it millions of jobs.

Kuwait arrests opposition leader ahead of mass protest


 
Former Kuwaiti opposition MP Musallam al-Barrak (AFP Photo/Yasser Al-Zayyat)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/news/kuwait-opposition-leader-arrested-561/

Kuwaiti authorities arrested a prominent opposition figure over his criticism of the Gulf Arab state's ruler. It came days before an expected mass rally protesting against a reform, which critics say undermines opposition political forces.

Musallam al-Barrak, an ex-legislator and leader at the nationalist Popular Action Bloc was arrested late on Monday following a news conference at his house.

He is accused of criticizing the ruler of Kuwait, Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, during an opposition rally on October 15, when he said the emir should avoid sliding towards “autocratic rule”. The country's constitution proclaims the emir "immune and inviolable" and thus criticizing his actions is unconstitutional.

Before his arrest, Barrak called on his supporters to turn up for a new protest rally come Sunday, saying he would be with them spiritually, if not in person.

Last week Kuwait arrested three other opposition figures on similar charges. They have been released on bail after five-day detention and are new expecting trials, which are to commence in mid-November.

Barrak lashed out at the emir over a controversial change of the electoral law ordered by the ruler ahead of the December 1 election, which critics say will hamper the opposition in the parliament.

The opposition had majority in the elected parliament after the February election, putting the legislative body at odds with the government, which is dominated by the members of the ruling al-Sabah family.

The emir disbanded the legislative body this month. Several opposition factions said they would boycott the poll taken under the new rules.

The oil-exporting country has been touched less by the public uprisings in the Arab world than some of its neighbors, partially thanks to its generous welfare system.

Still, the opposition gathered tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest against the electoral reform. Kuwait City lately saw violence, as the authorities used riot police to disperse protesting crowds.

Crowd control - Bahrain bans all public gatherings


 
Anti-government protesters gesture as they march during an anti-government rally held by Wefaq, Bahrain's main opposition party, in Bilad al-Qadeem, west of Manama October 19, 2012. (Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/news/bahrain-ban-demonstration-protest-554/

Bahraini authorities have prohibited protest gatherings and rallies until further notice, a day after police cracked down heavily on demonstrators, once again during the 20-month fatality-riddled unrest.

­The statement made by the country’s Interior Ministry did not define precise measures that could be taken should new protests occur.

A curfew and special military tribunals were introduced several months into uprising that began in Bahrain in February 2011. AP reported that the early period of the unrest left at least 50 people dead in the violence.

However, Interior Minister Shaikh Rashid Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa stressed that “rallies and gatherings will be considered illegal, and legal action will be taken against anyone calling for or taking part in them.”

The news comes only a day after security forces cracked down on protesters next to the capital, Manama, using teargas and rubber bullets. Demonstrators took to the streets to rally for the release of political prisoners – and against the long-standing rule of the King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Just under two weeks ago, Bahrain detained four people after they reportedly defamed the King via Twitter. The four were held for seven days pending trial, according to the official Bahrain News Agency. The authorities gave no further details on the suspects or the contents of their tweets. The trial date and the suspects’ fate remain unknown.

One of the most prominent opposition activists in the country, Nabeel Rajab is currently challenging the three-year jail sentence for allegedly encouraging illegal protests and violence in Bahrain via Twitter. His next hearing will take place on November 8.

Another well-known activist, Said Yousif, was arrested in mid-August after speaking out in support of Nabeel Rajab’s detention.

Head of Monitoring in Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Sayed Yousif Almuhafda thinks that the latest measure is simply “an attempt to completely squash [the] people’s uprising. In fact, Bahrain can be called an unfinished segment of the Arab Spring, which has never been allowed [to] flower.”

 

Sandy strikes - Superstorm batters US East Coast


 

Water rushes into the Carey Tunnel (previously the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel), caused by Hurricane Sandy, October 29, 2012, in the Financial District of New York. (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/usa/news/sandy-hurricane-hits-east-528/

The center of superstorm Sandy has reached the US state of New Jersey. The hurricane, which was downgraded to the “post-tropical” storm, has caused 13 deaths and left over 6 million along the East Coast without power.

­The storm, packing torrential rains and wind, made landfall along the New Jersey coast near Atlantic City, the National Hurricane Center says.

Earlier, the NHC said the category 1 Hurricane Sandy had lost tropical characteristics, becoming a “post-tropical cyclone” with maximum sustained winds near 85 mph and gusts reaching 115 mph.

The storm has heavily affected many parts of New York City, with power outages and several feet of water hitting large areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The Statue of Liberty's torch has gone out, apparently due to extreme weather conditions.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that conditions are expected to worsen, urging New Yorkers to stay inside. “Conditions outside are dangerous, and they are only going to get worse in the hours ahead,” he told a press conference.

 
Power has gone out in much of Lower Manhattan. (Image from twitter user@alananewhouse)

At least 13 people have been killed by the disaster, according to AP. Casualties were reported in New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

One woman has been killed by a falling sign in Toronto as high winds reached Canada.

New York City's Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that subway and bus networks are suspended and will remain closed for an unknown period of time. “Service will be restored only when it is safe to do so, and after careful inspections of all equipment, tracks and other sub-systems and bus routes. Even with minimal damage this is expected to be a lengthy process,” the MTA said in a statement.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota told WABC Television that subway service could be crippled for “at least a week.”

There have been reports that the main building of Brooklyn's Coney Island Hospital is on fire. Emergency services cannot reach the site, as the streets surrounding the hospital are flooded, Sheepshead Bites news blog reports.

Meanwhile, social networks users on Manhattan's Lower East Side have reported a "huge explosion" that preceded the neighborhood's power going out. Lower Manhattan now appears to be without electricity across the board after an apparent blast at the power transformer.

 
Pedestrians walk past a submerged taxi in Brooklyn, New York, October 29, 2012 as Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the northeastern United States. Hurricane Sandy began battering the U.S. (Reuters/Gary He)

­As the storm pounds the East Coast, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has declared an ‘Alert’ at a power plant in Oyster Creek, New Jersey.

The plant, currently in a regularly scheduled outage, declared the Alert at approximately 8:45 p.m. EDT due to water exceeding certain high water level criteria in the plant’s water intake structure,” it said in a statement.

 
Fire fighters evaluate the scene of an apartment building which had the front wall collapse due to Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012 in New York, United States. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images/AFP )

 
Flooded cars, caused by Hurricane Sandy, are seen on October 29, 2012, in the Financial District of New York, United States. (AFP Photo / Andrew Burton)


Power outage seen on October 29, 2012 in Manhattan, New York. (AFP Photo / Allison Joyce)

 

16 dead, over 6mn without power on East Coast


 
A blacked out New York City skyline Monday night, as power goes down for much of the city

Source: Press TV
http://www.presstv.ir/usdetail/269487.html

Monster Storm Sandy slammed into the East Coast Monday, killing at least 16 people, hurling a record-breaking 13-foot surge of seawater at New York City and knocking out power to over 6 million people.

The massive storm was downgraded from a hurricane after it barged ashore in southern New Jersey, bringing more than 85-mph winds and a roiling wall of seawater as it moved through New York City. It sent water surging into two major commuter tunnels and into subway stations and tracks. It was unclear how much water had come in.

The 16 deaths were reported in New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Some of the victims were killed by falling trees. Police in Toronto said a woman was killed by a falling sign as high winds closed in on Canada's largest city.

The power was out for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and an estimated 6.2 million people altogether across the East, with the full extent of the storm's damage across the region unclear and unlikely to be known until daybreak.

The MTA cut power to some subway tunnels in lower Manhattan, after water came into the stations and tracks. The MTA couldn't say at this point how much damage had been done, and how much time it would take to restore everything to normal.

Consolidated Edison was prompted to cut power to part of the area to avoid storm damage. A large portion of Manhattan's FDR Drive was under water.

Reuters reported late Monday that there had been an explosion at a Consolidated Edison power station on the east side of Manhattan. Despite earlier reports, ConEd said on Twitter no one was trapped inside the plant.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says backup power has been lost at New York University hospital and the city is working to move people out. The mayor delivered a news conference Monday night and said rain was tapering off in the city and the storm surge was expected to recede by midnight. The hospital complex is near the East River in an area of lower Manhattan where flooding has been reported.

The hurricane-turned-post-tropical cyclone, still a powerful, 900-mile-wide hybrid of several weather systems, sent 30-foot-high swells toward New Jersey, and as its eye passed over the shoreline, a surge as high as 10 feet tore into dunes and washed across boardwalks.

The state had evacuated all shore towns ahead of the strike, with Gov. Chris Christie telling residents who ignored the evacuation orders they were "both stupid and selfish."

"[It's a] very intense, very dangerous storm. People will die in this storm," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Monday. "So folks will need to mind their families, stay home and hunker down."

Even homes on stilts were threatened by the massive surge, and water was cresting dunes and boardwalks from Delaware's Rehoboth Beach to Jones Beach in New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo shut down all major New York bridges and schools, airports and the New York Stock Exchange were closed for Tuesday. North of Atlantic City, the storm was expected to be at maximum force from about 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., with gusts up to 90 mph, especially on ocean-facing beaches. For Long Island, Connecticut, and the rest of coastal New England, the high impact winds could last until midnight, according to The Wall Street Journal’s Weather Journal.

The National Guard was deployed along the densely-populated Atlantic Coast, and airports shut down Monday afternoon as the massive system churned in from the sea, creating 30-foot swells off the Jersey shore. The storm is on a collision course with a winter storm and a cold front, and high tides from a full moon make it a rare hybrid storm that could be felt all the way to the Great Lakes. Still, it could be worse – the storm could be well inland when evening high tide comes, some six hours after landfall.

Sandy has already been blamed for 69 deaths in the Caribbean before it began traveling northward, parallel to the Eastern Seaboard.

In Washington, President Obama urged the millions in Sandy’s path to heed warnings from local and state officials.

“When they tell you to evacuate, you need to evacuate,” Obama said. “Don't delay, don't pause, don't question the instructions that are being given because this is a powerful storm."

States of emergency were declared from North Carolina, where gusty winds whipped steady rain on Sunday, to Connecticut. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities on Sunday, while Ocean City, Md., also was evacuated.

Tens of thousands of people were ordered to evacuate in anticipation of the storm, including 375,000 in lower Manhattan and other parts of New York City. At least 50,000 were ordered to evacuate in Delaware alone and 30,000 in Atlantic City, N.J., where the city's 12 casinos were forced to shut down for only the fourth time in the 34-year history of legalized gambling there.

Airlines canceled more than 8,962 flights and Amtrak suspended passenger train service across the Northeast for Monday and Tuesday.

New York and Philadelphia shut down their subways, buses and commuter trains Sunday night and announced that schools would be closed on Monday. Boston, Washington and Baltimore also called off school. In Washington and New Jersey, Metrorail and PATH train services were canceled.

In Connecticut, the number of power outages began climbing as the storm moved through the state. In New York City, 250,000 homes were reported to be without power. Fox News

Swiss banking giant UBS AG to cut about 10,000 jobs worldwide


 
Swiss banking giant UBS has announced plans to slash some 10,000 jobs worldwide

Source: Press TV
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/2012/10/30/269503/swiss-banking-giant-to-cut-10000-jobs/

The largest bank in Switzerland, UBS AG, has announced plans to cut about 10,000 jobs worldwide, as the economic crisis in the European country continues to worsen.

"This decision has been a difficult one, particularly in a business such as ours that is all about its people. Some reductions will result from natural attrition and we will take whatever measures we can to mitigate the overall effect,” UBS chief executive Sergio Ermotti said in a statement released on Tuesday.

According to the statement, the decision is part of a restructuring plan devised in response to the global economic downturn and the European financial crisis.

Reports say that the Zurich-based bank aims to save over three billion dollars until the end of 2015.

The bank has also posted a net loss of 2.3 billion dollars in the third quarter of 2012.

Since the beginning of the financial crisis in Europe, UBS which employs more than 63,000 people, has been hit by billions of dollars in trading losses, management mishaps and scandals.

Last year, the Swiss bank said it would cut only 5 percent of its workforce, or about 3,500 jobs. It also appointed new executives that have promised to emphasize the bank’s wealth management business and decrease its capital markets activities.

Europe plunged into the financial crisis in early 2008. Insolvency now threatens heavily debt-ridden countries such as Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Spain.

The worsening debt crisis has forced the EU governments to adopt harsh austerity measures and tough economic reforms, which have triggered incidents of social unrest and massive protests in many European countries.

Turkish police teargas thousands-strong secularist demo



Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/news/turkey-police-teargas-protest-506/

Tear gas and water cannons met thousands of protesters in Ankara who had staged a pro-secular rally on Republic Day. The clashes mark a growing gap between the Islam-leaning government and the country's secular layers.

­“Turkey is secular and will remain secular!” chanted protesters waving Turkish flags and banners.

The capital’s governor last week banned a planned pro-secular rally citing fears that “some groups may seek to incite anarchy in the country.” But Monday, over 30 civil society groups, led by the Youth Union of Turkey, still took to the streets.

Tens of thousands gathered in Ankara's old city to march to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the secular republic on October 29, 1923 after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

We are the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal!” shouted the demonstrators, who have been angered by an Islamic bent demonstrated recently by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Since Erdogan first occupied the PM’s seat in 2003, his government has pushed a number of democratic reforms to bring Turkey closer to EU standards, such as abolishment of many restrictions on freedom of speech and the press.

But a recent education reform has been slammed by opposition groups as “promoting more Korans in schools and veil wearing.” Other criticisms stem from Erdogan’s strong political personality, with many suspecting the PM of “elected sultan” ambitions.

In recent years, Republic Day celebrations have become a common date to mark the country’s fears for its secular traditions. But as on Monday demonstrators failed to reach Mustafa Kemal’s mausoleum, where Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and other top officials had laid wreaths hours earlier.

Great Ataturk… We stand before you with the pride of being a country that is improving its democracy, protecting human rights and freedoms, strengthening its economy and maintaining reforms. We are trying our best to surpass the level of contemporary civilization, to maintain the basic values of our republic,” President Gul wrote in the special ceremonial register at the mausoleum.

 
Riot police use tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd as thousands of people holding national flags marched to the mausoleum of Ataturk to celebrate the country's Republic Day in Ankara, on October 29, 2012. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

 
Riot police use tear gas and water canons to disperse the crowd as thousands of people holding national flags marched to the mausoleum of Ataturk to celebrate the country's Republic Day in Ankara, on October 29, 2012. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

 
The Ankara governor's office has banned the Republic Day rally, arguing that the state's security services received intelligence that groups might be planning "provocative" actions. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

 
Thousands of people holding national flags gather at the mausoleum of Ataturk to celebrate the country's Republic Day in Ankara, on October 29, 2012. (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Key witness in Polish presidential plane crash dies foulplay suspected


 
Polish President Lech Kaczynski's Tu-154 aircraft debris (RIA Novosti / Oleg Mineev)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/news/polish-president-crash-suicide-483/

A Polish parliamentary investigation into President’s Lech Kaczynski plane crash in Smolensk in 2010 is considering witness protection: A flight engineer set to deliver critical testimony was found hanged in his house in Warsaw.

­The body of Remigiusz Muś, a 42-year-old aviation engineer, was found by his wife in the cellar of their house in the suburbs of the Polish capital at around 11:30pm local time on Saturday. She called an ambulance and attempted to resuscitate her husband, but medics pronounced him dead as soon as they arrived. An autopsy is set for Monday, October 29.

As news of Muś’ death hit headlines, the head of the Polish parliamentary commission looking into the crash, Antoni Macierewicz, said that Muś was one of two key witnesses in the case. With Muś dead, key witness Artur Wosztyl should be put in protective custody, Macierewicz said.

Dariusz Slepokura, a spokesperson for the Warsaw district prosecutor's office, said on Monday that Muś likely committed suicide.

Muś’ suicide has become the second incident of its kind connected to the investigation of the April 10, 2010, plane crash in Smolensk that killed the Polish president and 95 other people aboard. In January 2012, a Polish prosecutor involved in the investigation shot himself for no apparent reason during a media briefing. Prosecutor Mikolaj Przybyl told reporters he needed a break, and ordered them to leave the briefing room. Immediately after they left, Przybyl shot himself. Doctors managed to save his life, as his brain was not damaged by the self-inflicted wound.

Muś arrived to Smolensk on a Polish Yak-40 airliner carrying the Polish press pool one hour before the President’s plane crashed. Shortly after the incident, Muś retired from aviation.

The catastrophe devastated Polish leadership, as most of the country’s top political, military, financial and religious leaders were on the same flight to Smolensk to commemorate Polish officers imprisoned and brought to the USSR in 1939. The prisoners were later executed in the forests of Katyn, around 14 kilometers west of the city of Smolensk.

During the investigation, Muś testified that he witnessed the ground control in Smolensk communicating with the pilots of the president’s airplane.

Muś claimed that while he rested in the cabin of the plane, he overheard a Russian air traffic control officer giving the president’s plane permission to descend to a ‘landing decision’ height of 50 meters. Muś said that earlier, the aircraft in which he was flying was given the same permission to descend to 50 meters, despite the dense fog covering the Smolensk region that day.

Muś’ testimony contradicted the official version, which said that the traffic controller only allowed the airplane to descend to 100 meters.

The official statement prompted a wide-ranging international investigation by the Interstate Aviation Committee, which included experts from Russia, Poland and the US According to the official narrative delivered by the Committee, the crash of Poland’s presidential plane was largely caused by human error and bad weather. The pilots were warned of heavy fog and low visibility at Smolensk military airfield, and were asked to reroute to a different airport.

The pilot nevertheless made the decision to land. The investigation by the Interstate Aviation Committee revealed that in addition to the severe weather conditions, the pilots had been subjected to pressure by some of the high-ranking passengers onboard. Transcripts from the plane’s black box revealed the pilots were forced to land as soon as possible. The recording also showed that one oficial entered the cockpit many times throughout the flight, and that the Chief of the Air Force of Poland was present in the cockpit at the time of the crash.

 

Germany orders a check on its gold reserves



Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/business/news/germany-gold-reserves-check-472/

German federal auditors have requested the Bundesbank checks Germany’s gold reserves, a major part of which has been stored at banks abroad since the Cold War.

­Germany’s gold bars, stored in the United States, Britain and France "have never been physically checked by the Bundesbank itself, or other independent auditors, regarding their authenticity or weight," reveals a report prepared by the Federal Auditors' Office. Instead, the Bundesbank relies on a "written confirmation by the storage sites."

Germany has placed as much as some 3,400 tons of gold worth an estimated $190 billion at current values in the vaults of the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of France and the Bank of England since the late 1940s. The reason was to secure the country’s gold reserves in a case of a possible war with the Soviet bloc. Currently only about 30% of Germany’s gold reserves are kept in Germany, at the facilities of Frankfurt-based Bundesbank.

Since then, the Bundesbank has seen no reason to check its gold reserves. "There is no doubt about the integrity of the foreign storage sites in this regard," it said in a statement.

Concerns about Germany’s gold reserves arose this year after a group of German federal lawmakers wanted to check gold bars stored at the Banque de France in Paris. But they were turned away by local officials who said there were no facilities to visit the vaults, Deutsche Welle reported.

German worries about the situation with its gold reserves reflect the worries of the German politicians that the country has enough gold reserves to resist the spreading eurozone crisis.

The Bundesbank has reportedly decided to ship 150 tons of gold from the New York Federal Reserve to Germany, according to German daily Bild. After returning to Germany the gold will be melted down to test the overall purity of each consignment before being re-cast into standard gold bars.

Pro-Democracy groups behind Myanmar Refugee Attacks


 
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi, leaders of the "Saffron Revolution," leading ethnic cleansing of Myanmar refugees
By: Tony Cartalucci
Source: Alternative Thai News
People don't just come out into the streets and begin murdering each other. There are always instigators on one side, perhaps both, leading the anger and violence. In the case of targeted Muslim Rohingya refugees in Myanmar's Rakhine state, those leading the the violence against them, which most recently involved 26 killed and 2,000 Rohingya homes destroyed, have been identified.

While the Associated Press (AP) features grainy photos of monks outside the city hall in Yangon, Myanmar, claiming that it is a rally "against violence," the signs themselves tell a different tale. One enumerates, in English, the demands of the "monks." The sign includes:
1. Protect Rakhine People from the Dangers of Islamic Extremism.
2. Army Must stop Shooting the Ethnic People.
3. We Arakanese Don't Want to Live With Extreme Bengalis Anymore.
4. Mr. President Should be Decisive on the Issue of Arakan.
5. Drive all illegal Bengalis out of the Land of Myanmar.
6. All Ethnic People of Myanmar Should be United.
The sign continues, but is obstructed in all the shots provided by AP. All of the news stories featuring the picture do not mention any of the enumerated points on the sign, and instead claim, "Myanmar Buddhist monks offer prayers Thursday during a rally of more than 100 people protesting recent violence."

By "Army Must stop Shooting the Ethnic People," the protesters mean the army should stop firing on their vigilantes for attempting to eradicate the refugees, as the points on the sign enumerate clearly they are the united ethnic people of Myanmar, and the refugees are "illegal Bengalis."
 
Image: Praying for genocide. While Associated Press claims these protesters are demonstrating against ethnic violence, the sign they carry clearly states that they seek the expulsion of the refugees from Myanmar, and are merely protesting against the Myanmar Army's use of force to protect them from attacks that have left scores dead and thousands of refugee homes destroyed.
In the summer and early fall of 2012 when this wave of violence had again erupted, AFP reported in their article, "Monks stage anti-Rohingya march in Myanmar," that the marching "monks" supported President Thein Sein's plan to expel the Rohingya, before paradoxically admitting that Thein Sein has accused the marchers of "kindling hatred toward the Rohingya."

AFP, in a grave lapse of professional journalism, refers to the leader of this movement as merely "a monk named Wirathu."

However, this isn't merely "a monk named Wirathu," but "Sayadaw" (venerable teacher) Wirathu who has led many of "democratic champion" Aung San Suu Kyi's political street campaigns and is often referred to by the Western media as an "activist monk."

In March of this year, Wirathu had led a rally calling for the release of so-called "political prisoners," so designated by US State Department funded faux-NGOs. Wirathu himself was in prison, according to AFP, for inciting hatred against Muslims, until recently released as part of an amnesty, an amnesty US State Department-funded (page 15, .pdf) Democratic Voice of Burma claims concerned only "political prisoners."

Image: Real monks don't do politics. The "venerable" Wirathu (front, left) leads a rally for "political prisoners" loyal to Aung San Suu Kyi's "pro-democracy" movement in March, 2012. Wirathu himself has been often portrayed as an "activist monk" and a "political prisoner" who spent years in prison. In reality, he was arrested for his role in violent sectarian clashes in 2003, while Suu Kyi's "pro-democracy" front is actually US-funded sedition. Wirathua has picked up right where he left off in 2003, and is now leading anti-Rohingya rallies across the country.
Human Rights Watch itself, in its attempt to memorialize the struggle of "Buddhism and activism in Burma" (.pdf), admits that Wirathu was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years in prison along with other "monks" for their role in violent clashes between "Buddhists and Muslims" (page 67, .pdf). This would make Wirathu and his companions violent criminals, not "political prisoners."

While Western news agencies have attempted to spin the recent violence as a new phenomenon implicating Aung San Suu Kyi's political foot soldiers as genocidal bigots, in reality, the sectarian nature of her support base has been back page news for years. AFP's recent but uncharacteristically honest portrayal of Wirathu, with an attempt to conceal his identity and role in Aung San Suu Kyi's "Saffron" political machine, illustrates the quandary now faced by Western propagandists as the violence flares up again, this time in front of a better informed public.
 
Image: An alleged monk, carries an umbrella with Aung San Suu Kyi's image on it. These so-called monks have played a central role in building Suu Kyi's political machine, as well as maintaining over a decade of genocidal, sectarian violence aimed at Myanmar's ethnic minorities. Another example of US "democracy promotion" and tax dollars at work.
During 2007's "Saffron Revolution," these same so-called "monks" took to the streets in a series of bloody anti-government protests, in support of Aung San Suu Kyi and her Western-contrived political movement. HRW would specifically enumerate support provided to Aung San Suu Kyi's movement by these organizations, including the Young Monks Union (Association), now leading violence and calls for ethnic cleansing across Myanmar.

The UK Independent in their article, "Burma's monks call for Muslim community to be shunned," mentions the Young Monks Association by name as involved in distributing flyers recently, demanding people not to associate with ethnic Rohingya, and attempting to block humanitarian aid from reaching Rohingya camps.

The Independent also notes calls for ethnic cleansing made by leaders of the 88 Generation Students group (BBC profile here) - who also played a pivotal role in the pro-Suu Kyi 2007 protests. "Ashin" Htawara, another "monk activist" who considers Aung San Suu Kyi, his "special leader" and greeted her with flowers for her Oslo Noble Peace Prize address earlier this year, stated at an event in London that the Rohingya should be sent "back to their native land."

The equivalent of Ku Klux Klan racists demanding that America's black population be shipped back to Africa, the US State Department's "pro-democratic" protesters in Myanmar have been revealed as habitual, violent bigots with genocidal tendencies and enumerated designs. Their recent violence also casts doubts on Western narratives portraying the 2007 "Saffron Revolution's" death toll as exclusively the work of government security operations.

Like their US-funded (and armed) counterparts in Syria, many fighting openly under the flag of sectarian extremism held aloft by international terrorist organization Al Qaeda, we see the absolute moral bankruptcy of Myanmar's "pro-democracy" movement that has, up until now, been skillfully covered up by endless torrents of Western propaganda - Aung San Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize and a recent showering of Western bestowed awards, all being part of the illusion.
Sectarian Violence, Destabilization: What's in it for the West?

In "Myanmar (Burma) "Pro-Democracy" Movement a Creation of Wall Street & London," it was documented that Suu Kyi and organizations supporting her, including local propaganda fronts like the New Era Journal, the Irrawaddy, and the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) radio, have received millions of dollars a year from the Neo-Conservative chaired National Endowment for Democracy, convicted criminal and Wall Street speculator George Soros' Open Society Institute, and the US State Department itself, citing Britain's own "Burma Campaign UK (.pdf)."
 
Image: The Myitsone Dam, on its way to being the 15th largest in the world until construction was halted in September by a campaign led by Wall Street-puppet Aung San Suu Kyi, a stable of US-funded NGOs, and a terrorist campaign executed by armed groups operating in Kachin State, Myanmar.

And not only does the US State Department in tandem with Western corporate media provide Aung San Suu Kyi extensive political, financial, and rhetorical backing, they provide operational capabilities as well, allowing her opposition movement to achieve Western objectives throughout Myanmar. The latest achievement of this operational capability successfully blocked the development of Myanmar's infrastructure by halting a joint China-Mynamar dam project that would have provided thousands of jobs, electricity, state-revenue, flood control, and enhanced river navigation for millions. Suu Kyi and her supporting network of NGOs, as well as armed militants in Myanmar's northern provinces conducted a coordinated campaign exploiting both "environmental" and "human rights" concerns that in reality resulted in Myanmar's continual economic and social stagnation.

The ultimate goal of course is to effect regime change not only in Myanmar, but to create a united Southeast Asian front against China in pursuit of long-documented plans to encircle and contain the emerging superpower.

As reported in June, 2011's "Collapsing China," as far back as 1997 there was talk about developing an effective containment strategy coupled with the baited hook of luring China into its place amongst the "international order." Just as in these 1997 talking-points where author and notorious Neo-Con policy maker Robert Kagan described the necessity of using America's Asian "allies" as part of this containment strategy, Clinton goes through a list of regional relationships the US is trying to cultivate to maintain "American leadership" in Asia.

Image: (Top) The "Lilliputians" though small in stature were collectively able to tie down the larger Gulliver from the literary classic "Gulliver's Travels." In the same manner, the US wants to use smaller Southeast Asian nations to "tie down" the larger China.

The US Army's Strategic Studies Institute 2006 publication, "String of pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China's Rising Power Across the Asian Littoral" details US geopolitical awareness of China's growing influence throughout Asia and enumerates a plan of action to balk it while maintaining American preeminence. While Kagan's paper details a broader geopolitical strategy, the SSI report specifically mentions where China is expanding its influence.

In defining China's "String of Pearls" it states:
Each “pearl” in the “String of Pearls” is a nexus of Chinese geopolitical influence or military
presence. 4 Hainan Island, with recently upgraded military facilities, is a “pearl.” An upgraded airstrip on Woody Island, located in the Paracel archipelago 300 nautical miles east of Vietnam, is a “pearl.” A container shipping facility in Chittagong, Bangladesh, is a “pearl.” Construction of a deep water port in Sittwe, Myanmar, is a “pearl,” as is the construction of a navy base in Gwadar, Pakistan. 5 Port and airfield construction projects, diplomatic ties, and force modernization form the essence of China’s “String of Pearls.” The “pearls” extend from the coast of mainland China through the littorals of the South China Sea, the Strait of Malacca, across the Indian Ocean, and on to the littorals of the Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf. China is building strategic relationships and developing a capability to establish a forward presence along the sea lines of communication (SLOCs) that connect China to the Middle East (see Figure 1).
 
Image: Figure 1. From SSI's 2006 "String of Pearls" report detailing a strategy of containment for China. While "democracy," "freedom," and "human rights" will mask the ascension of Aung San Suu Kyi and others into power, it is part of a region-wide campaign to overthrow nationalist elements and install client regimes in order to encircle and contain China. Violence in areas like Sittwe, Rakhine Myanmar, or Gwadar Baluchistan Pakistan, are not coincidences and documented evidence indicates immense Western backing for armed opposition groups.
The report was written in 2006 - and clearly the West has gone through great lengths since then to destabilize, neutralize, or isolate from China's influence each and every one of these "pearls." Indeed, the state of Rakhine in southwest Myanmar is being developed by China as stated in the SSI report. The city of Sittwe is the site of a Chinese-built port, and Kyaukpyu is the future site for the terminal of a trans-Myanmar oil pipeline linking Chinese oil tankers incoming from the Middle East directly with China's Yunnan province, negating the lengthy trip around the Strait of Malacca and across the South China Sea.

By destabilizing Rakhine state, either through this current violence, or by "radicalizing" groups within the Rohingya and expanding the violence further still, the West can ensure that progress is slow, or all together brought to a halt, just as it has with Chinese projects up country, or even abroad in nations like war-torn Libya or Pakistan's now destabilized Baluchistan province. The SSI report also mentions Chittagong, Bangladesh, which also, coincidentally, has been dragged into neighboring Myanmar's violence.

A library of policy papers detailing the US' strategy vis-a-vis China's emergence is available for the public to read. However, these papers are written in academic English and require demanding prerequisites across a variety of disciplines to understand. It also requires effort greatly exceeding that needed to merely consider and accept base arguments made by prominent and prolific Western media services. There is always more to a story than mere superficial religious or ethnic differences - and if a news story fails to address this, it has failed to report the truth
For more News and Opinion by Tony Cartalucci:
Land Destroyer

Financial Turbulence: New Downturn in the Global Economy


 
By: Nick Beams
Source: Global Research
http://www.globalresearch.ca/financial-turbulence-new-downturn-in-the-global-economy/5309872

There are increasing signs that the global economy is about to enter a new period of financial turbulence, coupled with deepening recession in a growing number of countries.

In the immediate aftermath of the global economic breakdown that began in 2008, set off by the collapse of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers, governments around the world took on increased debt as they made available trillions of dollars to prevent a complete collapse of the financial system. Meetings of the Group of 20 were dominated by pledges there would be no return to the conditions of the 1930s and assurances that the lessons of history had been learned.

The writings of John Maynard Keynes, the British economist of the 1930s who advocated increased government spending to counter depressions, were suddenly back in vogue. But a sharp turn came in June 2010, when a meeting of the G20 initiated a turn to austerity, emphasising the necessity to impose “fiscal consolidation.” The essence of this program was to claw back the money given to the banks through massive cutbacks to government spending, especially on social services.

However, this program brought a contraction in economic growth leading to decreased profit opportunities for major corporations. Faced with this situation, the US Federal Reserve initiated a policy of “quantitative easing”—the provision of unlimited supplies of money to banks and financial institutions. Central banks around the world cut interest rates to record lows and followed that up with their own versions of quantitative easing (QE). Under conditions of a stagnant real economy, these measures were aimed at boosting the value of financial assets, thereby providing a new avenue for finance houses to realise speculative profits.

While the QE program and its equivalents have been touted as a means of preventing a slide into global recession—US Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed the recently enacted QE3 program was motivated by continuing high unemployment—they have done virtually nothing to boost the real economy. Their only significant impact has been to increase profits through financial manipulation, with the ultra-cheap money provided by the central banks.

But now there are signs that a new stage in the global breakdown is underway, marked by growing recessionary trends, as the impact of the central bankers’ program wanes.

Share prices in the US, which had been lifted by the QE program, have started to fall as companies report a downturn in sales and profits amid announcements of further job cuts. This week American companies pointed to weakening global demand and the fears generated by the continuing financial crisis in Europe.

Dow Chemical announced it would axe 2,400 jobs, 5 percent of its global workforce. It also said it would shut 20 plants and cut capital spending by $500 million, citing a “slow-growth environment in the near term.” DuPont, the largest US chemical group, announced 1,500 layoffs and a loss for the third quarter. It pointed to a sharp drop in sales to the Asia-Pacific region, where volumes were down 10 percent compared to a year ago, dealing a blow to claims that so-called “emerging markets” would provide an alternative source of global demand.

Overall, US corporate profits and earnings are expected to fall for the first time since 2009. The latest data on the US economy show that gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of only 2 percent in the third quarter, well below that required to maintain employment levels. Were it not for the effect of an increase in defence spending, the figure would have been significantly under market expectations.

The most significant feature of the US GDP data was investment spending. Its continuing decline reduced the overall growth figure by 0.1 percentage points for the quarter, while imports and exports both fell, taking off 0.2 percentage points.

While the central bankers will continue to pump money into financial markets, these measures will do nothing to turn the situation around. This week, in a major speech, the governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, noted that every increase in the money supply had a declining impact on the real economy.

His warnings are confirmed by historical trends. Writing in the Financial Times, financial analyst Satyajit Das pointed out that between 2001 and 2008, borrowing against the rising value of houses contributed about half the growth in the US. “But ever increasing borrowings are needed to sustain growth. By 2008, $4 to $5 of debt was required to create $1 of US growth, up from $1 to $2 in the 1950s. China now needs $6 to $8 of credit to generate $1 of growth, an increase from around $1 to $2 15-20 years ago.”

At the meetings of the G20 in 2009, government leaders insisted there would be no return to the protectionist measures of the 1930s which had such a devastating impact on world trade. But the QE program is producing a twenty-first century version of the beggar-thy-neighbour policies of the Great Depression. The flood of money from the US Federal Reserve has pushed down the value of the US dollar, hitting the export markets of its competitors and leading to the development of “currency wars” as they try to maintain their position.

Furthermore, the boosting of financial assets under conditions of slowing economic growth threatens to replicate the conditions that sparked the 2008 collapse on an even broader scale. This is because, unlike the situation four years ago, the central banks themselves are now heavily involved in financial markets and stand to lose massive amounts in a market collapse.

The central bankers and capitalist politicians claim that while their actions may not have promoted growth, they have at least averted a return to the conditions of the 1930s. These claims are belied by the conditions in Spain and Greece, where unemployment is already at 1930s levels.

Moreover, when viewed from an historical perspective, their self-congratulations are somewhat premature. The Great Depression came after a decade of financial and economic turbulence set off by the breakdown of global capitalism that began with the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

This time around, the capitalist breakdown began with a financial crisis that has now set in motion a deepening contraction in world economy.

Like their counterparts in an earlier period, the ruling elites have no response to the historic crisis of the profit system other than a social counterrevolution against the working class, militarism, and the imposition of dictatorial forms of rule.

Far from ending, the global economic crisis is only just beginning. The working class must respond by developing its own independent program based on an intransigent political struggle for the overthrow of the bankrupt capitalist profit system and the bringing of the banks and major corporations under public ownership in order to establish a planned world socialist economy.

Nick Beams

 

Canadian police urge Parliament to pass domestic spying bill


 
(AFP Photo / Patrick Kovarik)

Source: Russia Today
http://rt.com/news/canada-police-spy-bill-c-30-455/

Police across Canada are urging Ottawa to resurrect a controversial Internet surveillance bill that would allow them to monitor Canadians' digital activities in real-time without a warrant.

­The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police has made a plea to on the federal government to pass Bill C-30, also known as the Protecting Children from Internet Predators Act ahead of a gathering by the provincial and federal justice ministers next week.

The group is concerned that Parliament will be closed down before the legislation is passed.

“We have a fear that it will die on the order paper,” said Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu, who is also the president of the association. “And if it does, then our investigators will be constrained and victims will suffer greater harm because of that,” the Canadian Press reports.

Deputy police chief Warren Lemcke agreed with Chu’s assessment, saying that “right now there are gangsters out there communicating about killing someone and we can't intercept that,” as cited by CBC news.

The legislature, introduced in the Canadian Parliament last February, demands that the country’s telecommunication industry provide law enforcement with the “authority to intercept communications and to require telecommunications service providers to provide subscriber and other information, without unreasonably impairing the privacy of individuals, the provision of telecommunications services to Canadians or the competitiveness of the Canadian telecommunications industry.”

If passed, the law would also give the police the power to make it a crime to use social media as a tool to injure, alarm or harass individuals. It would also grant access to the individual’s private data such as name, address, phone number and email without a warrant.

The law would ask the companies to place tracking bugs in their programs so that police, if needed, could spy on conversations if they got the necessary legal approvals.

Until now, C-30 has remained shelved by Parliament, and has not been debated after receiving mass criticism when it was originally released.

Critics claimed that the authorities would likely use the powers to harass peaceful protestors and activists.

A number of social media protests were organized, one of which circulated personal details from the divorce files of the bill’s sponsor of the bill-Public Safety Minister’s Vic Toews.

People also marched on the streets, demanding checks to the would-be unlimited police powers.

A public opinion poll conducted by Angus Reid after the bill’s introduction concluded that "the idea of surrendering subscriber data and identifiers without a warrant” is rejected by almost two thirds of Canadians.

 

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