Tuesday, August 31, 2010

'Rabbi remarks show real Israeli face'

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef

Source: Press TV

Press TV interview with Political Analyst Hani al-Basoos

The Shas spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox party is calling for the annihilation of the Palestinians.

The leader's group is not a rare party but part of the government's leading coalition.

In his sermon, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef described the Palestinians as evil people who should perish from earth. He said HaShem (God) should strike the Palestinians with a plague. The Rabbi received immediate condemnation from the Palestinian Authority.

Press TV interviewed political analyst Hanl al-Basoos on the Rabbi's discriminatory comments and how this is typical of Zionist ideologies, not true Judaism.

Press TV: I would like to welcome Hanl al-Basoos, political analyst and commentator to Press TV. Now this isn't the first time that Rabbi Ovadia Yosef has made these types of comments and the Shas is part of Israel's coalition government. Previously he referred to Palestinians as snakes and vipers. Why do you think that he is allowed to fan this wave of hatred?

Basoos: Well we believe here that this is the way of thinking of the Israeli side. It is an evil way and it's the real face of the Jewish entity. It is the real way they think about Muslims. They think Muslims and Palestinians should not stay in Palestine but perish. They believe in the annihilation of the Palestinian people and this psycho-fanatic way of thinking about human beings cannot be justified at all. It is an illegal way, and such a person should be in a prison now.

In the past, [Rabbi] Shapiro mentioned something similar. He believes in the killing of children and Palestinians. Those people who believe in the killing of children do not belong to the human race. They do not belong to the justice and fairness that human beings should share. I think as I said before the Palestinian Authority should take action immediately. I think those Jewish rabbis (that believe in the killing of innocent people) do not believe in peace or justice at all. The international community should be awake and understand that the Israeli system has a criminal mind and a criminal way of thinking in which killing children is permissible. This is not acceptable by any means.

Press TV: How can the rabbi in a religious cloak speak so hatefully and not be condemned by the Israeli public, and by the other rabbis or Israeli officials and more importantly by the international community?

Basoos: Well first of all I would like to say that this call for killing innocent human beings is not accepted in the Jewish religion or any other religion . What has happened over the last several decades is the ideology of Jewish people who do not believe in anything but the creation of this purely Jewish state in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people. They are taking the rights of the Palestinian people. Now we have an international community that supports the Jewish entity completely and fully. They support even the killing of children in the West Bank and Gaza. We have these policies which have been used by the Israeli state against the Palestinian people. This belief and ideology has been adopted a long time ago by the Jewish entity. There was something established in the Jewish entity in 1948 and even before that.

The US supports the Israeli side at the expense of the Palestinian people and even the Palestinian Authority is now unfortunately cooperating with the Jewish entity. This is not acceptable by the Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza or anywhere in the world. We don't allow such decree to be adopted by the Israelis against the Palestinians. Palestinians would defend themselves here with the solidarity and the help of those international activists and peace activists in the world. I think the international community should awake today and see what the Jewish entity is actually doing. They should consider what will happen in the next fear years.

MK: Israeli troops came to kill activists

Israeli-Arab Knesset member Hanin Zuabi

Source: Press TV

A member of the Knesset has testified before a UN panel probing the Tel Aviv attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy, saying Israeli troops boarded the ship intending to kill.

"It was evident from the beginning that the commandos viewed all of us activists as terrorists," member of Knesset (Israeli Parliament) Hanin Zuabi told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

She testified before the three-member UN team headed by Karl Hudson-Phillips, former judge of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

In late May, Israeli commandos attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine Turkish activists and leaving dozens of others injured.

Zuabi, who was accompanying the aid convoy when it was attacked, said Israel's use of large numbers of troops with sophisticated weaponry showed that the regime's intentions were to kill the passengers.

"We were very peaceful activists, but the commandos came to kill," said Zuabi.

The Israeli lawmaker earlier charged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi with bearing personal responsibility for the "criminal and pirate takeover."

Israel has refused to cooperate with the UN Human Rights Council probe, which is expected to prepare a report at its next session, due to take place from September 13 to October 11.

Tel Aviv, however, accepted to work with a separate UN group led by New Zealand's ex-Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia's ex-President Alvaro Uribe.

Israeli group distorting Wikipedia info

Source: Press TV

An Israeli organization intends to 'revise' Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, based on "national and ethnic interests" of the Zionists.

Wikipedia has turned into a key source of information for Israeli citizens.

The ever-increasing popularity of Wikipedia has prompted the Yisrael Sheli organization to start modifying the online encyclopedia's web pages in line with the 'Jewish and Zionist interests.'

Yisrael Sheli is offering training courses to teach Israeli citizens how to post information of their choice on Wikipedia, IranianUK.com website reported citing the BBC.

One of the founders of Yisrael Sheli says Wikipedia pays no attention to the viewpoints of Israeli people, especially the right-wing views.

Since the very early hours of the Israeli military raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31, Wikipedia released information which did not square with Israeli interests, she says.

Wikipedia, for instance, wrote that those who came under attack during the raid were peace activists while Tel Aviv believed their action was provocative, she underlines.

Naftali Bent, Director General of the Yesha Council which oversees the resettlement of Jews in the West Bank, says he supports Yisrael Sheli's activities.

For example, he says, there is a map of Israel in Wikipedia which does not include the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

But the reality is, he says, the majority of Israelis regard the West Bank and the Golan heights as part of their own land.

Fidel says illness almost killed him

Fidel Castro

Source: Press TV

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro has spoken of his illness, which forced him to leave power, for the first time, saying he "was at death's door."

"Several times I asked myself if doctors were going to let me live in those conditions or if they'd let me die,'' he told Mexico's La Jornada newspaper during a five-hour interview published on Monday, The Miami Herald reported.

"I want to tell you that you are looking at someone who has come back from the dead," he said in the interview.

The 84-year-old former president, however, stopped short of identifying the illness.

"This morning I succeeded in walking 600 steps alone, without a cane, without help," he said.

Castro went on to say that his weight fell to 66 kg (145 lb) at the lowest point, adding that he weighed almost 86 kg (190 lb) at the time being.

"Stretched out on that [hospital] bed, I could only look around me, ignorant about those medical devices. I didn't know how long that torment would last and the only thing I hoped for was for the world to stop,'' he added.

Castro officially stepped down in February 2008, and Cuba's National Assembly elected his brother Raul Castro as the new president.

Castro returned to public life on July 7, 2010 after four years of convalescence from illness.

According to the article appeared in the Mexican paper, the former leader "devours" books and reads up to 300 news articles per day.

US stocks fall over growth concerns

US stocks have once again plunged amid new fears of a
double-dip recession

Source: Press TV

US stocks have plunged with a triple-digit point decline as investors lost confidence over figures showing a slowdown in the country's economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 141 points at closing on Monday. The Nasdaq Composite also fell 33.66 points, or 1.56 percent, to 2,119.97. The technology-heavy index has so far dropped 6% this month.

Concerns have also increased as a series of gloomy reports, due to be released later this week, are expected to show that the US economic recovery is slowing down in the second half of the year.

Shares fell further after US President Barack Obama failed to address economic concerns. In a recent speech, he said that he and his economic team had looked at ways to reinforce the economic recovery, including tax cuts for businesses, but did not provide an action plan.

The new discouraging data adds to August losses, with one trading session left in the month.

Last week, US stocks fell sharply as fears grew over the recovery of the world's leading economy, after a report showed a considerable drop in existing homes sales.

The moves came after the US National Association of Realtors reported a 27 percent month-on-month drop in existing homes sales to their lowest level in 15 years in July.

Bank of Japan holds emergency meeting

A security guard is seen through a link in a chain fence outside the
Bank of Japan building in Tokyo

Source: Press TV

The Bank of Japan is holding an emergency meeting to decide on easing monetary policy in an effort to curb a surging yen amid mounting political pressure.

"Today... the chairman of the Policy Board decided to call an unscheduled monetary policy meeting," Japan's central bank said in a statement on Monday.

The strength of the Japanese currency has battered the country's already fragile economy as political pressure is mounting on the bank to ease its monetary policy.

The news sent Japanese stocks soaring, with the Nikkei 225 stock average rising by 3.1 percent to stand at 9,265.39 points.

The government usually doesn't intervene in foreign exchange markets, but Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has warned that Tokyo will take decisive action when necessary.

Kan's economic team is expected to hold another meeting on Monday to decide the basic thrust of steps to help the fragile economy.

The rise in the yen has hurt Japan's export-driven economy, making Japanese products more expensive aboard.

It is also threatening to delay the country's exit from deflation. The yen hit a fresh 15-year high against the dollar last week.

40 Million Americans live on food stamps

Source: Press TV

record number of people are living on government handouts in the US, as one out of six Americans now gets various anti-poverty supports, including food stamps.

A survey of state data by daily USA TODAY released on Monday showed that more than 50 million Americans are on Medicaid -- the federal-state program designed mainly to help the poor. That is an increase of at least 17 percent from December 2007, when the economic recession started.

"Virtually every Medicaid director in the country would say that their current enrollment is the highest on record," said Vernon Smith of Health Management Associates.

Government data for May indicates that the number of the people getting food stamps has surged to 40 million, a rise of almost 50 percent during the economic downturn.

Compared with 2007, nearly 10 million receive unemployment insurance, which shows a 4 percent rise.

Meanwhile the number of the people who are on welfare program has grown to 4.4 million, an 18 percent increase during the recession.

According to the report, the steady growth in safety-net programs is mainly due to the recession that has increased the number of the people who are qualified to get support under existing rules.

Economists divided over US Fed policy

Source: Press TV

The latest survey by National Association for Business Economics reflect a division between economists over ways the US government should stimulate the economy.

In the NABE's semiannual survey in August, 60 percent of economists surveyed believed that the US economy is threatened by deflation in the short run and inflation in the long run.

Concerning fiscal policy, the respondents said the federal government should take action to promote employment growth before reducing the US deficit, Market Watch reported on Monday.

Analysts say the low pace of growth means unemployment will cloud over the US economy well through 2011.

A relative majority of the respondents supported extending individual income-tax cuts, enacted under President George W. Bush, which is scheduled to expire at the end of the year.

Meanwhile, about a third of the respondents were in favor of expiring tax cuts on higher-income individuals and households.

Latest data painted a grim picture for the US economy in the months to come.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at a smaller-than-expected 1.6 percent rate from April to June. Moreover, unemployment rate remains at almost 10 percent, home sales are plummeting and consumers are spending less.

Pressure to Close Anglo Irish Bank

Source: Press TV

The Irish government signaled on Monday that gradually winding down Anglo Irish Bank could be an option as political pressure mounts on Prime Minister Brian Cowen to deal with a national millstone.

Propping up Anglo Irish left Ireland with the biggest budget deficit in the European Union last year.

With the costs continuing to climb and no final bill in sight, the premium investors demand to hold 10-year Irish bonds rather than Bunds neared record highs again on Monday.

"What we are not saying is that there can be an immediate shutdown of Anglo, that is still by far the most expensive option," Green Party Chairman Boyle told public radio RTE.

Anglo Irish is moving half its loan book to Ireland's state "bad bank" scheme, the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA).

"Management in Anglo Irish is both trying to cooperate with NAMA and promote this idea of a good bank which I think is dividing their attentions," Boyle said.

Ireland should collaborate with the European Commission and the European Central Bank to make sure a wind-down of Anglo would not endanger other Irish banks and the ability of Ireland itself to borrow.

White House sued for 'targeted killings'

US President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

The United States government faces legal action for ordering the assassination of American citizens, whom it accuses of terrorist links.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit, protesting the death warrants including the one, signed by the country's President Barack Obama, against Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, who is identified by the White House as an al-Qaeda leader, Reuters reported.

Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and spent years in Virginia, before moving to Yemen, where he is said to be currently staying.

The US recently accused him of being tied to a young Nigerian whom, Washington insisted, had been trained by alleged al-Qaeda militants in Yemen and unsuccessfully tried to bomb a US-bound plane on the Christmas Day. US authorities have also said al-Awlaki is linked to a US army major who killed 13 soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas last year.

Washington has authorized the Central Intelligence Agency, better known as CIA, to assassinate the cleric.

"A program that authorizes killing US citizens, without judicial oversight, due process or disclosed standards is unconstitutional, unlawful and un-American," Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement.

In taking the action, the bodies represented Nasser al-Awlaki, the cleric's father.

Citing the alleged militant presence, the US air force is said to have conducted several attacks on the Yemeni soil, reportedly leaving dozens of civilians dead.

In July, the clergyman reportedly painted a glum future for the Obama's efforts to establish a military foothold in Yemen.

"If George W. Bush is remembered as being the president who got America stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq, it's looking like Obama wants to be remembered as the president who got America stuck in Yemen," AP quoted him as saying in an audio message according.

US Rep. Dennis Kucinich has also presented a bill prohibiting the extrajudicial killings of Americans suspected of working with terrorist groups in direct response to the White House's order.

Israeli MP urges UN probe of Tel Aviv

Arab Israel lawmaker Hanin Zuabi

Source: Press TV

An Israeli lawmaker says she plans to demand a probe of Israeli leaders by the UN Human Rights Council over the deadly takeover of a Gaza-bound aid convoy.

Arab Israeli deputy Hanin Zuabi announced Monday her intent to ask the UN body to investigate Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel's Ynet news website reported.

On May 31, Israeli navy commandos attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing nine Turkish nationals onboard the aid convoy and leaving dozens injured.

Zuabi, who was accompanying Gaza Freedom Flotilla when it was attacked, charges the three Israeli leaders with bearing personal responsibility for the "criminal and pirate takeover" which claimed the lives of activists onboard the civilian fleet.

The MP is due to testify on Tuesday before the UN Human Rights Council's commission of inquiry into Israel's deadly onslaught on the Turkish-flagged aid vessel Mavi Marmara.

She has also demanded that Tel Aviv allows UN investigators to probe into actions by Israeli soldiers that took part in the Flotilla attack. She also called on the Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to allow Palestinian senior cleric Sheikh Raed Salah, who was also onboard the Flotilla, to testify before the UN body.

Zuabi also plans to ask the Human Rights Council to extend the jurisdiction of its fact-finding commission to investigate "Israel's violations of international law in imposing a blockade on Gaza, war crimes, and crimes against humanity being committed in the Gaza Strip for four years."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Israel preparing to attack Syria: report

Source: Press TV

Israel is reportedly preparing to strike arms depots and weapons manufacturing plants in Syria, claiming they belong to the Islamic resistance movement Hezbollah, a report says.

Tel Aviv has escalated its military presence in the occupied Golan Heights and the northern part of the Shebaa Farms, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said, citing a report in the Saturday edition of the Kuwaiti daily Al Rai.

The report quoted European sources as saying that recent Israeli reconnaissance flights, which violated Lebanese and Syrian airspace, are indications that Israel is ready to start a war in the area.

The potential targets are located far inside Syrian territory, the report added.

Israel remains technically at war with both Syria and Lebanon since it refuses to return the lands it occupied alongside vast expanses of other Arab territories during large-scale military operations in 1967.

In September 2007, at least four Israeli fighters crossed into Syrian airspace and launched an attack on an alleged nuclear facility, which caused a significant rise in tension.

Turkey-mediated talks between the two sides fell apart after Israel started the December 2008-January 2009 war on the Gaza Strip, which killed over 1,400 Palestinians.

Israel also started a war against Lebanon in 2006, which killed about 1,200 Lebanese, most of them civilians.

Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled a whole host of accusations against both countries, saying Damascus had supplied Russian-made scud missiles to Hezbollah, which defended the country during Israel's attacks on Lebanon.

However, the Israeli allegations have been categorically rejected by the governments of Syria and Lebanon as well as by the Hezbollah movement.

Rabbi slammed for promoting 'genocide'

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (C) surrounded by members of his staff during a rally of his Shas party

Source: Press TV

The chief Palestinian negotiator has urged worldwide condemnation of Israel's genocidal figures after a top Israeli clergyman wished all Palestinians dead.

Referring to the Palestinians, the founder and spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-orthodox Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef said on Saturday, "All these evil people should perish from this world," Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported.

He especially desired the demise of acting Palestinian Authority (PA) Chief Mahmoud Abbas, referring to him by name.

The remarks raised eyebrows partially as it came from a party partnering with Premier Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud in the ruling coalition. They also preceded upcoming direct peace talks between Israel and the PA.

The Palestinian official, Saeb Erekat, called on the international community "to condemn incitement to genocide by public figures in Israel," AFP reported.

Yosef "is literally calling for a genocide against Palestinians, and there seems to be no response from the Israeli government," he said in a statement.

"He is particularly calling for the assassination of…Abbas who within a few days will be sitting face to face with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is this how the Israeli government prepares its public for a peace agreement?" Erekat pointed out.

He said Tel Aviv had "to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred."

The Shas spiritual leader made similar comments in April 2001, calling for the annihilation of Arabs.

UK Unions single out Israel boycott

Source: Press TV

Britain's trade unionists will vote on a resolution next month at their annual conference, condemning Israel for stepping up its atrocities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The resolution to be adopted by Britain's six-and-a-half million trade union members at thier conference in Manchester, northwest England, condemns Israeli-imposed siege on the Gaza Strip where the living conditions are increasingly being deteriorated for more than 1.5 million impoverished people living in the impoverished territory.

It states that Israel is undermining the viability of the occupied West Bank and the East Al-Quds areas and their potentials for establishing an independent Palestinian state through the deliberate strategy of annexing massive swathes of land, destroying Palestinians' homes and erecting walls and checkpoints in defiance of international laws and UN resolutions.

The resolution also strongly condemns Israeli army's assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla last year which was seeking to take humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, calling on world leaders to hold Israel accountable for massacring international activists in international waters.

The UK's Trade Union Congress (TUC) Global Solidarity will also urge the British government and the EU leaders to take "much stronger political steps" to ensure Israel abides by UN resolutions.

Delegates are also urged to back instructions for the TUC General Council to "organize and support a boycott of Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank."

Affiliates and employers are also being encouraged to cease investment in Israel, with amendments to extend the boycott to companies that profit from Israel's illegal occupation, reads a copy of the final agenda obtained by the British media.

At the annual conference last year, the TUC took the historic step of voting for a boycott of Israeli goods in the first resolution of its kind since the campaign to end anti-apartheid in South Africa.

In April, trade unionists stepped up the boycott campaign with the publication of a new leaflet entitled 'Would You Buy Stolen Goods' that called on consumers not to buy any goods from illegal Israeli settlements.

The TUC conference, which kicks off on September 13, traditionally opens a new political year in Britain and is followed by a season of annual party conferences.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Obama created by CIA: Report

United States President Barack Obama

Source: Press TV

A newly released report claims that the US President Barack Obama is a CIA creation, as his clandestine life poses question after question.

American investigative journalist and former National Security Agency employee Wayne Madsen says Obama as well as his family including his parents, step-father, and grandmother had connections with the CIA and other wealthy elites such as the Rothschild and Rockefeller families.

Madsen has put together an extensive three-part (and growing) series with conclusive proof and documentation that Barack Obama Sr., Stanley Ann Dunham (Obama's mother), Lolo Soetoro (the Indonesian stepfather of Barack Obama) and Barack Obama himself all hold deep ties to the CIA and larger intelligence community. Madsen has been using publicly available data bases for his work on Obama.

"I don't see any change and in some aspects I think he's worst than former President Bush. I wish this information was available during the presidential elections. Obama has always been very supportive of the CIA and applauded them in a speech rather than investigating their torture operations in Guantanamo Bay and abroad," Madsen explained.

Obama's supporters have been very careful to keep his history hidden by clamping down his high school records, college records, passport and his birth certificate. Barry Soetoro was an alias for Barack Obama and this was the name registered at the Fransiskus Assisi school in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Facing prison for filming US police

The Rodney King case compounded anger at police who were
perceived as racist [AFP]

By: Chris Arsenault

Source: Al Jazeera

When police arrested Anthony Graber for speeding on his motorbike, the 25-year-old probably did not see himself as an advocate for police accountability in the age of new media.

But Graber, a sergeant with the Maryland Air National Guard, is now facing 16 years in prison, not for dangerous driving, but for a Youtube video he posted after receiving a speeding ticket.

The video, filmed with a camera mounted on Graber's motorcycle helmet designed to record biking stunts rather than police abuse, shows a plain clothes officer jumping out of an unmarked car and pointing a pistol at the motorcyclist.

It does not portray the policeman in a positive light.

After he posted the video on Youtube, police raided Graber's home, seized computers and put him in jail.

"The case is critical to the protection of democracy because I don't think you can have a free country in which public officials are able to criminally prosecute people who film what they are doing," David Rocah, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Maryland who is representing Graber, said.


Even though he had never been arrested before, Graber is being charged with illegal wiretapping and could face 16 years in jail.

"This is about shielding the policeman, a public servant, from journalistic scrutiny," Steve Rendall, a media analyst with Freedom and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), told Al Jazeera.

The arrest happened in April and the trial is expected to begin later this year.

Rocah said his client "was charged under the wiretapping statute which prohibits taping oral communications without consent".

The statute, which does not mention video recording, is not supposed to apply to "conversations in a colloquial context, but in a private context" Rocah told Al Jazeera.

The encounter happened on a public street and, according to Rocah, police officers - public officials tasked with protecting the public interest - should not be able to hide behind such rules to avoid scrutiny.

"The value of documenting what is happening cannot be over-stated," he said.

Threat to privacy?

Supporters of the crack-down on filming police argue that citizen journalists pose a threat to privacy.

That is the logic Joseph Cassily, the prosecutor handling Graber's case, is likely to make at the trial.

In media interviews, Cassily presented a scenario where police stopped someone on suspicion of drinking and driving, asking for a breath test, and a random passerby filmed the encounter, putting it on the internet without consent from the driver or the officer.

"Is there some interest in protecting private individuals who may be having a conversation with the police? Yes," Rendall said.

"But in the end, I think that is out-weighed by the public's right to know."

"[Furthermore] you can't walk through Washington Square [a public space in New York] without being in the view of dozens of video cameras run by the police."

Recording ban

The wiretapping statute which bans "secret" recording of private conversations is legislated by the state of Maryland, not the US federal government.

Other US states, including Florida, Illinois and Massachusetts, have used similar laws against citizen journalists.

In 2007, police in Florida arrested Carlos Miller, after the journalist photographed the arrest of a woman.

"They [police] told me to leave the area, saying it was a 'private matter' and I said 'this is a public road'. They escorted me across the street and told me to keep moving. I had the right to be there and kept taking photos. They arrested me," Miller said.

He was charged with a series of misdemeanors and like many Americans arrested for filming police, Miller was eventually acquitted in court.

The arrest prompted the reporter to start the blog Photography is Not a Crimewhere he has documented more than eight similar incidents.

But the idea of winning court battles against journalists may not be the reason security forces prosecute journalists with wiretapping laws and other methods.

Intimidating journalists

"The whole reason for these laws is to intimidate people from filming," Rendall said.

And attempts to intimidate journalists into putting down their cameras reach far beyond the US.

In February the UK's Guardian newspaper ran the headline "Photographer films his own 'anti-terror' arrest"for a story and video about a man who was held by police for eight hours after taking pictures of Christmas celebrations in the small town of Accrington.

Rocah points to the example of the post-election protests in Iran. "The regime completely shut down the traditional media," he said.

"It was citizens' video posted on the web that allowed the world to see what was happening."

Barack Obama, the US president, went so far as to ask Twitter to hold-off on a maintenance operation because the social networking site was playing an important role in the protests.

Police assault

The most prominent US example of a citizen journalist filming police was arguably the case of Rodney King, a black man in Los Angeles who was assaulted by several police officers. His beating was filmed by a citizen standing at a nearby gas station.

Without video evidence, King, a convicted felon, may have stood little chance testifying against police officers in court.

But the video of King's beating flashed across news screens and helped spark the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which left more than 50 people dead and caused about $1bn in property damage.

The dynamics of video-tapping have fundamentally changed since then.

"I think that technology is making the issue [of arrests] arise with increasing frequency because the ability to record is more widely distributed than it ever has been," Rocah said.

The civil liberties lawyer, who believes the wiretapping law is unconstitutional and will eventually be struck down, says he is confident his client will be found not guilty.

Broader trends

But even if he is, this case is indicative of broader trends in media, and consequently, the exercise of power.

As technology outpaces the abilities of states to control the flow of information, governments in the US and beyond are cracking down on independent journalists.

"In the past, freedom of the press only really belonged to those who owned newspapers, TV stations or other major outlets," Miller said.

Now information is more diffuse; history easier to record and technology easier to afford.

Direct evidence, including video of police abuses, is the easiest way to hold the powerful to account. And that may be exactly why security forces do not want to be caught on tape.

US-led troops 'kill Afghan protesters'

Violence in Afghanistan caused by US-led troops

Source: Press TV

US-led troops have reportedly opened fire at demonstrators in northern Afghanistan, killing dozens of people and wounding more than 20 other civilians.

Thousands of people protested near a NATO base in Badghis province after NATO forces killed an Afghan police trainee, a Press TV correspondent reported.

The Afghan trainee had fired on foreign troops, killing two Spanish soldiers and their interpreter.

Afghan media said that the Afghan soldier shot and killed the Spaniards when they tried to remove an Afghan woman's veil by force.

The protesters also called on the Afghan government to help send Spanish troops to their country.

More than 800 Spanish soldiers have stationed in Afghanistan within the framework of NATO forces.

Some 140,000 US-led troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan. A further 10,000 are expected to be deployed to the war-ravaged country in the coming weeks.

US on verge of yet another recession?

Source: Press TV

The US economy may be on the verge of yet another recession as the government Wednesday announced a decline in manufacturing activity and the weakest rate of new home purchases in almost 50 years.

Earlier this week, it was announced that sales of previously occupied homes fell last month to the lowest level in 15 years.

Meanwhile, unemployment remains near double digits because job growth in the private sector has slowed, AP reported.

Economists are predicting the government will announce Friday that the economy grew from April to June even more slowly than previously thought, at an annual rate below 2 percent - weak for normal times and especially anemic right after a recession.

"The odds of a double-dip are rising and uncomfortably high," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, referring to the possibility that the nation will tip back into recession. "Nothing else can go wrong. There is no cushion left."

Housing has never fully recovered from the recession. Builders have been forced to compete with foreclosed properties offered at sharply lower prices.

According to government figures, in July the sales of new homes fell 12.4 percent in compared to a month earlier to a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 276,000, marking a drastic decline from the annual sale of nearly 600,000 new homes from 1983 through 2007.

The July pace was the slowest in at least 47 years. The past three months have been the worst on record.

Weak housing sales spell fewer jobs in the construction industry, which normally powers economic recoveries. On average, each new home built creates the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

The industry received some help in the spring when the government offered tax credits to homebuyers. However, since the tax incentives expired in April, the number of people looking to buy homes has dropped, even with bargain prices and the lowest mortgage rates in decades.

For the average US household the rate of economic growth may not matter much. The two indicators that do matter are the unemployment rate, stuck at 9.5 percent, and home values, which have sunk about 30 percent from their 2006 peak.

Israeli court releases racist rabbi

Rabbi Yossi Elitzur

Source: Press TV

An Israeli court has ordered the release of an extremist rabbi who sparked outrage across the globe for inciting Jews to kill non-Jews, even children.

Yossi (Yosef) Elitzur, a resident of the hardline Yitzhar settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank, was arrested on Thursday for incitement to racism and violence, AFP reported.

But a court in Rishon LeZion, near Tel Aviv, ordered that the rabbi be released the same day, saying police had failed to call him in first for questioning.

The King's Torah, a controversial book Elitzur co-authored with another rabbi, says Jews are allowed to kill "those who, by speech, weaken our sovereignty," adding that it is permissible to kill a non-Jew who threatens Israel even if the person is classified as a Righteous Gentile.

The book says is okay to kill children if they "stand in the way." "They stand in the way of rescue in their presence and they are doing this without wanting to."

"Nonetheless, killing them is allowed because their presence supports murder. There is justification in harming infants if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us. Under such circumstances the blow can be directed at them and not only by targeting adults," Ha'aretz quoted the book as saying.

Published in November 2009, the book has drawn strong criticism from numerous rabbis who say it contradicts the teachings of Judaism.

Yemen: US exaggerates al-Qaeda threat

Former Guantanamo inmate Said Ali al-Shihri is currently second-in-command
for the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Source: Press TV

Yemen says the threat of al-Qaeda in the country has been blown out of proportion, insisting that it is Sana'a's job to fight the militants.

Western media outlets "exaggerate the size of al-Qaeda and the danger that it poses to Yemen's stability and security," AFP said, citing a report published by the state-run Saba news agency.

US officials had earlier referred to increasing concerns in Washington about the looming threat posed by al-Qaeda in Yemen, saying it was planning to step up pressure on the militants.

Reports in the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post also cite US officials who spoke of a possible expansion of US operations in Yemen, including CIA drone strikes.

"Yemen insists that fighting terrorism in Yemen remains the responsibility of Yemeni security authorities," said a Sanaa official, according to Saba.

"Yemeni forces, with the support of friends and brothers, are capable of bearing their full responsibilities in eliminating Al-Qaeda elements," he added.

The militants, believed to be holed up in Yemen -- dubbed by the US as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula -- were thrown into the spotlight following an alleged attempt by a group member to bomb a US-bound flight on Christmas Day, 2009.

The US military reportedly conducted a secret air strike in May against suspected militants in the remote desert of Marib province.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International charged the US with violating international law by carrying out attacks and cooperating in 'extrajudicial executions' in the impoverished Arab nation.

In a report published in June, the human rights watchdog said the United States used cluster bombs on a cruise missile in Yemen, killing 55 people, mostly civilians, in al-Ma'jalah in Abyan province.

Million set to march in South Africa

Strikes began last week and saw clashes between protesters
and police [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera

More than one million South African civil servants are gathering ahead of planned protests across the country over low wages.

Labor unions planned the action on Thursday as part of continued pressure on the government to agree to improved pay terms and benefits.

Around 1.3 million state workers have been on strike since Wednesday last week, picketing outside schools, hospitals and government offices.

A day after they began, the strikes became violent when police used rubber bullets and water cannons against teachers and other civil servants, who threw stones and bricks at them when trying to enter a hospital in Johannesburg.

The unions have set a deadline of September 2 for the government to provide a 8.6 per cent rise in salaries and a 1,000 rand ($138) monthly housing allowance, otherwise more state workers are slated to join the strikes.

The South African government is offering a seven per cent pay hike and 630 rand for housing.

Government services and the economy have already been disrupting by the strikes.

Patients affected

Doctors and activists warned on Wednesday that HIV and Aids patients are not receiving treatment because of the nationwide strike. An estimated 5.7 million people are living with HIV and Aids in South Africa, more than any other country.

One doctor, Ashraf Coovadia, said that his HIV/Aids clinic at a Johannesburg government hospital is receiving 20 to 30 patients whereas normally the figure would be 60 to 80.

He said that clinic staff have been calling patients to urge them to come in.

Patients typically receive three-month batches of drugs. They can develop drug resistance if they miss a few days of medication.

Coovadia said that people may fear encountering violence at state hospitals or think that they have been closed by the strikes.

He added that he has had to negotiate with strikers and security guards to ensure patients can enter the clinic safely.

"The situation is quite volatile," he said.

Under pressure

Maine de Clercq, from one of the striking unions the Public Workers Association, told Al Jazeera: "The government says they do not have the money and we are aware that it is above the inflation rate, but there is policy that we will always ask for inflation plus more.

"Other government officials have already been settled and received that.

"We have eight unions in the public service I represent one. We have not called for essential service workers to go on strike. We do not want people to die."

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, in Johannesburg, said that strikers were planning to march to the education and health departments with a list of their demands on Thursday.

"That raises the stakes for President [Jacob] Zuma and his government. They are more under pressure now to come to some kind of an agreement with the workers and the workers have given the government one more week," Mutasa said.

"If there is no agreement and they do not get what they want they say that they will embark on an even bigger strike.

"They say that more people will join them and the aim then won't just be to bring the public sector to a halt but to bring the entire economy to a standstill."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MPs killed in Somali hotel raid

al-Shabab fighters in 2008

Source: Press TV

Many Somali lawmakers have been killed after al-Shabab fighters raided a hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, where government officials were staying.

Reuters quoted a legislator inside the Hotel as saying that 15 parliamentarians have been killed during the Tuesday attack.

"We have captured and killed 40 lawmakers" inside a Hotel named Weheliye, al-Shabab spokesman told a Press TV correspondent in Mogadishu.

Somali government officials have only confirmed the death of three lawmakers.

The report came a day after at least 38 people were killed and dozens injured in clashes between al-Shabab fighters and pro-government forces in Somalia.

Fierce clashes broke out in the capital city of Mogadishu on Monday after al-Shabab fighters attacked positions of pro-government forces backed by African Union (AU) forces, a Press TV correspondent reported.

Witnesses said nonstop shelling rocked the famous Bakara market, causing civilian casualties.

Mogadishu's Medina hospital reported receiving at least 75 wounded civilians.

An official from Ahlu Sunnah Wal-Jama, a pro-government militia who requested not to be named, blamed rival fighters for starting the fighting.

"They attacked our bases in Dabka intersection but we repelled and pushed them further into Bakara, where they launch their offensives from," he said.

The Somali government condemned the latest offensives by the militant group.

"Al-Shabab spokesperson publicly declared war against the Somali people and government on Monday. This shows their lack of regards for the holy month of Ramadan. It is against Islam and the Somali culture to fight against another Somali," said a statement from Ministry of Information.

The latest skirmishes come after al-Shabab announced that it would be launching major offensives against the UN-backed government and African Union troops.

Governmental racism rises across EU

Roma women and children in a Lyon camp who stand to be expelled
under Nicolas Sarkozy's proposals

Source: Press TV

Governmental hostility towards ethnic and religious minorities across Europe is on the rise, undermining the values upon which the European Union is founded.

The new discriminatory wave mocks the words of EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is based on "human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity."

In the United Kingdom, under the 2003 European Arrest Warrant Act, people can be held and extradited on a charge that is not even a crime.

The warrant can be issued against any person by the prosecuting authorities of any EU country.

The defendants are often held in British custody. Sometimes they are held for months until their appeals against extradition are dismissed -- as they almost always are.

Britain's Home Office has predicted that the number of Europeans held for extradition by British police will likely go up 70 percent in 2011.

In Italy, from the prime minister down, politicians have all united in scorning "irregular third-country citizens and nomads" in a manner that has appeared to legitimize acts of discrimination and violence.

In July, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi made a "declaration of state of emergency" which justifies extraordinary measures, including fingerprinting and photographing Roma people and other immigrants, including children.

In France, criticism piles up against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to expel hundreds of Roma gypsies and shut down some 300 Roma camps in the country within the next few months.

Most of the new gypsy arrivals in France are from Romania and Bulgaria, which are EU member states, whose citizens are ostensibly entitled to freedom of movement and residence throughout the Union.

However, Roma people live on the margins of a mostly hostile mainstream society in poor standards of housing, healthcare and education.

A wave of governmental anti-Islamic tactics has also been observed across the European Union.

Earlier this summer, by a vote of 335 to 1, France's lower house of parliament approved a ban on wearing face-covering veils in public. There have been attempts to enact similar bans in Belgium and Spain.

The EU has already allowed France, among other states, to ban religious headgear in schools and universities.

Perhaps the most stunning demonstration of Europe's growing anxiety about diversity came in Switzerland, which has long prided itself as a haven for refugees.

In a referendum last November, Swiss voters imposed a constitutional ban on the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques. This is while Switzerland has only four minarets and Muslims make up roughly 5 percent of the population.

Amnesty slams Canada for rights abuse

Shetty pressed Ottawa to seek the repatriation of Omar Khadr,
the last Westerner held in Guantamo Bay

Source: Press TV

Amnesty International's new secretary general has sharply criticized the Canadian government for its "serious" human rights violations.

Salil Shetty told the CIVICUS World Assembly on Citizen Participation on Monday that Amnesty International is increasingly concerned "about the serious worsening" of Canada's human rights approach.

"There is a real shrinking of democratic spaces in this country... Many organizations have lost their funding for raising inconvenient questions," AFP quoted Shetty as saying.

He also pressed Ottawa to seek the repatriation of a Canadian detainee, Omar Khadr, held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Shetty said that the prisoner's detention was "unlawful" and that his trial, held this month before a US military tribunal, was "unjust."

Khadr was only 15 years old when he was captured by US troops in Afghanistan eight years ago.

He is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier during a gun battle in 2002.

Khadr, who has spent one-third of his life in Guantanamo, says he was tortured while being interrogated and forced to provide false confessions.

In a sworn statement, the traumatized Canadian said he was beaten, subjected to long periods in solitary confinement, doused in freezing water, spat on, chained in painful positions, terrorized by barking dogs and subjected to sleep deprivation and threats of rape.

Norway boycotts 'unethical' Israel firms

Norwegian Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen

Source: Press TV

The Norway Oil Fund has divested from Africa-Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus Ltd., for the construction of settlements in the West Bank.

“The Council on Ethics emphasizes that the construction of settlements in occupied areas is a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War," Norway's Finance Minister Sigbjoern Johnsen said in the statement on Monday.

"Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under this Convention,” Ha'aretz's website quoted Johnsen as saying.

The Norwegian state-run pension fund has assets worth USD 450 billion, and held USD 1.16 million Africa-Israel shares.

The Norwegian Oil Fund, managed by the country's Central Bank, does not invest in companies that manufacture nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction, and divests from those that harm the environment and violate workers' rights.

Israel orders destruction of 2 mosques

Source: Press TV

Israel has ordered the destruction of two newly built Palestinian mosques in the West Bank amid plans of resuming peace talks next month.

The civil administration issued the orders under the pretext of lack of construction permits, Israeli daily Haaretz reported on Monday.

One of the mosques is located near Burin village and the other one near Jalazoun village.

The order comes at the time the Muslim people of the Palestinian territories are in the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted to revive direct talks in Washington on September 2.

Israel's latest order to destroy the mosques and carrying out settlement activities in the occupied territories, especially in East al-Quds (Jerusalem), may hinder the peace talks.

The Palestinian Authority says that Israel's ongoing settlement activities, home demolitions, evictions, land confiscations and ID revocations would undermine talks.

'Bushehr plant nullified US threats'

The Bushehr power plant in southern Iran

Source: Press TV

An Iranian lawmaker says the Bushehr power plant's imminent start-up proved the "shallowness" of the United States and Israel's military threats.

Despite the US and Israeli intimidations that they would strike the Bushehr power plant, the nuclear reactor will go online and this proves "the shallowness of such threats," said the Spokesman for the Social Commission of Iran's Majlis (parliament) Javad Zamani on Monday.

The Iranian lawmaker also hailed the resistance and patience of the Iranian nation, saying such "endurance led to such a big victory", Zamani added.

"The Iranian officials came across a lot of problems all the way through the reactors' completion, but their patience and resistance helped them achieve this victory," he further explained.

The Majlis representative further criticized Russia's delay in launching the reactor.

"Russia is not a reliable side and it only completed the Bushehr project under Iran's pressure," he noted.

Iran began loading nuclear fuel into the Bushehr nuclear power plant on Sunday under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency and senior officials from Iran and Russia.

According to Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi, the plant's fueling process will be completed by September 5.

The United States and Israel have accused Iran of seeking nuclear weapons under the guise of peaceful nuclear work, a claim vehemently rejected by Iran.

Iran insists that all its nuclear activities have been under the full supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency, saying as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty reserves the right to continue its uranium enrichment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Third World children, 'lab rats' for US

Uganda's poor children

Source: Press TV

Children of third world countries and nations in transition have become 'laboratory rats' for the US' clinical tests for new drugs, an Indian newspaper says.

Under US' 1997 legislation called the Pediatric Exclusivity Provision, intended to speed up development of new drugs for American kids, the trials were carried out in countries such as Uganda and India, The Times of India reported.

Although the trials carried out in such countries, using their children as laboratory rats, it is not clear if okayed medicines might ever become available there and whether they will be affordable for them.

Dr. Sara Pasquali, a pediatrician at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, whose findings appear in the journal Pediatrics, said that the situation raises ethical concerns.

“The trend that we describe brings up some scientific and ethical problems,” she said.

“Oftentimes, access to a study may be the only access to medical care a family has,” Pasquali added.

Among the 174 such trials the researchers examined, drugs against infectious diseases were most likely to be tested in the developing world, closely followed by heart, allergy and arthritis medications.

“We are now using vulnerable people in vulnerable countries as drug laboratories,” Dr Marcia Angell, another researcher said. “It is all about dollars and cents.”

'Pakistan needs 3 years to recover'

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari

Source: Press TV

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says it would take years to rehabilitate the country after the devastating floods.

"Your guess is as good as mine, but three years is a minimum," Zardari told reporters Monday when asked how long it would take Pakistan to go through relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation after the floods.

He warned that his impoverished and volatile country is facing drastic problems.

“I don't think Pakistan will ever fully recover but we will move on," Zardari said, adding that the government was working to protect people from potential future flooding.

More than 1,600 people have lost their lives and 20 million have been affected by nearly a month of flooding which has engulfed a fifth of the country. Disaster is far from over as the country braces itself for a fresh wave of floods in the country's south.

Floodwaters have surged deeper into areas of Sindh province in southern Pakistan. More rains have been forecast for different parts of the flood-stricken country.

A Press TV correspondent reported from Islamabad that the situation in Pakistan's flood-hit areas is turning from bad to worse, particularly in the southern part of Punjab which is the biggest province of Pakistan and the food-basket of the country.

He said that 85 percent of the country's cotton crop depends on the southern belt of Punjab province which has been completely destroyed.
It is becoming very difficult for the Pakistani government to deal with such a situation, the Press TV correspondent said.

Meanwhile, the response to UN appeal for $460 million for rescue and relief operation in Pakistan rose dramatically to over $800 million by Friday.

'Butcher of Gaza' annoys Arabs

Yoav Galant (The Butcher of Gaza), Israeli Defense Minister
Ehud Barak's choice for the future chief of general staff

Source: Press TV

Many Arab outlets wail at Israel's choice of next military chief, Yoav Galant, who is known as the 'butcher of Gaza' for commanding a deadly war on the strip.

Pending approval by Tel Aviv, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has appointed Major General Yoav Galant to succeed the current holder of the position, Gabi Ashkenazi. The move was also welcomed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Galant oversaw the January 2008-December 2009 Israeli offensives on the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting a damage of above $1.6 billion on the impoverished enclave's economy.

On Monday, media outlets in the Arab world either expressed disapproval of the nomination or greeted it with derision, the Palestinian Ma'an news agency reported.

The agency said the Lebanese broadcaster al-Manar TV had referred to Galant as a "war criminal."

The military leader's enlistment with the Israel Defense Forces began in 1977, the Israeli website Ynetnews said.

He, however, left Israel for Alaska to work as lumberjack, it said. Several websites seized upon the matter, calling Galant "woodcutter."

Sudan to build 1st nuclear plant

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir was offered nuclear technology
by Iran earlier this year

Source: Press TV

Sudan is planning to build a nuclear reactor and its first nuclear power plant for peaceful electricity purposes by 2020, state media say.

Director-general of the Sudanese Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed Ahmed Hassan el-Tayeb, said on Sunday that his government had begun the plan for the development of the nuclear reactor at the beginning of this year.

The country "has already started preparing for the project ... in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and is expected to build the first nuclear power plant in the year 2020," state news agency SUNA quoted Tayeb as saying.

An IAEA delegation is set to visit the African country this week to discuss the project, he went on to say.

Sudan has been an IAEA member since 1958, which means that it can develop nuclear energy with IAEA assistance.

Though the country has been under severe US sanctions since 1997, it has managed to boost both its oil production and increase its dam construction projects, thus encouraging growth.

However, in March, Khartoum announced that it needed to look for an alternate source of energy in an attempt to meet its growing demands.

Earlier this year, Iran offered to transfer nuclear technology to Sudan.

The African state has close economic and political ties with the Islamic Republic, which is locked in a dispute with the United States and some of its Western allies over its nuclear program.

Mariam delayed but undeterred

Organizers say the aid ship Mariam (pictured) is delayed
but its trip has not been cancelled

Source: Press TV

All-female vessel Mariam, which was to take aid to the Israel-blockaded Gaza, remains committed to the mission though non-cooperation has delayed its departure.

"The trip has not been cancelled but delayed," one of the organizers, Samar al-Hajj, was quoted by AFP as saying.

The group of more than 50 women was to set sail for the Gaza Strip from Lebanon on Sunday, laden with relief supplies for the impoverished coastal sliver, which has endured more than three years of an all-out Tel-Aviv imposed blockade.

It was, however, denied permission to berth at Cyprus coast.

Yasser Kashlak, another of the organizers, said the rejection had followed Tel Aviv's pressure.

The initiators are currently trying to find Greek and Turkish mid-route stops.

The humanitarian campaigners are to make the visit despite Israeli threats of confronting Gaza-bound relief missions.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has called the move an "unnecessary provocation," urging US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, US National Security Adviser James Jones, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to stop the ship from setting sail.

The developments come amid continued international condemnation of Israel's May 31 attack on the Turkish-backed Freedom Flotilla aid convoy, which had likewise aimed to break the blockade.

The assault in international waters killed nine Turkish activists.

Eight more US banks fail

Source: Press TV

The federal financial regulators in the US have shuttered eight more banks, bringing the number of banks failed this year to 118 amid an ongoing financial crisis.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC ) on Friday seized eight banks including four California-based banks, a community bank in Chicago, and banks in Florida and Virginia.

In California, bank takeovers hit Sonoma Valley Bank of Sonoma, Los Padres Bank, Solvang, Butte Community Bank, Chico, and Pacific State Bank, Stockton, while in Chicago ShoreBank, well-known for its social activism was shuttered, the Associated Press reported.

Imperial Savings and Loan Association of Martinsville, Virginia; Community National Bank At Bartow, Bartow, Florida; and Independent National Bank, Ocala, Florida, were taken over by the FDIC on Saturday.

The FDIC estimates the eight banks seized Friday will cost the deposit insurance fund USD 479.4 million.

During the financial crisis the US set up a USD 700 billion relief program to bailout its ailing financial centers.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, has failed to bring the financial meltdown to an end or even stabilize the US reeling financial system.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Iran 'powers up' nuclear plant

Iran's atomic body says it expects the nuclear-fuel transfer 
to be completed by September 5 [AFP]

Source: Al Jazeera

Iran has started loading fuel into its first Russian-built nuclear power plant.

After decades of delay, engineers finally began loading the Russia-supplied fuel into the Bushehr plant in southern Iran on Saturday.

The development is a major milestone in Iran's atomic programme despite UN sanctions.

The transfer took place under the scrutiny of International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] inspectors, according to a statement by Iran's atomic energy organisation.

"The operation of transferring nuclear fuel to the reactor was carried out in [the] presence of Ali Akbar Salehi, vice-president and head of Iran's atomic body, and Sergei Kiriyenko, head of Russia's atomic body, Rosatom," it said.

Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Moscow, said it will take "several months before the plant is up and running fully and, according to Rosatom, Russia will continue to play an active role in the running of the plant for several more years."

Fuel Pool

A first lorry-load of fuel was taken from a storage site to a fuel "pool" inside the reactor building on Saturday.

Over the next 10 days, 163 fuel rods - equal to 80 tonnes of uranium fuel - will be moved inside the building and then into the reactor core "after necessary inspections", the statement said.

The $1bn plant's 1,000-megawatt light-water reactor will pump electricity to Iranian cities.

Last week, Salehi said the fuel transfer would be complete by September 5.

Iran plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment sites inside protected mountain strongholds.

According to Iranian officials, construction on the first one will begin in March in defiance of the UN sanctions.

Nationwide celebrations were planned for Saturday's fuel loading at Bushehr.

Ali Shirzadian, the spokesman for the Iranian atomic energy organisation, said on Friday that the plant's actual commissioning would come in October or November when the electricity it generates connects to the national grid.

The launch comes despite the fact that Russia, a long-time nuclear ally, has toughened its stance on Iran's nuclear programme.

In June, Russia backed a fourth round of UN sanctions against Iran over its uranium enrichment, the most controversial part of its atomic programme and which the West believes is aimed at making nuclear weapons, a charge the country strongly denies.

Iran has said it is enriching uranium to power nuclear reactors so it can eventually generate electricity of around 20,000MW.

Energy Exporter

Despite being the world's second-largest exporter of crude oil and having the world's second largest gas reserves, Iran insists it needs nuclear power for when its fossil fuels eventually run out.

Salehi, the Iranian atomic-body head, said on Friday that Iran will continue enriching uranium to make fuel for the Bushehr plant as the country might not always buy it from Moscow.

"The Bushehr plant has a life span of 60 years and we plan to use it for 40 years. Suppose we buy fuel for 10 years from Russia. What are we going to do for the next 30 to 50 years?" the state news agency, IRNA, quoted him as saying.

Russia has already supplied 82 tonnes of fuel for Bushehr and plans to take back the spent material to avoid any misuse.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on Wednesday the Bushehr plant would keep Iran firmly fixed to the peaceful use of nuclear power.

"It is a most important anchor which keeps Iran within the regime of non-proliferation," he said.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an expert in non-proliferation at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, said Bushehr is not a proliferation risk "as long as it is run to produce power for electricity generation".

"It would be a risk if Iran operated it differently, for short periods at low-burn up in order to produce weapons-usable plutonium - but in this case the IAEA would know," he said, referring to the UN atomic watchdog.

Shah-Era Project

Work on the Bushehr plant, which is not targeted under UN or other sanctions, began in the 1970s under the rule of the Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the US-backed deposed ruler, using contractors from Siemens, the German firm.

The Bushehr project was put on hold when the shah was toppled in the 1979 Islamic revolution, and was revived a decade later under Ali Khamenei, the current supreme leader.

The Bushehr plant is not considered a proliferation risk because the terms of the deal commit the Iranians to allowing the Russians to retrieve all used reactor fuel for reprocessing.

Spent fuel contains plutonium, which can be used to make atomic weapons.

Additionally, Iran has said that IAEA experts will be able to verify that none of the fresh fuel or waste is diverted.

"The real test of trust for the opening of Bushehr is whether or not Iran will agree to send those fuel rods back and honour its contract in the coming years," our correspondent said.

In 1994, Russia agreed to complete its construction, but since then "technical problems" and disputes between Moscow and Tehran delayed its completion.

Fresh doubts over Bushehr were raised after Moscow voted for the latest UN sanctions, followed by comments made by Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, that Iran was close to attaining the potential to build a nuclear weapon.

This triggered an angry response from Iran, as Moscow's position has always been that Tehran has the right to peaceful nuclear energy.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's envoy to the IAEA, accused Moscow of delaying Bushehr's start-up, saying "it is hard to believe that the technical issues continue to delay the completion of the plant over the past 15 years".

Bushehr has always been seen as a potential target in the event of a military attack by the US and Israel, who have never ruled out military action against Iran's nuclear program.

Iran's Nuclear Plant Fueling Irks Israel

Iran started loading the Bushehr nuclear power plant with the first 
fuel on August 21.

Source: Press TV

Israel, widely assumed to be the only regime with nuclear weapons in the Middle East, has called Iran's fueling of its Bushehr nuclear power plant "totally unacceptable.”

Tel Aviv has also urged pressure on Tehran's civilian nuclear program in a Saturday statement issued by Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy.

"The international community should increase pressure on to force Iran to abide by international decisions and cease its enrichment activities and its construction of reactors," Levy said in the statement, quoted by Reuters.

He also accused Iran of breaching the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of which the Islamic Republic is a signatory while Israel has refused to sign.

The Israeli official made the comments after the Islamic Republic celebrated the launch of its reactor in Bushehr in southern Iran on Saturday.

On Saturday, Iran started loading its first nuclear power plant with fuel in a move to provide the country with nuclear-generated electricity.

The Israeli reaction to the Bushehr plant fueling comes despite a board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in June in which Arab nations denounced Israel for preventing the Middle East from becoming a nuclear-free region.

In the IAEA board session, which addressed Israel's nuclear issue for the first time since 1991, Arab states called on the regime to come clean about its nuclear capabilities and allow international investigations.

"Israel continues to defy the international community, through its continued refusal to accede to the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons," Arab countries said in a statement.

Putin Lauds Startup of Iran's Reactor

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (L) meets with Sergei Kiriyenko,
Russia's nuclear chief, at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow

Source: Press TV

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has been briefed on latest developments in Iran's first nuclear power plant due to be fueled with uranium on Saturday.

Sergei Kiriyenko, Russia's nuclear chief, described the startup of Iran's first major reactor in the southern port of Bushehr as a "landmark event" in his meeting with Putin on Thursday.

"I congratulate you on that," Putin reportedly told Kiriyenko.

"I report to you that we and our Iranian partners have maintained our schedule. This Saturday, August 21, we are beginning the physical launch of the station. It will be done under the eyes of IAEA inspectors," said Kiriyenko.

Iran says Moscow's fulfillment of its commitment to complete the Bushehr nuclear power plant has made Russia a favored contractor for future nuclear projects in the Islamic Republic.

"Considering Russia's expertise… in constructing the Bushehr nuclear plant, the country will be given priority for future nuclear cooperation with Iran," said Tehran's Ambassador to Russia Seyyed Mahmoudreza Sajjadi, quoted by Mehr news agency on Wednesday.

The Iranian envoy stated that the launch of the nuclear plant will open a new chapter in relations between the two countries.

Western corporations began the construction of the Bushehr nuclear facility in the 1970s in close collaboration with the former Iranian dictator Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. However, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran that overthrew the Shah, the Western firms reneged on their commitments and abandoned the project without ever compensating the Iranian government for the incomplete work.

Iran then turned to Russia to complete the project. In 1992, the two countries signed a deal to complete the construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant.

The Bushehr plant was originally scheduled to be completed by 1999. However, the work has repeatedly been delayed for numerous reasons, including major pressures on the Russian government by the US, Israel and their European allies.

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