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Monday, 26 January 2015

First UK school specifically for gay and transgender pupils planned

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A school catering to only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people could be open within three years. The backers say it would provide a safe haven from discrimination.

The school is to be based in Manchester and will offer 40 full time places, and 20 part time places for students who wish to also attend a mainstream state school. .

According to the school’s founders, the need to open the institution was “about saving lives” and helping vulnerable young people who would be at risk at an ordinary state school. .

“Despite the laws that claim to protect gay people from homophobic bullying, the truth is that in schools especially, bullying is still incredibly common and causes young people to feel isolated and alienated, which often leads to truanting and, in the worst-case scenarios, to suicide,” Amelia Lee, the strategic director for LGBT North West, told the Guardian. .

“This is not about making a little, safe enclave away from the real world: we work with 9,000 mainstream pupils and 1,000 teachers a year to help educate them about homosexuality. In addition, the support this new school will offer to part-time pupils could happen in their mainstream school, if that’s what they want,” she added. .

The school’s development comes as the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and Manchester City Council discuss how it can provide services and support for LGBT young people. .

Last September, 14-year-old Elizabeth Lowe committed suicide in a Manchester park because she was scared of coming out as gay to her parents. .

“We have an education system that sets up 5 percent to 10 percent of pupils to fail through fear and structure, because it routinely fails to recognize and incorporate the needs of young people struggling with their identities. We can either hope every school is going to be inclusive, or we can recognize we are not there yet and so, for the moment, we need more specialized schools,” Lee said. .

While the school will operate as an ordinary state institution, it will also emphasize personal skills and confidence building. The school will be part of Manchester’s Joyce Layland LGBT Centre, which provides support to the LGBT community in the city. .

“We are only too aware of how some schools leave their LGBT and questioning students to flounder and we know the high level of attempted suicides,” she said. “We strongly support this exciting and important venture,” said Sue Saunders, the national chair of Schools Out UK..

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council confirmed talks were taking place to open a dedicated school, as well as expanding services to help LGBT young people..

“One of their development ambitions is around how they might make additional educational support available to LGBT young people. We’ve had an initial discussion with them about that, but there are no current plans that we’re aware of to open a LGBT school in the city,” the spokesperson said. .

http://rt.com/uk/223351-manchester-lgbt-school-plan/">manchester-lgbt-school-plan/

New York powerbroker Sheldon Silver

by Nate Raymond
Thursday 22nd January 2015


Longtime Assembly Speaker is iconic Lower East Side Politician


(Reuteres) —  New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, one of the state’s most powerful politicians for more than two decades, was charged on Thursday with pocketing $4 million from bribery and kickback schemes.


Silver, a Democrat who has served as the highest-ranking state assemblyman since 1994, was accused in a federal criminal complaint in New York, as authorities moved to seize $3.8 million in proceeds tied to the alleged corruption
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The 70-year-old Silver, a licensed lawyer who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, is known as one of Albany’s three most powerful men, alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. He has been a leading voice in years of negotiations over state budgets and key legislation.


The Assembly canceled its Thursday session following Silver’s arrest, less than two weeks after the new legislative session opened.


Silver would lose his seat if convicted of any of five felony counts and faces a maximum of 20 years of prison on each count.


He became the latest addition to a long line of New York politicians implicated in corruption scandals. At least 30 New York politicians have faced legal or ethics charges since 2000.
“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters.


At a brief court appearance on Thursday afternoon, a judge released Silver on a $200,000 bond.
Asked for a comment outside the courtroom, he said, “I am confident that after a full hearing and due process I will be vindicated for these charges.”


Despite some calls for Silver’s resignation, Albany Democrats emerged from a private meeting on Thursday to declare their support for him, with Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle saying the members “overwhelmingly” stood behind Silver.


Cuomo has not commented on the arrest, but said in an interview with the New York Daily News that it was “a bad reflection on government,” adding that he didn’t know enough to form a judgment about the case.


Another prominent Democrat, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, said he did not think Silver should step down, citing his “due process rights.”


“In my experience with Shelly Silver, I’ve seen integrity and public service,” de Blasio told reporters, according to a transcript released by his office.


In 2013, Cuomo launched an anticorruption panel called the Moreland Commission to probe wrongdoing in the state’s capital.


But he abruptly shut the commission down in March, drawing criticism from Bharara, whose office took possession of its files to continue any investigations.


The commission’s work was merged with an ongoing federal probe of Silver’s outside income initiated in June 2013, the criminal complaint said.


Silver had long listed New York personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg on his financial disclosure forms as a source of income for representing its clients in cases.


But the complaint said over $3 million of his income was for referring asbestos sufferers from a doctor whose research had been secretly provided $500,000 in state funds at Silver’s direction, as well as other benefits.


Prosecutors said Silver also received $700,000 in kickbacks by steering real estate developers with business before the legislature to another law firm, identified by its defense lawyer as Goldberg & Iryami.


“He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his political office,” Bharara said.


Weitz & Luxenberg in a statement said it had cooperated with the investigation and was “not aware of any improprieties whatsoever.” Michael Ross, a lawyer for Goldberg & Iryami, declined comment on the allegations.


The complaint did not name the doctor but said he had created a mesothelioma research center at a New York university hospital.


Details in the complaint match those of Robert Taub, a professor at Columbia University. In 2011, the assembly passed a resolution, sponsored by Silver, honoring Taub for his contributions to mesothelioma treatment.


A spokesman for Columbia said it had no knowledge of the allegations and will cooperate with the investigation. Taub did not respond to a request for comment.


After surrendering to authorities in lower Manhattan at about 8 a.m., a somber-looking Silver headed to nearby federal court, wearing a dark suit and a black hat, his car mobbed by reporters and photographers.


“It is unfortunate that the prosecutors chose to pursue this as a criminal case,” Silver’s attorney, Steven Molo, said by email. “We intend to vigorously contest the charges and Mr. Silver looks forward to his day in court.”


Silver’s longtime Senate counterpart, Joseph Bruno, was acquitted in May at a retrial on bribery charges.


One of Silver’s predecessors as speaker, Mel Miller, was convicted of corruption in the early 1990s, but the conviction was overturned by a federal appeals court.


Two former state Senate Democratic leaders, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, are also facing criminal charges.


http://forward.com/articles/213246/new-york-powerbroker-sheldon-silver-charged-with/

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Putin’s speech at the Valdai Club



-[ full transcript]


Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, friends, it is a pleasure to welcome you to the XI meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club.


It was mentioned already that the club has new co-organisers this year. They include Russian non-governmental organisations, expert groups and leading universities. The idea was also raised of broadening the discussions to include not just issues related to Russia itself but also global politics and the economy.

 I hope that these changes in organisation and content will bolster the club’s influence as a leading discussion and expert forum. At the same time, I hope the ‘Valdai spirit’ will remain - this free and open atmosphere and chance to express all manner of very different and frank opinions.

Let me say in this respect that I will also not let you down and will speak directly and frankly. Some of what I say might seem a bit too harsh, but if we do not speak directly and honestly about what we really think, then there is little point in even meeting in this way. It would be better in that case just to keep to diplomatic get-togethers, where no one says anything of real sense and, recalling the words of one famous diplomat, you realise that diplomats have tongues so as not to speak the truth.

We get together for other reasons. We get together so as to talk frankly with each other. We need to be direct and blunt today not so as to trade barbs, but so as to attempt to get to the bottom of what is actually happening in the world, try to understand why the world is becoming less safe and more unpredictable, and why the risks are increasing everywhere around us.

Today’s discussion took place under the theme: New Rules or a Game without Rules. I think that this formula accurately describes the historic turning point we have reached today and the choice we all face. There is nothing new of course in the idea that the world is changing very fast. I know this is something you have spoken about at the discussions today. It is certainly hard not to notice the dramatic transformations in global politics and the economy, public life, and in industry, information and social technologies.

Let me ask you right now to forgive me if I end up repeating what some of the discussion’s participants have already said. It’s practically impossible to avoid. You have already held detailed discussions, but I will set out my point of view. It will coincide with other participants’ views on some points and differ on others.

As we analyse today’s situation, let us not forget history’s lessons. First of all, changes in the world order – and what we are seeing today are events on this scale – have usually been accompanied by if not global war and conflict, then by chains of intensive local-level conflicts. Second, global politics is above all about economic leadership, issues of war and peace, and the humanitarian dimension, including human rights.

The world is full of contradictions today. We need to be frank in asking each other if we have a reliable safety net in place. Sadly, there is no guarantee and no certainty that the current system of global and regional security is able to protect us from upheavals. This system has become seriously weakened, fragmented and deformed. The international and regional political, economic, and cultural cooperation organisations are also going through difficult times.

Yes, many of the mechanisms we have for ensuring the world order were created quite a long time ago now, including and above all in the period immediately following World War II. Let me stress that the solidity of the system created back then rested not only on the balance of power and the rights of the victor countries, but on the fact that this system’s ‘founding fathers’ had respect for each other, did not try to put the squeeze on others, but attempted to reach agreements.

The main thing is that this system needs to develop, and despite its various shortcomings, needs to at least be capable of keeping the world’s current problems within certain limits and regulating the intensity of the natural competition between countries.

It is my conviction that we could not take this mechanism of checks and balances that we built over the last decades, sometimes with such effort and difficulty, and simply tear it apart without building anything in its place. Otherwise we would be left with no instruments other than brute force.

What we needed to do was to carry out a rational reconstruction and adapt it the new realities in the system of international relations.

But the United States, having declared itself the winner of the Cold War, saw no need for this. Instead of establishing a new balance of power, essential for maintaining order and stability, they took steps that threw the system into sharp and deep imbalance.

The Cold War ended, but it did not end with the signing of a peace treaty with clear and transparent agreements on respecting existing rules or creating new rules and standards. This created the impression that the so-called ‘victors’ in the Cold War had decided to pressure events and reshape the world to suit their own needs and interests. If the existing system of international relations, international law and the checks and balances in place got in the way of these aims, this system was declared worthless, outdated and in need of immediate demolition.

Pardon the analogy, but this is the way nouveaux riches behave when they suddenly end up with a great fortune, in this case, in the shape of world leadership and domination. Instead of managing their wealth wisely, for their own benefit too of course, I think they have committed many follies.

We have entered a period of differing interpretations and deliberate silences in world politics. International law has been forced to retreat over and over by the onslaught of legal nihilism. Objectivity and justice have been sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Arbitrary interpretations and biased assessments have replaced legal norms. At the same time, total control of the global mass media has made it possible when desired to portray white as black and black as white.

In a situation where you had domination by one country and its allies, or its satellites rather, the search for global solutions often turned into an attempt to impose their own universal recipes. This group’s ambitions grew so big that they started presenting the policies they put together in their corridors of power as the view of the entire international community. But this is not the case.

The very notion of ‘national sovereignty’ became a relative value for most countries. In essence, what was being proposed was the formula: the greater the loyalty towards the world’s sole power centre, the greater this or that ruling regime’s legitimacy.

We will have a free discussion afterwards and I will be happy to answer your questions and would also like to use my right to ask you questions. Let someone try to disprove the arguments that I just set out during the upcoming discussion.

The measures taken against those who refuse to submit are well-known and have been tried and tested many times. They include use of force, economic and propaganda pressure, meddling in domestic affairs, and appeals to a kind of ‘supra-legal’ legitimacy when they need to justify illegal intervention in this or that conflict or toppling inconvenient regimes. Of late, we have increasing evidence too that outright blackmail has been used with regard to a number of leaders. It is not for nothing that ‘big brother’ is spending billions of dollars on keeping the whole world, including its own closest allies, under surveillance.

Let’s ask ourselves, how comfortable are we with this, how safe are we, how happy living in this world, and how fair and rational has it become? Maybe, we have no real reasons to worry, argue and ask awkward questions? Maybe the United States’ exceptional position and the way they are carrying out their leadership really is a blessing for us all, and their meddling in events all around the world is bringing peace, prosperity, progress, growth and democracy, and we should maybe just relax and enjoy it all?

Let me say that this is not the case, absolutely not the case.

A unilateral diktat and imposing one’s own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.

They once sponsored Islamic extremist movements to fight the Soviet Union. Those groups got their battle experience in Afghanistan and later gave birth to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The West if not supported, at least closed its eyes, and, I would say, gave information, political and financial support to international terrorists’ invasion of Russia (we have not forgotten this) and the Central Asian region’s countries. Only after horrific terrorist attacks were committed on US soil itself did the United States wake up to the common threat of terrorism. Let me remind you that we were the first country to support the American people back then, the first to react as friends and partners to the terrible tragedy of September 11.

During my conversations with American and European leaders, I always spoke of the need to fight terrorism together, as a challenge on a global scale. We cannot resign ourselves to and accept this threat, cannot cut it into separate pieces using double standards. Our partners expressed agreement, but a little time passed and we ended up back where we started. First there was the military operation in Iraq, then in Libya, which got pushed to the brink of falling apart. Why was Libya pushed into this situation? Today it is a country in danger of breaking apart and has become a training ground for terrorists.

Only the current Egyptian leadership’s determination and wisdom saved this key Arab country from chaos and having extremists run rampant. In Syria, as in the past, the United States and its allies started directly financing and arming rebels and allowing them to fill their ranks with mercenaries from various countries. Let me ask where do these rebels get their money, arms and military specialists? Where does all this come from? How did the notorious ISIL manage to become such a powerful group, essentially a real armed force?

As for financing sources, today, the money is coming not just from drugs, production of which has increased not just by a few percentage points but many-fold, since the international coalition forces have been present in Afghanistan. You are aware of this. The terrorists are getting money from selling oil too. Oil is produced in territory controlled by the terrorists, who sell it at dumping prices, produce it and transport it. But someone buys this oil, resells it, and makes a profit from it, not thinking about the fact that they are thus financing terrorists who could come sooner or later to their own soil and sow destruction in their own countries.

Where do they get new recruits? In Iraq, after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the state’s institutions, including the army, were left in ruins. We said back then, be very, very careful. You are driving people out into the street, and what will they do there? Don’t forget (rightfully or not) that they were in the leadership of a large regional power, and what are you now turning them into?

What was the result? Tens of thousands of soldiers, officers and former Baath Party activists were turned out into the streets and today have joined the rebels’ ranks. Perhaps this is what explains why the Islamic State group has turned out so effective? In military terms, it is acting very effectively and has some very professional people. Russia warned repeatedly about the dangers of unilateral military actions, intervening in sovereign states’ affairs, and flirting with extremists and radicals. We insisted on having the groups fighting the central Syrian government, above all the Islamic State, included on the lists of terrorist organisations. But did we see any results? We appealed in vain.

We sometimes get the impression that our colleagues and friends are constantly fighting the consequences of their own policies, throw all their effort into addressing the risks they themselves have created, and pay an ever-greater price.

Colleagues, this period of unipolar domination has convincingly demonstrated that having only one power centre does not make global processes more manageable. On the contrary, this kind of unstable construction has shown its inability to fight the real threats such as regional conflicts, terrorism, drug trafficking, religious fanaticism, chauvinism and neo-Nazism. At the same time, it has opened the road wide for inflated national pride, manipulating public opinion and letting the strong bully and suppress the weak.

Essentially, the unipolar world is simply a means of justifying dictatorship over people and countries. The unipolar world turned out too uncomfortable, heavy and unmanageable a burden even for the self-proclaimed leader. Comments along this line were made here just before and I fully agree with this. This is why we see attempts at this new historic stage to recreate a semblance of a quasi-bipolar world as a convenient model for perpetuating American leadership. It does not matter who takes the place of the centre of evil in American propaganda, the USSR’s old place as the main adversary. It could be Iran, as a country seeking to acquire nuclear technology, China, as the world’s biggest economy, or Russia, as a nuclear superpower.

 Today, we are seeing new efforts to fragment the world, draw new dividing lines, put together coalitions not built for something but directed against someone, anyone, create the image of an enemy as was the case during the Cold War years, and obtain the right to this leadership, or diktat if you wish. The situation was presented this way during the Cold War. We all understand this and know this. The United States always told its allies: “We have a common enemy, a terrible foe, the centre of evil, and we are defending you, our allies, from this foe, and so we have the right to order you around, force you to sacrifice your political and economic interests and pay your share of the costs for this collective defence, but we will be the ones in charge of it all of course.” In short, we see today attempts in a new and changing world to reproduce the familiar models of global management, and all this so as to guarantee their [the US’] exceptional position and reap political and economic dividends.

But these attempts are increasingly divorced from reality and are in contradiction with the world’s diversity. Steps of this kind inevitably create confrontation and countermeasures and have the opposite effect to the hoped-for goals. We see what happens when politics rashly starts meddling in the economy and the logic of rational decisions gives way to the logic of confrontation that only hurt one’s own economic positions and interests, including national business interests.

Joint economic projects and mutual investment objectively bring countries closer together and help to smooth out current problems in relations between states. But today, the global business community faces unprecedented pressure from Western governments. What business, economic expediency and pragmatism can we speak of when we hear slogans such as “the homeland is in danger”, “the free world is under threat”, and “democracy is in jeopardy”? And so everyone needs to mobilise. That is what a real mobilisation policy looks like.

Sanctions are already undermining the foundations of world trade, the WTO rules and the principle of inviolability of private property. They are dealing a blow to liberal model of globalisation based on markets, freedom and competition, which, let me note, is a model that has primarily benefited precisely the Western countries. And now they risk losing trust as the leaders of globalisation. We have to ask ourselves, why was this necessary? After all, the United States’ prosperity rests in large part on the trust of investors and foreign holders of dollars and US securities. This trust is clearly being undermined and signs of disappointment in the fruits of globalisation are visible now in many countries.

The well-known Cyprus precedent and the politically motivated sanctions have only strengthened the trend towards seeking to bolster economic and financial sovereignty and countries’ or their regional groups’ desire to find ways of protecting themselves from the risks of outside pressure. We already see that more and more countries are looking for ways to become less dependent on the dollar and are setting up alternative financial and payments systems and reserve currencies. I think that our American friends are quite simply cutting the branch they are sitting on. You cannot mix politics and the economy, but this is what is happening now. I have always thought and still think today that politically motivated sanctions were a mistake that will harm everyone, but I am sure that we will come back to this subject later.

We know how these decisions were taken and who was applying the pressure. But let me stress that Russia is not going to get all worked up, get offended or come begging at anyone’s door. Russia is a self-sufficient country. We will work within the foreign economic environment that has taken shape, develop domestic production and technology and act more decisively to carry out transformation. Pressure from outside, as has been the case on past occasions, will only consolidate our society, keep us alert and make us concentrate on our main development goals.

Of course the sanctions are a hindrance. They are trying to hurt us through these sanctions, block our development and push us into political, economic and cultural isolation, force us into backwardness in other words. But let me say yet again that the world is a very different place today. We have no intention of shutting ourselves off from anyone and choosing some kind of closed development road, trying to live in autarky. We are always open to dialogue, including on normalising our economic and political relations. We are counting here on the pragmatic approach and position of business communities in the leading countries.

Some are saying today that Russia is supposedly turning its back on Europe - such words were probably spoken already here too during the discussions - and is looking for new business partners, above all in Asia. Let me say that this is absolutely not the case. Our active policy in the Asian-Pacific region began not just yesterday and not in response to sanctions, but is a policy that we have been following for a good many years now. Like many other countries, including Western countries, we saw that Asia is playing an ever greater role in the world, in the economy and in politics, and there is simply no way we can afford to overlook these developments.

Let me say again that everyone is doing this, and we will do so to, all the more so as a large part of our country is geographically in Asia. Why should we not make use of our competitive advantages in this area? It would be extremely shortsighted not to do so.

Developing economic ties with these countries and carrying out joint integration projects also creates big incentives for our domestic development. Today’s demographic, economic and cultural trends all suggest that dependence on a sole superpower will objectively decrease. This is something that European and American experts have been talking and writing about too.

Perhaps developments in global politics will mirror the developments we are seeing in the global economy, namely, intensive competition for specific niches and frequent change of leaders in specific areas. This is entirely possible.

There is no doubt that humanitarian factors such as education, science, healthcare and culture are playing a greater role in global competition. This also has a big impact on international relations, including because this ‘soft power’ resource will depend to a great extent on real achievements in developing human capital rather than on sophisticated propaganda tricks.

At the same time, the formation of a so-called polycentric world (I would also like to draw attention to this, colleagues) in and of itself does not improve stability; in fact, it is more likely to be the opposite. The goal of reaching global equilibrium is turning into a fairly difficult puzzle, an equation with many unknowns.

So, what is in store for us if we choose not to live by the rules – even if they may be strict and inconvenient – but rather live without any rules at all? And that scenario is entirely possible; we cannot rule it out, given the tensions in the global situation. Many predictions can already be made, taking into account current trends, and unfortunately, they are not optimistic. If we do not create a clear system of mutual commitments and agreements, if we do not build the mechanisms for managing and resolving crisis situations, the symptoms of global anarchy will inevitably grow.

Today, we already see a sharp increase in the likelihood of a whole set of violent conflicts with either direct or indirect participation by the world’s major powers. And the risk factors include not just traditional multinational conflicts, but also the internal instability in separate states, especially when we talk about nations located at the intersections of major states’ geopolitical interests, or on the border of cultural, historical, and economic civilizational continents.

Ukraine, which I’m sure was discussed at length and which we will discuss some more, is one of the example of such sorts of conflicts that affect international power balance, and I think it will certainly not be the last. From here emanates the next real threat of destroying the current system of arms control agreements. And this dangerous process was launched by the United States of America when it unilaterally withdrew from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, and then set about and continues today to actively pursue the creation of its global missile defence system.

 Colleagues, friends, I want to point out that we did not start this. Once again, we are sliding into the times when, instead of the balance of interests and mutual guarantees, it is fear and the balance of mutual destruction that prevent nations from engaging in direct conflict. In absence of legal and political instruments, arms are once again becoming the focal point of the global agenda; they are used wherever and however, without any UN Security Council sanctions. And if the Security Council refuses to produce such decisions, then it is immediately declared to be an outdated and ineffective instrument.

Many states do not see any other ways of ensuring their sovereignty but to obtain their own bombs. This is extremely dangerous. We insist on continuing talks; we are not only in favour of talks, but insist on continuing talks to reduce nuclear arsenals. The less nuclear weapons we have in the world, the better. And we are ready for the most serious, concrete discussions on nuclear disarmament – but only serious discussions without any double standards.

What do I mean? Today, many types of high-precision weaponry are already close to mass-destruction weapons in terms of their capabilities, and in the event of full renunciation of nuclear weapons or radical reduction of nuclear potential, nations that are leaders in creating and producing high-precision systems will have a clear military advantage. Strategic parity will be disrupted, and this is likely to bring destabilization. The use of a so-called first global pre-emptive strike may become tempting. In short, the risks do not decrease, but intensify.

The next obvious threat is the further escalation of ethnic, religious, and social conflicts. Such conflicts are dangerous not only as such, but also because they create zones of anarchy, lawlessness, and chaos around them, places that are comfortable for terrorists and criminals, where piracy, human trafficking, and drug trafficking flourish.

Incidentally, at the time, our colleagues tried to somehow manage these processes, use regional conflicts and design ‘colour revolutions’ to suit their interests, but the genie escaped the bottle. It looks like the controlled chaos theory fathers themselves do not know what to do with it; there is disarray in their ranks.

We closely follow the discussions by both the ruling elite and the expert community. It is enough to look at the headlines of the Western press over the last year. The same people are called fighters for democracy, and then Islamists; first they write about revolutions and then call them riots and upheavals. The result is obvious: the further expansion of global chaos.

Colleagues, given the global situation, it is time to start agreeing on fundamental things. This is incredibly important and necessary; this is much better than going back to our own corners. The more we all face common problems, the more we find ourselves in the same boat, so to speak. And the logical way out is in cooperation between nations, societies, in finding collective answers to increasing challenges, and in joint risk management. Granted, some of our partners, for some reason, remember this only when it suits their interests.

Practical experience shows that joint answers to challenges are not always a panacea; and we need to understand this. Moreover, in most cases, they are hard to reach; it is not easy to overcome the differences in national interests, the subjectivity of different approaches, particularly when it comes to nations with different cultural and historical traditions. But nevertheless, we have examples when, having common goals and acting based on the same criteria, together we achieved real success.

Let me remind you about solving the problem of chemical weapons in Syria, and the substantive dialogue on the Iranian nuclear programme, as well as our work on North Korean issues, which also has some positive results. Why can’t we use this experience in the future to solve local and global challenges?

What could be the legal, political, and economic basis for a new world order that would allow for stability and security, while encouraging healthy competition, not allowing the formation of new monopolies that hinder development? It is unlikely that someone could provide absolutely exhaustive, ready-made solutions right now. We will need extensive work with participation by a wide range of governments, global businesses, civil society, and such expert platforms as ours.

However, it is obvious that success and real results are only possible if key participants in international affairs can agree on harmonising basic interests, on reasonable self-restraint, and set the example of positive and responsible leadership. We must clearly identify where unilateral actions end and we need to apply multilateral mechanisms, and as part of improving the effectiveness of international law, we must resolve the dilemma between the actions by international community to ensure security and human rights and the principle of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of any state.

Those very collisions increasingly lead to arbitrary external interference in complex internal processes, and time and again, they provoke dangerous conflicts between leading global players. The issue of maintaining sovereignty becomes almost paramount in maintaining and strengthening global stability.

Clearly, discussing the criteria for the use of external force is extremely difficult; it is practically impossible to separate it from the interests of particular nations. However, it is far more dangerous when there are no agreements that are clear to everyone, when no clear conditions are set for necessary and legal interference.

I will add that international relations must be based on international law, which itself should rest on moral principles such as justice, equality and truth. Perhaps most important is respect for one’s partners and their interests. This is an obvious formula, but simply following it could radically change the global situation.

I am certain that if there is a will, we can restore the effectiveness of the international and regional institutions system. We do not even need to build anything anew, from the scratch; this is not a “greenfield,” especially since the institutions created after World War II are quite universal and can be given modern substance, adequate to manage the current situation.

This is true of improving the work of the UN, whose central role is irreplaceable, as well as the OSCE, which, over the course of 40 years, has proven to be a necessary mechanism for ensuring security and cooperation in the Euro-Atlantic region. I must say that even now, in trying to resolve the crisis in southeast Ukraine, the OSCE is playing a very positive role.

In light of the fundamental changes in the international environment, the increase in uncontrollability and various threats, we need a new global consensus of responsible forces. It’s not about some local deals or a division of spheres of influence in the spirit of classic diplomacy, or somebody’s complete global domination. I think that we need a new version of interdependence. We should not be afraid of it. On the contrary, this is a good instrument for harmonising positions.

This is particularly relevant given the strengthening and growth of certain regions on the planet, which process objectively requires institutionalisation of such new poles, creating powerful regional organisations and developing rules for their interaction. Cooperation between these centres would seriously add to the stability of global security, policy and economy. But in order to establish such a dialogue, we need to proceed from the assumption that all regional centres and integration projects forming around them need to have equal rights to development, so that they can complement each other and nobody can force them into conflict or opposition artificially. Such destructive actions would break down ties between states, and the states themselves would be subjected to extreme hardship, or perhaps even total destruction.

I would like to remind you of the last year’s events. We have told our American and European partners that hasty backstage decisions, for example, on Ukraine’s association with the EU, are fraught with serious risks to the economy. We didn’t even say anything about politics; we spoke only about the economy, saying that such steps, made without any prior arrangements, touch on the interests of many other nations, including Russia as Ukraine’s main trade partner, and that a wide discussion of the issues is necessary. Incidentally, in this regard, I will remind you that, for example, the talks on Russia’s accession to the WTO lasted 19 years. This was very difficult work, and a certain consensus was reached.

Why am I bringing this up? Because in implementing Ukraine’s association project, our partners would come to us with their goods and services through the back gate, so to speak, and we did not agree to this, nobody asked us about this. We had discussions on all topics related to Ukraine’s association with the EU, persistent discussions, but I want to stress that this was done in an entirely civilised manner, indicating possible problems, showing the obvious reasoning and arguments. Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to talk. They simply told us: this is none of your business, point, end of discussion. Instead of a comprehensive but – I stress – civilised dialogue, it all came down to a government overthrow; they plunged the country into chaos, into economic and social collapse, into a civil war with enormous casualties.

Why? When I ask my colleagues why, they no longer have an answer; nobody says anything. That’s it. Everyone’s at a loss, saying it just turned out that way. Those actions should not have been encouraged – it wouldn’t have worked. After all (I already spoke about this), former Ukrainian President Yanukovych signed everything, agreed with everything. Why do it? What was the point? What is this, a civilised way of solving problems? Apparently, those who constantly throw together new ‘colour revolutions’ consider themselves ‘brilliant artists’ and simply cannot stop.

I am certain that the work of integrated associations, the cooperation of regional structures, should be built on a transparent, clear basis; the Eurasian Economic Union’s formation process is a good example of such transparency. The states that are parties to this project informed their partners of their plans in advance, specifying the parameters of our association, the principles of its work, which fully correspond with the World Trade Organisation rules.

I will add that we would also have welcomed the start of a concrete dialogue between the Eurasian and European Union. Incidentally, they have almost completely refused us this as well, and it is also unclear why – what is so scary about it?

And, of course, with such joint work, we would think that we need to engage in dialogue (I spoke about this many times and heard agreement from many of our western partners, at least in Europe) on the need to create a common space for economic and humanitarian cooperation stretching all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

Colleagues, Russia made its choice. Our priorities are further improving our democratic and open economy institutions, accelerated internal development, taking into account all the positive modern trends in the world, and consolidating society based on traditional values and patriotism.

We have an integration-oriented, positive, peaceful agenda; we are working actively with our colleagues in the Eurasian Economic Union, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, BRICS and other partners. This agenda is aimed at developing ties between governments, not dissociating. We are not planning to cobble together any blocs or get involved in an exchange of blows.

The allegations and statements that Russia is trying to establish some sort of empire, encroaching on the sovereignty of its neighbours, are groundless. Russia does not need any kind of special, exclusive place in the world – I want to emphasise this. While respecting the interests of others, we simply want for our own interests to be taken into account and for our position to be respected.

We are well aware that the world has entered an era of changes and global transformations, when we all need a particular degree of caution, the ability to avoid thoughtless steps. In the years after the Cold War, participants in global politics lost these qualities somewhat. Now, we need to remember them. Otherwise, hopes for a peaceful, stable development will be a dangerous illusion, while today’s turmoil will simply serve as a prelude to the collapse of world order.

Yes, of course, I have already said that building a more stable world order is a difficult task. We are talking about long and hard work. We were able to develop rules for interaction after World War II, and we were able to reach an agreement in Helsinki in the 1970s. Our common duty is to resolve this fundamental challenge at this new stage of development.

Thank you very much for your attention.

 

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Web giants unite to fight online hate



By Marcus Dysch, September 23, 2014

Internet giants Twitter, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have pledged to work harder to tackle online hatred after agreeing a deal with a leading antisemitism watchdog.

The companies endorsed a series of pledges on Monday following talks in California with the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism.

Described by one insider as a "game-changing" development, the agreement will see the companies increase efforts to stop the proliferation of racist and abusive comments on their sites.

The technology firms are all members of the ICCA's working group on cyber hate. The Anti-Defamation League is a co-convenor of the group. The taskforce has been leading collaborative efforts with politicians, lawyers and the business world to force racism and hatred from the web.

Under the agreement, the companies have committed to introduce more user-friendly reporting systems, and will respond quicker to allegations of abuse. They will also enforce tougher sanctions against those who post abusive messages.

More work will now take place between the companies to develop further ideas on tackling online hate speech and create educational materials.

An ICCA spokeswoman in London said: "This is very significant. It's the first time solutions have been found. If we have the big players then the others will follow. It's not too much to say it's a game-changer."

British members of the working group travelled to Los Angeles last week to strike the deal. Labour MP John Mann joined Superintendent Paul Giannasi, of the Ministry of Justice's Hate Crime Unit, and Mike Whine of the Community Security Trust, in California.

Mr Mann, ICAA chair, said: "We welcome this development and will continue to work with the industry, governments and parliaments to implement these best practices and work against the spread of hatred on the internet."

Mr Whine said: "The internet has facilitated and encouraged the spread of hate speech. The impact is of mounting concern to governments, their criminal justice agencies and civil society alike.

"These new agreed best practices are a significant step forward. They follow five meetings in Silicon Valley which CST helped prepare and facilitate."

Source: Jewish Chronicle Online

http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/123231/web-giants-unite-%EF%AC%81ght-online-hate

-------------

No prizes for guessing who the real haters are [Ed]. This lot are never satisfied! {Ed]

Friday, 12 September 2014

Lebanon envoy withdraws in protest at Israel remarks


Daily Star (Lebanon) - Thursday 11th September 2014

BEIRUT: U.S. Senator Ted Cruz was booed offstage during a dinner for the Middle East's Christian conference in Washington D.C., with his pro-Zionists comments causing many Lebanese figures to withdraw in anger, including the Lebanese ambassador to the U.S.


“Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” Sen. Ted Cruz said, addressing a crowd of Arab Christian figures at a fundraising dinner for the non-profit organization ‘In Defense of Christians’ in Washington D.C.

Billed as a keynote speaker at the event, Cruz switched the topic from defending Christians in the Middle East against terrorism, to the need to form an alliance between Christians and Jews, which he identified as “people of good faith”.

“Tonight, we are all united in defense of Christians. Tonight, we are all united in defense of Jews,” he said. “Together, against those who would persecute and murder those who dare disagree with their religious teachings.”

As part of the controversial speech that led to the withdrawal of Ambassador Antoine Chedid, Cruz evoked the old argument that whoever disliked the state of Israel was anti-Semitic and did not follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“Those who hate Israel hate America,” he said, while crowd began to turn against him. “Those who hate Jews hate Christians. If those in this room will not recognize that, then my heart weeps.

“If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ,” he added, addressing an audience representing the Christian churches of the Middle East, including Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai.

The republican senator from Texas, who was a member of George W. Bush’s electoral campaign in 1999, also used the podium to equate fundamentalist groups massacring Christians in Iraq and Syria, to Palestinian and Lebanese groups fighting Israel.

“Religious bigotry is a cancer with many manifestations,” he said. “ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, state sponsors like Syria and Iran, are all engaged in a vicious genocidal campaign to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.”

Criticizing those who he said “try to parse different manifestations of [one] evil,” Cruz argued about the similarities of the mentioned groups, seemingly ignoring the varied battlefields, history, context and at times aggressive enmity between many of them.

“Sometimes we are told not to loop these groups together,” he added, “...that we have to understand their so called nuances and differences.”

“But hate is hate, and murder is murder,” he said. “Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice, a humanitarian crisis.”

Cruz’s comments on the region were too extreme for the audience, and provoked a round of cries that firmly asked him to leave.

“Stop it, stop it, enough,” and “Out, out, leave the stage!” were some of the shouts aimed at the senator, which prompted IDC’s president, Toufic Baaklini, to join Cruz on stage and ask the crowd to listen.

After failing in attempts to be heard, the senator announced “if you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you. Good night and God bless,” before walking off the stage, with some carrying on the shouts and others applauding his departure.

In addition to Chedid’s protest, media reports said that Future Movement MPs Jean Ogassapian, Atef Majdalani and former MP Ghattas Khoury all withdrew from the conference.

The reports said that while Patriarch Gregory III Laham had also intended to withdraw, Patriarch Rai called on the participants to avoid the tension and prioritize the conference’s success over some individual statements.

Source Daily Star:

 http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2014/Sep-11/270331-us-senator-booed-offstage-at-the-me-christian-conference.ashx#axzz3D5pnPc9z

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Wiping Out the Christians of Syria and Iraq to Remap the Middle East: Prerequisite to a Clash of Civilizations?



By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya
PART I

Historically, the Levant is the birthplace of Christianity and the oldest Christian communities have lived in it and the entire Fertile Crescent since the start of Christian history. Early Christians called themselves followers or people of «the Way» before they adopted the term Christian; in Arabic their antiquated name would be «Ahl Al-Deen». [1] Traces of this original name are also available in the New Testament of the Bible and can be read in John 14:5-7, Acts 9:1-2, Acts 24:4 and 14. From the Fertile Crescent these Christian communities spread across Africa, Asia, and Europe. Since that time the ancient communities of Christians, many of which still use the Syriac dialects of Aramaic in their churches, have been an integral and important part of the social fabrics of the pluralistic societies of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran. Nevertheless, the Christians of the Levant and Iraq are now in the cross-hairs.

Deceit and mischief has been at play. It is no coincidence that Egyptian Christians were attacked at the same time as the South Sudan Referendum, which was supposed to signal a split between the Muslims in Khartoum and the Christians and animists in Juba. Nor is it an accident that Iraq’s Christians, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, began to face a modern exodus, leaving their homes and ancestral homeland in Iraq in 2003. Mysterious groups targeted both them and Palestinian refugees…

Coinciding with the exodus of Iraqi Christians, which occurred under the watchful eyes of US and British military forces, the neighborhoods in Baghdad became sectarian as Shiite Muslims and Sunni Muslims were forced by violence and death squads to form sectarian enclaves. This is all tied to a US and Israeli project of redrawing the map.

The Christian communities of the Levant and Iraq have long distrusted the US government for its support of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and fanatical militants with anti-Christian leanings. Lebanon’s Christians have also been weary of US support for Israeli expansion and ideas about resettling Palestinians into Lebanon. There is also a widely held belief that the US and Israel have been involved in a policy to remove or «purge» the Christians from Iraq and the Levant in some type of Zionist-linked resettlement plan. Since the US-supported anti-government fighters started targeting Christian Syrians, there has been renewed talk about a Christian exodus in the Middle East centering on Washington’s war on Syria.

Silencing the Ancient Church Bells of Sham and Shinar

Christian Arabs and both the Assyrian and Armenian ethnic communities, which are overwhelming composed of Christians, inside Lebanon and Syria have been in the crosshairs. From Homs and Maaloula to Kessab, Syria’s Christians have been under siege. Various ecclesiastic councils or synods have expressed concerns as have Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, the Vatican or Holy See, Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow Cyril (Kirill) I, Armenian Apostolic Catholicos Aram I, the Maronite Greek Catholic Patriarchate in Lebanon, Jerusalemite Greek Orthodox Archbishop Theodosios (Attallah) Hanna of Sebastia, the Anglican See of Canterbury, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, the Free Patriotic Movement of Lebanon’s Michel Aoun, the World Council of Churches, and various interfaith bodies. Even US celebrities Cherilyn Sarkisian (Cher) and Kimberly Kardashian joined the chorus and voiced their concerns about Syria’s Christians after the Turkish government perfidiously helped Al-Nusra overrun the predominately Armenian town of Kessab in Lattakia Governate on March 24, 2014. [2]

Inside Syria, Maronite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Damascus Samir Nassar, Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III Laham, Antiochian Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV, and Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas have all condemned the violence. The leaders of Syria’s other faiths, Druze Sheikh Al-Aql Hamoud Hennawi, Sunni Grand Mufti Ahmed Badreddin, and Ashari Imam Mohammed Said Ramadan, have joined the Christian leaders in their calls for peace and condemnations of Washington’s war on Syria. These leaders have risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones by taking these positions. Sheikh Ramadan, who was also an ethnic Kurd, was murdered while he was teaching in a mosque for his backing of the Syrian government on March 21, 2013. Patriarch Ignatius IV had his brother kidnapped in Aleppo whereas Grand Mufti Hassoun had his twenty-two year-old son murdered on his way to university in Idlib. Despite the threats, all these figures have spoken against the insurgency as a cancerous threat to coexistence in Syrian society and the broader region. Melkite Patriarch Gregory III Laham has very vocally said that his country is being attacked by bandits and terrorists under the fiction of a revolution that seek to destroy the Christians and all Syria. [3]

The Christian communities of Syria, which constitute at least 10% of the Syrian population, have been systematically targeted; their churches have been attached and desecrated; their priests, monks, and nuns murdered; and generally discriminated against by the anti-government forces that the US, UK, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and their allies support. The objectives of establishing this exodus are reflected by the anti-government chants: «Alawites to the ground and Christians to Lebanon!» What this chant means is that Syria is no longer a place where either Alawis or Christians can live.

America’s Foot Soldiers and the Rape of Christians in Syria and Iraq

Fides News Agency, the official news agency of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church, has reported that the so-called religious leaders of the anti-government fighters declared it lawful for the anti-government fighters to rape «any non-Sunni Syrian woman» that they desired; the declarations of these corrupt pastors have been used to justify the rape, humiliation, torture, and murder of women and girls in towns and territory captured by groups like the so-called Free Syrian Army, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant/Al-Dawlah Al-Islamiyah fi Al-Iraq wa Al-Sham (ISIL/DAISH). [4]

Here is the account given to the Fides News Agency by two priests about what was done to one fifteen year-old Syrian Christian girl in Homs Governate after the anti-government fighters took control of it:

The commander of the battalion «Jabhat al-Nusra» in Qusair took Mariam, married and raped her. Then he repudiated her. The next day the young woman was forced to marry another Islamic militant. He also raped her and then repudiated her. The same trend was repeated for 15 days, and Mariam was raped by 15 different men. This psychologically destabilized her and made her insane. Mariam, became mentally unstable and was eventually killed. These atrocities are not told by any «International Commission» say to Fides two Greek-Catholic priests, Fr. Issam and Fr. Elias who have just returned to town. [5]

These same US-supported multinational insurgent groups have begun to do this to Iraqi Christians too. «On June 12, [2014,] only two day after capturing Mosul and other territories in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria issued a decree ordering the people to send their unmarried women to ‘jihad by sex’» and made a decree ordering that unmarried women sexually be offered to their fighters for fornication. [6] The following account, which was confirmed by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights and reported by the Assyrian International News Agency, deals with Mosul after its takeover by the insurrectionary forces entering Iraq from Syria on June 25, 2014:

A Christian father who watched his wife and daughter get brutally raped by members of the militant group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) because he couldn’t pay them a poll tax in Mosul, Iraq, killed himself under the weight of the trauma this past weekend. [7]

The molestation and rape of Christian women and girls as sex objects has not been limited to Christians alone. Syrian women and girls, regardless of their faiths, that have been captured by the anti-government forces are being raped and molested. Muslims, Christians, and Druze are all equally at risk. These perverted acts are being encouraged by corrupt clerics issuing legal opinions and decrees (fatwas) that support rape and womanizing.

These twisted legal opinions and decrees being issued include calls for foreign women to become concubines to the anti-government fighters in Syria in what is disgracefully called a «sexual holy struggle» (jihad al-nikah). The Tunisian government was even prompted to react in mid-2013 to these calls for sexual offering, because they were exploiting young Tunisian girls. [8] Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs Noureddine Al-Khadimi condemned the corrupt and ignorant clerics and individuals behind the calls, insisting that they had nothing to do with Muslim teachings:

The minister’s statements came after the spread of an anonymous «sexual jihad» fatwa on the Internet calling on young women to support opposition fighters in Syria by providing sexual services. According to media reports and mujahideen who returned to Tunisia after participating in jihad in Syria, 13 Tunisian girls headed to the battlefield in response to the «sexual jihad» fatwa. [9]
«After the sexual liaisons they have [in Syria] in the name of ‘jihad al-nikah’ — (sexual holy war, in Arabic) — [these girls] come home pregnant», Tunisian Interior Minister Lotfi bin Jeddou testified to Tunisian legislators months after Al-Khadimi’s condemnations, explaining that the misguided girls could have over a hundred partners. [10]

Targeting Bishops, Priests, Monks, and Nuns: Besieging the People of «The Way»

Since the start of the fighting, Christian spiritual figures have been targeted in one way or another. There are the cases of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Sayedna Paul (Boulos) Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios John Abraham (Yohanna Ibrahim), which were kidnapped near the Turkish border, on April 22, 2013. Their driver, a Christian priest himself, was killed instantly for protecting the two Christian metropolitans by refusing to let them leave their car. A fourth person in the car, Fouad Eliya, managed to remain free (and explain what happened). [11]
The Turkish government is directly involved in the kidnapping of the two Orthodox Christian bishops. The Turkish newswire Dogan News Agency (Dogan Haber Ajansı) reported on July 23, 2013 that the murders or, using the report’s words, «assassins» of the two Syrian bishops were arrested in Konya. [12] The arrest happened to be of anti-Russian fighters from the North Caucasus, which corresponded to Foud Eliya’s account that Boulos Yazigi and Yohanna Ibrahim were taken by North Caucasian militants dressed like Taliban fighters from Afghanistan. [13]

Grand Mufti Hassoun revealed that Turkish-trained Chechen fighters were dispatched by Ankara to kidnap Sayedna Boulos Yazigi and Mar Gregorios, because of two important reasons. According to Sheikh Hassoun, the first reason is that Metropolitan Gregorios was asked by Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas to head a church committee to begin the process of reclaiming the vast holdings of the Syriac Orthodox Church that the Turkish government had confiscated during its persecution of Syriac Orthodox Christians. [14]

In a meeting between Prime Minister Erdogan and Mar Gregorios, the Turkish government asked that the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch establish a eparchy (an ecclesiastical province or administrative division of the church with a metropolitan) in Turkey and to even relocate its patriarchate from Damascus to Hatay (Antioch), but Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim refused and said that the patriarchate of the Syriac Orthodox Church will never change locations, that Syriac Orthodox Christians recognized the Levant as one unified land, and that a bishop would be assigned to Turkey when the Syriac Orthodox Church’s properties were returned by the Turkish government, which angered Turkish officials. [15] The other reason that the Orthodox Christian cleric was targeted was that he was reconciling anti-government fighters peacefully with the Syrian government in Aleppo Governate, which upset Turkey and its allies. [16]

Other cases include those of: Father (Abouna) Fadi Jamal Haddad, a Antiochian Greek Orthodox priest acting as a mediator in Qatana during the fighting, who was tortured and shot in the head after he tried to mediate the release of a doctor that was being ransomed for money; Father (Abouna) Francois Al-Mourad, a Catholic priest of the Franciscan Order, who was shot for preventing fellow Christians and Syrians from being hurt by the anti-government fighters; and Father Frans van der Lugt, a Dutch priest of the Jesuit Order working in Homs. When Abouna Fadi went to pay the insurgents for the doctor they had abducted, they kidnapped him too; they would later kill the Christian priests and leave him on the side of the highway, «horribly tortured and [with] his eyes gouged out», where his body would be found on September 25, 2012. [17]

According to the Franciscan Order’s representatives in Syria, the insurgents «broke into the convent, looted it and destroyed everything. When Fr. Franҫois tried to defend the nuns and other people, the gunmen shot him dead» on June 23, 2013. [18]

The insurgents murdered Father Frans van der Lugt on April 7, 2014.This an account of the circumstances behind his murder:

Wael Salibi, 26, recalled how when the Christian area in Homs was taken over by rebels, 66,000 of the faithful «left their home, and just few of them stayed there. He was the only priest, he stayed in his church.»

«Just months before he died, he said ‘I can’t leave my people, I can’t leave my church, I am director of this church, how can I leave them?’» Salibi told CNA on April 11.

Salibi, who hails from the now-ravished city of Homs, grew up as a close friend and pupil of Fr. Frans, who was brutally killed on April 7. Days before his 76th birthday, an unknown gunman entered his church, beat him and shot him in the head. [19]

In Hasakah (Hasce) many of the Christian Syrians fled, but almost 30,000 stayed as internal refugees. The Syrian Christians who belonged to the Chaldean Catholic Church, Syriac Orthodox Church, Syriac Catholic Church, Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, and the Armenian Catholic Church collectively asked the world for help and to put an end to the fighting, in an appeal that went unheard, in late-2012; they have suffered from persecution, lawlessness, kidnappings, ransoms, and murder. One Christian from the area told Fides News Agency that Al-Nusra was targeting «all young people who were born between 1990 and 1992. They look for them, accuse them of being soldiers for the national service and kill them cold-bloodedly. They want to terrorize young people to prevent them from enlisting.» [20]

Another example of the assault on the Christian community is Al-Nusra’s assault on the town of Maaloula. Maaloula is one of a few villages maintaining an old dialect of Aramaic, known as the language of Jesus of Nazareth. Many Christian structures and historic sites fill the Syrian town, but the Melkite Greek Catholic Saint Sergius (Mar Sarkis) Monastery and Antiochian Greek Orthodox Saint Thecla (Mar Taqla) Monastery standout. The town became the scene of fighting between Al-Nusra and the Syrian Arab Army and switched hands between the insurgents and Syrian government four times between late-2013 and mid-2014.

Many of Maaloula’s residents, both Christian and Muslim alike, became trapped in their homes and local buildings, including forty Greek Orthodox Christian nuns and the orphans they were looking after, which sparked panic in the Christian populations of Syria and Lebanon. Hence the strong backing of Bashar Al-Assad’s government by all of Syria’s minorities and the expression of these type of sentiments were nearly universal among Christian Syrians: «‘They’re coming after us,’ [said] Odette Abu Zakham, a 65-year-old woman in the congregation who lives in the nearby historic Christian district of Bab Touma. ‘All they do is massacre people, all they know is killing.’» [21] Not only were the nuns held hostage by Al-Nusra, but the anti-government fighters desecrated absolutely all of Maaloula’s shrines and Christian buildings, stole its historic artifacts to sell in the black market, and scattered the partially Aramaic-speaking population of the town. Eyewitnesses who escaped Maaloula give this account below:

[The insurgents] tried to change the religious and architectural-historical look of the ancient Christian town entirely: completely destroying some churches, the militants brought down all bells from other ones. The fate of two other world-famous monuments of Ma’loula was no less tragic: extremists blew up the statue of Christ the Savior, which had stood at the entrance of St. Thecla Convent, as well as the statue of the Most Holy Virgin Mary, which had stood close to the Safir hotel, the latter of which served as the main shelter for Takfirists for many months. [22]

Easter, in 2014 was a special time for Maaloula. Around Easter, the Syrian government regained the town. Maaloula was finally secured and residents were returning. «The display of hatred was clear — the houses are totally destroyed, the whole village was destroyed. I can’t describe the amount of damage to the village», a returning resident by the name of Lorain told the press about what the insurgents did. [23] President Al-Assad visited too. Al-Assad himself came to visit it as a sign of the Syrian government’s commitment to its entire population regardless of their faith or ethnicity. Both the Western rite and Eastern rite Christian celebrations of Easter, respectively using the Gregorian and Julian calendars, fell on the same date too: April 20, 2014.

(To be continued)

NOTES

[1] The term Christian is akin to the term Mohammedian, which was once used to describe Muslims. It was a name originally used as a derogatory term by non-Christians to identify the followers of Jesus of Nazareth and «the Way» by them, but would eventually be accepted and adopted by many of the Christians; the Arabic word «deen» means «way» and not religion as it is commonly substituted for.
[2] Pinar Tremblay, «Armenian-Americans blame Turkey for Kassab invasion, Al-Monitor, April 3, 2014.
[3] «Syria has been reduced to banditry and anarchy, says Gregory III Laham», Vatican Insider, May 4, 2012.
[4] «13 Syrian Christian Women Raped and Killed by Islamists» Pravoslavie, April 5, 2013; «Rape and atrocities on a young Christian in Qusair», Fides News Agency, July 2, 2013; Stoyan Zaimov, «Syrian Christian Mother Reveals Stories of Rape, Church Attacks in Streets of Damascus», Christian Post, October 17, 2013; Jamie Dettmer, «Syria’s Christians Flee Kidnappings, Rape, Executions», Daily Beast, November 19, 2013.
[5] «Rape and atrocities», Fides, op. cit.
[6] «ISIS in Mosul Orders Unmarried Women to ‘Jihad By Sex,’» Assyrian International News Agency, June 21, 2014.
[7] Leonardo Blair, «Christian Father Commits Suicide After ISIS Members Rape Wife and Daughter in Front of Him Because He Couldn’t Pay Poll Tax», Christian Post, June 25, 2014.
[8] Mohammed Yassin Al-Jalassi, «Tunisians Raise Alarm on Fatwa Encouraging ‘Sexual Jihad,’» Al-Monitor, March 27, 2013.
[9] Ibid.
[10] «Sex Jihad raging in Syria, claims minister», Agence France-Presse, September 20, 2013.
[11] Dikran Ego, «Turkey’s Role in the Kidnapping of the Syrian Bishops», Assyrian International News Agency, February 1, 2012.
[12] Ismail Akkaya, «Suriyeli metropolitlerin katil zanlıları Konya’da yakalandı» [«Syrian metropolitan’s alleged assassins were caught in Konya»], Dogan Haber Ajansı, July 23, 2013.
[13] Dikran Ego, «Turkey’s Role in Kidnapping», AINA, op. cit.
[14] Grand Mufti Hassoun explains this in a video released by the Stockholm-based Syriac Foundation on May 4, 2014.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] «Fr. Fadi Jamil Haddad: Priest, Trusted By All, Martyred in Syria», Pravmir.com, October 28, 2012: .
[18] «Custos of the Holy Land: Fr Franҫois Mourad killed by Islamist insurgents in al-Ghassaniyah», AsiaNews.it, June 25, 2013: .
[19] Elise Harris, «‘I can’t leave my people’: Priest killed in Syria hailed as martyr», Catholic News Agency, April 15, 2014.
[20] «Appeal from the people of Mesopotamia, left to themselves», Fides News Agency, January 17, 2013.
[21] Lee Keath, «Seizure of nuns stokes Syrian Christian fears», Associated Press, December 8, 2013.
[22] «All Shrines of Ma’loula Either Destroyed or Desecrated», Pravoslavie, January 13, 2014.
[23] Firas Makdesi, «Syria’s Assad pays Easter visit to recaptured Christian town», Reuters, April 20, 2014.

Source:- Global Research, July 30, 2014
http://www.globalresearch.ca/wiping-out-the-christians-of-syria-and-iraq-to-remap-the-mid-east-prerequisite-to-a-clash-of-civilizations/5394075

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Axel Kicillof Is Argentina's Secret Weapon Against Default

By Leah McGrath Goodman - 7/30/14 

As Latin America’s third-largest economy teeters on the brink of default Wednesday evening, it is pinning its hopes on the star power and persuasive skills of its young economy minister, Axel Kicillof, to broker an 11th-hour deal.


If the South American nation doesn’t succeed in reaching a settlement with its creditors by midnight Eastern Time on Wednesday, it will default for the first time in more than a decade, battering the country’s already acutely fragile economy.

Until just hours ago, Kicillof refused to meet face to face with a group of creditors – which include New York-based multibillion-dollar hedge funds Elliott Management Corp. and Aurelius Capital Management LP – demanding that Argentina make them whole on bonds that have gone unpaid since 2001.

In fact, even after a U.S. judge appointed Special Master Daniel Pollack to assist Argentina in forging a long-awaited settlement with its unpaid creditors, Kicillof traveled to New York in late June – but only to give an explosive speech at the U.N. lambasting the U.S. courts for driving Argentina’s economy to the brink.

He then promptly caught a jet back to Argentina. Throughout his short trip, Kiciloff never made clear whether he would meet with Argentina’s New York-based creditors, who are owed an estimated $1.5 billion – and left them dangling.

Even if it was not a deliberate move to tweak Argentina’s inflamed creditors, it worked: for the past 30 days, hedge funds such as Elliott have stepped up the urgency of their rhetoric, exhorting Argentina in editorials and emails to the press to come to the negotiating table. “With July 30th only 11 days away, the Argentine government appears determined to default,” Elliott wrote in a recent missive to the financial press. “We hope it chooses to avoid this dead-end path.”

Arriving suddenly on Tuesday, Kicillof swept into the New York offices of Special Master Pollack, where creditor talks were under way.

And, just like that, he reignited negotiations.

As one Argentine trader, who also traveled to New York this week, remarked following the appearance of Kicillof, “Looks like default will be avoided.”

Known for his anti-establishment sideburns, Marxist leanings and aversion to ties and business suits, Kicillof is likely to find he clashes over a good deal more than just financial terms at the negotiating table with his hedge fund opponents.

Even so, it is unlikely Kicillof, who has the full backing of Argentina’s President Cristina Kirchner, would stake so much political capital on a last-ditch effort if he was not confident of cementing a deal.

If he does, it will be not a moment too soon. Late Wednesday, the ratings agency Standard & Poor’s slashed Argentina’s foreign-currency credit rating to “selective default” from a triple-C-minus long-term rating. (A selective default means the country is meeting some, but not all, debt-payment commitments.)

“If and when Argentina cures the payment default on the discount bonds, we could revise our ratings on Argentina depending on our assessment at that time of Argentina's residual litigation risk, its access to international debt markets, and its overall credit profile,” S&P wrote in a note.

As for the financial press, unaccustomed to dashing economy ministers who trail paparazzi and appear shirtless on the Internet, the challenge is a different kind entirely.

Of Kicillof, one Reuters journalist quipped on Twitter Wednesday: “I am trying so hard not to make a million jokes about how hot he is so as to appear like a Serious Journalist.”

http://www.newsweek.com/axel-kicillof-argentinas-secret-weapon-against-default-262236