Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Fierce clashes rock Palestinian camp in Lebanon

August 19, 2017


© AFP | Smoke rises over Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp, near the southern port of Sidon, during clashes between Palestinian security forces and Islamist fighters on August 19, 2017

SIDON (LEBANON) (AFP) – Palestinian security forces on Saturday battled radical Islamist gunmen in Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camp near the southern port of Sidon, for the third consecutive day.The clashes first broke out Thursday when gunmen from the small Islamist Badr group opened fire on a position of Palestinian security forces inside Ain al-Hilweh camp, a Palestinian source said.

Two people were killed in that fighting.

An AFP reporter said the clashes eased on Friday before intensifying again on Saturday, forcing dozens of families to flee the camp and seek shelter in Sidon mosques.

The sound of fierce gunfire and rocket fire could be heard outside the camp as black smoke billowed over Ain al-Hilweh, said the reporter.

The fighting shook the Al-Tiri district a few metres (yards) away from a Lebanese army position.

By longstanding convention, the Lebanese army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, leaving the factions themselves to handle security.

The Islamist group is linked to Bilal Badr, a militant wanted in connection with “terrorism” who has refused to surrender, according to a Lebanese security official.

In April, his supporters also clashed intermittently for a week with Palestinian security forces, in violence that left nine dead and more than 50 wounded.

A joint Palestinian security force, comprising members of the key Fatah and Hamas factions, has for months strived to rein in Badr fighters.

Ain al-Hilweh — the most densely populated Palestinian camp in Lebanon — is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in neighbouring Syria.

Several armed factions including extremist groups have a foothold in the camp which has been plagued for years by intermittent clashes.

Humanitarian helpers in danger in Mediterranean

August 19, 2017


By Volker Westerbarkey

Civilian sea rescuers have been threatened with weapons while trying to help refugees. World Humanitarian Day is particularly difficult to mark this year, writes Volker Westerbarkey from Doctors Without Borders.

Rescue of refugees in the Mediterranean (picture alliance/dpa/Bunde3swehr/Gotschalk)

Doctors Without Borders has been heavily involved in refugee rescue efforts for more than two years: First, we had teams aboard rescue ships in the Mediterranean, and for the past year we have also been present at detention camps in Libya, where migrants are arbitrarily kept in inhumane conditions.

We are responding here to two dramatic humanitarian crises: the hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees exposed to extreme violence and dangers in Libya, and the more than 2,400 who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year alone.

The European Union has opted for isolation rather than to meet its responsibility to protect people at its borders, thus increasingly frustrating rescue efforts by organizations such as Doctors Without Borders. This is a bitter reality to reckon with today, World Humanitarian Day.

On August 11, Libyan authorities announced they were creating their own search-and-rescue zone.This is a huge area of international waters off the Libyan coast that is to be off-limits to civilian humanitarian ships. In a scandalous development, the Libyan coastguard, which is heavily supported by the EU, has threatened to push humanitarian rescuers out of this zone, by force if necessary.

Rescuers under threat

Volker Westerbarkey Volker Westerbarkey is the chairman of Doctors Without Borders in Germany

The climate is becoming more hostile for civilian rescue operations. Italy and the EU have issued a code of conduct for NGOs, which partly hinders their sea rescue efforts. Italy has now even deployed naval vessels to Libyan waters. The goal is clear: The EU and its member states are working with Libya to prevent people from fleeing the North African country – an unacceptable assault on the life and dignity of those in urgent need of protection.

Doctors Without Borders and other organizations will be unable to uphold internationally recognized humanitarian principles and international law on sea rescue and refugee protection should Libyan authorities carry through with their announced plans. It is illegal to return people to unsafe areas. Doctors Without Borders rejects a system that attempts, at any price, to deny people protection and security.

Such a policy has disastrous consequences above all for those trying to escape the dire situation in Libya. If humanitarian rescue ships are pushed out of the Mediterranean, it means that fewer people will be saved from drowning. Those who do not drown will be caught and returned to Libya, where anarchy, arbitrary detention, torture and sexual abuse run rampant.

Isolation taking precedence over protection

Our assessment of EU policy on World Humanitarian Day is a bitter one. Despite all the solemn statements about humanitarian principles, we see a very different reality: Isolating Europe often comes before protecting people in need of refuge.

With the EU-Turkey deal, EU heads of state – with Chancellor Angela Merkel leading the way – created the blueprints for a Fortress Europe. A domino effect of closed borders ensued, meaning that even people in war zones, such as Syria, are unable get out. Hundreds of thousands of would-be refugees remain stranded there under wretched conditions in desert regions and makeshift camps. Their suffering has not lessened; it is only further removed from Europe’s borders – far from cameras and the public eye.

Our refugee work in more than 40 countries clearly shows that there is an urgent need for safe and legal escape routes for those who require them. The EU is hardly helpful. Its border policy is shameful for a continent that knows all too well from its own experience how much people suffer from flight and expulsion.

German Critic of Turkey’s Erdogan Arrested in Spain

August 19, 2017

BERLIN — German-Turkish author Dogan Akhanli was arrested in Spain on Saturday after Turkey issued an Interpol warrant for the writer, a critic of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Image result for Dogan Akhanli, photos


The arrest of the German national was part of a “targeted hunt against critics of the Turkish government living abroad in Europe,” Akhanli’s lawyer Ilias Uyar told the magazine.

Ties between Ankara and Berlin have been increasingly strained in the aftermath of last year’s failed coup in Turkey as Turkish authorities have sacked or suspended 150,000 people and detained more than 50,000, including other German nationals.

Spanish police arrested Akhanli on Saturday in the city of Granada, Der Spiegel reported. Any country can issue an Interpol “red notice”, but extradition by Spain would only follow if Ankara could convince Spanish courts it had a real case against him.

Akhanli, detained in the 1980s and 1990s in Turkey for opposition activities, including running a leftist newspaper, fled Turkey in 1991 and has lived and worked in the German city of Cologne since 1995.

On Friday, Erdogan urged the three million or so people of Turkish background living in Germany to “teach a lesson” to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats in September’s general election by voting against her. That drew stinging rebukes from across the German political spectrum.

Calls to the German foreign ministry regarding the arrest of Akhanli were not immediately returned.

(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Don’t expect much from China’s offer to open more sectors of its economy to foreigners

August 19, 2017

The World Trade Organisation is not effective and other international trade initiatives have been heavily politicised, so it is unlikely that Beijing will be leading moves towards any real reform of foreign direct investment

By Jake Van Der Kamp
South China Morning Post

Saturday, August 19, 2017, 11:26pm

… foreign firms operating in China have expressed growing frustration over limited access to markets and government policies that they say discriminate against overseas companies.

SCMP, August 18

You are forgiven if you are puzzled by the initials WTO. Few people any longer have reason to burden their brain cells with the knowledge that this stands for the World Trade Organisation.

The WTO was a fine dream when it was formed 22 years ago as a successor to a talk shop called the GATT Uruguay Round. Diplomats round the world thought GATT Uruguay a big success in breaking down trade barriers and thus formalised it as the WTO.

And then it all stopped. The WTO struggled briefly back into the news in 2001 when China demanded that it be allowed in as this was a big boys club and China had risen to the big boys league, but then things went quiet again.

The move towards a worldwide agreement on loosening trade barriers has failed. The effort now consists only of bilateral agreements between two countries at a time, or as purely political initiatives. Witness the Trans Pacific Partnership, a US scheme to exclude China, and the Belt and Road Initiative, a tit-for-tat China scheme to exclude the US.

The consensus (outside China) is that China carries its share of the blame for the WTO failure as it has failed in practice to meet its WTO obligations.

If this is true, and the charge is not entirely without foundation, it is largely because the mountains are still high and the emperor is still far away.

The will of Beijing tends to be less than perfectly carried out in the provinces, particularly when provincial governments see their own investments at risk from foreigners.

Thus I am not hugely impressed by the latest directives from Beijing that more sections of the economy be opened to foreign investors. Make that work in Kunming first, say I, and then tell us about it again.

What is more, this directive was made in direct response to criticism by US President Donald Trump about unfair trade practices by China. Let’s see the Donald first prove that he has some understanding of the facts here. So far he has done little more than parrot the usual anti-China rant.

The leadership in Beijing has been through this one before with Washington and its usual countermove is a line of talk, followed by a few high profile but not greatly significant concessions. We have the line of talk now. What ho the concessions?

I also have the evidence of the chart. Foreign direct investment into China has declined steadily over the last 10 years as a percentage of China’s gross domestic product. But if this is an offence, what do we make of Japan’s comparable anti-foreign investment stance. Has the Donald mouthed any rants at Japan?

In fact, only over the last two years have the equivalent figures for US FDI inflows been any higher than China’s. Just who keeps foreigners out then?

Of course, what we may have in these FDI inflows to China is nothing more than laundered mainland money taken out and funnelled back in so that it can appear as foreign when it so wishes. But, hush, hush, hush. Hong Kong is the laundry shop.

With the WTO dead, however, and other international trade initiatives heavily politicised, I cannot see Beijing leading the move towards any real reform.

For the moment, call it talk.

Florida: Police Make Arrest in Killing and Wounding of Kissimmee Police

August 19, 2017

The Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — A suspect in the fatal shooting of a police officer in Florida and the grave wounding of a sergeant was arrested several hours after the attack in a bar, authorities said Saturday.

The scene of the shooting in Kissimmee, Fla., on Friday evening. Credit

Everett Miller faces a charge of first-degree murder for the killing of Officer Matthew Baxter and could face other charges for the wounding of Sgt. Sam Howard, said Kissimmee Police Chief Jeff O’Dell at a news conference Saturday. Kissimmee is located south of the theme park hub of Orlando, Florida.

During a patrol late Friday of a neighborhood with a history of drug activity, Baxter was “checking out” three people, including Miller, when the officer got into a scuffle with Miller. Howard, his sergeant, responded as backup, the police chief said.

The officers didn’t have an opportunity to return fire. They weren’t wearing body cameras.

Sheriff’s deputies with a neighboring law enforcement agency later tracked Miller down to a bar and approached him. Miller started reaching toward his waistband when the deputies tackled and subdued him, O’Dell said.

The found a handgun and revolver on him.

“They were extremely brave and heroic actions taken by the deputies,” O’Dell said.

The police chief said Miller would be taken to jail wearing the fallen officer’s handcuffs.

Authorities originally said they believed there were four suspects, but the chief said Saturday that no other arrests are anticipated.

Miller, 45, was a Marine veteran and was recently involuntarily committed for a mental evaluation by the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office. The early stages of the investigation shows that Miller had made threats to law enforcement on Facebook, O’Dell said.

As of Saturday morning, Howard was in “grave, critical condition” at the hospital, O’Dell said.

“It’s grave. Not much hope that he will survive this,” the police chief said.

Baxter, 27, had been with the Kissimmee Police Department for three years. He was married to another Kissimmee police officer and they have four children.

Howard, 36, has served with the Kissimmee Police Department for 10 years. He and his wife have one child, O’Dell said.

“They are two wonderful men, family men,” O’Dell said. “They are two committed to doing it the right way.”

Separately, other two officers were injured late Friday in Jacksonville, Florida, after police responded to reports of an attempted suicide at a home where three other people were thought to be in danger. One of the officers was shot in both hands and the other was shot in the stomach.

In Pennsylvania, two state troopers were shot and a suspect killed outside a small-town store south of Pittsburgh on Friday night.

President Trump tweeted early Saturday that his thoughts and prayers were with the Kissimmee Police Department. “We are with you!” he said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott  tweeted he was heartbroken by the news of Baxter’s death and was praying for a quick recovery for Howard.

Trump says many decisions made on Afghanistan and beyond

August 19, 2017


© AFP/File | US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (L to R) were among those attending Friday’s talks at Camp David

WASHINGTON (AFP) – US President Donald Trump tweeted early Saturday that “many decisions” had been made in a meeting with his top military advisers, including on the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.The Trump administration, wary of international involvements but eager for progress in the grueling Afghan war, has been weighing a range of options. It had originally promised a new plan by mid-July.

On Saturday, Trump tweeted about the meeting a day earlier at the presidential retreat in Maryland, saying: “Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.”

It was unclear how far-ranging those decisions might be, or when they would be announced.

But Trump is said to be dissatisfied by initial proposals to add a few thousand more troops in the country, and advisers were studying an expanded strategy for the broader South Asian region, including Pakistan.

There are now about 8,400 US and 5,000 NATO troops supporting Afghanistan’s security forces in the fight against Taliban and other militants. But the situation has remained as deadly as ever, with more than 2,500 Afghan police and troops killed from January 1 to May 8.

Stephen Hawking criticizes Britain’s health secretary for selective use of scientific studies to support changes in the National Health Service

August 19, 2017

LONDON — Noted physicist Stephen Hawking has criticized Britain’s health secretary for what he described as the selective use of scientific studies to support changes in the National Health Service.

The world-renowned scientist has accused Conservative minister Jeremy Hunt of “cherry picking” evidence to support the changes and says the service is at risk.

Hunt rejected Hawking’s charges Saturday, but the public spat underscored the strains on the health service after years of cost-cutting.

Hawking, a supporter of the opposition Labour Party, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 1962. He says he “would not be here today if it were not for the service.”

Hawking says when public figures “abuse scientific argument, citing some studies but suppressing others to justify policies they want to implement for other reasons, it debases scientific culture.”

See also:

Jeremy Hunt mocked for trying to school Stephen Hawking on Twitter

In Berlin, neo-Nazis, counterprotesters take to the streets

August 19, 2017

Image may contain: 4 people, outdoor


Updated 9:50 AM ET, Sat August 19, 2017


Berlin (CNN) — Neo-Nazis marched in the streets of Berlin on Saturday as counterprotesters assembled to meet them, a week after a white supremacist rally turned deadly in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Helmeted police in riot gear stood guard as right-wing demonstrators converged on the German capital to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler’s deputy.
About 500 people on each side turned out, police said.
Convicted at the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Hess served a life sentence at Spandau Prison and was the sole inmate there from 1966 until his death in 1987.
Nazi sympathizers revere Hess because he never renounced his beliefs decades after the fall of the Third Reich.
One of Saturday’s banners read, “I do not regret anything,” Hess’ last words before his sentencing at Nuremberg. Another banner disputed the account that Hess committed suicide at age 93: “It was murder. Enough with the suicide lie.”
Police detain a counterprotester Saturday during the right-wing march in Berlin.

Forged in the ashes of World War II, strict laws in Germany ban Nazi symbols and hate speech.
Rally organizers told demonstrators not to play marching music and to walk silently to the site of Spandau Prison, razed after Hess’ death. Every 25th person could carry an imperial German flag. They were not allowed to wear Nazi attire and display a swastika, the Nazi symbol.
Funereal music played from a truck as the right-wing demonstrators marched to the prison site.
Anti-fascist counterprotesters chanted “war criminal” at demonstrators, shouted “all Berlin hates the police” and advanced toward officers.
Residents played loud music from balconies countering the demonstrators, such as a Michael Jackson song declaring, “It don’t matter if you’re black or white.”
A black woman held up a sign with a heart, prompting neo-Nazis to shout “go home.” She replied, “Berlin is my home.”
In contrast with the restrictions in Germany, US law protects the right of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups to hold public rallies and express their views openly.
Cities across the United States are bracing for a wave of far-right rallies in the coming days. Local and federal law enforcement officials have expressed concern about the potential for more violence.
At the Charlottesville rally last week, anti-Semitic and racist chants echoed through the city, and people openly marched with arms. Those demonstrators and anti-fascist counterprotesters skirmished.
One counterprotester — Heather Heyer — was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of people; an Ohio man was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in her death.

Tension Between Zimbabwe and South Africa Grows Following First Lady Assault Accusation

August 19, 2017

JOHANNESBURG — The Latest on assault allegations against Zimbabwe’s first lady (all times local):

2:05 p.m.

South African Airways says Zimbabwe has placed restrictions on its operations, affecting its flights between the neighboring countries.

The South African government-owned airline says its flight from Zimbabwe’s capital to Johannesburg was unable to take off as scheduled Saturday morning. Another flight from Johannesburg to Harare has been canceled.

South African Airways says Zimbabwean authorities are demanding a “foreign operators permit” to allow the airline to operate in Zimbabwe. It says it has been flying to and from Zimbabwe for more than 20 years and that the permit was never required until Saturday morning.

The restrictions come as South Africa’s government weighs whether to grant diplomatic immunity to Zimbabwe’s first lady, who is accused of assaulting a young model at a luxury hotel in Johannesburg.

The statement by the airline does not mention the allegations.


1:40 p.m.

A South African Airways flight bound for Johannesburg has been prevented from leaving Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe chief executive David Chawota is not specifying the “issues” requiring attention before the plane is allowed to leave. He says “the South Africans know what should be done.”

The cause of the delay is not clear. It comes as South Africa weighs Zimbabwe’s request for diplomatic immunity for its first lady, who has been accused of assaulting a young model in Johannesburg.


12: 30 p.m.

Zimbabwe’s first lady is expected to make her first public appearance today since being accused of assaulting a young model at a luxury hotel in South Africa.

Local media are reporting that Grace Mugabe is expected to attend a regional summit Saturday with her husband in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. President Robert Mugabe is attending the Southern African Development Community’s leaders’ conference.

South African authorities are weighing a request by Zimbabwe’s government for diplomatic immunity for the first lady, who has not commented.

Some demonstrators are protesting in Pretoria against the 93-year-old Mugabe and his wife, saying she should be prosecuted.

South African police have issued a “red alert” at the country’s borders to ensure Grace Mugabe doesn’t leave undetected, and are confident she remains in the country.

China’s financial crackdown to curb debt — Restrict foreign investments in sports clubs, real estate and entertainment — Time to “prevent risks”

August 19, 2017


© AFP/File | The financial crackdown comes amid fears that powerful conglomerates were racking up dangerous debt levels

BEIJING (AFP) – China is to restrict foreign investments in sports clubs, real estate and entertainment and is banning investment in pornography and “unauthorised” military technology.

The new rules were announced Friday by the government which had previously encouraged overseas spending sprees, but then warned late last year of “irrational” acquisitions amid fears that powerful conglomerates were racking up dangerous debt levels.

The announcement came days after British football club Southampton said it had entered into a partnership with Chinese businessman Gao Jisheng, with press reports saying he and his family had paid £200 million ($259.5 million) for an 80 percent stake.

“Foreign investments that do not conform to China’s efforts towards peaceful development, mutually beneficial cooperation and to macroeconomic regulation are subject to restriction,” said the government, adding it wanted to “prevent risks”.

Chinese firms will no longer be able to invest in conflict zones and places that do not have diplomatic ties with China.

The rules also ban investments that could harm the country’s interests and security.

High-profile Chinese deals in recent years have grabbed the limelight including Fosun’s takeover of Club Med, HNA’s stakes in Deutsche Bank and Hilton hotels, Anbang’s purchase of New York’s historic Waldorf Astoria, and Wanda’s control of Hollywood studio Legendary Entertainment and 20 percent of the Atletico Madrid football club.

But authorities now appear to be concerned about the influence of these conglomerates, their mazes of subsidiaries and debt, and their capacity to trip up the Chinese economy.

There have been indications since July of mounting government pressure.

Wanda has announced the sale of 77 of its hotels and 13 tourism projects to Chinese real estate developers Sunac and R&F properties for a whopping $9.3 billion.

Beijing has also ordered Anbang to sell all of its overseas assets, according to Bloomberg.

The entire private sector has suffered the consequences.

The only companies still permitted to make overseas investments are firms “supporting the real economy” or working with new technologies.

As a result, Chinese non-financial sector overseas investment plummeted 46 percent in the first half of 2017.