Politics and Legislation
IAEA reports progress in Iran nuclear talks
Published on May 22, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran could soon sign a deal on the UN agency investigating suspected weapons activities connected to the country’s nuclear programme.
Yukiya Amano, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog, said on Tuesday that he reached an agreement with Iran’s government after talks in Tehran, but failed to seal the deal because of “remaining, unspecified differences”.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports from Tehran, Iran.
BEIJING, May 21 (Xinhua) — China on Monday voiced its opposition to a defense spending bill passed last week by the U.S. House of Representatives that pushed for sales of F-16 jets to Taiwan.
“We have taken note of the bill,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a news briefing, adding that China firmly opposes U.S. lawmakers’ exaggeration of China’s military development and push for arms sales to Taiwan.
The House of Representatives voted Friday to require the United States to sell F-16 C/D fighter-jets to Taiwan.
“China sticks to the path of peaceful development,” said the spokesman, adding it is baseless and irresponsible for anyone to play up the “China threat theory.”
“To push for weapons sales to Taiwan severely violates the one-China policy and the three joint communiques between China and the United States, which severely interferes with China’s internal affairs,” Hong said.
During the briefing, Hong urged “some U.S. lawmakers” to get rid of their Cold War mentality and stop pushing for arms sales to Taiwan and all wrongdoings of interfering with China’s internal affairs.
“(They should) do more to help China-U.S. relations and the mutual trust between the two nations, not the contrary,” he added.
Europe’s food safety agency EFSA on Monday rejected the grounds for a temporary French ban on a genetically modified strain of maize made by US company Monsanto.
“Based on the documentation submitted by France, there is no specific scientific evidence, in terms of risk to human and animal health or the environment,” EFSA said in a scientific opinion issued on its website.
A spokesman for Europe’s health commissioner John Dalli said the EU executive “will consider how to follow up on this ruling, though technically we could ask France to raise its ban” on MON 810.
“The commission will wait for the conclusions of the next environment ministers’ meeting June 11 in Luxembourg and hopes for a positive outcome to its proposals for cultivation, which have been blocked for almost two years by France and others,” spokesman Frederic Vincent told AFP.
Paris had asked Brussels in February to suspend the cultivation of MON 810 on the basis of new scientific evidence after France’s top administrative court in November overturned a government order banning the planting of genetically modified crops from Monsanto.
The court said that in a November 2008 ban, the government had failed to prove that Monsanto crops “present a particularly elevated level of risk to either human health or the environment”.
Monsanto markets MON 810 maize — which has been modified at a genetic level to include DNA from a bacteria — under the trade name YieldGuard as being resistant to insect pests that can threaten harvests.
But some governments believe it could pose a danger to plants and animals.
France in February pointed to a recent study by EFSA that raised concerns over another form of GM crop, BT11, that it said could also be applied to MON 810.
The European Commission at the time requested EFSA’s opinion on France’s request, but said it would not take any steps in the meantime.
Monsanto said in January that it had no intention of selling GM maize in France as it felt the market was not ready.
(c) 2012 AFP
9/11 ‘truther’ leading Egyptian presidential race
Egyptian presidential candidate, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, waves to his supporters in front of Egyptian presidency logo ” falcon” during television interview at MISR University for Science and Technology in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, May 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
An Islamist who believes that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States were an American conspiracy is the front-runner in Egypt’s presidential race, a new poll shows.
Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, formerly a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, led the field of 13 candidates with 32 percent of the vote in a survey released Monday by the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
Mr. Abolfotoh expressed his views on the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in an interview last year with Egypt scholar Eric Trager.
Mr. Trager, now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, quoted Mr. Abolfotoh as saying:
“It was too big an operation …. They [the United States] didn’t bring this crime before the U.S. justice system until now. Why? Because it’s part of a conspiracy.”
Egyptians will vote Wednesday and Thursday in their first presidential election since the toppling of Hosni Mubarak last year. If none of the candidates wins a majority, the two top vote-getters will compete in a runoff next month.
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China’s Wanda To Buy Biggest US Theater Operator AMC For 2.6 Billion
Published on May 22, 2012 by IBTimesTV
Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group has agreed to buy AMC Entertainment for 2.6 billion dollars (USD), including debt, making it the biggest theater operator in the United States.
The deal, the largest overseas acquisition by a privately held Chinese company, reflects the warming ties between the U.S. and Chinese movie industries after China agreed in February to open its cinemas to more American films.
The purchase will mark Wanda’s first investment outside of China and its first foray into the United States and Canada, the world’s biggest film market with ticket sales of more than 10 billion.
Lucas Shaw, a media reporter for the online entertainment site, The Wrap described this purchase as giving the Dalian Wanda conglomerate a lot more power in the U.S. market.
“It is already a huge theater owner in China, but in the U.S. market, by acquiring the second biggest, it gives them a foothold in these two different markets. China has rapidly become the second biggest box office market behind the U.S., still far behind the U.S., but still the second biggest. So, it gives them a lot of negotiating power with the studios and distributors, as the biggest exhibitor in the world.”
Wanda, which has interests in commercial properties, luxury hotels, tourism and department stores, holds 35 billion in assets, with annual revenue reaching 16.7 billion.
Shaw expects Wanda to provide a cash infusion into the existing AMC theaters in an effort to provide consumers with a better theater experience.
“The key to all this is to make sure that consumers have a reason to leave there home to watch movies,” said Shaw, adding that he doesn’t believe ticket prices should be impacted. “With all the different offerings you have at home, whether it is on-demand, netflicks there is a growing reluctance by the consumer to go out and pay 12 or 15 dollars to see a movie. Theaters need to do everything they can to keep them coming.”
The deal also highlights the rising partnership between China and Hollywood.
“The speed is somewhat surprising,” said Shaw. “In the last year or two, you have seem a number of large co-productions, investments, Disney is opening a large theme park in China, there is a large production facility opening in China. But, I don’t think it is surprising if you look at the trend at the box office where overseas in worth way more than domestic.”
AMC’s management team at its Kansas City, Missouri headquarters and the company’s 18,500 employees will not be affected by the deal. The movie chain is owned by an investment group that includes Bain Capital, CCMP Capital Advisors and Spectrum Equity Capital.
China ‘targets infrastructure to lift economy’
Published on May 22, 2012 by Euronews
http://www.euronews.com/ China is reportedly to speed up approvals for spending on infrastructure in response to a slowdown in the economy.
A state-backed newspaper says the government has asked for project proposals by the end of June, even for those initially due for the end of the year.
China is heading for a sixth straight quarter of slowing growth and investment in roads, bridges and property is at its weakest in nearly a decade.
Citing government sources, the newspaper article in China Securities Journal, said Beijing did not rule out bringing forward next year’s projects, if it thought more investments would be needed to stimulate the economy.
The newspaper also cited media reports saying the central government will speed up budget allocations to various construction projects, including highway construction.
News of Beijing’s latest efforts to bolster growth lifted stock markets. Australian shares rose 1.2 percent and Britain’s FTSE 100 gained as investors bought mining companies on the prospects of more sales to China.
Chinese infrastructure stocks outperformed, while benchmark copper prices rose to a one-week high.
The five top movers on the China Enterprises Index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong were all infrastructure related; China Communications Construction, China Railway Construction Group, China Railway Group, Anhui Conch Cement and Zoomlion Heavy Industry.
UK inflation eases
Published on May 22, 2012 by Euronews
http://www.euronews.com/ Annual inflation in Britain fell to its lowest in more than two years in April. It dropped to 3.0 percent from March’s 3.5 percent.
That makes it more likely the UK central bank will be able to introduce extra stimulus – that is essentially printing more money – to support the economy.
Core inflation, which excludes food and fuel costs, fell to 2.1 percent, the lowest since November 2009.
Economists had been expecting a sizeable fall in inflation due to a spike in some prices in April 2011 not being repeated this year.
The Office for National Statistics said the fall was driven by lower inflation for air and sea transport, clothing and alcohol.
Inflation has now been above the Bank of England’s 2.0 percent target for almost two and a half years and Tuesday’s data come a week after the central bank’s economists predicted it would say there for at least another year before falling to 1.6 percent by mid-2014.
Until April, British inflation had fallen more slowly than the BoE expected this year – a factor which many economists said lay behind its decision not to expand its 325 billion pound quantitative easing programme this month, despite the UK economy having fallen back into recession.
Eurozone crisis ‘threat’ to global economy
Published on May 22, 2012 by AlJazeeraEnglish
The eurozone financial crisis could threaten the global economy, according to Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation.
The 17-nation eurozone will see its economies shrink by 0.1 per cent, before rebounding to 0.9 per cent next year, the Paris-based organisation said in its latest report released on Tuesday.
Nick Spicer reports from Berlin.
As critics lay siege to Facebook, Zuckerberg is MIA
Mark Zuckerberg had a high profile as Facebook’s IPO began on Friday. Since then he’s been hard to find.
By Matthew J. Belvedere, CNBC.com
Aside from the weekend wedding pic, the last time investors saw the social network icon was on Friday morning — just before the rocky debut of his company’s stock. Zuckerberg was high-fiving Nasdaq Chief Executive Bob Greifeld and ringing the opening bell remotely from Facebook’s sprawling headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
But since then, a lot’s gone wrong including the Nasdaq’s botched opening of the stock; its precipitous slide since Friday to levels well below the $38 a share offering price; and allegations that lead underwriter Morgan Stanley shared negative news about Facebook with institutional investors before the IPO.
Through it all, Zuckerberg’s been MIA.
Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a senior dean at the Yale School of Management, thinks Zuckerberg is making a mistake by not publicly addressing the problems. “It’s important now to actually show the execution, show the plan, show the new vision,” Sonnenfeld told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Tuesday.
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While Washington’s rhetoric has focused recently on the coming end to the war in Afghanistan
, its spending on the conflict is not at all waning.
Between this year and next, the federal government plans to spend nearly $200 billion on the war. If it does so, the U.S. will have spent about $642 billion since 2001 on fighting the Taliban, al-Qaeda and allied groups, local militias and warlords in Afghanistan.
One think tank, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
, characterized the spending commitment for 2012 and 2013 as “incredible” given the lack of controls, plans, auditing and effectiveness employed by the Obama administration to win the war.
In its new report
, the CSIS added that Washington’s “end effect has been to sharply raise the threshold of corruption in Afghanistan, to make transition planning far more difficult, and raise the risk that sudden funding cuts will undermine the Afghan government’s ability to maintain a viable economy and effective security forces.”
Meanwhile, support among Americans for the war effort has continued to shrink. Only 27% of respondents to a new Associated Press-GfK poll said they back the war, while 66% oppose it.
However there appears to be a major disconnect between the public and their leaders. On Thursday the House of Representatives voted 303-113 against an amendment that would have hastened the exit of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan by limiting funding to the “safe and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops and military contractors.” There are currently 88,000 American troops in Afghanistan.
To Learn More:
House Reauthorizes Afghan Conflict In Bipartisan Vote (by Donna Cassata, Associated Press)
Wars and Rumors of War
Mosaic News : Deadly Suicide Attack on Yemeni Capital Leaves 90 Soldiers Dead
Published on May 22, 2012 by linktv
Deadly suicide attack on Yemeni capital leaves 90 soldiers dead, two Lebanese killed in heavy clashes as Syrian conflict spills over, NATO agrees to hand over security lead to Afghan troops by mid-2013, and more.
Today’s headlines in full:
Deadly suicide attack on Yemeni capital leaves 90 soldiers dead
Al Jazeera, Qatar
Two Lebanese killed in heavy clashes as Syrian conflict spills over
Dubai TV, UAE
NATO agrees to hand over security lead to Afghan troops by mid-2013
BBC Arabic, UK
Syria: Thirteen killed in Homs, Hama, Daraa clashes
BBC Arabic, UK
Bahraini security forces attack protestors as crackdown continues
NATO urges Pakistan to reopen supply route
Press TV, Iran
IAEA chief in Iran to press for nuclear cooperation
Press TV, Iran
New video shows Jewish settlers shooting Palestinians as Israeli soldiers stand idle
Press TV, Iran
Tourism, African migrants are main focus of Jerusalem Day Israeli Cabinet session
Palestine Heritage Museum reopens in Jerusalem
Palestine TV, Ramallah
Image: A boy holds a candle during a protest to show solidarity with a Yemeni journalist jailed over alleged links with al-Qaeda and to condemn a suicide attack that killed over 90 soldiers in Sanaa May 21, 2012: REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
Mosaic is a Peabody Award-winning daily compilation of television news reports from the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Syria, the Palestinian Authority, Iraq and Iran. Watch more Mosaic at http://www.linktv.org/mosaic
|UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous speaks during a press conference in Damascus, Syria, May 21, 2012. Ladsous on Monday warned here of the presence of terrorist groups in Syria, who are trying to capitalize on the current unrest to achieve certain gains. (Xinhua/Hazim)
DAMASCUS, May 21 (Xinhua) — The visiting UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous on Monday warned here of the presence of terrorist groups in Syria, who are trying to capitalize on the current unrest to achieve certain gains.
“We know that there are … a third party, terrorist groups, who are trying to gain advantage for themselves… but we have to see this as an issue within Syria, between the Syrians,” he said during a press conference in Damascus.
“These people are not committed to the cause of the Syrian people… They are committed to their own agenda… So we have to keep a watchful eye but what we are dealing with and what we must deal with is the issue between the Syrians themselves,” he said.
“We do know that there had been terrorist attacks and bombings and that is something to be taken very seriously,” he added. “Any further militarization of the crisis is not to be accepted… it’s a crisis between the Syrians and there is no justification in fueling the fire.”
Ladsous said that main objective of his visit to Syria is to examine the deployment of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria, adding that he has been “very pleased by the rapidity by which they have been deployed.”
He noted that the number of UN military observers is now 270, adding that they are now deployed in six cities and soon they will be deployed in 10 cities.
“I am not saying that the violence ceased altogether but clearly it diminished,” he said, adding that he had met with the government and the opposition in Syria.
He said the job of the UN observers aims also to work on the issue of the detainees and to gain access to the prisons. “We simply do not know how many people are detained.”
Ladsous said there are still some unresolved issues, stressing, however, that the Syrian government has confirmed its commitment to Annan’s six-point plan.
“I think it’s necessary to talk to all those who are involved, about how to get further towards a peaceful solution and how to stop violence,” he said.
For his part, head of the UN observer mission Maj-Gen Robert Mood said He is sending Ladsous back to New York “with a different understanding of what Syria is about.”
Articles of Interest
Chicago Protests And CPD
Published on May 22, 2012 by TheAlyonaShow
We’ll speak with two men who were held at gun point by the Chicago police for live streaming. Then, in one of the most watched antiwar protests in decades, dozens of Veterans tossed their medals into the streets. And it’s Monday Hangover, so we’ll talk about why the Obama campaign is going after Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital when Private Equity donations favor Obama.
BP Coverup, Coverup
Greg Palast is a BBC investigative reporter and author of Vultures’ Picnic. Palast turned his skills to journalism after two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud. Palast directed the U.S. governmentʼs largest racketeering case in history– winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of fraud charges in the Exxon Valdez grounding.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.
The BP gulf oil disaster has been the subject of a lot of examination, and recent examination shows that there’s more of a coverup then perhaps we have known. One of the people who’s done a lot of work on this is investigative journalist Greg Palast. And he now joins us from New York City. Greg’s a BBC investigative reporter, author of Vultures’ Picnic, and author of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse and many other pieces of investigative work. Thanks very much for joining us, Greg.GREG PALAST, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Glad to be with you, Paul.JAY: So, first of all, what is the—I mean, people know the basic story of what happened, but what is the real essence of the coverup here?PALAST: Yeah, they don’t know the real story, not in the U.S. press. For British television, I investigated what really happened. Actually, right after Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010, I get a message from a witness, an insider from the Caspian Sea, which is, you know, the other side of the planet, in Asia, saying, I know exactly what happened here, ’cause the exact same thing happened in the Caspian Sea two years earlier: there was another BP rig—another BP rig blew out, just like the Deepwater Horizon. And BP covered it up. BP hid it because it occurred offshore off the nation of Azerbaijan, which is what I call—in my book Vulture’s Picnic I call it the Islamic Republic of BP. They own that place. They bought it—bribery.JAY: Now, the point here is that the cause of the Caspian Sea blowout, you’re saying, is essentially the same as what happened in the Gulf.
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Obama wants to continue wiretapping Americans
Published on May 22, 2012 by RTAmerica
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has gone through many changes since it came to be in 1978, but some of the most recent changes to FISA give the US government permission to eavesdrop on Americans’ electronic communications without a warrant. President Obama has argued that wiretapping programs may not be challenged in court, but should they be? Amie Stepanovich, associate litigation counsel for EPIC, joins us with more on the FISA.
by Staff Writers
NGOs take issue with UN take on sustainable development
Rio De Janeiro (AFP) May 21, 2012 – A month before a UN meeting on sustainable development, civil society is taking issue with the gathering’s approach.The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, takes place in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro June 20-22. In parallel, NGOs will gather for the People’s Summit for Social and Environmental Justice.”The discussions focus on a set of fake proposals called ‘Green economy,'” organizers of the alternate event said on their website. “The ‘Green economy,’ contrary to what its name suggests, is one more stage of capitalistic accumulation.”The document — titled “What is at stake at Rio+20″ — also alleges that the negotiation strategy at the upcoming conference favors rich governments and threatens the rights of indigenous people.At least 116 government officials and 50,000 participants are expected to take part in Rio+20, including heads of companies and representatives of social movements.
The People’s Summit will take place June 15-23.
Food shortages have worsened in North Korea, even in the southwestern rice belt where some residents have starved to death, a Seoul-based online newspaper said Monday.
“Because of worsening food shortages this year there were reports of people starving to death even in South and North Hwanghae provinces,” a Daily NK reporter told AFP, referring to the country’s agricultural heartland.
Six people — children or the elderly — died in just one village in Shingye county after the authorities released an emergency supply of only one or two kilograms (2.2-4.4 pounds) of corn to each household, the paper said.
It quoted another source as saying that about 10 people had died of starvation on each collective farm in and around the coastal city of Haeju by April, following shortages in late winter.
Good Friends, a Seoul-based aid group, also said on its website that starvation continued to claim victims throughout South Hwanghae. At Hwanghae Steelworks some workers had died because food rations stopped, it said.
The South’s unification ministry, which handles cross-border affairs, said it had no information.
Daily NK said North and South Hwanghae saw rice production fall last year due to flooding, and most of the autumn harvest was diverted to military stores or for citizens of Pyongyang.
In South Hwanghae shortages were aggravated by restrictions on market trading and travel during the 100-day mourning period for leader Kim Jong-Il, who died on December 17, it said.
Near the border with the South soldiers were mobilised for farming because many farm workers left to seek help from relatives in other areas, it said.
The North’s official food distribution system, part of its state-directed economy, largely collapsed during the famine years of the mid to-late 1990s.
Severe food shortages have persisted. But donations to UN programmes have dwindled due to international irritation at the North’s missile and nuclear programmes.
The United States suspended a plan to deliver 240,000 tonnes of food after the North’s latest rocket launch on April 13.
On Monday the North’s official Korean Central News Agency expressed concern about drought in western areas, which it said had received little rainfall in the past few weeks.
Water levels in the country’s major irrigation reservoirs stood at just over 55 percent of normal because of unusually high temperatures, which were expected to last until early June, it said.
Farming Today – Suppliers and Technology
Brussels wants e-identities for EU citizens
The European Commission is set to launch a substantial review of rules governing personal documents with the aim of making electronic identities take off across the EU. But the proposal faces likely opposition from civil rights groups and member states where identity cards do not exist.
Neelie Kroes, the EU’s Digital Agenda Commissioner, will present by the beginning of June a new legislative proposal which aims “to facilitate cross-border electronic transactions” through the adoption of harmonised e-signatures, e-identities and electronic authentication services (eIAS) across EU member states, according to an internal document seen by EurActiv.
“A clear regulatory environment for eIAS would boost user convenience, trust and confidence in the digital world,” reads the paper. “This will increase the availability of cross-border and cross-sector eIAS and stimulate the take up of cross-border electronic transactions in all sectors.”
Brussels has long been trying to facilitate the emergence of a parallel system of electronic identification, on top of the the real-world existing documents. This has mainly been linked to the struggle for establishing a truly functioning single market, rather than on security grounds.
A directive was adopted in 1999 establishing a common framework for electronic signatures. The rationale for the legal text is that if EU citizens feel comfortable in signing documents online, they will increasingly move to the immaterial world of the e-commerce to do business and shopping, regardless of national borders.
Resistance expected at national level
Despite the EU’s efforts to increase the security of e-signatures and the confidence in the emergence of virtual identities, citizens and governments have been slow to adopt electronic IDs.
Indeed, e-signatures are still confined to a few sectors, such as universities, while most EU nations have not yet introduced electronic identity cards.
Even if chip-embedded passports are becoming the norm across Europe, e-ID cards have been adopted in only in a handful of countries – Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. But there is no common system of mutual recognition among states using electronic IDs.
Perhaps more frustrating for the European Commission is that some member states like the United Kingdom do not even have paper identity cards, and the idea of adopting them causes widespread public opposition.
The UK briefly introduced ID cards during the second world war but abolished them afterwards. The use that the Nazi regime made of identity documents to single out Jewish people and send them into concentration camps has been a powerful argument against introducing ID documents across the Channel.
When Tony Blair’s Labour government discussed the idea of ID cards, a citizen movement sprang up overnight to block the plans.
ID cards are also not used in Denmark and Ireland.
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