Daily Archives: February 8, 2014

Bosnia draws back from unrest, protesters vow to persist

(Reuters) – Bosnia drew back on Saturday from three days of unprecedented unrest over unemployment, political paralysis and corruption that for some brought back painful memories of the Balkan country’s 1992-95 war.

Small protests were held in the capital, Sarajevo, in northwestern Bihac, where protesters threw stones at the home of the head of the cantonal government, Mostar in the west and the central town of Bugojno.

But there was little sign of the kind of rioting that has left hundreds of people injured, most of them police officers.

Police in Mostar were out in force, stopping and checking cars entering the town, which is divided at the Neretva river between Croats and Muslim Bosniaks. In Tuzla, epicentre of the demonstrations, dozens helped clear debris from the gutted building of the local government.

“I’m glad we did it,” said Sanela Fetic, an unemployed 35-year-old who took part in both the protests and the clean-up.

“Now we’ll clean up this mess, like we’ll clean up the politicians who made this happen.”

The unrest began on Wednesday in Tuzla, when anger over factory closures in the once-healthy industrial hub turned violent, spreading by Friday to Sarajevo and other towns.

For years, fear of a return to conflict has kept a lid on anger over the dire state of the Bosnian economy and the inertia of a political system in which power is divvied up along ethnic lines.

In Sarajevo, protesters set fire to the Bosnian presidency building and the seat of the cantonal government, with part of Bosnia’s national archive lost in the flames.

The presidency, with its three members from Bosnia’s Serb, Croat and Muslim Bosniak communities, has become symbolic of the division and dysfunction of the former Yugoslav republic.

Sarajevans streamed past the charred buildings. Broken glass crunched under foot and chairs hurled from offices by protesters lay strewn on the ground.

To some, the scenes were uncomfortably reminiscent of the wartime siege of the city by Bosnian Serb forces in surrounding hills, a 43-month bombardment that claimed more than 10,000 of the estimated 100,000 lives lost in the war.

“I’m struggling not to cry,” said Enisa Sehic, 46, an economist. “This is like a flashback to the not so distant past.”

“LET IT BURN”

The agreement ending the war created a highly decentralised and unwieldy system of government, splitting the country into two autonomous republics joined by a weak central authority. One half, the mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation, is split again into 10 cantons, each with its own prime minister and cabinet ministers.

The apparatus is hugely expensive and feeds networks of patronage political parties from each side are reluctant to give up.

The former warring sides have little common vision of Bosnia’s future. While Bosniak leaders want greater centralisation, Croat hardliners are pressing for their own entity, while Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik says he sees no future for Bosnia at all.

With governance frequently hostage to ethnic politics, the economy has struggled to keep up with its ex-Yugoslav peers. More than one in four of the Bosnian workforce is jobless.

Failure to reform the constitution to open up high-level state jobs – such as the presidency – to those not from Bosnia’s three main communities has frozen the country’s bid to become a member of the European Union, which neighbouring Croatia joined last year.

Some Sarajevans argued that force was the only language their leaders would understand.

“This had to happen. If they were smart, it wouldn’t have,” said 56-year-old Mirsad Dedovic.

“Part of me was sorry when I saw what was happening yesterday. But then again, let it burn.”

Calls went out on Facebook for country-wide protests at midday (1100 GMT) on Monday.

The United States, which brokered the 1995 Dayton peace deal, and the EU that Bosnia wants to join, have proven helpless in prodding the country’s divided political leaders toward reform and greater centralisation.

On Saturday, the head of the Sarajevo cantonal government, Suad Zeljkovic, joined his counterpart from Tuzla in resigning, Fena news agency reported. But it was unclear if the unrest would have any greater political consequences, or serve as a wake-up call for the national leadership.

“This is about 20 years of accumulated rage coming to the surface, and it’s very difficult to assess what will happen next,” political analyst Enver Kazaz told the Bosnian daily Dnevni Avaz.

“The protesters come mostly from a generation of youngsters without hope, whose future has practically been taken away from them.”

Police try to hold off protesters as fires rage in Sarajevo

Protesters in Tuzla vented their anger on a local government building

Tuzla protesters also hurled missiles at a government building

Reuters

 

Egypt rejects ‘interference’ of European parliament

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry on Saturday denounced a recent European Parliament resolution on the country’s developments, saying the resolution was tantamount to “unacceptable” interference in the work of the Egyptian judiciary.

Foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said: “The Egyptian people are the only ones to decide their fate and future,” in a statement issued on Saturday that was critical of the content of the EP’s resolution.

The spokesman added that no domestic or foreign party was entitled to comment on matters that fall under the responsibility of the judiciary, in reference to comments made by the parliament concerning the trial of journalists in Egypt. The Egyptian judiciary, which the statement said was “known for its independence and integrity”, was part of the country’s separation of powers and that no one “under any pretext” could interfere in its work

“The resolution contained clauses that are unacceptable both in form and in content,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati said in a statement.

“These clauses tackle issues still being examined by the judiciary,” he added.

In a Thursday vote, the members of the European Parliament urged all political actors and security forces in Egypt to show the utmost restraint and avoid provocation and further violence.

They said the interim authorities and security forces must ensure the security of all citizens and commit to dialogue and non-violence, and to respect their obligations.

The members of parliament also called for an immediate end to all act of violence, harassment or intimidation against political opponents, journalists, trade unions and civil society representatives.

They went on to say that the interim government must guarantee that these actors, both domestic and international, can operate freely in the country.

Abdel-Ati, said that “nobody has the right to comment on issues that are still being examined by the Egyptian judiciary,” describing the Egyptian judiciary as “independent” and “honest”.

He said the resolution of the European Parliament puts people who make violence and terrorism on an equal footing with policemen and state institutions that seek to preserve public order and usher in security for citizens.

The spokesman, however, noted that the resolution has some positive clauses, particularly repeated condemnations of violence and terrorism that targets policemen, churches and public properties in Egypt.

 

إيران تعلن عن إرسال سفن حربية الى الحدود البحرية الأمريكية

أعلنت قيادة القوات البحرية الإيرانية اليوم السبت 8 فبراير/ شباط، عن ارسال سفن حربية الى الحدود البحرية الأمريكية ردا على انتشار سفن أمريكية في منطقة الخليج. وأكد قائد أسطول الشمال الإيراني أفشين رضائي حداد أن “السفن الحربية الإيرانية قد عبرت سواحل جنوب أفريقيا في طريقها إلى المحيط الأطلسي” وأنها “تقترب من الحدود البحرية الأمريكية، وهذه الخطوة هي رسالة واضحة”. وتأتي هذه الخطوة بعد أن أعلن قائد البحرية الايرانية الأميرال حبيب الله سياري في وقت سابق أن إيران تنوي ارسال سفن بحرية للرد على تواجد الأسطول الأمريكي الخامس في الخليج

Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security chief, cites threat as some travel to fight in Syrian civil war – The Washington Post

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Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Friday that Westerners heading abroad to fight in Syria’s civil war could threaten the United States and that illegal immigrants deserve a path to citizenship.

Delivering his first policy address since taking office in December, Johnson covered a broad range of topics, from appropriate uses of force by Customs and Border Protection agents to declining worker morale at Homeland Security, which has consistently received some of the lowest scores in the federal government’s annual worker-satisfaction survey.

DHS combined 22 agencies from across the government, including those in areas as varied as agriculture and defense. The relatively new organization operates with a sweeping mandate that includes counterterrorism, cybersecurity, immigration issues and natural-disaster responses.

The secretary noted that his morning intelligence briefings range in scope from “the latest terrorist plotting to a weather map,” adding that his department must constantly evolve to answer national security threats and hazards.

“Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” said Johnson, 56, the fourth Senate-confirmed secretary of Homeland Security.

Johnson said people from North America and Europe are traveling to war-torn Syria to fight, adding that “they will encounter radical, extremist influences” and possibly return to their home countries with the intent to do harm.

He also discussed home-grown terrorism, saying: “We face threats from those who self-radicalize to violence, the so-called ‘lone wolf,’ who did not train at an al-Qaeda camp overseas or become part of an enemy force, but who may be inspired by radical, violent ideology to do harm to Americans.”

He noted the Boston Marathon bombings in April that killed three people and wounded more than 200 others. The attacks were allegedly carried out by two American brothers who spent time in majority-Muslim parts of Central Asia. One of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police, and the Justice Department has said it will seek the death penalty against the other, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Johnson also focused on immigration reform, calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive bill that dedicates more resources to border and port security, in addition to providing new options for some of the nation’s 11.5 million illegal immigrants to become citizens.

“This is not rewarding people for breaking the law,” he said. “It is giving them the opportunity to get right with the law. And it is far preferable to what we have now.”

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) indicated that Republicans are unlikely to pass an immigration measure soon, saying his party does not trust the Obama administration to enforce whatever legislation Congress might approve. Democrats responded by suggesting that Boehner is simply buckling to pressure from the most conservative members of his caucus.

In discussing other border issues, Johnson said Customs and Border Protection will soon publish its use-of-force policy to help alleviate concerns about violence against migrants, many of whom have confronted U.S. border officers by throwing rocks. Agent-
involved shootings have killed more than 20 people since 2010, according to a recent report in The Washington Post.

“The public’s attitude toward the entire federal government can be shaped by interactions with DHS,” the secretary said. “We must be mindful of this as we seek public support for our work.”

Johnson also said he wants to “inject new energy into the Department of Homeland Security” to address worker morale issues. He said he is working with the White House to fill the agency’s many leadership vacancies, which good-government groups have partly blamed for the employee satisfaction problem.

Johnson delivered his remarks during a forum at the Wilson Center headquarters in Washington.

 

NSA bulk collection ensnares under 30 percent of phone records daily – report

The recently-unveiled US National Security Agency program that collects telephone records belonging to millions of Americans tracks only a small number of calls made each day, under 30-percent, officials with knowledge of the policy told reporters Friday.

The NSA has spent years collecting metadata – which includes the numbers dialed, number of calls received, time of call, duration of the call, and other information – from landline phones. Yet the agency has struggled to maintain pace with the explosion in cell phone usage, officials said.

One source told the Washington Post that in 2006 the NSA was collecting information on “closer to 100” percent of the calls made in the US, but by the summer of 2013 that number has decreased to less than 30 percent. The Wall Street Journal reported that the number is closer to “20 percent or less.”

The senior officials maintained that the NSA is working to restore its previous levels of data collection. They also said the agency will soon seek court orders to force phone companies that have managed to avoid the NSA’s gaze to begin providing information on its customers.

Yet Friday’s disclosures have revived the debate over whether the massive collection program is at all effective to begin with. Among the critics is the review board appointed by President Obama to determine what, if any, reforms needed to be made to the current surveillance apparatus.

We recommend that legislation should be enacted that terminates the storage of bulk telephony meta-data by the government under section 215 [of the US Patriot Act], and transitions as soon as reasonably possible to a system in which such meta-data is held instead either by private providers or by a private third party,” the review board advised in December.

In a speech last month Obama, while saying the government should keep the collection program alive, noted that he will seek to find a third party to store the data, without giving any further details.

If you’re looking for the needle in the haystack, you have to have the entire haystack to look through,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole testified to Congress in July.

Civil liberties advocates, though, say that since the NSA is collecting a small amount of data anyway, the entire program should be shelved.

We should have a debate about how effective would it be if it were fully implemented,” one official told the New York Times.

Christopher Soghoian, chief technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, remained unconvinced.

For innocent Americans, 20 or 30 percent is still a significant number, and will chill legitimate lawful activities,” he said.

Part of the reason the NSA may be struggled to keep up with mobile phone technology is in part because the agency does not currently have the infrastructure to store such a vast amount of information. Cell phone metadata also includes data the NSA currently has court permission to collect with this method, such as an individual’s geolocation data.

It is not simply the ability to go to the court and order some vendor to give you more records, but you have to make sure that the [agency’s collection system] is prepared and ready to take the data and meet all the requirements of the court,” one former NSA official told the Washington Post. “You don’t want to turn it on and get hundreds of millions of records, only to find out that you’ve got the moral equivalent of raw sewage spilling into the Chesapeake Bay.”

NSA bulk collection ensnares under 30 percent of phone records daily – report — RT USA.

Merkel blasts US diplomat’s F**k the EU comment

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed outrage over a leaked phone conversation in which a senior US diplomat used an expletive to dismiss the EU’s handling of the Ukrainian crisis. Western officials have attempted to blame Russia for the leak.

“The chancellor considers this statement absolutely unacceptable…and wants to emphasize again that (EU foreign policy chief Catherine) Ashton is doing an outstanding job,” Merkel’s spokeswoman said on Friday.

“The European Union will continue with its intensive efforts to calm the situation in Ukraine.”

Washington’s new top diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, apologized on Thursday for the contents of the leaked conversation, though she offered no further elaboration during a press conference in Kiev on Friday.

“I will not comment on a private diplomatic conversation,” she told reporters in Kiev, after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich and opposition leaders.

“It was pretty impressive tradecraft,” she added in what has been viewed as indirect confirmation of the recording’s authenticity. “Audio quality was very good.”

Merkel’s spokeswoman, Christiane Wirtz, offered scant details regarding whether Nuland’s apology had been received, telling the Berlin Press Conference that “contact was made with the chancellery.”

A German foreign ministry spokesman used suspicion that Russia was behind the leak to take a pot shot at the United States for its own sweeping surveillance programs, which included Merkel’s mobile phone.

“This shows you that eavesdropping is stupid,” he said.

Western officials have widely blamed Russia for bugging Nuland’s phone, with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt taking a swipe at Moscow via twitter.

“Tapping phone calls and releasing carefully selected bits to support propaganda efforts is an age-old method by some type of regimes,” wrote Bildt.

Earlier, Jen Psaki said if Russians were responsible for recording and releasing the private diplomatic conversation, it would be “a new low in Russian tradecraft.”

A four-minute video – titled ‘Maidan puppets,’ referring to Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital – was recently uploaded to YouTube with Russian-language captions.

In the clip, Nuland is heard saying “f**k the EU” while speaking with the American Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyat, on how to end the political crisis in Ukraine.

In the phone call, Nuland was heard discussing boxer-turned-politician Vitali Klitschko and “Fatherland” party head Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The conversation centered on who should go into the new government.

“I don’t think Klitsch should go into the government,” she appears to say.

“I think Yats is the guy who’s got the economic experience, he’s got the governing experience,” she added.

A spokesperson for Klitschko refused to comment on an “unauthenticated conversation,” while Nuland hinted on Friday that it would not damage relations between the US and the opposition.

The tape, however, shows strain between Washington and Brussels over how to handle the political crisis that has gripped Ukraine since November, when Yanukovich rejected a trade pact with the EU.

In a separate leaked recording, an Ashton aide can be heard complaining about the United States for telling Ukrainian opposition members that Brussels was “soft” in its reluctance to impose stricter measures, such as sanctions to punish the Ukrainian government, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, Nuland said on Friday the United States is prepared to give financial support to Ukraine if the country undertakes the necessary political reforms.

“We have had extensive discussions at all meetings concerning support from the international community, including the United States,” Nuland said.

“[The United States] is ready to support Ukraine if the will quickly move towards the path of protecting human rights, dignity, a de-escalation of the conflict, and political reforms.”

 

Merkel blasts US diplomat’s F**k the EU comment — RT News.

الخارجية الأمريكية : بلدان قليلة تستطيع تسجيل الحديث الهاتفي لنولاند

أعلنت المتحدثة باسم الخارجية الأمريكية جين بساكي أن عدة بلدان فقط لديها الإمكانيات التقنية الضرورية لتسجيل الحديث الهاتفي بين فيكتوريا نولاند مساعدة وزير الخارجية الأمريكي والسفير الأمريكي في كييف جفري بايت

وقالت الجمعة 7 فبراير/ شباط حول إمكانية قيام المخابرات الروسية بهذا العمل “ليست لدينا معلومات مؤكدة. نحن نقول فقط إن المسؤولين الروس كانوا أول من أثار التسجيل انتباههم”

وكان التسجيل قد نشر في موقع “يوتيوب” الخميس 6 فبراير/شباط، يتحدث فيه شخصان، يشبه صوتاهما صوتي نولاند والسفير الأمريكي في أوكرانيا جيفري بايات، وتصاحب التسجيل ترجمة مكتوبة للمكالمة باللغة الروسية

ورفض مسؤولون أمريكيون تأكيد أو نفي صحة التسجيل، لكن المتحدثة باسم وزارة الخارجية الأمريكية جين بساكي قالت: “أنا لم أقل أنه غير صحيح”، مرجّحة أن تكون الاستخبارات الروسية وراء نشره. لكن بساكي أكدت صحة التسجيل ضمنيا، عندما ذكرت أن نولاند اعتذرت لنظرائها الأوروبيين، بسبب “التعليقات المنسوبة” إليها

 

 

ديمقراطية اردوغان – تركيا تطرد صحفيا أذربيجانيا لانتقاده حكومة أردوغان على تويتر

طردت السلطات التركية الجمعة 7 فبراير/ شباط صحفيا أذربيجانيا يعمل لحساب صحيفة “زمان” بعد اتهامه بانتقاد حكومة رجب طيب أردوغان على “تويتر”. وحسب صحيفة “زمان”، فقد أدرج اسم ماهر زيلانوف على لائحة الأجانب غير المرغوب بهم على الأراضي التركية لأنهم “نشروا تغريدات على تويتر ضد مسؤولين كبار في الدولة”، وذلك بموجب قانون يسمح بطرد الذين “تسيء إقامتهم في تركيا الى الأمن العام والمقتضيات السياسية والإدارية”

وكان أردوغان قد تقدم بشكوى ضد الصحفي العامل في صحيفة “زمان” المقربة من حركة الداعية الإسلامي المعارض فتح الله غولين، مدعيا أن تغريداته تشكل “شتائم تحرض على الحقد والعدوانية”. من جانبها انتقدت منظمة السلام والأمن في أوروبا الإجراء مطالبة بإلغاءه على الفور. وأضافت أن “الحد من هذه الحرية سيعزز أكثر وضع اليد على وسائل الإعلام في تركيا

 

via تركيا تطرد صحفيا أذربيجانيا لانتقاده حكومة أردوغان على “تويتر” – RT Arabic.

2014 Sochi Olympics opening: Breathtaking Winter fairytale

The XXII Winter Olympic Games are on after opening officially in a sparkling, star-studded show in Sochi. For the next 16 days the world’s top athletes will be competing at their limits for the top honors.

For more visit RT’s Sochi 2014 page

This is the first time Russia has hosted the Winter Olympics, which were kicked off with the breathtaking, graceful and captivating opening ceremony on Friday night.

Over 9,000 people worked on the high-tech, pyrotechnic performance, which signaled the start of the full sporting program for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The two-and-a-half hour show took us on a riveting 18-part roller-coaster ride through Russian history, from the times of ancient Russia to the modern era, presenting spectators highlights of Russian culture. Accompanied by the music of great Russian composers like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Sviridov, it portrayed the path Russia took to become the country it is now.

The opening ceremony began with a video, introducing foreign guests to the Russian alphabet and scenes of culture and history matched with letters – each one stood for a particular person, notion or invention, portraying famous moments throughout the country’s history.

Over 40,000 spectators from all over the world watched the opening extravaganza, and the introduction of the athletes in the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi.

The unique feature of the parade was a special floor where an image of the earth was magically projected. The stunt included a smooth touch: An image of the globe from outer space rotated every time a new country was announced, pinpointing the location of that country.

The athletes appeared from the heart of their respective nations and then walked into the stadium.

All countries were introduced in alphabetical order according to their Russian spelling. Per tradition, Greece – the birthplace of Olympic competition – was the first to enter the stadium.

As host country, Russia took the stage last, marching to the upbeat dance song “Not gonna get us” by t.A.T.u., a Russian pop girl band extremely popular in the mid-2000s, and the country’s most successful pop export to the world.

Following the hour-long parade of more than 3,000 athletes, who will be taking part in almost 100 events, the dazzling show began. Dancers, actors and singers took the audience on a magnificent voyage through Russian history.

The main idea of the ceremony were the dreams of a little girl named Lyuba – meaning ‘love’ in Russian – who sees Russia and its history in different periods.

The actors on stage reenacted episodes from Russia’s history as well as most beloved folk tales, mesmerizing the audience. One of the most elegant and enchanting moments of the opening ceremony was the ballet reenactment of Natasha’s first ball from the Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel ‘War and Peace.’

The president of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Organizing Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, took the center stage to praise the Games’ values and unity.

“Our Games will be hot, not only because of palm trees outside the ice arena but also with the heat of our hearts,” Chernyshenko said.

“Our Games will be cool with new modern venues, new heroes, new icons. And our Games will be yours, all of yours, because when they come together, in all our diversity, the Olympic Games have united us.”

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach’s speech followed, as he called on the athletes to compete in a spirit of fair rivalry.

“To the athletes, you have come here with your Olympic dream. You are welcome, no matter where you come from or your background. Yes, it’s possible even as competitors to live together and to live in harmony with tolerance and without any form of discrimination for whatever reason. Yes, it is possible even as competitors to listen, to understand and to be an example of a peaceful society, to building bridges and bring people together,” Bach said.

He then handed the microphone to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who declared the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games open.

World-famous piano virtuoso Denis Matsuev, and renowned opera soprano Anna Netrebko, gave a rousing performance of the Olympic anthem.

Lena Katina and Yulia Volkova – former members of the provocative girls pop duet t.A.T.u. which became Russia’s most successful pop band abroad in 2000s – performed their hit song ‘Not Gonna Get Us’ before the opening ceremony.

Of course, lighting the Olympic cauldron for the Games has become one of the most crucial and grandiose moments of the ceremony.

Ice skating legend, Irina Rodnina and Soviet hockey legend Vladislav Tretiak, now Russian Hockey Federation president, carried the Olympic torch to light the cauldron, after the flame’s unprecedented journey all across Russia and beyond, to the North Pole, the cosmos, and Europe’s highest mountain peak.

The cauldron and festivities will continue throughout the Games, and the Olympic flag will remain raised at the top of the hill.

The ceremony’s fiery finale featured over 3,500 fireworks. The average weight of the firecrackers was around 22.5 tons, while the heaviest weighed in at 4.8 tons.

During the Games athletes will compete in over 15 disciplines in seven sports. Twelve new events have been slotted into the crowded Olympic schedule, including the figure skating team event, slopestyle and half-pipe skiing (both men’s and women’s).

Over the next 16 days a record number of Olympic medals will be presented – a total of 98 sets, that is 12 more than in Vancouver 2010. Each gold medal weighs 531g, while silvers are 525g and the bronzes are 460g.

Ten Sochi Olympics winners will receive an ‘out-of-this-world touch’ when they receive their gold medals on February 15. Each medal will be embedded with tiny fragments of last year’s Chelyabinsk meteorite.