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Over Easy

3:54 am in Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch joined in a call for Israel to allow investigators into Gaza as deaths soared and charges multiplied of abuses there.

‘The Israeli authorities appear to have been playing bureaucratic games with us over access to Gaza, conditioning it on entirely unreasonable criteria even as the death toll mounts,’ Anne FitzGerald, Amnesty International’s director of Research and Crisis Response, said in the release.

At least 2,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on July 7. Over 10,000 Gazans have been injured and half a million internally displaced. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers have died in combat and three civilians have been killed by rocket attacks on Israeli cities. Both sides have been accused of violating the laws of war during the most deadly conflict between Israel and the occupied Gaza Strip since Hamas took power in 2007.

The rights groups said they want to send researchers into the territory to assess competing claims, and that Israel should not interfere with such independent investigations.

Journalist James Foley was beheaded in video released Wednesday, at the hands of a member of the militant group who spoke in the filmed event and is described by UK Foreign Secretary Hammond, who says he ‘appears to be British.’ Bombing of ISIS locations at Mosul dam continued yesterday.

Unconfirmed video and pictures of the photojournalist’s heartbreaking final moments emerged this morning via Twitter accounts claiming to be associated with the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In what looked like a prepared statement, Foley called on his family to rise up against the US, who he calls his ‘real killers.’

‘I call on my friends, family, and loved ones to rise up against my real killers, the US government, for what will happen to me is only a result of their complacency and criminality,’ he said.

A failure of a U.S. mission to free the hostages was announced yesterday; ‘The U.S. military launched a secret mission this summer to rescue a number of Americans held captive in Syria by the Islamic State but failed to find them, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday night.’

Comprehensive studies have been completed on Neanderthal remains that have given a picture of the primitive man coexisting with modern men for almost 5,000 years. Kit seems to have used this in his overnight post, as well, but you may have missed that, so I wanted to throw it in here so we can contemplate the ancient legends that might have been caused by coexisting with species different from the now dominant one.

Now an international team of researchers collected more than 400 samples from the most important sites in Europe. The samples were purified and analysed using state-of-the-art dating methods at Oxford University.

The results provide the clearest insight yet into the interaction between our ancestors and Neanderthals, when they first encountered each other and why the Neanderthals went extinct, according to the lead researcher, Prof Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford.

‘I think we can set aside the idea of a rapid extinction of Neanderthals caused solely by the arrival of modern humans. Instead we can see a more complex process in which there is a much longer overlap between the two populations where there could have been exchanges of ideas and culture.’

Four McDonalds restaurants have been shut down in Moscow in the name of consumer protection. Several are under ongoing investigation as well, in a burgeoning competition in sanctions.

‘Multiple violations of sanitary norms were detected in the sourcing of food and waste disposal in McDonald’s restaurants during inspections carried out between the 18th and 20th of August,’ said an official statement from the watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.

The company has said that it will study the allegations against its franchises, and ‘will do everything to ensure that the restaurants open as soon as possible.’

‘McDonald’s main priority is offering its customers quality and safe produce,’ said a statement on the McDonald’s website.

Those golden arches will make an interesting addition to Putin’s trophy case, along with admirer Sarah Palin and the bears.

Never.Give.Up.

Things that go Stomp in the night

(Picture courtesy of Peachland Joe at flickr.com.)

Over Easy

3:53 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Despite rocket fire that broke a 72 hour ceasefire, all sides agreed to an extension proposed to last for five more days of truce and peace talks in embattled Gaza.

Hamas, the Islamist organisation in power in Gaza, denied they had launched rockets, however, and shortly before midnight Palestinian delegates in Cairo announced the extension.

‘There will be a five-day ceasefire to give more opportunity for negotiation,’ Gamal Shobky, the Palestinian ambassador in Cairo, told the Guardian. ‘We are very close but there are still some things to resolve.’

The news will be welcomed in Gaza, battered by a month-long conflict which inflicted massive damage on infrastructure and housing, as well as killing nearly 2,000 people, mostly civilians. Sixty four Israeli soldiers died, and three civilians in Israel were killed by rocket fire.

As Mt. Sinjar emptied of persecuted minorities chased there by ISIS, the international community sought to change premiers as one step toward less volatile conditions.

The White House on Wednesday urged Iraqi leader Nuri al-Maliki to step aside and allow the man nominated to become his successor as prime minister to form a government.

‘He needs to respect that process,’ Rhodes told reporters. ‘This is what the Iraqis themselves have decided to do.’

President Barack Obama on Monday threw his weight behind the choice of Haidar al-Abadi to form a new government, appealing to Maliki, without directly naming him, to peacefully turn over power.

‘The White House will be very glad to see a new government in place with prime minister Abadi at the lead of that government,’ Rhodes said.

Mexico awarded 83% of its oil resources to national oil firm Pemex as a move toward reorganization and revitalization of its energy industry, enabled by an amendment to the constitution which required state ownership of resources.

Mexico enacted new rules this week to open up the country’s energy sector.

Private oil companies are now allowed to operate in the country for the first time in 76 years.

The next round of bidding will see private oil firms vie for the remaining 79% of possible reserves.

(snip)

The hope is that the changes in the energy sector will boost production back to 2004 levels by 2025.

Crumbling infrastructure, bureaucracy and corruption have pared Mexican production from 3.6 million barrels a day in 2004 to just 2.5 million.

The first woman to be awarded the Fields Medal, mathematics’ equivalent of the Nobel, is an Iranian professor at Stanford, Maryam Mirzakhani, awarded the medal for her work in understanding the symmetry of curved surfaces.

‘This is a great honor. I will be happy if it encourages young female scientists and mathematicians,’ Mirzakhani was quoted as saying on Stanford’s website.

‘I am sure there will be many more women winning this kind of award in coming years,’ she said.

Mirzakhani, 37, was born in Tehran and lived there until she began her doctorate work at Harvard University. She said she dreamed of becoming a writer when she was young, but she pursued her love of solving mathematical problems.

‘It is fun. It’s like solving a puzzle or connecting the dots in a detective case. I felt that this was something I could do, and I wanted to pursue this path.’ she said.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:19 am in Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Two Palestinian journalists were killed in attacks on Gaza during the recent bombardment, bringing to eight the number of journalists who have lost their lives in these events.

According to an affiliate of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the Palestinian Journalists’ Syndicate (PJS), the two journalists were killed in the artillery shelling of Shojayah market. A third journalist was seriously injured.

The two who died were Sameh Al-Aryan, 26, of Al-Aqsa TV, and photojournalist Rami Rayan, 25, who worked for the Palestinian Media Network. Photojournalist Hamed Shobaky, of Manara Media, was severely wounded in the same incident.

Ahed Zaqout, 49, a presenter on Palestine TV sport programmes, was killed in his apartment during an attack on the Italian tower in Gaza City.

Jim Boumelha, the IFJ president, said: ‘We express our anger and condemnation at the killing of these journalists, the latest victims in this ongoing cycle of intimidation, violence and murder against media workers in Palestine.’

Dire results are predicted from Argentina’s debt default brought on by vulture creditors’ victories in court over their purchase of debt from that beleaguered country.

Argentina defaulted for the second time in 12 years after hopes for a midnight deal with holdout creditors were dashed, setting up stock and bond prices for declines on Thursday and raising chances a recession could worsen this year.

After a long legal battle with hedge funds that rejected Argentina’s debt restructuring following its 2002 default, Latin America’s third-biggest economy failed to strike a deal in time to meet a midnight deadline for a coupon payment on exchange bonds.

Even a short default will raise companies’ borrowing costs, pile more pressure on the peso, drain dwindling foreign reserves and fuel one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

Health emergency measures including quarantine are being put into effect in Sierra Leone as a result of the outbreak of the ebola virus there.

Ernest Bai Koroma said the epicentres of the outbreak in the east would be quarantined and asked the security forces to enforce the measures.

The UN says more than 670 people in West Africa have died of Ebola since February – 224 of them in Sierra Leone.

This includes Dr Sheik Umar Khan who led Sierra Leone’s fight against the virus. His funeral is on Thursday.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:55 am in Culture, Environment, Foreign Policy, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

In the course of its declared five hour truce, Israel has announced that attackers were discovered tunneling into Israel from Gazas and have been met with armed force.

The attempted attack came amid continued Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the run up to a temporary truce between Israel and Palestinian fighters to allow humanitarian aid to enter the area.

The army said early on Thursday that Israel had conducted 37 raids overnight on Gaza, while seven rockets were fired from Gaza, four of which landed in fields and the rest were intercepted by Israel’s missile defences, the AFP news agency reported.

The truce came into effect at 10am (7am GMT).

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker said the truce would allow some repairs to infrastructure, such as electricity lines.

The truce comes a day after four children were killed when the Israeli army shelled a beach near Gaza’s port.

The Israeli army said it was targeting ‘Hamas terrorists’ and would investigate the incident.

Tensions associated with children crossing the southern borders of the U.S. to find security of a sort here pales in comparison to the worldwide refugee crisis, particularly in Lebanon. There, 600,000 children are estimated to be living in that country to escape violence and danger in Syria.

Lebanon and the Lebanese people shoulder a great and growing burden due to the strain of accepting more than 1 million people into this small country. This openness and generosity to people in need have been recognized and applauded internationally, most recently on July 14, when the United Nations’ Security Council passed a resolution that highlighted the significant and admirable efforts of Lebanon and other neighboring nations in helping the refugees. The Security Council also noted that the humanitarian situation will continue to deteriorate without a political solution to the crisis in Syria, and urged donors to assist Lebanon and other countries as they deal with this crisis.

While children flee from Central American countries to find better living conditions in the U.S., the U.N. seeks alleviating the conditions (apology for the link, but WND is another nonstandard news source) by ‘defining them as “refugees” who are seeking asylum from political and domestic violence in their home nations.’ Others can help in many ways, and I personally am here enjoying the idyllic country of Honduras at the moment bringing tourist trade and dollars. Okay, not a sacrifice but after digging artifacts in Belize it’s a refuge, itself.

The discovery of a new bloodsucking mite at unheard of depths in Puerto Rican waters has been celebrated by scientists who gave the new life form a name honoring Jennifer Lopez.

Rather than striking a canny resemblance to Lopez, biologists say that the Litarachna lopezae was given its new title as a ‘small token of gratitude’ for the singer’s music, which they listened to as they wrote about their findings.

‘The reason behind the unusual choice of name for the new species is … simple: J.Lo’s songs and videos kept the team in a continuous good mood when writing the manuscript and watching World Cup soccer 2014,’ said biologist Vladimir Pesic, who works at the University of Montenegro, according to Associated Press.

The mite was found at a depth of nearly 70m on a coral reef in Mona Passage, a dangerous body of water that separates Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. According to their study, this is the greatest depth that pontarachnid mite has ever been discovered.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:40 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Hope you will celebrate Juneteenth;

Juneteenth is an annual observance on June 19 to remember when Union soldiers enforced the Emancipation Proclamation and freed all remaining slaves in Texas on June 19, 1865. This day is an opportunity for people to celebrate freedom and equal rights in the United States.

Congratulations, the Halifax Examiner has arrived, featuring the newly emancipated in-depth reporting of award-winning journalist Tim Bousquet, whose exposés of Halifax corruption included the comedic efforts of the city council there to attract the attention of media and businesses.
The province got ready for the G7 by hiring Bristol Communications for $270,000 ‘to market Nova Scotia as a world-class venue during the summit,’ reported the Daily News.

No one then, or since, has defined ‘world-class city.’ It’s just understood to be a good thing, like ‘proactive’ in the ’80s, ‘sustainable’ in the aughts, ‘innovation’ in the current decade—substance-less bureaucratic lingo. Among the ignorant managerial classes, the person who masters bullshit is considered smart.

But whatever ‘world-class city’ meant, it probably didn’t mean a place that had raw sewage and associated ‘floatables’ lapping against the bulkheads along the waterfront where G7 delegates and the international press corps were meeting.

The top security official in the U.K. has issued the opinion under which communication on the internet is deemed ‘external’ and can therefore be routinely monitored by government.

Under Ripa, traditional interception of ‘internal’ communications within the UK requires an individual warrant. Farr argues that in a technologically-fast moving world, where the greatest threat to national security is from ‘militant Islamist terrorists’ operating both abroad and in the UK, identifying individual targets before monitoring starts is too difficult. Those deemed to be “external” can be monitored without an individual warrant.

Farr says: ‘Any regime that … only permitted interception in relation to specific persons or premises, would not have allowed adequate levels of intelligence information to be obtained and would not have met the undoubted requirements of intelligence for the protection of national security.’

Iraqi PM Maliki fired top officers for their failure to resist rebel advances, and those not directly involved in military operations were forbidden to bear arms. The Iraqi government requested U.S. air strikes against the rebel force ISIL, as fighting threatened to disrupt any functioning national operation there. Congressional opponents insist the U.S. President will proceed in Iraq without their approval.

General Martin Dempsey, the top US military commander, shortly confirmed the request during a Senate Appropriations Defencse Subcommittee hearing.

‘We have a request from the Iraqi government for air power,’ said Dempsey.

(snip)

In Salaheddin province, the rebels seized three villages, Albu Hassan, Birwajli and Bastamli, in northern Iraq on Wednesday during clashes with Iraq’s security forces and residents.

The fighting left at least 20 civilians dead, Shallal Abdul Baban, a local official, said on Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, the United Arab Emitates recalled its envoy from Iraq and slammed ‘sectarian’ policies. Saudi Arabia warned Iraq was heading for civil war.

Argentina’s market unraveled under the fear of losing any standing in the world financial community after the U.S. Supreme Court refused an appeal of lower court rulings that gave creditors the power to demand payment in full of debt bought during crisis.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof has announced that the government plans to reopen the debt swap program in the hope of renegotiating bonds held by hedge funds, after the US Supreme Court declined to take Argentina’s case against the so-called ‘vulture funds’.

The official spoke today in a press conference to communicate the government’s position on the yesterday’s ruling in the US Supreme Court. The ‘vulture funds’ are investors who refused to enter previous debt swaps, and are using the New York court system to demand full payment of bonds acquired after the 2001 default.

Kicillof told a press conference convened in the Economy ministry that the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration would take the necessary steps for ‘a new debt swap under Argentine legislation.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy: May Day and more

3:41 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Works at the upper reservoir of the Central Hidroeólica. El Hierro island.

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Rabbit, Rabbit also, and May Day.

Around the world, demonstrations marked May Day workers’ movements to establish living conditions amenable to those who work for a living, who are the basic unit and support of society.

  • Turkish police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse protesters in Istanbul. Hundreds of riot police blocked protesters in the Besiktas district as they tried to breach the barricades leading up to Taksim square on the anniversary of clashes that sparked a protest movement.
  • About 100,000 workers paraded on Moscow’s Red Square for the first time since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Waving Russian flags and balloons, the marchers carried placards showing their support for President Vladimir Putin’s muscular policy on Ukraine.
  • In Cambodia, security forces armed with sticks and batons dispersed dozens of protesters near Phnom Penh’s Freedom park. At least five people were hurt. Across Asia, workers took to the streets demanding better working conditions and higher pay. Protesters were also out in force in Italy and Greece, marching against unemployment and austerity policies.

Spreading its territorial boundaries has hurt Russia’s economy. Recession has been tracked in figures that indicate what the ruble is losing as the country flexes military muscle.

‘If you understand by recession two quarters of negative economic growth, then Russia is experiencing recession now,’ he added.

‘The difficult situation and especially the uncertainty surrounding the geopolitical situation… and escalation of sanctions are weighing very negatively on the investment climate.’

The IMF cut its 2014 growth forecast for Russia to 0.2% from 1.3% and said it expected the country’s economy to grow by only 1% next year.

Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has already cut Russia’s rating to one notch above ‘junk’ status.

Barrel bombs dropped on an elementary school in an Alawite area of Aleppo killed more than two dozen children Wednesday morning. ‘UNICEF said in a statement it was “outraged by the latest wave of indiscrimate attacks perpetrated against schools and other civilian targets across Syria.”

Syrian forces dropped the bombs on an opposition-held area of Aleppo, the country’s largest city, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said. The LCC said 25 children died.

Barrel bombs typically consist of barrels stuffed with explosives and objects such as nails to maximize carnage. A video posted by opposition activists showed what appeared to be a pool of blood and a side of a building reduced to rubble.

The smallest of Spain’s Canary Islands, El Hierro, will become totally powered by wind and water in June, turning off its existing carbon creating facility as it turns over.

Surplus power from the wind turbines will be used to pump fresh water from a reservoir near the harbor to a larger one at volcanic crater located about 700 meters (2,300 feet) above sea level. When there is little or no wind, the water will be channeled down to the lower reservoir through turbines to generate electricity in turn.

Never.Give.Up.

Photo by Jose Mesa under Creative Commons license

Over Easy

3:47 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Brazil is hosting a discussion of the future of the internet, NetMundial, and the U.S. has committed to handing over its dominant position to a community of shareholders. Some problems have been anticipated for that future by some concerned organizations.

‘The real nightmare situation would be the Balkanisation of the internet with governments changing technical standards to suit commercial interests, to remove interoperability between different countries or regions of the world, and to give them the ability to perform things like mass surveillance and the control of content.’ … the US, Australia and several European nations have previously resisted the UN taking on management of the internet, saying responsibility should instead pass to a group that is not dominated by governments.

Hopefully some use of new technology that produces a bubble that then has an image projected onto it, that will finally burst, leaving a chosen scent behind, will help put this together. (I vote for scent of coriander, a favorite of mine.)

Hundreds of deaths in South Sudan have shown ethnic hatred breaking out in the power struggle there. The U.N. has sought to keep peace, and been overpowered in its attempts.

More than 200 civilians were reportedly killed and more than 400 wounded while sheltering in a Mosque on 15 April after rebels retook Unity state capital Bentiu from government forces, in what the chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, described as a ‘dastardly act.’

This was followed by an attack two days later on civilians sheltering inside a UN base camp in Jonglei state capital Bor, which left more than 40 dead and scores wounded.

Further north in Darfur, efforts by the African Union have failed to ease violence against the population there.

The peacekeepers, though, have been bullied by government security forces and rebels, stymied by American and Western neglect, and left without the weapons necessary to fight in a region where more peacekeepers have been killed than in any other U.N. mission in the world. The violence that once consumed Darfur, meanwhile, has returned with a vengeance, resulting in civilian casualties and the large-scale flight of terrified men, women, and children.

(snip)

Some officials say the mission’s failings are beyond repair, but that the political leadership in African capitals and on the U.N. Security Council is unlikely to shut it down while violence is surging in Darfur. ‘That would require them to do something about it,’ one U.N.-based diplomat said.

Reconciliation in Palestine between Hamas and Fatah gives new angles to ongoing peace negotiations with Israel, including ‘some easing of the blockade that Cairo has imposed on the group and on the Gaza Strip’.

The Palestinian public and its two rival factions – Hamas and Fatah – understand that the internal rift serves Israel first and foremost, and that the disconnect between Gaza and the West Bank is congruent with Israeli policies. The vast majority in Fatah and all the other PLO member groups are convinced that a fair agreement signed by Israel of its own free will is no longer possible. Only Abbas and some of his close associates continue to believe in negotiating.

The reconciliation, therefore, is a way to strengthen the Palestinians internally in preparation for the next confrontations with Israel (popular, diplomatic, political, and perhaps even military, if and when Israel chooses the military escalation option).

Reconciliation is also consistent with the increasing demands to hold public elections for the PLO’s legislature.

Pirates in the Malacca Strait have stolen a large oil cargo and removed crew from a tanker engaged in shipping there. Some evidence indicates the theft may have been abetted by members of the crew.

Eight Indonesian pirates in a fishing vessel boarded the Naniwa Maru No. 1 at about 1 a.m. local time on Tuesday off the coast of western Malaysia, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) said.

The pirates pumped about 800,000 gallons of the 1.18 million gallons of diesel carried by the tanker into two waiting vessels and made off with three Indonesian crew members, including the captain and chief engineer, the agency said.

Enjoy Take Your Kids To Work Day.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

2:49 am in Culture, Economy, Environment, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

The planet is increasingly hazardous to defend, as the interests against it gain market share and invidious tactics. Hundreds have died in their fight to save all of us, and the planet we are living on. Land rights are growing in fatal events in disputes, and indigenous populations very vulnerable.

‘There can be few starker or more obvious symptoms of the global environmental crisis than a dramatic upturn in the killings of ordinary people defending rights to their land or environment,’ said Oliver Courtney, a senior campaigner for Global Witness.

‘This rapidly worsening problem is going largely unnoticed, and those responsible almost always get away with it,’ Courtney said.

The report’s release followed a dire warning by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said global warming is driving humanity toward unprecedented risk due to factors such as food and water insecurity. Global Witness said this puts environmental activists in more danger than ever before.

A controversial report has concluded that an immense waste of money on supplying Tamiflu to prevent and control flu outbreaks may have been all gained in our health efforts.

The Cochrane Collaboration claimed the drug did not prevent the spread of flu or reduce dangerous complications, and only slightly helped symptoms.

The manufacturers Roche and other experts say the analysis is flawed.

Barry Clinch from Roche said Tamiflu had been approved by 100 regulators around the world.

The antiviral drug Tamiflu was stockpiled from 2006 in the UK when some agencies were predicting that a pandemic of bird flu could kill up to 750,000 people in Britain. Similar decisions were made in other countries.

The Kiev government launched an offense against military incursions the Russian government styles as local defense, the west describes as invasion, in the confusion of Eastern Ukrainian contests for control.  Ukrainian soldiers in the advance have been observed to remove firing pins to show nonviolent intent.

Andrey Parubiy, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, announced the first battalion of a National Guard ‘comprised of volunteers from Maidan self-defense troops,’ has left Kiev for the south-east.

Russia has warned that if Kiev uses force against anti-Maidan protests in eastern Ukraine, this would undermine the effort to convene a four-party conference on resolving the crisis in the country, which would include the US, the EU, Russia and Ukraine.

Turchinov also proposed conducting a joint operation with UN peacekeeping forces, a decision that was strongly condemned by Russian FM Sergey Lavrov at a Beijing press conference on Tuesday as ‘totally unacceptable.’

A bright spot in the Middle East, Tunisia continues to evolve out of its former autocratic model into a more popular front. Problems are churning, but positive efforts continue to dominate the entirety. The revolution has put into power diverse elements that are working together.  Sympathetic observation finds the Tunisian workers seeking to benefit from a better economy still under stress in the recovery.

Since 2011 there has been no deviation from course: integrating Tunisia into the international division of labour by offering foreign investors a skilled workforce and miserable wage levels. This model can only perpetuate the huge regional inequalities.

(snip)

On the repayment of the foreign debt incurred by Ben Ali and in part siphoned off by members of his clan, Caid Essebsi told me: ‘People talk about the debt, but it isn’t catastrophic, since it’s under 50%. Other countries such as France have a ratio of 85%’ (7). He added quickly that ‘a country with self-respect pays its debts, whoever’s in power. Since independence, Tunisia has never reneged on its debt.’ This is what Ghannouchi told me the day before: ‘Tunisia has a longstanding record of honouring its debts. We shall abide by it.’

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

2:50 am in Culture, Foreign Policy, Government, Media, Politics by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Recommendations to change passwords were issued to internet users as a major security breach exposed personal data to hackers.  Canada delayed online tax filing to accommodate the potential dangers.

The flaw, which is known as Heartbleed and affects systems that are designed to protect sensitive information, has major websites around the world rushing to patch a hole that leaves users’ passwords vulnerable to exploitation.

Demands by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu include that a “Jewish state” be recognized by the parties, shutting out the participation of other religions in government.

The ostensibly pragmatic land-for-peace approach is one that says the parties will never agree on a historical narrative and must look to the future instead. But the Jewish state demand undercuts this and demands Palestinians accept the Israeli narrative that securing Jewish majoritarianism in Palestine was morally justified even if it necessitated destroying Palestinian society and created masses of Palestinian refugees. Asking Palestinians to make a deal that focuses on the future is one thing, but asking them to accept the crimes committed against them is another altogether. It is unbecoming of a party that claims to want a just peace…recognition of a ‘Jewish state’ by Palestinians and by extension the US and the rest of the world that would accept agreements on such terms, would not only lend credibility to past measures to maintain a Jewish majority but it will also enable future ones.

The death toll from Ebola virus in Guinea has topped 100 as the disease spreads into an area never touched by it before, leading WHO officials to name this an ‘unprecedented’ event.

The most severe strains have had a 90 percent fatality rate, and there is no vaccine, cure or specific treatment.

The outbreak has sparked fear in Guinea, where a mob in the south of the country last week attacked international aid workers, whom they blame for bringing the haemorrhagic fever.

Each side in Ukraine continues to blame the other for dissension there, but claiming they are native residents became a little harder for the pro-Russian faction in Kharkiv, Ukraine, as they took over the wrong building.  In the captured Opera House, the Valkyries were unperturbed, no doubt, and the fat lady did not sing.

In Kharkiv, tensions rose as pro-West supporters from Kiev went to the city to support their new government. Pro-Russian activists in that city stormed public buildings on Sunday and on Monday they accidentally stormed the city’s opera house, which they mistook for the mayor’s office. A union of coal miners also said they would not support any measure that would divide Ukraine.

(snip)

White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed that sentiment as well, saying, ‘There is strong evidence suggesting some of these demonstrators were paid.’

Leftist historian and diplomat Luis Solis won the presidency in Costa Rica, aiming to fight corruption and poverty, succeeding in his goal to turn out more than a million voters in a campaign marked by lack of stridency.  His only real opponent, Johnny Arraya, had ceased campaigning as a waste of money.

Speaking to a crowd of flag-waving supporters, the winning candidate said that the polls showed ‘there is a unquestionable demand for change, for things not to carry on as they have, and I aim, with the help of God and the support of all of you, to bring you those changes that you’re clamouring for.’

He also effusively thanked his supporters via Twitter.

Never.Give.Up.

Over Easy

3:50 am in Culture, Economy, Foreign Policy, Government, Media by Ruth Calvo

Over Easy

The community that began with Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner continues. Today we collect news from outside the usual, and renew the discussion.

Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde warned that economic weakness may continue into the future if wealthier nations do not take positive steps that promote growth. This follows the U.S. Federal Reserve’s retreat from stimulative policies.

 The IMF’s managing director said that global economic signs were positive overall, but that ‘without sufficient policy ambition, the world could fall into a medium-term low-growth trap.’

She called for governments to reform labour markets to encourage job creation, and for more public investment such as transport and communications networks in rich and emerging countries. … Low inflation also means that governments and businesses find it more difficult to repay their debts.

Aftershocks continued along Chile’s coast today following the earthquake Tuesday in the Iquique area. Strong building codes have been credited with saving multitudinous threatened lives in coastal Chile following the 8.2 magnitude earthquake there earlier this week. Tsunami warnings have been lowered, a measure that happened so prematurely in 2010′s large earthquakes that resulting deaths were blamed on the flooding that followed. Continuing tremors in California have not been directly related to the Chilean outbreak.

Given that three of the 10 largest earthquakes ever recorded have been in Chile, the populace is long accustomed to earthquake survival protocols. Building standards in Chile require multiple-storey buildings to be capable of withstanding a 9.0 earthquake, though in rural areas many older buildings – often made of adobe – are prone to sudden and often deadly collapse.

Tuesday’s quake was so strong that the shaking experienced in Bolivia’s capital about 290 miles away was the equivalent of a magnitude-4.5 tremor, authorities there said.

But it was not the ‘big one’ seismologists expect to hit the region at some point.

Carbon dioxide levels that contributed to the largest mass extinction yet discovered has been attributed to methane-spewing microbes following seismic activity that occurred in large portions of the planet aeons ago.

About 252 million years ago, more than 96 percent of ocean life and 70 percent of land-based life forms died in an event known as the end-Permian extinction. The mass die-off happened in a geologic flash of just 60,000 years. Scientists have proposed everything from massive meteor impacts to coal explosions to rifting supercontinents to explain this cataclysmic extinction. [Wipe Out: History's Most Mysterious Extinctions]

Rocks from that time period in locations such as Meishan, China, show that atmospheric carbon-dioxidelevels skyrocketed right around the time of the extinction. Sediments also show that during this time, the largest set of volcanic eruptions in recorded geologic history — called the Siberian Traps — spewed enough lava to cover the entire landmass of the United States, said study co-author Gregory Fournier, a biologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Therefore, many researchers have theorized that the Siberian Traps could have belched out the extra carbon dioxide, choking life on the planet.

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The amount of methane-producing bacteria subsided after about 100,000 years, but the damage had been done: It would take another 30 million years for the diversity of life to rebound, Fournier said.

The new government in Ukraine has found a massive problem in dealing with members of the former corrupt regime still occupying public administrative positions.

The government has made a decision to dismiss 10 percent of civil servants, or 24,000 people. However, some ministers confess in private that it would probably be fair to keep 10 percent of the existing staff, but they cannot do this because they are constrained by legislation and potential lawsuits that would drain time and energy.

The problems run the gamut. Igor Bilous, deputy finance minister who oversees the work of the tax system, says he inherited 60,000 tax personnel whose ‘thinking grew in the wrong environment.’

With salaries hovering around Hr 1,500, corruption within the department previously was presumed. As a result, regular tax inspectors who came to audit businesses, offered to ‘solve their problems’ at a small cost. But the bigger fish dealt with bigger money and more complex schemes, such as VAT return schemes. Bilous said he and the new staff he brought in three weeks ago have already identified 16 inspectors who specialized in facilitating the return of fake VAT claims.

How refreshing it would be if such a review of holdover public ‘servants’ could be effected inside the Beltway here.

Never.Give.Up.