Chemical weapons watchdog wins Nobel Peace Prize for Syrian mission
BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – A car bomb exploded outside the Swedish consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday, damaging the front of the building and nearby houses, but no casualties were immediately reported.The bomb exploded a day after Libya’s Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was briefly abducted by a group of former rebels.Nobody claimed responsibility for attack, which took place days after a U.S. special forces’ raid captured a Libyan al Qaeda suspect in Tripoli, outraging Islamist militants, who called for revenge attacks.The Swedish Foreign Ministry said none of its staff had been injured. „The facade and windows were damaged but no staff was injured. The consulate is closed on Fridays,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ursula Ahlen said.Libya is deep in turmoil two years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, with its central government and nascent army struggling to control rival militias and Islamist militants who have turned the vast North African country into a safe haven.On Thursday, former rebels now on government payroll kidnapped Zeidan from the hotel where he stays in the capital Tripoli, saying the government has been informed in advance of the U.S. raid.They later released him unharmed after a few hours. Zeidan, who is under pressure from Islamists and ordinary Libyans for failing to deliver on public services since Gaddafi’s overthrow, avoided any criticism of his captors.To help maintain security, Libya’s government relies on militias made up of thousands of Libyans who took up arms against Gaddafi. But these rival groups have often involved into security threats themselves.This is especially true for Benghazi, where the 2011 revolt began and where the U.S. ambassador was killed during an Islamist assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission a year ago.The city, where many demand autonomy from Tripoli, has seen a string of attacks on foreign missions and companies as well as assassinations of army and police officers. Several countries have closed their consulates there since the killing of the U.S. ambassador.
By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian NEW YORK (Reuters) – Starbucks Corp plans to circulate petitions to customers across the United States urging lawmakers to reopen the partially closed government and avoid a looming default, the coffee chain’s CEO Howard Schultz said on Thursday.Schultz said he was acting because of a „sad and striking realization that the American people have no platform with which to voice their frustration and outrage” over the shutdown, which began last week after Democrats rejected Republican efforts to undercut the Affordable Care Act.The „voluntary, non-partisan” petition asks Congress and the White House to reopen the government, pay U.S. debts on time, and pass a long-term bipartisan budget deal by the year-end.Copies will be available in Starbucks stores, online, and in tear-out ads due to run on Friday in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Washington Post. From this Friday through the weekend, people can take a signed petition to a Starbucks store or sign it in a store. They can also sign the petition online.Schultz also sent letters on Thursday to business leaders, encouraging them to sign on to his initiative. He said he had spoken with leaders of half of the 30 companies listed in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and „every CEO I spoke to shared my concern and my outrage about the situation in Washington.”Schultz, one of the most prominent CEOs in the United States and a registered Democrat, would not specify which companies he had contacted.He said he had also talked to the White House and to Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, the chairs of the Senate and House Budget committees in charge of negotiations over the federal debt limit.”It was apparent to me that we are on a collision course with time. That is why we made the decision to proceed” Schultz said of those discussions.Schultz said he was acting primarily as an American citizen, not an executive whose company’s profits rely heavily on consumer confidence and spending.”I’m not doing this because of the business angle,” he said.Still, in times of extreme political dysfunction, „the responsibility of a company of any kind is changing because we have to provide for employees, help the communities we serve, and obviously, the government is not providing the leadership it once did.”The White House has a similar online petition platform called We the People. Launched by the Obama administration in 2011, it guarantees responses to petitions that accrue 100,000 signatures within 30 days.That site is currently offline, a casualty of the far-reaching shutdown that has closed national parks, forced federal employees into furloughs, and halted benefits to the poor.HISTORY OF INVOLVEMENT–Schultz is not the only business leader speaking out against the shutdown. Around 250 business groups sent a letter to lawmakers on Monday pleading with them to fund the government and raise the debt limit while cutting entitlement spending.Big business, which often sides with the Republican party, has found itself marginalized by conservative groups opposed to compromise in the country’s current fiscal crisis. Companies fear that a prolonged shutdown and subsequent default would have a catastrophic effect on the U.S. economy.Schultz is typically more outspoken on political issues than his fellow executives. During the battle over raising the debt ceiling in August 2011, Schultz called for Americans to stop making political contributions until lawmakers struck a bipartisan deal on the country’s debt, revenue and spending.He has not made a contribution since and says this is unlikely to change in the future.In a separate move this week aimed at setting an example to lawmakers, Schultz told employees the firm would give customers a free tall coffee if they buy a drink for a fellow patron.”Please join me in helping our customers come together to support and connect with one another, even as we wait for our elected officials to do the same for our country,” he said in a message on Tuesday.After a series of mass shootings across the United States, Schultz wrote an open letter to customers in September, asking them to voluntarily stop bringing guns into Starbucks.Schultz says shareholders have not complained about his sometimes polarizing outspokenness as the firm has shown it is a „a performance-driven company through the lens of humanity.”(Reporting By Atossa Araxia Abrahamian; Editing by Jilian Mincer, Andrew Hay and David Brunnstrom)
Play VideoMalala Yousafzai InterviewCBC.ca Videos 10:31Play VideoThe Other GirlsCBC.ca Videos 5:29View PhotoMalala Yousafzai gives a speech after receiving the „Leadership in Civil Society” …MINGORA, Pakistan (Reuters) – For many of her compatriots, Malala Yousafzai is a stooge of the United States and a CIA agent, a symbol of the West’s evils and a global conspiracy to bring down her native Pakistan.She has won the European Union’s prestigious human rights award and was one of the favorites to win the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, but in her native Swat valley, friends and neighbors reacted with a mixture of resentment, fear and jealousy.”Malala is spoiling Pakistan’s name around the world,” said Mohammad Rizwan, a shop owner in her hometown of Mingora. „We didn’t need Malala to come and tell us how important education is.”Around the corner from his shop is the quiet street where Malala, 16, was shot a year ago after trying to defy the Taliban with her outspoken views on women’s right to education.She survived after being airlifted to Britain for treatment and has since become a symbol of defiance against militants holed up in nearby tribal areas on the Afghan border.But in this deeply conservative part of Pakistan, where women are expected to stay at home and keep their views to themselves, many people view Malala’s campaign with suspicion.In a nation thriving on conspiracy theories, some have even doubted the sincerity of her campaign, claiming it is part of her family’s ploy to move to Britain or that she is just an attention seeker.Social media sites are brimming with insulting messages. „We hate Malala Yousafzai, a CIA agent,” says one Facebook page.”Here, people have been unkind to her. They want to forget her. They think she is a drama queen. But what can you do?” said Ahmad Shah, a childhood friend of Malala’s father who helped write her speech at the United Nations this year.”Here in Swat, we have seen the hell that is Taliban rule. And yet, some people still say they would much rather side with the Taliban than Malala. Sometimes people never learn.”In an impoverished region where violence is part of daily life, some of Malala’s neighbors were simply afraid. Some appeared keen to forget about her and move on.The picturesque valley was overran by the Taliban, who imposed strict Islamic laws and kept its people in fear, in 2007. It is now controlled by the Pakistani army. Mingora, a dusty town of windy roads surrounded by jagged hills, is festooned with billboards reading „Long live the Pakistan Army!”There were no posters of Malala.”Malala is a talented girl, no doubt,” said Zahid Khan, head of the Swat Peace Jirga, an anti-Taliban body who has survived three attempts on his life for his work.”I have been attacked. Shot. Almost killed. But no one is honoring me. The state hasn’t given me a cent in compensation.”The Taliban have issued repeated threats to kill her.”She says she does not want to live like an illiterate person in a walled compound and deliver children,” said Shahidullah Shahid, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman.”Her mother and grandmother used to live in walled compounds and deliver children, so by saying that she didn’t even spare her mother.”At Khushal Public School, a three-storey building where she studied, many avoided mentioning her name altogether.A red and yellow school bus parked outside its metal gate was the same as the one in which Malala was shot on October 9, 2012. In her classroom, her old seat was still empty. Someone had placed a schoolbag there to mark her presence.But there were no events held to mark the first anniversary of her shooting.”We want the girls to forget the trauma of that day,” said Nargis Bibi, a school administrator. „We want them to forget it. We don’t want them to relive it again. We all want to move on.”Quratulain Ali, Malala’s friend, said quietly: „We are all very happy in our hearts (that she was nominated to win the Nobel Peace Prize) but we don’t often speak about it openly. There could be danger for us also.”The award went to the Hague-based Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is overseeing the destruction’s of Syria’s arsenal.(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Additional reporting by Gul Yusufzai; Editing by Nick Macfie)
Teachers union launches TV ad blaming GOP for shutdownBy Liz Goodwin, Yahoo News 2 hours ago
The nation’s largest teachers union has made a six-figure TV and online ad buy blaming „tea party Republicans” for the federal government shutdown that’s lasted nearly two weeks.The National Education Association’s ads, which will run in Washington and four states, single out Reps. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska, Tom Latham of Iowa and Chris Collins of New York. The ads accuse Republicans of playing a political „game” that’s resulting in crippling cuts to education, pointing out that tens of thousands of students have been unable to attend Head Start preschool classes because of the shutdown.The advertising effort by an outside, left-leaning group is not the first on the issue. The advocacy group Americans United for Change recently announced a six-figure ad buy targeting 10 Republicans. A recent WSJ/NBC News poll found that voters blame Republicans over Democrats for the shutdown by a 20-point margin. The poll also found that only 24 percent of Americans had a favorable view of Republicans as the party enters the 2014 midterm season, compared with 39 percent who said they had a favorable view of Democrats. As the shutdown enters its third week, other groups will most likely also jump into the fray to capitalize on this trend.Related slide show: U.S. government shutdown
Syria jihadists accused of ‘execution’ war crimes20 minutes ago View galleryDamascus (AFP) – Jihadist fighters were accused Friday of war crimes over the killing of 190 civilians from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite minority, in the largest atrocity attributed to rebels.Meanwhile, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), tasked with eliminating the banned arms in Syria, won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on the killings of Alawite villagers said another 200 people — the vast majority women and children — were taken hostage in the rebel operations in August.The report, which urged an arms embargo on groups suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity, said at least 67 people were „executed or unlawfully killed”.It comes as NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he sees no military solution to the 31-month conflict which has killed more than 115,000 people.HRW said the killings began on August 4, the first day of the Eid Al-Fitr holiday ending the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in villages in Latakia province, a stronghold of the Alawites whose faith is an offshoot of Shia Islam.”These abuses were not the actions of rogue fighters,” said HRW’s Joe Stork. „This operation was a coordinated, planned attack on the civilian population.”The 105-page report, based on interviews with 35 survivors, emergency personnel and fighters on both sides, said at least 20 groups were involved, but that five „are responsible for specific incidents that amount to war crimes”.It named them as Ahrar al-Sham, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Al-Nusra Front, Jaish al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar and Suqur al-Ezz.View gallery.”A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on August 20, 2013 shows soldiers l …HRW said that, in some cases, opposition fighters who are mostly Sunni Muslims executed or gunned down entire families, or killed the elderly or infirm who had been left behind by those who fled.It also said „some of the opposition atrocities… had clear sectarian motivation”.In one village, it said fighters intentionally damaged an Alawite maqam, a site where a religious figure is buried, and „appear to have intentionally damaged and dug up the grave”.It said they had also abducted and executed the area’s Alawite religious leader, quoting Al-Nusra as saying he had been executed because he supported the regime.’Chemical watchdog wins Nobel prize’HRW quoted opposition forces, including an officer involved in negotiations, as saying ISIL and Jaish al-Muhajireen Wal-Ansar were still holding 200 hostages, mostly women and children.It called for them to be treated humanely and released immediately.”We have documented abuses by opposition forces before, but never on this scale,” HRW researcher Lama Fakih told AFP.”Violators on all sides should be sent a message by the UN Security Council” which should refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.View gallery.”An image grab taken from Syrian television shows an inspector from the Organisation for the Prohibit …The opposition National Coalition expressed „deep concern” about the reported atrocity and distanced itself from those responsible.”The incident reported by HRW in today’s report does not represent an effort by the true Syrian opposition, but rather a shameful one-time attack by outlier extremist groups that thrive under the hand of the Assad regime,” a statement said.In Athens, NATO’s Rasmussen „there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria”, emphasising a political solution was required.On the ground, a second team of OPCW inspectors arrived in Damascus to help supervise the destruction of Syria’s chemical arsenal under the terms of a UN resolution.UN chief Ban Ki-moon paid tribute to the winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.”This recognition occurs nearly 100 years after the first chemical attack — and 50 days after the appalling use of chemical weapons in Syria. Far from being a relic of the past, chemical weapons remain a clear and present danger,” he said.The United Nations and the chemical weapons watchdog have now doubled to 60 the number of experts and support staff on the ground, a UN statement said.The team „has made good progress in verifying the information submitted” by the Syrian government, it said, having inspected three sites in its first 10 days of operations.”It has also overseen the destruction by Syria of some of its munitions stockpile, as well as some of its chemical weapons production equipment.”In the latest fighting, Syrian soldiers backed by the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah on Friday recaptured two localities in the southern suburbs of Damascus close to the Shiite holy shrine of Sayyeda Zeinab, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Traditional sulfur mining in Kawah IjenEPA/BAGUS INDAHONO 7 hours agoView gallery25 photos Kawah Ijen in East Java, Indonesia, is the site of a traditional sulphur mining operation. The 2,600-meter-high volcano is topped with a large crater and a one-km-wide and about 200-meter-deep lake of sulfuric acid. The status level of the active volcano has been raised by the Indonesian government to ‘vigilant’ in July 2012 and is still in effect today. Residents and tourists have been advised to stay clear of a 1.5-km radius from the crater. Nevertheless, more than 200 sulphur miners still work at the crater lake in a traditional way, amidst toxic fumes. The sulphur is channeled through a network of pipes. The molten red liquid that pours out and turns yellow as it solidifies is then hewn by the miners and carried on foot from the crater down the mountain for weighing. The miners carry loads up to 90 kilograms to the weighing station and some make more than one trip a day to earn about 70,000 to 80,000 IDR (around 6.4 Euros). The miners often do not have proper protective clothing and suffer serious health problems such as burning pain of the eyes and throat as a consequence. The sulfur is then used in sugar refineries and for other industrial processes. (EPA)
‘Death to America’ chants challenge Iran president’s diplomacyBy Jon Hemming and Marcus George 2 hours ago View galleryReuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, …By Jon Hemming and Marcus George DUBAI (Reuters) – While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tries to ease friction with the United States, chants of „death to America” on Friday may deepen doubts in the West that Tehran is ready for a deal as talks on its nuclear program resume next week.Rouhani’s resounding June election victory gave him a popular mandate to reverse Iran’s confrontational foreign policy and attempt to win relief from international sanctions imposed over concerns Iran may be seeking a nuclear weapons capability.It also won him the guarded support of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most important power center in Iran.But conservative hardliners in the Islamic Republic’s complex political establishment have picked up on reservations expressed by Khamenei and begun a rearguard campaign to put the brakes on Rouhani’s diplomatic opening.Debate has mounted inside Iran on the speed and extent to which the Islamic Republic should attempt to patch up its many quarrels with the West, and the United States in particular.Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations last month was capped by a telephone call from U.S. President Barack Obama, the first time the presidents of the two nations had spoken directly since the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the U.S.-backed shah.Former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent Rouhani backer, said earlier this month that he saw no value in chants calling for death to countries or individuals.An editorial in a moderate newspaper argued that it was time for the habitual chants of „death to America” to go the same way as the slogans of „death to the Soviet Union” and „death to China” which were abandoned shortly after the revolution.But Tehran Friday prayer leader Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, an eminent hardliner appointed by Khamenei, clearly disagreed.”America is the great satan,” he told worshippers at Tehran University, the main venue for Friday prayers in Iran.”During the last 35 years has this evil become less or more? If yesterday in the arena of conspiracies against Iran, American was a snake, it is now a poisonous serpent. Any conspiracy that is directed against Iran stems from America,” Fars news agency quoted him as saying.”According to this logic we say death to America. And Americans …. should know that this slogan is the secret of Iran’s resistance and for as long as there is American evil, this slogan will endure across the nation of Iran.””Death to America!” the congregation chanted repeatedly.FIERCE DEBATE OVER DIPLOMATIC OPENING-Though Khamenei is Iran’s ultimate authority on all matters of state, especially the nuclear file, there is often a vigorous debate between his subordinates in the government, parliament and security apparatus that frequently spills into the public arena before the clerical supreme leader gives his final word.A stir was created this week by an article in a hardline conservative newspaper quoting Rouhani’s foreign minister as saying his conversation with Obama had been a mistake.Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied saying any such thing, and said that he spent a few hours in hospital after suffering spasms of pain on reading the article on Tuesday.Zarif is to lead Iran’s negotiating team in talks with six major world powers in Geneva next week, the first round of negotiations since Rouhani’s election breathed new hope into decade-old talks on Iran’s nuclear program.”A great job awaits us next week, and it needs internal consensus and national rapport more than anything,” Tasnim news agency quoted Zarif as saying on Friday.The United States wants Iran to respond to proposals by world powers in February as a starting point for the talks.Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – plus Germany, the so-called P5+1, said in February they want Iran to stop enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out some stockpiles and shutter a facility where such enrichment is done.In return, they offered a relaxation of international sanctions on Iran’s petrochemicals and trade in gold and other precious metals. For its part, Iran has called on the six powers to come up with a new, more attractive offer.Western powers believe Iran’s enrichment activities are aimed at establishing the means to build nuclear weapons. Iran insists its program is purely for civilian purposes – generating electricity and for a medical research reactor.Nuclear power stations generally run on uranium enriched to 5 percent fissile purity, while the medical reactor requires 20 percent enriched fuel. Uranium needs to be enriched to 90 percent for nuclear bombs.(Editing by Mark Heinrich)