Hungarian protesters hit out at Orban’s ‘move towards Russia‘ 9 hours ago.A demonstrator holds a placard with a message for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, ‘Delete …Budapest (AFP) – Thousands of Hungarians protested Friday at what they see as the country’s move towards Russia in the latest demonstration against the government of controversial Prime Minister Viktor Orban.Related Stories
The crowd, estimated to be over 5,000 by an AFP photographer, brandished placards condemning Orban, whose support suffered a plunge in polls at the end of 2014 despite securing three election wins earlier in the year.The demonstrators, who gathered in front of the Budapest opera house, voiced concern over what they see as Hungary drifting away from the West to forge closer ties with its former Communist ruler.”It is disturbing to see that the Orban government is exposing Hungary to Russian influence,” Robert Gombkoto, a 61-year-old manager, told AFP, citing a 10 billion euro ($12 billion) loan from Russia to Hungary to expanding a nuclear plant.Others spoke of concern over the government’s policy of centralisation in education and public administration.”In all aspects of our lives, we fear the return of a centralised system similar to the one under communism, which my generation struggled against,” Eva Bari, 53, a teacher, told AFP.A protester holds up a placard showing Hungarian PM Viktor Orban as a soccer player that says ‘G …Protesters also expressed anger at the political elite, accusing them of failing to take Hungary forwards in the quarter of a century since the fall of communism.”We condemn the parties of the last 25 years… We cannot expect the state to think for us,” Zsolt Varady, one of the organisers, told the crowd.Demonstrations have been taking place in Hungary since October when Orban’s government proposed a tax on Internet usage. The idea was later scrapped.But demonstrations against corruption and seeking to highlight concerns that Orban is cosying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, have kept the pressure up on the all-powerful rightwing leader.Organisers have called another protest for February 1, the day before German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Budapest.
U.S. slaps more sanctions on North Korea after Sony hack 8 hours agoBy Julia Edwards and Jason Lange HONOLULU/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea was hit with more sanctions on Friday designed to impede access to the U.S. financial system in the wake of a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the Obama Administration has said was supported by the reclusive country.The U.S. government named three entities, including North Korea’s military intelligence agency, and sanctioned 10 people with links to weapons sales and proliferation.Financial sanctions have been effective in bringing pressure on Iran and Russia, but they have had limited impact on North Korea, which has been sanctioned by the United States for more than 50 years.“It’s not as if they travel a lot abroad to western Europe or the United States … They don’t have billions of dollars in western banks,” said Joel Wit of 38North, part of the U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.Pyongyang has denied involvement in the cyberattack. Washington said there was no evidence that any of the three entities or the individuals were linked to it.In this Dec. 22, 2014, file photo, a South Korean army soldier walks near a TV screen showing an adv …Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said in a statement that Washington had a „commitment to hold North Korea accountable for its destructive and destabilizing conduct.”Lew said that even as a probe by the FBI continued „these steps underscore that we will employ a broad set of tools to defend U.S. businesses and citizens, and to respond to attempts to undermine our values or threaten the national security of the United States.”The cyberattack that crippled Sony’s networks occurred as the company was preparing to release the film „The Interview,” a comedy centered on plans to assassinate North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.Obama signed an executive order imposing the new sanctions, which deny designated persons access to the U.S. financial system, and authorize the Treasury Secretary, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to apply sanctions against officials of North Korea’s government and the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and people acting on their behalf or in support of them.See the Treasury Department statement at http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl9733.aspx”That will allow us at the time and place of our choosing to impose sanctions on any of those Korean officials,” a senior administration official told reporters during a telephone briefing.The entities are Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s intelligence organization; Korea Mining Development Trading Corp, which the Treasury Department described as North Korea’s primary arms dealer; and Korea Tangun Trading Corp, which the U.S. said is primarily responsible for procuring commodities and technology to support North Korea’s defense research and development programs.The White House said on Friday that the Reconnaissance General Bureau was linked to North Korea’s capacity to wage cyber warfare, but it did not link it directly to the Sony hack attack. Korea Mining Development Trading Corp and Korea Tangun Trading Corp have been previously sanctioned. [ID:nL1N0U31WV ]The 10 North Koreans named in the new sanctions worked for the two companies but are not part of the North’s top leadership.Despite past sanctions that have been designed to curb North Korean’s nuclear capabilities, Pyongyang has pressed ahead with its nuclear program.(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton; Writing by David Chance; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Grant McCool)
Rwanda journalist questioned over threats to colleague 15 hours agoA view of the centre of the Rwandan capital, Kigali, taken on March 11, 2014 (AFP Photo/Phil Moore)Kampala (AFP) – Police in Uganda said Friday they had questioned a Rwandan journalist over allegations he threatened a colleague working with the BBC because of the broadcaster’s „negative stories”.Police said the Kampala-based bureau chief for The New Times, a Rwandan government newspaper, had been questioned but released without charge pending further investigations.”We called in Gashegu Muramira after receiving a complaint from the BBC journalist, Ignatius Bahizi, that he had been threatened” by several people, including Gashegu, „for what they claim to have been negative stories on Rwanda,” Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga told AFP.”We have recorded statements, and investigations are on going,” he added.Speaking to AFP, Gashegu rejected the accusations: „I know Bahizi as a colleague and we have shared news tips and our relationship has been cordial. I was surprised by these allegations,” he said.The BBC is currently under investigation in Rwanda over the broadcast of a controversial documentary on the central African country’s leadership and the 1994 genocide.It highlighted growing criticism of President Paul Kagame and revived allegations that his Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) — then a rebel group, now the ruling political party — was behind the shooting down of a plane carrying the country’s then Hutu president that triggered the genocide.The Rwandan authorities, backed up by several international experts and academics, have accused the BBC of genocide revisionism and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) has blocked BBC radio services in the local Kinyarwanda language while the affair is investigated.
Italy migrant ‘ghost ship’ arrives in port By Francesco Monteforte6 hours ago Corigliano (Italy) (AFP) – A ship abandoned by its crew and left drifting with 450 migrants on board reached Italy’s jagged southern coast on Friday, ending the second gruelling „ghost ship” rescue operation this week.Women and children were among hundreds of migrants left stranded aboard the Ezadeen, which docked in the port of Corigliano Calabro around 11 pm (2200 GMT) after a delicate operation by the Italian navy to take control of the boat.Six coastguard officers were earlier lowered from a helicopter onto the deck of the Sierra Leone-flagged vessel to set up a tow for the 40 kilometres (25 miles) to the Italian coast.The rescue is the latest in a series of maritime operations Italy has mounted in recent days as it struggles with a record wave of migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.On Wednesday, the navy faced more drama after it stopped another crewless „ghost” ship left drifting in its waters with nearly 800 migrants on board.Adding to the drama, on Friday another crew brought the burned-out ferry Norman Atlantic into the Italian port of Brindisi, six days after a fire killed 13 passengers and forced the rescue of 477. The appearance of the two drifting boats full of migrants within a matter of days has raised concerns that smugglers have started abandoning large boats full of people off the coast of Europe as a new tactic to maximise profits from their ruthless trade.Italian media reported that most of the 450 migrants found on board the 73-metre-long (240-foot-long) Ezadeen were from Syria, where millions of people have been displaced by nearly four years of civil war.The livestock vessel had been en route from Famagusta in northern Turkish-controlled Cyprus to the southern French port of Sete, but had first stopped at the Syrian port of Tartus, according to a shipping website.Some 500 Syrian would be immigrants arrive aboard the Ezadeen ship at Corigliano harbour on January …- ‘We are alone’ -Before it came to a halt, the nearly 50-year-old Ezadeen had been moving at seven knots, and was spotted by a coastguard plane 80 miles offshore shortly after nightfall.A woman refugee on board was able to operate the ship’s radio and told the coastguard that the crew had jumped ship, Italian navy spokesman Captain Filippo Marini said.”We are alone, there is no one, help us!” the woman cried, he said.The coastguard asked for assistance from Icelandic patrol boat Tyr, which was in the area on a mission with the European Union’s border agency Frontex, but rough weather conditions made boarding impossible.Once the Ezadeen had run out of fuel, five Tyr crew members were winched onto the merchant ship by helicopter to care for passengers until Italian coastguard officers arrived to take control.”The migrants aboard were visibly distressed but overall in good medical condition. They have been provided with food, water and basic medical assistance,” a Frontex statement said Friday.Immigrants wait early on Decembre 31, 2014 aboard the Moldovan-flagged ship Blue Sky M. in the port …The incident marked the third sea rescue operation Italy’s navy has been forced to mount in a week.The first came with the deadly fire that broke out on the Norman Atlantic ferry Sunday between Greece and Italy.Italian prosecutors fear the ferry could contain the bodies of still undiscovered illegal immigrants and unregistered passengers.Bari prosecutor Giuseppe Volpe said almost 500 people may have been aboard — far above the 474 officially on the manifest, and prompting fears the current death toll of 13 may rise once the ferry is fully searched in Brindisi.Volpe said it had been „established” that illegal immigrants were aboard, something confirmed by several of the rescued passengers. The search is expected to concentrate on trucks parked in the car deck where the fire started.- New smuggling tactics -A few days earlier, a ship carrying nearly 770 migrants was found drifting towards the rocks off Italy’s southeastern shore.The Blue Sky M freighter was on autopilot, after having been abandoned by the people smugglers who had sailed in from Turkey via Greek waters.The Moldovan-registered vessel got within five miles — or 45 minutes’ sailing time — of running aground before six navy officers were lowered on to the ship by helicopter, and succeeded in bringing it under control.The vessel’s passengers included some 60 children and two pregnant women, one of whom gave birth on board, according to the Italian Red Cross.Many of the migrants on the ship were treated for hypothermia or injuries including broken limbs.More than 170,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy in the last 14 months, and hundreds, possibly thousands, have perished trying to make the crossing.The migrants are almost invariably under the control of ruthless traffickers who earn thousands of dollars for every person they put to sea from Libya and other departure points in North Africa.Increasingly, the traffickers appear to be abandoning their human cargo at sea, with more now using bigger vessels than the converted fishing boats and other craft they previously favoured.The International Organisation for Migration estimated Friday in Geneva that people smugglers grossed over $1 million (830,000 euros) on just one of the abandoned ships alone.
Thousands of people in Sweden show the right way to respond to Islamophobia Updated by Amanda Taub on January 2, 2015, 12:50 p.m. ET @amandataub firstname.lastname@example.orgDON’T MISS STORIES. FOLLOW VOX!By signing up, you agree to our terms.It’s only January 2, but Sweden has already taken a strong lead in the competition for „most awesome country 2015” by showing how decent people should respond to Islamophobic violence. Thousands of people turned out in Stockholm today for a rally supporting Muslims, in response to arson attacks on three Swedish mosques last week.A mosque in the city of Eskilstuna had been firebombed on Christmas day, injuring five worshippers inside. A few days later, a second mosque in the southern city of Eslov was damaged in a fire that police say they suspect was also arson. And on New Years day, a mosque in Uppsala was hit by a molotov cocktail, but did not catch fire.The day after the Uppsala mosque was attacked, local residents „love bombed” it, covering the entrance of the building with paper hearts and messages of support.The demonstration and „love bombing” were a powerful way for ordinary Swedes to reject racism and show support for Muslims. But the march also carried broader political significance, because it showed that Swedes felt a duty to publicly reaffirm the country’s identity as a place that is tolerant and welcoming towards immigrants.In many countries, anti-immigrant populism dominates the public conversation about immigration not because it necessarily represents the majority view, but because people with more moderate and tolerant views don’t make it a priority to speak up publicly. These demonstrations suggest that Sweden may be different: thousands of people took to the streets to say that they are not willing to stay silent, and will not allow extremists to dominate the debate.And that’s important, because the mosque attacks come at a time of rising tension over Islamophobia and immigration in Sweden. Omar Mustafa, the head of Sweden’s Islamic Association, told Swedish newspaper The Local that he believes Islamophobia is getting worse.”It’s not just on the internet, this is happening in real life,” he said, noting that there had been 14 attacks on Swedish mosques in the last year.Anti-immigrant sentiment is also on the rise. The far-right Sweden Democrat party won 13 percent of the vote in a recent election after campaigning on an anti-immigration and anti-refugee platform. Last month, the Sweden Democrats nearly managed to cause the collapse of the center-left coalition government, and promised to make the next elections a referendum on immigration policy. However, on December 27 the government announced an eight-year agreement with center-right opposition parties that cut out the Sweden Democrats, preventing the far right party from forcing its agenda.The rise of Islamist extremism is also a growing concern in Sweden. It is estimated that the country has one of the highest rates of ISIS recruits per capita in Europe, and in November an ISIS defector claimed that the terrorist group has sleeper cells in Sweden awaiting orders.However, Sweden’s government has refused to exploit fears of extremism for political gain. The Culture and Democracy minister, who marched in today’s rally, said that Sweden is „still a paradise” for immigrants and that „knowledge is the best vaccination against prejudice.”Prime Minister Stephen Löfven told the local TT news agency that „in Sweden no one should have to be afraid when they practice their religion,” and promised to increase funding for security in places of worship.
Cambodian prince returning as royalist party chief 19 hours agoIn this Aug. 19, 2006 photo, Prince Norodom Ranaridh, foreground right, greets his party supporters at the former royalist Funcinpec party headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Ranariddh, a son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk and former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later kicked out of the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Prince Norodom Ranariddh, a former prime minister of Cambodia who was ousted in a coup and later expelled from the political party he helped found, is seeking a comeback.Ranariddh said in a letter to current leaders of the royalist Funcinpec party that he was accepting their invitation to reassume its presidency. It had removed him in 2006 for alleged incompetence.Ranariddh, 71, a son of the late King Norodom Sihanouk, led the party to victory in U.N.-sponsored elections in 1993, but had to accept Hun Sen, the head of the rival Cambodia People’s Party, as a co-prime minister. The elections were part of a peace process following the fall of the Khmer Rouge government and were aimed at ending three decades of civil war.Hun Sen staged a coup against his partner in 1997 with a lightning military takeover.Ranariddh’s restoration is seen as a backroom maneuver by Hun Sen to split the opposition in the 2018 general election. Funcinpec won no National Assembly seats in the 2013 election while another opposition group, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, delivered a strong challenge to Hun Sen by winning 55 of the 123 seats.Funcinpec Secretary-General Nhek Bun Chhay said Friday that Ranariddh will officially assume its leadership at a party congress this month. He denied that Hun Sen was involved in Ranariddh’s return.Funcinpec’s original success was related to the popularity of Sihanouk, who died in 2012. But Ranariddh had little of his father’s charisma, and many Funcinpec lawmakers had reputations for corruption. After the party was shattered in the 1997 coup, it fell strongly under Hun Sen’s influence. It served as a coalition partner in his government after elections in 1998, 2003 and 2008.Ranariddh was dismissed as president of Funcinpec in 2006 on allegations of incompetence. Soon afterward, his former party supporters sued him for allegedly embezzling $3.6 million. Ranariddh fled the country, and was convicted in March 2007 on embezzlement charges and sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison.He formed a new political party, the Norodom Ranariddh Party, which won only two parliamentary seats in July 2008 elections while he was in exile. In September 2008, Ranariddh’s half-brother, King Norodom Sihamoni, granted him a pardon for the embezzlement conviction. Ranariddh then returned home and announced he was quitting politics and retiring as head of his party.Since December 2008, Ranariddh has held the post of chief adviser to the king as head of the Supreme Privy Advisory Council. The post gave him a rank formally equivalent to that of prime minister, but without political power.
Iran, 6 powers move closer to nuke talks deal By GEORGE JAHN6 hours agoFILE – In this Nov. 23, 2014 file photo, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, right, pose for a photograph prior to a bilateral meeting of the closed-door nuclear talks in Vienna, Austria. Diplomats say Iran and the U.S. have tentatively agreed that Tehran will ship to Russia much of the material it could use to manufacture nuclear weapons. (AP Photo/Ronald Zak, Pool-File)VIENNA (AP) — Iran and the United States have tentatively agreed on a formula that Washington hopes will reduce Tehran’s ability to make nuclear arms by committing it to ship to Russia much of the material needed for such weapons, diplomats say.Related Stories
In another sign of progress, the two diplomats told The Associated Press that negotiators at the December round of nuclear talks drew up for the first time a catalog outlining areas of potential accord and differing approaches to remaining disputes.The diplomats said differences still dominate ahead of the next round of Iran-six power talks on Jan. 15 in Geneva. But they suggested that even agreement to create a to-do list would have been difficult previously because of wide gaps between the sides.Iran denies it wants nuclear arms, but it is negotiating with the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany on cuts to its atomic program in hope of ending crippling sanctions. The talks have been extended twice due to stubborn disagreements.The main conflict is over uranium enrichment, which can create both reactor fuel and the fissile core of nuclear arms. In seeking to reduce Iran’s bomb-making ability, the U.S. has proposed that Tehran export much of its stockpile of enriched uranium — something the Islamic Republic has long said it would not do.The diplomats said both sides in the talks are still arguing about how much of an enriched uranium stockpile to leave Iran. It now has enough for several bombs, and Washington wants substantial cuts below that level.But the diplomats said the newly created catalog lists shipping out much of the material as tentatively agreed upon. The diplomats, who are familiar with the talks, spoke to the AP recently and demanded anonymity because they are not authorized to comment on the closed negotiations.Issues that still need agreement, they said, include the size of Iran’s future enrichment output. The U.S. insists that it be cut in half, leaving Tehran with about 4,500 present day centrifuges used to enrich uranium, or less if it replaces them with advanced models. Tehran is ready for a reduction of only around 20 percent, or approximately 8,000 of the machines, according to the diplomats.Two other unresolved issues are Iran’s Fordo underground enrichment site and the nearly built Arak nuclear reactor. The U.S. and its five allies in the talks want to repurpose Fordo to a non-enrichment function because it is believed impervious to a military attack from the air. The six also seek to re-engineer Arak from a model that produces enough plutonium for several nuclear weapons a year to a less proliferation-prone model.Negotiators hope to reach a rough deal by March and a final agreement by June 30.
Palestinians present ICC membership request to UN By Carole Landry11 hours ago United Nations (United States) (AFP) – The Palestinians formally presented a request to the United Nations on Friday to join the International Criminal Court, a move that would allow war crimes complaints to be filed against Israel.Related Stories
Membership of the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, would open the way for Palestinians to pursue criminal complaints in The Hague, but is firmly opposed by Israel and the United States.”This is a very significant step,” Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters.”We are seeking justice for all the victims that have been killed by Israel, the occupying power.”Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to review the so-called instruments of accession and notify state members on the request within 60 days.”We are honored that we are the 123rd state-party of the ICC, which will be effective in about 60 days from now in accordance with the rules and procedures of the ICC,” Mansour said.Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas signed requests to join the ICC and 16 other conventions on Wednesday, a day after the Security Council failed to adopt a resolution paving the way to full statehood.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to review the letters on Palestine joining the Rome Statute, whi …The move is part of a shift in strategy for the Palestinians, who are seeking to internationalize their campaign for statehood and move away from the US-led negotiation process.The United States has branded the move to seek ICC membership as „counterproductive” and warned it would only push the sides further apart.But the Palestinians hope joining the court will allow them to seek justice against Israel for its actions in the occupied territories.The Palestinian envoy submitted the documents to the United Nations’ top legal affairs official, Stephen Mathias, at UN headquarters in New York.- ICC to look at Gaza war, settlements -Mansour said the Palestinians had also filed a request with the ICC in The Hague to grant retroactive jurisdiction to the court to cover alleged war crimes committed during last year’s Gaza war.This United Nations photo shows the UN Security Council during a meeting to adopt a resolution on Pa …Almost 2,200 Palestinians were killed in July and August during the 50-day war in Gaza, including more than 400 children, according to UN estimates.Mansour said the Palestinians will also be seeking to launch legal action over Jewish settlement construction, which he said was a war crime under the Rome Statute.”This is a peaceful option, a civilized option and an option that anyone who upholds the law should not be afraid of,” he said.The Palestinians were upgraded from observer entity to a UN „observer state” in 2012, opening the possibility for them to join the ICC and a host of other international organizations.Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute and does not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.Human Rights Watch legal affairs counsel Balkees Jarrah said Ban was expected to certify that the Palestinian documents are in order and that the state of Palestine can join the Rome Statute.”The assumption is that he will accept the instruments,” said Jarrah.Ban could turn to the UN General Assembly for guidance, but given that it was the 193-nation body that upgraded the Palestinian status at the UN, joining the ICC would be considered a logical step following that decision, Jarrah said.- Palestinians weigh options -Despite the setback at the Security Council, the Palestinians have said they will be looking at other measures at the General Assembly and other UN venues to press for recognition.”We are studying all of our options and we will be mapping our course accordingly,” envoy Mansour said.China, France and Russia were among eight countries that backed the resolution on ending the Israeli occupation by the end of 2017, but the result fell short of the nine votes required for adoption.The United States and Australia voted against and five other countries abstained, among them Nigeria, which had been expected to vote in favor but changed its stance at the last minute.The Palestinians are considering further action at the Security Council, which started the year with five new countries seen as having a more pro-Palestinian stance, Mansour said.