SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Against a backdrop of rising tension between China and Japan over territorial disputes, the Dalai Lama has demanded during a trip to Tokyo that Beijing investigate a spate of Tibetan self-immolations.
Tibet's spiritual leader said the self-immolations are a symptom of the desperation and frustration felt by Tibetans living under the Chinese government's hardline policies in the region, including tight restrictions on religious life.
"I always ask the Chinese government: Please, now, thoroughly investigate. What is the cause of these sort of sad things?" he told a group of Japanese politicians on Tuesday.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winnner blamed "narrow-minded Communist officials'' for seeing Buddhist culture as a threat.
On the eve of China's once-in-a-decade leadership transition, the Dalai Lama also urged Japanese parliamentarians to visit Tibet, though such trips are severely restricted, to see what is happening there.
Earlier this month, the UN's most senior human rights official called on China to address frustrations that have led to Tibetans' desperate protests, including some 60 self-immolations since March 2011.
Eight self-immolations have been reported over the last six days in Tibet, including two on Monday.
China has long accused the Dalai Lama and his supporters of inspiring and even glorifying such acts, though the spiritual leader says he opposes all violence.
Since anti-government riots in 2008, access even to traditionally Tibetan areas in provinces neighbouring the Tibetan Autonomous Region has been tightly restricted.
The vast majority of the self-immolations have taken place in such areas, often near large monastic communities, and authorities have responded with a large police presence.
China maintains that Tibet is an integral part of China and that other countries hosting the Dalai Lama amount to interference in domestic Chinese affairs.
"The Dalai Lama is a political exile who has long engaged in anti-China separatist activities in the guise of religion," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.
"The Japanese government has been conniving with the separatist activities of the Dalai Lama and Japanese right-wing forces, which goes against the principle and spirit of China-Japan strategic relations of mutual benefit," Hong said.
The Dalai Lama's remarks came at a time when the relationship between the world's second and third largest economies is strained.
Japan nationalised two disputed islands in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese, by purchasing them from their private owners in September.
Shinzo Abe, the leader of the conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party, welcomed the Dalai Lama to the event.
Abe, who served as Japan's prime minister in 2006-07, could take the helm again after an election expected to be called as early as next month.
China also faces a pending leadership change for the first time in a decade, with leader in-waiting Xi Jinping expected to succeed President Hu Jintao as Communist Party head at a congress in Beijing this month, and then become president in March.
The Dalai Lama on Tuesday also called upon China to follow the example of its late former leader Deng Xiaoping, who is credited with reforms that brought the market economy to the country.
"I always express the leaders should follow Deng Xiaoping's sort of advice: seeking truth from fact. That's very, very important," he said.
The Dalai Lama fled to India following an abortive 1959 uprising against Chinese rule over Tibet.
He denies seeking the region's independence, saying that he wishes Tibetans to enjoy real autonomy and the protection of their traditional Buddhist culture.— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A Swiss laboratory team has made a brief visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah to prepare for the exhumation of the late President Yasser Arafat, a Palestinian official has said.
The team, along with French investigators, is expected to participate in an operation starting on November 26 and expected to take "several weeks or a month" to exhume Arafat's remains as part of a probe into the circumstances of his death in 2004.
Ahead of the exhumation, experts from the Institute of Radiation Physics at Switzerland's University of Lausanne made a brief visit to Ramallah, visiting the grave and meeting with Palestinian health minister Hani Abdeen and justice minister Ali Mhanna.
"A delegation from the Swiss laboratory visited Yasser Arafat's grave to examine the site," Tawfiq Tirawi, head of the Palestinian investigative committee on Arafat's death, said.
Tirawi told AFP news agency he met the team "to discuss next steps".
Tirawi stressed that opening the grave to test Arafat's remains would only take place once in the presence of both the Swiss experts and French investigators, who are running separate probes.
Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher, whose film What Killed Arafat? triggered the international investigations, spoke with the Swiss and witnessed their meetings at the Muqataa alongside engineers at the grave of Yasser Arafat.
"It's a delicate procedure, given the amount of marble, concrete and steel involved, and the forensic examiners want to ensure the late Palestinian leader's body will be approached with great care," said Swisher, reporting from Ramallah.
Arafat died in a French military hospital near Paris on November 11, 2004 and French experts were unable to say what had killed him, with many Palestinians convinced he was poisoned by Israel.
French prosecutors opened a murder inquiry in August after Al Jazeera broadcast the investigation in which Swiss experts said they had found elevated levels of radioactive polonium on Arafat's personal effects.
Polonium is a highly toxic substance rarely found outside military and scientific circles.
It was used to kill former Russian spy turned Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 in London shortly after drinking tea laced with the poison.
Swiss experts involved in the investigation said traces of radioactive poison would be lost forever if Arafat's remains were not analysed soon..— www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Al Jazeera
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Britain's Ministry of Defence says it has arrested seven Royal marines on suspicion of murder in relation to an incident in Afghanistan in 2011.
The defence ministry said Thursday the incident did not involve any civilians, but followed "an engagement with an insurgent."
It added that the seven were arrested Thursday by Royal Military Police.
The Ministry of Defence did not name the marines or give any further details, saying only that the investigation will now be taken forward by the Service Justice System.— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Britain's Health Protection Agency has published an early genetic sequence of the new respiratory virus related to SARS that shows it is most closely linked to bat viruses, and scientists say camels, sheep or goats might end up being implicated too.
So far, there are no signs the virus will be as deadly as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which killed hundreds of people, mostly in Asia, in a 2003 global outbreak.
In Geneva, WHO spokesman Glenn Thomas told reporters Friday that so far the signs are that the virus is "not easily transmitted from person to person" — but analyses are ongoing.
Global health officials suspect two victims from the Middle East may have caught it from animals.
"It's a logical possibility to consider any animals present in the region in large numbers," said Ralph Baric, a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Biologists now need to go into the area and take samples from any animals they can get their hands on, including camels and goats," he said.
Baric said it was crucial to find out how widespread the virus is in animals and what kind of contact might be risky for people.
Baric suggested bats might be spreading the virus directly to humans since the two confirmed infections happened months apart. "If there was an established transmission pattern from other animals, we probably would have seen a lot more cases," he said.
The World Health Organization said it is considering the possibility the new coronavirus sickened humans after direct contact with animals. The agency is now working with experts in the Middle East to figure out how the two confirmed cases got infected but could not share details until the investigation was finished.
One patient was a Saudi Arabian man who died several months ago while the other is a Qatari national who travelled to Saudi Arabia before falling ill and is currently in critical but stable condition in a London hospital.
Earlier this week, WHO issued a global alert asking doctors to be on guard for any potential cases of the new respiratory virus, which also causes kidney failure.
Saudi officials have already warned that next month's annual Muslim Hajj pilgrimage, which brings millions to Saudi Arabia from all around the world, could allow the virus to spread. As a precautionary measure, they are advising pilgrims to keep their hands clean and wear masks in crowded places.
Experts said knowing where a virus comes from provides clues on how to stop it.
"This means we could prevent the fire before it starts instead of rushing towards it with fire trucks and water hoses afterwards," said Michael Osterholm, an infectious diseases expert at the University of Minnesota.
Osterholm said it was possible bats had simply passed on the virus from other animals and that there could be a complicated transmission chain that ultimately ended in humans.
Viruses reproduce as they infect animals and people, giving them more chances to evolve into a deadlier version.
"We don't know enough about coronaviruses to predict which mutations might make them more lethal or transmissible," Osterholm said. "But you don't want to tempt genetic fate with microbes because you're bound to lose most times."— www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — The United Nations human rights chief called on Georgia on Friday to prosecute prison officers caught on videos torturing and raping inmates, a scandal that has broken out a week before a national election.
Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said authorities in the former Soviet republic must comply with international laws that banned torture.
“We call on the government to ensure that all allegations of such human rights violations, and not only the ones exposed in these videos but any others that have been taking place, are promptly, impartially, and effectively investigated and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” Pillay's spokesman Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
Demonstrators took to the streets of Tbilisi and other towns this week after footage showing the torture and rape of inmates in the capital's main prison was aired by two television channels supportive of the opposition.
Interior Minister Bacho Akhalaia resigned on Thursday as President Mikheil Saakashvili sought to soothe the protests.
“These videos are truly shocking...They show prisoners being physically and sexually assaulted, being humiliated and being verbally abused by prison officers,” Colville said.
The UN rights office welcomed Saakashvili's condemnation of the abuses and his government's pledges that they will be investigated, and voiced hope it would be “swiftly translated into effective and transparent action”.
Georgia has ratified the Convention against Torture, as well as its protocol allowing national and international experts to make unannounced visits to detention facilities, Colville said.
“Concerns about ill-treatment of prisoners in Georgia have been raised in various UN human rights for over the years, as well as consistently in reports of Georgia's own ombudsman Georgy Tugushi,” he said, referring to the former ombudsman who was named prisons minister on Thursday.—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Tehran Times
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — British authorities have arrested a police officer and two journalists as part of the investigation into phone hacking by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
The 39-year-old police officer was arrested in Wiltshire in southwest England by officers investigating inappropriate payments to police and public officials. A 51-year-old journalist from Bristol and a 32-year-old journalist from London were also being questioned Wednesday.
The corruption investigation is now being run in conjunction with probes into phone hacking that followed revelations that reporters at Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World tabloid routinely intercepted voicemails of those in the public eye.
Police say the arrests — bringing the number under investigation to 50 — came from information released by a News Corp. committee created to get to the bottom of the scandal.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — A judicial official has told the Sipa news agency that French prosecutors have opened a murder investigation into the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Suha Arafat filed a legal complaint in France after Arab satellite TV channel Al-Jazeera broadcast the results of an investigation into her husband's death. That included tests of objects that Suha said belonged to him.
A Swiss institute detected elevated traces of polonium-210 - a rare and highly lethal substance - on the belongings, but said the findings were inconclusive.
The official said on condition of anonymity because of office rules that a judge will be named to investigate.
Arafat died in a French military hospital in 2004 of what doctors called a stroke.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has ordered an investigation to determine the cause of the explosion at country's biggest refining facility that has left at least 39 people dead and more than 80 others wounded.
Chavez declared three days of national mourning. This "affects us all, the great Venezuelan family, civilian and military", he said in a telephone call with members of his cabinet on Saturday.
"It's very sad, very painful."
Vice President Elias Jaua, who traveled to the area in western Venezuela, said on state television late on Saturday that at least 39 people were killed by the explosion, up from the earlier death toll of 26.
He said that the dead included 18 National Guard troops and that six of the bodies had not yet been identified. Other officials said earlier that the dead included a 10-year-old boy.
Five of the injured remained in hospital and were being evaluated, while two were transferred to a burn unit in a neighbouring state and the remainder discharged with minor burns.
Balls of fire rose over the Amuay refinery, among the largest in the world, in video posted on the Internet by people who were nearby at the time.
The explosion shattered walls of nearby shops, ripped out windows from homes and left the surrounding streets covered with rubble and twisted scraps of metal.
In a neighborhood next to the refinery, shopkeeper Yolimar Romero said she was at her computer when a shock wave swept over the area shortly after 1am.
"At that instant, the whole house shook as if it were an earthquake," she said. "The windows went flying off with their frames and everything."
The Venezuelan president pledged to help the people who have been displaced from their homes at the refinery complex, which also houses workers and their families, and in impoverished neighborhoods nearby.
Rafael Ramirez, the energy minister, said the explosion was triggered by a gas leak, the cause of which remained to be determined.
"The gas cloud exploded, igniting at least two storage tanks and other facilities at the refinery," he told state-controlled VTV television.
Ramirez said the explosion was powerful and caused "significant damage" not only to the plant, but also to nearby shops and homes.
Firefighters were able to bring the fire under control, though smoke was still billowing from the facility.
Government officials pledged to restart the refinery within two days and said the country has plenty of fuel supplies on hand to meet domestic needs as well as its export commitments.
The energy minister said he expected production of the the 645,000-barrels-per-day facility, which makes up two-thirds of the world's second largest refinery complex, to resume within two days.
As far as fuel shipments, he said, "we won't have major effects."
Ramirez said nine storage tanks were damaged and that oil workers inspecting the damage along with troops would determine the cause of the gas leak.
Images in state media showed the flames casting an orange glow against the night sky. One photograph showed an injured man being wheeled away on a stretcher.
Vice President Jaua said earlier on his Twitter account that the military was deployed to the area and that air ambulances were dispatched to ferry the wounded.
Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, which also includes the adjacent Cardon refinery.
Together, the two refineries process about 900,000 barrels of crude a day and 200,000 barrels of gasoline. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the US and a member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.
OPEC certified in 2011 that Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world at 296.5 billion barrels, surpassing Saudi Arabia, the country with the largest refining capacity.—www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — There have been strong suspicions in the minds of many Arabs and others about the circumstances under which veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died on November 11, 2004. Doctors in France, where Arafat was being treated in his last days, could offer no concrete explanation for his death. Many believed he was poisoned by Israeli intelligence. This theory gained momentum after the Al Jazeera news channel aired a documentary in July on the issue, for which they commissioned a lab analysis of Arafat’s personal effects, with the permission and support of his widow, Suha Arafat.
Now, a Swiss radiology lab has received the go-ahead from Suha Arafat to test his remains for poisoning by polonium, a highly radioactive element. Darcy Christen, a spokesman for the lab at the Lausanne University Hospital Centre, told AFP they were waiting for a formal lawyer’s letter before travelling to Ramallah to carry out the probe. “Time is of the essence, you could say it’s a question of weeks, not months, because the traceability of polonium diminishes by half every 138 days,” Christen said, noting that this has occurred 20 times since Arafat died in 2004.
The Palestinian National Authority has approved the probe. A statement from French lawyers acting for Arafat’s widow and their daughter Zawra welcomed the PNA’s comments.
“We are glad that the position of the Palestinian [National] Authority is to accept the exhumation of the body of Yasser Arafat,” Pierre-Olivier Sur and Jessica Finelle wrote.
“However, we consider that this act of enquiry should be in coordination with the French investigating system... which should appoint an investigating judge to conduct the necessary enquiries,” the statement said.
Speaking to Gulf News, Abdel Bari Atwan, editor in chief of the London-based pan-Arab daily Al Quds Al Arabi, said that France must investigate the case as Arafat died on French soil. “I don’t believe that the Palestinian National Authority is capable of investigating this matter. It is the responsibility of the French. If the French authorities argue, as they well might, that Arafat was brought to France after the alleged poisoning, then it is the responsibility of the international community to investigate this issue. What we need is a UN investigation, along the lines of the tribunal set up to look into the assassination of [former Lebanese premier] Rafik Hariri. The French should at least push for this to happen. It is also the responsibility of the Arab League to take it to the Security Council.”
Asked about the reaction of the PNA, Atwan noted: “The PNA is extremely embarrassed that it was Al Jazeera, a news channel, which did the job that the Authority should have done a long time ago, as it was very clear from the beginning that Yasser Arafat’s death was not by natural causes. Arafat was the symbol of Palestine and the Palestinian National Authority. The PNA has now been pushed to the corner by Al Jazeera … they have been embarrassed into action.”
Atwan said that he did not expect the results of an investigation to have any impact on the Middle East “peace process.” “The so-called peace process is already dead. Initially, the Obama administration had raised hopes … but in the end, it surrendered to Israeli orders.”
After a nine-month investigation, Al Jazeera found that Arafat was in “good health until he suddenly fell ill on October 12, 2004.” The tests it commissioned revealed that the personal belongings he used in his final days — clothes, toothbrush, even his kaffieyeh — “contained abnormal levels of polonium.” The tests also indicated there was a high level of polonium inside his body at the time of his death. Dr Francois Bochud, the director of the Institut de Radiophysique in Lausanne, Switzerland, which analysed the samples, said: “I can confirm to you that we measured an unexplained, elevated amount of unsupported polonium-210 in the belongings of Mr Arafat that contained stains of biological fluids.”—www.shafaqna.com/English
Source: Gulf News
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) — Two women hurled hunks of pig carcasses this week outside a San Bernardino County home where Muslims prayed inside, prompting calls for a federal hate crime investigation and stoking tension within the area’s Muslim community.
In a letter to the U.S. Justice Department, the Council on American-Islamic Relations urged federal prosecutors to launch a probe of the incident at the site of the proposed Al-Nur Islamic Center near Ontario. The letter said two women in a white pickup truck threw the carcass pieces at three different places at the mosque site shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, the council said.
Muslims are prohibited from eating pork or any pig byproducts. The act was especially offensive because it occurred during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the council’s Greater Los Angeles chapter.
“The intention was to create fear, intimidation and offense of the intended target,” Ayloush, said Friday, Aug. 10. “That’s the nature of a hate incident.”
Rashid Ahmed, the chairman of the mosque, said the live-in caretaker of the four-bedroom home where the mosque members were praying is worried for his safety — as are worshippers. On the other hand, he said he has received more than 200 emails supporting the mosque since the incident, including emails from Christians, Jews and Hindus.
About 20 members of the congregation were gathered for a late-evening Ramadan prayer when the carcass pieces were tossed onto the property, Ahmed said. A security guard witnessed the act, he said.
The Justice Department is aware of the incident and looking into the matter, spokesman Thom Mrozek said. He said he could not confirm whether a formal investigation is under way. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is investigating, spokeswoman Cindy Bachman said.
Deputies were called to the property Wednesday morning and took a report for the alleged crime of vandalizing a place of worship, Bachman said. No arrests had been made.
The Islamic center was founded in 2000. About 70 people, mostly Bangladeshi, worship on Fridays at a temporary location in a Montclair office park. Ahmed said the congregation hopes to begin construction of the new, 7,000-square-foot building in 2013.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved the project earlier this year, but opponents of the mosque have filed a lawsuit seeking to block it.
Victor Otten, a Torrance attorney who represents the opponents, said most of the plaintiffs are people who live near the mosque site.
They oppose it not because the congregants are Muslim, but because they believe the septic system in the area is inadequate for the proposed mosque and because the building would destroy the rural, single-family character of the neighborhood, Otten said.
Ayloush said such issues often veil religious-based opposition to mosques. Some of the opponents have vocalized their fears about Islam, he said. According to the letter sent to the Justice Department, members of the congregation recently have seen people parked near the site taking photos.
“There is no doubt that many people opposing this mosque are driven by ignorance and fear and bigotry,” he said.
A proposed mosque in Temecula also faced opposition, including protests and anti-Muslim epithets.
The City Council gave final approval to the project last year, and the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley announced this week that groundbreaking on the new building will begin in September.
The vandalism in Ontario is the latest in a string of perceived anti-Muslim acts around the country in recent days and weeks, Ayloush noted.
A Missouri mosque was destroyed in a fire that news reports say was suspicious; four teenagers were arrested Saturday for pelting worshippers at a Bay Area mosque with oranges and lemons; and a Rhode Island mosque was vandalized, he said.
Ayloush said the incidents may be related to an uptick in anti-Muslim rhetoric in recent weeks in the wake of allegations by U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, of Muslim infiltration of the U.S. government.
“Every time a public official engages in a national process of demonization and dehumanization of Muslims, immediately afterward there is always an increase in hate incidents and hate crimes,” he said.—www.shafaqna.com/english