SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The trial has resumed in the case against a Russian opposition leader who led protests against President Vladimir Putin and exposed alleged corruption in his government.
Alexei Navalny was back in court on Wednesday accused of heading an organised criminal group that embezzled $500,000 worth of timber from a state-owned company.
The charges not only threaten to send Navalny to prison, but strike at the essence of his image as an anti-corruption activist.
Navalny insists the charges are an act of revenge for his exposure of high-level corruption and are intended to silence him.
The trial began last week in the northwestern city of Kirov, but was adjourned until Wednesday at the request of the defence, which said Navalny had not been given enough time to read the case files.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –It could take 30 to 40 years to fully decommission the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant due to complexity of the task, UN nuclear watchdog IAEA has reported. However, the plant's infrastructure may not last that long.
An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspection last week of the ruined Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma has exposed certain bottlenecks in the plan to clean up the nuclear disaster. A statement by the IAEA released Monday criticized TEPCO's progress on the cleanup.
Experts of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology believe that a chain of equipment failures of the plant's essential systems that took place over the last few weeks could become a serious problem in the future. The IAEA called on to TEPCO to maintain plant’s equipment properly to avoid potentially hazardous situations, especially disconnections of the cooling systems of the shutoff reactors and fuel storage pools.
"As for the duration of the decommissioning project, it will be nearly impossible to ensure the time for decommissioning such a complex facility in less than 30 to 40 years as it is currently established in the roadmap," said Juan Carlos Lentijo, the IAEA's Director of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology (NEFW).
The IAEA statement stressed that Japan must still develop technology and equipment to locate and remove melted uranium fuel, given the harsh conditions and strong radiation levels at the Fukushima facility.
Fukushima saw a chain of incidents over the last five weeks, at least three of which were caused by rats that damaged wires in critically important electrical equipment. And on Monday, TEPCO personnel conducted an emergency shutdown of the cooling system of one of the fuel storage pools after two dead rats were found inside a transformer box.
Lentijo, who headed the IAEA delegation to Fukushima, explained that water management is "probably the most challenging" task for the plant at the moment.
Another issue was the multiple leakages of radioactive water from storage tanks and cooling systems, which are not only further contaminating the area around the plant, but may also be expelling radioactive pollution deep underground, where it could pollute underground water tables.
Earlier, TEPCO reported that a steady inflow of groundwater in the basements of the damaged reactor buildings resulted in about 400 tons of contaminated water daily. With the Fukushima nuclear plant's storage tanks already housing 280,000 tons of liquid radioactive waste, this means the amount of contaminated water would double within just a few years.
Lentijo urged TEPCO to “implement additional countermeasures to regain confidence.” IAEA experts also noted that TEPCO needs to step up protections against “external hazards” similar to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that followed it, which devastated the plant on March11, 2011. “It is important to have a very good capability to identify as promptly as possible failures and to establish compensatory measures,” he said.
“You have to adopt a very cautious position to ensure that you always are working on the safe side,”Lentijo added.
A final report by the 12-member IAEA delegation to Fukushima is expected to be published in May.
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Senegalese prosecutors on Wednesday formally charged Karim Wade, the son of the West African nation's former president, with corruption and ordered him to be detained without bail, his lawyer told Reuters.
Wade, who was the most powerful figure in his father Abdoulaye Wade's government, was arrested this week on suspicion of illegally amassing $1.4 billion in assets via a network of shadowy holding companies.
"He has just been charged and will be detained," Demba Cire Bathily, Wade's lawyer, told Reuters.
The case brought has highlighted efforts by President Macky Sall, who defeated Abdoulaye Wade in a tense election last year, to crack down on corruption in the poor West African state.
Karim Wade simultaneously held the post of minister for infrastructure, international cooperation, energy and air transportation, with a total budget equivalent to one-third of state expenditure.
Wade's lawyers have accused the new administration of a political witch hunt and claim they can lawfully account for all of his assets.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –French President Francois Hollande has vowed that a new law on the "publication and control" of ministers' wealth
would be presented within weeks, after his ex-budget minister was charged in a tax evasion probe.
Hollande said on Wednesday that he would ban anyone guilty of fraud from holding public office in France.
Former budget minister Jerome Cahuzac had a day earlier admitted to having had a hidden account overseas for nearly two decades.
Hollande said Cahuzac had benefited from no protection over the account.
"I affirm here that Jerome Cahuzac did not benefit from any form of protection, other than the presumption of innocence. And he left the government at my request immediately after the opening of an investigation," the president said.
"He tricked the highest authorities in the country: the head of state, the government, parliament, and through it
all the French people. It's a grave and unforgivable error," Hollande said in a pre-recorded statement distributed to broadcasters.
The president outlined three measures planned in the wake of the revelations - a re-enforcement of the independence of the judiciary, the introduction of a register of assets for parliamentarians and a ban of elected officials found guilty of tax offences holding public office.
Cahuzac's admission he held a $770,000 bank account was a blow to Hollande's 10-month-old government, whose popularity is facing all-time lows in opinion polls.
Cahuzac resigned on March 19 after a probe into the Swiss bank account he allegedly used to hide assets from the tax authorities.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The Saudi Arabian communications regulator plans to link national Twitter bloggers to personal social media user IDs, local media has reported. There are no technical or legal restrictions to the move, but Twitter's official approval is needed.
The Saudi Arabian Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) studies ways to uncover social media users' real identities, according to a Friday report in daily newspaper Arab News Country’s Twitter microbloggers are top-priority candidates to get tokenized.
This could easily be accomplished by monitoring users who access Twitter from mobile phones, by requiring them to register an ID when they add money to their phone accounts.
“The linking of Twitter registration inside the Kingdom with the ID number of a user could be implemented if Saudi Arabia seriously wants it,” Saudi telecommunication technology expert Waleed Al-Khalil told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat Arabic international newspaper. However, Al-Khalil stressed that such measures cannot be introduced without a general agreement between the CITC and Twitter's administration.
This is not the first time the country’s authorities have announced plans to place citizens’ Internet activities under governmental supervision.
The CITC is reportedly in talks to monitor communications on Skype, Whatsapp, and Viber. If no deal is reached, Riyadh has threatened to block the services altogether, according to Al Arabiya.
The agency may impose sanctions under the authority of the Saudi Arabian government, and violations of CITC regulations are punishable in criminal court.
“For instance, CITC recently canceled free international roaming service offered by some companies without its permission by strictly enforcing penal measures,” Al-Khalil said, adding that he fully supports the idea of government supervision of Twitter users.
Riyadh's concerns over ‘Twitter power’ are not groundless: The Arab Spring uprisings showed how social networks – especially Twitter – could be used to successfully organize young opposition activists to protest against ruling regimes.
The number of Saudi Arabian Twitter users is booming. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of Twitter users in the Kingdom grew by 3,000 percent, Al-Arabiya estimated. Saudi Arabian Twitter users post an average of 50 million messages monthly, most of them in Arabic.
A week ago, Saudi Arabia's top religious cleric Grand Mufti Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik publicly railed against Twitter, calling the social media website “a council of clowns.” Twitter is a place where
people“unleash unjust, incorrect and wrong tweets,” Sheik Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik said in a speech to other Saudi clerics.
But Riyadh's concerns over Twitter are likely exaggerated, as two of the most influential Twitter users in Saudi Arabia are Muslim preachers, not opposition activists. Sheikh Mohamad al-Arefe has more than 4.3 million worldwide followers, while Sheikh Ayed al-Qarnee has over 2.8 million – sizable followings in a nation of 25 million people.
Twitter's administration will have to confront the issue soon, as the Saudi Arabian market is extremely attractive to the corporation. In July 2012, Twitter Executive Director Dick Costolo acknowledged that Twitter is the sixth most-browsed website in Saudi Arabia, and that the number of Twitter users is rapidly growing.
Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia for its ultraconservative religious law and limited personal freedoms.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Two serving and one retired Metropolitan police officers have been arrested on suspicion of lying under oath and perverting the course of justice in relation to the death of a musician in police custody five years ago.
Sean Rigg, a mentally ill black man, died of cardiac arrest after being held in the back of a police van at Brixton police station in south London on August 21, 2008.
The arrests came as part of the Independent Police Complaints Commission’s (IPCC) ongoing investigation into the custody death, which was started in 2012.
The inquest jury found that police failed to identify the 40-year-old schizophrenic as a vulnerable person and restrained him for eight minutes in the “prone position” while he was being arrested, a length of time that contributed to his death.
All three officers were questioned by IPCC investigators at a central London police station and then released on bail until May.
Deborah Coles, co-director of charity INQUEST said, “We are pleased due process is finally underway, after a battle by Sean Rigg’s family for truth and justice that has been ongoing for nearly five years.”
In August last year, hundreds of campaigners and legal professionals marched for a memorial meeting at Lambeth Town Hall on the fourth anniversary of Sean Rigg’s death in the British police custody.-www.shafaqna.com/English
Source:islamic invitation turkey
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A prominent Israeli rabbi has been arrested on charges of sexually assaulting his three teenage daughters for more than 10 years.
The rabbi, who has not yet been publicly named, is reportedly being charged with multiple accounts of sexual assault and invasion of privacy, Israel's Ynet news website reported on Wednesday.
He was arrested 10 days ago but has been remanded in custody for an additional two days.
An indictment filed with the al-Quds (Jerusalem) District Court said the suspect began molesting the victims, ages 12 -14, more than 10 years ago.
The document said the rabbi sexually abused one of the elder daughters for two years, despite her pleas.
He told the girl they could sleep naked together and also placed a video camera in her room and watched her as she undressed and showered.
The suspect's daughters are expected to testify against him in court.www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –President Obama on Tuesday named agent Julia Pierson as the first female director of the Secret Service, marking a shift for an agency marred by last year's prostitution scandal.
The appointment of Pierson to the top job in the agency that protects the president and other top officials could help to address concerns about the agency's culture.
In a statement, Obama said Pierson "has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day" during her 30 years in the service.
"Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system, but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own. Julia has had an exemplary career, and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency," he said.
Pierson, who most recently served as Secret Service chief of staff, will take over the top job from Mark Sullivan, who announced his retirement last month. The agency faced intense criticism during Sullivan's tenure for the prostitution scandal during preparations for Obama's trip to Cartagena, Colombia, last year.
The incident raised questions within the agency -- as well as at the White House and on Capitol Hill -- about the culture, particularly during foreign travel. In addition to protecting the president, the Secret Service also investigates financial crimes.
Pierson does not need to be confirmed by the Senate.
Thirteen Secret Service employees were caught up in last year's prostitution scandal. After a night of heavy partying in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena, the employees brought women, including prostitutes, back to the hotel where they were staying. The incident became public after one agent refused to pay a prostitute and the pair argued about payment in a hotel hallway.
Eight of the employees were forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct and at least two have been fighting to get their jobs back.
The incident took place ahead of Obama's arrival in Colombia and the service said the president's safety was never compromised. But news of the scandal broke during his trip, overshadowing the summit and embarrassing the U.S. delegation.
The incident prompted Sullivan to issue a new code of conduct that banned employees from drinking within 10 hours of starting a shift or bringing foreign nationals back to their hotel rooms.
Sullivan apologized for the incident last year during testimony before a Senate panel.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –On April 25th the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum and General Rehabilitation Project will be dedicated in Dallas, Texas.
It takes up 23 acres at Southern Methodist University, 23 acres that neither humanity nor any other species may ever reclaim for anything decent or good.
I'll be there, joining in the people's response with those who fear that this library will amount to a Lie Bury.
"The Bush Center's surrounding native Texas landscape," the center's PR office says, "including trees from the Bush family's Prairie Chapel Ranch in Crawford, Texas, continues President and Mrs. Bush's longstanding commitment to land and water conservation and energy efficiency."
Does it, now? Is that what you recall? Bush the environmentalist?
Well, maybe you and I remember things differently, but do we have a major educational institution that will effectively repeat our corrections of the Lie Bury's claims for decades to come?
According to the Lie Bury, Bush was and is an education leader, saving our schools by turning them into test-taking factories and getting unqualified military officers to run them. This is something to be proud of, we're told.
The Lie Bury's annual report shows Bush with the Dalai Lama. No blood is anywhere to be seen. The Lie Bury's website has a photo of a smiling George W. golfing for war. "The Warrior Open," it explains, "is a competitive 36-hole golf tournament that takes place over two days every fall in the Dallas area. The event honors U.S. service members wounded in the global war on terror."
Now, I actually know of some soldiers wounded in what they call by that name who don't feel honored by Bush's golfing, just as millions of Iraqis living as refugees within or outside of the nation he destroyed find Bush's liberty to walk outdoors, much less golf for the glory of war, offensive. But none of them has a quarter-billion dollar "center" from which to spread the gospel of history as it actually happened -- as it happened to its losers, to those water-boarded, shot in the face, or otherwise liberated by Bush and his subordinates.
When Bush lied about excuses to start a war on Iraq -- as with everything else he did -- he did so incompetently. As a result, a majority of Americans in the most recent polls, still say he lied to start the war. But few grasp the lesson as it should be applied to wars launched by more competent liars. And memory of Bush's lies is fading, buried under forgetfulness, avoidance, misdirection, revisionism, a mythical "surge" success, and a radically inaccurate understanding of what our government did to Iraq.
I won't be attending the Lie Bury ceremony for vengeance, but in hopes of ridding our culture of the vengeance promoted by Bush. He based a foreign policy and a domestic stripping away of rights on the thirst for vengeance -- even if misdirected vengeance. We have a responsibility to establish that we will not support that approach going forward.
Bush himself is relevant only as his treatment can deter future crimes and abuses. No one should wish Bush or any other human being ill. In fact, we should strive to understand him, as it will help us understand others who behave as he has.
Bush, of course, knew what he was doing when he tried to launch a war while pretending a war would be his last resort, suggesting harebrained schemes to get the war going to Tony Blair. Bush knew the basic facts. He knew he was killing a lot of people for no good reason. He was not so much factually clueless as morally clueless.
For Bush, as for many other people, killing human beings in wars exists outside the realm of morality. Morality is the area of abortions, gay marriage, shop lifting, fornicating, or discriminating. Remember when Bush said that a singer's suggestion that he didn't care about black people was the worst moment in his presidency? Racism may be understood by Bush as a question of morality. Mass murder not so much. Bush's mother remarked that war deaths were not worthy of troubling her beautiful mind. Asked why he'd lied about Iraqi weapons, George W. Bush asked what difference it made. Well, 1.4 million dead bodies, but who's counting?
I won't be attending the Lie Bury because Bush's successor is an improvement. On the contrary, our failure to hold Bush accountable has predictably led to his successor being significantly worse in matters of abusing presidential power. And not just predictably, but predicted. When we used to demand Bush's impeachment, people would accuse us of disliking him or his political party. No, we'd say, if he isn't held accountable, future presidents will be worse, and it won't matter from which party they come.
I helped draft about 70 articles of impeachment against Bush, from which Congressman Dennis Kucinich selected 35 and introduced them. I later looked through those 35 and found 27 that applied to President Barack Obama, even though his own innovations in abusive behavior weren't on the list. Bush's lying Congress into war (not that Congress wasn't eager to play along) is actually a standard to aspire to now. When Obama went to war in Libya, against the will of Congress, he avoided even bothering to involve the first branch of our government.
When Bush locked people up or tortured them to death, he kept it as secret as he could. Obama -- despite radically expanding secrecy powers and persecuting whistleblowers -- does most of his wrongdoing wide out in the open. Warrantless spying is openly acknowledged policy. Imprisonment without trial is "law." Torture is a policy choice, and the choice these days is to outsource it. Murder is, however, the new torture. The CIA calls it "cleaner." I picture Bush's recent paintings of himself washing off whatever filth his mind is aware he carries.
Obama runs through a list of men, women, and children to murder on Tuesdays, picks some, and has them murdered. We don't know this because of a whistleblower or a journalist. We know this because the White House wanted us to know it, and to know it before the election. Think about that. We moved from the pre-insanity state we were in circa 1999 to an age in which presidents want us to know they murder people. That was primarily the work of George W. Bush, and every single person who yawned, who looked away, who cheered, who was too busy, who said "it's more important to elect a new president than to keep presidential powers in check," or who said "impeachment would be traumatic" -- as if this isn't.
In Guatemala a prosecutor has charged a former dictator with genocide, remarking, "It's sending the most important message of the rule of law -- that nobody is above the law." It's not so many years ago that the United States had the decency at least to hypocritically propose that standard to the world. Now, we advance the standard of lawlessness, of "looking forward, not backward."
That's why the people need to respond to the lie bury. Ann Wright is going to be there. And Diane Wilson. Robert Jensen and Ray McGovern are coming. So are Lon Burnam and Bill McElvaney and Debra Sweet. Hadi Jawad and Leah Bolger and Marjorie Cohn and Kathy Kelly are coming. As are Coleen Rowley and Bill Moyer and Jacob David George and Medea Benjamin and Chas Jacquier and Drums Not Guns.
Also coming will be many familiar faces from the days when we used to protest in Crawford. When we'd go into that one restaurant at the intersection in Crawford, there'd be a cardboard cut-out Dubya standing there. We picked him up and stood him in the corner, facing the corner. We said he needed to stay there until he understood what he'd done wrong. In reality, of course, he was cardboard. The lesson was for everyone else in the restaurant. It's a lesson that still needs to be taught.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was formally accused last night of abusing the mental weakness of France's wealthiest woman to help to finance his 2007 election campaign.
The political and judicial bombshell followed hours of questioning of the former head of state by an investigating magistrate in Bordeaux.
Mr Sarkozy was "placed under formal investigation" – one step short of a charge – for the alleged abuse of the weakness of Liliane Bettencourt, the 90-year-old chief shareholder of the cosmetics giant, L'Oréal.
After confronting Mr Sarkozy one-by-one with several former members of Ms Bettencourt's staff, Judge Jean-Michel Gentil decided that there was reason to believe that the former President lied during a similar 12-hour grilling in November last year. On that occasion, Mr Sarkozy said that he had visited Ms Bettencourt, then 84, on just one occasion during the 2007 presidential campaign and had never asked her for a "penny".
The judge accepted his word at the time and made him an "assisted witness" in the case, rather than an outright suspect. This decision has now been reversed.
Four members of her staff, including her former butler, Pascal Bonnefoy, have told the judge that they saw Mr Sarkozy enter Ms Bettencourt's mansion in Neuilly, just west of Paris, on several occasions in early 2007. Their evidence was repeated in the presence of the former President yesterday.
Mr Sarkozy's lawyer, Thierry Herzog, said last night that he would appeal against the judge's "incoherent and unjust" decision.
The case against Mr Sarkozy is far from watertight and he could still be cleared without going to trial. For the time being, however, his chances of resuming a political career, abandoned after he failed to win a second term last May, appear to be mortally damaged.
Mr Sarkozy would be the second successive French president, after Jacques Chirac, to face criminal charges for, in effect, illegally funding his career. But Nicolas Sarkozy is being accused of something far more serious – defrauding an elderly woman whose mental faculties were impaired.
Judge Gentil opted for the grave accusation of "abuse of weakness" because the time limit had passed for an investigation into illegal campaign financing. If ultimately charged and found guilty, Mr Sarkozy would face a prison sentence
At the heart of the accusation are two clandestine shipments of cash – amounting to €400,000 each – brought into France from Switzerland by Ms Bettencourt's financial advisers in February and April 2007. A statement to police by Ms Bettencourt's former accountant, Claire Thibout – later partly retracted – suggests that part of the cash was destined for Mr Sarkozy's campaign.-www.shafaqna.com/English