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5 May 2012
Syria – The LA Times reported: Bloodshed alienates the silent majority, activists say. The truce, while not perfect, has eased violence and provided peaceful protesters a chance to be heard. More than a year after the uprising began, only 50 people were still around to protest in a Syrian town of burned buildings and pockmarked storefronts. But for the residents of Anadan who came together to call for freedom and dignity on the morningSyria’scease-fire began last month, it was as though the revolution had begun again. “We were willing to come out like it was our first day,” said Abu Ghaith, an activist in the town near Aleppo that rebels seized and lost again to government forces. “Our strength is in being peaceful.” For months, activists who helped spark the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad by nonviolent means had seen it slip away as others in the opposition took up arms and the conflict began to resemble a civil war. Now the United Nations-backed cease-fire, which has seen numerous violations but also an easing of the bloodshed, is providing an apt anti-violence backdrop to activists’ efforts to retake the revolution.
Egypt – The LA Times reported: Egyptian crowds roar for presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, who has called for unity, protection of civil liberties and separation of religion and politics. The stage along the sea was a politically crafted advertisement for Egypt’s diversity: An unveiled woman chatted with a bearded Islamist and a retired soccer star shared the spotlight with a young hero from last year’s revolution. A roar erupted from a crowd, mostly students, when a white-haired man in a linen blazer raised his arms. As fireworks flashed in the night sky, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh called for national unity to end military rule and unrest that have soured the euphoria since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power. “The time when Egyptian blood was shed without a price is over,” said the doctor and former political prisoner, opening his presidential campaign last week in this fabled and flaking city. “The time when Egypt’s dignity was humiliated is over. The time when Egypt’s fortune was stolen to be given to a certain group of people is over.”
Greece – Reuters reported: Greek voters enraged by economic hardship caused by the terms of an international bailout turned on ruling parties in an election on Sunday, putting the country’s future in the euro zone at risk and threatening to revive Europe’s debt crisis. The latest official results, with over 61 percent of the vote counted, showed the only two major parties supporting an EU/IMF program that keeps Greece from bankruptcy would be hard pressed to form a lasting coalition. Conservative New Democracy and Socialist PASOK, who have dominated Greece for decades, were holding less than 35 percent of the vote. That would mean they might only scrape the 151-seat threshold needed for even the most fragile majority in parliament. Once mighty PASOK looked set to be pushed into third place by the anti-bailout Left Coalition party, in a stunning vote against austerity policies that have caused deep hardship in one of Europe’s worst postwar recessions.
Yemen – The (AP) reported: Yemeni airstrikes killed five militants in the south Saturday as the country’s president vowed to intensify his campaign against al-Qaida militants.Government troops have been waging an offensive against the terror network for several weeks after militants took advantage of Yemen’s political turmoil to expand their presence. Military officials said airstrikes Saturday in the southern city of Lawder, in Abyan province, killed five militants. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to release the information. President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi said Saturday that the fight against the group is just beginning. He spoke during a graduation ceremony for military officers. “The battle against al-Qaida has not yet started in earnest and will not end until every village, district and area is cleansed of terrorists,” he said. Since taking office in February, Hadi has increased cooperation with Washington which views the branch in Yemen as the most active.
Palestine – The New York Times reported: The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons. Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in. The two longest-striking prisoners, who have gone without food for 66 days, appeared in wheelchairs before Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday morning, pleading for their release from what is known here as administrative detention — incarceration without formal charges. One of them, Bilal Diab, 27, fainted during the hearing. “I am a man who loves life, and I want to live in dignity,” the other man, Thaer Halahleh, 33, testified, according to an advocacy group that had a supporter in the courtroom. “No human can accept being in jail for one hour without any charge or reason.”
Sudan – Reuters reported: Sudan’s army accused South Sudan on Saturday of having troops on its territory, a sign tensions between the former civil war foes were unlikely to cool despite an international ultimatum to end fighting. Sudanese army spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid said the military would abide by a U.N.-backed African Union call to halt hostilities, in an effort to end weeks of border fighting that has threatened to escalate into a full-blown war. But Khalid said the army had a right to defend its territory from foreign troops. “We have committed to (the decision). And no shot has been fired from our side and no attacks or raids have been launched … towards South Sudan,” Khalid told Reuters.
Saudi Arabia – CNN reported: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Egypt returned to Cairo on Saturday after tensions briefly spurred the kingdom to pull its envoys and shutter its missions, Saudi state media reported. Ambassador Ahmad Kattan is expected to resume his duties on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency said. Saudi Arabia called back Kattan and closed its embassy and consulates last Sunday after raucous protests in Cairo over the imprisonment of Ahmed Mohammed el-Gezawi, an Egyptian human rights lawyer. Throngs of Egyptians had gathered in front of the Saudi Embassy, calling for the release of el-Gezawi.
United Kingdom – Reuters reported: British Prime Minister David Cameron could be removed as leader of the Conservatives to prevent the party losing power in the next national election, a maverick lawmaker from his party warned on Sunday after a humiliating defeat in local elections. The bluntest public demand to date by a lawmaker of his own party for a leadership challenge escalates the strife for Cameron as he grapples with keeping his coalition government together after the worst month of his two-year premiership. A poorly presented budget which appeared to favor the rich, Britain’s return to recession and the loss of 405 seats at local elections have convinced some Conservatives that Cameron and his finance minister, George Osborne, lack the competence and strategy to win the next national election in 2015.
Bahrain – ABC NEWS reported: A prominent human rights activist has been arrested by Bahraini authorities, a statement said Saturday, in a move that could further escalate the nearly 15-month-old unrest between opposition groups and the rulers of the Gulf kingdom. A statement from Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said public prosecutors ordered the arrest of Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. The group has been active in calling attention to alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces and crackdowns such as widespread arrests and workplace purges. Rajab also was affiliated with international groups such as Human Rights Watch.
6 May 2012
Euro Markets – The WSJ reported: The euro fell sharply early Monday and stocks opened lower in Europe after weekend elections in France and Greece resulted in votes against austerity, raising questions about the euro zone’s ability to solve its sovereign-debt problems. The DAX in Frankfurt was down 0.9% and the CAC-40 in Paris was down 1.6%. The U.K. market is closed for a bank holiday. German bund futures, regarded as a haven for investors, opened higher. The June future hit a new contract high at 142.44 shortly after the 6 a.m. GMT open. “The election outcome in Greece creates significant uncertainty ahead for the country primarily and the broader spectrum of euro-area assets,” said Goldman Sachs strategists in a note to clients. The euro was trading at $1.2986 early in the European morning, dipping below the psychologically important $1.30 level and down from $1.3083 in late New York business Friday. Earlier it touched $1.2955, its lowest level since January.
Greece – The Washington Post reported: Greece sank deeper into a political and financial morass on Monday as initial efforts to form a new coalition government failed a day after angry voters punished parties backing the country’s international bailout. The result of Sunday’s parliamentary election raised troubling new questions about Greece’s ability to stay solvent and in the euro currency bloc. And the political impasse means Greece could face another round of elections next month. Voters furious over years of painful budget cuts and higher taxes hammered the conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK, the two parties who have dominated politics for the last four decades and who had signed up to the country’s multibillion dollar bailouts. The result was a clear anti-austerity message. Smaller parties that had rejected the draconian terms of Greece’s rescue packages made significant gains, raising the possibility that they might push the country out of the euro.
Syria – The CBS NEWS reported: Amid a shaky truce and calls from the opposition to boycott the vote, Syrians headed to the polls Monday to cast ballots in the first multi-party parliamentary elections in five years, as President Bashar Assad’s government sought to show it is providing space for a nascent political opposition in the restive country where thousands have been killed in a 13-month uprising. The leading opposition group dismissed Monday’s vote as a sham – an attempt by an obstinate Assad to prolong his rule – which they say will likely be rigged heavily in his Baath party’s favor. Opposition activists said they would observe a general strike and themselves boycott the voting. In spite of cries that any vote carried out under the threat of violence cannot be legitimate, polling booths opened for what will be the latest step in a process of limited political reform heralded by President Assad in response to the uprising, which began as a series of peaceful protests but quickly descended into violence in the face of a brutal assault on opposition strongholds by his forces. Many opposition figures and groups insist no reform measures can be accepted until Assad himself steps down from power. Assad, and his father before him, have ruled Syria since 1963.
Israel – Philly dot Com reported: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday signaled he wants to hold new elections in September, more than a year ahead of schedule, setting up a brief campaign that polls suggest will propel him to another term. A new election could also result in a far different coalition comprised of centrist parties more open to making concession to the Palestinians. The situation also adds new uncertainty to the decision on whether Israel should take military action against Iran’s suspect nuclear program. Addressing a convention of his Likud Party on Sunday night, Netanyahu sounded as if he was already on the campaign trail, presenting a list of accomplishments by his government. He said he had strengthened the economy, boosted security and put the issue of Iran’s nuclear program on the international agenda.
India – The (AP) reported: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged energy-starved India on Monday to reduce its Iranian oil imports to keep up pressure on the Islamic republic to come clean about its nuclear program. In meetings in the capital, New Delhi, Clinton was expected to push for India to find alternative sources of oil on the international market. Earlier Monday, she told a town hall meeting in the eastern city of Kolkata that there’s an adequate supply in the market for India to find other suppliers. Clinton noted India has taken some steps to reduce its imports from Iran but she says the U.S. wants to see more. “If there weren’t an adequate supply … we would understand, but we believe that there is adequate supply,” she said. India could face U.S. sanctions by the end of June if the Obama administration determines it has not made significant cuts in imports under a law aimed at squeezing Iran’s petroleum industry to press the country to prove its nuclear program is peaceful.
Yemen – The (AP) reported: Al-Qaida militants staged a surprise attack Monday on a Yemeni army base in the south, killing 20 soldiers and capturing 25 just hours after a U.S. drone strike killed a senior figure in the terror network wanted in connection with the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen. It was not immediately clear if the pre-dawn attack on the military base in the southern Abyan province was in retaliation for the death of Fahd al-Quso, a top al-Qaida leader on the FBI’s most wanted list. The militants managed to reach the base both from the sea and by land, gunning down troops and making away with weapons and other military hardware after the blitz attack, Yemeni military officials said. Government forces later shelled militant positions elsewhere in Abyan, killing 16 militants, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Germany – Bloomberg Businessweek reported: Exit polls in a German state election on Sunday show that voters have likely ousted a governing center-right government made up of the same parties as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal coalition. A poll for Germany’s public broadcaster ARD on Sunday found the conservative Christian Democrats remained almost flat at 30.6 percent and their coalition partner, the pro-business Free Democrats, slid from 14.9 percent to 8.3 percent in the country’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein state. It says the opposition Social Democrats gained 4.5 percent and secured 29.9 percent of the vote, the Greens stood at about 14 percent and the upstart Pirates party achieved seats in the legislature for the first time with 8 percent.
Greece – Euro NEWS reported: One of the big winners in the Greek election was the far-right Golden Dawn. It passed the three per cent barrier guaranteeing parliamentary participation, and will be the first neo-Nazi formation in the Greek parliament since 1974. Among other things it wants to expel immigrants and mine the border with Turkey. Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Micholiakos said: “The Greeks were anytime nationalists and now they have the chance to express their political stand. Nobody need fear me if he is a good Greek citizen, for everyone who is a traitor I do not care.”
Afghanistan – The Guardian UK reported: An Afghan soldier has shot dead a US marine and wounded another before being killed by return fire. It is the latest in a series of attacks against foreigners by government forces working with coalition troops. The soldier started shooting at international troops in Tarekh Naver in the Marjah district, a former Taliban stronghold that was the site of a major offensive by coalition forces in 2010, said a spokesman for the governor of Helmand province. A senior US defence official in Washington said the victim was a US marine in Helmand province and one other marine was wounded in the attack on Sunday. So far this year there have been 19 attacks, killing 12 coalition soldiers, compared with 21 last year that killed 35, according to Nato figures.
Pakistan – The (AP) reported: Taliban fighters killed 14 Pakistani soldiers in a key militant sanctuary along the Afghan border, beheaded all but one of them and hung two of the heads from wooden poles in the center of town, officials said Monday. The killings in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, highlight the dilemma facing the military in dealing with an area used by both the country’s fiercest enemy, the Pakistani Taliban, and Afghan and Pakistani militants believed to be close to the government who are battling U.S.-led forces in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. has repeatedly demanded that Pakistan launch an offensive in North Waziristan, especially against the so-called Haqqani network. Pakistan has promised to do so in the future, but claims its forces are stretched too thin right now fighting the Pakistani Taliban in other parts of the tribal region. “Something has to be done, and it’s in the offing,” Lt. Gen. Khalid Rabbani, the army’s top commander in the northwest, told The Associated Press in an interview Monday. “North Waziristan is the only place left” that hasn’t been the target of an operation, he said.