By Richard Falk* –TRANSCEND
Finally, there is some argumentation in the West supportive of a nuclear free zone for the Middle East. Such thinking is still treated as politically marginal, and hardly audible above the beat of the war drums.
It also tends to be defensively and pragmatically phrased as in the NY Times article by Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull (1.15.2012) with full disclosure title, “Preventing a Nuclear Iran.”
The article makes a prudential argument against attacking Iran based on prospects of a damaging Iranian retaliation and the inability of an attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear program at an acceptable cost. The most that could be achieved for would be a short delay in Iran’s acquisition of weaponry, and maybe not even that.
An attack seems likely to create irresistible pressure in Iran to everything possible to obtain a nuclear option with a renewed sense of urgency.
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Geneva – The Mediterranean Sea has become the deadliest stretch of water in the world for migrants and refugees, according to a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) new report.
The refugees agency’s estimates for last year talk about more than 1,500 people drowned or went missing while attempting to cross the sea from Africa to reach Europe, making 2011 the deadliest year for this region since UNHCR began recording the statistics in 2006.
“Our teams in Greece, Italy, Libya, and Malta, warn that the actual number of deaths at sea may be even higher,” UNHCR spokesperson Sybella Wilkes told reporters in Geneva on 31 January, 2012.
Wilkes added that the UNHCR estimates were based on interviews with migrants who reached Europe by boat, telephone and e-mail communication from their relatives, as well as reports from Libya and Tunisia from survivors whose boats either sank or were in distress.
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By Shahira Amin* in Cairo
Ten months in a tiny prison cell with padded walls and flickering lights have done little to alter 26 year-old Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil’s views on the military government running Egypt in the transitional phase. Instead, his confinement appears to have only strengthened his resolve to continue the fight against what he describes as a “corrupt regime” that he hopes, will soon be toppled.
**Photo: Lilian Wagdy | Wikimedia Commons
Instead, his confinement appears to have only strengthened his resolve to continue the fight against what he describes as a “corrupt regime” that he hopes, will soon be toppled.
Maikel was released on the 24th of January after the military rulers announced they would pardon 1959 political detainees (who had faced military tribunals) ahead of the first anniversary of the 25 January Revolution.
The move was seen by skeptics as an attempt to appease a public that has grown increasingly weary of heavy handed military rule. Maikel had been charged with allegedly “spreading rumours about the army and insulting the military establishment” but insists these were “trumped up charges” to punish him for publicly criticising the military in his blog posts.
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By Peter Schwarz, World Socialists Web Site* – The wave of social revolts that rocked the Middle East, the US, Greece, Spain and other countries last year has now reached Eastern Europe.
**Hungarian Police HQ ("Police Palace"), Budapest. Photo: Rovibroni (Barna Rovács) | Wikimedia Commons
The large demonstrations against the [prime minister Viktor] Orban regime in Hungary, strikes of railway workers and miners in Bulgaria, and two weeks of angry protests in Romania testify to this.
As yet the movement has a heterogeneous and confused character. Apart from workers fighting to defend their jobs, wages and basic rights and rallies for democracy, there are outbursts of rage by middle-class careerists, whose hopes of advancement have been dashed.
Politically, the protests include all the colours of the rainbow. Some occur spontaneously, while others are organised by rival wings of the ruling elites. Ultra-right tendencies have also sought to intervene.
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Bucharest – Public administration, political parties and the business climate are the main contributors to widespread corruption in Romania, appearing as the most vulnerable pillars in the national integrity system analysis, according to a new report.
“Excessive politicization of public positions and discretionary allocation of public resources by interest groups are the main reasons that led to these conclusions,” says the Transparency International‘s report.
In the context of elections this year, the poor performance of these pillars threatens not only public funds and the economy, but also the quality of democracy, according to TI, a global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.
“Corruption restricts freedom, impoverishes, misinforms, denies access to justice and public services, affects the health, and degrades the education and future of young people. Elimination of corruption in all sectors of society is therefore imperative and urgent,” Transparency International underlines.
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Foundation for the Future* – On January 14, 2011, Tunisian President Ben Ali fled after a month of protests and popular uprisings that would sow the seeds of a political “tsunami”, the Arab Spring.
**Image: Rais67 | Wikimedia Commons
While Tunisia is celebrating the end of the “year zero”, where the entire political system has been overhauled by a process of democratization and the election of a Constituent Assembly, it is interesting to explore the perceptions of one of the major players in this transition, civil society, according to a survey.
“Tunisian civil society demonstrates cautious optimism when gauging the achievements of a first year of democratic transition,” reveals the survey, which was conducted by the Amman-based Foundation for the Future (FFF) between December 22, 2011 and January 7, 2012.
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Geneva – Almost 1,100 Palestinians, over half of them children, were displaced due to home demolitions in the West Bank by Israeli forces in 2011 – over 80 per cent more than in the previous year – according to a United Nations new report.
Desert for the Palestinians; Green trees for Israeli settlement of Karmel (in the background). Photo: UNRWA
The report “Demolitions and Forced Displacement in the Occupied West Bank,” prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), adds that an additional 4,200 people were affected by the demolition of structures related to their livelihoods.
The report, released on 26 Jan., states that Israeli forces destroyed 622 structures owned by Palestinians including homes, animal shelters, classrooms and mosques – a 42 per cent increase compared to 2010.
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Dubai – Oil rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) harassed, arrested, and jailed activists, and disbanded the elected boards of two of the country’s most prominent civil society organizations, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) report “UAE: Free Speech Under Attack.”
*Image: Abu Dhabi Corniche | Wikimedia Commons.
In issuing its World Report 2012 at a news conference in Dubai on 25 Jan., HRW added that the UAE during 2011 “muzzled the right of its citizens to express themselves and to form independent associations.”
“In the year of the Arab Spring, the UAE headed in the opposite direction by criminally prosecuting Emiratis who dared to criticize the government,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
A Key U.S. ally in the Gulf region, the UAE is a federation of seven emirates (principalities), each governed by a hereditary emir, with a single national president. These are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. With a total population of some 8,3 million inhabitants, its oil reserves are ranked as the world’s sixth-largest.
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By Shahira Amin*
Cairo, 26 January – It started as a day of celebration, with tens of thousands of Egyptians converging on Tahrir Square to mark the first anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, 25 January. The morning crowd — dominated by bearded Islamists — waved flags and strolled peacefully in the Square — flashpoint of the eighteen day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.
Index on Censorship
One year to the day pro-democracy activists held mass protests, and the mood in Tahrir yesterday was one of jubilation and fanfare.
Two days earlier, Egypt’s first democratically elected parliament convened for the first time, pledging to work to fulfil the goals of the revolution — including securing justice for the families of those killed and victims of violence during last year’s mass uprising; a key demand of the revolutionary movements.
The Islamist-dominated People’s Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, also made it clear that the military council running Egypt in the transitional period would face close scrutiny from the newly elected lawmakers.
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By Johannes Stern, WSWS*, 26 January – One year after the beginning of the Egyptian Revolution on January 25, millions of workers and youth took to the streets and squares all over Egypt to protest the-US backed military junta in Egypt.
**Credit:Lilian Wagdy | Wikimedia Commons
They demanded the ouster of General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the successor of ousted President Hosni Mubarak and leader of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and the fall of the regime.
Like one year ago, several demonstrations from different neighborhoods of the capital headed towards Tahrir Square, whose entrances were secured by popular committees. Security forces and the military were absent from the square throughout the day.
Despite heavy rain in Cairo, by early morning tens of thousands of protesters had already gathered in the square, shouting “Down, down with military rule”, “The people want to bring down the regime,” and “Revolution, revolution until victory, revolution in all Egyptian streets.”
Other chants were directed against the “killers of the slain protesters,” and the stage-managed trial of Hosni Mubarak and his two sons.
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