UNHRC hears of PA violations against free speech

The Palestinian Authority is increasing its control on the media and quashing freedom of speech and expression in the occupied territories, officials at the 35th session of the UN Human Rights Council held in Geneva were told yesterday. “The PA has closed and censored various online and print media outlets, and it systematically cut the salaries of parliament deputies speaking loudly of their opposition,” Ghada Rayan, from the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, said during the session. She noted that a number of Arab governments started to take violent and oppressive measures against freedoms in the wake of the crisis among Gulf states. “As soon as the Arab Gulf diplomatic crisis erupted, several governments imposed an atmosphere of fear among citizens,” […]

American detainee’s death in North Korea baffles experts

Tue, 2017-06-20 03:00

SEOUL: North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, its carefully scripted propaganda bluster, even its military threats: Far from the scattershot workings of a madman, most of this fits the playbook of a small, proud country well used to stoking tensions to get concessions it would otherwise not receive from surrounding big powers.
What happened to Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died just days after North Korea released him from detention in a coma, is far more difficult to make sense of.
It jars so strikingly with the fates of most past detained Americans that outside observers are left struggling not only with the mystery of what killed Warmbier but also with what his death means for attempts by Washington and its allies to stop North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can target the US mainland.
“The treatment of Otto Warmbier is beyond the pale of North Korea’s usual standards,” said John Delury, an Asia expert at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “It’s worth a forceful response. The US government should not just throw up its hands and say, ‘This is just how North Korea is.’ But how do you do that in a smart way where there is some modicum of accountability?“
What follows is a closer examination of one of the more perplexing and heart-rending developments in North Korea’s long, antagonistic standoff with its neighbors and Washington.
It may never be known, but there are some clues — as well as widespread speculation.
The University of Virginia student was medically evacuated from North Korea last week, more than a year after a court sentenced him to 15 years in prison with hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Early this month, North Korean diplomats at the United Nations urgently requested a face-to-face meeting with US officials in New York. During the meeting, Washington learned of Warmbier’s condition.
His family said it was told he fell into a coma soon after his March 2016 sentencing after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Doctors in Cincinnati said they found no active sign of botulism or evidence of beatings. They say he had severe brain damage but they don’t know what caused it.
Some observers believe that North Korea became worried because Warmbier’s condition suddenly worsened.
“North Korea sent him back to the United States before he died because more questions would have been raised about his death and the situation would have gotten worse if it had returned his dead body,” said Cheong Seong-jang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.
Others believe it is unlikely that North Korea intentionally harmed Warmbier because he was valuable as a political pawn. Poor hygienic conditions, diet or bad medical care may have been responsible for a coma that North Korean doctors couldn’t handle.
Or maybe North Korea concealed his medical condition for so long in the hopes that he’d recover.
Some outside experts see an internal divide in North Korea between officials who believe solving the long standoff with Seoul and Washington is the best way to improve the country’s economy and international standing, and hard-liners who believe that outside pressure, isolation and animosity help keep the ruling Kim family in power by solidifying domestic support.
The last thing conservatives want, the argument goes, is curious American tourists talking with citizens and undercutting decades of propaganda that assures North Koreans that they are the envy of the world.
But North Korea has also consistently lobbied Washington for specific concessions that would need deep negotiations, something recent US administrations have been reluctant to pursue because of the North’s weapons programs. North Korea’s demands include a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War and the removal of US troops from the Korean Peninsula.
“I’m sure there are high-ranking North Koreans who regret what happened to Warmbier and who think this was a mistake,” Delury said. “You’ve got to capitalize on this, and influence their internal debates to get them to recognize and acknowledge what happened.”
Another reading is that Warmbier’s death may simply show a pattern of North Korean callousness and a lack of concern over diplomatic repercussions. Outside groups say North Korea tortures thousands of its own citizens at prison camps. And earlier this year the North was suspected of arranging the killing of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong Un with VX nerve agent at a Malaysian airport.
Outrage in the United States means that more pressure, not dialogue, is the more likely course. But some analysts believe negotiations could happen because of US worries about the safety of the three other Americans still detained in North Korea.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been unable to pursue the engagement with the North he favors because of a string of North Korean missile tests. Warmbier’s death could make it even harder, although some analysts think Moon could offer talks with the North as a way to get other detainees out of North Korea.
“It’s unlikely that Washington and Seoul will let Warmbier’s death entirely derail their efforts at talks because North Korea’s nuclear weapons program is such a serious and immediate threat,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea expert at Seoul’s Dongguk University. Still, opponents will question whether such negotiations may give the North more time to expand its nuclear weapons program.
Delury said the Trump administration may try to pressure China to cut its large numbers of tourists to North Korea until the North apologizes and releases the other Americans.
Whether North Korea will actually respond to pressure or talks is unclear. The country may not worry about much of anything externally, even the death of a young tourist, until it reaches its goal of building a nuclear ICBM that can ease what it sees as decades of US and South Korean hostility.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim and Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.

Main category: 
Student released by North Korea now at hospital
High-level U.S. visit leads North Korea to free student in coma

Merkel ready to consider Macron eurozone reform ideas

Tue, 2017-06-20 12:27

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday she was prepared to “consider” new French President Emmanuel Macron’s proposals for a shake-up of the eurozone.
Speaking to business leaders, Merkel said “we could of course consider a common finance minister, if the circumstances are right,” citing one of Macron’s frequently touted ideas.
“We could also consider a euro-budget if it is clear that we are really strengthening the structure of the economy and doing sensible things,” she added, backing another suggestion by the French leader.

Main category: 

Hillary Clinton Told FBI’s Mueller To Deliver Uranium To Russians In 2009 “Secret Plane-Side Tarmac Meeting”

Authored by Shepard Ambellas via Intellihub.com,

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton facilitated the transfer a highly enriched uranium (HEU) previously confiscated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) during a 2006 “nuclear smuggling sting operation involving one Russian national and several Georgian accomplices,” a newly leaked classified cable shows.

So-called “background” information was provided in the cable which gave vague details on a 2006 nuclear smuggling sting operation in which the U.S. government took possession of some HEU previously owned by the Russians.

Over two years ago Russia requested a ten-gram sample of highly enriched uranium (HEU) seized in early 2006 in Georgia during a nuclear smuggling sting operation involving one Russian national and several Georgian accomplices.  The seized HEU was transferred to U.S. custody and is being held at a secure DOE facility.”

The secret “action request,” dated Aug. 17, 2009, was sent out by Secretary of State Clinton and was addressed to the United States Ambassador to Georgia Embassy Tbilisi, the Russian Embassy, and Ambassador John Beyrle.

It proposed that FBI Director Robert Mueller be the one that personally conduct the transfer a 10-gram sample of HEU to Russian law enforcement sources during a secret “plane-side” meeting on a “tarmac” in the early fall of 2009.

“We require that the transfer of this material be conducted at the airport, on the tarmac near by the plane, upon arrival of the Director’s aircraft.”

The FBI Director was originally scheduled to ‘return’ a sample from the DOE stockpile to the Russians in April but the trip was postponed until September 21.

Paragraph number 6 of the leaked cable confirms Dir. Mueller’s Sept. 21 flight to Moscow.

“(S/Rel Russia) Action request: Embassy Moscow is requested to alert at the highest appropriate level the Russian Federation that FBI Director Mueller plans to deliver the HEU sample once he arrives to Moscow on September 21. Post is requested to convey information in paragraph 5 with regard to chain of custody, and to request details on Russian Federation’s plan for picking up the material. Embassy is also requested to reconfirm the April 16 understanding from the FSB verbally that we will have no problem with the Russian Ministry of Aviation concerning Mueller’s September 21 flight clearance.”

But possibly even more shocking is the fact that the State Department wanted the transfer of the HEU to take place on an “airport tarmac” which is rather reminiscent of the infamous Loretta Lynch/Bill Clinton meeting which occurred on a Phoenix, Arizona, tarmac back in June of 2016.

Past dealings with the Russians were also mentioned in the cable, signifying that previous deals have taken place.

The post Hillary Clinton Told FBI’s Mueller To Deliver Uranium To Russians In 2009 “Secret Plane-Side Tarmac Meeting” appeared first on crude-oil.news.

Myanmar sentences ‘exorcist’ to death for child murders

Tue, 2017-06-20 10:46

MYANMAR: A self-proclaimed sorcerer was sentenced to death by a Yangon court on Tuesday for killing three children in an exorcism ritual he believed would banish evil spirits that possessed them.
Black magic practitioner Tun Naing was convicted of beating to death two toddlers and an eight-month-old baby late last year in a tiny village outside Myanmar’s commercial capital.
Witnesses said he told villagers the children were possessed by evil sprits before attacking them as their spellbound families watched.
Court police officer Myat Soe said Tun Naing had been given a death sentence for the killings as well as jail time for the charge of greivous bodily harm of another child caught up in the rituals.
Myanmar still has capital punishment on the books but has not executed anyone for decades, so the sentence may end up being commuted to 20 years in jail.
“He was sentenced to death today by the district court, along with a seven year sentence,” Myat Soe told AFP.
The case of the three children in October shocked many in Myanmar, where belief in the magical is part of the fabric of everyday life.
Hospital workers alerted authorities after the father of another little girl who had been beaten brought her to hospital covered in bruises.
Speaking outside a court hearing in November, Tun Naing told reporters he had been possessed by a “dark spirit” when he attacked the children.
Witnesses said villagers, including the children’s families, lost their senses after he fed them “blessed” water and made them stand in a circle as he recited incantations.
While the majority of people in Myanmar are Buddhist, many also believe in spirits, astrology and “yadaya” — magic used to ward off evil or misfortune.
Former military ruler Ne Win was famously superstitious and caused economic chaos in the late 1980s when he changed the denominations of the currency to add up to his lucky number nine.
Despite the onslaught of smartphones, Western brands and luxury hotels that have arrived since the junta ceded power in 2011, many people still consult fortune tellers and mystics for guidance.

Main category: 

Bill Blain Flips Out: “Not Much Surprises Me Any More About Markets, But Really? Really!?”

On Monday morning, we reported that in a stunning development, chronic defaulter Argentina – which just one year ago emerged from its latest bankruptcy – has found enough willing greater fools to sell 100-year bonds to. One person who especially stunned, was Mint’s Bill Blain, who issued an entire note describing his disgust with what the market has devolved to.

* * *

Argentina 100 Year Bonds: Really? Nobody Believes, But They Will Buy.

“Everyone should learn to Tango before they die.. ”

Markets can be a triumph of hope over reality. The news Argentina is going to launch a 100 year century bond caught my eye today.

Not much surprises me any more about markets, but really? Really!?

This appears to be a classic example of Blain’s Market Mantra No 3 – “The Markets have no memory, and neither do buyers.”

However, I expect to hear the bond will be massively oversubscribed as investors pile in for the high 8.25% coupon. I doubt anyone on the investor call was particularly convinced by the Argentine pitch, but they will love the coupon… In this financial environment, despite the fact too much cheap QE money has created massive financial asset inflation, you simply can’t pass the opportunity to earn 8% plus by playing pass the parcel with these bonds, hoping to profit for them…

And not being the holder when they stop ticking…. Because the ticking will stop. Momentarily. Before the boom.

Founded in 1816, by 1912 Argentina was officially the 10th wealthiest nation on Earth. Yet it has defaulted or restructured its debt 7 or 8 times (it depends how you count them)! From wealthy nation blessed with natural abundance, it circles economic reality in a chronically chaotic orbit of mismanagement, political crisis, inflation and repeated financial crisis.

What makes you believe anything has changed?

But for the grace of the ECB keeping Greece afloat, Argentinas’s $100 billion default in 2001 remains the largest sovereign default ever, and attempts to restructure that default triggered default again in 2014.

When it comes to default, Argentine is in a league of its own. It first managed to default in 1827 being unable to pay back loans on the back of rising UK rates, and again in 1890 after bankrupting the country trying to make Buenos Aires the “Paris of South America”. Interestingly the 1890 default was triggered by contagion following the near collapse of Barings – which was bailed out by other UK banks. (Barings will be a familiar name as the feckless UK institution which is rumoured to have got rich on insider news on the away win at Waterloo in 1815 and subsequently self-immolated in 1995 when rogue trader Nick Leeson bet the whole shop on a series of dodgy derivatives trades in Asia.)

Further Argentina defaults followed in 1956 and again in 1989. You might be spotting a trend…

30-yrs ago Tax avoidance was so deeply rooted in Argentina that less than 1% of the population paid any income tax. Inflation rates since the 1950s have typically been measured in 4-5 digit numbers, and in terms of wheelbarrows, rather than the money in them, being stolen.

Despite every possible natural and immoral advantage possible – including plentiful minerals, rich farmland, perfect beef growing conditions (there was a time when Fray Bentos was Beef!), and quietly replacing the troublesome indigenous native population with Europeans, Argentina has proved as politically stable as a 6 ft high Jenga tower with all the utility of a chocolate tea pot.

Yet the market now wants to lend them 100 year money at 8.25%.

Hmm… stop me… but is that wise? As long as you can keep flipping the bonds ahead of the next crisis.

What has changed that means Argentina has somehow reformed its economy from chronic instability to stability? What makes you think they’ve gone from irregular defaults or debt events ever 25 years or so, to overnight stability?

The FT says the country has been out meeting investors and telling them just how stable the country is under Presidente Mauricio Macri “who has appointed market friendly officials and cut a deal with holdout creditors..”.

Really. well that makes it all tickety-boo then… (US Readers: Massive Sarcasm Alert.)

Just asking…. but I’ve no problem with mass delusional investment moments.

We’ll happily trade them. If anyone wants some Argentina Century bonds, our EM bond team will be making markets in them. Caveat Emptor.

The post Bill Blain Flips Out: “Not Much Surprises Me Any More About Markets, But Really? Really!?” appeared first on crude-oil.news.