Friday, May 12, 2017
SOUTH KOREA URGES PARALLEL TALKS AND SANCTIONS TO REIN IN NORTH KOREA.
BEIJING (Reuters) - The leaders of China and Vietnam had "positive" talks about the disputed South China Sea on Thursday with neither side criticizing the other, a senior Chinese diplomat said.Vietnam is the country most openly at odds with China over the waterway since the Philippines pulled back from confrontation under President Rodrigo Duterte.Speaking after Chinese President Xi Jinping met Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang in Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said the South China Sea had been brought up in their talks."It was discussed but the main tone was very positive," Liu told reporters.Both agreed to follow their consensus to continue stabilizing the situation and to keep pushing talks, as well as continue joint resource exploration in less sensitive areas, like the Gulf of Tonkin, he added."I think that talking about the South China Sea this time is really a positive piece of news. Neither side raised any criticisms of each other. There were no voices of that were out of step," Liu said.China claims 90 percent of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan lay claim to parts of the route, through which about $5 trillion of trade passes each year.Last year, tensions heightened between Beijing and Hanoi after Taiwan and U.S. officials said Beijing had placed surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island, part of the Paracel archipelago which China controls.Vietnam called China's actions a serious infringement of its sovereignty over the Paracels.In 2014, tensions between the two communist countries peaked more dramatically when China moved an oil rig into disputed waters and protests broke out across Vietnam.Relations have since gradually improved with a series of high level visits between the two, though the military buildup continues in the region, including China's building of airstrips on man-made islands in the South China Sea.In comments in front of reporters, Xi told Quang he hoped to take relations to a new stage to better benefit both peoples.Xi also praised the leadership of Vietnam for its economic reforms."As a comrade and neighbor, we are happy to see this," Xi said.Quang is in Beijing to attend a weekend conference on an ambitious scheme proposed by Xi to build a new Silk Road connecting China to Asia, Europe and beyond through massive infrastructure investment.(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)
North Korea demands handover of suspects in assassination plot: Xinhua-[Reuters]-YAHOONEWS-May 11, 2017
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea demanded on Thursday the handover of "terror suspects" who plotted to kill leader Kim Jong Un with a biochemical substance, repeating accusations it made last week that U.S. and South Korean spies were behind the plan.The North's KCNA news agency last week accused the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and South Korea's National Intelligence Service of a plot to assassinate its "supreme leadership" with a biochemical weapon.Tension on the Korean peninsula has been high for weeks, driven by concern that North Korea might conduct its sixth nuclear test or test-launch another ballistic missile in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions."The Central Prosecutor's Office will ask for the handover of those criminals and prosecute them under the relevant laws," North Korean vice foreign minister Han Song Ryol told foreign diplomats and reporters in Pyongyang, China's Xinhua news agency reported.The CIA and the U.S. White House declined to comment on the statement from the North's Ministry of State Security last week.The South Korean intelligence service said the charge was "groundless".Han "declared the principled stand of the ... government to find out all of the terrorist maniacs and mercilessly wipe them out", the North's KCNA news agency said in a report on the briefing.There was no elaboration in either the Xinhua report or the KCNA report on how many suspects North Korea was seeking, or of who or where they were, but Xinhua said North Korea had vowed to "hunt down to the last one of the suspects in every corner of the earth".Separately, the CIA said on Wednesday it had established a Korea Mission Center to "harness the full resources, capabilities and authorities of the Agency in addressing the nuclear and ballistic missile threat posed by North Korea".The center would gather experienced officers from across the CIA in one entity "to bring their expertise and creativity to bear against the North Korea target", it said.(This version of the story adds dropped word "no" in paragraph eight.)(Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)
South Korea urges 'parallel' talks and sanctions to rein in North Korea-[Reuters]-By Ju-min Park and Christine Kim-YAHOONEWS-May 11, 2017
SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea's new president launched international efforts to defuse tension over North Korea's weapons development on Thursday, urging both dialogue and sanctions while also aiming to ease Chinese anger about a U.S. anti-missile system.Moon Jae-in, a liberal former human rights lawyer, was sworn in on Wednesday and said in his first speech as president he would immediately address security tensions that have raised fears of war on the Korean peninsula.Moon first spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping and later to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with how to respond to North Korea's rapidly developing nuclear and ballistic missile programs, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, dominating talks."The resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue must be comprehensive and sequential, with pressure and sanctions used in parallel with negotiations," Moon's spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, quoted Moon as telling Xi."Sanctions against North Korea are also a means to bring the North to the negotiating table aimed at eliminating its nuclear weapons," Yoon told a briefing, adding that Xi indicated his agreement.Moon has taken a more conciliatory line with North Korea than his conservative predecessors and advocates engagement. He has said he would be prepared to go to Pyongyang "if the conditions are right".Regional experts have believed for months that North Korea is preparing for its sixth nuclear test and was working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the United States, presenting U.S. President Donald Trump with perhaps his most pressing security issue.Trump told Reuters in an interview last month major conflict with North Korea was possible though he would prefer a diplomatic outcome.North Korea says it needs its weapons to defend itself against the United States which it says has pushed the region to the brink of nuclear war."Threats from North Korea's nuclear and missile development have entered a new stage," Japan's Abe told Moon in their telephone call, according to Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda."How to respond to North Korea ... is an urgent issue. I would like to closely cooperate with the president to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea," Abe told Moon.But Abe also said "dialogue for dialogue's sake would be meaningless" and he called on North Korea to demonstrate "sincere and concrete action", Hagiuda said, adding that Moon shared Abe's views.Japan has been concerned that Moon will take a tough line on feuds stemming from the bitter legacy of its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula and could fray ties at a time when cooperation on North Korea is vital.Moon told Abe to "look straight at history" and not make the past "a barrier", though he raised South Korea's dissatisfaction with a 2015 agreement meant to put to rest a dispute over Japanese compensation for South Korean women forced to work in Japanese brothels before and during World War Two, Korea's presidential office said.(For a graphic on South Korea's presidential election, click tmsnrt.rs/2p0AyLf)-'IMPROVE UNDERSTANDING'-While South Korea, China and Japan all share worry about North Korea, ties between South Korea and China have been strained by South Korea's decision to install a U.S. anti-missile system in defense against the North.China says the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) undermines its security as its powerful radar can probe deep into its territory.China says the system does little to curb the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, which it has been pressing ahead with in defiance of U.S. pressure and UN sanctions.The deployment of THAAD was agreed last year by South Korea's previous administration after North Korea conducted a long-range rocket launch that put an object into space.Moon came to power with a promise to review the system and he told Xi that North Korea must cease making provocations before tension over the deployment could be resolved, officials said.In the first direct contact between the South Korean and Chinese leaders, Xi explained China's position, Yoon, the South Korean presidential spokesman said, without elaborating."President Moon said he understands China's interest in the THAAD deployment and its concerns, and said he hopes the two countries can swiftly get on with communication to further improve each other's understanding," Yoon told a briefing.South Korea and the United States began deploying the THAAD system in March and it has since become operational.Xi told Moon South Korea and China should respect each other's concerns, set aside differences, seek common ground and handle disputes appropriately, China's foreign ministry said in a statement.As well as clouding efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the THAAD deployment has also led to recriminations from Beijing against South Korean companies.Moon explained the difficulties faced by South Korean companies that were doing business in China and asked for Xi's "special attention" to ease those concerns, Yoon said.China has also denied it is doing anything to retaliate against South Korean businesses.(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING and Kiyoshio Takenaka in TOKYO; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Paul Tait, Robert Birsel)
Tunnel collapse renews safety concerns about nuclear sites-[The Canadian Press]-YAHOONEWS-May 10, 2017
RICHLAND, Wash. — The collapse of a tunnel containing radioactive waste at the Hanford nuclear weapons complex underscored what critics have long been saying: The toxic remnants of the Cold War are being stored in haphazard and unsafe conditions, and time is running out to deal with the problem."Unfortunately, the crisis at Hanford is far from an isolated incident," said Kevin Kamps of the anti-nuclear group Beyond Nuclear.For instance, at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which opened in the 1950s and produced plutonium and tritium, the government is labouring to clean up groundwater contamination along with 40 million gallons of radioactive liquid waste stored in tanks that are decades past their projected lifespan. The job is likely to take decades.In addition to the tunnel collapse discovered Tuesday, dozens of underground storage tanks at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state — some dating to World War II — are leaking highly radioactive materials.The problem is that the U.S. government rushed to build nuclear weapons during the Cold War with little thought given to how to permanently dispose of the resulting waste.Safely removing it now is proving enormously expensive, slow-going, extraordinarily dangerous and so complex that much of the technology required simply does not exist. The cleanup has also been plagued with political and technical setbacks.For example, the nation's only underground nuclear waste repository, in New Mexico, closed to new shipments in 2014 after an improperly packed drum of waste ruptured. The site just recently reopened.The U.S. Department of Energy spends about $6 billion a year on managing waste left from the production of nuclear weapons."The temporary solutions DOE has used for decades to contain radioactive waste at Hanford have limited lifespans," said Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and frequent Hanford critic. "The longer it takes to clean up Hanford, the higher the risk will be to workers, the public and the environment."U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry acknowledged the problem with nuclear waste, saying the nation can no longer delay fixing the problem because lives are at stake.During a tour Wednesday of the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Perry said the federal government has failed to remove the waste in a timely manner and he pledged to make progress.A recently approved bipartisan federal budget deal for this fiscal year includes $2.3 billion for the ongoing Hanford cleanup, which matches the amount that Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, worked to include last year. President Donald Trump is expected to release his 2018 proposal later this month.Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state plans to issue an order making sure the federal government determines the cause of the tunnel collapse. The order will also require the Energy Department to assess if there's an immediate risk of failures in any other tunnels and take actions to safely store waste in the tunnels until a decision is made about how to permanently handle the material.Thousands of workers at Hanford were told to stay home as efforts began to plug the 400-square-foot (37-square-meter) sinkhole in the earth over the unoccupied storage tunnel.Officials said they detected no release of radiation and no one was injured in the collapse, though thousands of workers were forced to take shelter for several hours as a precaution. The cause of the collapse was not immediately known.A gravel road was built to the collapse site, and workers wearing protective suits and breathing masks planned to fill the hole with 50 truckloads of dirt, the Energy Department said.The rail tunnel was built in 1956 out of timber, concrete and steel, topped by 8 feet of dirt. It was 360 feet long (110 metres ). Radioactive materials were brought into the tunnel by railcars. The tunnel was sealed in 1965 with eight loaded flatbed cars inside.Gerry Pollet, a Washington state legislator and longtime Hanford critic, said the collapse of a waste storage tunnel at Hanford had been feared for years."This disaster was predicted and shows the federal Energy Department's utter recklessness in seeking decades of delay for Hanford cleanup," he said.He noted the Energy Department last year received permission to delay removing waste from the tunnels until 2042. The waste was supposed to be gone by 2024, Pollet said.The radiation levels of the waste in the tunnel that collapsed would be lethal within an hour, Pollet said.Hanford, a 500-square-mile (1, 300-square-kilometre ) expanse in remote interior Washington about 200 miles from Seattle, was created during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.Hanford made most of the plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons, including the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, during the war. It now contains the nation's greatest volume of radioactive waste left over from the production of weapons plutonium.The cleanup there has cost $19 billion to date and is not expected to be finished until 2060, at an additional cost of $100 billion.The most dangerous waste at Hanford is 56 million gallons stored in 177 underground tanks, some of which have leaked.Plans to embed the toxic stew in glass logs for burial have floundered. Construction of a $17 billion glassification factory has stopped because of design and safety issues.The plan is to bury the glass logs at a nuclear waste dump carved inside Nevada's Yucca Mountain, a project that has been on the drawing board for three decades but has run into resistance from Nevada politicians, including former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid.President Donald Trump has proposed $120 million to restart the licensing process for the dump.___Geranios reported from Spokane, Washington. Associated Press writers Susan Montoya Bryan in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this story.Nicholas K. Geranios And Manuel Valdes, The Associated Press.
25 And there shall be signs in the sun,(HEATING UP-SOLAR ECLIPSES) and in the moon,(MAN ON MOON-LUNAR ECLIPSES) and in the stars;(ASTEROIDS ETC) and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity;(MASS CONFUSION) the sea and the waves roaring;(FIERCE WINDS)
26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear,(TORNADOES,HURRICANES,STORMS) and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth:(DESTRUCTION) for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.(FROM QUAKES,NUKES ETC)
One way to battle future flooding: stop building on flood plains, say experts-[CBC]-YAHOONEWS-May 9, 2017
As the battle to protect homes from flooding continues across the country, questions are being asked about whether it's time to reconsider regulations that allow developers to build on flood plains.Jason Thistlethwaite, an assistant professor at the University of Waterloo's faculty of environment, says the problem is that municipalities set zoning regulations and collect property tax revenue but do not pay for rebuilding costs after natural disasters."The municipality really doesn't have an incentive to go in and use land-use planning and building codes and communications strategies to tell people that they are at risk of flooding, particularly given that most of the revenue comes from development, it comes from property taxes." Thistlethwaite said. "So they face a real conflict of interest."Poor land-use planning at the local level basically goes unpunished and in fact gets rewarded with additional disaster assistance from the province, from the federal government."Last February, the Parliamentary Budget Office released a report estimating that over the next five years the federal government will dole out an estimated $902 million a year in disaster-related relief to provinces and territories.Of that, $673 million a year will be spent on rebuilding after flooding — about 75 per cent of the annual spend.The money comes from Public Safety Canada through the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements, or DFAA, created in 1970 to reimburse provinces for expenses related to damage from disasters natural or man-made.The report also notes that in the ten years from 2005 to 2014 (which included the 2013 Calgary floods) 82 per cent of all DFAA funding went to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, almost all of which was a result of flooding.Thistlethwaite says his research shows 75 percent of people who live in high-risk flood areas don't even know they are at risk.He says the government needs to advise people of at-risk areas and then produce flood-risk maps to guide future developments instead of relying on current maps, which he says are outdated.It is an approach that the Insurance Bureau of Canada's Craig Stewart says should be addressed, as the impacts of climate change continue to deliver variable weather patterns."It makes no sense now to be building homes in harm's way," Stewart said.Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says the federal government expects an increasing number of natural disasters to occur more quickly and for them to be larger and more costly in the coming years.He said the issue of building on land prone to flooding is an issue that has bedevilled municipal and provincial governments since "time immemorial.""Sometimes in normal, dry conditions these are very attractive premium locations, and then something like this happens," Goodale said. "It boils down to zoning issues and it's something that governments are going to have to examine very closely: how they protect people who choose voluntarily to build in areas that are vulnerable to these kinds of problems."This is one of the issues that will be discussed among federal, provincial and territorial ministers and the end of the month at our emergency management meeting," Goodale said.
WORLD POWERS IN THE LAST DAYS (END OF AGE OF GRACE NOT THE WORLD)
EUROPEAN UNION-KING OF WEST-DAN 9:26-27,DAN 7:23-24,DAN 11:40,REV 13:1-10
EGYPT-KING OF THE SOUTH-DAN 11:40
RUSSIA-KING OF THE NORTH-EZEK 38:1-2,EZEK 39:1-3
CHINA-KING OF THE EAST-DAN 11:44,REV 9:16,18
VATICAN-RELIGIOUS LEADER-REV 13:11-18,REV 17:4-5,9,18
OH BY THE WAY WHEN THE MEDIA SAYS ALLU-AK-BAR MEANS GOD IS GREAT LIE. IN ISLAM ALLU-AK-BAR MEANS OUR GOD IS GREATER OR GREATEST. THIS IS HOW THE MEDIA SUCK HOLES UP TO ISLAMIC-QURANIC-MUSLIMS. BY WATERING DOWN THE REAL MEANING OF THE SEX FOR MURDER DEATH CULT ISLAM. TO MAKE IT SOUND LIKE A PEACEFUL RELIGION (CULT OF DEATH AND WORLD DOMINATION).
11 The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.(WORLD TERRORISM,MURDERS)(HAMAS IN HEBREW IS VIOLENCE)
12 And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth.
13 And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence (TERRORISM)(HAMAS) through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her,(HAGAR) Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael;(FATHER OF THE ARAB/MUSLIMS) because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he (ISHMAEL-FATHER OF THE ARAB-MUSLIMS) will be a wild (DONKEY-JACKASS) man;(ISLAM IS A FAKE AND DANGEROUS SEX FOR MURDER CULT) his hand will be against every man,(ISLAM HATES EVERYONE) and every man's hand against him;(PROTECTING THEMSELVES FROM BEING BEHEADED) and he (ISHMAEL ARAB/MUSLIM) shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.(LITERAL-THE ARABS LIVE WITH THEIR BRETHERN JEWS)
12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer,(SATAN) son of the morning!(HEBREW-CRECENT MOON-ISLAM) how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I (SATAN HAS EYE TROUBLES) will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.(AND 1/3RD OF THE ANGELS OF HEAVEN FELL WITH SATAN AND BECAME DEMONS)
2 They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.(ISLAM MURDERS IN THE NAME OF MOON GOD ALLAH OF ISLAM)
Sri Lanka rejects Chinese request for submarine visit: sources-[Reuters]-By Shihar Aneez and Ranga Sirilal-YAHOONEWS-May 11, 2017
COLOMBO (Reuters) - Sri Lanka has rejected China's request to dock one of its submarines in Colombo this month, two senior government officials said on Thursday as the Indian prime minister landed in the island nation.Sri Lanka last allowed a Chinese submarine to dock in the capital of Colombo in October 2014, a move that triggered fierce opposition from its northern neighbor India, which worries about growing Chinese activity in a country it has long viewed as part of its area of influence.Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Sri Lanka on Thursday for a two-day official visit.A senior Sri Lankan government official said China's request to dock one of its submarines in Colombo this month had been rejected. He said Sri Lanka was "unlikely" to agree to China's request to dock the submarine at any time, given India's concerns. The official asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.The second official, at the defense ministry, also said China's request to dock this month had been rejected but that a decision on a further docking had been postponed."It might happen later," the second official told Reuters, adding that China had requested approval to use the port around May 16 "sometime back".A source close to the Chinese embassy in Colombo confirmed that China had requested permission for the submarine visit but was still awaiting a response.China has invested heavily in Sri Lanka in recent years, funding airports, roads, railways and ports, unsettling India, traditionally the closest economic partner of the island nation of 21 million people.More than 70 percent of the trans-shipment in Colombo port comes from India.Sri Lanka is finalizing a plan to lease 80 percent of its loss-making Hambantotata port to China for 99 years, but the deal has been delayed because of opposition from trade unions.The Sri Lankan government also wants to establish a petroleum hub with the help of India in the eastern port city of Trincomalee, where Lanka IOC, the subsidiary of Indian Oil Corporation, handles 15 out of 99 oil tanks.A 1987 accord between India and Sri Lanka provides that their territories not be used for activities deemed prejudicial to each other's unity, integrity and security.(Editing by Tommy Wilkes)
Skirmishes over culture strain alliance between Saudi rulers, clerics-[Reuters]-By Samia Nakhoul, William Maclean and Katie Paul-YAHOONEWS-May 11, 2017
JEDDAH (Reuters) - When senior Saudi cleric Abdulaziz al-Tarifi told his almost one million Twitter followers that musical instruments were ungodly, it helped spark a hashtag among like-minded Saudis that "the people reject music academies".The hashtag, echoing the language of Arab Spring revolts elsewhere, captured the hostility to reforms that introduced entertainment events from rock concerts and comedy shows to kick-boxing into the conservative kingdom.But Nora Shanar, a writer at Saudi newspaper Elaph, spoke for swathes of people when she shot back to defend a shake-up of the Saudi cultural scene: "Don't speak in the name of the people.""Speak in the name of those who don't love life and forbid music when God himself did not."Such exchanges highlight strains between the ruling family's alliance with conservative clerics which have been exposed as a reformist and powerful prince works to diversify the economy away from oil and permit new freedoms among Saudis steeped in cleric-imposed puritanism.The entertainment events aimed at creating more jobs were allowed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, head of the royal court, defense minister and son of King Salman, as a matter of economic survival as well as entertainment for Saudi citizens, dependent for decades on welfare state benefits.The changes are also intended to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas by Saudis, who are accustomed to traveling abroad to see shows and visit amusement parks in nearby tourist hub Dubai or further afield.But the price for the Al Saud and for a powerful business class that supports modernization and a greater role for women has been tensions with traditionalist clerics upon whose support the ruling family relies for its legitimacy.The Wahhabi religious establishment has had a symbiotic relationship with the Al Saud dynasty since the mid 18th century, offering its rule Islamic legitimacy in return for influence over important chunks of the state such as education and the judiciary, and a network of mosques and universities.The clergy suspect bold initiatives conceived by the prince in leisure and tourism presage sweeping reforms in education, a bastion of conservatism where clerical control is believed by Western nations to have encouraged Islamist radicals - not just in Saudi Arabia but across the Muslim and Arab worlds.As a result, resistance to reforms like women's employment and the encouragement of teaching on technical subjects persists in many corners of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, propelled by clerics with vast social media followings.-REFORMS AIM TO BOOST ECONOMY-Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton, expected the “overwhelmingly powerful” Saudi state could drive its social and economic reforms through despite conservative unease, using the argument they were vital for economic survival."The interesting thing about this moment is that you see, in effect, social liberalization but not for ideological reasons but for purely economic, fiscal and budgetary reasons," he said.Haykel suggested there was a risk that any future popular economic discontent might be manipulated or mobilized by disaffected religious conservatives or opponents of MbS, as the 31-year-old deputy crown prince, is known.But so far MbS, Middle East analysts say, has shown an ability to change course to head off any build up of steam, citing a recent decision to restore financial allowances to civil servants cut last year under an austerity program."The state is quite agile and dynamic in responding to what it feels are potentially sources of real dissent," Haykel added.-CURBING RELIGIOUS POLICE-Historically, tensions have arisen between the Saudi royal family and the ultra-austere religious establishment.Throughout the modern history of the kingdom, clerics have objected to what they regard as corrupting, for example women's education and permission for them to drive. Clerics lost the battle to stop the introduction of television in the 1960s, and for years were hostile to satellite TV.But MbS can depend on his father King Salman, who is highly respected among conservative and senior clerics, to help him to implement his "Vision 2030" designed to prepare the kingdom's economy and its society for a future less dependent on oil.On the ground in Saudi Arabia, reform and social change are tangible. Whereas Saudis once dined in silence, with music deemed offensive to conservative ears, restaurants around Riyadh now play jazz and lounge music.And radical economic reforms, announced last year to protect Saudi Arabia from low oil prices, have been successful so far, with spending cuts that have sharply shrunk a $98 billion budget deficit, according to Mohammed bin Salman.MbS's most significant social change to date has been to strip the feared mutawa religious police of the power to arrest or question people, a major development in the state's relations with clerics, and which met no mobilized opposition.-PRAISE AND ANGER-Insiders recount how MbS reminisces about what he sees as a more liberal, tolerant and open minded Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, which shut down in 1979 after the Iranian revolution and the seizure of the great mosque at Mecca by Islamist millenarian radicals. His aim, they say, is to try to restore that era.According to some polls most Saudis, a majority of whom are under 30 and widely connected to the world via social media, are hungry to catch up with a world that has been passing them by.But religious clerics are pushing back.Conservative unease could be seen in tweets that followed a recent interview with Ahmed al-Khatib, the man spearheading the kingdom´s entertainment reforms, in which he said Riyadh will one day open cinemas and build an opera house.Khatib, chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, said conservatives who denounced the opening of cinemas and entertainment events as sinful could simply opt to stay at home if they did not care for them.Khatib later added that the authority would also arrange suitable entertainment for conservatives, too.The kingdom had some cinemas in the 1970s but the clerics persuaded authorities to close them, reflecting rising Islamist influence throughout the Arab region at the time. Cinemas are still banned. While concerts started to be held this year, concerts and music in general are frowned on by clerics.The comments by Khatib received a mostly positive response. On Twitter, a hashtag thanking his institution began trending along with images of people dancing and eating popcorn.Khatib said GEA activities have created 20,000 jobs so far after only seven months.However, many conservatives saw Khatib’s comments as divisive and provocative. Mohammed al-Suhaim, a scholar of Islam at King Saud University in Riyadh, tweeted a hashtag calling for Khatib to be put on trial."Advice from a friend to Mohammad bin Salman: Restore (power) to the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (mutawa religious police) and stop the Entertainment Authority," one unidentified tweet read.-PACE OF CHANGE-But the most prominent members of the religious authority, including many who previously criticized the entertainment push, were silent on the cinema issue.The Grand Mufti said in January that cinemas could open the door to “atheistic or rotten” foreign films and encourage the mixing of the sexes, but did not comment on Khatib's remarks.Diplomats say King Salman must allay the concerns of the clerical establishment, for no one else in the Al Saud has his connections or credibility with the religious establishment.The king will be the last surviving son of King Abdelaziz ibn Saud, who founded modern Saudi Arabia in 1932 after three decades of Wahhabi-fueled conquest across the Arabian peninsula, to rule the kingdom, and he has been part of the inner circle of the Al Saud ruling family for decades.In a meeting with the U.S. ambassador in March 2007, described in a cable released by WikiLeaks, Salman said the social and cultural reforms instigated by then King Abdullah had to move slowly for fear of a conservative backlash.But years later, by backing his son MbS, the king appears to have accepted that change in Saudi Arabia needs to accelerate.(Additional reporting by William Maclean, Katie Paul and Noah Browning, editing by Peter Millership)
U.N. has 'a million questions' on Syria after Astana deal-[Reuters]-YAHOONEWS-May 11, 2017
GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations still has a million questions about a Syria deal struck last week by Russia, Turkey and Iran, with aid convoys almost totally stalled despite a reported reduction in the fighting, a U.N. aid official said on Thursday."Russia and Turkey and Iran explained to us today and yesterday ... that they will work very openly, proactively, with United Nations and humanitarian partners to implement this agreement," U.N. Syria humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland told reporters."We do have a million questions and concerns but I think we don't have the luxury that some have, of this distant cynicism, and saying it will fail. We need this to succeed."The three-country deal on de-escalation zones was signed last week in the Kazakh capital Astana, with a goal of resolving operational issues, such as how to police the zones, within two weeks and of mapping them out by June 4.U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he was convening what he called "rather business-like, rather short" peace talks in Geneva from May 16-19 to take advantage of the momentum. The political weight of the signatories and the staggered timing of the deal gave it a strong chance of working.The alternative would be "another 10 Aleppos", he said, referring to Syria's second city which fell to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in December after years of fighting.A key aspect of the Astana deal was that it was an "interim" arrangement to address urgent issues, not a permanent partition of Syria, he said.De Mistura said the Astana talks had also made rapid progress on agreements covering prisoner releases and de-mining, and both were almost complete.Egeland said he could point to one concrete result from Astana: the reported reduction in fighting and aerial attacks. But aid convoys were only being allowed in at the rate of one per week, with no permission letters coming from the government.Although some recent local surrenders meant the number of people who were hard to reach with aid had fallen by 10 percent to 4.5 million, a further 625,000 were besieged - 80 percent of them by forces loyal to Assad, he said.(Reporting by Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay)
Orthodox believers form pro-Russia bloc in Europe By Andrew Rettman-MAY 11,17-EUOBSERVER
BRUSSELS, Today, 09:27-Orthodox Christian societies in Europe are more likely to endorse Vladimir Putin’s revanchist vision of Russia than Catholic ones, according to a new survey.Most people in the majority-Orthodox bloc, which includes EU and Nato states Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece, as well as EU-aspirant states such as Georgia, Moldova, and Serbia believe Russia should act as a “buffer” against the West and should “protect” them if need be.Orthodox societies also voiced more nationalist, homophobic, and sexist views, the survey, which was published by US pollster Pew on Wednesday (10 May) said.By contrast, people in majority Roman Catholic countries, such as Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, looked to the West for leadership.Orthodox affiliation was also rising sharply in central and eastern Europe, while Catholicism was on the wane, with the Czech Republic emerging as the most godless state of all, the pollster said.The view of Russia as an anti-Western fortress and the idea that it has the right to protect ethnic Russians or Orthodox believers abroad mirrored the main themes in Kremlin propaganda following its invasion of Ukraine in 2014.The Russian regime’s fake news that Russian speakers were or would be the victims of pogroms in Ukraine was used by Russian leader Vladimir Putin to justify the annexation of Crimea and to champion his covert insurgency in east Ukraine.Disinformation about persecution of ethnic Russian minorities in the EU and Nato-member Baltic states has also been used to stir tension.Meanwhile, the Orthodox social mores mirror the Kremlin’s support of a new “Eurasian” ideology, marked by recent homophobic and misogynistic legislation, which stands in contrast to liberal Western values.Seventy percent of Greeks and more than 50 percent of Bulgarians and Romanians agreed with the statement that: “A strong Russia is necessary to balance the influence of the West”.The figure was 80 percent in Serbia, which is an EU candidate. It was 61 percent in Moldova and 52 percent in Georgia, which also want to join the EU and which host Russia-occupied breakaway territories.The figure was just 22 percent in Ukraine, where pro-Russia feelings nosedived after the invasion.Sixty nine percent of Greeks, 65 percent of Romanians, and 56 percent of Bulgarians also endorsed the idea that Russia was “obliged to protect” Orthodox believers abroad.-Ideology-Meanwhile, large majorities of people in Orthodox societies, rising to 89 percent in Greece, said their “culture was superior to others”, compared to 55 percent in Poland - the most nationalist state in the Catholic bloc.Homosexuality was seen as “morally wrong” by more than 90 percent of Georgians and Moldovans and 82 percent of Romanians, compared to 48 percent of Poles.The Pew survey also noted an “upsurge” in religious beliefs in the Orthodox bloc, compared to “secularisation” in majority-Catholic states.Seventy one percent of Russians said they were Orthodox Christians today, for instance, compared to 37 percent in 1991.But the number of Catholics fell from 96 percent to 87 percent in Poland and from 44 percent to just 21 percent in the Czech Republic in the same time period.“The Czech Republic is one of the most secular countries in Europe, with nearly three-quarters of adults (72%) describing their religion as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular”,” Pew said.-Kirill, Stalin-In other findings, Pew noted that most Orthodox believers (except those in Greece) looked to the Russian patriarch, Kirill, who is a close Putin ally, as their spiritual leader.It found that just two countries in the region - Greece (77%) and Lithuania (64%) - voiced strong endorsement of the idea that democracy was “preferable to any other form of government”.The figures in Poland (47%) and Hungary (48%), which both have illiberal parties in power despite their EU membership, fell below the half-way mark.It found that 58 percent of Russians had a positive view of Stalin, the Soviet-era dictator who killed tens of millions of people.-Amid a heated EU debate on migrant relocations, Pew also found that “On balance, acceptance of [was] Jews higher among Catholics [and] acceptance of Muslims higher among Orthodox” believers.-Nato sceptics-It also found there was “widespread scepticism” that the US would honour its Nato obligation to defend allies in the event of a “serious conflict” with Russia.Estonia and Romania were the only Nato states in the region where most people believed the US would come to their aid.But the figures were just 31 percent in Poland and 25 percent or less in Estonia and Latvia.
EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans By Loreline Merelle and Jean Comte-MAY 11,17-EUOBSERVER
Simferopol, Brussels, Today, 09:15-"I dream of making a road trip through the EU, from the Balkans to Europe with a motorbike," said Alexander, a 30-year-old inhabitant of Simferopol, Crimea's capital city.Alexander, a Crimean native with a Russian passport, voted for the peninsula's annexation by Russia away from Ukraine in a referendum in March 2014, the results of which have not been recognised by the EU.Three years later, he hopes to benefit from the visa liberalisation between Ukraine and the EU, which has been adopted by ministers on Thursday (11 May) and comes into effect in mid-June.Alexander is one of many Crimeans looking forward to the new visa-free regime, at a time when ties between the peninsula, Ukraine and Europe have become increasingly tenuous.The EU says that the liberalisation will apply to all Ukrainian citizens with a biometric passport and that there will be no travel ban for Crimean people.The issue could mean another dispute between the EU and Russia, as it could push Crimeans to continue requesting Ukrainian passports, thus belying Moscow's claim that the peninsula is now part of Russia.-Not discussed-Yet, "this question has not been specifically discussed" when the EU institutions agreed on granting Ukraine a visa waiver, Sylvia-Simone Kaufmann told EUobserver. Kaufmann follows the file for the Socialist group in the European Parliament.In its final report on the process, in December 2015, the European Commission has only mentioned that Crimea is a "territory not under control" and reiterated that the EU "condemns and does not recognises the illegal annexation of Crimea".For Crimeans, however, the road to Europe is not an easy one.As a consequence of sanctions over Crimea's annexation, flights to and from the EU and US are banned, and planes leaving Simferopol can only go to Russian cities. Crimeans must go first to Ukraine or Russia if they want to travel abroad.To enter the EU under the new regime, Crimeans will have to be in possession of a biometric Ukrainian passport delivered by the Ukrainian migration ministry from January 2015 or later - as was requested by the EU as part of the negotiations.So far, according to the Ukrainian ministry, some three million biometric passports have been issued. However, the number of the documents handed to Crimeans is unknown.But since January 2015, Ukraine has delivered 47,000 passports to Ukrainians residing in Crimea, a figure which includes old-style passports, as well as the biometric type.The path towards getting a passport is long, since Crimeans have to cross the so-called demarcation line with Ukraine, where they are checked by both Russian and Ukrainian border guards. Checks are tight and lengthy, but most of Crimean residents have no problem entering Ukraine.According to family members who spoke under the condition of anonymity, civil servant and government officials are however denied entry to Ukraine, because they are listed on Myrorovest, a non-official Ukrainian website that tracks Crimeans working for the pro-Russian authorities.Contacted by EUobserver, the Ukrainian authorities denied the allegations, while the collective behind Myrorovest declined to comment.-Russian passports-The visa issue also creates problems surrounding passports delivered by Russia.Since June 2016, consulates of EU member states in Ukraine are asked by the European Commission not to recognise, "in principle," passports issued by Russia or the Crimean authorities in place since 2014.But Russian passports were made mandatory after the peninsula was annexed. Being a Russian citizen has gradually become necessary to buy a flat or even just to get a job.Crimeans who rescind their Ukrainian passport and keep only the new Russian one cannot, in principle, request a Schengen visa. However, there is a way to bypass the rules.As the EU's non-recognition policy does not concern Russian passports delivered in Russia, many Crimeans go to Krasnodar, a few hours drive from Crimea, to request a passport that will indicate the Russian city as their place of residence, according to several of them, who spoke anonymously.Asked by EUobserver, the European Commission did not comment on whether it was aware of the trick.
Hungary and Slovakia challenge quotas at the EU's top court By Eszter Zalan-MAY 11,17-EUOBSERVER
BRUSSELS, Today, 09:30-Hungary and Slovakia challenged the EU's decision to distribute asylum seekers across the union on a mandatory quota basis at the EU's top court on Wednesday (10 May). The quotas came in the wake of the massive influxes of migrants in 2015.During a hearing at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice (ECJ), Hungary and Slovakia argued that the procedure that gave birth to the mandatory quota decision was unlawful.Faced with massive arrivals in Italy and Greece, in September 2015 EU interior ministers decided to relocate 120,000 people to other member states - based on a mandatory quota system over a period of two years.Reluctant states opposed to the idea of mandatory quotas - the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia - were outvoted by the other member states in a qualified majority vote, which weighs up factors such as population size.Hungary and Slovakia decided to challenged the decision in December 2015.On Wednesday, the two countries argued that the legislative procedure was flawed and that the European Parliament should have been involved in what ought to have been a co-decision procedure. Poland was the only EU country in the courtroom whose representatives backed the two countries' position.Hungary and Slovakia argued that the decision of the ministers was contrary to an earlier commitment made by EU leaders at the European Council.The European Commission originally suggested at the time that Hungary should also be added as a front-line member state, along with Greece and Italy.The EU executive had hoped to include Hungary, which has seen a massive number of people crossing the country on their way to Germany and Northern Europe, but Budapest rejected.Hungary argued on Wednesday that the commission should have tabled a new proposal after the country had refused it, as it became clear that relocation would take place only from Greece and Italy.The Council of the EU - backed by Germany, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Greece and the European Commission - argued however that the fundamental principle of EU solidarity was at stake.The judges had a few questions, and quizzed Hungary on the aspect of solidarity. Hungary argued that there are other means of solidarity, not only distributing migrants, and said it had spent millions of euros on border protection.Based on the 2015 decision, Hungary should have decided over 1,294 asylum cases from Greece and Italy, whereas Slovakia would have had to take in 802 people. However, Hungary and Slovakia refused to take in asylum seekers under the quota plan.The court's advocate general, Yves Bot, will issue his legal opinion on 26 July - a non-binding statement on the court's ultimate ruling. The final decision can be expected before the end of the year.None of the member states are keen on relocating asylum seekers, demonstrated by the fact that only around 18,000 people have moved from Greece and Italy in more than a year-and-a-half under the plan.If the court rules against Slovakia and Hungary, it would increase the pressure on the two Central European countries to take people in, and could lead to more legal procedures and fines.In the eventuality that the court decides that the quotas violate EU law, it would leave the bloc's migration policies in disarray.Viktor Orban and Robert Fico, the Hungarian and Slovak prime ministers (respectively), have been portraying the majority vote over their countries as an example of Brussels forcing its will upon them.Last year, Fico called the migrant quota system "politically dead".
Donald Trump says FBI chief James Comey 'was not doing a good job'-[Sky News]-Gary Anderson, News Reporter-YAHOONEWS-May 10, 2017
Donald Trump has defended his controversial sacking of James Comey - claiming the FBI director "was not doing a good job".The President met Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov at the White House on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after removing the man in charge of investigating alleged links between Trump presidential campaign officials and the Kremlin.:: Trump's Comey chaos will delight Russians-The timing of the decision sparked outrage in Washington, with Democrats in the Senate "virtually unanimous" that a special prosecutor must now be appointed to take over the Russia investigation - a step the White House insists is unnecessary.Trump administration officials have denied any link between the sacking and the FBI's inquiry - claiming it had more to do with his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email use.White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Mr Trump had considered firing Mr Comey "since the day he was elected president".She said he would meet with Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe later on Wednesday and that the administration wanted the Russia investigation to be completed to show "there is no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia".As the President delivered his withering assessment of Mr Comey's work, reports emerged that America's top law enforcement official had asked for more money and manpower for his Russia investigation in the days before he was fired.The New York Times said Mr Comey approached deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein for extra funds last week and later briefed lawmakers on the request - a report denied by the Justice Department.Vice president Mike Pence backed Mr Trump's decision to fire the FBI boss, saying the "president made the right decision at the right time".:: Did Trump fire FBI chief to cover up Russia?-Republican senator Richard Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there was no need for a special prosecutor to continue the Russia investigation.He said his committee - which has invited Mr Comey to testify at a closed session on Tuesday - had the jurisdiction and responsibility to proceed and "we are going to do that."But he admitted Mr Comey's departure could slow down the committee's work and added: "The timing of this and the reasoning for it doesn't make sense to me."The White House said the president urged Mr Lavrov to "rein in" the Assad regime in Syria during their meeting.Mr Trump said: "We had a very, very good meeting with Mr. Lavrov. We want to see the killing, the horrible killing, stopped in Syria as soon as possible and everyone is working toward that end."Mr Lavrov said the meeting with Mr Trump had been "free of the ideology" that hampered US-Russia relations during Barack Obama's time in office.He also dismissed claims of Russian meddling in US domestic politics as "fabrications".Also at the meeting was Sergey Kislyak, Russia's ambassador in the US, who has been at the centre of the intrigue surrounding Moscow's links with those close to President Trump.National security adviser Michael Flynn had to resign after lying about his contact with Mr Kislyak, while attorney general Jeff Sessions faced calls to quit after it had emerged he had failed to disclose two meetings with him.:: Shocked FBI boss thought firing was a prank-Earlier, the Russian foreign minister had sarcastically acknowledged Mr Comey's dismissal during a meeting with secretary of state Rex Tillerson.Asked by a reporter if the firing would cast a shadow over his talks, Mr Lavrov replied in a sarcastic tone: "Was he fired? You're kidding. You're kidding."Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Trump had followed up the shock sacking with a series of tweets attacking Mr Comey.The president moved to justify his decision by insisting that Mr Comey had "lost the confidence of almost everyone in Washington"."James Comey will be replaced by someone who will do a far better job, bringing back the spirit and prestige of the FBI," he wrote.As well as retweeting an article which set out "10 major FBI scandals on Comey's watch", Mr Trump accused the Democrats of hypocrisy."The Democrats have said some of the worst things about James Comey, including the fact that he should be fired, but now they play so sad!" he tweeted.
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