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06 Nov

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

English Online International Newspapers

Nearly all of these are English-edition daily newspapers. These sites have interesting editorials and essays, and many have links to other good news sources. We try to limit this list to those sites which are regularly updated, reliable, with a high percentage of “up” time.

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A scene in Alethankyaw village after houses were burned down during the unrest in Rakhine. Photo: Lun Min Mang

A scene in Alethankyaw village after houses were burned down during the unrest in Rakhine. Photo: Lun Min Mang

VOLKER Turk, the United Nations Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, on Wednesday called on Myanmar to ensure the safe voluntary return of hundreds of thousands of refugees in Bangladesh who fled from the strife-torn Rakhine state.

In a statement issued by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), Turk also called on Myanmar to provide unrestricted humanitarian access to Rakhine communities which have been badly affected by clashes between government security forces and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) since August.

Hundreds of people were killed and more than 600,000 Muslims from Rakhine fled to Bangladesh since the fighting erupted on August 25 following simultaneous attacks by ARSA fighters on nearly two dozen security forces outposts in Rakhine.

During his two-day visit in Myanmar, which concluded on Wednesday, Türk met with Myanmar’s Minister for the Office of the State Counsellor U Kyaw Tint Swe, National Security Advisor U Thaung Tun, Minister of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye, and Minister of Labour, Immigration and Population U Thein Swe.

In these meetings, the assistant high commissioner urged the government to ensure a safe environment and the protection of all communities in Rakhine.

He also called for unrestricted access so humanitarian aid agencies can provide life-saving aid and build confidence among communities in need.

Turk underscored the right of return of the refugees, appealing to the government for their safe, voluntary, and sustainable repatriation to their places of origin.

He also emphasised the need for active engagement of development stakeholders to invest in community-based programmes in Rakhine to create conditions that enable sustainable reintegration of refugees.

Turk welcomed the government’s initiative to hold a joint workshop with UNHCR on the international standards guiding voluntary repatriation on October 31.

He reaffirmed that the UNHCR is ready to support the government and said he hoped that the workshop would be a step toward involving the UN Refugee Agency in the government’s plans for voluntary repatriation.

Turk further welcomed the renewed commitment of the government to rapidly implement the recommendations of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission of Rakhine and highlighted that they provide an important road map for the way forward.

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World Politics

United States

Donald Trump makes remarks in the Oval Office as commerce secretary Wilbur Ross listens.

Donald Trump makes remarks in the Oval Office with commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, named in the Paradise Papers leak. Photograph: UPI / Barcroft Images

Democrats have called for an inquiry into Wilbur Ross’s business links to Vladimir Putin’s son-in-law, as politicians and campaigners including Jeremy Corbyn urged leaders to tackle tax avoidance systems revealed in the Paradise Papers.

Commerce secretary, is under pressure after the Guardian and international partners revealed his holding in a shipping company that does lucrative business with a firm co-owned by Kirill Shamalov, who is married to the Russian president’s daughter.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said Ross had misled Congress and the US public by concealing his ongoing stake in the company, Navigator, which has a haulage contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars with the Russian energy company Sibur.

“Only after a thorough investigation can Americans be sure Secretary Ross really has their best interests at heart,” said Blumenthal.

Ross’s Russian interests emerged from the Paradise Papers, a leak of 13m documents from 19 tax havens which shed new light on how corporations and the global elite keep their wealth in offshore jurisdictions imposing no taxes and offering secrecy. Figures including Corbyn demanded action against what his Labour party called “industrial scale” tax avoidance.

“There’s one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest when it comes to paying tax,” Corbyn said. John McDonnell, the UK shadow chancellor, said: “The PM or the chancellor need to explain how this scandal has been allowed to go on so long and what action is to be taken now.”

The leak showed that the Queen had millions of pounds worth of offshore interests, linking her to a retailer accused of exploiting poor Britons. The investments also connected the British monarch to the Threshers chain of wine shops.

Campaigners have for years asked for tougher deterrence against the use of tax havens, only to see repeated revelations about their exploitation by some of the world’s wealthiest people. On Sunday the Tax Justice Network called for the United Nations to convene a special summit where world leaders would agree to “end tax abuse and financial secrecy” with binding targets.

“These leaks confirm the systemic nature of tax abuse and corrupt practices, with global financial secrecy being marketed by major law firms, banks and accounting firms,” said Alex Cobham, chief executive of the Tax Justice Network. “Government efforts to combat this problem have been piecemeal at best.”

Oxfam said the “stunning disclosures” meant Ross and other Trump allies named in the files, including chief economic adviser Gary Cohn and secretary of state Rex Tillerson, must recuse themselves from involvement in the president’s effort to overhaul the US tax code.

“Make no mistake, this is not just another salacious leak, this is a wake-up call,” said Gawain Kripke, Oxfam America’s policy director. “The vast and real human costs of this story must not be ignored. Billions of dollars are being stashed away in paradise instead of being invested in roads, schools, and hospitals.”

Focus in the US immediately fell on Ross, whose extensive links to Russian business had already raised questions about his choice for the cabinet. Congressman Eric Swallwell, a California Democrat who sits on the House intelligence committee, said on Sunday: “This Putin connection was likely an asset for getting hired, not [a] liability.”

Congress and Robert Mueller, the special counsel, are conducting investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 US election. Ross and Trump deny any collusion occurred between Moscow and Trump’s campaign.

Blumenthal sits on the Senate commerce committee, which voted in February to approve Ross’s nomination by Trump. Members were apparently not aware that the 79-year-old billionaire had retained a stake in Navigator, and Ross faced no questions over the arrangements.

Raja Krishnamoorthi?, a Democrat congressman from Illinois, said: “Wilbur Ross’s ties to the Putin regime are extremely troubling and so is the fact that they weren’t disclosed to the Senate before his confirmation.”

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The leak of 13.4m documents shows the scale of the offshore empire and involves everyone from the Queen to Facebook

What are the Paradise Papers?

The name refers to a leak of 13.4m files. Most of the documents – 6.8m – relate to a law firm and corporate services provider that operated together in 10 jurisdictions under the name Appleby. Last year, the “fiduciary” arm of the business was the subject of a management buyout and it is now called Estera.

What are the Paradise Papers? – video

There are also details from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in secrecy jurisdictions – Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Cook Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Labuan, Lebanon, Malta, the Marshall Islands, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, and Vanuatu.

The papers cover the period from 1950 to 2016.

How many media organisations have been looking at the data?

The Guardian is one of 96 media partners in the project. A total of 381 journalists from 67 countries have been analysing the material.

Who got the documents – and how?

The leaks were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which also received the Panama Papers last year. Süddeutsche Zeitung shared the material with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a US-based organisation that coordinated the global collaboration. Süddeutsche Zeitung has not, and will not, discuss issues around sourcing.

Do the Paradise Papers focus on companies or individuals?

Both. They are united by one thing – money. Some of the world’s biggest multinationals feature in the leak, including Apple, Nike and Facebook, as well as some of the richest people in the world, from the Queen to Bono, and from the stars of British sitcoms to the stars who grace Hollywood Boulevard.

What do the documents show?

The files show the offshore empire is bigger and more complicated than most people thought. And even companies such as Appleby, which prides itself on being a standard bearer in the field, have fallen foul of the regulators that try to police the industry.

The files set out the myriad ways in which companies and individuals can avoid tax using artificial structures. These schemes are legal if run correctly. But many appear not to be. And politicians around the world are beginning to ask whether they should be banned. Are they fair? Are they moral?

A fundamental question posed by the Paradise Papers is: has tax avoidance in all its guises gone too far?

What does Appleby say?

The firm has denied any wrongdoing, either by itself or by any of its clients. But it has conceded that it is not infallible and has tried to learn from its mistakes. The company has agreed to take part in any formal inquiries that come out of the disclosures. Estera has declined to comment.

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With half a million Rohingya refugees under the age of 18 in Bangladeshi camps, it has been labelled a ‘children’s crisis’

A Rohingya boy is brought to a lost-and-found booth in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

A Rohingya boy is brought to a lost-and-found booth in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photograph: Poppy McPherson for the Guardian

The lost boy wails. Tears stream down his face as he looks around, frantic.

“I found him by the main road, so I brought him here,” says a middle-aged Rohingya woman who cradles the toddler in her arms and gestures towards a shack made from wood and corrugated iron.

A Bengali sign translated in rough English reads: “If you lost your familys any members. Then you can publicity here with out any money.”

But the shack, once a lost-and-found booth for separated families, is closed. The woman is told to try using the microphone at a makeshift mosque to make an announcement, but the boy is too young to know his name.

They disappear into the crowd.

Close to one million Rohingya are now living in mud huts, tents and under sheets of tarpaulin in the refugee camps outside the Bangladeshi port town of Cox’s Bazar.

The majority have arrived since August, when Myanmar security forces launched a crackdown in northern Rakhine state that the United Nations has said amounts to ethnic cleansing of the long-reviled Rohingya Muslim minority.

Soldiers, sometimes together with police and local Buddhists, are accused of massacres, gang-rape and arson under the guise of hunting militants.

More than half of those who have fled are children, the United Nations Children’s Fund says. They dominate the camps. The stronger ones lug bags of food and piles of wood on their shoulders, and splash in dirty streams; others sweat out fevers in dusty huts and languish with bellies swollen by malnutrition.

In an interview with the Guardian last week, Elhadj As Sy, a top official with the Red Cross, called the situation a “crisis of children”.

In an indication of both the chaotic nature of the exodus and the high death toll, 40,000 are believed to be without at least one parent according to the European Union. Some are orphans while others were lost during the journey from Myanmar or in the sprawling camps.

Fears of trafficking are high and aid workers say several Rohingya have been approached by people offering to buy children.

“There is no official overall number, but we suspect thousands [of children] are likely to be living with extended families or members of their community,” says Rik Goverde, a communications manager at Save the Children, which is housing a small number of the most vulnerable children.

Kamal Hossain, who ran a lost-and-found booth for separated Rohingya families in Kutupalong camp, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photograph: Poppy McPherson for the Guardian

Before it closed in mid-October, the lost-and-found booth was bombarded with requests. Kamal Hossain, one of 300,000 Rohingya who have been in Bangladesh since a previous wave of violence in the 1990s, set up the makeshift centre after finding a baby crying outside the gate of Handicap International, where he works as a security guard. He was able to reunite her with her mother by renting a microphone and calling out her name.

Word spread and, in less than two months Hossain received about 1,500 reports of missing people, the majority children. He was able to reunite about half before he shut the booth down for lack of funds. “I am just a volunteer, I am just a guard,” he says. “I’m uneducated. I need some help like people who can read. I need a salary.”

But desperate people continue to show up looking for answers in his notebooks, filled with the names of the missing. “I’m feeling very stressed now,” he says. “When the centre was open, any separated person could be joined. Now I don’t know what will happen to those lost people.

‘I couldn’t carry them all’

Many may never find their relatives. The dead in Myanmar remain uncounted but Human Rights Watch estimates it to be in the thousands. United Nations investigators said last week the number killed could be “extremely high”.

At the bleak edges of the biggest camp, Kutupalong, where the newer arrivals are camped, four siblings sit in silence, sorrow etched on their faces.

“My parents died in Myanmar. Killed. We were at our home when the military came to attack,” the eldest, Sofara, who is eight, says as she cradles two-year-old Jikara in her lap. At this, the baby starts to wail. Sobs wrack her tiny, naked body and she buries her nose deeper into her sister’s arms.

Their uncle, Kabir Ahmed, a quiet man dressed in a longyi and a Myanmar football shirt, explains that his brother Jafar – their father – was shot dead when soldiers blockaded their village, Boli Fara in Maungdaw township, and stopped residents from leaving.

Families were starving, he says. Jafar had tried to sneak out to go fishing but was caught. They buried his body.

When soldiers came and started burning houses in mid-September, his sister-in-law, the children’s mother, had just given birth and was too weak to flee. In the chaos his sister-in-law, who Ahmed describes as beautiful and loving, was left behind. Later, he heard the whole village had been razed. They raped women too, Ahmed says.

Guilt haunts him. “I couldn’t carry them all,” he says, pressing his fingers into his temples and choking back tears. “She was lying there. Everybody was fleeing. We didn’t have any relatives to ask to carry her. ” He begged her to get up and try to walk. “I don’t know if she heard,” he says. “I didn’t look back. I had to move to save our lives.”

‘I miss my parents so much’

While many of the orphaned and separated children have been taken in by neighbours or relatives, others arrived in Bangladesh alone.

In a centre run by Save the Children, 14-year-old Fatima, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, recounts how she was at home with her father, a village chairman in Maungdaw township when soldiers came for him.

“The military said, ‘Come with us. We have something to discuss with you,’” she says. She fled from the house and went to stay with her grandmother.

Her story cannot be independently verified, but tallies with many Rohingya interviewed by the Guardian who say their relatives were taken away for meetings from which they never returned. The army strongly denies the accusations, framing the fighting in Rakhine as a legitimate struggle against a nascent Rohingya militancy

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Ousted president of Catalonia and four former ministers await decision on extradition to Spain after 10-hour hearing

A Belgian judge has released the ousted Catalan leader, Carles Puigdemont, and four of his ministers on bail after a hearing lasting more than 10 hours.

Puigdemont, who faces charges of misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of trust relating to the secessionist campaign, turned himself in to Belgian police earlier on Sunday.

The judge decided to grant them conditional release late in the evening pending a ruling by a court within the next 15 days whether to execute the European arrest warrant issued by Spain. The five have been told they must not leave the country and stay in a fixed address.

“The request made by the Brussels’ Prosecutor’s Office for the provisional release of all persons sought has been granted by the investigative judge,” a statement from the federal prosecutor’s office said.

On Friday, the Spanish government had issued European arrest warrants against Puigdemont, Antoni Comín, Clara Ponsatí, Meritxell Serret and Lluís Puig for trying to “illegally change the organisation of the state through a secessionist process that ignores the constitution”.

The formal charges, punishable by 30 years in prison, are rebellion, sedition, embezzlement of public funds and disobedience to authority, for their role in organising the referendum on Catalan independence on 1 October.

The secessionist politicians fled to Belgium on Monday after the Spanish authorities removed Puigdemont and his cabinet from office for pushing ahead with a declaration of independence following an illegal referendum.

From his self-imposed exile, Puigdemont claimed he would not receive a fair trial in Spain but promised to cooperate with the Belgian justice system.

The Belgian secretary of state for migration, Theo Francken, a Flemish nationalist, suggested shortly before their arrival that it was realistic to think that Belgium could offer the Catalan leadership political asylum.

The five presented themselves to the judicial police in Brussels at 9.17am on Sunday…………….From arrest to extradition, the entire process could take up to three months to complete, including time for likely appeals.

Such a delay would give Puigdemont the opportunity to participate in the snap regional election called by Spain’s government for Catalonia on 21 December.

A senior official of Puigdemont’s party, the centre-right Democratic party of Catalonia, said on Sunday this was the party’s intention.

A spokesman for the Spanish government, Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, has said that any politician can run in the election unless he or she has been convicted of a crime.

Pro-union parties are seeking to rally support to win back control of the regional parliament in Barcelona, while pro-secession parties are debating whether or not to form one grand coalition for the upcoming ballot. The parties have until Tuesday to register as coalitions or they must run separately.

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