Venice residents to stage canal-bank protest over cruise ship invasionSeptember 20, 2013
Residents of the beautiful, fragile city of Venice are preparing to stage a canal-bank protest on Saturday over an invasion of up to 13 cruise ships in the space of 24 hours, which they say will turn St Mark’s Basin into a motorway.
The particularly busy weekend, apparently caused by a quirk in the cruise ship calendar, has reignited growing fears over the impact the vessels are having on the city and the alleged risk they pose to its infrastructure and inhabitants.
The groundswell of popular consternation has swept up Adriano Celentano, one of Italy’s most famous singers, who took out a page in the country’s biggest-selling daily newspaper to voice his anger.
"Tomorrow will not be a nice day for our city, even if the sun is out," declared the 75-year-old in an advert in Corriere della Sera, half of which was taken up with a black and white photograph of himself.
"With the ignoble procession of 13 ships in the Venice lagoon comes the Eternal Funeral of the world’s beauties," he added.
Celentano is far from alone in his concern.
Silvio Testa, spokesman for the No Big Ships (No Grandi Navi) committee, which has been fighting against the rising traffic of cruise ships in Venice, has called on residents to attend a vigorous protest on the narrow Giudecca canal – a strip that cruise ships sail down daily, usually in far smaller numbers.
"We want to say ‘enough’ to this situation," Testa told La Nuova Venezia newspaper. "St Mark’s Basin is like a motorway. Soon we’ll have to put traffic lights up."
An estimated 40,000 tourists will be brought into Venice on board the cruise ships on Saturday and Sunday. Some view the influx of visitors as a much-needed economic boost, with tourists spending and thousands of locals employed in jobs related to the industry. But others fear the shiploads of tourists encourage a “Disney-fication” of their city – already one of the most visited in Europe. The number of tourists arriving in Venice on board cruise ships rose from below 100,000 passengers in 1999 to 1.7 million in 2012.
In a year that has seen the wrecked Costa Concordia languish off the coast of Giglio and a container ship crash into a tower in the port of Genoa, meanwhile, there are also concerns about the safety of the huge so-called floating palaces.
Earlier this summer, a large ship was alleged to have come within 20 metres of the shore and almost squashed a vaporetto, or water bus. Owner Carnival denied the incident, saying the report was mistaken and photographs had distorted the distances involved.
But Italy’s environment minister, Andrea Orlando, has said that in general the issue is cause for concern. “As much as there may be a high level of professionalism in the controls and in the management of the traffic, there is always a margin of risk,” he told La Stampa newspaper last week. Convinced that something needs to change, he has invited the various parties to present their suggested solutions to the government.
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Venice residents to stage canal-bank protest over cruise ship invasion
September 20, 2013

Residents of the beautiful, fragile city of Venice are preparing to stage a canal-bank protest on Saturday over an invasion of up to 13 cruise ships in the space of 24 hours, which they say will turn St Mark’s Basin into a motorway.

The particularly busy weekend, apparently caused by a quirk in the cruise ship calendar, has reignited growing fears over the impact the vessels are having on the city and the alleged risk they pose to its infrastructure and inhabitants.

The groundswell of popular consternation has swept up Adriano Celentano, one of Italy’s most famous singers, who took out a page in the country’s biggest-selling daily newspaper to voice his anger.

"Tomorrow will not be a nice day for our city, even if the sun is out," declared the 75-year-old in an advert in Corriere della Sera, half of which was taken up with a black and white photograph of himself.

"With the ignoble procession of 13 ships in the Venice lagoon comes the Eternal Funeral of the world’s beauties," he added.

Celentano is far from alone in his concern.

Silvio Testa, spokesman for the No Big Ships (No Grandi Navi) committee, which has been fighting against the rising traffic of cruise ships in Venice, has called on residents to attend a vigorous protest on the narrow Giudecca canal – a strip that cruise ships sail down daily, usually in far smaller numbers.

"We want to say ‘enough’ to this situation," Testa told La Nuova Venezia newspaper. "St Mark’s Basin is like a motorway. Soon we’ll have to put traffic lights up."

An estimated 40,000 tourists will be brought into Venice on board the cruise ships on Saturday and Sunday. Some view the influx of visitors as a much-needed economic boost, with tourists spending and thousands of locals employed in jobs related to the industry. But others fear the shiploads of tourists encourage a “Disney-fication” of their city – already one of the most visited in Europe. The number of tourists arriving in Venice on board cruise ships rose from below 100,000 passengers in 1999 to 1.7 million in 2012.

In a year that has seen the wrecked Costa Concordia languish off the coast of Giglio and a container ship crash into a tower in the port of Genoa, meanwhile, there are also concerns about the safety of the huge so-called floating palaces.

Earlier this summer, a large ship was alleged to have come within 20 metres of the shore and almost squashed a vaporetto, or water bus. Owner Carnival denied the incident, saying the report was mistaken and photographs had distorted the distances involved.

But Italy’s environment minister, Andrea Orlando, has said that in general the issue is cause for concern. “As much as there may be a high level of professionalism in the controls and in the management of the traffic, there is always a margin of risk,” he told La Stampa newspaper last week. Convinced that something needs to change, he has invited the various parties to present their suggested solutions to the government.

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Big news in pay-for-delay: Pharmaceutical companies across the world caught paying generic companies to not offer affordable medicine to sick people
June 27, 2013

Last week, two important cases involving the “pay-for-delay” of generic drugs were decided in the US and EU.

The European Commission fined various pharmaceutical companies, most notably Lundbeck, to the tune of 143 million euro for delaying generic forms of Celexa, a name brand, blockbuster antidepressant drug. Here in the US, it was a delayed generic form of testosterone gel that was at the center of a Supreme Court case judging whether certain types of pharma settlements ought to be evaluated for anti-competitive elements, in essence, whether they are subject to antitrust laws.

It’s a clunky, jargon-filled pill to swallow. Here’s how it works:

Pay-for-delay occurs when brand-name drug manufacturers offer financial incentives—one might call them bribes—to generic manufacturers in order to prevent generic drugs from entering the market. However, this practice plays out neither in secret nor behind-closed-doors. It has been happening right out in the open, and it’s only now that some cases are being decided against what at first glance seems to violate the entire spirit of free market competition.

Why wouldn’t generic drug manufacturers want to enter the marketplace? Many consumers would jump at a lower-cost drug option. Besides, generic drugs already bottle up billions of dollars anually. What’s going on is a knotty exploitation of certain patent provisions paired with fairly overt anti-competition aims. The result is the practice of “reverse payment settlements,” a term almost Orwellian in its absurdity.

I can apply to manufacture a generic version of, say, Adderall XR, as Novartis did in 2008, claiming that Shire, the innovators and patent holders of everyone’s favorite study drug, no longer hold a valid patent. Drug companies often augment a small element of their delivery system, then request a patent extension. In this case, Shire had “amended its claims and retracted the alleged disclaimer of pH-independent coatings” in 2001, requesting an extension of their patent. So basically they changed the coating. Hardly revolutionary.

To that claim, Novartis fired back, to paraphrase, with That’s bullshit. Your patent should have expired and you’ve extended it on a technicality. We plan to manufacture a generic version of Adderall XR. But then Shire sued Novaris for patent infringement, spurring the FDA to put a 30-month hold on the generic drug’s application the two companies can litigate—in this case, the standard length of time to postpone generics.

At the center of the controversy in the Supreme Court case here was AndrogGel, a brand of testosterone gel with a patent held by Solvay. Synthetic testosterone was first isolated in the 1930s—that’s far too old for patent protection—so Solvay had focused on their delivery system, a gel. Though there can certainly be propriety features to a gel, it’s among one of the more difficult innovations to defend. This was a perfect example of a weak patent that could be invalidated by litigation with generic companies.

Solvay contended, however, that they would lose 90 percent of their AndroGel sales, a loss of $135 million, if the drug went generic. Instead of generic companies pushing forward in court, a settlement was reached where Solvay paid the generic companies to drop the suit.

Over and over, generic makers would challenge the validity of patents set to expire in the future. Then, the patent holders would sue them for infringement and they would go to court. They would settle out of court—typical of high-cost cases. But what raised some eyebrows was that these “reverse payment settlements” kept happening; the flow of money was reverse of what was expected. The patent holders would pay huge sums of money to the generic companies they were suing in the first place. That makes as much sense as my suing my employers for sexual harassment, but then paying them a million dollars.

In these cases generic drugs are delayed, prices for the drug remain artificially high, patent holders enjoy months or years more of exclusivity, and the generic manufacturers get money for doing nothing. Everyone is happy. Except the sick & dying people who need affordable medication.

A 2010 report by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that over $20 billion in name-brand drug sales were then shielded by pay-for-delay settlements. This delay of generics cost consumers $3.5 billion that year. From fiscal year 2004 to 2008, the FTC flagged 66 cases where financial settlement from the brand to generic was combined with a delay of generics to the marketplace. The average delay in a pay-for-delay scenario was 17 months longer than patent litigation absent a financial settlement from brand to generic. Though that might not seem extremely long, for a spread of drugs that net hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue per year, it’s both a huge profit for the company and a huge cost to consumers who already struggle under the burden of increasing healthcare costs.

While the Supreme Court decision was a step in the right direction for more available generics, it didn’t outright prohibit these types of deals. Some patent litigation between generics and brands is helpful and important. It’s now up to various courts to wade throough piles of settlements to determine which are legitimate, and which are blatant attempts to stifle competition.

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Pay-for-delay is a sick, dangerous and evil process. Artificially raising the price of medication is super-villain evil. 

Kenyan people victoriously pressure legislators to agree to lower pay after outcry against unfair self-promoting politicians
June 12, 2013

Kenyan legislators have agreed to lower salaries, a government commission said Wednesday, after weeks of demanding higher pay which sparked off public outcry and protests. The Salaries and Remuneration Commission said they have agreed with parliament that its members will get around $75,000 and not the around $120,000 a year salary that legislators of the previous parliament earned.

The legislators also will get a one-off $59,000 car grant to buy a vehicle of their choice and can claim mileage under the local Automobile Association rates. According to a statement from the salaries commission, the agreement was reached Monday.

Average income in Kenya is about $1,800 a year, which has fueled rage over the legislators’ salaries.

On Tuesday, activists spilled cow blood outside parliament buildings, calling members of parliament or MPs, MPigs and branding parliament “a piggy bank.”

Activists celebrated the agreement between parliament and the salaries commission.

"It’s people power. The people have won," said activist Boniface Mwangi who has organized protests over the pay dispute. "This battle was a fight between the 349 legislators and the 42 million Kenyans and the Kenyans won," Mwangi said. "I don’t think they are going to try and raise their salaries again."

The legislators, who were elected on March 4, had threatened in April to disband the salaries commission for reducing their salaries. Last month, MPs voted to overturn a directive that reduced their pay, hoping it would force the government to pay the higher salaries earned by the previous parliament whose term ended in January.

But the salaries commission warned government officials not to pay the higher salaries saying it was illegal, and that anyone who authorized the payment could be charged with abuse of office.

Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 that intended to remove parliament’s powers to set their own pay, instead giving the remuneration commission the power to determine salaries for all public servants. Earlier this year, the commission cut the president’s annual pay from around $340,000 to $185,000.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission has argued that although Kenya was among the world’s poorer economies, its legislators were earning more than those in France.

Many Kenyans see their legislators as lazy and greedy in a country where hundreds of thousands live in slums. Legislators often argue that they need high salaries to give hand-outs to poor constituents for school fees and hospital bills.

The efforts by the members of parliament to raise their salaries sparked public protests including one last month in which pigs were released outside parliament.

In January, Mwangi organized the burning of 221 coffins outside parliament to protest the attempt by the MPs to give themselves a bonus at the end of their term.

The decision to reduce the pay for legislators came after a public outcry when the previous parliament attempted to raise their salaries to $175,000 annually and award themselves a $110,000 bonus at the end of their terms.

The salaries commission says Kenya can’t afford the bill for government salaries, especially since parliament expanded from 222 to 349 members in March, and new positions of 67 senators and 47 governors and their staff were created.

When newly elected President Uhuru Kenyatta opened parliament in mid-April, he told legislators that the bill for government salaries came to 12 percent of GDP, above the internationally accepted level of 7 percent. Kenyatta said 50 percent of revenue collected by government went to pay government salaries.

Kenyatta urged the MPs to grow the economy before they demand higher salaries.

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Essentially, the administration is saying that without any individual suspicion of wrongdoing, the government is allowed to know whom Americans are calling every time they make a phone call, for how long they talk and from where.

This sort of tracking can reveal a lot of personal and intimate information about an individual. To casually permit this surveillance — with the American public having no idea that the executive branch is now exercising this power — fundamentally shifts power between the individual and the state, and it repudiates constitutional principles governing search, seizure and privacy.

The defense of this practice offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee is supposed to be preventing this sort of overreaching, was absurd. She said on Thursday that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future.

President Obama’s Dragnet

See also: Dan Roberts and Spencer Ackerman, “Senator Feinstein: NSA phone call data collection in place ‘since 2006’" (June 6, 2013)

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Submitted by: DashielSheen

Walmart employees gather in Bentonville to show shareholders they will NOT back down, despite severe intimidation from the corrupt corporation
June 3, 2013

Striking workers protested outside Walmart’s home office in Bentonville Monday morning (June 3) as corrupt shareholders began arriving in town for this year’s annual shareholders meeting.

A Walmart spokesman lied, claiming that not all protesters are associates (as if that makes Walmarts’ heinous policies any less horrific), however the protesters report that they are all Walmart employees, and have made clear that they are protesting because they want higher wages, better benefits and more respect from the capitalist juggernaut. 

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Aam Aadmi Party workers today protested outside residences of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and local MLAs on the issues of rising prices of power and water, and women’s safety in the national capital. 
May 19, 2013

While demonstrating outside the CM’s residence, some workers were detained and sent to Tuglak Road Police Station, a statement released by Aam Aadmi Party said. AAP workers claimed that a number of volunteers were injured during police action at the time of the protest. 

"In Shahdara, AAP volunteers, including several women and children, were hurt when they were protesting outside Congress MLA Narendra Nath’s residence. Around 20 volunteers were detained by the police outside his house and taken to Farsh Bazar Station," the statement said. 

When AAP volunteers tried to gherao local MLA and senior Congress leader Kiran Walia’s house in Malviya Nagar, they were detained by police and taken to local police station, it said. Workers, who went to meet area MLA in Gandhi Nagar, were arrested and taken to Kalyanpuri Police station when they tried to confront their MLA, the statement said. MLAs refused to meet the AAP workers, the statement added.

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Aam Aadmi Party is an Indian political party launched on 26 November 2012. ‘Aam Aadmi’ in Hindi means ‘Common Man’. The name was adopted by the Party as it aims to represent common Wo/man of India and to bring political power back into the people’s hands. One of the party’s primary vision is to realize the dream of ‘SWARAJ’ or ‘Self-governance’ that Mahatma Gandhi had envisaged for a free India - where the power of governance and rights of democracy will be in the hands of the people of India.

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An Indonesian court has ruled indigenous people have the right to manage forests where they live, a move which supporters said prevents the government from handing over community-run land to businesses.
May 17, 2013

Disputes between indigenous groups and companies have become increasingly tense in recent years, as soaring global demand for commodities like palm oil has seen plantations encroach on forests. In Thursday’s ruling, Constitutional Court judges said that a 1999 law should be changed so it no longer defines forest that has been inhabited by indigenous groups for generations as “state forest”, according to court documents.

"Indigenous Indonesians have the right to log their forests and cultivate the land for their personal needs, and the needs of their families," judge Muhammad Alim said as he handed down the ruling, state news agency Antara reported.

While environmentalists welcomed the ruling, they warned it could unintentionally lead to an upsurge in disputes between authorities and communities over the classification of indigenous land. In March, seven villagers were shot in northern Sumatra, where a dispute over a forest claimed by both the community and government has been simmering since 1998.

The National People’s Indigenous Organisation filed the challenge to the 1999 law, which has let officials sell permits allowing palm oil, paper, mining and timber companies to exploit their land. The group said Friday’s ruling affected 40 million hectares (98 million acres) of forest - slightly larger than Japan, and 30 per cent of Indonesia’s forest coverage. Despite their living there, the area was legally classified as “customary forest”, a term that describes forests that have been inhabited by indigenous people for a long time.

"About 40 million indigenous people are now the rightful owners of our customary forests," said the group’s chief Abdon Nababan.

Stepi Hakim, Indonesia director of the Clinton Climate Initiative, said the ruling would give legal grounds for indigenous communities to challenge businesses operating in their forests, but this could lead to a string of new disputes. “As soon as this policy is delivered, local governments have to be ready to mitigate conflicts,” he said.

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The Bulgarian winter or protests against corruption, poor living conditions & high energy costs
March 16, 2013

From the beginning of February, Bulgarians in most big cities have been out in the streets, protesting against the increased electricity and heating bills. While the increase has happened gradually throughout 2012, in January 2013 the bills were considerably bigger than they would normally get. The price formation was transparently written down on the bill, but what angered many is that a significant amount of money was charged not for energy per se but for various taxes and tariffs.

Bills and bonds

A wave of contention spread throughout the country, resulting in blockades of roads, barricades, increasing popular rage and police violence. Three men died having set fire to themselves in protest at the bills and the subservience of the state to economic interests. One old man cut his veins out of sheer desperation over his electricity bill. The protesters were mostly rank-and-file Bulgarians: middle-aged men and women, young couples with children and students all went out on the streets to voice their concerns over high energy costs, mediocre living standards and perceived corruption. The protests were also joined and partly hijacked by a number of extreme-right groups, who were ready to exploit the situation for harassment and looting.

The solution offered by many intellectuals, politicians from throughout the political spectrum and the media, was – surprise, surprise – the end of monopolies and further privatization and liberalization of the energy market.

This posture disappointed many, as the whole process is actually a showcase example of how privatized entities function poorly outside state control. The national power distribution companies were privatized in 2005 and then sold out to foreign companies under very favourable conditions. This move made the state – i.e. taxpayers – indebted to the private companies, which held prices high with a cartel agreement.

Yet, it was not the monopoly in general that was a problem: the issue was eclipsed by the amnesia of 23 years of transition to a market economy. It was the monopoly in the hands of uncontrollable private companies within a free market economy with no state regulation or protection that has left the population totally vulnerable to price hikes. The clamour around the energy bills also eclipsed some contradictory actions of the Borisov government. To calm down grain producers who also threatened nation-wide protests, populist Borisov promised new subsidies. Consequently, days before his resignation, Borisov pressed Finance Minister Dyankov to issue government bonds for 800 mio lev (€409 mio). Thanks to the unexpected shock for the national economy, and to the surprise of the international markets, the country’s bond yields started to rise and the value of the Bulgarian debt went down. But it was mostly Bulgarian banks who bought most (over 80%) of the bonds, raising suspicions of a deal to help Borisov’s reelection.

The crisis becomes political

Bills and bonds aside, the crisis of political representation had started. After a few nights of running battles between police and protesters, the government made an attempt to offer some blatantly unsustainable concessions: they offered a significant decrease of energy prices and transparency of the energy sector.

A few “protesters” coming from circles close to the government called for the protests to stop, to little effect. The people demanded Borisov’s resignation. After a night of violent clashes with the police, Borisov filed his resignation, saying he could not tolerate blood on his hands. The resignation was almost unanimously approved by parliament.

President Rossen Plevneliev launched “public consultations” to find a way out of the political crisis and form a new government. In his office, along with representatives of the protesters, he invited neoliberal think-tank experts and members of oligarchic and commercial organizations. The protesters soon walked out. Plevneliev offered the mandate only to the three parties which had previously proposed to form a government: Borisov’s centre-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB), social-democratic Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), and the Turkish ethnic Movement for Rights and Freedoms party (DPS) – all refused. This meant the dissolution of the Parliament, the calling of new elections in May and the appointment by the President of an interim “expert” government.

This outcome didn’t satisfy the protesters, who saw it as a convenient way for the current government to gain time to erase their record of corruption and avoid investigation or persecution. And this government shows no intention of reforming electoral laws ahead of the elections, when the current electoral code makes it exceptionally difficult for small parties to run for office.

People did not leave the streets. Demands for the electricity bills to be lowered were soon followed by more radical claims: a new Constitutive Assembly, elections by majority vote with no parties, only individual candidates, and the revision of all privatization deals and concessions of the last 20 years.

Full article

Outraged about poverty & corruption, 50,000 demonstrate in Varna - tens of thousands more across dozens of cities in Bulgaria
March 3, 2013

Tens of thousands of Bulgarians furious over poverty and corruption protested in more than a dozen cities on Sunday, as a lack of clear support for any political party mired the country in limbo days after the government was toppled.

Prime Minister Boiko Borisov quit along with his centre-right government on Wednesday after two weeks of sometimes violent protests. He remains in office until an interim government is appointed, most likely next week, which will take Bulgaria to elections due on May 12.

However Bulgarians are still struggling to unite behind a single political leader or give voice to a clear set of demands.

Polls suggest neither Borisov’s rightist GERB party nor the opposition Socialist Party has enough support for an overall majority, and whichever wins the election will have to try to assemble a coalition to form a working government.

Thousands of people took to the streets of cities including the capital Sofia, Plovdiv, Burgas, Blagoevgrad, Ruse and Sliven on Sunday - a national holiday. In the biggest rally, about 50,000 protested in the Black Sea city of Varna, local media reported.

"It is obvious that the protesters are not united and this could very quickly destroy the enthusiasm of the people," said Georgi Trendafilov, a demonstrator in Sofia downtown.

Six years after joining the European Union, Bulgaria trails far behind other members. Its justice system is subject to special monitoring and it is excluded from the passport-free Schengen zone because of other members’ concerns about graft.

The country’s public debt is one of the lowest in the bloc but business cartels, corruption and wages that are less than half the EU average, have kept many from feeling the benefit.

It also has the cheapest electricity costs in the EU but an increase in prices since last July under an energy market liberalisation has made it harder for Bulgarians to heat their homes through a cold winter.

Power Protests

The demonstrations began with a handful of youngsters protesting against high electricity bills. Eventually, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians took to the streets, angered by their low living standards.

President Rosen Plevneliev said an interim government would aim for stability by sticking to the 2013 budget, which foresees a deficit of 1.3 percent of GDP, and implementing previous commitments such as a 9 percent increase in pensions from April.

He also said he would set up a 35-member public council to advise the interim government and re-present the people’s interests. But consultations for the establishment of the council at the presidency collapsed on Saturday.

Representatives of protesters, objecting to the inclusion of some wealthy businessmen, walked out of the talks. They said they could not “sit at the same table with those they were fighting”.

"We are going out to fight until the end, we will not negotiate with oligarchs," said Angel Slavchev, one of the leaders of the demonstrations. A trade union leader also quit, objecting to the composition of the council.

Earlier this week, Borisov, described as “a lone player” by analysts, dismissed the idea of a governing national unity coalition and said such a move could benefit nationalist parties such as far-right Attack.

Support for Borisov’s rightist GERB party has fallen over the last year, and it is now neck-and-neck with the opposition Socialist Party.

Just before resigning, Borisov had proposed to cut electricity prices by 8 percent and alarmed investors by saying the government would revoke the distribution licence of the Czech utility CEZ, risking a diplomatic row with the Czech Republic and EU.

The energy regulator proposed a smaller, 6.4 percent cut on Friday, a few days after CEZ and the other two distributors, Austria’s EVN and the Czech firm Energo-Pro, said they had done nothing wrong.

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Guinea protesters continue to clash with oppressive security forces
February 28, 2013

Guinea security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas at thousands of anti-government protesters in the seaside capital Conakry on Wednesday in clashes that wounded more than two dozen people, sources said.

The violence in the West African state is a result of soaring tensions ahead of a parliamentary election the opposition says is being rigged by the administration of President Alpha Conde.

"We don’t know how it started, but the security forces charged the crowd and fired tear gas," said Ousmane Camara, a Conakry resident at the protest in the city’s Hamdallaye neighborhood, an opposition stronghold.

Another witness said security forces had wounded at least two people, including a child, with live rounds and were using truncheons to push back other demonstrators, who threw stones and chunks of concrete, and set fire to tires.

A security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that 16 police and gendarmes had been admitted to hospital with wounds after the initial clashes. Sources said injuries among the protesters were likely higher.

It was unclear if there were any dead, and witnesses said demonstrations were ongoing.

Guinea’s opposition coalition had called for widespread protests in Conakry after announcing last week it would boycott preparations for long-delayed legislative polls, claiming the run up to the vote was flawed.

The election set for May 12 is intended to be the last step in Guinea’s transition to civilian rule after two years under a violent army junta following the death of long-time leader Lansana Conte in 2008.

President Alpha Conde won a 2010 presidential election in the world’s top supplier of bauxite, the raw material in aluminium, but delays in the legislative vote have deepened a political deadlock and led to intermittent violence.

The opposition says the elections commission chose the poll date unilaterally and that two companies contracted to update voter rolls have skewed the lists in Conde’s favor. They also want Guineans living abroad to be allowed to vote.

Thousands of people had participated in peaceful protests across Guinea last week in support of opposition demands. The parliamentary poll was originally due to be held in 2011 but has already been delayed four times.

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The uprising in Slovenia: Europe’s latest popular challenge to austerity & corruptionFebruary 20, 2013
During the crisis in Europe we’ve seen democracy harmed by the power of financial markets. Take Greece and Italy, where investors essentially decided who would become those countries’ banker-prime ministers without so much as consulting the citizenry. In this kind of anti-democratic climate, protesters despite their growing numbers remained unheard.
This time, though, as mass demonstrations grow into the tens of thousands in recent weeks, people in Slovenia have a chance to make a difference.
This small country of 2 million, lodged in the middle of Europe, belonged to Yugoslavia until 1989 though today it is more similar economically to its northern neighbor Austria than to other post-Yugoslav republics. Slovenians joined the European Union in 2004 and the Euro-zone in 2007.
With an export-oriented economy that has done quite well, Slovenia became something of an example for other countries to follow. It inherited certain social characteristics from the former Yugoslavia, which enabled it to share common goods relatively equally and keep the income gap small; meanwhile, its solidly democratic foundations provided wide legislative representation.
But the dark days arrived here too after September 15, 2008 and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Slovenia’s export-driven economy couldn’t protect itself against the recession that hit other European countries, and many companies went bankrupt. According to the National Bank of Slovenia, the percentage of all unpaid credits as a result of companies which sank and failed to pay back loans is 13 percent; other economists say the number could be as high as 25 percent.
In short, Slovenia may soon be the next EU member in need of a bailout.
This comes at a time when the situation for ordinary people is worsening as the unemployment rate has climbed to 12.2 percent. Meanwhile, a political impasse over the last year enabled Janez Janša and his right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party to form a government that subsequently started to decrease public spending.
Social programs that help the unemployed, students and retirees have started, like elsewhere, to be cut. Under the growing pressure of austerity, vocal groups of protestors are now appearing in the streets—most recently, from an unexpected turn of events.
Last October, Franc Kangler, the mayor of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, decided to build a speed camera system throughout the city and its neighborhoods. Speed traps were imposed by a private-public partnership, and within the first few days the system detected 25,000 traffic offenses. People were outraged—even more so when they discovered that only 8% of the fines were transferred to the city budget. The rest, 92 percent, went to the private company.
The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, an independent state body, accused Kangler of violating the law and began an investigation into the speed camera contract. Meanwhile, 10 of the city’s 30 speed traps were physically destroyed during protests—the biggest of which took place on Dec. 3, when 20,000 people amassed and demanded Kangler’s resignation.
Three days later, amid ongoing protests and unyielding accusations of corruption, Kangler stepped down as mayor. But that was only a beginning.
Since then, allegations of corruption have been leveled against Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Janez Janša, and against Zoran Janković, the mayor of the capital Ljubljana and leader of the biggest opposition party, Positive Slovenia.
On Jan. 8, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption affirmed that Janković and Janša “systematically and repeatedly violated the law.” Prime Minister Janša, who was already on trial for corruption, is now being forced to report how he earned—and why he did not previously report earning—more then 200,000 euros in income.
For his part, Mayor Janković is in the position of explaining why companies that cooperated with the city of Ljubljana also transferred money into his private account.
The success of the demonstrations in Maribor has encouraged Slovenians nationwide now to enter into the streets in protests that are loud and growing louder. “People simply can’t stand having corrupted politicians using people’s hard earned money for their own corrupted interests any more,” said one Slovenian woman protester.
The impacts of increased austerity policies are fanning the fire, and protests continued over the past month with Slovenians demanding the resignations of both Janša and Janković. On Jan. 8, 8,000 people turned out to march in Ljubljana. Then, last Friday, Feb. 8, some 20,000 demonstrators filled the streets of the capital, which has about 280,000 residents.
Due to the wave of protests, the governing coalition has lost its majority in parliament. Zoran Janković has stepped down as his party’s leader, though he remains the mayor of Ljubljana. Meanwhile, all signs point to early Slovenian elections.
What is happening right now in Slovenia is extraordinary: people are exercising their power in the streets to peacefully shift authority away from corrupt elected officials. Some have called the movement an uprising.
The real challenge, however, and the bigger question still to be answered, is how to rebuild a political and economic landscape after the hurricane sweeps through.
Source

The uprising in Slovenia: Europe’s latest popular challenge to austerity & corruption
February 20, 2013

During the crisis in Europe we’ve seen democracy harmed by the power of financial markets. Take Greece and Italy, where investors essentially decided who would become those countries’ banker-prime ministers without so much as consulting the citizenry. In this kind of anti-democratic climate, protesters despite their growing numbers remained unheard.

This time, though, as mass demonstrations grow into the tens of thousands in recent weeks, people in Slovenia have a chance to make a difference.

This small country of 2 million, lodged in the middle of Europe, belonged to Yugoslavia until 1989 though today it is more similar economically to its northern neighbor Austria than to other post-Yugoslav republics. Slovenians joined the European Union in 2004 and the Euro-zone in 2007.

With an export-oriented economy that has done quite well, Slovenia became something of an example for other countries to follow. It inherited certain social characteristics from the former Yugoslavia, which enabled it to share common goods relatively equally and keep the income gap small; meanwhile, its solidly democratic foundations provided wide legislative representation.

But the dark days arrived here too after September 15, 2008 and the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. Slovenia’s export-driven economy couldn’t protect itself against the recession that hit other European countries, and many companies went bankrupt. According to the National Bank of Slovenia, the percentage of all unpaid credits as a result of companies which sank and failed to pay back loans is 13 percent; other economists say the number could be as high as 25 percent.

In short, Slovenia may soon be the next EU member in need of a bailout.

This comes at a time when the situation for ordinary people is worsening as the unemployment rate has climbed to 12.2 percent. Meanwhile, a political impasse over the last year enabled Janez Janša and his right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party to form a government that subsequently started to decrease public spending.

Social programs that help the unemployed, students and retirees have started, like elsewhere, to be cut. Under the growing pressure of austerity, vocal groups of protestors are now appearing in the streets—most recently, from an unexpected turn of events.

Last October, Franc Kangler, the mayor of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, decided to build a speed camera system throughout the city and its neighborhoods. Speed traps were imposed by a private-public partnership, and within the first few days the system detected 25,000 traffic offenses. People were outraged—even more so when they discovered that only 8% of the fines were transferred to the city budget. The rest, 92 percent, went to the private company.

The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, an independent state body, accused Kangler of violating the law and began an investigation into the speed camera contract. Meanwhile, 10 of the city’s 30 speed traps were physically destroyed during protests—the biggest of which took place on Dec. 3, when 20,000 people amassed and demanded Kangler’s resignation.

Three days later, amid ongoing protests and unyielding accusations of corruption, Kangler stepped down as mayor. But that was only a beginning.

Since then, allegations of corruption have been leveled against Slovenia’s Prime Minister, Janez Janša, and against Zoran Janković, the mayor of the capital Ljubljana and leader of the biggest opposition party, Positive Slovenia.

On Jan. 8, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption affirmed that Janković and Janša “systematically and repeatedly violated the law.” Prime Minister Janša, who was already on trial for corruption, is now being forced to report how he earned—and why he did not previously report earning—more then 200,000 euros in income.

For his part, Mayor Janković is in the position of explaining why companies that cooperated with the city of Ljubljana also transferred money into his private account.

The success of the demonstrations in Maribor has encouraged Slovenians nationwide now to enter into the streets in protests that are loud and growing louder. “People simply can’t stand having corrupted politicians using people’s hard earned money for their own corrupted interests any more,” said one Slovenian woman protester.

The impacts of increased austerity policies are fanning the fire, and protests continued over the past month with Slovenians demanding the resignations of both Janša and Janković. On Jan. 8, 8,000 people turned out to march in Ljubljana. Then, last Friday, Feb. 8, some 20,000 demonstrators filled the streets of the capital, which has about 280,000 residents.

Due to the wave of protests, the governing coalition has lost its majority in parliament. Zoran Janković has stepped down as his party’s leader, though he remains the mayor of Ljubljana. Meanwhile, all signs point to early Slovenian elections.

What is happening right now in Slovenia is extraordinary: people are exercising their power in the streets to peacefully shift authority away from corrupt elected officials. Some have called the movement an uprising.

The real challenge, however, and the bigger question still to be answered, is how to rebuild a political and economic landscape after the hurricane sweeps through.

Source

An international call to action: Nearly 40 events will mark Pfc. B. Manning’s 1,000 day imprisoned without trial across the world - show your support for the WikiLeaks whistleblower & exposing war crimes this Saturday, February 23. 
U.S. Events
Tucson, AZ     Feb 23, 11am-5pm
Tempe, AZ     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm
Guerneville, CA     Feb 23, 12-1pm
Cahuenga (L.A.), CA     Feb 23, 9-11am
Los Angeles, CA     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30
Long Beach (L.A.), CA Feb 23 at 1pm until Feb 24 at 2pm
Montrose (L.A.), CA     Feb 23, 5:30-7pm
Studio City (L.A.), CA     Feb 22, 6:30-7:30pm
San Francisco, CA     Feb 23, 1-4pm
San Diego, CA     Feb 23, 7-9pm
Denver, CO     Feb 23, 12-3:30pm
Washington, DC     Feb 24, 6:30-9pm
Ft. Lauderdale, FL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Pensacola, FL     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm
Tallahassee, FL     Feb 23, 12-1pm
Honolulu, HI     Feb 22, 4-5:30pm
Chicago, IL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm
Ft. Leavenworth, KS     Feb 23, 1-3pm
Boston, MA     Feb 23, 1-2pm
Augusta, ME     Feb 23, 11:30am-12pm
Portland, ME     Feb 23, 12pm
Detroit, MI     Feb 23, 3-8pm
Minneapolis, MN     Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm
New York, NY     Feb 23, 2-4pm
Toledo, OH     Feb 23, 12pm
Corvallis, OR     ongoing
Philadelphia, PA     Feb 23, 2-4pm
Seattle, WA     Feb 23, 12-4pm

International Events
Melbourne, Australia     Feb 22, 2-4pm
Sydney, Australia     Feb 23, 11am-2pm
Vancouver, Canada     Feb 23, 1-5pm
London, England     Feb 23, 2pm
Yorkshire, England     Feb 23, 11am
Fairford, Gloucestershire      Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm
Cardiff, Wales     Feb 23, 10:30am-2:30pm
Berlin, Germany      Feb 23, 12:30-3pm
Rome, Italy      Feb 23, 4-5pm
Scotland     ongoing
Ireland     ongoing
Slovakia
Spread the word. FREE MANNING NOW! 

An international call to action: Nearly 40 events will mark Pfc. B. Manning’s 1,000 day imprisoned without trial across the world - show your support for the WikiLeaks whistleblower & exposing war crimes this Saturday, February 23. 

U.S. Events

Tucson, AZ     Feb 23, 11am-5pm

Tempe, AZ     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm

Guerneville, CA     Feb 23, 12-1pm

Cahuenga (L.A.), CA     Feb 23, 9-11am

Los Angeles, CA     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30

Long Beach (L.A.), CA 
Feb 23 at 1pm until Feb 24 at 2pm

Montrose (L.A.), CA     Feb 23, 5:30-7pm

Studio City (L.A.), CA     Feb 22, 6:30-7:30pm

San Francisco, CA     Feb 23, 1-4pm

San Diego, CA     Feb 23, 7-9pm

Denver, CO     Feb 23, 12-3:30pm

Washington, DC     Feb 24, 6:30-9pm

Ft. Lauderdale, FL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm

Pensacola, FL     Feb 23, 5:30-6:30pm

Tallahassee, FL     Feb 23, 12-1pm

Honolulu, HI     Feb 22, 4-5:30pm

Chicago, IL     Feb 23, 12-1:30pm

Ft. Leavenworth, KS     Feb 23, 1-3pm

Boston, MA     Feb 23, 1-2pm

Augusta, ME     Feb 23, 11:30am-12pm

Portland, ME     Feb 23, 12pm

Detroit, MI     Feb 23, 3-8pm

Minneapolis, MN     Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm

New York, NY     Feb 23, 2-4pm

Toledo, OH     Feb 23, 12pm

Corvallis, OR     ongoing

Philadelphia, PA     Feb 23, 2-4pm

Seattle, WA     Feb 23, 12-4pm

International Events

Melbourne, Australia     Feb 22, 2-4pm

Sydney, Australia     Feb 23, 11am-2pm

Vancouver, Canada     Feb 23, 1-5pm

London, England     Feb 23, 2pm

Yorkshire, England     Feb 23, 11am

Fairford, Gloucestershire      Feb 23, 9:30am-12pm

Cardiff, Wales     Feb 23, 10:30am-2:30pm

Berlin, Germany      Feb 23, 12:30-3pm

Rome, Italy      Feb 23, 4-5pm

Scotland     ongoing

Ireland     ongoing

Slovakia

Spread the word. FREE MANNING NOW! 

UN committee ‘deeply concerned’ as US lets sexual abuse slide in religious groups
February 19, 2013

At a moment of turmoil for the Catholic Church following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, a UN committee is accusing American law enforcement of being soft on child sex abuse in religious groups – a problem infamously associated with the Church.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child stated in a February 2013 report that it was “deeply concerned" by systemic sexual abuse by higher-ups and staff of religious institutions. Most troubling was a "lack of measures taken by [American legal authorities] to properly investigate cases and prosecute those accused,” partially because of “a lack of measures … to properly investigate cases and prosecute them.”

The report, adopted in Geneva during a routine review of US compliance with the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child on February 1, urged American law enforcement officials to create such measures in order to get to work revealing cases of sexual abuse and taking predators to court.

Authorities from various religions have been accused and convicted of sexually abusing children, but none on the scale of the Catholic Church, which in the US alone has paid out some $2 billion in damages to victims of sexual abuse over the years. 

The committee is deeply concerned at information of sexual abuse committed by clerics and leading members of certain faith-based organisations and religious institutions on a massive and long-term scale,” the report continues.

The problem of sexual predators in the clergy weighed heavily on Pope Benedict XVI, who after his publicly announced resignation, will step down as head of the Church on February 28. During his tenure the pope has visited and personally apologized victims the world over, but there is still a steady stream of new information about ongoing abuse within the Church.

Britain’s National Secular Society, a group that lobbies against privileged treatment for religious organizations at the UN, has accused Pope Benedict XVI of covering up abuse and getting in the way of the law. 

We can only hope that his successor opens the secret files and treats victims with the respect they deserve,” the group’s chief Keith Porteous Wood said in a statement.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other Church clergy and staff have been reported since the 1980s, but became more widely-known after a culture of cover-ups and relocations for predators became the subject of American media scrutiny in 2002. 

Following the bad publicity, Catholic officials in many countries began taking measures to mitigate the problem, in part by preventing what it saw as potential abusers from being able to enter the priesthood.

Source