Sunday, 12 July 2015

EU cancels summit in attempt to stop 'Grexit'

The EU has cancelled a full 28-nation summit to decide Greece's fate in the single European currency as eurozone finance ministers attempt to reach a deal with Athens in "difficult" reform-for-bailout talks.

European Council President Donald Tusk said on Sunday that a summit of 19 eurozone leaders will still be held and continue until talks with Greece are concluded.

The move came after divided eurozone finance ministers held talks on Greece late into the night on Friday, telling their Greek counterpart that Athens must go beyond an initial set of proposals for reforms if it wants them to open negotiations on a bailout.

Several sources said there was consensus among the other 18 ministers around the table during the "exceptionally difficult" talks that the leftist government in Athens must take further steps to convince them it would honour any new debts.

Greek officials, European finance ministers and leaders held talks in Brussels to decide whether to negotiate a third bailout for Greece to steer it away from imminent bankruptcy.

Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Brussels, said Saturday's talks wrapped up "with a real sense of distrust coming from a lot of the Eurogroup".

Earlier on Saturday, the Greek parliament backed a proposed bailout package with painful austerity measures from Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ government, with 251 of 300 MPs voting in favour of the package. Such harsh austerity measures were something his leftist party was elected to counter.

'Question of trust'

Officials have voiced concern over whether or not Greece can be trusted to stick to the proposed reforms, which include spending cuts in areas such as pensions and tax hikes, to secure a three-year bailout of $59bn.

"We are still far away. It looks quite complicated," said Eurogroup chairman and Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem.

"On both content and the more complicated question of trust, even if it's all good on paper, the question is whether it will get off the ground and will it happen. So I think we are facing a difficult negotiation," Dijsselbloem said.

Banks in Greece have been closed for two weeks and if a deal is not reached when the markets open on Monday, some banks could collapse.

A “Grexit” would make Greece the first country to leave the eurozone and its departure would have unpredictable ramifications on both Greece and the global financial markets.

Tunnel Escape: Mexican drug lord escape from prison

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has escaped from a maximum-security prison through a 1.5 kilometer tunnel, the government said, in his second jail break in 14 years.

The country's top security official said on Sunday that the tunnel opened into the shower area of his cell in Altiplano prison in central Mexico.

With the elaborate escape, the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen after his re-capture last year - slip out of a maximum security prison again.

Eighteen employees from various parts of the Altiplano prison have been taken in for questioning, the security commissioner, Monte Alejandro Rubido, said in a news conference.

The National Security Commission said Guzman was last seen in the shower area of his cell late on Saturday before he disappeared.

The commission also said a search operation was being launched in the surrounding area and that flights had been suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary outside Mexico City.

Guzman had been in prison since February 2014.

In more than a decade on the run, he transformed himself from a middling Mexican capo into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world.

His cartel has been heavily involved in the violent drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last several years.

'World's most powerful'

At one point, his fortune grew to more than $1bn, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People" and ranked him above the presidents of France and Venezuela.

In 2013, the financial magazine took Guzman off the list, saying it was likely security expenses had cut into his trove.

His Sinaloa Cartel took over much of the lucrative trafficking routes along the US border, including cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Guzman's play for power against local cartels caused a bloodbath in Tijuana and made Juarez one of the deadliest cities in the world.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Am I True to Myself?

I have to live with myself, and so

I want to be fit for myself to know,

I want to be able, as days go by,

Always to look myself straight in the eye;

I don't want to stand, with the setting sun, 

And hate myself for things I have done.

I don't want to keep on a closet shelf

A lot of secrets about myself,

And fool myself, as I come and go,

Into thinking that nobody else will know

The kind of man I really am;

I don't want to dress up myself in sham.

I want to go out with my head erect,

I want to deserve all men's respect;

But here in the struggle for fame and pelf

I want to be able to like myself.

I don't want to look at myself and know

That I'm bluster and bluff and empty show.

I can never hide myself from me;

I see what others may never see;

I know what others may never know,

I can never fool myself, and so,

Whatever happens, I want to be

Self-respecting and conscience free.

                EDGAR GUEST.

Friday, 5 December 2014

South Africa marks Mandela death anniversary

Events to mark Nelson Mandela's first death anniversary include interfaith prayer service and a cricket match.

South Africans have started marking the first anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who died last year at the age of 95.

Official ceremonies to mark the passing of the former South African leader will include an interfaith prayer service early on Friday, followed by a wreath-laying commemoration by veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle, as well as a cricket match.

Bells, hooters, and traditional horns called vuvuzelas, will be sounded for three minutes and seven seconds, followed by three minutes of silence, combined to equal a six-minute and seven-second ceremony designed to symbolise Mandela's 67 years of public service.

Many other events are due to take place over the weekend and beyond, including widespread artistic performances, as a way of remembering and celebrating the former president who led the country out of the apartheid era after enduring 27 years in prison.

Fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu called on South Africans to emulate Mandela's example in a statement to mark the anniversary.

"Our obligation to Madiba is to continue to build the society he envisaged, to follow his example," Tutu said, referring to Mandela by his clan name.

"A society founded on human rights, in which all can share in the rich bounty God bestowed on our country. In which all can live in dignity, together. A society of better tomorrows for all."

'Honour Mandela's legacy'

Friday's wreath-laying ceremony in Pretoria will start events to mark one year since Mandela passed away after a long illness. His death was met with a worldwide outpouring of grief.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will lead the three-minute moment of silence at 0800 GMT, followed by a friendly cricket match, dubbed the Mandela Legacy Cup, between South Africa's national rugby and cricket teams at 1300GMT.

Over the weekend, artists and performers will hold centre stage at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has launched an exhibition in honour of the life and work of its namesake.

Motorcyclists across the country have also been called on to dedicate their traditional Sunday morning rides to the anti-apartheid hero.

Madiba set South Africa on a course towards reconciliation after he emerged unbowed from nearly three decades in prison in 1990 and became the country's first president to be elected by universal suffrage in 1994.

His one-time jailer FW de Klerk, who served as the country's State President and who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela in 1993 for his part in ending apartheid, called on South Africans to honour his legacy.

"Although Nelson Mandela is no longer physically with us his legacy remains to guide us," he said in a statement marking the anniversary.

US protesters decry chokehold death verdict

Thousands march against grand jury's decision not to charge white NY police officer for the death of Eric Garner.

Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in US cities for a second night to protest against a grand jury's decision not to charge a white New York City police officer accused of killing an unarmed black man in a chokehold.

The case of Eric Garner - combined with the decision by a grand jury last week not to charge the white officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri - have re-ignited debate over a US law enforcement system widely perceived to unfairly target and African Americans and other minorities.

Al Jazeera's Kristen Saloomey, reporting from New York on Thursday, said thousands had gathered in lower Manhattan for a rally amid a massive police presence, with helicopters monitoring the crowds from the air.

"Emotions have been running high at the protests and there is concern that things could run out of control," she said. "What was initially a minority issue has become a national movement."

Police said 83 people were arrested a day earlier, mostly on disorderly conduct charges, in protests held after the grand jury's decision was announced.

In Washington, DC, protesters blocked a major highway, and at a university campus in Austin, around 200 protesters held a so-called "die-in" demonstration, simulating being dead.

Garner, 43, was killed in July in an apparent chokehold by police officer Daniel Pantaleo after he stopped him on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, which is illegal.

The incident was captured in a video that showed Garner pressed on the ground by police officers while Pantaleo wrapped his arm around Garner's neck.

Garner kept groaning "I can't breathe" as police officers firmly held him to the ground.

Rights leaders critical

About 20 civil rights leaders met behind closed doors on Thursday at the New York City headquarters of Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network to plan a response to the jury's decision.

Sharpton, one of the country's most outspoken civil rights activists, said a civil rights summit would be held following a December 13 march in Washington on racial justice.

National Urban League President Marc Morial said the lack of an indictment in Garner's death was "a travesty of justice".

US Attorney General Eric Holder has pledged a Justice of Department investigation into the case that he said would be "independent, thorough, fair and expeditious".

The investigation will likely focus on whether Pantaleo employed a chokehold, banned by New York Police Department regulations, in restraining Garner

Stuart London, the police officer's lawyer, said in an interview that Pantaleo testified to the grand jury that he never put pressure on Garner's neck. Instead, Pantaleo said he used a proper takedown technique, London said.

That account was echoed by Patrick Lynch, the president of the patrolmen's union, who called Pantaleo a "model" officer at a press conference.

The city's medical examiner has said police officers killed Garner by compressing his neck and chest, adding that Garner's asthma and obesity had contributed to his death.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who took office in January promising to improve relations between minority New Yorkers and police, told reporters on Thursday the city's thousands of patrol officers would undergo extensive retraining.

"The relationship between police and community has to change," he told a news conference. "People need to know that black lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives."