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Archive for August 18th, 2011

London police charge 1,000th person in riots probe

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/london-police-charge-1-000th-person-riots-probe-112907909.html

AP – 14 hrs ago

LONDON (AP) — London police force say more than 1,000 people have now been charged in the unrest that rocked the capital for four days, as human rights groups reiterated concerns that the sentences being handed out nationwide are disproportionate.

Acting chief Tim Godwin issued a statement Wednesday that said while hitting the 1,000-charged milestone is significant, the investigation is ongoing. He urged the public to turn in anyone involved in the disorder.

“Don’t let them get away with it,” he said.

U.K. police have arrested more than 3,000 people over riots that erupted Aug. 6 in north London and flared for four nights across the capital and other English cities.

The huge numbers and public anger has sparked concerns that judges were handing out sentences that were disproportionate. Some of the concerns centered around two men in northwestern England, who were handed stiff jail terms for inciting disorder through social networking sites.

Cheshire Police said Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, both received 4-year sentences for using Facebook to “organize and orchestrate” disorder.

Blackshaw used the social networking site to create an event — with a date, time and location — for “massive Northwich lootin.'”

Sutcliffe created a page on Facebook called “Warrington Riots” which listed a time and date for anyone who wished to be involved in a riot. The riots discussed never occurred.

The Crown Prosecution Service defended the sentences, saying the web pages caused panic and revulsion to the people of Cheshire.

A lawyer representing the 20-year-old said his client is remorseful and that his family is “shocked and upset” by the length of the sentence.

“Jordan originally set up the Facebook site for a joke, which he accepts was in bad taste and inappropriate,” Chris Johnson said.

Prime Minister David Cameron said sending “a very clear message” that rioting is wrong is exactly what the justice system should be doing.

“They decided in that court to send a tough sentence, send a tough message and I think it’s very good that courts are able to do that,” he said.

Most of the convicted suspects have been sent for sentencing to higher courts, which have the power to impose longer terms of imprisonment. Two-thirds of the accused have not been granted bail.

Some of the harsher sentences, in addition to Blackshaw’s, also are expected to be appealed.

“It will be a further drag on the court system, which is already struggling — and that’s before considering the pressures on the prison system,” said Andrew Neilson of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said those who participated in the riots should go to prison, but the government has insisted it is not trying to influence the judiciary.

Meanwhile, the police said Wednesday a fourth man has been charged with murder in the deaths of three men in a hit-and-run attack during riots in the English city of Birmingham, the deadliest incident of the unrest.

West Midlands Police say the 30-year-old will appear at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Thursday in connection with the murders of Haroon Jahan, 20, and brothers Shazad Ali, 30, and Abdul Musavir, 31. They were killed after a car, allegedly containing several looters, struck them at high speed as they stood guard in front of a row of Pakistani-owned shops.

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Chavez to nationalize Venezuelan gold industry

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/chavez-nationalize-venezuelan-gold-industry-041615989.html

By Daniel Wallis and Louise Egan | Reuters – 6 hrs ago

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez arrives back from Cuba at Simon Bolivar national airport in Maiquetia outside Caracas

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez arrives back from Cuba at Simon Bolivar national airport in Maiquetia outside Caracas August 14, 2011. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will nationalize its gold industry and is moving its international reserves out of Western countries, President Hugo Chavez said on Wednesday in a combative step ahead of his re-election bid next year.

The moves will make the finances of South America’s biggest oil exporter even murkier as the 57-year-old socialist leader gears up for an election battle that was already looking close even before he was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Chavez has put large parts of Venezuela’s economy under state control and is now targeting the gold industry after his government quarreled with foreign companies who complained that limits on how much gold they could export hurt their efforts to secure financing and develop projects.

Chavez seems to have lost patience and decided to put the whole industry into state hands.

“We’re going to nationalize the gold and we’re going to convert it, among other things, into international reserves because gold continues to increase in value,” the authoritarian but charismatic president said in a phone call to state TV.

“I’m going to approve a law to begin taking the gold areas, and there I count on (the military) because there continues to be anarchy, mafias, smuggling.”

Toronto-listed Rusoro, owned by Russia’s Agapov family, is the only large gold miner operating in Venezuela. It produced about 100,000 ounces of gold in Venezuela last year.

The nationalization of the gold industry fits with Chavez’s broader plan to repatriate his country’s bullion and shift most of its cash reserves out of Western nations to political allies including China, Russia and Brazil.

“It is a question of prudence and protection,” Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said on Wednesday.

A Venezuelan official at regional body Unasur said the group was considering a similar move to repatriate part of the estimated $500 billion its members have in reserves abroad.

“It’s a legitimate act, a sovereign act, unquestionable and indeed necessary,” Ali Rodriguez told Venezuelan state TV.

Chavez, who has undergone two sessions of chemotherapy in Cuba since he announced in June that he had cancer, often rails against the reliance on the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency of choice.

The move is in line with Chavez’s ideological world view: during his 12 years in power he has often bashed the United States and sought to align Venezuela with emerging powers and opponents of Washington such as Iran.

WORRIED ABOUT SANCTIONS?

Giordani said the transfers were under way, and that mounting debt worries in Europe and the United States showed that Venezuela needed to diversify where it kept its reserves.

Transferring funds to China for safe-keeping would appeal particularly to Beijing, which has invested billions of dollars in Venezuela’s nationalized oil industry.

Some critics have suggested Chavez might be worried about the possibility of sanctions against his government if there is violence in next year’s election campaign, and so is trying to ensure state reserves are stored more safely.

The former soldier appeared to allude to the possibility of reserves being seized by foreign powers.

“Look what’s happening in the Arab world with the use of international reserves … (there is) practically a confiscation of those resources, which is something we have to prevent at any cost, linking our economies to the BRIC nations and South Africa,” Chavez said on Wednesday when he called into a news conference by his finance minister.

Venezuela has international reserves of $29.1 billion. About 63 percent of that is in gold worth $11 billion held overseas and $7 billion at home, the government says.

One way it could boost its bullion reserves was to nationalize the gold industry, which had largely stagnated. Production at the state-run gold miner plummeted last year and the company appealed for a $70 million government bailout.

Venezuela has been relatively small in the gold world, with formal mining producing about 6 tonnes a year. But it boasts some of Latin America’s biggest gold deposits, buried below the jungles south of the Orinoco river.

Chavez agreed last year to let gold miners export up to 50 percent of production, up from 30 percent previously. The other 50 percent must be sold to the central bank.

But that did not satisfy foreign companies like Rusoro, which said the limits made it much harder for them to get financing abroad, develop projects and create jobs.

One victim of the dispute has been a huge but long-troubled project called Las Cristinas. It has been in limbo since the government canceled a development license with another Canadian miner, Crystallex, in February.

Rusoro had expressed interest in Las Cristinas, which has not been developed since the 1980s but has reserves estimated at 17 million ounces. Locals once found a 1-kilo (2.2-lb) nugget there. But Rusoro’s chief executive told Reuters in June it could not take on the project unless the government scrapped its export rules.

(Additional reporting by Eyanir Chinea, Diego Ore and Marianna Parraga; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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Indian activist to launch public fast as government relents

Posted by Admin on August 18, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/india-activist-allowed-fast-15-days-000649292.html

 By Paul de Bendern | Reuters – 18 mins ago

A supporter of Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in Hyderabad

A supporter of veteran Indian social activist Anna Hazare wearing a handcuff holds a portrait of Hazare as he attends a protest against corruption in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad August 18, 2011. REUTERS/Krishnendu Halder

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India‘s beleaguered government caved in to popular fury over corruption on Wednesday after thousands protested across the country, granting permission for a self-styled Ghandian crusader to stage a 15-day hunger strike in public.

Anna Hazare was arrested on Tuesday, hours ahead of a planned fast to demand tougher laws against the graft that plagues Indian society from top to bottom.

But the jailing of the 74-year-old campaigner sparked nationwide protests and put Prime Minister Manmohan Singh‘s government on a backfoot, forcing it to relent.

“Anna wishes to congratulate everyone as we have started a great momentum for this fight against corruption,” said Arvind Kejriwal, a social activist and close aid of Hazare.

“He wants all of us to continue in this peaceful and calm way of protest,” Kejriwal told reporters.

The Congress party-led government, facing one of the most serious protest movements since the 1970s, at first agreed to release Hazare, but he refused to leave the high-security Tihar jail until he won the right to lead an anti-corruption protest.

Crowds by the jail erupted in joy at news of the deal, reached early on Thursday, shouting “I am Anna” and “We are with you,” singing, playing guitars and waving the Indian flag.

Hazare is expected to postpone his public fast until Friday because the Ramlila Maidan grounds in central Delhi are not ready to host massive crowds, his advisers told reporters.

A medical team is on standby to monitor Hazare’s health as he has already begun his fast in jail and a sharp deterioration could further worsen the crisis for the government.

“It’s an indefinite fast, not a fast-unto-death. He will be there as long as he can sustain it,” said Kiran Bedi, a former senior police officer and a member of Anna’s protest team. Earlier the hunger strike had been billed as a fast-until-death.

The protests across cities in India, helped spread by social networks, have not only rocked the ruling Congress party, they have sent shockwaves through the political class.

Students, lawyers, teachers, business executives, IT workers and civil servants have taken to the streets in New Delhi and both cities and remote villages stretching down to the southern end of the country.

“The movement has meant politicians realize that they cannot fudge these issues or ignore public opinion any longer,” said Vinod Mehta, editor of the weekly Outlook magazine.

“It has succeeded in concentrating the minds of politicians across the political spectrum on one issue for the first time.”

A weak political opposition means that the government should still survive the crisis, but it could further dim the prospect for economic reforms that have already been held back by policy paralysis and a raft of corruption scandals.

SOCIAL NETWORK REVOLUTION

One Facebook page for Hazare has almost 280,000 followers, while the India Against Corruption page on Facebook has more than 312,000 followers where links and messages of support are posted. Several Twitter accounts have been set up by supporters to send out messages of where and when protest and fast.

An online page petitioning for the freedom of Hazare and India of corruption had signed up almost 170,000 people within 24 hours.

The country’s 24-7 news networks, competing to dig up the latest corruption scandal, have also played a vital role in whipping up the Hazare story.

A NATION FED UP WITH CORRUPTION

Many have criticized Hazare for taking the government hostage over his demand for a specific bill to give more teeth to investigating and punishing graft in high office. But few take issue with his crusade against the scourge of corruption.

The urban middle class, who have prospered since the economy was opened up in the early 1990s, is fed up with the rampant corruption that they encounter, whether it be getting a driving license or buying a flat. The soaring cost of living has also exacerbated the situation.

Hazare’s arrest, followed by the brief arrests of about 2,600 followers in the capital alone on Tuesday, shocked a nation with strong memories of Gandhi’s independence battles against colonial rule with fasts and non-violent protests.

INDIA’S NEW GENERATION

Thousands of mostly young people held peaceful candle-light vigils through Wednesday night, from the capital Delhi to the IT hub of Hyderabad and the financial capital, Mumbai.

Many of the crowd were young, with rucksacks on their backs, some with their faces painted. Others were older, decked out in outfits as worn by the bespectacled Hazare, with his trademark white cap and kurta, a long-time social activist who is often compared to independence leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Demonstrations are part of daily life in the towns and cities of India, a country of 1.2 billion people made up of a myriad of castes, religions and classes. But spontaneous and widespread protests are rare and the scale of this week’s outpouring of public fury has taken the government by surprise.

Singh, 78, who is widely criticized as out of touch, dismissed the fast by Hazare as “totally misconceived” and undermining the parliamentary democracy.

Hazare became the unlikely thorn in the side of the ruling coalition when he went on hunger strike in April. He called off that fast after the government promised to introduce a bill creating an anti-corruption ombudsman.

The so-called Lokpal legislation was presented in early August, but activists slammed the draft version as toothless because the prime minister and judges were exempt from probes.

Over the past year an increasing number of company executives, opposition politicians, judges and ministers have been brought down by corruption. Still, Transparency International rates India in 87 place on the most corruption countries according to a 2010 survey.

(Additional reporting by Annie Banerji, Arup Roychoudhury and Matthias Williams; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and John Chalmers)

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