Revolutionary News

Russia says Iran must attend international Geneva confab on Syria

Russia says Iran plays a key role in resolving the crisis in Syria, underlining the need for the participation of the Islamic Republic in an upcoming international conference on Syria in Geneva.

“While Moscow calls for [the] participation of more members including Syria neighboring countries, Iran and Saudi Arabia in the second round of talks [in Geneva], Washington is trying to decrease the number of these participating countries and replace them with those countries who are supporting the militant groups in Syria,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Al-Mayadeen TV on Monday.

At a joint press conference in Moscow on May 7, the Russian foreign minister and US Secretary of State John Kerry agreed to encourage the Syrian government and the foreign-backed militants to find a political solution to the crisis.

Moscow and Washington agreed to hold an “international peace conference” on Syria, which will serve as a follow-up to an earlier Geneva meeting, which was held in June 2012.

Commenting on the agreement between Moscow and Washington over the conference, Lavrov said that nothing would be changed in this regard, but there were some differences among parties over the details of the international peace conference.

The Russian foreign minister also condemned the move by the Arab League to hand Syria’s seat to the foreign-backed opposition, saying the decision was a “big obstacle for achieving peace in Syria.”

Lavrov also dismissed claims that Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah had interfered in Syria.

The unrest in Syria began in March 2011; many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. The Syrian government says that the chaos in the country is being orchestrated from outside.

YH/HSN/HJL

Syria rebel cuts out soldier's heart and eats it

A gruesome video has emerged on the Internet, showing a foreign-backed militant in Syria cutting out the heart of a Syrian soldier and biting into it.

In the footage posted online on Sunday, a man wearing military gear is seen knife in hand slicing parts of a dead soldier's torso before turning to the camera and putting the heart in his mouth.

"I swear we will eat from your hearts and livers…," the man says referring to the Syria government soldiers.

Peter Bouckaert of the New York-based Human Rights Watch says the man has been identified as Abu Sakkar, a founder of the militant Farouq Brigade.

Abu Sakkar's identity has been confirmed by militant sources in Homs and by images of him in other videos wearing the same black jacket as in the latest clip and with the same rings on his fingers.

"The mutilation of the bodies of enemies is a war crime. But the even more serious issue is the very rapid descent into sectarian rhetoric and violence," Bouckaert said.

He added that in the unedited version of the film, Sakkar is heard telling his men to slaughter the Syrian soldiers and take their hearts out to eat them.

The footage has caused outrage among both supporters of President Bashar al-Assad and opposition figures.

Turmoil has gripped Syria since March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of Syrian security forces, have been killed in the unrest.

PG/SS

Israelis protest Netanyahu’s harsh austerity measures

Protests have erupted in Israel as Premier Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet finalizes an annual budget that includes harsh austerity measures.

Crowds of people gathered in a protest outside the weekly cabinet meeting in al-Quds (Jerusalem) on Monday, where Netanyahu expressed hope that the disputed budget will be passed.

The budget is expected to raise taxes while slashing public spending, including social benefits.

Around 10,000 people also gathered in central Tel Aviv on Saturday to protest against the austerity budget.

The protesters condemned plans to raise workers' income tax by 1.5 percent while increasing corporate taxes by one percent.

Public outcry against Tel Aviv’s economic policies has been growing as reports surface about Netanyahu’s overspending on luxuries.

Earlier in the day, Israeli media reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spent $127,000 on a controversial sleeping cabin installed on a plane to carry the premier and his wife to London in April.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that the budget for Netanyahu and his wife’s clothing totals some NIS 50,000 a year (about $13,580). The Israeli prime minister and his family also have a limousine and a driver.

In 2011, record numbers of Israelis from all walks of life marched against the rising costs of living.

The protests peaked on September 3, when half a million people took to the streets.

PG/SS/SL

UK embassy storming scenario in 2011, set-up: Iran Police chief

Iran’s police chief says the 2011 storming of the British Embassy in Tehran was a trap set by the diplomatic staff of the UK.

Brigadier General Ismail Ahmadi-Moqaddam said on Monday that the heavily fortified diplomatic mission could not be broken into easily.

“The entrance gate of the British Embassy has two bulletproof and explosionproof remote-controlled doors. It is not possible to break it open unless people inside the embassy decide to open the door,” he said.

“That night I went to the British Embassy… When I asked the charge d’affaires what they wanted the police to do, they asked me for the riot police to stay… after consulting with one of the security personnel there (at the embassy) they said there was no need for riot police to stay at the embassy so this was a premeditated act,” he added.

Ahmadi-Moqaddam, however, said that nobody is authorized to storm the residence of foreigners “who are guests in our country.”

In November 2011, Iranian lawmakers voted by a large majority to downgrade diplomatic ties with the UK after London’s decision to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, over the allegation that the country’s nuclear energy program may consist of a covert military component.

Two days after the decision by Majlis, hundreds of Iranian students staged a protest outside the British Embassy in Tehran pulling down the UK flag and demanding the expulsion of the British envoy.

Following the incident, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague announced on November 30, 2011, that London is withdrawing its diplomatic staff from Iran and that the Iranian Embassy in London would be closed.

Oman is currently representing Iran's interests in the United Kingdom.

KA/HGH/SL

Monsanto wins landmark patent case in Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of biotech giant Monsanto, closing the door on a patent case that has pitted a smalltime farmer from Indiana against a titan of the agriculture industry.
The high court said early Monday that 75-year-old farmer Vernon Bowman of Indiana violated Monsanto’s patent rights when he purchased a mix of seeds from a grain elevator that he later planted on his Midwest farm. That mix included patented Roundup Ready soybean seeds manufactured by Monsanto that are sold under license because they can hold up against their namesake, a nasty pesticide regularly used on farms.
Bowman argued that he could do whatever he wanted with the Roundup Ready seeds since he obtained them rightfully from a grain elevator and the terms of Monsanto’s licensing agreement under the patent did not apply to him. Under Monsanto’s terms, Roundup Ready seeds can only be harvested once and must not be saved or reused.
“If they don’t want me to go to the elevator and buy that grain, then Congress should pass a law saying you can’t do it,” Bowman told RT in February.
 
"If they then claim that I can't use that, they're forcing their patent on me," Bowman he said to Huffington Post earlier this year. "No law was ever passed that said no farmers can't go to the elevator and buy grain and use it, so to me they either forced their patent on me or they abandoned their patent by allowing it to be dumped it with non-Roundup grain."
On Monday, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that Bowman indeed violated the licensing terms.
“By planting and harvesting Monsanto’s patented seeds, Bowman made additional copies of Monsanto’s patented invention, and his conduct thus falls outside the protections of patent exhaustion,” the court ruled. “Were this otherwise, Monsanto’s patent would provide scant benefit. After Monsanto sold its first seed, other seed companies could produce the patented seed to compete with Monsanto, and farmers would need to buy seed only once.”
“Under the doctrine of patent exhaustion, the authorized sale of a patented article gives the purchaser, or any sub­sequent owner, a right to use or resell that article. Such a sale, however, does not allow the purchaser to make new copies of the patented invention,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court. “The question in this case is whether a farmer who buys patented seeds may repro­duce them through planting and harvesting without thepatent holder’s permission. We hold that he may not.”
 
Monsanto’s practices both in the courtroom and on the farm have made the company increasingly the target of criticism in recent months, and a series of affairs in Washington has done little to weaken the opposition. Campaigns against the company have been renewed as of late following the passing of a congressional agriculture spending bill that included a provision — dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by its critics — that provides legal immunity to biotech entities that experiment with genetically modified and genetically engineer foods. Additionally, the relationship between Monsanto and the country’s high court has been called into question since one of the justices, Clarence Thomas, formerly served as a lawyer for the St. Louis-based company.
On May 25, an international series of rallies to protest Monsanto is scheduled to occur with demonstrations planned on six continents.

Greek govt threatens to arrest teachers over strike

Athens has threatened to arrest high school teachers if they carry out a strike this week, in a move seen as reassurance to Greece’s foreign bailout creditors that the country will not abandon its harsh austerity measures and unpopular reforms.
The announcement marks the third time this year that the Greek government has invoked emergency laws to force strikers to return to work.

Greece is due to receive €7.5 billion in loans soon, the latest tranche of a €240-billion rescue package signed in 2010; Athens currently has no money to pay pensions and wages. To cope with the personnel gaps, Athens plans to require two additional hours of work each week from high school teachers, and plans to transfer 4,000 of them to remote regions of the country.

The government broke a longstanding taboo last month by agreeing to dismiss some 15,000 public-sector workers by the end of 2014, a key demand by the EU and International Monetary Fund for Greece to qualify for further rescue loans, Reuters reported.

According to OLME, the union representing the teachers, about 10,000 part-time teachers could be dismissed once their temporary contracts expire. The union has called for a 24-hour strike when university exams start on May 17.

However, under Greek law the government has the right to forcibly mobilize workers in the event of a civil disorder, natural disaster or public health risk.

“This is a very authoritarian move from the government because it has issued civil mobilization orders for secondary education teachers in the public school system even before they decided to stage a strike during the university entry exams. Geek law is very explicit that civil mobilization refers to wars and natural disasters, not forms of civil protest,” Panagiotis Sotiris, sociology lecturer at the University of the Aegean, told RT.

“It’s really interesting to see that one of the legal experts, who has insisted for many years on the unconstitutionality of these emergency laws, is no other than the current Minister of Justice in the Greek government, Mr Antonis Roupakiotis,” he said.

Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos justified the ban by arguing that students had a right to take exams without disruption; teachers will be served a civil mobilization order to go to work on that day, or risk arrest.

“These threats by the prime minister and his government are directly against the overwhelming majority of workers and society,” Greece’s Syriza party, which opposes the bailout, said in a statement.

The Greek government has in recent months intervened frequently to shut down mounting anti-austerity strikes. Earlier this year, it interrupted week-long walkouts by local sailors that led to food shortages on Greece’s islands, and strikes by metro workers that disrupted transport in Athens.

Greek teachers and students take part in a protest march in central Athens on March 2, 2013 against cutbacks in the public education system due to the government's austerity measures (AFP Photo)

“The Greek government tries to meet the nominal terms of the bailout agreements in terms of budget cuts, reducing public investment of preparing lay off of thousands of public servants and public-sector workers of making extremely dangerous decisions, for example, there  is no money currently for HIV tests for blood samples. The Greek government puts all the cost on Greek society in order to remain within the terms of the bailout agreements,” professor Sotiris told RT.

The Greek economy has been struggling to gain traction amid the austerity measures mandated in country’s bailout terms. Deep spending cuts and tax hikes have reduced Greece's budget deficit, but have also left the country stuck in recession, now in its sixth year.

Last year, the financial crisis reached boiling point: It was feared that Greece would be forced to abandon the Euro currency used by 17 European Union nations, sparking a chain reaction in financial markets and further aggravating the eurozone debt crisis.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), over the last three years Greece has nonetheless made progress in bringing down its budget deficit, austerity has nearly tripled Greece's jobless rate since its debt crisis began in 2009.

Greek unemployment is said to be more than twice the Eurozone average, with overall joblessness at a record high of 27 percent. Athens cut the minimum monthly wage for those under 25 years old by 32 percent to about 500 euros in a bid to boost hiring, but joblessness in the 15-to-24 age bracket recently soared from 59.3 percent in January to 64.2 percent in February.

Reuters / Yorgos Karahalis

Medical patients at risk in crisis-stricken Greece

Morale has been particularly hard-hit in the crisis: The number of Greeks who attempted suicide has been on the rise in recent years. There were 677 suicide attempts in 2009, 830 in 2010 and 927 in 2011, according to official figures.

A number of Greek pharmacists have also faced serious medicine shortages due to price controls and tight cash flows. “We are in a critical situation and we don’t know what’s going to happen even the next day,” pharmacist Dionysis Evgenidis told RT.

Greeks in need often visit the Doctors of the World charity in Thessaloniki. RT’s Tom Barton spoke to patients who said they fear for their future. “I went to the pharmacy to buy injections for my baby but couldn’t find any so now that I’m unemployed I came here,” one desperate mother said.

The highest risks are for those with serious health conditions like diabetes or cardiologic problems, who must receive treatment every day. “It’s very serious for them not to have their medicine. If they do not they could die,” Sofia Gorane, from Doctors of the World told RT.

Protesters tell Erdogan to resign

Turkish protesters have called for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down following two car bombings in a town near the Syrian border.

Scores of people took to the streets of the town of Reyhanli in Hatay province on Saturday after more than 40 people were killed in two car bombings that jolted the town earlier in the day.

The angry demonstrators said the outbreak of violence was due to the Erdogan administration’s anti-Syria policy.

Security was tight in the center of Reyhanli, near the scene of the blasts, with the security forces setting up checkpoints to control entry into and exit from the town, witnesses said.

A similar demonstration was briefly held in Ankara, in which dozens of people marched in the street and chanted slogans criticizing Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Turkey has been one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's harshest critics and has supported the foreign-backed militants fighting to topple his government.

Turkish opposition parties have censured the Turkish government for its intervention in Syria’s internal affairs.

Last July, the leader of the Republican People’s Party warned the government against dragging the country into the “Middle Eastern quagmire” with its aggressive anti-Syria stance.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

MRS/HGL

North Korea slams US ‘grave military provocation’

North Korea has slammed the arrival of a US aircraft carrier in South Korea for a joint military exercise, calling the move a ‘grave military provocation.’

A US naval strike group led by the nuclear-powered Nimitz warship arrived off South Korea’s southern port of Busan on Saturday for the drill, which is scheduled to be held later this week.

The 97,000-ton Nimitz, one of the world’s largest warships, will participate in the joint drill around the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean Defense Ministry said.

Pyongyang has called the arrival of the US navy mega ship a “grave military provocation, which would further worsen the situation.”

“The joint naval drill involving the latest weaponry including the nuclear aircraft carrier is a wanton blackmail against us and demonstrates… that their attempt to invade us has reached an extremely reckless level,” the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea stated.

“The risk of a nuclear war in the peninsula has risen further due to the madcap nuclear war practice by the US and the South’s enemy forces,” North Korea’s news agency KCNA cited the committee on Saturday.

Last week, North Korea warned against any provocation during the upcoming joint maneuver, saying that Pyongyang was ready to counterstrike if a “single shell” drops across the disputed Yellow Sea maritime border.

“In case the enemies recklessly counter our counterstrikes, all striking forces will turn the (South’s) five islands… into a sea of flames,” Pyongyang said in a statement on May 7.

The Korean Peninsula has been locked in a cycle of escalating military rhetoric following the participation of nuclear-capable US B-52 and B-2 stealth bombers in the joint military exercises with South Korea that ended on April 30.

MSH/HSN

Obama ‘prefers Guantanamo status quo’

Earlier this month it has been revealed that keeping Guantanamo Bay running is costing the US some $150 million a year.
Medea Benjamin, author of the book “Drone Warfare," shared her thoughts with RT on why the Obama never kept his promise to shut down the notorious detention facility.
RT: President Obama pledged to close Guantanamo when he assumed office in 2009. But over four years later, it’s still open. Why?
Medea Benjamin: People around the world are saying if the President of the United States says the prison should be closed, why is it still open? That’s a very logical question to ask. I think that the politics in the US is so partisan that the President is concerned already about who is going to be running in the next presidential election as the democratic candidate, the Congressional elections, wanting to make sure that as many democrats as possible win. The President doesn’t want to be seen as soft, and national security issues. He doesn’t think the American people care enough about this issue. And so he prefers to keep the status quo. The status quo means that desperate men are dying and are being tortured by being force-fed. That is not a status quo that we, the American people, should allow, if we want to continue to call ourselves a democracy.
RT: The prisoners' hunger strike has been going on for over two months now, but there's very little information coming from most media outlets. So what's really going on there now?

AFP Photo / Toronto Star

MB: The prisoners who have had a chance to get messages out to their lawyers have described the terrible situation that they are in being strapped down for several hours having these tubes stuffed down the nose and into their stomach. They say it feels like a razor going down their bodies. This is another form of torture, and these prisoners have already endured years of torture in Guantanamo.
RT: The hunger strike doesn't seem to be obtaining the prisoners' goals, especially since you mention they are being force-fed. So why are they continuing to starve themselves?
MB: I think these inmates, or prisoners, as really what we should call them, are desperate and many of them are determined just to keep the hunger strike going. It’s difficult for them, because some of them are in isolation and they don’t know if other prisoners are continuing the hunger strike; are they being told that the other prisoners had stopped the hunger strike? I’m sure it’s a tremendous dilemma for them. But a number of those who have been able to speak through their lawyers have said they would rather die than live in these terrible conditions without ever knowing if they are going to be released.
RT: President Obama says he still believes the prison should be closed. Do you think he was sincere in his statement last month? Does he have the power to do more than he is?
MB: Obama is lacking the moral courage, he’s lacking the political will, he blames Congress, but really he has the power to release those prisoners who have already been cleared for release; demand a speedy and fair trial for the other ones and bring them into the US and close down the shameful prison of Guantanamo. We just have to force him to do it. We, the American people, the global community.

AFP Photo / Jim Watson

RT: What should be done with the prisoners in the unlikely event that Guantanamo is shut down sometime in the near future?
MB: One is to take the majority of prisoners, 86 of them, who have already been cleared by the US government – that means they have been found not to be guilty, not to be harmful to anybody – they should be released. The majority of them are from Yemen. The government of Yemen says they are totally prepared to take them back. There are other prisoners from countries like the United Kingdom that could certainly handle the return of prisoners. So those cleared for release should be released. The others should be sent to a prison in the US and should be tried in US courts just as other criminals are tried, many of them convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

‘Usual suspect’: Turkey accuses Syrian govt of targeting refugees

Turkey has been quick to blame the Assad regime for two massive car bombs that killed 43 people in a town on its border with Syria. Ankara warned it will take “all retaliatory measures necessary” raising the prospect of an escalation in the conflict.
The investigations into the bombings has almost been completed, Turkish interior minister Muammer Güler told local press, announcing that the perpetrators were “linked to the Syrian regime and intelligence agency” and had nothing to do with the Syrian opposition and the refugees.
Five people were arrested following the blasts, three of whom were said to be Syrian nationals. Top Turkish government officials, including Prime Minister Erdogan, were quick to place the blame with Syria, despite lacking any evidence at the time.
The “usual suspect” in such a horrific attack is Syrian government, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc announced after the blasts pledging to do “what is necessary” if Assad regime’s guilt is proven.
"We know that the people taking refuge in Hatay have become targets for the Syrian regime," he said. "We think of them as the usual suspects when it comes to planning such a horrific attack." 

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP Photo / Adem Altan)

Turkey reserves the right to take “every kind of measure” but so far is not planning to call an emergency NATO meeting, said foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu, while Prime Minister Erdogan announced that Turkey will take “all retaliatory measures it deems necessary.”

Provocation to disrupt Syria peace talks?
Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu called the attacks a “provocation,” saying that the timing of the blasts was not coincidental, referring to the recently proposed peace talks sponsored by Russia and the US
“Such provocation can [come to mind] in such a critical transition phase regarding Syria. It is not a coincidence that this happened when diplomatic traffic is intensifying. We invite our citizens to be prudent,” Davutoğlu told reporters during his visit in Germany on Saturday.
Russia has raised concerns that groundless accusations and any subsequent adventurous third-party action could be disruptive.
“In the terrorist attack in Turkey, Syria was accused again – as it is always blamed for everything. Someone wants to disrupt the peace conference and to push ahead with the use of military force,” Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of Russia’s Duma stated on Twitter.

People stand on the site of a car bomb explosion on May 11, 2013 near the town hall of Reyhanli (AFP Photo / Ihlas News Agency)

The deadly blasts could even be an inside job, in the hope of encouraging international military action against Assad’s government, according to Marcus Papadopoulos, an editor for the UK's Politics First magazine.
“Turkey has been pushing for intervention in Syria, Western military intervention. It’s been pushing for a no-fly zone over northern Syria,” Papadopoulos said. “Given that Turkish generals a couple of years ago were planning to provoke a war with Greece, why is it implausible that Turkish generals or members of Turkish intelligence services wouldn’t be doing the same today, to try and provoke a war against Syria and thereby bringing in NATO,” he told  RT.

Residents evacuate a wounded woman to hospital after car bombs exploded on May 11, 2013 near the town hall in Reyhanli (AFP Photo / Ihlas News Agency)

Border town protests Turkey’s policy on Syria, violence spillover
Saturday’s twin car bombs exploded outside the city hall and post office, killing 43 and injuring a further hundred people and destroying local buildings in the country’s deadliest attack in more than a decade.
A third explosion was later reported in the same city. However, local press later reported that the incident was unrelated.

A person is evacuated from the site where car bombs exploded on May 11, 2013 near the town hall in Reyhanli (AFP Photo / Lale Koklu)

Police reinforcements were dispatched to the city after the bombs ripped through the streets of Reyhanli, which is home to thousands of Syrians who have fled the conflict. Some 300,000 are now resident in Turkey overall. Their presence has caused some tension in the city on the Syrian border, especially among those unhappy with the influx of migrants.
Following the blasts approximately a hundred of the city’s residents took to the streets outside Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Erdogan and accusing him of a failed policy towards Syria which they believe led to the assault.
Some locals have also blamed Syrian residents for bringing violence over the frontier, resulting in attacks against refugees. 
“We heard that there were some reactions from local Turkish people against Syrian cars and Syrian people. Police reinforcements have been sent to prevent that sort of thing,” an anonymous Turkish government official told Reuters.
Some 60 people also marched in Ankara, Turkey’s capital following the blasts. The demonstrations were quickly dispersed.

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