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International Day of Peace


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"On this International Day of Peace, let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect. Let us invest in the schools and teachers that will build a fair and inclusive world that embraces diversity. Let us fight for peace and defend it with all our might." ~ UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by url=http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/36/67]resolution 36/67[/url] of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.

In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282, which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.

The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

Images © United Nations.

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U.N. approves Palestinian 'observer state' bid


Source: CNN.
Found By: Mararan
Mararan brings us this news about Palestine.
Quote:
By David Ariosto and Michael Pearson, CNN

New York (CNN) -- The United Nations General Assembly on Thursday endorsed an upgraded U.N. status for the Palestinian Authority, despite intense opposition from the United States and Israel. The resolution elevates their status from "non-member observer entity" to "non-member observer state," the same category as the Vatican, which Palestinians hope will provide new leverage in their dealings with Israel.

Its leaders had been working with dozens of supporting nations to develop a formal draft, enlisting the backing of European countries such as France and Spain. The vote was 138 delegates in favor of the measure, nine against and 41 abstentions, including Germany.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the move, which many call symbolic, represents a "last chance to save the two-state solution." It comes on the heels of an eight-day conflict that raged between Israel and Hamas fighters, where a series of airstrikes and rocket launches drew international attention and threatened regional stability.

"We did not come here seeking to delegitimize a state established years ago, and that is Israel; rather we came to affirm the legitimacy of the state that must now achieve its independence, and that is Palestine," he said. But Israel's U.N. ambassador Ron Prosor said the move largely ignores the specifics of longstanding issues, such as settlements in disputed lands, and cannot substitute for direct negotiations between Jerusalem and Ramallah.

This resolution "doesn't pursue peace," Prosor said, criticizing Abbas for being unable to represent the Gaza Strip, where a Hamas-controlled government presides. "It pushes it backwards," he said. Izzat Al-Rashq, a member of the Hamas' political bureau, welcomed the decision but made demands reflecting Hamas' unwillingness to recognize the state of Israel.

"We need to put this in its normal context as a part of the National Strategic vision based upon the rights and national principles without compromising an ounce of soil from our Palestinian lands extending from the Ocean to the (Jordan) river," he posted to his Facebook page. He called for the establishment of a Palestinian state "with Jerusalem being its capital" on land that includes what is Israel.

The effort stalled last year when it became apparent that the bid could not get the necessary support in the Security Council. Observer state status does not require Security Council approval, unlike full membership recognition.

The observer status resolution needs only a majority of the U.N.'s 193 members to approve. The United States and Israel have remained steadfast in their opposition, saying the move will not advance the cause of Middle East peace. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said American leaders could not support a measure that circumvents direct talks and cautioned that Thursday's decision did "not establish Palestine as a state."

Rice urged both sides to the resume direct negotiations without preconditions. "Israel is prepared to live in peace with a Palestinian state," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday. "But for peace to endure, Israel's security must be protected, the Palestinians must recognize the Jewish state and they must be prepared to end the conflict with Israel once and for all."

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev called the resolution "political theater." But Palestinian leaders have said they had the right to go to the U.N. because Israel failed to comply with agreements signed more than two decades ago. "It's about a contract. Our contract is that in five years, we should have concluded the treaty of peace and all core issues. This did not happen, and we're talking about 20 years later. And going to the U.N. is not a unilateral step," Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said in September.

The last round of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was in 2010. Erakat said the new status would eliminate Israeli justifications for building settlements in the disputed areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

But Israeli officials disagreed. "No decision by the U.N. can break the 4,000-year-old bond between the people of Israel and the land of Israel," Netanyahu said. Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, however, threw his full support behind the new status for the Palestinian Authority.

"What the Palestinians moved to do today in the U.N., I think is in basic line with the strategy of a two-state solution," Olmert told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. The peace process is completely stalled at the moment, but Olmert said Israel must move rapidly toward a two-state solution. "Time is running out for Israel more than for the Palestinians," he said. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who supports a two-state solution, said Thursday's vote "underscores the urgency of a resumption of meaningful negotiations."

"I urge the parties to renew their commitment to a negotiated peace," Ban said. Meanwhile in Washington, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak addressed his country's relations with Iran and expressed doubt about sanctions against that country. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog has said Iran is cooperating enough in a review of its nuclear programs.

"I don't believe that these kinds of sanctions will bring them to a moment of truth where they sit around a table and look at each others eyes and decide that the game is over, they can't stand it anymore, they are going to give up their nuclear intention," Barak said. Barak was visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who noted how the Israeli defense chief announced his retirement from political life. Panetta praised Barak's "brilliant strategic mind" and "warrior heart."

© 2012 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. .

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Workers Across Europe Synchronize Protests


Source: The New York Times.
Found By: Ollie
Ollie brings us this news about protests against government austerity in Europe.
Quote:
By RAPHAEL MINDER
Published: November 14, 2012

MADRID ? Workers across Europe mounted coordinated protests on Wednesday against government austerity policies in a time of economic malaise.

In Spain and Portugal, workers staged general strikes. Unions in Greece, Italy, France and Belgium joined in protests and work stoppages to show solidarity with striking workers elsewhere.

The breadth of the demonstrations, which affected scores of cities, reflected widespread unhappiness with high unemployment, slowing growth and worsening economic prospects in Europe, and the resistance that European governments confront as they push plans for more belt tightening. Occasional clashes with the police were reported in some cities.

Among those striking on Wednesday were railroad workers in Belgium; airline workers, autoworkers and teachers in Spain; civil servants in Italy; and transit workers in Portugal. Union leaders called the coordinated actions historic.

Government officials generally played down the disruptions caused by the actions and said their countries had no alternative but to cut spending and reduce their deficits. The Spanish economy minister, Luis de Guindos, said his government "is convinced that the path we have taken is the only possible way out."

Even so, Spain's heavy industry and large parts of its transportation network were stalled by the general strike, the second since the conservative prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, gained power last December. With unemployment in Spain at 25 percent, Mr. Rajoy has presented a tough austerity budget for next year.

The Spanish police reported that 142 people had been arrested by evening, and 74 were wounded, including 43 police officers, mainly during violence on picket lines across the country, but also following clashes in central Madrid.

About 700 flights to and from Spain were canceled Wednesday, adding to growing uncertainty about the future of Iberia, the Spanish national airline. Its management announced this month that Iberia needed to lay off one-quarter of its workers to survive.

The strike also severely disrupted automobile production at Spanish factories owned by Nissan, Volkswagen and other carmakers. With security guards and other workers off the job in Granada, the Alhambra palace, one of Spain's biggest tourism attractions, was closed to visitors.

In Portugal, which faces similar economic and fiscal problems to those of Spain, the Lisbon subway was closed on Wednesday. More than 130 demonstrations were planned for cities in France, where President François Hollande described the economic situation as serious on Tuesday and called on labor unions to strike a "historic bargain" to ease regulations on hiring and firing of workers.

In a joint statement, five leading French unions expressed their "strong opposition to these austerity measures that are plunging Europe into economic stagnation and recession" and that "threaten the European social model." Marches in Paris, Marseille, Lille and Lyon each drew a few thousand participants.

In Italy, civil servants went on strike and national transportation workers ? although not airlines ? stopped work for four hours. There was a prolonged confrontation between students and police officers along the banks of the Tiber in Rome.

The clashes continued for several hours after the end of the official protest marches in Spain's two largest cities. In Madrid, the police used rubber bullets against protesters who set bins on fire and threw bottles and stones at security forces. In downtown Barcelona, some protesters set two police vehicles on fire, while others smashed the glass front of the Palau de la Música, a concert hall whose financing has been at the center of a corruption case involving some local politicians.

Workers across Greece, where the economy is contracting sharply, stopped work for three hours on Wednesday, and a solidarity rally in Athens drew about 2,000 people, some holding French, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish flags, and others carrying banners calling for a write-off of Greek debts.

Workers across Greece, where the economy is contracting sharply, stopped work for three hours on Wednesday, and a solidarity rally in Athens drew about 2,000 people, some holding French, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish flags, and others carrying banners calling for a write-off of Greek debts. In contrast with larger and more turbulent rallies in recent months and a general strike last week, Wednesday's demonstrations were peaceful.

In Spanish cities like Valencia and Murcia, some of the workers' ire was directed not just at the government but also at the country's banks, whose mountain of bad loans forced Madrid last June to request a bailout from the European Union that obliged the country to cut public spending deeply. Protesters tried to block access to some bank offices on Wednesday.

In Barcelona, clutches of demonstrators burned tires at the main wholesale food market early in the morning to try and block supplies to the city's shops. Public transportation ground to a halt. Mass protest marches that started in the late afternoon turned into violent clashes between the police and groups of protesters near the parliament houses in Madrid and Lisbon.

Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the head of one of Spain's two main unions, Comisiones Obreras, said that the coordinated strike action across the Iberian Peninsula, as well as work stoppages in other parts of Europe, amounted to "a historic moment in the European Union movement."

But support for trade unions has been dwindling in recent years, in part because of disillusionment over their failure to prevent job losses and austerity policies and their reliance on government subsidies rather than members' dues. In Spain, only about 16 percent of workers are now unionized.

"The unions have long shown that they won't really bite the hand that feeds them," said Carlos Martín, owner of a Madrid bakery. "Striking is a kind of theater performance that unions want to maintain."

Some workers, too, were skeptical of the unions' strategy. "I can afford to protest but not to lose a day of pay," said Carlos Sánchez, a mechanic at a Madrid garage. "Striking at this stage in the crisis brings absolutely nothing to the workers."

But Daniel, a 36-year-old subway driver who took part in the transit strike in Barcelona, said he was protesting against policies that were destroying Spain. "I am worried about the future," he said. "We are fighting because they don't stop cutting everything."

Reporting was contributed by Elisabetta Povoledo and Gaia Pianigiani from Rome; Nicola Clark from Paris; Dan Bilefsky from Barcelona, Spain; and Niki Kitsantonis from Athens.

© 2012 The New York Times Company.

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Protesters Take to Street in Madrid


Source: The New York Times.
Found By: Ollie
Categories: News World News
Ollie brings us news regarding the protests in Spain.
Quote:
By RAPHAEL MINDER

MADRID - The pressures facing the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy mounted on several fronts on Tuesday, as thousands of demonstrators besieged Parliament and Spain's two largest regions took steps that underscored their deepening economic troubles and displeasure with his austerity plans.

Presenting the biggest domestic political challenge, the leader of Catalonia, Spain's most powerful economic region, called an early election for Nov. 25 that could turn into an unofficial referendum on whether to split from the rest of the country.

Catalonia's demands for more autonomy have been fueled by its own financial problems, which forced the Catalan government last month to request $6.5 billion from an emergency fund of $23.3 billion set up by Mr. Rajoy's government to help regions meet their debt financing obligations.

Underlining its deepening financial difficulties, another region, Andalusia, said Tuesday that it was preparing to request $6.3 billion from the fund. The developments unfolded as police officers and protesters clashed before the Parliament building and as Mr. Rajoy comes under intense pressure from investors and his European counterparts to clean up Spain's banks and public finances, particularly at the regional level.

The problems in the regions, both political and economic, appear to be intensifying, as Catalonia's move showed Tuesday, two weeks after a huge pro-independence rally in Barcelona. "The voice of the street needs to be moved to the ballot boxes," the president of Catalonia, Artur Mas, told lawmakers at the regional Parliament. "We want to have the same instruments that other nations have in order to develop their own collective identity."

Following the Sept. 11 rally in Barcelona, Mr. Rajoy called on regions and their politicians to avoid raising tensions and instead to close ranks and help Spain emerge from its economic quagmire. Last week, in an unusual political foray, King Juan Carlos I also published a letter urging national unity. "Mas has been under intense pressure to calm things down, even from the king, but what we now see is that far from taking any step back, Mas is in fact seeking a fresh mandate from voters to move things forward," said Josep Ramoneda, a Catalan political commentator and philosopher. The result of the vote, Mr. Ramoneda added, "will determine exactly how far and fast Catalonia moves toward independence."

Economists warned that the call for a Catalonia election added yet another element of uncertainty for Spain. "Once comforted in power after elections, the government could then work more constructively towards a redefinition of the relationship between the central government and the regions," said Gilles Moëc, an economist at Deutsche Bank in London. "Still, in the meantime, political turmoil in Spain's richest region could generate the kind of market reaction which would precipitate a request for European support by Madrid."

Mr. Rajoy has been debating whether to tap into a new bond-buying program proposed by the European Central Bank. While such additional help would considerably alleviate Spain's debt problems, Mr. Rajoy finds himself in an increasingly tight bind between Spanish voters who oppose further cuts and investors and European finance officials demanding reassurance that Spain can meet budget deficit targets.

On Tuesday, Parliament took on the appearance of a fortress as about 1,400 police officers ringed the building to keep back demonstrators. The organizers of the latest protest said in a statement that they had no plans to try to occupy Parliament, but instead wanted to surround the building to show that "democracy has been kidnapped" by inept Spanish politicians.

Using their truncheons, the police scattered protesters in an effort to keep some approaches to the Parliament building open. By the evening, the police said that 10 people had been arrested and six had been injured. Catalonia is the third region to call an early election, with the Basque region and Mr. Rajoy's home region of Galicia set to hold separate votes next month.

© The New York Times.

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Russian court imprisons Pussy Riot band members on hooliganism charges


Source: CNN.
Found By: Mararan
Categories: News World News
Mararan brings us this report from Russia.
Quote:
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 7:31 PM EDT, Fri August 17, 2012

Moscow (CNN) -- Three members of Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday after they were found guilty of hooliganism for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a church.
The five months they have spent in detention since their arrests in March count toward the sentence, Judge Marina Sirovaya said.

The judge said the charges against the three young women -- Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich -- had been proved by witnesses and the facts. The Pussy Riot members were charged after screaming, "Mother Mary, please drive Putin away," in a protest act in February inside Christ Savior Cathedral, one of Moscow's grandest houses of worship.

Sirovaya rejected the women's defense that they were acting from political motives, ruling that they had intended to insult the Russian Orthodox Church and undermine public order. However, the fact that two of them have young children was a mitigating factor in the sentencing, the judge said.

The defendants were accused of offending the churchgoers present -- through their actions, obscene language and their clothing -- and showing a lack of respect for the rules of the Orthodox Church. They ignored requests to stop their brief unscheduled protest performance, the court heard. While their actions outraged many of Russia's faithful, their high-profile trial prompted international concern about freedom of speech in Russia.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow said on its official Twitter feed that the sentence was "disproportionate." European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the court's decision as "deeply troubling."

"Together with the reports of the band members' mistreatment during their pre-trial detention and the reported irregularities of the trial, it puts a serious question mark over Russia's respect for international obligations of fair, transparent, and independent legal process," she said. "It also runs counter to Russia's international obligations as regards respect for freedom of expression."

Urging Russia to reverse the sentence, Ashton said the case "adds to the recent upsurge in politically motivated intimidation and prosecution of opposition activists in the Russian Federation, a trend that is of growing concern to the European Union." Rights group Amnesty International said that the court's decision was "a bitter blow for freedom of expression in the country" and that the women were now "prisoners of conscience."

Amnesty believes that the women's conduct "was politically motivated, and that they were wrongfully prosecuted for what was a legitimate -- if potentially offensive -- protest action," it said in a statement. John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Program, urged Russian authorities to overturn the sentence and release the trio unconditionally.

He also highlighted recent measures "restricting the freedom of expression and association" introduced after a wave of popular protests that accompanied elections earlier this year. "This trial is another example of the Kremlin's attempts to discourage and delegitimize dissent. It is likely to backfire," he said. Human Rights Watch also said the women should never have been prosecuted for a hate crime.

"The charges and verdict against the Pussy Riot band members distort both the facts and the law," Hugh Williamson, the rights group's Europe and Central Asia director, said in a statement. Earlier, a number of arrests were made outside the court, where protesters gathered as the verdict was read, RIA Novosti reported.

The women are expected to appeal the court's decision. The charge of hooliganism aimed at inciting religious hatred carried a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison.

None of the three women is older than 30. They have been in custody since their arrest shortly after the unexpected performance. They looked calm and occasionally smiled and exchanged remarks as they stood, sometimes in handcuffs, behind a glass wall in the court, listening to the lengthy ruling.

Moscow district court heard that the three worked together to carry out their "criminal act which violated public order" -- in an action that "went against tradition and is a great insult to the church and people." The three wore revealing, brightly colored clothing and covered their faces with balaclava-style masks in a style "inappropriate" for a church before making use of a microphone and electric guitar, the court was told.

Video footage of the "punk prayer" protest song was placed online, although the judge said it was not clear who had posted it. Sirovaya said that the apologies by the defendants "were not sincere" and described their conduct as "an unprecedented act of hooliganism by women."

Evidence from character witnesses for the three women was also read out. Alyokhina was described as being a writer of poetry, a vegan and a good mother, RIA Novosti said. Pop star Madonna last week performed Pussy Riot-style in a face mask and with the group's name on her back during a packed Moscow gig. She's one of a number of celebrities to back the women's cause.

"Everyone has the right to free speech, everywhere in the world. Maria, Katya, Nadia, I pray for you," Madonna said at Tuesday's concert, according to RIA Novosti. "They did something brave with their action. And I am praying for their freedom." Rallies in support of Pussy Riot were also organized Friday outside Russian embassies around the world, including in London and Washington.

Putin criticized the women's action this month but said they should not be judged "too harshly," RIA Novosti said. He added that he hoped the court makes "the right decision." Pussy Riot specializes in sudden, often illegal public performances, including one in Moscow's Red Square.

The "punk prayer" was inspired by the women's anger about the relationship between the Russian government and the Orthodox Church, according to the band's manager, who is married to one of the women. The Orthodox leader Patriarch Kyril has been widely reported as saying Putin's years in power have been a miracle from God.

Putin won reelection to the presidency in March in a vote that international observers said did not meet international standards. The presidential election came just months after allegations of fraud in parliamentary elections prompted the largest anti-government demonstrations Russia had seen in two decades.

© 2012 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.


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Last edited: 21 September 2013 21:42:52