Polish ruling party ousts PM

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY IS OF CNN)

 

Polish ruling party ousts PM

Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, right, is being replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, left.

(CNN)Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydlo resigned late Thursday and will be replaced by the finance minister, according to a statement from the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Shifting challenges at home and abroad necessitated a change to “correct the composition of the government, including its leadership,” the party said in the statement.
As a result, the statement said, Szydlo is set to be replaced by Finance Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, a Polish banker.
Morawiecki was chosen to prepare the Law and Justice Party for a series of upcoming elections at the local and national levels in the next several years, Reuters reported, citing sources.
“Thank you for all your support and messages of thanks,” Szydlo said in a statement on Twitter. “These two years have been an unbelievable time for me. To serve Poland and Poles has been an honor. Thank you.”
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According to a political analyst quoted in the Reuters report, Szydlo’s ouster could have come about because the Law and Justice Party’s leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, may have felt Szydlo was “too weak and that the government was seeded by internal conflicts and factional struggles.”
“It is obvious that Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the leader of this camp and he is the one who distributes the cards, regardless of who is the prime minister,” the analyst, Henryk Domanski of the Polish Academy of Sciences, said.

The Libyan Slave Trade Has Shocked The World

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

By Casey Quackenbush

3:58 AM EST

A video of men appearing to be sold at auction in Libya for $400 has shocked the world and focused international attention on the exploitation of migrants and refugees the north African country.

The footage and subsequent investigation conducted by CNN last month has rallied European and African leaders to take action to stop the abuses. On Wednesday, the leaders of Libya, France, Germany, Chad and Niger and four other countries agreed on a plan to evacuate thousands of migrants stuck in Libyan detention camps.

The grainy undercover video appears to show smugglers selling off a dozen men outside of the capital city Tripoli.

“Does anybody need a digger? This is a digger, a big strong man, he’ll dig,” said an auctioneer, according to CNN. “What am I bid, what am I bid?”

The report has drawn attention to an issue that aid and migrant groups say has gone on for years.

Why is there a slave trade in Libya?

Libya is the main transit point for refugees and migrants trying to reach Europe by sea. In each of the last three years, 150,000 people have made the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. For four years in a row, 3,000 refugees have died while attempting the journey, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the U.N.’s migration agency.

The Libyan Coast Guard — supported with funds and resources from the E.U. and more specifically, Italy — has cracked down on boats smuggling refugees and migrants to Europe. With estimates of 400,000 to almost one million people now bottled up Libya, detention centers are overrun and there are mounting reports of robbery, rape, and murder among migrants, according to a September report by the U.N. human rights agency. Conditions in the centers have been described as “horrific,” and among other abuses, migrants are vulnerable to being sold off as laborers in slave auctions.

“It’s a total extortion machine,” Lenard Doyle, Director of Media and Communications for the IOM in Geneva tells TIME. “Fueled by the absolute rush of migrants through Libya thinking they can get out of poverty, following a dream that doesn’t exist.”

The IOM said in April that it had documented reports of “slave markets” along the migrant routes in North Africa “tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.”

“There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value,” Doyle said in the April statement.

Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Illegal immigrants are seen at a detention centre in Zawiyah, 45 kilometres west of the Libyan capital Tripoli, on June 17, 2017.
Taha Jawashi—AFP/Getty Images

How is Libya handling the crisis?

According to CNN, the U.N.-backed Libyan government has launched a formal investigation into the allegations. But Libya is largely considered a failed state. Since Muammar Gaddafi, who ran the country for four decades, was ousted in 2011, the country has descended into civil war. A transitional government failed to implementrule of law in the country, which has splintered into several factions of militias, tribes, and gangs. In lawless Libya, many see the slave trade and smuggling as a lucrative industry. Tackling the country’s humanitarian crisis will require international assistance.

On Wednesday, Libya reached a deal with E.U. and African leaders to allow the emergency repatriation of refugees and migrants facing abuse in its detention centers. The government also agreed to open a transit center for vulnerable refugees after months of negotiations, according to Reuters. The center is intended to safely house people before they are resettled or sent to a third country.

How is the international community responding?

Following the publication of the video, there was outcry from all corners of the globe, with some nations recalling their ambassadors from Libya. Protesters rallied outside Libyan embassies across Africa and in Europe.

On Wednesday, African and European leaders met at a summit in the Ivory Coast and agreed on an urgent evacuation plan that would see about 15,000 people flown out of Libya. Most of the migrants will be sent back to their home countries. Speaking at the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron, called the abuse “a crime against humanity” and vowed the summit members would “launch concrete military and policing action on the ground to dismantle those networks,” according to the Guardian. The deal also included initiatives to target traffickers, including setting up a task force to dismantle trafficking networks, the BBC reports.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari expressed shock at how his compatriots were being treated “like goats.” On Wednesday, 242 Nigerian migrants were flown out of Libya back to Nigeria.

The day before, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting and said it would be “stepping up its work” to stop the abuses. However, the U.N refugee agency said it faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially for its operations in sub-Saharan Africa. “Slavery and other such egregious abuses of human rights have no place in the 21st century,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said.

Since 2015, the IOM has repatriated 13,000 people from Libya under a voluntary program. But Doyle, the IOM spokesperson, says more needs to be done to stop migration at its core, particularly from tech companies who own online platforms where traffickers can falsely lure people into paying smugglers.

“They’re being completely misled into thinking that’s a happy future for them and being misled thorough social media,” he tells TIME.

Earlier this week, the foreign ministry of Rwanda said it would extend asylum to 30,000 mainly sub-Saharan Africans stuck in Libya. “Given our own history … we cannot remain silent when human beings are being mistreated and auctioned off like cattle,” the foreign ministry said.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley condemned the abuses, saying: “To see the pictures of these men being treated like cattle, and to hear the auctioneer describe them as, quote, ‘big strong boys for farm work,’ should shock the conscience of us all.”

“There are few greater violations of human rights and human dignity than this.”

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Identity Theft Risk Prompts Estonia to Block the Certificates of 760,000 ID Cards

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Identity Theft Risk Prompts Estonia to Block the Certificates of 760,000 ID Cards

Screenshot from a promotional video about Estonian ID cards from government’s website e-Estonia.com.

On November 4, 2017 the Estonian authorities disabled the certificates of more than 760,000 national electronic ID cards due to a security vulnerability that could have compromised cards issued between October 16, 2014 and October 26, 2017, and possibly even earlier.

More so than most other countries, Estonia relies on digital technology for many basic services including getting prescription medication, voting, bank transfers, and digital signatures. In fact 98% of Estonians have an ID card that they are able to use as a valid travel ID within Europe, access health insurance, and pay taxes. Digital ID cards were introduced in 2002 and have become the cornerstone of the country’s e-services. Estonia has one of the world’s fastest broadband services and has established strong digital literacy, widespread internet connectivity and e-governance.

The certificate software within the blocked ID cards will be replaced with new, more secure one, in a national-wide effort to deal with the risk of privacy breach. These certificates were deactivated after a group of researchers from the Czech Republic identified a security flaw in the cards’ microchips that could have led to major breaches of citizen’s personal data. The researchers found that the chips installed in ID cards issued between October 16, 2014 and October 26, 2017 (though possibly as early as 2012) were vulnerable to infiltration of both private and public keys and possible identity theft.

The chips were manufactured by Infineon, a microelectronics company with headquarters in the US and Germany, that provides services including government identification, mobile security and embedded security and trusted computing.

The Estonian government says that no infiltration has yet taken place, and that authorities disabled the affected ID cards as a precautionary measure to ensure no harm to citizen data. To guarantee that e-government continued to function, an estimated 35,000 people who use their ID card for their work, such as government officials and doctors, were updated to a safer version first.

On November 2, 2017 Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said in a statement:

The functioning of an e-state is based on trust and the state cannot afford identity theft happening to the owner of an Estonian ID card. As far as we currently know, there has been no instances of e-identity theft, but the threat assessment of the Police and Border Guard Board and the Information System Authority indicates that this threat has become real.

The security threat uncovered by Czech researchers is not limited to Estonian ID cards alone. Presumably, all chipsets produced by Infineon during that time carry the same flaw. Therefore computer systems around the world that use Infineon chipsets are also at risk of infiltration. The vulnerability illuminated the grave security challenges that can come with the digitization of national ID cards and systems.

Social media discussions about this issue included Twitter comments by Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the former President of the Republic of Estonia (2006-2016) who suggested that the “real story” is about Gemalto, the manufacturer of the cards, which appears to have learned about the vulnerability in February, but had not shared this information with customers. Since 2001 Estonian electronic ID cards have been manufactured by Trub AG and its successor Gemalto AG, Swiss companies that use Infineon technologies.

Former President Ilves claimed the Dutch firm “informed commercial users but not the public sector (paying) clients,” urging journalists to look more in depth into the issue.

I leave that to the journalists who so far have focused on the customers, not the ones at fault, as if we were Pinto owners, not Ford. https://twitter.com/kentindell/status/928237326601506816 

Estonian ID is not the only one made by Gemalto. However, no other govt made any noise. Probably because the cards are issued but never used.

The real story is how the chip maker, Gemalto, found out about the vulnerability in Feb but never notify customers https://www.bankinfosecurity.com/researchers-speed-up-infineon-encryption-key-attack-a-10440 

Or perhaps the story is a tech-empathetic gov’t that responded quickly and measuredly to a crypto security vulnerability. That is news!

Estonia’s move to replace the cards’ certificates also attracted attention from information society enthusiasts across the region of Eastern and Central Europe. In a Facebook discussion, a Serbian IT expert living in Estonia explained the end user perspective through comments:

We were notified several months ago (while the risk was only theoretic), and a few weeks ago they released updates of the certificates through an official app (so one doesn’t have to change the ID). At the moment the authorization process sometimes has some hiccups, but there’s a backup authorisation method via a mobile phone app, so we are not blocked at all.

Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide, sentenced to life in prison

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Ratko Mladic guilty of genocide, sentenced to life in prison

(CNN)Former Bosnian Serb wartime army leader Ratko Mladic has been sentenced to life in prison Wednesday after being found guilty of genocide over atrocities committed during the Bosnian war from 1992 to 1995.

Verdict proceedings had been interrupted earlier when the 74-year-old’s legal team claimed that his blood pressure was too high to continue.
After outbursts from Mladic, Judge Alphons Orie, who was delivering a summation of the case, ordered the removal of the ex-general, telling him he could monitor proceedings by audio and video.
Mladic’s legal team had asked for proceedings to be halted or for the summation of the case to be skipped, which the Judge refused.
Mladic was charged with two counts of genocide, and nine crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the conflict in the former Yugoslavia from 1992 to 1995, during which 100,000 people were killed and another 2.2 million displaced. He was found not guilty on one charge of genocide.
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The trial, which opened in 2012, took place at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands. The ad-hoc court was established to prosecute crimes committed during the Balkans conflict.
Mladic was accused of orchestrating a campaign of ethnic cleansing, including the slaughter of thousands of Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the worst massacre to have taken place in Europe since the Second World War.
Arrested in 2011, Mladic’s trial has lasted 530 days, included more than 500 witnesses and nearly 10,000 exhibits.
Before the case was adjourned last December, prosecutors recommended a life sentence. Mladic had previously referred to the court as “satanic” and labeled the charges against him as “obnoxious.”

Who is Ratko Mladic?

The ex-general — accused of being “the Butcher of Bosnia” — was in command of the Bosnian Serb army which entered the town of Srebrenica in July 1995. In the days which followed, 8,000 Muslim men and boys were systematically slaughtered by troops under his leadership.

The Srebrenica massacre: A defining moment

The late Bosnia peace negotiator Richard Holbrooke once described Mladic as “one of those lethal combinations that history thrusts up occasionally — a charismatic murderer.
Mladic faced charges over his actions during the siege of Sarajevo where his heavily armed forces cut the city off from the outside world. Serb forces pounded the city from higher ground positions each day, trapping Sarajevo’s residents in the valley below. More than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, perished.

pkg amanpour srebrenica genocide survivor iaw_00014219

As the war ended in 1995, Mladic went on the run before being found 16 years later when police burst into the garden of a small house in northern Serbia.
Though he was carrying two handguns, he surrendered without a fight. He was extradited for trial in the Netherlands.
In 2011, a tribunal judge entered not guilty pleas for Mladic after he refused to cooperate and was forcibly removed from the courtroom at the judge’s order.
Mladic’s judgment day comes more than a year after Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years in prison in March 2016, for his role in the 1990s conflict.
Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was arrested in 2001 but died before his trial could be completed.

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FOCUS TAIWAN’ AND THE BLOG OF ANDY TAI)

 

BACK TO LIST

Taiwan should model itself on western welfare states: democracy pioneer

2017/11/19 22:44:33

Taipei, Nov. 19 (CNA) Hsu Hsin-liang (許信良), the key figure that triggered the “Zhongli Incident” against ballot-rigging in 1977, hopes Taiwan can be a western Europe-style welfare state.

He expressed his sincere hope as he recently marked the 40 anniversary of Taiwan’s first mass demonstration since martial law was imposed in 1949.

Then a rising star in the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), Hsu broke ranks to run for magistrate of then Taoyuan County amid burgeoning opposition to one-party rule.

On the election day on Nov. 19, a large-scale riot broke out in Zhongli of Taoyuan after a voter reported witnessing the KMT rigging the ballot, culminating in the protesters setting fire on the Zhongli police station.

The KMT authorities responded to the protest with brutal force, resulting in two civilian deaths. The incident that eventually forced the KMT to accept the victory of Hsu was often seen as a “watershed” in Taiwan’s democratic development.

In a recent interview with the CNA, Hsu said that after three decades of efforts, Taiwan is now a democracy that enjoys freedom and openness and what it should pursue next is “economic democracy” because “the essence of democracy is equality.”

Taiwan should set its sights on establishing a social welfare system like those adopted in Western Europe countries to develop a humane and just society based on the principles of equal opportunity and progressive value, Hsu said.

To achieve the goals, the Democratic Progressive Party administration and whoever is in power in the future should provide adequate care for people through social welfare programs based on the respect for human rights, he added.

Turning to cross-strait relations, Hsu, who serves as chairman of Foundation on Asia-Pacific Peace Studies, a government-affiliated think tank, said that making Taiwan better in terms of the wellbeing of the people and the value it embraces, would “exert a positive influence on the development of China.”

Sponsored by the KMT to pursue a master degree in the U.K., Hsu said he was deeply influenced by the student movements around the world in the 1960s when he studied political philosophy at the University of Edinburgh from 1967 to 1969.

Being able to witness firsthand the civil rights movements and the fight for democracy, freedom and human rights made him feel ashamed of himself and forced him to do things for Taiwan and his generation, Hsu said.

“I was lucky to see that the hard work so many people had done has eventually come to fruition 40 years later,” Hsu added.

Hsu said that he was drawn into the study of the European common market, the predecessor of the European Union set up in 1957 by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg, when he studied in the U.K. — when whether the U.K. should join the market was heatedly debated.

Hsu said that his views on cross-strait relations between Taiwan and China can also be traced back to what he had learned from the history of Europe.

“Is the problem between Taiwan and China more difficult to solve than the feud between France and Germany? No, it’s not. Then why can’t Taiwan and China collaborate with each other to make the world more equitable and humane?” Hsu said.

(By Wu Jui-chi, Fan Cheng-hsiang and Shih Hsiu-chuan)
Enditem/sc

 

 

White Nationalists Disrupt Polish Independence Day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Nationalist protesters disrupt Poland independence day events

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day

White nationalists disrupt Polish independence day 00:51

Warsaw, Poland (CNN)Tens of thousands of nationalist protesters disrupted Poland’s independence day events Saturday, waving flags and burning flares as they marched down the streets of Warsaw.

Demonstrators carried banners that read “White Europe, Europe must be white,” and “Pray for an Islamic Holocaust.”
Some wore masks and waved red and white Polish flags, chanting “Death to enemies of the homeland,” and “Catholic Poland, not secular.”

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration.

Police estimate that 60,000 people took part in the nationalist demonstration. While the vast majority were Poles, other protesters came from all over Europe.

Poland regained its independence in 1918.

One of the lead organizations behind the nationalists march is the National Radical Camp, which has previously taken to the streets to protest against Muslim immigration,gay rights, the EU and anything it considers undermines Polish Catholic values.
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Tens of thousands attended the march in Warsaw.

While support for the group remains small, its critics argue that the Polish government, which has struck a nationalistic tone and linked immigrants to crime and disease, has fostered an atmosphere of intolerance and xenophobia that has emboldened it.

Some of those marching lit flares during the event.

Earlier on Saturday, the Polish capital had seen a far smaller demonstration by groups condemning the protesters’ hijacking of Polish independence day, which falls on November 11.

Far-right marchers waved flags as they took part in the march.

The day celebrates the re-birth of Poland in November 1918, 123 years after the Prussian, Habsburg, and Russian empires carved up Poland among themselves and erased it from the map of Europe.
But in the past few years, the holiday has been overshadowed by the far-right march and fears of violence.
Polish President Andrzej Duda led the formal celebrations of Polish independence day in central Warsaw. After laying a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier, he told the crowd to remember the price of freedom and independence.

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Catalonia’s leaders are jailed a week after the region declared independence


Thousands of people rally outside the regional presidential palace in Barcelona on Tuesday to show their support for those appearing in court. (Manu Fernandez/AP)
 November 2 at 4:12 PM
 A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the jailing of eight of Catalonia’s separatist leaders a week after the region declared independence, extending the tough crackdown on the breakaway effort.The decision not to free the former officials on bail ahead of their trials on charges of rebellion, sedition and the misuse of public funds came after an Oct. 27 takeover of the region following the Catalan Parliament’s vote to secede.

The imprisonments set off an immediate outcry from independence advocates in Catalonia, who said they fit into a repressive pattern from the Spanish state that began when national police intervened with truncheons and violence to try to prevent an independence referendum from being held on Oct. 1. Town squares across Catalonia filled with protesters after the decision was announced late Thursday afternoon.

A prosecutor also asked Judge Carmen Lamela to approve an international arrest warrant for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium on Monday alongside other officials. An extradition request would set the ground for a difficult diplomatic dance between Spain and Belgium, which allows E.U. citizens to claim political asylum and which is partly ruled by Flemish nationalists sympathetic to the Catalan cause.

Lamela planned to decide on the warrant Friday. In denying bail, she said the leaders still in Spain were a flight risk, citing the retreat by Puigdemont and others to Brussels.

 Play Video 0:48
Catalan secessionist leaders arrive at court without Puigdemont
Catalonia’s secessionist leaders arrived at a Madrid court Nov. 2 to answer charges of rebellion and sedition. The region’s former president Carles Puigdemont said he would not turn up. (Reuters)

Puigdemont refused to appear at the Madrid court on Thursday, saying that the charges were politically motivated. The leaders are facing prison terms of up to 30 years. In all, 20 officials are charged.

Apart from the eight people sent to jail Thursday, a ninth was allowed free on bail of $58,000 because he resigned from the Catalan government before the independence declaration.

“A long and fierce repression lies ahead. We must combat the situation as Catalans do, without violence, in peace,” Puigdemont said Thursday in a televised address to Catalans that appeared to be recorded in his Brussels hotel room. He has said that he remains Catalonia’s leader and that the decision by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to use constitutional powers to strip him of office was illegal.

The decision to put the former officials behind bars meant that the highest-profile Catalan separatist leaders will probably not be able to run in Dec. 21 regional elections that Rajoy called after dismissing the government. After darkness fell Thursday, the former officials were transferred in police vans with flashing blue lights to the Alcala-Meco Prison outside Madrid.

The move was condemned even by some pro-union Catalan leaders, who said it was needlessly harsh.

“This is a black day for democracy and for Catalonia,” said Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who appeared close to tears as she spoke to journalists late Thursday. Colau has said she believes Catalonia should have more autonomy but should not be independent.

The crackdown drew condemnation from several other leaders in Europe, including the heads of Scotland and Belgian Flanders, two regions that have sought independence or more autonomy from their national governments.

“Jailing democratically elected government leaders = more than bridge too far,” the leader of Belgium’s Flanders region, Geert Bourgeois, wrote on Twitter.

That was echoed by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who wrote that “regardless of opinion on Catalonia, the jailing of elected leaders is wrong and should be condemned by all democrats.” She added: “The disagreement about Catalonia’s future is political. It should be resolved democratically — not by the jailing of political opponents.”

Opinion polls show that support for independence in Catalonia is growing but that slightly less than half of the population seeks a split.

Braden Phillips contributed to this report.

Why Did Catalonia Just Vote for Independence From Spain?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

 

Why Did Catalonia Just Vote for Independence From Spain? Here’s What to Know

1:35 PM ET

The ongoing standoff between the Spanish region of Catalonia and Spain’s central government in Madrid escalated Friday when the Catalonian parliament voted to declare the region an independent republic.

“We constitute the Catalan Republic, as an independent and sovereign country, under the rule of law,” read a motion that passed 70-10, fueling the biggest political crisis to hit Spain since the 1970s.

Catalonia’s move defies Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who’s been working to quash the succession effort and keep Spain intact. Just minutes after Catalonian lawmakers voted on Friday’s resolution, Spain’s senate granted the central government powers to impose direct rule on the region, setting up what is likely to be a raucous few days in Barcelona and elsewhere.

Friday’s vote was greeted with cheers by supporters of the independence movement, many of whom view have economic grievances about Madrid’s tax policies and view their region as culturally distinct from the rest of Spain. But some anti-independence lawmakers boycotted the vote — one warned his colleagues that “you will go down in history for having fractured Catalonia and for sinking the institutions of Catalonia” The New York Times reports.

Here’s what to know about Catalonia’s independence vote.

Where is Catalonia, Spain on the map?

Why is Catalonia seeking independence?

Catalonia, which is Spain’s richest region, has a distinct cultural heritage and language. The push for independence crystallized during the fallout of the global financial crisis in 2008. Some Catalans believe the country’s rising unemployment levels and languishing economy was pulling the region down, and they began to seek greater autonomy from Madrid.

What led up to Catalonia’s independence vote?

Friday’s vote came after weeks of brinksmanship between Catalonia President Carles Puigdemont and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. The situation first escalated on Oct. 1, when nearly 90% of Catalonian voters backed independence from Spain in a controversial and disputed referendum. Catalonia officials say turnout was about 43%, despite the vote being suspended by Spain’s highest court and deemed illegal by the federal government in Madrid.

The Catalonia independence referendum led to weeks of political maneuvering and mixed messages on all sides. During an Oct. 10 speech, Puigdemont stopped just short of declaring independence, opting instead to pursue a dialogue with Madrid. But Rajoy has maintained a hard line throughout, announcing Oct. 21 that he was invoking a constitutional rule allowing him to “restore the rule of law, coexistence and the economic recovery and to ensure that elections could be held in normal circumstances.”

Puigdemont appeared to take a step towards détente on Thursday, when he held off from declaring independence and suggested early elections instead. But the attempt fell apart in the face of his own hardcore supporters and opposition from Madrid, the Financial Times reports. Puigdemont then turned the matter to Catalonian parliament, which on Friday voted to declare independence.

Will Catalonia become independent of Spain?

What happens next is unclear. But Catalonia will face significant challenges attempting to assert its independence in the face of Spain’s decision to impose direct rule on the region. It will get little help from abroad, as other European nations, many of which are facing separatist movements of their own, have shown little indication that they will acknowledge Catalonian independence. Even Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgoen, who has been seeking a new vote for independence from the U.K., has refused to recognize Catalonia’s declaration.

The European Union, meanwhile, has distanced itself from the crisis, deeming it an internal Spanish issue. “For E.U. nothing changes. Spain remains our only interlocutor. I hope the Spanish government favors force of argument, not argument of force,” European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted on Friday.

Why The West Grew Rich

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

ABOUT 1,000 years ago, when Europe was supposedly traversing through its dark ages, the Muslim empire was the envy of the world. Its wealth and material standards were such that Cordoba alone was pronounced as the ‘ornament of the world’ by Hrotsvitha, a mediaeval German writer and Nun. By 1500, it was China and India whose riches and wealth became the stuff of fables. By the 17th century, the tide had started turning in favor of northern European nations. By the mid-19th century, this turnaround was complete. What accounts for this transformation?

The literature on this topic, suffice to say, is so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. One can, though, make a general distinction. Some of this literature concerns the question of ‘how’, the other concerns the question ‘why’, with the remaining being a combination of both. In this article, I want to briefly share the findings of two excellent new books on this topic by Jared Rubin (Rulers, Religion and Riches) and Joel Mokyr (A Culture of Growth), that tackle the question of ‘why’.

Rubin’s book concentrates its analysis on the divergence between the West and the Muslim world (especially the Middle East), and what factors gave rise to disparity in development outcomes. He debunks the idea of ‘backwardness’ of the Islamic faith, which supposedly held back the Muslim world. If that were the case, he argues, there never would have been a wealthy Muslim Spain. In general, he traces the great divergence between the West and the Middle East in the way that religion and government interacted over time.

The separation of religion from statecraft set the stage for European ascent.

Before the divergence began, the Christian West and the Muslim East used to derive their authority and legitimacy from religion. The real source of power lay with religious figureheads like the pope, followed by the rulers and their cohorts. Whatever economic activity there was, it was shaped in a way to benefit these entrenched groups. But then Europe gradually broke away from religion as its source of legitimacy. As the tight bond between religion and state loosened, economic and financial concerns became top priorities.

As nation states like Britain and the Netherlands adopted the parliamentary system of governance, the hold of the entrenched classes started to relax since parliamentary legitimacy required participation of the common man. This participation meant they could now stake a claim in the state’s riches, and also realise it through good policies.

What accentuated this break between religion and the state in Europe? One of the most iconic inventions of history, the printing press! In 1440, Gutenberg invented the printing press, revolutionising the spread of knowledge and ideas. Once restricted to only the church, knowledge now began to spread to all parts of Europe as books and pamphlets became easily available to the public. This, over time, gave rise to a movement (reformation and enlightenment) that gradually withered the grip of papacy and kings.

This marvellous invention, however, did not make it to the Muslim world till 1727 as leading religious figures saw it as a threat to their monopoly. They convinced successive sultans not to let this ‘un-Islamic’ invention enter their blessed lands. This 300-year gap, Rubin argues, is one of the most important factors (though not the only one) in explaining the divergence in wealth between the West and the East. At a time when Europe moved towards economic empowerment, technological change and inclusion, the Muslim world’s energies were focused on preserving orthodoxy and exclusion of people from the fruits of knowledge and empowerment.

Mokyr’s book, in contrast, focuses on reformation and enlightenment that drove Europe ahead of others. Why did these not occur in China or the Muslim world and only in Europe? His narration revolves around the political fragmentation in Europe that beset it in the wake of the rise of nation states. Political fragmentation gave rise to fierce competition, not just in commerce and trade but also in ideas which spread as innovations like the printing press made their presence felt.

Nation states, as they raced to embrace science and technology, also competed for leading scholars and thinkers. This spawned a culture of openness, not just in science but also in ideas. No longer did it remain possible to repress ideas and criticism since critics could now always find refuge in another state open to ideas and criticism. This cycle of openness became unstoppable with time, and complemented advances in technology and knowledge. This, argues Mokyr, explains to a large degree why European nation states were able to leave others behind.

To summarise, for Rubin, the answer lies in legitimacy derived from religion changing to legitimacy derived through people. This was made possible by inventions like the printing press, which tilted the balance in favour of trade, commerce and the people. For Mokyr, the answer is to be found in a cultural change brought on by the rise of nation states, their intense competition in various spheres of life and political fragmentation within Europe. Importantly, a common strand in both these books is to be found in the separation of religion from statecraft which set the stage for European ascent.

The above is but a tiny fraction of the wealth of knowledge available on this particular topic, and in no way does justice to such an important question. Interested readers can access hundreds of books and other material to contemplate this issue, such as the outstanding Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, or How the West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg. What can be concluded is that there is no single factor that can explain the rise of the West. It’s the coming together of a host of factors that propelled economic growth. What we also know is that almost 500 years since this divergence in Europe’s favour is supposed to have begun, the pendulum is now again swinging towards the East (China and India, for example). Their rise is another interesting story, perhaps worthy of a future column.

The writer is an economist.

[email protected]

Twitter:@ShahidMohmand79

Published in Dawn, October 25th, 2017

 

 

Spain: How Many People Will They Be Willing To Butcher In Catalonia?

Spain: How Many People Will They Be Willing To Butcher In Catalonia?

 

As most folks who are interested in this ‘Autonomy’ issue between the nation of Spain and the nation of Catalonia realize the government of Spain appears ready to invade the nation of Catalonia. The reason for this arrogance is that the people of the nation of Catalonia voted on October first of this year to truly separate themselves from the federal government of Spain. By the articles that I have read since the first of October concerning the succession vote by the people of Catalonia it appears that the people voted at a 90-92% rate to completely break away from Spanish rule.

 

The King of Spain and their Prime Minister tried to make it difficult for the people to vote back on the first by using the police to beat and arrest people at the polling locations as well as trying to close those locations. The government leaders I just mentioned have made it plain that they will not tolerate Catalonia breaking away from Spain and they have made it very plain that they are going to use the Spanish police and Spain’s military to remove the elected government leaders of Catalonia. They have also made it plain that the government in Madrid will place their own choices into the seats of government of Catalonia. Yesterday in Barcelona over 500,000 marched against Spanish rule, is Spain willing to kill or imprison hundreds of thousands of people?

 

The population of Catalonia is about 7.5 million people which is about 15% of Spain’s total population. Catalonia is a huge creator of wealth for Spain, they generate about 20% of Spain’s GDP. Is this the issue that has the politicians in Madrid bearing their teeth at Catalonia? If you have not studied the history of these two nations and how they sort of became one please allow me to pass on some information to you. Two nations became one through a wedding in 1469 A.D.. One King, one Queen formed one country. Pretty much ever since this event the people of Catalonia have been trying to break free from the grip of Madrid. They have had autonomy several times just to have it yanked away again and again. This is what is about to happen right now. Catalonia has always had its own culture and its own language and they simply want their freedom back.

 

The government leaders including the King of Spain are having to make a decision right now about what they are going to do about the people in Catalonia. If the people and the government of Catalonia stand firm and refuse to have their own elected leaders removed for vassals of Madrid, what is the Spanish government going to do? Will they go into Catalonia like the Russians did with Czechoslovakia in 1968? How many freedom wanting people is the Madrid government willing to kill and to imprison to keep these people under their thumb? I have a bad feeling that the world is about to find out the answer to that question very soon. Would it not be better for all of the people of Spain and the Spanish government, to have a good friend/brother next door to them, a true ally? If Spain does go in and force their way on these people they are going to have an enemy in their midst, not a friend. I am sure that Madrid is mostly worried about losing 20% of their GDP yet they will lose a lot more than that if the people of Catalonia are butchered because they want their freedom back.

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