Iraq’s striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

 

Iraq’s striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests

Despite pressure to return to classes, strikers say they will not stop until anti-gov’t protesters’ demands are met.

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Iraq's striking students defiant amid unrelenting protests
Tiba, 23,says she believes the school strikes will force politicians to make concessions to protesters [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Baghdad, Iraq – Tiba says she decided to boycott her university classes the moment she learned that her friend Amer had been killed during clashes with Iraqi security forces.

The pair first met in October in Tahrir Square, the capital’s main site for anti-government demonstrations which have continued for two months. Amer told her that he was protesting on behalf of his brother, who had died in clashes with security forces. Days later, Tiba received news that her new friend had joined a growing list of Iraqi lives cut short during the protests.

“When I saw his picture among the martyrs, I knew I had to do something for my country,” said Tiba, a 23-year-old engineering student at Baghdad University. “The best thing I could do was go on strike,” she added.

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For two months, protesters have taken to the streets in Baghdad and towns and cities across the mostly Shia south to demand jobs, basic services and an end to corruption. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has since quit and now leads a caretaker government with limited powers, but the grassroots movement wants a complete overhaul of the political system before new elections are held. More than 400 people have been killed and thousands of others wounded in clashes with security forces.

Since October 25, university and school students across Baghdad and Iraq’s south have defied the government and gone on strike to support protesters’ demands.

The students believe the walkout is a potent tool to pressure politicians to act on the protesters’ demands.

“If we keep it up, the government will have to respond,” says Tiba. “Our university campuses have been literally empty for weeks. This can’t go on forever.”

‘No future’

For Hussein, an 18-year-old medical student at the University of Mustansiriya, taking part in the protests is his only hope for a better future.

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“There are barely any jobs out there, even if you’re a university graduate,” he told Al Jazeera. “So, what’s the point of going to class now and then being unemployed a few years later.”

Instead of attending university, Hussein helps organise weekly rallies at the ministry of education, attends the protests at Tahrir Square and participates in campaigns to encourage the sale of local products.

“We do everything from cleaning the streets and painting the walls in Tahrir to holding protests at our university gates to encourage people to join in,” he said, adding that the strikes would continue despite the prime minister’s decision to step down.

“Abdul Mahdi’s resignation means nothing. He’s just a tool in the hands of the corrupt political parties,” said Hussein.

“We’re continuing our strike until the electoral law changes. Unless that happens, our main ask for a complete overhaul of the political system can’t be achieved.”

While university students say the ministry of education has done little to force them back to classes, university professors say strong measures have been taken against faculty members who choose to go on strike.

According to Fayez Abdel Hamid, who teaches medicine at the University of Baghdad, Iraq’s public universities received communication from the ministry of education to ensure staff were attending their jobs.

“Deans were given orders to pass on the names of professors who have been on strike and to deduct money from their salaries as punishment,” he said.

Zaid Shafik, an IT professor at al-Nahrain University, says while he has been forced by his university to prove his attendance, he continues to join the protests.

“After I sign the register in the morning, I head to Tahrir with the students,” he told Al Jazeera. “It’s our right to protest, and we’ll continue to do so no matter the measures taken against us.”

Dhamiaa al-Rubaei, spokesperson for the ministry of education, said students and teachers had been given space to protest.

“We’ve only been encouraging students to attend classes for the sake of their own futures,” she told Al Jazeera.

“With regards to lecturers, they have been mostly attending their classes even if some support students on strike.”

Iraq education story
University campuses in Baghdad and parts of southern Iraq have become empty as thousands of students continue to boycott classes and join protests in Tahrir Square instead [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Schools participate

Most of those boycotting classes have been university-level students but school teachers and students have also taken part.

After the Iraqi teachers’ syndicate called for a nationwide strike from October 28 to November 7 to mark the beginning of school walkouts, most schools in Baghdad and Iraq’s southern provinces shut their doors, according to the syndicate’s secretary-general Odai Essawi.

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“During the official strike, we saw 100 percent adherence at most schools across Baghdad and the south,” he told Al Jazeera.

Essawi claimed that when the education ministry tried to end the strike by threatening to blame the syndicate for any measures it takes against striking teachers, the body fought back.

“We warned the ministry of education that we would stand up to it. Protesting and expressing our opinions are human rights,” he told Al Jazeera.

Despite the challenges, Essawi says 50 to 75 percent of school students in Baghdad and the south were on partial strike or attended protests after school hours.

The ministry of higher education has warned that if university students continue to strike it may cancel spring break, while the army has warned it would detain administrators who keep schools shut as part of its fight against “terror”.

The threat forced many schools to resume classes, while some set exam schedules in an attempt to force students to return to class.

Omar al-Mukhtar High School in Baghdad, which took part in the strike for more than a week, officially resumed classes after security forces visited the school.

“The whole school, teachers and students, were on strike. Many of us would even go to Tahrir together,” Abbas Tamimi, the school’s headteacher, told Al Jazeera.

“But intelligence staff threatened to take measures if we don’t resume classes,” said Tamimi, adding that 80 percent of students attended classes after he set an exam schedule.

Iraq education story
Headteacher Abbas al-Tamimi says the government has taken measures against schools to ensure that teachers and students attend classes [Arwa Ibrahim/Al Jazeera]

Ali, an 18-year-old student at the school told Al Jazeera that while he had not prepared for the exams, he decided to end his boycott to avoid possible repercussions.

“I boycotted classes for a whole month to show my support for those who died for us,” Ali told Al Jazeera.

“But I had to come back when exams were set. I was worried my name would be sent to the ministry or that I’d be suspended from school altogether,” he added.

Tamimi said that while he has to enforce some rules, he remains lenient towards students who don’t show up.

“We won’t take any measures against students who don’t attend. But people [from the intelligence] do come asking for the register, so we have to maintain some level of adherence,” explained Tamimi.

“But as soon as we finish school hours, students and teachers go to Tahrir hand in hand,” he added.

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SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Iran: Petrol rationing and price hikes take Iranians by surprise

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Petrol rationing and price hikes take Iranians by surprise

Drivers in Iran were caught off-guard by snap plan that includes a steep increase in the cost of motor fuel.

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Iranians queued at petrol stations after fuel rationing and price hikes were announced [File: Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters]
Iranians queued at petrol stations after fuel rationing and price hikes were announced [File: Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters]

Tehran, Iran  When 37-year-old apparel retailer Farshad was getting ready to go to sleep just after midnight on Friday, his phone alerts suddenly blew up with social media posts reacting to a government policy that many figured was in the pipeline, but that had still struck without warning.

The government in Iran had announced that – effective immediately – petrol would be rationed and prices would triple.

“I guess we all knew this was happening one way or another, since the government has been reintroducing fuel cards for rationing,” said Farshad, who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname to protect his privacy. “But a midnight announcement and this price hike came out of nowhere.”

In the early hours of Friday morning, Iranian state television broad cast a statement by the National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company saying petrol will now be rationed across the country using smart fuel cards.

Vehicles for private use are to be restricted to 60 litres (16gal) of fuel monthly, while the price of petrol will jump 50 percent to 15,000 Iranian rials ($0.13 at open market rates) per litre. Any fuel purchases in excess of allotted rations will incur an additional charge of 30,000 rials ($0.26) per litre.

‘We’re all drowning’

In early May, after hardline Iranian news websites reported that fuel rationing was imminent, long queues formed at petrol stations all over the country.

Friday’s news was not telegraphed in advance, but people still started queueing at petrol stations. Though the price hike was immediate, any unused monthly ration quotas can be saved for up to six months.

Petrol in Iran – the world’s number five oil producer – is cheaper than in most countries. That could bolster justifications for a price hike, given the beating that Iran’s budget has sustained since the administration of United States President Donald Trump started applying its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions on Iran over a year ago.

Still, as many Iranians pointed out on social media, average incomes are too low to comfortably absorb the fuel price hike.

“I wish economic austerity wasn’t only for average people. That way this would hurt less,” wrote a journalist on her Instagram account. “We’re all drowning, it’s only a matter of time.”

Iranians, especially those getting by on low- and middle-income wages, have taken a massive hit due to a currency crisis and an inflationary wave that formed on the back of US sanctions imposed after the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

‘At the expense of the people’

The government of President Hassan Rouhani has tried to reassure the general public that the initiative is meant to help improve peoples’ quality of life.

Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, head of the Plan and Budget Organization of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced that the revenues from the initiative will be distributed among 18 million households – about 60 million people – in the form of monthly cash handouts.

A family of five or more will receive 2.05 million rials (around $18). This is separate from the 445,000 rials ($3.90) that each household member is eligible to receive under Iran’s long-running monthly state cash subsidies plan.

According to the Rouhani administration, not a single rial yielded from the rationing initiative will go to government coffers.

“The government is doing it differently this time, but it still feels like they’re trying to make up for their deficits at the expense of the people,” said Saeed, a 48-year-old architect who asked Al Jazeera to withhold his surname.

“And whenever gasoline prices go up, prices of other goods go up, too, so I doubt the cash handouts will be able to make up for it,” he told Al Jazeera.

‘Can afford less fuel’

The populist administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2007 rationed gasoline and increased prices, but that move failed to curb rampant fuel smuggling or decrease consumption.

Some Iranians on social media have pointed to the irony of a 2015 tweet by President Rouhani, in which he said, “Gasoline offered at two prices created corruption, so we unified the prices”.

Iran has some of the largest energy reserves in the world, but due to limited refining capacity – and sanctions that limited the supply of spare parts for plant maintenance – it has for years faced an uphill battle in meeting its domestic fuel needs.

Despite the public dissatisfaction and anger, some Iranians still hold out hope that a silver lining may emerge from the rationing scheme if fewer people are driving. Tehran has been battling smog and air pollution for the past week that led to the closure of schools.

“People are under so much pressure,” said 27-year-old Tehran resident Anahid, who asked that his surname be withheld. “But there’s no denying this pollution and traffic either, so maybe more people will turn to public transport if they literally can afford less fuel.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

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Lebanon’s anti-austerity protests enter fourth day

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Lebanon’s anti-austerity protests enter fourth day

Demonstrators are protesting against dire economic conditions in the heavily indebted country.

Lebanon's anti-austerity protests enter fourth day
Tens of thousands have taken to the streets across Lebanon since Thursday to protest against tax increases and political corruption [Andalou]

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Lebanon‘s streets on Sunday for a fourth day of anti-government protests that have led to the resignation of a Christian party from the government.

Demonstrators, who have been on the streets since Thursday, have pledged to continue marching despite the resignations late on Saturday of four government members from the key political party, Lebanese Forces.

Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman, one of the four to quit the government, told Al Jazeera shortly after the decision that they had “lost faith in the government’s ability to effect change and address the problem”.

READ MORE

Lebanon protests: Five things you need to know

Lebanese citizens have been suffering from tax hikes and dire economic conditions in the heavily indebted country.

Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 bn – more than 150 percent of gross domestic product, according to the finance ministry.

The grievances and anger at the government’s lack of solutions erupted into protests on Thursday, sparked by hikes in taxes including a proposed $0.2 tax on calls via messaging apps such as WhatsApp.

Such calls are the main method of communication for many Lebanese and, despite the government’s swift abandonment of the tax, the demonstrations quickly swelled into the largest in years.

“It is day four and protesters are back on the street. It’s not just in the capital Beirut, but across the country. The message they [protesters] are giving is of defiance and that they will continue to demand the resignation of the government,” said Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr, reporting from Beirut.

“While there are tens of thousands on the street protesting, there are still people who are backing the political parties, so it is not going to be easy to bring a change. These people out there want a nationalist leader whose loyalty is to Lebanon and not a political party.”

In an attempt to appease demonstrators, Lebanon’s finance minister, following a meeting with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced that they had agreed on a final budget that did not include any additional taxes or fees.

READ MORE

Lebanon reforms ‘must start from politicians’ bank accounts’

“We want everybody to join us on Sunday and also Monday to topple the government,” one protester said.

On Friday, Hariri gave a 72-hour deadline to his partners in government to agree on a solution to the country’s economic woes without imposing new taxes.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, whose movement is part of the government, warned on Saturday that a change in government would only worsen the situation.

The army on Saturday called on protesters to “express themselves peacefully without harming public and private property”.

What is the solution to Lebanon’s economic and political crisis?

On Saturday evening, thousands were packed for a third straight night into the Riyadh al-Solh square in central Beirut, despite security forces having used tear gas and water cannon to disperse similar crowds a day before.

Amnesty International said the security forces’ reaction was excessive, pointing out that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful.

“The intention was clearly to prevent protesters gathering – in a clear violation of the right to peaceful assembly,” it said.

Small groups of protesters have also damaged shop fronts and blocked roads by burning tyres and other obstacles.

The Internal Security Forces said 70 arrests were made on Friday on accusations of theft and arson.

But all of those held at the main police barracks were released on Saturday, the National News Agency (NNA) said.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe dies, leaving behind a ‘very complicated legacy’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe dies, leaving behind a ‘very complicated legacy’

Then-president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, listens as professor Alpha Oumar Konare, chairman of the Commission of the African Union, addresses attendees at the opening ceremony of the 10th Ordinary Session of the Assembly during the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, January 31, 2008. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Lock via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0.

Zimbabwe’s first post-independence leader, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, has died at the age of 95.

Mugabe died at a hospital in Singapore on Friday, September 6, 2019, after battling ill health.

According to Al Jazeera, he was hospitalized in Singapore for months for an undisclosed ailment, as officials often said he was being treated for a cataract, denying frequent private media reports that he had prostate cancer.

Current President Emmerson Mnangagwa expressed his condolences on Twitter early Friday:

President of Zimbabwe

@edmnangagwa

It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe (1/2)

8,667 people are talking about this

Deputy Minister of Information, Publicity & Broadcasting Services, Energy Mutodi, also expressed condolences, calling Mugabe an “African icon” and a “revolutionary.”

Hon. Dr Energy Mutodi (PhD)@energymutodi

Rest In Peace President Robert Mugabe. There is no doubt you were an African icon, a statesman of a rare character and a revolutionary. I wish to pass our condolences on my own behalf & on behalf of the government to His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa & the Mugabe family.

175 people are talking about this

Mugabe was ousted from power in a military coup in November 2017, before his long-time political colleague and protégé, Mnangagwa, forcefully took over — ending 37 years in office.

Mugabe was born on February 21, 1924, in what was then Southern Rhodesia, a colonial state ruled by the British. Known as an intellectual who fell in love with Marxism, he studied at Fort Hare University in South Africa. He later taught in Ghana, where he was influenced by its founder, President Kwame Nkrumah, before he returned to Southern Rhodesia in 1963. There, he was imprisoned in 1964 for a decade without trial after criticizing the Rhodesian government over its racist policies.

In 1973, while still in prison, he was selected as the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) president and was a leading figure in the contentious civil war that led to independence on April 18, 1980.

Robert Mugabe in the Netherlands, June 1982 via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0.

Mugabe’s rule was characterized by various episodes of success soon after independence when he made a clarion call to erstwhile warring parties to unite and live peacefully for the good of the nation. However, this olive branch was short-lived after he waged war against those he termed dissidents in Matabeleland (Southern Zimbabwe), resulting in the massacre of thousandsof local Ndebele-speaking people.

After years of waiting for Britain to fulfill its terms outlined in theLancaster House Agreement to fund a  land reform program that would redistribute land to black Zimbabweans, the country’s war veterans grew impatient, as there was no progress in this regard.

Under immense pressure from the war vets, Mugabe relented and allowed a chaotic land reform process to occur, leading to violent attacks on commercial farms throughout the country.

Mugabe’s final years in office were characterized by a catastrophic economic collapse, violent land seizures of farms belonging to white commercial farmers, abductions, intimidation and a vicious power struggle.

Mugabe’s own frustration and sense of humiliation over his ousting were clear, and voiced with typical rhetorical force at an extraordinary press conference at his residence in Harare, the capital, days before elections in July 2018.

Nelson Chamisa, leader of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change, tweeted his respect for the late Mugabe, despite the major political differences they shared:

nelson chamisa

@nelsonchamisa

1/3 My condolences to the Mugabe family and Africa for the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding President.This is a dark moment for the family because a giant among them has fallen. May the Lord comfort them.

833 people are talking about this

Liberation hero or dictator?

The public has been abuzz with various views and thoughts on his passing away.

Magumbo Special tweeted about the complexity of Mugabe’s legacy:

Magumbo Special👢Shumba’s Lioness😎@docfarai

I’m conflicted you leave a very compicated legacy. Some will forever admire you as a liberation hero, but many who suffered under your harsh rule will only remember a dictator who ruined a country with great potential. You have run your race now time to face your Maker

View image on Twitter
1,011 people are talking about this

Netizen Thandekile Moyo, in a tweet to President Mnangagwa, wrote:

President of Zimbabwe

@edmnangagwa

It is with the utmost sadness that I announce the passing on of Zimbabwe’s founding father and former President, Cde Robert Mugabe (1/2)

Thandekile Moyo@Mamoxn

Be sincere. You of all people know about .
Mugabe was a ruthless mass murderer who ruled for as long as he did because of his killer instinct. He dedicated his life not to emancipation but to his quest for a one party state whose benefits you are reaping. Respect us.

97 people are talking about this

The Gukurahundi refers to the massacres of Ndebele civilians by the Zimbabwe National Army between 1983 and 1987.

Leader of Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, Julius Malema, wrote:

Julius Sello Malema

@Julius_S_Malema

I’m saddened by the passing of our martyr & giant of the African Revolution cde President Robert Mugabe. Let’s continue the fight & protect his legacy. We must not allow our enemies to tell us how to remember him; we know our heroes.

May his soul rest in revolutionary peace.

View image on Twitter
7,191 people are talking about this

Donald Kipkorir laments how Mugabe could have been great, but became “bewitched by insatiable greed”:

Donald B Kipkorir

@DonaldBKipkorir

Robert Mugabe could have been Africa’s greatest leader but like most, got bewitched by insatiable greed for riches .. Like many failed leaders who had so much promise, his Advisers were sycophantic cowards who echoed him & supported & participated in his thievery ..

921 people are talking about this

But others chose to focus on reasons to celebrate his achievements:

Abubakar As’sidiq@afkar_9

He was feted as an African liberation hero and champion of racial reconciliation. Rest well Mugabe

See Abubakar As’sidiq’s other Tweets

The ailing Mugabe spent his last remaining years shuttling between medical facilities in Singapore and his mansion in Harare.

Mugabe had made it clear to his close family members that he did not want to be buried at the National Heroes’ Acre or to be associated with President Mnangagwa and all those he viewed as his ‘betrayers and tormentors,” according to a close family friend as reported in Bulawayo. “He has said he doesn’t want them to sing and pontificate over his dead body.”

Sudan Army Murders 87 Citizens At a Sit-in Protest wounds at least another 160

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS NETWORK)

 

Sudan says 87 killed when security forces broke up protest site

Death toll given by senior investigator appointed by public prosecutor is higher than previous official figures.

Sudan says 87 killed when security forces broke up protest site
Protesters at the sit-in area were demanding the country’s ruling military council to cede power to a civilian authority [File: Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

An investigation has found “rogue” military personnel were responsible for killing dozens of Sudanese protesters in the worst violence since the overthrow of former President Omar al-Bashir.

The violent break-up of a protest site by security forces in Khartoum last month left 87 people dead and 168 wounded, a higher death toll than previous official estimates, a chief investigator said.

Fath al-Rahman Saeed, the head of the investigative committee appointed by the public prosecutor, said on Saturday some members of the security forces opened fire at protesters demanding the military cede power.

He told a news conference three officers violated orders by moving forces into the sit-in area outside the Defence Ministry, a focal point for protests that led to al-Bashir’s removal on April 11.

An order was also issued to whip demonstrators, he added.

The committee found members of the joint force tasked with clearing the Columbia area “exceeded their duties and entered the sit-in square … and fired heavily and randomly”, leading to the killing and wounding of dozens.

The health ministry previously put the death toll at 61, while opposition medics said 127 people were killed and 400 wounded in the dispersal.

“Some outlaws exploited this gathering and formed another gathering in what is known as the Columbia area, where negative and illegal practices took place,” Saeed said.

“It became a security threat, forcing the authorities to make necessary arrangements to clear the area.”

Crimes against humanity

Ismail al-Taj, an opposition representative, told a news conference the investigative committee “was formed not establish the truth, but to conceal the truth” and he questioned the new death toll.

“Reality says that there are closer to 130 martyrs,” AL-Taj said, adding the committee relied on health ministry records, which he said were inaccurate.

The opposition coalition Forces of Freedom and Change is currently negotiating with the ruling military council to finalise an agreement for a three-year transition to elections.

Saeed gave the ranks and initials of officers he said had been charged with crimes against humanity, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment under military law. He did not give their full names.

A brigadier general, referred to only as AAM, mobilised a riot force of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces on the orders of two senior officers but not members of Sudan’s top leadership, and told them to whip protesters, Saeed said.

The committee had not uncovered any incidents of rape, although the US-based Physicians for Human Rights cited local medics as saying women had their clothes torn off and were raped, he said.

Sudan’s military council, which took power after former military officer-turned-President al-Bashir was deposed, has previously denied any rape took place.

Will power be shared in Sudan?

INSIDE STORY

Will power be shared in Sudan?

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

US serial killer Samuel Little confessed to 90 murders, FBI says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-Jazeera News)

 

US serial killer Samuel Little confessed to 90 murders, FBI says

FBI investigators have confirmed 34 killings described by Little so far, with many more cases pending.

Little is already serving three life sentences for strangling three women in California [File: Ector County Texas Sheriff's Office via AP]
Little is already serving three life sentences for strangling three women in California [File: Ector County Texas Sheriff’s Office via AP]

A 78-year-old convicted serial killed has confessed to committing 90 murders in the United States over several decades, the FBI said this week.

The agency said on Tuesday it is working with state and local agents and detectives to determine if all Samuel Little’s confessions are true.

“Little’s run-ins with the law date back to 1956, and there are clear signs of a dark, violent streak among his many shoplifting, fraud, drug, solicitation, and breaking and entering charges,” the FBI said in a statement. “But law enforcement has only recently begun unraveling the true extent of his crimes.”

Little began confessing to the crimes after he lost an appeal last spring to the life sentences he is serving for strangling three women between 1987 and 1989 in California.

He was convicted of those murders in 2014.

“In all three cases, the women had been beaten and then strangled, their bodies dumped in an alley, a dumpster, and a garage,” the FBI said.

Authorities suspect the unsolved homicides Little said he committed took place between 1970 and 2005 and spanned across at least 14 states stretching from California to Maryland.

FBI investigators have so far confirmed 34 killings described by Little, with many more cases pending.

“Talking with him, you can hear he actually gets excited about describing his homicides and describing how he strangled his victims,” Bernie Nelson, a detective in Prince George’s county, Maryland, , told the Washington Post. “He looked you right in your eye and said he couldn’t help himself. He’s a monster.”

The Georgia native has been in custody since 2012, the FBI said.

Little is said to be one of the most prolific serial killers in US history.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

China to help Pakistan avert fiscal crisis: One Demon Bailing Out Another: For A Price

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

China to help Pakistan avert fiscal crisis, ‘more talks needed’

Pakistan’s foreign reserves have dwindled, causing PM Khan to decry the financial situation he inherited.

The last time Pakistan received an IMF bailout was in 2013, when it received $6.6bn [Jason Lee/Reuters]
The last time Pakistan received an IMF bailout was in 2013, when it received $6.6bn [Jason Lee/Reuters]

China is willing to provide Pakistan with economic aid to help it deal with its deteriorating finances but more discussions are needed on the details, according to a top Chinese diplomat.

The comments on Saturday by Vice Foreign Minister Kong Xuanyou came after a meeting in Beijing between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and new Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Pakistan’s foreign reserves have plunged 42 percent since the start of the year and now stand at about eight billion dollars, or less than two months of import cover.

Late last month, Saudi Arabia pledged to give Pakistan a six billion dollars rescue package, but officials say it is not enough and the country still plans to seek a bailout from the IMF to avert a balance of payments crisis.

It would be Pakistan’s 13th rescue package from the multilateral lender since the late 1980s.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People following Khan’s talks with Li, Kong said his country would help.

“During the visit, the two sides have made it clear in principle that the Chinese government will provide necessary support and assistance to Pakistan in tiding over the current economic difficulties,” Kong said.

“As for specific measures to be taken, the relevant authorities of the two sides will have detailed discussions,” he added, without giving details.

Pakistan’s fiscal crisis partly comes from limited restraints on spending and a failure to institute genuine tax reform [Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Khan, whose party swept Pakistan’s July elections, told Chinese President Xi Jinping the previous day that he had inherited “a very difficult economic situation” at home.

Though China is Pakistan’s closest ally, Khan’s newly elected government has sought to re-think the two countries’ signature project, the $60bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Beijing touts as the flagship infrastructure programme in its vast Belt and Road Initiative.

Pakistan has looked to amend CPEC to put greater emphasis on projects that focus on social development, rather than purely on infrastructure.

In his meeting with Li, Khan invited the Chinese premier to visit Pakistan and see for himself the difference the megaproject has made in the country.

“CPEC in 2013 was just an idea. Now, it is on the ground. And it has caught the imagination of the people of Pakistan,” he said.

“We feel that this a great opportunity for our country to progress, to attract investment. It gives us an opportunity to raise our standard of living, growth rate.”

For his part, Li praised the relationship, saying “China and Pakistan are all-weather partners.”

Commenting on CPEC, Kong said there were no plans to scale back the economic corridor, but he added that it would be altered somewhat to “tilt in favour of areas relating to people’s lives”.

Meanwhile, Khan’s office said in a statement that the two governments had signed a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding in the fields of agriculture, poverty reduction, forestry, law enforcement and socioeconomic development.

A history of the IMF

EMPIRE

A history of the IMF

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL-JAZEERA)

 

King says Jordan to reclaim land leased to Israel under 1994 deal

King Abdullah II says Amman will terminate parts of peace treaty which allowed Israeli farmers to use Jordanian land.

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Jordan's King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]
Jordan’s King Abdullah II [File: Jordan Pix/Getty Images]

Jordan has told Israel that it intends to reclaim two tracts of territories leased under a 1994 peace treaty, King Abdullah II has announced, in a move that was welcomed by activists and civil society groups opposing the deal.

As part of the agreement, Israel leased about 405 hectares of agricultural land in the southern sector of its border with Jordan called al-Ghumar, as well as the small al-Baqura area near the confluence of Jordan and Yarmouk rivers.

The territories – water-rich farmlands currently cultivated by Israeli farmers – were leased for 25 years, with a 12-month notice period needed to prevent an automatic extension. The deadline for renewing the leases is Thursday, October 25.

“We have informed Israel of an end to the application of the peace treaty annexes regarding al-Baqura and al-Ghumar,” the king said on Sunday, according to Petra state news agency.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar have always been on top of my priorities. Our decision is to end the annexes of the peace treaty based on our keenness to take all that is necessary for Jordan and Jordanians,” the king added.

“Al-Baqura and al-Ghumar are Jordanian land and will remain Jordanian.”

عبدالله بن الحسينPrime Minister 

@KingAbdullahII

لطالما كانت الباقورة والغمر على رأس أولوياتنا، وقرارنا هو إنهاء ملحقي الباقورة والغمر من اتفاقية السلام انطلاقا من حرصنا على اتخاذ كل ما يلزم من أجل الأردن والأردنيين

Following the king’s announcement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would negotiate with Jordan an extension of the leases, which expire next year.

“We will enter into negotiations with [Jordan] to option an extension of the existing lease agreement,” Israeli media quoted him as saying.

It is unclear how and when the territories will be returned back to Jordan’s ownership. The territories have been under Israeli control since 1948.

Growing pressure

Jordan is only one of two Arab countries that signed a peace treaty with Israel – the other being Egypt.

Observers said the king’s announcement is expected to be positively received by the Jordanian public amid increasing efforts by activists and civil society groups aimed at forcing the government to end the leasing of Jordanian territories to Israel.

It also comes a week after 85 Jordanian members of parliament signed a petition urging the king to intervene so that the lease agreement would not be renewed, according to MP Khalil Atiyeh.

“For over a year, we have been demanding the scrapping of this agreement that was not in the interest of Jordan or the Jordanian people,” Atiyeh told Al Jazeera.

Oraib al-Rantawi, a political analyst in Jordan’s capital, Amman, said “the king saw the popular rejection against keeping this agreement with Israel, especially in the last few months where economic decline in the country has led to mass protests – and he wisely decided against it”.

Thousands of angry Jordanians took to the streets in June to protest against price hikes, an income tax reform bill and official corruption, in a country where national poverty and unemployment rate stand at around 20 percent.

Political activist Hussam Abdallat praised the king’s decision as one that would “endear him to the public”.

Sufyan al-Tell, a former United Nations environmental official and outspoken critic of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, told Al Jazeera the king’s announcement is “timely and reflects the will of the people of Jordan”.

Public sentiment in Jordan against Israel is strong because of its continued occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of Palestinians.

Follow Ali Younes on Twitter: @ali_reports

Israeli jets pound Gaza after Hamas rocket hits home

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE AL-JAZEERA NEWS AGENCY)

 

Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home

One Palestinian killed, eight injured in Israeli attacks; Hamas says it’s an attempt to undermine truce.

Israeli jets pound Gaza after rocket hits home
The mother of the Palestinian who was killed by the Israeli air raid at the hospital in Gaza [Mohammed Salem/Reuters]

Israel says its fighter jets have struck 20 targets in the Gaza Strip, killing one Palestinian and injuring eight others.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, Naji Ahmad al-Zaneen, 25, was killed in the attack in northern Gaza early on Wednesday.

Among the wounded are six children who were on their way to school in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.

Palestinian sources said several rockets fired by Israeli warplanes targeted sites south of Gaza City, while another blast rocked the central region of the Gaza Strip. A powerful explosion also rocked Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

The Israeli army stated that it carried out air raids in response to a rocket that hit a home in Beersheba in southern Israel, causing damage but no injuries.

“At 4am [01:00 GMT] Israelis in the city of Beersheba were running to bomb shelters after a rocket was launched from the Gaza Strip at Israel,” the Israeli army said on Twitter.

“We will defend Israeli civilians,” it added.

The Israeli army said Hamas, which governs the besieged enclave, bears “full responsibility” for the rocket fire but the Palestinian movement denied their role.

In a joint statement with allied armed groups, Hamas said it rejected “all irresponsible attempts” to undermine Egyptian efforts to broker a new long-term truce.

It was one of the first rockets fired in months from the Palestinian territory under Israel’s devastating 11-year blockade and comes at a time of renewed tensions between Israel and Gaza.

Another rocket from Gaza reportedly fell into the sea near Tel Aviv. No injuries were reported.

Israeli fighter jets struck numerous sites in Gaza on Wednesday [Reuters]

‘Heavy Blow’

The rocket was the first to hit an Israeli home since the devastating 2014 Israeli military assault on the besieged enclave.

It comes a day after Israel’s defence minister said the time had come to deliver a “heavy blow” to Hamas after the Israeli army killed seven Palestinians on Friday, including two teenage boys, during demonstrations along Israel’s separation fence.

It was unclear who fired the projectiles but the Israeli army says it holds Hamas accountable for what is happening in the territory under its control.

The rocket fire comes after months of demonstrations in Gaza by the Israeli separation fence.

The protesters are demanding to return to their homes in what is now Israel, under the UN Resolution 194, which stipulates their right of return.

At least 70 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees, their families been expelled or forced to flee the violence during the 1948 creation of the state of Israel.

They are also demanding an end to the crippling 11-year Israeli-Egyptian siege.

Since the Great March of Return demonstrations began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 205 Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave, including journalists and paramedics, and have injured more than 18,000.

According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, 68 Palestinians have had their limbs amputated due to serious injuries.

In response to last week’s demonstrations in which some Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers and burned tyres, Israel halted Qatari-donated fuel shipments to Gaza’s power plant.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened “very painful blows,” saying Israel was very close to waging a “different kind of activity”.

“If it has any sense, Hamas will cease its fire and violent outbursts – now,” he said.

A member of Palestinian security forces inspects the scene of an Israeli air raid in southern Gaza [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

Closing borders, cutting off fuel 

On Wednesday Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman ordered the closure of both of Israel’s border crossings with Gaza – the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods and the Erez crossing for people.

The permitted fishing zone along the Gaza coast has also been reduced to three nautical miles from six, the defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civil affairs, COGAT, said.

Under the Oslo Accords, Israel is obligated to permit fishing for Gazans up to 20 nautical miles, but this has never been implemented; the widest range Israel has ever allowed is 12 nautical miles.

Lieberman said on Tuesday the protests could not be allowed to go on.

“We are not prepared to accept the level of violence we see week after week,” Avigdor Lieberman told troops and commanders at an army base near southern Israel’s border with Gaza.

He also suspended shipments of fuel that had been trucked daily into Gaza over the previous week under a deal brokered by the UN and backed by the United States, Israel and others.

It had seen thousands of litres brought into the fuel-starved Gaza strip.

The UN says Israeli blockade of the enclave has resulted in a “catastrophic” humanitarian situation.

Gaza’s two million residents endure dire living conditions including a shortage of safe drinking water and regular power cuts, partly because of the lack of fuel for the strip’s power station. Residents typically receive about four hours of electricity a day.

Interpol chief Meng Hongwei resigns after detention in China

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

Interpol chief Meng Hongwei resigns after detention in China

Interpol says France received Meng Hongwei’s resignation as president with immediate effect.

Interpol president Meng Hongwei vanished during a trip to China in September [File/AFP]
Interpol president Meng Hongwei vanished during a trip to China in September [File/AFP]

France has received the resignation of Meng Hongwei as president of Interpol with immediate effect, according to the international police agency.

The development came on Sunday shortly after China said Meng, who went missing 12 days ago, was under investigation for unspecified violations of Chinese law.

The National Supervisory Commission, which handles corruption cases involving public servants, said in a statement that Meng “is currently under investigation on suspicion of violating the law.”

Earlier on Sunday, Meng Hongwei’s wife, Grace, said her husband sent her an image of a knife before he disappeared during a trip to their native China.

Making her first public comments on the issue, Grace Meng told reporters in Lyon, France, that she thought the knife was her husband’s way of trying to tell her he was in danger.

She said she has had no further contact with him since the message that was sent on September 25. Grace also said four minutes before Meng shared the image, he had sent a message saying: “Wait for my call.”

Grace Meng told journalists that she thought the knife emoji meant her husband was in danger [Jeff Pachoud/AFP]

Grace Meng would not speculate on Sunday on what might have happened to him.

Asked if she believed that he has been arrested, she said: “In China, what happened, I’m not sure.”

She read a statement during her press conference in Lyon, but would not allow reporters to show her face, saying she feared for her own safety and the safety of her two children.

Meng is a senior Chinese security official as well as president of the International Criminal Police Organisation.

The Lyon-based international police agency said on Saturday it has used law enforcement channels to inquire with China about Meng’s status.

Grace Meng would not allow her face to be shown over fears for her safety [Jeff Pachoud/AFP]

His disappearance was made public on Friday, when French authorities said they were opening an investigation to find out what happened to Meng, a Chinese national who served a lengthy term as the vice minister for public security.

According to a report by the South China Morning Post newspaper, Meng was taken in for questioning by Chinese authorities. The paper, which based its reporting on an unnamed source, said the reason for Meng’s questioning was unknown.

Meng’s disappearance was originally reported by his wife, who told French police in the city of Lyon she had not heard from him since he traveled to China.

Meng served a lengthy term as China’s vice minister for public security [File: Xinhua via AP]

According to Interpol’s website, Meng has nearly 40 years of experience in criminal justice and policing, and has overseen matters related to legal institutions, narcotics control and counter-terrorism.

Following the appointment, critics suggested that Meng’s appointment gave Beijing a chance to enlist more international help in tracking down alleged economic criminals, including corrupt officials, targeted by President Xi Jinping‘s anti-corruption campaign.

But Interpol has, in the past, denied this, saying its head does not intervene in day-to-day operations, which are handled by Secretary-General Juergen Stock who is German.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES