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Europe must speak up for Catalan separatists, says Puidgemont

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Tue, 2017-11-07 03:00
ID: 
1510075813478484100

MADRID: Ousted Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, who wants to lead a pro-independence coalition of political forces in an upcoming regional election, has criticized the passivity of European politicians in denouncing the prosecution of dismissed secessionist officials.
In an interview on Tuesday in Brussels with Catalan public radio, the separatist leader says there is an “absolute disconnect between the interests of the people and the European elites” and that Catalonia’s problem is an “issue of human rights that requires maximum attention.”
Puigdemont is fighting extradition to Spain, where other members of the ousted Cabinet have been sent to jail while awaiting the results of a probe for allegedly implementing a strategy to secede from Spain.
Spanish central authorities are now in direct control of the northeastern region, where an early election on Dec. 21 is shaping into a tight race between separatist and pro-union forces.
The civil society group that spearheaded the Catalan endeavor for secession from Spain on Tuesday called for the region’s separatist political parties to run in a “unified pro-independence ticket.”
In a statement, Assemblea Nacional Catalana said such a joint coalition should include jailed separatist activists and the members of the deposed Catalan Cabinet as candidates.
The parties were facing a midnight deadline to register an interest in forming coalitions.
But a repetition of the ousted ruling coalition of the center-right PDeCAT and the left republican ERC that also appeals to the anti-establishment CUP party seems unlikely before the deadline expires.
PDeCAT wants Puigdemont to lead a hypothetical coalition, while ERC says it will only agree if deposed and jailed Vice President Oriol Junqueras heads a ticket supported by the CUP and even far-left non-nationalists.
A recent poll by the Barcelona-based La Vanguardia newspaper predicted that the three pro-secession parties would win between 66 and 69 seats in December. Sixty-eight seats are needed for a majority.
Pro-secession parties held a slim majority of 72 of 132 seats in the Catalan Parliament before it was dissolved by Spanish authorities after lawmakers passed a declaration of independence on Oct. 27.
The central government also removed Puigdemont’s Cabinet and called for a snap election to replace them.
Catalonia’s opposition leader Ines Arrimadas said on Tuesday she hoped that disillusionment among pro-independence supporters would help her Ciutadans (Citizens) party and other pro-Spanish unity groups to band together and oust the pro-secessionists.
Arrimadas, 36, said secessionist parties will have no credibility if they again promise a bright future for Catalonia’s independence.
She said no country recognized their secession declaration on Oct. 27, the EU insists independent Catalonia will be expelled and thousands of businesses have since moved their headquarters from the region.
Arrimadas, whose party holds 25 seats in the 135-deputy Catalan parliament, said “demoralization” among the pro-independence camp and mobilization of unionist parties could help swing the balance in Spain’s favor.
Meanwhile, judges are also gauging possible rebellion charges against the former Catalan separatist officials and lawmakers who made the vote possible. Eight former Cabinet members including Junqueras have been jailed, one of them released on bail and five more, including Puigdemont, are in Belgium where they plan to campaign while fighting extradition to Spain.
Six lawmakers, including the regional parliament’s speaker Carme Forcadell, could also be sent to jail as soon as Thursday after they testify before a Supreme Court judge on a similar probe. They face possible charges of rebellion, sedition and embezzlement, which can be punished with up to 30 years in prison.
Catalan separatist parties are planning to include some of the officials in ballots as a way to draw more attention to a situation that they consider unjust. Lawyers are also arguing that the officials should be spared jail before trial because running for a parliamentary seat means that they have no intention of fleeing the country.

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Catalonia’s ex-leader urges unity as deadline for secessionist pact nears

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-11-07 13:44
ID: 
1510052383716146300

MADRID: Catalonia’s deposed leader Carles Puigdemont on Tuesday urged the region’s political forces to unite against Spain, as hours remained for him to agree terms for an electoral pact with other pro-independence parties.
Puigdemont went into self-imposed exile in Belgium last month after Spain’s central government fired his secessionist administration, dissolved the Catalan parliament and called an election in the region for Dec 21.
Madrid also issued an arrest warrant against him on charges including rebellion, but a Brussels court ruled on Monday he could remain at liberty in Belgium until it had decided whether he should be extradited.
The independence push has deeply divided the country, dragging it into its worst political crisis since its return to democracy four decades ago and fueling anti-Spanish feelings in Catalonia and nationalist tendencies elsewhere.
Pro-independence parties want the December vote to become a de facto independence referendum, and Puigdemont’s PDeCAT and the ERC party led by Oriol Junqueras said at the weekend they might contest it on a combined ticket.
But they must register any alliance by the end of Tuesday, and prospects of them bridging their differences in time looked slim.
ERC’s spokesman Sergi Sabria said on Monday his party did not rule out a coalition with PDeCAT, but would agree only if other parties joined them, including the anti-capitalist CUP which has yet to decide whether it will contest the December ballot.
Polls suggest secessionist parties would win enough votes combined to hold a slim majority in the Catalan parliament. Running together would increase their chance of success.
Puigdemont and other secessionist leaders face charges of rebellion, sedition, misuse of public funds, disobedience and breach of public trust for organizing an illegal independence referendum on Oct. 1 and later proclaiming a Catalan republic, something that goes against Spain’s constitution.
In an interview with Catalunya Radio on Tuesday, Puigdemont said all parties standing in the region should unite against Madrid’s actions.
He also called on the Spanish government to suspend article 155, which Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy enacted last month to rule Catalonia directly from Madrid, ahead of the December vote.
“The ideal would be a broad regional list of parties… PDeCAT, CUP, (left-wing) Podemos, ERC… that stand for democracy and freedom.” Puigdemont said.
“The Spanish state is committing a brutal repression … If we don’t battle repression together, the Spanish state may win this fight.”
Around 200 Catalan mayors who are in favor of independence traveled to Brussels on Tuesday to back Puigdemont and defend the Catalan cause in the European capital. They were due to hold a rally at 5 p.m. (1600 GMT).

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‘He needed to be stopped,’ says local hero who pursued Texas gunman

November 7, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
Reuters
Tue, 2017-11-07 06:19
ID: 
1510032244685242100

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas: A Texas man who saw a local exchanging gunfire with the assailant who had just massacred 26 people at a small town church said he had no hesitation in pursuing the gunman because he needed to be stopped.
“That’s it. I mean that’s the bottom line, he needed to be stopped,” Johnnie Langendorff told Reuters TV. “He was stopped and he’s not going to hurt anyone else ever again.”
Langendorff was driving his pickup truck in Sutherland Springs on Sunday when he saw a local man, Stephen Willeford, trading rifle fire with a black-clad stranger who had just emerged from the First Baptist Church.
“He jumped in my truck and said ‘He just shot up the church, we got to get him’ and I said ‘OK, let’s go,’” Langendorff said of his rapid words with Willeford.
“And so from there we blew through this intersection and he started going about 90-95 (miles per hour) (145-153 km per hour) keeping up with this guy,” Langendorff said.
At the time, neither of them knew they were chasing Devin Kelley, 26, an Air Force veteran who police say put on tactical gear, a ballistic vest and skull-like mask to carry out the most deadly mass shooting in the modern history of Texas.
The pursuit lasted about 10-12 minutes, Langendorff said. Then Kelley lost control and crashed into a ditch. They stopped too and Willeford trained his rifle on the disabled vehicle, Langendorff added, but the gunman never emerged.
Willeford’s cousin Ken Leonard told CNN that Willeford shot Kelley where there was a gap in his vest.
“Stephen is the best shot that I know,” Leonard told CNN. “He without armor and barefooted ran into the fire and put his own life at risk, took return fire and fired accurately three times. That’s an amazing accomplishment, especially for a man who has, who was never in the military.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Freeman Martin, a regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety, described Willeford as a good Samaritan and a “Texas hero.”
Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt also hailed Willeford for grabbing his gun and responding to the danger.
“He didn’t have to come out,” Tackitt told Reuters. “He could have stayed at his house.”

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Trump expresses ‘great confidence’ in Saudi anti-corruption push

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
ZEKE MILLER | AP
Mon, 2017-11-06 06:00
ID: 
1510011007972726900

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump is expressing “great confidence” in Saudi leaders amid an anti-corruption push, saying in a tweet, “They know exactly what they are doing.”
Trump is addressing the arrests of prominent Saudi royals and business leaders ordered by a committee headed by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.
Trump said he has great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He said some of the arrested people “have been ‘milking’ their country for years!“
“They know exactly what they are doing,” Trump also tweeted that

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Reports: Queen Elizabeth has investments in offshore tax havens

November 6, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AP
Sun, 2017-11-05 03:00
ID: 
1509984469060986000

LONDON: Newly leaked papers revealed Sunday that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II has invested some of her private money in offshore tax havens.
According to documents obtained by the International Consortium of Journalists, the queen’s investment managers placed roughly £10 million ($13 million) in offshore portfolios in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.
The investments were made in 2004 and 2005 by the Duchy of Lancaster, the queen’s private financial manager.
The Duchy of Lancaster, which holds assets for the British monarch to generate income for her, confirmed in a statement that some of its investments are in overseas accounts.
It said that all its investments were legitimate.
“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds. All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate,” it said.
The documents showed that the queen has roughly £3,200 invested in BrightHouse, a household goods and electronics retailer that has been accused of exploiting customers by charging high interest rates.
Her use of offshore tax havens is likely to generate criticism from activists seeking to abolish the monarchy in favor of a republic.
The queen pays taxes on the income generated by her holdings in the Duchy of Lancaster.
She has vast financial assets, including luxury real estate, valuable artwork and jewelry.
She is also the legal owner of many of the swans on the River Thames.
The documents about Elizabeth’s financial holdings are part of a tranche of some 13.4 million records of offshore accounts leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said the widespread use of offshore havens by wealthy individuals in dozens of countries proves “there’s one rule for the super-rich and another for the rest when it comes to paying tax.”

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US extremists fail to build significant networks, act alone

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-11-05 05:12
ID: 
1509858526401158000

WASHINGTON: Sayfullo Saipov, the radicalized Uzbek who mowed down eight people on a New York bike path, apparently developed his plot in relative isolation, like most other extremist attackers in the United States.
But in Europe many have had community support, an underground network, or even a hard-line Islamist to guide them, as in the twin attacks in Spain in August.
What makes the difference?
Experts say that in part, a better rooted, more affluent US Muslim community shows no tolerance for anyone exhibiting sympathy for causes like the Daesh group or Al-Qaeda.
And tougher and expansive US laws and more aggressive law enforcement than Europe have also made a difference.
Together, they leave aspiring extremists in the United States isolated with their social media links and, at times, just a few friends in the know.
Saipov, who crashed a rented truck down a busy New York bike path Tuesday, is so far believed by investigators to have been “self-radicalized” online without any apparent support inside the United States.
Analysts say that’s because it is much harder to safely find support.
“We tend not to have large clusters in the US…. For the most part you are talking about ones and twos,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Hughes said one fundamental reason is distance: the country is much farther away from extremist networks and it is much harder to travel to the Middle East because of official no-fly lists.
European Muslims find it much easier to travel to areas where radical groups like Daesh operate.
As a consequence, he said, “We don’t have the kind of in-person recruitment done in Europe.”
Another factor is the expansive use of the charge of “material support of terrorism,” a catch-all that “allows the FBI to interject themselves at an earlier stage than our European partners,” Hughes said.
For critics, the FBI is too aggressive and stretches the law with undercover schemes that entrap people who are not really threats. But the net effect is to prevent them from establishing connections and frightening others thinking of trying to build networks.
According to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, heavier prison sentences in terror cases in the US makes a difference.
US sentences are 15-20 years, compared to four to seven years in Europe, which releases terror convicts back into the community much more quickly. That helps sustain dangerous cells, he said.
That is not to say the United States has not had its own cells or ringleaders, Gartenstein-Ross notes.
Anwar Al-Awlaki, one of the most influential extremist thinkers and propagandists, was born and raised in the United States before he joined Al-Qaeda in Yemen and was killed in a 2011 drone strike.
And in the late 2000s a cell that involved maybe 20 people developed around the Somali community in Minneapolis that became an effective body to recruit people to join Daesh.
“That was clearly a network,” like those in Europe, he said. “They have not been prevented, they still exist.”
The Somali cell more resembled those in Europe, rooted in a more recent, less wealthy, poorly educated immigrant community.
For the most part American Muslim communities are wealthier, and better educated on average than European communities.
That makes them less alienated and better-integrated, according to Corey Saylor, an expert on Islamophobia at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
US Muslim groups will more readily chase out of the community and the mosque someone who espouses radical ideas.
“If somebody in the congregation is talking about it, they get pushed out fairly quickly. There is no hospitality” for it, he said.
While neither side talks about it much, US Muslim communities have been more willing to report possible threats to law enforcement than in Europe. That was helped by outreach programs under president Barack Obama, according to Gartenstein-Ross.
That may have ebbed under President Donald Trump, however, given his open mistrust of Muslims. “The lack of trust has impeded cooperation; suspicion has likely increased,” he said.

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3 hours wait to enter Bahrain on payday weekend

November 5, 2017 rbksa 0
Author: 
ARAB NEWS
Sat, 2017-11-04 21:43
ID: 
1509845346610546700

DAMMAM: A traffic jam at the King Fahd Causeway Bridge connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain stretched to an unprecedented distance on Thursday and Friday, but passport and customs teams in the Eastern Province provided no explanation.

Sources told Al-Hayat newspaper that the jam started at 11 a.m. on Thursday and gradually increased until the early hours of the night. Completing travelers’ procedures took more than three hours.

“Many travelers were unable to return because they got trapped by the large number of vehicles and were thus forced to wait for long hours,” Al-Hayat’s sources added. “The King Fahd Causeway Bridge customs mobilized all their staff when the jam started last Thursday, but their measures failed in the face of the extreme two-day traffic congestion.”

The sources speculated that three reasons were behind this incident: The private sector’s payday coincided with the weekend; the first phase of the largest shopping mall in Bahrain was recently launched; and Bahrain’s customs started using a new system for completing travelers’ procedures.

Twitter users shared photos and video footage of travelers and the traffic congestion that spanned over several kilometers.

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