Saudi Shoura Council to discuss annual performance report for social, family and youth affairs

Author: 
Arab News
Sat, 2017-10-28 03:00
ID: 
1509145657552088600

RIYADH: The Shoura Council will hold its 61st, 62nd and 63rd ordinary sessions next week with a number of items on the agenda.
The council will discuss in its 61st ordinary session next Monday the report of the Committee for Social, Family and Youth Affairs regarding the annual report of the General Authority for Sports for the fiscal year 2015-2016.
It will also discuss the Energy and Economy Committee’s report regarding the annual report of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund for the fiscal year of 2015-2016.
The council will also discuss the report of Committee of Transport, Communications and Information Technology regarding the annual report of the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology for the fiscal year of 2015-2016.
In the recommendations it raised to the council, the committee requested the ministry to draft an executive plan and performance indicators to turn the communications and information technology sector into a productive national industry operating with a Saudi workforce within a specific time frame, and study the separation of the Saudi Post from the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology.
In its 62nd ordinary session on Tuesday, the council will vote on the recommendations of the Committee of Transport, Communications and Information Technology, requesting the General Authority of Civil Aviation to find a solution to the high prices of tickets inside the Kingdom. The council will also listen to the committee’s remarks about a council member’s opinion regarding the committee’s report of the previous session.
The council will also discuss the report of the Health Committee regarding the annual report of King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center for the fiscal year of 2015-2016.
In its 63rd session on Wednesday, the Shoura Council will discuss the report of the Fiscal Committee regarding the study of criminal activities related to companies listed on the Saudi stock market, in order to control crimes of forgery, fraud and fake financial statements, and implement the necessary mechanisms to deal with the problem.
The council will also discuss the report of Human Rights Committee and regulatory bodies regarding the Human Rights Commission’s annual report for the fiscal year of 2015-2016. The committee called on the Human Rights Commission to coordinate with media in order to avoid false information.
Another issue listed on the council’s agenda for this session is the report of the Committee of Islamic and Judicial Affairs regarding the annual report of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Call and Guidance for the fiscal year of 2015-2016. The committee called on the ministry to reinforce its control on mosques.

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Mattis says threat of nuclear attack by North Korea accelerating

Author: The Associated PressSat, 2017-10-28 03:00ID: 1509160967295126100SEOUL, South Korea: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating.
In remarks in Seoul with South Kore…

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Mattis says threat of nuclear attack by North Korea accelerating

Author: 
The Associated Press
Sat, 2017-10-28 03:00
ID: 
1509160967295126100

SEOUL, South Korea: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday the threat of nuclear missile attack by North Korea is accelerating.
In remarks in Seoul with South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo at his side, Mattis accused the North of illegal and unnecessary missile and nuclear programs — and vowed to defeat any attack.
Mattis said the North engages in “over-the-top rhetoric” and behavior. And he said the US will never accept a nuclear North.
He added that regardless of what the North might try, it is overmatched by the firepower and cohesiveness of the decades-old US-South Korean alliance.
As he emphasized throughout his weeklong Asia trip, which included stops in Thailand and the Philippines, Mattis said diplomacy remains the preferred way to deal with the North.
“With that said,” he added, “make no mistake — any attack on the United States or our allies will be defeated, and any use of nuclear weapons by the North will be met with a massive military response that is effective and overwhelming.”
Mattis’s comments in Seoul did not go beyond his recent statements of concern about North Korea, although he appeared to inject a stronger note about the urgency of resolving the crisis.
While he accused the North of “outlaw” behavior, he did not mention that President Donald Trump has ratcheted up his own rhetoric. In August, Trump warned the North not to make any more threats against the United States, and said that if it did, it would be met with “fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

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Typhoon Saola brings heavy rain in southern Japan

Author: AFPSat, 2017-10-28 06:16ID: 1509160987645128500TOKYO: Typhoon Saola barrelled toward Japan’s southernmost Okinawa island chain on Saturday bringing heavy rain as authorities issued a warning for strong winds and landslides.
The storm …

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Typhoon Saola brings heavy rain in southern Japan

Author: 
AFP
Sat, 2017-10-28 06:16
ID: 
1509160987645128500

TOKYO: Typhoon Saola barrelled toward Japan’s southernmost Okinawa island chain on Saturday bringing heavy rain as authorities issued a warning for strong winds and landslides.
The storm came less than a week after Typhoon Lan left five dead, one missing and scores injured.
Saola was moving 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Okinawa’s capital Naha at 11 am (0200 GMT), packing gusts of up to 162 kilometers per hour, Japan’s weather agency said.
The storm is set to pass through Okinawa and the small subtropical island chain of Amami, which lies between Okinawa and Kyushu, later this evening and then hit southern Kagoshima prefecture on Sunday morning.
Public broadcaster NHK said some rivers in Okinawa are at risk of flooding.
Large storms regularly strike Japan, with 22 people killed when Typhoon Lionrock pounded the country last September.
In August, Typhoon Noru killed two people and injured 51.

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Brazil’s Temer survives corruption vote

Author: 
AP
Thu, 2017-10-26 03:00
ID: 
1509032066961643200

BRASILIA: President Michel Temer may have saved his job by convincing a small majority in Brazil’s Congress not to suspend him and put him on trial for corruption, but his scandal-rocked government appears more weakened than ever.
The vote late Wednesday marked the second time in three months that Temer survived a legislative vote that could have suspended him for a trial, but analysts said he has spent so much political capital it raises the specter of a lame duck administration unable to enact a proposed overhaul of pensions and work rules aimed at reviving Brazil’s economy.
“Major structural reforms, such as social security reform, tax reform, further movement on labor, I think those are dead in the water in large part because Temer does not have a whole lot of political capital and legislators have very little incentive after this vote to cooperate,” said Matthew M. Taylor, a professor at the School of International Service at American University and a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The 77-year-old Temer spent recent weeks shoring up support, doling out local projects, plum positions and favorable decrees in a successful bid to avoid being put on trial for charges of obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organization. He needed backing from at least a third of the 513 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies — or 171 votes. He easily passed that mark with 251 votes for him, 233 against and the rest abstentions or absences.
“This accusation is fragile, inept and worse than the first one,” legislator Celso Russomanno said while voting in favor of the president.
Earlier in the day, Temer was hospitalized briefly for a urinary obstruction, but emerged smiling and flashing two thumbs up.
But the president did not get as much support as he did in an August vote on separate bribery charge, when 263 lawmakers voted in his favor.
In both cases, the number of supporters fell well below the 308 votes, or three-fifths of the chamber, that he would need to pass his big proposals, such as a revamp of the pension system that he says would help boost the economy. Latin America’s largest economy is struggling to recover from a deep recession that has led to high unemployment and pushed millions into poverty.
The opposition blasted Temer, whose approval ratings have dropped to single-digits.
“I vote with more than 90 percent of Brazilians who have already convicted Temer’s corrupted administration,” said lawmaker Luiza Erundina.
Beyond criminal accusations against Temer and scandals involving several of his Cabinet ministers, many Brazilians feel the administration lacks legitimacy because of how he came to power. Temer, then vice president, took over last year after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed from office. His term runs until Dec. 31, 2018.
For several hours Wednesday, many opposition lawmakers refused to enter the chamber, hoping to deny the necessary quorum and delay the vote into the night, when presumably more Brazilians are watching television. Many stations carried the vote live, forcing deputies to decide whether to publicly support a deeply unpopular leader with elections looming next year. All 513 seats will be up for grabs.
The charges against Temer stem from a mammoth corruption investigation that began as a probe into money laundering and ended up uncovering systemic graft in Brazil’s halls of power. Dozens of politicians and businessmen have been jailed since the probe launched in 2014.
Prosecutors allege Brazil’s government was run like a cartel for years, with political parties selling favors, votes and plum appointments to powerful businessmen. They say that Temer took over the scheme when he took power last year, after Rousseff was removed, and that his party has since received about $190 million in bribes.
Temer denies the charges and contends the prosecutor who brought them had a grudge against him.
He is not alone in facing allegations of corruptions. Watchdog groups estimate around 60 percent of members of Congress have been formally accused or are being investigated for wrongdoing, including numerous corruption cases. Many Brazilians say all they can do is hold their noses until next year’s election.
“To tell you the truth, I cannot think of any decent, honest politician who could be president right now,” said Marco Tribesi, a 19-year-old journalism student at Casper Libero University in Sao Paulo as he leafed through a magazine at a newsstand. “But hopefully someone will emerge and start to straighten things out.”

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Iceland’s controversial law that lets murderers become judges

Author: 
AFP
Thu, 2017-10-26 06:31
ID: 
1509031719801596300

REYKJAVIK: A tool for rehabilitating criminals or simply a way of granting special favors? In Iceland, a law that allows a murderer to become a lawyer or a paedophile a judge recently led to the government’s downfall.
Known as “restored honor,” the legal procedure dating back to 1940 does not erase a convict’s criminal record, nor is it a pardon.
It is intended to restore a convict’s civil rights and help them reintegrate into the community.
But for most Icelanders, the law is obsolete, unjust, and an example of the cronyism that has for too long poisoned politics on the small North Atlantic island of 335,000 people.
Opposition to the law began to emerge after Robert Arni Hreidarsson, a former lawyer who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2007 for having sexually assaulted at least four teenage girls, had his “honor restored” in September 2016.
One of his victims was the daughter of Bergur Thor Ingolfsson, a 48-year-old actor-director who has become a spokesman for the law’s opponents.
“I’m really really proud of what we have done, to put a mirror in the face of the system and say ‘Look at it, this is crazy’,” he told AFP.
Over the past two decades, 86 convicts have applied to have their “honor restored,” according to the Justice Ministry. Thirty-two of them were approved.
“The spirit, the idea of the law was a pretty good thing. But we should put up more fences for people applying for high positions in society,” insisted Bergur Thor Ingolfsson.
“Child abusers should not automatically get high positions like police chief, lawyer or member of Parliament,” he said.
Icelandic prison sentences longer than four months bar convicts from standing for election, taking a seat on the board of a state-owned company, and practicing law, among other things.
Atli Gudjon Helgason is an international footballer-turned-lawyer who was sentenced to 16 years in prison for brutally murdering his business associate in 2001. His civil rights were later restored and he was able to recover his license to practice law.
Another convict who benefitted from “restored honor” told AFP, on condition of anonymity, that he had mixed feelings about the practice.
“For me it was completely necessary because of my education and to have a chance to make a living. I basically had no choice,” he said.
But “my redemption for what I did comes from within myself,” he added.
“I don’t need a document from the government to stipulate that I’m now a good citizen. I broke the law, and I take full responsibility for what I did.
“I was sentenced to prison and finished my sentence. Then I completely turned my life around. This ‘restored honor’ certificate therefore means nothing to me,” he stressed.
A request for “restored honor,” which is granted by the president, must be accompanied by two letters of recommendation signed by upstanding members of the community.
The father of Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson, Benedikt Sveinsson, one of Iceland’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen, signed such a letter for another paedophile convicted in 2004 of having raped his stepdaughter almost daily for 12 years.
The name of the signatory had been kept from the media and the public (only his son and the justice minister were informed), until a parliamentary commission ordered it be revealed.
Accused of having misled lawmakers and the public, and after a junior coalition member quit the government in protest, the prime minister resigned in September and called a snap election to be held on Saturday.
Icelanders’ opposition to the law has focused primarily on child molesters being granted “restored honor,” and less so on other types of criminals.
In a bid to address the concerns, Parliament voted on Sept. 27 to temporarily repeal a section of the law dealing with those sentenced to more than one year in prison, pending a full review by the future government.
But Arnar Thor Jonsson, a lawyer and former Reykjavik judge, lamented that some convicts are now no longer able to benefit from rehabilitation.
“The debate has been focused too narrowly on paedophiles,” he said.

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HRW says Iran recruiting Afghans for Syria fight

Author: 
AFP
Wed, 2017-10-25 03:00
ID: 
1508880876597106600

KABUL: Fleeing grinding poverty and unemployment, thousands of Afghan Shiites have been recruited by Iran to defend Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, former fighters and rights activists say.
Afghan men and boys as young as 14 are signing up to fight on the promise of money and legal residency in Shiite-dominated Iran, Assad’s regional ally, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Since 2013 the Afghans, including undocumented migrants living in Iran, have joined the Tehran-backed Fatemiyoun division fighters in Syria, said HRW and ex-members who spoke to AFP on condition their real names were not used.
“For me, it was just about money,” said Shams, a former fighter.
The 25-year-old, a member of the Hazara ethnic group, went to Syria twice in 2016 to fight in a conflict that has now been raging for more than six years.
“Whoever I saw was going for money and to have free entry to Iran. I never saw anyone fighting for religious reasons,” said Shams, who now lives in the Afghan capital Kabul.
The withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops at the end of 2014 drained the Afghan economy and left many people out of work, fueling the flow of migrants into Iran in search of a better life.
HRW estimated last year that Iran hosts around 3 million Afghans.
In this desperate pool, Iranian recruiters targeted Shiites to swell the ranks of Fatemiyoun soldiers, who HRW says fight alongside Syrian regime forces.
“I went there (Iran) because I was jobless and it was a way to get money for my family,” said Shams.
“My idea was to find a job in Iran. I had no plan to go to fight in Syria but after a month of being jobless, I decided to go.
“They were encouraging us saying ‘you will be a freedom fighter and if you return to Iran alive you can stay with a 10-year residence permit.’ But my main goal was to earn money.”
Afghan Shiites are given 1.5 million rials ($450) to register at a recruitment center for the Fatemiyoun, Shams said. Once they have signed up they receive 3 million rials a month, a fortune for many poor Afghans.
Shams’ first mission was in June 2016 in the Syrian capital of Damascus, where he was assigned to protect a barracks for two months. He went back to the country in September and was deployed to Aleppo, where he was given his first AK-47 rifle after receiving rudimentary weapons training from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
On the front line of the battle between Daesh and the Al-Nusra Front, Shams said he found himself caught up in an intense and deadly battle.
“In Aleppo, we faced an ambush — out of 100 fighters we lost almost all of them. There were 15 of us left alive,” Shams said.
“The bodies were sent back to Iran and the families in Afghanistan held funeral ceremonies in mosques without a coffin or grave.”
Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, estimates more than 760 Afghans have been killed in Syria since September 2013.
Another man who fought in Syria in 2014 when he was 17, said it was not just Afghans in Fatemiyoun. “There were also Pakistanis, Iraqis — all the Shiites,” he told AFP.
“We were mixed up with the Arabs, we did not understand their language.”
HRW says the Iranians refuse to provide accurate figures, but estimates there are nearly 15,000 Afghans fighting for Fatemiyoun.
“They are used by the Iranian government, which treats them like slaves,” said Ramazan Bashardost, a Hazara member of Parliament in Kabul.
Afghanistan’s Foreign Ministry called on Iran in October to stop sending young Afghans to Syria after the HRW report condemning the recruitment of minors.

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Russia vetoes extending Syria chemical weapons inspectors

Author: EDITH M. LEDERER | APTue, 2017-10-24 21:30ID: 1508859186145130900UNITED NATIONS: Russia has vetoed a US-sponsored UN resolution that would extend the work of inspectors seeking to determine who is responsible for chemical weapons atta…

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US review to confirm ‘ethnic cleansing’ against Rohingya Muslims

Author: MATTHEW PENNINGTON | APTue, 2017-10-24 21:30ID: 1508858461385054700WASHINGTON: US officials are preparing a recommendation for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to declare that “ethnic cleansing” is occurring against Myanmar’s Rohingya…

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