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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:26 am 
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Protesters in Manila, the Philippines against the APEC summit

2015 Has seen its share of protests around the world.

Though not as much as in the preceding years, 2015 was not a peaceful time for many people around the world.

The increasing pressures of over-population, and the resulting conflicts of resource scarcity, climate change, elitist power structures and megalomaniac heads of state, we still seem to be moving steadily along to a future of more conflict and hardship.

Massive displacements of peoples caused by ideological violence and economic disparity are adding to the restiveness of regions otherwise considered to be peaceful and prosperous. The world is in a state of flux and it's difficult to see how these conflicts can be resolved peacefully.

Happy New Year !

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 5:34 am 
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Skirmishes in Athens as general strike sweeps Greece
By Catherine Boitard, John Hadoulis
4 February 2016

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A man sits outside a closed store as demonstrators clash with riot police in Athens, on February 4, 2016 (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

Athens (AFP) - Thousands marched in Greece on Thursday as a crippling general strike against pension reforms swept the country, with hooded youths lobbing firebombs at riot police in scattered skirmishes in Athens.

Some 40,000 people joined protests in the Greek capital and another 14,000 demonstrated in Thessaloniki in the 24-hour industrial action, police said, as riot officers in Athens fired tear gas in response to Molotov cocktails.

A journalist was taken to hospital after being beaten on the sidelines of the demonstration. Police detained two people at the end of the protest, but not in relation to this incident.

It was the broadest protest since leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras first came to power just over a year ago. The unrest comes as the Greek government and its creditors are meeting to review the 84 billion euro ($91.6 billion) bailout agreed in July after six months of bitter talks that nearly saw Greece exit the euro.

Thursday's general strike -- the third in as many months -- paralysed transportation, stopping train and ferry services and grounding dozens of flights.

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A firebomb explodes beside a riot policeman during a massive protest on February 4, 2016 (AFP Photo/Aris Messinis)

The pensions overhaul, a key part of Greece's latest economic bailout, has sparked a major backlash against embattled Tsipras. The widespread opposition has led to the rare sight of white-collar professionals marching alongside workers. Lawyers, notaries, insurers and engineers have joined the protests, an action the media have dubbed the "necktie movement".

"They have massacred my generation. We can no longer get married or have children," said Dina, 32, who owns a lingerie shop and was marching in Athens, referring to five years of austerity cuts under Greece's successive economic bailouts. Tsipras is accused of breaking his campaign promise to eliminate austerity. "The pledges were hot air," read black balloons carried by some protesters.

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Protesters gather in front of the Greek parliament in Athens during a massive protest rally on February 4, 2016 (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)

One group marched behind a banner in Chinese opposing the imminent sale of the Piraeus port authority to Chinese shipping giant COSCO. Many traders shut their shops in support of the strike. Petrol stations were closed and taxis pulled off the streets. Hospitals were also operating on an emergency footing.

Farmers also have protested at dozens of locations on national highways, intermittently blocking traffic with tractors. On Tuesday, they blocked freight trucks from travelling into Bulgaria and Turkey, causing long lines at the borders.

Pension reform 'not viable'

The strikers are furious at government plans to lower the maximum pension to 2,300 euros ($2,500) per month from 2,700 euros currently and introduce a new minimum guaranteed basic pension of 384 euros.

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Demonstrators shout slogans beside the Greek parliament in Athens during a massive protest on February 4, 2016 (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)

"It's true that the pension system requires reform but this reform cannot make it viable," lawyer Thomas Karachristos told AFP. In his case, Karachristos says next year he will be paying 88 percent of his salary in taxes and pension contributions.

Tsipras's leftist administration also wants to merge pension funds and increase social security contributions by both employers and staff. Critics say the new system penalises those who dutifully pay their pension contributions over a lifetime of work and will encourage undeclared labour practices.

Difficult negotiations

But Greece must save 1.8 billion euros from state spending on pensions under a three-year bailout signed with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund in July. The Tsipras government has warned the nation's pension system will soon collapse without the reform, which is expected to be put to a vote later this month in parliament, where the prime minister has only a razor-thin majority.

After meeting representatives of the four institutions administering the bailout -- the Commission, ECB, IMF and the EU's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism -- Labour Minister Georges Katrougalos admitted talks on the thorny issue of pension reform had been tough. "The negotiations have been detailed and difficult. There has been discussion of the whole of the reform project," he said. Katrougalos said all areas were still open for discussion and talks would continue next week with the creditors' technical teams.

Source: Yahoo! AFP.

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PostPosted: Mon Feb 29, 2016 10:26 pm 
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Hundreds protest in Belarus in support of small businessmen
By YURAS KARMANAU
28 February 2016

MINSK, Belarus (AP) -- More than 500 people marched through the capital of Belarus on Sunday to demand that the government scrap new requirements for small private businesses that they say impose an unfair burden.

The demonstration in Minsk was the largest protest in recent years in the former Soviet republic, where the authoritarian government has shown little tolerance for dissent. Police, however, did not interfere and the march ended peacefully.

The Belarusian government this year began requiring small private businesses to obtain certificates guaranteeing the quality of their products. Business owners say the certificates are far too expensive and take weeks to obtain. "We're not against the certification. But why do these certificates cost 5 euros in Europe and in Belarus we need to pay $200 or $100 and spend 20 days to get them?" said Minsk businessman Ales Makayev. The measure appears to be part of government efforts to increase budget revenues amid an economic crisis in the nation of 10 million.

"This protest may become the first in a chain of unconnected economic protests, which could become a much more serious challenge to the government than the protests by the traditional opposition," political analyst Alexander Klaskovsky said. The Belarusian economy contracted 4 percent last year and the currency has fallen 40 percent since the beginning of 2015. The government has asked the International Monetary Fund for a loan of $3 billion.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 12, 2016 9:45 pm 
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Poles protest as government refuses to accept adverse court ruling
By VANESSA GERA
12 March 2016

WARSAW, Poland (AP) -- Thousands rallied in Warsaw and other Polish cities Saturday to protest the conservative government's refusal to accept a constitutional court ruling that strikes down government changes that have paralyzed the court.

The protests come amid a deepening political crisis, with international organizations and the Constitutional Tribunal faulting Poland's new government for centralizing its power. The Law and Justice party government, however, insists it has a mandate from voters for its actions. In the capital, a large crowd rallied in front of the Constitutional Tribunal and then marched across town to the presidential palace with a banner reading, "Let's bring back the constitutional order." City Hall estimated that 50,000 people took part while police put the number at 15,000.

The protests, also staged in Poznan and Wroclaw, aimed to show support for the beleaguered court and to urge the government to roll back changes that have undermined the court's ability to act as a check on government power. Critics call the government's moves an attack on Polish democracy, which was won thanks to years of struggle by Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

But the government, which remains popular with conservative voters, announced Saturday it still is refusing to publish a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal that struck down the amendments passed in December that have blocked the court. The move prevents the ruling from becoming binding. The announcement by spokesman Rafal Bochenek indicates a resolution is still nowhere in sight.

The left-wing Together party, which has protested in front of the prime minister's office for several days, was holding a public reading of the constitution later Saturday. On Friday, the Venice Commission, an expert body with the Council of Europe human rights group, said Poland's democracy is being threatened by government moves that have "crippled" its constitutional court. It said refusing to publish the court's ruling violates the rule of law. Bochenek said the commission's opinion would be sent to parliament so all political sides could seek a resolution.

The government, however, denies that democracy is threatened. "Democracy is fine, very fine," said Beata Kempa, a leading official in the government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo. "We don't send police with bullets against people. They are allowed to express their views here."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 13, 2016 10:54 pm 
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Big turnout for protests urging ouster of Brazil's president
By MAURICIO SAVARESES and JENNY BARCHFIELD
13 March 2016

SAO PAULO (AP) -- Brazilians ratcheted up the heat for embattled President Dilma Rousseff on Sunday, turning out by the tens of thousands for demonstrations across the country calling for her ouster.

The biggest protest took place in Brazil's economic capital, Sao Paulo, a bastion of simmering dissatisfaction with Rousseff and her governing Workers' Party. The respected Datafolha polling agency estimated about 500,000 people took part in the Sao Paulo demonstration, while police estimates put turnout at nearly three times that number. Organizers said about 1 million people joined the anti-Rousseff demonstration in Rio de Janeiro.

In a statement, Rousseff said, "The peaceful character of this Sunday's demonstrations shows the maturity of a country that knows how to co-exist with different opinions and knows how to secure respect to its laws and institutions." The street rallies came two days after she rejected the idea of resigning.

The demonstrations add to an already-difficult position of Rousseff. She faces the twin problems of an impeachment effort in congress over alleged fiscal mismanagement amid the worst recession in decades and the sprawling investigation by federal prosecutors into corruption at state-run oil giant Petrobras that has moved closer to her inner circle in recent weeks. Analysts said the strong turnout at the protests could further hamper Rousseff's ability to fight for her political survival and could lead to the unraveling of her fragile governing coalition. "There is a situation of ungovernability," said Francisco Fonseca, a political science professor at Pontifical Catholic University in Sao Paulo. "The president has few cards."

Fonseca pointed out that the demonstrations continued to be dominated by the largely white, upper middle class demographic that has been staging regular protests against Rousseff for over a year. "The poor who are affected by the economic crisis aren't in the streets," he said, adding Sunday's protests demonstrated a "generalized discontent with the political system" without necessarily shoring up any particular opposition party or politician.

Organized largely through social media, demonstrations took place in some 200 cities and towns across Brazil. Rousseff had raised fears of possible clashes between supporters of her party and the anti-government demonstrators, but no serious incidents were reported during Sunday's protests, which had a festive atmosphere. Crowds in the yellow and green hues of the Brazilian flag brandished signs reading "Workers' Party out." "She (Rousseff) has to go," said Sao Paulo protester Patricio Gonzaga, an unemployed 32-year-old metal worker. "She is the person responsible for the mess our economy is in - the inflation, recession and unemployment. She is to blame for me being unemployed and having trouble supporting my family."

In Rio de Janeiro, multitudes defied the threatening rain clouds overhead to converge on Copacabana Beach the morning after heavy rains that caused widespread flooding throughout the city. Dressed largely in the yellow and green hues of the Brazilian flag, the Rio demonstrators filled the broad avenue that runs along the beach, chanting anti-government slogans and singing the national anthem.

Demonstrators across the country stressed that their anger extended well beyond Rousseff and her Workers' Party, saying the so-called Car Wash investigation into corruption at Petrobras had compromised the entire political class. "Of course I want to see Rousseff booted out," said Rio demonstrator Maria de Lima Pimenta, a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher. "But then the problem becomes, who will replace her? They're all crooks."

Protest organizers stressed the movement wasn't linked to any opposition political party, and signs endorsing parties were largely absent from the demonstrations. But several top politicians turned out, including Aecio Neves, the opposition politician who narrowly lost to Rousseff in the 2013 run-off, as well as Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin. Both were booed. "We need to turn the page," said Alckmin, a day after he spent the day with Rousseff as the two surveyed damage from flooding in the mega-city late last week.

The Petrobras scandal has ensnared key figures from Rousseff's Workers' Party, including her predecessor and mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as members of opposition parties. Political tensions in Brazil have spiked since earlier this month when Silva was briefly detained by police for questioning as part of the corruption probe. Silva's supporters and detractors gathered in front of his apartment in the Sao Paulo area, and scuffles broke out between the two groups. On Wednesday, the tension was ratcheted up another notch, as Silva was charged in a separate case with money-laundering.

In a show of solidarity with the former president, several hundred people gathered outside of Silva's apartment early Sunday. At one point, Silva himself went down to greet the approximately 400 supporters. News reports have said Rousseff has offered Silva a ministerial post that would shield him from possible imprisonment on corruption and money laundering charges. Under Brazilian law, only the Supreme Court can authorize the investigation, imprisonment and trial of cabinet members.

Speaking on Friday, Rousseff said she would be "extremely proud" to have Silva, the once-wildly popular leader who governed Brazil from 2003-2011, but declined to say whether he would join the government. Asked whether she would resign amid mounting pressure, Rousseff objected to the very idea of demanding the resignation of an elected president without concrete evidence the leader had violated the constitution. She said that "if there is no reason to do so, I will not step down," calling on journalists at the event in Brasilia to "at least attest that I don't look like someone who is going to step down." Rousseff's second term in office runs through the end of 2018.

Prominent politicians from opposition parties and also from within the broad governing coalition have floated the idea of a "semi-presidential" regime as a way out of the political crisis. Under the proposal, Rousseff would remain head of state and a head of government figure would be created. Observers say the proposal would likely not be a fast fix, however, as it would have to win approval from Congress.

Jenny Barchfield reported from Rio de Janeiro. Associated Press writer Stan Lehman contributed to the report from Sao Paulo.
Source: AP

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 16, 2016 11:33 pm 
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Demanding pay, Chinese miners protest over governor's claim
By DIDI TANG
13 March 2016

BEIJING (AP) -- Thousands of Chinese miners who say they have not been paid for months staged a rare protest in a northeastern city, days after the provincial governor made the apparently false claim that no miner working for the province's largest publicly owned mining company was owed any back wages.

Angry miners from Longmay Mining Holding Group Co. Ltd. and their family members marched through the city of Shuangyashan on Saturday and gathered in front of the company's local offices. In response, the government of Heilongjiang province issued a statement Saturday night acknowledging that many Longmay employees are owed wages and benefits, backtracking from Governor Lu Hao's assertions earlier this month.

The protest and the change in the government's stance underline the sensitivity of the employment issue, as Chinese miners and others in state industries are losing their jobs or seeing their pay drastically cut. China's massive state-owned mining companies are struggling to boost efficiency and reduce their payrolls amid a severe slump in coal demand brought on by sharply slowing economic growth.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has told the annual legislature, which convenes in Beijing this week, that 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) has been set aside, primarily to assist workers who should be diverted from industries such as coal and steel, reducing their capacities. The pain is particularly acute in China's northeastern rustbelt, where Heilongjiang is located. Its biggest state-owned mining company, Longmay, reduced its work force by 22,500 people recently, according to state media reports.

Longmay reportedly owed 800 million yuan ($123 million) in back pay for 2014. A lengthy investigative article by China's leading financial news group, Caijing, reported in January that pay for Longmay workers has been continually cut, and even those reduced wages had not been paid for three to four months.

Then on March 6, Lu, considered a rising political star, said at the national legislature's annual session that the annual payrolls of Longmay are 10 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), about a third of the fiscal budget for the provincial government. But despite the challenges, Longmay's 80,000 miners hadn't received a single cut in wages and all were paid on time, the governor said. The remarks seemed aimed at showing that Longmay and the province were meeting the leadership's expectations for competently handling economic challenges.

Calls to local police, government offices and Longmay rang unanswered Sunday, but witnesses said thousands of workers took part in the demonstration, which began on Friday and peaked on Saturday in the mining town of Shuangyashan. A local resident who gave just his last name, Li, said the protesters were holding banners demanding back pay. Li said he knew of Longmay workers who had not been paid for six months. Another eyewitness, who gave her last name as Wang, said that she has family members working for the mines. She said their wages were cut to less than 1,000 yuan ($154) per month, and that the workers either did not receive their full wages or were not paid at all for months. She said the protesters displayed a banner reading: "We need to eat. We need to live." Both Li and Wang said that the protest was peaceful and that a large number of riot police had been dispatched to the scene. They said the demonstration ended around 4 p.m.

The provincial statement came out after 9 p.m. Saturday, saying Lu had held a special meeting on Longmay in Beijing that afternoon. The statement made no mention of the protest in Shuangyashan, but said Longmay had failed to pay wages, taxes and insurance contributions. It said the provincial government would work with Longmay to raise money and would make every effort to pay the workers.

The statement did not mention Lu's earlier remarks, but hinted that he had been fed false information. The provincial government demanded that Longmay, municipal governments and provincial agencies overseeing the industry report truthfully to the provincial leadership. "Should important information be reported inaccurately again, it will be dealt with seriously," the statement said.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:31 pm 
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Finnish farmers in massive protest over financial woes
11 March 2016

HELSINKI (AP) -- Organizers say over 3,000 farmers with some 600 tractors have gathered on a central Helsinki square in a protest urging the Finnish government to support the country's agricultural sector suffering on decreasing food prices and EU's Russia sanctions.

Friday's demonstration was staged by the farmers' central union MTK, which said the action was "an emergency call" to politicians to come up with measures to help producers' dire straits and "to save domestic food production." The union said that the income of Finnish farmers has declined fastest in the EU during the last few years in a combination of declining retailer food prices, enduring delays in EU's farm subsidy payments and a complete halt in exports to key market Russia due to EU's sanctions.

Some protestors had driven their tractors, decorated with banners with slogans like "no farmers - no food", hundreds of kilometers across the Nordic nation to reach Helsinki's Senate Square.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 27, 2016 5:13 pm 
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Thousands in Serbia march against NATO and the West
27 March 2016

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Thousands have marched against NATO and the West in Serbia, carrying banners praising Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The march Sunday marked the 17th anniversary of NATO's 78-day intervention in Serbia against its bloody crackdown against Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999. The crowds affiliated with far-right groups carried pro-Russian banners and shouted against Serbia joining the EU or the Western military alliance.

Current Serbian leaders, once staunchly anti-Western, have said they want to join the EU, but to remain militarily neutral. Pro-Russian forces in Serbia have been gaining ground ahead of the April 24 general election that could decide which way Serbia is heading, toward Russia or the EU. Serbia has traditional ties with its Slavic ally Russia which has stepped up a propaganda campaign ahead of the vote.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2016 6:04 pm 
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Thousands of Zimbabweans march in anti-Mugabe protest
By FARAI MUTSAKA AND TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI
14 April 2016

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- In one of the biggest protests seen in Zimbabwe in recent years, thousands of opposition supporters Thursday marched in the capital to denounce President Robert Mugabe's alleged misrule.

Mostly wearing the red colors of the main opposition MDC-T party, marchers in Harare chanted songs denouncing the 92-year-old veteran ruler, who recently said he has no plans to step down. Such huge demonstrations are rare in Zimbabwe, where police routinely use force to break up opposition protests.

Police had initially banned the march before a court overturned the ban on Wednesday. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who shared power with Mugabe for five years before losing disputed elections in 2013, organized the march.

Women with children strapped to their backs joined marchers carrying placards demanding that Mugabe steps down. Mugabe has been in power since independence from white minority rule in 1980. Some marchers carried banners reading: "Old clueless Mugabe must go."

"Where is our $15 billion?" read one placard, in reference to recent statements by Mugabe that $15 billion worth of diamonds was looted in eastern Zimbabwe. Read another placard: "Where are our 2.2 million jobs?" referring to Mugabe's 2013 election pledge to create over 2 million jobs.

Zimbabwe is battling a worsening economic decline, highlighted by company closures and growing unemployment. Mugabe has previously said he won't resign, adding he will rule "until God says come."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2016 11:36 am 
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Thousands protest trade deal in Germany before Obama visit
23 April 2016

HANNOVER, Germany (AP) -- Thousands of demonstrators have turned out in the German city of Hannover to protest a planned U.S.-Europe free trade agreement, a day before President Barack Obama arrives.

Police said Saturday that more than 20,000 people gathered for the demonstration. Many in Germany regard the planned Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, with suspicion. Protesters Saturday carried placards with slogans such as "Yes We Can - Stop TTIP!"

Proponents argue that the agreement would boost business at a time of global economic uncertainty, but critics worry that it would erode consumer protection and environmental standards. Officials in Washington and Europe are trying to clinch key parts of the TTIP deal before the end of the year. Obama is due in Hannover on Sunday to open an annual industrial fair.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2016 12:39 pm 
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China trash incinerator project called off after protests
By DIDI TANG
22 April 2016

BEIJING (AP) -- Authorities in eastern China have halted plans to build a trash incinerator after rowdy street protests by residents and the arrests of four people.

The Haiyan county government in Zhejiang province said in a statement Friday that hundreds of residents began to gather illegally Wednesday and blocked roads. The demonstration escalated on Thursday evening when the mob attacked a local government building, smashing objects and causing injuries to police and bystanders, it said.

A 19-year-old woman was detained on charges of spreading unverified gory pictures and videos on the Internet showing protesters beaten by police, which were viewed more than 5,000 times. Another person was also detained for spreading rumors and two others were detained for disrupting public orders, including a woman charged with spreading insults against local officials, the government said. The images were possibly taken at one of many protests that occur each year.

The government statement said the 19-year-old, identified only by her surname, Yu, told police she hadn't been present at the protests but had seen the images online and decided to circulate them out of anger. It said Yu had failed to verify the origin of the pictures and related text, implying they may have been related to a completely different incident. The two charged with spreading rumors face criminal charges.

The Haiyan government first revealed plans for the incinerator project on April 12, saying it was needed to help dispose of the 450 tons of solid waste that residents are generating every day. No reason was given for the cancellation.

Recent years have seen a growing number of protests against incinerators, chemical plants and other projects believed to threaten the environment and living conditions. Those have generally been permitted despite the ruling Communist Party's pervasive crackdown on independent organizers and political critics, although arrests often follow once demonstrations die down.

Environmental safety concerns have been further fueled by a string of serious accidents involving deadly chemicals in China. In August, 173 people, many of them firefighters, were killed in a chemical explosion in the port of Tianjin involving 700 tons of highly toxic sodium cyanide. Investigators said the warehouses storing the chemicals had been built too close to residential units and numerous people were arrested for violating regulations on safe distances.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 23, 2016 2:28 pm 
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Thousands march to protest proposed Nicaragua canal
22 April 2016

MANAGUA, Nicaragua (AP) -- Thousands of Nicaraguans have marched to oppose a planned interoceanic canal that critics say threatens to displace rural communities and damage the environment.

Activist Francisca Ramirez tells the Associated Press by phone that protesters want authorities to respect their land rights. Farmers' group leader Jose Chavarria told Corporacion radio Friday that anti-canal forces will keep fighting to overturn the canal concession that was granted in 2014 to a Chinese businessman.

The proposal envisions a 171-mile (276-kilometer) waterway between the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, passing through Lake Nicaragua. Nicaragua's government calculates it will cost $50 billion and create 50,000 direct jobs. Business groups say the estimated 7,000 families living in the canal's route will be allowed to negotiate for compensation for their homes, for relocation or for a land-swap.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 10:26 pm 
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Argentina's big unions join to protest layoffs, inflation
By DEBORA REY and LUIS ANDRES HENAO
29 April 2016

BUENOS AIRES (AP) -- Argentina's strongest unions brought thousands of people into the streets Friday to protest high inflation and job cuts in the biggest demonstrations against President Mauricio Macri since he took office in December.

Demonstrators waving blue and white Argentine flags flooded the main avenues of Buenos Aires, blocking traffic in a protest that brought together rival unions that put aside differences to protest Macri's policies. "This is a historic gathering ... We understand that the interests of the workers come before the interests of the union leaders," said Hugo Moyano, who heads the truckers union and a branch of the influential CGT labor federation. "Macri is against the workers."

Thousands of state employees have been fired since Macri came to power in December promising to cut bloated spending, curb government deficits and tame one of the world's highest inflation rates. The job cuts and the recent elimination of subsidies, which have led to sharp increases in everything from bus rides to light bills, have stoked unrest in a nation with a long tradition of providing generous state jobs and benefits.

Pro-business Macri has said measures are needed to revive Argentina's stagnant economy, attract foreign investment and end economic distortions that have led to years of consistently high inflation. His government says the layoffs are justified because many employees hired during previous administrations never showed up for work. The unions say workers are being indiscriminately fired.

Argentines continue to lose purchasing power to an inflation rate estimated at 30 percent. "There's a critical situation in Argentina and we're not seeing a solution ahead," said Pablo Micheli, leader of the Central Workers Union, which includes many public sector employees.

A recent report by an opposition think tank, the Argentine Center for Economic Policy, said 141,542 workers lost jobs between December and March, most in the private sector. The labor secretary has contested those figures, but the government acknowledges that about 10,000 state workers have been laid off.

Maia Goldin is one of them. The 28-year-old chemical engineer recently showed up to work at a government arms company to find her building closed and being guarded by police. "Nobody ever gave me a reason," Goldin said. This administration is "losing its humanity, its ability to think and care about others, because when you leave someone without work, you leave them without a reason to be."

Layoffs have hit particularly hard in Argentina's oil-rich south as companies try to stay afloat despite low oil prices. About 40,000 workers in the construction sector were laid off from January to March, Argentina's Construction Workers Union says. Labor unrest could continue to grow if Argentina's top trading partner, Brazil, plunges even deeper into its worst recession in decades. Argentine exports to Brazil fell more than 50 percent last year and the forecast for 2016 is similar, said Patricio Giusto, an analyst at the Political Diagnostics consulting firm. "It's not like Argentina can say: 'Brazil is falling apart so we'll sell to another country.' We don't have an alternative market," Giusto said. "It's a problem that Macri can't solve. It's an external issue that's out of his hands."

Argentina's opposition has proposed a bill that would ban laying off workers "without just cause" and that would allow those who lose their jobs to get double compensation. Macri has said the plan would scare off badly needed investment. The measure has been approved by the Senate and is to be debated by the lower house of Congress, where Macri lacks a majority.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:14 pm 
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Thousands claim vote rigging by Serbia's ruling populists
By DUSAN STOJANOVIC
30 April 2016

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) -- Chanting "Thieves! Thieves!," thousands of opposition supporters protested Saturday in front of Serbia's state electoral commission over what their leaders said was widespread vote rigging by the ruling populists.

The center-right Serbian Progressive Party of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won last weekend's general election by a landslide, but has demanded a vote recount after several smaller opposition parties won seats in Parliament. The Progressives won 48 percent of the seats in the 250-seat Parliament, but that is 27 seats fewer than in the previous vote in 2014.

The ruling party complaint led to the annulment of votes from several polling stations and the failure of one nationalist party, DSS-Dveri, to pass the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament by the slightest margin - one vote. That would mean that the ruling Progressives would add seven more parliamentary seats to their tally.

In a rare show of unity, opposition party leaders addressed the protesters Saturday, claiming numerous irregularities during the vote, including intimidation and the bribing of voters. "We gathered here today to defend freedom. To defend justice. To defend free Serbia. To defend the will of the Serbian people so Serbia doesn't become, step by step, another North Korea," said Sandra Raskovic Ivic, a leader of the DSS-Dveri coalition. "We will not let that happen."

Vucic called the vote two years early, saying he wanted a clear, new mandate to steer Serbia further toward European Union membership. Critics say Vucic's real intention was to consolidate his authoritarian rule while his popularity was still high.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:23 pm 
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Mock group becomes surprise election success in Serbian town
By JOVANA GEC
27 April 2016

MLADENOVAC, Serbia (AP) -- A young man poses as a sleazy, bejeweled politician in a white suit, sitting atop a white horse surrounded by hordes of bodyguards while promising jobs and prosperity to the voters.

Luka Maksimovic and his friends started out to have fun, but the young pranksters have become a sensation - and have been elected to office - after finishing second in a local vote in a run-down industrial town in central Serbia. The success of the rookie citizens' group at last weekend's election in Mladenovac, outside Belgrade, seems to reflect widespread disillusionment with politicians in crisis-stricken Serbia and the desire for new, young faces still untouched by the corruption that has plagued all aspects of the Balkan country's political scene.

Maksimovic and his friends said the election outcome surprised them as well. "This is quite a shock. None of us are experienced politicians," the 24-year-old media and communications student told the Associated Press. "It all started out as a joke. ... We wanted to make video clips mocking Serbia's political scene."

Maksimovic described his alter ego - Ljubisa Preletacevic Beli - as the worst possible version of a typical Serbian politician: He is loud and dishonest, owns a shady business and obeys no rules. He promises jobs and better lives, but never delivers. During campaigning, Preletacevic parodied Serbia's political reality: bare-chested, he saved children from imaginary danger, posed with small animals in his arms, handed out forged university diplomas and promised healthier sandwiches than his opponents.

Even the name Preletacevic is symbolic. The English translation would be something like "Switchover" - suggesting that he switches political parties easily for personal gains. His closest aide - Sticker - is sticking to his boss without asking questions. "This is a satire, a show, but it turned out that people responded to it," Maksimovic said.

The group's election list, dubbed "Hit it Hard - Beli," won 20 percent of the votes, or 13 out of 50 or so seats in the municipal council - behind the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Aleskandar Vucic's populist Progressive Party but ahead of all the opposition parties in Mladenovac. The future council members from the list include Preletacevic and Sticker, but also independent activists determined to help change the situation in their town and serve as a control mechanism for the work of the local authorities, Maksimovic said.

Draza Petrovic, the editor-in-chief of the liberal Danas daily and a satirical columnist, said the happenings in Mladenovac show that citizens increasingly have been turning to irony and satire as a form of opposition to the dismal reality of their everyday lives. "People are looking for opposition leaders among the people who are not part of the political establishment and who are fun," Petrovic said. "They are definitely disappointed with official politics." Petrovic predicted that the Mladenovac group could set an example for other Serbian towns and future elections.

Amid Serbia's recent economic crisis, Mladenovac has turned from an industrial hub into a worn-out town, where many of the 20,000 residents have been left without jobs after factories closed one after another. The situation is similar throughout the country, even though Serbia has recently made advances in its bid to one day join the European Union. Out in the streets, Mladenovac citizens laugh and wave as a cheerful, blue-eyed Preletacevic walks the town in his white suit, his hair bundled on top of his head. "At least, he jokes," said 63-year-old Dusan Glisic, who is jobless. "The others pretend to be serious, but they most certainly have been kidding with us." Emergency nurse Emilija Milosevic, 43, described Maksimovic as a "real refreshment which brings hope that people can actually use their brains."

Maksimovic and his friends said that although they started in mockery, they will take their roles seriously. Maksimovic promises to keep an eye on municipal spending and make local strongmen uneasy. "I will be there in my white suit, to remind the others who they really are," Maksimovic said. "We are there now and that's it, like a destiny or something."

Source: AP

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