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Daily Archives: 10/01/2011

(wsws.org) While the water crisis in Northern Ireland has grabbed headlines across the world, far less attention has been paid to the serious and widespread problems afflicting the Irish Republic.

Over a few days in late December, temperatures rose from below -15º Celsius (5º Fahrenheit) to over 10º Celsius (50º Fahrenheit), after weeks of sub-zero temperatures. The sudden thaw exposed Ireland’s decrepit water and sewage infrastructure to intolerable strains, resulting in numerous burst water mains and domestic pipes. Dublin has been badly affected, as have numerous regional towns and rural areas.
Read more…

(guardian.co.uk) Basque group’s move to end half a century of violence fails to impress Spain’s politicians

The armed Basque separatist group Eta took a step down the path to ending half a century of violence today, declaring that a four-month ceasefire was now permanent and opening the door to verification by international observers.

“Eta has decided to declare a permanent and general ceasefire which will be verifiable by the international community,” it said in a video statement read out by one of three masked militants wearing black berets. “This is Eta’s firm commitment towards a process to achieve a lasting resolution and towards an end to armed confrontation.” Read more…

ENGLISH TRANSLATION:

Much has happened since, in the face of a strategy of denial and savage annihilation of the Basque country, Eta, organising the people and taking up arms, began the struggle for freedom.

Men and women who have given their best, their hopes and aspiration… ordinary citizens of different origins who have come together in the struggle.

In the face of the political reform of the Franco era, bent on the denial and annihilation of the Basque country, while some decided to enter into the framework of what they call “autonomism”, Eta acted responsibly, first proposing a clean democratic break and then resisting attempts at assimilation and attacks.

Eta, and then the Basque left, have continued in the struggle. And the recompense has not been negligible. We are paying for this dearly: torture, prison, exile and also death.

But the prize for our difficult struggle has been the survival of the Basque country and for the door to a free future to be open.

We have shown that the autonomy framework is not the way to satisfy the wishes of the Basque people; it is nothing but a tool for bringing about the division and dismemberment of the Basque country.

And we have overcome one by one the measures taken to neutralise the struggle for freedom.

One way may be the continuation of new scenarios in the fight for Basque freedom. Therefore Eta has contributed to proposals for cooperative actions and resolutions of the conflict.

In recent times, the Basque country has been at an important crossroads. The political struggle has opened up new conditions.

The autonomy framework has been exhausted and the time has come for political change. The time has come to build a democratic framework for the Basque country respecting the wishes of the majority of the Basque people.

The Spanish state is aware that the Basque country is at a crossroads. That the Basque country can now take the road of independence.

They want to create conditions in which everything is blocked, to avoid political dialogue and to drown out the aspirations of the people in the state of exception.

Basque activists and Basque citizens need to respond to this responsibly and urgently.

It is time to take responsibility and take firm measures… in the articulation of the independence project, in the process of creating democratic conditions, to respond to repression and the firm defence of civil and political liberties.

Political change is possible. But there is no shortcut along the way.

The road to freedom must be walked a step at a time, perhaps flexibly, but the effort and struggle towards this goal is necessary.

Without confrontation, it is impossible to overcome denial and stubbornness. In that direction, Eta’s hand is held out always.

Eta confirms its commitment to finding a democratic solution to the conflict. In its commitment to a democratic process to decide freely and democratically our future, through dialogue and negotiations, Eta is prepared today as yesterday to agree to the minimum democratic conditions necessary to put in motion a democratic process, if the Spanish government is willing.

We also convey this to the international community and call on it to respond to Eta’s will and commitment in order to participate in the building of a durable, just and democratic resolution to the centuries-long political struggle.

Eta announces that it took the decision several months ago not to carry out armed actions.

Eta wishes to reiterate to Basque political, social and trade union activists its call to act responsibly; that it is necessary to take firm steps as a people in order to reach a scenario for a democratic process; to establish a way to give the people a voice. Because the door to a real solution of the conflict will be opened when the rights of the Basque country are recognised and ratified.

To conclude: We call on all Basque citizens to continue in the struggle, each in their own field, with whatever degree of commitment they have, so that we can all cast down the wall of denial and make irreversible moves forward on the road to freedom.

(Salon.com) Researchers at the University of Texas claim that poverty may affect how children achieve their genetic potential. Using 750 sets of twins as subjects, the team of psychologists led by assistant professor Elliot Tucker-Drob found that 50 percent of the progress wealthier children show on mental ability tests can be attributed to genetics. Children from poor families, however, showed almost no progress attributable to genetics.

Don’t get too carried away with the conclusions this might suggest. Based on this study, rich kids are not genetically superior to children of poverty. They’re simply provided with more opportunities to fulfill their potential. Read more…

 

(guardian.co.uk) Leaked cables show Spanish officials and prosecutors shared information about investigations into US human rights abuses

US officials tried to influence Spanish prosecutors and government officials to head off court investigations into Guantánamo Bay tortureallegations, secret CIA “extraordinary rendition” flights and the killing of a Spanish journalist by US troops in Iraq, according to secret US diplomatic cables. Read more…

(Human Rights Watch) Indian authorities should drop criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters who sought accountability for maternal deaths in a public hospital in Madhya Pradesh state, Human Rights Watch said today. District officials cracked down on protesters on December 28, 2010, even as the Indian government was celebrating its recent appointment to the new United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health.

About 1,000 people gathered peacefully on December 28 in the Barwani district to protest the high numbers of maternal deaths at the district hospital there and the lack of accountability for the deaths. Law enforcement officials arrested one protester, threatened to arrest others, and issued a warrant for another participant on charges of rioting, being part of an unlawful assembly, and obstructing public servants from performing their duties.

(Human Rights Watch) Problematic Legislation Part of Wider Concern About Country’s Rights Record

(Brussels) – European Union member states and the European Commission should press Hungary as it assumes the EU presidency to address its own serious human rights shortcomings, beginning with a problematic media law, Human Rights Watch said today.

“As holder of the EU presidency, Hungary should embody the EU’s principles and values,” said Lotte Leicht, EU director at Human Rights Watch. “But when it comes to human rights, Hungary is moving in the wrong direction.”

The negative trend in Hungary is epitomized by a widely criticized media law, which entered into force on January 1, 2011, the day Hungary assumed the rotating six-month EU presidency. The country also has a problematic approach to asylum seekers in both law and practice, particularly at the border with Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said. In addition, there is widespread discrimination and intolerance toward Roma, including a failure to stem violent attacks against them.

The new law creates a media control body, with members appointed by the ruling party in parliament. All media outlets will be required to register with the body to operate lawfully.

The panel will be able to impose fines of up to €700,000 (approximately $900,000) on media outlets for “imbalanced news coverage,” material it considers “insulting” to a particular group or “the majority” or it deems to violate “public morality.” “Gross” violations can result in denial of registration. The law also removes legal protection against the disclosure of journalists’ sources, with wide grounds for the media authority to order disclosure.

The media law undermines media freedom and is incompatible with Hungary’s human rights obligations, Human Rights Watch said. It is part of a troubling trend of removing checks and balances, including a November 2010 restriction on the power of the constitutional court to review budget laws, Human Rights Watch said.

The media law has already drawn criticism from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative on freedom of the media, international organizations that defend media freedom, and members of the European Parliament. A number of EU governments, including Germany, France, and the UK, have expressed concerns about the law.

The European commissioner responsible for the media, Neelie Kroes, and the Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, who met with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, on January 7, have both sought clarification on the law. Orbán has said that Hungary is willing to amend the law if the EU requires it but only if such changes are made across the EU.

Hungary’s approach to asylum and migration also raises serious concerns, Human Rights Watch said. Despite Hungary’s assurances that it allows asylum seekers to lodge claims, a recent Human Rights Watch report found that the authorities have returned migrants, including unaccompanied children, to Ukraine, without considering their pleas for asylum in Hungary. Returning migrants without first considering asylum requests breaches the new EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and international refugee law.

A new asylum law, which entered in force in December 2010, remains unsatisfactory despite the success of Hungarian rights groups in defeating the most problematic provisions, Human Rights Watch said. The Hungarian government had sought initially to have the power to detain unaccompanied migrant children and to limit the right to appeal a refusal of asylum. But there are continuing concerns about whether detained asylum seekers will be able in practice to challenge negative asylum decisions effectively.

Hungary’s longstanding discrimination and abuse against its Roma minority are also of serious concern, Human Rights Watch said. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee highlighted the inadequate state response to violent attacks on Roma, the forced sterilization of Roma women, and segregation of Roma children in schools in a September 2010 report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Discrimination in access to education and health care for Roma and forced sterilization were also identified as concerns in the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) Annual Report for 2010. A 2009 multi-country study by the FRA found that 62 percent of Roma surveyed in Hungary reported experiencing discrimination in the previous 12 months.

“The EU’s credibility as a reliable and forceful advocate for human rights around the world depends on its willingness to hold its member states to account for their own abuse,” Leicht said. “For that reason, it’s vital for the Commission and other EU member states to press Hungary to repeal the media law and improve its wider record in accordance with its international and regional legal human rights obligations.”

(infoshop) Real solidarity between revolutionary consciences and groups of comrades is what the dominators fear most, it is the idea of a prospect that makes the ground tremble under the feet of the scum that call us terrorists. Today we express our absolute solidarity to the comrades all over the world that have passed the threshold of prison without bowing their head, without kneeling, without regretting even one moment. Read more…

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