China has rejected the US trade restrictions on Iran’s oil industry, saying it has nothing to do with Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
A Chinese deputy foreign minister, Cui Tiankai, said on Monday that Beijing is against mixing the issues with different natures, rejecting linking Iran’s nuclear program to trade.
Tiankai made the remarks on the eve of a visit by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to seek Beijing’s support for anti-Iran sanctions.
“The normal trade relations and energy cooperation between China and Iran have nothing to do with the nuclear issue… We should not mix issues with different natures, and China’s legitimate concerns and demands should be respected,” he said.
Tiankai went on to say that Beijing supports nuclear nonproliferation efforts but believes Iran is entitled to develop peaceful nuclear energy, and called for talks between Iran and the West in order to build mutual trust.
“We believe… the normal economic ties between countries in the world and Iran should not be affected,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Liu Weimin, said China is against unilateral sanctions against Iran, noting that dialog is the only way to resolve the remaining issues over Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
“China opposes placing domestic law above international law and does not favor unilateral sanctions against other countries,” he said.
The unilateral sanctions on Iran have led to a clash of interests between Washington and its key commercial partners, including China.
Iran exported about 622,000 barrels of oil per day to China in November, maintaining its place as the third largest crude supplier to the East Asian country.
Iran’s ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says all of the country’s nuclear activities, including those at Fordo enrichment site, are under the supervision of the UN atomic body, Press TV reports.
“This site [Fordo] was declared more than two years ago and since then the agency is continuously monitoring… all the activities,” Ali Asghar Soltanieh told Press TV late on Monday.
Soltanieh made the remarks after some Western sources reported the start of enrichment activities in Fordo, located in Qom province, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of capital Tehran, claiming that the work is being done without informing the IAEA.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that Iran’s enriching uranium to 20 percent at the Fordo site was “a further escalation of their ongoing violations with regard to their nuclear obligations.”
However, IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said that all nuclear material “remains under the Agency’s containment and surveillance” at Fordo.
Soltanieh also rejected France’s claim that the enrichment work at Fordo violates international law, saying that the Islamic Republic needs the 20-percent-enriched uranium for the production of nuclear fuel plates required at the Tehran Research Reactor for producing radioisotopes for cancer treatment.
The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday, saying, “This new provocation… leaves us with no other choice but to reinforce international sanctions and to adopt, with our European partners and all willing countries, measures of an intensity and severity without precedent.”
However, Soltanieh highlighted that “Every step we have taken so far and every step we will take in the future has been and will be under the IAEA containment and surveillance,” adding that “now with the 24-hour [surveillance] cameras and inspections, the enrichment activities in Natanz and Fordo are under the control of the IAEA.”
On Sunday, August 21, 2011, head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Fereydoun Abbasi, announced the Islamic Republic has started transferring the centrifuges of its Natanz nuclear facility to the Fordo atomic site under the supervision of the IAEA.
The US and its allies accuse Iran of pursuing a military nuclear program and have pressured the UN Security Council to impose four rounds of sanctions against the country.
As a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Tehran insists it is entitled to utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
The invasion of student privacy associated with military testing in U.S. high schools has been well documented by mainstream media sources, like USA Today and NPR Radio. The practice of mandatory testing, however, continues largely unnoticed.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB is the military’s entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in 12,000 high schools across the country. The 3 hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent. The school-based ASVAB Career Exploration Program is among the military’s most effective recruiting tools.
In roughly 11,000 high schools where the ASVAB is administered, students are strongly encouraged to take the test for its alleged value as a career exploration tool, but in more than 1,000 schools, according to information received from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command through a Freedom of Information Act request, tens of thousands of students are required to take it. It is a particularly egregious violation of civil liberties that has been going on almost entirely unnoticed since the late 1960′s.
Federal laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws with the administration of the ASVAB. In fact, ASVAB test results are the only student information that leaves U.S. schools without the opportunity provided for parental consent.
Aside from managing to evade the constraints of federal law, the military may also be violating many state laws on student privacy when it administers the ASVAB in public high schools. Students taking the ASVAB are required to furnish their social security numbers for the tests to be processed, even though many state laws specifically forbid such information being released without parental consent. In addition, the ASVAB requires under-aged students to sign a privacy release statement, a practice that may also be prohibited by many state laws.
A typical school announcement reads, ”All Juniors will report to the cafeteria on Monday at 8:10 a.m. to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Whether you’re planning on college, a technical school, or you’re just not sure yet, the ASVAB Career Exploration Program can provide you with important information about your skills, abilities and interests – and help put you on the right course for a satisfying career!” This announcement or one very similar to it greets students in more than a thousand high schools across the country. There’s no mention of the military or the primary purpose of the test, which is to find leads for recruiters.
Imagine you’re Captain Eric W. Johnson, United States Navy, Commander, United States Military Entrance Processing Command and you had the complete cooperation of the Arkansas Department of Education to recruit high school students into the U.S. military. The first step you might take is to require juniors in public high schools to take the ASVAB. ASVAB results are good for enlistment purposes for up to two years. The ASVAB offers a treasure trove of information on students and allows the state’s top recruiter to pre-screen the entire crop of incoming potential recruits. “Sit down, shut up, and take this test. That’s an order!”
142 Arkansas high schools forced 10,000 children to take this military test without parental consent in Arkansas alone last year. “We’ve always done it that way and no one has ever complained,” explained one school counselor.
The Army recruiter’s handbook calls for military recruiters to take ownership of schools and this is one way they’re doing it. The U.S. Army Recruiting Command ranks each high school based on how receptive it is to military recruiters. Schools are awarded extra points when they make the ASVAB mandatory. (See page 25 of: USAREC pub. 601-107)
Meanwhile, military recruiting regulations specifically prohibit that the test from being made mandatory.
”Voluntary aspect of the student ASVAB: School and student participation in the Student Testing Program is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory. Schools will be encouraged to recommend most students participate in the ASVAB Career Exploration Program. If the school requires all students of a particular group or grade to test, the MEPS will support it.” (See Page 3-1 of USMEPCOM Reg. 601-4)
Is it entirely coincidental that a thousand schools require students to take the test or does the Department of Defense have regulations in place solely for public consumption that it has no intention of following?
In addition, the Pentagon is grossly under reporting the number of schools with mandatory testing. There are hundreds of schools with required testing that are not reported by the DoD. For instance, the information released by the DoD for the ’09-’10 school year shows there is no mandatory testing in Ohio. However, it is possible, using a simple Google search tool, in this case (“k12.oh.us” asvab “all juniors”) to uncover several dozen schools that require students to take the ASVAB that are not reported by the Pentagon.
Why can’t we get traction on this issue?
There is great reluctance in American society to stand up to the U.S. military, particularly concerning the way it runs a dozen programs in the nation’s schools. Calls for transparency are met with silence and indignation, a terrible lesson for American high school students.
Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, www.studentprivacy.org and also serves on the Steering Committee of the National Network Opposing the Militarization of Youth, NNOMY,www.nnomy.org He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Though 2011 was a success, BDS activists are gearing up for a full year of cultural boycott campaigns on the agenda. Australians for Palestine has put up this comprehensive list of all the upcoming international performers scheduled to play in Israel through August, with contact email addresses and Facebook groups.
This month, Kenny Baron, Janis Ian, the Uri Caine Ensemble, the Karl Seglem Quintet, Bad Plus, Anonymous 4, the Kora Jazz Band, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Ana Moura, James Blake, K’s Choice and Arch Enemy are all scheduled to perform. Campaigns are already under way to encourage the artists to respect the BDS call and cancel their performances. A facebook group has been set up to address eclectic pop artist James Blake, for example, urging him to “Love music, hate apartheid.”
And for the metal band Arch Enemy, a facebook page has been set up in an effort to encourage the band to cancel their performance later this month. The Arch Enemy: Resist Playing Apartheid Israel boycott group has been at the forefront of the campaign, and say that the band’s current tour as part of Amnesty Internatonal’s “Freedom of Expression” campaign is clearly hypocritical if they agree to perform in Israel. There have also been a deluge of threats directed against the boycott campaigners — even from a member of the band itself, who stated on the band’s facebook page that:
“i am making amnesty international aware of your criminal methods and your breach of freedom of choice, freedom of expression and freedom of art. it is up to us (and only us!) to chose in which countries we perform and bring our message to. it is NOT yours to tell us what to do and to force your will upon us. you are hurting our rights of freedom and you make us fear for our safety. SHAME ON YOU! Music should transcend all races, political issues and borders – we will not be instrumentalised, neither by you or any other organization or government. who are you to tell us what to do?!”
PACBI has made a statement to Arch Enemy, expressing their disappointment in their refusal to heed the BDS call.
MSNBC, Fox News, ABC, CBS and NBC have dedicated no time to covering the Stop Online Piracy Act in their evening newscasts since Oct. 1, according to a report by Ben Dimiero of Media Matters For America.
CNN, meanwhile, has dedicated a single evening news segment to the issue. All of the companies covered in the report have either publicly supported SOPA or have parent companies that have done so.
Dimiero based his report on Lexis-Nexis searches which includes transcripts of nighttime newscasts.
Comcast/NBCUniversal (which owns MSNBC and NBC News), Viacom (CBS), News Corporation (Fox News), Time Warner (CNN) and Disney (ABC) are all listed as supporters of the bill. ABC and CBS are also listed as separate supporters of the bill.
SOPA would block access to sites accused of violating U.S. copyright laws. The measure has been called Draconian by opponents who say it would fundamentally change the free-flow of information across the Internet. Proponents, ranging from the NBA to Universal, say the measure is needed to block sites which flagrantly flaunt copyright laws and make content available for free without paying copyright owners.
Traditional media companies have been key players in lobbying for SOPA’s passage, with more than half of that funding coming from cable television providers, commercial TV and radio stations, and the entertainment industry. Opponents of the legislation have been developing apps to help voters track how their legislators stand on SOPA and how much they have received in campaign donations from SOPA-supporting entities.
Nouakchott – The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, paid a formal visit to Mauritania last Thursday and signed several bilateral agreements meant to improve economic ties between the North African state and the oil-rich Emirate.
However, various political disputes between the two countries quickly caused tensions. The emir, who received a warm welcome upon his arrival, left the country only a few hours later without any formal farewell ceremony.
This has led to speculation on the reasons why the normal protocol concerning formal ceremonies, that is strictly adhered to during such visits, was not followed.
It was no secret that the signing of the economic agreements was not the sole reason behind the emir’s visit.
Qatar and Mauritania are at odds over a number of issues, particularly Doha’s hosting of ousted Mauritanian President Muawiya Ould Tayeh.
Furthermore, foreign policy positions of the current Mauritanian government contradict Qatari positions, particularly with regard to Libya and the Syrian crisis.
Nouakchott opposed NATO intervention in Libya, which Doha backed.
President Mohammad Ould Abdel Aziz was among the African leaders who worked to the last minute in order to find a settlement between Muammar Gaddafi and the rebels in Libya.
In regard to Syria, Mauritania’s current government is a strong ally of the Syrian-Iranian axis. This alliance was established following the cancellation of normalization policies with Israel that existed during the rule of the Ould Tayeh.
Several Arab nationalist Mauritanian parties that make up the Support of the Resistance and Defense of Syria Front have issued a statement condemning the visit of the emir to their country.
“It is with great regret that we follow the conspiracy of the emir and his band against the security and stability of our Arab countries, and his open and blatant involvement in striking against the resistance centers and conspiring against its liberation project in order to serve the Zionist-American-Western project that aims to tear our Arab countries apart.
“They want to allow this project to remain in command and in control of our national destinies in order to sustain their looting and exploitation.”
Mauritanian observers believe that there are political dictates behind the cooperation agreements, which they see as an attempt to influence the Mauritanian position on Libya and on counter-terrorism in the Sahara, in addition to convincing Nouakchott to disengage from its strategic alliance with the Syrian-Iranian axis.
The package of 13 agreements singed by the two heads of state covers banking, employment, the environment, and housing, among other issues.
However, sources close to the Mauritanian presidential palace stated that “all these political issues were discussed openly and frankly.”
They denied reports indicating that there had been a conflict over certain aspects of the agreements which resulted in the emir’s departure without any formal farewell.
These sources explained that “the reasons behind the disagreement are related to internal Mauritanian affairs. The emir demanded that the Mauritanian president launch democratic reforms, particularly reconciliation with the Islamic currently led by Sheikh Mohammad al-Hassan Ould Dedew.”
This raised the Mauritanian president’s ire, who viewed this as an unacceptable interference in the country’s internal affairs.
An article in Ha’aretz today (‘Judaization of the Negev at any cost’) covers the recently announced plan by the Israeli government to establish 10 new communities not far south of the Green Line in the north of al-Naqab (Negev).
While officially the initiative is about ‘developing the periphery’ and lowering house prices, a moment of candour by a high-ranking Jewish Agency (JA) official confirms what has already been suspected. Quoted in a report by the Knesset’s Research and Information Centre, the JA’s director-general of settlement division Yaron Ben Ezra said:
The goal of the plan is to grab the last remaining piece of land and thereby prevent further Bedouin incursion into any more state land and the development of an Arab belt from the south of Mount Hebron toward Arad and approaching Dimona and Yeruham, and the area extending toward Be’er Sheva.
Last year, the government was not quite as explicit, instead describing the new towns as part of a “Zionist vision for making the Negev flourish”. But it should be no surprise that the proposal targets Bedouin citizens, given that it was drawn up by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Housing and Construction Ministry. Netanyahu has described Palestinians in Israel as a “demographic problem”, while Housing Minister Ariel Atias sees it as “a national duty” to “prevent the spread” of the Arab minority.
It is not the first time that JA officials have been honest about this sort of ‘development’. In 2002, the body announced its aim of securing a “Zionist majority” in the Negev and Galilee, with the then-JA treasurer Shai Hermesh admitting that the reason for the Negev plan is
to get around the problem that the government must act on behalf of all citizens of the State of Israel while the WZO is entitled to act for the sake of the Jewish people.
And all of this in the Middle East’s only democracy.