Far-Right Nationalist Victory In French Polls Leads To Violent Clashes

NF France ProtestsAs we noted last night, French President Hollande’s first election since his gaining power was not going well for the ruling Socialist people. The municipal elections, especially in the South of the country, saw victories for the far-right National Front (FN) party (which is specifically anti-immigration and anti-Europe and often accused of being racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim) as widespread disappointment with the Socialist Party was clear. However, as The Mail reports, riot police were called in several towns on the south coast to guard the winning right-wing party’s offices as “demonstrators are trying to get at the Front representatives and starting fights.” Riot police were also out in force in other parts of the country as anti-fascist demonstrators threatened FN candidates with violence.

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First-Ever Excavation of Nazi Death Camp Treblinka Reveals Horrors

The first-ever archaeological excavations at the Nazi death camp Treblinka have revealed new mass graves, as well as the first physical evidence that this camp held gas chambers, where thousands of Jews died.  Presented in a new documentary, “Treblinka: Hitler’s Killing Machine,” which will air Saturday (March 29) on the Smithsonian Channel, the excavations reveal that the Nazis weren’t as adept at covering up their crimes as they believed when they razed the death camp in 1943. Brick walls and foundations from the gas chambers remain, as do massive amounts of human bone, including fragments now eroding out on the forested ground surface.

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Crack in the House of Saud

President Obama flew to Saudi Arabia to patch up relations with King Abdullah at the end of last week in his first visit in five years. The alliance had been strained by Saudi anger over US negotiations with Iran on its nuclear programme and Obama’s refusal to go to war in Syria to overthrow Bashar al-Assad last year. For its part, the US is upset by Saudi Arabia covertly supporting al-Qa’ida-type movements in Syria and elsewhere.  The US-Saudi relationship is a peculiar one in that it is between a reactionary theocratic monarchy – it is the only place in the world where women are not allowed to drive – and a republic that claims to be the chief exponent of secular democracy. The linkage is so solid that it was scarcely affected by 9/11, though al-Qa’ida and the hijackers had demonstrably close connections to Saudi Arabia.

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‘Medieval Exile’: The 42 Britons stripped of their citizenship

The government has used little-known powers to strip at least 42 people of their British nationality since 2002, a Bureau investigation has found. Thirty-seven of these cases have occurred under the Coalition government.  The Home Secretary can use powers in the British Nationality Act to remove the citizenship of an individual if she believes their presence in the UK is ‘not conducive to the public good’, or if they have acquired their citizenship by fraud.  The Bureau has identified 18 individuals, of whom 17 were stripped on national security grounds. These cases are often based on evidence which remains secret. Leading immigration lawyer Gareth Peirce has described the process as akin to ‘medieval exile.’  Changes to the law in 2002 allowed Britain’s Home Secretary to deprive dual-nationality Britons of their citizenship on national security grounds, without any prior approval from the courts. This doesn’t just affect people originally born outside Britain. The Bureau has identified five cases so far where British-born people have lost their UK nationality.

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Mistrust overshadows Obama’s Saudi trip

Obama-Saudi

Riyadh (AFP) – US President Barack Obama meets Saudi King Abdullah Friday as mistrust fuelled by differences over Iran and Syria overshadows a decades-long alliance between their countries.  Obama, who is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia late in the afternoon on a flight from Italy, is expected to hold evening talks with the monarch on a royal estate outside Riyadh.Saudi Arabia has strong reservations about efforts by Washington and other major world powers to negotiate a deal with Iran on its nuclear programme.  It is also disappointed over Obama’s 11th-hour decision last year not to take military action against the Syrian regime over chemical weapons attacks.Saudi analyst Abdel Aziz al-Sagr, who heads the Gulf Research Centre, said Saudi-US relations are “tense due to Washington’s stances” on the Middle East, especially Iran.The recent rapprochement between Tehran and Washington “must not take place at the expense of relations with Riyadh,” Sagr told AFP.  Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia, long wary of Shiite Iran’s regional ambitions, views a November deal between world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear programme as a risky venture that could embolden Tehran.

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How U.S. courts have dealt with al-Qaeda terrorists

• “Blind Sheik” Omar Abdel Rahman

Sentenced in 1996 to life in prison for planning, together with nine co-defendants, to wage a “war of urban terrorism” against the United States. Prosecutors said the plot included plans to detonate bombs on a single day at several New York City landmarks, including the United Nations building, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and the main federal office building in Manhattan. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was part of the plan, prosecutors said.

• Ramzi Yousef

Sentenced in 1998 to life in prison without parole for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and an airplane bombing in 1994. Yousef, a Pakistani, killed six people and injured 1,000 at the WTC, and killed one person on the plane.

• John Walker Lindh

Sentenced in 2002 to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to aiding the Taliban against U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in 2001. Prosecutors said he had received training at al-Qaeda’s al Farouq training camp and attended a lecture by Osama bin Laden.

• Richard Reid

Sentenced in 2003 to life in prison for trying to blow up a 2001 flight from Paris to Miami with a bomb in his shoe. Reid said in court he was a member of al-Qaeda.

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The Shift From Low-Wage Worker to Robot Worker

It’s become commonplace for computers to replace American workers — think about those on an assembly line and in toll booths — but two University of Oxford professors have come to a surprising conclusion: Waitresses, fast-food workers and others earning at or near the minimum wage should also be on alert.

President Obama’s proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could make it worthwhile for employers to adopt emerging technologies to do the work of their low-wage workers. But can a robot really do a janitor’s job? Can software fully replace a fast-food worker? Economists have long considered these low-skilled, non-routine jobs as less vulnerable to technological replacement, but until now, quantitative estimates of a job’s vulnerability have been missing from the debate.

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By 2015, Russia Wants To Establish A Eurasian Union To Rival The EU

Is Moscow’s proposed Eurasian Union an initiative to revitalize stagnant economies, or an attempt to re-establish a Soviet Union “lite?”  After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the world suddenly had 15 more nation states, some of whom had not been sovereign territories since the 19th century.  Nevertheless, calls for a re-integration of the Eurasian region were soon heard, often led by Russia, according to (pdf) a Chatham House paper.  In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin called the fall of the USSR “a major geopolitical disaster of the century.”  There’s been a smattering of different attempts at unification, including the Commonwealth of Independent States security union, but a lack of commitment to creating the institutions have stalled efforts, Chatham House writes.

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Putin, Party of One: Obama ‘Leads’ Ousting from G-8, But Russia Finds New Friends

Leaders of the G-8 met at the Dutch prime minister’s residence Monday night and decided to reduce the size of their fraternity to seven.The White House was quick to paint the meeting and its outcome as the president’s idea.

In what is called The Hague Declaration, leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, along with the president of the European Council and the president of the European Commission, affirmed support for Ukraine’s “sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.”

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Bin Laden son-in-law convicted at NYC terror trial

NEW YORK —Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, the voice of fiery al-Qaida propaganda videotapes after the Sept. 11 attacks, was convicted Wednesday of conspiring to kill Americans for his role as the terror group’s spokesman.

The verdict came after about six hours of deliberation over two days in the case against Kuwaiti imam Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, the highest-ranking al-Qaida figure to face trial on U.S. soil since the attacks.  As a court deputy read the verdict aloud, Abu Ghaith, listening to an Arabic interpreter through earphones, remained composed as he had throughout the trial. Just before he was led from the courtroom, he turned toward a spectator — a longtime friend from Kuwait — and smiled.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said he hoped the verdict brought some measure of comfort to al-Qaida victims.  ”He was more than just Osama bin Laden’s propaganda minister,” Bharara said. “Within hours after the devastating 9/11 attacks, Abu Ghaith was using his position in al-Qaida’s homicidal hierarchy to persuade others to pledge themselves to al-Qaida in the cause of murdering more Americans.”  Defense attorney Stanley Cohen emerged from court promising to appeal.

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Cops or soldiers?

FROM the way police entered the house—helmeted and masked, guns drawn and shields in front, knocking down the door with a battering ram and rushing inside—you might think they were raiding a den of armed criminals. In fact they were looking for $1,000-worth of clothes and electronics allegedly bought with a stolen credit card. They found none of these things, but arrested two people in the house on unrelated charges.

They narrowly avoided tragedy. On hearing intruders break in, the homeowner’s son, a disabled ex-serviceman, reached for his (legal) gun. Luckily, he heard the police announce themselves and holstered it; otherwise, “they probably would have shot me,” he says. His mother, Sally Prince, says she is now traumatised.

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Shots fired as Russian troops force their way into Ukrainian base in Crimea

Reuters) – Russian troops forced their way into a Ukrainian airbase in Crimea with armored vehicles, automatic fire and stun grenades on Saturday, injuring a Ukrainian serviceman and detaining the base’s commander for talks.

A Reuters reporter said armored vehicles smashed through one of walls of the compound and that he heard bursts of gunfire and grenades.  Colonel Yuliy Mamchur, the commander of the base, said a Ukrainian serviceman had been injured and that he himself he was being taken away by the Russians for talks at an unspecified location.

Asked if he thought he would return safely, he said: “That remains to be seen. For now we are placing all our weapons in the base’s storage.”  Belbek was one of the last military facilities in Crimea still under Ukrainian control following Russia’s armed takeover and subsequent annexation of the peninsula, which has a majority ethnic Russian population and is home to one of Russia’s biggest naval bases.

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Afghanistan finds reason to back Russia on Crimea referendum

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan this weekend joined Syria and Venezuela and became the newest member of a select club of nations: those that have publicly backed the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Citing “the free will of the Crimean people,” the office of President Hamid Karzai said, “we respect the decision the people of Crimea took through a recent referendum that considers Crimea as part of the Russian Federation.”

To the casual observer, becoming the first Western-backed democracy to express support for the widely denounced referendum in Crimea might seem an odd tack for Afghanistan, which depends heavily on assistance from the United States and European countries. Those nations wholeheartedly condemned the Russian takeover of Crimea and were unlikely to be supportive of Karzai’s decision.

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Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees

Back in January, I wrote about “The Techtopus” — an illegal agreement between seven tech giants, including Apple, Google, and Intel, to suppress wages for tens of thousands of tech employees. The agreement prompted a Department of Justice investigation, resulting in a settlement in which the companies agreed to curb their restricting hiring deals. The same companies were then hit with a civil suit by employees affected by the agreements.

This week, as the final summary judgement for the resulting class action suit looms, and several of the companies mentioned (Intuit, Pixar and Lucasfilm) scramble to settle out of court, Pando has obtained court documents (embedded below) which show shocking evidence of a much larger conspiracy, reaching far beyond Silicon Valley.

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

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Major discovery bolsters Big Bang theory of universe

starry skyWashington (AFP) – Waves of gravity that rippled through space right after the Big Bang have been detected for the first time, in a landmark discovery that adds to our understanding of how the universe was born, US scientists said Monday.  The waves were produced in a rapid growth spurt 14 billion years ago, and were predicted in Albert Einstein’s nearly century-old theory of general relativity but were never found until now.

The first direct evidence of cosmic inflation — a theory that the universe expanded by 100 trillion trillion times in barely the blink of an eye — was announced by experts at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  The detection was made with the help of a telescope called BICEP2, stationed at the South Pole, that measures the oldest light in the universe.  If confirmed by other experts, some said the work could be a contender for the Nobel Prize.

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Ukraine crisis: Russia warns West over Crimea sanctions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued the warning in a telephone call to US Secretary of State John Kerry.  It came hours after Russian and Crimean leaders signed a treaty absorbing the peninsula into the Russian Federation following a disputed referendum.  On Wednesday there were reports an army base in Sevastopol had been stormed.  An Associated Press reporter at the scene said pro-Russian self-defence forces had broken into the building – the headquarters of the Ukrainian navy – and raised the Russian flag.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told the BBC the treaty signed on Tuesday was already in effect, and Crimea was now part of Russia.  The BBC’s Richard Galpin in Moscow says that although it must be approved by Russia’s constitutional court and ratified by parliament, there is no doubt MPs will give their full backing when they vote on Friday.  On Monday, the US and the EU imposed sanctions on several officials from Russia and Ukraine accused of involvement in Moscow’s actions in the Black Sea peninsula.

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UK gov wants ‘unsavoury’ web content censored

The UK minister for immigration and security has called for the government to do more to deal with “unsavoury”, rather than illegal, material online.  James Brokenshire made the comments to the Financial Times in an interview related to the government’s alleged ability to automatically request YouTube videos be taken down under “super flagger” status.

A flagger is anyone that uses YouTube’s reporting system to highlight videos that breach guidelines. The Home Office explained to Wired.co.uk that the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Internet Referral Unit (CTIRU), responsible for removing illegal terrorist propaganda, does not have “super flagger” status, but has simply attained the platform’s Trusted Flagger accreditation — a status for users who regularly correctly flag questionable content.

The FT published its article in context of growing concerns around the radicalisation of Britons travelling to partake in the ongoing conflict in Syria, and the Home Office told Wired.co.uk any videos flagged by the CTIRU for review were ones found to be in breach of counter-terrorism laws (29,000 have been removed across the web since February 2010).

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Islamist Outlaws

Saudi Arabia Takes on the Muslim Brotherhood

On March 7, Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step of declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, on par with Hezbollah and al Qaeda. The move came just two days after the kingdom, together with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, withdrew its ambassador from Qatar because of Qatar’s alleged support of Brotherhood interference in internal politics. Although Saudi Arabia’s dislike of Brotherhood political activities abroad is well known, for decades the kingdom has tolerated (and sometimes even worked with) the local Saudi branch of the Brotherhood. Its sudden reversal is an expression of solidarity with its politically vulnerable allies in the region and a warning to Sunni Islamists within its borders to tread carefully.

This story goes back to the Arab Spring, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Saudi Arabia’s longtime ally, was ousted, and Egypt elected Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood­–linked politician, to fill his shoes. Riyadh feared that the group, now empowered, would try to export the Egyptian revolution regionwide, calling for action against the House of Saud and displacing Saudi’s friends and allies such as the UAE. Those fears were not entirely unfounded.

In Saudi Arabia, members of the Muslim Brotherhood had been at the forefront of the Awakening movement, a push in the early 1990s for political change in response to alleged Saudi government corruption and the basing of U.S. troops in the country. But, as the political science professor Stéphane Lacroix documents in his book Awakening Islam, most members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood had quickly fallen into line once the regime began to arrest or sanction its leaders. The Saudi Brotherhood simply had too much to lose: its members helped build the Saudi state and occupied important positions in the religious and educational establishment.

That détente ended with the Arab Spring, when a number of prominent Islamists added their names to a 2011 petition calling for political reforms in the kingdom. They also obliquely criticized the lack of political freedom in Saudi Arabia by lavishing praise on fellow travelers in Tunisia and Egypt. Even Nasir al-Umar, a hard-line Sururi (a blend of Brotherhood and ultraconservative Salafism), was singing the praises of democratic change. Then Crown Prince Nayef and future Crown Prince Salman pressed them into silence. According to one person I spoke to on a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, some were forced to sign a pledge to cease criticizing the lack of political freedom in the kingdom. But the renewed détente was fragile, hinging on events in tumultuous Egypt.

There was some reason for Saudi Arabia to fear for its allies in the region as well. Under Mubarak, Egypt had been a dependable Saudi ally. But Morsi sought to chart a neutral course between Saudi Arabia and Iran, following an early fundraising visit to the kingdom with an attempted rapprochement with Iran. The United Arab Emirates was worried, too. The Brotherhood has had a small presence in UAE since the 1960s, but after 9/11 the government started to see the group as a national security threat. It didn’t help that when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt some members of the UAE branch began agitating for political reforms, going so far as to sign a petition calling for elections and real authority for the UAE’s advisory council. The government responded by arresting group members across the country, including men belonging to an alleged terror cell with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

In response to what they saw as Egyptian meddling, Saudi Arabia tried to economically isolate Morsi and hasten his departure. In May 2013, just two months before the military overthrow of Morsi, the Egyptian finance minister complained to the Saudis that Egypt had only received $1 billion of the $3.5 billion in aid promised after Mubarak’s downfall. When the Egyptian military overthrew Morsi just a year into his rule, Saudi Arabia applauded and quickly promised Egypt a new aid package of $5 billion, together with one from the UAE for $3 billion and from Kuwait for $4 billion. When the new regime massacred Brotherhood protestors in August, the taciturn King Abdullah uncharacteristically voiced his public support for the slaughter as a blow against terrorism. When the new Egyptian government declared the group a terrorist organization in late December 2013, Saudi Arabia followed suit. When UAE decided not to replace its departing ambassador in Qatar — partly to punish Qatar for its refusal to discipline an influential Qatar-based Brotherhood spiritual leader who preached that the UAE is against Islamic rule — Saudi Arabia recalled its own ambassador in solidarity.

Saudi Arabia’s moves have provoked some unhappiness at home. Saudi Islamists, particularly the Brothers, are convinced that Morsi’s overthrow was part of a Saudi plot to roll back Islamist political gains of the past three years. In defiance, they festooned their social media profiles with symbols of Brotherhood resistance and criticized their government for its complicity. The defiance has become more muted recently, after the local press reported that the government was contemplating declaring the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. According to former members of the Saudi Muslim Brotherhood I spoke with, the 25,000 or so members of the Brotherhood in Saudi Arabia reacted to the news of the deliberations by preemptively keeping a low profile, closing some of its gatherings so as not to further stoke the government’s ire. Until the Saudi government actually begins making arrests, its recent announcement is more of a shot across the Brotherhood’s bow than an attempt to sink the ship.

Nevertheless, person after person I interviewed asserted that the level of Islamist anger toward the Saudi government is higher than at any time since the early 1990s. That does not mean Brotherhood leaders will move against the regime in the near term. In the 1990s as now, they have too much to lose institutionally. There is also some benefit in a wait-and-see approach, which is why Salman al-Awda, a prominent Saudi Islamist, is privately counselling his followers to wait for the regime’s factions to sort things out among themselves. But the younger rank-and-file Brothers in Saudi, like those in other Brotherhood franchises outside Egypt, are starting to lose hope in peaceful political change. That frustration can lead to apathy. But it can also lead to violence — and if it does, the Saudi government’s decision to declare the group a terrorist organization will have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Source.