Iraq: Teachers threaten to protest over poor living conditions

Thousands of Iraqi teachers yesterday threatened to launch an open-ended protest in 15 provinces “if the government does not improve our [teachers] living conditions”.

Demonstrating outside the Ministry of Finance in the capital Baghdad, teachers from about 14 provinces called on the central government and the ministry to pay outstanding salaries as well as improve their living conditions.

The protesters also demanded government deductions to their salaries be halted.

Kamel Abdul Karim Murad, a teacher from the southern city of Babylon, told the Anadolu Agency: “The demonstration is the first-ever to bring together teachers from around the country calling for teachers’ rights that have been neglected over the past few years.”

“We recently handed over our demands to the government but received nothing from them,” Murad stressed.

“If the federal government does not respond to our demands, we will resort to an open-ended sit-in and a general strike,” he warned.

The Iraqi civil servants attempted to storm the ministry but security forces prevented them from getting inside.

Public schools in Iraq’s Nineveh province were reopened last year after Daesh was ousted from the area, but the salaries of teaching staff have not yet been paid. The Iraqi government recently said that it “is rigorously checking the lists of names”.

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Between urgency and vague comments, Palestinians’ rights are being depleted

More rhetoric and the absence of any constructive action have created a spectrum of expectations for Gaza. The past few days have seen an escalation of alarm juxtaposed against fake optimism. The latter is a veneer for a widespread complacency that is not bothered by the decline in financial aid for the enclave.

According to Wafa news agency, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah claimed that, “United, we will be able to withstand all plots against our national cause and our just right and will allow us to face unfair American decisions and constant Israeli violations.”

Two days earlier, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov used Twitter to give details of a meeting between Hamdallah and Israeli Major General Yoav Mordechai. Mladenov claimed that the two officials discussed “critical humanitarian solutions.” He concluded with a bizarre statement: “Much can be done if the conditions are right.”

In both statements, it is implicit that Palestinians must subjugate themselves. Hamdallah should not be authorised to speak of unity on behalf of all Palestinians, let alone mangle the history of resistance to exploit the temporary limelight for himself. There is more than enough evidence of the efforts by Hamdallah and the Palestinian Authority to coerce the people of Gaza into yet another farcical attempt at reconciliation by further depriving the population of access to basic necessities through the enforcement of punitive measures.

National unity is absent from the equation, as Hamdallah well knows, being part of an entity that exists to prop-up the Israeli occupation and thrives upon thwarting Palestinian independence. The only equivalence that can be garnered from his comments is the imposition of different forms of oppression upon Gaza derived from its unique circumstances, in a way that complements the ongoing violence in the occupied West Bank. Different tactics yielding a similar result: suffocate all means of people’s resistance in order to place the narrative directly into the hands of a few complicit “representatives”. If Palestinians are eliminated from their own narrative, the only body with which the international community can negotiate is the PA.

This gives Mladenov’s comment additional context. It defies all considerations and obligations. If the conditions were right, Gaza would not have been reduced to dependence upon international humanitarian aid; the UN’s involvement should emphasise this fact, rather than emulate Israel and blast the enclave into oblivion by other means, in this case collaboration to prolong human suffering. Since the conditions are not right, Mladenov has the obligation to address the discrepancies in terms of provision on the humanitarian and political level. Humanitarian aid must not be provided on condition that the Palestinians relinquish their political and human rights.

With failed initiatives becoming another premeditated, external imposition upon the Palestinians in Gaza, the political actors involved in Palestine are dedicated to maintaining the deprivation of the enclave’s residents to the point that they will be trapped into relinquishing their political objectives. Humanitarian aid is a powerful weapon and one that is being used by Israel, the US, the PA and the UN to trap Palestinians into navigating parts of the planned deprivation system that they are experiencing. As the focus keeps shifting upon the most crucial aspects of well-being, the political backdrop is left increasingly in the hands of institutional representatives who alter Palestinian demands from autonomy to charity. This is what should be remembered when listening to statements from the likes of Hamdallah, Mladenov and the power structures that they represent.

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Kllisre DDR2 2GB 800 667 MHz memory Desktop RAM non-ECC (INTEL & AMD) System High Compatible

$9.37
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Features

  • Brand Name: Kllisre
  • Frequency: DDR2 800
  • Cooling Fin: No
  • Type: DDR2
  • Model Number: Kllisre DDR2 2GB
  • Combination Form: 2x Dual-channel
  • Function: NON-ECC
  • Interface Type: 240pin
  • Item Condition: New
  • Memory Voltage: 1.8V
  • Warranty Time: Three Years
  • Package: Yes
  • Memory Frequency: 800 MHz
  • The value of CL: 6
  • Sequence: 6-6-6-18
  • Application: Desktop
  • Products Status: Stock
  • Frequency: 667MHz
  • Sequence: 5-5-5-15
  • The value of CL: 5

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Memory Ram ddr3 2GB 1600 PC3-12800 Compatible ddr 3 1066 1333Mhz For All Intel AMD Desktop

$14.99
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Features

  • Cooling Fin: Yes
  • The value of CL: 11
  • Function: NON-ECC
  • Interface Type: 240pin
  • Item Condition: New
  • Model Number: DDR3
  • Brand Name: VEINEDA
  • Sequence: 11-11-11-28
  • Package: Yes
  • Memory Voltage: 1.5V
  • Warranty Time: One Year
  • Combination Form: Single
  • Memory Frequency: 1600 MHz
  • Type: DDR3
  • Application: Desktop
  • Frequency: 1066/1333/1600

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Trump Endorses Mitt Romney, Who Called Him A Fraud

President Trump cast his support for Mitt Romney’s run to fill Orrin Hatch’s soon-to-be vacated Senate seat in a Monday night tweet. 

“He will make a great Senator and worthy successor to @OrrinHatch, and has my full support and endorsement!” tweeted Trump (or whoever had his phone) on Monday evening.

Romney replied:

Romney and Trump have a hate-hate relationship, notably trading barbs during the 2016 election, with Romney calling Trump a “phony” and a “fraud” to a crowed of nearly 700 at the University of Utah, and Trump calling Romney a disloyal “choke artist” and “failed candidate” who was eager for Trump’s endorsement during his unsuccessful 2012 Presidential bid. 

“You can see how loyal he is,” Trump said. “He was begging for my endorsement. I could’ve said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees. He was begging. True. True. He was begging me.” –WaPo

After Trump won the election, he trolled Romney with the possibility of the Utah politician becoming Secretary of State – only to give the job to Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson.

Trump actively trolling Romney for SoS position

Trolled:

Sad! 

More recently, Romney criticized Trump for his comments regarding the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, as well as the President’s endorsement of Alabama Senate candidate Roy More. Romney also spoke out against Trump’s alleged comment referring to Haiti and other African nations as “shithole countries.” 

Romney’s connection to the original Trump-Russia dossier

Before Hillary Clinton and the DNC paid Fusion GPS to assemble the infamous Trump-Russia dossier, Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer – who donated $1 million to Romney’s Restore Our Future Super PAC, and manages a portion of Romney’s more than $200 million fortune – initially hired Fusion GPS for anti-Trump opposition research through his news organization, the Washington Free Beacon.

Paul Singer, 2014 (NYT)

Of note, Singer’s Free Beacon was originally part of a 504(c)(4) tax-exempt organization called the Center for American Freedom – whose original board of directors included never-Trump neocon Bill Kristol. Kristol’s father, Irving, is known as the “godfather of neoconservatism,” and was a self-described “member in good standing of the Young People’s Socialist League,” which was, according to the Senior Kristol, “commonly; and correctly, designated as Trotskyist” (Excerpt from Memoires of a Trotskyist by Irving Kristol). For what it’s worth, Bernie Sanders was also a member of the YPSL.

Bill Kristol, Neocon

From a November, 2017 interview with Deseret NewsKristol said the following of Trump and Romney:

Deseret News: As a conservative critical of President Trump, what would you say is the right way to fight or engage him?

Bill Kristol:  Recruit candidates and back them effectively and make the case for policies more along the Bush/McCain/Romney track.

As one can see, Romney deeply ingrained in the incestuous circle of neocon never-Trumpers who fought tooth and nail against his nomination, and have resisted Trump ever since he won. 

We’re sure Trump’s endorsement of Romney is part of a multi-dimensional board game of some sort. 

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Qatar’s European charm offensive after the Munich Security Conference  

The Munich Security Conference has become one of the important annual platforms for global political leaders. Since its inception in 1963, the MSC has provided space for politicians and stakeholders to discuss the world’s pressing issues in the spheres of politics, defence and security. It differs from the World Economic Forum (WEF), which as the name suggests is more concerned with global economics, including business networking.

The Conference also provides parallel fringe sessions which bring together non-governmental institutions, including major think tanks. The discussions at these sessions are key in setting the agenda for future political debates.

The Emir of Qatar, Shaikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, was given VIP status at the MSC, afforded the honour of being the first head of state to give a speech at this year’s conference. The MSC does not have a keynote speaker’s slot, but the positioning of Shaikh Tamim on the first day’s agenda confirmed the significance of his presence.

The Emir came to power following an unprecedented handover by his father, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani in 2013. Shaikh Hamad is credited with the political and economic transformation of Qatar and the creation of Al-Jazeera Media Network. His son’s speech at the MSC was largely directed at the “bullying tactics” of the countries blockading Qatar: the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. “Preserving the sovereignty and the independent decision-making of countries like Qatar ensures accelerated development,” he told the conference. “Developments such as free media and free speech that the blockading countries insist we surrender.”

The blockade and sanctioning of Qatar by its neighbours since June last year has forced the government in Doha to court new alliances in Europe. Qatar’s politicians, led by Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdul Rahman, have been engaged in a diplomatic offensive since the blockade began. Its counter-narrative has been extremely effective. This was further strengthened by its ambitious and pragmatic foreign policy which emphasises the championing of freedom of expression in the region.

Read: The world cup is ‘non-negotiable,’ insists Qatar

Qatar has also used sports diplomacy to open up its society to the world, adding to the effectiveness of the official narrative. The country has invited and hosted a number of international sporting events, including the Qatar Total Open tennis tournament which ended on Monday. Furthermore, the hosting of the FIFA World Cup tournament in 2022 will be counted as a diplomatic boost for the state.

These events have placed Qatar in a very different position in world politics. They have also encouraged some positive political and economic developments in the country. The large-scale infrastructure development has created job opportunities for thousands of foreign workers and Qataris alike, and injected a note of positivity into the economy. It has also enabled the government to self-regulate when it comes to the implementation of workers’ rights; human rights of all kinds are still something of a rarity in the region. This might help to transform Qatar into a democratic model for the Middle East and attract more European support for the country.

However, there is one major political complication that Qatar will have to overcome as it continues to entrench itself in Europe; it will have to democratise itself as a matter of urgency. The country’s political leadership must also find ways of selling its new political trajectory to the rank and file in society. Unfortunately, there is still a lack of political messaging plus limited political engagement in the media in Qatar. Moreover, society remains conservative and is still very sceptical about “foreign” political ideas.

#QatarGate

Democratisation may compel Qatar to extend equal rights to all of its residents. At the moment, Qatari citizens have the upper hand over expatriates and it is very difficult to imagine a scenario whereby they might regard themselves as equal to foreigners. Extending equal rights to expatriates will undoubtedly limit the powers that Qataris have over them. In order to keep up with the dictates of democracy, Qatar may be compelled to allow the presence of human rights institutions to have an oversight role in the country. These political possibilities may also lead to a serious backlash as the country’s government and governance systems come under intense domestic and international scrutiny.

In conclusion, it is clear that Qatar has been forced by the Saudi-led blockade to look for new alliances beyond the Middle East. However, the country has entered new political territory as it tries to ensure its survival amidst hostile neighbours. Whilst it can be argued that the actions of Qatar’s government are in the best interests of its people, the top-down politics involving the Europeans could backfire if not managed carefully. Qatar’s conservative society still regards the people of the region as their allies rather than Europeans. Indeed, many Qataris would prefer to mend rather than build new walls. In the meantime, the charm offensive led by the Emir of Qatar, boosted by his appearance at the Munich Security Conference, will no doubt continue.

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Sudan releases 80 political activists

Sudanese authorities have released more than 80 political activists from prison under the instruction of President Omar Al-Bashir, Al-Khaleej Online reported yesterday.

“After generous and honest direction of the President of the Republic, Omar Al-Bashir, all political prisoners, about 80, were immediately released, including students, youth and women,” Major General Abdulrahman Al-Mahdi said.

The Sudanese news agency SUNA reported Al-Mahdi saying: “The presidency of the Republic is working on treating the disease, not only its symptoms, which are the political differences, and erasing the reasons that lead to protests and detentions.”

He added that “all active parties” will be invited in order to work together to maintain human rights and “end the political polarisation in the country and to reach a solution favourable to the citizens.”

Read: South Sudan pardons over 30 political prisoners

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London’s Property Crash Has Begun

Authored by Damian Reilly via Medium.com,

The average age of a first time mum at London’s Chelsea and Westminster hospital is 37, a statistic that tells you everything you need to know about the choices supposedly affluent city dwellers are being forced to make in the capital. For the middle classes, the cost of living in London — the cost of getting by — long ago went past insane (£17,040: the cost per year of educating a four year-old child at Thomas’s school in Fulham, not including uniform). It’s the incredible price of property, of course, that’s been the engine driving this madness, ratcheting the pressure ever higher on Londoners who don’t own a home while making very wealthy, on paper at least, those who do.

For the last two decades and more, the capital’s property market to all intents and purposes has behaved like a giant Ponzi scheme played on a global scale. Money from all over the world has poured into London bricks, inflating values unrealistically in relation to wages, while the lavish bonuses paid to European bankers working in the City have also stoked momentum responsible for pushing up, for example, the average price of a London semi-detached house by 553 per cent between January 1995 and November 2017, from £133,820 to £873,603.

Over the same period, the average cost of a detached house in the capital went from £257,748 to £1,453,271.

At last, however, the party is over. London property prices, now still flailing cartoonishly in mid-air despite being well over the edge of a cliff, are at the start of what we can call, for want of a better term, a death plunge. Although the carnage is only just beginning in earnest, desperate homeowners looking to sell are already dropping asking prices by tens of thousands of pounds and more. They know the tide is going out quickly.

The reasons you would have to be clinically insane to buy property in London today are blessedly easy to understand. Describing a modern financial disaster normally requires some pretence of understanding, say, derivatives markets or the myriad immensely complex ways international banks package and trade debt. Not this time.

This time the four horsemen of the capital’s property apocalypse  –  Brexit, knackered oil prices, the threat of a socialist government and absolutely astonishing levels of personal debt  –  are so obvious and easy to see coming they might as well be arriving on bright red London buses.

1. Brexit is the most obvious factor frightening away potential buyers. Why would anyone purchase a property now in the capital when such an enormous and ominous question mark hangs in the sky? International investors keen to use London as a glamorous base from which to access European markets are understandably cautious — despite some misleadingly high profile 2017 Chinese investments into landmark London buildings — while the threat of a banker exodus is very real (property prices in Frankfurt are spiking as I type). According to the latest report by property data experts Molior London, sales of homes in the capital dropped by 20 percent in the last quarter of 2017. The report added some 15,000 recently completed luxury apartments remain unsold. For market watchers this is an amazing departure from the status quo, when London new builds were snapped up by global investors often before a brick had been laid.

2. The sustained low oil price is also very bad news for London property, chiefly because it means wealthy Arabs — traditionally big-time investors in the capital — are no longer so wealthy. Since Saudi Arabia went tonto on American shale producers in 2015, opening all the spigots to flood the market with cheap oil in an effort to drive them out of business, Gulf Arabs have had a lot fewer disposable petrodollars to put into Mayfair and Knightsbridge pied-a-terres. In fact, virtually all Gulf states are currently running heavy budget deficits, meaning there is significantly less cash washing about at the top of the London property market — bad news for property sellers down the ladder.

Dr Eckart Woertz, an expert in Gulf economies and senior researcher at the Barcelona Centre for International Affairs, explains: “The low oil price means there is less money to invest. In fact, most Gulf countries are now repatriating money. Look at Saudi Arabia — they have repatriated $200bn of their foreign reserves. The appetite to invest large-scale in London real estate by the big sovereign wealth funds and wealthy individuals is much reduced, which is unsurprising given the yields that are available.”

He adds the recent Riyadh Ritz sheikhdown by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman of 100 or so of the kingdom’s richest men has sent a powerful message to other wealthy Saudis considering investing abroad. “They cannot do it as much now — they cannot wire big amounts. I know someone who has set up a real estate development in a European capital… he has Saudi clients who are telling him they cannot get more than ten million dollars out of the country. Wiring money now raises suspicion.”

3. For those of us who would love to be worried about the difficulty of wiring ten million dollars, the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn waiting in the wings to become Britain’s next Prime Minister is a rather more relatable bad omen for London property values. Corbyn, who at the time of writing was priced at 3–1 to be Britain’s next leader, would head up a socialist government very different in outlook to the nakedly capitalist ones that have presided over the capital’s property boom. Corbyn, for example, has openly advocated large-scale “requisitioning” of homes owned and left empty by wealthy investors in order to give them to the poor. “It cannot be acceptable that in London you have luxury buildings and luxury flats kept as land banking for the future while the homeless and poor look for somewhere to live,” he has said. While undoubtedly a lovely sentiment, Jez, making state confiscation threats out loud isn’t great for shifting houses to minted foreigners.

4. And then there’s perhaps the most overlooked factor affecting the market: after years and years of being squeezed relentlessly, the indigenous London middle class, as it is in the wider UK, is largely skint. According to a recent survey by comparethemarket.com, a person in Britain is on average £8,000 in debt, not including mortgage repayments. Last June, the Bank of England announced UK unsecured consumer credit had gone over £200bn. It’s not all skagheads in tenement blocks running up these debts. Research has repeatedly found that more than a third of people using credit cards on a monthly basis to make ends meet earn between £50k and £70k a year. In London, where living costs are highest, the pain is felt as keenly, if not moreso, as it is anywhere else in the country. With interest rates expected to start rising in earnest this year, that pain can be expected to intensify horribly.

Over the coming months you will read and hear plenty of commentary from interested parties talking up the prospects for London’s property market. All of it will be bull.

London’s property market has not “plateaued”, nor has growth “cooled”. London property values are right now dropping like a stone and there is little to break the fall. Whisper it: 2018 will be the year smug Londoners finally stopped boring on about basement and loft conversions at smart dinner parties.

By the late summer, these same people will be weeping hot tears into cold gazpacho starters and moaning to anyone who’ll listen about negative equity. At long last, the crash has arrived.

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Syria: We are ongoing in our fight against Israel, US, Turkey

Bouthaina Shaaban, political and media advisor of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, said yesterday that Damascus would continue fighting Israel, the United States and Turkey, Assawsana.com reported.

While speaking at Valdai Club in Moscow, she said that the US and Turkey “obstruct political reconciliation”, adding that Damascus “is ongoing in fighting any aggression” whether it is by Israel, the US or Turkey.

In separate remarks, she said that the retention of the Turkish “aggression” on the Syrian lands obstructs the political solution.

Read: Assad advisor says Syria war nearing its end

On 20 January, Turkey launched military “Operation Olive Branch” against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Afrin area, along the border with Turkey.

The US supports Kurdish fighters and provides them training and arms to fight Daesh and Turkish forces.

Putin blindly bombs Syria - Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

Putin blindly bombs Syria – Cartoon [Sarwar Ahmed/MiddleEastMonitor]

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