Monthly Archives: January 2016

Former Salvadoran president Paco Flores dies at the age of 56

Former Salvadoran president Francisco Flores passed away yesterday at the age of 56. Flores had been having medical difficulties for the last few months. However, it was difficult not to be skeptical as it always looked like he was using his health to delay or avoid trial on charges of embezzlement and illicit enrichment. His wife even blamed his medical difficulties and eventual death on "unjust political attacks that violated his fundamental rights."
Flores had a meteoric rise to the presidency, but once there gained a reputation for being arrogant and distant from his people. He became El Salvador’s first president to be charged and put on trial for acts of corruption during his time in office.
“The people will remember him for the terrible dollarization, for the Firm Hand (to combat crime) and as corrupt,” said Angelica Rivas, who works with a nonprofit organization promoting women’s rights.
Jeannette Aguilar, of the University Institute of Public Opinion at the Central American University Jose Simeon Canas, said that various studies showed Flores’ presidency to be among the worst based on public opinion.
“He was a leader with an arrogant style, a lot of hubris, not close to the people, who responded to the interests of the economic elite who at that time dominated Arena,” Aguilar said.
His presidency ended over a decade ago. Therefore, most Salvadorans are probably going to remember him as the president who allegedly embezzled millions of dollars in assistance that was supposed to help the country recover from two 2001 earthquakes that had killed more than 1,000 and left 200,000 homeless. This scandal has been in the news the last few years because of the legal proceedings against him and his controversial appointment as campaign advisor for Norman Quijano.

Flores' period in office was also a time where the Salvadoran Right. Left and people agreed that the neoliberal model had been exhausted and was rather incapable of meeting the needs of the vast majority of the people. The same could be said for the political, economic, and judicial system's approach to postwar crime.

Instead of recognizing an opportunity to recommit the country to the Peace Accords which had been signed ten years earlier, the parties intensified political and ideological attacks against each other. Some studies have shown that this is the period where political polarization really kicked in. The politicized adoption of mano dura and the 2004 presidential election between Tony Saca and Schafik Handal made that process nearly irreversible.

Australian Politics 2016-01-31 15:48:00


Brisbane could rename historically "racist" Boundary streets

This is just a lot  of meddling nonsense.  As the mayor said, almost no-one in Brisbane would be aware of the history concerned.  It is just an attempt to revise history.  Orwell would understand

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk will consider changing the names of Brisbane's Boundary streets, but only if such a change is embraced by the city's indigenous community.

At least one prominent Aboriginal activist, Sam Watson, has rejected the push, saying Boundary Street in both West End and Spring Hill served as a constant reminder of the horrific treatment of the area's original inhabitants.

The inner-city Boundary streets, on either side of the Brisbane River, were so named due to a racist policy that separated European arrivals from the local Jagera and Turrbal [Aboriginal] populations.

Earlier this month, street signs at West End were changed to "Boundless Street" and, since then, an online petition has been set up to call for such a name change to be made official.

Petitioner Michael Colenso said the names were "outdated" and held Brisbane back from "meaningful progression as a city and peoples committed to truthful and respectful harmony".

Cr Quirk said he understood the sentiment, given the shocking treatment Murris suffered at the hands of early European settlers, and would open a dialogue with local elders about a possible change.

"It's a part of our history that there's not too much pride about, but it is a part of our history nonetheless and a reminder of the prejudices that did used to exist and the limitations of freedom that did used to exist for Aboriginal people in our past," he said.

Cr Quirk said before the street signs came down, he would have to discuss the issue with local elders, with whom he met every six to nine months.

One of those elders, Mr Watson, said he wanted Boundary Street to remain as a reminder of Brisbane's bloody past.  "I think it's important that all people walking through Brisbane and along Boundary Street should be aware of the history of it," he said.

"Mainstream Australia, unfortunately, has this tendency to just keep trying to move on from the more unsavoury aspects of their own history. "That might help everyone's peace of mind and make them sleep a little better at night, but it doesn't change the fact that there are very bloody and very ugly segments of our joint history together that should not be ignored. "It should be customarily acknowledged as part of our genuine, true history."

Labor lord mayoral candidate Rod Harding declined to comment on the issue.

Greens lord mayoral candidate Ben Pennings said any change would have to be driven by the local indigenous community.  "It's really important that Brisbane doesn't forget its local history, even though it might make some of us uncomfortable," he said.  "Unless there's a strong and clear call from local Aboriginal people to change street names, we should leave them as they are.

"If we want to get serious about showing respect for Brisbane's Aboriginal community, we need to start a process for signing meaningful treaties and address the local issues directly affecting Aboriginal people."

Cr Quirk said Brisbane City Council would also have to be mindful of the wider community. "Name changes create significant inconvenience among those people as well, in terms of a change to their house address," he said.  "There's consultation that would have to occur on a number of fronts, but if there is a groundswell view that it ought to be looked at, then we can do that.

"But I think the first step is to see whether there is any genuine appetite from the indigenous community themselves."

Not all Boundary streets or Boundary roads in Brisbane had such racist roots as those in Spring Hill and West End, Cr Quirk said.  The Boundary roads in Coorparoo and Oxley, for example, were so named because they ran along suburban boundaries.

As for the inner-city streets, Cr Quirk said there was still a lot of ignorance about what they actually meant.  "I don't think, in truth, many people in Brisbane really understand what Boundary Street means and its significance in terms of its history," Cr Quirk said.


General Morrison: War veterans attack 'sickening' Australian of the Year choice

I thought he was a lightweight with strange priorities from the get-go.  With his waffle and piffle he is certainly not very army.  And army men are noting that.  Army people tend to be practical and down to earth, not purveyers of woolly and self-righteous generalizations -- JR

Anger is growing in the veterans' community over the appointment of former Army Chief David Morrison as Australian of the Year.

Some veterans have accused the retired Lieutenant General of turning his back on Defence personnel, and an online petition is now calling on him to consider resigning his new position.

Petition author and former soldier Geoff Shafran said he was appalled to hear General Morrison nominate a republic as a priority after winning his award, but not the welfare of veterans.

"When you can get on at an Australia Day speech and discuss the republic and not allude to veterans' issues when he had, I think it's 13, soldiers who were actually killed overseas while he was Chief of Army, it's just turning your back on these people — the ones who have come back and are suffering mental and physical issues," Mr Shafran said.  "There is something that is really quite sickening about that."

The 20-year Army veteran said his online petition had already attracted hundreds of signatures from others in the ADF community.

"It's essentially calling for the resignation of David Morrison as Australian of the Year and also for him to relinquish the title of General, because he, in my opinion, demonstrated a lack of leadership by not alluding to veterans issues on his pre-Australia Day speech when he at the same time alluded to the republic," he said.

The Defence Force Welfare Association said it had been inundated with correspondence from members who were angry at General Morrison's approach.

"There seems to be a general view that perhaps he's gone too far in his quest for diversity and respect amongst ADF members who perhaps hold different views on lifestyles and religion and those sorts of issues," DFWA president David Jamison said.

"He's perhaps causing division rather than unity within the ADF and the veteran community."

Mr Jamison said he believed it was now time for General Morrison to reach out to his former colleagues in his new position as Australian of the Year.

"He's got to come out and be a champion for veterans and the nation's obligations to its service people and its former service people," he said.

General Morrison released a statement on Saturday morning saying: "As the grandson and son of veterans and a veteran myself, I care deeply about issues affecting the veteran community.

"I have always supported the veteran community and I will continue to do so in my role as Australian of the Year


China's 'daigou' shoppers leading Australian retail drive

Every day in Australia an unofficial network of Chinese shoppers known as "daigou" buy up tonnes of supplies for friends and family back home.

While baby formula remains their most common purchase, daigou have told Fairfax Media that there is a growing demand for fresh food and, with it, a potential bonanza for farm-gate producers.

Daigou roughly translates as "buying on behalf of" and these shoppers have become notorious for clearing supermarket shelves of baby formula.

One daigou, Sydney-based Sophie He, sends up to 60 tins of baby formula and up to 40 bottles of vitamins to China every week.

Daigou get recommended by word of mouth and gradually build up "trust chains" to buy for more and more people, Melbourne IT consultant Michael Ding says.

And it's a lucrative business. Ms He said she charged her customers 25 per cent of the purchase price.

One Melbourne freight company revealed last year it was sending 20 tonnes of shopping to China every week.

The stock-discussion website HotCopper revealed how profitable working as a daigou can be, with one man claiming to earn $600 a week reselling tins of formula to Chinese customers.

Melbourne-based Vivian Xing uses an app called WeChat to let people know she offers "daigou shopping" services and, for now, is focused on the huge demand for infant formula.

She sends about 20 kilograms of formula a week to people all over China and takes photos of the purchases inside local stores such as Chemist Warehouse or Priceline to prove its authenticity.

Most Chinese don't understand English well enough to order from Australian websites, she says, and they do not trust the online shops set up by A2 or Bellamy's because counterfeiting was rife online.

Australian vitamins are also a big seller, with Ms He doing a steady trade in Swisse, Blackmores and Thompson.

Baby formula and vitamins are Australia's speciality, Ms Xing says, with daigou in Hong Kong and the US providing beauty products and clothing coming from daigou in France. But this is changing, with Chinese ordering more and more clothing and food through daigou in Australia.

Because China's customs clears perishable food quickly, cherries, mangoes and peaches can get to their destination within 72 hours.  Recently Ms He has been buying seafood and Australian-grown fruit from agents who package it up with ice for shipping.

Ms He says she would rather buy directly from the primary producers but Google searches did not reveal any who ship small packages directly to China themselves.

Due to Chinese fears of counterfeit products, particularly in food, daigou want to get as close to the source as possible so they can guarantee provenance.

One Sydney-based woman said she had been sending two-kilogram parcels of cherries for $90, including postage, to her family before Chinese New Year on February 7.

She has struggled to find a direct source of Australian cherries this year and ended up going through an agent she met through friends, she says.

Mr Ding says there would be huge demand for Australian beef, eggs and fresh food if daigou could find reliable direct sources and efficient shipping methods.

And, while Chinese don't trust their local retailers to resell genuine products, they do trust personal connections. And they also trust the daigou's recommendations.


Is it time to turn your back on university?

This seems to be becoming a widespread view -- not before time

ACCESS to higher education used to be considered one of the things that made Australia great, but as demand drops and degrees become less valued, it seems that era is well and truly over.

University enrolment numbers have flatlined, graduate employment last year hit an all time low and employers are going cold on degrees.

Combine this with climbing first year drop out rates and uncertainty over university fee reforms thanks to a stalling government, it seems like there’s never been a better time to turn your back on university.

The Australian Department of Education and Training’s selected higher education statistics, released earlier this week, showed the overall number of new university increased by only 0.1 per cent.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the results had been "anticipated", indicating growth had plateaued, evened out following a surge of "unmet demand".

In interviews, Ms Robinson suggested the Rudd-Gillard government’s university funding scheme had pushed demand for universities beyond their capacities, and that the current government’s campaign around $100,000 degrees may have helped to reduce demand.

It’s not just students that are backing away from university degrees. Earlier this month, international publishing house Penguin Random House joined the ranks of major consulting firms Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers, dropping degrees as a requirement for job applicants.

In Australia, some smaller employers are shifting away from hiring graduates or university students altogether, believing kids are coming out of university with "no real skills" or simply being taught the wrong things.

In an earlier interview with Australia Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive officer Kate Carnell said employers found 20-somethings were more qualified than ever before. Graduates were showing up to work with degrees from universities that were "disconnected with the workforce", she said.

"A number of our members consistently tell us they’re seeing students come out of university or training programs and they might have the academic or theoretical skills, but no skills to work at all. It makes them really hard to employ," she said.

And just as employers are being turned off graduates, students are seeing very little incentives to complete their studies with university graduate salaries going down.

The shift in demand for university education is sending a message to institutions and heralding change for career-seekers and employers.

In an interview with ABC radio, deputy vice chancellor of Deakin University and fellow of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council, Beverley Oliver, said tertiary education providers were getting the message, and adjusting their courses to meet new expectations from students and the changing workforce.

"I think the sector has made great changes over the last 15 years, particularly making sure the degree is a signifier of more than just marks and grades," she said.

"I don’t think it’s an indictment, I think it’s a signal and we should use it to improve what we do. We can always improve what we do and of course employers can as well."

Advocates of alternative educational pathways like apprenticeships and workplace learning are cheering at the apparent shift away from reliance on universities.

For those who are continuing to pursue a university education, the federal education minister has a word of advice.

"Australians must think carefully about the courses they enrol in to ensure they are entering a course that they are not only passionate about but that has a job at the end," senator Simon Birmingham said.

While encouraging new figures show those who found work four months out of university had grown slightly on last year’s, about one-third of graduates did not immediately find a job.


Have we been here before? Clinton versus an insurgent

She was meant to have had a lock on the Democratic Party nomination, in a year that looked good for a Democratic presidential candidate.  Hillary Clinton had the sort of star power few could hope to emulate, and she was one half of a couple who virtually embodied the term "power couple" in a party that was firmly in hoc to their machine.  And then came Iowa, and an insurgency that proved to be her undoing.  Barack Obama's soaring rhetoric and hope for change undid Hillary's hopes of breaking the glass ceiling for women in 2008.

And here she is again.  Her machine is intact, her supporters well motivated, she's captured the endorsement of one of the country's leading liberal newspapers, the New York Times; yet once again this once impregnable candidate faces a grassroots insurgency that could de-rail her second attempt at the presidency.

Of course it's not quite the same as 2008.  Hillary is a wiser person and a better candidate.  Her debate performances - under-reported at a time when everyone is obsessing over the Donald's wrecking of the Republican debates - have been far sparkier and effective than before.  Plus, she does have eight more years of hard won experience behind her, four of them as the former insurgent, Barack Obama's Secretary of State.  Bernie, meanwhile, has mobilised extraordinary support, and could certainly provide an upset in Iowa before what looks like a big win in New Hampshire (bordering his own Vermont state).  But Bernie can't match Obama's rhetoric, and he can motivate liberals but arguably not the mainstream who will there to be grabbed in the event of a very rightist Republican nomination.

It can, in fact, only be good for Clinton and the Democratic Party to have a race come much closer.  It would not have benefited Clinton at all to go through a coronation before the rough passage of the main election in autumn.  This way, she has to really hone her campaigning instincts, and she has to work out why so many Democrats and previously uncommitted voters are flocking to Bernie.  This Washington Post piece, and the turning of a sceptic noted here by Cody Gough, shows why "the Bern" is whirling up such a wind, and Hillary would be foolish to discount this.  She runs as an establishment candidate - her experience is a key selling point - at a time when many American voters seem dead set against that amorphous entity.  Capture some of the Sanders insurgency and Hillary really could have a winning formula.

This BBC report brilliantly captures the difference between the Clinton and Sanders rallies in Iowa and in so doing points up much of the distinction between these two seasoned politicians.

Hillary is no shoo-in any more.  Bernie Sanders has done the Democratic party a considerable service for that.  Whether the Senator from Vermont can provide the political weight to balance the excitement of his campaign, against a candidate who has weight aplenty, will ultimately determine who really is the most credible candidate to go against what will likely be one of the most dangerous Republicans in over a generation.  The Democrats should enjoy their primary season.  But they need to get this choice right.

Попался: МИД показал подпись Лаврова под Будапештским меморандумом. ФОТО

Глава МИД России Сергей Лавров лично подписал Будапештский меморандум.
Так, документ с подписью российского министра показал директор Департамента политики и коммуникаций МИД Украины Алексей Макеев в своем Twitter.
"Никаких обязательств России по Будапештскому меморандуму?" - написал он.
Раньше Лавров заявил, что оккупировав Крым, Россия не нарушала Будапештский меморандум от 1994 года.
Министр иностранных дел Украины Павел Климкин, комментируя слова Лаврова, подчеркнул, что российские власти избирательно трактуют Будапештский меморандум.