Monday, February 27, 2012

Putin declines to host China's future premier

Vladimir Putin has refused to host a top Chinese official tipped to become China's next Prime Minister due to his busy agenda ahead of polls putting a strain on bilateral ties, a newspaper said today.
Kommersant broadsheet, citing sources in the Russian-Chinese inter-governmental commission, the Russian

foreign ministry and the government, said that vice premier Li Keqiang tagged to become China's next Prime Minister, had wanted this month to visit Russia to meet Prime Minister Putin and outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev.
The newspaper said that Li had however cancelled the visit because the Russian government indicated Putin would not be available to host him due to his busy agenda ahead of March presidential elections in which the Russian Prime Minister plans to win back his old Kremlin job.

"There's so much fuss over these elections, there's no time for him," the newspaper quoted a government source as saying. Putin is facing the worst legitimacy crisis of his 12-year rule, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets in December.

The Kremlin also did not give a definitive answer as to whether Medvedev would be available to mee with Li, who has never been to Russia before, the report said.

A new generation of leaders must take over the reins of power in China within a year. President Hu Jintao will end his second five-year term as party head this year, while Li is expected to take over from Premier Wen Jiabao who will resign in 2013.

The reported cancellation of the visit comes after Russia declined Hu's proposal to conduct a joint forum of the two countries' ruling parties during Putin's visit to China last October ahead of parliamentary elections in Russia, Kommersant said.

Russian foreign ministry officials are hoping Li could visit Russia later in the year, the newspaper added. Russia, the world's largest energy producer, and China, the world's largest energy consumer, set much store by their bilateral ties.

Putin has paid frequent visits to China in his capacity as President and Prime Minister since he took power in 1999. In 2010, he hosted vice president Xi Jinping who is widely expected to take over Hu's posts as head of the party and head of state.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Kolkata does a Jaipur, cancels Taslima Nasrin's book launch

The official release of controversial Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin's biography 'Nirbasan' was cancelled at the Kolkata Book Fair today because of 'logistical problems'.
But speculation has it that fair organisers Publishers and Booksellers Guild have bowed to the demands of Muslim hawks.

Later, Nasrin tweeted: ''Kolkata Book Fair committee canceled my book release program today at Kolkata Book Fair. Why? Some religious fanatics don't want it to happen.''

The seventh part of 'Nirbasan' was to be released at one of the auditoriums in fair venue, the Milan Mela grounds.

In the morning, Nasrin had responded to a question from 'The Indian Express' on Twitter, stating she could not attend the release function because restrictions on her stay in West Bengal were still in place. ''I am not allowed to enter West Bengal,'' she said.

Asked what she thought about stopping the book release, Nasrin said, ''Kolkata, a city of progressive! A book release even w/o my presence not possible! All political parties, all organisations afraid of fanatics! But how long’.

'Nirbasan' (Exile) talks about her days spent away from her 'adopted city' Kolkata after she was deported from here four years ago.

Convener of the Guild Raju Barman said, ''We didn’t stop it. However, the auditorium where it was supposed to take place was not ready. So, we told them it can’t happen today.''

Nasrin was bundled out of Kolkata in 2007, as protests against a chapter in her book 'Dwikhandito' escalated into a riot-like situation. She has still not been able to return to the city, despite a new government, which as the Opposition in 2007, had strongly criticised the CPI(M) government’s decision to send her away.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

‘Syrian regime’s fall inevitable’

WASHINGTON/DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime will inevitably collapse in the face of mounting protests, the US spy chief said on Tuesday.

“I do not see how he can sustain his rule of Syria,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, told senators. “I personally believe it’s a question of time but that’s the issue, it could be a long time.”

The opposition was “fragmented” but was piling growing pressure on Assad, said Clapper, adding that it remained unclear what would follow after the Syrian leader’s departure. CIA director David Petraeus, testifying at the same hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also described the regime as increasingly at risk.

The opposition had displayed “resilience” and the regime now faced challenges in Damascus and Aleppo, two cities that had been seen as insulated from the unrest, said Petraeus, a retired four-star general who served as commander in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think it has shown indeed how substantial the opposition to the regime is and how it is in fact growing and how increasing areas are becoming beyond the reach of the regime security forces,” he said.

The fall of Assad’s regime would deliver a major blow to Iran, which relies on Syria as a vital logistics link to Hizbullah in Lebanon, he said.

Meanwhile, Syria’s opposition urged the international community to act and deplored its failure to stop “massacres” amid spiralling violence ahead of a UN Security Council showdown on Tuesday.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, in neighbouring Jordan for talks on Middle East peace, urged the Security Council to overcome bitter differences over Syria to increase pressure to end the bloodshed.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is leading a Western charge to press Russia to back Security Council action to stop a crackdown on dissent the United Nations says has killed more than 5,400 people in the past 10 months.

Veto-wielding Russia has objected to a resolution introduced by Morocco which calls for the regime to put an immediate stop to violence against protesters and for President Bashar al-Assad to hand power to his deputy.

“I don’t think Russian policy is about asking people to step down. Regime change is not our profession,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, stressing that while the Syrian president was not an ally, it was not up to other nations to interfere.

The text seen by AFP calls for the formation of a unity government leading to “transparent and free elections,” while stressing there will be no foreign military intervention in Syria. Assad’s government has already flatly rejected a similarly worded resolution proposed by the Arab League.

Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, said on Tuesday that pushing the resolution through would be the “path towards civil war” in a country where an increasingly bold insurgency is harrowing regime forces.

The opposition Syrian National Council deplored the international community’s lack of “swift action” to protect civilians “by all necessary means,” in a statement on Facebook. The SNC, the most representative group opposed to Assad, reaffirmed the “people’s determination to fight for their freedom and dignity,” stressing they “will not give up their revolution, whatever the sacrifices.”

The head of the now defunct Arab League observer mission to Syria, General Mohammed Ahmed Mustafa al-Dabi, said there had been a marked upsurge in violence since last Tuesday. Nearly 400 people have been killed since.

On Monday alone, almost 100 people, including 55 civilians, were killed during a regime assault on the city of Homs, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The unrest, which also saw 25 soldiers killed, marked one of the bloodiest days of a revolt that erupted in March, inspired by a wave of Arab uprisings that last year overthrew authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

On Tuesday, at least 22 people were killed, all but one of them civilians, the Observatory said. Seven civilians and a soldier were killed in Idlib province in the northwest and 14 civilians were killed in Homs.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Can Politicians Make Us Happy?

A happiness survey by Gallup Korea at the end of last year revealed a number of interesting things about how Koreans feel about their lives. First, the level of happiness was not directly proportional to the level of economic growth. In the survey, 52 percent of Koreans said they were happy, while 40 percent said somewhat happy and 8 percent unhappy. That was similar to a survey conducted 20 years ago which showed 52 percent of Koreans saying they were happy, 42 percent somewhat happy and 6 percent unhappy. Per-capita gross national income increased around three times, from US$8,402 in 1993 to $23,000 last year, but the happiness index has remained virtually unchanged.

The second interesting thing the latest survey revealed was that attitudes toward happiness vary significantly according to subjective views on living conditions rather than actual income. When respondents who said they were happy were broken down by income, 57 percent of those who make more than W5 million (US$1=W1,124) felt happy, compared to 52 percent of respondents who earned between W2 million to W4.99 million and 50 percent of those who make less than W2 million. In other words, there was no marked difference in the proportion of people who were happy in different income groups.

This could be seen as evidence that efforts to narrow the income disparity in society may not have a direct impact on happiness. But when respondents were asked whether they considered themselves to be in the upper, middle or lower class, 71 percent of those who considered themselves upper class said they were happy, compared to 55 percent of those who considered themselves middle class and only 35 percent of those who considered themselves lower class. In other words, happiness seems dependent not on the amount of money but on the status it brings.

Men in their 40s and 50s with high salaries but exposed to stiff competition and the responsibilities of feeding their families were the least happy with 43 percent for each age group. Among respondents in their 20s and 30s, who are opinion leaders on the Internet, 60 percent said they were happy. Derek Bok of Harvard University wrote in his book "The Politics of Happiness" that happiness is a value that transcends the ideology of money often characterized by contradictory arguments between conservatives who focus on touting economic growth and liberals who pursue equitable distribution. Bok cites six decisive factors for happiness -- marriage, health, work, personal relations, volunteer or religious activities and quality of government -- and points out that governments need to speed up efforts to strengthen job creation, retirement benefits, public healthcare and public education.

Park Geun-hye of the ruling Grand National Party said in a radio address early this year, "The most important policy objective now must be the happiness of the public." Han Myeong-sook of the Democratic Unity Party, said on Jan. 15, right after being elected as party chief, "I will create a country in which the majority of the public is happy." The Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, a Buddhist monk who is the mentor of software tycoon and presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo, said in a recent lecture, "The objective of politics must be to ensure the happiness and freedom of the public."

Listening to the pledges of politicians makes it sound as though victory by either side would make a majority happier. But a survey by Hangil Research last month showed that 68 percent of Koreans named politicians as the main cause of misfortune in our society. Politicians may be competing to make people happy, but a majority of Koreans simply pray that they do not ruin what little they have to feel happy about.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

High-level offensive launched on Syria at UN

UNITED NATIONS -- Western and Arab nations launched a major diplomatic offensive at the U.N. on Tuesday in hopes of overcoming Russia's opposition to a resolution demanding that Syrian President Bashar Assad relinquish power.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the British and French foreign ministers traveled to New York for the afternoon Security Council session on the situation in Syria. Nabil Elaraby, the chief of the Arab League, and Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassem Bin Jabr Al Thani, Qatar's prime minister, also were to brief council members.

"Realizing the hopes of the Syrian people is in your hands," Sheikh Hamad told council members, asking them to adopt the resolution, based on the Arab League's peace plan for the country. "It is part of your responsibility under the (U.N.) charter."

It was unclear if the high-level push would succeed.

Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of the council, has objected to the draft, which is backed by Western and some Arab powers. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said Tuesday on Twitter that the resolution is a "path to civil war."

Russia says it worries that the new measure could lead to military action and regime change, just as an Arab-backed U.N. resolution led to NATO airstrikes in Libya that allowed rebels to oust the regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

Backers of the draft point out that it says specifically that "nothing ... compels states to resort to the use of force or the threat of force."

An actual vote on the resolution was considered unlikely until later this week.

The debate came amid rising violence Tuesday in Homs, a Syrian center of opposition to Assad's regime. The U.N. estimates that more than 5,400 people have been killed since last March in the Syrian government crackdown against protesters.

The draft resolution demands that Assad halt the crackdown and implement an Arab League peace plan calling for him to hand over power to his vice president. If Assad fails to comply within 15 days, the council would consider "further measures," a reference to a possible move to impose economic or other sanctions.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday at a news conference in Amman, Jordan, that he was "encouraged by the League of Arab States' initiative to seek a political solution" to the Syrian crisis.

"It is more urgent than ever to put an end to this bloodshed and violence, to start a credible political solution that addresses the legitimate aspiration of the Syrian people and to protect their fundamental freedoms," Ban said.

If Russia choses to use its veto, there isn't much more council members can do except draft a nonbinding statement that would have to be approved by consensus.

In October, a Western-backed resolution condemning the violence in Syria was blocked by a double veto of Russia and fellow permanent member China.

Syria has been Moscow's top ally in the Middle East since Soviet times, when it was led by the incumbent's father, Hafez Assad. The Kremlin saw it as a bulwark for countering U.S. influence in the region.

While Russia's relations with Israel have improved greatly since the Soviet collapse, ties with Damascus helped Russia retain its clout as a member of the Quartet of international mediators trying to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

For decades, Syria has been a major customer for Russian arms, buying billions of dollars worth of combat jets, missiles, tanks and other heavy weapons.

Hillel Neuer, executive director of the Geneva-based monitoring group U.N. Watch, said it was time for Russia to end "its increasingly futile effort to shield the doomed Assad regime.

"Russia would do better to prepare the dictator's Moscow asylum, something he will need sooner rather than later," Neuer said.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Impeachment petitions accepted

The Constitution Court on Wednesday accepted for consideration two separate petitions filed by Pheu Thai and Democrat MPs, each seeking the removal of MPs of the rival party, court spokesman Pimol Thampithakpong said.

The first petition was filed by 83 Pheu Thai MPs led by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok asking the Constitution Court's to rule whether Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat Party leader, and Warong Dejkitwikrom, a Democrat MP for Phitsanulok had lost their House membership under Sections 91, 106(6), and 266(1) of the constitution for ordering the Phitsanulok governor to give them 500 survival kit bags issued by the Energy Ministry.

The two then distributed the bags to flood-hit people in Phitsanulok.  This was an interference in the work of state officials, the petition alleged.

The second petition was filed by 153 Democrat MPs led by Mr Abhisit, asking the Constitution Court to rule whether eight Pheu Thai MPs had lost their parliamentary status for using their positions to interfere in the management of flood relief supplies by state officials.

The eight MPs are Pol Gen Pracha Promnok, Karun Hosakul, Surachart Thienthong, Vorachai Hema, Tanusak Lek-uthai, Charupong Ruangsuwan, Vicharn Minchainant, and Jirayu Huangsap.

Mr Pimol said the court judges met today to consider the petitions and decided to take them for consideration since they met all requirements stated in the constitution.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

ASEAN committed to giving wider access to disabled people

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Wardana said ASEAN was committed to providing wider access to people with disabilities and recognizing their potential to contribute to the implementation of all action lines in the ASEAN Community blueprint for 2015.

Speaking at the "Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections for Persons with Disabilities" in Jakarta on Wednesday, Wardana said the blueprint included the socio-cultural sectors of the ASEAN community of the role and participation of the persons with disabilities as outlined in the Bali Declaration in 2011.

"We have to provide a strong basis for our collaboration among people and governments to repeal improper laws on the disabled and issue inclusive regulations for all," Wardana said.

He said according to the Bali Declaration 2011, there were three vital elements that should be emphasized , the first being y the proclamation of the ASEAN decade of persons with disabilities in the period 2011-2020 indicating the need for a systemic agenda and program to integrate disabled people issues into the building of the ASEAN Community.

The second was mainstreaming the disabled people perspective in the development and implementation of ASEAN policies and programs across the economic, political security and socio-cultural pillars of the ASEAN Community.

Wardana said this was a clear statement on the importance of the inclusion of the disabled people perspective in all ASEAN policies and programs as disabled people issues are cross-cutting ones that involve all aspects of the work of ASEAN.

"The third is the encouragement of the participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects, including in political activities by providing them with equal political rights in the election of leaders and parliamentarians at local and national levels," he said.

The "Regional Dialogue on Access to Elections for Persons with Disabilities" with the theme of enhancing the role and participation of persons with disabilities and promoting election access for all is being held by the Disability Rights for the General Election Network for Disability Access (AGENDA) on February 1-2 and partcipated in by representatives of disabled people organizations in ASEAN, Japan, South Korea, and the US.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fred Goodwin: decision to strip knighthood was result of 'anti-business hysteria'

The decision to strip Fred Goodwin of his Knighthood has been condemned by politicians and business leaders who have accused the government of allowing “anti-business hysteria” to take over.

The shamed RBS former chief executive had his honour annulled by the Forfeiture Committee after overseeing the biggest failure in British banking history, resulting in a £45 billion bailout by the taxpayer.
But the decision has been criticised by many leading business figures who argue that he has been unfairly singled out for his role in the banking crisis and has become the victim of a “lynch mob” mentality.
Former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling said the decision to remove Mr Goodwin’s honour was “tawdry” insisting there were other bankers with honours who could equally be punished for their reckless actions.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

What about a rescue deal for Euro-democracy?

One outraged Greek government minister described it as ‘the product of a sick imagination’. Another called it ‘absolutely laughable’. The formal title of the document in question is ‘Assurance of Compliance in the Second GRC Programme’. It is neither a joke, nor a sick fantasy. It reads more like the draft of a death warrant for democracy, first in Greece and then elsewhere in Europe.

This supposedly secret document was issued by Angela Merkel’s German government to its partners in the Eurozone – and then carefully leaked, to ensure maximum impact. It sets out two extraordinary measures that the Germans want to impose to ensure that the Greek authorities comply with the swingeing budget cuts which they promised but have apparently failed to deliver to the markets’ satisfaction.

First, it says Greece must ‘legally commit itself to giving absolute priority to future debt service’. All state revenues must go first to paying debts and interest due, before a cent can be spent on public services. And the Greek government will not be allowed to threaten to default on its debts in future; if it cannot pay, it must accept that ‘further cuts’ will be ‘the only possible consequence’.

Second, the Germans want the Eurozone to oversee the ‘transfer of national budgetary sovereignty’ from Greece to ‘the European level’ under a ‘strict steering and control system’. The plan is for the Eurozone group to appoint a budget commissioner to oversee Greek finances, with the power ‘to veto decisions not in line with the budgetary targets’ set by European and international officials. If that was not humiliating enough, the Greeks would also have to look happy to bend the knee by ensuring that this new system of outside control ‘is fully enshrined in national law, preferably through constitutional amendment’.

To get the Greeks to agree to these unprecedented conditions, the German document also offers incentives – or as we used to call it, threats. If Athens does not accept the compliance measures, then ‘the Eurozone will not be able to approve guarantees for GRC II’. That is the second huge bailout of €130 billion which Greece desperately needs if it is not to go officially bust in weeks. The ‘Assurance of Compliance’ document is a ‘secret’ blackmail note.

Unsurprisingly, the publication of these proposals caused some consternation in the run-up to yet another Euro-crisis summit this week. While Greek ministers ranted about it as a sick joke, more photoshopped images of Merkel-as-Hitler appeared in Athens. British Tory MPs joined in the re-enactment of the Second World War, with one declaring that the Germans were sending a Nazi-style gauleiter to run Greece.

Even other Eurozone governments appeared taken aback by the bluntness of the proposals. One senior official involved in the Greek rescue package was quoted as saying that ‘the Germans have a lot of influence, but that goes a little beyond the limits the outer member states could support’. Those states outside the Franco-German core of the Eurozone are worried that, where democracy in Greece goes today, so their democracy might follow tomorrow. And they are right to be worried. The latest plan – agreed to by the UK – to allow the judges of the European Court to punish democratic nations that fail to stick to the Franco-German rules on spending shows which way the wind is blowing across the continent.


However, whether these precise punitive measures get written into the Greek constitution or (most likely) not is really beside the point. The fact is that ‘national budgetary sovereignty’ has already effectively been ‘transferred’ from Greece. The Greek economy is already being run by foreign officials – from the ‘Troika’ of the EU, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Before the Germans circulated their new proposals to the Eurozone states, the Troika had already delivered its latest demands to the Greek government, which it insists must be fulfilled before the new bailout can be agreed. Their 10-page blackmail note includes demands for 150,000 public-sector job cuts, and for further big cuts in public spending this year, notably on health.

It was telling that, when the leak of the ‘secret’ German proposals sparked a political furore, the German government’s reaction was not to show any embarrassment, but openly to reiterate its case. Germany’s right-wing economic minister Phillip Roesler took to the media to spell out that, if the Greeks could not make the cuts, then ‘the leadership and monitoring must come in a stronger way from outside, for example via the EU’. And the French Socialist Christine Lagarde, now head of the IMF, backed them up, with headlines declaring ‘IMF tells Greece it will lose control of budget for bailout’. Nothing secret about that.

Moreover, as well as assuming authority over the national budget, the Eurozone authorities have already overthrown parliamentary democracy in Greece.

We might recall what happened after prime minister George Panandreou suggested a referendum to consult the Greek people on the austerity package. The self-appointed ‘Frankfurt Group’ of the Euro-elite – comprising the heads of the German and French governments, European Commission, ECB and IMF – were appalled by this slightest whiff of democracy. They twisted Papandreou’s arm, not only to make him withdraw the referendum, but to resign from office.

In his place as prime minister they installed the supposedly non-political ‘technocrat’ Lucas Papademos to force through their austerity plans for Greece. German frustration at his failure to cut quickly and deeply enough led to last week’s draconian scheme. But Papademos is still there at the bidding of the Euro-elite, not the Greek people.

And we shouldn’t expect the Greek political establishment to struggle for democracy. None of the major political parties wants to be seen supporting the austerity measures in the run-up to April’s Greek elections. That is why they all took the opportunity to lay into the German government document over the weekend. But they all accept the need to satisfy the international lenders and get the next huge handout. As chief technocrat Papademos put it over the weekend, all of the parties backing his coalition are in ‘total convergence’ on the need to force through austerity measures. His rallying cry was: ‘We will put up a hard fight to guarantee the country’s place in Europe and the Eurozone. United we can succeed.’ The Greek political elite will unite to ‘fight hard’, not for its democracy, but for its subordinate place at the foot of the Frankfurt Group’s table.

Even if the German government’s draft death warrant is never officially issued by the Euro-group, the reality is that democracy in Greece has long been a terminal-looking case on its death bed. And the leading political parties look less likely to fight to revive it than volunteer to assist in its euthanasia. There is a crying need for somebody to breath life into the democratic struggle.

However, what nobody needs are politicians or protesters pretending this is a re-run of the German occupation of Greece during the Second World War. Such comparisons only ever denigrate history and distort the present.

Merkel’s Germany is not an expansionist ‘Fourth Reich’ aggressively seeking to conquer Europe. It is a relatively strong yet slightly insecure European power, defensive about the failure of its EU dream and trying hard to hold the Euro-club together by keeping fringe members such as Greece in line. The ambivalence in German attitudes toward their own power is evident in this latest episode. They were bold enough to put in writing their demands for Greeks to surrender economic sovereignty, yet sufficiently bashful to want to hide behind the Euro-group and avoid imposing these measures in their own name. The leading candidate for the post of budget commissioner – the gauleiter, as it were – was reportedly a Finnish EU official whose main qualification for the job was that ‘he is not German’.

Perhaps the only comparison between Hitler and Merkel’s Germany here is that neither wanted to invade Greece; Hitler only got sucked in to bail out his Italian fascist allies after the Greeks kicked Mussolini’s backside. But there the similarities end abruptly. Many thousands of Greeks starved to death under the Nazis, even in Athens, or were executed in mass reprisals after the Greek resistance struck at the occupying forces. It seems unlikely that the current German authorities are about to switch from writing strongly worded documents about Greece to burning down a thousand Greek villages.

One other sign of how far things have changed is the British attitude to the Greek and wider Euro-crisis today. Despite Britain’s alleged ‘isolation’ from Europe, Tory chancellor George Osborne has supported calls for greater financial integration in the Eurozone – that is, more central control over the budgets of indebted states such as Greece. Osborne said at last week’s Davos economic summit that to stabilise the Euro, wealthy Germany must make ‘permanent fiscal transfers’ to the poorer peripheral states, just as the UK capital subsidised the north of England. So keen is Osborne to see the Euro survive at all costs, he wants Germany to treat Greece as a province. Not exactly Winston Churchill, is it? (Though come to think of it, Churchill’s wartime government and its Labour successor did conspire with real Nazis and the Americans to shaft Greek democracy back then.)

Back in the present, meanwhile, the Greek people might be looking forward to the worst of all worlds. Not only is their political democracy being hacked up and handed over to technocrats, Eurocrats and budget commissioners, but the economic consequences will be dire. The austerity measures proposed by the bumbling Euro-authorities promise Greece nothing but misery for the foreseeable future.

One leading Greek economist says that the package to be imposed could not return Greece to growth ‘even if God and his angels were to descend upon Athens and put this in place’. As it is, the Greek people are being descended upon not by the three archangels, but by another Troika. More banal than angels but still other-worldly and, they would have us believe, omnipotent.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Romney Hails A 'Great Victory' In Florida

Mitt Romney has won a landslide victory in Florida, turning round his campaign to position himself as the strongest contender for the Republican nomination to fight this year's US presidential election.

Returns from nearly half of Florida's precincts showed Mr Romney with 47% of the vote, to his main rival Newt Gingrich's 31%.
"Thank you FL!" Mr Romney tweeted minutes after the race was called. "While we celebrate this victory, we must not forget what this election is really about: defeating Barack Obama."
Speaking to cheering and flag-waving supporters, he said he was ready "to lead this party and our nation".

Mr Romney bounced back with strong debate performances and an aggressive attack against Mr Gingrich.
The contest in Florida reached new depths of negative campaigning, where Mr Romney and campaign groups spent $15m (£9.5m) trying to demolish Mr Gingrich, outspending the former House Speaker by five to one.
The aggressiveness of the Florida campaign was in marked contrast to Mr Romney's victory speech, where he aimed to strike a more gracious tone.
"A competitive primary does not divide us," he told supporters in Tampa. "It prepares us, and we will win."
In victory he turned his aim from Mr Gingrich on to Mr Obama.
"Leadership is about taking responsibility, not making excuses, Mr President," he said. "You were elected to lead. You chose to follow. Now it's time to get out of the way."
Florida is the first heavyweight state in the primary season, with two million people voting there compared to little more than 100,000 in Iowa, where the first contest was held.
Mr Gingrich has threatened to continue the fight all the way to the convention in Tampa in seven months.
The prospect of the former House Speaker "going rogue", in the words of one senior Republican, alarmed some in the party. That fear will have subsided considerably with Mr Romney's decisive victory in Florida.
But Mr Gingrich is not sounding any less belligerent.

"This will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate," he told supporters in Orlando.
A large banner hung over the rally proclaiming "46 States to Go".
Mr Gingrich said he is in it for the long haul: "We are going to contest every place and we are going to win and we will be in Tampa as the nominee in August."
He may well mean it. Mr Gingrich revels in the role of fighting as underdog and has even more reason to resent Mr Romney now.
But he will be under enormous pressure not to continue this punishing battle for the good of the Republican party.
Former Republican candidate Herman Cain, who is now endorsing Mr Gingrich, told Sky News he was not worried by the prospect of a long nomination battle.
Two other candidates, former Senator Rick Santorum and congressman Ron Paul, remain in the Republican race, but they conceded Florida to their rivals and remain longshots for the nomination. Mr Santorum had 13% and Mr Paul 7%.
Mr Romney is generally considered the Republicans' strongest candidate to face Mr Obama, whose re-election prospects have been hurt by the slow US economic recovery.
But his shifting views on abortion and other social issues have led many Republicans to question his conservative credentials.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Man In Afghan Army Uniform Kills NATO Soldier

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan says a man wearing an Afghan army uniform has shot and killed a NATO soldier in the south of the country.

An ISAF spokesman said the killing occurred on January 31 and that the suspected shooter had been detained by Afghan soldiers.

No details were given on the nationality of the killed soldier.

Afghan National Army commander Sayed Malluk, quoted by The Associated Press news agency, said the shooting happened during a night patrol in Helmand Province.

It was the latest incident in Afghanistan in which an Afghan soldier, or militant dressed as a soldier, has killed foreign troops.

On January 20, an Afghan soldier shot dead four French soldiers in Afghanistan's Kapisa Province.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Romney strikes back

Mitt Romney

The Republican primary elections take place in Florida on 31 January in what may as well be the crucial battle the war for GOP nomination. After the first three primaries, three candidates have one win each; former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum Iowa, frontrunner and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney New Hampshire and former Congress Speaker Newt Gingrich South Carolina. The fourth contender in the race is the Texas Congressman Ron Paul, whose primary goal has been to spread the idea of libertarianism in this campaign [just like in the last one in 2008].

It seemed at the very beginning as if there was nothing that could possibly stop Mitt Romney, but Gingrich's performance in traditionally conservative Republican South Carolina brought a new dynamics to the campaign.

Romney was forced to cease his campaign of bashing President Barack Obama and acting as the GOP nominee, and battered Gingrich in two recent debates and series of television advertisements. It seemingly paid dividends [something that a wealthy investor such as Romney surely likes] and former Massachusetts governor commanded a double-digit lead over the former speaker in polls prior to the vote.
Florida primary is important for several reasons. Firstly, it is a 'winner takes it all' primary, meaning that all the allocated delegates from Florida [50 of them] go to the person that gets the most votes in the ballots. Though Florida was stripped of a half of its delegates after decision to move ahead its primary, it is nevertheless a substantial number of votes for the final Republican Convention in Tampa later this year.

More importantly, Florida will be a major battleground state in the national elections and as such serves as an indicator of electability of a candidate. In other words, if one cannot win the Republican primary in Florida, it is highly unlikely he will win the state in presidential election, ergo unlikely to become the next President.

Finally, Florida served for electoral cycles as a purgatory for failed candidates who could no longer finance their campaigns, or simply realise their chances for overall victory are close to none, and one should expect similar to happen after this primary.

Newt Gingrich counts on the latest and, even though he is obviously unelectable [18% favourable vs. 56% unfavourable general public opinion] and has [for those, and some other, reasons] the entire GOP establishment against him, he counts on Rick Santorum to be the first to blink and drop out of the race, rallying conservatives behind his candidacy as a  counter to Romney.

Gingrich built his profile, despite his track record, as a conservative alternative to a more moderate, and often inconsistent, Romney and as a much better and stronger orator than senator Santorum, who is indeed the only true social conservative in GOP field. He attacked Massachusetts governor for being “a pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-tax increase moderate” and added that Republicans “will not nominate somebody who raises millions from Wall Street to run ads”.

Gingrich also received an endorsement from a former rival Herman Cain, who was at a point a favourite of the conservatives, but dropped out of the race in December after allegations of sexual harassment, extramarital affairs and complete blunder on issues of foreign policy.

Governor Romney, who was leading thus far a fairly clean campaign and spent most of his [and his Political Action Committee's] time and money attacking President Obama, went into offence in the past couple of weeks, outlining the shortcomings of Newt Gingrich, both personal and professional.

Romney attacked Gingrich for his ties with the mortgage agency Freddie Mac and the collapse of the housing market, a burning issue in Florida, where property values recorded a drop of some 45% in the past 5-6 years. He also portrayed Gingrich as a Washington insider reminding that he was forced out of his post as the House of Representatives speaker in disgrace after being reprimanded for ethics violations.

With hours left until the ballots are closed, all indicators point to a victory for Mitt Romney and a very poor result for the underdogs in this race, Santorum and Paul. Momentum that this victory would bring Romney could prove crucial for winning the nomination, but a strong performance and withdrawal of Rick Santorum could certainly keep Gingrich's hopes alive. After all, he did pledge following the Iowa caucuses that he would do whatever he can to harm Romney.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hundreds of Drivers Call for Fair Elections

A car with a worm strapped to the back joining hundreds of cars driving around the Garden Ring Road during a rally for fair elections Sunday. The banner reads, “Yellow earthworm: Give back the stolen votes.”

Hundreds of cars with white ribbons, banners and balloons drove around Moscow's Garden Ring Road on Sunday afternoon to demand fair elections and urge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step down.

The cars — ranging from cheap Russian makes to expensive foreign models — started rallying at 2 p.m. at the event, dubbed "White Ring," which urged people to participate in a Feb. 4 march in downtown Moscow.

White is the color adopted by the protest movement that emerged from December's disputed State Duma elections.

Along with standard posters like "Freedom" and "For Fair Elections," cars on Sunday carried banners with slogans like "Put Out" and "Stop the Botox," a reference to rumors that Putin uses the substance for cosmetic procedures aimed at making him look younger.

One car flew a white banner between two wooden poles reading, "Yellow earthworm: Give back the stolen votes." Harnessed to the poles was a long orange pillow that vaguely resembled a worm.

Some members of the opposition have nicknamed Putin a yellow earthworm after he likened himself to Kaa, the large, wise python from Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book," in his televised call-in show in December.

Some car passengers waved white pieces of paper out of car windows, while onlookers showed their support by holding up papers and waving.

The police said 300 cars participated in the rally, RIA-Novosti reported.

But more than 2,200 people signed up for the event on Facebook. The Yandex Probki road monitoring service indicated traffic jams around the Garden Ring on Sunday afternoon — an unusual occurence on the weekend day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Proceedings initiated against Lanta-Tour Voyazh

Russian Agency for Health and Consumer Rights has initiated proceedings against Lanta-Tour Voyazh after the travel agency closed shop leaving thousands of tourists stranded abroad, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday. Earlier Russia’s investigative committee announced that Lanta-Tour Voyazh’s management was suspected of large-scale fraud and misappropriation of clients’ money. Lanta-Tour Voyazh was one of Russia’s largest and oldest operating tourism firms.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mubarak shouldn’t be executed

Israeli publication Haaretz quoted Egyptian Ruz Al Yusuf over the weekend about a letter which was sent by the deposed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to a number of world leaders, requesting they save him from execution and help his family.

The report says Mubarak has sent letters to the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy in the West and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Lebanon in the Middle East.
Mubarak has been on trial since Aug. 3, 2011, following his resignation Feb. 11 of the same year as a result of the Tahrir Square protests that started on Jan. 25. The prosecutors have asked for the death penalty against him on charges of corruption and being responsible for the deaths of at least 850 protestors.

The death penalty is still widely used in the eastern political geographies to get even with the past and open a new page.But that new page could not be a better one with the execution of the former leaders, as we can recall in four distinctive examples: Libya, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey.

In Turkey in 1960 the military rule that toppled the elected government had allowed the death penalties by the military courts executed against Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan. Besides being brutal, the trauma led to a chain of economic and political crises and two more military coups in the country, which could be gotten rid of in the 2000s starting with abolishing the death penalty.

In Pakistan then-Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit tried hard and wrote a letter to the 1977 coup leader Gen. Zia ul Haq of Pakistan for him to pardon the death penalty given by the courts against the prime minister whom he toppled, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Bhutto was executed in 1978, which led to a chain of instabilities not only in Pakistan but all over the region and the rise of militant Islamist movements like the Taliban and al-Qaeda in neighboring Afghanistan.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein, who had been toppled by the invasion armies of the U.S.-led coalition in 2003, was executed in 2006, in hopes it would sooth the insurgency against the new Baghdad. Today the new Baghdad is a source of the escalating tension amid fears of a sectarian and ethnic civil war in the country.

In Libya, the execution of the iron-fisted ruler Moammar Gadhafi was without trial and violent. Libya is still in turmoil and uncertainty. Whereas things started to settle down in Tunisia and Egypt as elections were carried out and Islamist movements (Ennahda in Tunisia and Ehvani Muslim in Egypt) are in a process of transformation to redefine them closer to center, perhaps with some inspiration from Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Despite all its pains Egypt is going in the right direction toward a more democratic life. The new Egyptian government should not let the execution of its former ruler, even if the court would rule for one. Let alone its humanitarian dimension, which suggests that you cannot take the life you did not give in the first place, Cairo should be wise enough to draw the correct political lessons from the neighborhood.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Romney triumphs over Gingrich in Florida

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney trounced Newt Gingrich in Tuesday's Florida primary, 46% to 32%, putting the Republican nomination for the presidency firmly within his reach.

Mitt Romney is back in the driving seat to become the Republican presidential candidate after a convincing victory in the Florida primary on Tuesday.

Romney routed his main rival Newt Gingrich with the margin of victory 42 percent to 32 percent of the roughly two million votes counted.

Romney’s triumph comes just 11 days after he lost out to 68 year-old Gingrich in South Carolina, a victory that reignited Gingrich’s campaign and sent shock waves through the Republican Party.


By Catherine VIETTE / Josh Vardey
But with the Florida victory under his belt Romney, 64, is now the clear favourite to become the Republican presidential candidate to take on Barack Obama in November’s White House elections.

“President Obama wants to fundamentally transform America and make it something perhaps we would not recognise. I want to restore to America the values and principles that made us the hope of the earth,” said Romney after the victory.

Going personal

The campaign to win the Florida primary was marked by the personal attacks that flew between the Republican candidates, something that was music to the ears of the Democrat Party.

FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent Nathan King said the pressure will now be on Gingrich to drop out of the race so the party can unite behind Romney.

“There will be huge amounts of pressure for Newt Gingrich to step aside, even among his former colleagues in Congress,” said King. “They want a nominee and they don’t want this bloody battle going forward. They see it only benefitting Barack Obama in the long run.”

FRANCE 24’s international affairs editor Douglas Herbert put Romney’s Florida win down to money and his ability to flood the state’s advertising market. Gingrich did not have the financial reserves to match it.

But the chances of Gingrich simply stepping aside are slim, claims Herbert.

“The Gingrich brand is not to give up,” Herbert said. “His brand is to be stubborn and to stick to it. He’s an anti establishment type guy. He will be dragged through the dirt and kicked until he’s bruised and bloodied but he will keep on going.”


The battle to become the Republican nominee now moves to the state of Nevada on Saturday.

Gingrich himself vowed to carry on after the defeat and his chances of success could depend on fellow republican candidate Rick Santorum.

Santorum finished third in Florida picking up 13 percent of the vote. If he is persuaded to withdraw from the race his conservative backing could swing behind Gingrich and present a real challenge to Romney.

“It’s now clear that this will be a two person race between conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate (referring to Romney),” said Gingrich. “We are going to contest everyplace and we are going to win.”

Romney attacking strategy

Only days ago, Romney’s prospects for a victory in Florida were shaky. But the candidate emerged from his defeat in South Carolina with an aggressive, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink strategy to stem the rising threat from his number one rival to the Republican nomination.

After weeks of firing at Obama, Romney shifted his focus to Gingrich, bombarding the former Congressman with every tool at his disposal: advertisements, campaign speeches, debates, and appearances by high-profile “surrogates”, like 2008 Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain and actor Jon Voight.

Romney’s combative performances in two debates in Florida, however, have been largely credited for reclaiming the momentum from Gingrich after a stretch of unflattering press coverage surrounding the 15% tax rate the former governor paid on his multimillion dollar income.

Romney’s campaign also spent considerable funds on mailings and TV ads emphasising Gingrich’s controversial tenure in the House of Representatives in order to dispel the notion that the former House speaker is a Washington outsider.

Helping Romney further was Gingrich’s notorious, self-proclaimed penchant for grandiose ideas, with the candidate vowing Wednesday to install a colony on the moon by 2020. Romney and his supporters pounced on the moon statement as evidence of Gingrich’s erratic nature, saying the ill-timed project would cost trillions of dollars.

Obama campaign lifted

The Obama campaign team’s spirits are undoubtedly lifted by the kind of internecine Republican swiping seen in Florida, with the president’s approval ratings seeing modest gains since primary season kicked off.

Prominent pundit Dr. Larry Sabato, a professor of politics at the University of Virginia,
pointed out that if Romney is the candidate “Obama can simply air the attacks on Romney in his TV ads in the fall, as the attacks have more credibility coming from Republicans”.

However, John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Centre in Washington used Obama’s own electoral history to counter the notion that he could significantly benefit from a knock-down, drag-out Romney-Gingrich slugfest.

“The long primary fight [between Obama and Hillary Clinton] in 2008 did not hurt Obama in the general election, so it shouldn’t really hurt Romney this time,” Fortier said. “In the long term, voters come home to their party.”

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Europe United Kingdom France Germany Austria Netherlands Belgium Denmark Sweden Italy Spain Balkans Cyprus Norway Finland Switzerland Other EU countries European Union EuroMed International USA EU/Turkey Israel Middle East Afghanistan India Iran Iraq Pakistan Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Other countries Civil Rights Integration Apostacy Family executions Freedom of expression Persecution of Christians Minorities' rights Racism Religious law Stoning Women's rights Democracy Political reactions Terrorism Ideology Funding Networks Recent events Police action Military action Documentation Articles Background Books Economy Interviews Mosques Summaries Video Media Bias Censorship Propaganda Corrections Humor Humor Campaigns & Petitions Campaigns Petitions Sunni Scholar Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Islamic Law Should Be Implemented Gradually in Egypt

Following are excerpts from an interview with Sunni scholar Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, which aired on Al-Nahar TV on January 26, 2012:

Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: "I think [the shari'a] should be implemented gradually. This is a law of the shari'a and a law of nature. […]

"We should do things gradually. We should prepare the people, teach them. People have to learn. We have to make an effort to teach people the truth about Islam. […]

"People do not understand the shari'a properly. We have to teach people the laws of the shari'a and explain them, before anything else.

"I think that in the first five years, there should be no chopping off of hands. This period should be dedicated to teaching things.

"A transitional phase… This should be a period in which we teach people the true laws of the shari'a.

"When we find food for all the hungry, schools for all the pupils, hospitals for all the sick, homes for all those who want them, wives for all the bachelors – then we can discuss the punishment for theft. […]

"All the [presidential] candidates are good, but I support the candidacy of our brother Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh." (...)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Thugs post video of themselves beating 14-year-old schoolmate on Facebook... and it gets 25 'Likes'

Two teenagers who attacked one of their schoolmates are likely to face justice after they filmed themselves beating the other boy and posted the footage on Facebook.
The horrific video received a warm welcome from the teens' friends, however - more than 25 of them clicked the 'Like' button on the post.
But the mother of the victim has urged officials to take action against the other boys, saying their decision to post the evidence of their apparent wrongdoing 'wasn't smart'.

'I want to let other people know that this is not something you can do and get away with it,' Trina McNeil told the Flint Journal.
Her 14-year-old son was walking in Flint, Michigan when he was set upon three teenager whom he knew from school, according to a police report.

He claims that he had not previously argued with the other boys, and believes that the attack was unprovoked.
But the fact that the attack was filmed on the cell phone of one of the attackers means it must have been premeditated, according to Ms McNeil, 39.

The video appears to show the other two boys punching and kicking the victim while shouting swearwords and racial slurs.
The attackers' faces are also clearly visible, and Ms McNeil says they can easily be identified.
This did not stop one of the apparent attackers from posting the video on his own Facebook page, where it received at least 25 'Likes' from other users.

Ms McNeil said: 'They attacked him on Friday, and then one of the guys posted it on Saturday, which wasn’t smart.'
She has handed the video in to police, and they say they are using it to help identify the suspects and take appropriate action.
The victim escaped his attackers by running to the safety of a nearby car, and then went to hospital to undergo treatment for swelling to his face and eye.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Britain sends warship to Falkland Islands

Britain is sending a warship to the Falkland Islands as the 30th anniversary of its conflict with Argentina over their ownership approaches.

The deployment of HMS Dauntless comes as tensions rise between London and Buenos Aires. Argentina has not given up its claim on the islands it calls Las Malvinas.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Foreign Secretary William Hague meets Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby 

Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the United Nations to support moves led by the Arab League to bring a peaceful resolution to unrest in Syria.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has called on the United Nations to support moves led by the Arab League to bring a peaceful resolution to unrest in Syria.

Mr Hague made an impassioned plea at the UN Security Council in New York for action amid fears that Russia may block a draft resolution calling on the country's authoritarian leader Bashar Assad to step down and pave the way for a transfer of power.

Mr Hague said: "While we meet, the gravest of crimes are being committed in Syria. Responsibility for those crimes lies overwhelmingly at the door of the Syrian authorities ... We should unite behind the Arab League plan, and that is what I urge all members of the council to do, this week."

There was no doubt that the violence was worsening, he said.

"Six thousand Syrians have died, in appalling circumstances, and this includes 384 children. Between 30 and 100 people currently die every single day from the violence in Syria, they will be dying as we speak, thousands more are enduring torture, imprisonment and sexual violence, including the rape of children."

The risk of civil war was intensifying, and the threat to the stability of the region was growing, Mr Hague said. "With each day that passes, finding a way back from the brink will be harder and innocent lives will be needlessly and wrongfully lost, deaths which this council could help to avert by acting in a united manner."

The security council should remain seized of the situation in Syria, he said. "To fail to do so would be to undermine the credibility of this institution, betray the Syrian people, snub the Arab League, and fail in this council's responsibilities."

Western powers including Britain and France are pushing for the adoption of a resolution tabled by current security council member Morocco, which would give international backing to an Arab League timetable for the transition of power in Syria to a unity government, followed by free elections.

However Russia has been resisting a swift vote, saying it wanted to "study the recommendations and conclusions of the observer mission in detail" before moving to a substantive discussion in the council.

Deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov last week signalled that Moscow may wield its veto to block the draft resolution in its current form. In October, Russia and China blocked a Western-backed draft resolution condemning Assad's government for its crackdown on protesters.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Romney claims victory in Florida, builds new momentum

Tampa, Florida (CNN) -- Mitt Romney headed west Wednesday to begin campaigning in Minnesota and Nevada after cementing his status as the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination with a solid victory in Florida's bitterly contested primary.
Romney had 46% compared to 32% for Newt Gingrich, 13% for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and 7% for Texas Rep. Ron Paul, according to the Florida Department of State website.
The victory gave Romney all 50 of Florida's convention delegates, and more importantly, new momentum heading into a series of caucuses and primaries building up to Super Tuesday on March 6, when 10 states will hold nominating contests.
In a sign of Romney's new prominence, a federal law enforcement source told CNN that Romney will receive Secret Service protection "within days."
Appearing to cheers of "Mitt, Mitt, Mitt" just 30 minutes after the last polls closed, the former Massachusetts governor thanked his supporters for what he called a "great victory."
A Florida campaign of vicious personal attacks between Romney and Gingrich, his closest competitor, raised questions about whether the process would damage the eventual winner when it comes time to run against President Barack Obama in November.
"A competitive primary does not divide us, it prepares us, and we will win," Romney said to cheers.
Reflecting the bitter campaign, Gingrich refrained from congratulating Romney when he later spoke to supporters holding signs that read "46 states to go" in reference to the early stage of the GOP nominating process.
 Santorum 'couldn't compete' in Florida Romney: Primary contests aren't easy King explains the hunt for delegates Gingrich: This is a two person race
Instead, the former House speaker tried to frame the Florida result as a narrowing of the field, saying it was "now clear this will be a two-person race between the conservative leader Newt Gingrich and the Massachusetts moderate."
Santorum said Tuesday night that the Florida result showed Gingrich was unable to build on his previous victory, and conservatives were coalescing around Santorum's candidacy as the viable right-wing alternative to the more moderate Romney.
"Newt Gingrich had his opportunity. He came out of the state of South Carolina, he came out with a big win and a lot of money. He said, 'I'm going to be the conservative alternative. I'm going to be the anti-Mitt'," Santorum said. "It didn't work. He became the issue. We can't allow our nominee to be the issue in the campaign."
Santorum also told CNN his campaign raised almost $4.5 million in January in what he called a fundraising surge.
Paul, meanwhile, said he was focusing on upcoming caucuses in Maine and other states where his enthusiastic support base can generate more convention delegates. So far, he noted, he was in third place in delegates, adding "that's what really counts, and we've only just gotten started."
No candidate so far has more than 10% of the 1,144 delegates needed to win the nomination at the August convention.
According to exit poll information, Romney led in most categories in Florida to show his appeal to Republican voters who said their main concern was choosing a candidate who can defeat Obama.
Romney gained significant ground in the Latino community, carrying Hispanics by 23 points. In the 2008 Florida primary, Romney lost Hispanics to eventual GOP nominee Sen. John McCain by 40 points.
In particular, Romney carried Cuban-Americans -- a vital constituency for Republicans in Florida against Obama -- by 24 points.
He lost to Gingrich only among the most hardcore elements of the GOP base -- voters who described themselves as very conservative and evangelical or born-again. However, Romney ran strongly among women voters, getting 51% to 29% for Gingrich, indicating that Gingrich's history of three marriages, two divorces and infidelity might be harming him.
Final polls closed at 8 p.m. ET and Romney jumped out to a strong early lead, buoyed by solid support among more than 632,000 voters who cast absentee or early ballots. His double-digit victory blunted any momentum Gingrich gained from his January 21 victory in South Carolina, the previous primary.
Both Romney and Gingrich focused their speeches Tuesday night on the ultimate goal -- taking on Obama in November.
Romney listed what he called the differing ideologies between himself and the president, promising to balance the budget without raising taxes and saying "together we will build an America where hope is a new job with a paycheck, not a faded word on an old bumper sticker."
"The path I lay out is not one paved with ever increasing government checks and cradle-to-grave assurance government will always be the solution," Romney said. "If this election is a bidding war for who can promise the most goodies and the most benefits, I'm not your president. You have that president today."
Gingrich pledged to compete in every contest in the nomination process, and to repeal Obama policies hated by conservatives -- such as health care reform and Wall Street reform -- on his first day in office.
 Paul: 'I'll see you at the caucuses' Santorum : This race isn't over Floridians consider candidates Ann Romney: Mitt can turn economy around
"This is the most important election of your lifetime," Gingrich said, adding: "If Barack Obama gets re-elected, it will be a disaster for the United States of America. You can't imagine how radical he'll be in a second term."
Analysts and observers said a Romney victory Tuesday would be important and could be decisive.
"I think the winner of Florida is in all likelihood going to be the nominee of our party," Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN Tuesday. "Florida is a mini America."
GOP strategist and CNN contributor Alex Castellanos said a Romney victory would not automatically end the Repubican nomination campaign.
"With a win, Romney puts the nomination firmly in his grip. But it appears Gingrich and Santorum will keep trying to rip it from his hand," said Castellanos, who was a Romney media adviser in 2008 but is not taking sides this year.
Gingrich stormed into Florida 10 days earlier on a roll off of his double-digit victory over Romney and the rest of the field in the South Carolina primary.
His momentum quickly faded after Romney's campaign went on the offensive, turning in two strong debate performances in the Sunshine State and unleashing a barrage of ads targeting Gingrich.
Negative ads accounted for 92% of political ads airing in Florida over the last week -- a record rate for political campaigns, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks advertising content and spending.
"I spent much of my academic career telling reporters, 'Relax, this is not the most negative campaign ever,' " CMAG President Ken Goldstein said. "Well, this IS the most negative campaign ever."
Romney told reporters Tuesday that he had learned his lesson from his South Carolina loss.
"If you're attacked, I'm not going to just sit back," he told reporters in Tampa, repeating a refrain he's used regularly recently. "I'm going to fight back and fight back hard."
On the day before the primary, Gingrich accused Romney of dishonesty but conceded the wave of attack ads had been effective.
 Who voted in the Florida primary? CNN projects Romney wins Florida 'Debates played role in Romney's win' Santorum: 'Bella is doing just great'
"Frankly if all that stuff were true I wouldn't vote for myself," Gingrich said in Jacksonville Monday, referring to what he called "dishonest" Romney ads.
He later told a crowd in Pensacola that "we will only win if the American people decide that they are sick and tired of the New York and Washington establishment thinking that we are dumb enough to let them try to buy an election by telling us things that we all know are just plain not true."
The Romney campaign and an independent super PAC supporting his bid have greatly outspent Gingrich and pro-Gingrich super PACs on ad buys in Florida.
Gingrich "has been flailing around a bit trying to go after me for one thing or the other," Romney said later Monday to a crowd in Dunedin. "You just watch it and shake your head. It has been kind of painfully revealing to watch."
While Romney and Gingrich were in Florida on Tuesday night to watch election returns, Santorum and Paul, knowing they're out of the running for the 50 delegates, have moved on to the next contests.
Santorum campaigned in Colorado and Nevada on Tuesday, while Paul was in Maine over the weekend and was spending Tuesday in Colorado and Nevada.
Nevada's caucuses take place Saturday, when Maine starts its week-long caucuses.
Minnesota and Colorado hold their caucuses on February 7, the same day that Missouri holds its non-binding primary.
In Lone Tree, Colorado, Santorum called on voters to consider questions that have arisen about the character and discipline of Gingrich, his main rival for support from conservatives.
"It's an issue of trust," Santorum said when a man at his Tuesday event challenged the character of Gingrich, who has been divorced twice and cited for a violation of House ethics rules.
Personal mistakes don't automatically disqualify someone from seeking high office, Santorum said, noting Gingrich has sought forgiveness.
"I don't question his sincerity of his repentance, but as I have said many times there is two areas that are open for concern and that is -- the issue of trust and whether someone who has a record of that is someone you feel comfortable has truly changed and you forgive them," Santorum continued. "That doesn't mean they necessarily have changed their ways."
The Paul and Santorum campaigns are strategically looking to states in which they can pick up delegates.
"Ultimately they're conceding in advance in Florida, while trying to shore up future states," said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and Republican National Committee communications director. "Unfortunately for Paul and Santorum, that generally has not been a winning strategy. It's not being done out of a position of strength."
Romney's convincing win in Florida, coupled with an unfriendly calendar for Gingrich in February with friendlier Super Tuesday states more than a month away, could put Gingrich in a bind.
Gingrich campaign lowers Nevada and Michigan expectations
"February doesn't look good for Newt Gingrich. He'll lose Nevada, with its large LDS (Mormon) population and lose Michigan (February 28), where Romney's father was governor. Newt will have a long march across the desert with no debates to revive his campaign," Castellanos said.
"Newt has to hold his breath all the way to Super Tuesday, March 6th, raise 30 or 40 million dollars for advertising and fix his problem with female voters to catch Romney. Those are grandiose problems, even for Gingrich."

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unions hit out at allowances cut for new teachers

Teachers' unions are criticising a move by the Government to stop allowances for new staff.

Teachers were previously eligible for additional payments for having a higher degree, for teaching through Irish and for supervision duties, among other things.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation has condemned the Government's decision not to pay the allowances, pending a month-long review.

The union said the allowances paid to teachers are part of salary and pensions and the decision had been taken without consultation with the unions.

The INTO described the move as discriminatory against new teachers who have already seen their starting salary reduced by 14%.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Fred Goodwin knighthood 'hysteria' criticised

Mr Goodwin was in charge of RBS in the run-up to its near collapse in 2008

The decision to strip former Royal Bank of Scotland boss Fred Goodwin of his knighthood has been criticised by business and some political figures.

Ex-Labour chancellor Alistair Darling said the decision appeared to have been taken "on a whim" - as Mr Goodwin was not the only banker to cause problems.

The Institute of Directors warned of creating "anti-business hysteria".

Mr Goodwin was RBS chief executive in 2008 when the bank's near-collapse prompted a £45bn taxpayer bailout.

The Queen cancelled and annulled the title on the advice of the forfeiture committee - whose members include top civil servants and the head Treasury lawyer - a decision welcomed by party leaders.

'Obscure' process
It followed a clamour for Sir Fred to be stripped of the title, awarded for "services to banking" under the previous Labour government in 2004.

But Mr Darling, who as Labour chancellor led negotiations over the RBS bailout, said he was concerned about the "obscure" process used to annul the knighthood and said there should be a clear set of principles on which decisions are based.

Continue reading the main story

He questioned the idea that the decision had been undertaken independently, telling the BBC: "Committees can see the way the wind is blowing. I think the minute he was referred, the outcome was inevitable.

"I'm not here to defend Sir Fred... I just think we're getting into awful trouble here if we go after people on a whim and we don't have a clear set of principles against which we can judge people, it's not right."

The Institute of Directors (IoD) warned of politicians creating "anti-business hysteria" over the matter. Its director-general Simon Walker told the BBC removing a knighthood because "you don't approve of someone" without there being any criminal conduct "politicises the whole honours system".

In the past, only convicted criminals or people struck off professional bodies have had knighthoods taken away.

Former Confederation of British Industry chief, a former trade minister under Labour, Lord Digby Jones said there was "the faint whiff of the lynch mob on the village green" about the decision.

However, he added he did not disagree with the end result to strip the honour.

Former Formula 1 world champion Sir Jackie Stewart - a friend of Mr Goodwin - said he thought the former bank boss had been made a scapegoat.

'Boardroom culture'
"No single person or even any single bank created the biggest financial recession in modern times," he said.

"To have this stripped I think is poor for the constitution and very dangerous for the future."

But a Cabinet Office spokesman said the "scale and severity of the impact of [Mr Goodwin's] actions as CEO of RBS made this an exceptional case".

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Treasury Select Committee had judged the failure of RBS to have contributed to the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent recession, he said.

Deputy Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon said it was wrong to suggest there had been political interference.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Ministers don't control the timings of the forfeiture committee, this is an entirely independent committee of civil servants."

'Public demand'
He also rejected suggestions it had been "done on a whim" - saying it had been three and a half years since the near-collapse of RBS and followed a detailed report by the FSA.

And he suggested other bankers could yet face similar consequences: "I think there's going to be a report now from the FSA into the HBOS/Lloyds disintegration - so who knows what will follow from that?

"But this was the biggest bank, [Mr Goodwin] was the dominant player in it and I think the public rightly feel [he] got away scot free at the time. He walked off with this vast pension and we've had this persistent demand from the public as to why this man should be allowed to retain an honour he was given for services to banking."

The prime minister has welcomed the decision and Labour leader Ed Miliband said the public wanted to see further sweeping changes to boardroom culture and remuneration.

"It is right that Fred Goodwin lost his knighthood but I think it is only the start of the change we need in our boardrooms," the Labour leader said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said it had been the "right decision".

The Unite union welcomed the move but Simon Chouffot, from the Robin Hood Tax Campaign which argues for increased taxation of the financial sector, said others should face similar consequences.

Mr Goodwin oversaw the multi-billion-pound deal to buy Dutch rival ABN Amro at the height of the financial crisis in 2007, which led to RBS having to be bailed out to the tune of £45bn by taxpayers.

There had been a growing clamour for him to be stripped of his honour following thousands of job losses at RBS and in the banking industry, and the impact on the wider economy.

The BBC's business editor Robert Peston said Mr Goodwin was in a "class of his own" in terms of the risks that he took at RBS - reflected in the size of the bailout required to rescue the company.

In 2009, Mr Goodwin, who received an annual pension of £650,000 - later reduced to £342,500 - after leaving the bank, told a committee of MPs he "could not be more sorry" for what had happened.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Yemen al-Aqeeq TV Channel embarks on fresh look, fascinating programs

Within the development and the modernization plan that Al-Aqua Satellite Channel is witnessing, in association with access into the New Year 2012, the channel has launched an integrative plan that copes with the current changes, and seeks to accommodate all developments through a balanced program map that includes different patterns of programs.

 Queen Bilqis program will be presented in the first round of (January-April) programs which is prepared by Za’fran al-Mohana. It speaks and deals with the important events and in a professional manner with the decision-makers.

There is also (Khababir) program, which covers current political issues discussed in regional media and will be prepared and presented by Mohammed Mansor.

The youth program (Youth on Face book) comes in a new look. And is prepared and presented by Omer al-Warfi. This is in addition to the entertaining program (announcer for the first time.) (Renew your life) program emerges in a new appearance with the human development trainer Ahmed al-Abid, as well as (Mairam) program with colleague Mariam al-Thabhani.

 The dramatic side will be topped with the two new works of soap operas consisting of (cocktail dot pot,) in a new production of significant topics, and another soap opera called (Khamis wa Juma-Thursday and Friday) which deals with local issues in a dramatic satire.

 In a related issue, al-Aqeeq Channel’s General Manager, Hammadi al-Rajhi announced that the viewers will find significant changes in the contents and the general atmosphere of the channel, the screen’s shape, which will fit with the local community’s aspirations, adding that the channel’s administration will focus on the dynamic interaction side between the viewers and the channel, as well as the focus on the purposeful content of the provided material.

Al-Rajhi disclosed that the channel has approved within its development plan a training program for the qualification of the new media personnel within an ambitious program that the channel has launched under the name of the (future information.) It is a program that seeks to accommodate all young media cadres of the Information college students and to integrate them into a number of training and practical courses so that they would acquire the necessary experience in media work.

The General Manager said that the training program has been inaugurated immediately with the beginning of this January, where the channel has organized the first training courses for about thirty media trainees in a number of specialized fields. The channel has attracted a number of competent cadres of the participants in the course and recruited them within the staff to benefit from their dynamic potentials.

In another context al-Rajhi announced that the channel is set to organize an event that is the first of its kind in Yemen. It is about (al-Aqeeq’s short films,) whose details will be disclosed within the next few days. It is expected that the event will be a cultural carnival that will be a base for support of the artistic works that will be produced by the youth who look forward to a better future.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Oman eyeing big slice of global convention market

Attractive destination: Rochelle Uechtritz briefing a visiting media delegation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. She said Oman has an appeal of an attractive destination and since the convention centre will have 1,000 hotel rooms, there will not be any dearth of accommodation facilities for delegates.

KUALA LUMPUR: Oman is vying for a share of the global market for conventions and exhibitions, in an apparent bid to get business for the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre, which is set to partially open sometime in 2014.

As international exhibition organisers look for venues well in advance for their future conventions, the operator of the convention centre - AEG Ogden – is taking initiatives to market the venue among organisers of international and regional conferences.

The state-owned Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) is developing the convention centre to attract exhibitions and conventions to the Sultanate.

AEG Ogden, a global player that manages 17 convention centres, stadiums and theatres in the Asia-Pacific and Mena (Middle East and North African) region, believes that Oman has several competitive advantages over its regional peers in attracting exhibitions and conventions of international stature, which will have a rippling effect on the entire economy.

The key factors for deciding on a venue for conducting an international convention or exhibition are the appeal of the destination, availability of accommodation, world class venue, international accessibility, reputation in hosting successful events, proactive approach and support (from the government), strengths in specific fields or industry, networking, education and business opportunity and English speaking community, said Rochelle Uechtritz, group manager, convention sales development of AEG Ogden.

She was briefing a visiting media delegation here on ‘How Oman can learn from the experience of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre,’ which has achieved tremendous progress in hosting global conventions and exhibitions. She said Oman has an appeal of an attractive destination and since the convention centre will have 1,000 hotel rooms, there will not be any dearth of accommodation facilities for delegates. Further, with the expansion of Muscat International Airport, international accessibility will be much better.

State-of-the-art facilities
“Muscat International Airport handles 6.5 million passengers a year. At the moment, around 29 international airlines operate in 58 or 59 destinations from Muscat. With the completion of the ongoing expansion project (expected in 2014), the passenger handling capacity will go up to 12 million,” added Rochelle Uechtritz.

Uechtritz said the convention centre will have an exhibition hall with an area of 22,000 square metres, parking facility for 4,000 vehicles, 1,000 hotel rooms spread over four hotels (including a five star, two four star and a three star hotel), a major auditorium with a capacity to accommodate 3,200 people, two banquet halls, a shopping mall and a business park.

Convention centre
She said the exhibition hall and the car parking facility, which are in the first phase, will be ready by 2014. “Then the auditorium, banquet halls and meeting rooms will be ready late 2015. Omran is currently negotiating with hotel chains for choosing an operator for the four star hotel.”

Market segments
Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre is aiming at three market segments – conventions, exhibitions and one day meetings and seminars – for business once it starts operations.

Saying that conventions and exhibitions will benefit the local economy immensely, Uechtritz noted that a delegate coming for an event spends three times more than an ordinary tourist for hotel accommodation, food and travel.

“As many as 70 per cent of overseas delegates coming for events in Oman travel by national carrier Oman Air, which benefits the economy,” added Zuwaina bint Sultan Al Rashdi, Brand and Communications Manager at Omran.

Top cities
Elaborating on the recent trend in hosting global conventions and exhibitions in 2010, Uechtritz said Vienna lead the top ten cities in terms of organising exhibitions and conventions, which was followed by Barcelona, Paris, Berlin, Singapore, Mandrid and Istanbul.

In the Middle East and North African region, Dubai lead in terms of organising maximum number of exhibitions and conventions. This was followed by Cairo, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Durban.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Australia's richest person moves on media giant Fairfax

Australia: Australia's richest person, mining magnate Gina Rinehart, reportedly took her stake in press group Fairfax to 12.8 percent Wednesday, prompting government calls for tougher media ownership laws.

The iron ore billionaire acquired close to 8.0 percent of the group after launching a Aus$200 million ($212 million) share raid late Tuesday, bringing her total holding to about 12.8 percent, Dow Jones Newswires said.

Rinehart had been seeking a further 9.9 percent stake in the newspaper, radio and digital media firm in which she already held more than 4.0 percent to become its largest shareholder, the Australian Financial Review said.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said Rinehart, who has been critical of the Labor government's mining tax on iron ore and coal profits, was seeking to exert her influence but her actions were within the law.

Laws designed to diversify media ownership prevent Rinehart from taking more than 15 percent of shares in the respected company which publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, Melbourne paper The Age as well as the Financial Review.

"Do we need stronger laws in this area? Yes," said Conroy.
"We want to see a debate around a public interest test.
"But governments cannot pass laws on the basis of who they like and dislike and whose views they like and dislike."

A government-commissioned review of media ownership laws in the digital era has already made a draft recommendation that major media takeovers be subject to a yet-to-be-defined public interest test to ensure a diversity of views.

Conroy said Rinehart would not be the first rich Australian to become a major media player in a country where Rupert Murdoch and the late Kerry Packer have held significant assets.

"All that's really changing is that a different wealthy individual is taking a strategic or ownership position in some media," he said.

"What we have to ensure is that we have diversity of opinion and ownership. The current parliament needs to examine what we need to do to strengthen those laws."

Shares in Fairfax soared on the development, gaining 10 percent to close at 81.50 cents.
The Australian Financial Review said a broker believed to be acting for Rinehart had Tuesday offered 81.8 cents a share for Fairfax after the market closed -- a more than 10 percent premium on its close of 74 cents.

Mining heiress Rinehart made a splash when she entered the media sector in late 2010, taking stakes in commercial television station Ten Network and Fairfax.

Rinehart's fortune stems from her late father's iron ore firm which she took over in 1992 and which she is credited with expanding as she developed mines in Western Australia and Queensland.

Her wealth is estimated to have more than doubled to Aus$10.3 billion in 2011 and is expected to keep rocketing upwards as the potential of the vast underdeveloped iron ore and coal deposits she owns are realised.

Fairfax, which dominates Australian media alongside Murdoch's News Ltd, owns websites, newspapers and radio stations.

Facebook's Zuckerberg to keep iron grip after IPO

(Reuters) - Facebook unveiled plans for the biggest ever Internet IPO that could raise as much as $10 billion, but made it clear CEO Mark Zuckerberg will exercise almost complete control over the company, leaving investors with little say.

The Harvard dropout, who launched the social networking phenomenon from his dorm room, will control 56.9 percent of the voting shares in a company expected to be valued at up to $100 billion when it goes public. Facebook says it has 845 million active monthly users.

Wednesday's long-awaited filing kicks off a process that will culminate in Silicon Valley's biggest coming-out party since the heyday of the dotcom boom and bust.

In its filing Facebook says it is seeking to raise $5 billion, but that is a figure used to calculate registration fees among others and analysts estimate it could tap investors for $10 billion.

That would value the company at $100 billion, dwarfing storied tech giants such as Hewlett Packard Co, while validating the explosive growth worldwide of social media as communication and entertainment.

Zuckerberg's economic control of about 28 percent of the shares would be worth $28 billion at a $100 billion valuation, ranking him as the fourth-richest American.

The 27-year-old's ownership position means Facebook, a company dissected in 2010's Oscar-winning "The Social Network", will not need to appoint a majority of independent directors or set up board committees to oversee compensation and other matters.

The company's ownership structure and bylaws go against shareholder-friendly corporate governance practices put in place in the United States after years of investor activism.

As Facebook states in its prospectus, Zuckerberg will "control all matters submitted to stockholders for vote, as well as the overall management and direction of our company."

Zuckerberg struck deals with several Facebook investors that granted him voting rights over their shares in all or most situations. Those included Yuri Milner's DST Global, venture capital firm The Founders Fund, and entities affiliated with Technology Crossover Ventures, the IPO filing shows.

Google Inc's Sergey Brin and Larry Page retained control of the search giant through similar arrangements and the Sulzbergers did much the same at the New York Times.

"Zuckerberg, at the time, probably had his choice of investors," said Steven Kaplan, a professor at University of Chicago's Booth School of Business, who researches venture capital and corporate governance. "He basically had the ability to say 'my way or the highway.'"

"The downside of doing this is that the value of Facebook may be slightly lower than it would be if he were not retaining control."

Facebook could make its market debut in the middle of the year based on the usual timetable of IPOs.

Its IPO prospectus shows that Facebook generated $3.71 billion in revenue and made $1 billion in net profit last year, up 65 percent from the $606 million it made in 2010.

"We often talk about inventions like the printing press and the television," Zuckerberg said in a letter accompanying the documents. "Today, our society has reached another tipping point."

"The scale of the technology and infrastructure that must be built is unprecedented."

Facebook appointed Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan as its lead underwriters. Other bookrunners include Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays Capital and Allen & Co.

Zuckerberg agreed to cut his compensation from $1.48 million last year to $1 effective January 1, 2013, following the example of Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Facebook's chief operating officer and Zuckerberg's top lieutenant, Sheryl Sandberg, earned $30.8 million in total compensation last year.

Facebook's growing popularity has pressured entrenched Internet companies from Yahoo to Google Inc. In 2011, the social network overtook Yahoo to become the top provider of online display ads in the United States by revenue, industry research firm eMarketer says.

A $10 billion IPO would be the fourth-largest in U.S. history after Visa Inc, General Motors, and AT&T Wireless, Thomson Reuters data shows.

The $5 billion figure in Wednesday's prospectus was an initial, reference figure -- a basis for registration fees, among other things -- and could change based on investor demand.

The prospectus said 85 percent of Facebook's 2011 revenue was derived from advertising. Social-gaming company Zynga, creator of Farmville, accounted for 12 percent of Facebook's revenue last year.

The IPO will dwarf any recent debuts of Internet companies, such as Zynga, LinkedIn Corp, Groupon Inc and Pandora Media Inc.

Their IPOs had mixed receptions. The last debut, from Zynga, closed 5 percent below its IPO price during its first trading day in December.

Google raised just shy of $2 billion in 2004, while Groupon last year tapped $700 million and Zynga $1 billion.


Facebook aims to be more attractive to potential large advertisers. It has improved its ad targeting capabilities as it collects user data through new features such as the Timeline, said George John, founder of Rocket Fuel, a digital marketing company.

Advertising revenue increased 69 percent in 2011 from 2010, and its average revenue per ad increased 18 percent.

"As Facebook gathers more and more users' time and data, it makes sense for advertisers to get more serious about allocating more budget to Facebook," he said.

In its prospectus, Facebook revealed an effective 2011 tax rate of 41 percent and warned it could climb in 2012. That rate surpasses the average corporate rate of 35 percent and far outstrips industry peers like Apple, which through offshore businesses pay far less.

Yet in his letter to investors, Zuckerberg stressed Facebook's "social mission" over the pursuit of profits.

"Facebook was not originally founded to be a company," he said. "Simply put: we don't build services to make money; we make money to build better services."

He laid out his vision for a company that remained grounded in an engineering culture, devoting several paragraphs of his letter to what he called "The Hacker Way" at Facebook.

Some of Facebook's most successful products - including Timeline, chat and video - emerged from "hackathons" where coders gathered to build out prototypes and compare notes, Zuckerberg wrote.

"Hackers believe that something can always be better, and that nothing is ever complete," he said. "There's a hacker mantra that you'll hear a lot around Facebook offices: 'Code wins arguments.'"