Category Archives: Foreign

36 Photos From Russia That Everyone Needs To See – It’s a scary place for LGBT people in Russia right now.

1. St. Petersburg Gay Pride, 2013:

 russia 1
Image by Dmitry Lovetsky / AP
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Image by OLGA MALTSEVA / Getty Images

3. What began as a peaceful march…

russia 3

Image by OLGA MALTSEVA / Getty Images

4. …ended up turning incredibly violent as anti-gay protesters overtook the rally.

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Image by OLGA MALTSEVA / Getty Images

5. A gay rights supporter is beaten to the ground.

A gay rights supporter is beaten to the ground.

Image by OLGA MALTSEVA / Getty Images

6. Smoke bombs are set off.

Smoke bombs are set off.

Image by Evgeny Feldman / AP

7. Chaos ensues.

Chaos ensues.

Image by Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

8. A woman runs from the crowd.

A woman runs from the crowd.

Image by Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

9. Two men flee…

Two men flee...


10. …but are eventually detained.

...but are eventually detained.

Image by Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

11. In the end, police officers detained several of the gay activists.

In the end, police officers detained several of the gay activists.

Image by OLGA MALTSEVA / Getty Images

12. The 2012 parade ended the same way.

The 2012 parade ended the same way.

An anti-gay protester clashes with a gay rights activist.


13. That event was also overrun by anti-gay protesters.

That event was also overrun by anti-gay protesters.


Image by ANTON TUSHIN / Getty Images

15. Moscow, May 2013:

Moscow, May 2013:

An unknown anti-gay activist hits Russian gay and LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev during an unauthorized gay rights activists rally in central Moscow.

Image by ANDREY SVITAILO / Getty Images

16. An unauthorized protest turns violent.

An unauthorized protest turns violent.

Image by ANDREY SMIRNOV / Getty Images

17. Gay activists end up being detained.

Gay activists end up being detained.

The sign says, “Love is stronger than homophobia.”

Image by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Getty Images

18. The 2012 Moscow gay pride was filled with more of the same…

The 2012 Moscow gay pride was filled with more of the same...

Image by Mikhail Metzel / AP

19. …more detained gay rights activists.

...more detained gay rights activists.

Image by Mikhail Metzel / AP

20. June 2013: Gay rights activists hold a kiss-in in Moscow.

June 2013: Gay rights activists hold a kiss-in in Moscow.

Image by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Getty Images

21. The activists were protesting a new “gay propaganda” law. The law would introduce steep fines and jail terms for people who promote homosexual “propaganda” to minors.

The activists were protesting a new "gay propaganda" law. The law would introduce steep fines and jail terms for people who promote homosexual "propaganda" to minors.

Image by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Getty Images

22. That event also ended violently.

That event also ended violently.

Image by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV / Getty Images

23. Russian police detained more than 20 gay rights activists…

Russian police detained more than 20 gay rights activists...

Image by MAXIM SHEMETOV / Reuters

24. …as gay rights activists were pelted with rotten eggs. gay rights activists were pelted with rotten eggs.

Image by VASILY MAXIMOV / Getty Images

Image by ANDREY SMIRNOV / Getty Images

26. The same thing happened at a “kissing protest” in January.

The same thing happened at a "kissing protest" in January.

Image by SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

27. That event also turned bloody.

That event also turned bloody.

Image by ANDREY SMIRNOV / Getty Images

28. More violence.

More violence.

Image by Ivan Sekretarev / AP

29. An Orthodox activist pulls a gay rights campaigner’s hair.

An Orthodox activist pulls a gay rights campaigner's hair.

Image by Ivan Sekretarev / AP

30. Unknown assailants attack a gay rights activist.

Unknown assailants attack a gay rights activist.

Image by SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

31. Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers passed a bill barring same-sex foreign couples from adopting Russian children.

Meanwhile, Russian lawmakers passed a bill barring same-sex foreign couples from adopting Russian children.

Image by SERGEI KARPUKHIN / Reuters

32. The anti-gay propaganda bill became a law.

The anti-gay propaganda bill became a law.

33. And just this past week, four Dutch citizens were tried in Moscow for a “gay propaganda” crime.

And just this past week, four Dutch citizens were tried in Moscow for a “gay propaganda” crime.

34. Still, activists keep on fighting.

Still, activists keep on fighting.

This photo is from this year’s International Day Against Homophobia. This sign says, “I’m 17 years old. Government says I do not exist. Nazi say, I need to be killed, But I will live!”

Image by Dmitry Lovetsky / AP

35. This one says, “Homophobia kills!”

This one says, "Homophobia kills!"


36. And this one says, “Love is stronger than hate.”

And this one says, "Love is stronger than hate."


Russia is hosting the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. What does this mean for gay athletes and spectators? Is the US Olympic Committee okay with this?



via BuzzFeed

REPORT: The US Is Openly Sending Heavy Weapons From Libya To Syrian Rebels

via Business Insider: 

The Obama administration has decided to launch a covert operation to send heavy weapons to Syrian rebels, Christina Lamb of The Sunday Times of London reports.


Diplomatic sources told the Sunday Times that the U.S. “bought weapons from the stockpiles of Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.”

The heavy arms include mortars, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank missiles and the controversial anti-aircraft heat-seeking SA-7 missiles, which are integral to countering Bashar Al-Assad’s bombing campaign.

Many have suspected that the US was already involved in sending heavy arms.

The administration has said that the previously hidden CIA operation in Benghazi involved finding, repurchasing and destroying heavy weaponry looted from Libyan government arsenals, but in October we reported evidence indicating that U.S. agents — particularly murdered ambassador Chris Stevens — were at least aware of heavy weapons moving from Libya to jihadist Syrian rebels.

There have been several possible SA-7 spottings in Syria dating as far back as early summer 2012, and there are indications that at least some of Gaddafi’s 20,000 portable heat-seeking missiles were shipped before now.

On Sept. 6 a Libyan ship carrying 400 tons of weapons for Syrian rebels docked in southern Turkey. The ship’s captain was “a Libyan from Benghazi” who worked for the new Libyan government. The man who organized that shipment, Tripoli Military Council head Abdelhakim Belhadj, worked directly with Stevens during the Libyan revolution.

Stevens’ last meeting on Sept. 11 was with Turkish Consul General Ali Sait Akin, and a source told Fox News that Stevens was in Benghazi “to negotiate a weapons transfer in an effort to get SA-7 missiles out of the hands of Libya-based extremists.”

Last month The Wall Street Journal reported that the State Department presence in Benghazi “provided diplomatic cover” for the now-exposed CIA annex. It follows that the “weapons transfer” that Stevens negotiated may have involved sending heavy weapons recovered by the CIA to the revolutionaries in Syria.

The newest report comes days before the U.S. is expected to recognize the newest Syrian coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. The State Department has also indicated it will soon name the opposition’s highly effective al-Nusra Front a “terrorist organization” for its ties to Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI).

Both of these stipulations — recognition of a unified opposition and creation of distance from extremists — are pivotal in order for the Obama administration to openly acknowledge supporting Syrian rebels with heavy weapons.
Manpad Missile Heatseeker

Here’s Why The West Will Almost Certainly Intervene In Syria

The U.S. is likely to formally label Syrian fighters with the Al Nusra Front a ‘terrorist’ organization, and effectively set back any possible victory over Bashar Al-Assad.


Unless, of course, the West intervenes directly.

The organization represents 7.5 to 9 percent of Syria’s rebel force, approximately 10,000 fighters, but more than that they represent a growing trend of radicalization in the ranks of Syria’s rebels.

The New York Times sums it up best:

But greater attention has been focused on al Qaeda involvement in the uprising since mid-July, when fighters professing allegiance to the terrorist organization appeared during the opposition takeover of the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. In one video, five fighters declared their intention to create an Islamic state. (Mainline Qaeda ideology calls for a Pan-Islamic caliphate.)

The intent of the U.S. is ostensibly to replace Assad, who actively siphons weapons and support to Hezbollah in Lebanon, with a better option.

The longer the civil war goes on though, the more likely Assad’s eventual replacement will be a group of Jihadis, and so the less likely they are to support the will of the west.

The label of “terrorist organization” also represents a significant problem both legally and logistically. Ronald Reagan had to famously remove Iraq from the terrorist state list in order to give them aid in their fight against Iran.

The rebels are a fractious group though, and figuring out what weapons will end up in whose hands will prove entirely too difficult. The U.S. has a long history of arming the wrong people. It also has a recent history of doing as much.

Labeling Nusra as ‘terrorists’ is indicative of two developing courses of action: a dwindling of weapons coming from the U.S., and direct intervention from the West.

One way or another, the West’s foreign policy degrades with every day Assad keeps a grip on Damascus.


Iran claims US drone capture; Navy denies loss

via Mercury News:


TEHRAN, Iran—Iran claimed Tuesday it had taken another prize in a growing showdown with Washington over drone surveillance, displaying a purported U.S. unmanned aircraft it said was captured intact. The U.S. Navy, however, said none of its drones in the region was missing.

The conflicting accounts could put pressure on both sides for more details on U.S. reconnaissance and Iranian counter-measures.

They also point to other questions, including how Iran could manage to snatch the Boeing-designed ScanEagle drone without noticeable damage to its light-weight, carbon-fiber body or whether the aircraft could be from another Gulf country that deploys it.

There is even the possibility the drone is authentic but was plucked from the sea after a past crash and unveiled for maximum effect amid escalating tensions over U.S. reconnaissance missions—including a Predator drone coming under fire from Iranian warplanes last month.

But unlike the larger Predator, which can carry weapons and sophisticated surveillance systems, the much smaller ScanEagle collects mostly photographic and video images using equipment with little intelligence value, experts said. One called the craft a “large seagull” with cameras.

Monitoring of Gulf air and sea traffic is considered of high importance for the U.S. military. Iran has taken steps to boost its naval and drone capabilities, unsettling Washington’s Gulf Arab allies. Iran also has threatened in the past to try

to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz—the route for one-fifth of the world’s oil—in retaliation for Western sanctions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

“We had warned American officials not to violate our airspace. We had formally protested such actions and had announced that we protect our borders,” state TV quoted Foreign Minister Ali Abkar Salehi as saying.

Washington denies it has crossed into Iranian airspace, but Iran’s definition of its jurisdiction could be far broader. State-run Press TV said any surveillance of Iran was considered “a violation of territory.”

Asked about Iran’s assertion that it had captured a U.S. drone, White House press secretary Jay Carney said “we have no evidence that the Iranian claims are true.”

Cmdr. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain, said there are no Navy drones missing in the Middle East.

“The U.S. Navy has fully accounted for all unmanned air vehicles operating in the Middle East region,” said Salata. “Our operations in the Gulf are confined to internationally recognized waters and airspace.”

He noted that some ScanEagles operated by the Navy “have been lost into the water” over the years, but there is no “record of that occurring most recently.”

Other countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, also have ScanEagle drones in their fleets. It’s used by other militaries, but not among Iran’s close allies.

The Iranian announcement did not give details on the time or location of the claimed drone capture.

It’s certain, however, to be portrayed by Tehran as another bold challenge to U.S. reconnaissance efforts in the region.

Last month, the Pentagon said a drone came under Iranian fire in the Gulf but was not harmed. A year ago, Iran managed to bring down an unmanned CIA spy drone possibly coming from Afghanistan.

Iran claimed it captured the drone after it entered Iranian airspace. A report on state TV quoted the navy chief of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, Gen. Ali Fadavi, as saying the Iranian forces caught the “intruding” drone.

“The U.S. drone, which was conducting a reconnaissance flight and gathering data over the Persian Gulf in the past few days, was captured by the Guard’s navy air defense unit as soon as it entered Iranian airspace,” Fadavi said. “Such drones usually take off from large warships.”

Al-Alam, the Iranian state TV’s Arabic-language channel, showed two Guard commanders examining what appeared to be a ScanEagle drone with no visible damage or military markings on its gray fuselage or wings.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, said it was the captured drone, a propeller-driven craft with a 10-foot (three-meter) wingspan that’s sent aloft from a pneumatic launcher from even a small vessel—undermining Iranian claims that it needs a warship to be deployed.

The drone, built by Boeing subsidiary Insitu Inc., typically would have no high-value intelligence and is used mostly for aerial photographs and video.

“With a ScanEagle, you just throw it off your boat to have a look over the horizon. It’s not, like, a major system,” said aviation expert Paul E. Eden. “In military chest-beating terms, the U.S. is likely to just laugh at the Iranians for making so much of having captured one.”

Eden also expressed skepticism that the ScanEagle could have been shot down, calling it akin to a “large seagull” because it’s slow and very small, making it a tricky target.

“If you did hit it with any anti-aircraft weapons, there wouldn’t be much left,” said Huw Williams, a drone expert at Jane’s International Defense Review.

In the Iranian TV footage, the two men then point to a huge map of the Persian Gulf in the background, showing the drone’s alleged path of entry into Iranian airspace. “We shall trample on the U.S.,” was printed over the map in Farsi and English next to the Guard’s emblem.

If true, the seizure of the drone would be the third reported incident involving Iran and U.S. drones in the past two years.

Last month, Iran claimed that a U.S. drone had violated its airspace. The Pentagon said the unmanned aircraft came under fire—at least twice but was not hit—and that the Predator was over international waters.

The Nov. 1 shooting in the Gulf was unprecedented, and further escalated tensions between the United States and Iran, which is under international sanctions over its suspect nuclear program. Tehran denies it’s pursuing a nuclear weapon and insists its program is for peaceful purposes only.

In late 2011, Iran claimed it brought down a CIA spy drone after it entered Iranian airspace from its eastern borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. The RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which is equipped with stealth technology, was captured almost intact. Tehran later said it recovered data from the drone.

In the case of the Sentinel, after initially saying only that a drone had been lost near the Afghan-Iran border, American officials eventually confirmed it had been monitoring Iran’s military and nuclear facilities. Washington asked for it back but Iran refused, and instead released photos of Iranian officials studying the aircraft.

Iran meanwhile, has claimed advancements in drone technology.

In November, Iranian media reported that the country had produced a domestically made drone capable of hovering. Earlier, Iran said it obtained images of sensitive Israeli bases taken by a drone that was launched by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and downed by Israel.

Iran also claimed other drones made dozens of apparently undetected flights into Israeli airspace from Lebanon in recent years. Israel has rejected the Iranian assertions.

Internet down across Syria for second day

via Telegraph: 


Phone and internet networks were down across most of Syria for a second straight day on Friday, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.


Syria: rebels fight to unite opposition-held areas before 'final push' for Damascus

Rami Abdel Rahman, Observatory director, said in some areas it was still possible to access the internet “but with great difficulty”.

“It is also very difficult to reach people by phone. But we have received reports that it is possible to communicate between certain regions via fixed telephone lines,” he added.

The official news agency SANA had still not resumed transmission Friday after its feed was cut on Thursday at midday. Its website was also inaccessible.

On Thursday afternoon, when communications were first cut in Syria, activists accused the regime of preparing a “massacre” while the authorities explained this interruption as “maintenance”.

The United States on Thursday accused the Syrian regime of cutting off internet and telecommunications links in the war-torn country, branding the move a sign of desperation.

Amnesty International said on Twitter that reports of an internet shutdown were “very disturbing”.

Meanwhile delegates from more than 60 countries agreed in Tokyo to ramp up pressure on Bashar al-Assad’s regime and urged the international community to unite to force change in Syria.

The “Friends of Syria” condemned the “incessant killings, bombings of residential areas” and the “gross violation of human rights” that have taken place since Assad’s forces moved to crush an uprising.

At a meeting in the Japanese capital, the group’s fifth since its inception, they called for a full oil embargo on Syria, a move aimed at cutting off a rich source of currency for the regime.

In a statement released after the meeting, the group, which includes Western and Arab countries, called on “all members of the international community, especially members of the United Nations Security Council, to take swift, responsible and resolute action”.

Two of the five permanent members of the Security Council – China and Russia – have blocked action.

The statement welcomed the formation of the National Coalition, a newly-unified opposition group that has been recognised by Britain, France and Spain as the legitimate representatives of Syria.

It also called for ramping up of sanctions to tighten the noose around the regime, insisting that any ill effects suffered by the populace were the fault of the government in Damascus.

“The group called on the international financial and business communities to diligently comply with ongoing and forthcoming measures against the Syrian regime,” it said.

“The group reiterated its call on all states to impose an embargo on Syrian petroleum products and a ban on the provision of insurance and reinsurance for shipments of Syrian petroleum products.”

Presently, the United States has banned the import of Syrian oil and gas, but the EU has not.

On Thursday Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said Washington was weighing what further help it could give the Syrian opposition rebels.

“We are going to carefully consider what more we can do,” Clinton told a Washington forum, saying the United States was constantly evaluating the situation and adding: “I’m sure we will do more in the weeks ahead.”

But she stopped short of saying whether the US would recognise the National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.

Privately, US officials have said the Obama administration would likely go ahead and recognise the group at some point.

“We hope the National Coalition … will play a further role as an entity that represents a wider range of the Syrian society, with a common objective of having all the Syrians enjoy peace and prosperity in the new Syria,” Gemba said on Friday.

Along with sanctions on the Assad regime, “providing assistance to refugees and internally displaced people” is essential, said Gemba, adding the world also had to “look ahead to a post-Assad” Syria.

8 Big Ways China’s Policies Screw Its Citizens

via Business Insider: 


China is said to have 500 riots, collective protests, and strikes a day.  According to Minxin Pei, this has quadrupled from a decade ago. 

Much of this discontent stems from Chinese policies that restrict individual freedoms. Some of these are unique to China, and some are more draconian than others.

As China’s ‘fifth generation’ of Communist Party leaders takes the helm, we put together a few extremely restrictive policies that policymakers should consider reforming. Some of these are believed to be on top of Beijing’s reform agenda.


The household registration system limits property ownership and benefits to Chinese citizens

The household registration system limits property ownership and benefits to Chinese citizens

Job seekers queue for a job fair in China’s Shaanxi Provinc

China Photos/Getty Images

China’s Hukou system, a household registration system that comes with benefits like health care, pension, and free education among others, has been a source of tremendous frustration among the Chinese.

That’s because the Hukou benefits are only available to people if they continue to live in the city or village in which they were born. About 240 million people reportedly do not live in their place of birth.

Earlier this year, the government encouraged rural residents to apply for Hukou in small cities if they had held a job in that city for a few years and rented an apartment there. Applying for Hukou in big cities like Beijing is much harder.

But these reforms are moving at a very slow pace, and the Hukou system ends up limiting consumption and property ownership. Its ability to control the movement of people from one place to another has also helped create a two-tier urban-rural divide.

Land laws have made farming inefficient and are hurting the urbanization rate

Farmland was collectivized in China under chairman Mao. In the post-Mao era, policymakers pushed reforms that returned land to a family oriented management structure, but the land continued to be owned at the village level by collectives.

China has faced massive protests whenever land has been illegally seized from farmers and sold to raise revenue.

Moreover, the inability to own and mortgage land acts as a disincentive to farmers to invest in their land, while simultaneously limiting their ability to do so.

Controversial labor camps allow for the imprisonment for up to four years without trial

Controversial labor camps allow for the imprisonment for up to four years without trial


People in China can be imprisoned without trial for up to four years through a system called ‘laoding jiaoyang’ or re-education through labor.

These labor camps have been around since the 1950s when the communist party would imprison dissenters. But they are now used to imprison everyone from petty thieves, prostitutes, and drug users.

The demand for reforms to this system gained some traction when a mother was sentenced to 18 months without trial for demanding a harsher punishment for men who had abducted her 7-year old daughter was raped her, and forced her into prostitution.

The government agreed to reform these labor camps last month but has yet to clarify what that means.

The one-child-policy has been blamed for labor shortages and its skewed sex ratio

The one-child-policy has been blamed for labor shortages and its skewed sex ratio

In 1979, China launched its one-child policy to control its burgeoning population. But over time this policy created a whole host of other problems.

Many blame it for China’s labor shortages and the country’s high dependency ratio. It also exacerbated the female foeticide / infanticide problem and contributed to China’s extremely skewed sex ratio. The country is said to have 117 men for every 100 women, and in some villages there are 130 men for every 100 women.

The Great Firewall curbs freedom online, but has failed to prevent protests

The Great Firewall curbs freedom online, but has failed to prevent protests


China famously monitors the web and restricts which sites China’s 538 million internet users can view, what they write/blog about. Most recently Bloomberg and The New York Times were blocked after they published articles on the wealth amassed by family members of Xi Jinping and Wen Jiabao respectively.

But this internet policing hasn’t lowered protests, which China expert Minxin Pei says has reached 500 riots, collective protests, and strikes a day, up nearly four times from 2000. Those caught dissenting are often persecuted.

Capital controls have hurt the ability of the Chinese to invest abroad and helped create asset bubbles at home

China’s capital controls have hurt its own people. For instance, the country offers a low deposit rate and essentially uses these savings to subsidize state owned enterprises (SOEs).

China also has controls on capital outflow which limits Chinese investments abroad and has led to bubbles in the domestic market including the property bubble. It also needs to internationalize the renminbi.

But China also needs to be wary of the time at which it eases these controls. It needs to liberalize deposit rates to prevent Chinese savers from pushing all their money abroad if they relax rules on investing abroad.

China carries out the most executions the world, and death sentences are handed out for petty crimes

China reportedly executes about 4,000 people a year many for non-violent crimes and often for white collar crimes.

But China has widely been criticized for unfair trials and often the punishment is said to far exceed the crime since those found guilty of embezzling and corruption can be given the death sentence,

Car ownership restriction are impacting mobility, and it’s distorting the auto market

Car ownership restriction are impacting mobility, and it's distorting the auto market

Many cities across China have begun to limit car ownership and have implemented a lottery system through which applicants can win a license plate.

While on the face of it this does make sense since it would help tackle China’s traffic problems and environmental pollution it has been a source of much discontent among the Chinese.

This is also expected to hurt the Chinese economy and auto industry since it has become the world’s largest auto market.



Radio journalist set alight live on air after men burst into studio and pour petrol over him

via Daily Mail:


  • Three men arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack
  • One studio technician also harmed in incident which may have been politically motivated

A Bolivian radio presenter was set on fire by four masked men while hosting his show in the southern city of Yacuiba.

Radio Popular journalist Fernando Vidal, 78, is being treated for burns after his attackers broke into the studio, poured petrol over him and set him alight.

Studio technician Karen Anza was also injured in the attack which some eyewitnesses claim involved Molotov cocktails.

Scroll down for video

Ranch riders: Two farmers in Yacuiba, southern Bolivia, which was the scene of the shocking attackRanch riders: Two farmers in Yacuiba, southern Bolivia, which was the scene of the shocking attack

His son-in-law, Esteban Farfan says Mr Vidal has suffered burns to his face, arms and chest.

Three people have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack, report the BBC.

According to relatives Mr Vidal was reporting on smuggling in the border area when the attack occured – Yacuiba is less than two miles from the Argentina.

Mr Vidal and other journalists had recently been criticising an increase in smuggling, with particular regard to liquid petroleum gas.

Smuggling issue: Yacuiba is only two miles from the border with ArgentinaSmuggling issue: Yacuiba is only two miles from the border with Argentina

Mr Farfan believes the attack was politically motivated although the police have not commented.

He said Mr Vidal had spoken out against the provincial government live on air.

The interior ministry of Bolivia told AFP they will be carrying out an ‘accelerated and rigorous investigation’.

This is not the first time a Bolivian radio station has come under fire in previous months.

In June three dynamite attacks on local stations were made, at Radio Emisora Bolivia, Radio Vanguardia and Radio Cumbre.

Video: Journalist set alight speaks after being taken to hospital



Not the first time: The attack in Yacuiba followed three on radio stations elsewhere in Bolivia in JuneNot the first time: The attack in Yacuiba followed three on radio stations elsewhere in Bolivia in June

Christian Bale’s emotional moment with Chinese activist

via Yahoo



Seemingly taking a page out of the film “Argo,” Christian Bale is a Hollywood big shot celebrating in the spoils of his international meddlings.

The Dark Knight Rises” actor couldn’t have been happier to see a Chinese dissident who he wanted to meet late last year — but was prevented from doing so by Chinese security officers who pushed the 38-year-old actor around. (Bale described the incident on CNN just after it occurred.)

Watch video of Bale confronting Chinese security officers last year:

Flash forward to Wednesday night in New York where Bale was brought to tears when he finally got to meet activist Chen Guangcheng and give him a Human Rights First award. The two embraced on stage as Chen, who is blind, got teary.

At one point Bale lightened the mood, joking about Chen’s escape from China to the U.S., saying, “Steve McQueen and the Great Escape have got nothing on Chen.”

A lawyer, Chen was punished by the Chinese government after documenting and speaking out against injustices in the country, including alleged forced abortions.

Bale sought to meet him, along with a CNN camera crew, last December when Chen was on house arrest. The actor drove eight hours from Beijing — where he was celebrating the premiere of his film “Flowers of War” — to Dongshigu. There he was met by a group of unidentified Chinese security officers. The officers clearly did not want Bale and the crew getting close to Chen, deterring them with physical force. When Bale and the crew decided to leave peacefully, the officers continued to chase them by car.

Chen escaped house arrest earlier this year, seeking refuge at China’s U.S. embassy, which ignited a diplomatic crisis. Chen was eventually allowed to leave China with his family and now resides in New York where he is studying law at NYU. He also has a memoir due out next year.


Presidential election hits $2B fundraising mark

via Yahoo: 


Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney gestures as he speaks at a campaign rally at Worthington Steel, Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Worthington, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The 2012 presidential campaign passed the $2 billion mark in fundraising Thursday, fueled by an outpouring of cash from both ordinary citizens and the wealthiest Americans hoping to influence the selection of the country’s next leader.

The eye-popping figure puts the election on track to be the costliest in modern U.S. history. It comes amid a campaign finance system vastly altered by the proliferation of outside groups and “super” political committees that are bankrolling a barrage of TV ads in battleground states.

President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romneyhave brought in about $1.7 billion so far this election, according tofundraising reports submitted Thursday night.

Added to that: nearly $300 million in donations involving super PACs since early 2011, as well as tens of millions more in donations to nonprofit groups that run election-related ads but don’t have to disclose their donors.

Obama, the Democratic Party and related fundraising committees raised a combined $88.8 million for the first 15 days of October, reports showed, while Romney’s fundraising apparatus reaped $111.8 million during the same period.

The largest of those were two pro-Romney groups. American Crossroads, a Republican-leaning super PAC with ties to former President George W. Bush’s longtime political counselor Karl Rove, reported raising at least $79.6 million through Oct. 15. Restore Our Future, founded by former Romney aides, reported pulling in $130.6 million so far. And Priorities USA, a pro-Obama group founded by two former aides to the president, reported $62.8 million in contributions.

Added to that: nearly $300 million in donations involving super PACs since early 2011, as well as tens of millions more in donations to nonprofit groups — often affiliated with super PACs — that run election-related ads but don’t have to disclose their donors.

Presidential candidates in 2008 raised more than $1.8 billion in inflation-adjusted figures. This time, new factors have contributed to the escalation in the campaign money chase.

This year marked the first time that both major party candidates opted out from the public financing system established to set limits on how much a presidential candidate can raise and spend. Both Obama and Romney would have been eligible for about $100 million in taxpayer money to support their campaigns through the general election, but both gambled — correctly — that they could raise and spend far more.

In 2008, Obama became the first presidential contender to refuse all public financing while his Republican rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, accepted the government funds. The lopsided result — Obama outspent McCain by more than 2-to-1 in the general election — effectively ended public funding as an option for serious candidates.

With the 2012 election so tight, both Obama and Romney have spent considerable time at high-dollar fundraising events courting wealthy donors. Romney last month lamented the time spent fundraising rather than speaking to larger groups of voters, saying that “fundraising is a part of politics when your opponent decides not to live by the federal spending limits.”

Both Obama and Romney have raised considerable cash from small donors, too, especially the president. His campaign has reported that more than 4 million donors have contributed.

Obama spokesman Adam Fetcher acknowledged Thursday that Romney and his supportive super PACs were outspending the president on the airwaves. He said the Obama campaign was making efforts to expand its donor base as it headed into the remaining days before the election.

Federal election regulators have raised the limit on individual contributions to candidates, which means campaigns can solicit more money from donors than they have in the past. Individual donors can now give a total of $5,000 in the primary and general elections to a candidate, compared to just $2,000 in 2000.

Michael Toner, a Republican campaign finance lawyer and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, said the close race between Obama and Romney and the sharply polarized electorate have also played a role in accelerating the dash for dollars.

“I don’t know any campaign manager who thinks they have too much money. In this political 50-50 environment you can’t ever have enough,” Toner said. “Every last million could make the difference in who is elected.”

But the emergence of super PACs and other outside groups, emboldened partly by the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court in 2010, has done more than anything else to reshape the contours of presidential campaign fundraising. A handful of federal court cases have broadly eased campaign finance regulations, allowing donors to give unlimited sums. That kind of money has largely been funneled to super PACs, which can raise and spend money on behalf of candidates as long as they don’t coordinate expenditures or strategy with the campaign.

“The distinctive factor in this election is the outside money being spent and the corrupting money financing it,” said Fred Wertheimer, a longtime campaign finance reform advocate. “It’s a symbol of the disastrous campaign finance system we have and the undue influence relatively few well-financed individuals and interest groups now have over government decisions.

Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is the top super PAC donor this year. Adelson, a billionaire, has contributed more than $40 million to Republican super PACs, including those backing Romney and former candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The 10 Best Countries For Growing A Business [RANKED]

via Business Insider: 



Management consulting firm Grant Thornton recently released a ranking of countries by how well they encourage “dynamic growth” for businesses. 

We caught up with Stephen Chipman, CEO of Grant Thornton U.S., who says that “dynamism can be largely defined by a business’ ability to act with speed, agility and flexibility. It’s about an organization’s knack to move relatively fast in a productive manner, to grow, to take action without significant barriers — internal or external — getting in the way.”

It’s not all about the economy. A variety of factors went into the model, including the availability of private credit, the regulatory environment, and support for research and development.

The U.S. barely makes the list at #10.


10. The United States

Dynamism score: 64.1

Strongest area: The United States has the world’s eighth-best financing environment.

While strong in many areas, the U.S. doesn’t come out front in any. Polarized politics and sluggish growth are holding the country back.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

9. Germany

Dynamism score: 64.8

Strongest area: Germany comes in ninth for science and technology.

A center of manufacturing, engineering, and organizational expertise, Germany has stayed strong through the Euro crisis.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

8. Korea

Dynamism score: 64.9

Strongest area: Ranked fourth in science and technology

Korea’s large, vertically integrated conglomerates help it stay in front in terms of technological innovation.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

7. Switzerland

Dynamism score: 64.1

Strongest area: Switzerland comes in fifth for science and technology.

High quality infrastructure and the presence of some of the world’s leading engineering firms make Switzerland very appealing.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

6. Australia

Dynamism score: 65.6

Strongest area: Australia comes in seventh for business operating environment, and labor and human capital

Students in Australia and neighboring New Zealand spent more time being educated than any other country in the survey.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

5. Austria

5. Austria

Dynamism score: 66.1

Strongest area: Austria came in 4th place for its financing environment

Despite Euro area troubles, Austria manages to provide liquidity and a favorable regulatory environment to businesses.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

4. Israel

Dynamism score: 69.3

Strongest area: Israel has the world’s most dynamic science and technology environment

Despite its tiny size, Israel has the third most companies listed on the NASDAQ in the world.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

3. Sweden

Dynamism score: 69.6

Strongest area: Sweden came in third for both business environment and science and technology.

Sweden has an open and transparent business environment, strongly supports research and development, and has world class IT infrastructure.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

2. Finland

Dynamism score: 70.5

Strongest area: Finland has the world’s best operating environment for businesses

Finland’s extremely open economy and its transparent regulatory and competitive environment make it a great place to grow a business.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

1. Singapore

Dynamism score: 72.1

Strongest area: Singapore has the world’s best financing environment.

Light regulation, low corporate taxes, access to fast growing Asian markets, and readily available private credit get Singapore the number one ranking.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

The 10 Worst Countries To Grow A Business

via Business Insider: 



Skyrocketing inflation, widespread corruption, a continent-wide economic crisis, and poor IT infrastructure are some of the problems for the 10 lowest ranked countries in Grant Thornton’s Global Dynamism Index. 

Every country doesn’t have all of those problems, but these 10 have had the poorest performance in the measures that business leaders consider most important over the last 12 months.


10. Indonesia

10. Indonesia


Dynamism score: 50.7

Weakest area: Indonesia’s science and technology environment was the third worst in the survey.

Indonesia’s economic expansion is weighed down by poor research spending, problems finding financing, and an unfriendly operating environment for businesses.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

9. Colombia

Dynamism score: 50.2

Weakest area: Colombia’s science and technology environment was sixth from the bottom.

Poor infrastructure and minimal research spending hurt Colombia’s ranking.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

8. Russia

8. Russia

Ktoine at

Dynamism score: 50

Weakest area: Russia was third from the bottom for its financing environment.

High levels of corruption hurt Russia, despite its relatively strong economic growth. Getting financing can be an issue as well.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

7. South Africa

Dynamism score: 50

Weakest area:  South Africa had the world’s second worst ranking for labor and human capital.

Extremely high youth unemployment is just one of the things that has made South Africa less attractive for businesses.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

6. Portugal

Dynamism score: 49.2

Worst area: Portugal had the second worst economic environment on the list, behind only Greece.

Europe’s disastrous growth outlook and the prospect of further austerity in the future make Portugal a risky place to be in business.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

5. Philippines

Dynamism score: 47.6

Worst area: The Philippines was ranked sixth from the bottom for its labor and human capital environment.

Having a young work force is important; business leaders weigh school life expectancy and productivity higher, and that’s where the Philippines falls behind.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

4. Egypt

4. Egypt


Dynamism score: 41.2

Worst area: Egypt had the second worst science and technology score and the third worst for labor and human capital.

Weak schools, unemployment and an underdeveloped IT infrastructure hurt Egypt’s standing in the rankings.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

3. Greece

3. Greece


Dynamism score: 40.2

Worst area: Greece had the world’s worst economic and growth outlook.

Greece, in the throes of a massive recession and harsh austerity program, had the lowest score for economics and growth by more than 26 points.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

2. Nigeria

2. Nigeria


Dynamism score: 40.2

Worst area: Nigeria had the world’s worst operating environment for businesses.

High youth unemployment and a risky business environment outweigh a young workforce and energy resources.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC

1. Venezuela

1. Venezuela

Oscar Sabetta/Getty Images

Dynamism score: 37.4

Worst area: Venezuela had the worst science and technology environment on the list, and the second worst business environment.

High inflation, low research and development spending, and a hostile business environment land Venezuela in the bottom spot.

Source: Grant Thornton LLC