A new way to generate insulin-producing cells in type 1 diabetes

By Susan Gammon, Ph.D.

A new study by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) has found that a peptide called caerulein can convert existing cells in the pancreas into those cells destroyed in type 1 diabetes—insulin-producing beta cells. The study, published online July 31 in Cell Death and Disease, suggests a new approach to treating the estimated 3 million people in the U.S., and over 300 million worldwide, living with type 1 diabetes. “We have found a promising technique for type 1 diabetics to restore the body’s ability to produce insulin. By introducing caerulein to the pancreas we were able to generate new beta cells—the cells that produce insulin—potentially  freeing patients from daily doses of insulin to manage their blood-sugar levels.” said Fred Levine, M.D., Ph.D., professor and director of the Sanford Children’s Health Research Center at Sanford-Burnham. The study first examined how mice in which almost all beta cells were destroyed—similar to humans with type 1 diabetes—responded to injections of caerulein. In those mice, but not in normal mice, they found that caerulein caused existing alpha cells in the pancreas to differentiate into insulin-producing beta cells. Alpha cells and beta cells are both endocrine cells meaning they synthesize and secret hormones—and they exist right next to one another in the pancreas in structures called islets. However, alpha cells do not normally become beta cells. –

See more at: http://beaker.sanfordburnham.org/2014/07/a-new-way-to-generate-insulin-producing-cells-in-type-1-diabetes/#sthash.tOSBxYDj.dpuf

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper blames Hamas for Palestinian casualties after Israeli shells hit UN shelter in Gaza

By Associated Press and Canadian Press

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reiterating his government’s hard line against Hamas, saying it is solely responsible for the death and destruction in Gaza.

Harper said that while no one likes to see the suffering and loss that is occurring in the Middle East, Hamas is to blame. The prime minister said Hamas started the war because the terrorist organization wants to destroy the state of Israel.

Read more » National Post
http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/07/30/stephen-harper-blames-hamas-for-palestinian-casualties-after-israeli-shells-hit-un-shelter-in-gaza/

Pakistan mob kills woman, girls over ‘blasphemous’ Facebook post

By SYED RAZA HASSAN

ISLAMABAD — Reuters: A Pakistani mob killed a woman member of a religious sect and two of her granddaughters after a sect member was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook, police said Monday, the latest instance of growing violence against minorities.

The dead, including a seven-year-old girl and her baby sister, were Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and many Pakistanis consider them heretics.

Read more » The Globe And Mail
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/pakistan-mob-kills-woman-and-girls-over-blasphemous-facebook-post/article19803246/

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More details » So what if she is 8-months old? She is Ahmadi, kill her!
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/23426/so-what-if-she-is-8-months-old-she-is-ahmadi-kill-her/

Meshal to Charlie Rose: Hamas doesn’t fight Jews, it fights the occupiers

WATCH: In interview with CBS, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal manages to avoid directly answering question about recognizing Israel as a Jewish state.

By

Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal managed to avoid directly answering the question of whether Hamas would recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in an interview with CBS host Charlie Rose.

In the interview, which aired on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Meshal said, “When we have a Palestinian state then the Palestinian state will decide on its policies. You cannot actually ask me about the future.”

Earlier in the interview, the Qatar-based Hamas leader said he was “ready to coexist” with Jews and Christians, but added, “I do not want to live with a state of the occupiers.”

“We are not fanatics; we are not fundamentalists. We do not actually fight the Jews because they are Jews per se. We do not fight any other races. We fight the occupiers,” Meshal told Rose.

Read more » HAARETZ
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.607621

Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?

By Sam Harris, Neuroscientist and author of the New York Times Bestsellers

Excerpt;

The question I’ve now received in many forms goes something like this: Why is it that you never criticize Israel? Why is it that you never criticize Judaism? Why is it that you always take the side of the Israelis over that of the Palestinians?

Now, this is an incredibly boring and depressing question for a variety of reasons. The first, is that I have criticized both Israel and Judaism. What seems to have upset many people is that I’ve kept some sense of proportion. There are something like 15 million Jews on earth at this moment; there are a hundred times as many Muslims.  I’ve debated rabbis who, when I have assumed that they believe in a God that can hear our prayers, they stop me mid-sentence and say, “Why would you think that I believe in a God who can hear prayers?” So there are rabbis—conservative rabbis—who believe in a God so elastic as to exclude every concrete claim about Him—and therefore, nearly every concrete demand upon human behavior. And there are millions of Jews, literally millions among the few million who exist, for whom Judaism is very important, and yet they are atheists. They don’t believe in God at all. This is actually a position you can hold in Judaism, but it’s a total non sequitur in Islam or Christianity.

So, when we’re talking about the consequences of irrational beliefs based on scripture, the Jews are the least of the least offenders. But I have said many critical things about Judaism. Let me remind you that parts of Hebrew Bible—books like Leviticus and Exodus and Deuteronomy—are the most repellent, the most sickeningly unethical documents to be found in any religion. They’re worse than the —. They’re worse than any part of the New Testament. But the truth is, most Jews recognize this and don’t take these texts seriously. It’s simply a fact that most Jews and most Israelis are not guided by scripture—and that’s a very good thing.

Of course, there are some who are. There are religious extremists among Jews. Now, I consider these people to be truly dangerous, and their religious beliefs are as divisive and as unwarranted as the beliefs of devout Muslims. But there are far fewer such people.

For those of you who worry that I never say anything critical about Israel:  My position on Israel is somewhat paradoxical. There are questions about which I’m genuinely undecided. And there’s something in my position, I think, to offend everyone. So, acknowledging how reckless it is to say anything on this topic, I’m nevertheless going to think out loud about it for a few minutes.

I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state. I think it is obscene, irrational and unjustifiable to have a state organized around a religion. So I don’t celebrate the idea that there’s a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. I certainly don’t support any Jewish claims to real estate based on the Bible. [Note: Read this paragraph again.]

Though I just said that I don’t think Israel should exist as a Jewish state, the justification for such a state is rather easy to find. We need look no further than the fact that the rest of the world has shown itself eager to murder the Jews at almost every opportunity. So, if there were going to be a state organized around protecting members of a single religion, it certainly should be a Jewish state. Now, friends of Israel might consider this a rather tepid defense, but it’s the strongest one I’ve got. I think the idea of a religious state is ultimately untenable.

Needless to say, in defending its territory as a Jewish state, the Israeli government and Israelis themselves have had to do terrible things. They have, as they are now, fought wars against the Palestinians that have caused massive losses of innocent life. More civilians have been killed in Gaza in the last few weeks than militants. That’s not a surprise because Gaza is one of the most densely populated places on Earth. Occupying it, fighting wars in it, is guaranteed to get woman and children and other noncombatants killed. And there’s probably little question over the course of fighting multiple wars that the Israelis have done things that amount to war crimes. They have been brutalized by this process—that is, made brutal by it. But that is largely the due to the character of their enemies. [Note: I was not giving Israel a pass to commit war crimes. I was making a point about the realities of living under the continuous threat of terrorism and of fighting multiple wars in a confined space.]

Read more: SAM HARRIS
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/why-dont-i-criticize-israel

Madeleine Albright: Israel ‘overdoing’ its response to Hamas

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright says focus should be on how to end conflict and implement two-state solution.

By Haaretz

Israel looks like it’s “overdoing” its response to Hamas rocket fire, which is “hurting Israel’s moral authority,” former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said Tuesday.

Although she expressed support for Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket fire, Albright said in an interview with CNN that the “question of proportionality” was important.

I do think that it is very hard to watch the number of Palestinians that have been killed – innocents,” Albright said as the current secretary of state, John Kerry, was in the region to attempt to broker a cease-fire.

Read more » Haaretz
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.606745

France hits back after UK condemns Russia Mistral ship deal

France’s foreign minister has accused the UK of double standards following its criticism of the Russian Mistral warship deal. Referring to Russian oligarchs in the UK, he said that Britain must tend to its own backyard before attacking French policies.

Following the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Ukraine, British Prime Minister David Cameron criticized Paris for its plan to go ahead with the delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. Cameron stressed that the move would be “unthinkable” in Britain.

The English in particular were very pleasant so to speak saying we would never do that, but I told my dear British friends let’s talk about the financial sector,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told TF1 television after a meeting of European foreign ministers in Brussels.

I am led to believe that there are quite a few Russian oligarchs in London,” he added, as quoted by Reuters.

When asked whether he meant that the UK must first address its own business, Fabius replied: “Exactly.

On Monday, French President Francois Hollande said the plan to deliver the Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia would go forward, despite calls from the US and UK. The first ship is nearly completed and will be presented in October.

The Russians have paid. Should we repay 1.1 billion euros if the boat was not delivered to the purchaser?” he asked while speaking to reporters late on Monday – the night before an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to discuss tougher sanctions on Moscow over the Ukrainian crisis.

For the time being, a level of sanctions has not been decided on that would prevent this delivery,” he said. “The contract was signed in 2011, the boat is almost finished and should be delivered in October.

Read more » RT
http://rt.com/news/174808-france-uk-criticism-mistral/

 

Palestine and Israel…no end in sight

Slate columnist William Saletan has a piece about a possible solution to the conflict in Gaza (How to Save Gaza). It is worth a read. It will probably seem overly liberal to many Israeli supporters and will seem totally unfair to many Palestinian supporters. And it does sound a little utopian. Well, a lot utopian. It seems unlikely that it could be attempted and very unlikely that it would work if attempted.

Anyway, it reminded me of a comment I wrote on Facebook. I am not optimistic…

This is a Greek tragedy. Both sides have lost many opportunities to compromise and they will surely manage to lose more in the days to come. When those in power in Israel clearly want to keep all or most of the occupied West Bank (building new settlements is hardly a signal they are leaving) and avoid every opportunity to make a deal, then they are not laying the foundation for durable peace. When those in power in Gaza seem to believe ALL Jewish presence in Palestine should be “reversed” (“Palestine will be free; from the river to sea”), they are not laying such a foundation either.

If Likudniks think Palestinians are incorrigible terrorists and barbarians who can never be trusted, this is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Hamas (and even more so, their millions of outside cheerleaders with nothing to lose) say the Israelis are worse than Nazis and are committing history’s greatest genocide, then what sane Israeli would consider them a negotiating partner that wants to make peace? Its a lose-lose situation.
Sad.

Continue reading Palestine and Israel…no end in sight

‘Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies’: Israelis And Palestinians show solidarity online

by Lauren O’Neil

As political tensions between Israel and Hamas continue to escalate this week in the Gaza Strip, a growing number of Jews and Arabs from around the world are coming together in solidarity against the conflict.

Read more » CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2014/07/jewsandarabsrefusetobeenemies-israelis-and-palestinians-show-solidarity-online.html

SINDH – THE CAMEL AMBULANCE OF ACHRO THAR – BY TEHMINA QURESHI

There were things I did not expect when entering the Achro Thar, the White Desert of Pakistan. I did not expect to see the hot white sand turn cold and grey, covered with a layer of broken seashells, a few feet before a lake, of all things: two square miles of water in defiance of the seasonal drought.

I did not expect to see just how pristine this place was. Unlike the Tharparkar desert—the southern-most part of the desert strip which runs on the east of Pakistan next to the Indian border, part of the enormous cross-border Thar desert system—Achro Thar has remained in its pristine condition, untouched by any signs of modern development, mainly because of the absence of a workable transport.

Read more » Roads And Kingdoms
http://roadsandkingdoms.com/2014/the-camel-ambulance-of-achro-thar/

Moscow will respond to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, President Vladimir Putin said

‘We will react to NATO build-up!’ Key Putin quotes from defense policy address

Moscow will respond to NATO’s expansion towards Russia’s borders, President Vladimir Putin said at the emergency Security Council meeting in Moscow. Here are his key quotes on Russia’s defense, Western sanctions, and violence in eastern Ukraine.

Read more » RT
http://rt.com/news/174768-putin-security-nato-ukraine/

China plans super collider

Proposals for two accelerators could see country become collider capital of the world.

By Elizabeth Gibney

For decades, Europe and the United States have led the way when it comes to high-energy particle colliders. But a proposal by China that is quietly gathering momentum has raised the possibility that the country could soon position itself at the forefront of particle physics.

Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, working with international collaborators, are planning to build a ‘Higgs factory’ by 2028 — a 52-kilometre underground ring that would smash together electrons and positrons. Collisions of these fundamental particles would allow the Higgs boson to be studied with greater precision than at the much smaller Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.

Physicists say that the proposed US$3-billion machine is within technological grasp and is considered conservative in scope and cost. But China hopes that it would also be a stepping stone to a next-generation collider — a super proton–proton collider — in the same tunnel.

Read more » nature international weekly magazine
http://www.nature.com/news/china-plans-super-collider-1.15603

Boko Haram Militants Kill More Than 100 In Northeast Nigeria

By HARUNA UMAR

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — Boko Haram extremists have killed more than 100 people and hoisted their black and white flag over a town left undefended by Nigeria’s military, just 85 kilometers (53 miles) from the northeastern state capital of Maiduguri, a civil defense spokesman and a human rights advocate said Saturday.

Hundreds of villagers in another northeast area, Askira Uba, are fleeing after receiving letters from the Islamic extremists threatening to attack and take over their areas, spokesman Abbas Gava of the Nigerian Vigilante Group said.

“Nine major villages are on the run,” he said.

Survivors said Saturday that insurgents fired rocket-propelled grenades and lobbed homemade bombs into homes, and then gunned down people as they tried to escape the fires in the attack on Damboa town launched before dawn Friday. Most of the town has burned down, they said.

A human rights advocate said the extremists struck again as people were trying to bury the dead later Friday, and said the death toll is probably much higher than 100. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to reporters.

Read more » The Huffington Post
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/19/boko-haram-nigeria_n_5602191.html

ISIS burns 1,800-year-old church in Mosul

Militants from the radical jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria have set fire to a 1,800-year-old church in Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul, a photo released Saturday shows.

The burning of the church is the latest in a series of destruction of Christian property in Mosul, which was taken by the Islamist rebels last month, along with other swathes of Iraqi territory.

Read more » Al Arabiya News
http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2014/07/20/ISIS-burns-1-800-year-old-church-in-Mosul.html

Sher Muhammad Marri

By Babar Mirza

Mujahid Barelvi remembers a forgotten hero of the Baloch struggle. Translated from the Urdu by Babar Mirza.

It is a great tragedy for this country in general and Balochistan in particular that Sher Muhammad Marri – who fought an armed struggle in the mountains during the 1950s and ‘60s and was imprisoned in different jails during the ‘70s – is hardly ever remembered in Baloch politics. Even most of the Baloch wouldn’t know where he is buried, for Sher Muhammad Marri was not a sardar or nawab whose politics and legacy had to be kept alive by his sons.

The day my lamenting eyes run out of tears

The eyes of the night of sorrow shall lose all light

My first meeting with Sher Muhammad Marri was entirely by accident. In Karachi, when Mir Bazan (the eldest son of Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo) heard that I was going to Lahore to participate in an inter-collegiate debate, he asked me to carry a message for BSO’s central leader Raziq Bugti who was then studying at the Animal Husbandry College. This was my first meeting with Raziq but he greeted me with such warmth as if we had known each other for years. He asked me to sit behind him on his bike and said, “You have reached here at a good time. I am going to Kot Lakhpat Jail to meet Sher Muhammad Mari,” adding, with a smile, “the same Sher Muhammad Marri nicknamed General Sherof by your Leader of the People to paint him as a Russian agent and keep him in jail for life.”

No wonder Bhutto Sahib called him General Sherof

Sitting in the reception area at Kot Lakhpat Jail, I was about to doze off when suddenly I heard a noise. Sher Muhammad Marri made an appearance that was much more impressive and imposing than I had heard. A stocky build with medium height, his long, golden-white-and-black hair was well-kept, his red-and-white face carrying a set of fiery eyes. No wonder Bhutto Sahib called him General Sherof. I for one did not have the courage to look him in the eye. Sher Muhammad Marri had a hurried chat with Raziq Bugti and left. Shortly after that, Sher Muhammad Marri was transferred to Hyderabad Jail. I used to exchange greetings with him in the visitors’ room on my trips to the jail to cover the Hyderabad Conspiracy case. But his authoritative outlook took away my courage to strike a conversation with him.

In 1978, after the Hyderabad Conspiracy case had been closed and the Baloch and Pakhtun leaders released, I went to Quetta as a journalist and had my first detailed interview with Sher Muhammad Marri. This interview proved how wrong my first impression of him was. In the Marri house, after Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri retired for the night, I felt that Sher Muhammad Marri had relaxed as well. He remembered our first meeting in the Kot Lakhpat Jail. He had also read my interview with Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo published that very week in the weekly Me’yaar. In contrast to his imposing personality, he had a very slow and soft voice. I had learnt from my Baloch friends that Nawab Khair Bakhsh Marri and Sher Muhammad Marri were not only angry with Wali Khan but also with the moderate Baloch leader Mir Ghaus Bakhsh Bazinjo. This estrangement became so bad in Hyderabad Jail that, upon their release, they left for Quetta in separate processions of their supporters. Balochistan would have looked very different today if the four pillars of Baloch nationalism during the ‘70s – Marri, Bugti, Mengal and Bazinjo – had put their differences aside. Faiz sahib penned a beautiful couplet about the myriad splits and divisions in secular and progressive movements during the ‘70s:

Continue reading Sher Muhammad Marri

Religious extremism: A deadly threat.

By Akbar Hussain

Mankind reached up to this level after much struggle and sacrifices. The threat of evil was always there but our unified determination and goodness defeated all evils and poised to go further forward. Throughout history mankind faced disease, wars caused by barbaric invasions and natural disasters but the indomitable human spirit withstood all the calamities with resolution and resolve.

When Hitler threatened the modern world with his demonic power the entire humanity fought shoulder to shoulder to defeat the evil forces of Nazism. But now we are facing an enemy of religious extremism equipped with modern technology to cause destruction and war. The most dangerous part of this evil is its claim of divinity which is false and fake but they have millions of supporters behind them. This threat is not confined to any specific place it’s a universal issue now. They are in Somalia as well as in Sweden. This threat is not recognized by a vast majority of Muslims who tend to minimize its threat or put blame on others. They fail to understand that extremism is not an option for anything. No one can make a brew of progress and extremism. Islam basically needed a renaissance but after 9/11 a vicious degeneration has gripped the entire community.

They are universally loathed and degraded but this shame is not felt or recognized by the community. May be we are marching forward to another calamity but there is slim hope that posterity may not like to live in this perpetual threat forever. They may take arms again to defeat the evil once for all to restore peace, fraternity, dignity and faith.

Courtesy: Facebook

The Folktales of Sindh – An introduction – Words Without Borders

The Folklore and Literature Project, the forty-two-volume Sindhi folklore collection compiled by the scholar, philologist, and folklorist Nabi Bakhsh Khan Baloch (1917–2011) and published by the Sindhi Adabi Board, is one of the great treasures of world heritage. This literature spans the historic land of Sindh, home to the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1300 BCE), situated in present-day Pakistan. It is likely that in the folktales preserved in the Sindhi language, we can find the structures and traces of the earliest stories from the Indus Valley Civilization

Baloch divided this literature into several broad categories: “Fables and fairy-tales; pseudo-historical romances; tales of historical nature; folk-poetry; folk songs; marriage songs; poems pertaining to wars and other events; riddles; proverbs; wit and humor; and folk customs.” Of this collection, seven volumes were dedicated to folktales: The Tales of Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses (vol. 21), Tales of Kings, Viziers, and Merchants (vol. 22), Tales of Fairies, Giants, Magicians, and Witches (vol. 23), Tales of Kings, Money-lenders, Wise-Men, Thugs, and the Common People (vol. 24), Children’s Tales (vol. 25), Fables of Animals and Birds (vol. 26), and Even More Folktales (vol. 27).

Collected from both the oral tradition of the villagers and written records, the stories were gathered and compiled over five years from 1957 to 1961. A network of field workers stationed in each district transcribed the folktales from the oral accounts of villagers in different parts of Sindh. The field workers were instructed to transcribe the tales exactly as they heard them. At the compilation stage, different versions of the same tale were compared, the variants noted, and a final version prepared for publication. Where only a single version for a folktale was found, it was retained with minimum verbal modification necessary to make it readable.

Continue reading The Folktales of Sindh – An introduction – Words Without Borders

Stephen Hawking jumps on ‘boycott Israel’ bandwagon

World famous scientist Stephen Hawking called on the world to boycott the Israeli president’s conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in a letter which has gone viral, exposing the lies of the pro-Israel lobby which claimed he had withdrawn on health grounds.

Read more » World Bulletin
http://www.worldbulletin.net/america-canada/140658/stephen-hawking-jumps-on-boycott-israel-bandwagon

“Catch your dream – Utopia is possible.”

 

The Spanish Town Where People Come Before Profit

By Liam Barrington-Bush and Jen Wilton

In the south of Spain, the street is the collective living room. Vibrant sidewalk cafes are interspersed between configurations of two to five lawn chairs where neighbours come together to chat over the day’s events late into the night. In mid-June the weather peaks well over 40 degrees Celsius and the smells of fresh seafood waft from kitchens and restaurants as the seasonably-late dining hour begins to approach. The scene is archetypally Spanish, particularly for the Andalusian region to the country’s south, where life is lived more in public than in private, when given half a chance.

Specifically, this imagery above describes Marinaleda. Initially indistinguishable from several of its local counterparts in the Sierra Sur southern mountain range, were it not for a few tell-tale signs. Maybe it’s the street names (Ernesto Che Guevara, Solidarity and Salvador Allende Plaza, to name a few); maybe it’s the graffiti (hand drawn hammers-and-sickles sit happily alongside encircled A’s, oblivious to the differences the two ideologies have shared, even in the country’s recent past); maybe it’s the two-storey Che head which emblazons the outer wall of the local sports stadium.

Marinaleda has been called Spain’s ‘communist utopia,’ though the local variation bears little resemblance to the Soviet model most associate with the phrase. Classifications aside, this is a town whose social fabric has been woven from very different economic threads to the rest of the country since the fall of the Franco dictatorship in the mid 1970s. A cooperatively-owned olive oil factory, houses built by and for the community, and a famous looting of a large-scale supermarket, led by the town’s charismatic mayor, in which proceeds were donated to food banks, are amongst the steps that have helped position Marinaleda as a beacon of hope.

As the Spanish economy continues its post-2008 nosedive, unemployment sits at 26 percent nationally, while over half of young people can’t find work. Meanwhile, Marinaleda boasts a modest but steady local employment picture in which most people have at least some work and those that don’t have a strong safety net to fall back on.

But more than its cash economy, Marinaleda has a currency rarely found beyond small-scale activist groups or indigenous communities fighting destructive development projects: the currency of direct action. Rather than rely exclusively on cash to get things done, Marinaleños have put their collective blood, sweat and tears into creating a range of alternative systems in their corner of the world.

When money hasn’t been readily available – probably the only consistent feature since the community set out on this path – Marinaleños have turned to one another to do what needs doing. At times that has meant collectively occupying land owned by the Andalusian aristocracy and putting it to work for the town, at others it has simply meant sharing the burden of litter collection.

While still operating with some degree of central authority, the local council has devolved power into the hands of those it serves. General assemblies are convened on a regular basis so that townspeople can be involved in decisions that affect their lives. The assemblies also create spaces where people can come together to organise what the community needs through collective action.

“The best thing they have here in Marinaleda, and you can’t find this in other places, is the [general] assembly,” says long-term civil servant for the Marinaleda council, Manuel Gutierrez Daneri. He continues, “Assembly is a place for people to discuss problems and to find the solutions,” pointing out that even minor crimes are collectively addressed via the assembly, as the town has no police or judicial system since the last local cop retired.

In his time as mayor, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo has managed to leverage considerable financial support from the state government, a feat which Gutierrez Daneri attributes to the town’s collective track record for direct action. “If you go ahead with all of the people behind you, that is very powerful,” he says.

As a result, the small town boasts extensive sports facilities and a beautifully-maintained botanical garden, as well as a range of more basic necessities. “For a little village like this, with no more than 2,700 people, we have a lot of facilities,” says Gutierrez Daneri.

British ex-pat Chris Burke has lived in Marinaleda for several years, and he explains that access to the public swimming pool only costs €3 for the entire summer. Burke recounts Mayor Sánchez Gordillo saying to him, “The whole idea of the place being somewhere good to live is that anyone can afford to enjoy themselves.” Burke adds pragmatically, “You can’t have a utopia without some loss-making facilities.”

From Occupation to Cooperation

In 1979, Sánchez Gordillo was first elected as the town’s mayor. He led an extensive campaign to change Marinaleda’s course, which began with hunger strikes and occupying underutilised land.

Read more » Truth-out
http://truth-out.org/news/item/24982-the-spanish-town-where-people-come-before-profit

Syria President Bashar al-Assad sworn in for third term

Bashar al-Assad has been sworn in for a third seven-year term as president of Syria, after an election last month that opponents dismissed as a “farce”.

State television broadcast what it said was a live ceremony from the presidential palace in Damascus.

Mr Assad vowed to fight “terrorism” until security was restored to all of the country, but also promised to offer “national reconciliation” to opponents.

He has defied calls to step down since an uprising began in March 2011.

The conflict that erupted after the authorities launched a brutal crackdown on protests has left at least 170,000 people dead and driven more than nine million others from their homes.

‘Monstrous faces’

Mr Assad won 88.7% of the votes cast in the first multi-candidate election in decades, which took place only in areas of Syria that were under government control.

After taking the oath of office on Wednesday, Mr Assad told his supporters: “Syrians, three years and four months… have passed since some cried ‘freedom’.”

“They wanted a revolution, but you have been the real revolutionaries. I congratulate you for your revolution and for your victory,” he added.

“Those who lost their way can now see clearly… the monstrous faces have been unveiled, the mask of freedom and the revolution has fallen.”

Mr Assad also promised that Arab, regional and Western countries who are helping the rebels trying to topple him would soon “pay a high price for supporting terrorism.

Over the past year, Mr Assad’s forces – backed by Iran and the Lebanese Shia Islamist movement Hezbollah – have consolidated their control over a corridor of territory stretching north from the capital to the city of Homs and then into Hama and Latakia provinces.

However, large swathes of the north and east remain under the control of rebel forces, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

The powerful al-Qaeda breakaway declared the creation of a “caliphate” in its territories last month after launching an offensive that saw it capture parts of northern and western Iraq.

Western-backed and more moderate Islamist rebels in Syria, who have been engaged in deadly battles with the group’s fighters since the start of the year, rejected the announcement.

Courtesy: BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-28328138

More » BBC urdu
http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/world/2014/07/140716_syria_president_assad_rwa.shtml

Pakistani universities climbing up international rankings: HEC chief

ISLAMABAD: While briefing the National Assembly Standing Committee on Federal Education and Professional Training, this Monday, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) Chairperson Dr Mukhtar Ahmed said that although Pakistan may not have the best educational institutes in the world, the local educational institutions are continuously improving in rankings.

The commission, he said, has been constantly trying to improve the quality of education in the country.

Dr Ahmed said that there were two types of rankings of educational institutions. In the global rankings, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) has been ranked among the top 500 universities of the world.

In the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) university rankings for Asia, Pakistan is improving steadily.

Read more » DAWN
http://www.dawn.com/news/1119344

Brics nations to create $100bn development bank

The leaders of the five Brics countries have signed a deal to create a new $100bn (£58.3bn) development bank and emergency reserve fund.

The Brics group is made up of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The capital for the bank will be split equally among the five participating countries.

The bank will have a headquarters in Shanghai, China and the first president for the bank will come from India.

Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, announced the creation of the bank at a Brics summit meeting in Fortaleza, Brazil on Tuesday.

A new player

At first, the bank will start off with $50bn in initial capital.

The emergency reserve fund – which was announced as a “Contingency Reserve Arrangement” – will also have $100bn, and will help developing nations avoid “short-term liquidity pressures, promote further Brics cooperation, strengthen the global financial safety net and complement existing international arrangements”.

The creation of the Brics bank will almost surely create competition for both the World Bank and other similar regional funds.

Brics nations have criticised the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund for not giving developing nations enough voting rights.

One of the goals for the bank – whose creation has been discussed for some time – would be to increase the amount of money loaned to developing countries to help with infrastructure projects.

Courtesy: BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/business-28317555

PM Stephen Harper urges world leaders to side with Israel

The indiscriminate rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel are terrorist acts, for which there is no justification,” Harper said in a statement issued Sunday.

By: The Canadian Press

OTTAWA—Terrorists are deliberately placing people in the path of an Israeli offensive aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza, says Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper says there is evidence that Hamas, listed by Canada as a terrorist organization, is using human shields in its attempts to stave off the Israeli offensive.

Read more » The Star
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/07/13/pm_stephen_harper_urges_world_leaders_to_side_with_israel.html

Putin Writes Off $32 Billion of Cuba’s Debts to Russia

 

By Polly Mosendz | The Atlantic Wire

Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently on a grand tour of Latin America. His first stop is in Havana, Cuba. Ahead of arriving in Cuba, Putin decided to bestow a gift upon the Cuban government. With one swift signature, he eliminated $32 billion of Cuba’s debt, left over from the Soviet era.

Read more » Yahoo News
https://ca.news.yahoo.com/putin-writes-off-32-billion-cubas-debts-russia-150048853.html

1 million workers across the UK walk off their jobs to protest pay and pension cuts in the nation’s largest strike in decades

Public sector strikes hit schools and services around the UK

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in rallies and marches across the UK as part of a day of strike action by public service unions. Teachers, firefighters and council workers joined the strike, which follows disputes with the government over pay, pensions and cuts. Thousands of pupils were affected as some 6,000 schools in England closed, the Department for Education said.

Read more » BBC
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28240683