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Afghan Opium Production Jumps To Record Level, Up 87 Percent

Opium production in Afghanistan increased by 87 per cent to a record level of 9,000 metric tons in 2017 compared with 2016 levels, according to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey figures released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to a record 328,000 hectares (ha) in 2017, up 63 per cent compared with 201,000 hectares in 2016.

In a statement delivered at the survey’s launch, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said: “It is high time for the international community and Afghanistan to reprioritize drug control, and to acknowledge that every nation has a shared responsibility for this global problem.”

The increase in production is mainly a result of an increase in the area under opium poppy cultivation, while an increase in opium yield per hectare also contributed. The largest increase of yields occurred in the Southern region where the average yield grew by 19 per cent and the north-eastern region, with a 14 per cent rise.

Afghanistan is the world’s top cultivator of the poppy from which opium and heroin are produced. The 2017 record levels of opium production and poppy cultivation create multiple challenges for the country, its neighbours and the many other countries that are transit for or destination of Afghan opiates. Increased insurgency and funding to terrorist groups is likely within Afghanistan while more high quality, low cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world leading to increased consumption and related harmful consequences.

The average opium yield is at 27.3 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) – 15 per cent higher than in 2016. A total of 750 ha of poppy eradication was carried out by the provincial Governors in 2017. This represented an increase of 111 per cent from 2016 when 355 hectares were eradicated. In 2017, eradication took place in 14 provinces, compared to 7 provinces in 2016. During the latest eradication campaign, six lives were lost and eight people were injured.

As noted in the survey, opium poppy cultivation has expanded to new regions and strong increases were observed in many provinces.

The number of poppy-free provinces in the country decreased from 13 to 10. After more than a decade, Ghazni, Samangan and Nuristan lost their poppy-free status. The number of provinces affected by cultivation increased accordingly from 21 to 24.

In Hilmand alone, cultivation increased by 63,700 hectares (79 per cent), accounting for about half of the total increase. This was followed by Balkh (+10,000 ha), Kandahar (+7,500 ha), Nimroz (+6,200 ha), and Uruzgan (+6,000 ha).

Continue reading: Afghan Opium Production Jumps To Record Level, Up 87 Percent

Palestine is NOT a Farm Of Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Palestine is not a private farm of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the self-appointed Palestinian “president” Mahmoud Abbas, whose presidential term expired in 2009, since when nobody knows on basis of what laws he calls himself “president” and since when neither he nor his “Palestinian Authority” have any legitimacy in law, what makes all negotiations, decisions and agreements in which they have a part null and void.

Saudi Arabia’s all-powerful crown prince has opened up a new front in his attempts to change the Middle East, intervening in Palestinian politics and demanding backing for President Trump’s vision for peace with Israel, according to international media reports.

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, was summoned to Riyadh on November 7 2017, for a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Details were overshadowed by the purge ordered shortly before by the prince of rival royals, ministers and businessmen on corruption allegations, and the apparently Saudi-orchestrated resignation of Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister.

According to the Times Newspaper and the Israeli channel 10, the Saudis told Abbas to “accept Trump’s peace plan “when it is presented“ or quit. He also was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman to keep away from any Iranian influence.“

The New York Times on Saturday reported the Trump administration has begun drafting an Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal based on a two-state solution.

A senior White House adviser said the plan would attempt to tackle controversial issues such as the status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

But in my understanding as a political journalist, I think that Crown Prince bin Salman is going on in his alliance with Israel against Hezbollah and Iran, and an impending war lead by Israel against Hezbollah and backed by Saudi Arabia is behind inviting the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to visit Saudi Arabia.

The Palestinian camps in Lebanon are not under Abbas power and the Palestinians will not support or accept the Saudi Crown Prince demands dedicated to Mahmoud Abbas. They all will stand behind Hezbollah and the Lebanese against Israel.

As a Palestinian I say, the Saudi prince promises to Trump and the zionists does not represent us the Palestinian people. Palestine is not an egg in the basket of the Saudi Arabia to be used in their fraudulent transactions and suspicious relations with the zionists of USA and israel. And if the Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman want to build full relation with israel and to be the dog to the Americans more he is now, then he should go ahead. He can do whatever he want, but do it far away of Palestine and Palestinians: renouncing the Palestinian rights will never make lions out of big rats.

Continue reading: Palestine is NOT a Farm Of Donald Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Immigrants And The Right-wing Rise In Austrian Parliamentary Elections

Crimes of rape, sexual harassment, hijab and burqa, the violation of women’s rights, the high rate of asylum and other problems led to the rise of the extreme right-wing parties in the parliamentary elections 2017.

Three years ago, hundreds of thousands of Austrians welcomed the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees. They gave them every help and assistance.

Today, hundreds of thousands of Austrians voted in favor of the right-wing parties after the migrants’ crimes were reflected negatively on their daily lives.

The centre of political gravity in Austria shifted to the right after the conservative Austrian People’s party (ÖVP) came out top in national elections, making Sebastian Kurz, 31, become the EU’s and the world’s youngest head of government after becoming foreign minister at the age of 27.

Projections on Sunday night put the ÖVP ahead with 30.2% of the vote. The incumbent chancellor Christian Kern’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPÖ), the largest party in the last government, are in third place with 26.3 percent, the party’s worst showing since the end of Adolf Hitler’s rule in Austria, according to Europe Elects, while the Freedom Party had 26.8 percent, The Green party had 4.9 percent, NEOS party had 5.3 percent and PILZ party had 4.3 percent.

Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka said the People’s Party received 30.2 percent of the vote, a gain of more than 7 percentage points from the 2013 election. Kurz described that as the biggest jump in support in the party’s history.

Kurz toppled the last government in May when he pulled his conservative ÖVP out of a coalition with the centre-left SPÖ.

Continue reading: Immigrants And The Right-wing Rise In Austrian Parliamentary Elections

The Collapse Of EU Health Insurance System Is A Matter Of Time

The revolution of the medical industry in intensive care paves the way for the collapse of the health insurance system, and the patients will pay high taxes from their general health.

Today, 25. Sep. 2017, I attended the ESICM LIVES 2017- 30th European Society of Intensive Care Medicine Annual Congress held at the Austria Center. Giant medical companies have offered the latest equipment as a replacement of the old in the medical centers and the hospitals.

Briefly, the health system in Europe seems to be working to finance the investments of large medical companies and gradually paving the way for ending the public health insurance system and turning it into a private sector.

The middle class, the poor and perhaps the majority of European society will be the victims of this dangerous trend in public health and medical treatment.

To illustrate this, I have made a number of calls with cardiologists, ophthalmologists, orthopedics and neurologists to help a patient to make appointments for necessary medical examinations after he made heart operation and received two consecutive strokes.

The surprise was when I did not find doctors who still deal with the health insurance system. They were all private doctors and the patient has to pay € 250 per visit.

At best, I managed to schedule a visit to a physiotherapy center, but the surprise was when the medical team informed the patient that his treatment would begin at the best of conditions by the end of 2018, meaning that the patient had to wait more than a year due to the long waiting and advised the patient to take the necessary treatment at his own expense??

Only today, through what I have seen at this conference, I understand why doctors have switched to private treatment rather than health insurance.

EU Is Side By Side With USA at IAEA.

In order to please the USA, European Union Statement on the occasion of the 61st General Conference of the IAEA delivered by Mr Meelis Münt, Vice Minister at Ministry of the Environment ESTONIA concentrated on condemn the DPRK’s latest nuclear test and it’s all nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities. (Estonia-statement PDF).

Mr Münt said: “The EU strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
DPRK’s latest nuclear test and all nuclear weapons and ballistic missile activities led by the DPRK. Its latest nuclear test, which followed a set of ballistic missile launches, some of which were of intercontinental range, repeatedly and deliberately threaten international peace and security and disrupt the strategic equilibrium in Asia, and beyond. The EU welcomes the unanimous adoption of the UNSC Resolution 2375 on 11 September imposing further sanctions on the DPRK.”

The DPRK is the only State to have conducted nuclear explosive tests in the 21st century, in contravention of several UNSC Resolutions, which interracial on all states to refrain from conducting nuclear test explosions or any other nuclear explosions. Nuclear weapons test explosions or any other nuclear explosions represent a threat to international peace and security and undermine the non-proliferation regime, which the EU has steadfastly supported for decades.

We urge DPRK to reverse course and to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programme in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, cease immediately all related activities, to return to the NPT, IAEA Safeguards at an early date and to sign and ratify the CTBT.

The EU supports diplomatic efforts aimed at achieving the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula through peaceful means. The EU continues to attach the highest importance to maintaining an essential role for the IAEA in verifying the DPRK’s nuclear programme. There is therefore an urgent need for agreement on a strong resolution on the DPRK. being adopted by the General Conference.

Egypt changed The Tone Of Its Discourse Towards Israel In IAEA

Why has the tone of the Egyptian discourse changed before the International Atomic Energy Agency? See PDF in Arabic

The tone of the official Egyptian discourse changed toward Israel during the speech delivered by the representative of the Arab Republic of Egypt Dr. Mohamed Shaker El-Merkabi, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, before the 61st session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on 18. (Egypt Statement PDF)

The Egyptian minister did not mention Israel in words, and only referred to the existence of one state in the Middle East that refuses to implement the IAEA’s safeguards.

A screen-shot of the Egyptian Minister speech is below.

At the start of the plenary session, Ambassador Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson was elected as President of the 61st IAEA General Conference. Delegates then approved Grenada’s application for IAEA membership.

Director General Yukiya Amano delivered his opening statement in which he reviewed the year’s highlights and defined priorities for the coming year. During the opening session, the General Conference by acclamation approved the re-appointment of the IAEA Director General for a further four year term.

During the first day sessions, the Chinese Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) has pledged to train experts from across Asia in the various peaceful uses of nuclear technology, under an agreement signed today. The agreement, signed on the sidelines of the IAEA’s 61st General Conference, will strengthen expertise in nuclear energy, nuclear safety and nuclear science and applications.

China has agreed to provide regional training courses and long-term education programmes such as Masters Degrees and PhDs for students from developing countries — including least developed countries and small islands developing states (SIDS) — in the areas of nuclear energy, nuclear safety and security, and nuclear sciences and applications. The training will be delivered under the IAEA technical cooperation programme.

On the other hand, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN and the US Department of Energy Idaho and Oak Ridge National Laboratories will make their research reactors, labs and education and training facilities available to scientists from other countries for training and research and development, representatives of the labs announced at the IAEA General Conference today.

Both institutions received designations as IAEA International Centres based on Research Reactor (ICERR).
“This is an outstanding recognition for Belgium. The nuclear expertise and experience obtained through our research and development support the education and training activities with which we transfer knowledge and skills to current and future generations,” said Eric van Walle, Director General of SCK•CEN. “We are proud to contribute to IAEA’s goal with our unique infrastructure.”

Fedotov: Cryptocurrencies And The Dark Net Are The Unintended Beneficiaries of Globalization

For 20 years, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been helping countries make the world safer from drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism. To do this we have a number of tools on our side, including three international drug control conventions, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and firearms, the Convention against Corruption and the universal legal instruments against terrorism. Said Mr. Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) during a special event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

He added: “Transnational organized crime groups are exploiting vulnerabilities, crises and enforcement gaps wherever they find them, to expand their reach and diversify their activities. And Terrorism, cybercrime, cryptocurrencies and the dark net are the unintended beneficiaries of globalization.”

Mr. Fedotov noted that globalization had delivered many positive benefits, but the international community was grappling with problems based on asymmetric globalization that had left people behind, undermined trust and created instability. He warned of a growing nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism that encouraged cultural property trafficking and generated funds for terrorists.

He said: “Terrorists have also taken advantage of our interlinked societies and technologies, to operate across borders, to incite and recruit, and to spread violent extremist ideologies online, especially among young people.”

He added: “There is a growing nexus of transnational organized crime and terrorism, with trafficking in cultural property, in collusion with organized crime groups, generating funds for terrorists. Cybercrime has emerged as a truly borderless threat, one that stands alone, and also aids and abets so many other forms of crime. Cryptocurrencies are providing new avenues for moving and laundering criminal proceeds, straining the knowledge and capacities of law enforcement agencies to keep up.”

In his remarks, Mr. Fedotov said: “We also support application of UN standards and norms promoting comprehensive crime prevention strategies and effective, fair and humane criminal justice systems, with a focus on such challenges as violence against women and children.
What these mandates have meant in practice for UNODC, and for the international community more broadly, has evolved in many ways over this time.”

Continue reading: Fedotov: Cryptocurrencies And The Dark Net Are The Unintended Beneficiaries of Globalization

I Still Remember Scenes Of Horror From The World War II

On August 10 2017, I spent a nice week at Steiermark (Styria) in Sternhof (Star Court), among the apple trees, green corn fields, purple flowers, small ponds, long grass disappearing among them, deer, rabbits, birds and wild animals whose heads can be seen looking carefully around to feel safe. I watched the beautiful butterflies dance and fly from flower to another in attractive dances similar to ballet. I saw the farmers riding tractors and plowing the fields in romantic rounds. At night the sky was pretty clear and scattered with bright stars. The aromas of the countryside, scented with manure, were scattered with the airy breeze that reminded me of my presence in the beautiful countryside.

In this beautiful atmosphere, I met and interviewed Erika Swoboda, who in the age of 80 still enjoys the vitality and agility as if she were in her fourth decade. In the morning she practices yoga while listening to faint music and news, and beside her sit two cats watching the sport in great fun, a black cat, colored with little white, and a brown cat.

The story of Erika Swoboda could be simply described as a story of the queen of Austria who did not put a crown on her head inlaid with diamonds, but placed a crown of flowers and sat on the throne of nature in the Austrian province of Steiermark.

In August 1974 Swoboda had abandoned the city life of Vienna and the awful memories of the second world war she witnessed in her childhood in Vienna in search of tranquility between the embracing arms of nature. She began her life and career when pregnant with her daughter Anna together with her young husband Gerhard Swoboda, an actor for theater and television.

But the beautiful nature and continued success of the work did not make Swoboda forget the memories of World War II she experienced in her childhood:

She said: “the worst event was as a bomb hitting next door, and the people who lived there broke from their basement through to ours and fled to our basement full of fear. I can still remember these terrible, frightened faces full of dust! The people who had stayed next door in their flats above had all been buried and died.”

Swoboda often saw the bombs falling near her on her way to the school: She said: “Certainly I often was on the way to school and it happened to be air alert and bombs have been dropped. And for this case i was charged to immediately hide myself under a front door to be safe. And so I was standing there all alone as the bombs fell down and this certainly was a terrible time for me.”

But the tragedies of the Second World War experienced by Swoboda did not affect her love for nature, and the hug wild mulberry tree and jasmine that grows in the yard of the house has a significant positive impact her life, says  Swoboda: “I believe that in this early period of time, in which I was enveloped by fragrance, fruit and leaf, a natural imprint has emerged, to which I owe my present attraction to herbs, roots, and flowers.”

She added: “Only a few years ago I took the scent of childhood back. In front of my house in Styria there are jasmine and sword lilies, and when I look out the window I see a mulberry tree, still small, but at least there are already fruits.”

Despite the relocation of Swoboda to live in Steirmark’s beautiful nature, her memories and relationship in Vienna where she was born and grew up is still close, says Swoboda: “In the Viennese scene, I was at home between Hawelka and Vanilla, befriended by many painters, writers and filmmakers, until the storm of time drove me into one of the then existing land communes.”

She added: “My vision was to live and work with people in a community. This started in Vienna, where I was in several municipalities and ends up to this day at Sternhof, a 250-year-old farmhouse in the middle of South Styria, where I am living since 43 years.”

Continue reading: I Still Remember Scenes Of Horror From The World War II

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