Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Lockerbie lawyer seeks $330 million from Putin, Russia for MH17 disaster <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The U.S. aviation lawyer who won compensation for victims of the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing and is now seeking $330 million from Russia for the downing of Malaysian Airlines MH17 in 2014, says Russian President Vladimir Putin must be held responsible.<br /><br />Jerry Skinner, who is leading Australian law firm LHD&#39;s compensation claim against Russia and Putin in the European Court of Human Rights, says he is confident of success but admits the case, like that of Lockerbie, may take years.<br /><br />The Malaysian Airlines&#39; Boeing 777 crashed in eastern Ukraine in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014, killing all 298 people on board, including 28 Australians.<br /><br />The aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, the Dutch Safety Board concluded in its final report.<br /><br />Skinner said he had no personal issue with Putin, but that the Russian president had opened himself to liability through his extensive control over the Russian state.<br /><br />&quot;Nothing happens in Russia that he doesn&#39;t approve of, therefore vicariously he&#39;s responsible,&quot; Skinner told Reuters in an interview on Monday in Sydney.<br /><br />Skinner said evidence from witnesses, videos, photographs, radar, air traffic control tapes supported his compensation case.<br /><br />&quot;All of that stuff is available and even without the Russian&#39;s contribution I am confident in saying that it was the Russians who caused this event to occur,&quot; he said.<br /><br />The LHD lawsuit is on behalf of 16 victims from Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia, and 33 next of kin. Each claimant is seeking $10 million in damages.<br /><br />Skinner won similar compensation for the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 which was destroyed by a bomb over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people.<br /><br />Skinner said international political pressure was needed to uncover the truth behind the downing of MH17.<br /><br />&quot;I&#39;m hopeful that the Australian government gets involved. We need the leverage of one of the governments whose hands are clean,&quot; he said.<br /><br />Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Monday echoed the sentiment for an independent investigation.<br /><br />&quot;However painful and however difficult and traumatic it is for them to deal with the loss of their loved ones aboard MH17...we will work very hard to ensure that a system is set up, a mechanism is set up, to hold those responsible for this atrocity to account,&quot; she said.</p> Mon, 23 May 2016 11:56:00 +0000 Reuters 2469836 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/05/23/504802/jerry_skinner.jpg Sanders steps up feud with Democratic establishment <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders cranked up his fight with party leaders on Sunday, backing a challenger to the Democratic National Committee&#39;s chairwoman and accusing the party&#39;s establishment of trying to anoint Hillary Clinton as the nominee for president.<br /><br />In a series of television interviews, Sanders remained defiant despite what he acknowledged was an uphill fight to overtake front-runner Clinton.<br /><br />Clinton has said she already considers herself the de facto nominee and is increasingly turning her attention to Donald Trump, saying on Sunday that the rhetoric of the presumptive Republican nominee was dangerous.<br /><br />Sanders told ABC&#39;s &quot;This Week&quot; program that Americans should not have to choose between &quot;the lesser of two evils&quot; in the Nov. 8 election.<br /><br />Sanders said that if he won the White House, he would not reappoint U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC chairwoman. He also endorsed law professor Tim Canova, who is challenging the Florida congresswoman in the August Democratic primary.<br /><br />&quot;Do I think she is the kind of chair that the Democratic Party needs? No, I don&#39;t,&quot; Sanders told CBS&#39; &quot;Face the Nation.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;Frankly, what the Democratic Party is about is running around to rich people&#39;s homes and raising obscene sums of money from wealthy people. What we need to do is to say to working-class people &ndash; we are on your side,&quot; he said.<br /><br />The defiant tone by Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, has worried some Democrats anxious to see Clinton begin to unify the party and turn her attention to an election showdown with Trump.<br /><br />Clinton painted Trump as a risk of the sort voters had not seen before in an interview with NBC&#39;s &quot;Meet the Press&quot; that aired on Sunday.<br /><br />&quot;I do not want Americans, and, you know, good-thinking Republicans, as well as Democrats and independents, to start to believe that this is a normal candidacy,&quot; she said. &quot;It isn&#39;t.&quot;<br /><br />Trump has gained ground in opinion polls as Republicans begin to rally around his candidacy. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Sunday showed Trump with a 2-point lead over Clinton, within the margin of error. In early March, Clinton led Trump by 9 points in the same poll.<br /><br />But Sanders has ignored growing Democratic calls to step aside and repeated his vow to stay in the race until the party&#39;s July 25-28 nominating convention in Philadelphia despite Clinton&#39;s nearly insurmountable lead in pledged convention delegates who will choose the nominee.<br /><br />He said he wanted to do away with superdelegates - party leaders who are free to support any candidate. Their rush to back Clinton even before votes had been cast amounted to &quot;an anointment process,&quot; Sanders said.<br /><br /><strong>&#39;Lesser of two evils&#39;</strong><br /><br />He promised to influence the party platform and party rules even if he was not the nominee, but said if Clinton did not move toward his views on reining in Wall Street, reducing income equality and other issues, &quot;she&#39;s going to have her problems.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;I don&#39;t want to see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils. I want the American people to be voting for a vision of economic justice, of social justice, of environmental justice, of racial justice,&quot; he said on ABC.<br /><br />After Sanders&#39; endorsement of her opponent, Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that she would remain neutral in the Democratic presidential race.<br /><br />Democratic worries about party unity were exacerbated by last weekend&#39;s state party convention in Nevada, where unhappy Sanders supporters disrupted the proceedings in a dispute over rules.<br /><br />That raised fears about possible chaos at the national convention in Philadelphia. But Sanders disputed media reports describing the Nevada incident as violent.<br /><br />&quot;What happened is people were rude, that&#39;s not good, they were booing, that&#39;s not good, they behaved in some ways that were a little bit boorish, not good, but let&#39;s not talk about that as violence,&quot; he said on ABC.<br /><br />Sanders said he was not encouraging protests at the Philadelphia convention, &quot;but of course people have the right to peacefully assemble and make their views heard.&quot;<br /><br />Clinton said in the NBC interview that she would talk to Sanders about his policy demands and take them into account &quot;when he&#39;s ready to talk.&quot;</p> Mon, 23 May 2016 11:51:00 +0000 Reuters 2469834 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/03/28/504802/sanders.jpg US lifts arms ban on old foe Vietnam as regional tensions simmer <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The United States announced an end to its embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam on Monday, an historic step that draws a line under the two countries&#39; old enmity and underscores their shared concerns about Beijing&#39;s growing military clout.<br /><br />The move came during President Barack Obama&#39;s first visit to Hanoi, which his welcoming hosts described as the arrival of a warm spring and a new chapter in relations between two countries that were at war four decades ago.<br /><br />Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since diplomatic relations were restored in 1995, has made a strategic &#39;rebalance&#39; toward Asia a centerpiece of his foreign policy.<br /><br />Vietnam, a neighbor of China, is a key part of that strategy amid worries about Beijing&#39;s assertiveness and sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.<br /><br />The decision to lift the arms trade ban, which followed intense debate within the Obama administration, suggested that such concerns outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and that Washington would lose leverage for reforms.<br /><br />Obama told a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully and not by whoever &quot;throws their weight around&quot;. But he insisted the arms embargo move was not linked to China.<br /><br />&quot;The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam,&quot; he said. He later added that his visit to a former foe showed &quot;hearts can change and peace is possible&quot;.<br /><br />The sale of arms, Obama said, would depend on Vietnam&#39;s human rights commitments, which would be made on a case-by-case basis.<br /><br /><strong>Human rights groups outraged</strong><br /><br />Human Rights Watch reacted with dismay to Washington&#39;s decision to toss away a critical lever it might have had to spur political reform in the communist party-ruled state.<br /><br />Phil Robertson, the watchdog&#39;s Asia director, said in a statement that even as Obama was lifting the arms embargo Vietnamese authorities were arresting a journalist, human rights activists and bloggers on the street and in their houses.<br /><br />&quot;In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam &ndash; and basically gotten nothing for it,&quot; he said.<br /><br />Obama told the news conference with President Quang that Washington would continue to speak out for human rights, including citizens&#39; right to organize through civil society.<br /><br />Quang, who actually announced the U.S. embargo lift before Obama could do so, was until recently minister of public security, which activists say harasses and arrests dissidents.<br /><br />Dissent was once the domain of just a few in Vietnam, but while the party has allowed more open criticism in recent years, it is quick to slap down challenges to its monopoly on power.<br /><br /><strong>Leverage on arms deals</strong><br /><br />Though the communist parties that run China and Vietnam officially have brotherly ties, China&#39;s brinkmanship over the South China Sea &mdash; where it has been turning remote outcrops into islands with runways and harbors &mdash; has forced Vietnam to recalibrate its defense strategy.<br /><br />Security analysts and regional military attaches expect Vietnam&#39;s initial wish list of equipment to cover the latest in surveillance radar, intelligence and communications technology, allowing them better coverage of the South China Sea as well as improved integration of its growing forces.<br /><br />Hanoi&#39;s military strategists are also expected to seek drones and possibly P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft from the United States.<br /><br />Carl Thayer, an expert on Vietnam&#39;s military at Australia&#39;s Defence Force Academy, said the steep costs of U.S. arms would remain a factor for Hanoi, pushing it toward its traditional suppliers of missiles and planes, particularly long-time security patron, Russia. On the other hand, the lifting of the embargo will provide Vietnam with leverage in future arms deals with those suppliers.<br /><br />China sees U.S. support for rival South China Sea claimants Vietnam and the Philippines as interference and an attempt to establish hegemony in the region. Washington insists its priority is ensuring freedom of navigation and flight.<br /><br />However, China&#39;s response to the announcement in Hanoi was muted. The foreign ministry said it hoped the development in relations between the United States and Vietnam would be conducive to regional peace and stability.<br /><br />Underlining the burgeoning commercial relationship between the United States and Vietnam, one of the first deals signed on Obama&#39;s trip was an $11.3 billion order for 100 Boeing planes by low-cost airline VietJet.<br /><br />China is Vietnam&#39;s biggest trade partner and source of imports. But trade with the United States has swelled 10-fold over the past two decades to about $45 billion, and Vietnam is now Southeast Asia&#39;s biggest exporter to America.<br /><br />In the commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, Obama will on Tuesday meet entrepreneurs and tout a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal he has championed, in which Vietnam would be the biggest beneficiary of the 12 members.</p> Mon, 23 May 2016 11:41:00 +0000 Reuters 2469833 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/05/23/504802/vietnam.jpg Venezuela leader says U.S. 'dreams' of dividing loyal military <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The United States &quot;dreams of dividing&quot; a &quot;Chavista&quot; military fiercely loyal to Venezuela&#39;s socialist government, president Nicolas Maduro said on Saturday, as the military comes under scrutiny in the crisis-gripped OPEC nation.<br /><br />Maduro and the opposition are at loggerheads over a referendum to recall him. Authorities say the vote will not happen this year, while the opposition says an unpopular Maduro must be removed to keep a brutal recession from worsening.<br /><br />Some opposition supporters hope factions of Venezuela&#39;s opaque but powerful military will nudge the former bus driver and union leader to allow the vote.<br /><br />But to the tune of &quot;Fatherland, Socialism, or Death,&quot; the armed forces so far praise late leader Hugo Chavez and his self-described son &quot;Maduro,&quot; who lacks his predecessor&#39;s army background.<br /><br />During military exercises to prepare Venezuela against what authorities say are threats of foreign invasion, Maduro reiterated he has the military&#39;s backing.<br /><br />&quot;These armed forces are wholly &#39;Chavista&#39;&quot; he said, flanked by top commanders as state television showed images of rifle-totting soldiers and civilians trekking through the lush jungle or guarding oil service stations.<br /><br />&quot;From the empire, they dream of dividing our armed forces... fragmenting them, weakening them,&quot; he said of the U.S. government, his ideological foe.<br /><br /><strong>&#39;No war here&#39;</strong><br /><br />The opposition has called the military&#39;s top brass the corrupt, repressive wing of an illegitimate government, so commanders are at risk if the Socialist Party leaves power.<br /><br />Lower-ranking soldiers, however, are suffering rampant food shortages and dizzying inflation as the rest of Venezuela&#39;s roughly 30 million people.<br /><br />The opposition scoffed at the military manoeuvres and the claim Washington wants to foment unrest.<br /><br />&quot;There is no war here,&quot; said opposition leader Henrique Capriles. &quot;In Venezuela we should be declaring war against hunger, against medicine shortages, against violence, against this crisis.&quot;<br /><br />As Venezuela&#39;s political confrontation grows, fellow Latin American countries, the United States, and the United Nations have called for dialogue. Argentina, Chile and Uruguay on Friday offered to mediate, though a breakthrough appears elusive.<br /><br />Venezuela&#39;s opposition has warned the country is a &quot;time bomb&quot; and said nixing a referendum makes it more likely that angry citizens will take to the streets. Many poor Venezuelans are skipping meals or getting by on yucca and plantains.<br /><br />More protests are planned to push for the referendum, Capriles added on Saturday.<br /><br />&quot;What are you scared of?&quot; he said of the government. &quot;We&#39;re going to ask the people and let them decide.&quot;</p> Sun, 22 May 2016 10:01:00 +0000 Reuters 2469801 at sites/default/files/photo/2016/05/22/504802/maduro.jpg