Germany to take action after ‘alarming’ number of anti-refugee attacks

Refugees from Syria arrive at the Friedland shelter near Goettingen, central Germany, on April 4, 2016, after arriving from Turkey at the airport in Hanover. (AFP/Swen Pfoertner)

Refugees from Syria arrive at the Friedland shelter near Goettingen, central Germany, on April 4, 2016, after arriving from Turkey at the airport in Hanover. (AFP/Swen Pfoertner)

by Ayhan Simsek, Andolu Ajansi

Germany’s government promised Monday to take decisive action to stop violence against refugees and asylum shelters after recent police statistics revealed more than 3,500 such attacks last year.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Federal Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth said “alarming figures” were a source of concern for the government.

“We can safely assume that the judiciary will deal with these crimes sternly and decisively. Each crime committed here against a person who needs protection is [one] too many for us,” he said.

More than 3,500 refugees and asylum hostels were attacked across Germany last year, according to recent data compiled by the Interior Ministry. At least 560 people were injured in these attacks, including 43 children.

The assaults, which were often carried out by far-right extremists, also targeted NGOs and volunteers who were assisting refugees.

Germany accepted more than a million refugees in the last two years, mostly from Syria and Iraq. The refugee influx has led to anti-immigration sentiment, often exacerbated by propaganda from far-right and populist parties.

Dimroth said the federal government has recently banned a number of far-right associations as part of its efforts to counter anti-refugee violence.

He underlined the importance of new mechanisms set up to create closer cooperation between Germany’s federal states for monitoring far-right extremist groups.

GST to be implemented from July 1: Economic Affairs Secretary

Shaktikanta Das

New Delhi: Goods and Services Tax is likely to be rolled out on July 1, 2017. Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das while speaking to reporters on Tuesday said: “GST implementation is a huge one and that is going to be implemented by July 1. Both federal and state government are working on this one.”

Das’ statement put an end to uncertainties over the implementation of GST. Last year in August, the Rajya Sabha cleared a bill that amended the Constitution to enable India’s biggest tax reform – GST.

However, there were many issues -division of tax administration, taxing high sea trade, compensation for revenue loss – that were to be resolved between federal and state governments. And, it was feared that GST could not be cleared before September.

After rounds of discussion over revenue loss, the GST Council last month approved a law to compensate states for any loss of revenue from the implementation of the new taxing system.

GST is a proposed system of indirect taxation merging most of the existing taxes into single system of taxation. It was introduced as The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act 2016.

GST would be a comprehensive indirect tax on manufacture, sale and consumption of goods and services throughout India, to replace taxes levied by the central and state governments.

The GST is consumption based tax levied on the supply of Goods and Services which means it would be levied and collected at each stage of sale or purchase of goods or services based on the input tax credit method. Once it is in force, GST will replace at least 17 state and federal taxes.


Unions go ahead with bank strike, services suffer


New Delhi: Branches of public banks remained either closed or non-operational today as staffers and officers went ahead with their day-long strike pressing for various demands, including accountability of top executives in the wake of mounting bad loans.

Services like cash deposits and withdrawal from branches and cheque clearances have been hit hard by the strike, which has been called under the aegis of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU).

“The strike has been forced on us because of adamant and insensitive attitude of the bank management and IBA. They even did not bother to talk on providing compensation for extra hours put in by bank staff during the demonetisation period,” All India Bank Employees’ Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam told PTI.

The UFBU is an umbrella body of 9 unions, but two of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh affiliates — the National Organisation of Bank Workers and the National Organisation of Bank Officers — are not part of the stir.

Unions are also opposed to the proposed labour reforms of the government and outsourcing of permanent jobs in the banking sector.

Some of the demands include compensation of employees and officers for extra hours they put in following demonetisation in November and early initiation of next wage revision.

They have also demanded adequate recruitment in all cadres, stringent measures to recover bad loans and accountability of top executives. Besides, they have pitched for criminal action against wilful defaulters.

The UFBU, which claims membership of nearly 10 lakh across banks, also requested the government for cost reimbursement of demonetisation to banks.

As many as 27 public sector banks control 75 per cent of the total business.


Malyalam actress Bhavana opens up about kidnap ordeal, says ‘I will always get up’


Kochi: Breaking her silence after being abducted and assaulted by a gang here, a noted Malayalam actress today said life has shown her things she never wanted to see but is confident that she “would always get up”.

She also thanked all those who supported her. “Life has knocked me down a few times, it showed me things I never wanted to see. I experienced sadness and failures. But one thing for sure, I always get up! ThankYouAll# ForTheLove#ForThePrayers,” she wrote on Instagram.

Malayalam film actor Prithviraj has shared her Instagram post on his Facebook wall.
The actress, who has also starred in Tamil and Telugu films, was allegedly abducted and molested inside her car for two hours by a group of men on the night of February 17.

Six persons, including prime accused ‘Pulsar’ Suni and his five accomplices, had been arrested by police in connection with the incident that created an uproar.
The accused had forced their way into the actress’ vehicle and later escaped at a busy area here.

Several actors, including Bollywood stars, and politicians had expressed solidarity with the actress and sought stringent action against the culprits.


Bomb recovered ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Imphal


Imphal: A bomb was recovered here on Tuesday ahead of the visit of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for campaigning for the Manipur assembly elections.

Police said the bomb was found near the gate of a residential building around 6am in Khongman Bashikhong Turel Mapal area in Imphal East district. The bomb was later defused.

The bomb was recovered about 6 km from the venue where the Congress Vice President is scheduled to address a rally.

Rahul Gandhi will campaign for Congress candidates at Hapta Kangjeibung ground.

Elections in the state are slated for March 4 and 8.


Hundreds march to ‘save DU’, ‘reclaim’ space to dissent

save DU

New Delhi: Hundreds of students and teachers of Delhi University, JNU and Jamia today hit the streets with a call to “save” the varsities from the “onslaught” of ABVP and “curbing” of dissent.

The students held posters with messages like “Your nationalism is not above our democracy”.

The protesters, mainly comprising students of left forums like AISA, shouted slogans “ABVP Go Back” and “Azaadi” as the march made its way through the roads of North Campus towards the Arts Faculty building.

The gates of the colleges falling on the route of the march, which began from the gates of Khalsa College, were shut.

“We are marching to reclaim the space to debate and discuss. It is about the freedom to coexist, yet disagree,” a student said.

There was heavy police deployment to prevent a rerun of the clashes that were witnessed between ABVP and AISA last week following cancellation of an event at Ramjas College after activists of the RSS-backed students’ wing objected to the invitation to JNU student leaders Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid.

One of the faculty members, marching with the students, alleged that the university has been “taken over” and that authorities were not acting to prevent it.

Earlier, LSR student Gurmehar Kaur withdrew from her social media campaign against the ABVP after allegedly receiving threats from the members of the RSS-backed outfit and being trolled by the ruling BJP leaders and ministers.

Yesterday, the ABVP had taken out a ‘Tiranga march’, “to save the nation”, from Ramjas College to the Arts Faculty.


After rape and death threats from ABVP supporters Gurmehar Kaur withdraws from Save DU campaign

Gurmehar Kaur

New Delhi: Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of Kargil martyr, who kicked up a row due to her stand against the BJP’s student wing ABVP has withdrawn from Save DU campaign on Tuesday morning.

Kaurs’ tweet says she is withdrawing from the campaign.

She says ‘the campaign is about students and not about me’. She asks students to go to the March in huge numbers.

Kaur’s social media campaign against ABVP went viral after the alleged violence by the student group on Ramjas Colllege campus in Delhi University north campus.


Fanatic BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj spews venom again, says Muslims should be cremated and not buried


New Delhi: Days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his infamous ‘qabristan-shamshaan’ remarks at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh, BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj has taken a leaf out of his book and suggested Muslims should also be cremated since there is not enough land for graveyards.

“Whether it is named qabristan (graveyard) or shamshaan (crematoriums), nobody needs to be buried. There are 2-2.5 crore Hindu saints in this country who should have a memorial after their death. That will require land. There are 20 crore Muslims, all of them need a grave. Where is the land in Hindustan?” Maharaj said today.

At a rally in Fatehpur earlier this month, Modi had said, “If you create qabristan in a village, then a shamshaan should also be created. If there is uninterrupted electricity in Ramzan, it should also be given during Diwali. There should be no discrimination.”

The statement had triggered a storm, with the Opposition accusing Modi of trying to communalise the crucial three-cornered Uttar Pradesh contest.

Maharaj, 61, however, has a reputation for shooting his mouth. He has repeatedly blamed Muslims for India’s population. Last month, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against him by the Meerut Police for saying those entitled to “marry four times and have 40 children” are responsible for the country’s population explosion.

Since the statement was made while Uttar Pradesh is voting, even the Election Commission had pulled up Maharaj and sought a report from the Meerut administration.


Film on Syrian rescue group bags Oscar on politically charged night

‘White Helmets’ wins best short documentary in ceremony marked by reaction to Trump immigration policies.

The director of The Salesman chose to boycott the ceremony [EPA]

The director of The Salesman chose to boycott the ceremony [EPA]

by Al Jazeera

A film celebrating the White Helmets, a volunteer rescue group that operates in rebel-held parts of Syria, has scooped an Oscar for best short documentary on a night marked by politics.

The eponymously titled White Helmets, a 40-minute Netflix film, gives a window into the lives of the group’s volunteers as they scramble to pull people from the rubble of buildings flattened in bombing raids.

Accepting the Academy Award, director Orlando von Einsiedel urged the audience to get out of their seats and call for an end to Syria’s six-year civil war, which led to a standing ovation.

Von Einsiedel read a statement from White Helmets founder Raed al-Saleh in which he thanked the academy and said the group had saved tens of thousands of lives since it was formed in 2014.

“We are so grateful that this film has highlighted our work to the world. Our organisation is guided by a verse from the Quran: to save one life is to save all of humanity,” Saleh’s statement said.

“We have saved more than 82,000 Syrian lives. I invite anyone here who hears me to work on the side of life to stop the bloodshed in Syria and around the world.”

Rescue workers in Syria are at risk of being killed in so-called “double tap” air raids that target them as they arrive at the scene of a strike. The group says that many of its volunteers have been killed.

Syrian cinematographer Khaled Khatib, who worked on the documentary, was unable to attend after being barred from entering the United States despite being granted a visa .

US officials reportedly discovered “derogatory information” about him, according to a document seen by the Associated Press news agency .

The film’s producer, Joanna Natasegara, told AP on Sunday that the decision was “sad and confusing”.

The incident happened after US President Donald Trump’s now halted temporary travel ban that targeted seven Muslim-majority countries, including Syria.

Iranian win after protest

An Iranian film, The Salesman, won the best foreign language film award after its director, Asghar Farhadi, refused to attend the ceremony as a protest against Trump’s immigration policies. Iran was on the list of seven countries.

A female Iranian astronaut, Anousheh Ansari, accepted the award on his behalf.

“I’m sorry I’m not with you tonight,” Farhadi said in a statement read by Ansari. “My absence is out of respect for the people of my country and those of other six nations who have been disrespected by the inhumane law that bans entry of immigrants to the US.

“Dividing the world into the US and ‘our enemies’ categories creates fear – a deceitful justification for aggression and war.”

It was the second Oscar for Farhadi, who won in the same category for A Separation in 2012.

Trump quietly looming

Though Donald Trump’s name was rarely mentioned during the ceremony, his policies were a running subtext throughout proceedings.

Several actors and actresses, including the Ethiopian Irish Ruth Negga who was nominated in the best actress category, wore blue ribbons in support of the American Civil Liberties Union, a high-profile civil rights group.

Talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, MC for the evening, did mention Trump several times.

“I want to say thank you to President Trump,” Kimmel said as the ceremony opened. “Remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist?”

In 2015, criticism swirled around a lack of diversity among nominees, stirring a campaign that became known by the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. That criticism continued into 2016, with several people, including actor Will Smith, boycotting the ceremony.

A record six black actors were nominated this year, though, and a person of colour was nominated in each of the main acting categories – the first time that has happened.

On Friday, the directors of all five Oscar-nominated foreign language films, including Farhadi, had condemned what they described as a “climate of fanaticism and nationalism” in the US and elsewhere in a joint statement.

They said that, whoever won, the award would be dedicated to people working to foster “unity and understanding.”

“Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith,” academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who has worked to diversify its membership, said.

Mahershala Ali, an Ahmadi Muslim, won the best-supporting actor award for his role in Moonlight, which also won best picture. In his acceptance speech, he announced the birth of his daughter and thanked his wife as well as “many wonderful teachers”.

Celebrities had used the spotlight at earlier award shows to denounce the Trump administration’s stance on immigration, transgender rights and the media.

The Oscars is the highlight of the Tinseltown calendar, and wraps up two months of glittering prize galas.

Red faces as wrong winner read out in Oscars fiasco

Moonlight bags the best picture after an astonishing flub in which La La Land was initially named the winner.

Moonlight wins best picture Oscar

by Al Jazeera

The coming-of-age drama, Moonlight, has won the Academy Award for best picture, in an extraordinary Oscar upset and an unprecedented gaffe that saw one winner swapped for another.

While announcing the top honour of Sunday’s event, an apparent mix-up of cards created uproar and confusion in which presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty initially declared smash hit musical, La La Land, the winner.

But as La La Land’s producers were accepting the award, they were interrupted for a highly unusual correction: La La Land was not the winner, Moonlight was.

A chagrined Beatty blamed the flub on the envelope, which he said had contained a duplicate of the card for the best actress trophy.

“I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, La La Land,” he said. “I wasn’t trying to be funny.”

Host Jimmy Kimmel had come forward to inform the cast that Moonlight had indeed won, showing the inside of the envelope as proof. “I knew I would screw this up,” said Kimmel, a first-time host.

“I promise to never come back.”

Producer Jordan Horwitz then graciously passed his statue to the Moonlight producers.

Al Jazeera’s Andy Gallacher, reporting from Los Angeles, said there was a complete chaos after the error and people were confused.

“This was not exactly the Hollywood ending,” he said.

“As the La La Land crew got on stage to receive the award, one of the members of the La La Land put up the card to the camera and said this is not a joke, Moonlight won.”

“The mistake has overshadowed the entire awards night. Now the only thing people will remember is this monumental mistake, which was … great news for Moonlight and bad news for La La Land,” Gallacher said.

The best picture award was the third Oscar for Barry Jenkins’ film about an African American boy growing up gay in a poor neighbourhood in Miami.

Moonlight also won best supporting actor for Mahershala Ali – the first Muslim actor ever to win the Oscar – and best adapted screenplay for Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney.

The film has won plaudits as a vital portrait of contemporary African American life and is praised in equal measure as a groundbreaking and personal meditation on identity, family, friendship and love.

Besides La La Land, Moonlight beat seven other films, including alien thriller Arrival and family dramas Manchester by the Sea and Fences for best picture honours.

La La Land, however, still collected a leading six awards, including honours for cinematography, production design, score, the song “City of Stars” and best director for Damien Chazelle, who at 32 became the youngest ever filmmaker to win the category.

La La Land star Emma Stone also won best actress for her portrayal of an aspiring actress forced to endure the indignities of failed auditions, while Manchester by the Sea star Casey Affleck was named best actor for his performance as a taciturn janitor with a troubled past.

“Man, I wish I had something better and more meaningful to say … I’m just dumbfounded that I’m included,” said Affleck, a first-time Oscar winner.

Viola Davis, meanwhile, won her first Oscar for her supporting roles in Fences. The wins of Davis and Ali marked the first time in more than a decade that multiple Oscar acting honours went to black actors.

Poking fun at Trump

Earlier in the show, US President Trump had been the target of numerous jokes, capping an awards season marked by fiery protests by celebrities at his policies.

Kimmel fired off political zingers and even tweeted at the Republican president, getting no immediate response.

Insisting he was at a loss for words to help unite a divided country, the host exhorted viewers to make their own efforts at reconciliation by reaching out to political adversaries they knew personally to “have a positive, considerate conversation, not as liberals or conservatives, as Americans.”

“If we could all do that, we could make America great again,” he said, an allusion to Trump’s own campaign slogan.

Kimmel also showed a willingness to tweak the motion picture academy for its own shortcomings, drawing a sly parallel between the criticism both the president and the Oscars have taken for a perceived lack of racial sensitivity.

“I want to say, ‘Thank you, President Trump,'” he said. “I mean, remember last year when it seemed like the Oscars were racist ?” he asked rhetorically in a reference to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that clouded the Academy Awards in 2016.

Several celebrities wore blue ribbons on Sunday in support of the American Civil Liberties Union advocacy group that worked to get Trump’s bid to ban travellers from seven majority Muslim nations blocked in US courts.

But for the most part, speeches at the ceremony were mild or made general pleas for tolerance rather than directly attacking Trump.