Sunday, November 30, 2008

Albanians in Serbia rally for more rights


BELGRADE, Serbia -- An estimated 6,000 Albanians rallied in the streets of Presevo, southern Serbia, on Friday (November 28th). Waving flags, they demanded more rights for Albanians living in Serbia. Albanian flags were also seen at the town's city hall. Protestors said they want Serbian authorities to let them use the Albanian national flag in local government. They also insist that an Albanian-language university should open in Presevo and they called for the demilitarisation of the Presevo valley, which borders Kosovo. The demonstration, organised by NGOs on the occasion of Albanian Flag Day, ended peacefully.

(AFP, FoNet, Radio Beograd - 29/11/08)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Monday, November 17, 2008

UN Plan Unacceptable for Kosova: Danger to Sovereignty

15:52 Mon 17 Nov 2008 -

Fifteen Kosovo non-governmental organisations are planning a protest against the six–point UN plan for the deployment of the EU’s controversial law-and-order mission, EULEX. The demonstration has been set for November 19 in Pristina under the slogan, "Demonstrate for a sovereign and democratic Kosovo and against the 6 points!"
According to the organisers, the aim of the protest is the protection of Kosovo’s sovereignty and independence and opposing every initiative for new negotiations on its status.

The organisers asserted that, the six points proposed by the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, are not acceptable as they threaten Kosovo’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Kosovo, which unilaterally declared independence from Serbia in February and has been recognised by most European Union member states, objects to the plan being based on UN Security Council Resolution 1244. This resolution, passed at the end of the 1998/99 conflict between Serb forces and Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian majority, refers to Kosovo as Serbia’s southern province, not as an independent state.

Serbia insists that the EU cannot deploy a new civilian mission in Kosovo to replace the UN administration unless the mission is neutral in status and does not put into action the plan of former UN envoy Martti Ahtisaari – which envisages internationally-supervised independence for Kosovo.

Belgrade also insists that the mission must be confirmed by the UN Security Council, in which it has a strong ally with veto power – Russia.

The proposal envisages the gradual replacement of the administrative UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), which has been in the province since 1999, with an EU civilian mission of police and court officials.

The demonstration on November 19 is set to bring together anti-corruption watchdog, Cohu, as well as the hardline independence movement, Vetevendosje, the Women’s Movement together with other groups.

United States voices strong support for Kosovo Government position
United States State undersecretary for Europe and Asia Daniel Fried has once again affirmed the support for the Kosovo government position. During the press conference in Prishtina this afternoon, Kosovo President said that Kosovo will stand behind the Joint Action Plan created with the international partners on the implementation of Kosovo independence.
Both Kosovo PM and President reiterated that the 6-point plan is unacceptable and that they "trust in the support that the United States will give to Kosovo, as well as the countries of the European Union."
PM Thaçi thanked Daniel Fried and the role of the government of the United States for supporting stability in the Balkan. Thaçi said that "EULEX should be extended on the whole territory of Kosovo. Kosovo independence was a two-year project of the international community. Kosovo has always found ways with its international partners to get out of situations, which others have created for her," concluded Thaçi referring to Serbia.

State Undersecretary Daniel Fried said that they had common support for EULEX deployment throughout Kosovo. Fried focused on the need to extend EULEX deployment throughout Kosovo and only briefly touched on the six-point plan. "

We agreed and understand the position of the Kosovo government and its mandate from February. We have supported Kosovo for many years. The United States have kept their word to the Kosovo people and will do so on the future. Although I do not represent Europe, Europe will also keep her word."

"The future of Kosovo is in Europe, hopefully as a member of the EU. We hope that EULEX is deployed throughout the territory of Kosovo in a satisfactory manner for Kosovo." Fried said that he brought with him NATO's SAUCER commander to prove his support for Kosovo.

Asked how he saw the solution to the negotiations blockade between Brussels and Prishtina, Fried said that the government of Kosovo has supported the EULEX deployment. "EULEX will be deployed in cooperation with the Government of Kosovo in every step of the way" and promised that he would get involved in the negotiations.

Fried said that "if the reformulation of the six-point plan created between Belgrade and the UN would satisfy Prishtina, he would agree with it, but this is not the case, and the UN should have talked to the sovereign government of Kosovo. EULEX is an ambitious plan and the US is part of this mission. I am convinced that the Kosovo leaders are doing their best," said Fried.

On the earlier statements made by US Ambassador to Prishtina Tina Kaidanow supporting the six-point plan, Fried said that Kaidanow was right, however "ultimately, it is the government that takes decisions. Our agreement remains with the sovereign government of the Republic Kosovo," concluded Fried.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Congratulations! President Barack OBAMA

Barack OBAMA becomes the 44th President of the United States of America. He will be sworn in and assume office on January 20, 2009, hence becoming the first African-American president of this nation's history.

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) -- Sen. Barack Obama spoke at a rally in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois, after winning the race for the White House Tuesday night. The following is an exact transcript of his speech.


Hello, Chicago.

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.

A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Sen. McCain.

Sen. McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.

I congratulate him; I congratulate Gov. Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady Michelle Obama.

Sasha and Malia I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.

And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.

And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe, the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America.

To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.

To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.

It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.

It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.

This is your victory.

And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me.

You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.

There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.

There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.

I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.

That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

John McCain's ties to Montenegro, Dukanovic, and corruption

John McCain has been hammering rival Barack Obama for being little more than a vapid "celebrity" and "elitist." But The Nation has obtained a photo revealing just how star-struck a straight-talking maverick can become when offered the chance to celebrate his birthday aboard a yacht filled with celebrities--even if one of those celebrity types turns out to be an A-list con man.

The photograph substantiates reports that in late August, 2006, McCain celebrated his 70th birthday aboard a yacht, the Celine Ashley, rented by A-list con man Raffaello Follieri and his then-movie star girlfriend Anne Hathaway. In the current edition of Vanity Fair, Michael Schnayerson reported that Follieri rented the Celine Ashley for the month of August 2006.

Montenegro's leading dailynewspaper, Vijesti, earlier reported that during McCain's visit in 2006 he celebrated with birthday cocktails and sweets aboard the Celine Ashley yacht. In the photograph, taken in Montenegro at the end of August, McCain is shown boarding the yacht ramp towards the smiling Follieri and Hathaway. Just ahead of McCain and shaking hands with Follieri appears to be Rick Davis--McCain's top aide and now co-manager of his campaign, who accompanied him on the trip and advised the government of Montenegro.

A few months after McCain's yacht party, Follieri strengthened his ties to McCain's orbit by retaining Rick Davis's well-connected Washington lobbying firm, Davis Manafort, and offering Davis both an investment deal and help in securing the Catholic vote for McCain's presidential bid.

Follieri, who posed as Vatican chief financial officer in order to win friends and investments, pleaded guilty Wednesday in a Manhattan district court to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, eight counts of wire fraud and five counts of money laundering. As part of the plea, Follieri admitted to misappropriating at least $2.4 million of investor money and redirecting it to foreign personal bank accounts that were disguised as business accounts.

Follieri's ties to McCain's orbit have been largely overlooked by the media. Follieri first met McCain when the Arizona Senator visited Montenegro from August 29-31 as part of a Congressional delegation that included Republican senators Lindsay Graham, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Mel Martinez and John Sununu.

[We'll have more on what else McCain was doing in Montenegro in a forthcoming article in the print edition of The Nation.]

What, exactly, was McCain doing aboard Follieri's yacht? Or put another way, was this McCain's 70th birthday wish--to spend an evening floating on the Adriatic with one of Hollywood's top actresses and her smooth-talking Italian beau?

An even bigger mystery is how Follieri's boat came to be docked in Montenegro on McCain's birthday. According to a journalist in Montenegro, the yacht had been anchored there for several days before McCain's arrival, and only sailed away after McCain boarded.

It must not have seemed that way to Follieri. According to the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, in January 2007 Follieri sent Rick Davis a packet of information on his companies Follieri Capital and Follieri Media, apparently hoping to get financing from Pegasus Capital Advisors, a hedge fund in Connecticut that Davis represented. "Follieri's proposal to Davis had two dimensions to it--first, as an investment opportunity for Davis's fund; but secondly, there was the political dimension, in which Follieri offered to help deliver Catholic votes to McCain," said Claudio Gatti, a reporter for Il Sole 24 Ore, who investigated Follieri for eighteen months.

In February 2007, according to a recent article in the New York Daily News, Follieri retained Davis's lobbying firm, Davis Manafort. According to the paper, "on Feb. 27, 2007, Davis Manafort partner Rick Gates signed a confidentiality agreement drafted by the Follieri Group. In the contract...Gates agreed not to disclose any information about Follieri's deal to get Clinton pal Ron Burkle to buy Catholic Church properties." (Gates did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)

Two months later, Burkle sued Follieri, who later repaid the $1.3 million owed to Burkle's Yucaipa Funds. That fall, the Wall Street Journal exposed Follieri's life as a high-society con man. In June of this year, Follieri was finally arrested and charged. Following his guilty plea this week, Follieri now faces up to five years and three months in jail.