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23-Jun-11 World View — State Dept. Issues Travel Warning For Gaza


This morning’s key headlines from

Uncharacteristic silence of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez raising questions

Hugo Chávez speaks to Fidel Castro in Cuba (AFP)
Hugo Chávez speaks to Fidel Castro in Cuba (AFP)

Speculation is rampant that Hugo Chávez is much more seriously ill than admitted, and that there’s a power vacuum in Venezuela, since June 10, when Chávez was admitted to a hospital in Cuba for hip surgery. Normally he’s on television all the time, giving length speeches, sending tweets to his twitter account. But in the last few weeks, he’s been little seen except in a few photographs like the one on the right. Guardian

State Dept. issues travel warning for Gaza

The U.S. State Dept. is strongly urging all U.S. citizens to refrain from all travel to the Gaza Strip, in view of the “Freedom Flotilla II” headed to Gaza with the objective of breaking Israel’s sea blockcaded. According to the warning,

“The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strictly controls the crossing points between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. The Government of Israel has announced its intention to seek ten-year travel bans to Israel for anyone participating in an attempt to enter Gaza by sea. On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem are not able to provide consular assistance in Gaza or on the high seas or coastal waters.”

U.S. State Dept.

Greece’s cabinet approve an austerity budget

A few hours after surviving a confidence vote in the Parliament ( “22-Jun-11 News — Greece’s Papandreou wins anti-climactic vote of confidence”), the cabinet of Prime Minister George Papandreou approved a 2012-2015 austerity plan, as well as laws for its application. However, this vote was anti-climactic as the previous vote, because it changed nothing. The austerity plan is only a paper document until it’s passed by the Parliament, with a vote currently scheduled for Tuesday. As we’ve pointed out, despite numerous meetings and announcements, the Europeans and Greeks have postponed every real financial decision for months. With bankruptcy facing Greece as early as July 15, EU politicians will now have to accomplish in a few days what they couldn’t accomplish in months of haggling. Telegraph

There is considerable opposition to the proposed austerity program. According to Alexis Tsipras of the Left Coalition, “This is not a program to salvage the economy, it’s a program for pillage before bankruptcy.” The logic is that there’s no point in following an austerity program, if you’re going to go bankrupt anyway. BBC

China warns U.S. to stay out of South China Sea dispute

China warned the U.S. on Wednesday to stay out of disputes in the South China Sea. “If the United States does want to play a role, it may counsel restraint to those countries that have frequently been taking provocative action and ask them to be more responsible in their behavior. I believe that individual countries are actually playing with fire, and I hope that fire will not be drawn to the United States.” AP

Bahrain prison sentences infuriate Shia majority

The sentencing of 21 men to prison terms ranging from two years to life has sent waves of anger through the majority Shia community in Bahrain. Family members say that they were tortured, denied legal representation, and are now being given harsh sentences to silence them. BBC

Syrian security forces murder students after Assad promised reform

Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad gave a speech on Monday at Damascus University where he promised reforms. But some students refused to participate in pro-regime ralles. And so, security forces launched a raid at Damascus University late Tuesday, killing and beating dozens of students. LA Times

Postal Service to stop making pension payments

The U.S. Postal Service, which is facing bankruptcy in September, announced on Wednesday that it stop paying employer contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System. The $115 million payment, made every other week, will stop on June 24. Bloomberg


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