Bahrain must address lack of trust in Government says UN rights chief

“The Bahraini authorities need to urgently take confidence-building measures, including unconditionally releasing those who were convicted in military tribunals or are still awaiting trial for merely exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and assembly,” Navi Pillay said in a news release.A team from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) visited the country from 13 to 17 December, at the invitation of the Government, and met with a number of high-level officials, as well as a broad range of civil society members. It also visited a number of detainees in the central Jaw prison in the capital, Manama.“My team has come back with the message that there is a profound lack of trust in the Government, and this mistrust has deepened as a result of the violent crackdown on protesters, destruction of mosques, the lack of fair trials and the lack of progress in providing redress for violations,” said Ms. Pillay.“There are also obvious, and very dangerous, examples of hate speech, including at the level of official media, painting entire communities with the same broad brush. This needs to stop and a process of dialogue, including with leaders from different religious and migrant communities, needs to begin.”Ms. Pillay also noted that thousands of people have lost their jobs for participating in demonstrations, and many students have had their education derailed.“These serious violations of their economic and social rights must be immediately addressed. Those who have been unfairly dismissed should be reinstated to their original functions.”The country was beset by violent clashes between security forces and protesters earlier this year, part of the Arab Spring uprising that has engulfed much of the region and led to the toppling of long-standing regimes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.Ms. Pillay urged the Government to tackle impunity, including for security forces responsible for excessive use of force on peaceful protesters and officers who perpetrated torture.“We continue to receive reports of the repression of small protests in Bahrain and although some security officers have reportedly been arrested, we have yet to see any prosecution of security forces for civilian injuries and deaths,” she said. “Such impunity – at all levels – is a serious impediment to national reconciliation.”Last month an independent inquiry into the alleged rights violations during the clashes found, according to media reports, that Government forces had used excessive force during the crackdown in February and March and had tortured some detainees.The High Commissioner said the inquiry was an important first step in the right direction and welcomed the subsequent acknowledgement by the King of Bahrain that serious human rights violations did occur and need to be addressed.She stressed that it is time for concrete steps to be taken towards redress, reparation and reconciliation, adding that OHCHR is prepared to support the national leadership in meeting its international human rights obligations. This includes implementing relevant recommendations by the inquiry and the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture.“Bahrain has an important opportunity now to strengthen its legal and institutional infrastructure, including an impartial judiciary, for the protection of human rights,” Ms. Pillay stated.“We stand ready to accompany comprehensive national efforts towards the establishment of an open and democratic society, provided that the first critical confidence-building measures are taken,” she added. 21 December 2011The United Nations human rights chief today called on Bahraini authorities to address the “deepening mistrust” between the Government and civil society, including by releasing those detained for participating in peaceful protests. read more

US factory orders fell 34 per cent in December in fifth straight

by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Feb 3, 2015 8:06 am MDT US factory orders fell 3.4 per cent in December in fifth straight monthly decline AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email In this Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 photo, a worker kneels on an engine of a Boeing 737-800 airplane being assembled, at Boeing’s 737 facility in Renton, Wash. The Commerce Department reports on U.S. factory orders for December, on Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) WASHINGTON – Orders to U.S. factories dropped for a fifth consecutive month in December, while a key category that signals business investment plans fell for a fourth straight month.Factory orders declined 3.4 per cent in December after a 1.7 per cent drop in November, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. It was the biggest drop since a 10 per cent plunge in August and marked the fifth straight month that orders have fallen.Demand in a key category that serves as a proxy for business investment plans edged down 0.1 per cent after bigger declines in the previous three months.The stronger U.S. dollar and global weakness have hurt American exports, but economists are still optimistic that surging domestic demand will result in a rebound in factory orders this year.Jennifer Lee, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets, said that while the 3.4 per cent drop in overall orders was bigger than expected, much of the weakness reflected falling oil prices, which lowered orders for nondurable goods. She also noted that the slip in business investment was a smaller decline than the initial estimate of a 0.6 per cent drop in this category.The weakness in December was led by a 55.5 per cent plunge in demand in the volatile category of commercial aircraft. Demand for autos was up 1.1 per cent, and the overall transportation category fell 9.1 per cent.Orders for all durable goods fell 3.3 per cent, a slight revision from a preliminary report last week which had durable goods falling 3.4 per cent in December.Demand for nondurable goods such as paper, chemicals and food fell 3.4 per cent in December after a 1.2 per cent decline in November.Many categories showed weakness in December with demand for primary metals such as steel down 1.9 per cent, while orders for machinery dropped 3.2 per cent. In the machinery category, orders for oil drilling equipment were down 7.9 per cent, a decline that may reflect the big plunge in recent months in oil prices. Various oil companies have reported plans to cut back on exploration.The government reported that the overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, grew by at a moderate 2.6 per cent annual rate in the October-December quarter, a sharp slowdown from 5 per cent growth in the third quarter.Economists believe that the slowdown will be temporary, and growth will accelerate this year as consumer spending remains strong, reflecting solid hiring and a big drop in gas prices which is giving households more money to spend on other items.The hope is that the gain in consumer spending will be enough to offset a drag from the global economy, reflecting spreading weakness in many key export markets and a rising value of the dollar, which makes U.S. goods less competitive overseas.The expectation now is that the overall U.S. economy will grow at a rate above 3 per cent for all of 2015, given the country the best annual growth in a decade.Factory production in November surpassed its pre-recession peak, according to data from the Federal Reserve, helped by healthy gains at auto plants. read more