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 51 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:24 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
New Age leader sues ex-students over leaked video of her drunken racist anti-gay rant

By Tom Boggioni
RawStory
Monday, July 21, 2014 14:58 EDT

The leader of a New Age consciousness and enlightenment school, who channels the voice of a 35,000-year-old Lemurian warrior when speaking to her followers, is suing two former students after they posted a drunken rant by her saying Jews have enough money to “have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” and Mexicans breed “like rabbits,” among other slurs.

The 'spiritual clown' called JZ Knight, a 65-year-old former rodeo queen and cable TV saleswoman who heads the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (RSE) in Yelm, Washington, is suing ex-students Virginia Coverdale and David McCarthy for uploading live-streamed video from a 2011 Ramtha ’channeling’ that turned into a drunken bigoted diatribe, according to Susy Buchanan of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“Fuck God’s chosen people! I think they have earned enough cash to have paid their way out of the goddamned gas chambers by now,” Knight told her students in the released video. Knight explained “I’m telling you this, every goddamn Mexican family is a Catholic—they’re breeding like fucking rabbits,”  before adding that “all gay men were once Catholic women.”

Knight delivered her speech while students followed her in a drinking game, taking a drink of wine every time she did. Wine ceremonies have been a ritual at RSE since 1996, where students are taught to believe that wine grapes were brought to Earth by extraterrestrials 450,000 years ago.

JZ Knight, born Judith Darlene Hampton in 1946 in Roswell, New Mexico., encountered Ramtha the warrior in 1977 while experimenting with construction paper pyramids. According to her biography, she placed a pyramid on her head and Ramtha, a 7-foot-tall apparition of golden glitter clad in a purple robe, appeared in her kitchen.

“I am Ramtha the Enlightened One. I have come to help you over the ditch,” he told her.

Beginning in 1979, JZ (short for Judith Zebra, no periods needed) began channeling Ramtha at workshops and retreats called “Ramtha Dialogues.”

Early students included Shirley MacLaine (who broke off contact with Knight 30 years ago, according to a spokesperson for the actress), and actors Richard Chamberlain and Mike Farrell. According to RSE officials, actresses Salma Hayek and former “Dynasty” star Linda Evans are current students.

Knight has grown wealthy over the years, purchasing the ranch in Yelm where the school is located. According to RSE, the land was once part of ancient Lemuria during Ramtha’s lifetime, before he migrated to Atlantis and freed his people from tyranny at the age of 14. Ramtha then went on to conquer two-thirds of the world at the head of an army of 2.5 million, before spending seven years meditating and then ascending like Jesus.

According to Knight’s Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based PR firm, “Since the school was founded in 1989, more than 86,000 people worldwide have attended RSE events including about 7,500 in Washington State.” Approximately 2,000 students live near Yelm, a town with a population of close to 7,000.

At the school, students are taught the four tenets of Ramtha’s philosophy: the statement, ‘You are god’; the mandate to make known the unknown; the concept that consciousness and energy create the nature of reality; and the challenge to conquer yourself.

Knight also teaches students to hoard gold and prepare food and supplies to survive for two years following one of the natural disasters that she often predicts will hit the earth. Knight, as Ramtha, is also a believer in the “New World Order” making her a favorite of white nationalist website Stormfront, which lists her writings under headings such as “Jews were responsible for causing WW1 & 2.”

Recently followers have become disenchanted with Knight’s drunken rambling, feeling this is not the enlightenment they are seeking.

In the 16-hour video released by the ex-students, a drunken Knight proclaims, “Fuck Jehovah,” in Ramtha’s voice, before claiming Jesus as a fellow alien who came to Earth to teach the same basic philosophy.

From the same stage, an acolyte of Knight’s, former priest Míceál Ledwith, calls the biblical God “fickle, capricious, psychotic, neurotic, and insecure, and we are supposed to believe that he is the creator God.”

Knight adds that God is a “psychotic, insecure son of a bitch,” before dancing onstage with Ledwith.

Former student Coverdale, currently appealing a $600,000 judgement against her from Knight and RSE, said “Although admittedly, as a rule, the cult does not have as one of its ideologies hating Mexicans or Jewish people or gay people or Catholics, JZ Knight herself is proving she does as her [drinking] increases and she is unable to keep up the love act she had going in the ’80s. It is beyond hate speech.”

“In America, there are many First Amendment rights I agree with, even if I disagree with what is being said. Where I get concerned is when you have a large group of people that believe they are hearing from a powerful enlightened entity, creating an ‘us versus them’ situation,” she added.

For her part, Knight maintains the videos were heavily edited, saying ““Those tapes were illegal from the get-go, and that they were distributed, edited and chopped to make us look like bigots and hateful people when nothing could be further from the truth, nothing! I will not let other people rewrite our history!”

The video continues to keep popping up on the Internet, despite efforts by  Knight’s attorneys to have it removed on copyright grounds.

 52 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:18 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
700 million women were married as children, with one-in-three before their 15th birthday

By Alexandra Topping, The Guardian
Monday, July 21, 2014 22:49 EDT

Girl Summit tackles female genital mutilation and child marriage, as UNICEF warns 280 million girls could be brides before 18

More than 700 million women worldwide were married as children, with one in three of them married before their 15th birthday, according to a global prevalence study.

As activists, politicians and campaigners gather for the first Girl Summit on child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), a report by Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency, reveal the devastating situation of millions of women.

The study, the first of its kind, also reveals that more than 130 million girls and women have experienced some form of FGM, and states that urgent efforts are needed to tackle gender inequality or the number will not reduce. If the current decline in FGM continues at the same rate, more than 63 million more girls could be cut by 2050.

About a third of child brides live in India, according to Unicef. If nothing more is done to end the practice, the number of married girls could increase to more than 1 billion by 2050. Population estimates suggest the number could leap from 700 million to 950 million by 2030 and 1.2 billion by 2050. At least 280 million girls are at risk of becoming brides by the time they turn 18.

The Girl Summit, hosted by the UK government and Unicef, will attempt to mobilise international efforts to end FGM and child marriage within a generation. David Cameron, the prime minister, will warn parents that they will be prosecuted if they fail to prevent their daughter being cut, and that all victims of female genital mutilation will be given lifelong anonymity.

“All girls have the right to live free from violence and coercion, without being forced into marriage or the lifelong physical and psychological effects of female genital mutilation,” Cameron will say. “Abhorrent practices like these, no matter how deeply rooted in societies, violate the rights of girls and women across the world, including here in the UK.”

The prevalence of child marriage has fallen slightly over the past 30 years, but a global population boom in countries where the practices are common means just as many girls are being pushed into harmful situations.

World leaders and campaigners must step up efforts to break the cycle of oppression, said Unicef’s executive director, Anthony Lake. “Let’s not forget that these numbers represent real lives. While these are problems of a global scale, the solutions must be local, driven by communities, families and girls themselves to change mindsets and break the cycles that perpetuate FGM/C and child marriage,” he said. “We can’t let the staggering numbers numb us – they must compel us to act.”

Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old mother of three who leads the Guardian’s campaign against FGM in the US, was subjected to the most severe form of FGM as a child in the Gambia before being forced into an arranged marriage at 15.

“When I met my husband I wasn’t ready to get married; it wasn’t something that I wanted. I was very, very scared, I was angry, I was sad,” she said. After flying alone to the US the teenager had to have surgery so that her husband could have sex with her. She was told she had to have sexual intercourse that same day.

“When I had to be reopened, and this happened in America, it was like I went through FGM all over again,” she said. “When I talk about FGM, it’s not about me, it’s about the little girls out there. I have a daughter. And I know what this has done to me, and I don’t want it to happen to her.”

Despite fears that millions more women will have FGM for cultural reasons, there has been significant progress around the issue, with a shift in attitudes beginning to take hold, according to the report.

Overall, the chance that a girl will be cut today is about a third lower than it was over the past 30 or so years. Rates in Kenya and Tanzania have dropped to a third of their levels three decades ago, mainly because of a combination of community activism and legislation. In the Central African Republic, Iraq, Liberia and Nigeria, prevalence has dropped by up to half.

FGM, which is carried out on girls in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, involves the removal of external genitalia. Some victims have the clitoris and labia removed before they are sewn up, leaving only a small hole for menstruation and urine. The cultural practice, designed to ensure girls’ virginity, can lead to excessive bleeding, infection, infertility and death.

Girls who marry under 18 are less likely to remain in school, and more likely to suffer domestic violence and die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2014

 53 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:17 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
President Daniel Ortega calls attack on supporters in Nicaragua a ‘massacre’

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:59 EDT

President Daniel Ortega on Monday slammed as a “massacre” an attack on his political supporters that killed five people and left 28 more hurt.

“This was a genuine massacre, one that has been condemned by the nation,” the leftist president said at a memorial for the dead at a convention center, carried on state and pro-government media.

Unidentified assailants opened fire late Saturday, in Matagalpa department, on buses bringing supporters back from a party in Managua to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the 1979 revolution.

The civilian Sandinista party supporters “were ambushed on a highway with rifles (by men) who fired on buses bringing some of the families that had come (to the capital area) for the event,” Ortega added.

“These are expressions of rancor, of hatred. … They are a minority, but they are there, latent and suddenly crop up in abominable deeds like these,” the president said.

On Saturday, thousands of supporters gathered at the Plaza La Fe, north of Managua, to celebrate the Sandinista rebel victory in 1979 over the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, whose family had run Nicaragua like their own estate since 1936.

The most prominent guest was Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whose oil-rich nation provides millions of dollars in aid to impoverished Nicaragua.

Ortega, now 68, was one of the rebel Sandinista leaders that toppled Somoza. He was Nicaragua’s leader from 1979-1990, and returned to power in 2007.

 54 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:16 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Ethiopia's child brides see marriage as key to jobs abroad, says thinktank

On eve of Girl Summit, ODI reveals trend of girls entering early marriages followed by swift divorces to migrate for family's sake

David Smith in Hara, Ethiopia   
The Guardian, Monday 21 July 2014 12.44 BST   
   
Up a bumpy, winding dirt track in the mountains of northern Ethiopia, past two bulls chewing pasture and a rondavel built from sticks and cow dung, is the modest home of Lubaba Abdella, its mudbrick walls reinforced by eucalyptus bark and topped by a corrugated roof.

Abdella has lived a lifetime, yet she is still in her teens. She dropped out of school, married, divorced three months later and emigrated illegally so she could cook and clean for a family in Saudi Arabia, earning money to support her parents and eight siblings. Now she is home and back to square one.

Three-quarters of girls in the Ethiopian region of Amhara become child brides like Abdella, according to the London-based Overseas Development Institute. Many also join the so-called "maid trade": up to 1,500 girls and women leave the east African country each day to become domestic workers in the Middle East. A study has shown for the first time how these pernicious trends feed off each other.

In Ethiopia's Muslim communities it is often deeply shameful or "sinful" for girls to remain unmarried after they begin menstruating, notes the ODI. But once girls are married and sexually initiated, parents consider their social and religious obligations complete.

The thinktank's researchers in Amhara found it was therefore becoming common for parents to insist on marriage followed by a swift divorce so that their daughter was free to migrate and send her earnings home to her parents, rather than her husband. The fact a girl had already been "deflowered" meant she was seen as less likely to be disgraced by foreign men. "It's a question of virtue and virginity," one local researcher said. "Better to lose it in a dignified way."

The findings are being released before the first Girl Summit, hosted by the British government and Unicef on Tuesday with the aim of ending female genital mutilation and child marriage within a generation. The ODI will warn that parents who see their daughters as commodities are pushing record numbers of girls into abusive early marriages. Some 39,000 child brides marry every day – 14 million a year – often against their will. Amhara has Ethiopia's lowest average marriage age – 14.7 years – and one of its highest illiteracy rates.

Abdella, now 19, illustrates the constrained choices and warped pragmatism that many here face. She was 16 when she dropped out of school for an arranged marriage to a 22-year-old. It lasted only three months. "He used to hit her," said Abdella's mother, Zeyneba Seid. "They didn't like each other so divorce was inevitable."

It was hastened when Abdella's husband wanted to seek work abroad. Speaking Amharic through an interpreter, she recalled: "If a man migrates alone to the Middle East, he will cheat on you. But it's difficult to migrate with your husband and still support your family. That's why I wanted a divorce."

Nevertheless, Abdella believed even her short-lived marriage would be an advantage overseas. "I was told I'm young and it's better if I know what marriage is before migrating. People in the Middle East might force us to sleep with them. If a girl has been married and goes to Saudi and is raped, it's not as bad as for one who's single. If she's single and bears a child, it's really difficult to come back here. But if she's been married, it's OK."

The ODI found that some girls also choose to migrate, against their parents' wishes, out of a sense of filial piety that tends to be weaker in boys. Abdella says it was her own decision because her family was in poverty, farming just one hectare of land. Notably she has an elder brother who is still at school. "He was asked to migrate but he wanted to continue his education, so I had to go and earn. I wanted my family to be better off."

For the residents of Hara, a remote mountain village where the air fills with birdsong, cocks crowing and the Muslim call to prayer, and the streets with Bajajs (motorised three-wheeled rickshaws), camels and boys herding goats, Saudi Arabia offers an alluring promise of riches just as America once did to Europe's huddled masses. The results can be seen in a series of neat concrete houses with colourful paintwork, barred windows and a sprinkling of satellite dishes that have sprung up in the past five years, funded by wages from the east. Owning a corrugated roof is a status symbol here. For those still living in older houses made from mud and thatch there is the perpetual struggle of keeping up with the Joneses.

"Seeing the houses that were built makes you wish you'd migrated," said Abdella, who sleeps with her family on the floor of two cramped rooms. "We have a lot of needs: clothes, shoes. Most of the time we cannot afford them, whereas people in Saudi had money."

It is now illegal under Ethiopian law for anyone under 18 to migrate to work but Abdella, like thousands of others, got a passport by using a fake ID and telling the authorities she was 27. The entire process cost 15,000 birr (£445). She cooked, cleaned and washed clothes for a Saudi couple and their three children and was paid 800 riyals (£125) a month, paying off the debt and earning enough for her family to be connected to electricity and water and cover food bills.

The job came to an end after 20 months when Saudi Arabia carried out a mass deportation of illegal foreign workers. "I'm doing nothing at the moment," sighed Abdella as two chickens scampered across the house's dirt floor. "Seeing my family suffering here, I don't want to remarry, I just want to support my family. I want to go back to the Middle East. There's no other option because the wage is really low here.

"My younger sister, who's 15, is planning to go. I advise her to because she can earn more and do whatever she wants. But she would have to marry first – it's our custom."

The pattern of marriage and divorce is becoming increasingly common. Aesha Mohammed, 16, recently married a man six years her senior, only to divorce after two months because she refused to quit school. Her elder sister also married and divorced, then migrated to work in Saudi Arabia. Mohammed, who wants to become a doctor, said: "Sometimes when I joke with her, 'I want to drop out of school and come to Saudi', she says no, stay in school because it's hard there. There is a lot of work and it's a burden."

The journey to get there can also be treacherous. For some it involves more than a week on foot to Djibouti, then a six-hour boat ride to Yemen after dark, followed by 15 to 20 days travelling by road to Saudi Arabia. Habtam Yiman, 24, who married aged 12 and has married twice since, said she was detained in Yemen because officials did not believe she had a sponsor. "They check your blood type and take some of it for the hospital," she said. "I saw a man whose blood was completely drained out of him and he was left to die."

Yet still thousands are pouring in for the sake of their families. The ODI, which hosted a field visit by the Guardian last week, reports that some girls go because they "feel inferiority" and have been "seduced by the glamorous stories" told by illegal brokers. The fate that awaits them can include overwork, non-payment, social isolation and abuse.

When Zemzem Damene set off to work in Kuwait, she was a normal girl who wanted to earn money and be like her friends. Today she is confused, withdrawn and virtually mute, a stranger to her own family. Something happened to Damene in Kuwait and no one knows exactly what.

As the 20-year-old peered nervously from under her veil and picked at her hand, her mother, Engocha Sete, recalled: "She wanted to go and I couldn't stop her. She said her friends went to the Middle East and brought home shiny objects. She wanted that and she had to have what she wished for."

Her father, Damene Alemu, added: "I was sad she wanted to go. I asked her to marry here but she said: 'You don't have a lot of money to marry me off, it's not logical.' Marriage is an expensive thing for the father, with buying clothes, organising a party, paying two months of utilities. She said it's best that she go off to the Middle East."

But the plan backfired and Damene lost more money than she made, forcing the family to sell cattle. According to Alemu, his daughter's first employer took all the money she had and even the clothes she brought from home, and that was the start of her decline. "She went to a hospital in Addis Ababa but they didn't tell us what the problem was, only that it's a mental illness."

Damene's mother added pensively: "She doesn't do anything now. She doesn't speak much. Most of the time she sleeps. Now she's sick, there's nobody wants to marry her. If she gets better, we'd like her to get married. But because she's lost so much, the only thing she talks about is money."

 55 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:09 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Nigeria President Meets Relatives of Schoolgirls Held Hostage

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 14:45

Relatives of the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram 100 days ago met with President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday for the first time since the girls were seized.

The much anticipated meeting comes amid reports of a worsening security crisis in the northeast, where Islamists have occupied the town of Damboa and surrounding areas, with the military so far unable to chase them out.

The girls were kidnapped from a secondary school in Chibok in the northeast on April 14 and carted away in a convoy of trucks. Of the 276 girls seized in the night-time raid, 219 are still missing.

Jonathan's handling of the hostage crisis has been fiercely criticized, including his failure to visit Chibok to console parents whose daughters are among the hostages.

His office tried to organize a meeting in the capital last week with a small group of the affected families, after he was urged to do so by the Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, who survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2012, was in Abuja on her 17th birthday to campaign for the girls' release.

The families balked at the invite, saying that if Jonathan was unwilling to travel to Chibok, he should bring all of the relatives to his office to meet with them as a group.

An AFP reporter said a delegation of more than 150 people from Chibok met Jonathan, Senate President David Mark and Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno state, the epicenter of the Boko Haram uprising.

Aside from parents of the hostages, the delegation includes some of the 57 girls who escaped their Islamist captors as well as Chibok community leaders, a source at the presidency said on condition of anonymity.

After a brief prayer delivered in front of the media, the group entered closed door talks.

Ayuba Chibok, who has two nieces among the hostages, told AFP that the government chartered a plane from Yola in the northeast to fly to the group to the capital on Monday.

The hostages' plight attracted worldwide attention following the social media and protest campaign called Bring Back Our Girls, which was backed by prominent personalities ranging from US First Lady Michelle Obama to the actress Angelina Jolie.

Western powers, including the U.S., have offered logistical and military support to Nigeria's rescue effort, but there have been few signs of progress so far, despite assurances from officials that the crisis would soon be resolved.

Boko Haram, blamed for killing more than 10,000 people in a five-year insurgency, has rampaged across parts of Borno in recent days with little resistance from the military.

An attack that began on Thursday and continued through the weekend displaced more than 15,000 people and is believed to have killed scores in the town of Damboa.

"The insurgents are still in control of Damboa," said Kabiru Ali, a member of the vigilante force in the town who was forced to flee by the Islamist onslaught. They have "hoisted their flags," he added.

There are reports that the Islamists have in some areas sought to establish themselves as the local authority, but the picture remains unclear with terrible phone reception in many of the affected areas.

The military assured it that it soon flush out the extremists.

"We are not conceding any portion of this country to any terrorist group," defense spokesman Chris Olukolade said.

 56 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:08 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
South Sudan Rebel Bid for Uganda Troop Pull out Fails

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 14:18

South Sudanese rebels who traveled to Uganda pleading for Kampala to pull troops out of the war-torn nation left without meeting officials, the foreign minister said Tuesday.

Ugandan troops are in South Sudan backing government forces, and their withdrawal is a key demand of the rebels.

"They never communicated they were coming, they just arrived," Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem told AFP, who said the team had arrived on Monday and then left.

"That's not the way we do things here, if a foreign delegation is visiting, they communicate."

More than seven months of war has left thousands dead and displaced 1.5 million people, and aid agencies are warning of famine if fighting continues.

Fighting broke out mid-December between government forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, rebel leader Riek Machar.

"Uganda is a warring party in the conflict, so it is important to include them in the mediation efforts," rebel spokesman Mabior Garang said, confirming the delegation had since returned to Ethiopia.

But he said the rebels were not treating the failed talks as a snub.

"There was a mix-up in communication, it is not the end," Garang said.

Rebel chief Machar has in the past accused Ugandan fighter jets of trying to bomb him.

Stalled peace talks in Ethiopia are being mediated by the regional East African IGAD-bloc, of which Ugandan is a key member.

"It does not bother us," Oryem added. "It is in their interest to talk to us, not us."

Rebel forces on Sunday launched their largest offensive since an oft-broken May truce, attacking their former headquarters in Nasir. Both government and rebels insist they control the small town.

 57 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Cameroon Villagers Live in Terror of Nigeria's Boko Haram

by Naharnet Newsdesk
22 July 2014, 07:15

In the villages that line the border with Nigeria, even those charged with protecting Cameroonians from Boko Haram fighters fear the fall of darkness.

"When night falls, we tremble. We don't sleep," said a Cameroonian policeman from a far-northern border town, on condition of anonymity.

The Nigeria-born Islamist group has stepped up raids into northern Cameroon in recent days, murdering and stealing with impunity despite military efforts to clamp down on their bloody insurgency.

On Sunday local police said one of their officers was killed during an attack on the village of Nariki, 500 metres from Boko Haram's Nigerian stronghold of Tarmoa, adding to scores of deaths from raids on local towns this month.

The militants have long used Cameroon to launch attacks on Nigeria as the border between them is extremely porous, with no buffer-zone clearly separating the two countries.

Earlier this month they stole a pick-up truck and weapons in a raid on a police post in Bomberi, Cameroon, only to abandon it on Nigerian territory where it was found by troops days later, said another Cameroon police officer.

Weapons and goods cross the border freely too: the remote northern Cameroon town of Amchide has become a hotbed for Boko Haram fighters and a hub for trafficking to finance their recruitment.

Cameroon, like other west African countries, has beefed up its operations against Boko Haram since the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls three months ago sparked an international outcry.

The army claims to have killed many militants in recent weeks and suspected members and collaborators have been arrested and sent to the capital, Yaounde.

Cameroon's elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) recently destroyed one Boko Haram camp during a foray across the border into Tarmoa, said the second officer.

Supported by international governments, they have also targeted the Sambisa forest near the shared border where Nigerian authorities believe the kidnapped schoolgirls may still be hidden in the militants' camps.

- Constant threat -

But Cameroon's efforts have done little to stem Boko Haram's bloody five-year insurgency or stop almost daily attacks that have left local communities living in constant fear.

"Boko Haram is disorganised because of joint operations by the Cameroonian and Nigerian armed forces, but its activists carry out attacks here and there in Cameroon," the second officer said.

The first policeman said the insurgents can easily escape as "they know very well" where the Cameroonian troops are located.

The Islamist group, blamed for slaughtering more than 2,000 civilians already this year, has increasingly targeted remote border communities, razing entire villages.

Two Cameroonian shepherds were killed and 200 cattle stolen by militants on July 10 during a raid in the village of Bame, less than 10 kilometers (six miles) from the Nigerian border, said the first police officer.

And suspected Boko Haram fighters kidnapped a 20-year-old Cameroonian earlier this month from the village of Balgaram after an attack was foiled by the army.

Senior local figures are also being intimidated to stop them from helping the government against Boko Haram.

In Limani, which lies in the flashpoint zone between Nigeria's Tarmoa and Amchide in Cameroon, militants kidnapped the sons of a traditional chief who has been a go-between for the group.

"They were intimidating the father," said the second police officer. "He's a go-between for Boko Haram, which suspects him of collaborating with Cameroonian forces."

A lack of coordination by military forces -- particularly between Nigeria and Cameroon -- has hampered the efforts to stop the insurgents.

That was made clear during a botched attempt to rescue 10 Chinese road workers who were kidnapped in May.

A negotiator was hurt when a team of Cameroonians sent to bring back the workers in early July was fired on by the Nigerian army, which was unaware of their operation, said the second officer.

"There is currently a tacit agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon to let soldiers from both countries cross the border either way during actions against Boko Haram," he added.

But officially, the Yaounde government does not allow any right of pursuit by Nigerian forces on its territory.

 58 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 07:04 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Israel hits hundreds of targets in Gaza as soldier is confirmed missing

• Israeli soldier captured during intense battle in Shujai'iya
• Palestinian death toll nears 600, with 27 Israeli soldiers killed
• John Kerry to meet UN chief and Egyptian mediators in Cairo

Follow all the live developments here

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, Peter Beaumont in Gaza City, and Ian Black   
theguardian.com, Tuesday 22 July 2014 12.00 BST   

Israel continued to pound Gaza overnight, including hitting 100 targets in Shujai'iya, the scene of the most intense fighting of the conflict, as the Israeli military confirmed that one of its soldiers was missing.

Hamas claimed on Sunday that it had captured an Israeli soldier during the intense battle in Shujai'iya.

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) named the missing soldier as Sergeant Oron Shaul, 21, a combat soldier of the Golani brigade.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad reportedly agreed to a five-hour pause in the fighting. However, Haaretz quoted senior Israeli officials as saying a humanitarian ceasefire was "not on our agenda right now".

As diplomatic efforts to broker a halt to the conflict continued in Egypt, the Israeli military said its forces had struck almost 3,000 targets in Gaza over the past two weeks – almost half since the start of the ground offensive four days ago.

Twenty-seven soldiers have been killed in fighting, the IDF said in a statement. The Palestinian death toll in Gaza was climbing steadily towards 600, a third of whom are children, according to the UN children's agency Unicef.

As the fighting continued, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, was due to meet the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and Egyptian mediators in Cairo. Barack Obama said on Monday that Kerry had been authorised to do "everything he can to help facilitate a cessation of hostilities", in a sign that international diplomacy had been galvanised by the weekend carnage in Shujai'iya.

Kerry described Israel's military offensive as an "appropriate and legitimate effort" to defend itself but added that the consequences were of deep concern.

He pledged that the US would provide $47m (£28m) in humanitarian aid to help Palestinians. He said: "Only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence."

Seven people, including four women from one family, were killed in an air strike early on Tuesday, according to Gaza paramedics.

On Monday, 25 members of the Abu Jame' family were killed when Israeli forces struck a house near Khan Younis, apparently without warning, the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem said. A Hamas militant was also killed.

The dead included 18 children and five women, three of whom were pregnant. The family was eating iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

B'Tselem called for an immediate ceasefire, saying: "Horrific developments in Gaza have reached intolerable heights: Israel is bombing houses with people in them, entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. Hundreds have been killed so far, dozens in the last 24 hours only, many of them women and children. The number of refugees is rising: tens of thousands of people have nowhere to go and no safe haven."

Ten Israeli human rights organisations have written to the attorney general to raise concerns about grave violations of international law in the conflict. They questioned the legality of Sunday's operation in Shujai'iya, "in particular, the potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians".

Israeli officials continued to say that Hamas was using civilians as human shields, and it was giving warnings to residents of air strikes.

A senior officer said there had been a significant decline in rocket fire from Gaza over the past few days, and that the scope of the rocket fire had decreased by 30% since the beginning of the ground operation.

In Cairo, Ban held talks on Monday with the Egyptian president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, and the head of the Arab League.

Egypt's proximity to Gaza, its peace treaty with Israel and good relations with the western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have made it the focus of attempts to defuse the crisis, though its relations with Hamas – which it sees as an offshoot of the banned Muslim Brotherhood – are hostile.

Hamas rejected Cairo's original ceasefire proposal last week, though a senior official said Egypt might be willing to alter its stance.

"Egypt does not mind adding some of Hamas's conditions provided that all involved parties approve," the official told Reuters. Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza, an end to hostilities, opening the border to Egypt, the release of prisoners held by Israel and other conditions in exchange for a truce.

Ismail Haniyeh, the former Hamas prime minister, claimed that Israeli forces were being beaten in Gaza. "The Palestinian resistance will meet the demands and expectations of the Palestinian people," he said on Monday evening, adding that Hamas's conditions were "the minimum demands" for any truce.

"Our people's sacrifices are heading for triumph," he said in a pre-recorded TV broadcast. "We see the al-Qassam Brigades and the Jerusalem Brigades and all resistance factions beating the enemy and attack him again and again, under the earth and sea. The ground operation is a declaration of failure on the part of the enemy aerial war against Gaza."

 59 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:59 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis Shows

By C. J. CHIVERS
JULY 21, 2014
NYT

A piece of wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 that was shot down in eastern Ukraine last week bears telltale marks of small pieces of high-velocity shrapnel that apparently crippled the jet in flight. Riddled with these perforations and buffeted by a blast wave as it flew high above the conflict zone, the plane then most likely sheared apart.

The wreckage, photographed by two reporters for The New York Times in a field several miles from where the largest concentration of the Boeing’s debris settled, suggests that the destruction of the aircraft was caused by a supersonic missile that apparently exploded near the jet as it flew 33,000 feet above the ground, according to an analysis of the photographs by IHS Jane’s, the defense consultancy.   

The damage, including the shrapnel holes and blistered paint on a panel of the destroyed plane’s exterior, is consistent with the effects of a fragmenting warhead carried by an SA-11 missile, known in Russian as a Buk, the type of missile that American officials have said was the probable culprit in the downing of the plane.

It is impossible from these photographs of the damaged plane to determine what specific model of missile was used. But the SA-11 is a member of a class of weapon that carries a fragmenting warhead with a proximity fuze. If a missile like that functioned as designed, it would cause damage like that evident in the debris of Flight 17.

“The perforation holes that are visible indicate that they are consistent with a foreign object entering from the exterior of the aircraft to the interior of the aircraft, given the contour of the aluminum around a majority of the perforations as well as the visible blistering of the paint around some of the holes themselves,” Reed Foster, an analyst at IHS Jane’s, wrote in an assessment provided to The Times.

He added: “Most of the smaller holes look to be caused by a high-velocity projectile, as opposed to simple shearing or tearing caused by the forceful separation of the panel from the airframe.”

Mr. Foster also noted that the shrapnel damage was different from what he would expect after an aircraft engine explosion, which could cause “longer, thinner, oblique tears across the aircraft skin.”

His observations were consistent with the profile of surface-to-air antiaircraft missiles designed to destroy fast-moving military aircraft at high elevations.

Rather than striking an aircraft directly, missiles in this class fly a course that is designed to intercept the targeted aircraft and explode beneath it, creating a cloud of shrapnel.

At the end of the missiles’ flight, they act “more like a shotgun than a rifle,” Mr. Foster said, adding: “one is attempting to put as many consistently sized, low-drag fragments into the airframe as possible.”

Based on the capabilities of an SA-11, when pitted against a civilian passenger jet, which has no defenses against an incoming missile, the results would be devastating.

The SA-11 is large and far-reaching: Roughly 18 feet long and 1,500 pounds before launch, according to an American ordnance document, its missiles can travel tens of thousands of feet into the air. Much of each missile’s weight is taken up by the fuel required to propel the weapon to supersonic speeds, and to give it its altitude and range.

But behind each missile’s antenna and guidance system is a warhead packed with 46 pounds of high explosive.

Standard military hand grenades often contain two to seven ounces of explosive, depending on the model. Variants of 155-millimeter artillery shells often hold a little more than 20 pounds of explosives.

The explosive fill of an SA-11 is encased in a double sleeve of molded aluminum that has been preformed into a diamond-patterned grid, Mr. Foster said.

After the burnout of motors, the missile, which would then weigh about 800 pounds, would approach the targeted aircraft and a proximity fuze would detonate its warhead, causing its sleeves to shatter into diamond-shaped bits about the size of a quarter. Depending on the model, the standoff for the blast might be 30 to 100 meters, Mr. Foster said, or about 100 to 300 feet.

This design was intended by Soviet and Russian engineers to ensure hits against smaller, faster and highly maneuverable Western military aircraft, including fighter and attack jets. That way, even if the targeted aircraft eluded the missile or the direct effects of its blast wave, a piece of shrapnel from the cloud might be enough to damage an engine or sever fuel and hydraulic lines.

A large passenger jet flying at a consistent speed and an unchanging course would be a target of an entirely different sort than a fighter jet, and could be expected to be hit by the blast and a large load of the shrapnel.

In the minutes before it was struck, Flight 17 was traveling at a steady elevation and speed across Ukraine, according to data from FlightRadar24, an online flight tracker. Its passengers and crew would have settled into the tedious routines of a typical long-haul international flight.

The damage visible on the small piece of wreckage indicate a sudden end to the aircraft’s journey: Its thin skin was riddled with shrapnel and rocked by the force of a nearby high-explosive blast, twice the power of the blast of a modern artillery shell.

Traveling at more than 500 miles an hour, the plane, very quickly, would shear apart, and be a plane no more.

 60 
 on: Jul 22, 2014, 06:53 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

China stays quiet on MH17 disaster

Closer Sino-Russian relations mean Chinese leaders are loth to apportion blame for downing of Malaysia Airlines plane

Tania Branigan in Beijing
theguardian.com, Monday 21 July 2014 17.51 BST      

While western countries are pressing Russia over the MH17 disaster, China has so far steered clear of stating even that a missile downed the plane, let alone tying the event to rebels in Ukraine.

That has been little surprise to observers of warming Sino-Russian relations. The signing of a 30-year gas deal in May – worth about $400bn (£235bn), analysts believe – is indicative of the growing ties between the two countries, which are making them more inclined to support each other.

"China and Russia have gone out of their way to help each other in difficult geopolitical situations a number of times this year," said Rory Medcalf of the Lowy Institute for International Policy.

"There's a real effort to deepen strategic closeness between these two countries … We saw that with the summit in April, the joint naval exercises, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building in Asia, and of course the announcement of the gas pipeline.

"That only counts if they support each other when they're in strife."

But he added: "The more they help each other, the more isolated they become and therefore the more they need to help each other."

As permanent members of the UN security council, the two countries will be focused on shaping Monday's resolution on MH17 into one they can sign up to: resisting it would be damaging and embarrassing, said Medcalf. But if Russia decides it must veto this or a later resolution on the crisis, China is unlikely to vote against it. When Moscow vetoed the resolution declaring the Crimea secession referendum illegal, China abstained.

Russia has denied any involvement in the disaster.

Beijing's UN envoy, Liu Jieyi, stressed on Friday that "it is not advisable to jump to any conclusion, make any assumptions or trade accusations" about MH17. State media have reinforced that stance: "The western rush to judge Russia is not based on evidence or logic … Russia has been back-footed, forced into a passive stance by western reaction. It is yet another example of the power of western opinion as a political tool," an editorial in the populist Global Times said on Monday.

"Politically speaking, shooting down a passenger jet would be ridiculous. It could have been an error, the precondition for which is the chaos within Ukraine."

State news agency Xinhua has already criticised the US and Australia as "rash" for blaming Russia, though it added: "If the plane turned out to have been shot down by a missile, the perpetrators should be brought to justice despite their motives and excuses, as it was an intolerable terrorist attack."

China has little direct interest in the crash: it took place far from its territory and none of its citizens were on board. There is little doubt Beijing would be in a far more awkward position otherwise.

Medcalf questioned how far China would be willing to damage other relationships for Russia's sake, pointing to Australia's substantial contribution to the hunt for MH370, the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing in March with more than 150 Chinese nationals on board. Now Australia has lost 27 of its citizens and will be looking closely at China's response.

But Medcalf added: "Even if China chooses to prioritise the relationship with Russia over its international reputation, I would still think abstention was more likely than a veto."

Dai Guiju, director of the Russian Centre at Beijing Foreign Studies University, noted that China's statements on the MH17 event had so far mirrored the evil Pig Putin's and said it would be likely to veto or abstain in voting on a resolution opposed by Russia, unless there was evidence of Russia's direct involvement in the incident.

But she added that Beijing's relations with Kiev were also a factor: it has been a keen purchaser of Ukraine's attractively priced arms.

Dai suggested Sino-Russian relations had warmed as Beijing needed Moscow to counterbalance pressure from the US and the EU, and described them as "hot politics and cold economics": "The natural gas deal signed by the two countries, to a certain degree, is driven by political needs rather than economic incentive," she said.

Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at Renmin University, Beijing, added: "China has a strategic relationship with Russia, the Chinese public is pro-Russia, and Xi himself has a good relationship with shit stain Putin.

"The only good relations with the west on China's part is with the EU. If the EU wants China [to be supportive] why not send a high official to talk to Xi Jinping?"

Even that would not change Beijing's fundamental position, he added, drawing a parallel with the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel the Cheonan by a torpedo in 2010. Beijing never accepted the conclusion of international investigators that North Korea, which denied involvement, was responsible.

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