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 61 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:29 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Lockdown Begins in Sierra Leone to Battle Ebola

By ADAM NOSSITER
SEPT. 19, 2014
IHT

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — The most ambitious and aggressive government campaign against the Ebola epidemic gripping parts of West Africa began on Friday when Sierra Leone ordered everyone in the country to remain indoors for three days, suspending commerce, emptying the streets and halting this beleaguered nation in its tracks in an attempt stop the disease from spreading.

Calling the struggle against Ebola a matter of life or death, the government mustered police officers, soldiers and nearly 30,000 volunteers to go house to house, hoping to educate the country about the dangers of Ebola and identify people who might pass the disease to those around them.

“Some of the things we are asking you to do are difficult, but life is better than these difficulties,” President Ernest Bai Koroma said in an extraordinary radio address on Thursday night explaining the national lockdown.

From the start, the limits of the government campaign were evident. The warnings, mobilization and exhortations quickly clashed with the reality that cases here are surging and the infrastructure to deal with them hardly exists.

There is no large-scale treatment center for Ebola patients in the capital, Freetown, so many patients have to be placed in a holding center until they can be transported to a facility hours away — that is, if an ambulance can be found to pick them up and if those packed facilities have room.

The countrywide lockdown showed the desperation among West African governments — particularly in the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — as they grapple with an epidemic that has already killed more than 2,600 people and shows no signs of slowing down.

While governments in the region have already cordoned off large swaths of territory in hopes of containing the outbreak, none have attempted anything on the scale of what is being tried here. The government says it wants to visit every residence in this country of about 6 million, with the aim of instructing people in how to stop the disease from being transmitted and to find out who is harboring sick people, with potentially deadly consequences.

“We have been sending lifesaving messages through radio, TV and print, but it’s not enough,” said Roeland Monasch, a representative for Unicef, which supported the government effort, providing money, advice and information materials. “We need to take information to where people are.”

In the streets of the capital on Friday, one woman lay curled in a fetal position, eyes shut, precariously balanced on cardboard sheets next to an open gutter in front of locked storefronts. From a wary distance, the anti-Ebola volunteers said she had high fever. Hours of calls had produced no ambulance.

A small crowd, including the police, soldiers brandishing guns, presidential advisers and spectators taking cellphone pictures of the immobile woman, milled about. A medical worker said two more bodies in the vicinity needed attention. But still there was no ambulance.

“They are not responding; they say they have lots of cases now,” said a volunteer, Alhassan Kamara.

Finally, a rickety ambulance pulled up, more than five hours after the initial calls, the volunteers said. But the loosely outfitted attendants refused to pick up the sick woman: they had no chlorine spray and said it was not their job. A loud anti-Ebola jingle played on a car radio. It took a second ambulance, and the president of a moped club who quickly suited up in protective gear, to get the sick woman bundled off to uncertain care.

On nearby streets, other volunteers were going house to house to warn people of the disease’s dangers. Normally clogged streets in the capital were empty, stores were shut down tight, and pedestrians were rare on the main thoroughfares.

The senior United Nations envoy appointed to work on the Ebola crisis, Dr. David Nabarro, said he was struck by the yawning gap between the spread of the disease and the ability to fight it. The world needed to increase the efforts on the ground many times over, he said.

That would include “the capacity to treat between 9,000 and 10,000 people within the countries at any time,” he said. “To get there, we need to get extra people and cash into the countries, obviously, but also we need fantastic organization and logistics that are second to none.”

Dr. Dan Lucey, an American who volunteered in an Ebola holding center at a Freetown hospital, described the situation as horrific. “There were not enough beds, space,” he said. “When you first see this, you say this is totally intolerable. It can’t be this bad,” he said after returning home. “It was an incredible, searing experience not like anything I’ve ever seen.”

Without treatment units in the capital, he said, patients who tested positive for Ebola had to be driven at least four hours away. Those who tested negative could be exposed to Ebola while they waited. When Dr. Lucey volunteered, there was just one other doctor present. Patients were housed together in open wards with a plastic curtain between beds, awaiting their test results. At the foot of each bed were three buckets — one for urine, one for stool, one for vomit.

“There were body fluids everywhere,” he said. Fuel for the ambulances could be hard to come by. “It’s beyond belief until you see it day after day,” he said.

Dr. Oliver Johnson, a British physician currently working at the hospital with King’s Health Partners, said Friday that the 18-bed unit had received 10 patients during the first day of the lockdown and now had four physicians. He said two other isolation units had opened in the Freetown area in the past several days. “We’re starting to see more beds, more supplies. More staff are coming to work,” he said.

Sierra Leonean health workers, who he said have worked bravely, are now being offered hazard pay. “Things are improving,” he said, but “the real question is whether we can get ahead of the curve. We’ve been seeing more new patients than we’ve been able to build new beds.”

The United States is planning to build as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in Liberia, with about 1,700 treatment beds, while the United Nations is planning an expanded mission in the region, based in Accra, Ghana, according to Anthony Banbury, the United Nation’s Ebola operation crisis manager. It is intended to be more nimble than the United Nations’ notoriously bureaucratic operations, bringing in as many as 500 trucks and jeeps from other missions in Africa, possibly paying teams in one country to speed up safe burials, buying fuel for monitoring teams in another country, or offering helicopters to transport health workers where they are needed.

But even with the promises of help, international health officials are worried by what they describe as a rapid growth of cases here in Sierra Leone’s capital — a dense urban environment where containment is difficult and the ability to respond is limited.

“The situation in Freetown is very worrisome as cases increase,” said Michael Goldfarb, a spokesman for Doctors Without Borders. “Without an immediate, massive, and effective response, there could be an explosion of cases as has been witnessed in Monrovia,” he added, referring to the capital of Liberia.

Whether Sierra Leone’s lockdown will constitute an effective response is open to question. Despite the mobilization, the volunteers hardly appeared to be thick on the ground. In some neighborhoods, residents said they were yet to see any of the green-vested young men and women who had volunteered.

In other neighborhoods, the volunteers — many of them students, all working for no pay — complained that there was no response to their knocks at most houses. If they arrived without supplies like soap or chlorine, residents were not interested in speaking with them, the volunteers said.

Where there was a response, it was often followed by cursory admonitions to residents to wash their hands, report on neighbors suspected of illness and wear long-sleeve shirts at the market.

At one house, several volunteers talked loudly at once about hand washing, leaving the residents visibly dazed. At another, they were amazed to discover residents who were supposed to be under quarantine because of their suspected exposure to Ebola, but were actually unguarded and free to roam about. At still another, one gave out questionable information about the Ebola virus — seeming to contradict some basic precautions.

Well into the morning, the house-to-house visits had yet to begin in Kroo Bay, a densely populated neighborhood of iron-roof shanties where roughly 14,000 people live, despite officials saying they would start at dawn. The police cruised into Kroo Bay on a pickup truck, yelling at residents to go indoors and warning of imprisonment. People simply stared at the officers and continued lingering as the police drove off.

“The policeman is doing his thing, and I am doing my thing,” said Kerfala Koroma, 22, a building contractor. “We can’t even afford something to eat on a normal day. How can we get something now?”

 62 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:20 AM 
Started by Rose Marcus - Last post by Rad
Reports: Security Upped at Vatican over Attack Fears

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 11:11

Security has been tightened in Saint Peter's Square after intelligence services intercepted a possible plan to attack the Vatican, Italian media reported Saturday, increasing fears Pope Francis could be in danger.

A foreign security service alerted Italy this week after intercepting a conversation between two Arab speakers which referred to "a demonstrative act, Wednesday, at the Vatican," Il Messaggero daily reported.

Wednesday is the day the pope holds his weekly general audience in the square in front of Saint Peter's Basilica.

Checks by Italy's anti-terrorism unit revealed that one of the speakers passed through the country eight months ago, heightening concerns the threat may be real.

Earlier warnings that the Islamic State extremists may be plotting to attack the pope have been shrugged off by the Vatican, but security has nonetheless been increased for his Wednesday and Sunday audiences, the paper said.

The Repubblica daily said plain clothes special operations officers with sniffer dogs trained in seeking out explosives were helping Vatican police vet tourists, while hotels in the area were also being kept under surveillance.

The news came a day before Francis's trip to Albania, where the pontiff is expected to mingle with the crowds as usual despite reports of possible danger from new IS recruits returning from the Middle East to the mostly-Muslim country.

Some worry the pope has made himself a target by speaking out against the Islamic State group and having the Holy See voice support for U.S. air strikes in Iraq.

In an interview with Italy's La Nazione daily this week, Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See, Habib Al Sadr, said "what has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear. They want to kill the pope. The threats against the pope are credible."

The Vatican played down the warning, saying security measures for the trip would remain unchanged.

Source: Agence France Presse

 63 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:18 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
NATO Reviews Ties with Russia as New Truce Reached in Ukraine

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 13:17

NATO's top military commanders are meeting in Lithuania on Saturday to discuss relations with Russia as the warring sides in Ukraine agreed to pull back troops under a new peace plan reached overnight in Belarus.

General Knud Bartels, who chairs NATO's Military Committee, said defense chiefs from the 28 nation alliance are set to review "future relationship with Russia and NATO's military posture".

"Central to our discussions will be the development and implementation of the alliance readiness action plan," the Danish general said, referring to the new initiative which includes rotating troops and equipment through facilities in Eastern Europe.

The meeting will also cover NATO's mission in Afghanistan and the situation in the Middle East, including the "pressing threat" from the Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria, he added.

The military talks in Lithuania's capital Vilnius focused on defending NATO's eastern flank come just two weeks after NATO announced a new rapid reaction force at a key summit in Wales.

Lithuania said the new measures will also include regional "command and control" centers in the Baltic states and Poland.

These countries were formerly behind the Iron Curtain and are concerned about Russia's territorial ambitions in the wake of the Crimea annexation and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Addressing the generals, including NATO top commander General Philip Breedlove, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybrauskaite on Saturday insisted the alliance needed to present "a clear deterrence" and that time was of the essence.

"We understand that unpreparedness cannot be our strategic weakness.... Security environment has essentially changed already half a year ago," she said.

The NATO talks started hours after negotiators representing Kiev and Ukraine's pro-Russian separatists signed a new nine-point deal which includes creating a buffer zone in eastern Ukraine.

Face-to-face talk in the Belarussian capital of Minsk, less than 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Vilnius, ended with an agreement to pull back troops by 15 kilometers from current frontlines and to allow in OSCE pan-European security monitors to make sure the truce holds.

The West accuses Russia of supplying weapons to pro-Kremlin separatists battling Kiev government forces in eastern Ukraine but Moscow has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Source: Agence France Presse

 64 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:16 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Khodorkovsky Urges Russians to Pull Together to Challenge Putin

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 13:42

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a Kremlin opponent who spent a decade in prison, on Saturday launched a movement to bring together pro-European Russians to challenge strongman Vladimir Putin's grip on power.

Once Russia's richest man, Khodorkovsky was released from prison late last year and is now based in Switzerland. He urged his compatriots to pull together to be able to influence the fate of the country.

"A minority will be influential if it is organised," he said as he announced the launch of his new movement called Open Russia.

Khodorkovsky stressed that his new project -- dubbed after his eponymous charity that was shut down after his imprisonment - would be an online "platform" for like-minded people, not a political party.

Upon his release from prison Khodorkovsky vowed to stay out of politics. But his new project appears to belie his political ambitions.

The soft-spoken former head of the now defunct Yukos oil firm said all those supporting a pro-European course for Russia should unite ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 2016.

The launch of the group comes as Kremlin critics say the country, locked in a dramatic confrontation with the West over Ukraine, is hurtling toward political and economic catastrophe.

The West and Kiev accuse the Kremlin of invading Ukraine and threatening stability of the entire Europe.

- 'We are Europe' -

Khodorkovsky said he and he allies believed that ordinary people could make Russia, which has been saddled with several rounds of biting Western sanctions, change direction.

"We support what they call the European choice or a state governed by the rule of law," said Khodorkovsky.

"We believe that the statement 'Russia is not Europe' is a lie that is being imposed on society on purpose.

"This is being done by those who want to rule the country for life, those who want to spit upon law and justice," Khodorkovsky said in a thinly veiled reference to Putin, the former KGB operative who came to power in 1999.

"We are Europe, both in terms of geography and culture. In fact, the European way of development does not mean rejection of national values. In Europe every country follows its own path.

"We are not simply Russian Europeans. We are patriots.

"And true patriots even during pitch-dark reaction should serve their country and their people."

Putin, by comparison, has sought to promote Russia as an antithesis of the West and claimed isolation would be a boon for the country.

After serving two terms as president and a stint as prime minister, Putin returned to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012 despite big protests against his rule.

A crackdown on dissenters dramatically intensified after the Kremlin annexed Crimea from Ukraine in March.

Opinion polls show that a majority support Putin's policies but economists say that could change as Russia is sliding into recession.

Putin stunned Russians by announcing last December he was pardoning Khodorkovsky, his fierce critic, on humanitarian grounds.

Khodorkovsky spent a decade in prison after being convicted of economic crimes in trials that many believe were revenge for challenging the Kremlin.

Source: Agence France Presse

 65 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
PM Key Close to Poll Victory in New Zealand

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 09:09

Early results in a cliffhanger New Zealand election on Saturday suggested conservative Prime Minister John Key was set to claim victory, with voters ignoring campaign allegations of dirty tricks and spying.

With more than half of total votes counted a few hours after polling booths closed at 7:00 pm (0700 GMT), the center-right National Party was on 48.9 percent, which would secure Key a third term in the South Pacific nation.

However, Key cautioned that it was far too early to make a definitive call given New Zealand's notoriously unpredictable proportional voting system, saying he was "nervous but hopeful" on the basis of initial results.

"They look really strong but it's early days -- you just have to careful with those early numbers, they can break down a wee bit," he told reporters as he handed out pizza to media camped outside his Auckland home.

The early numbers would give National 63 seats in a 121-member parliament, making it the first party to win an outright majority since New Zealand adopted its German-style mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system in 1996.

Key's seats would increase to 67 if he struck a deal with the minor parties that supported him in his second term, giving him a comfortable buffer.

The main opposition Labor Party was on 23.8 percent, 3.7 percent down on the last election in 2011. Labor's center-left ally the Greens were on 10.0 percent, down 1.1 percent on 2011 and well short of the 15 percent it was targeting.

The biggest gainer appeared to be the populist New Zealand First Party, led by maverick political veteran Winston Peters, which lifted its vote from 6.6 in 2011 to 9.0 percent.

Internet-Mana, bankrolled by flamboyant tech mogul Kim Dotcom in a bid to oust Key, was struggling on 1.3 percent and facing the prospect of having no representatives in New Zealand's 51st parliament.

Policies largely took a back seat on the hustings to claims of government dirty tricks and smear campaigns, along with accusations Key's administration allowed mass spying on the population.

The charges of underhand tactics were sparked by the publication of the book "Dirty Politics" which cited hacked emails apparently showing that senior government officials conspired with a right-wing blogger to smear political opponents.

Dotcom, who accuses Key of working with Washington to arrange his arrest on online piracy charges, also accused the prime minister of giving spy agencies a green light to snoop on New Zealanders.

Key denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the allegations as a "distraction" that would be ignored by voters more interested in strong leadership and the economy.

The National Party stuck to a strategy of emphasizing New Zealand's economic growth while relying on the personal popularity of its charismatic leader, referring to itself as "Team Key".

It appeared to have paid off as Key's approval rating held steady, reaching close to 70 percent in some polls.

A total of 3.06 million voters were registered for the election.

There are 71 elected seats with the remainder filled through party votes, bringing the number of MPs in parliament to 121.

Source: Agence France Presse

 66 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:12 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Australia to Bring in Tougher Anti-Terror Laws

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 09:13

Australia's government will next week introduce tough new legislation in parliament to tackle a growing threat of terrorism, reports said Saturday, in the aftermath of the biggest crackdown in the country's history.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott will seek sweeping counter-terrorism powers when the proposals go before the house on Wednesday, NewsCorp Australia reported.

Thursday's unprecedented raids in Sydney and Brisbane had foiled a plot by Islamic State jihadists to carry out gruesome "demonstration executions" that could have taken place within days, Abbott said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan explained that the new laws would "modernize" existing legislation to counter such threats.

"The threat of the random act of violence that was acted upon on Thursday's raids is obviously quite different to the sorts of traditional terrorist activity that we might have been targeting," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Saturday.

"We need to make sure that we've got a regime in Australia that's modern and flexible," Keenan said but gave no details.

Security has been stepped up in the capital Canberra, and at military bases, airports and sporting events after parliament and government officials had been mentioned as potential targets in "chatter" between extremist networks in the Middle East and Australia.

Fifteen people were arrested when hundreds of police officers raided dozens of homes in Sydney and Brisbane on Thursday, but only one person remained in custody on Saturday, officials said.

Omarjan Azari, 22, was charged with planning a terrorist act that prosecutors said was intended to "shock, horrify and terrify" the community and involved the "random selection of persons to rather gruesomely execute" on camera.

Federal police had for the first time used preventive detention orders to hold three of the 15 without charge, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. The men were released Friday.

The orders are designed to counter an imminent threat of attack and can be used to hold people for as long as 14 days.

But Abbott says current legislation is inadequate to fight the threats to Australia from groups such as the Islamic State organization, which he has described as the nation's greatest national security challenge.

Under the new powers, advocating a terrorist act will become illegal, The Weekend Australian said.

The new offense will carry a maximum five-year jail sentence and make it illegal for an individual to intentionally counsel, promote, encourage or urge a terrorist act, the newspaper said.

Police will also be given powers to secretly search the homes of suspects.

The government will further seek powers to proscribe visits to cities or regions where terror groups are active. People traveling to such areas without a valid reason could face prosecution.

"There's legislation that will shortly come before the parliament to boost the range of offenses," Abbott said Thursday.

"It's not always easy to prove that someone has been engaged in terrorist activity overseas.

"It's often very hard to get witnesses... so we'll be strengthening offenses in this area," he said.

The government believes up to 60 Australians are fighting alongside IS jihadists, while another 100 are actively working to support the movement at home.

Canberra has committed 600 troops and aircraft to the US-led coalition gearing up to destroy the IS organization in Iraq.

Source: Agence France Presse

 67 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:11 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Tensions between North and South Korea at Incheon's Asian Games 2014

Official rows between the two Koreas mean hopes for the Asian Games to be a triumph of sports diplomacy likely to be dashed

Steven Borowiec in Seoul
The Guardian, Thursday 18 September 2014 14.58 BST

It had been hailed as an opportunity for sports diplomacy to win a gold medal by taking the chill off the Korean peninsula, easing a relationship fraught with the tension of more than 60 years of division.

But even before the first event at the 2014 Asian Games, which officially open on Friday in the South Korean port city of Incheon, the 273-strong North Korean delegation had been at the centre of multiple controversies.

First, North Korean officials stormed out of a planning meeting with their South Korean counterparts in July after the two sides clashed over the size of Pyongyang's delegation for the Games, and over questions of who would foot the bill for their travel and accommodation. In the past Seoul has paid, but this time South Korean officials said they would follow international standards under which countries cover the costs of their own travelling athletes.

Then, although Pyongyang finally agreed to attend, it withdrew its cheerleading squad – the so-called "army of beauties" – that drew large crowds to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan. North Korea's first lady, Ri Sol-ju, was one of the cheerleaders at the Asian Athletics Championships in Incheon in 2005.

Tensions between the two nations remain high. Last week South Korean officials took down flags of all participating countries from the streets outside stadiums after conservative civic groups complained about the North Korean flag being flown. Organisers said they feared that one might be torn down or defaced.

"We consulted with the government and determined that to stop any harsh actions by conservative groups, it was better to take the flags down from outside and have them only flown inside the stadiums," the Games media spokesperson Lee Cha-ho said.

The incident prompted South Korean officials to lay out clear guidelines for spectators, who will not be allowed to bring North Korean flags to any events or carry them in the streets.

North and South Korea are still technically at war. A peace treaty has never been signed to formally end the 1950 to 1953 Korean war, and possession of North Korean materials is still mostly illegal for South Korean citizens. This week, as its athletes took part in matches ahead of the Games' official opening, Pyongyang sent fax messages to Seoul to express its displeasure that South Korean activists had been sending helium balloons across the border to drop leaflets. During their time in the South, reporters from the North will send their coverage of the Games by fax, not only because of the almost non-existent internet access across the border, but also to help ensure that the delegation is not exposed to banned websites while abroad.

Organisers of the Games have said that athletes from both Koreas will attend the opening ceremony on Friday, but will not enter together.

Athletes from 45 countries will compete in 36 sports over the next two weeks and for the North Korean delegation – headed by the sports minister Kim Yong-hun, reportedly the highest-ranking official to cross the border into South Korea for five years – it is a rare chance for the isolated country to show off its sports stars on an international stage.

At least one person in North Korea will be keen to hear news of any medals from its athletes – its young leader, Kim Jong-un. Since coming to power in 2011 he has made sports more of a national priority than his late father and predecessor Kim Jong-il. A particular fan of basketball, he invited the former NBA star Dennis Rodman for an exhibition game that featured retired professional players against North Koreans, and Pyongyang recently held an international pro-wrestling tournament.

In the early 2000s co-operative projects between the two Koreas were more common. During the so-called "sunshine era", starting in the late 1990s, commercial, athletic and cultural exchanges were regularly held in the hope of creating friendlier relations that could eventually lead to reunification. Liberal South Korean governments also provided Pyongyang with unconditional aid.

All that has been on ice since 2010, when a South Korean warship sank in waters near North Korea, killing 46 sailors. Seoul concluded that Pyongyang had torpedoed the ship, an accusation steadfastly denied. That, added to the 2008 election in South Korea of the first of two consecutive conservative governments, has seen Seoul take a tougher approach to the North.

At present, inter-Korean relations are stuck. Seoul insists that the North takes meaningful steps toward ending its nuclear programme before any other substantive dialogue can take place, while Pyongyang argues that the South's sanctions must be lifted and other forms of exchange and cooperation must be restarted before it will discuss getting rid of its weapons.

Co-operation and hope for reunification also carry less emotional currency than in the past.

"There are far fewer people today who remember when Korea was one, so the idea doesn't resonate strongly with young people" said Aidan Foster-Carter, an honorary senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea at Leeds University.

It is difficult to determine exactly how South Koreans feel about their ethnic brethren in the North, but public opinion poll data show South Koreans generally don't see North Korea positively.

In a study released early this year by the Asan Institute, South Koreans surveyed gave North Korea a favourability rating of 2.7 out of 10. The US, by contrast, received a far more positive rating of 6.4.

Nevertheless a few hundred South Koreans did turn out to cheer the North Korean men's football team in Incheon on Monday, as they fought to a 3-0 victory over China in a group stage match held before the official opening of the Games.

Instead of national flags, the supporters waved banners with a plain image of a unified Korean peninsula in blue: a colour intended to symbolise peace.

**************

N. Korea Threatens Attack if Leaflets are Launched from South

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 13:52

North Korea on Saturday threatened to attack South Korean activists if they launch anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border while the South hosts the Asian Games.

A group of South Korean activists plans to launch 200,000 leaflets slung from gas-filled balloons into the North from a site near the border on Sunday.

"We will never sit by idly as a vicious provocative act, openly backed by South Korean authorities, is being committed against us at a time when our athletes are taking part in the Asian Games", the North's official Internet website Uriminzokkiri said.

It said the North's military had already warned it would immediately "wipe out" those "provocateurs" and their supporters if they push through with such launches.

These were not "simply empty" words, the website warned.

"Should puppet authorities instigate so-called 'defectors' to push through with the leaflet launch, there would be unpredictable consequences," it added.

But South Korean activists said they would not flinch at the threats.

"Let the North rage in anger and scream. We will do it as planned", Park Sang-Hak who leads the activists' group told AFP.

The warning came days after the North sent a rare message to the South Korean president's office, demanding an end to such anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The message, addressed to the presidential Blue House, was sent through a military hotline on Monday by the North's powerful National Defense Commission (NDC).

It urged Seoul to stop anti-North activists sending leaflets over the border, saying action would have to be taken before the North would consider the South's recent proposal for high-level talks.

Civic groups in the South regularly float leaflets over the border with messages criticizing the Kim dynasty and urging the North Korean people to rise up against repression.

Police have prevented some events when the risk of a North Korean retaliation has been deemed dangerously high, but otherwise they are allowed to go ahead.

North Korea has sent 150 athletes for the Asian Games, who are being guarded by hundreds of South Korean security personnel.

Source: Agence France Presse

 68 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:09 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Dalai Lama Slams Killings in Name of Religion

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 13:20

The Dalai Lama on Saturday condemned mindless violence in the name of religion, saying the concept of jihad was being misused and misinterpreted by Islamist extremists.

The Nobel Peace prize winner was referring to bloodshed unleashed by the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq where it has overrun swathes of territory.

"Killing in the name of faith is unacceptable," he told a meeting of India's religious leaders representing as many as nine different faiths including Islam.

Jihad or holy war should be a fight "to combat our inner destructive emotions", the 79-year-old spiritual leader said. "It (jihad) does not mean harming other people."

The hard-hitting statements by the Dalai Lama come after the Islamic State group released a video earlier this month showing the beheading of a second U.S. hostage, journalist Steven Sotloff.

Earlier this week, British photojournalist John Cantlie appeared in a propaganda video released by the militants.

"If we remain indifferent to what is happening around us, it is wrong," the Dalai Lama said.

"The spiritual people can show the world that it can be a happy family (despite) the different faiths."

A senior Muslim cleric, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Bombay and the head of the Jewish community in Delhi were among those who attended the two-day conference.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, lives in the northern Indian hill station of Dharamsala.

The inter-faith meeting was initially slated to be a three-day affair. But it was cut short to "accommodate" a request from the Indian authorities due to a visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country which ended Friday.

"Our meeting was to start on Friday but the Dalai Lama doesn't want to cause any inconvenience to the hosts" so he acceded to their request, Tempa Tsering, who is representative of the Dalai Lama in New Delhi, told AFP.

The Dalai Lama says he supports "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet within China rather than outright independence.

But China accuses him of covertly campaigning for Tibet's independence and brands him a "splittist".

Source: Agence France Presse

 69 
 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Disputed Afghan Election Result to Be Announced Sunday

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 September 2014, 12:25

The result of Afghanistan's disputed election will be declared on Sunday, officials said Saturday, as last-minute talks between the two rival candidates continued on a proposed power-sharing deal.

The stalemate between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah since the June 14 vote has plunged Afghanistan into a political crisis as U.S.-led NATO troops end their 13-year war against the Taliban.

Both men claim to have won the fraud-tainted election, and the United Nations and the United States have pushed hard for a "national unity government" to try to avoid a return to the ethnic divisions of the 1990s civil war.

"The IEC will officially announce the final result of the presidential election tomorrow," Independent Election Commission spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP.

Mujib Rahman Rahimi, a spokesman for Abdullah, said the two candidates were preparing to sign a deal.

"They are set to meet again shortly today to reach a final agreement," he said. "The IEC is not supposed to announce the final results before the agreement is finalized."

Ghani's campaign team was not immediately available to comment, but said it would issue an update on negotiations later Saturday.

The election process has been plagued by delays and setbacks, and the latest timetable could still change if disputes flare up again over how the new government would take shape.

Ghani -- who won the vote according to preliminary results -- is set to emerge as president, with Abdullah nominating who will fill the new post of "chief executive officer", possibly taking on the role himself.

Under the Afghan constitution the president wields almost total control, and the new government structure faces a major test in the coming years as the country's security and economic outlook worsens.

President Hamid Karzai, whose successor was originally due to be inaugurated on August 2, was constitutionally barred from standing for a third term in office. He has stayed publicly neutral in the election.

About 41,000 NATO troops remain in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 150,000 in 2010, fighting along Afghan soldiers and police against the fierce Taliban insurgency.

NATO's combat mission will end in December, with a follow-on force of about 12,000 troops likely to stay into 2015 on training and support duties.

The United Nations has expressed fears that an angry reaction to the election result could revive the violence of the 1990s, when nationwide chaos allowed the Taliban to come to power.

After the June election was engulfed by allegations of massive fraud, the U.S. brokered a deal under which the two candidates agreed to abide by the outcome of an audit of all eight million ballot papers and to then form a national unity government together.

But Abdullah later abandoned the audit, saying it was failing to clean out fraud.

Only ten days ago, he insisted he had won fairly and that negotiations over the unity government had collapsed.

Street protests by either side's loyalists risk spilling into serious unrest because Abdullah draws his support from Tajiks and other northern ethnic groups, while Ghani is backed by Pashtun tribes of the south and east.

Source: Agence France Presse

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 on: Sep 20, 2014, 05:05 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
U.S. Hopes Face-Saving Plan Offers a Path to a Nuclear Pact With Iran

By DAVID E. SANGER
SEPT. 19, 2014
IHT

Over the years, the United States has shown considerable ingenuity in its effort to slow Iran’s production of nuclear fuel: It has used sabotage, cyberattacks and creative economic sanctions.

Now, mixing face-saving diplomacy and innovative technology, negotiators are attempting a new approach, suggesting that the Iranians call in a plumber.

The idea is to convince the Iranians to take away many of the pipes that connect their nuclear centrifuges, the giant machines that are connected together in a maze that allows uranium fuel to move from one machine to another, getting enriched along the way. That way, the Iranians could claim they have not given in to Western demands that they eliminate all but a token number of their 19,000 machines, in which Iran has invested billions of dollars and tremendous national pride.

And if the plumbing is removed, experts at America’s national nuclear laboratories have told the Obama administration, the United States and its allies could accurately claim that they have extended the time Iran would need to produce enough fuel for a bomb — and given the West time to react.

That is one of the few ideas that may offer a glimmer of hope in closed-door negotiations in New York this weekend, before the arrival of President Obama and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly. A year ago, when greater progress seemed in the offing, it appeared likely that the two men would move on from the first phone call between the two nations’ leaders in three decades to the first meeting in person.

No one is betting on that now.

“We’re open to it,” is the most a senior Obama administration official would allow on Thursday night, briefing reporters.

The time would seem ripe, with the United States and Iran finding themselves, uncomfortably, on the same side in the fight against the extremists of the Islamic State, and just two months away from an ostensibly final deadline to strike a nuclear accord.

Yet the atmosphere is sour, with the Americans saying they have no intention of “coordinating” action with Iran against the Islamic State, and the Iranians saying they want to solve the nuclear issues first, which the Iranian foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said this week was “complicated enough.”

In fact, it has gotten more complicated. Tentative agreements on issues negotiated at great length in Vienna through July, when talks were extended, suddenly seem back on the table. The global nuclear inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency report stonewalling by Iran on details of the “possible military dimensions” of past research, while, within the country, the Revolutionary Guards push back against Mr. Zarif.

“There’s a bit of a sense of desperation about coming up with ways to break the logjams, on the nuclear talks and the larger relationship,” another participant in the negotiations said. “Because if we don’t figure this out in the next few months, it is not clear the opportunity is going to come again.”

The Iranians are clearly doing far better in public diplomacy in New York than are the United States or its allies. Mr. Zarif, who is American-educated, media savvy, and often humorous, has already given interviews to the radio network NPR, parried with members of the Council on Foreign Relations in an on-the-record meeting, and made Iran’s case in background briefings.

While he has taken many pokes at President Obama for being slow to confront the Islamic State, he has also mocked the conspiracy theorists in Tehran who claim the Sunni group was invented by the C.I.A.

By contrast, the Obama administration has rarely allowed its negotiating counterparts to Mr. Zarif to go on the record; after the first full day of talks, the officials spoke to reporters only on background, meaning their names could not be used. They complain that Mr. Zarif talks a good game, but has offered few meaningful cuts in the centrifuges. Both sides are clearly worried, because if they cannot win agreement on the main issue over the next 10 days or so — how much fuel-production ability Iran will be allowed to maintain, and how long an agreement to limit its production abilities will last — it is hard to imagine how the complex details of a final accord can be resolved in the remaining time. Which is where the plumbing comes in.

Disconnecting the pipes is one of several ideas that have emerged from the conversations between Mr. Obama’s negotiating team and the Energy Department’s national laboratories, which develop and maintain the American arsenal of nuclear weapons.

But the proposal is not without flaws. “To be credible, it would have to keep the Iranians from restoring operations for a considerable period of time,” said Robert Einhorn, a former member of the negotiating team who is now at the Brookings Institution.

It is far from clear that those suspicious of the deal, in Congress and in Israel, would buy it. And there is considerable opposition within the Iranian establishment, including the military. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader, gave a speech in the summer calling, with great specificity, for an eventual 10-fold increase in the country’s enrichment capacity.

Clearly, Mr. Zarif cannot go home with a deal that seems to violate the course that the ayatollah wants to set.

“Unless the Iranians are talking about reducing their currently operational enrichment capability by around a half, it is not very impressive,” Mr. Einhorn said.

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