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 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:37 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In the USA...United Surveillance America

In U.S., Fear of Ebola Closes Schools and Shapes Politics

OCT. 19, 2014

In the month since a Liberian man infected with Ebola traveled to Dallas, where he later died, the nation has marinated in a murky soup of understandable concern, wild misinformation, political opportunism and garden-variety panic.

Within the escalating debate over how to manage potential threats to public health — muddled by what is widely viewed as a bungled effort by government officials and the Dallas hospital that managed the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States — the line between vigilance and hysteria can be as blurry as the edges of a watercolor painting.

A crowd of parents last week pulled their children out of a Mississippi middle school after learning that its principal had traveled to Zambia, an African nation untouched by the disease.
On the eve of midterm elections with control of the United States Senate at stake, politicians from both parties are calling for the end of commercial air traffic between the United States and some African countries, even though most public health experts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a shutdown would compound rather than alleviate the risks.

Carolyn Smith of Louisville, Ky., last week took a rare break from sequestering herself at home to take her fiancé to a doctor’s appointment. She said she was reluctant to leave her house after hearing that a nurse from the Dallas hospital had flown to Cleveland, over 300 miles from her home. “We’re not really going anywhere if we can help it,” Ms. Smith, 50, said.

The panic in some way mirrors what followed the anthrax attacks of 2001 and the West Nile virus outbreak in New York City in 1999. But fed by social media and the 24-hour news cycle, the first American experience with Ebola has become a lesson in the ways things that go viral electronically can be as potent and frightening as those that do so biologically. The result has ignited a national deliberation about the conflicts between public health interest, civil liberties and common sense.

“This is sort of comparable to when people were killed in terror attacks,” said Roxane Cohen Silver, a professor of psychology in the department of psychology and social behavior at the University of California, Irvine.

Ms. Silver studied and wrote about people who heavily consumed media after the bombings at the Boston Marathon in 2013 and “what we found is that individuals who were exposed to a great deal of media within the first week reported more acute stress than did people who were actually at the marathon.”

In his work on panic in various disasters, Anthony Mawson, a visiting professor in the School of Health Sciences at Jackson State University in Mississippi, found that while physical danger is presumed to lead to mass panic, in actual physical emergencies “expressions of mutual aid are common and often predominate.” But the threat of an illness that has infected only two people in the United States appears to have had the opposite effect, inciting a widespread desire to hide and shut things down.

“Obviously there’s fear,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview Sunday on ABC. He said fear of the disease is dramatically outstripping current risks. “We always get caught when we say zero,” he said. “Nothing is zero. It’s extraordinarily low, much less than the risk of many other things which happens to them in their lives.”
In Rock Island, Ill., Barhyeau Philips said he and his family would stay home for the next few weeks since the arrival of his daughter Jennifer from Liberia. Credit John Schultz/Quad-City Times, via Zuma

The health care system, which has urged calm, has at times sent mixed messages that can promote fear. “There are two elements to trust,” said Baruch Fischhoff, a professor of decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon. “One is competence and one is honesty. The hospital in Dallas changed its story three times. So while most people know there are very few cases and this is not an easily transmissible virus, they also know the human system for managing this is imperfect, and they don’t know whether they are getting the straight story about it.”

Republicans, finding both public health and political messages, have made a similar case against the government response.

“If this was one incidence where people thought the government wasn’t doing what the government was supposed to do, it would be much less of a reaction than we see now, where there’s this long list of the government being one step behind, whether it’s the border, the IRS, the Secret Service,” Senator Roy D. Blunt, Republican of Missouri, said on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Now this health concern is more real than it would be if there wasn’t a sense that the government is just not being managed in a way that people would want it to be managed.”

With fear riding high, Democrats, particularly those running for office, have supported a travel ban.

“Although stopping the spread of this virus overseas will require a large, coordinated effort with the international community,” said Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina, a Democrat in a tight race, “a temporary travel ban is a prudent step the president can take to protect the American people.”

As is often the case in contemporary American life, parents have been at the forefront of the concerns.

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:33 AM 
Started by Gonzalo - Last post by Gonzalo
Hola Dark Pure Light

Arrghh No entiendo esta tendencia en absoluto

Si es tu interés, puedes hacer preguntas sobre la AE en este Foro.



 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:26 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Comet makes close pass by Mars as spacecraft watch: ‘This is a really rare event’

20 Oct 2014 at 06:39 ET                   

A comet from the outer reaches of the solar system on Sunday made a rare, close pass by Mars where a fleet of robotic science probes were poised for studies.

Comet Siding Spring passed just 87,000 miles (140,000 km) from Mars, less than half the distance between Earth and the moon and 10 times closer than any known comet has passed by Earth, NASA said.

The comet, named for the Australian observatory that discovered it last year, is believed to be a first-time visitor to the inner solar system, having departed the Oort Cloud, located beyond Neptune’s orbit, more than a million years ago.

Comets are believed to be frozen remnants left over from the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.

“This comet is on its way plunging in toward the sun, growing a tail,” astronomer David Grinspoon, with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said during a live webcast of the comet’s flyby on

The comet made its closest approach to Mars at 2:27 pm EDT, hurling past at about 126,000 mph (203,000 kph).

NASA’s three Mars orbiters and two rovers, as well as orbiters owned by the European Space Agency and India were expected to monitor the comet’s approach and fly-by, which may have left Mars engulfed in a cloud of comet dust.

“The comet has never ever been closer to the sun that we think maybe Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus or Neptune’s distance. This is its first passage into what we call the ‘water-ice line,’ where it’s really starting to blow its water off,” astrophysicist Carey Lisse, with Johns Hopkins University in Laurel, Maryland, told reporters during a press conference last week.

Initially, NASA was concerned the comet’s dusty tail could pose a threat to orbiting spacecraft as it brushes past Mars. Later assessments somewhat allayed those concerns, but NASA still opted to tweak its satellites’ orbits so that they would be behind the planet during the most risky part of the flyby.

“Mars will be right at the edge of the debris cloud, so it might encounter some of the particles, or it might not,” NASA Mars scientist Rich Zurek, with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement.

Mars’ atmosphere, though much thinner than Earth’s, will shield NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers from comet dust, which may trigger meteor showers.

Mars also will pass directly through the comet’s coma, which is an envelope of gas and dust surrounding the comet’s nucleus, providing an unprecedented opportunity for study, Grinspoon said. “This is a really rare event.”

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:23 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
In Homeland, Liberia Native Finds Resilience Amid Horror

OCT. 19, 2014

MONROVIA, Liberia — Liberians have become accustomed to living with demons.

Long before Ebola arrived, the people here endured 14 years of civil war, one that snuffed out 200,000 lives and ignited acts of barbarism that laid waste to the country. The war produced mad generals who led ritual sacrifices of children before going into battle, naked except for shoes and a gun. It produced amphetamine-fueled 10-year-old fighters wielding M16s while toting teddy bear backpacks, and rapists who wore Halloween masks and wedding gowns.

When it finally ended in 2003, what was left was a nation of survivors, a place where nearly every person of a certain age has a painful story to tell.

I know this all too well, as a native Liberian who emigrated to the United States. My family has our own war stories. One sister was kidnapped and fought to protect her 1-year-old son while marching for days behind rebel lines. Another sister sent her son away to avoid the war and spent two years — two years — hiding deep up country in an area known only as Territory 3C, far from the worst of the conflict, after witnessing gunmen disembowel a co-worker in front of his son.

I have long stopped asking people what happened to them during the war. But as I moved in recent weeks around this city where I was born, reporting about the Ebola epidemic, I was aware of this: There is a strength here that I had never before realized.

My friend Wael Hariz, a Lebanese citizen living here who had been away for a couple of months, said he came back in late September expecting the worst, after watching the coverage of Ebola overseas. Standing just off Tubman Boulevard, Monrovia’s main road, at midday, he looked at the cars, taxis and pedestrians going by.

“I had forgotten, after what they’ve been through, how resilient people here are,” he said.

They came by that resilience the hard way. This is a staggeringly beautiful place, where tropical rain forests give way to pure white sandy beaches dotted by coconut trees. But the average Liberian lives on $1.25 a day, has no access to clean water and does not have a flush toilet at home.

The average Liberian lives with mother, father, auntie, uncle and second cousins, sharing mattresses in cramped two-room shanties painted dark colors to ward off the equatorial sun. When one of those family members gets sick, the average Liberian picks through the muddy potholed dirt roads to Tubman Boulevard to hail a taxi to get to the nearest clinic.

When Comfort Fayiah, 32, was turned away last month from a private hospital that demanded $450, she gave birth to twins in the dirt near Du Port Road. Passers-by surrounded her to try to give her what privacy they could, while a local woman and man delivered the two girls, Faith and Mercy.

The new demon, of course, is Ebola, which has killed more than 2,000 Liberians and has struck double that number, crippled the country’s health system, ground the economy to a standstill and made international pariahs of anyone with a Liberian passport. Those facing it close up are fearful of what could happen and often angry that they are largely left on their own.

But many Liberians are treating the disease with much the same resignation as the killers of the past — accepting that the threat is there, and doing their best to navigate around it. They wash their hands with chlorine, they walk up to the laser thermometers at the entrances of public buildings to check their temperature. They still take care of family members who fall ill because there is no other alternative.

I have been trying to be as unruffled as my Liberian compatriots, but I’ve been living in the United States for too long now. My tolerance for risk has gone way down.

I have been consumed with worry. My oldest sister is a health care worker in Liberia who is deeply involved in the Ebola response. Another sister, Eunice, is a pensions manager at the Firestone rubber company; every day pensioners line up outside her office 35 miles from Monrovia and reach their hands toward her to receive their checks.

My 9-year-old niece, Nyepu, who has sickle-cell anemia, has been locked in the house since July, and is busting at the seams to get out. I have nightmares that she will escape and the worst will happen.

Packing to come here, I brought rehydration tablets for one sister, a box of latex gloves for the other and a portable DVD player for my niece. Visiting Eunice and her family, I admonished Nyepu not to touch me — I had been in an Ebola treatment unit. When Eunice and I took a picture together to send back to our third sister in the United States, we made sure not to touch.

Two days after I arrived in Monrovia, news broke that an Ebola case had been diagnosed at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the first in the United States. American officials said they were not releasing the name of the patient, citing confidentiality, but Liberia’s health minister, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, was having none of it.

“I throw that out the window,” he said during a meeting with visiting health officials. “There is no privacy in Ebola.”

Just like people in the United States, everyone in Monrovia was talking about the case of Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient in Dallas. The biggest question here was whether the United States would prevent Liberians from traveling to America. It is not as if many of them get visas anyway; the fortress that is the United States Embassy, perched on a hill in the diplomatic enclave of Mamba Point, is so barricaded that even a recent high-level American delegation had to wait outside for 20 minutes before being passed through the gates.

But what if President Obama pulls out the United States troops he has sent to build treatment units? When Mr. Duncan died, the first Ebola fatality in the United States, there was suspicion in Monrovia of both governments. “They wanted him to die, to teach us a lesson” not to try to go to America in hopes of surviving the disease, a friend told me.
Her tone was matter of fact. Life here comes with a higher level of risk.

A few days ago, I went up country to cover President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I stayed overnight in Gbarnga, but had to return to Monrovia, four hours away, at 5 a.m. A member of the president’s security detail whom I know, Varsay Sirleaf, hopped into the car with me. “She doesn’t want you going alone,” he said.

I knew it was pointless to argue. Besides, the road was part dirt, potholed, and dark; one flat tire and you are finished.

About 30 minutes after setting out, on the blackest stretch of the road, the headlights picked up a form on the side. “Stop!” Varsay yelled. “That’s a body!” He jumped out of the car, grabbing a flashlight and a pistol. “Lock the doors,” he said, and took off.

My mind immediately went to the civil war, to magic soldiers jumping out of the bush. It was quiet except for my heart beating.

Finally, Varsay returned. “He wasn’t dead,” he said. “He was drunk. I woke him up, and he went into the bush.”

I couldn’t believe he had just gone up to a body on the side of the road. “It could have been an ambush!” I cried. “He could have had Ebola!”

Varsay looked at me. “That what y’all do in America?” he asked.

He turned back toward the front, looking ahead. Then, he spoke again.

“You can’t just leave somebody on the side of the road to die.”

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:20 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
At Birthplace of the Arab Spring, Discontent Opens a Door to the Past

OCT. 19, 2014

TUNIS — Chaima Issa, a poet and the daughter of a former political prisoner, is determined to keep Tunisia’s revolution alive.

She is running as a candidate for a small democratic party in parliamentary elections next weekend in one of the most populous constituencies of the capital. A 34-year-old who wears purple-frame glasses, a tight white T-shirt and jeans, she is an outsider but a passionate one as she crisscrosses the old quarter of Tunis reaching out to voters.

Almost four years after a popular uprising that overthrew President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and set off the Arab Spring in 2011, Tunisians are grappling with price increases, unemployment and rising terrorism — and roundly blame their politicians for the mess. The frustration is such that people often say they wish for a return of the Ben Ali era.

Tunisia has been torn by ideological divisions between Islamists who won the first elections after the revolution in 2011 and secularists who led a protest movement against the Islamist government last year after the assassination of two members of Parliament. Now riding on the wave of discontent, former officials from the Ben Ali government, who are free to run for office for the first time since the uprising, are attempting a comeback.

It is a prospect that incenses Ms. Issa.

“It is horrible, shameful,” she said. “They are profiting from our revolution; they are picking our flowers. It is they who spilled our blood.”

In the capital’s old city recently, Ms. Issa found voters in an angry mood and vowing not to vote at all for the politicians, whom they clearly distrust. “All they want is a position, and then they never let go!” shouted one market worker striding past a group of workers from Ms. Issa’s National Democratic Alliance party who were wearing white party T-shirts and handing out leaflets and waving flags. “Long live Ben Ali!” shouted a vendor when he saw her party flags.

Tunisians will elect a new Parliament on Sunday, and then a month later vote for a new president, with a possible presidential runoff on Dec. 28. The elections will end a transitional period that has seen four interim governments since 2011.

Among those fielding candidates are seven or eight parties formed by officials of Mr. Ben Ali’s government and four former ministers who are contesting the presidential election. Barred from running for office in the 2011 elections for a constituent assembly, those former officials have been allowed to take part in the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections after a vote to exclude them was narrowly defeated in the National Constituent Assembly last year.

Many of the smaller democratic parties feel threatened by the return of members of the former government and in particular associates of Mr. Ben Ali from the former governing party, the R.C.D., who they say have retained their business and political connections and command substantial wealth.

The main Islamist party, Ennahda, voted to allow the return of former officials despite internal opposition, calculating that to include them in politics would reduce the antagonism that has been aimed against their party. Rather than exclude them, let the electorate decide, said Rachid Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader.

Some of the former officials have been feted on their return. An effusive crowd greeted Mr. Ben Ali’s former health minister, Mondher Zenaidi, when he flew back to Tunis from self-exile in France last month. Party workers were hanging red bunting outside the newly painted campaign headquarters of the Destourian Movement on Saturday as former officials clustered around their presidential candidate, Abderrahim Zouari, 70, a stalwart of the Ben Ali government who was released from prison last year, acquitted of corruption charges.

A larger number of former officials have also joined Nidaa Tounes, a party led by the 87-year-old statesman Beji Caid Essebsi, who served as a senior official under both of Tunisia’s authoritarian leaders but who was nevertheless considered acceptable enough to serve as interim prime minister in 2011. Mr. Essebsi helped lead the backlash against the Islamists last year and is now the front-runner for the presidential election. His party is vying with Ennahda to win the most seats in Parliament.

Opinions polls show Nida Tounes and Ennahda each garnering roughly a third of national support. Neither is expected to win an outright majority and so under Tunisia’s parliamentary system the party with the most seats will need to find coalition partners to form a government. Many, including Western governments eager to see some stability brought to North Africa, are encouraging the main parties to join together in a government of national unity.

How the old guard — often referred to as Destourians after the original name of the R.C.D., the French initials for the Constitutional Democratic Rally — will fare in the elections is one of the unknowns. “The main question is whether the Destourians make a comeback,” said Michael Ayari, researcher for the International Crisis Group in Tunisia. “Will they return as a political force or not?”

The tumult of the last four years has made many Tunisians look back favorably on the certainties of the authoritarian governments of the past, in particular the era of Habib Bourguiba, Tunisia’s first president after independence. People even express support for Mr. Ben Ali and his officials in a surge of nostalgia as they recall the low prices, security and clean streets under his governance.

“If they come back, we will greet them at the airport,” said Fatima Ben Hamem, a mother of five, who was attending a campaign rally for Ennahda in the neighborhood of Ibn Sina in Tunis on Saturday. “They say Ben Ali stole — God knows if he did — but he did not steal from the poor people.”

A survey conducted in the spring by the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of Tunisians supported a leader with a strong hand, up from 37 percent two years ago. Meanwhile, only 38 percent prefer democratic government to solve the nation’s problems, down from 61 percent in the same period.

The nostalgia has alarmed some, leading a group of journalists to produce a documentary titled “Seven Lives,” which examines the phenomenon of nostalgia for Mr. Ben Ali — a mix of psychological insecurity; a typically human desire for routine; and ignorance of the uglier elements of his rule, including the torture and repression, but also something as basic as the economy, the film concludes.

Those who have studied other societies in transition — namely post-communist countries — say it is to be expected that former officials will make a comeback after several years.

“The second elections always see the return of the old regime,” said Munir Dahfous, campaign manager for the centrist Al-Jamhouri party. Yet he, like many others, predicts that the achievements of the revolution, including freedoms enshrined in a new Constitution, cannot be undone. “We will see the return of the people, but not the system,” he said.

Mr. Zouari, whom many see as the most hard-line of Mr. Ben Ali’s ministers running for office, is intent on reminding citizens that life was better under the former government. The Destourians could form a bloc in Parliament and are receiving overtures from other parties, he said in an interview on Saturday. “We will be not a majority, but a considerable group,” he said.

“What is important now is that the machine, the machinery of the R.C.D., was sick and now there is oil in its engine and it is beginning to turn,” he said. “We have experience, we know the land and the dossier, and we can be operational from tomorrow.”

Most political opponents and analysts predict, however, that the Ben Ali officials will make little showing and that voters will reject them at the polls.

“They are not strong,” said Samir Taieb, a legislative candidate of the social democratic party Al-Mossar. “They are spread across several parties.”

Yet others warn that their influence is insidious. “The old regime always worked covertly,” Ahmed Nejib Chebbi, a presidential candidate and veteran dissident, said in an interview. “There is a risk of a return, a masked return, of the old regime. In effect, there is a threat to the democratic process.”

For Ms. Issa, the poet, it is personal. Her father, a painter, spent eight years in prison while she was a teenager for his support for the Islamist movement, a spell she blames for causing her mother’s premature death.

“They have the machine, they have the people, and money and that is what we fear,” she said.

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:13 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Lynching of boy underlines how the curse of caste still blights India

Sai Ram, burned alive because of a stray goat, was just one of 17,000 Dalits to fall victim to caste violence in the state of Bihar

Jason Burke in Delhi and Manoj Chaurasia in Patna
The Guardian, Sunday 19 October 2014 18.55 BST       

In another time, another place, Sai Ram might have escaped serious harm. But he died in great pain last week, a casualty of a bitter, barely reported conflict that still claims many lives every year.

Ram, 15, was a goatherd in a village in the poor eastern Indian state of Bihar. He was a Dalit, from the lowest rung of the caste hierarchy that still defines the lives, and sometimes the deaths, of millions of people in the emerging economic power.

His alleged killer, currently being held by local police, is from a higher landowning caste. He took offence when one of the teenager’s goats strayed on to his paddy field and grazed on his crops. Ram was overpowered by the landowner and a group of other men. He was badly beaten.

Then petrol was poured over him and lit, Ram’s father, Jiut Ram, said. “He was crying for help, then went silent,” the 50-year-old daily wage labourer told the Guardian.

The incident took place at Mohanpur village, about 125 miles (200km) south-west of Bihar’s capital, Patna, in an area known for caste tensions. It was the latest in a series of violent incidents that have once again highlighted the problems and discrimination linked to caste, particularly in lawless and impoverished rural areas.

Earlier this month, five Dalit women were allegedly gang-raped by upper-caste men in central Bihar’s Bhojpur district. In September, hundreds of Dalit families were forced from their homes in two other districts of Bihar after a man from the community tried to contest a local election against higher caste candidates.

Several political, social and economic factors usually lie behind such upsurges in caste-related violence. One reason for Bihar’s recent incidents may be the appointment in May of Jitan Ram Manjhi, a Dalit, as the chief minister of the state.

Since taking power Manjhi has announced measures to help other Dalits in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states, and is reported to have urged the community to have more children to become a more powerful political force.

Dalits account for some 15% of Bihar’s population of 103.8 million.

The chief minister’s call was not well received by members of other castes, local observers said.

Sachindra Narayan, a prominent Patna-based social scientist with the National Human Rights Commission in Delhi, said: “The prime reason [for the violence] is that [Dalits] feel empowered after seeing someone from their community at the head of the state and have begun to assert their rights. This is purely a retaliation from the dominant social groups.”

Manjhi claims a temple in northern Bihar was ritually cleaned and idols washed with holy water after his visit to the shrine. Such ceremonies are still performed by upper castes to eradicate “pollution” left by lower-caste visitors.

“A deep-rooted bias prevails against … those from the downtrodden sections of society … I have myself been a victim of caste bias,” the 70-year-old said.

Opponents claim Manjhi was stoking caste tensions for political advantage.

In the vast neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh, caste is also a major political issue, with power contested by two parties that broadly represent two different caste communities. That of Mayawati explicity campaigns for Dalits, while the ruling Samajwadi party is seen by many as representing the Yadavcommunity, once pastoralists.

Caste became a factor in recent national elections too. The prime minister, Narendra Modi, comes from a poor family from the lower-caste Ghanchicommunity, which is associated with selling oil. His rise from humble origins to leader of 1.25 billion people has inspired many – but also provoked scorn from elite politicians who have mocked his background.

The origins of caste are contested. Some point to ancient religious texts, others to rigid classifications of more local definitions of community and identities by British imperial administrators. The word “caste” is of Portuguese origin.

Regardless of its origins, the word still has the power to stir controversy. Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize-winning author, recently accused Mahatma Gandhi, India’s revered independence leader, of discrimination and called for institutions bearing his name to be renamed because of his attitude to caste.

She said: “It is time to unveil a few truths about a person whose doctrine of nonviolence was based on the acceptance of the most brutal social hierarchy ever known, the caste system … Do we really need to name our universities after him?”

Sociologists say the rapid urbanisation of India has weakened the caste system as the realities of living in overcrowded Indian cities make reinforcing social separation and discrimination through rituals or violence much harder.

But if change is coming to places like rural Bihar, it is often accompanied by violence.

Last October a roadside bomb killed Sunil Pandey, a landowner who was alleged to be a senior figure in a militia formed in 1994 to enforce the interests of higher castes in the state, but which has been largely dormant recently.

The Ranvir Sena militia, formed by men of the Bhumihar caste of landlords, is held responsible for a series of massacres of Dalits in the 1990s. These murders, in effect reprisals against local Maoist guerrillas, who have also killed many, reached a bloody climax with the deaths of 58 men, women and children with no connection to extremism in the village of Lakshman Bathe in 1998. Ranvir Sena and Pandey were blamed.

Last year 24 men had their convictions for that massacre overturned by Bihar’s high court, prompting renewed clashes.

The authorities have pledged rapid justice for Ram, the 15-year-old burned to death last week. But of nearly 17,000 pending trials in Bihar involving charges of violence against Dalits only a 10th were dealt with last year.

“We are going to … start speedy trial of the case,” Chandan Kumar Kushwaha, the local superintendent of police, said, while the chief minister told reporters he was taking a personal interest in the case.

“I have talked to the state’s director general of police and district superintendent of police concerned, and ordered them to … deliver instant justice to the victim [sic] family,” Manjhi said.

For the teenager’s father, nothing can compensate for the death of his son. “My entire world is lost now,” he said.


To Kill a Sparrow

BY CIR | Oct. 19, 2014 | 26:20

In Afghanistan, thousands of young women have been imprisoned for so-called moral crimes — including running away from unlawful forced marriages. This is one woman’s story.

Click to view:

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:10 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Australian government metadata requests far higher than disclosed

Requests for Australians’ phone, web browsing and location data exceeded half a million last year, ACMA figures reveal

Paul Farrell, Monday 20 October 2014 09.39 BST   
The total number of government requests for Australians’ phone, location and web data is far higher than government agencies are disclosing, with more than 500,000 separate requests for information made last year.

The latest annual report from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has revealed that there was 582,727 requests for phone, web browsing and location data – commonly known as “metadata” – that can reveal detailed information about a person’s personal lives and associations.

This figure is at odds with the more widely cited number of 300,000 a year, which is disclosed in the annual telecommunications interception reports made by the attorney general’s departments.

The ACMA annual report has been released amid a major push by the federal government to retain these types of personal data for a mandatory period of two years.

The proposal has been controversial because the majority of these requests can be obtained without warrants and can be requested by almost any government body, including local councils and even the RSPCA, and is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry.

The ACMA figures are concerning because they suggest the attorney general’s department’s figures do not account for every request for personal data made by government agencies.

Guardian Australia understands that when government bodies request personal information from multiple carriers – for instance to try to determine which carrier holds information on a certain phone number – that the series of requests are often conflated and only counted as a single request.

This approach leaves it to the discretion of agencies to combine requests from multiple carriers to be counted as just one “authorisation”.

A spokesman from the attorney general’s department said: “There is no conflict between the AGD [attorney general’s department] and ACMA reports.”

“For example, an agency can make an authorisation to seek the subscriber details of a particular person, but that authorisation needs to be given to multiple phone companies to check for the subscription details. If the person has multiple subscriptions with a number of carriers, that single authorisation will result in multiple disclosures.”

“The ACMA report will include the larger figure of disclosures from industry; the AGD report will include the smaller number of authorisations from agencies.”

The mass retention of telecommunications data has raised concerns among industry groups and civil liberties organisations due to the ease of access by government agencies and the increased risk of a major data breach.

In August Guardian Australia reported that the Australian federal police had accidentally disclosed sensitive metadata about criminal investigations by failing to redact documents provided to the Senate.

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:09 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

China’s Communist party expected to remain above the law after conference

Theme for annual meeting will be ‘rule of law’ but only small local reforms expected from party that operates above the constitution

Associated Press in Beijing
The Guardian, Monday 20 October 2014 09.22 BST   
The conundrum of bolstering the rule of law in Communist party-run China was on the agenda for its leaders on Monday at the start of a four-day conclave to guide policy for the coming year.

Rule of law is a tricky notion in China because the party operates above the law and has never appeared inclined to change. However, the ruling party and the government it controls are under pressure to improve the court system to address citizens’ unease that they have no real recourse in conflicts, including with local officials they accuse of unfairly seizing property and other wrongdoing.

Communist party leaders have set “rule of law” as the theme for this year’s annual meeting of its central committee.

Some experts argue the leadership is invoking the concept to improve China’s image at a time when the authorities are stepping up persecution of dissidents, activists, human rights lawyers, scholars and writers.

No formal decisions are expected until Thursday, when the central committee’s 205 members will conclude the meeting. Political observers are watching for changes to place the party under the authority of the law, although many believe that will not happen.

“Ultimately, people will look at one line – whether the party should be under the constitution or above the constitution,” said Cheng Li, director of the John L Thornton China Centre at the Brookings Institute, a Washington-based thinktank.

Carl Minzner, a law professor and expert on China’s legal system at the Fordham law school in New York, said there was “absolutely zero chance” that the party would impose meaningful legal checks on its own power.

Still, some experts are expecting legal reforms that would bring some fairness at a local level, where unrest over injustices has flared up into violence.

The meeting is expected to give provincial courts supervisory powers over their county-level peers in the areas of funding and appointments, taking them out of the influence of local authorities.

Other changes may include vetting judges to ensure they are professionally qualified and making more verdicts available to the public to hold judges accountable for their rulings.

Xu Xin, a Beijing-based legal scholar, said there could also be measures to curb corruption by requiring newly appointed officials to disclose their assets and by setting up an anti-corruption agency.

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:07 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
S.Korea Warns North against 'Reckless Provocation'

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 October 2014, 07:18

South Korea warned North Korea on Monday against further "reckless" provocations following a series of minor border skirmishes that have heightened military tensions ahead of planned high-level talks.

Troops from both sides exchanged small arms fire on Sunday after South Korean troops fired warning shots at a North Korean patrol moving towards the military demarcation line that divides the peninsula.

"We sternly warn North Korea against reckless military provocations ... that would raise military tensions," Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said.

On October 7, North and South Korean naval vessels traded warning fire near the disputed Yellow Sea border.

Three days later border guards exchanged heavy machine-gun fire after the North tried to shoot down balloons launched over the frontier with bundles of anti-Pyongyang leaflets.

The North has repeatedly urged the South to ban the leaflet launches organised by activist groups, but Seoul insists it has no legal grounds for doing so.

Last week the two Koreas held military talks to address the tensions but they ended without agreement.

The border incidents have jeopardised a decision -- reached during a surprise visit to the South by a top-ranking North delegation earlier this month -- to resume high-level talks suspended since February.

The South has proposed October 30 as a date for restarting the dialogue, and Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-Cheol told reporters Friday he still believes the talks will go ahead.

"Our government expects the high-level contact to be held as we suggested," Lim said.

Because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a treaty, the two Koreas remain technically at war.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Oct 20, 2014, 06:06 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Japan PM Abe Loses Two Female Ministers over Cash Scandals

by Naharnet Newsdesk
20 October 2014, 07:11

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suffered a double setback Monday with the resignations of two female cabinet ministers over claims they misused political funds, dealing a blow to his proclaimed gender reform drive.

Industry minister Yuko Obuchi and Midori Matsushima, justice minister, fell on their swords after days of allegations that they had misspent money in what opponents insisted was an attempt to buy votes.

Their loss reduces to three the number of women in the cabinet, after Abe's widely-praised move in September to promote a record-tying five to his administration.

"I'm the person who appointed the two. As prime minister, I take responsibility for this and deeply apologize for this situation," Abe told reporters, adding he would replace them both within the day.

The double resignations are the first significant problem for Abe since he swept to power in December 2012, ending years of fragile governments that swapped prime ministers on an annual basis.

While commentators generally agreed that this would not be the end of the hard-charging premier, who has set his sights on reinvigorating Japan's lacklustre economy, they cautioned that he was now vulnerable.

"This is Abe's first major stumble," said Tomoaki Iwai, professor of politics at Nihon University in Tokyo.

"Because of the double resignations, his approval rate is likely to fall and Abe will be under pressure," Iwai said. "If he repeats similar mistakes, it's going to be a fatal blow to his administration."

Obuchi, who inherited the dynasty of her father, a former prime minister, offered a fresh, youthful face on the front benches -- a place generally dominated by older men.

As a mother of two, her family-friendly image was expected to help smooth the way to re-starting Japan's stalled nuclear power plants, with supporters hoping she could convince a skeptical public of their safety.

But her elevation had also reportedly irked male politicians who felt they had loyally served their time on the backbenches and had been passed over in favor of a young woman with little cabinet experience.


- Subsidised theater trips -

She began to come unstuck last week when reports emerged that she had spent political funds on make-up and accessories as gifts for supporters.

They were followed by claims that she had subsidized theater trips for voters from her rural constituency.

The claims, which were priced at tens of millions of yen (hundreds of thousands of dollars) over several years, were taken as evidence of attempted vote buying.

"It is not permissible for me as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to have economy and energy policies stalled because of my own problems," she told a press conference carried live on multiple television channels.

"I will resign and focus on probing what has been called into question," she told reporters after a 30-minute meeting with Abe.

Matsushima has been under fire for allegedly giving out cheap fans with her name and picture printed on them -- another example, said detractors, of trying to buy support.

One of those fans was for sale on an Internet auction site Monday, with the price having reached 2,100 yen ($20).

Money scandals are not uncommon in Japanese politics, where the pork barrel reigns and rules on spending tend to be slightly opaque, barring little except explicit bribery and vote buying.

The promotion of five women to the cabinet was seen as part of Abe's bid to boost the role of women in society, a move viewed as vital to help plug the holes in Japan's workforce and make better use of a pool of latent talent.

Asked if she felt her relative youth and her gender had played a role in the way the scandal emerged, Obuchi demurred.

"I only learnt now that this issue could be seen in this light," she said.

Sadakazu Tanigaki, secretary-general and the number two in Abe's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, earlier said Obuchi's resignation was "extremely regrettable."

"As Ms Obuchi was symbolic of women's having an active role, I think there will be damage (to the government)," Tanigaki told reporters.

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