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Author Topic: Pluto in Cap, the USA, the future of the world  (Read 1090411 times)
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« Reply #7200 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:10 AM »

06/28/2013 04:11 PM

Radical Reform: Dutch iPad Schools Seek to Transform Education

By Marco Evers

Plenty of schools use iPads. But what if the entire education experience were offered via tablet computer? That is what several new schools in the Netherlands plan to do. There will be no blackboards or schedules. Is this the end of the classroom?

Think different. It was more than an advertising slogan. It was a manifesto, and with it, former Apple CEO Steve Jobs upended the computer industry, the music industry and the world of mobile phones. The digital visionary's next plan was to bring radical change to schools and textbook publishers, but he died of cancer before he could do it.

Some of the ideas that may have occurred to Jobs are now on display in the Netherlands. Eleven "Steve Jobs schools" will open in August, with Amsterdam among the cities that will be hosting such a facility. Some 1,000 children aged four to 12 will attend the schools, without notebooks, books or backpacks. Each of them, however, will have his or her own iPad.

There will be no blackboards, chalk or classrooms, homeroom teachers, formal classes, lesson plans, seating charts, pens, teachers teaching from the front of the room, schedules, parent-teacher meetings, grades, recess bells, fixed school days and school vacations. If a child would rather play on his or her iPad instead of learning, it'll be okay. And the children will choose what they wish to learn based on what they happen to be curious about.

Preparations are already underway in Breda, a town near Rotterdam where one of the schools is to be located. Gertjan Kleinpaste, the 53-year-old principal of the facility, is aware that his iPad school on Schorsmolenstraat could soon become a destination for envious -- but also outraged -- reformist educators from all over the world.

And there is still plenty of work to do on the pleasant, light-filled building, a former daycare center. The yard is littered with knee-deep piles of leaves. Walls urgently need a fresh coat of paint. Even the lease hasn't been completely settled yet. But everything will be finished by Aug. 13, Kleinpaste says optimistically, although he looks as though the stress is getting to him.

'Pretty Normal in 2020'

Last year, he was still the principal of a school that had precisely three computers, which he found frustrating. "It was no longer in keeping with the times," he says. Soon, however, Kleinpaste will be a member of the digital avant-garde. He is convinced that "what we are doing will seem pretty normal in 2020."

The Steve Jobs school will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 on every workday. The children will come and go as they please, as long as they are present during the core period between 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. The building will only be closed for Christmas and New Year's. The children's families will be able to go on vacation when they please, and no child will have to be worried about missing class as a result, since classes in the traditional sense will be nonexistent.

Only in exceptional cases will a teacher direct classes in groups. Normally, the children will learn by calling up a learning app on their iPad -- which will be turned into a sort of interactive, multimedia schoolbook -- whenever they want.

The program is more patient than any person ever could be and turns learning into a game-like experience, partly with the help of amusing noises and animations. In each exercise, the children are corrected the way players are in a computer game. They don't have to work through entire chapters, as they did in the past. The goal is to enable them to reach the next level in the learning program at their own pace. The teacher's role is to help them, not as conveyors of knowledge but as learning coaches. "The interaction between the child and the teacher remains the foundation of the lesson," as Kleinpaste puts it.

As such, the school day never really ends. Pupils are welcome to keep working on their iPads at home, on weekends or on vacation. But as much as the program offers freedom and continuity, it also comes with a substantial monitoring component. The iPad keeps teachers and parents constantly informed about what children are doing, what they have learned and how they are progressing. If a math app is neither enjoyable nor successful, the teacher simply orders another one. The supply of educational programs never runs dry in Apple's online app store.

Not Truly Relevant

Arithmetic, reading skills and text comprehension are the core subjects in the elementary school. Good handwriting has been downgraded to a secondary skill, nice for industrious pupils but not truly relevant.

Every six weeks, teachers, children and parents decide together what is to be achieved in the next learning period. To do so, they meet at school or virtually via Skype. The era of the 10-minute parent-teacher meeting once a year is a thing of the past in the Steve Jobs schools.

And when they are not working on iPads, the future principal insists, students at Steve Jobs schools will lead the lives of perfectly normal children. Drawing, building things, playing and physical activity are all part of daily life at the schools.

"It isn't as if the children will just be sitting in front of a screen here," Kleinpaste promises.

Debbie Hengeveld, 41, found the concept so convincing that she promptly enrolled both of her children, her seven-year-old daughter Freeke and her 10-year-old son Joep. "Children innately want to learn things," says Hengeveld. "Here they can remain who they are. They aren't shaped by teachers and lesson plans."

The initiator of the iPad schools is the well-known Amsterdam public opinion researcher Maurice de Hond, 65, a man with an affinity for digital life. He is proud of the fact that he has known how to program computers since 1965. His daughter Daphne, born in 2009, pointed the way for him.

'Revolution of Little Children'

Before she was even three years old, Daphne was learning how to draw letters with the help of an iPad app. De Hond is constantly astonished by the things she can now do with the device, effortlessly and of her own volition. "We are experiencing a revolution of little children," he says. This generation, he explains, experiences real and virtual life as one big entity. But analog schools threaten to suppress half of that equation, he says.

"At home, Daphne learns naturally, according to her own pace, interactively and using multimedia tools," says de Hond. Why should she feel "like she's in a museum" when she's in school, he asks? The classic chalk-and-blackboard teachers, he adds angrily, "are preparing children for a world that no longer exists."

Steve Jobs died in California in October 2011 -- at about the same time that de Hond decided to instigate an uprising in the Netherlands. Within weeks, frustrated teachers, well-known education professors and dozens of parents had joined his cause. Together they wrote a manifesto for iPad schools. Meanwhile, independent groups in many places began establishing iPad schools, a process that is relatively easy in the Netherlands.


According to a current poll by the daily newspaper De Volkskrant, all parties in parliament support the basic idea, with one exception: The PVV of right-wing populist Geert Wilders is opposed. It wants to see "more structure" in the classroom.

"The movement has become unstoppable," says school reformer de Hond. "I would be very disappointed if we didn't have at least 40 Steve Jobs schools by August of next year." Each of the schools will be publicly funded and open to all children. Parents unable to afford an iPad will receive a subsidy from a solidarity fund.

Whether the schools will actually be allowed to call themselves "Steve Jobs schools" is questionable. The organizers fully expect to hear from Apple's attorneys in Cupertino. "We would like to honor this man in this way," says de Hond. He admits, however, that he hasn't told Apple or Jobs' widow about the honor yet.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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« Reply #7201 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:17 AM »

June 28, 2013

After Political Appointment in Bulgaria, Rage Boils Over


SOFIA, Bulgaria — Delyan Peevski’s mother used to head the national lottery and leads a growing media empire with strong political and economic connections in this small, impoverished and notoriously corrupt Balkan nation. So perhaps it was not surprising that the appointment of Mr. Peevski, 32, to head the powerful State Agency for National Security sparked protests that have been attended by thousands every day over the past two weeks and show no sign of losing steam.

Mr. Peevski, whose political and business career started at the tender age of 21 — when in his second year at law school he became head of Bulgaria’s large Black Sea port at Varna — resigned just a day after his appointment on June 14. But for opponents of the Socialist-led government that appointed him, the die was cast. The shaky government, itself a product of elections held after popular protests last winter forced its predecessors from office, has not recovered. Speculation is rampant that it, too, will resign, bringing further instability to the poorest nation in the 27-country European Union.

Many Bulgarians are outraged that a figure like Mr. Peevski was placed in a sensitive state position in charge of fighting the most serious crimes, a job that includes access to classified information and the power to order arrests and wiretaps.

“If you read the biography of Peevski, he personifies all the problems of Bulgaria,” Pavel Antonov, 40, said at a recent protest, referring to corruption, nepotism, organized crime and the abuse of state power.

“He has a very ugly personality: his way of speaking, his behavior, his arrogance,” Mr. Antonov said. “It’s galvanized the people.”

In his defense, Mr. Peevski released a letter to the news media after he resigned, accusing the previous government of orchestrating opposition to his appointment to fend off “the inevitable disclosures” by the new administration.

“For me, power is not a goal in itself,” he wrote. Officials from the previous government had criminal origins and were running scared, he charged.

“This is why they took the road of destruction and singled me out, because they know that I am a person capable of opposing them efficiently,” he wrote.

Mr. Peevski declined to comment to the International Herald Tribune, as did his political party, the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, or M.R.F.

After law school, Mr. Peevski became at age 25 deputy minister of disaster management policy. The prime minister fired him after a media scandal and allegations of corruption. While prosecutors started an investigation into possible abuse of office, no charges were ever brought. (The European Commission has long criticized Bulgaria for failing to prosecute a single high-level public official.) At 28, Mr. Peevski was elected to his first term as a deputy in Parliament.

Mr. Peevski helps run his mother’s media empire, which includes roughly 40 percent of the print market in Bulgaria, the biggest printing press in the country, the fourth-largest television broadcaster, the distribution company for about 80 percent of the country’s newspapers and many other media outlets, according to industry watchers.

While Mr. Peevski owns no companies, according to the Bulgarian commercial register, his mother, Irena Krusteva, the former head of the national lottery, has a role in dozens of media companies.

According to Mr. Peevski’s 2011 financial declaration, required for those who hold public office, he had about €30,000, or $39,000, in a bank account and no other wealth or property to declare. He was absent from 92 percent of legislative sessions from 2009 to 2013 and never proposed any legislation or asked ministers any questions, according to parliamentary records.

Mr. Peevski and his mother are tied to the economic group around Corporate Commercial Bank, whose assets are valued at some €5 billion.

A week before Mr. Peevski was elected to his security post by the Parliament, the law for the position was changed in an apparent attempt to qualify him despite no intelligence experience and just seven months in the state investigation service.

Deputies from the Bulgarian Socialist Party were informed of Mr. Peevski’s candidacy only 30 minutes before they were pressed to vote for him, said Georgi Kadiev, one of four Socialist lawmakers who abstained.

“As members of Parliament we are supposed to protect national security,” Mr. Kadiev said in an interview. “Instead, we ourselves became threats to national security.”

“Peevski represents a typical example of state capture by oligarchs,” said Philip Gounev, a corruption expert at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, an independent policy group. “The only difference in his case is that the example is much more visible.”

According to Mr. Gounev, the economic group around Corporate Commercial Bank wields uncontrolled influence over the state and state-owned companies, attacking opponents and giving favorable media coverage to allies. “You keep your money in our bank and we support you in the media,” Mr. Gounev said, charging that this practice had prevailed “for three governments in a row.”

A former reporter who worked for Mr. Peevski said that his employer seemed to understand the paper where he worked only as a business valuable for pressuring foes. The reporter, who insisted on anonymity for fear of repercussions in Bulgaria’s small media industry, said however that Mr. Peevski, surrounded by up to 20 bodyguards, was an efficient manager who frequently picked up the tab for entertainment and made an impression.

Haralan Alexandrov, a social anthropologist at New Bulgarian University, said one factor feeding the angry public opposition to Mr. Peevski as security chief was that he represents “a very old and well-established image from the collective subconscious: the evil capitalist.” His beefy physique feeds the resemblance to “the exploiter capitalist” of old Communist-era cartoons, Mr. Alexandrov said.

Georgi Kantchev contributed reporting.
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« Reply #7202 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:18 AM »

International forces will provide advice to Afghan military until 2020

Senior military sources say Nato will continue to play major role as Afghan forces are unprepared for 2014 withdrawal

Nicholas Watt at Camp Bastion, Saturday 29 June 2013 11.31 BST   

International forces will provide logistical advice to the Afghan military up until 2020 after concluding that Afghanistan's national security forces will be unprepared for full operations when Nato combat troops withdraw from the country at the end of 2014.

As David Cameron paid a visit to British troops in Helmand province on Armed Forces Day, senior military sources indicated that Nato would need to play a major role in Afghanistan until the end of the decade.

The prime minister said British forces were reaching the final phase of the 12-year campaign. But senior British military sources said the Afghan forces would need advice on providing close air support, the distribution of food and fuel and on medevac facilities.

British military commanders have been able to make their assessments after Nato handed control of security for the whole of the country to Afghan forces earlier this month. The commanders have concluded that a great deal has been achieved but that Afghan forces will not have built their capacity to full operational levels by the time Nato combat troops leave at the end of 2014.

The military advice contrasts with the approach of the prime minister who aims to have a minimal British footprint in Afghanistan by 2015. Britain is to provide financial help and is to run an officer training academy near Kabul dubbed "Sandhurst in the sand".

The prime minister arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday after Lieutenant Nick Carter, the deputy commander of Nato operations in Afghanistan, told the Guardian that opportunities to build a dialogue with the Taliban were missed in the past decade. The US recently announced that it would hold talks with the Taliban, who have been allowed to open a political office in the Qatari capital Doha.

Cameron indicated that he had some sympathy for Carter's view. He told Sky News in Lashkar Gah: "I think you can argue about whether the settlement we put in place after 2001 could have been better arranged. Of course you can make that argument. Since I became prime minister in 2010 I have been pushing all the time for a political process and that political process is now under way.

"But at the same time I know that you cannot bank on that which is why we have built up the Afghan army, built up the Afghan police, supported the Afghan government so after our troops have left, and they will be leaving under the programme we have set out, this country shouldn't be a haven for terrorists."

The prime minister said it was right to talk to the Taliban as he dubbed the Nato operation a success after it denied al-Qaida a base in Afghanistan. He said: "We want a political solution as well as making sure we have a security solution. What we have done in Afghanistan is we came here to stop it being used as a base for terrorist activities. That has been and is successful."

The US agreed to talk to the Taliban after dropping a series of pre-conditions which had included an unequivocal renunciation of al-Qaida and an agreement to abide by the Afghan constitution. The Taliban simply said they agreed that Afghanistan should not be used as a base to attack other countries.

British diplomatic sources voiced strong support for the change of tack by the US. They even suggested that the Afghan constitution could be amended to take account of some of the Taliban's concerns.

One source said the constitution followed a winner-takes-all approach which concentrated strong powers in the hands of the president. This is not seen to be compatible with a process of reconciliation. But the other key Taliban demand – to give the constitution a more Islamic flavour – is regarded as unacceptable because diplomatic sources believe the constitution is sufficiently Islamic.

Any changes to the constitution would take place after the presidential election in April 2014. Hamid Karzai has to stand down as president after serving two terms.

The sources said Taliban prisoners would have to be released as part of negotiations. They would be free to play a role in the Afghan armed forces.

The prime minister announced during his visit that a wall at the main British army base at Camp Bastion, which commemorates soldiers who lost their lives in the conflict, is to be dismantled and rebuilt in Britain with funds from the Libor bank fines. The Bastion memorial wall at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire will be built with £300,000 from the £35m armed forces covenant (Libor) fund.

The prime minister said: "Britain must never forget those who gave their lives in Afghanistan. A Bastion memorial wall back at home deserves every penny of this funding. It will give us a permanent place to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and to show how proud and thankful we are for all they gave serving our country. They must never be forgotten."

A senior No 10 source added that after 2014 the British presence in Afghanistan would be a matter for the country's National Security Council.

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« Reply #7203 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:20 AM »

June 28, 2013

Migrant Plan Poses Risks for Australia, Leader Says


SYDNEY, Australia — Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia on Friday used his first news conference since regaining the country’s top leadership position to warn that policies proposed by the leader of the opposition risked dragging Australia into a military conflict with neighboring Indonesia.

Mr. Rudd, who forced out former Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a Labor Party vote this week, said an opposition proposal to use Australian naval vessels to tow boats carrying asylum seekers back to Indonesia placed the two countries on a “policy collision.”

Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition Liberal-National coalition, has had a significant lead in polls over Mr. Rudd’s Labor Party leading up to elections scheduled for Sept. 14. He has promised a tougher line with Indonesia over the stream of rickety boats packed with asylum seekers that regularly try the dangerous crossing. Indonesia, however, has said it will not accept vessels carrying asylum seekers that are towed back to its shores.

“I wonder if Tony Abbott is trying to risk some sort of conflict with Indonesia,” Mr. Rudd said to reporters in the capital, Canberra.

“What happens on Day 1 when Field Marshal Tony puts out the order to the captain of the naval frigate X to turn back a bunch of boats?” he asked. “And you have got a naval frigate from the Indonesian Navy on the other side of the equation?”

Australia has tried for years to come up with a policy to deter would-be immigrants from trying to reach Christmas Island, a territory in the Indian Ocean that is Australia’s closest point to Indonesia. Thousands of asylum seekers try to reach the island each year, leading to accidents at sea that have killed more than 600 people since late 2009.

The Australian Parliament passed legislation last year to allow boat refugees to be deported to offshore detention centers in an effort to discourage asylum seekers from trying the voyage, but it remains unclear whether the policy has had any significant effect.

Julie Bishop, the deputy opposition leader, hit back quickly in an interview with Sky News, a British satellite news broadcaster.

“The prime minister of this country has falsely, maliciously, recklessly, irresponsibly said that the coalition would trigger conflict with Indonesia,” she said. “It is not our policy to breach Indonesian territorial sovereignty nor is it our policy to trigger a conflict with Indonesia.”

Mr. Rudd, who was derided during his first term in office for an autocratic leadership style until being forced out by Ms. Gillard in 2010, was returned to the premiership Wednesday by nervous colleagues eager to avoid what polls indicated could be defeat for the Labor Party in the September elections. In addition to discussing the issue of asylum seekers, which proved to be a major policy weakness for Ms. Gillard, Mr. Rudd went to great pains on Friday to reassure the nation and his fellow politicians that he was a changed man.

“One of the things I have learned is the absolute importance of proper orderly consultation with cabinet colleagues on any major decision of the government,” he said.

Although Mr. Rudd fastidiously avoided announcing any broad policy changes during the hourlong news conference, he did become the first sitting Australian prime minister to publicly endorse marriage equality, and urged Mr. Abbott to allow his party members to vote their conscience on the issue. Mr. Abbott enforced strict party discipline in a vote to legalize same-sex marriage that was defeated last year.

“Wherever I go in Australia, young people think that our current arrangements are just wrong,” Mr. Rudd said. “Whoever wins the next election, let’s just have the civility to open this to a conscience vote for all.”
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« Reply #7204 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:21 AM »

June 28, 2013

Violence Erupts Anew in Volatile Chinese Region


HONG KONG — Violence erupted on Friday in China’s volatile far western Xinjiang region, the second time in three days that tensions between the largely Muslim Uighur minority and Chinese security forces have brought bloodshed to the area.

The latest clash occurred in Hotan Prefecture, in the southern part of Xinjiang, whose population is predominantly Uighur. The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking group sharing many affinities with people across Central Asia, and most follow relatively moderate forms of Sunni Islam. Many Uighurs resent the growing number of Han Chinese people, who have been attracted to Xinjiang by jobs in farming, energy production and mining.

A brief report issued by Tianshan Net, an official news Web site for Xinjiang, said that in Hanairike Township in Hotan, a crowd wielding weapons “assembled in a disturbance, and the public security authorities took emergency action and detained people taking part, rapidly quelling them.”

The report said that “during the handling of the incident, no members of the public were killed or injured,” leaving it unclear whether any police officers or officials were hurt or even killed.

Calls to Hotan government offices and a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang government were not answered.

The clash on Friday is likely to alarm the Chinese government. It came just two days after a confrontation in Turpan Prefecture, another part of Xinjiang, left 35 people dead, according to the state-run news agency, Xinhua. In that episode, Xinhua said, a crowd attacked a township police station and government offices on Wednesday, and the police fired on the participants. Xinhua said rioters killed 24 people, and police officers fatally shot 11 rioters.

“We’re seeing now violent instances becoming more frequent, unfortunately,” said Alim A. Seytoff, the president of the Uyghur American Association, an exiled group based in Washington that campaigns for an independent Uighur homeland, which advocates call East Turkestan. “You can see from these instances of violence the intensification of Chinese repressive rule in the region.”

The clashes this week came just before the fourth anniversary of widespread bloodshed in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang. At least 197 people were killed on July 5, 2009, after the police broke up a protest by Uighurs and the confrontation gave way to attacks by rioters on Han people, who make up China’s majority. Han Chinese protesters later marched on Uighur neighborhoods, some attacking homes with bricks and cleavers. The police never said how many died or were injured in those revenge riots.

Yang Shu, a Chinese professor who studies unrest in Xinjiang, said the recent violence reflected Uighur grievances about social inequalities and dislocation driven by economic modernization, the spreading influence of militant currents of Islam and the deterioration of ethnic relations since 2009. In July 2011, 18 people died when rioters in Hotan stormed a police station.

“The July 5 incident is a major factor,” Professor Yang, the director of the Institute for Central Asian Studies at Lanzhou University in northwest China, said in a telephone interview. “It was a watershed. Afterward, Uighur-Han relations have clearly deteriorated. We can’t avoid this problem.”

The Xinjiang region’s economy grew by 12 percent in 2012, compared to 2011, but many Uighurs complain that better-paying jobs, land and business opportunities are beyond their grasp. Uighurs account for a little under half of Xinjiang’s 22 million civilian inhabitants; Han Chinese account for 40 percent, according to government data. The Hotan area has about two million inhabitants, nearly 97 percent of them Uighur, according to census data from 2010.

Government restrictions on mosques and Muslim practices have also become a growing source of tension, especially with Uighurs attracted to more conservative forms of Islam. The latest violence occurred less than two weeks before the start of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. Some local governments in Xinjiang have sought to discourage Uighurs from their usual fasting at that time.

Xinjiang shares borders with Central Asian countries as well as Pakistan and a sliver of Afghanistan. It came under the control of Chinese Communist forces in 1949, and swaths are still controlled by quasi-military production organizations, which run huge farms for cotton, tomatoes and other crops.

In April, 21 people in Xinjiang died in fighting between security forces and people the government called “gangsters” and said were Uighurs. In March, two courts convicted and sentenced 20 people accused of militant separatism in the region.

The Chinese government has often placed blame for past violence in Xinjiang on militant groups seeking independence, especially the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. But advocates of Uighur self-determination say the violence is often a spontaneous local response to mass detentions and other harsh policing methods.

“These are not like the Chinese government often accuses or just states — terrorists,” said Mr. Seytoff, the president of the Uyghur American Association. “The Chinese repressive policies have driven some ordinary Uighurs into the ultimate desperation.”
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« Reply #7205 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:23 AM »

Syrian regime forces launch attack on rebel-held area of Homs

State television says troops loyal to Assad are making 'great progress' in Khalidiyah district of Syria's third-largest city

Reuters, Saturday 29 June 2013 12.05 BST   

Troops loyal to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, have launched a military offensive against a rebel-held areas of Homs, a centre of the two-year-old uprising against his regime.

Activists said jets and mortars pounded rebel territory in Syria's third largest city and soldiers attacked the district of Khalidiyah, where state television reported they were making "great progress".

Video uploaded on the internet showed heavy explosions and clouds of white smoke after what the activists said were air strikes on the adjacent neighbourhood of Jouret al-Shiyyah.

The attack on Homs city follows steady military gains by Assad's forces, backed by Lebanese Hezbollah militants, in provincial Homs villages and towns close to the Lebanese border.

Those gains have consolidated Assad's control over a corridor of territory linking the capital, Damascus, with the traditional heartland of his minority Alawite sect in the mountains overlooking the Mediterranean.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the 27-month-old conflict in Syria. The civil war has also driven 1.7 million refugees to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

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« Reply #7206 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:37 AM »

Barack Obama will not visit Nelson Mandela in hospital, says White House

US president will meet relatives but not the former South African president in deference to his family's wishes

David Smith in Johannesburg and staff, Saturday 29 June 2013 12.44 BST   

The US president, Barack Obama, and Michelle Obama will meet relatives of Nelson Mandela but will not visit the former South African president in hospital, the White House has announced.

Obama arrived in South Africa on Friday on the second stop of a three-nation Africa tour. Mandela, 94, remains in a critical but stable condition at the Mediclinic heart hospital in Pretoria.

"Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, they will not be visiting the hospital," the White House said in a statement. The Obamas would meet members of the Mandela family privately on Saturday "to offer their thoughts and prayers at this difficult time".

Speaking at a press conference with the South African president, Jacob Zuma, Obama said Mandela was a beacon of the power of principle and standing up for what was right.

He said the recent outpouring of love for Mandela showed the deep yearning for justice and dignity in the human spirit which transcended class, race and country.

Zuma said Mandela was "critical but stable" but "we hope that very soon he will be out of hospital".

The prospect of a meeting between the first black presidents of the US and South Africa has receded since Mandela was taken to hospital with a recurring lung infection three weeks ago. But on Friday Obama indicated it had not been ruled out. "We'll see what the situation is when we land," he told journalists on board Air Force One.

"I don't need a photo op, and the last thing I want to do is to be in any way obtrusive at a time when the family is concerned about Nelson Mandela's condition.

"I've had the opportunity to meet with him. Michelle and the girls had an opportunity to meet with him. Right now, our main concern is with his wellbeing, his comfort, and with the family's wellbeing and comfort."

The president added: "So when we get there we'll gauge the situation, but I think the main message we'll want to deliver if not directly to him but to his family is simply our profound gratitude for his leadership all these years and that the thoughts and prayers of the American people are with him and his family and his country. I think in that sense, the sentiment of Americans is universally shared around the world."

Obama is due to visit Soweto, the sprawling township where Mandela used to live, on Saturday. On Sunday he will head to Robben Island, where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

Eusebius McKaiser, a political analyst and radio talkshow host, said a meeting between Obama and Mandela would be undesirable. "Nelson Mandela is incredibly frail and in the process of possibly dying," he said.

His "bodily demise" should not be confused with his political legacy, McKaiser added, arguing that Obama should keep the latter alive through speech and action rather than "trying to engage his legacy by being physically present".

The leader of the world's dominant superpower can seldom have found himself reduced to a sideshow on foreign shores. McKaiser said: "Obama would never be overshadowed domestically in any country as he is by Madiba" (Mandela's clan name).

"Nelson Mandela is such a larger-than-life figure that the only way Obama seems to be able to get press coverage of his African tour is when he talks about Nelson Mandela. That's quite remarkable when you consider the geopolitical importance of the US presidency."

Obama and the first lady have a busy schedule over the weekend, but media reports said it could be torn up should Mandela die.

An Obama camp source quoted in South Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper said: "If something happens, we're not going to continue with some of the events. At this point, we're watching the news closely on Mandela."


Nelson Mandela's condition has 'greatly improved', says ex-wife Winnie - video

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, who was married to Nelson for nearly 40 years, tells the media in Soweto, Johannesburg, that the 94-year-old's health has shown 'great improvement' but that he is still 'clinically unwell'. Echoing Mandela's eldest daughter, who said some media were 'acting like vultures', Madikizela-Mandela asked the media to not get 'carried away' with its reporting


Nelson Mandela's village braces for hero's funeral

In Qunu, roads are being built for the expected mourners, but locals still avoid the taboo topic of the death of 'Madiba'

Peter Beaumont in Qunu, Friday 28 June 2013 19.43 BST   

On the road through the little hamlet of Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape, a local television crew is filming a group of boys playing with a home-made go-kart on a hill.

The journalists gather them together and ask them to raise their fists and shout for the camera "Dalibhunga!", the name given to Nelson Mandela on his circumcision.

Behind them, hidden by a red brick wall and a screen of trees built on the N2, which passes south from Durban to East London, is Mandela's compound.

On Friday bulldozers were busy carving out a pair of access roads behind the house, both rising up to a ridge of pale yellow grass overlooking the village, converging on a rocky shoulder dotted with brilliant orange flowers.

The residents of Mandela's home village, where he arrived as a young child and returned to after his 27 years in prison, understand well what these preparations mean. The roads, which construction workers began after his first serious bout of ill health, will carry mourners to Mandela's grave site.

Indeed, the journalists who have arrived to interview locals in Qunu, the bulldozers, police and figures in plain clothes surveying the shallow gulley running through the village all point to a thing that most in the village do not want to talk about too openly but that they still acknowledge: soon, too soon for them, Qunu's most famous son will be interred on a hill overlooking the scattering of pastel-coloured houses.

If villagers are cautious about discussing the implications of the activity in Qunu, it is because in Xhosa custom, as in many other African cultures, it is taboo to discuss a person's death while they are still alive.

Tension in the village has risen because Mandela has never given exact instructions for his funeral. Instead, South Africa's government has been forced to rely on indications he made 20 years ago – including in an interview with the country's Guardian and Mail newspaper – insisting in the most general terms on his desire for the simplest of ceremonies in Qunu.

And like most people in South Africa, residents of Qunu, including relatives, have been forced to rely on sparse information from television and radio, even while watching preparations for an event they hope might no happen just now.

"There's no right time to discuss the death of a person who's still alive," Penuel Mjongile told the South African Press Association as he watched over his cattle. "That is taboo. It's not done."

However, the mortality of Africa's most celebrated figure has for years imposed itself on the lives of the residents of Qunu. International media companies long ago bought the rights to pitch their equipment on plots of land attached to the houses along the main road close to Mandela's house.

In the nearby town of Mthatha, where family disputes over where Mandela should be buried reached a courtroom on Friday, guesthouses and hotels have been block-booked long in advance. For now, however, the media is camped out en masse outside the hospital in Pretoria where Mandela is being treated – Qunu and nearby Mthatha will be their next stop.

Opposite Mandela's house, a young woman sells fruit from the back of her car. She is happy to talk but prefers not to be identified by her Xhosa name and asks to be called Amanda instead, complaining she has already been misquoted.

"Madiba's family needs the space and time to grieve for him," she says, using the clan name for Mandela, by which he is affectionately known. She says she understands the concern of the family – not least his daughter Makaziwe, who condemned the media gathered outside the hospital as "vultures" on Thursday – but says she believes there is "never a right way".

Asked how much the funeral should be a private family affair or a matter of international interest, Amanda answers that he is a global figure. "He's an international icon. People here understand that the world is interested in Madiba and cares about him," she says.

She recalls being invited to his house as a child for a "Christmas feast" soon after he was freed from prison. "I was very small but I remember the year he was released. It was the year my grandfather came back from exile," she said.

At her house across the road from where Mandela will be buried, the former president's granddaughter Nosiphelo cradles her seven-week-old son. "They just started again in the last few days," she said, indicating the earthmovers busy on the slopes above, the new roads guarded by police cars.

Amid reports that a large area around Qunu might be cordoned off for a funeral, she added: "I don't think that would be right." She agreed with Amanda that "Madiba is for everyone.

"I remember him most as a kind man. We would go to his house for Christmas. When I was young I didn't really know that much about his life," she said.

At the nearby Nelson Mandela Museum, Nokuzola Tetani, 52, who has always lived in Qunu, is anxious that Mandela's legacy is carried on by his family.

"I last saw him in October. I went to a function with the family. He was so full of love and life. When he saw his wife Graça Machel arrive, he said: 'Hello, my life,'" she adds, touched by the recollection.

It is also unclear is whether Mandela's final resting place in Qunu will be a public or a private location.

Indeed his His eldest daughter, Makaziwe, indicated on Thursday that the grave – far from being a public monument – would probably be considered private.

"Family graveyards … they're not for public," she told the state broadcaster. "They are for public once when you've buried a loved one and you invite people to that. And that is the end. After that it becomes strictly a family sacred place."

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« Reply #7207 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:41 AM »

June 28, 2013

Kerry’s Mideast Diplomacy Intensifies as He Shuttles Between the Two Sides


JERUSALEM — Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Israel on Friday for his second round of discussions with Israeli leaders in less than 24 hours as the pace of discussions about reviving the Israel-Palestinian peace talks heated up.

Mr. Kerry had a three-hour meeting here with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel that a senior State Department official described as a “detailed and substantive conversation about the way forward.”

In what has become an exercise in shuttle diplomacy, the State Department soon disclosed that the peripatetic Mr. Kerry would be heading back to Jordan on Saturday for still more discussions with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority. After meeting with Mr. Abbas in Amman, Mr. Kerry, who had been expected to go next to Brunei, will instead return again to Israel.

Mr. Kerry has made clear that his goal is to make headway toward resuming Israeli-Palestinian peace talks before September, when the United Nations General Assembly will again debate the Middle East. And Mr. Kerry’s trip — his fifth to the region as secretary of state — has been imbued with a sense of urgency.

Despite the blitz of meetings, American officials have provided no details from Mr. Kerry’s discussions or an accounting of what issues still need to be resolved before peace negotiations might be restarted.

Direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders were last held in 2010. Their resumption has been hampered by, among other issues, the Israeli rejection of Mr. Abbas’s demand that the Israelis freeze new settlement construction as a precondition; the gulf between the two sides over Israel’s insistence on maintaining a lengthy security presence on West Bank territory that is returned to the Palestinians, and the status of Jerusalem.

American officials have emphasized that the strategy is not just to begin new talks, but to position the negotiations so there can be progress on issues that have proved barriers in the past, like borders and security arrangements for Israel on the West Bank. Mr. Kerry has said little about the substance of his conversations with Israeli and Arab leaders, but it is clear that he is trying to sidestep a lengthy negotiation over preconditions for resuming talks and that there has been much deliberation about how to jump-start the talks.

The prospective Arab-Israeli peace negotiations were the subject of Mr. Kerry’s discussions on Tuesday with his Saudi counterpart in Jidda, Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, Mr. Kerry met in Amman with King Abdullah II of Jordan and other senior Jordanian officials. Later that day, he drove in a motorcade from Amman to Jerusalem, crossing the Allenby Bridge.

In Israel, he met for more than four hours with Mr. Netanyahu before driving back to Amman after the meeting ended at 1:25 a.m.

On Friday, Mr. Kerry met in Amman for two and a half hours with Mr. Abbas. A State Department official described the meeting, which included a lengthy one-on-one discussion, as “very constructive.”

Mr. Kerry then flew by Jordanian helicopter to Jerusalem to meet again with Mr. Netanyahu.

“So soon,” Mr. Kerry said with a smile as he shook hands with Mr. Netanyahu at the start of Friday’s meeting here. But his day was not over yet.

Mr. Kerry then went to the residence of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres. Mr. Peres’s job is mainly ceremonial, but he has connections with the Palestinian leadership and has been vocal in his support of Mr. Kerry’s efforts.

“All of us admire your investment in creating really the right environment,” Mr. Peres told Mr. Kerry at the start of their meeting.

“I know that it is difficult; there are many problems,” he said, adding that, nonetheless, there is “a great expectation that you will do it and that you can do it.”

Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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« Reply #7208 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:42 AM »

June 28, 2013

Senegal Cheers Its President for Standing Up to Obama on Same-Sex Marriage


DAKAR, Senegal — In Senegal, never mind about same-sex marriage: gay men and lesbians are abused by the police, beaten and sometimes tortured, with impunity. They are threatened by mobs, mocked on the front pages of newspapers and subject to criminal prosecution for being gay. And the persecution is even more severe elsewhere in West Africa.

So it was hardly surprising that a day after President Obama, in front of hundreds of reporters, traded barbs with President Macky Sall of Senegal on the topic, people on the street, the press and the radio in Mr. Sall’s country lined up firmly on the same side.

During the opening leg of his visit to sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Obama on Thursday called the Supreme Court’s decision the day before to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act a “victory for American democracy” and urged African nations that treat homosexuality as a crime, like Senegal, to make sure that the government does not discriminate against gays.

The comment prompted a retort from Mr. Sall that his country was not “homophobic.” Still, he added, “we are not ready to decriminalize homosexuality,” making a quick jab about the death penalty in the United States and earning plaudits from Senegal’s voluminous and voluble press.

“Firm ... and subtle,” crowed Sud Quotidien on its front page, praising Mr. Sall for his response.

“No, We Can’t,” trumpeted Liberation.

“Macky says no to Obama,” said Walfadjri on its front page.

“Obama makes a plea for the homos, Macky says no!” said Le Pop.

“President Sall has closed the debate on homosexuality,” read a headline in L’Observateur.

On the streets of Dakar, support for Mr. Sall’s stance was widespread, though some wished he had been even firmer. “He should have said, ‘This can never exist in Senegal; this can never happen here,’ ” Tidiane Gueye, a security guard, hanging out in Dakar’s Ouakam neighborhood, said of gay marriage.

“Senegal is 95 percent Muslim,” Mr. Gueye said. “As a Muslim country, we will not permit laws that allow gays to marry.”

A retired army major, Bouramon Ndour, contemplating the late-afternoon bustle from a bench on the Tally Américain, a road said to have been built by American soldiers, said sharply: “He did extremely well. Nobody here can accept that. We are categorical on this point.”

Mr. Ndour added: “No, we are absolutely staunch on it. Look, this is a Muslim country. Over our dead bodies!”

Mr. Ndour said proudly of Mr. Sall: “He’s courageous to have spoken like that, in front of the greatest power on earth. Even if they turn off the spigots, we won’t give in.”

Senegal is one of 38 African countries that criminalize “consensual same-sex conduct,” according to a recent report by Amnesty International, and it is not the worst in its persecution of gay men and lesbians. Arrests of gay men, and long and abusive imprisonments, are regularly reported in Cameroon, among other places in Africa.

But abuse is well documented here as well, despite Mr. Sall’s claim at Thursday’s news conference that “Senegal is a tolerant country that doesn’t discriminate.”

In 2010, Human Rights Watch reported on numerous cases here: a mob of “dozens of people” armed with slingshots and knives attacking a party; the bleeding victims were then taken to a police station, where they were beaten further; a young gay man repeatedly arrested and beaten by the police; others beaten with impunity by neighbors.

The newspapers here take great delight in publishing the names, photographs and salacious details of trysts that run afoul of anti-homosexuality laws. The Senegalese news media has “recommended violence against people perceived or known to be gay,” said the Human Rights Watch report, which also spoke of “unchecked violence” in the nation, “state inaction” and the “near-universal condemnation of homosexuality in the public sphere.”

Religious leaders also regularly issue inflammatory statements condemning gay men and lesbians, even recommending that they be killed, according to a person cited in the report.

Senegal, celebrated in the West for a democratic tradition that includes a coup-free record since independence in 1960, unlike its West African neighbors, remains very conservative on social issues.

So while Mr. Obama was generally welcomed here during his brief visit, his praise for the United States Supreme Court decision on gay couples was not. And Mr. Sall’s retort was seen as a rare moment when a small African nation stared down a giant, “a little like David and Goliath,” said a front-page editorial in Le Pop, “or like the La Fontaine fable, ‘The Oak Tree and the Reed.’ ”

“In front of the most powerful man in the world, fully armed with his mission to influence the decriminalization of homosexuality, Macky Sall was able to say, ‘No,’ ” the editorial continued. “And we are in a country of free men, who have built a strong state.”

Those sentiments were amply echoed in the Ouakam neighborhood here Friday afternoon.

“He responded very well, and we are all very happy with it,” Moustapha Thiam, the owner of a bustling open-air welders’ shop, said of Mr. Sall. “This is a Muslim country, and in our religion, we can’t accept that. Everyone agrees with him.”

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« Reply #7209 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:45 AM »

Fiber optic discovery could boost Internet bandwidth

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, June 27, 2013 17:21 EDT

A new fiber optic technology could increase Internet bandwidth capacity by sending data along light beams that twist like a tornado rather than move in a straight line, scientists said Thursday.

The discovery comes as Internet data traffic is reaching its limit amid mounting demand for bandwidth by users of smartphones and Internet-enabled devices, creating problems for network providers.

The new technology uses optical vortices, which are like donut-shaped laser light beams. Also known as orbital angular momentum (OAM) beams, they were thought to be unstable in fiber until now.

An engineering professor at Boston University, Siddharth Ramachandran, found a way to make an optical fiber that can handle them. The technique is described in the US journal Science.

“Our discovery, of design classes in which they are stable, has profound implications for a variety of scientific and technological fields,” said Ramachandran.

“Including the use of such beams for enhancing data capacity in fibers.”

Researchers showed it was possible to send a huge amount of data through a one-kilometer fiber, as much as 1.6 terabits per second, or the equivalent of transmitting eight Blu-Ray DVDs every second.

Optical communication system expert and co-author Alan Willner at the University of Southern California worked with the fiber and described it as a “very unique and valuable innovation.”

Other collaborators on the project were OFS-Fitel, a fiber optics company in Denmark, and Tel Aviv University.

The research was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

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« Reply #7210 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:46 AM »

Mummified women found in massive pre-Incan burial tomb in Peru

By Reuters
Thursday, June 27, 2013 20:47 EDT

LIMA (Reuters) – Archaeologists in Peru on Thursday said they have unearthed a massive royal tomb full of mummified women that provides clues about the enigmatic Wari empire that ruled the Andes long before their better-known Incan successors.

“For the first time in the history of archeology in Peru we have found an imperial tomb that belongs to the Wari empire and culture,” lead archeologist Milosz Giersz said.

Researchers said the discovery will help them piece together life in the Andes centuries before the rise of the Incan empire, which was written about in detail by the conquering Spaniards.

The mausoleum, unearthed a few months ago at a coastal pyramid site called El Castillo de Huarmey 185 miles north of Lima, contained gold pieces, ceramics and 63 skeletons about 1,300 years old.

Researchers said most of the bodies found in the burial chamber were mummified women sitting upright – indicating royalty and suggesting Wari women held more power than previously thought.

“The women were buried with finely engraved ear pieces made of precious metals that once were believed to be used only by men,” archaeologist Patrycja Przadk said.

Historians believe the Wari, who ruled between 600 and 1100 A.D., were the first people to unite diverse tribes into a sophisticated network across most of today’s Peruvian Andes.

Bioarchaeologist Wieslaw Wieckowski said six skeletons were not wrapped in textiles and appear to have been human sacrifices for the mummified elite.

“They were people thrown into the grave before the grave was sealed,” he said. “They were lying on their bellies, in an extended position and their limbs went in different directions.”

Archaeologists told National Geographic that they kept their work quiet for fear grave robbers would pick the site clean.

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« Reply #7211 on: Jun 29, 2013, 06:49 AM »

The Christian Science Monitor

'Parrot dinosaur' walked on all fours, then graduated to two

By Elizabeth Barber, Contributor / June 28, 2013 at 1:48 pm EDT

A baby in a dinosaur costume can do a laudable imitation of how a young dinosaur might have behaved.

New research suggests that Psittacosaurus, the 'parrot dinosaur,' walked on four feet – and then two feet – some 100 million years ago in what is now China. It would have grown up much like the modern human, at first exploring its world on all fours, like a toddler, and then graduating to upright motion.

Qi Zhao, a Ph.D student at the University of Bristol and a researcher at the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology in Beijing, studied a total of 16 fossil specimens ranging in from less than 1 year old to 10 years old. He found that the 1-year-old Psittacosaurus specimens had long arms and short legs, meaning that the toddler dinosaur was biologically equipped to walk on all fours.

The arm bones showed continued growth in the dinosaurs between 1 and 3 years old, but the arm growth was dwarfed when the animal’s legs began to rapidly grow between 4 and 6 years old. At the age of 6, the Psittacosaurus had legs twice as long as its arms and would have walked upright.

That discovery, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, suggests not only that individual Psittacosauruses went from four to two legs, but that the species had also evolved over time from four-legged adults to two-legged adults, adapting to environmental pressures.

“Having four-legged babies and juveniles suggests that at some time in their ancestry, both juveniles and adults were also four-legged, and Psittacosaurus and dinosaurs in general became secondarily bipedal,” said Mike Benton, a professor at the University of Bristol.

Measuring dinosaur growth is difficult, since enough samples are seldom available to track the species’ development through its life cycle. Psittacosaurus, an herbivore distantly related to Triceratops, is a popular dinosaur for study, given the uniquely wide availability of viable fossils. The dinosaur’s genus includes between nine to 11 species, found in China, Mongolia, Russia, and Thailand.

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« Reply #7212 on: Jun 30, 2013, 06:49 AM »

06/29/2013 11:21 PM

Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark

America's NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to SPIEGEL information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.

Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America's National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A "top secret" 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU's diplomatic representation in Washington.

The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation's computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.

The attacks on EU institutions show yet another level in the broad scope of the NSA's spying activities. For weeks now, new details about Prism and other surveillance programs have been emerging from what had been compiled by whistleblower Snowden. It has also been revealed that the British intelligence service GCHQ operates a similar program under the name Tempora with which global telephone and Internet connections are monitored.

The documents SPIEGEL has seen indicate that the EU representation to the United Nations was attacked in a manner similar to the way surveillance was conducted against its offices in Washington. An NSA document dated September 2010 explicitly names the Europeans as a "location target".

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. A little over five years ago, EU security experts noticed several telephone calls that were apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the Justus Lipsius Building, where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council are located. The calls were made to numbers that were very similar to the one used for the remote administration of the building's telephone system.

Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere. A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts.

A review of the remote maintenance system showed that it had been called and reached several times from precisely that NATO complex. Every EU member state has rooms in the Justus Lipsius Building that can be used by EU ministers. They also have telephone and Internet connections at their disposal.


EU demands clarification over US spying claims

European parliament president 'deeply worried and shocked' by claims published in Der Spiegel that US bugged EU offices

Jonathan Haynes and agencies, Sunday 30 June 2013 13.06 BST   

The president of the European parliament has called for full clarification from the US over claims it bugged EU offices in America and accessed computer networks.

Martin Schulz said there would be a severe impact on relations between the European trade bloc and the US if revelations by German magazine Der Spiegel proved to be true.

Der Spiegel reported that the US had bugged offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, according to secret documents, the latest in a series of exposures of alleged US spying.

The magazine quoted from a "top secret" US National Security Agency (NSA) document from September 2010 that it said former NSA contractor Edward Snowden had taken with him, and which its journalists had seen in part.

Der Spiegel said the document outlines how the NSA bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington and at the UN, listening to conversations and phone calls and gaining access to documents and emails. It said the document explicitly called the EU a target.

A spokesman for the office of the US director of National Intelligence did not comment on the Der Spiegel article.

Schulz said: "I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of US authorities spying on EU offices. If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations.

"On behalf of the European parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations."

Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, told Der Spiegel: "If these reports are true, it's disgusting. The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately."

Snowden's disclosures in the Guardian about US surveillance programmes have ignited a political furore in the US and abroad over the balance between privacy rights and national security.

According to Der Spiegel, the NSA also targeted telecommunications at the Justus Lipsius building in Brussels, home to the European council, the collective of EU national governments.

Without citing sources, the magazine reported that more than five years ago security officers at the EU had noticed several missed calls and traced them to NSA offices within the Nato compound in Brussels. Each EU member state has rooms in Justus Lipsius with phone and internet connections, which ministers can use.

Snowden, a US citizen, went to Hong Kong in May, weeks before the publication in the Guardian of details he provided about secret government surveillance of internet and phone traffic. He has been in a Moscow airport transit area since last weekend. The government of Ecuador is reviewing his request for asylum.


Biden spoke to Ecuador’s Correa about Snowden: White House

By Reuters
Saturday, June 29, 2013 14:58 EDT

QUITO (Reuters) – Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa on Saturday said the United States asked him not to grant asylum for former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden in a “cordial” telephone conversation he held with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Correa said he vowed to respect Washington’s opinion in evaluating the request. The Andean nation says it cannot begin processing Snowden’s request unless he reaches Ecuador or one of its embassies.

Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details about U.S. communications surveillance programs, is believed to still be in the Moscow international airport after leaving Hong Kong.

“He communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject the (asylum) request,” Correa said during his weekly television broadcast, praising Biden’s good manners in contrast to “brats” in Congress who had threatened to cut trade benefits over the Snowden issue.

Biden initiated the phone call, Correa said.

“When he (Snowden) arrives on Ecuadorean soil, if he arrives … of course the first opinions we will seek are those of the United States,” Correa said.

A senior White House official traveling with President Barack Obama in Africa on Saturday confirmed the conversation had taken place.

Correa’s government has for years been at loggerheads with Washington on issues ranging from the war on drugs to a long-running environmental dispute with U.S. oil giant Chevron.

Correa, a leftist economist who received a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, denied on Saturday that he was seeking to perturb relations and said he had “lived the happiest days of my life” in the United States.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth in Quito and Mark Felsenthal in Johannesburg; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Vicki Allen)

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« Reply #7213 on: Jun 30, 2013, 06:55 AM »

Pig Putin's Russia ....

Russian police detain dozens after clashes during gay rights march

Marchers in Saint Petersburg against new anti-gay law confronted by opponents throwing eggs, flares and stones

Staff and agencies, Saturday 29 June 2013 16.42 BST   

Russian police have detained dozens of people who clashed during a protest in Saint Petersburg against new anti-gay legislation.

Up to 100 people took part in the march organised by the group Ravnopraviye (Equal Rights) to protest against the bill. Police intervened with batons when the marchers were confronted by an equal number of anti-gay activists throwing eggs, smoke flares and stones.

Critics say the legislation, passed by the Russian parliament two weeks ago, effectively bans gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for gay people.

"We staged the rally to support our rights and express our protest against the homophobic law," Natalya Tsymbalova, a gay activist, told Reuters, claiming that the protest did not break the law.

The violence highlights increasing intolerance in Russian society towards gay people and the crackdown on dissent against the president, Vladimir Putin.

The legislation bans the spreading of "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors, with heavy fines for violations. It has yet to be signed into law by Putin.

There are no official figures on anti-gay crime in Russia, but an online poll last year found that 15% of the 900 gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender respondents said they had been physically attacked at least once in the previous 10 months.

Putin, who has embraced the Russian Orthodox church as a moral authority and harnessed its influence as a source of political support, has championed socially conservative values since starting a new six-year term in May 2012.

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« Reply #7214 on: Jun 30, 2013, 06:57 AM »

Thousands march in Istanbul in solidarity with Kurds

Protesters chant anti-government slogans in wake of killing of Kurdish demonstrator in south-east Turkey on Friday

Reuters in Istanbul, Saturday 29 June 2013 22.32 BST   

Thousands of protesters marched to Istanbul's Taksim Square on Saturday chanting slogans against the government and police after security forces killed a Kurdish demonstrator in south-east Turkey.

The protest had been planned as part of larger unrelated anti-government demonstrations that have swept through the country since the end of May, but became a voice of solidarity with the Kurds after Friday's killing.

"Murderer police, get out of Kurdistan!" some protesters chanted. "This is only the beginning, the struggle continues. The murderer state will pay!"

Turkish forces killed the man and wounded 10 others when they fired on a group protesting against the construction of a gendarmerie outpost in the Kurdish-dominated region.

The incident, in the Lice district of Diyarbakır province, appeared to be the most violent in the region since a ceasefire declaration in March by jailed Kurdish rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan in a decades-old conflict between his fighters and the Turkish state, and it risks derailing the nascent peace process.

About 10,000 protesters descended on Taksim Square, which has been the centre of weeks of anti-government demonstrations, but were prevented from entering the square by riot police.

Many in the crowd sat in the roads leading to the square after being denied entry. "Long live the brotherhood of the people!" people shouted in both Turkish and Kurdish.

Most of the protesters dispersed after a couple of hours, with a group of about 1,000 remaining near the square. Riot police pushed them away from the square with shields and slow moving water cannon trucks although no water was fired. Announcements were made for protesters to return to their homes.

The Kurdish tensions come at a time of increased vigilance among Turkish security forces after the anti-government protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities in which four people have died and thousands have been injured.

The protests, which had largely died down over the past week, have emerged as the biggest public challenge to prime minister Tayyip Erdoğan's 10-year rule. He has dismissed the protesters as pawns of Turkey's enemies and has called supporters to back his party in municipal elections next year.

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